Sunday, January 22, 2023

Books Read in December 2022

The first three books I read in December were Christmas mysteries, and I enjoyed that very much. I wish I could have reviewed them all. In addition I finished up an anthology of Christmas stories that I have been reading off and on for several years. Three other books I read had connections to Christmas but that was unintentional—a pleasant surprise.


O Caledonia (1991) by Elspeth Barker

This book is short, about 190 pages long, and the only novel that Barker published. It is set in Scotland in the 1950s.  The story is about a young girl, part of a large family, who is willful and stubborn, and won't be molded into what others want her to be, even from a very early age. It is a sad story but a wonderful read, written so beautifully that it makes me sad that the author did not write any other novels. 

Crime Fiction

Not a Creature Was Stirring (1990) by Jane Haddam

This is the first book in the Gregor Demarkian series by Jane Haddam. The story in this book is set at Christmas, and has a Christmas theme throughout. My review here.

Smoke Without Fire (1990) by E.X. Ferrars

This book is #6 in the Andrew Basnett series and I read it out of order, usually a no-no for me. Andrew Basnett is a retired botanist, widowed, in his mid-seventies. He is visiting friends for the Christmas holidays, but I would not really call it a Christmas mystery. I have enjoyed every book I read by this author, whose books are published under Elizabeth Ferrars in the UK. My review here.

Murder After Christmas (1944) by Rupert Latimer

This is a book from the British Library Crime Classics series, and only became available in the US in October 2022. It is most definitely a Christmas mystery and it is about the strangest family I have ever met in fiction (or otherwise).  It was a bit too long, too humorous in a screwball comedy way for me. But overall I enjoyed it a lot. I liked the policemen involved especially. And it was written and set during World War II, an extra bonus.

A Death of No Importance (2018) by Mariah Fredericks

There were a lot of things I liked about this historical mystery set in 1910 New York. This is the story of a young woman who works as a lady's maid for the two daughters of a rich family. There is an unfortunate romance, a death, and the maid is the one who finds the body. The police want to pin the murder on anarchists who have been sending threatening notes. The maid narrates the story and I liked that part of it especially. It is a good picture of New York at that time and I liked the way it ended. 

Mistletoe Mysteries (1989) edited by Charlotte MacLeod

This is an anthology of Christmas stories published in 1989. All of the stories have a copyright date of 1989 and were first published in this anthology. I liked all the stories in this book. In 2020, I posted a review of three stories from the book.

The Mysterious Mr. Quin (1930) by Agatha Christie

The short stories in this book feature Mr. Quin and Mr. Satterthwaite. Mr. Satterthwaite is an elderly man, quite well off financially, a bit of a snob, and loves good food and comfort. Mr. Quin is more mysterious, often showing up unannounced to help with a puzzle. How and where this happens is what provides the variety in the stories. I read the first eight stories in the book in January and reviewed them HERE. I read the remainder of the stories in December.

Death in the Off-Season (1994) by Francine Mathews

This is the first novel in the Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery series, and the first novel she wrote. Merry is a new detective in the Nantucket police, working under her father. The death of Rusty Mason, whose family was prominent in Nantucket years before, is her first murder case. This book was on my list of top ten novels in 2022. See my review here.

Snow (2020) by John Banville

I liked this much more than I expected, especially the setting, Ireland in 1957. See my review here.

Currently reading?

I am happy to say that I finished reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy in early January. It only took me four months. I ended up enjoying most of the second half much more than I liked the first half. Now I am reading The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters by Laura Thompson. I have only read bits and pieces about the Mitford sisters and I want to know more.

End of Year notes

I read 88 books in 2022. The shortest book was a mystery, Dead in the Water by Ted Wood, at 136 pages. My longest book was 752 pages, although I suspect at least 50 of those pages were end notes, etc. The book was Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, a nonfiction book about civil rights struggles in Birmingham in 1963. I lived in B'ham at the time, but I was a teenager and don't remember much. I am about the same age as the author, Diane McWhorter, who lived in a much more affluent part of the Birmingham metropolitan area at the time. Later she realized the extent to which her family and family friends had been involved, and wanted to learn more about it. A very good book, well researched, but depressing to read.

