Friday, January 17, 2020

Book Beginnings: In the Last Analysis

In the Last Analysis (Kate Fansler Mysteries #1), by Amanda Cross (first published 1964). These are the book's opening lines:
“I didn’t say I objected to Freud,” Kate said. “I said I objected to what Joyce called freudful errors — all those nonsensical conclusions leaped to by people with no reticence and less mind.” 
“If you are going to hold psychiatry responsible for sadistic parlor games, I see no point in continuing the discussion,” Emanuel answered. But they would continue the discussion nonetheless; it had gone on for years, and showed no signs of exhausting itself.

About the Book:
"When beautiful Janet Harrison asks English professor Kate Fansler to recommend a Manhattan psychoanalyst, Kate immediately sends the girl to her dear friend and former lover, Dr. Emanuel Bauer. Seven weeks later, the girl is stabbed to death on Emanuel's couch – with incriminating fingerprints on the murder weapon. To Kate, the idea of her brilliant friend killing anyone is preposterous, but proving it seems an impossible task. For Janet had no friends, no lover, no family. Why, then, should someone feel compelled to kill her? Kate's analytic techniques leave no stone unturned – not even the one under which a venomous killer once again lies coiled and ready to strike."

Initial Thoughts:

Honestly, my first thought was that the book's opening is not what you would call exciting. Rather dry, in fact.

And that's one of the main problems with the Kate Fansler mysteries – Kate is an academic and all of her friends and associates are academics and intellectuals. And they sound just like academics and intellectuals. The mysteries are entertaining, but the dialogue can definitely be a little off-putting. I've read several of the later books in the series, but somehow managed to miss out on the first one until now. I'm enjoying it so far, but it's not exactly thrill-a-minute stuff.

This first novel was published in 1964 and over the years it's been reissued in various paperback editions with lots of different cover art. The book I'm reading is a recent issue, with the above cover – but I think my favorite is this old Avon edition from back in the '60s (Kate would probably NOT be amused):

Happy Friday, everyone! And happy reading! And have a lovely weekend.

Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Book Beginnings: Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë (first published in 1847). These are the book's first lines:
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.  We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question. 
I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed.
About the Book:
Orphaned Jane Eyre endures an unhappy childhood, hated by her aunt and cousins and then sent to comfortless Lowood School. But life there improves and Jane stays on as a teacher, though she still longs for love and friendship. At Mr Rochester’s house, where she goes to work as a governess, she hopes she might have found them – until she learns the terrible secret of the attic. (from the Penguin Random House website)

Initial Thoughts:

Actually, my first thought when I pulled this off the shelf was: almost 600 pages! That's going to take me all year to get through.

I've had Jane Eyre on my MUST READ list for decades now. I read a children's edition when I was about ten or eleven, and loved the story, but I've always wanted to read the full unabridged version. It'll fulfill several reading challenge categories, and I'll be able to take one more chunkster off that towering TBR stack.

Although I'll most likely read this one on the Kindle, I've bought several different paperback editions of the book over the years, with a variety of covers – including my favorite, an old Signet Classic from back in the 1960s:

Happy Friday, everyone! And happy reading! And have a lovely weekend.

Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

First Books of 2020

Well, 2020 is finally here. Or maybe I should put that another way – 2019 is FINALLY over! Not the best year for me, reading-wise, health-wise, the-culture-at-large-wise, or any other wise I can think of. So I'm especially glad to see that one gone. And I'm hoping for much better stuff in 2020, for all of us.

But I'm starting the year on a sad note – just heard that Marion Chesney died December 30th. She was 83, an age that once upon a time would have made me come out with something about her living a full, long life. These days, however, 83 doesn't seem so old or so far away. But that's probably gist for another post. And I digress, as usual.

Chesney was an amazingly prolific writer who wrote under a number of pseudonyms. As M.C. Beaton she was the author of a couple of long-running series of whodunnits – the Hamish Macbeth mysteries, and the wonderfully wacky Agatha Raisin cozies. Both of those series have been adapted for British TV, though I haven't seen either of them yet. I just discovered Agatha Raisin last year – I read the first four books in the series and loved every one of them. So in honor of Ms. Chesney/Beaton, I'll be starting the year off with number five: Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage (first published in 1996).

And I'm determined to get through as many of the Agatha books as I can this year. There are thirty books in the series, with possibly one more coming in 2020; so there's no way I'll finish the series, but it gives me a lofty goal.

In addition to the Agatha, I've got another book going, one I actually started in 2019 – Bitter End, by Rex Stout.

It's the first of the Nero Wolfe novellas Stout published in magazines over the years, and I think it's a great way to start my reading year – it's a short read, and you really can't go wrong with Nero Wolfe.

So, that's what I'll be reading for the next couple of days. It's cold (well, cold-ish) here in central Texas right now, with rain predicted for tomorrow, and M and I don't really have anything on the schedule. And now that all the holiday busy-ness is calming down, I should be able to spend quite a bit of my time curled up with my books. If I can manage to pry myself away from all this blogging madness, that is.

Happy New Year, everyone! And Happy Reading in 2020.

Books Read in 2020

Cumulative Reading List

Here's where I'll be tracking my reading in 2020.

My reading goal for last year was 40 books, and I very nearly made it. I'd love to up the number to 50, but guess I really should try to be realistic; so I'm sticking with 40 again for this year.

