Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Reading Update and Author's A - Z

Relaxing with the missus and puppies as we watch old episodes of $100,000 Pyramid. Not doing quite so good today. I'm off to the physio later on. Yesterday I went just for a walk, trying to avoid some of the pounding that running causes to my hip. It felt pretty good yesterday.

Now on to my reading update

Just Finished
I've finished 3 books since my last reading update.
1. Peace and War (The Forever War Omnibus) by Joe Haldeman. This has taken awhile to get through but then again it does contain 3 separate stories. It was up and down at times but I did ultimately enjoy them all.

"The Peace and War Omnibus is a science fiction series that contains three books, The Forever War (1974), Forever Peace (1997) and Forever Free (1999) by Joe Haldeman. The Forever War and Forever Peace are basically sequels and Forever Free is described as 'a kind of sequel, though, examining some of The Forever War's problems from an angle that didn't exist twenty years ago (when The Forever War came out)."
The first two books follow the same main character, William Mandela, a space soldier who spends the first book, training in space and then fighting an unknown alien race, the Taurons. Throughout this book, he travels back to Earth, arriving hundreds of years in the future and discovering the great changes that took place while he was gone. He goes back to war a few times, regularly with the woman who will become his wife, trying to deal with life as a soldier and with a changing earth's values and lives. It's an interesting story, interesting concepts on living and fighting in space. (It's kind of a Battle Cry or Vietnam War, but set in space. (3.5 stars)
The second book, Forever Free, finds Mandela and his wife. Marygay, and children, now living on the planet Middlefinger, peopled with many other veterans, people of the new human species, 'Man' (basically a combined mind) and Taurons. They chose to live on Middlefinger (MF) because life on Earth was now too strange. However they now feel a desire to leave MF, by traveling in space, out 20 years (their time, but many years more in MF time) and returning to see what changes the future has wrought. Problems happen, forcing them to return to MF, and discovering a fantastic disaster has occurred. They then head to Earth. The story becomes an interesting discussion about whether there is a God, and if so, trying to answer the question, why is he treating us in such a shitty manner. (3.5 stars)
Forever Peace is set on Earth. The Alliance (the US and 'allies') are at war with enemies in Central, South America and Africa. They fight with 'soldier boys' an interesting concept, basically machine robots controlled by soldiers who 'jack' into the machines and fight while remaining in cells back at home base. Julian, a 'soldier boy mechanic' also teaches physics at university in Dallas. A series of events turn his life and those of his friends head over heels. They work on the Jupiter Project, an attempt to create a super collider on Jupiter's moons so they can test their theories on the Big Bang Theory. As they discover the dangers that might result from this test, they must begin a race against time, both to stop the wars on Earth and also the Jupiter Project itself, while being chased and threatened by enemies on Earth, a fanatic religious organization, The Hand of God. (4 stars)
All three stories are quite interesting. The concepts explored make you think. While the stories move slowly at times, as you get into them, they draw you in and hold your interest. Definitely worth the effort to keep with the books. I think that Forever Peace was my favorite, especially the last half (tense and action-filled) and it could safely be read on its own. The other stories should be read together; the second, Forever Peace is the best of the two but the first provides great background leading into it. Glad I tried them. (4 stars)"

2. Who Killed Marilyn Monroe? by Liz Evans. This is the first book in the Grace Smith PI series. I enjoyed very much.

"Who Killed Marilyn Monroe? by Liz Evans, the first book in the PI Grace Smith series, was an entertaining, fun surprise. I was somewhat mislead by the title, of course, it had nothing to do with Marilyn Monroe. Grace Smith is a struggling PI working for Vetch Associates, somewhere on the coast of England (struggling because she never seems to have any money and seems to get the odd ball cases).
Marilyn Monroe is a donkey, belonging to December Drysdale, who runs them down to the beach for tourists to take pictures of and to ride them. Unfortunately, Marilyn has been murdered and Drysdale doesn't think the police will take the death seriously enough. Grace 'Smithie' is assigned the case and thus begins an interesting, odd case which might also involve the murder of one of Drysdale's neighbors, a young woman, who was also murdered the same evening.
While it seems an unlikely story, but Evans puts it together nicely, making for an interesting, even fascinating story. She develops her characters with loving care and you find yourself drawn into them and the story. As Liz Lemon would say, "I want to go to there" and meet Grace and the other people in her community; from bar owner and aging rocker, Shane (who feeds Grace for free and entertains with loud rock music), her co-worker, Annie (sarcastic and a tolerant, helpful friend); the residents of the old age home, even Drysdale's donkeys. You find yourself loving these characters.
Evans weaves a fun story, somewhere between Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books and Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone mysteries. Grace Smith is at times hapless, but always determined. She's scruffy, sexy and lovable. I've already ordered the next book, JFK Is Missing!. If you like a cozy, but action-filled, at times humorous mystery, try Liz Evans (4.5 stars)"

3. The Great Spy Race by Adam Diment. This is the second book in the Philip McAlpine spy series.

"The Great Spy Race by Adam Diment is the 2nd of four books that feature Philip McAlpine, reluctant spy for the English. Set in the psychedelic '60s, the book is a bit sexy and filled with action, especially the last chapters.
The book reminds me of the 1967 Casino Royale, which starred David Niven, and was filled with spies in a spyish frolic, and also Mike Myers, Austin Powers. Not that the book is a comedy, but it has a similar tone, providing a picture of the time; drugs, sex, fancy clothes.
The premise of the story is that a rich, ex-spy offers intelligence that all countries might want and they have to provide spies to take part in a race, using the old-fashioned spy techniques. McAlpine is black-mailed by his boss to take part and begins a journey from London to St Tropez to Geneva and ending at an island resort in the Indian Ocean called Mali. McAlpine must use tried and true techniques like blackmail, forgery and sex to get information to continue his journey and to beat the other spies to the end. Accompanied for part of the journey with the sexy Josephine, it's a fast paced adventure. Don't expect a classic of the spy genre, rather more of a cult spy story which is entertaining and action-packed. (3.5 stars)"

Currently Reading
To replace the three above, I've started the following books.

