Category Archives: 2022 Reading Journal

2022 Bookish stats

My year end reading stats:*


My total books read was 214. My first book of the year was Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper and my last book of the year was Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. There were 171 first time reads and 38 rereads.

Author information:

140 of the books I read were written by women, 69 by men, which means I read twice as many books by women as by men. This is probably in line with most years, since my reads are heavily weighted towards women authors. In terms of author diversity, I didn’t do very well, with 5 books by Black authors and one each Native American, Hispanic and Indian.

I tracked author nationality as best I could. This sometimes required some guess work. I typically assigned an author to a country based upon their birth location. I see a couple of obvious blind spots in my reading, since I read nothing by an author from Asia, and just two books written by African authors.

Author nationality Breakdown

Name Books Read Reviews Written Average Rating
American 92 19 3.67 Stars
Australian 3 1 3.83 Stars
Belgian 1 0 4 Stars
Canadian 2 1 3.75 Stars
Danish 3 0 3.33 Stars
Dutch 1 0 2.5 Stars
English 76 26 4.01 Stars
Finland 1 0 4 Stars
French 8 2 3.88 Stars
German 1 0 4 Stars
Icelandic 1 0 3 Stars
Irish 2 0 4.25 Stars
Kenyan 1 0 4 Stars
Mexican 1 0 4 Stars
New Zealand 3 1 3.5 Stars
Scottish 6 4 4 Stars
South Africa 1 0 3 Stars
Swedish 2 0 2.75 Stars
Welsh 4 4 3.63 Stars


I haven’t really established a good way to track genres. For most of the year, I used crime & mystery both as genre assignments; next year, I’m just going to use one of the two because there is so much overlap. I plan to only assign a book to one genre so I can avoid the issue I have with determining genre: many books were assigned to multiple genres, which makes it hard to figure out what I was actually reading.

However, I read by far the most crime/mystery, with 106 assigned to crime and 101 assigned to mystery. These are probably mostly doubled up; other genres that had significant numbers are: classics (16), fantasy (22), fiction (39), nonfiction (16), and suspense/thriller (16).


In terms of publishers, Minotaur and Atria were the most common.  I read 10 books published by Minotaur – and they received a big boost at the end of the year when I was catching up on Chief Inspector Gamache & read three of their books in a row. Atria publishes the Cork O’Connor series by William Kent Krueger, and I also caught up on that series this year.

Other publishers that had a significant presence: Dean Street Press had a total of 8 books, between their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint and their Golden Age mysteries. They also got a boost in December, when I read 8 books for DSP December. I read 6 NYRB classics this year, and 8 by Open Road Media.

Publication year:

I tracked my books by publication decade this year, with the results below. As you can see, I almost half of the books that I read in 2022 were published in the 2000’s and the other half were published during the twentieth century. I only had 3 that were published in the 19th century.

Name Books Read Reviews Written Average Rating
1810’s 1 0 5 Stars
1840’s 2 0 5 Stars
1900’s 1 1 4 Stars
1920’s 6 2 3.75 Stars
1930’s 19 8 4.03 Stars
1940’s 13 6 3.77 Stars
1950’s 19 7 4.16 Stars
1960’s 13 7 4 Stars
1970’s 15 8 4.03 Stars
1980’s 9 8 3.67 Stars
1990’s 11 2 3.8 Stars
2000’s 18 4 3.53 Stars
2010’s 47 3 3.65 Stars
2020’s 37 4 3.69 Stars

Books in translation:

I want to read more books in translation. In 2022, I only read 14 books that have been translated into English from another language, and 8 of those were from French. Those are all the new Maigret translations that have been published by Penguin. You can expect more of them for next year.

Translated from Breakdown

Name Books Read Reviews Written Average Rating
Danish 1 0 3.5 Stars
French 8 2 3.88 Stars
German 1 0 4 Stars
Icelandic 1 0 3 Stars
Swedish 3 0 3.17 Stars

So, that wraps up my 2022 reading year! If you are interested in which books were my favorites, I posted that list yesterday.

*All of my statistics rely upon accurate entries into my book library, so there will definitely be discrepancies in numbers where I have mis-assigned a book or made some sort of an entry error.

The Books of the Year: 2022

It’s NYE, so it’s probably safe to put together my top books of the year post, since I started a reread of Brandon Sanderson’s Alloy of Law quartet in preparation for reading the final book in the series, and while I love the series, I am certain that it won’t make an appearance here.

