Friday, January 5, 2018

Year End Reading Round-Up

The gorgeous artwork of contemporary Irish painter Henry McGrane.

This is my first year-end round-up after many years of blogging and I was inspired to do so by a wonderful year end post over at Brad's AHSWEETMYSTERY blog.  Of course being a person of little introspection and zero memory (each book I read remains only as a vague interlude floating about in my brain) so I may not have as many interesting things to muse over as Brad does. But I'll do my best.

I too will try and stay away from the politics of 2017 except to say that never have I welcomed the end of year more. My hopes are pinned on the 2018 election and/or some nicely timed arrests but that's all I'll say about it on this blog. Those interested in my more detailed political expostulations are welcome to check out my Facebook page.

This past year I only read 79 books - see link to titles and ratings here, but it was more than I read the previous year even if still less than what I'd set out to do. I thought I was reading at a much faster clip but turned out I was wrong, I seem to have slowed quite a bit. But maybe it's for the best. After all, it's not a race.

Example of the brilliance I was exposed to this year:

If I HAD to pick my favorite mystery this year, this would be it. What a terrific piece of writing. I had never read any Michael Gilbert before so this was a fantastic introduction. I almost wish I hadn't read it so that I could have the absolute pleasure of reading it again. Which I will do sometime this year once its innards fade to nothingness in my brain.

This was the beginning of a wonderful series set in a cold, cheerless and very remote section of Great Britain which the author somehow makes inviting. I love the cold wind and rain, the ocean and sand and the feeling of damp isolation. The protagonist is a forensic archaeologist who is called in whenever bones are uncovered which is actually more often than one might imagine. I didn't think I'd like this series as much as I do which means that I am, at my creaking old age, still capable of being surprised.





I also read several books by Angela Thirkell and Elinor Lipman this year, two authors whose work rarely disappoints. I continue to love the worlds they create. And near the end of the year, I discovered the wonderful Bill Crider's Dan Rhodes books. Proving once again what an eclectic reader I am and proud of it.

But then there were these two books which cruelly disappointed me. Yes, cruelly, because I always go into a book expecting something wonderful.

1) Normally I don't bother chatting too much about bad books, but this one was a doozy, most especially since I had been led to believe it was a pretty good book, maybe even exceptional. May I say that this was a total waste of my time? I began skimming near the end hoping I'd come across something that would suddenly turn the thing around, but I never did find it. This is the sort of book that sets you up nicely with a visually pleasing locale and the whole idea of Ellery Queen going off to an upstate town to see a different view of life and gather color for a book he is either in the process of writing or just about to be in the process of writing. The house he rents is set up for him with the appropriate mystery and expectations are set in place. Unfortunately these expectations are NEVER met. Queen acts like a nitwit throughout the book and when you think AHA! something is going to happen now - NOTHING does. It's a dud, a pedestrian effort at best. As I said: a total waste of time even if it is the first of the fabled Ellery Queen 'Wrightsville' books.

2) I'd only read one other Helen McCloy book - CUE FOR MURDER - and liked it well enough. So I kind of thought I'd enjoy this one which seemed to have the sort of plot I normally look forward to. But, oh, was I wrong. I did stop reading about half way through because I just couldn't take the pontificating. Certain characters' dialogue read as if they were giving a lecture at the United Nations on the wretchedness of bad government and/or fascism and/or other trials of mankind. All mixed in with what was supposed to be dialogue. And the heroine - oh my goodness, her behavior was, I think, supposed to be eccentrically entertaining, but instead appeared nothing but dull-witted. Another book I wanted to like, but no, it was not to be. Thankfully, books like these are few and far between.

On a better note: 2017 was also the year I began reading a couple of vintage authors for the first time thanks to bloggers like John at PRETTY SINISTER BOOKS and others, who specialize in vintage and whose tastes I can usually count on.

I've continued to contribute to author Patricia Abbott's Friday Forgotten Book Meme (even if a bit tardy at times) which gives me another reason (if I needed any more) to read vintage, vintage and more vintage. Though I do still read some modern day authors, for instance: Elly Griffiths, Spencer Quinn and Elinor Lipman. And I'm very much looking forward to Robert Crais' new novel, WANTED among other things, here and there.

Also keenly looking forward to Walter Isaacson's biography of Leonardo DaVinci. I read three non-fiction books this year which is less than I would like, but the three I read were excellent:



Almost against my will, I am getting more used to reading on my Kindle (it took you long enough, Yvette!) though I still prefer actual books and truth to tell, I don't think I'll EVER get used to tapping the screen to turn the page. But there are just certain difficult to find vintage books which are either unavailable as actual books or if they are, are just too expensive. Ergo: Kindle is the next best choice.

So, all in all, I guess you could say I had a very good reading year and here's to 2018 being just as good if not better.

Since it's Friday, don't forget to check in at author Patricia Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other authors are talking about today.


15 comments:

  1. Wonderful post! My reading goal is always 104 books (2 per week) and I achieve it most years. I haven't done the math on this year because I'm behind on my "why I read" lists, so have no count, but I suspect I'll be below normal. I'm hoping to do a redux on my reading soon, but the effort eludes me so far.

    I did read (though not all this year) those non-fiction books you show. I think that Queen is the first part of a trilogy, which is why it appears nearly nothing happens. I read the three of them when they were highly recommended, and disliked the writing and the multiple false "solutions" in each.

