Sunday, April 21, 2024

Books Read in March 2024

Even though I am getting my summary of reading for March 2024 out very late, I am happy because I have actually written reviews for six of the nine books I read. For me that is very good. And I enjoyed almost all of the books. So March was a good reading month. 

Of the fiction books I read this month, six were published between 2007 and 2020. Only two were published before 1960. That is a big change in the direction of my reading. I read too many exceptional books to pick a favorite for the month but I am glad I reread another book by Rex Stout. And I am in the middle of a book of three novellas in the Nero Wolfe series, Curtains for Three

This week I participated in the Classics Club Spin, where 20 books are listed and a random number between 1 and 20 is selected. The book that resulted from the spin for me to read for this spin was The Warden by Anthony Trollope. I am happy with that pick because I haven't read anything by Trollope before.

Here are the nine books I finished reading in March:


The Book of Books (2007) by Les Krantz and Tim Knight

The subtitle of this book is "An Eclectic Collection of Reading Recommendations, Quirky Lists, and Fun Facts about Books." It has a more formal approach than the Book Lust series by Nancy Pearl, although it was published around the same time. This book is made up of lists of books about specific subjects, or genres and subgenres. Each book on the lists is summarized briefly. Some of the lists came from outside sources and some were put together by the authors.


My Name is Lucy Barton (2016) by Elizabeth Strout

While Lucy Barton is in a hospital in New York City for many weeks due to complications following an appendectomy, her mother visits her and they have some strained conversations about the past. The story is set in the 1980s, and Lucy narrates it, years after it happened. See my review

The Glass Hotel (2020) Emily St. John Mandel 

This story revolves around Paul Smith and his half-sister Vincent Smith, and starts when they are teens. Many other characters that they interact with then and later in their lives are important to the plot. Set in Canada. See my review

Crime Fiction

The Silver Swan (2007) by Benjamin Black

Set in Ireland in the 1950s, this is the 2nd book about Quirke, a pathologist working in a hospital in Dublin.  Benjamin Black is a pseudonym of John Banville. See my review.

Defectors (2017) by Joseph Kanon

This is the first book I have read by Joseph Kanon, and it definitely won't be my last. I have six more of his books on my shelves. The Defectors focuses on a group of American and British spies living in and around Moscow during the Cold War, after defecting. My focus was on the relationship of the two brothers in the story, Frank, the US spy who defected to Russia in 1949, and Simon, his younger brother, who had to leave his job in intelligence to work in publishing after Frank's defection. In 1961, Simon has been allowed to come to Moscow to work with Frank on publishing his memoirs. He has not seen or heard from Frank in the years since his defection. I loved the exploration of family relationships, but the story has plenty of action also.

Your Republic is Calling You (2006) by Young-ha Kim

The story takes place over the course of one day in the life of Ki-Yong, a South Korean with a wife and teenage daughter. Except that he is really a North Korean spy who has been living in Seoul, working as a film importer, over 20 years, and has now been recalled to North Korea. See my review.

A Beautiful Place to Die (2008) Malla Nunn

This is a historical mystery, set in a very small town on the border between South Africa and Mozambique in 1952. New apartheid laws have recently gone into effect. The protagonist is an English police detective who is investigating the death of an Afrikaner police captain. See my review.

A Scream in Soho (1940) by John G. Brandon

This was one of the earlier books in the British Library Crime Classics series, and it was the only book this month that I was disappointed with. It is not a bad book, it is just that it is more a thriller than a mystery, along the lines of Edgar Wallace's novels, per the introduction by Martin Edwards. Published during the war, the plot centers around a spy hiding in Soho. It also had a good bit of overt racism and sexism which was distasteful, although not that unusual for book of this period. 

Plot It Yourself (1959) by Rex Stout

This book is part of the Nero Wolfe series; Wolfe is a private detective and his assistant is Archie Goodwin. In this case, the story revolves around authors, publishers, and accusations of plagiarism. The first novel, Fer-de-Lance, was published in 1934. See my review.

Currently reading

I started The Mistress of Alderley by Robert Barnard last night, and surprised myself by reading 100 pages. Caroline Fawley has given up her acting career quite willingly to live in an elegant home in the country. Her wealthy lover Marius purchased a country house for her to live in, but her children worry that she is depending too much on his generosity, with no promise of marriage. This book has a surprise appearance by Inspector Oddie and Detective Charlie Peace from Barnard's Charlie Peace series; I have read all except the last two books in that series.

