Category Archives: 06. Friday Reads

Friday Reading Round-Up: 04.01.2022

Last week’s books:

I finished a bunch of books last week. I finally finished The Corner That Held Them by Sylvia Townsend Warner, although I need to take some time to write up a post about it. I also read all three of my #FridayReads books from last week: Close Her Eyes by Dorothy Simpson, Desolation Canyon by P.J. Tracey & Tempest Tost by Robertson Davies. On top of those four books, I read The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard and I finished A Very Great Profession by Nicola Beauman. A very good reading week, indeed!

This week’s plans:

I’m at a loose end right now, and ready to start something new!

 

Because of the Lockwoods by Dorothy Whipple: I read The Priory earlier this year and really loved it. One of the bloggers I follow read & reviewed Because of the Lockwoods a few weeks ago, which inspired me to check it out of the library.

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie: This is not my favorite Christie mystery because I feel like the puzzle itself is lacking. However, I really like the characters in this one, including the narrator, Amy Leatheran, who is different from Christie’s usual young women, and I love the setting, so I always enjoy reading it.

Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper: This will finish out The Dark Is Rising Sequence for me. It’s coming off of my TBR cart, so that’s another book to cross off the Mt. TBR Challenge list!

Library Loot

Print Books:

I returned a bunch of books this week that I didn’t get to – it was time to clear the decks a bit.

  1. Browsings by Michael Dirda: I have actually started this one, & I’m reading a few essays at a time.
  2. A Swim in the Pond in the Rain by George Saunders: this is a bit of a project read, but I definitely want to get to it.
  3. Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban: NYRB title. I’m running out of time, so this may end up being catch & release.
  4. Dangerous to Know by Tasha Alexander: I want to get back to this series, but fitting this book into my reading schedule isn’t going to be easy.
  5. Because of the Lockwoods by Dorothy Whipple: I checked this out because I read a review it from a fellow blogger & I loved The Priory.
  6. Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge: This was a total whim checkout. I’ve never read Elizabeth Goudge.
  7. Read Dangerously: the subversive power of literature in troubled times by Azar Nafisi: checked out, will read.
  8. The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler: I’m not sure I will actually get to this one, but I haven’t ruled it out.

E-Books

  1. Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron: I heard about this on a podcast & it sounds really fun.
  2. The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard: I’ve been hearing about Catherine Ryan Howard for months and I’ve never read anything. This is supposed to be a good thriller. I’ve finished this one, but haven’t returned it because my mom might want to read it.
  3. Desolation Canyon by P.J. Tracy: I honestly can’t remember where I heard about this, but I know someone read & liked it. I also finished this one, but I’m holding onto it in case Caitlyn/mom want to give it a go.
  4. Pavilion in the Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith
  5. A Taste for Death by P.D. James: next up in my Dalgleish reread
  6. Hiding in Plain Sight: the invention of Donald Trump and the erosion of America by Sarah Kendzior: I follow Kendzior on Twitter and she has a new book coming out. That one wasn’t available yet, but this one is.
  7. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I’ve only read Daisy Jones and the Six by Reid, but I really liked it. This one sounds like a page turner.
  8. The Dark Winter by David Mark: This one came up when I was looking for Winter Dark, which a friend mentioned yesterday and I thought it looked good. Checked out on a whim.
  9. The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard: After I consumed The Nothing Man, I decided to dig into Howard’s backlist. This is the first hold that has been delivered.

Book Haul:

I had tiny haul this week!

  1. Winter Dark by Alex Callister: my friend Mike Finn mentioned how much he enjoyed this, and it was only $2.99 for my kindle.
  2. The African Trilogy by Chinua Achebe: I bought this omnibus edition last weekend at my favorite bookstore/coffee shop. Achebe is a DWS author-in-residence for October-December, so I am planning ahead a bit here.
  3. Family Furnishings by Alice Munro: bought at a UBS.
  4. Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar: I forgot to mention this one last week, but I grabbed it for the Appointment with Agatha April side read.

