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:
“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 / 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)

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)

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)

17. Where There's a Will (Nero Wolfe #8). Rex Stout (1940; fiction / mystery; 255 pages) 
18. And Be a Villain (Nero Wolfe #13). Rex Stout (1948; fiction / mystery; 256 pages) 

19. Murder, She Wrote: Gin & Daggers (Murder, She Wrote #01). "Jessica Fletcher" and Donald Bain (1989; fiction / mystery; 276 pages)
20. Goops and How to Be Them. Gelett Burgess (1900; children's lit; 96 pages)
21. Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1). Louise Penny (2005; fiction / mystery; 321 pages)

22. Access Point. Tom Gabbay (2020; fiction / sci-fi / mystery; 207 pages)
23. The List of Things That Will Not Change. Rebecca Stead (2020; children's fiction / middle grade; 224 pages)
24. Kill Your Darlings (Mallory #3). Max Allan Collins (1984; fiction / mystery; 209 pages)

25. The King's Justice (Maggie Hope #9). Susan Elia MacNeal (2020; historical fiction / mystery; 339 pages)
26. Beezus and Ramona (Ramona Quimby #1). Beverly Cleary (1955; children's fiction / middle grade; 117 pages)
27. Knot of This World (Quilting Mystery #8). Mary Marks (2020; fiction / cozy mystery; 288 pages, ARC)

28. A Death Long Overdue (Lighthouse Library Mystery #7). Eva Gates (2020; fiction / cozy mystery; 372 pages, ARC)
29. Little Red Riding Hood. Retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (1983; children's picture book / fairy tale, folk tale; 32 pages)
30. The Happy Hollisters on a River Trip (Happy Hollisters #2). Jerry West; illus. by Helen S. Hamilton (1953; children's fiction / middle grade; 190 pages)
31. A Few Figs from Thistles. Edna St. Vincent Millay (1920; poetry)

32. The Virgin Suicides. Jeffrey Eugenides (1993; fiction; 260 pages)
33. The Suicide House. Charlie Donlea (2020; fiction / horror; ARC from NetGalley; 304 pages) 
34. Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage (Agatha Raisin #5). M.C. Beaton (1996; fiction / cozy mystery; 196 pages) 
35. The Talented Miss Farwell. Emily Gray Tedrowe (2020; fiction; ARC from Library Thing; 350 pages) 

36. Snow (St. John Strafford #1). John Banville (2020; fiction / mystery; ARC from NetGalley; 304 pages) 
37. Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book. Diane Muldrow (2013; fiction; 96 pages)
38. Dear Mr. Henshaw. Beverly Cleary (1983; children's fiction; Newbery Medal 1984; 160 pages)
39. The Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple #1). Agatha Christie (1930; fiction / mystery; 307 pages) 

40. Amok. Stefan Zweig (1922; fiction / novella; about 70 pages) 
41. The Queen of the Tambourine. Jane Gardam (1991; fiction; 226 pages) 

42. An Artist of the Floating World. Kazuo Ishiguro (1986; fiction; 212 pages)
43. Sarah, Plain and Tall. Patricia MacLachlan (1985; children's fiction; Newbery Medal 1986; 76 pages) 
44. Take a Look at the Five and Ten. Connie Willis (2020; fiction / sci-fi; ARC from NetGalley; 120 pages)
45. The Bennett Case (Markham Sisters #2). Diana Xarissa (2015; fiction; 108 pages) 
46. Eloise. Kay Thompson; illus. by Hilary Knight (1955; children's fiction; 65 pages)