1. The Abyssinian Proof by Julie White. This is the 2nd book in the Kamil Pasha historical mystery series set in Turkey.

"The Ottoman Empire is plagued by thefts of antiquities from mosques and churches that, within days, appear for sale in Europe. Among them is a reliquary, presumed lost for four hundred years and around which an elaborate and mysterious sect has grown.
In Istanbul, magistrate Kamil Pasha is under pressure to break the smuggling ring amid rising tensions between Christians and Muslims. He confronts a mysterious adversary who will stop at nothing to get the reliquary first. With the Balkans aflame and Kamil’s personal life in upheaval, the search into the old neighborhoods where Istanbul’s crime rings reside may cost Kamil not only his position but also his life."

2. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I'm reading this as part of my Decade's Challenge. It was originally published in 1908.

"Hailed as one of the most enduringly popular works of the twentieth century, The Wind in the Willows is a classic of magical fancy and enchanting wit. Penned in lyrical prose, the adventures and misadventures of the book’s intrepid quartet of heroes - Mole, Water Rat, Badger, and, of course, the incorrigible Toad - raise fantasy to the level of myth. Reflecting the freshness of childhood wonder, the story still offers adults endless sophistication, substance, and depth. The animals’ world embodies the author’s wry, whimsical, and unfailingly inventive imagination. It is a world that succeeding generations of both adult and young readers have found irresistible. But why say more? To use the words of the estimable Mr. Toad himself: 'Travel, change, interest, excitement!...Come inside.'"

My Author's A - Z
Orson Scott Card
1. Orson Scott Card. Card is a prolific American author best known for his Ender's scientific series. Now when I say best known I mean by me of course. As I look through his catalogue he's written many series. I am most interested in the Ender series, a collection of novels and short stories. I've been slowly getting the first few books and plan to read the first, at least, this year.

a. Ender's Game (#1) (1985).  

"Andrew "Ender" Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast.
But Ender is not the only result of the experiment. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway almost as long. Ender's two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. While Peter was too uncontrollably violent, Valentine very nearly lacks the capability for violence altogether. Neither was found suitable for the military's purpose. But they are driven by their jealousy of Ender, and by their inbred drive for power. Peter seeks to control the political process, to become a ruler. Valentine's abilities turn more toward the subtle control of the beliefs of commoner and elite alike, through powerfully convincing essays. Hiding their youth and identities behind the anonymity of the computer networks, these two begin working together to shape the destiny of Earth-an Earth that has no future at all if their brother Ender fails."

b. Speaker for the Dead (#2) (1986).

"In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: the Speaker for the Dead, who told of the true story of the Bugger War.
Now long years later, a second alien race has been discovered, but again the aliens’ ways are strange and frightening…again, humans die. And it is only the Speaker for the Dead, who is also Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, who has the courage to confront the mystery…and the truth."

c. Children of the Mind (#4) (1996). 

"The planet Lusitania is home to three sentient species: the Pequeninos; a large colony of humans; and the Hive Queen, brought there by Ender. But once again the human race has grown fearful; the Starways Congress has gathered a fleet to destroy Lusitania.
Jane, the evolved computer intelligence, can save the three sentient races of Lusitania. She has learned how to move ships outside the universe, and then instantly back to a different world, abolishing the light-speed limit. But It takes all the processing power available to her, and the Starways Congress is shutting down the Net, world by world.
Soon Jane will not be able to move the ships. Ender’s children must save her if they are to save themselves."

Jacqueline Carey
2. Jacqueline Carey. Carey is an American author of fantasy fiction. I saw the first book in her Kushiel's Legacy series. It sounded interesting so I've got the first book in her Phedre trilogy, Kushiel's Dart.

a. Kushiel's Dart.

"The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of surpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.
Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.
Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair...and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

The other books in this trilogy are;
-  Kushiel's Chosen
- Kushiel's Avatar

Jack L. Chalker
3. Jack L. Chalker. Chalker was an American science fiction author who lived from 1944 - 2005. He wrote one of my all-time favorite science fiction series, the Well - World series. It was such an imaginative series. The Saga of the Well World series consisted of 7 books. (I have to find the later two books as I didn't realize they were part of it. The series consisted of

Midnight at the Well of Souls
Exiles at the Well of Souls
Quest for the Well of Souls
The Return of Nathan Brazil
Twilight at the Well of Souls
The Sea is Full of Stars
Ghost at the Well of Souls

In 1993, he wrote  a follow-on 4 book series
Echoes of the Well of Souls
Shadow of the Well of Souls
Gods of the Well of Souls
The Watchers at the Well

The Hex World where the adventures take place is one of the most fascinating worlds you'll ever experience.  Start with Midnight and see if you are drawn in.

There you go. I'm off to my physio. I'll write more as I finish off more of my June books. 

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Canadian TV Mystery Series - Plus Some Ideas For New Ones?

I did a post back in January 2017 where I listed a number of excellent Canadian-made (click on the link to check out the shows) TV mystery series. As I wait for Deadline White House this afternoon I thought I might revisit this original post and add a couple of new ones and also give a shout out to producers out there in the Inter web with a couple of ideas they might want to check out for new series. (Not that anybody actually listens to what I say.... ;0))

Below are four Canadian mystery series and three mini-series you might like to check out if you can find them. Three are filmed in my birthplace of North Bay, Ontario.

Frankie Drake Mysteries (CBC). This is a historical mystery series is produced by Shaftsbury, the folks that brought you the successful Murdoch Mysteries. This series is set after WWI and features female PI Frankie Drake, portrayed by Lauren Lee Smith (also known for The Listener and This Life. The show also stars Chantal Riley, Drake's assistant, Rebecca Liddiard, a friendly morals detective (also known for Alias Drake and Houdini and Doyle), with many cameo appearances by the wonderful Wendy Crewson, a Canadian institution.