Friday Round-Up

I decided to expand my usual #FridayReads post a bit, into a full Friday Books post that dives into my reading plans for the weekend, my library situation, bookish haul, and any other reading organization that I am compelled to share.

Exiled in Paris by James Campbell: This is the last, slightly laggy, book in my James Baldwin author-in-residence project. I started it and was going along pretty well, and then I started feeling sort of slumpish so it’s just been sitting on my nightstand, looking at me accusingly, for over a week. I’m either going to finish it or DNF it this weekend.

Jacob’s Room is Full of Books by Susan Hill: Interestingly, it was Murder by Death’s mediocre review of Hill’s first bookish memoir, Howard’s End is on the Landing, that gave me the impulse to pick this one up. I liked HEiotL much more than she did (although I completely agree with her criticisms). In addition, when I am feeling slumpish, one of my go to solutions is books about books.

The Juniper Tree by Barbara Comyns: I am recently obsessed with the NYRB imprint. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that they have published and haven’t felt it was worth my while. I previously read Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns and thought it was grimly interesting. The Juniper Tree is a retelling of among the darkest and most shocking of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Juniper Tree, which is famous for the lines:

My mother, she killed me,
My father, he ate me,
My sister Marlene,
Gathered all my bones,
Tied them in a silken scarf,
Laid them beneath the juniper tree,
Tweet, tweet, what a beautiful bird am I.

This retelling is moving in a very dark direction. I’m strongly hoping that Comyns leaves out the cannibalism.

Library Loot:

I just realized that I have 27 books checked out from the library right now. It’s time to cull.

Print books:

  1. Red Knife by William Kent Krueger: this is due 3/8 and I’m not going to get to it by then. I am going to renew it once, and if I don’t get to it by the end of the renewal, I’ll return it.
  2. First things First by Stephen Covey: I checked this out because the organizational premise sounded interesting, but I’m not even remotely interested in it at this point. Return.
  3. The Sentence by Louise Erdrich: I have been really excited to read this, and it is next up, once I finish my current reads.
  4. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann: checked out for 1966 in my Century of Women project, but I read a different book already. Return.
  5. Thunder Bay by William Kent Krueger: this is the next book in the series; I’m going to hold onto it and may read it if I want a standard contemporary mystery in the next 3 weeks or so.
  6. Endangered Species by Nevada Barr: This is a catch and release special; I will read it eventually, but not right now. Return.
  7. In a Lonely Place by Dorothy Hughes: One of the 5 NYRB titles I have checked out. I just bought an ebook omnibus with this in it, though, so I’ll likely return it.
  8. Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban: another NYRB title; keep & read.
  9. Stoner by John Williams: third NYRB title; this book was everywhere last year. Keep & read.
  10. Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber: a little magical realism for a palate cleanser; keep & read.
  11. The Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning: fourth NYRB title; I have read the first book in this trilogy. I’d like to get to the second & third, but I also think that I will probably end up buying this book, so I am fine returning it if I don’t quite get there.
  12. The Corner That Held Them by Sylvia Townsend Warner: fifth NYRB title; keep & read.
  13. The Juniper Tree by Barbara Comyns: currently reading; will be ready to return soon.
  14. Classics for Pleasure by Michael Dirda: this is part of my current obsession with books about books; I may or may not get to it.
  15. Browsings by Michael Dirda: I have actually started this one, & I’m reading a few essays at a time.
  16. A Swim in the Pond in the Rain by George Saunders: this is a bit of a project read, but I definitely want to get to it.

Ebooks:

  1. Notes on a Native Son by James Baldwin: finished & ready to return;
  2. The Skull Beneath the Skin by P.D. James: I’m not going to get to this; return.
  3. Pony by R.J. Palacio: I’m also not going to get to this; return
  4. The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore: I have 9 days left on this borrow; keep & read
  5. The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede: I have 11 days left on this borrow; keep & read
  6. Ex Libris by Michiko Kakutani: I am not going to get this book; return;
  7. How Reading Changed my Life by Anna Quindlen: I may get to this book; keep;
  8. Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson: I am not going to get to this book; return
  9. Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren: I am actually reading this book right now; keep & finish
  10. The Defector by Daniel Silva: this is book 9 in the Gabriel Allon series; keep & read;
  11. Hell’s Half Acre by Susan Jonusas; the subtitle of this book is “the untold story of the Benders, a serial killer family on the American frontier; hell yes; keep & read.