    Happy 2018 to you!

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    1. Thanks, Rick. I enjoyed reliving my reading year - so to speak. I did enjoy some of Ellery Queen's other books so I was really caught off guard by this one. I have the other two on my TBR list but at this point, I might not bother. I really would like to read more non-fiction and maybe this will be the year. I'm already behind this year having only read one book so far. :)

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  2. i succumbed and got a Kindle: and had a heck of a time downloading from Gutenberg; it's not really set up for that... and i don't like it all that welL the touch screen has a mind of it's own, and the case is slippery and apt to fall out of old hands... i tried Calamity Town twice and wasn't able to finish it... i finally gave it away... as much as i like a lot of Ellery Queen, i confess to being a bit tired of Wrightsville; it seems like such a portentous place...

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    1. I never did figure out how to download from Gutenberg to my Kindle. But now and then I read from Gutenberg online - at least I figured out how to do that much. But some vintage books are dirt cheap over at Amazon so there is that perk. Also you can borrow ebooks from the library though I have never done it. As for Ellery Queen, I'm going to tread gingerly. I recently reread CAT OF MANY TAILS and enjoyed the first half very much. The second half and the denouement I had remembered as being more enjoyably different. A bit of a let-down this time out.

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  3. This is a great year end reading review, Yvette. I know what you mean, however. I forget books very shortly after I read them... a problem in reviewing sometimes. But I still love reading them. I did love SMALLBONE DECEASED when I read it and I am glad you encouraged me to do that.

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    1. Thanks, Tracy and I'm glad you enjoyed SMALLBONE DECEASED too. Faulty memory is the reason I began rating the books I read. At least then I can tell which books I enjoyed even if I can't remember why. HA!

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  4. Sounds like a good reading year, despite the disappointments.
    I love Ruth Galloway in Elly Griffiths' books. Have read all of them and am awaiting the 10th and last one (sigh). I will miss this character and her cohorts greatly, and will miss the East Coast of England, too, in the salt marshes.
    You are reminding me to read Elinor Lipman's books, which are a good idea right now. I have read a lot of them, including Alice Thrift. I will look at the new one.
    And I'll look for the Michael Gilbert. Although not a reader of vintage books, I'll take your recommendations and try to find this one.

    My library has a new online reading system called "Overdrive," where one can read books online and not have to own an e-reader. So I found several Nero Wolfes in the system, which I need now.

    Happy New Year! Hope the family is doing well.

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    1. Thanks, Kathy and a very Happy New Year to you and your family as well. We are all, thankfully, very fine in our new home-state of North Carolina. Nero Wolfe is ALWAYS a good idea. :) I hadn't realized the Ruth Galloway books were ending. Too bad.

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  5. I have to get a copy of Smallbone Deceased. I must! I'm always eagerly waiting for a new Elly Griffiths book. I just love the location and the characters. I didn't realize that there was a 'Wrightsville' series of Ellery Queen. I usually like Queen, but I just finished Double, Double, which I see is part of the Wrightsville series, and I didn't like it either. Thanks for tipping me off to the new Robert Crais Elvis Cole / Joe Pike book. I'm #8 in the hold line at the library! I love Thirkell, but haven't tried Lipman. I've read several of Bob Tarte's books and laughed and cried my way through them. I hope you have a wonderful, book filled 2018!

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    1. Thanks so much, Joan. I was about a hundred in line for Robert Crais' new book so I think I'm just going to buy it at some point. But first I want that Leonardo DaVinci book!! Thanks for the tip on DOUBLE, DOUBLE, I was dubious about it. Eleanor Lipman is a lot of fun and often laugh out loud funny, usually when you least expect it. She's one of the very few modern day writers I'm fond of.

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  6. Congrats on going Kindle, Yvette! If you're like me, you'll gradually give up books entirely--even those that have no e-version, such as the Michael Gilberts you have me drooling for but which I can't read until the publisher goes digital. I read one of those on your tantalizing list--The Crossing Places--which I liked a lot. I also bought The Monuments Men--paperback and DVD--but the book sits on my book pile unread as I wait for a Kindle version to appear. (BTW, my Kindle is the free app for my laptop, which is so convenient for copying quotes and excerpts to my FFB reports.)

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    1. No, Mathew - I will NEVER give up books entirely. Not gonna' happen. There's just a delighful real life solidity in actual books (if that makes any sense) that is missing for me with Kindle. But I like it well enough for vintage and hard to find books. My SMALLBONE DECEASED is in a nice vintage hardcover edition. :)

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  7. Smallbone Deceased is one of my favorite all-time books! I keep saying that I am going to read the other Insp. Hazelrigg books, but so far I have not. I also enjoy his Calder and Behrens stories. Elly Griffiths is also on my list. I will also look for the non-fiction books you mentioned. No Kindle yet. Many large print from the library though.

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    1. I wonder why I waited so long to read SMALLBONE DECEASED - I was a dumb bell. But better late than never I always say. :) I've read other Hazelrigg books, but SMALLBONE is, so far, Gilber's masterpiece. I'm hoping to read more non-fiction this year - we'll see.

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  8. I didn't realize this was THE BOB TARTE of Enslaved by Ducks fame. I read that and laughed my head off and then I read the other two books the library had.

    I was driving my friends crazy, quoting sections and laughing. I bought Enslaved by Ducks to loan out. Hilarious.

    I must get this new book.

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