Friday, March 27, 2020

Book Beginnings: A Fragment of Fear


A Fragment of Fear, by John Bingham (first published 1965). First paragraph of Chapter 1:
We live in a dangerous age, and this is not only because of the hydrogen bomb and high taxation.

About the Book:
"James Compton, a young journalist and crime writer, becomes intrigued by, and then involved in, the mysterious death of an older British woman tourist apparently on holiday near the ruins of Pompeii. On his return to England he becomes further implicated in what he now knows was a murder, but his efforts to help the police are sabotaged by unknown forces who discredit him to such an extent that his evidence and his theories are devalued. However, so determined is he to bring the criminals to justice that he endangers not only his own life but that of his fiancee Juliet on the very day of their long awaited wedding." (–GoodReads)
Initial Thoughts:

Well, my first thought was something about how very, very true that opening line is — especially with all the craziness we're living through at this moment in time. I guess every era has its dangers, but some just seem more frightening than others. And make you feel extremely helpless. But fortunately, this book has kept me nicely distracted from current events, at least for a while.

Have a good weekend, everyone. Stay safe. Stay calm. And happy reading!



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.


Friday, March 20, 2020

Book Beginnings: The Five Red Herrings


The Five Red Herrings, by Dorothy L. Sayers (first published 1931). These are the book's opening lines:
If one lives in Galloway, one either fishes or paints. 'Either' is perhaps misleading, for most of the painters are fishers also in their spare time. To be neither of these things is considered odd and almost eccentric.

About the Book:
"The body was on the pointed rocks alongside the stream. The artist might have fallen from the cliff where he was painting, but there are too many suspicious elements — particularly the medical evidence that proves he'd been dead nearly half a day, though eyewitnesses had seen him alive a scant hour earlier. And then there are the six prime suspects — all of them artists, all of whom wished him dead. Five are red herrings, but one has created a masterpiece of murder that baffles everyone, including Lord Peter Wimsey."

Initial Thoughts:

The Five Red Herrings is one of the few Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries I've never read. It's been on my must-read list for decades now, and one of my 2020 reading challenges finally gave me the nudge I needed to get started on it.

I love Lord Peter, and he's up to his usual form in this one. But I'm having a really hard time getting through all the Scottish dialect in the book. It's definitely slowing me down. Will I be able to stick with it long enough to finish? Och! A dinnae ken.

Anyway....Happy reading, everyone!



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, February 26, 2020

WWW Wednesdays: 26 February 2020


It's Wednesday and that means it's time for WWW Wednesdays! This meme was originally hosted by MizB over at A Daily Rhythm, and then revived by Sam Stevens of Taking on a World of Words. Just three questions, once a week:

1. What are you currently reading?

Almost done with The Illness Lesson, by Clare Beams....



Getting ready to start reading The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster, by Cary Fagan. It was an Early Reviewer book from Library Thing, and I really should have gotten it read by now. Too many books calling my name.


Also still reading Jane Eyre, a bit at a time. It's probably going to be a year-long effort, but I'm sticking with it.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

In the last couple of weeks, I've finished:

An ARC of Anita Abriel's The Light After the War....


Evidence of Love, a true-crime tale by John Bloom and Jim Atkinson, downloaded (free!) from Amazon....


And a couple of classic children's books that have been on my TBR list for quite a while -- Ramona and Her Father, by Beverly Cleary (read for the Newbery Reading Challenge)....


and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst....



3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Well, I have several ARCs lined up that I need to get to ASAP. These two are at the top of the pile....




Friday, February 21, 2020

Book Beginnings: The Illness Lesson

Cover art by Michelle Kingdom
Cover design by Emily Mahon

The Illness Lesson, by Clare Beams (Doubleday, February 2020). This is the book's first sentence:
The first of the birds Caroline mistook for her own mind's work.

About the Book:
At their newly founded school, Samuel Hood and his daughter Caroline promise a groundbreaking education for young women. But Caroline has grave misgivings. After all, her own unconventional education has left her unmarriageable and isolated, unsuited to the narrow roles afforded women in 19th century New England. 
When a mysterious flock of red birds descends on the town, Caroline alone seems to find them unsettling. But it's not long before the assembled students begin to manifest bizarre symptoms: rashes, seizures, headaches, verbal tics, night wanderings. One by one, they sicken. Fearing ruin for the school, Samuel overrules Caroline's pleas to inform the girls' parents and turns instead to a noted physician, a man whose sinister ministrations--based on a shocking historic treatment--horrify Caroline. As the men around her continue to dictate, disastrously, all terms of the girls' experience, Caroline's body too begins to betray her. To save herself and her young charges, she will have to defy every rule that has governed her life, her mind, her body, and her world.
Initial Thoughts:

I was interested in this book because I had heard that the plot echoed the story of Bronson Alcott and his attempts to establish a similar school in the 19th century. And the hints are definitely there, but this book is so much more than that. I'm about midway through it, and it's turning out to be (by far) the best debut novel I've read in quite a while. Clare Beams is a wonderful discovery! Hoping the second half doesn't let me down.

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.


