All posts by phinnea

20 Books of Summer 2021

So once again it’s the 20 Books of Summer and despite being 5 days late and trying to read Proust, I’m signing up anyway. So what if I’ve never succeeded? Damn the torpedoes! or something like that. The past couple years I’ve made lists of books I really wanted to read. At least on some level. They were tempting lists. This year I’m going for short, mysteries, or short mysteries. Only possible way to do this. Plus I’m hoping it will get me back into reading again. I’m always hoping that. It worked for a while back when I started this blog and read almost all of Agatha Christie’s novels. There are just so many distractions in modern life and I am easily distracted. So, when I couldn’t sleep last night I started a list. But I forgot to save it, so I’ve done it again. Came up with 23, so I’m leaving them all in in case I need to switch something out.

Love Lies Bleeding – Edmund Crispin: a Gervase Fen mystery

Deadly Nightshae – Elizabeht Daly: second Henry Gamadge

The Canary Murder Case – S.S. Van Dine: second Philo Vance

The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras – J. Michael Orenduff: first Pot Thief mystery

Midnight at Malabar House – Vaseem Khan: set in India, first female police inspector 1950

Dear Committee Members – Julie Schumacher: academic novel, started before, epistolary

The Green Hat – Michael Arlen: classic about the bright young things in the roaring 20s

Tepper Isn’t Going Out – Calvin Trillin

Bats in the Belfry – E.C.R. Lorac

Enter a Murderer – Ngaio Marsh: second Roderick Alleyn

The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman

Charity Ends at Home – Colin Watson

Trent’s Last Case – E.C. Bentley

The Mazaroff Murder – J.S. Fletcher

Aunt Dimity and the Duke – Nancy Atherton

The Chinese Orange Mystery – Ellery Queen

The Family Vault – Charlotte MacLeod

The Mitford Murders – Jessica Fellowes

Weekend at Thrackley – Alan Melville

The Clue of the Twisted Candle – Edgar Wallace

Red Harvest – Dashiell Hammett

Tenant for Death – Cyril Hare

Lake Success – Gary Shteyngart

I hope something comes from this because it was rather tedious to type out. As you can see, mostly mysteries, some humor, some you’ve seen before, most are new. Wish me luck! Join in!

In Search of Lost Time I

I can hardly believe what I’m about to tell you. I have finished the first volume of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time – Swann’s Way. I thought I had read this years ago, but now having read it through I don’t remember anything after the first part, so I concluded I’d only read the first part. I remembered the magic lantern and the good night kiss, but that was pretty much it. The plan was to spend this year reading the whole thing, but as it took me 4 1/2 months to read the first volume, but I think I picked up speed after the first part. I certainly got more interested once Swann was on the scene and got used to the style.

Possibly the best cover, not the one I read. There are a lot of bad covers in the world. Especially these days.

I thought I had another 50 or so pages to go when I finished it today. The notes took up all the rest. After some early difficulty, (it was slow going for a while) I got more and more into it, But these characters are not like me. Marcel the character could spend hours staring at a church. I wonder how much Marcel the character was like Marcel the author. I bought a biography to maybe find out, but that will have to wait. I don’t like knowing what happens in a book before I read it, even a book like this where it’s not exactly got a plot. We meet young Marcel a highly emotional boy. We meet Swann who knows the family. They don’t like his wife, so he visits them alone. We get to know the family when they are holidaying in Combray. Then we meet Swann before his marriage, when he becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman named Odette, despite her being ‘not his type.’ Then we are back with Marcel who is still in school, but older, living in Paris, and perfectly capable of making himself sick with the power of his emotions, obsessed in his turn with Gilberte. All of this told in an avalanche of detail, a river of prose, you just have to sort of relax and float along. One definitely feels like one has only read part one and doesn’t know quite what to make of it. That any thoughts about it will only be turned on their heads later.

So, I hope I will read the rest of it. That it won’t take as long. That I might also read some other books instead of one incredibly long one, which is really what I think it is. Not six books, but six volumes of one book and it’ll take me years at this rate. I should have mentioned it at the beginning of the year. Maybe gotten a few people to read with me. It’s not too late, I’m sure you could catch up. I’m very slow.

Dewey’s 2021 24 Hour Readathon!

I’m almost on time out of sheer luck. I just happened to wake up around 8:00. Then the cat pointed out his box had not been cleaned so I was delayed, but I’m here now and all ready to start.