I had some wonderful reading experiences this year, so I’ve been looking forward to this post. I read a total of 212 books, which is the highest number I’ve ever managed. I’ll be doing a statistics based post about my reading later – maybe tomorrow – so this isn’t really about that. It’s about the books! I’ve picked my top 12 books/reading experiences of the year, in no particular order:

  1. The first three books I will be talking about are all multi-book experiences. The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper was my favorite book from the entire sequence, but it’s also representative of the entire sequence, which I read this year for the first time. It was a wonderful reading experience.
  2. The Jewel in the Crown was the first book in the Raj Quartet by Paul Scott – which I also read in its entirety this year. I bought the entire set of matching paperbacks (although my covers were much uglier than the one depicted) in 2013 and had been eyeing it guiltily ever since. It’s not an easy read, but it was a remarkable reading experience.
  3. Fortunes of War: The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning comprises the first three books in her WWII series. It’s published as a lovely, doorstop sized, omnibus edition by NYRB. The final three books are also published as The Levant Trilogy. It follows the newlyweds Guy and Harriet Pringle, based on the author and her husband, as they arrive in Bucharest, Romania immediately prior to the Nazi march on Poland, and then are forced to flee to Athens. I plan to read The Levant Trilogy in 2023, which takes them from Athens to Egypt.
  4. The Feast by Margaret Kennedy was all over social media and book blogs this year, and I couldn’t resist jumping on the bandwagon. This is a perfect book to read on the patio on a warm, summer day: immersive and propulsive.
  5. I read Jubilee by Margaret Walker during Black History Month, and it was a great read. Margaret Walker was a black poet, and based Jubilee on the life of her great-grandmother, named Vyry in the text, who was born into slavery, but emancipated during the Civil War when she was in her late teens/early twenties. It is a far more compelling and clear-eyed look at the antebellum South through the eyes of a slave, and can be read as a replacement of, or an adjunct to, Gone With The Wind.
  6. The Priory by Dorothy Whipple: I read two books by Whipple this year, and she could easily make two appearances on the list, because I loved them both. She has a relatively tiny back list, so I’ve been carefully measuring them out because once I have read them all, there are no more. Persephone has published the ones that are available.
  7. In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden: This was one of my first books of the year and I absolutely devoured it. It’s the only thing I’ve read by Rumer Godden, but I have several more on my TBR as a consequence of reading this one.
  8. The Woods in Winter by Stella Gibbons was a book I read at the end of the year, just a few weeks ago. I’ve become a fan of Gibbons, and this is one of the most enjoyable I’ve read.
  9. I read two books by Sylvia Townsend Warner this year – Lolly Willowes and The Corner That Held Them. I liked both, but Lolly Willowes wins by a hair. Warner was very versatile – these books couldn’t be more different.
  10. Maigret and the Killer by Georges Simenon is also really just representative of the entire series; towards the end of the year I became very immersed in Maigret’s world, and ended up reading 8 of these books this year. I love everything about the new Penguin translations: the covers, the slenderness of the books, the feel of the paper. They can be read in any order, so I’ve just been checking them out of my library on a whim, based at least partially on how much the cover/title appeals to me in the moment.
  11. The Least of Us by Sam Quinones is one of two pieces of non-fiction that make the list this year. This is a very depressing book, that tackles the fentanyl crisis in the U.S.
  12. And, finally, Caste: the Origins of our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson is the last book I will mention here. I read The Warmth of Other Suns by Ms. Wilkerson last year, which is a piece of non-fiction about the Great Migration of Black Americans leaving their homes in the South for the upper-Midwest, California and the industrial NE. It’s an incredible, if difficult, read, as is the more recent Caste. I learned so much from this book, including the fact that the Nazis turned to Jim Crow as inspiration and instruction for their own Nuremberg Laws. I can’t recommend Wilkerson highly enough for people who are interested in Black history. The Warmth of Other Suns is focused firmly on the U.S., but Caste: the Origins of our Discontent broadens its focus to include experiences from India, South Africa, and other places that have had rigid caste systems, and will probably be more interesting to the non-U.S. reader.

All right, that’s my top 12 for 2022 – I can only hope that 2023 is as good of a reading year as this was!