The photos at the top and bottom of this post were taken in late March in our back yard after we had a good bit of rain. The lighting was perfect. We had a lot of weeds in the back at the time, and we still do. Lots of work to be done. 

The photos were taken and processed by my husband. Click on the images for the best viewing quality.



pattinase (abbott) said...

What a nice list of books. And the photos are gorgeous.

Margot Kinberg said...

I love those photos, Tracy! You had some good reads, too. I thought A Beautiful Place to Die was excellent - very sad and not always easy to read, but excellent. And you've reminded me that I haven't read the Quirke stories in a while. I really should get back to them. And honestly, you almost can't go wrong with Rex Stout...

Kelly said...

I read Station Eleven years ago when it first came out and loved it. I liked The Glass Hotel, but I really liked Sea of Tranquility. I'd recommend reading it before you forget too much about this one. She uses some of the same characters.

Beautiful flowers!

Kay said...

Tracy, lovely, lovely flowers! And I've not read any of the books you listed, but enjoy hearing about what you are reading. Hope you have a great week!

FictionFan said...

Looks like you had a great month! I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of The Warden.

TracyK said...

Patti, it always surprises me to list the books I read in a month. None of these were really long, which helps.

TracyK said...

Margot, I am on a real Rex Stout kick right now; I am lucky that the books are so short. I want to read more books about Quirke too, but right now I have none on my shelves.

TracyK said...

Kelly, I recently saw Station Eleven on a book list and I was reminded I want to read that. Hopefully I will find a copy at the book sale later in the year.

Those plants are volunteers, and I don't know how they got in our yard, but we are enjoying them. We also have geraniums blooming in the front and the back but I have got to deal with weeds before we take more photos.

TracyK said...

We are enjoying the flowers, Kay, and finally getting sun in the back area. The rain this year really helped.

I have not bought any physical books this year and am reading mostly from my shelves (or my husband's) and somehow this is resulting in a different mix of books.

TracyK said...

FictionFan, March was a good reading month for me.

I am curious as to how I will like The Warden. I am eager to start it, but I may end up waiting until May.

CLM said...

I've wondered about Joseph Kanon. As I recall, he was the publisher of Houghton Mifflin when I entered the publishing world, wrote a book on the side which was very well reviewed - and then quit to write full time which is very risky! Glad it worked out.

CLM said...

I meant to add that I think I saw the miniseries on PBS of the Warden prior to reading the book and I recommend it. I have read and enjoyed a few but must admit I prefer Angela Thirkell who took his characters and county and wrote about the next or next-next generation.

Sam said...

You really had a terrific reading month with lots of interesting books to choose from. I just picked up a copy of Your Republic Is Calling You from the library this morning based on your review of a couple of days ago. I'm looking forward to that one...a quick flip-through has left me curious about it.

TracyK said...

Sam, I am glad you will be trying Your Republic is Calling You. I will be interested in your reaction, of course. I was puzzled about what was going on the whole time, almost up to the very end.

TracyK said...

Constance, I have had some of Kanon's books on my shelves for over ten years and now I have finally read one. It was very good and I am encouraged to read more of them. I did not know that he had been in publishing.

I have only read one of Angela Thirkell's books, and I did like that one. I have two or three more to find. It will be interesting to see the similarities and differences between Trollope's books and Thirkell's.

thecuecard said...

You had a great reading month in March! A nice variety too. The flowers are amazing to look at ... and it took me a while to remember the name -- Calla Lily right? So beautiful. Are they still out now?

TracyK said...

Susan, thanks so much for identifying that plant. Both Glen and I wondered what it's name was but I had not taken the time to look it up and wasn't sure where to start. They are still blooming but we need to cut back the stems with fading flowers.

Cath said...

Beautiful lillies, Tracy!

I apparently read A Scream in Soho in May 2023 but didn't review it and now can't remember a single thing about it. I gave it four stars so it must've made some impression on me at the time...

Interested to hear what you think of the Robert Barnard when you've finished it, I've read several of his and always found him to be a good writer.

TracyK said...

Cath, I saw that you had read A Scream in Soho. I must have noticed that on Goodreads, and I looked for a review on your blog. The reviews on goodreads were very mixed. It actually had a espionage plot which I should have like but it was too melodramatic. But the author wrote a lot of books back then and 50 of them starred Patrick McCarthy, so he must have entertained a lot of readers.

I did finish the Robert Barnard book and I loved it. The characters were all interesting and the ending was good. Inspires me to read more of his books that I have on my shelves.

Glad you liked the photos.