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CBL's 2020 Literary Adventures, Part 1

75 Books Challenge for 2020

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Jan 1, 8:43am Top


I'm Carrie, an academic librarian in Seymour, Tennessee. My 8-year-old Shih Tzu, Adrian, isn't terribly interested in what I read, but he likes to keep me company while I read. If he's not on my lap, he's snuggled in the recliner beside me. He's much more photogenic than I am, and I'll post pictures here from time to time.

My reading tastes are fairly eclectic. Mystery is my favorite genre, and I have a special fondness for historical mysteries. I also read literary fiction, nonfiction (history, biography of historical figures, literary travel, family history/genealogy are particular favorites), and occasionally books for middle grade readers/tweens.

It's hard to believe this is my tenth year in this group! I haven't been as active on the threads as I would have liked in the past couple of years. Since I moved into a new condo, I have a longer commute to work and I spend more time outdoors with Adrian. There are lots of dogs in my neighborhood, and Adrian and I often go on walks with our friends, both human and 4-legged.

To kick things off, here is a recent photo of Adrian and his friend, Stella, at a Humane Society event.

Edited: Jan 25, 11:06am Top

Best of 2020

Books read in January
1. Coral Reef Views by Vicki Delany (4) - completed 1/1/20
2. Bolt by Dick Francis (4) - completed 1/2/20
3. Blood from a Stone by Donna Leon (3.5) - completed 1/5/20
4. Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (4) - completed 1/11/
5. Death Walks in Eastrepps by Francis Beeding (3) - completed 1/19/20
6. The Bertrams by Anthony Trollope (3) - completed 1/25/20

Edited: Jan 13, 9:14pm Top

Books acquired in January

1. In the Frame by Dick Francis (purchased ebook)
2. Gold Rush Girl by Avi (December ER book)

Edited: Jan 11, 2:02pm Top

British Isles Author Challenge

Graham Swift - Mothering Sunday - completed 1/11/20

Edited: Jan 1, 8:51am Top

Nonfiction Challenge

Edited: Jan 1, 8:51am Top

American Authors Challenge

Edited: Jan 1, 8:51am Top


Edited: Jan 25, 11:07am Top

Group Reads

Blood from a Stone by Donna Leon - completed 1/5/20
The Bertrams by Anthony Trollope - completed 1/25/20

Edited: Jan 1, 8:54am Top

Reading Projects

Commonwealth Challenge

Agatha Christie

Jane Austen

Holocaust Literature


Edited: Jan 1, 9:00am Top

I usually include a photo "blast from the past" in my threads. This photo is from the recent past. Just before Christmas, in fact! I was blessed with the opportunity to spend Christmas in Berlin with my brother and SIL, while my brother is on a temporary work assignment there. My SIL took this pic of my brother and me in one of the Christmas markets near Alexanderplatz. The church behind us is Marienkirche.

Edited: Jan 1, 9:08am Top

Currently reading:

75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know by Terry Glaspey
Bolt by Dick Francis
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions by Kenneth W. Osbeck
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Jan 1, 8:53am Top

Happy reading in 2020, Carrie!

Edited: Jan 1, 9:01am Top

>12 FAMeulstee: Thanks, Anita!

Jan 1, 9:09am Top

Another resolution is to keep up in 2020 with all my friends on LT. Happy New Year!

Jan 1, 9:51am Top

Happy New Year, Carrie!

Jan 1, 10:18am Top

Happy New Year, Carrie. I hope 2020 is a great year for you.

Jan 1, 10:30am Top

Best wishes for 2020!

Edited: Jan 1, 1:00pm Top

End of Year Meme

Describe yourself: A Useful Woman

Describe how you feel: Something Rotten

Describe where you currently live: Campusland

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Berlin

Your favorite form of transportation: Tramp for the Lord

Your best friend is: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

You and your friends are: Friends in High Places

What’s the weather like: Big Sky

You fear: Untimely Death

What is the best advice you have to give: Cheaper by the Dozen

Thought for the day: They Do It with Mirrors

How you would like to die: To Die but Once

Your soul’s present condition: The Call to Holiness

Your favorite time of day is: The Remains of the Day

What is life for you: Pieces of Happiness


Your favorite food: Vegetables

Edited: Jan 1, 1:05pm Top

Welcome back!

Jan 1, 1:39pm Top

Happy New Year, Carrie. Great picture of you and your brother.

Jan 1, 1:43pm Top

Happy new year! Great answers to the meme, too.

Jan 1, 3:04pm Top

>20 drneutron: >21 lindapanzo: >22 charl08: Thanks Jim, Linda, and Charlotte!

