Thursday, August 19, 2021

Postcards from the Lake: July's Books

Thanks for all the wonderful birthday wishes and lovely comments on my last post! Life is indeed good (this blogging community is part of that reason!). So far, 70 doesn't seem any older than the days, maybe years before! Maybe even better!)

This summer's reading has (as always) focused a bit on my favorite genre, mysteries. But never fear! This wrap up includes a collection of essays, a wonderful novel and a behind-the-scenes look at one of my all-time favorite musicals.

Let's start with a light one!

Hanged for a Sheep - Frances and Richard Lockridge


I love the vintage covers on this series by the husband-and-wife writing team. I even love the characters, even though totally daffy Pam North (who takes center stage in this book) is way too ditzy for me. The character probably worked well in the 40s and 50s when the series was written but even a contemporary non-feminist would find her a bit too much in 21st century America!

Nonetheless, the books are fun. This one finds Pam being invited to stay with an aunt while publisher husband Jerry is out of town. Her aunt thinks that she is being poisoned, probably for her inheritance. Which of her relatives could it be? Naturally, Pam will take it upon herself to investigate and there will be another murder to add to the mayhem before it's all over.

 France: A Love Story - ed. Camille Cusonano

 

I wrote about this one during Paris in July, so I won't recap here, except to say that if you enjoy essays about France, this collection offers a diverse selection that includes stories about food, mushroom hunting, WWI (a delightful offering by Alice B. Toklas), loves lost and found, and more. You can check out my other post on this here.

The Soul of Discretion - Susan Hill


Susan Hill writes a series about a British detective, Simon Serrailler, who lives in the cathedral town of Lafferton. Long single, Simon has recently moved in with Rachel, a woman who first appeared in two books prior to this one. His sister, Dr. Cat Deerbon, is adjusting to her life as a widow, frustrations with her job and three children, all experiencing growing pangs. Cat is concerned that her stepmother, Judith, is experiencing physical abuse at the hands of Cat's father, Richard.

In this entry, Simon is sent undercover to help solve a series of child pornography cases, all grisly and perplexing. As he seeks more information, his sister, the emotional center of this series, is struggling with her personal and professional life and Rachel, herself a widow and now abandoned in a way by Simon, as he can have no contact with family or friends, takes a leap into a new career. 

This is a fascinating series (and I do recommend reading them in order; the character development here is key) and I heartily recommend it. This is the grittiest of them all to date but well worth the time.

 A Gentleman in Moscow -- by Amon Towles

 

 

This is one of those books everyone read a year or two ago. I read it this summer and I don't know why I waited. It lives up to all the hype, from my perspective. Set in Moscow after the Revolution, the plot focuses on Count Alexander Rostov, who, rather than being sent to Siberia, is confined to house arrest for life in the Metropol Hotel, a glamorous, glorious place that in time the course of his "imprisonment," will serve as home or stopping place to dignitaries, actors and journalists. 

The book follows Rostov's life for six decades as he adapted to his situation, making friends with the chef, seamstress, concierge and others, eventually serving as head waiter and having a liaison with a famous actress and forging a friendship with an 11 year-old girl who changes his life. The characters are exquisitely drawn, the history fascinating and the writing charming and elegant. I'd love to see this one as a film.

The Comforts of Home - Susan Hill

 


This addition to Hill's "Simon Serrailler" series finds the detective recovering from the injury received in the previous book in Scotland, where a woman in the village goes missing. As he is looking into the cases informally, his new boss (and new brother-in-law), seeks his input on the cold-case disappearance of a girl years before -- and a series of arson cases in the small town of Lafferton. The series mixes Simon's personal challenges in his relationships with family with a good crime story and is a worthy entry into the series.

 

Friends in High Places - Donna Leon


The ninth of Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti books begins with a visit from a civil servant assigned to investigate home renovations and reveals the detective's apartment on the top floor of his building may not actually exist. Several days later (after phoning Brunetti, asking to meet on another matter) that fellow is found dead after an unexpected fall from scaffolding. The dilemma? Brunetti expects he was afraid of heights and the fact he fell from great height doesn't synch up with the idea that it was unlikely he was on that scaffold of his own free will. The investigation takes the detective once again into the seedier parts of Venice -- and a dangerous world.

