Thursday, September 9, 2021

Reading Summary for August 2021

I read nine books this month, a bit more than usual. I read two historical fiction novels, two science fiction novels, and five crime fiction novels. Some were contemporary novels and some were older novels from 1950 and before. And a decent number of short stories, although I should be reading more.

I finished all of the books on my 20 Books of Summer list, and am glad to be back to unplanned reading. 


Historical Fiction

The Women in Black
(1993) by Madeleine St. John

In some ways this is a wonderful book. It is about several women who work in the women's dresses department in a big department store, in 1950's Australia during the Christmas rush and post-Christmas sales. The setting is great. I enjoyed reading the book, I cared about the characters, but it was too light and "feel good" for me.  I keep having mixed feelings about this; I might come back to it and review it in December. There is a film adaptation directed by Bruce Beresford.

Historical Fiction / Romance

The Grand Sophy (1950) by Georgette Heyer

Miss Sophy Stanton-Lacy is an outrageous woman. She is young but was raised by her father to be independent and think for herself. She is always trying to fix people and usually succeeds. This is only the second Regency romance by Georgette Heyer I have read (and I haven't read any by other authors). I enjoyed this as much as I did Frederica. The plots are quite different, but I did notice similarities in the heroines in the two books, and the types of families involved. Both feature a number of younger children, which was interesting.

Science Fiction

Way Station (1963) by Clifford D. Simak

All I knew when I started this book was that it was a science fiction classic about a man on earth, in the US in the 1960s, providing a station where aliens from other planets stop overnight while traveling from planet to planet. This is completely hidden from the rest of the world. It is a very interesting and entertaining book, with lots of tension, because his station is discovered, and I was surprised at the ending. It is very much of its time, but I did not mind that at all.

Just One Damned Thing After Another (2013) by Jodi Taylor

This is the first book in a time-travel series. The main protagonists are historians from St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research. Each has a special area of expertise but the assignments may take them to any time in the past. The story carries you along pell mell through adventure after adventure, and the historians find out that there are lots of challenges ahead.  There are now 12 books in the series and I will be reading the next one for sure. 

Crime Fiction

Lockdown (2020) by Peter May

This is a police procedural mystery set in London during a pandemic that has paralyzed the city. I enjoyed it, but it is not my favorite book by Peter May. See my thoughts here.

The Art of Violence (2020) by S. J. Rozan

This is the thirteenth book in S.J. Rozan's series about private investigators Lydia Chin and Bill Smith, and I have read every book in the series. I loved this book, especially the ending. See my thoughts here.

The Turquoise Shop (1941) by Frances Crane

Beginning in the early 1940's, Frances Crane wrote a series of over 25 books featuring Pat and Jean Abbott. This is the first book in the series, set in a fictionalized version of Taos, New Mexico, where Jean Holly owns a shop that sells antiques, art, and jewelry. Pat Abbott is a private investigator, who at the beginning of the story maintains that he is just there on vacation. Most of the books had a color in the title, and they were set in a variety of locations. In all the books, Pat does most of the investigating, and the stories are narrated by Jean. The other book I read in this series, The Indigo Necklace, was set in the French Quarter in New Orleans during the closing months of World War II. For me, these are enjoyed for the locations and the ambiance of the 1940's and 50's, and the mystery is just a sideline.

The Mouse in the Mountain (1943) by Norbert Davis

This is a book I have been meaning to read for nearly 10 years. It is vintage crime fiction from the US, published in 1943. The story is humorous. One of the characters is a large dog named Carstairs, a Great Dane. His owner is Doan, a private investigator. It is a very short novel, set in Mexico, about 150 pages. There are two more short novels and two short stories in the Doan and Carstairs series, and I will be reading them all. Coincidentally, Norbert Davis was related to Frances Crane, author of The Turquoise Shop (above). Davis was Crane's son-in-law and they both wrote mysteries in the 1940's. 

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1973) by John Godey

This novel is about the hijacking of a New York City Subway train. The story takes place in one afternoon and is told from the point of view of the hijackers, policemen, staff from the transit agency, and some of the passengers taken as hostages. My full review here.

