Wednesday, 23 September 2020

A Mid-week Reading Update and Some New Books

 Jo is watching Law & Order re-runs. We were happy to discover that one of our local stations has started showing them. So while she's doing that I'm going to do a quick post, update a book I've just finished, provide the synopsis for the next book in line and also the synopses of some books that arrived in the past couple of days. 

It's a cool, windy, wet day, has been all day, gloomy and dark. Oh well.

New Books

1. Emperor Fu - Manchu by Sax Rohmer (Fu - Manchu #13). This is the last book in the Fu - Manchu fantasy / thriller series. I've enjoyed a few so far.

"During the Cold War of the 1950s former allies Russia and China turned communist, their threat casting a shadow over the free world. Yet another enemy lurked in the shadows—the deadly secret assassins of the Si Fan, led by…

In remote Northern China, the dead walk again. American agent Tony McKay finds himself face-to-face with these “cold men,” zombies who exist to do the bidding of the Devil Doctor. It falls to McKay and Nayland Smith to defeat their eternal foe, and to destroy a biological warfare facility the Russians have hidden deep in the Chinese jungles."

2. Blood And Circuses by Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #6). An entertaining mystery series from Australia. Great TV show as well.

"Phryne Fisher is bored. So when she is asked to investigate some strange goings-on in Farrell's Circus and Wild Beast Show, her curiosity gets the better of her. Stripped of her identity, wealth and privilege, Phryne takes a job as a trick-horse-rider, wearing hand-me-downs and a new name. But what connects the circus with the particularly nasty murder in Mrs. Witherspoon's house for paying gentlefolk? Or with the warfare between rival gangs on Brunswick Street? Piecing together fragments from the seedy underworld of twenties Fitzroy and the eccentric life under the big top, Phryne proves her mettle yet again, aided only by her wits, an oddly attractive clown, and a stout and helpful bear."

3. Red Dust & Raindrops: Death on Mars by K.E. Heaton. The author of this book nicely contacted and asked me if I'd be interested in reading and reviewing this book. Of course, I said yes. It does sound interesting.

"The rocket was still approximately eighty miles above the surface, but the outlines and contours of the mysterious red planet were staggeringly clear. A terrain of what could only be described as blood-red boulders scattered accidentally across a huge swathe of terracotta colored sand. It was a landscape that defied the senses, a cacophony of stains and pigments, but overwhelmingly pinks, Venetian reds and rich mahoganies.

An alien world where man had never dared to set foot, but in the days to come he would attempt to do… exactly that."

4. The Other by Thomas Tryon. A bit of a convoluted story on this one. Jo and I were watching Natalie Wood movies on TCM. Two were directed by Robert Mulligan; Inside Daisy Clover and Love with a Proper Stranger. So as I looked at his other works, I saw this movie, The Other. It sounded interesting and I saw it was also a book. Hence, I decided to try it. Sounds like an October horror read.

"Entranced and terrified, the reader of The Other is swept up in the life of a Connecticut country town in the thirties—and in the fearful mysteries that slowly darken and overwhelm it.

Originally published in 1971, The Other is one of the most influential horror novels ever written. Its impeccable recreation of small-town life and its skillful handling of the theme of personality transference between thirteen-year-old twins led to widespread critical acclaim for the novel, which was successfully filmed from Thomas Tryon's own screenplay.

This edition features original artwork by surrealist artist Harry O. Morris."

Just Finished

1. In the Evil Day by Peter Temple.

"I bought In the Evil Day by Peter Temple because I've been looking for his Jack Irish mystery series and when I found this standalone thriller, I thought I should give it a chance. It was a bit of work getting into the story but once I got into the flow, I found it to be an exciting, fascinating read.