It's nice to have a female - centric show with such a group of talented actors. In some ways it reminds me of Australia's Phryne Fisher mysteries. For a first season, the show wasn't always perfect but it started to develop its chops as the season progressed and I'm happy to see that a 2nd season has been approved. It has many of the excellent qualities of Murdoch, the cultural references of the time, appearances by non-fictional characters of the period (note the many appearances by Ernest Hemingway as played by Steve Lund). There are also nice throwbacks to the Murdoch mysteries, with an appearance by Constable Crabtree in one episode. I'm looking forward to seeing how the series progresses in Season 2.

The Disappearance (CTV). This is a mini-series set in Montreal, Quebec, starring Peter Coyote and a bevy of excellent actors; Micheline Lanctot (Lt Susan Bowden), Camille Sullivan (Helen Murphy Sullivan), Joanne Kelly (Catherine Sullivan), etc.
The series is a tense, well-paced mystery centered around the disappearance of 10-year old Anthony Sullivan, who does not show up for his birthday party. The story moves from grandfather Sullivan's, Peter Coyote, past and a series of events from this past that might impact on the case to the present, the investigation by the police and the family members as they try to solve the mystery of the disappearance. Excellent series.

Alias Grace (CBC). Based on a true story as written by Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, this is the story, set in 19th Century Canada, of a psychologist who is investigating whether a murderess, Grace, should be pardoned due to insanity. The story stars Sarah Gadon as Grace Marks, a young Irish girl who emigrates to Canada and after a series of events is charged with the murder of her master and mistress. The story is told in flashback as psychologist, Dr Simon Jordan played by Edward Holcroft, is hired to discuss the events with Grace, currently held in prison for the murders. It is a truly fascinating, powerful story and Sarah Gadon portrays with such talent and emotion. I hope she gets more and more work on the back of this role. Excellent acting also by Rebecca Liddiard, Paul Gross and Anna Paquin.

Caught (CBC). Another mini-series based on a work by a Canadian author, in this case Newfoundland - born Lisa Moore. The series stars Alan Hawco (Republic of Doyle), Paul Gross (Due South), Greg Bryk (Bitten), Enuka Okuma (Sue Thomas, FB Eye & Rookie Blue) and Eric Johnson (Rookie Blue).
Set in Newfoundland and the Caribbean, Alan Hawco plays David Slaney, who was set up by his partner, Brian Hearn (Eric Johnson). Hawco escapes from prison, with the help of Paul Gross, a retired RCMP investigator, who wants to catch Johnson and recover stolen diamonds, to resurrect his career. He enlists the aid of Enuka Okuma, a US DEA officer and the story proceeds. Lots of action, a tense, exciting story and fine acting. I've since purchased the book and look forward to comparing it to the series.

Now, to the North Bay area shows.

The Flower Shop Mysteries (Kate Collins). This is one of a group of cozy mystery movie series filmed in Canada by Hallmark. The Flower Shop mystery series is written by American writer Kate Collins, currently 18 books, and stars Brooke Shields as florist Abby Knight who gets involved in a series of mysteries. This series uses North Bay, Ontario as a generic town in Anywhere USA and it's neat to see the sites of my old home town. Also starring in this series are Beau Bridges as Shields' father and Brennan Eliot as potential boyfriend (of Shields, not Bridges... ;0)). Other similar series include the Garage Sale Mysteries, filmed in BC, on the mainland and starring Lori Loughlin and Sarah Strange as owners of an antique store who get involved in mysteries. There have been 11 movies so far and two are being finished for release in 2018. The other series stars folk / pop singer Jewel Filcher  as a home designer involved in mysteries in the Framed for Murder series. The movies are based on the Framed for Murder book series by American writer Kate Carlisle. This series is produced in Victoria, British Columbia and also stars Colin Ferguson and Ron Lea. (There were two movies in 2017 and one currently in the mill). All are excellent, entertaining mystery movies and it's nice to see them being made in Canada.

Cardinal. This is an excellent mystery series based on the books of Giles Blunt and starring Billy Campbell as Algonquin Bay police detective, John Cardinal and Karine Vanasse, as his partner Lise Delorme. There have been two seasons released so far, based on the books, the first based on his book, Forty Words for Sorrow and the 2nd on Black Fly Season. The final season will combine two of the books, By the Time You Read This and Crime Machine. It's gritty, tough and shocking at times but an excellent series that must be watched.

Carter. This series is in its first season and is totally different in tone from Cardinal. Jerry O'Connell stars as recently fired actor, he plays a TV cop, who returns to his home town (North Bay) and ends up getting involved with the local police, becoming 'partner' to the lovely Sydney Tamila Poitier (daughter of Sydney Poitier). The series also stars Kristian Bruun, ex from Orphan Black. All are old school chums who had grown apart. The series, so far is funny, light and totally entertaining.Well worth checking out and enjoying.

Ideas for New Series.
I think that if the following book series were explored by some energetic TV producer, they might be worth turning into TV shows.

Saul Rubinek
Benny Cooperman Mysteries (books by Howard Engel). To be correct, two of the books by Howard Engel, featuring Niagara Falls PI Benny Cooperman, were turned into TV movies back in the '80s. They starred Saul Rubinek as the scruffy, Columbo - like detective. The movies were humorous, light and excellent. What I was considering is a reboot of the series starting with Memory Book. In 2000, author Howard Engel had a stroke which left him with alexia sine agraphia, a condition that prevents him from being able to read written words without a major effort, while not affecting his ability to write. In 2005, he was able to write a book in which Benny suffers a blow to the head, leaving him with the same condition and is about how he works with and around this condition to solve a case on which he was working. I think this would be a fascinating idea on which to base a detective series. Would Saul Rubinek be available to reprise the role? Is he too old now?