2023 Reading Plans and Updates

This time of year, I always get excited, thinking about a brand new reading year in the offing, and I start making plans for what I want to tackle in the new year. 2023 isn’t an exception to that rule – in fact, because I am retiring on 9/30, I’m extra excited about the possibility of more reading time at the end of the year.

I still have several ongoing projects that I am working on, and will continue with next year:

With respect to my A Century of Women project, I made a lot of progress early in 2022 and then sort of fizzled out towards the end of the year. I have been struggling with 1900 through 1919 because I haven’t been enthusiastic about the books that I have found for that part of the challenge. I decided to change up the challenge, and, instead of starting in 1900, to start in 1920 and read through 2019. This should open up my book choices a lot and enable me to put this particular project to bed – probably not in 2023, but maybe in 2024, which would be great. I have a follow up project – A Century of Crime – that I have been waiting to start until the finish line is in sight.

I also decided to do the Back to the Classics Challenge this year.

Again, I did really well on this one early in the year. There are a total of 12 prompts, and I have read for & posted about 8 of them. There is 1 more that I can finish off with books I’ve already read. I finished Jane Eyre, which will work for 19th Century Classic. That leaves me with 3 unread. I’m satisfied with that. I think I’m going to pass on this challenge for next year, because I have some other plans.

I also have an ongoing Classics Club project that I largely ignored in 2022. I’d really like to make some progress on this project. I read a few of the books on it, but never got around to writing up a post, so that’s probably going to be something I work on during January. The books are: Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum, The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning, and Lolly Willows by Sylvia Townsend Warner, all three of which I loved. I DNF’d Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, which is odd because I usually love her, so I may give that one another try. If it continues to not work for me, I’ll read a different Gaskell. I also started, but lost interest in, The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. I’m also going to give that one another chance because I didn’t get very far into it, but if it’s not for me, I’m taking Murdoch off the list and adding someone else. Life is too short.

My new projects for next year are:

All of the Agatha Christie mysteries for 2023 (in my GR group) were published in the 1940’s, so I decided to focus on that decade next year. It was a really good decade for mystery publishing, and I’m looking forward to reading a lot of different mystery styles by different vintage authors, both men and women. My library has a lot of the American Mystery Classics reprints, many of which were published during this decade, and there are a number of reprints from BLCC and DSP that are from the ’40s. As a part of this project, I may also watch some film adaptations from the books I read. This will give me a jump start on my Century of Crime project – I expect I will fill in the entire decade by the end of the year.

Because I am planning to focus on mysteries published in the 1940’s, I think it’s time to start this project in earnest.

My final challenge for 2023 is a short story challenge.

My other project for next year is to try to finish the Deal Me In Challenge, which is a short story challenge that I have tried to complete several times and have consistently failed. The basic challenge structure is to assign each card in a deck of cards a different short story, and then draw a card each week to select that week’s story. I will have a separate master post that sets out the stories I have assigned to each card. I have some really great anthologies that I will be reading out of:

  • Deep Waters: Murder on the Waves: a BLCC anthology edited by Martin Edwards (assigned to Clubs)
  • The Collected Stories of Willa Cather by Willa Cather (assigned to Hearts)
  • The Persephone Book of Short Stories, Volume 1: a Persephone anthology edited by Susan Glaspell (assigned to Spades)
  • Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: an anthology of vintage crime stories written by women, edited by Sarah Weinman (assigned to Diamonds)

The only suit that I haven’t managed to assign at this point is Spades, because the Persephone anthology hasn’t arrived and I can’t find a list of stories anywhere on the internet. My copy isn’t going to be here for a few weeks, but my library has a copy that I can check out to start the project. I am really happy with the anthologies I have chosen for this challenge, so I’m hopeful I can finish it!

There are some other, smaller items I have in my general reading plans – more Maigret, more Inspector Alleyn, catch up on a few series, finish all of Willa Cather’s published works (only 1 novel left, and that short story collection!) read more Dorothy Whipple, Patricia Highsmith, Barbara Pym & Stella Gibbons.