The gist of the story. Ex-South African soldier, Con Niemand, is now a bodyguard in Johannesburg South Africa. Things turn ugly when he escorts his latest client home. The family and Niemand's partner are attacked and killed by robbers and Niemand kills the robbers. While leaving, Niemand discovers that the husband has in his possession a video of a mass murder committed by American troops somewhere in Africa. Niemand heads to England to sell the information to a reporter. That is the main story line. There are others. One follows intrepid reporter, Caroline Wishart, as she tries to find Niemand and get the information. And the 3rd plot follows John Anselm, who works for an information - gathering company in Hamburg. All the stories are eventually intertwined in a sometimes complex story.

Each character is well-developed, each dealing with events from their past (lots of flashbacks, especially with Mr. Anselm). There are many fascinating peripherals. I especially enjoyed Anselm and his team and how they hunt down information for their clients, so interesting. The story is intense, lots of action but also lots of introspection.

As I said at the beginning, it does take a bit of getting into the flow, but it is ultimately worth the effort. The story is well-crafted, the characters are interesting and sympathetic and the story has more than enough action and is just technical enough to hold your interest but not lose you. How these individual threads come together makes for a most satisfying ending as well. Try it. Now to find one of his Jack Irish mysteries. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. Walkabout by James Vance Marshall. I saw this movie when I was very much younger and seeing the book at my local used book store seemed like fate. 

"A plane crashes in the vast Northern Territory of Australia, and the only survivors are two children from Charleston, South Carolina, on their way to visit their uncle in Adelaide.

Mary and her younger brother Peter set out on foot, lost in the vast, hot Australian outback. They are saved by a chance meeting with an Aboriginal boy on walkabout, who teaches them to find food and water in the wilderness, but whom Mary can’t bring herself to trust.

Though on the surface Walkabout is an adventure story, darker themes lie just beneath. Peter’s innocent friendship with the Aboriginal throws into relief Mary’s no longer childish anxiety, and together raise questions about how Aboriginal and Western culture can meet."

Your Mid-week Music Medley

 It's blowing up a gale this morning. Windy, windy, windy. And Bonnie is sound asleep at the end of the bed, snoring away. 😜

Now for your Mid-week Music Medley for Wednesday 23 September 2020

Mid-Week Music Medley

1.American pop / rock band Imagine Dragons - Bad Liar (2018). 

2. English pop / rock band Lawson - Animals (2020).

3. English alternative rock band Republica - Drop Dead Gorgeous (1997).

Enjoy the rest of your week. Stay safe.

Monday, 21 September 2020

A Monday Reading Update And My Ongoing Look My Favorite Authors

It's a cool, cloudy, breezy September Monday. The pups and I went across the river to Courtenay and got bread and also pizza for lunch from Cobs Bakery. Eating mine as I write this BLog to start off the week.

It was a shocking, sad Friday when Jo and I heard the devastating news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing. Yes, she is American and yes, she's been battling cancer for a long time. But when a decent person such as RBG, who has fought for years for women's rights, for people's rights and who has been holding out until the upcoming November election so that Trump and the disgusting GOP couldn't break more norms by nominating a new Justice during an election year passes away, it's even more disturbing. You can hear the GOP and Trump gleefully rubbing their hands as they plan how to disrupt America even more with their selection. One thing it seems to have done is mobilize America even more to get rid of Trump and the GOP in the Senate. Let's hope. At any rate, RIP Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you were a voice of reason on the Supreme Court.

One expression of encouragement to my neighbors south of the border.

So now to move on to my normal subject matter... Books. I finished one book this weekend. I'll update that and also the book that I'm starting next. Both part of my plan to finish a few series this year. I'll also continue with my ongoing look at my favorite authors.

Just Finished

1. Finders Weepers by Max Byrd (Mike Haller #3). The final book in this trilogy.

"Finders Weepers is the 3rd and unfortunately the final book in American author Max Byrd's excellent Mike Haller noir detective series. Byrd continues to write but he only produced 3 novels in this series. Mike Haller is a PI working out of San Francisco, having previously had a career as a newspaper reporter in Boston and later in San Francisco.

