Moonlight Snowfall
2020 TBR cart

 

As I've said, I've decided to stay away from "reading challenges" this year. I still have some ongoing reading projects, including my second round of classics club books, the Patricia Wentworth project, and my Century of Women blog project. I also have a massive tbr, both physical and ebook. 

 

I decided to use my TBR cart to focus my 2020 reading. My plans - subject to change, of course - are to read at least one print book for every two kindle books that I read, selected from the cart. I am free to add a new book to the cart when I remove a book, and there's no requirement that I finish, or even start, a book in which I've lost interest. But there are some books on the cart that I've been looking forward to reading for a long time. Sometimes years!

 

Top tier (from L to R):

 

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Mrs. Ames by E.F. Benson

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle

Troubling a Star by Madeleine L'Engle

Down Among the Dead Men by Patricia Moyes

Penguin Classics WWII Stories

Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson (a lovely gift from BrokenTune)

Mrs. Tim of the Regiment by D.E. Stevenson

The Brontes Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson

My American by Stella Gibbons

Death of a Fool by Ngaio Marsh

Tied up in Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh (a Christmas mystery that I didn't get to this year)

Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh

The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith

Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey (buddy read!)

 

Middle tier:

 

Possession by A.S. Byatt

A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor

The Glass Devil by Helene Turston

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Sleeping Beauty by Ross MacDonald

Beloved by Toni Morrison (evidence of my Halloween Bingo group read failure)

The Flemish House by George Simenon (oops - I already need to substitute. I've read this one - I know that I have another Maigret I haven't read)

Good Evening, Mrs. Craven by Mollie Panter-Downes

Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple

The Salterton Trilogy by Robertson Davies

Mariana by Monica Dickens

The Semi-Attached Couple and the Semi-Detached House by Emily Eden

An Unsuitable Attachment by Barbara Pym

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim

The Cellars of the Majestic by George Simenon

 

Bottom Tier:

 

Daniel Deronda by George Eliot

The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macauley

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Howard's End by E.M. Forster

The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie

The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott (4 book series)

The Maine Massacre by Janwillem van de Wettering

Westwood by Stella Gibbons

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor

Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym

Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym

 

I'm going to try to remember to post a new picture at the beginning of each month to chart my progress!

Happy New Year from the PNW!

Goodbye 2019

Thanks to everyone who is posting their wonderful and fascinating end of year/end of decade reading posts and their bookish goals for next year. I absolutely love reading them.

 

I'm sorry to say that I am entirely lacking in the energy to do one myself.

 

I'm so exhausted that the only thing I've been able to come up with is a single word for the year 2020.

 

Simplify.

 

That's it. That's all I am going to try to do, but it covers a multitude of things: paying off the remainder of my non-mortgage debt (I've paid off about 55% last year, the remaining 45% is scheduled to be paid off in 2020); finish the decluttering of the shed, garage, other outside spaces, and my entire house; continuing to say "no" to things that don't interest me, focusing on my reading, cross-stitching, quilting, baking and other such quiet and gentle pursuits, and refining and streamlining my work and home lives.

 

I will say that I have a good feeling about the next decade. I think it's going to be amazing.

Review
4.5 Stars
It was a dark and stormy night
Unnatural Causes - P.D. James

This is the third Adam Dalgleish book, and was a library check out for me. I decided to revisit P.D. James this year as part of my "Century of Women" project. Unnatural Causes is the third in the series, and was published in 1967.

 

This is my favorite book so far because it was so cleverly plotted. The victim is a mystery writer, and is found in circumstances that feel like something out of his next planned book. Well after his death, an envelope containing the typed opening of his next book is received, and it echoes the circumstances in which his body was found, and was obviously typed on the victim's own typewriter.

 

Adam Dalgleish is is involved because he has gone to Suffolk to visit his aunt, a respected amateur ornithologist, lifelong spinster, and extremely self-contained woman. The victim was one of her neighbors, and her small circle of neighbors all have a motive to murder. Dalgleish is also trying to decide what to do about his romantic relationship, which has reached a critical juncture and he must decide if he is going to ask the woman to marry him or end the relationship all together. Aunt Jane lives in an isolated cottage on the Suffolk coast, so there is a lot of discussion about remote coastal landscapes that look something like this:

 

 

As an aside, this book would work brilliantly for the "dark and stormy night" space in Halloween Bingo, as there is a confrontation that occurs in a flooded house during a devastating coastal storm.

 

The way that the solution to the mystery is presented isn't completely successful, in my opinion. The end of the book is basically a transcription of a long, somewhat rambling, recorded confession left behind by the murderer. This type of device has a tendency to drag on, and it does so here, but it's a relatively small quibble. Otherwise, the book is extremely cleverly done, and the meta elements are a lot of fun.

Reading progress update: I've read 11%.
Miss Silver Comes to Stay - Patricia Wentworth

Hello, again, Ms. Wentworth. I've rather missed you...

 

Loving this, so far!

Review
4 Stars
A delightful gem of a book
The Lark - E. Nesbit

Apparently E. Nesbit, of the Psammead, the Bastables and the Railway Children, also wrote at least a few books for adults (although this felt more YA, or even, shudder, NA, than anything else). Who knew?

