Sunday, December 20, 2020

2020: The Year in First Lines


The goal for this meme is to look at your last year of blogging using the first line of the first post of each month. I haven't ever tried it before but this year I thought it would work for me.

The guidelines are to use the first "line" of each post but in most cases I include more, up to a full paragraph.


The Twelve Deaths of Christmas: Marian Babson

I am still in a holiday mood on the 2nd day of the new year, so I am writing about my last Christmas read from mid-December. The Twelve Deaths of Christmas is set in a boarding house, and based on the title it sounds grim. But it is more of cozy mystery, although there are many deaths throughout.

  • I don't do a lot of Christmas celebrating or decorating, but I do like to read Christmas mysteries and short stories. I like to start in November and continue through December so sometimes posts related to the holidays overflow into January.


My Reading: January 2020

I read 14 books in January. One book of mystery reference, one nonfiction book, three books in the historical fiction genre, and the rest crime fiction. Of the fiction books, five were published after 2000, four in the 1990s, and three between 1953 and 1977. And all twelve of the fiction books were from my TBR piles.

  • I don't usually read 14 books in a month, and I usually read more vintage mysteries than that (by percentage). And I did start out the year reading mostly from my TBR piles. 
  • I hope to do that again this year, but this time continue that trend through the whole year.


Reading Summary for February 2020

February was a strange reading month. It took me close to 3 weeks to read Bleak House. I also read a good number of short stories, most of them in the two short story books I have already reviewed. All of the books I read were published before 1990.

  • In contrast, in February I read seven books. Bleak House was a difficult read for me, although I was glad I read it. I read two on my Classics Club list this month. This was my big month for reading short stories.


Tiger in the Smoke: Margery Allingham

I recently realized that I started my journey towards reading this book in 2015, nearly five years ago. That was when I decided to start with Death of a Ghost (Albert Campion #6) and read the series in order up to Tiger in the Smoke (#14). Along the way I have become a big fan of Margery Allingham's writing.

  • I aim to read some vintage mysteries every month. At least it was that way when I started the blog.


Westside: W. M. Akers

From the introduction to the book at HarperCollins:

It’s 1921, and a thirteen-mile fence running the length of Broadway splits the island of Manhattan, separating the prosperous Eastside from the Westside—an overgrown wasteland whose hostility to modern technology gives it the flavor of old New York. Thousands have disappeared here, and the respectable have fled, leaving behind the killers, thieves, poets, painters, drunks, and those too poor or desperate to leave.

  • This is one of my few fantasy reads for the year. I borrowed this book from my son, and it was a cross-genre book, blending mystery and fantasy. I like books that blend more than one genre.


20 Books of Summer 2020

This is my fifth year of joining in the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge. It is very flexible. You can go for 15 Books of Summer or 10 Books of Summer if 20 is too much to commit to.

  • I aimed for 20 books for this challenge, and in 2019 I completed that many books. At the time we were only about 2 and a half months into the COVID-19 pandemic so I wasn't sure how it would affect my reading.


The Ivory Dagger: Patricia Wentworth

Although I read some books in the Miss Silver series by Patricia Wentworth when I was younger, in 2017 I returned to the series, first reading The Clock Strikes Twelve. Since then I have read four more books in that series, and now I am a confirmed fan of the Miss Silver books. I find them entertaining and I like the picture they provide of the time that they were written in.

  • Another vintage series I am reading. Not in any order, but just as I find them. Although, I have put some emphasis on reading some that were written during World War II or the postwar years.


What did I read in July 2020?

I read 7 books in July. One nonfiction book about the influenza pandemic of 1918, one science fiction book, and five crime fiction novels. I read three books for the Canadian Reading Challenge. Now I just have to write reviews for them. 

  • In August, I got a good start on the Canadian Reading Challenge, which always runs from July 1st of one year to June 30th of the next year. The book I read on the influenza pandemic of 1918 (The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History) was the second I read on that topic this year. 


What did I read in August 2020?

I read eight books in August. As usual most of them were crime fiction or related books. I did not finish all the books on my 20 Books of Summer list but I did read 12 of them. One was a DNF, and I will read the remaining 7 books in the next two months.

  • I was bothered that I did not read more of my 20 Books of Summer but I was optimistic that I would finish that up soon. In fact, I will probably have 5 books from that list still not read by the end of the year.
  • Also, I rarely ever stop reading a book once it is started. This one was related to extremely sadistic behavior and torture, but still a new experience for me.


