Sunday, December 5, 2021

Reading Summary for November 2021

I read 15 books in November, which is a lot for me, but the only reason I read that many was because I read 14 novellas for the Novellas in November event. They ranged from 57 pages to 163 pages in length. The only longer novel I read was The Snack Thief by Andrea Camilleri, book 3 in the Inspector Montalbano series. 

One thing I enjoyed about concentrating on short novels this month is that I read from several genres. I also read five translated novellas, three by French authors and two by Italian authors and I enjoyed all of them.

So, here are the books I read...


Constructive Living (1984) by David K. Reynolds

This is a short nonfiction book (106 pages) that describes the author's approach to two Japanese psychotherapies, Morita therapy and Naikan therapy. I had read this years ago and found it interesting. The basic concepts were still interesting, but the sections on how they are used did not work so well for me this time.

General Fiction

The Sense of an Ending (2011) by Julian Barnes

Tony Webster, retired and in his later years, looks back on two of his relationships with women, one when he was a student at university, and the other with his wife, Margaret, who divorced him after twelve years of marriage. This 163 page book was one of my favorite reads in November. My review is here

Historical Fiction

Train Dreams (2002) by Denis Johnson 

This is a story about the life of a laborer in the American northwest from the early 1900s through the 1960s. Beautifully written, the 114-page book describes fragments of his life. Most of the time, he is living alone, a solitary life, and is struggling to support himself. The descriptions of small town and rural living were interesting. This book has been on my TBR pile for a while and I am glad I finally read it.

Tamburlaine Must Die (2004) by Louise Welsh 

The author imagines the last days of Christopher Marlowe, presenting him as a spy who is searching for the man who wants him dead. I am not sure if it was a positive or a negative that I knew so little about Marlowe going into this book. Regardless, now I am motivated to learn more about him. The book was very well written. This 140 page novella was Louise Welsh's debut book. 

Science Fiction

The Concrete Jungle (2004) by Charles Stross 

This book is part of the Laundry Files series and was written between the first and second book in that series. The series is about former tech support worker, Bob Howard, who becomes a field agent for the Laundry, a British agency that protects the world from supernatural phenomenon. I am new to this series but I read that the novella was a good place to start. The series is a real mishmash of genres, blending spy fiction with fantasy and horror, although it gets categorized mostly as science fiction. This story won the Hugo for Best Novella in 2005. I will be reading more in the series.

The Invisible Man (1987) by H.G. Wells

Most readers are familiar with The Invisible Man either via book or film, so I will just point you toward my review here.

Artificial Condition (2018) by Martha Wells

This is part of the Murderbot Diaries series; I reviewed the first one here. The protagonist is a security robot that has both human and robotic parts. It refers to itself as Murberbot (although it really does not have a sex, I see Murderbot as a he). He wants to investigate the incident, so comes up with a way to travel to the planet where it took place. Along the way, he acquires a new group of humans to assist, and realizes how important that type of interaction is, even though direct contact with humans scares him. I will be continuing with this series. I read the book on my Kindle, only the second e-book I read this year. Length was 149 pages. 


The Silent Gondoliers (1983) by William Goldman 

This novella was whimsical and fun. It is presented as having been written by S. Morgenstern, who was also the "author" of THE PRINCESS BRIDE, and the tone and writing style is very similar. It is a fable about Luigi, a talented gondolier who cannot sing. If I have any complaint, it is that the plot moves very slowly for most of the book. But the ending is wonderful and makes up for any issue I had with the preceding parts of the story. This book was 110 pages but that page count includes a number of full page illustrations.

Crime Fiction

Carte Blanche (1990) Carlo Lucarelli  

This 94-page novella was translated from Italian, the first in a trilogy. The setting is April 1945 in Italy. The story starts shortly before the end of World War II, in the final days of the Fascist regime in Italy. The protagonist is a policeman in the regular police, Commissario De Luca, who only recently transferred from another police group that worked under the direction of Mussolini. See my review here.

Montalbano's First Case (2008) by Andrea Camilleri

This short novel (97 pages) is a prequel to the Inspector Montalbano series. Montalbano gets his first assignment in Vigàta, after spending his time in an apprenticeship as a deputy inspector in Mascalippa. This was a lovely story, and it inspired me to return to the series, which I did before the end of November. See my review here.

Three to Kill (1976) by Jean-Patrick Manchette

A corporate salesman, Georges Gerfaut, married with two children, is attacked by two hit men on his way home, but they do not succeed in killing him. He goes into hiding and plots his revenge on the men and their boss. An unusual and dark story. I will be looking for more by this author. 132 pages in length. See my thoughts here.

The Front Seat Passenger (1997) by Pascal Garnier

After a man's wife dies in a car crash, he becomes obsessed with Martine, the widow of the man who died with his wife, and begins stalking her. Another strange story with a lot packed into 130 pages, and I enjoyed it very much. See my thoughts here.

Maigret in Retirement (1947) by Georges Simenon 

As the title implies, this is the story of a case that Maigret works on after his retirement. I enjoyed this picture of Maigret's relationship with his wife. This book was also published as Maigret Gets Angry. The story was about 105 pages in the edition I read. See my thoughts here.