Karl Alberg Mysteries (books by L.R. Wright). L.R. Wright lived in British Columbia until her death in 2001. There were 9 books in the Alberg series and Wright had just written the first two books in the follow-on Edwina Henderson series when she died. Both characters are RCMP officers who run the detachment on the Sunshine Coast of mainland BC. The mysteries were all interesting and the characters were unique and created a great community. Add the locale and you had the makings of one of my favorite mystery series. I have always thought it would make a great TV series and have been very disappointed that nobody ever took it on. I've tried to think who might have made a perfect Sgt Alberg, and recently wondered if Barry Pepper, who happens to reside on Vancouver Island might be right. He's the right age. I think Jewel Staite of Firefly fame might make an excellent Edwina Henderson, especially as she's another BC'r.

Ellis Portal Mysteries (books by Rosemary Aubert). Canadian / American author Aubert wrote 6 books in her Ellis Portal series. Portal was a successful lawyer and judge in Ontario and when a tragedy struck he hit rock bottom. Homeless and living on the streets in Toronto, he becomes involved in a mystery that begins to put him on the road to recovery. I read 3 of the books when I first came to the West Coast and found the stories very interesting. It has the makings of an excellent mystery series; who doesn't like detectives with quirky issues. And the mysteries were all fascinating. It's a series that could be stretched out. Who would play Portal??? Victor Garber might be an interesting choice.

Silas Seaweed Mysteries (books by Stanley Evans). There are 6 books in the Silas Seaweed mystery series. It is set in Victoria and features Victoria police investigator and Salish Indian, Silas Seaweed. I've read the first book so far and enjoyed immensely; interesting cultural information (especially the spiritual aspects) and great local colour. I think Adam Beach might suit the role but maybe a Salish actor (I regret my lack of knowledge in this area) is available.

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies. Considering the success of the televising of Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace and The Handmaid's Tale, I thought of Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy, which also includes The Manticore and World of Wonder. The stories all had mystical elements to them and childhood mysteries. I'll provide the synopsis for Fifth Business below. See what you think. Might make an interesting TV mini - series?

"Ramsay is a man twice born, a man who has returned from the hell of the battle-grave at Passchendaele in World War I decorated with the Victoria Cross and destined to be caught in a no man's land where memory, history, and myth collide. As Ramsay tells his story, it begins to seem that from boyhood, he has exerted a perhaps mystical, perhaps pernicious, influence on those around him. His apparently innocent involvement in such innocuous events as the throwing of a snowball or the teaching of card tricks to a small boy in the end prove neither innocent nor innocuous. Fifth Business stands alone as a remarkable story told by a rational man who discovers that the marvelous is only another aspect of the real."

So there you go. Would you watch any of my suggestions?

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Reading Summary and My Continued Author's A - Z

What do you mean, 'going to the vet?'
An exciting morning for Clyde today. It was time for his annual check-up. Nothing drastic, just his kennel cough and then making a follow-up appointment to get his teeth cleaned. He won't like that one. Bonnie stayed home with Mum and didn't miss us at all. If it had been the other way around, me taking Bonnie to the vet and leaving Clyde behind, he would have been climbing the walls. He is a Daddy's boy. I stopped at a cafe on 5th street on the way home; run by an Austrian lady and her husband, and picked up two fresh made apple strudels. They were yummy.

Tomorrow is may appointment... not at the vets! I'm off for my 2nd appointment at the Physio, probably to get a bit more acupuncture. The first appointment didn't help that much, but it usually takes a few times before I notice any improvement.

Since my last reading update, I've finished two books and, of course, started two more. I also received one in the mail last week. I'll start with those and then move on to my continuing stroll through my book shelf on my Goodread's page. So let's get started.

Finished Reading
1. The Quiller Memorandum by Adam Hall (Quiller #1).

"The Quiller Memorandum is the first book in the Quiller spy series by Adam Hall. Quiller has spent the post WWII tracking down Nazis to be tried by the post War tribunals. He has just seen the final case and is due to return to England for a well-earned vacation. Attending a play in the New Germany, he is approached by Pol, from a UK government agency with a proposal to track down a notorious Nazi, Zossen who is reported to have returned to Germany from exile in Argentina. The agent previously involved in this case was found murdered. During the war, Hall had infiltrated the Nazis, working in concentration camps to save as many Jews as possible. Zossen ran one of these camps.
This begins an interesting spy story with excellent explanations of spy craft, how spies communicate with their bosses, how to fight interrogation, etc. The story moves along very quickly, plenty enough action and a fascinating story. There are points that 'irritated' me, or more likely that I started to find somewhat humorous; Quiller loves making lists; 3 scenarios, how many types of interrogation drugs he might have been given, etc. But at the same time it provides a picture of how he reasons through his work. The picture of post-War Germany is also interesting, the trials of Nazis, the Nazis still hidden in clear sight and what they are plotting to return to power, etc. Interesting spy story, well worth trying. I'll continue reading the books (3.5 stars)"

2. Kill Zone by Loren D. Estleman (Peter Macklin #1).

"Kill Zone by American author Loren D. Estleman is his first book in his Peter Macklin mystery / thriller series. Macklin is a hit-man for the Michigan mob. (Think Thomas Perry's Butcher Boy or Lee Child's Reacher) In this first book a tour boat on Lake Erie is hijacked by a group called the Ziegfrieds. The FBI is struggling to find a way to save the people on the ship when they are approached by the lawyer for a mob boss currently residing in prison. His offer; he'll send his hit-man Peter Macklin to the ship to deal with the hijackers if his sentence is commuted.
An interesting plot line. There are some other twists in this story of course. The current mob boss (or the guy filling for the main guy) sends his own hit-man after Macklin as he is enjoying filling in and wants to stay in charge. As well, Macklin has family difficulties. And the FBI is trying to keep tabs on Macklin.
The story is nicely paced. Macklin works to find out more about the 8 people who make up Ziegfried. The story moves between Macklin, his opponent, the ship, the FBI and keeps you very interested in the goings on. Macklin is an interesting character, smart, capable and efficient. The story is tense and has plenty of action.
I enjoyed it very much, found it to be a comfortable, exciting read and it held my interest throughout. It'll be interesting to see how Macklin's life evolves after this first story (4 stars)"

Currently Reading
I'm still working through Adam Sisman's biography of John le Carré and Joe Haldeman's omnibus trilogy of The Forever War books. I've finished the first two books; Forever War and Forever Free and I've started Forever Peace. Below are the two other books I've started.