Opening Survey!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Maryland. No longer Maryland, My Maryland

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I didn’t exactly make a stack. Never needed a stack. I’m reading Books, Baguettes, & Bedbugs : The Left Bank World of Shakespeare & Co.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Going to have a cheese and cider break with a friend later. So that.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I have hardly read all year except I … no that really covers it.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I pretty much always do the same. Read a bit. Then end up doing other things because my schedule is not clear or I fall asleep. But some reading almost always gets done and it’s one of my favorite traditions.

I read a whole page and the Lawn Guy is here. Excuse me.

2:46 PM

Okay, sorry! Not a lot of progress. Bit of a nap. Zoom call. Breakfast. Not in that order, I have these Dark Chocolate Pecan Cookies which are not good. Very sad. The book is entertaining, a memoir by Jeremy Mercer of his time in Paris at the Shakespeare & Co. store which is a resurrection of Sylvia Beach’s original store which the Nazis closed in 1941. A guy named George opened his own store in 1951 and then later renamed it Shakespeare & Co. He offered free beds to poor writers and helped them out with tea on Sundays and I’m sure other stuff. So, I don’t think it’s a cheat the way some people did. So, I’m enjoying the book, but haven’t gotten very far and now, I think I’ll have a chicken sandwich. Also have some plants that should be put in the ground. You can see how this is going. 😀

11:22 – I read some more and planted a plant and my friend came over and left and I had Swiss cheese for dinner. Between the plant and dinner I fell asleep. Not sure when, so I ought to be wakeful, but I’m sleepy, so I will got to bed and read myself to sleep. I am enjoying Bedbugs as I think of it, because Books is too vague. Baguettes would be more appropriate. I am, though, only a third of the way. And feeling like a change. It was a busy day for a pandemic. Tomorrow I think there’s nothing on the schedule. Maybe I’ll extend my readathon a bit. I didn’t tweet anything. Usually I tweet something. My semi-annual tweet.

Thursday – Well, I didn’t finish the book, but I enjoyed what I read. Mercer does a good job of telling the story of the second incarnation of Shakespeare & Co., some of the people who stayed there, its eccentric owner, George, and his own story. I don’t know if it gets any clearer why he made the choices he did. Winding up homeless in Paris having fled his home city in Canada is quite a dramatic and precipitous change in circumstances which is explained as far as external circumstances go, but not internal. Maybe he didn’t know, maybe it will be revealed later in the book, which I haven’t finished yet. Maybe he was destined to write this book, who knows? I do recommend it though if you enjoy bookstores or eccentrics.

It’s been a long, long Time…

I am surprised and please though to see a few people still stumble across the site. Maybe tomorrow’s Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon will inspire me to read more, blog again. Who knows? You might think in a pandemic I’d be doing more reading, but there’s been a lot of moving. A lot of stuff. I have a lot of stuff and I have to get rid of some of it. And there’s work. And I actually have flowers coming up. But this does not mean reading should disappear. No! So, I am signing up for tomorrow’s readathon and will make an effort to read a bunch. Not the whole time, because stuff and plants and friends, but more than I’ve read for a while. I hope.

They don’t seem to have a nice picture to stick in here. Anyway, today I hope to buy some snacks in preparation. I have some ice cream, but not sure what else. Some cashews and almonds. Chocolate. I don’t need too much. I’ll also have to decide on a book or two. I like to read something specifically chosen for the day.

I hope you will join me and many other readers from around the world! It starts at 8:00 AM EDT for everyone, so if you’re in England or Turkey or China, you’ll need to figure out what time that is for you and read as much as you can/want to for the 24 hours after that. It’s strangely fun even though I’ve never managed to stay up the whole time. Report your progress on your favorite social medium, and eat tasty snacks. Post pictures of your pets/reading nooks/reading matter. Enjoy!

The Circular Staircase

This blog limps along. I do apologize. I’ve missed a few and maybe I’ll go back and fill in, but this is what I finished most recently. Mary Roberts Rinehart’s second book and one of her most famous. I’m afraid I enjoyed the Man in Lower Ten more. Shorter. This one kind of dragged a bit. Not that I hated it. I enjoyed a lot of it, just think it could’ve been cut quite a bit. The other problem is that if everyone had just said what they knew at the beginning, instead of hiding all their secrets, and these are the good guys, there basically would’ve been no mystery.

