Monday, May 3, 2021

Reading Summary for April 2021

I read ten books in April, although some of the books were ones I had started in February or March and finished at the end of April. I was happy with the mix. I read six crime fiction books, and five of those were published before 1970. 

Nonfiction / Essays

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (1998) by Anne Fadiman

This is a wonderful book of essays, especially for people who love books, language and words. The author's family were all serious readers (her father was Clifton Fadiman), and her husband too, so many of the essays are related to books and reading. The first essay was titled "Marrying Libraries", and talks about when she and her husband combined their libraries after five years of marriage, rather than having some shelves for her books and some shelves dedicated to his books (and duplication of books).

General Fiction

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1955) by Brian Moore

The setting is Belfast in Northern Ireland, in the 1950s. Judith Hearne, plain and in her late thirties,  has just moved to a new room in a boarding house.   My full review is here.

The Pursuit of Love (1945) by Nancy Mitford

This was my book for the Classics Club Spin in April. Nancy Mitford was one of the Mitford sisters, and the characters in the family are based on members of her family. I haven't read much about that family yet so I had no idea of who was based on who, or how accurate it might be. The story is humorous but there are also serious moments and I was quite invested in the ending of the book. I liked it a lot, and thus will seek out others in the three book series.

Historical Fiction

Post Captain (1972) by Patrick O'Brian

This is the second novel in the highly acclaimed historical fiction series about Jack Aubrey (a naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars) and his friend Stephen Maturin (physician and naturalist). I enjoyed this one even more than the first book, probably because I had gotten used to the nautical jargon. Also, Jack and Stephen spend more time on land this time, and get involved with several women looking for husbands. I look forward to further adventures in this series.

Crime Fiction

Case for Three Detectives (1936) by Leo Bruce

This was one of the four books that I reviewed for the 1936 Club this month. It is a humorous mystery, poking fun at the Golden Age detectives created by Sayers, Christie, and Chesterton. Set in a country house, and surrounding villages, it is a lot of fun. My review is here.

Murder in Piccadilly (1936) by Charles Kingston

This was another book that I reviewed for the 1936 Club this month. Murder in Piccadilly tells the story of a young man, Bobbie Cheldon, who has expectations of inheriting the family estate and a large income when his uncle dies. The hitch is that his uncle, Massy Cheldon, is healthy and he could easily live another 20 years. This book provided a good picture of London in the 1930s, especially the less well-to-do London environments. My review is here.

The Clocks
(1963) by Agatha Christie

This month I read two later books in the Hercule Poirot series, published in the 1960s. In general they are not as good as earlier books but I still found them to be entertaining reads.

In The Clocks, a good number of the chapters are told via first person narration by Colin Lamb, a secret agent, who gets involved with a case of murder while following up on an espionage assignment. Colin visits his friend Hercule Poirot, and describes the crime. An older man was found dead in the sitting room of a blind woman's home, and the body was discovered by a young woman who had an appointment to do some stenographic work for the blind woman, Miss Pebmarsh. Colin challenges Poirot to solve the crime without talking to any witnesses himself, but just based on the facts of the case as brought to him by the investigators. So Poirot makes suggestions and Colin continues to visit him and discuss the case.

Hallowe'en Party (1969) by Agatha Christie

Overall Hallowe'en Party was less satisfying for me than most other mysteries by Christie, but I do love it when Ariadne Oliver shows up. Again she involves Poirot in a mystery by asking him to come help out.  One unusual thing in this story is that the murder victim was a child and children play a big part in the story.  

The Meaning of Night (2006) by Michael Cox

This is a Gothic tale of revenge, set in the 1850s, mostly in London but with a good bit of time spent at a lavish country estate, Evenwood. Edward Glyver is the main character and he believes he is rightful heir to the estate. Many readers loved this book; I did not. It took me two months to finish reading it, and I considered not finishing it many times. But after 400 pages (out of 700) I wanted to see if it would improve and how it all ended. I did like the last third of the novel, and I think that was because finally more is shared about the story and it is no longer a mystery as to what the whole thing is about.