Of the 88 books I read, 48 books were from my TBR pile, which was my goal. I am only aiming at 60 books this year in my Goodreads Challenge, and still aiming at 48 books from my TBR pile, so we will see how that goes. 

The images at the top and bottom of the post were taken on a recent visit to Rocky Nook Park, in the Mission Canyon area. Mission Creek runs through the park and has been dry for a long time; I wanted to see how much water was in the creek. Water was rushing through the creek and it sounded wonderful. We had a lovely walk.

My husband took the photos. Click on the images for the best viewing quality.


Cath said...

I love the photos! Thanks for sharing.

You had a very good reading month in December! I've made a note of A Death of No Importance and will look that up as the time period and the New York setting really appeal. I liked Mr Quin as well, quirky and different which is always my thing.

Well done on finishing Anna Karenina! That's some acheivement. The Mitford sisters are an interest of mine, the best book I've read being the Mary Lovell one, some of it read like fiction. I also loved a couple I read by the youngest sister, Deborah Mitford. I'll be interested to hear about the one you're reading.

You had a good reading year with 88 books. I read far too many, 107, which might sound like an odd thing to say but I want to read slower this year, not gobble up over 100 books in record (for me) time. As with you and Anna Karenina I'm going to choose a big book and slowly work my way through it, I'm thinking of maybe The Count of Monte Cristo or Our Mutual Friend.

TracyK said...

Cath, I want to read the next book following A Death of No Importance, and see how the series continues.

I am glad I did not give up on Anna Karenina, but I am not sure I could read it again. At least half of it is too depressing for me. But I can see the good points of the book. And I learned a lot about Russia at the time.

I am thirty pages away from finishing the Mitford book by Laura Thompson. I have the one by Mary Lovell also, and I plan to read some from the beginning to see how they differ. Fortunately I have read The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford because that book and others written by her are referred to a lot in The Six. Lovell's book is about 150 pages longer than Thompson's but it may be stylistically more my type of reading.

I am not that familiar with The Count of Monte Christo, but boy is it long. I am not even that knowledgeable on Dickens' works, but Our Mutual Friend sounds more to my liking.

I know what you mean about cutting back on the number of books. What I really want to do is review all the books I want to, and the number read is less important. But reading more graphic novels may up my numbers because some are fairly quick reading.

Margot Kinberg said...

You read several authors whose work I really like, Tracy. Of course I think you can't go far wrong with Christie. And Jane Haddam's series is nicely done, too. I like the Philadelphia setting and the Demarkian character. I see Charlotte MacLeod here, too; I've enjoyed her work. Banville is a bit 'hit or miss' with me, but he can write an absorbing story. I hope your January reading's been good.

TracyK said...

Margot, My Agatha Christie reading went down in 2022, after read a lot of the Hercule Poirot series in 2020 aand 2021. 2023 will be the year of Miss Marple mysteries and maybe after that I will read some more of her standalone books.

I am a big Jane Haddam fan. I need to finish the series soon. And I have read a lot of Charlotte MacLeod's books also, although not recently.

Yes, my January reading is going well, mostly crime fiction, but some other genres also.

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

Congrats on finishing Anna Karenina, I really enjoyed this one, a few decades ago!
I don't think I have read The Mysterious Mr. Quin yet!
Happy new year of reading!

TracyK said...

Thanks, Emma. I enjoyed parts of Anna Karenina a lot, and other parts got me down. But well worth the read.

The Mysterious Mr. Quin is quite different and the stories followed a formula to a certain extent. But I was quite fond of the characters. Especially Mr. Satterthwaite.

I am very optimistic for this reading year, and I hope yours is good also.