Jan 1, 3:05pm Top

1. Coral Reef Views by Vicki Delany

Paramedic Ashley Grant’s parents have come from Canada to visit her in her new Caribbean island home. Retirement doesn’t seem to suit Ashley’s father, who seems at a loss without work to keep him busy. He perks up when he befriends a fellow tourist, only to be disappointed when the man fails to keep an appointment they made. When the man still hasn’t made an appearance a day or two later, Ashley’s father is convinced that something is wrong. His fear is confirmed when the man’s body washes up on the beach. It could have been an accidental drowning, but Ashley’s father isn’t so sure. He enlists Ashley’s aid to investigate the circumstances surrounding the man’s death.

The Ashley Grant mysteries are part of Orca’s Rapid Reads series, with a primary audience of ESL students and low literacy adults. They’re something between a short story and a novella. With several series books to her credit now, Delany seems to have learned how to develop a credible plot with multiple suspects at a pace that suits both the mystery genre and the goal for the Rapid Reads series. The setting will appeal to readers who enjoy mysteries in exotic locations.

This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.

4 stars

Jan 1, 3:29pm Top

Hi Carrie! Happy New Year, and congratulations on the first finish I've seen so far :-)

Jan 1, 4:11pm Top

Hi, Carrie! - best wishes for a great reading year. Love to Adrian. :)

Jan 1, 4:39pm Top

>25 susanj67: Thanks Susan! I started it last night and didn't have much left to read this morning. It's nice to get one under my belt already!

>26 lyzard: Thanks, Liz!

Jan 1, 11:19pm Top

Dropping a star here! I'll try to do the real catch-up after I get home tomorrow or on Friday!

Jan 2, 4:48pm Top

Happy 2020, Carrie! Wishing you all the best in the new year!

Jan 2, 7:53pm Top

>28 thornton37814: >29 Carmenere: Thanks, Lori & Lynda!

Jan 2, 7:55pm Top

2. Bolt by Dick Francis

Although jockey Kit Fielding rides for a number of owners, Princess Casilia is clearly his favorite. When a menacing stranger threatens the princess and her invalid husband, Kit steps in to help. He’ll have to be on high alert to prevent injury to the princess’s loved ones while he comes up with a plan to put and end to the threat once and for all. It seems there is nothing that the evil man won’t do to terrorize the princess and her family, even to the point of killing her beloved racehorses (which are also very much loved by their rider, Kit). Kit also has to mind his P’s and Q’s around steward Maynard Allardeck, who can’t let go of the ancient blood feud between the Fieldings and the Allardecks. Meanwhile, Kit fears that he is losing the affection of his fiancee, the princess’s niece by marriage, Danielle, to a sophisticated rival, who is also the princess’s nephew.

This is a rare sequel in Dick Francis’s body of work. It reads as the page-turner I’ve come to expect from Francis. Although it was lovely to visit Kit’s world one more time, this book wasn’t quite as satisfactory as its predecessor. The villain’s cartoonish speech and actions stretches the bounds of credibility. I like the fact that Kit suffers less from injuries and physical violence than many of Francis’s heroes. While all of the Francis heroes I’ve met so far have been clever, Kit manages to prevail solely on the basis of his wit.

4 stars

Jan 3, 4:34pm Top

Stopping by with Happy New Year greetings and best wishes for 2020! Adrian may be photogenic but that picture of you and your brother is equally lovely!

Jan 3, 9:06pm Top

>32 lkernagh: Thanks, Lori!

Jan 3, 9:12pm Top

I saw this on thornton37814's thread and it looked like fun!

Did you have guests during the holidays, Answer the questions with titles of books you read in 2019

What would you call the event? Pieces of Happiness

How did they find their way? Reflex

How did they know they'd arrived? A Useful Woman

Any special activities? Clue

Did your guests stay over? Hotel du Lac

Were there servants to help? The Three Clerks

Was there turn down service? The Chosen

How were the guests greeted? The Dog Who Lost His Bark

Was dinner held for late comers? Forfeit

And dinner was? Vegetables

Afterward? Coffee, Tea, or Murder?

Jan 4, 12:24pm Top

Congrats on your second book of the year! Happy New Year, if I haven't already said it, Carrie.

Jan 4, 7:14pm Top

>35 The_Hibernator: Thanks, Rachel!

Jan 8, 7:27pm Top

3. Blood from a Stone by Donna Leon

In the days leading up to Christmas, an African street vendor is murdered in a crowded street in front of multiple witnesses. It looks like a professional hit job to Commissario Brunetti, but why would a street vendor be a target for this type of murder? Might it have something to do with the knock-off products they’re selling? Or is the murder connected to the victim’s country of origin? Brunetti is up against a closed world of immigrants who operate under the radar. Establishing the victim’s identity won’t be easy, let alone finding the motive for the murder.

