Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July Reading


It's been a very busy month around here, so all my reading has been at bedtime, which means Kindle books only. I haven't sat down during the day to read in weeks. Oh, maybe a page here and there, but that's it. I did only one post for Paris in July; and I gave up the idea of reading Edwin Way Teale's Journey into Summer for now.

Summer is always busier than the rest of the year, but it seems that Tom's retirement is opening up time to do more visiting than we usually do. We have seen just about all our friends in July, times of great joy and conversation; a three-hour brunch on the patio of a local restaurant, going to two movies - Hannah Arendt and 20 Feet From Stardom, a play at the local summer stock theatre - Annie Get Your Gun, and family meals. It has been wonderful. There's been some gardening, and Tom has been working on getting wood together for the winter. But not much daytime reading. I guess that will happen after the summer. Around here we don't have too many months of warm weather so we truly take advantage of them.

In July I 'met' a new author named Stuart Palmer. 


43. Murder on the Blackboard - book 3 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1932
Kindle book
finished 7/29/13



42. Murder on Wheels - book 2 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1932
Kindle book
finished 7/24/13



41. The Penguin Pool Murder - book 1 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1931
Kindle book
finished 7/16/13



I first heard of him in a publication I receive called (Give Me That) Old-Time Detection which features mystery writers from the past. If you are interested, email me (click on the About Me tab, and then View My Complete Profile) and I'll tell you how you may subscribe. It is quite singular in the literary world, and is put together and typed up by one man, Arthur Vidro. He has letters from readers, he finds reviews from years ago, and he has full articles about many writers that are almost unknown today. It's a little known gem. When I first inquired about it, Arthur wrote this to me:
     Ever since its autumn 2002 premiere, (GIVE ME THAT) OLD-TIME DETECTION has been published three times a year.  Since issue #10 we have always included at least 32 pages (sometimes more), not counting the cover.
      We are devoted to discussion of older (pre-1970, usually pre-1960) detective-story writers, their careers, their characters, individual novels or stories ... sometimes we include "lost" pieces, such as a story by Anthony Berkeley or an essay by John Dickson Carr ... when I was lucky enough to meet Mathew Prichard (Agatha Christie's grandson), that led to an interview.  We provided several pages of coverage of the 2005 Ellery Queen Centenary Symposium.
      The more famous of our contributors of new material are Marvin Lachman and Jon Breen.  In addition, we have reprinted reviews by Charles Shibuk and essays by Ed Hoch, Susan Oleksiw, Francis Nevins, Tony Medawar/Arthur Robinson, and Douglas Greene.
      It's hard to pigeon-hole us, but we do focus much more on the Golden Age style than on the Hard Boiled style.
After my introduction to Stuart Palmer within its pages, it was a recent post on the At the Scene of the Crime blog which got me to begin reading Palmer in earnest.

There's a terrific piece about Stuart Palmer here


Palmer's sleuth is an amateur who is very smart, fearless, and so much fun. Her name is Hildegarde Withers. She is a 'spinster' who is 39 years old when we first meet her. She teaches third grade in New York City, and lives with a couple roommates in an apartment. In the first book, she actually becomes engaged to Inspector Piper of the NYC police at the end, but by book two they have decided they are happier being great friends, detecting companions, and single. Pretty bold for a writer in the 1930s to feature a woman who is frankly contented to be a 'working woman.' And what a woman she is. I've never read about anyone like her. It is hard for me to understand why Jane Marple became so very well-known while Hildegarde Withers remains a hidden treasure. She is amazing. I've read about the old movie versions starring Edna May Oliver and James Gleason, and since they aren't available on Netflix, I may just buy them. 

Though there is a bit of screwball comedy in the books, they are mostly quite serious, and well thought out mysteries. It is also a treat to read about an amateur sleuth who is respected and supported by the police. The plots are intriguing, the characters terrific, and the writing good. I couldn't ask for more. I've just begun the fourth one. I do so enjoy reading through a series one right after the other. Though I've read that many people don't enjoy this, I find it great fun. 