1. Bitter End (The First Nero Wolfe Novella). Rex Stout (1940; fiction; 90 pages; e-book)
2. In the Last Analysis (Kate Fansler #1). Amanda Cross (1964; fiction; 217 pages)
3. The Circus. Jonas Karlsson (2020; reading now)
4. The Light After the War. Anita Abriel (2020; reading now)


Sunday, December 29, 2019

Reading Challenge Wrap-Up: 2019 Cloak and Dagger Challenge

Well, the New Year is right around the corner, and I really don't think I'll be doing much more reading before January arrives. So it's time to start wrapping up some of the reading challenges I signed up for in 2019. First up --

Hosted by: Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My! and Barb @ Booker T's Farm
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2019

For the 2019 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge I signed up for 16-25 books ("Detective" level), and though I was trying for 25, I only managed to read 16. Which means I did barely make it to Detective. Technically though, I really didn't complete the challenge because I only reviewed two of the books I read. Here's the list:
  1. The Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin #1). M.C. Beaton (1992; cozy mystery) 
  2. The Janus Stone (Ruth Galloway #2). Elly Griffiths (2010; mystery / cold case, forensics) 
  3. Murder Theory (The Naturalist #3). Andrew Mayne (2019; thriller) 
  4. The Stranger Diaries. Elly Griffiths (2018/2019; psychological suspense) 
  5. Run Away. Harlan Coben (2019; thriller)
  6. The Appleton Case (Markham Sisters #1). Diana Xarissa (2015; cozy mystery)
  7. The Vicious Vet (Agatha Raisin #2). M.C. Beaton (1993; cozy mystery)
  8. Little Darlings. Melanie Golding (2019; thriller) 
  9. The Lady in the Lake. Laura Lippman (2019; historical mystery)
  10. The Potted Gardener (Agatha Raisin #3). M.C. Beaton (1994; cozy mystery)
  11. The Man in the White Linen Suit (Stewart Hoag #11). David Handler (2019; mystery)
  12. Fake Like Me. Barbara Bourland (2019; mystery)
  13. The Shape of Night. Tess Gerritsen (2019; romantic suspense)
  14. We Were Killers Once (Brigid Quinn #4). Becky Masterman (2019; thriller) 
  15. Sorry for the Dead (Josephine Tey #8). Nicola Upson (2019; historical mystery)
  16. The Walkers of Dembley (Agatha Raisin #4). M.C. Beaton (1995; cozy mystery)
But even though I had mixed results, this was still one of my favorite challenges. Thanks so much to the hosts for organizing and keeping the challenge going all year.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

2019 European Reading Challenge: Wrap-Up Post

Well, there's still almost a week of 2019 left, but I really don't think I'll be reading much of anything that would qualify for this challenge, so I'm wrapping things up.

The idea of the challenge was to read books by European authors or books set in European countries (no matter where the author comes from). I signed up to read four books, but only managed one: Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, by M.C. Beaton (set in the UK).

Obviously, I was not much of a world traveler in 2019. A bit embarrassing, but I'm hoping to do much better in 2020, and I've already signed up for next year's challenge (you can do likewise here). Thanks so much to Gilion at Rose City Reader for hosting this one.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

What's In a Name 2020 Reading Challenge

Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2020

It's been a couple of years since I last participated in the What's in a Name Challenge. But I always enjoyed it, even though I didn't always manage to complete all the categories. (I think I enjoy making the lists of possible reads almost as much as doing the actual reading.)

So I'm signing up for the 2020 challenge. Basically, participants read books with titles that fit the requirements of six categories. I haven't made any firm decisions about what I'll read for each category, but I've got a few ideas:

Category 1: An ampersand – & (ex. Blanca & Roja, Rot & Ruin)
Arthur & George. Julian Barnes
Bellman & Black. Diane Setterfield
Daisy Jones & The Six. Taylor Jenkins Reid  
Category 2: An antonym (ex. Big Little Lies, Wicked Saints)
The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft. Claire Tomalin
Night and Day. Virginia Woolf
Old New York (Four Novellas). Edith Wharton
Short Letter, Long Farewell. Peter Handke  
Category 3: 4 letters or less (ex. Feed, Vox)
Dust (Richard Jury #21). Martha Grimes
Hoot. Carl Hiaasen
Ubik. Philip K. Dick
Utz. Bruce Chatwin 
Category 4: A given/first name (ex. Tess of the Road, Flowers for Algernon)
Jane Eyre. Charlotte Brontë
Queen Lucia. E.F. Benson
The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (Inspector Morse #3). Colin Dexter
What Maisie Knew. Henry James 
Category 5: Reference to children (ex. Baby Proof, Children of Blood and Bone)
The Children. Edith Wharton
The Children’s Book. A.S. Byatt
Wise Children. Angela Carter 
Category 6: One of the 4 natural elements – water, air, fire, earth (ex. The River at Night, The Name of the Wind)
The Book of Air and Shadows. Michael Gruber
Wide Sargasso Sea. Jean Rhys
The Wind in the Willows. Kenneth Grahame
Wolf Lake (Dave Gurney #5). John Verdon 
These are just possibilities, and it'll be interesting to see if I actually end up reading any of them. During the year I'll be tracking my progress and keeping all my lists over on my challenge blog (HERE).