 

This book is adorable. It had a distinct Anne of the Island vibe, which is my favorite of all of the Anne Shirley books, with the two main characters, Lucilla and Jane (cousins) being pulled out of school by their guardian because he has done a bunk with basically all of their money. All they have left is a house left to them by an aunt, and 500 pounds in the bank. As it's 1919, and immediately post-WWI,  this is actually a significant sum, but it's still not the fortune they believed they had inherited.

 

“Everything that's happening to us—yes, everything—is to be regarded as a lark. See? This is my last word. This. Is. Going. To. Be. A. Lark.”

 

says Jane, & Lucilla falls in with Jane's plans.The two girls move into the cottage, start a market garden, take in Pigs, or Paying Guests, meet a couple of young men, there are high jinks and failures and successes. It is unrealistic in the extreme, but it's so charming that I just didn't care. This is my last word. I. Just. Didn't. Care.

 

There are hints of reality that intrude. Of the two young men, one, Mr. Dix, is a former POW who can't find a job because England was doing a really terrible job of supporting it's returning soldiers. Jane and Lucilla are confronted with the shocking reality of the prospects for these young when they, on a whim, hire him as their gardener. And, there are references to the unconventionality of their behavior.

 

Interestingly, the book doesn't actually end with Jane and Lucilla married, or even engaged. Jane is definitely coupled up, but isn't ready to marry, and Lucilla's prospects are even more obscure.

 

This is one of the Furrowed Middlebrow titles that has been dug up and republished by Dean Street Press, and it's available in both print and on kindle. Their kindle prices, in particular, are extremely reasonable. I think I paid $2.99 for my ebook copy. I've liked everything I've read from this imprint, and have several others available on my kindle. If you enjoy early-twentieth century British women writers who wrote light fiction, in the vein of D.E. Stevenson or Angela Thirkell, you might enjoy this.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Reading progress update: I've read 1%.
The Murders Near Mapleton - Brian Flynn

First off - I've found a new Christmas mystery, for my fellow GAM readers! I have no idea if it is any good, but the Anthony Bathurst series, by Bobby Flynn, has recently been released by Dean Street Press, and a blogger I follow suggested this holiday offering to me as a seasonal starting point. Lovely cover, as well!

 

Second - could a librarian look at the book page? I am pretty sure that when I added the book, BL put it under a different Brian Flynn, who seems to write books about computers. I am 99% certain that my Brian Flynn is not the same person, and I don't think that the Brian Flynn who wrote GAM is in the database at all. I don't know how to add an author.

 

His Goodreads author page is here.

 

Info:

 

Born: January 01, 1885

 

Died: February 05, 1958
 

"Brian Flynn, English author and an accountant in government service, a lecturer in elocution and speech, an amateur actor. He wrote about 50 novels, mostly for the library market. His serial character is Anthony Bathurst." - fantasticfiction.com

Also wrote under the pseudonym Charles Wogan.

 

 

 

Review
4 Stars
Dead Men Don't Ski by Patricia Moyes
Dead Men Don't Ski - Patricia Moyes

I’ve been intending to try out the Inspector Henry Tibbett series by Patricia Moyes for years. I picked up a different one – The Coconut Crime – at my local UBS and read it earlier this year and never posted about it over here. I enjoyed Henry and his delightful wife, Emmy, but wasn’t in love with the book’s tropical setting. I decided to order the first book in the series – this one – from Abe Books and give it a second try.

 

I have a much more significant affinity to mysteries set in cold, snowy climates, so this was a hit with me. I really enjoyed everything about it. We’re introduced to Henry & Emmy in England, as they are getting ready to leave for a skiing holiday in Santa Chiara, a small town in the Italian Alps, and Henry’s boss at Scotland Yard asks him to do a little bit of sleuthing around for an international smuggling ring. The side characters are likable and well-drawn, both the international jet setters who spend their days in Santa Chiara skiing and their nights drinking, and the staff of the hotel, all of whom are more than they appear at first glance.

 

Things really get going when a corpse shows up on the downward side of the chair lift that operates between the luxury hotel where Henry and Emmy are staying and the town of Santa Chiara. The victim has been shot, and no one is upset that he’s dead because he’s a drug-running, smuggling, abusive criminal. Henry duly sleuthes around, Emmy does what Emmy does best, which is pay attention and get people talking, and everyone works on their ski technique.

 

It seems like no one really writes mysteries like this anymore. It’s not a cozy, and lacks the sometimes overly twee elements that I don’t like in a typical coffee shop/bookstore/cat cozy. It’s not a police procedure or gritty modern drama. The puzzle is at the forefront, but, also character development and interactions are important. I really enjoy the classic mystery format and am always on the lookout for this type of series.

A January Agathytes buddy read?

It's hard to believe that 2019 is almost over and we haven't had a Christie buddy read since Death on the Nile all the way back in May! There was some discussion about a Cards on the Table Buddy Read, but that sort of fell apart.