In this story, Haller has lost his PI license after a witness seems to lie at his hearing before the licensing board. Haller feels totally lost and wants to find out who is the cause. It could be related to his most recent case, working for another PI to find a prostitute who has been left $800K. Is the loss of his license related to this case, by someone who doesn't want him to find Muriel, or by some other person who might have crossed his pass and has a grudge against him, including Police Lt Yetta.

That is the gist of this excellent, gritty, even scary noir mystery as Haller, even without his license, continues to search for Muriel. He is helped by his partner, ex cop Fred and by various other acquaintances in San Francisco, black pimp and all around crook, Grab; by his fantastic girlfriend, psychiatrist Dorothy, etc. As I said, it's a gritty, often violent story that tracks within San Francisco's seedy underbelly, strip clubs, prostitution. There are great people as mentioned but there are also scary bad people, to put it lightly.

Haller is a great character; literate, gruff, determined. His license means everything to him, he loves being a PI. He loves his girl friend. I like how he quotes Fred; 'Fred's Buick Terrorist as he calls it'. Haller's early life, travels in Europe, life in England and Boston, his work as a newspaper reporter have given him a well-rounded knowledge and a perspective on life. All in all, it's a great story, probably the best of the 3 and a great way to end the series.. maybe one more?? (5 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. Crimes of Winter by Philippe Georget (Inspector Sebag #3).

"This winter is going to be a rough one for Inspector Gilles Sebag, for he has discovered a terrible truth: Claire has been cheating on him. Bouncing between depression, whisky, and insomnia, he buries himself in work in an attempt to forget.

But his investigations lead him inexorably to bigger tragedies--a woman murdered in a hotel, a depressed man who throws himself from the roof of his building, another who threatens to blow up the neighborhood--all of them involving betrayals of some sort. Perpignan seems to be suffering from a veritable epidemic of crimes of passion. Adultery is everywhere! And each betrayal leads to another dramatic crime.
Sebag has an uncanny ability to slip into the skin of his suspects and solve apparently unsolvable crimes. Though professionally charmed, he is unlucky in love. He is a perfect protagonist for the town of Perpignan, sleepy and leisurely on the surface, seething with vice and violence underneath."

My Favorite Authors - Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich was born in 1943 in New Jersey. I discovered her writing, specifically her Stephanie Plum mystery series, in early 2000, in (if you've been following this thread) in ABC Books in Courtenay. What first attracted me to the series were the book covers. They were bright, flashy and caught your eye. Then the synopsis also sounded interesting. Since 1994, Evanovich has written 27 books in this series. Evanovich has also written other series; Fox & O'Hara, Knight & Moon, etc. She has also written standalone mysteries and romances. 

Stephanie Plum is a fun, sexy character. She's a Jersey girl and in the first book is trying to get over catching her husband having sex with one of her friends. She's out of work so begins to work as a bounty hunter for her cousin, bail bondsman Vinnie. The stories for the most part involve Stephanie trying to bring in people who have broken their bonds and trying to avoid getting killed. She has romantic flings with cop boyfriend, Morelli and also fellow bounty hunter, Ranger. Every story is fun, sexy and filled with action. So far I've managed to read 10 books in the series. Oh yes, there was also a movie based on the first book starring Katherine Heigl as Stephanie and while I don't really like her work, Heigl was more than suitable as hapless Stephanie. So let's take a look at the books.

1. One for the Money (1994).

"You've lost your job as a department store lingerie buyer, your car's been repossessed, and most of your furniture and small appliances have been sold off to pay last month's rent. Now the rent is due again. And you live in New Jersey. What do you do?