I found this series installment less satisfactory than most of the other books in the series. I’ve come to accept that the murderers will elude justice in this series, and that Brunetti (and the readers) have to be satisfied with the knowledge of the killer’s identity. However, this book ended with more loose ends than usual. Even the victim’s identity is still uncertain at the end of the book. The answer is hinted at, but Brunetti (and the readers) have to accept that the full story will never be known.

3.5 stars

Jan 9, 11:25am Top

Dropping a star, Carrie!

Jan 9, 11:31am Top

I’ve got your thread starred, but looking back, I don’t seem to have said anything!
So, I’d like to wish you (and Adrian) a happy new year!

Jan 9, 5:27pm Top

>38 Crazymamie: Hi Mamie! Happy new year!

>39 Dejah_Thoris: Hi Dejah! Happy new year to you, too!

Jan 9, 5:32pm Top

Around the end of October/first of November, Adrian developed anxiety when he's crated. His vets and I are not sure why. Maybe something happened that scared him while I was gone one day, or maybe he picked up on my stress. (Our HOA was turned over to the homeowners on October 30, so October and November were filled with uncertainty, which is stressful.) We've tried different medications, and this week it's looking like he's finally turning a corner. The last couple of days the bedding in his crate hasn't been quite as wet from drool and panting, and I arrived home from work this afternoon to a dry crate!

Jan 9, 10:40pm Top

>41 cbl_tn: Poor little guy! I'm glad you and your vet have found something that works. I love my vet - it make such a difference to have someone with whom you work well.

Jan 10, 4:09pm Top

>41 cbl_tn: To find a way to reduce anxiety in dogs isn't easy, Carrie, I am glad to read you have found something to help Adrian.

Jan 10, 9:35pm Top

Hi, Carrie! Happy New Year!

Jan 11, 2:00pm Top

>42 Dejah_Thoris: >43 FAMeulstee: Thanks, Dejah & Anita! Yesterday wasn't quite as good as Thursday, but I still think we're headed in the right direction.

>44 ronincats: Thanks, Roni!

Jan 11, 2:01pm Top

4. Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
On an unseasonably warm Mothering Sunday in March of 1924, maid Jane Fairchild secretly meets her lover, Paul, the only surviving son and heir of the neighboring estate owner. This will be their last tryst, as Paul is to marry Emma, the daughter of another neighboring landowner, in two weeks’ time. Jane is intensely aware that the pleasure of her relationship with Paul cannot last, just as the day’s beauty cannot last. She reflects on her past, the many directions today might have taken, and, from her old age, the course of her life and the secrets she still carries.

This is a deeply introspective novel that explores themes of class, motherless children, childless mothers, loss, memory, perception, truth and fiction. It has the same feel as Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, and will appeal to the same readers.

4 stars

Jan 11, 10:44pm Top

>46 cbl_tn: I chose Graham Swift for the BAC and perhaps it was overdue. This one has been uniformly popular this month, Carrie. I liked it too.

Have a great weekend.

Jan 11, 10:55pm Top

>47 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul. I have to confess I chose it because it was the shortest of the options at my local library. I am not sorry. :-)

Jan 11, 10:59pm Top

>48 cbl_tn: Yes the page count was in its favour when I chose it too!

Jan 14, 9:32am Top

>49 PaulCranswick: I have a Jeanette Winterson checked out of the library, but I may end up returning it unread. I have overbooked myself this month.

Jan 14, 6:57pm Top

>50 cbl_tn: It's so easy to overbook oneself!

Jan 14, 7:17pm Top

>50 cbl_tn: I keep remembering books I was thinking of reading this month. There is no way I'll get to them all!

Jan 14, 7:38pm Top

>41 cbl_tn: I hope he has turned a corner! I am sure that the situation is just as stressful for you as it is for him.

>46 cbl_tn: I own that one, I just need to find it! Thanks for the reminder, Carrie.

Jan 15, 7:53am Top

>51 thornton37814: >52 Dejah_Thoris: I keep doing it despite my best intentions.

>53 alcottacre: Hi Stasia! Either Adrian has improved a bit, or I've just adapted to the new behavior. I did buy new water resistant bedding in multiples to switch out when he soaks one set, so at least cleanup is easier now.

Jan 18, 9:47am Top

Hi Carrie - I was just thinking about Donna Leon and wondering what the next book for me is. She is a good go-to for me when I don't know what to read.

I also loved Mothering Sunday; it was my first novel by Swift, but it won't be my last.

Have a lovely weekend.

Jan 19, 6:36pm Top

>55 BLBera: Hi Beth! I enjoy the Donna Leon books, even though her murderers are rarely brought to justice.

It has been a lovely weekend. I was able to share meals and spend time with several friends over the course of the weekend. Adrian and I both enjoyed that! Of course, it meant less time for reading.