Rachel Innes, a spirited woman of a certain age, a spinster who raised her sister’s children, has rented a house in the country for the summer. She is to stay there with her niece and nephew, but she arrives first with her cranky maid and gets settled in. Well, anything but settled really. From the first moment there are mysterious noises, someone seems to be breaking into the house, dropping golf clubs down the stairs. The servants all leave. Rachel carefully locks herself and her maid in her room and there’s a bit with the transom that seems awfully familiar…

I’ve seen this movie. Only I haven’t. I saw The Bat. Made into a really good B movie with Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead. Some scenes are exactly the same. Some of the plot is the same. In the book there’s the niece and nephew and no Bat. In the movie, there’s no Circular Staircase. Confusing. Well, Rinehart and Avery Hopwood adapted the novel for the stage: added the Bat, removed the stairs, but apparently left in the kids, Halsey and Gertrude, who were later removed for the 1959 film version. It’s true the staircase doesn’t seem as significant as a titular staircase ought to, but why suddenly add a villain called The Bat? Strange.

Anyway, it’s not bad. It was written in 1908 so there’s a number of racial attitudes of the times that might bother people. And as I said it drags a bit in places. No one will let anyone else know what they’re doing or what they know so it drags out a mystery which could have been about a third of the length, but I will almost certainly read more of her

Give a little listen

So, I ran across a challenge for 2021, New (To You) Narrator Reading Challenge – listen to audiobooks with a narrator who’s new to you and I thought, hmmmm, that wouldn’t be too difficult. I never listen to audiobooks, so all the narrators are new. I’ll sign up for the lowest level and all I have to do is listen to one audiobook. I’ve been kind of thinking I should give them a try and never getting around to it, so I’m hereby signing up and maybe this will inspire a whole new kind of reading for me. And if not, well, I gave it a try.

I can’t save the image type so you’ll just have to go to the link if you’re interested:

24 Hour Readathon 2020

Good morning! By some miracle, I am up and have my coffee and am ready to start reading. Only 11 minutes late. I figure I can certainly read all the time I would have slept, right? I plan to get a thing or two crossed off the list today amongst the reading. We’ll see how that goes. We always start this off with a quiz. Most unfair at this hour. I often wonder what hour to start would best suit me. I definitely like the reverse readathon better for timing, when I start at 8 pm, but I should like to try noon, and/or 4 PM to see how they go. Anyway, onward!

Opening Survey!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Maryland, USA – Sunny right now with fine fall foliage.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I’ve decided to start Piranesi. I (almost?) always start a new book for the readathon.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Poppables – airy potato chips.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I always set out to read a lot, but somehow mostly don’t.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Read more? I hope? First half hour almost gone and no words read. You see how it goes.

9:37 – Reading well. Drank coffee. Thinking of breakfast.

11:33 – Ate lox and mini-bagels. Got a glass of water.

2:34 – Tried to nap. Failed, or if I slept it was brief. Reading, reading, reading. Had a piece of cake.

8:00 – Half-time

I had a tuna sandwich and too many Poppables for lunch and leftover pizza for dinner. Almost done with my book.

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? Piranesi – almost done.
2. How many books have you read so far? 7/8
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I don’t know! I haven’t finished one in so long, I didn’t bother figuring out a second one.
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? A few, have to do stuff sometimes. But mostly read.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? I’ve almost finished a book! Can’t remember the last time that happened!

9:30 – I think I will head to bed to read. I know we’re not supposed to do that, but it’s one of my favorite things. I believe after Piranesi I will read The Applegreen Cat, but no guarantees. I might read something else. So there!


So, I finished Piranesi. Go, me! And did a few pages of the Applegreen Cat, but it’s print and it’s a lot easier to read on a Kindle in bed at night so I switched to The Circular Staircase which I’d forgotten about after deciding to read more Beckford, all of which I should be sharing with the world clamoring to know my opinion of Vathek.

Anyhoo, that was a very good Readathon. Especially the first 12 hours. After that there were more unnecessary distractions.

Hope everyone had fun and you’ll join us in April! Unless they host a mid-winter reverse readathon. That would be good. Hint, hint. Almost forgot, closing survey:

Closing Survey

  1. How would you assess your reading overall? Best it’s been for years.
  2. Did you have a stategy, and if so, did you stick to it? I picked a good book for this, which isn’t always easy to do. Piranesi drew me in immediately.
  3. What was your favorite snack? Poppables, I guess. I forgot the Charleston Chew in the freezer.
  4. Wanna volunteer for our next event? Stay tuned for the recap post! Sorry, I’m a bad person. I just wanna read. Thanks to everyone who did volunteer!