Friday, February 14, 2020

Book Beginnings: The Circus


The Circus, by Jonas Karlsson (Hogarth Press, February 2020). This is the book's first sentence:
It all started with the usual discussion: is it possible to be friends with someone who listens to "Fix You" by Coldplay?
About the Book:
"The gentle, off-beat narrator of The Circus is perfectly content with his quiet life. By day he works in a bakery, and by night he obsessively organizes and reorganizes his record collection: it’s all just the way he likes it. But when his childhood friend Magnus comes calling out of the blue, the contours of our narrator’s familiar world begin to shift. On a visit to the circus together, Magnus volunteers to participate in the magician’s disappearing act, and midway through the routine he vanishes. Is this part of the act? What’s happened to Magnus? And who is it calling on the phone in the dead of night, breathing into the receiver, but never saying a word?.... The Circus is a funhouse mirror of a read—one that ingeniously reveals the way we see ourselves and the stories we tell. "
Initial Thoughts:

Well, first of all — I realize I have no idea what "Fix You" sounds like. I have no idea what Coldplay sound(s) like. I know it's a music group, but (as far as I know) I've never heard any of their music. I suppose that could have made a difference in my reaction to this book. So let me just nip over to YouTube and listen a bit.

OK — I'm back. I will probably never be a Coldplay fan. But I don't think I'd rule you out as a pal if you were a fan. That seems a little extreme.

But let's get back to the book at hand. The Circus is the third work I've read by the Swedish writer Jonas Karlsson. I loved the first two novels: The Room and The Invoice. This one was also enjoyable and clever, and definitely worth reading, but just didn't have the wow-factor of the others. Will try to get a short review up in a day or so.

Darn. Can't get that Coldplay tune out of my head now.

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.

Monday, February 03, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


So now it's February.

January was pretty busy around here, so even though it was a nice, long month, I'm a little surprised that it's already over. But even with all our activities, I managed to get a few books read.

Finished in January:


Also one that I'm finishing up today (but will list it as a January read):

Those were all fairly short reads, and very entertaining — especially that last one. I read Alice Thomas Ellis's The Other Side of the Fire several years ago and loved it, too. I'm a real fan of her writing, but her books weren't easy to find until just recently.

Will try to get some short reviews up later in the week.

So far, this month I've started:

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
(which will probably be a year-long project)

and...

The Light After the War, by Anita Abriel

The Light After the War is due to be issued this month, by Atria Books. I'm reading an advance edition from NetGalley and hope to finish it up before its publication date. So I need to get back to the books!

Happy reading, everyone!



It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. If you want to let the world know what you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

2020 Newbery Reading Challenge


Hosted by: Julie @ Smiling Shelves
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2020


Children's lit is one of my "guilty pleasures." Actually, some of my favorite reads over the last few years have been Newbery or Caldecott Medal winners or nominees. And since there are many more I want to read, this challenge is perfect for me.

I'm signing up for the "L'Engle" level, 15-29 points. You can read all about the point system and the various levels, as well as all the other guidelines, on the challenge announcement page HERE. During the year, I'll be tracking my progress and keeping all my lists over on my challenge blog (HERE).

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:
Prologue
“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.


JANUARY
1. Bitter End (The First Nero Wolfe Novella). Rex Stout (1940; fiction / mystery; 90 pages; e-book)
2. In the Last Analysis (Kate Fansler #1). Amanda Cross (1964; fiction / mystery; 217 pages)
3. The Circus. Jonas Karlsson (2020; fiction; ARC; 192 pages)
4. Unexplained Laughter. Alice Thomas Ellis (1985; fiction; 202 pages)


FEBRUARY
5. Ramona and Her Father (Ramona Quimby #4). Beverly Cleary; illus. by Jacqueline Rogers (1977; children's fiction; 192 pages)
6. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Judith Viorst; illus. by Ray Cruz (1972; children's fiction / children's picture book; 32 pages)
7. The Light After the War. Anita Abriel (2020; historical fiction; ARC; 320 pages )
8. Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs. John Bloom, Jim Atkinson (1984; nonfiction / true crime; 330 pages)
9. The Illness Lesson. Clare Beams (2020; historical fiction; 288 pages)
10. You're Only Old Once! A Book for Obsolete Children. Dr. Seuss (1986; fiction / picture book for adults; 42 pages)


MARCH
11. Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars (Miss Pickerell #1). Ellen MacGregor; illus. by Paul Galdone (1951; children's fiction / sci-fi fantasy; 94 pages)
12. The Silent Speaker (Nero Wolfe #11). Rex Stout (1946; fiction / mystery; 289 pages)
13.  Big Summer. Jennifer Weiner (2020; women's fiction / mystery; 352 pages)
14. A Fragment of Fear. John Bingham (1965; fiction / mystery-suspense; 176 pages)
15. The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster. Cary Fagan (2019; children's fiction / young adult; 188 pages)
16. The Haunted Lady (A Hilda Adams/"Miss Pinkerton" Mystery). Mary Roberts Rinehart (1942; fiction / mystery; 241 pages)


APRIL
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JULY
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AUGUST
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OCTOBER
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NOVEMBER
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DECEMBER
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