I really liked The Broken Rules of Ten, a prequel to The First Rule of Ten and The Second Rule of Ten

40. The Broken Rules of Ten - prequel to the Tenzing Norbu series
by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay
mystery, 2013
Kindle book
finished 7/13/13



It was really wonderful to read about Tenzing Norbu as a young boy living in the monastery with his father. Ten lives part of the year there, and the other months with his free spirited, alcoholic mother. The poor boy didn't fit into either parent's lifestyle. He learned to depend upon his two friends, who are still important to the older Ten. It was most interesting to see what life in a Buddhist monastery was like - the food, the rituals, the order of life. Hendricks and Lindsay can't write fast enough for me. I love this series. The books have sparked my interest in Buddhism and I've bought two books to help me learn more: The Buddhist Catechism by Henry Steele Olcott, and Taking the Path of Zen by Robert Aitken. I also bought a sweet sounding book called The Dalai Lama's Cat by David Michie. This is one of the things I love best about reading. When I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I mentioned in my book report a quote from the book which I began to call 'the Guernsey effect' - 
That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive - all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.
39. Dodsworth in Paris - book 2 in the Dodsworth series
by Tim Egan
children's fiction, 2008
Kindle book
library book
finished 7/13/13



This was a precious little children's book for early readers. Dodsworth has a companion duck who can't help getting into trouble, which makes for delightful reading. One of his adventures is making their money into paper airplanes and flying it off the Eiffel Tower, causing Dodsworth to get a job in the city in which he was supposed to be merely vacationing. I'd like to read the whole series, but will borrow the print versions instead of reading them on my Kindle. This was supposed to be a reading for Paris in July, as was a great movie I saw called Waiting for Fidel, but I just didn't have the solid time to sit down and give either the book or movie the time they deserved. I may write about the movie sometime.

The latest Maisie Dobbs book was great. I thought it one of the best in the series. 

38. Leaving Everything Most Loved - book 10 in the Maisie Dobbs series
by Jacqueline Winspear
mystery, 2012
Kindle book
library book
finished 7/9/13



The title figures into both the case Maisie has taken on, and her own personal life. I skipped book 9, Elegy for Eddie, because I found the story too painful after reading some of it. Things happened in that book to the main, ongoing characters, but I felt that Jacqueline Winspear caught me up so I knew what had occurred. Honestly, this is one of my favorite series ever. I love Maisie, her dad, and Billy. They are drawn with such care that the reader really does know them well by now. In this book, a woman from India has been killed. She had been living in a sort of hotel for servants who had been let go once they moved to England with British families, and were no longer needed. What a horrible thing. We meet the owners of the place who are no saints themselves though they talk as if they are doing the women a great service. The whole thing was very sad to read about, but still the mystery and the story of Maisie's inner thoughts are simply excellent. I love the slow, quiet writing where every single word is important. The stories are always complex and multi-dimensional. I've learned so much over the years of the books. 

This monthly books format is working out well for me, though sometimes I do miss writing longer book reports. I intend to do so for the two challenges I've joined - Sherlock Holmes and the Canadian Book Challenge

29 comments:

  1. Nan, I LOVE (Give Me That) Old Time Detection! I must check out Stuart Palmer's books.

    My husband and I thought seriously about traveling to NH in September to see Arthur's production of , but unless someone leaves me a modest inheritance, that's not going to happen. :-( I am very disappointed!

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    1. We plan to go! It's not very far from us.
      Wish I could give you that 'modest inheritance.' :<)

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  2. Interesting to read about the newsletter. "Give Me that Old Time Detection" is a priceless title! Is it cheating to rely on you to pass on the best recommendations from it instead of subscribing? I'd rather read the next Maisie Dobbs or the first Hildegarde... and somehow my reading time also seems to be limited too, although I can't imagine why, when I have so much of it free of other obligations.

    I thought I had pre-ordered the Ten prequel, but I don't seem to have it..I'll have to check on that. I love that series. The yoga class I took here in Veneta last summer has been discontinued and I was so disappointed. (That wasn't just a completely random thought ... as you know it is connected to the series!

    I always love your recommendations and reviews, whether brief or detailed. I'm reading Sherlock Holmes too!



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    1. It only comes three times a year, and really, there's nothing like it. I feel as if I'm taking a fun course in old mysteries.
      Thanks so much for your words. I've read just a little of SH. Will catch up in the fall I hope!

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  3. With my longer work days, I only read in the evenings before bed and the occasional weekend afternoon. Once winter rolls around, I'll probably do a little more, although I do spend far too much time on the old computer...

    It sounds like you and Tom are both enjoying his retirement. Your calendar is full and you're spending time with friends and family. Life is good, eh? :)

    BTW, I love your new header. A neighbor gave us a huge tomato from his garden and I made a BLT for lunch. It was amazing! I feel sorry for people who dislike tomatoes. They have no idea what they're missing!

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    1. I did have an afternoon this week when I did sit down for about three hours and read steadily. I so loved it. I'm reading a wonderful book for the Canadian Challenge called Remembering the Bones by Frances Itani. I think you might like it.
      I mostly eat raw tomatoes in two dishes - tabouli and the tomato basil salad. I love both of them.