Sunset over Soho (1943) by Gladys Mitchell

I read this book between April 5th and April 26th, and that is a long time for such a short book (192 pages). But this was a read along and I am very glad I read it that way. It was quite confusing, with a very complex structure, and having a group commenting on that element was very helpful. I loved the book because it was both written and set during World War II, mostly in or near London, with some seafaring scenes, including a chapter about Dunkirk. Just fantastic, and I will surely read it again. Unfortunately, it is only really affordable in the e-book edition. There are four posts at Jason Half's blog about this book and the group's thoughts, all in April 2021.


I started The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel on April 28th. I think it may be a long slow read, because it is hard for me to follow the large number of characters and it is about 750 pages long. I am enjoying it so far.

I may be blogging a bit less for a while, and spending more time on gardening and other home maintenance tasks. Below is a photo of one of my geraniums in bloom this month. The photo at the top features a geranium in my front area with curly variegated leaves and multicolored flowers. Click on the images to enlarge.


Rick Robinson said...

Lovely Geraniums! We haven’t put any in this year, at least so far, and temps remain cool here, though we had the driest April ever on record, and it’s drought conditions even this early in the year. I got spoiled by your more frequent posts, so I hope you don’t go to too much of an infrequent schedule. I have been a little infrequent myself, but have a Wed. post ready.

I think HALLOWEEN PARTY is the weakest Poirot novel of all. THE CLOCKS isn’t a lot better. Long ago, I read DEATH IN A COLD CLIMATE, but remember little of it, except I enjoyed the reading.

Barbara helped (as in she bent and lifted while I directed) get the Book den better organized, and I came across things I’d forgotten I had. Always fun. A couple dozen went into the Goodwill bag in the process, things I’ll not read or reread. There are still so many!

We watched GREEN FOR DANGER the other night, it’s based on Brand’s novel but I like the movie better.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Lovely flowers and a great variety of books for April as well.

Mary R. said...

Ex Libris has been on my possibly-TBR list for some time. It sounds like I should read it. The geraniums are gorgeous--I love the color!

dfordoom said...

Strangely enough I also prefer the movie version of GREEN FOR DANGER. It's not that I didn't like the book. I loved it. I just loved the movie even more.

TracyK said...

Rick, I worry about a drought here and being able to maintain some of our plants. I try to plan for that but sometimes forget. It used to be a real problem when I was working and could not find time to water at the allowed times. Now I will be able to fit it in better, if they limit watering.

I would rather be blogging than doing other things (even gardening), but I have put off a lot of things in the last year and now I have to make a dent in them. I probably won't cut back a lot, just now and then.

That is fun, finding books you have forgotten about. I have some uncatalogued books that will probably surprise me when I get to them. We like the film GREEN FOR DANGER also. I read the book a while back but haven't read much else by that author. Except for a short story recently.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Diane. It was a good reading month for the most part, and I like adding other genres into the mix. I would have liked to have read more nonfiction so far this year, but I am stuck in a very long nonfiction book that I am slow in making progress on.

TracyK said...

Mary, I recommend Ex Libris by Fadiman very highly. I have only found one other book of her essays and I will be reading that one too.

The geranium in the photo at the top was new last year and did not have flowers until this year, so the colors were a lovely surprise.

Bill Selnes said...

TracyK: What a wonderful evocative phrase "marrying books". A clever means of marital togetherness. You did not say whether you and your husband have "married books"?

The geraniums are beautiful. on Friday we bought 9 pots of red and 1 pot of pink geraniums to go in stands at the front of our home and on the arbor over the gate in the backyard. They currently spend their nights in the garage. It will be close to 3 weeks before it is safe to put them out in Saskatchewan. We usually stop worrying about frost for the Victoria Day Weekend.

I hope sometime we can be traveling again and might be able to see your flowers.

TracyK said...

Dfordoom, I like both the book and the movie version of GREEN FOR DANGER also. And I would agree with you and Rick, it is one of those cases where the movie is better. I usually prefer the book over a movie, though.