OK, that’s the library situation. Now: book haul for the week. I bought three books this week.

Title: Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Author: Rebecca West

Published in 1941

Plot summary (Goodreads): Written on the brink of World War II, Rebecca West’s classic examination of the history, people, and politics of Yugoslavia illuminates a region that is still a focus of international concern. A magnificent blend of travel journal, cultural commentary, and historical insight, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon probes the troubled history of the Balkans, and the uneasy relationships amongst its ethnic groups. The landscape and the people of Yugoslavia are brilliantly observed as West untangles the tensions that rule the country’s history as well as its daily life.

This is a doorstopper of a book, and once it arrives, I’ll take a picture. It is 1181 pages. I am not sure exactly how I am going to approach it – probably with caution. It has great reviews on GR, but it is just a monumental undertaking. I’m not sure if I am going to plan to read 50 pages a week and set a pace of 20 weeks or so, or if there is a more natural way to break it up. I won’t really be able to tell until it arrives.

I bought the Penguin Classics Edition.

Title: Library of America Women Crime Writers of the 1940’s

Editor: Sarah Weinman

Pages: 848

This is an anthology that is currently on sale as an ebook (for U.S. readers) for a mere $2.99. I attribute my good fortune in realizing this to my friend Mike Finn, who linked to it in the Appointment with Agatha Goodreads group. Yay, Mike.

Further information from GR:

Women writers have always had a central place in American crime writing, although one wouldn’t know it for all the attention focused on the men of the hardboiled school. This collection, the first of a two-volume omnibus, presents four classics of the 1940s overdue for fresh attention. Anticipating the “domestic suspense” novels of recent years, these four gripping tales explore the terrors of the mind and of family life, of split personality and conflicted sexual identity.

Vera Caspary’s Laura (1943) begins with the investigation into a young woman’s murder and blossoms into a complex study, told from multiple viewpoints, of the pressures confronted by a career woman seeking to lead an independent life. Source of the celebrated film by Otto Preminger, Caspary’s novel has depths and surprises of its own. As much a novel of manners as of mystery, it remains a superb evocation of a vanished Manhattan.

Helen Eustis’s The Horizontal Man (1946) won an Edgar Award for best first novel and continues to fascinate as a singular mixture of detection, satire, and psychological portraiture. A poet on the faculty of an Ivy League school (modeled on Eustis’s alma mater, Smith College) is found murdered, setting off ripple effects of anxiety, suspicion, and panic in the hothouse atmosphere of an English department rife with talk of Freud and Kafka.

With In a Lonely Place (1947), Dorothy B. Hughes created one of the first full-scale literary portraits of a serial murderer. The streets of Los Angeles become a setting for random killings, and Hughes ventures, with unblinking exactness, into the mind of the killer. In the process she conjures up a potent mood of postwar dread and lingering trauma.

Raymond Chandler called Elisabeth Sanxay Holding “the top suspense writer of them all.” In The Blank Wall (1947) she constructs a ferociously taut drama around the plight of a wartime housewife forced beyond the limits of her sheltered domestic world in order to protect her family. The barely perceptible constraints of an ordinary suburban life become a course of obstacles that she must dodge with the determination of a spy or criminal.

Psychologically subtle, socially observant, and breathlessly suspenseful, these four spellbinding novels recapture a crucial strain of American crime writing.

Title: Mutual Admiration Society

Author: Mo Moulton

Published: November 5, 2019

This book has been on my radar for months. I actually checked it out, but it has to go back to the library unread, & I decided to just buy it since I think it’s the sort of book that will hold up to rereads. Not sure when I will start it. I’ll also mention that the Mutual Admiration Society (and Sayers) came up in Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain, which made me all that much more interested in this group biography!