Time flies

So, here we are 7 weeks later and it’s time for the 24 Hour Readathon. I hope I can spend some time on it, but I have a thousand things to do and I didn’t do any of them today, which was the original plan. I have bought some snacks and chosen a book to start with so there’s something ready anyhow. And maybe someday I’ll write a bit about what I’ve read since the beginning of September.

You can read all about the readathon here, but if you’re new you only have 9 hours to choose your books, gather your snacks and get ready to read as much as you can along with hundreds of other people around the world. Doesn’t that sound like fun? It is! Give it a try! (You don’t have to make it through the entire 24 hours. I never have. Just join in, read what you can and have fun!

20, no, 7 Books of Summer

The 7th and I suppose final book was Murder on Wheels by Stuart Palmer. The second Hildegarde Withers book and possibly my last. It starts off pretty well, a car accident without a driver. Then a body appears with a rope around its neck. A witness saw the driver leap backward out of the car. And there’s a rodeo in town.

So, a lively start, but shortly after that I was fairly sure I knew what had happened. I was partly right, but could never have guessed the whole end. Nor can I honestly believe it was written and published. He must have had a three book contract.

Piper and Withers’ constant bickering gets on my nerves. There’s a grandmother who won’t come out of the attic. An ancient parrot that does nothing but curse. So, there’s some fun stuff, maybe I’ll try another especially as I’ve already bought at least one more, but if another one has a solution like this one, I’m done.

The 20 Books of Summer was not a success from the point of view of finishing 20 books, but from the point of view of actually reading and blogging about 7 books it was a success. I have not been good about reading or blogging for about a year and a half, so this is an improvement I hope to keep going. Next up is Readers Imbibing Peril XV. – read a scary book, a thriller, a detective novel, a gothic, anything dark or darkish, police procedurals, cozy, horror or dark fantasy. From 1 September until Halloween. I love doing this, so I’m making the transition to #ripxv with Labyrinth of the Spirits which was supposed to be a Book of Summer.

Book 6 – 2020 Books of summer

I have been leaning toward reading classics since I finished the first draft of a list of a thousand or so to read for the rest of my life. Probably way too many and the list must be refined, but there’s nothing on it I’ve read that I don’t wish to read again and nothing that I never want to read, as there is on every list I’ve looked at. I had to make my own and I’ve worked on and off at it for years, but never quite could decide on which things and enough of them. So the next book I was going to read was going to be one on both lists – 20 Books of Summer and My Own Personal 1,000 Books I Must Read Before I Die – Greenmantle.

Second in the series of Richard Hannay adventures, Greenmantle follows The 39 Steps. You have more likely heard of The 39 Steps, made into a movie in 1935 by Alfred Hitchcock. Also turned into quite a funny play (all humor added by the adapters) in which all the roles are played by 4 actors. Greenmantle takes place during World War I. Hannay has been injured, but is now almost fully recovered. He’s called in to be given a special assignment. The Germans are up to something. They have a secret weapon – some sort of relic or religious treasure or maybe some sort of new prophet to inspire the Muslims to help the Germans capture the Middle East. The trouble is they don’t know who or what it might be. All they have is three obscure clues and the knowledge that the thing or person is heading toward Constantinople. Will Hannay find out what is happening and stop it? He’s given a free hand to choose his men and do whatever he thinks best to stop whatever it is. Quite a challenge.

Hannay takes it up, along with his friend Sandy, and an American with dyspepsia who plays a lot of solitaire. These adventures are not to modern taste. When I read a book and think there’s not enough violence, something’s wrong. Plot points tend to be based on a tremendous amount of luck – when he arrives in Portugal undercover, who should he meet, but his old friend Peter, a Boer tracker and hunter par excellence. They pair up disguised as men looking to fight for the Germans, but after initial success they run into problems in the form of a German officer called Stumm.

I don’t want to tell you what happens because it’s rather a fun read despite the reliance on massive amounts of luck and Hannay being quite a dope some of the time. It’s entertaining somehow despite the problems with the plot and the writing and Hannay’s (sometimes hilarious) character traits. It’s a quick read and I enjoyed it. I’ll probably try the next Hannay adventure, but I admit, it’s probably not for everyone.