TracyK said...

Bill, I agree with you on the phrase "marrying books." It was a lovely essay.

No, Glen and I have not done that, in most cases. Our books are very different and there is less overlap in types of books and topics. Glen has way more nonfiction than I do. I have more fiction. Glen shelves the books he has read and wants to keep. He also has stacks of art and photo books all over the place. I shelve mostly the books I have not read yet (I have a lot of them). We share graphic novels, cookbooks, and illustrated children's books. And occasionally if we are interested in the same book we buy it together. Sometimes Glen lends me books to read, and they end up in my stacks for quite a while.

Our latest purchases of geraniums included several red ones, which I plan to put in pots on one side of the walk up to our door. In the back we can play around more but we do have issues with light availability. The arbor over the gate in your backyard sounds lovely. I would love to have you visit and see our flowers. We don't travel much, but it will be very good when travel is safer.

bookertalk said...

I've been wondering about The Pursuit of Love. Part of me wants to try it but I read another of her books about two years ago (Love in a Cold Climate) and wasn't that impressed. She is always described as a witty author but I didn't find that at all in that book. Is it in evidence in Pursuit of Love?

pattinase (abbott) said...

Gorgeous geraniums. I am afraid to plant annuals yet. The weather hasn't settle into something reliable.
I am putting in more sprinkler heads in the back of my house next month. Will be nice not to drag the hose all around. When I put the system in the front there was not much behind the house (very narrow). But I planted a few hostas and now I have dozens.

Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, those flowers are beautiful, Tracy! I don't blame you for wanting to spend more time in your garden. You've had some good reads this past month (of course, you probably figured I would say that about your Agatha Christie choices!). And I need to read that Leo Bruce...

TracyK said...

Bookertalk, I did find that Pursuit of Love was witty although some of the attitudes shocked me. In one sense I felt like serious situations were trivialized in The Pursuit of Love, and I often miss a lot of wit and humor in books, but I did enjoy it.

I would have guessed that Love in a Cold Climate would be very similar to The Pursuit of Love. Thus if you didn't like one you would not like the other. However, one review I read of Love in a Cold Climate said that the story was more serious than in The Pursuit of Love. So you might like that one better. Hard to say.

TracyK said...

Patti, Geraniums usually survive the winter here, especially in big pots. I have one big pot of pink geraniums that has been there for at least 8 years and looked totally dead at times and has come back beautifully in the last two years.

More sprinklers will help a lot. The area I have is so small I haven't considered any watering system, although it would probably be smart.

I need to look into hostas. I think I tried some years ago and did not succeed with them, but with shady areas I should be able to try them out and see how they fare.

TracyK said...

Margot, you definitely need to read that Leo Bruce. I am only going to read one more Poirot book, CURTAIN. And then I will be done and move on to Miss Marple, Tuppence and Tommy, and stand alone books by Christie. Plus short stories. I have read only one or two short stories by Christie.

Sam said...

You read an interesting group of books in April, for sure. I've only recently become somewhat interested in the Mitford family and their history. Certainly a remarkable set of siblings. Oh...and I suspect that lots of us are going to be blogging a little less soon - and that's probably a really great thing if it means we are finally seeing some real light at the end of that long, dreary COVID tunnel. Here's hoping...

TracyK said...

Sam, I had read posts about the Mitford sisters and related books at blogs but never been really interested myself until lately. After I read The Sisters by Mary S. Lovell, I will see if I am interested in more nonfiction about them.

It will still be a while before I feel like venturing out much, but I am getting more interested in some organizing and purging that I let fall behind in the last year, and want to make further headway on making better use of our small outdoor area.

Cath said...

What a beautiful geranium that second one is.

I've read one of Anne Fadiman's books about books but am not sure if that's the one. I enjoyed it but marginally prefer Susan Hill's two books.

The Pursuit of Love has been made into a TV drama and begins here next week I think. I'm endlessly fascinated by the Mitford sisters and Mary Lovell has written the best book about them in my opinion.