Water Weed by Alice Campbell

Water WeedWater Weed
by Alice Campbell
Rating: ★★★★
Publication Date: January 1, 1929
Genre: crime, mystery
Pages: 294
ReRead?: No

Young Virginia Carew is making a trip to England when she encounters old friend Glenn Hillier—strangely altered from the last time they met. Glenn is besotted with a glamorous middle-aged lady, with whom he’s been staying in the blissful English countryside. It isn’t long before Virginia too is a guest of the family, but there are snakes in this garden of Eden—snakes at first entangled in jealousy; then blackmail; finally murder.

In the events which follow, Glenn disappears, suspected by some of suicide. Virginia finds her world up-ended as events take an ever darker turn. It’ll be up the intrepid young American to stay one step ahead of the police, and finish the case before the deadly water weed pulls her down . . .

My DSP December started out very productively – I finished this one on December 8. Since then, I went on a short holiday getaway with my husband and have also been sick with whatever part of the tripledemic I’ve been unfortunate enough to develop, so I’ve only finished one more, which I will review shortly. I am still planning to get one more of the Furrowed Middlebrow titles read – probably something by Molly Clavering – but 4 is not as many as I had hoped to complete!

I bought Water Weed in October, after eyeing the Alice Campbell mystery tranche for a few months. There were elements of it that I really liked, and then there were elements that I felt could have been done better. I liked the main character/amateur sleuth Virginia Carew but was pretty annoyed by Glenn, and the murder victim, Cuckoo, was beyond unlikeable.

There were some plot points that didn’t startle me because Campbell definitely hints around them, but that were likely very shocking for readers of the time. The book itself had a bit of a gothic feel to it – it reminded me of one of Patricia Wentworth’s darker-toned mysteries a bit, maybe Lonesome Road or The Catherine Wheel, relying on shocking family secrets for the resolution. I will definitely read more of Campbell’s mysteries.

The other DSP that I have finished is also one of their golden age mysteries – Dead Man’s Quarry by Ianthe Jerrold.

Dean Street Press December

One of my favorite book bloggers – Liz at Adventures in Reading, Running & Working from Home – has proposed a Dean Street in December book festival – her main organizing post is here.

I have several of their titles waiting for me to read, and in order to get ready, I thought I’d make a list of possibilities!

I previously read the DSP reissue of The Swiss Summer by Stella Gibbons, so I plan to start with the seasonally appropriate The Woods in Winter. I’ve also managed to read more than half of their D.E. Stevenson titles – I only have Green Money, The English Air, The Musgraves and their Mrs. Tim books left. I previously read the first Mrs. Tim book, and I was underwhelmed by the diary/epistolary element. I think that the later books are more of a standard narrative, which I might prefer. I haven’t read a Stevenson yet that I didn’t enjoy, though, and Miss Buncle’s Book is one of my favorite books of all time.

Moving on, I’ve read one or two books by Margery Sharp previously, but I’ve not read any of the DSP titles although I bought several when they were published in January, 2021. I’m planning on The Four Gardens, but it could end up being any of them, honestly. With respect to Molly Clavering, again, I’ve only read Mrs. Lorrimer’s Quiet Summer, but I enjoyed it a lot, so I’m looking forward to continuing to explore her books. I’ve not read a single Susan Scarlett book, although I did read The Winter is Past which was published under the name Noel Streatfeild by the same author. The covers of the Susan Scarlett books are so appealing, and I couldn’t resist Babbacombe’s when it came out.

So, that’s the beginning of a plan – at least one book by each author, with an extra Stevenson thrown in, if I have time.

So far, I haven’t even mentioned the DSP mystery titles, though! I’m a tremendous fan of vintage mystery, and DSP has reissued a lot of books that I’ve had on my radar for a long time. I’ve picked four books to try to read next month:

All of these have been in my TBR for a while. I first purchased One By One They Disappeared by Moray Dalton all the way back in 2019; I did read Night of Fear, which is the second in the series, last year as part of my Christmas mystery binge. I bought The Invisible Host on December 5, 2020, when I saw a number of rave reviews from bloggers I admire and had plans to get to immediately. Nearly two years later, those plans are (hopefully) finally going to be executed. I saw Water Weed much more recently, and added it to my TBR with an official purchase in October, but the first of the Tessa Crichton mysteries by Anne Morice has been hanging around since May. Again, this doesn’t include a single Brian Flynn book, although I’ve read several of his Anthony Bathurst series, and would love to read some more, but I suspect that I am out of time here.