Heartstones (1987) by Ruth Rendell 

I have read almost all of the Inspector Wexford books but I have had bad experiences reading Rendell's standalone books. Too tense for me. I was willing to try this one since it was so short, only 71 pages. It filled me with suspense and dread at times, but I enjoyed it. It is the story of a sixteen year old girl living with her father and her younger sister. She is telling the story, and we learn that she is obsessed with her father and is convinced that she will live with him all her life. The ending was a surprise, sort of, and very well done. The edition I read had a few very lovely illustrations. 

The Snack Thief (1996) by Andrea Camilleri

This was a wonderful book with a complicated plot. The primary case is the death of an elderly man who was stabbed in an elevator when leaving his home one morning. Montalbano is trying to avoid another case of a Tunisian seaman killed on an Italian fishing boat, but it keeps coming back to haunt him. Livia has a prominent role in this book. This is the third book in the Inspector Montalbano series. I was glad to get back to the series. 

The photo above is Rosie the cat. The photo at the top of the post shows succulents in pots in our back yard. Click on the images for best viewing quality.


Margot Kinberg said...

You had a good reading month, Tracy. I'm especially glad for the reminder of Charles Stross' work. I've read other things he's done, and enjoyed his work. But I haven't read that one. And I'm very glad that you enjoyed the Garnier. I think he's done some excellent noir writing.

TracyK said...

It was a good reading month, Margot. I would have liked to have more time to write about all of the novellas. The books by Garnier and Manchette both surprised me and I now have two new authors to read, assuming I can find their books. And I am sure I will like the first book in the Charles Stross series.

Rick Robinson said...

Tracy, an excellent reading month for you! Thank you for the post and you wonderful comments on the books. Reading DEATH AT SEA, I am tempted to read more Camillari too. I don’t know where I left off with his books, I’ll have to check my reading lists for a few years back. I was getting them from the library, but they put in new system in 2020 and the borrowing history was lost. Grrr.

Thanks so much for the photos, especially of Rosie!

TracyK said...

Thanks, Rick. I was really happy with my reading this month because it gave me a push to continue reading both Camilleri and Simenon. I hate it when systems change and history is lost. I guess with a library that would be hard to keep but still.

Glad you liked the photo of Rosie. She had to go to the vet last week for a blood test and wasn't at all happy.

Katrina said...

It looks like you've had a great reading month. I love the photo of the succulents!

Sam Sattler said...

What a great reading month, Tracy. Well done. I love the way you read something from so many different genres each month.

Cath said...

So glad you're enjoying Montalbano. You've reminded me that I really want to try that first Murderbot book (I think Sam read that too) and that it's waiting for me on my Kindle. I'm pretty sure I'll like it.

TracyK said...

Katrina, the succulents in the center of the photo were a retirement gift to Glen last June, and were tiny when he got them. Now they have really filled out and look very nice.

TracyK said...

Sam, I do hope I keep that trend going. Even though crime fiction -- or crime fiction mixed with other genres -- is my favorite, I want to continue reading from other areas, especially science fiction and fantasy. Nonfiction is a bit more difficult for me.

TracyK said...

Cath, with the help of the book sale in September, I have a good stock of books in the Montalbano series.

I think you will enjoy the first Murderbot book when you get to it. I liked the other one just as well, primarily because I like the main character, and I think it continues on to develop the "character" of the robot.

Mary R. said...

A very productive reading month!

TracyK said...

It has been, Mary, and I enjoyed it. I have been reading Christmas books so far in December.

FictionFan said...

Great variety in your reading this month! Rosie is gorgeous, but I expect she knows that...

pattinase (abbott) said...

And such a wide range of books!

TracyK said...

FictionFan, Reading mostly novellas did lead to finding more books and authors outside of crime fiction. I can remember when I did not want to read science fiction novellas because of the short length (not enough plot and character development was my complaint). This month of reading has proved me wrong.

Yes, Rosie knows she is gorgeous and she gets away with a lots because of that.

TracyK said...

Patti, I had never thought about reading books by Julian Barnes or Denis Johnson before, and I still have unread novellas or shorter novels by other authors I haven't tried before. I would like to read more by William Goldman too.

Howard said...

Your cat has another admirer here.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Howard. Rosie appreciates that.

NancyElin said...

Tracy, never mind the books ....just look at those great bookcovers!!
All kidding aside, you had a great reading month!
Reading atm 'The Figure of the Detective by C. Brownson.
Getting myself read to read the 30 CF's on my Kindle in 2022!!
I bought them for a reason...just can't remember why!
PS ...tell Rosie she's a CU-TY-PIE!

col2910 said...

I ought to read some more Garnier and get to Manchette. Looks like a great month's reading Tracy.

TracyK said...

Nancy, I do love nice book covers.

The Figure of the Detective sounds interesting, I see that it was nominated for an Edgar award. But I haven't heard much about it. I will be interested to hear your reaction. Good luck with your crime fiction reading. I often end up with books on the Kindle that I cannot remember getting.

Rosie says thank you.

TracyK said...

It was very good, Col, and I plan to read more Garnier and Manchette. They both seem to have a good number of books available in translation.