TracyK said...

Cath, I had seen things about an adaptation when I was looking up The Pursuit of Love online, but I did not realize it was new, soon to come out TV show. I could not find a lot about it, but it looks like it will be available here on Prime sometime. So will definitely try it.

I am looking forward to reading the Lovell book sometime this year.

col2910 said...

Glad you had a great month's reading. Probably the Moore book is the one that has the most appeal for me.

TracyK said...

True, Col, my crime fiction reads this month were not the type you go for. I hope you do try The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne someday.

Rick Robinson said...

Hosta are easy! Just be sure they get light but don't get much hot direct sun. Though you will undoubtedly buy yours locally, check out Seabright Gardens, a favorite place of ours which, except in 2020, we visit every year.

TracyK said...

I will give hostas a try, Rick. Thanks for the link. The Sebright Gardens website has good information on hosta care and gorgeous pictures of the gardens. No wonder you visit there. Maybe I tried hostas in the front where it is sunnier, although there was a time when we had more shade in that area. In the back I may be able to find the right conditions now.

Katrina said...

I bought exactly that geranium/pelargonium last week but I can't plant it out yet as we still have overnight frosts, we had a huge hailstorm today too. Our weather is not usually this bad. I hope that I'll also be busy in the garden soon - if the weather permits! If you have many slugs and snails in your garden they will adore any hostas you plant.

TracyK said...

Katrina, I am hoping to find more of that same geranium this year at my plant store. Half the year (or more) I have no sun in the back area, so it just surprises me that all of a sudden I now have lots of sun in about half of of the back now.

I know I have snails in the front, they used to give me lots of problems. But I haven't noticed them in the back, so I will hope for the best.

CLM said...

These are much prettier geraniums than I have ever seen. I somewhat dislike geraniums in general and realized last year it is because in New England we plant them on graves. Last year, I was in charge of the family plot and all the blooming geraniums were gone! I knew the photo of the grave for a cousin in FL would look bad with no blooms so bought red white and purple pansies and made a double row around the grave. It looked great but only briefly and my mother pointed out that people plant geraniums at graves because they are resilient. That means I will be shopping for some this weekend so I don't get shut out!

More urgently, I am puzzled about your friend Nero and scared to google for fear of spoilers. Is he agoraphobic? Does he solve all his crimes from home? What is with the plants? Is he very large or is just his head large? The house is in a very odd location but I like how back in the day you could just park in front, no problem.

TracyK said...

Constance, your mother is right that geraniums are resilient. Last spring, when I was cleaning up the back area from years of neglect, the only bright spot at the beginning was the very large pot of pick geraniums (trailing) that had been planted years ago. There are many different kinds of geraniums. Scented, zonal, regal, ivy (trailing).

But in New England I would not think they would make it through the winter? Based on a gardening book I have been rereading (on growing edible plants in containers) it does seem like pansies would not last that long but I have little experience with pansies or related plants.

Nero Wolfe has been described as agoraphobic but I think he is just set in his ways. He doesn't want to leave the house and he can get away with it so he stays at home most of the time. But there are books where he does leave home for a short time or for a trip. He is considered an armchair detective but he has his employee Archie Goodwin to send out on errands and freelance detectives he hires when needed. He is very overweight and loves food. He grows orchids and has a greenhouse on his roof. Maury Chaykin played him in the TV show. Archie Goodwin is the best part of the stories, in my opinion.

CLM said...

Thank you for the info on Nero Wolfe, Tracy! I do like Archie's commentary and it is fun to read about Westchester which I know fairly well as that is where my mother grew up.

Re flowers, I meant petunias, not pansies (although I like pansies and they must be of long-standing popularity in New England because Beth embroiders them on slippers for Mr. Laurence in Little Women). I did manage to find some geraniums today but they were not the best specimens; barely blooming. I bought two just in case I couldn't find more later in the month. We don't expect anything to make it through the winter but it would be nice if what we planted lasted a few weeks! I am impressed with the resilience of the ones you found in your garden - maybe it was a sign.