1. Who Killed Marilyn Monroe? by Liz Evans (PI Grace Smith #1).

"Marilyn Monroe has been murdered. And irrepressible ex-cop PI Grace Smith is hired to hunt down the killer. But there are no all-expenses-paid trips to California for this case: Marilyn Monroe was a donkey, and Grace is too broke to turn down the owner's bizarre request for an investigation. As the case progresses, Grace finds herself increasingly drawn into the mystery surrounding the murder of a young prostitute, whose death occurred on the same night as Marilyn's. But pitting her wits against a deranged criminal mind while trying to keep one step ahead of the police proves a challenge. And as an extraordinary tale of greed and betrayal begins to unfold, Grace soon realizes her own life is in grave danger."

2. To the Devil - A Daughter by Dennis Wheatley (Black Magic #4).

"Beneath the azure sky of the French Riviera, Christina Mordant looks and behaves like any other attractive girl. But each night as darkness falls, the demon within her betrays its presence.

A thousand miles away, deep in the Essex marshes, a priest of Satan is about to achieve his life's ambition: Canon Copely-Syle of Bentford Priory prepares for the virgin sacrifice which will give breath to the foul abomination he has created..."

New Books
Only one book arrived in the mail, the last one of an order from March. Surprisingly, we had just watched the first movie version of one of the short stories contained therein. Can't wait find out what it is?   Well, here it is.

1. The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories by Agatha Christie

"1920s London. A shocking murder has stained the plush carpets of a handsome London townhouse. The victim is an older woman, the enormously rich Emily French. All the evidence points to Leonard Vole, a young chancer to whom the heiress left their vast fortune and who ruthlessly took her life. At least, this is the story that Emily's dedicated housekeeper Janet Mackenzie stands by in court. Leonard however, is adamant that his partner, the enigmatic chorus girl Romaine, can prove his innocence.

From the stunning original story which inspired the new BBC television thriller The Witness for the Prosecution to some of the most spine-tingling gems in detective fiction, these twelve tales of baffling crime and brilliant deduction showcase Agatha Christie at her dazzling best.

This collection includes an introduction by Sarah Phelps, who wrote the screenplay for the award-winning And Then There Were None and now The Witness for the Prosecution, and also Agatha Christie's Poirot and the Regatta Mystery, a story exclusive to this new edition.

Bill's Author's A - Z

Jim Butcher
1. Jim Butcher. American author Butcher writes one of my favorite fantasy series, The Dresden Files. From 2000 - 2015, he has written 15 books in this series, which also spawned a TV series. Butcher has also written 6 books in his Codex Alera series but I have yet to try that series. I'll finish Dresden first. I've read 3 books in this series so far. I'll highlight my two favorites.

a. Fool Moon (#2).

"Harry Dresden--Wizard
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.
Business has been slow. Okay, business has been dead. And not even of the undead variety. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn't been able to dredge up any kind of work--magical or mundane.
But just when it looks like he can't afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise.
A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon. Take three guesses--and the first two don't count..."

b. Grave Peril (#3). 

"The Dresden Files are always a rollicking good fantasy adventure. I like Dresden, his spiritual guide/ assistant, Bob and I have a thing for policewoman, Karrin Murphy, although her part in this story was a bit minimized. I also like Michael, the sword carrying Hand of God who helps Dresden so much in this story. Basically in this story, Dresden and Michael are running around Chicago battling angry ghosts and trying to find out who is responsible for stirring them up and causing disturbances in the border between Earth and the Nevernever. The story is filled with action; vampires, sorcerers and Dresden's sexy stepmother, evil Lea (yum) who wants to make Dresden subservient to her. The story is fast-paced, entertaining and just fun to read. (4 stars)"

The other books in the series are -
1. Storm Front
4. Summer Knight
5. Death Masks
6. Blood Rites
7. Dead Beat
8. Proven Guilty
9. White Knight
10. Small Favor
11. Turn Coat
12. Changes
13. Ghost Story
14. Cold Days
15. Skin Game

Andrea Camilleri
2. Andrea Camilleri. Italian writer, Camilleri, born 1925, is best known for his Inspector Montalbano mystery series (22 of which have been translated so far). He has also written a number of standalone books. I have yet to try the Montalbano series but I have picked up the first two books, plus one of his standalone books.

a. The Shape of Water (#1). 

"The goats of Vigàta once grazed on the trash-strewn site still known as the Pasture. Now local enterprise of a different sort flourishes: drug dealers and prostitutes of every flavour. But their discreet trade is upset when two employees of the Splendour Refuse Collection Company discover the body of engineer Silvio Luparello, one of the local movers and shakers, apparently deceased in flagrante at the Pasture. The coroner's verdict is death from natural causes - refreshingly unusual for Sicily.
But Inspector Salvo Montalbano, as honest as he is streetwise and as scathing to fools and villains as he is compassionate to their victims, is not ready to close the case - even though he's being pressured by Vigàta's police chief, judge, and bishop.
Picking his way through a labyrinth of high-comedy corruption, delicious meals, vendetta firepower, and carefully planted false clues, Montalbano can be relied on, whatever the cost, to get to the heart of the matter."

b. The Snack Thief (#3).