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 don't think I mentioned COVID-19 much in any of my blog posts, but it did affect all of us. I read just about as much this year and blogged a bit more than previous years, but I also retired at the end of 2019, so I had more free time, and my husband was working at home. I think the biggest effect was on what I read. I read more newer mysteries, made more spur of the moment decisions on what to read, and read more nonfiction. I read a good bit of comfort fiction, most of that being vintage mysteries from 1960 or before.


Reading Summary, October 2020

In October, I finished ten books. That total is a bit misleading because two of them were nonfiction books that I had been reading off and on for a good while.

  • I was surprised that my reading summary posts have been the first post of the month so many times this year. In the past it took me longer to get around to them.
  • In October, I deliberately aimed to finish two nonfiction books because I was planning to participate in Nonfiction November. That was a big commitment for me.


Short Story Wednesday: "Butch Minds the Baby" by Damon Runyon

I read my first story by Damon Runyon in Detective Stories, selections by Philip Pullman. My husband and I discussed the story and he mentioned some movies that were based on Runyon's stories. The most well-known is Guys and Dolls but there are many others, including Little Miss Marker with Shirley Temple and Lady for a Day, with Warren William and May Robson (later remade as Pocketful of Miracles with Bette Davis). 

  • In mid-October I started doing (mostly) weekly posts on a short story (or a book of short stories), suggested by Patti at Patricia Abbott (pattinase). In the past I didn't read that many short stories on a regular basis and I have always had a problem reviewing or commenting on them. Since they are so short, I don't want to give away the ending. I have enjoyed reading the stories and finding some new authors, to boot.

Overall thoughts:
  • The emphasis here on what I read each month does show one of my main goals, which is to document what I read, even if I don't have time or inclination to review it.
  • Also, the pandemic definitely did affect my reading, although not necessarily in a bad way. More variety, for one thing.
  • I attempted some new things, like Nonfiction November and reading short stories more regularly and actually posting about them.

What would your first lines say about your blog?

I first saw this meme at BookerTalk. Other blogs who have also done the meme are Brona's Books and ANZ LitLovers.


pattinase (abbott) said...

This works well with your style of blogging. For me, I would seem even more scattered than usual.

col2910 said...

Interesting post Tracy. I wonder what mine would look like? Probably not enough to follow through on though.

Margot Kinberg said...

This is really an interesting way to reflect on your year of blogging, Tracy. I admire how organized you are, and how you keep track of what you read, and see the patterns in your reading.

TracyK said...

Patti, it was mostly interesting for myself to reflect on my blogging and why I do it. Even now I stick to a structure on the blog.

TracyK said...

Col, I think your first lines would be very interesting. It took me much less time than I anticipated.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Margot. I need to work out a balance between too much structure and allowing some flexibility.

Cath said...

Very interesting to read, Tracy. I'm not sure mine would be as interesting were I to do this. LOL

Mary R. said...

I have done this challenge in the past and found it very enlightening. In 2020 I hardly blogged at all so many months have no post. Hopefully 2021 will be better (all around, not just as far as blogging!). I love the monthly recaps you do of your reading, I may try that in 2021.

TracyK said...

Cath, I think your posts would be just as interesting, maybe more so. (I checked a few so I am not just saying that to be nice.) Reviewing my first posts made me reflect on how I do my blog and what I cover (and what the first posts did not pick up).

TracyK said...

Mary R., thanks for your comment on my monthly recaps. I try to do a mini review on every book just in case I don't really review it later, which often happens. But in 2021 I hope to do more reviews. I too hope that 2021 will be better in all ways.

Bill Selnes said...

What a clever way to make a blogger think about their posts. I enjoyed your reflections on your first sentences (paragraphs). I am going to consider considering my first sentences.

CLM said...

This is a great way to look back on a hideous year and see how your perspective changed. As my mother said recently, if we had known in March how long it would last we all would have been so depressed (not that we aren't now, of course). I will have to take a look at my posts now too.

TracyK said...

Bill, I am sure you would discover a lot from looking at your first lines. It gave me things to think about.

TracyK said...

Constance, it is a useful exercise for sure. It is amazing to me how many bloggers carried on with blogging under the circumstances.