If you're Stephanie Plum, you become a bounty hunter. But not just a nickel-and-dime bounty hunter; you go after the big money. That means a cop gone bad. And not just any cop. She goes after Joe Morelli, a disgraced former vice cop who is also the man who took Stephanie's virginity at age 16 and then wrote details on a bathroom wall. With pride and rent money on the line, Plum plunges headlong into her first case, one that pits her against ruthless adversaries - people who'd rather kill than lose." (4 stars)

2. Two for the Dough (1996).

"Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum debuted in Janet Evanovich's award-winning "One for the Money".
Now she's back, packing a whole lot of attitude -- not to mention stun guns, defense sprays, killer
flashlights and a .38 Smith &; Wesson -- on the trail of Kenny Mancuso, a boy from the working class
burg of Trenton, who's just shot his best friend. Mancuso's fresh out of the army and suspiciously
wealthy. He's also distantly related to Joe Morelli, a vice cop with ethics that lean toward the gray
zone, a libido in permanent overdrive, and a habit of horning in on Stephanie's investigations.
Aided by her tough bounty hunter pal, Ranger, and her funeral-happy Grandma Mazur, Stephanie's
soon staggering knee-deep in corpses and caskets, trying to shake Morelli ... and stirring up a
very nasty enemy ..." (4 stars)

3. Three to Get Deadly (1997).

"Stephanie Plum's fast becoming the most unpopular woman in New Jersey. Even her own mother can't love her for taking on the job of tracking down Uncle Mo, everybody's favorite candy store owner. Cursed with a disastrous new hair color and an increasing sense that it's time to get a new job, the world's favorite bounty hunter sets off on her latest adventure, with a little 'help' for her new sidekick, hooker turned file clerk Lula, who's just itching to get a felon in the back of her racy red Firebird ..." (4 stars)

4. Four to Score (1998).

"Nabbing Maxine Nowicki, thief and extortionist, would be the answer to Stephanie’s prayers and monetary woes. The only trouble is that Maxine is no where to be found, and her friends have been mysteriously turning up dead. To make matters worse, Stephanie’s arch nemesis since grade school is also looking for Nowicki, hoping to cash in first.

Stephanie’s mentor and tormentor, Ranger, needs her. Vice cop Joe Morelli has invited her to move in… temporarily. And Stephanie’s Grandma Mazur, sidekick, Lula, and a six-foot-tall transvestite rock musician want to take Stephanie to Atlantic City. One thing is for certain, no good can come from any of it." (4 stars)

5. Hot Six (2000).

"Low-rent bounty hunter Stephanie Plum reaches depths of personal experience that other women detectives never quite do. In Hot Six, for example, a sequence of new and hideous cars bite the dust; she finds herself lumbered with a policeman's multiply incontinent dog; and she has several bad skin days. All this when she is trying to prove her distinctly more competent colleague and occasional boyfriend Ranger innocent of a mob hit; avoid the heavies trailing her in the hope of finding him; and cope with a wife-abusing bail defaulter with nasty habits, such as setting Stephanie on fire." (4 stars)

6. Seven Up (2001).


All New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has to do is bring in semi-retired bail jumper Eddie DeChooch. For an old man he's still got a knack for slipping out of sight--and raising hell. How else can Stephanie explain the bullet-riddled corpse in Eddie's garden? Who else would have a clue as to why two of Stephanie's friends suddenly vanished? For answers Stephanie has the devil to pay: her mentor, Ranger. The deal? He'll give Stephanie all the help she needs--if she gives him everything he wants...


As if things weren't complicated enough, Stephanie's just discovered her Grandma Mazur's own unmentionable alliance with Eddie. Add a series of unnerving break-ins, not to mention the bombshell revelation leveled by Stephanie's estranged sister, and Stephanie's ready for some good news. Unfortunately, a marriage proposal from Joe Morelli, the love of her life, isn't quite cutting it. And now--murder, a randy paramour, a wily mobster, death threats, extortion, and a triple kidnapping aside--Stephanie's really got the urge to run for her life..." (3 stars)

7. Hard Eight (2002).

"Fugitive Apprehension Agent Stephanie Plum has a big problem on her hands: Seven-year-old Annie Soder and her mother, Evelyn, have disappeared.