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  4. I do think I would love this old mystery series. In fact I think I will download it right now. More later.....when I check out the publication you mentioned. Thanks!!

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    1. I think you'll adore Hildegarde. She's funny and smart but not abrasive. A unique character.

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  5. Now you've done it, I have to go see if I can find any Stuart Palmer books! They sound like a lot of fun, perfect for when I don't want to read the darker mysteries. Thanks, Nan!

    Summer is always a busier time for us, too. It sounds like your husband is enjoying being at home and you are getting to see people you love and enjoying the summer. It does feel hard when there is little time to read, though, doesn't it? Like something is missing. That's when you know you are a book lover :-)

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    1. I'm weary of the 'darker' books. I like the wit and intelligence and light humor of the Palmer series. I think you'll like them.
      You've said it exactly - 'something is missing.' As I told Les above, I had a solid stretch of daytime reading recently and I felt entirely different afterwards. I need reading like I need air.

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  6. I'm sure I would love any book you recommend and you must be a fast reader to get through these only at bedtime! It's wonderful that you've had so much fun getting together with friends and family in between farm chores. Are the ticks still bad? I got the Agnes Sligh Turnbull Christmas book you wrote me about. Had to read it right away of course. Could not wait until Christmas but I'll read it again then. Lovely book.

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    1. I am not a fast reader, but if I wake up during the night, instead of thinking/worrying I turn on my Kindle, and get out of my own thoughts into a book. I fall asleep again easily.
      Ticks are better than in the early part of the summer. I can walk outdoors now without seeing any!
      Oh, isn't the AST wonderful, wonderful! I knew you would love it. Now I must get some more of her work. There are so many older authors that I love.

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  7. The Buddhist books sound interesting, will check these out, thanks.

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    1. They are a great mix of mystery and Buddhism.

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  8. Just the post I needed to see. I finished ~The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle. She is a new author to me. I enjoyed the read. You might also.

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    1. I will look into this book. Thank you!

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  9. I tried to find the Dodsworth book at the library to include in my Paris in July reading, but no such luck! (It's available at the main library, but not at the branch where I was last week.) I finished two French-centered books this week and started a third (that clearly won't be finished by tonight).

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    1. It is such a sweet little story, as I'm sure the others are. Someone mentioned them in the same sentence as Cynthia Rylant's Poppleton books which I wrote about last fall:

      http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.com/2012/10/seven-poppleton-books-by-cynthia-rylant.html

      I like children's books that present a good worldview.

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  10. Your post has reminded me how much I loved Maisie Dobbs and really need to continue with the series. Last weekend I bought a copy of the first book for my mother... with hopes that we can work our way through the rest of the series together.

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    1. Thank you for telling me. What a wonderful thing to read them with your mother. I envy you.

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  11. I generally read more in fall/winter, but this summer, with all the hot weather, I've been indoors more and reading more as well. I am also able to listen to audio books at times at work so that helps as well.

    Glad you are getting to do a lot since Tom retired.

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    1. It was hot, wasn't it?!! More like regular summer in the past few weeks.

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  12. I have been reading more this July than in other month, simply because of more travelling - all the hours spent on trains and planes (or just waiting around for one) best spent reading, I think, especially if you travel alone (like I mostly do) and do not have company to engage you in conversation.
    Your July sounds indeed wonderful, visiting all your friends, having those great meals, and so on!

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    1. I wonder if train reading makes one 'car sick' as reading in cars can.

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    2. Not me, Nan. I can't read on a bus or in a car, but no problem on trains and planes. The movement is different, I guess.

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  13. Love to read
    tables filled with books
    and I just keep adding :)
    Just seems with so much to do outside
    in the evening
    too weary to read.
    Winter and rainy days best for me.
    I read a lot of Buddhist books lately
    especially Thich Nhat Hanh.
    My son lives in Thailand and learning a little
    about what is taking him upon the path he is on....

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    1. 'tables filled with books' such a wonderful image. And I love that you are learning about what your son is interested in.

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  14. I'm pleased to read your review of the latest Maisie Dobbs, and glad that you gave nothing away of the plot/ending. I pre-ordered this and have had it on the -to-be-read stack since it arrived. Its been a summer lacking in time for the way I prefer to read--immersed for hours and finishing a book in 2 or 3 sessions.
    I've also been reluctant to read this as I was disappointed in Elegy for Eddy. 'Maisie' is one of my favorite series in spite of a sense that not all the books are consistent in good story line.
    Elegy was rather shallow in characters and plot--and Maisie was obviously not herself!
    As the demands of harvesting garden produce diminish I look forward to a session of catching up with Maisie Dobbs. She is a rich character.

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