GR summary: A group biography of renowned crime novelist Dorothy L. Sayers and the Oxford women who stood at the vanguard of equal rights.

Dorothy L. Sayers is now famous for her Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane detective series, but she was equally well known during her life for an essay asking “Are Women Human?” Women’s rights were expanding rapidly during Sayers’s lifetime; she and her friends were some of the first women to receive degrees from Oxford. Yet, as historian Mo Moulton reveals, it was clear from the many professional and personal obstacles they faced that society was not ready to concede that women were indeed fully human.

Dubbing themselves the Mutual Admiration Society, Sayers and her classmates remained lifelong friends and collaborators as they fought for a truly democratic culture that acknowledged their equal humanity.

So, that’s it! What are you reading?

#Friday Reads 11.05.2021

A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor: This is part of my non-fiction November reading, and has been on my TBR for at least a couple of years I have the NYRB edition that is pictured, and I’m at 30%, enjoying a rather leisurely trek across a snowbound Europe with the author. I’m taking my time with this one, so it may reappear next week as well.

Since the festive season is just around the corner, I thought I would share this rather lovely description of Fermor’s Christmas holiday early in his travels, as he is crossing Germany:

The only customer, I unslung my rucksack in a little Gasthof. Standing on chairs, the innkeeper’s pretty daughters, who were aged from five to fifteen, were helping their father decorate a Christmas tree; hanging witch-balls, looping tinsel, fixing candles to the branches, and crowning the tip with a wonderful star. They asked me to help and when it was almost done, their father, a tall, thoughtful-looking man, uncorked a slim bottle from the Rüdesheim vineyard just over the river. We drank it together and had nearly finished a second by the time the last touches to the tree were complete. Then the family assembled round it and sang. The candles were the only light and the solemn and charming ceremony was made memorable by the candle-lit faces of the girls—and by their beautiful and clear voices. I was rather surprised that they didn’t sing Stille Nacht: it had been much in the air the last few days; but it is a Lutheran hymn and I think this bank of the Rhine was mostly Catholic.

In the inn where I halted at midday—where was it? Geisenheim? Winkel? Östrich? Hattenheim?—a long table was splendidly spread for a feast and a lit Christmas tree twinkled at one end. About thirty people were settling down with a lot of jovial noise when some soft-hearted soul must have spotted the solitary figure in the empty bar. Unreluctantly, I was drawn into the feast; and here, in my memory, as the bottles of Johannisberger and Markobrunner mount up, things begin to grow blurred.


Nothing Can Rescue Me by Elizabeth Daly: I have just barely started this one by reading the first three pages or so. This is a Felony & Mayhem reissue, originally published in 1943, and I checked it out of my library. A number of Daly’s mysteries were republished, and I just randomly picked this one because of the publication date – it fits with my current obsession with all literature WWII related.


The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman: I put a hold on this as soon as I finished the first in series, The Thursday Murder Club, before it was even published. My library has 37 copies, and it still took about 6 weeks for my hold to come up. My mom absolutely loved the first book as well, and we share a kindle account, so we will both be reading this one over the weekend! Reviews suggest that it may even be better than the first book, and I for one can’t wait to spend more time with the Thursday Murder Club.

Friday Reads 10.22.2021 and Fall Read-A-Thon

I’m well into each of these books, so I plan to finish them before I break into new read-a-thon possibilities.

He’d Rather Be Dead by George Bellairs: I’m at 37% of this one. I’ve been finding myself checking on the Inspector Littlejohn books from the KU library fairly frequently. Bellairs is a bit of a plodder, so they will never be my favorites, but I always enjoy hanging out with the Chief Inspector as he travels the byways of rural England, solving the crimes that stymie the local village constables. A few more and they will likely reach the status of legitimate comfort reads for me.