Currently reading and What's Next?

I am currently reading a Miss Silver mystery by Patricia Wentworth. The title is The Chinese Shawl, it is the 5th book in the series, and it was published in 1943. Loving it.

I will be taking part in RIP XVI (Readers Imbibing Peril), although it is now an event that takes place primarily on Instagram and Twitter. But other bloggers are joining in and it isn't a stretch for me, since I mostly read mysteries anyway. It was Kay's post at Kay's Reading Life that motivated me to do it this year.

I will be finding a couple of books to read for The 1976 Club in October and also novellas to read for Novellas in November. I am planning to stick with books I already own, but if anyone has suggestions, I would welcome them.

The lovely flowers above are geraniums. The cat is Rosie in her favorite chair. Both photos were taken by my husband.


Rick Robinson said...

So nice to see Rosie!

I have no glasses yet. Just got a call from eye office: positive Covid at lense place (not optometrist office), so they are closed, thus my new glasses are delayed until AT LEAST next Tuesday. My distance vision without glasses is good, but I can’t read without them.

I did common Lesa’s blog today, after yours. Your August reading was great. Thanks for the post.

TracyK said...

Rick, sorry to hear that your lenses/glasses are delayed. I hope there are no further delays. It must be difficult to have to forgo reading.

It was a very good reading month. Even the one book I had doubts about was a fun read and worth the time.

Rick Robinson said...

I remember when Carl at his Stainless Steel Droppings blog used to do to RIP. Now, Instagram? Bah, I’m too old and cranky to play that #&**$$($.

Rick Robinson said...

I haven’t had glasses since Monday morning. Grrrr.

TracyK said...

I miss Carl's posts and challenges, Rick. I don't think I have done RIP since then. I don't use Instagram and Twitter either but I will just blog about what I read that fits the theme.

That is a long time to go without glasses, I will be hoping they come as soon as possible. I might be able to limp along with store bought reading glasses to read books, but it would be a strain.

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

I love mysteries and scifi classics! I just added Way Station to me TBR.
I have also read a good bunch of classics, from several countries, in August:

TracyK said...

Emma, if you love science fiction classics, I think you would really like Way Station. My first book by Simak but I will be reading more.

I saw your classics list, it is amazing.

And I checked out the link for your August wrap up and left a comment. So many good books!

Kay said...

First of all, I love the pictures! What beautiful blooms! And I'm glad you decided to join in on the RIP Challenge. I don't do the other social media either, but we can just talk about what we've read on our blogs and that's perfectly OK. I've gotten another book read and am about 1/3 into the next. Will share about those in a few days. Hope you have a nice weekend!

pattinase (abbott) said...

What a nice well-rounded group of books. That is one pretty cat.

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm really happy for you that you finished your Books of Summer challenge, Tracy. That's not always easy! And you have a great selection here, too; I hope you really enjoyed all of your choices.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Kay. I have always enjoyed the photos you include on your blog, especially the ones you take on your walks. I wanted to find a way to incorporate some photos and I am enjoying picking the photos for each month.

I am also glad I decided to do some RIP reading in September and October. I am aiming to pick at least a couple of books or stories that are outside of my normal mystery reading.

You have a nice weekend too.

TracyK said...

Patti, I did enjoy the variety of books I read this month. The cat is very photogenic.

TracyK said...

Margot, it was fortuitous that I picked 20 books that fit my reading mood for the summer. I guess I have to give up on having the time to review them all.

Cath said...

Well done on finishing all your books for the 20 books of summer. That's quite an achievemant.

I've read three of your books, Grand Sophy, Way Station and the first Jodi Taylor. Went to see her at our local library a couple of years ago and had a very entertaining evening.

Sam said...

You had a nice reading month, for sure. I was happy to spot that time travel novel among your nine reads because I'm always unofficially on the hunt for a good time travel book or series. This one sounds well worth taking a look at. I've been finding too many of them that turn into simple thrillers by the end of the books, and I find those frustrating because "thrilling" is only one of the elements I look for in a time travel story. Maybe this series will get me back in the groove.

bookertalk said...