Those are big plans, and there is obviously no real likelihood I will read all 9 of these possible books. But I look forward to trying…

Monday at the Library

I’m not sure how consistent I will be, but I’m going to try to post my library check-outs every Monday. I’m a very heavy library user, and I am lucky enough to have access to two really great library systems. One of them belongs to the large library system adjacent to my home county  – I primarily use this system for ebooks, because their catalog is so much bigger than my home system. There is also a branch about 20 minutes from my home, so I do from time to time check out print books from that system as well, if my home system doesn’t have them. I use my home library system for almost exclusively print books because the wait times for ebooks tend to be double or triple the wait times for the other system.

I manage my library activity on-line, placing holds on the books I want to check out. This transports them to my selected branch, so I can pick them up easily.

Having said all of that, let’s get started. For some reason, right now, I have a completely excessive number of books checked out. I meant to go through them over the weekend and drop a bunch of them in the return bin, but I didn’t get to it. I actually have two that are overdue as of yesterday, and I can’t renew them because they have holds. I’ll get to the library tomorrow & return them, so I haven’t included them in the list.


  1. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (due in 21 days)
  2. Small Angels by Lauren Owen (due in 21 days)
  3. A Libertarian Walks into a Bear by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling (due in 20 days)
  4. The Nightingale Before Christmas by Donna Andrews (due in 13 days)
  5. Death and the Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh (due in 12 days) (currently reading)
  6. Clariel by Garth Nix (due in 21 days)
  7. An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears(due in 17 days)
  8. Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger (due in 15 days)

Print books:

  1. Maigret and the Judge by Georges Simenon (due 12.3)
  2. Maigret and the Ghost by Georges Simenon (due 12.3) (on deck)
  3. Maigret and the Killer by Georges Simenon (due 12.3)
  4. Maigret and the Reluctant Witness by Georges Simenon (due 12.3)
  5. Maigret Enjoys Himself by Georges Simenon (due 12.3)
  6. Murder After Christmas by Rupert Latimer (due 12.3)

Home library print books:

  1. Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker (due 12.2) (on deck)
  2. Checkmate to Murder by E.C.R. Lorac (due 12.2)
  3. Miss Pinkerton by Mary Roberts Rinehart (due 12.13)
  4. The Mad Hatter Mystery by John Dickson Carr (due 12.13)
  5. The Unsuspected by Charlotte Armstrong (due 12.13)
  6. Murder’s a Swine by Nap Lombard (due 12.13)
  7. Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey (due 12.16)
  8. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (due 12.16)
  9. All the Horses of Iceland by Sarah Tolmie (due 12.16)
  10. The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen (due 12.16)
  11. National Provincial by Lettice Cooper (due 12.19)
  12. Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon (due 12.19)

I have 26 books checked out (of which, I have read 3), all of which are books that I would like to read, but it is really unlikely that I will get to them all. I am currently reading Wuthering Heights, a copy from my personal library – this is a reread, and Death and the Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh. I do plan to get to all of the Maigrets and Murder after Christmas by Rupert Latimer finished before I have to return them.

Mid-Year Update: 2022 Top Ten (so far, anyway)

I have read some amazing books already this year, along with a fair amount of mindless schlock. Here are the top ten, so far:

  1. All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville West
  2. Caste: the Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson
  3. In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  4. The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott – this is really an inclusion of Scott’s entire Raj Quartet. I am in the last half of book 4 right now, and will write a review of the whole series once I finish.
  5. Jubilee by Margaret Walker
  6. The Priory by Dorothy Whipple
  7. The Least of Us by Sam Quinones
  8. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
  9. Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  10. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

Mid-year review, 2022

When I was setting my reading goal this year for my Goodreads challenge, I decided that I would set it low, at 2 books per week, for a total of 104 books. I knew that I would probably read more than that number, but I was also vaguely planning to read some more challenging books this year, so I wanted to keep the goal reasonable. This plan was both successful and unsuccessful, as I hit that 104 book target at exactly the mid-year point of July 1, 2022.

So, here are some stats for you:


Books read so far in 2022: 109, with 106 finishes and 3 DNFs. I’ve written 46 reviews so far, books in 35 different series, and 44 stand-alones. I’ve read a total of 73 different authors, 34,032 pages and have an average rating of 3.81 for the books I’ve rated. I’m on track to read 207 books this year.

Page length of books.


