Saturday, October 3, 2020

Reading Summary for September 2020

I am having a hard time believing that we are already into October and I am summarizing my reads for September. My reading changed a lot this year. It was partially due to Covid-19, I am sure but not only because of that. I think some of my challenges that I started the year with are not going to be completed and I doubt if I will push myself in the last three months to catch up. 

This month I read seven books. Four of the books were vintage mysteries, published in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Two of them were spy fiction, although they were very different books. And one of the books was science fiction. All of them were very good reads.

Science Fiction

The Last Emperox (2020) by John Scalzi

This is the last book in the Interdependency trilogy. The first book was The Collapsing Empire, which I reviewed here. I liked the 2nd and 3rd books in the trilogy even more than the first one.

Crime Fiction

The Way Some People Die (1951) by Ross Macdonald

This is the third Lew Archer book, and Lew is trying to find a missing woman for her mother. He tells the mother that this type of case is for the police; she doesn't want the police involved. The plot is very convoluted and the characters are great. My review here.

The Arms Maker of Berlin (2009) by Dan Fesperman

I could not decide whether this was spy fiction or just a thriller. Certainly intelligence agents are involved, and the thrills are low key. A history professor who specializes in German resistance during World War II gets mixed up with the FBI when his former mentor is arrested for stealing important documents. His work leads to exposure of wartime secrets and deceit, and includes visits to Bern, Switzerland and Berlin, Germany. I loved this book; it did have a slow start, but there is lots of action towards the end.

The Beast Must Die (1938) by Nicholas Blake

This is the 4th book in the Nigel Strangeways series. Frank Cairnes is a writer of detective fiction, a widower, and cannot accept that his only son is dead and the hit-and-run driver has never been found. The book starts with a journal where Cairnes describes his plans to find and kill the person who killed his son. Strangeways doesn't show up until about halfway through the book. My review here.

Laurels Are Poison (1942) by Gladys Mitchell

This is the 14th book in the Mrs. Bradley series, a series which totals 66 books. In this one, Mrs. Bradley is serving as Warden of Athelstan Hall at Cartaret Training College. She is there to investigate the disappearance of Miss Murchan, the previous Warden. I read this as part of a group read, hosted at Jason Half's blog. I enjoyed the book and will be reading more in this series.

American Spy (2019) by Lauren Wilkinson

This is a debut novel. It can be classified as spy fiction, but it is not only focused on espionage. The protagonist, Marie Mitchell, is black and female, and has been working for the FBI in the New York office. The story is set partially in New York, and partially in Burkina Faso, and it has an unusual structure, told in the style of a journal written for her young sons. It is an exploration of family dynamics and influences, and how the past shapes us. There are many flashbacks to Marie's childhood, her motivation for being a spy, and why she fits in that job so well. 

Voyage into Violence (1956) by Frances and Richard Lockridge

This is the 21st of 26 mysteries featuring Mr. and Mrs. North. I consider these mysteries to be light, fun reads. I don't want a steady diet of them, but they are great for mixing in with more gritty or serious reading. Over the course of the series, Pam and Jerry North have become good friends with Bill Weigand, New York City homicide detective, and his wife Dorian. In this book the two couples are taking a Caribbean cruise to Havana. A man is murdered and Bill is called on to investigate.


Cath said...

I'm really, really tempted not to do any challenges at all next year. Mind you, I always say that. LOL But honestly, I'm not sure I've enjoyed the ones I've been doing even though I have completed them. The obligation is to review every book read for them and it just feels like too much at present when things are so unpredictable.

I've read a few Gladys Mitchell books and enjoyed them. There are a 'lot' I think, she was quite prolific. You had a good reading month.

Margot Kinberg said...

I think that Covid-19 has had a real impact on a lot of the way we're reacting to life right now, Tracy, and that includes reading. You have some good books here, and you've reminded me that I need to re-acquaint myself with the Lockridges.

Rick Robinson said...

As always, you had an interesting reading month. I admire the variety. I used to do posts on my monthly reading, but things got so scattered.

With the pandemic, my sense of time seems to have gone through a series of expansions and contractions, such that it’s hard to know when I read what, in spite of my chaotic list-making attempts. I know I read an anthology of SHERLOCK Holmes stories, and I’ve been soldiering through (!) GRANT, having just reached the 420 page mark, of 1,100+ total. I it, the Civil War has ended (officially) and with Lincoln dead, Andrew Johnson is President and Grant is demobbing the Northern Armies. I may have to take a break from that. I have library books... sitting here... calling out to me...