 

Follies: Everything was Possible - Ted Chapin

This book isn't for everyone but it was definitely for me -- my favorite book of the month. It is for you, too, if you love and are fascinated by Broadway musicals, any musical. But it is especially for you if you are a fan of the music/lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, the producer/director Hal Prince or choreographer Michael Bennett. 


This book steps behind the scenes of one of my favorite musicals, "Follies," as followed by Ted Chapin -- now the recently retired executive director of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization but then a college student serving as a production assistant on the show and keeping a journal as part of an independent study. Chapin was with the show from some auditions through opening and kept detailed records of conversations and his observations for working with the celebrated trio, along with stars Alexis Smith, Dorothy Collins, Gene Nelson and John McMartin as well as the shows designers, orchestrators and supporting acting company. It's a fascinating look at what went into what was at that time the most expensive musical ever and one that has become a cult favorite. If you are fascinated by theatre, this one is definitely for you.

 

The Blood-Rimmed Tide -- Rennie Airth


Scotland Yard detective John Madden has retired from the force and is living a contented life as a farmer with his physician wife Helen in 1930s England. But the discovery of the body of a young girl near his town brings him back into contact with his Scotland Yard friend, Angus Sinclair as it appears that an elusive serial killer is moving around several areas targeting early teen girls. 

 Once again, Rennie Airth builds a strong plot, a devilish character and a remarkable partnership as he weaves a  mystery well worth your reading time. (Recommended to read this series in order; this is the second book.) 

 

"The Body in the Transept" and "Trouble in the Town Hall" - Jeanne M. Dams


I haven't decided if I'm going to read all of Jeanne M. Dams light and cozy "Dorothy Martin" mysteries (there are plenty of them -- at least a dozen!), but they make a quick and pleasant diversion in the mystery line, especially after something pretty grizzly or more complex.

Dams' protagonist, "Dorothy Martin," is an American woman, recently widowed. (The time period isn't clear but the books were written in the 1990s). After the death of her husband, she has decided to continue their plans of moving to England and have settled the fictional cathedral town of Shrewebury. So, you have the "fish out of the water" set up -- American widow in a close knit, small British town.

In the first book, Dorothy finds a body in the transept of the cathedral on Christmas Eve. It is that of the greatly disliked canon of the church. There is no shortage of suspects and Dorothy takes it upon herself to investigate, rather like a modern day Miss Marple with quite a collection of over-the-top hats, her signature style.


"Trouble in the Town Hall" finds her more settled in the town. The core of this story is historic preservation and development. Again, Dorothy is at hand when the body is discovered and again, there is no shortage of suspects. 

I know I"ll read a few more of these but Dams has written plenty. Not great literature but a good break in the action and rather fun.

I'm behind replying to comments as I enjoy Art Camp! More on that soon! 

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48 comments:

Laurie said...

❤️

Victoria Zigler said...

July was definitely another busy reading month for you, and looks like some great reads among them.

Mae Travels said...

What a great reading list! I need some new ideas, and I might just read some of the mysteries you mentioned. With the covid situation getting worse, I will be spending a lot less time out and about and a lot more time reading.

I did love "Gentleman in Moscow" too.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

ashok said...

Great collection Jeanie

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

Thank you for the nice line up of books!
I have the feeling this winter is going to be heavy on reading. I want to stock up on used books now before I have to stay home more.

Nikki - Notes of Life said...

I haven't read any of those, but I'm sure I have a Susan Hill book on the shelves somewhere. I must admit I haven't read as much as I usually would this year.

My name is Erika. said...

It's great to read your book list for July Jeanie. I've added a couple to my Amazon wish list, and I found I could even get the Susan Hill book one of Simon Serrailler series for free on my audible account. I added that. I also looked up the Hanged for a Sheep book, and wow, they are outrageously expensive on Amazon. They must be out of print. I will keep my eyes open because it is fun to give vintage books a read. And didn't you love a Gentleman in Moscow? I read most of it right before the kidney transplant, and somehow lost the book under my bed. So I then listened to it. Even if it isn't the hot book of the moment, it is worth the read. And I must get back to more Donna Leon. Thanks for the recommendations. There are so many mysteries it is good to get an introduction to some new ones. Hugs-Erika

anno said...