Night at the Vulcan by Ngaio Marsh: I am well over 50% into this book. This seems to be a typical Marsh, where she engages in some pretty deep character and plot work before the murder even occurs. Inspector Alleyn just showed up at about the 52% mark. This one is set in the world of the theater, as are a number of her books – three of which I’m reading as a bit of a sub-series this month. I’ve finished Death at the Dolphin and Final Curtain earlier this month.

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson: This is a piece of non-fiction that covers basically the first year of Winston Churchill’s tenure as Prime Minister – the twelve-month period after Hitler’s invasion of Holland and Belgium, which includes the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. I am a slow non-fiction reader, and am at the 30% mark. This is also a library book – and non-fiction books are the ONLY books I ever have trouble finishing during my 21 day check out period. I have 12 days left on this one, so it may ultimately require that I renew it. I should probably just buy my non-fiction reads.

Now, let’s talk read-a-thon. I am not a read-a-thon purist – I have never in my life managed to read for 24 hours straight. Maybe once I retire, I’ll really do a dedicated RAT – send my husband away for the weekend & get to it. As it is, I have a 21 year old son who still lives at home, and a husband who enjoys weekend chat and social activities, so a full 24 hour period of uninterrupted reading is but a pipe dream for me (plus, I really do need to maintain a reasonably normal sleep schedule).

What I do like to do is focus on reading during these read-a-thon days. I typically try to get in at least 12 hours, and sometimes as many as 16 hours, of reading throughout the day. I turn off my television, put some classical music on Alexa, light some fall-inspired candles and cozy up for some solid blocks of reading time with both physical books and my kindle. I usually try to set a theme for my reading.

Since I will likely blast through my two mysteries within about the first two hours, I’ve settled on a theme of wartime England, which fits well with The Splendid and the Vile. I’m in the process of gathering a stack of books to fit that theme that I can drop in and out of as my mood dictates. These include:

Of course, there’s always the chance that I’ll jump ship to something completely different by tomorrow!

#Friday Reads 7.23.2021

I’ve been slowly reading the stories in the Alice Munro collection, which covers around the first half of her career. It has taken me a while, but I think I’ve finally cracked the Alice Munro code and am beginning to understand what all of the fuss is about.

There is also a new Jack Reacher television series in development, so I’ve decided to dip into the long-running series. At this point, I’ve only read the first book, so I’ve got book 2 on hold at the library, & I started book 3 last night.

Lastly, one of my remaining Teys is on the agenda for the weekend. I have 5 days left on my library checkout.

#Friday Reads 5.15.2020

I have four books on the go right now, although at least two of them are nearly finished.

I bought this Persephone edition a few months ago and I’ve been making my way through it rather slowly. It’s quite a long book at 590 pages, and I find that it works well to read a week or two, or maybe a month, at a time. As I’m not worried about speed-finishing this one, you’ll likely see it on my Friday Reads for quite sometime. The book itself is the diary of Vere Hodgson, a Londoner who worked for a Notting Hill Gate charity during the war, and who survived the London Blitz. She is described as sparky and unflappable.

I’ve been reading this one for too long at this point – I started it last weekend and then set it aside for some other books at about the 1/3 mark. It won’t take long to finish, so it’s first up for the weekend. It was originally published in 1961, and I am reading the British Library Crime Classics series reprint pictured. The cover is just as lovely in person.

This is another one that I started last weekend and then got sidetracked away from – it’s the most recent book on my Christie comfort reread. It’s one of Ariadne Oliver’s most delightful appearances in print, and that makes it a fun reread. Poirot leaves London for this one, and makes an early appearance in the action. There are some other fun side-characters, including Mrs. Summerhayes, who is a bit of a hoot. I’m again quite a ways into this one, and it won’t take long to finish.

I just started this one on my kindle – I have an omnibus edition checked out from my library, and I’ll likely only read this one right now. I enjoyed the first Thursday Next book by Jasper Fforde, so when I saw the omnibus available on Overdrive, I decided to read book 2.

That should take care of most, if not all of my weekend!