"In the third book in Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series, the urbane and perceptive Sicilian detective exposes a viper's nest of government corruption and international intrigue in a compelling new case. When an elderly man is stabbed to death in an elevator and a crewman on an Italian fishing trawler is machine-gunned by a Tunisian patrol boat off Sicily's coast, only Montalbano suspects the link between the two incidents. His investigation leads to the beautiful Karima, an impoverished house-cleaner and sometime prostitute, whose young son steals other schoolchildren's mid-morning snacks. But Karima disappears, and the young snack thief's life-as well as Montalbano's-is on the line . . ."

c. Hunting Season

"In 1880s Vigàta, a stranger comes to town to open a pharmacy. Fofò turns out to be the son of a man legendary for having a magic garden stocked with plants, fruits, and vegetables that could cure any ailment - a man who was found murdered years ago. Fofò escaped, but now has reappeared looking to make his fortune and soon finds himself mixed up in the dealings of a philandering local marchese set on producing an heir." 

Truman Capote
3. Truman Capote. American writer Capote lived from 1924 - 1984. He had a prolific career but may be best known for his True Crime novel, In Cold Blood (1965) and his Breakfast of Tiffany's (1958). I've read In Cold Blood and, while it didn't blow me away as much as it seems to have most others I would like to find a copy of Breakfast to try as well.

a. In Cold Blood.

"An excellent factual account by Truman Capote of the murders of the Clutter family in Holcombe, Kansas by Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. Capote tells the story in a measured, thoughtful way, without being graphic. He is able to imbue the characters with personalities and emotions throughout the story. I liked his style very much, the story flowed smoothly and was always interesting. I will admit that at the end I kind of thought, well ok, so what now? Capote doesn't moralize, rather lets the reader do that on his own, but at the same time, there was a coldness to it, I think. At any rate, I am glad that I finally read it, it's not a book that has been on my wish list, but, ultimately, it was well worth reading and I'm very glad to have been exposed to Capote's writing. I will have to read some of his fictional works now. "

b. Breakfast at Tiffany's

"With her tousled blond hair and upturned nose, dark glasses and chic black dresses, Holly Golightly is top notch in style and a sensation wherever she goes. Her brownstone apartment vibrates with martini-soaked parties as she plays hostess to millionaires and gangsters alike. Yet Holly never loses sight of her ultimate goal."

Well, there you go for now. Finally got to start the 'C' authors. We've got a pretty good night on the tube tonight. I'm especially looking forward to the first episode of Season 3 of Humans.


Friday, 1 June 2018

May 2018 Reading Summary

Well, here we go. It's a drizzly Friday afternoon, Nicolle Wallace isn't on Deadline: White House. Maybe she's celebrating Golden State's win in the first NBA playoff game. Anyway, we are all ensconced on the sofa in the family (Clyde couldn't be closer if he tried) listening to Jo's music and relaxing. Perfect timing to post my end month reading update.

May 2018

General Info                        May                    Total
Books Read -                          11                         50
Pages Read -                         3400                    15975

Pages Breakdown
    < 250                                    4                         16       
250 - 350                                  3                         15
351 - 450                                  2                         11
   > 450                                     2                           8

5 - star                                                                   2
4 - star                                      6                         30
3 - star                                      5                         17
2 - star                                                                   1

Female                                     5                         17
Male                                        6                          33

Fiction                                     2                          11
Mystery                                   8                          28
SciFi                                        1                            8
Classics                                                                 1
Poetry                                                                    2

Top 3 Books

1. The Accident by Linwood Barclay (4.5 stars)
2.  Mrs. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (4.5 stars)
3.  Sister Crazy by Emma Richler (4.5 stars)

12 + 4  Challenge (completed 9)
1. Mrs. Peregrine's Home for Peculi ar Children by Ransom Riggs (4.5 stars)
2. Faithful Place by Tana French (3.5 stars)

New Series (completed 12)
3. Autumn, All the Cats Return by Philippe Georget (3.5 stars)
4. Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage (4 stars)
5. The Anatomist's Apprentice by Tessa Harris (3 stars)
6. The Quiller Memorandum by Adam Hall (3.5 stars) 

Ongoing Series (completed 10)
7.  Roots of Evil by Kay Mitchell (4.5 stars)
8. Gold from Gemini by Jonathan Gash (3.5 stars)
Decades Challenge (completed 9)
9.   Bunny Lake is Missing by Evelyn Piper (4 stars)

Canadian Content (completed 10)
10. The Accident by Linwood Barclay (4.5 stars)
11. Sister Crazy by Emma Richler (4.5 stars)

June Books

Currently Reading
1. Peace and War (Omnibus) by Joe Haldeman
2. John le Carre, the Biography by Adam Sisman
3. Kill Zone by Loren D. Estleman
4. Who Killed Marilyn Monroe by Liz Evans

In the Mill
1. The Great Spy Race by Adam Diment. (Philip McAlpine #2)

"THE GREAT SPY RACE is a competition, organized by a retiring master-spy, for the agents of world powers...and Britain's entry is McAlpine, up to his neck in bullet, blackmail and beautiful birds..."

2. To the Devil, A Daughter by Dennis Wheatley.

"Beneath the azure sky of the French Riviera, Christina Mordant looks and behaves like any other attractive girl. But each night as darkness falls, the demon within her betrays its presence.

A thousand miles away, deep in the Essex marshes, a priest of Satan is about to achieve his life's ambition: Canon Copely-Syle of Bentford Priory prepares for the virgin sacrifice which will give breath to the foul abomination he has created..."

3. The Abyssinian Proof by Jenny White. (Kamil Pasha #2).

"The Ottoman Empire is plagued by thefts of antiquities from mosques and churches that, within days, appear for sale in Europe. Among them is a reliquary, presumed lost for four hundred years and around which an elaborate and mysterious sect has grown.

