Wednesday, May 6, 2020

What did I read in April 2020?

Did the first full month of the stay at home orders affect my reading? I think my reading was about the same but reviewing has been much harder. The concentration it requires is often just not there.

Although my main goal this month was to read what I wanted to, I did manage to read some books for challenges: two historical fiction books, a book for the European Challenge, a book for a USA state that I had not covered previously, and seven books from my TBR piles.

And here are the books I read in April, by category.

Mystery reference

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2017) by Mike Ripley

The author describes his book as "a reader's history of one specific category, or genre, of popular fiction—the thriller—over a particular period when British writers dominated the best seller lists at home and abroad." The book covers only British thrillers published between 1953 and 1975. This includes both adventure thrillers and spy thrillers. Of course, I am most interested in the spy thrillers but I enjoyed learning more about the authors of adventure novels also. With a very nice foreword by Lee Child.

Cross-genre Fiction (Mystery & Fantasy)

Westside (2019) by W. M. Akers
This book is a  mashup of several genres: historical fiction, mystery, alternate history, private detective novel, and urban fantasy. Set in an alternative version of New York in the 1920's. My review here.

Historical Fiction

The Light Years (1990) by Elizabeth Jane Howard
The Cazalet Chronicles is a series of five books that follow the members of one family from 1937 just prior to World War II through 1957. The first book, The Light Years, covers 1937 - 1938. There is large cast; the parents plus four children (three brothers, one unmarried sister) and the grandchildren, who range from 5 or 6 to teenage. Plus other relations, and servants. This is a lovely book, although not upbeat, with the threat of war coming on.

General Fiction 

The Provincial Lady in London (1932) by E.M. Delafield
This continues the story, written in diary form, of a married woman with two children (and a cook, a French governess/nanny, and a maid or two), living in an English village in the early 1930s. The Provincial Lady is now a published author and has received enough money for this effort to improve the family's financial status. She endeavors to find a flat in London to take more time to write. The tone is light and humorous and fun.

Crime Fiction

Boundary Waters (1999) by William Kent Krueger
This is the 2nd book in the Cork O'Connor series. Set in the Quetico-Superior Wilderness on the Canadian/American border. My review here.
The Brutal Telling (2009) and
Bury Your Dead (2010) by Louise Penny
I read these two books as a pair, based on Bill's recommendation at Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan. My review here.

The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (1992)
by Sharyn McCrumb
This is the 2nd book in Sharyn McCrumb's Appalachian Ballad series. I enjoyed it but I found it to be different from most mysteries I have read. It is a dark story and has been described as gothic. Both this story and the first one in the series featured Sheriff Spencer Arrowood, but he doesn't do a lot of investigating, and the story centers around the wife of the church pastor, Laura Bruce, whose husband is serving as a chaplain in the Gulf War. She volunteers to be the guardian for two teenagers whose entire family was murdered. Set in Tennessee.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)
by Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie's first mystery novel and the first in the Hercule Poirot series. My review here.

A Colder War (2014) by Charles Cumming
Cumming is a Scottish author, and his character in this series, Thomas Kell, is an MI6 agent who is on extended leave with pay until an incident still under investigation is resolved. In this 2nd book in the series, he is given a special assignment by the MI6 Chief, to investigate the death, probably accidental, of a high-ranked agent in Turkey. 

Instruments of Darkness (2009) by Imogen Robertson
This was a very enjoyable historical mystery. It was set in Sussex, England in 1780, a period I haven't read about before. The main characters are the mistress of a country manor in Sussex and an anatomist, Gabriel Crowther, an introvert who just wants to study dead bodies. Harriet Westerman discovers a dead man on the grounds of her estate, and pulls Crowther into an investigation of the crime. It is the first in the series and I will be moving on to the second book in the series.


Cath said...

I've read four of your books for April and plan to read Boundary Waters soon. Also interested in Instruments of Darkness as it sounds a bit different. You had a good reading month, to tell you the truth I'm struggling a bit with getting reviews done too. Just can't get motivated.

Rick Robinson said...

I'm very impressed with your reading, what variety and depth. You're certainly doing much better than I or many others. Good for you!

Neeru said...

For a minute I thought that was a book on one of my favourite movies Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Kilmer/ Downey jr.) Now I feel like watching it again:)

Bill Selnes said...