My most read genres are, as always, crime (44)/mystery (40). Because some of my books are entered as both, I don’t exactly know the number of books. It’s too late for me to screw around with the genres for this year, but I’ve already decided I’m going to tweak my genre categories in 2023 and figure out a mechanism by which I separate out crime, mystery, suspense and thriller. These are all overlapping genres and I’d like to have a paradigm under which I assign a single genre to each book I finish to make the genre categories more meaningful. After crime/mystery, the next most read genres are fiction (23) and fantasy (13).

Here is a full breakdown of the genre categories.

Name Books Read Reviews Written Average Rating
classic 12 8 4.33 Stars
crime 44 15 3.55 Stars
essays 3 2 3.83 Stars
fantasy 13 4 4.25 Stars
fiction 23 13 4 Stars
gothic 1 0 3.5 Stars
historical fiction 5 1 4 Stars
magical realism 1 0 4 Stars
memoir 11 5 3.82 Stars
mystery 40 19 3.6 Stars
non-fiction 9 4 4.13 Stars
religion 2 0 4.25 Stars
romance 2 0 3 Stars
supernatural 1 1 4 Stars
suspense 9 4 3.67 Stars
thriller 7 4 3.86 Stars
translated fiction 1 0 4 Stars
YA 8 4 4.06 Stars

Additional analytics:

I’ve been tracking a number of additional analytics this year, including publication year. So far, I’ve read the largest number of books from 4 decades: 1950’s (14), 1970’s (7), 2010’s (19) and 2020’s (20), but I’ve read at least one book in every decade for the last 100 years (1920 through 2020). I’ve read 4 translated books – 1 from Danish, 1 from Swedish and 2 from French (both Maigret books).

85 of the 109 books were new to me, 21 were rereads. My rereads (not surprisingly) received a slightly higher average rating – 4.05 – than my new reads – 3.76.

In terms of format, 3 of the books were audio books, 60 were kindle books & 44 were print books. With respect to gender of the author, 78 were written by women to 30 written by men (72% to 38%).

Of my various reading projects, my progress is:

Project Breakdown

Name Books Read Reviews Written Average Rating
a century of crime 4 4 3.38 Stars
a century of women 17 13 4.06 Stars
American mystery classics 2 2 3.75 Stars
appointment with agatha 4 2 4 Stars
back to the classics 4 4 4.13 Stars
classics club round 2 4 4 4 Stars
furrowed middlebrow 2 1 4.25 Stars
golden age mystery 3 2 3.33 Stars
inspector alleyn files 1 1 3.5 Stars
Mt. TBR 2022 15 5 4.1 Stars

Some of the books may overlap or do double duty here.

The last piece of statistical information that I track is the source of my books. I have 3 primary book sources: my personal library (39 of the books were from this source), the Kindle Unlimited library (13 books from here) and the public library (55 books were library check outs).

So, there’s an update of my reading progress so far in 2022.

In terms of substantive content, my plans did get a little bit derailed a couple of times. In mid-April, I got obsessed with bizarre cult memoirs and read five or six of them, covering the Westboro Baptist Church, Warren Jeffs and his sect of FLDS, the LeBaron FLDS sect in Mexico and one concerning a fundamentalist offshoot of the Baptist church. These were gripping and disturbing, complicated and harrowing stories of child abuse, brainwashing, and virulent misogyny and homophobia and misogyny. Reading them made me feel vaguely dirty, as though I were gawking at a fatal car accident. Nonetheless, they had an addictive quality.

The second derailing was less icky – in late may, I picked up a book by Melinda Leigh. She has three series that are available through the KU library and I mainlined 7 books from the three series. I read her entire Bree Taggert series to date, one of her first romantic suspense series, Scarlet Falls, (which I found decidedly meh) and one of a different series, the Morgan Dane series, which I also found underwhelming. I will not go back to Scarlet Falls because it is way too romance-y for my taste; I may give Morgan Dane a follow-up try. The next Bree Taggert comes on in January, and I will definitely read that one. These are very basic mystery/thrillers, but are reasonably well-written, free and a lot of fun. I also picked up some additional KU crime novels – two by Joy Ellis from the Jackman and Evans series, and a couple of one offs from other series that I may, or may not, return to down the road.