Jan 19, 6:38pm Top

5. Death Walks in Eastrepps by Francis Beeding

A series of murders disrupts the tourist season in the East Anglian town of Eastrepps. The local authorities look into the first murder, but Scotland Yard’s Inspector Wilkins is called on to lead the investigation after a second murder. The murders continue despite police patrols. What evil is stalking the town?

Even though the author of this Golden Age mystery doesn’t play fair with readers, but withholds clues and other vital information, I had no trouble identifying the killer midway through the book. I wouldn’t have minded so much if the investigation had proceeded in a satisfactory way. However, the killer initially succeeded in framing someone else for the murders, who was subsequently hanged. The true killer was eventually identified not by Scotland Yard, but by a witness for the defense who knew that her lover had been wrongly convicted.

3 stars

Jan 21, 11:04pm Top

Hi Carrie, I lost your thread in the burgeoning January threads. It looks like your reading has started out well for the year.

Jan 21, 11:07pm Top

>54 cbl_tn: Glad to hear that Adrian is doing at least a little better.

>57 cbl_tn: I think I will give that one a pass. I hope your next read is better for you!

Jan 21, 11:33pm Top

>60 lyzard:

To be fair I think it's an intentional rumination upon the limitations of police investigation and the criminal justice system. We're not used to that sort of thing in Golden Age mysteries.

Jan 22, 8:17am Top

>58 Familyhistorian: Hi Meg! Yes, it has. I'd like to have a little more time for reading, but otherwise I can't complain!

>59 alcottacre: Thanks! I am a little nervous about the next week or so. Adrian's friend Stella will be staying with us for a week starting tomorrow night. Adrian is not typically a barker, but Stella is and she is successful at getting him to chime in. I'm hoping that he won't lose the progress he's made while she's with us.

>60 lyzard: I hadn't thought of it in that light, but even so, I think Christie's Witness for the Prosecution and Mrs. McGinty's Dead do that more satisfactorily.

Jan 22, 3:20pm Top

>61 cbl_tn:

Yes, but this was some twenty years earlier.

I always think it's important to remember that Sherlock Holmes and whole "brilliant non-professional detective" thing was born out of the English public's dissatisfaction with the conduct of the police and the courts, particularly a series of convictions and executions on very flimsy evidence during the second half of the 19th century. The fantasy of the brilliant amateur who could intervene and prevent a miscarriage of justice was very comforting, but it was just a fantasy.

Jan 22, 4:18pm Top

>62 lyzard: I wonder if Christie borrowed from this one for Witness for the Prosecution? I see some similarities.

Edited: Jan 22, 4:32pm Top

>63 cbl_tn:

Possibly, but I think the dramatic possibilities of the courtroom scene were probably the main inspiration.

Jan 22, 5:57pm Top

>64 lyzard: I don't say this about many books, but I think I would have enjoyed it more as a movie. Interestingly, Hitchcock's Spellbound is based on one of Beeding's other books, and I love that movie.

Jan 22, 6:08pm Top

>65 cbl_tn:

Yes, I can see that. I haven't read The House Of Dr Edwardes, but it's on The List (of course). Beeding* is an interesting, rather off-beat writer who was never quite in the same "place" as his contemporaries.

(I say "he is": you know it's two writers using a single pseudonym, yes?)

Jan 22, 6:56pm Top

>66 lyzard: Yes, there is information about both writers in the introductory material in my copy. It's hard to know how to talk about two authors with one pseudonym. Do you go along with the pretence that they're one person or not?

Edited: Jan 22, 8:45pm Top

Well, the problem is that at least one of them, perhaps both, also wrote with other people under different pseudonyms, as well as in their own right.

In other words it's way too complicated so I just think of them as one person. :D

Jan 22, 8:46pm Top

>68 lyzard: It's too late in the evening for me to take that in. It's making my head spin!

Jan 25, 7:16pm Top

6. The Bertrams by Anthony Trollope

Do you ever wonder what ever happened to the person identified as “most likely to succeed” in your high school yearbook? George Bertram would have received that designation. His cousin, Arthur Wilkinson, always finished a close second to George, to Arthur’s great sorrow. However, George’s innate talent did not lead to happiness.

Trollope seems to have intended The Bertrams to be a character study of George and Arthur, of George’s irresponsible father, Sir Lionel Bertram, and his miserly uncle, George Bertram, Sr.; of proud Caroline Waddington and constant Adela Gauntlet. Sometimes the plot seems forced to fit Trollope’s requirements for character development. Readers may get an ending that they like, but may wish that Trollope had arrived at it in a different manner.

3 stars

Yesterday, 11:14am Top

Carrie, thanks so much for stopping by my thread - I had been thinking of you, too, and our two Dads.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2020

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