Thanks for the mention again. I read a Cumming book a year or two ago and enjoyed it. I think I should read another.

TracyK said...

Cath, I did enjoy Instruments of Darkness. I thought it might be too light, but there were lots of things I liked. I do hope to do a post on it.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Rick, I have been trying to add in other genres than mystery for a while, but it does help in these anxious times. I am looking forward to adding some science fiction soon.

TracyK said...

Neeru, I love the film Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. It is one of my favorites and I am about ready to watch it again too.

TracyK said...

Bill, your reviews on the Louise Penny books are great and I am so glad I persevered on reading the series. I like Charles Cumming's books very much and plan to read them all.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Lovely list of books.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Patti. It was a good reading book, with no disappointing books.

Kay said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the Penny and Krueger books. Fairly certain I read that Sharyn McCrumb book way back in the '90's. Back in the days where I read what was on the library shelf at the time and never thought about series order. Ha! I remember her books as being well written, but as you said, not usual mysteries.

RebeccaK said...

What a nice variety! Hope you find more entertaining reads this month.

TracyK said...

Kay, I read the first book in the Appalachian Ballad series years ago and did not care for it that much. It probably was structured about the same, but this time I was more open to it, I guess. There was a bit of the supernatural in it, but just a suggestion and up to the reader how much to take it seriously. I have more books by this author so I will probably read more of her books.

TracyK said...

Hi Rebecca, it is very nice to hear from you. I do expect to have another good month of reading. I am currently reading another of the Provincial Lady books and The Master and Margarita, which is certainly unusual.

Katrina said...

I've read four of those books, but I'm drawn to the Imogen Robertson book so will try to read that. I feel I should read something by Charles Cumming too.

TracyK said...

Katrina, I liked a lot about Instruments of Darkness. There are some scenes (flashbacks I guess) set in America five years earlier when the rebels are fighting against British troops. That was interesting as I know very little about the history of that war.

I have liked most of what I have read by Charles Cumming, but I just like spy fiction stories although they are not usually very realistic.

Margot Kinberg said...

You got some good reading done, Tracy, even if your concentration is limited. Mine is,too; this pandemic has gotten to us all, I think.

TracyK said...

Margot, I am so glad I retired before this happened, no way could I have handled my work under the circumstances. But my husband is doing OK working from home, although it has its own stresses.

CLM said...

I really liked the first Imogen Robertson and have not got around to reading more. I can't always tell if I will like historical mysteries - I suppose it depends if I think the historical aspects are convincing.

I read The Light Years and its sequels a long time ago and enjoyed them. I also like Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' series covering the same timeframe.

I read The Provincial Lady last summer, I think, and enjoyed it but not as much as D.E. Stevenson!

Although a big Christie fan, I was very disappointed with my reread of Styles a couple weeks ago. I kept putting it down and picking up other books, although had been planning to review it. I think my favorite Christies are The Man in the Brown Suit and They Came to Baghdad, both standalones.

I think I've read all of the Charles Cumming books. They are dark and sometimes painstakingly slow but I like them. There was one that did a better job of conveying the tedium of stalking a suspect than any suspense novel I've ever read!

Nice to meet you, Tracy!

TracyK said...

I hope I like the next Imogen Robertson book in the series. I agree historical mysteries can be unsatisfying at times.

Interesting about the Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' historical series. I have read a good number of her mystery series with Bill Slider but never read her other books.

I have a hard time deciding which are my favorite books by Christie, but I think they would be Crooked House and Murder on the Orient Express. I did like The Man in the Brown Suit but haven't read They Came to Baghdad yet.

Amazing, you have read all of the Charles Cumming books. I don't think I know anyone else who even reads them. Although they get high praise from other authors of spy fiction. Yes, they are dark. I will keep working my way through them.

col2910 said...

Looks like a good month's reading Tracy. The Ripley book looks interesting, but I know if I buy and browse that I'll end up buying a ton more books. I'll have to give Charles Cumming another go. It has been a while since I read him.

TracyK said...

Col, do give Cummings another try. I am enjoying his books. I was more interested the authors that wrote spy fiction in Mike Ripley's book and a lot of authors I would like to try, but I successfully resisted adding anything to my piles at this time.