I also have not felt like blogging, so I’m way behind on reviews. I generally don’t try to catch up once I get this far behind. I have entered all of the books into the database, so if I want to write some reviews, it will be easy. But I’m just going to continue to go with the flow and not try to force things.

Triple Play: Firestorm, Moscow Rules and Shadows Reel

I’m going to quickly blow through a few contemporary mysteries – this type of book is my catnip and I read a lot of them.

by Nevada Barr
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Anna Pigeon #4
Publication Date: January 1, 1996
Genre: crime, mystery
Pages: 310
ReRead?: No
Project: a century of women

A raging forest fire in California's Lassen Volcanic National Park traps exhausted firefighters, including Ranger Anna Pigeon, in its midst. Afterward, Anna finds two from her group have been killed. One a victim of the flames. The other, stabbed through the heart. Now, as a rampaging winter storm descends, cutting the survivors off from civilization, Anna must uncover the murderer in their midst.

Firestorm is book 4 in the Anna Pigeon series. Anna works for the National Park Service as a law enforcement officer, and each book is set in a different National Park. This element is my favorite part of the series – one of my retirement goals is to visit every single National Park in the U.S., so getting the little vignettes is fun.

This one was set in the Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, and the book is set within and then in the immediate aftermath of a wildfire that has resulted in one of the firefighters being killed. Anna is trapped in a closed circle with a group of fellow survivors, one of whom is the killer. It kept me interested to the very last page.

Moscow RulesMoscow Rules
by Daniel Silva
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Gabriel Allon #8
Publication Date: July 22, 2008
Genre: suspense, thriller
Pages: 433
ReRead?: No

Now the death of a journalist leads Allon to Russia, where he finds that, in terms of spycraft, even he has something to learn. He’s playing by Moscow rules now.
It is not the grim, gray Moscow of Soviet times but a new Moscow, awash in oil wealth and choked with bulletproof Bentleys. A Moscow where power resides once more behind the walls of the Kremlin and where critics of the ruling class are ruthlessly silenced. A Moscow where a new generation of Stalinists is plotting to reclaim an empire lost and to challenge the global dominance of its old enemy, the United States.

One such man is Ivan Kharkov, a former KGB colonel who built a global investment empire on the rubble of the Soviet Union. Hidden within that empire, however, is a more lucrative and deadly business. Kharkov is an arms dealer—and he is about to deliver Russia’s most sophisticated weapons to al-Qaeda. Unless Allon can learn the time and place of the delivery, the world will see the deadliest terror attacks since 9/11—and the clock is ticking fast.

I cut my reading teeth on cold war spy fic – Len Deighton, Robert Ludlum, etc – so sometimes only a spy novel will do. This is book 8 in Silva’s series centering on Gabriel Allon, Israeli super-spy. In this one, Allon spends time in Moscow, but not the cold war Moscow of my memory (Gen X here – I grew up during the Cold War). It ended up being a particularly timely read since Russia has resumed their historical place as the West’s greatest enemy by invading the sovereign nation of Ukraine.

Shadows ReelShadows Reel
by C.J. Box
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Joe Pickett #22
Publication Date: March 8, 2022
Genre: crime, mystery
Pages: 384
ReRead?: No

Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett’s job has many times put his wife and daughters in harm’s way. Now the tables turn as his wife discovers something that puts the Pickett family in a killer’s crosshairs in this thrilling new novel in the bestselling series.

A day before the three Pickett girls come home for Thanksgiving, Marybeth Pickett finds an unmarked package at the front door of the library where she works. When she opens the package she finds a photo album that belonged to an infamous Nazi official. Who left it there? And why did they leave it with her?

She learns that during World War II several Wyoming soldiers were in the group that fought to Hitler’s Eagles Nest retreat in the Alps—and one of them took Hitler’s personal photo album. Did another take this one and keep it all these years? When she finds the name of a deceased local man who was likely in the unit, Joe visits the man’s son—only to find him brutally tortured and murdered. Someone is after the photo album—but why? And when a close neighbor is murdered, Joe and Marybeth face a new question: How will they figure out the book’s mystery before someone hurts them…or their girls?

Meanwhile, Nate Romanowski is on the hunt for a younger and more ruthless version of himself—the man who stole Nate’s falcons and attacked his wife. Using a network of fellow falconers, Nate tracks the man from one city to another, learning that his target is an agitator and a financier of anarchists. Even as he grasps the true threat his quarry presents, Nate swoops in for the kill—and a stunning final showdown.