In Istanbul, magistrate Kamil Pasha is under pressure to break the smuggling ring amid rising tensions between Christians and Muslims. He confronts a mysterious adversary who will stop at nothing to get the reliquary first. With the Balkans aflame and Kamil’s personal life in upheaval, the search into the old neighborhoods where Istanbul’s crime rings reside may cost Kamil not only his position but also his life."

Overall it's been a very satisfactory reading month. After I finish the 3 books above, I'll get back into my routine of challenge by challenge book selection, starting with my 12 + 4 choices and working down them one after another. 

Have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Readng Update and My Continued Author's A - Z

It's been a cool few days, quite breezy in fact. Jo and I had cleaned off the deck a couple of days ago and put out the deck furniture. Then the wind picked up and the deck and driveway and sidewalk, etc are covered in pine seeds.. *sigh*... Today it's still cool but at least the breeze has died down.

Spent an hour at physio today, the physio used his acupuncture needles. There were definitely a few spots that were quite tender.. lol... Ah the aches and pains of older age...

The puppies look great with their summer hair-dos. The change is quite drastic. You can actually see their eyes. :0)

So, now onto my Reading update. I picked up a couple of books this week, one from Nearly New Books and one out of my Little Free Library out front. I also finished two books this week and have started two new ones. It's possible I might finish one more book by tomorrow.. We'll see. I'll continue with my Author's A - Z at the end.

New Books
1. Craig Johnson - Death Without Company (Longmire #2). I've read the first book in the series and have greatly enjoyed the TV series based on the books.

"Fans of Ace Atkins, Nevada Barr and Robert B. Parker will love Craig Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of Hell Is Empty and As the Crow Flies, who garnered both praise and an enthusiastic readership with his acclaimed debut novel featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire, The Cold Dish, the first in the Walt Longmire mystery series, the basis for LONGMIRE, the hit A&E original drama series. Now Johnson takes us back to the rugged landscape of Absaroka County, Wyoming, for Death Without Company. When Mari Baroja is found poisoned at the Durant Home for Assisted Living, Sheriff Longmire is drawn into an investigation that reaches fifty years into the mysterious woman’s dramatic Basque past. Aided by his friend Henry Standing Bear, Deputy Victoria Moretti, and newcomer Santiago Saizarbitoria, Sheriff Longmire must connect the specter of the past to the present to find the killer among them."

2.  Brad Thor - Use of Force (Scot Harvath #16). I've never read any of Thor's books but I recently read an article where he indicated he might consider running against the current resident of the White House in 2020. (If you do, take him down a notch!) Anyway, when I saw the book in my library outside, I thought I might give him a chance. It does sound like a good thriller. Maybe I should find the first book in the series before I try this one?

"As a storm rages across the Mediterranean Sea, a terrifying distress call is made to the Italian Coast Guard. Days later, a body washes ashore.
Identified as a high value terrorism suspect (who had disappeared three years prior), his name sends panic through the Central Intelligence Agency.
Where was he headed? What was he planning? And could he be connected to the “spectacular attack” they have been fearing all summer?
In a race against time, the CIA taps an unorthodox source to get answers: Navy SEAL turned covert counter-terrorism operative, Scot Harvath.
Hired on a black contract, Harvath will provide the deniability the United States needs, while he breaks every rule along the way."

Just Finished
1. Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage (CI Mario Silva #1).

"Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage is the first book in the Chief Inspector Mario Silva mystery series set in Brazil. Silva is the Chief Inspector for Criminal Affairs for the Brazilian Federal Police. He is sent to a northern state to investigate the murder of a Bishop. He brings along his nephew, Hector Costa, a federal investigator and Investigator Arnaldo.
The trio must deal with a corrupt, vicious state police commander and lawless land owners as they investigates the murder.
This is a gritty, violent story and the bodies pile up very quickly as whoever is doing the crime starts getting rid of witnesses. Silva and his team seem to be one step behind what's going on but at the same time, you can see that he has an idea about what is going on. His assistants are both interesting, competent police officers. There are many interesting story lines; the battle between the land owners and the peasants who fight for their own piece of land; the battle between the federal police and the state police, etc. It's an interesting view of a culture that is totally unfamiliar to me and I do look forward to finding out more about Silva and his friends and the country.
There are many frustrations in the story as people you like die off but at the same time there is an ultimate satisfaction to the ending. An excellent start to a series (4 stars)"

2. The Anatomist's Apprentice by Tessa Harris (Dr. Silkstone #1).

"The Anatomist's Apprentice is author Tessa Harris's first book in her historical mystery series featuring anatomist, Dr. Thomas Silkstone. Silkstone is a doctor from Philadelphia who moves to England to study under famed anatomist, Dr. Carruthers. Since Dr. Carruthers is now blind, Silkstone continues to teach at college and support Dr. Carruthers.
Silkstone becomes involved in investigating the death of Sir Edward Crick of Oxfordshire. His sister, Lydia comes to London to gain Silkstone's assistance in determining whether the death might have been murder.
This begins a sometimes convoluted investigation and tentative romance with Silkstone searching for clues to Edward's death and also to determine, if it was a murder, who might have perpetuated it. There are no shortage of subjects, Lydia's husband, possibly abusive and a womanizer; his friend, Lavington, who sticks his nose into so many parts of the investigation; maybe Hannah Lovelock, the maid whose daughter died recently?
It's not a perfect story; at times Silkstone seems helpless to do anything with actions taking part at will about him. His developing feelings for Lydia seem kind of incongruous. But those are minor things. All in all, it's entertaining and a fine start to a four books series (so far anyway). I won't hesitate to check out the other books. (3 stars)"

Currently Reading
1. The Quiller Memorandum by Adam Hall (Quiller #1).

