Saturday, April 9, 2022

Reading Summary for March 2022


I read seven books this month and every one of them was very good. Five books of crime fiction, one historical fiction, one general fiction. Two books published between 2000 and 2020, three books published between 1960 and 2000, and two books published in the 1950s. Five books by women, two by men.

General Fiction

Watermelon (1995) by Marian Keyes

Claire found out that her husband wanted a divorce on the day her first child was born. Claire had no clue that her husband was unhappy with the marriage and was having an affair with a woman that they both know. Her reaction is to leave London, where she works and lives with her husband, and go to Dublin and stay with her parents for a few months. My review here.

Historical Fiction

The Spies of Shilling Lane (2019) by Jennifer Ryan

This is historical fiction set during World War II. However, I was not sure how to categorize it because there are elements of spy fiction in the book; some of the characters are intelligence agents for the government. There is a mystery, and many characters who may or may not be who they seem. The main character is a middle aged woman divorced by her husband, who goes looking for her daughter living in London, and gets mixed up with Fascist spies. I did not find that part of it terribly realistic, but I still liked it. 

Crime Fiction

A Most Contagious Game (1967) by Catherine Aird

This was Aird's only standalone novel. Thomas Harding and his wife Dora have moved from London to a manor house in Easterbrook. Harding retired early because his health was bad, and he doesn't like the quiet life he is leading... until he finds a skeleton in a hidden room in his house (which turns out to be a priest hole that had been plastered over). This mystery was not a police procedural like Aird's Inspector Sloane series, but there is a death in the village about the same time. The story of Harding's research into the skeleton's origins and his settling into the small town with his wife was excellent. 

Death Likes It Hot (1954) by Edgar Box

Edgar Box is a pseudonym of Gore Vidal. Vidal used it at a time when he was having a hard time getting books published. This book is the third of three books featuring Peter Sargeant, a publicist and amateur sleuth. This one is set in the Hamptons. I have an omnibus edition published in 2010 with introductions for each book by Gore Vidal. I loved the book.

Monk's Hood (1980) by Ellis Peters

This is the third book in the Brother Cadfael series. The setting for the books in the series is between 1135 and 1145 in England and Wales, primarily. I love this series; Brother Cadfael is a wonderful character. My review here.

Once a Crooked Man (2016) by David McCallum

This book by actor David McCallum was published in 2016 and is a thriller. A crime family decides to go straight but first they have a few people they want to silence so they won't be going to jail for past crimes. An actor who survives on small parts in TV episodes and movies and stage plays overhears what they are plotting and get mixed up in all the mayhem, mainly because he wanted to do a good deed and warn one of the victims. This was the perfect read for me at this time, and I enjoyed it a lot. There are a lot of very short chapters and they move from character to character, which some readers might find distracting. I like this style of writing so it worked well for me. It kept the tension level up. Nicely paced with a lot of humor.

The Gazebo (1955) by Patricia Wentworth

Patricia Wentworth's books are my go-to comfort read. The Gazebo, the 7th book in the Miss Silver series, was published in 1955 and is a story about a woman who had to drop her plans to marry her fiancé to take care of her invalid mother for five years. Now he is back in the village and they are going to find a way to get around her controlling mother and get married. Then the mother is murdered and the fiancé seems to be the obvious culprit. The plot is complex, there was more romance in the story than usual, and I enjoyed it. And there are some really bad guys, which is sort of unusual for the Miss Silver series.

Status of my reading:

Most of my reading in March was based on spur of the moment decisions, not much planning. Watermelon was read for the Reading Ireland event at 746 Books, which always takes place in March. Death Likes It Hot was read for the 1954 Club run by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Kaggsy at Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings. The other five books were just for fun, and I enjoyed that.

In April I have read three books at this point, and all of them are for a challenge or similar blogging event. I read another book for the 1954 Club (Go, Lovely Rose by Jean Potts)and I finally read a book for the TBR Pile Challenge (Dog On It by Spencer Quinn). I read my book for the Classics Club Spin, Beast in View by Margaret Millar.

The photo at the top of the post shows a succulent among overgrown Santa Barbara daisies. The two plant photos immediately above are geraniums and an overgrown Dusty Miller. The photo of the Dusty Miller looks like a black and white photo, but it is just that the plant is all white. If you look closely you can sent tints of light green here and there. All of the plant photos were taken in early April in the front garden beds that I have been working on cleaning up.  As usual, my husband took those photos. Click on the images for best viewing quality.


CLM said...