Evelyn's estranged husband, Steven, a shady owner of a seedy bar, is not at all happy. During the divorce proceedings, he and Evelyn signed a child custody bond, and Steven is demanding the money guaranteed by the bond to find Annie. The money was secured by a mortgage on Evelyn's grandmother's house, and the True Blue Bonds Bail Agency wants to take possession of the house.

Finding a kidnapped child is not an assignment for a bounty hunter. But Evelyn's grandmother lives next door to Stephanie's parents, and Stephanie's mother and grandmother are not about to see their neighbor lose her house because of abduction.

Even though Stephanie's plate is full with miscreants who missed their court dates, including old nemesis and violent drunk Andy Bender and an elusive little old lady accused of grand theft auto, she can't disappoint Grandma Mazur! So she follows the trail left by Annie and Evelyn-- and finds a lot more than she bargained for. Steven is somehow linked with a very scary Eddie Abruzzi. Trenton cop and on-again, off-again fiancé Joe Morelli and Stephanie's mentor and tormentor, Ranger, warn Stephanie about Abruzzi, but it's Abruzzi's eyes and mannerisms that frighten Stephanie the most. Stephanie needs Ranger's savvy and expertise, and she's willing to accept his help to find Annie even though it might mean becoming too involved with Ranger.

Stephanie, Ranger, Lula (who's not going to miss riding with Ranger), and Evelyn's lawyer/laundromat manager set out to find Annie. The search turns out to be a race among Stephanie's posse, the True Blue Bonds' agent, a Rangerette known as Jeanne Ellen Burrows, and the Abruzzi crew. Not to mention the fact that there's a killer rabbit on the loose!" (3 stars)

8. To the Nines (2003).

"Just like every other Stephanie Plum mystery / adventure, To the Nines is a fun, entertaining ride. Just pack all your troubles away for the few days (hours?) it takes to get through her trials and tribulations.

As always, Stephanie's life seems to be a shambles. Her family is at loggerheads, what with perfect sis, Valerie camped at her parent's home with her two girls and one on the way. Stephanie is forced to move in with on and off again boyfriend, Morelli, due to threats on her life. She still can't seem to make up her mind between Ranger and Morelli, although, she now seems to be leaning toward Morelli and has an uneasy agreement with Ranger to avoid shenanigans. Even Morelli and Ranger have accepted the situation and are willing to work together to keep Stephanie out of trouble.. which follows Steph around.

Stephanie and her best friend, Lula, are tasked by their boss and Steph's cousin, Vinnie, to bring in Samuel Singh, who has disappeared. Their investigation leaves behind a trail of bodies. Steph, Connie (Vinnie's assistant) and Lula take a trip to Vegas to try and track down Singh. (This is a great part of the book). Ranger's gang of bounty hunters, tasked to keep an eye on Steph, end up in various states of injury. So much going on and such fun to read.

If you're feeling blue at all, try a Plum mystery. It's sure to cheer you up. It's sexy, funny and a great mystery. (3 stars)"

9. Ten Big Ones (2004).

"Ten Big Ones is the 10th book in the Stephanie Plum mystery series by Janet Evanovich.  Stephanie is a somewhat clumsy bounty hunter who works out of New Jersey for her cousin, Vincent Plum, a local bail bonds man. Her often assistant is Lula, an ex-prostitute who adds humor, as if there isn't enough already, to the stories. Stephanie is torn between two 'lovers', local cop Joe Morelli and fellow bounty hunter, Ranger, both of them hunks. Throw into the mix, Stephanie's wonderful family and you've got a recipe for fun and action.

In her latest adventure, Stephanie, in the course of trying to catch up to folks who are not meeting bond requirements, falls astray of a local gang and her life is threatened. In fact the gang purportedly has hired a West Coast hitman, the Junkman, to have Stephanie bumped off. Stephanie moves out of Morelli's house and hides out in one of Ranger's hideaways to ensure nobody in her family is put at risk.