"You are a secret agent working for the British in Berlin. You are due to go home on leave, but you are being followed-by your own people, or by the enemy. A man meets you in the theater and briefs you on a plot to revive the power of Nazi Germany. You do not believe him, but you remember that one of the suspects mentioned was a senior SS officer you met with in the days when you were working as a spy in Nazi Germany. The next day you make contact with a beautiful girl who may know something. Someone tries to kill both of you.
Your name is Quiller. You are the hero of an extraordinary novel which shows how a spy works, how messages are coded and decoded, how contacts are made, how a man reacts under the influence of truth drugs-and which traces the story of a vastly complex, entertaining, convincing, and sinister plot."

2. Kill Zone by Loren D. Estleman (Peter Macklin #1).

"Peter Macklin, a consummate hit-man working for the Boniface crime family of Detroit, finds himself working for the FBI and the Secret Service to secure the release of several hundred hostages aboard a tour boat on Lake Erie."

Bill's Author's A - Z
Edgar Rice Burroughs
1. Edgar Rice Burroughs. American fantasy / adventure writer Burroughs lived from 1875 - 1950 and wrote such notable series as Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of Mars. I've read the John Carter series and have begun the Tarzan books, but I've also tried a few others of his novels. Great imagination that produced excellent adventures.

a. John Carter of Mars. There are 11 books in the John Carter of Mars series. I've read them at least twice and had to buy new copies to replace the ones I'd originally purchased back in the late '60s. Most enjoyable.

b. Tarzan of the Apes. I've read the first book in the Tarzan series so far and enjoyed. There are 25+ books in the series so it's something to look forward to. The Return of Tarzan is the 2nd book.

Burroughs also wrote series based on the lost land of Pellucidar, about life on Venus, the Moon Men series, Caspak (The Land that Time Forgot) and many other books. Check out his works for classic adventures. The second book of the Caspak series is in my bookshelf to try. I'll have to find the first.

Steve Burrows
2. Steve Burrows. Burrows is a Canadian mystery writer who has published four books in his 'Birder' series. I saw the first one at the book store awhile back and thought it sounded interesting.

a. A Siege of Bitterns.

"Inspector Domenic Jejeune’s success has made him a poster boy for the U.K. police service. The problem is Jejeune doesn’t really want to be a detective at all; he much prefers watching birds.

Recently reassigned to the small Norfolk town of Saltmarsh, located in the heart of Britain’s premier birding country, Jejeune’s two worlds collide when he investigates the grisly murder of a prominent ecological activist. His ambitious police superintendent foresees a blaze of welcome publicity, but she begins to have her doubts when Jejeune’s most promising theory involves a feud over bird-watching lists. A second murder only complicates matters.

To unravel this mystery, Jejeune must deal with unwelcome public acclaim, the mistrust of colleagues, and his own insecurities. In the case of the Saltmarsh birder murders, the victims may not be the only casualties."

The other books in this series are -
-- A Pitying of Doves (2015)
-- A Cast of Falcons (2016)
-- A Shimmer of Hummingbirds (2017)
Catherine Bush
3. Catherine Bush. Bush is a Canadian novelist. I've read two of her books in the past couple of years, as part of my ongoing efforts to try more Canadian literature. Both books were excellent.

a. Minus Time (1993).

"Minus Time: A Novel is the second book I've read by Canadian author Catherine Bush. I enjoyed this as much as Rules of Engagement. Minus Time is an interesting portrait of a nuclear family (to the extreme somewhat).
The story centers around Helen, daughter of Barbara, a Canadian astronaut currently circling the Earth in the space station trying to break the time away record. Her father David, travels the world trying to help people escape and cope with the destruction caused by earthquakes and other disasters. Completing the family is Paul, her brother, who is working on an architecture degree in Montreal.
Helen and Paul travel to Florida to view her mother's launch into space. Interestingly, they don't go to Cape Canaveral but watch it from a distance. They see on the news that a replacement family has been installed in the bleachers to observe the launch.
Helen returns to Toronto, decides to stop attending her university course and takes a job at a health food restaurant and becomes involved with a group of activists who are trying to make the world aware of the sufferings of animals (testing by cosmetic companies, cruel treatment by fast food companies, etc). She keeps her family secret from the friends she makes in the activist group, United Species - kind of a neat name, I think)
The story follows Helen as she tries to cope with her family life; it wanders from the past with Helen and Paul as youngsters and Barbara just starting her training as an astronaut and the stresses it places on the family; and moves back to the present.
All in all it's a very interesting story, well-written and if you're part of the nuclear family generation, there are things that are relatable. It made me look again at my family, with me on the West Coast, one brother on the East Coast, another in the center, and my sister with my father. It makes for a different family dynamic, neither good nor bad, just one that requires differing perspectives. All in all, a very interesting, entertaining, thoughtful story. (4 stars)" 

2. Rules of Engagement (2000). 

"In its simplest form, Arcadia Hearne has run away from home and past events and relationships and settled in London where she works for the Center for the Contemporary War Studies, studying war and intervention. Catherine Bush spins this story in such a manner that it's very difficult to put the book down. She interweaves present events with Arcadia's past in Toronto, slowly winding these two stories together to provide a clear picture of Arcadia and the reasons for her running off to London. While Arcadia studies war, she does so only theoretically, never actually visiting the places where these wars are taking place. She has relationships, most recently with an Iranian immigrant who also has a secret life trying to help refugees. Arcadia, while she likes the relationship, avoids the messier side of life. Discovering more about Amir, she runs away again, back to Toronto, where she tries to confront her past events and also deal with her parents. Catherine Bush is a wonderful writer, her prose is intelligent and thoughtful and her story telling skills superb. I enjoyed reading this book so very much and loved how Bush tried to resolve the various story lines, but also leaving enough unsaid that you can come to your own conclusions. Excellent!" 

Bush's other books are - 
-- Claire's Head (2004)
-- Accusation (2013)

There you go, folks. Hope you're having a great week!!! 

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