 

So, is anyone up for a post-holiday slump Agathytes BR? My proposal would be to read one of the following:

 

A Murder is Announced (Marple)

The Pale Horse (stand-alone/cameo with Ariadne Oliver)

Five Little Pigs (Poirot)

Ordeal by Innocence (stand-alone)

 

But I could be persuaded to anything except The Big Four or Passenger to Frankfurt if someone has a different idea!

Review
4 Stars
Third times the charm
A Christmas Party - Georgette Heyer

This is not the first time that I've read Envious Casca, as it was originally titled. I think I've read it through a full three times - the first and second times I couldn't quite remember the solution to the mystery. This time, I knew the ending and was able to see the clues as they were embedded in the story.

 

This is a classic English mystery - closed circle, locked room, country-house, Christmas mystery. I've read other Heyer mysteries, and will complete the list at some point, but, right now, I think this is her best. 

 

The book opens with the gathering of the Herriard family for Christmas at the behest of Uncle Joseph, who lives with his brother, Nat Herriard. Nat is the patriarch of the family, and the one with all of the family money.

 

"Joseph, having lived for so many years abroad, hankered wistfully after a real English Christmas. Nathaniel, regarding him with a contemptuous eye, said that a real English Christmas meant, in his experience, a series of quarrels between inimical persons bound to one another only by the accident of relationship, and thrown together by a worn-out convention which decreed that at Christmas families should forgather."

 

Nat has no children, but his nephew, Stephen, has been acknowledged as his heir. Stephen is the child of his other brother, who died many years ago. Stephen's mother lives in Canada with her 3rd husband and isn't in the picture at all. Paula, Stephen's sister, is also a guest for Christmas. Paula has brought along her latest squeeze, a playwright named Royden, and Stephen's vacuous but pretty fiancee, Valerie, is also there for the holiday. There's also a random cousin, Mathilda, Nat's business partner, Mottisfont and Joseph's wife, Maud, to round out the guest list.

 

The Herriard family is an obstreperous and argumentative bunch. Nat is not so awful as Simeon Lee from Christie's holiday classic, Hercule Poirot's Christmas, but he enjoys a wrangle as much as the next guy. Some families get together for a game of Pictionary during the holidays, the Herriard's get together for their own version of Festivus, which primarily relies on the airing of grievances. 

 

‘Miss Herriard,’ responded Mathilda coolly, ‘treated the assembled company to a dramatic scene – she’s an actress, good in emotional rôles. I wasn’t present, but I’m told that she and Mr Herriard had a really splendid quarrel, and enjoyed themselves hugely.’

 

‘Seems a funny way to enjoy yourself, miss.’

 

‘It would seem funny to you or to me, Inspector, but not, believe me, to a Herriard.’

 

When Uncle Nat ends up dead in his locked bedroom, having been stabbed in the back, everyone is a suspect and everyone, almost, has a motive.

 

This is an exceptionally clever mystery, relying on misdirection, and some legal and medical intricacies for the solution.

 

Josephine Tey in 2020

 

Sadly, the Tey oevre is quite limited. I just ordered Miss Pym Disposes, and I'm hoping to read all of her books next year:

 

The Man in the Queue (1929)

A Shilling for Candles (1936)

The Franchise Affair  (1948)

To Love and Be Wise (1950)

The Daughter of Time  (1951) 

The Singing Sands  (1952)

Miss Pym Disposes (1946)

Brat Farrar   (1949)

 

The ones I've already read are in bold. If anyone is up for a buddy read of any of the remaining, let me know!

Reading progress update: I've read 40%.
A Christmas Party - Georgette Heyer

The entire Herriard family is bat shit crazy.

Reading progress update: I've read 5%.
A Christmas Party - Georgette Heyer

I've read this one before, but I enjoy this particular Christmas mystery quite a lot. Not quite so much as checking in with the Lee family, along with Monsieur Poirot, but I've already read that one!

Review
3.5 Stars
WWII fiction: The Winter is Past
The Winter is Past - Noel Streatfeild

I've never read any of Streatfeild's famously old-fashioned "shoes" series, including Ballet Shoes, so this was the first book I've read by her. I picked up it up for kindle because a number of her adult novels have been reprinted very cheaply. I read about it in one of my favorite blogs Furrowed Middlebrow - the blogger included it in his 100-book Furrowed Middlebrow Syllabus.

I love mid-century British fiction by women. The Winter is Past is set during the very beginning of WWII, at an old country house, Levet. This is during a time of great social change for Britain, and Levet details these changes in microcosm.

I'm not sure that I would recommend it widely - it's a book in which little happens, and the main character, Sara, is frustratingly vague. Her relationship with her husband has been badly damaged, and she spends most of the book dithering about whether or not she will remain at Levet. I kept wanting to kick her in the ass and tell her to make a damned decision. Having said that, it's well-written, and readers who enjoy books published by VMC and Persephone would likely enjoy it.

Review
4.5 Stars
Such an English murder
An English Murder - Cyril Hare

That was utterly delightful. A golden age Christmas puzzle mystery with a wonderful solution. Highly recommend for fans of the golden age. I'm not sure if I'll get around to writing up a more substantive review - and I'm going to use this for Door 17, Winter Solstice, because it has snow on the cover.

currently reading

Progress: 365/543pages