Book recommendations -- always one of my favorite posts! I am forever indebted to you for your introduction to Elly Griffiths and the Lockridges, and I'm looking forward to trying out Jeanne Dams. Am always in the market for something light, frothy, and fun.

Gotta say, despite some pretty compelling writing, I was so angry about the ending to the first Simon Serrailler novel that I'm having a hard time working up to another. Looks like you are finding it a rewarding endeavor, though. How'd you feel about that first story vs. the ones that have followed?

Joanne Huffman said...

Fun reviews to read - as always.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I loved Gentleman of Moscow. The book. But the character, too.

I like the variety of books you read!

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, I always enjoy your book reviews. My reading has taken a back seat this summer to grandchildren and gardening. I will get back on track in September.

Pamela said...

Great reviews and I’m always impressed by the number of books you read! I love mysteries, but haven’t been reading much lately. I sometimes listen to audiobooks when I stitch, but not even so much of that. I look forward to reading about art camp!

William Kendall said...

An eclectic mix of books.

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

You sure have an impressive reading list and Happy Birthday! I think I must have missed one of your posts.

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

There are some here that I surely will check out and read, Jeanie. Thanks for giving your review about each one.

Prims By The Water said...

Happy belated birthday! You are a very young XXXXX year old. Never mention a ladies age unless she wants you too. :-) Janice

Jenn Jilks said...

I really like Susan Hill. I'd forgotten about her.
Happy reading!

Katrina said...

What an impressive-looking bookshelf! Inspirational. I love a chock-full shelf.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Jeanie,

Your July list of books all look interesting to me, I always enjoy your reviews. Mysteries are my favorite too. I am hoping to get the newest Louise Penny book next week. I am going to add a few of these to my TBR list. Take care, enjoy your day! Happy weekend!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

"Gentleman in Moscow" was a firm favourite for Miriam and me over the last couple of years. Who could not enjoy a character with such an appreciation for fine wine?

Amy at Ms. Toody Goo Shoes said...

I read France, A Love Story after you wrote about it in July (enjoyed it!), and also bought Italy, A Love Story, which I'm saving. A Gentleman In Moscow sounds intriguing to me, as does Everything Was Possible. Have fun in Art Camp!

Tristan Robin said...

What a great selection of mysteries whodunnits! I have become a fan of the Guido Brunetti books on your recommendation! I just finished two of them - I love the way Donna Leon writes about Venice; I spent almost six months in Venice as an exchange student in college and I her descriptions bring the wonderful city back to me. I'm going to order more ... I can tell she's going to be an expensive discovery for me. 🥴🤣

Gentleman in Moscow was a delight. I always expected to go back and read it again, but haven't done so yet. There are always so many new books to read. But, it was such a ... well ... human and civilized book.

The Simon Serrailler series and John Madden series both sound like they're right up my alley ... I'm going to see if they're available on Nook books from Barnes & Noble.

Ah! Everything Was Possible was one of my favorite books thus far this year. It's embarrassing how many times I've already seen this fantastic musical - and this book makes me want to see it again. Luckily, they're going to have the Imelda Staunton West End Production - which was STUNNING - shown in theatres here in U.S. mid-September. I've seen it - but can't wait to enjoy it on the big screen this time!

Thanks for all the terrific recommendations ... and I'm looking forward to what inspires you at art camp! 👩‍🎨

Marilyn Miller said...

Wow! That is a lot of books in one month. Good for you. The French essays is tempting. I remember you posting about it before. Thanks for the reminder.

The French Hutch said...

Great list and I always enjoy your recommendations. I love a good mystery, one of my favorite books or movies. I have to find France and I think A Gentleman in Moscow would be a good read. I also really enjoy books in a foreign setting.
Have a wonderful weekend.......

Ricki Treleaven said...