The Joe Pickett books aren’t just catnip to me – they are really more like creamy, chocolate covered crack. This is book 22, and was released last Tuesday. I read it in one sitting on Saturday. Because we are 22 books into a series that is set in a location that contains approximately 22 residents – Twelve Sleep County, Wyoming – Box has increasingly imported his mysteries from outside of Saddlestring.

What that means is that the mysteries have become more and more implausible. But, who cares. I am wildly entertained when I read a Joe Pickett. I know exactly what I am getting: Joe, will be uncorruptible, Marybeth, will be smart and supportive, Nate Romanowski will rip someone’s ear off, and, at some point, Joe’s state vehicle is going to get blown up. This one was true to the formula, and even though the story was, as always, bonkers, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Books about Books – a pairing

Sometimes I have reading slumps – although frequently it’s actually impossible to externally identify when I am in a slump, because I am such a reader that I read whether I really want to read or not. I know I’m in a slump, though, because I find myself unable to choose a book, or reluctant to pick up a book I am reading, or just generally experiencing bookish malaise.

One of the things that helps get me out of a reading slump is rereading. Another is books about books – I am always looking for reading memoirs.

Tolstoy and the Purple ChairTolstoy and the Purple Chair
by Nina Sankovitch
Rating: ★★★★
Publication Date: June 7, 2011
Genre: essays, memoir
Pages: 241
ReRead?: Yes

After the death of her sister, Nina Sankovitch found herself caught up in grief, dashing from one activity to the next to keep her mind occupied. But on her forty-sixth birthday she decided to stop running and start reading.

Catalyzed by the loss of her sister, a mother of four spends one year savoring a great book every day, from Thomas Pynchon to Nora Ephron and beyond. In the tradition of Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project and Joan Dideon's A Year of Magical Thinking, Nina Sankovitch's soul-baring and literary-minded memoir is a chronicle of loss,hope, and redemption. Nina ultimately turns to reading as therapy and through her journey illuminates the power of books to help us reclaim our lives.

This was the first of a couple of bookish memoirs that I picked up at the end of February/beginning of March. I like these types of memoirs, and a lot of them seem to be set around the idea of a year of reading. This one is no exception. The gimmick here is that the author read a book a day for a year. Now, I read a lot, and still the idea of actually finishing a book a day for a year is crazy to me. I have friends who accomplish this year after year, and I bow to their proficiency.

I enjoyed my time hanging out with Nina enough that this is actually the second time I’ve read this particular reading memoir.

Jacob's Room is Full of BooksJacob's Room is Full of Books
by Susan Hill
Rating: ★★★★
Publication Date: October 5, 2017
Genre: essays, memoir
Pages: 273
ReRead?: No

When we spend so much of our time immersed in books, who's to say where reading ends and living begins? The two are impossibly and gloriously wedded, as Hill shows in Jacob's Room Is Full of Books.

Considering everything from Edith Wharton's novels through to Alan Bennett's diaries, Virginia Woolf and the writings of twelfth century monk Aelred of Rievaulx, Susan Hill charts a year of her life through the books she has read, reread or returned to the shelf. From beneath a shady tree in a hot French summer, or the warmth of a kitchen during an English winter, Hill reflects on what her reading throws up, from writing and writers to politics and religion, as well as the joy of dandies or the pleasure of watching a line of geese cross a meadow.

Full of wry observations and warm humour, as well as strong opinions freely aired, this is a rare and wonderful insight into the rich world of reading from one of the nation's most accomplished authors.

This is a “sequel” to Susan Hill’s first bookish memoir, Howard’s End is on the Landing, which I read and really loved a few years ago. It also follows a reading year format, without the book-a-day gimmick. Hill talks books, but she talks about a lot of other things, too – the cycles of nature, and the joys of reading in summer and winter. In my mind, she lives in a rambling 18th century farmhouse bursting at the seams with books of all sorts, from the green Penguin mysteries of Josephine Tey to leather bound tomes hand-illustrated by monks. This is probably mostly just my head-canon, but it makes for a wonderful vision. There are reader complaints that she’s patronizing, or stuffy, or a bit of a know-it-all. But that’s not the experience I have, hanging out in her garden, in an admittedly one way conversation about books.