A nice assortment! The Gazebo is indeed a very good Wentworth and you know I love A Most Contagious Game because of the Jesuit history, as well as Aird's quirky humor. I had forgotten it was a standalone. I think I mentioned my nephew (who turns 17 on Monday) is named for Nicholas Owen.

Did you like The Spies of Shilling Lane? Although it wasn't always completely believable, I enjoyed how different it was from other WWII historical fiction. I liked her first book, too, about a women's choir during the war. There is a new one with a cooking theme but although tempted, I figure it can wait until I am more caught up with everything. Which won't be until August when I graduate with my MLIS!

TracyK said...

Constance, I was probably motivated to read The Most Contagious Game now because of your comments on it that I have seen. I have been meaning to for years. I do remember that your nephew was named for Nicholas Owen, but I did not realize that he will be 17. Amazing. The historical background in The Most Contagious Game was very interesting and handled well.

I did like The Spies of Shilling Lane even though it is lighter fiction than I usually read. In addition to Mrs. Braithwaite, I really liked the character of Mr. Norris, and how he develops throughout the story. The Kitchen Front sounds good, but I am going to wait a while on that too.

How wonderful that you are getting close to graduating with your MLIS. And good that you will be able to relax a bit more at that time.

Margot Kinberg said...

I agree with you, Tracy, about Cadfael; he's a great character and I like the nuances to his personality. I'd like to read the Aird; I've read some of her series, but not this standalone, and it does sound good. I'm glad you had a solid reading month.

Mary R. said...

Good work getting a TBR pile book and a Classics Club book read! I like the Cadfael books as well and Monks Hood is my next book in the series. I also like Miss Silver but have not read them in order so what will be next there is anyone's guess.

TracyK said...

Margot, I am so glad I finally got to reading the Cadfael books after all these years. I am glad I read the Aird standalone book also. A good mystery with historical elements. I am sure you would like it.

TracyK said...

Mary, getting more books on my Classics list read is one of my hardest projects. I don't know why, I am usually very glad to have read them.

I am not reading the Miss Silver series in order either. I should figure out how many I have read and how many are left. A lot, I am sure.

Cath said...

That geranium is such a pretty colour!

I had absolutely no idea that Dave McCallum had written a book! How interesting. Do you think it ok to read the Miss Silver books out of order? I've read the first one but can't imagine I'll be able to find them in the right order as there are so many.

TracyK said...

Cath, geraniums are my favorite plant and so easy. They are the first plants that bloom in my yard in the spring.

My husband had McCallum's book for several years and then passed it on to me to read. I remember when it had come out but had completely forgotten about it. I was wary of reading it but liked it after reading only a few pages and read it very quickly. A lot of fun.

I had read some Miss Silver books back in the 70s and 80s but don't remember a thing about them. Since reading them in the last decade, I have skipped around a lot and did not notice any problems. Every now and then Miss Silver will mention an earlier case but not enough to spoil it. A lot of her books were written in the 40s and 50s and I like reading about that time.

Rick Robinson said...

Nice reading month! Thank you for sharing what you read with us, it’s nice to see the variety. Of the books you’ve listed, I’ve only read the Cadfael.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Rick. In addition to the Cadfael, I am really glad I got to the mystery by Gore Vidal writing as Edgar Box and The Most Contagious Game by Catherine Aird. Both have been on my TBR for too long.

Katrina said...

Your husband's photos look great, I have that geranium/pelargonium but it is still in the house as it's too cold to put it outside. I went to the same primary school as the actor David McCallum, but not at the same time! He was my favourite in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I love Gore Vidal's writing but haven't read any of his crime fiction. He had such a great sense of humour which I don't think was appreciated by many, people tend to think he was so 'up himself' when in fact he was often having a good laugh.

TracyK said...

Katrina, it is getting much warmer here and we are actually getting some sun in the back area. We have no sun in the back from about September to April. So I am getting more interesting gardening and cleaning up outside now.

How interesting that you went to the same school as David McCallum. I had forgotten he is Scottish. We like him in The Man from UNCLE; also in the film, The Great Escape. And we have watched NCIS for years and always enjoy his part in that show.

After reading this book by Gore Vidal, I was curious about what other types of books he had written. I would like to try something else by him, in addition to reading the other two in that series.

Rick Robinson said...

In case you didn’t notice, we got sleet, followed by snow yesterday. So no pretty plants going in or growing just now.

TracyK said...

Rick, I do remember now that you mentioned snow on your driveway at Patti's blog yesterday. I was a cartoon about an Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs in the snow and thought of you. I did not know about the sleet. We don't watch the news or the weather on TV so I never know much about the weather anywhere, even here.

How does that weather affect your plants? We haven't even had frost here to threaten our plants in at least two years.