All the while, stubborn as she is, Steph still takes Lula out with her on her bounty hunter duties, leaving a trail of burned out cars behind her as people take pot shots and other things at the terrible twosome. She also is involved in planning sister Valerie's wedding and escorting Grandma to funerals and letting her accompany her on her duties. As well, she is still torn between the two men in her life, desiring both but unable to sort out her priorities.. Oh, don't forget Sally, transvestite rock singer / school bus driver / wedding planner.

So it's more of the same and there is sufficient action and humor to keep you satisfied. A bit more of the sexiness from previous stories might have been appreciated but there is still enough to tease you along. Fun and games and chuckles. (3.5 stars)"

10. Visions of Sugar Plums (2002).

"It's five days before Christmas and things are not looking merry for Fugitive Apprehension Agent Stephanie Plum. She hasn't got a tree. She hasn't bought any presents. The malls are jam-packed with staggering shoppers. There's not a twinkle light anywhere to be seen in her apartment.

And there's a strange man in her kitchen.

Sure, this has happened to Stephanie Plum before. Strangers, weirdos, felons, creeps, and lunatics are always finding their way to her front door. But this guy is different. This guy is mysterious, sexy-and he has his own agenda. His name is Diesel and he is a man on a mission. And Diesel is unlike anyone Stephanie has ever met before in her life. The question is, what does he want with her? Can he help her find a little old toy maker who has skipped out on his bail right before Christmas? Can he survive the Plum family holiday dinner? Can he get Stephanie a tree that doesn't look like it was grown next to a nuclear power plant? These questions and more are keeping Stephanie awake at night. Not to mention the fact that she needs to find a bunch of nasty elves, her sister Valerie has a Christmas "surprise" for the Plums, her niece Mary Alice doesn't believe in Santa anymore, and Grandma Mazur has a new stud muffin. So bring out the plastic reindeer, strap on your jingle bells, and get ready to celebrate the holidays--Jersey style. In Janet Evanovich's Visions of Sugar Plums, the world of Plum has never been merrier!" (3 stars)

So there you go. For some reason I missed #5. I'll have to read it next. The complete listing of this series and other books by Evanovich can be found at this link.

Enjoy your week. Vote Democrat! If you're not sure about the voting rules and timings in your state, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert provided a web site where you could check how to vote in your state. Check out this link to find out.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

A Reading Update and My Ongoing Look at My Favorite Authors

The smokiness in the Valley has reduced somewhat the past couple of days. There is still a haze but today the breeze seems to be from the north so it's a bit more comfortable and cooler. We had a couple of days with drizzle as well, so that didn't hurt.

I finished my 3rd book of September yesterday. I'll provide my review of that book and also the synopsis of the next book in line. I'll also continue with my look at my favorite authors.

Just Finished

1. The Courts of the Morning by John Buchan. This is the final book referencing Richard Hannay, hero of The 39 Steps.

"The Courts of the Morning by John Buchan is technically a Richard Hannay adventure but, in fact, he plays only a minor part in this story. Basically he introduces the main character, his friend, Sandy Arbuthnot. The story starts in the Scottish highlands and then follows another friend, Archie Roylance and his wife Janet, as they visit a South American country, Olifa. In some ways they have been hunting Sandy who disappeared a year or so ago.

The majority of this story takes place in Olifa, an imaginary South American country. It's a difficult place to describe; basically a relatively wealthy country of two parts; Olifa the main province of the government and the wealthier class & Gran Seco, a province run by the Gobernador, with mines that fuel Olifa's economy. The Gobernador uses drugs to control the native people who work in the mines and also his Conquistadors and Body Guards. As I understood it, this drug can kill if they stop using it. It's not all that well explained though.