I haven't read any of your July summer reading books. You read an interesting variety! :)

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

Firstly, and most importantly, Many happy returns, Jeanie! I hope you had a wonderful day and will travel to GB just as soon as you possibly can. So far as the books are concerned - and, boy, have you read a few - I like the look/sound of the Susan hill books and 'A Gentleman in Moscow'.

Iris Flavia said...

Wow, you read a lot!
I´m kinda "blocked" art- and reading-wise.
Worst summer in years and no job, family-troubles - I should take you as a role model, turn off all tecs and sit in the swing in the living room (cause it´s too cold outside) and READ A BOOK.

Anca said...

A Gentleman in Moscow is a book I fancy reading too. It's been on my to-read list, but with so many books to pick from it is quite difficult to find the time.

R's Rue said...

These all look good.

gigi-hawaii said...

Of these, I think I would enjoy the one about France the most. I like personal essays about French history, culture, and food.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Sorry I am late visiting. On Friday, I was without power for over 16 hours. I am hugging my AC about now! You read SO many books. I'm working on one now, my second this year. Yes, I'm a slow reader, but I used to read 100 books every summer when I was in school. All of your mysteries sound impressive. I LOVE mysteries. Hope Art Camp is going well, dear.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

I've actually read 3 of the books you reviewed. I have most of the Mr and Mrs North series on my Kindle. Oh my so many cocktails! I also have a few of the Dorothy Martin series which I discovered in July believe it or not. It's a charming series.I'll be getting more of them in the future. When I find a series I like, I keep them on my Kindle to re-read. I have about 300 books on my tablet including classics by authors Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, a few Tony Hillerman, Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout, and lots of more modern writers too. I always enjoy reading about your books - yeah books!

Sandra at Maison De Jardin said...

WOW, Jeanie. This is quite the list. And, an interesting one for sure. I have copied your titles for later. Thanks so much, enjoy your summer days.

DUTA said...

You're a very prolific reader! Reading gives knowledge. The more you read , the more knowledgeable you become.

Lowcarb team member said...

Great post and lovely to see what you have been reading.
The book I'm currently reading is set in the 1870's historical novels seem to call me!

Enjoy art camp.

All the best Jan

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

And I must add that your shelves are beautiful, too.

thepaintedapron.com said...

I want to read A Gentleman in Moscow, thanks for all the reviews Jeanie! I have been reading a lot this summer, such a wonderful escape. I can't wait to hear about art camp!
Jenna

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I haven't read A Gentleman in Moscow but it certainly does sound like a book I would enjoy.

Divers and Sundry said...

So many wonderful suggestions! I need to go to a bookstore :( I miss it so!

Sandi said...

Oh, let's see what Jeanie's been up to. She's probably read some good books and ...scroll... Hanged for a Sheep. 😳 Jeanie? Uh...um...

Hahahaha. I was not expecting that!

I LOVED A Gentleman in Moscow. LOVED it.

Rain said...

I love that you're an avid reader. I used to be but don't find the time much anymore! I love the words on that first book....Money....Marriage....Murder!!!! :))

Hena Tayeb said...

Happy Belated Birthday!!
These all look like great reads.. I am not familiar with any of them Though I think I have seen the Moscow one before.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

another series you might like is the "Sister Joan Murder Mysteries" by Veronica Black. It's set in the countryside of UK.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Good recommendations and variety of books that you read. I read A Gentleman in Moscow for the book club I am part of, and I loved it. We are reading Hamnet now and I'm also enjoying it.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

While I enjoyed all your book reviews, Jeanie, the only one I have read in this listing is "A Gentleman in Moscow." After you mentioned Frances and Richard Lockridge, I checked the local library which didn't have a single one of their books (drat). I have read a number of Donna Leons books, but can't recall the one in this post. So many books and so little time . . .

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

So much variety!! Well done! That is a very great month of reading. I also enjoyed A Gentleman. The count was delightful. I loved his relationship with the little girl!

babYpose said...

Interesting collections, all look like great reads.

Buttercup said...

I'm a big fan of Donna Leon (and Venice). I'm not familiar with the Susan Hill mysteries, but need to add them to my list. Hope you're enjoying the last days of August.

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