Oh well done for completing the 20booksofsummer - I almost made it but only by swapping out some books that were not on the list.

What are you thinking of for 1976 club? I don't have anything in my TBR so will have to rely on what's available in the library

TracyK said...

Cath, I was pleased to have finished my list of books for 20 Books of Summer. They were all good.

I can imagine that Jodi Taylor would be an entertaining speaker. Since the series has been going for a while, I am hoping that I might find some of the books at the annual book sale I go to, which starts next Friday. I want to read more by Georgette Heyer and Clifford D. Simak also.

TracyK said...

Sam, I love time travel books, any type. I do think that the Chronicles of St. Mary's series is worth a try, but there were more thrills and adventures in this one than I expected, once it got past the training period. It packs a lot into 322 pages.

Have you tried any of Connie Willis's time travel books? I loved those and they have a similar premise to the one used in Jodi Taylor's book. But they are very long.

I see that you have reviewed a lot of time travel books on your blog, I will be checking out your reviews. One I especially noticed was Time on My Hands by Peter Delacorte. I have a copy of that but have not read it yet.

TracyK said...

BookerTalk, Thanks, I was happy I finished my list this year because I had a few from last year's list on it.

For the 1976 Club, these are the books I am considering right now.

Tattoo by Manuel Vazquez Montalban (Spain)
Twinkle Twinkle Little Spy by Len Deighton (one of my favorite authors)
Three To Kill by Jean-Patrick Manchette (France)
Home to Roost by Andrew Garve

And then I just remembered: A Little Local Murder by Robert Barnard.

All crime fiction, but some is translated from other languages.

Katrina said...

I'm planning to join in with the 1976 Club too, I'm finding it to be quite a thin year bookwise though. Like you I'm glad to be doing unplanned reading again too.

TracyK said...

Katrina, I had a good number of books on my TBR from 1976.

Although I am liking the ability to just pick what I want to read at the time, I think it is engrained in me to plan my reading. I think I will do 15 Books of Summer next year so that each month I have more leeway to pick other books when I feel like it. Yet still finish the challenge.

CLM said...

Your cat reminds me of the one in the Mrs Coverlet books, although now that I think back he was a calico without white, IIRC.

The Grand Sophy is one of my top three Heyers and I reviewed it years ago but probably still did not do it justice,

I think I would like The Women in Black. My first job out of college was in a training program for a New England department store chain. There were some good moments and camaraderie but mostly it was tedious and the hours were awful.

I tried that Jodi Thomas book but could not get past the first chapter. Maybe in real book and not ebook I would do better as I love the concept.

TracyK said...

Constance, I had to go look up the Mrs Coverlet books. I could not find much (about the cat) but there was one mention of a strangely colored cat. The series sounds good.

It is hard to do Georgette Heyer books justice with a review that doesn't tell the whole story. I went and read your review and it was very good.

I think you would like The Women in Black also. It is very well written with good characters. Maybe I just read it at the wrong time.

The Jodi Thomas book is worth trying again, probably. The tone changes somewhat later in the book. On the one hand, if it did not grab you the maybe it is just not for you. On the other hand, if I had been guessing, I would have thought you would like it.

FictionFan said...

An interesting month with lots of variety! I read Way Station recently too and was very impressed by it. And Georgette Heyer is always a joy - real comfort reading!

TracyK said...

FictionFan, I am glad I read Way Station finally. Now I will try more books by Simak and hopefully some other early science fiction writers.

Georgette Heyer, at least her Regency romances, are new to me and I regret I did not try them earlier. I have read several of her mysteries when I was younger and have reread some them in the last few years. My next Regency romance by her will be Arabella.

col2910 said...

Seems like you had a great month's reading, Tracy. I must dig out my copy of the book and original film of the Pelham tale. I did enjoy the re-make with Travolta and Washington, but you can be some 70s crime fiction and movies.

col2910 said...

*typo alert ....can be = can't beat, sorry careless fingers!

TracyK said...

It was a good reading month, Col, and Taking of Pelham 123 was especially good. Now if I could just review them all.