TracyK said...

Cath, I have been giving that same idea (no challenges) some thought when I realized I had done very little on my Classics Challenges. And totally ignored the Victorian Challenge. I have read some classics not on my list and some from my list, but I am not keeping up with specific challenges. But I am enjoying my varied reading. A conundrum. On the other hand, I enjoy the European Challenge a lot. Some of the challenges push me to read books already on my shelves that have been languishing unread, and then I enjoy them.

The problem with most of my favorite challenges is when they require a review. I have had to accept the fact that I cannot write a separate post on every book. In the end, I will probably cut back on challenges but not cut them out. Maybe.

Another problem for me is that every time I read an author (and like their book) I want to pursue more of them, and there just is not time or space on the shelf. Gladys Mitchell is a case in point. Her books are different and interesting but there are a lot of them.

TracyK said...

You are so right, Margot. No surprise at all that people read more or less than usual, or different types of books. The books by Lockridges are another good example of ones I want to delve more into myself. They did other series that I would like to try again, too.

TracyK said...

Rick, reading a huge nonfiction book like Grant would be very challenging for me. I have read more nonfiction this year, but most of the books have not exceeded 400-450 pages. And I often take months to finish nonfiction books.

One of the reasons I do a monthly summary is that I want to keep track of what I have read, and that is partly why I started blogging. I wish I started that in my twenties instead of only a decade or so ago. Of course, now I can record books on Goodreads, and nothing like that was available in my twenties.

joan.kyler said...

I like the Gladys Mitchell books, too. There was a time several years ago when Amazon had a ton of her books as $1.99 e-books. Of course, I over bought (is that really possible when talking of books?!). I've been enjoying them. I also like the Lockridge books, as you say, light pleasant mysteries.

TracyK said...

It is nice to hear from you, Joan. I did go check Amazon and there are quite a few Gladys Mitchell books there for $1.99. I will have to pick 5 or 6 to add to my Kindle.

It is a pity the books by the Lockridges are not found so easily and at such a reasonable price. There are two other series I want to try (again): the Captain Heimrich books and the Nate Shapiro books.

Rick Robinson said...

I started keeping lists of books I read, in chronological order, as soon as I got my first computer, an Apple IIe. Unfortunately, it was difficult to print those files and I had to - spottily - recreate them after I got a Dell, running early versions of Windows. Those files, using Word, were translatable as time went on and I've basically been updating the files since then, even after moving to a Mac. Jeff Meyerson is the king of keeping book lists, and can tell you what he read when well back into the 1970s. I wish my lists went back that far, but can trace back to about 1986.

I should get back to doing reading summaries.

joan.kyler said...

I subscribe to BookBub and Early Bird Books. They both highlight e-books on sale each day. One or the other, I don't remember which, often has the Lockridge books for $1.99. You might want to try them.

TracyK said...

Rick, I envy you for having book lists that far back. I am not surprised that Jeff has kept his book lists for so long, based on his blog comments I have seen. I have only kept track since 2002. I stopped reading fiction for about a decade in the 1990s and 2002 was when I started reading mysteries again.

TracyK said...

Joan, I do get emails from Early Bird Books about books on sale and I will keep an eye out for books by the Lockridges. I will look into BookBub, I am not familiar with that. Thanks for the tips.

Susan said...

Sounds like you had a good reading month, even if it was different than usual. I know some people have been unable to concentrate on reading at all with COVID going on, so it's good that you've been able to at least do some.

TracyK said...

Susan, it was a good reading month and I am glad I can still focus on reading. I just don't seem to be able to plan ahead very well. I need to just accept what I can do and enjoy it.

Clothes in Books said...

Interesting collection as always Tracy. I recently read a Fesperman book and liked it so might try another. I was also interested in what I hear about American Spy.

TracyK said...

Moira, I have several unread books by Fesperman, and I will read them and see. But so far I like his writing.

I pretty much liked everything about American Spy. The family relationships especially. But the fact that it is written as a journal to the protagonist's young sons sometimes is awkward and confusing. But still worth it, in my opinion.

col2910 said...

I think Macdonald and Fesperman hold the most appeal for me. I still haven't read a Fesperman book yet, though I have stopped buying them!

TracyK said...

Col, this is only the second book by Fesperman I have read, and I have quite a few on my TBR piles. I will read more of the ones before I add anymore also.