Sandy Arbuthnot and an American friend, Blenkiron, have been hiding out in Olifa and establishing a resistance organization. This involves kidnapping El Gobernador and starting a war between the Gran Seco and Olifa provinces. Even there, the aim is unclear (blame me if it is clear and I've misunderstood it) Archie and Janet get involved as does Blenkiron's niece, Barbara. The main part of the story is the struggle, the strategy, the guerrilla war, the interactions between El Gobernador and the resistance. They seem to hope that by him alone with the rebels that they can change his mind and let him see the importance of their battle for the country.

In its way, it's an interesting tale. It moves along at a slow pace but gradually as we get to the crisis, things begin to pick up and there is more and more action. I liked that even though the story is about Sandy Arbuthnot, he seems to play almost a secondary role, as the story at many times revolves around Janet and Barbara and their discussions with El Gobernador.

The more I focused on the story, the more I enjoyed it. I will say that I did find it easy to put down to read other books but it did grow on my and it's worth the effort to persevere with it. I enjoy Buchan's stories and this was a nice good-bye to Richard Hannay. (3.5 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. Finders Weepers by Max Byrd (Mike Haller #3). This is the final book in the Mike Haller trilogy.

"Muriel Contreras, a high-priced hooker, is informed by PI Mike Haller that she'd inherited a fortune. Trouble is, someone doesn't want her to live to collect it. If he isn't able to murder Muriel, he'll kill anyone who tries to help her!."

My Ongoing Look At My Favorite Authors - John Dunning

 John Dunning is an American crime writer. He was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1942. Besides writing novels, he also worked as a newspaper writer, worked at Denver's horse track and owned a book store specializing in second-hand and rare books. I discovered his books in early 2000, one of those mystery writers who attracted my attention during my exploration of ABC Books in Courtenay. He did write other novels, mysteries and fiction / non-fiction, but I focused on his six books series featuring ex-cop cum book store owner / detective, Cliff Janeway. It was an excellent series, especially because every story involved rare books. You can't go wrong with that, can you? So let's take a look at his books.

1. The Sign of the Book (Janeway #4 / 2005).

"A very enjoyable mystery. I've read a few of the series and on the whole enjoyed them all. Cliff Janeway is an ex-Denver police detective who quits the force and becomes a book dealer. His mysteries always involve the book trade and for someone who loves wandering around book stores and collecting somewhat, it adds a nice touch to the mysteries. Cliff is a loner and you do often find him wandering off on his own when you want to shout at him to bring along some help. But the mystery is well-written, nicely paced and always with a bit of tension. In this mystery, an old girl-friend of Cliff's current partner, Erin, is accused of murder and trying to find out if she did it and if not, who did. Laura, the accused, is accused of killing her husband (who happens to be an ex of Erin's) and he has book shelves full of signed books. Do they factor into the mystery? That's what you've got to find out. The whole series is well worth the read. (3 stars)"

2. Booked to Die (Janeway #1 / 1992).

"Denver homicide detective Cliff Janeway may not always play by the book, but he is an avid collector of rare and first editions. After a local bookscout is killed on his turf, Janeway would like nothing better than to rearrange the suspect's spine. But the suspect, local lowlife Jackie Newton, is a master at eluding the law, and Janeway's wrathful brand of off-duty justice costs him his badge.

Turning to his lifelong passion, Janeway opens a small bookshop -- all the while searching for evidence to put Newton away. But when prized volumes in a highly sought-after collection begin to appear, so do dead bodies. Now, Janeway's life is about to start a precarious new chapter as he attempts to find out who's dealing death along with vintage Chandlers and Twains." (4 stars)

3. The Bookman's Promise (Janeway #3 / 2004). After reading this book, which features books by explorer, Sir Richard Burton, I found one of his books at a furniture store in Victoria. Unfortunately the owner didn't know what to charge for it, so I had to leave it behind.

"When Cliff Janeway investigates the provenance of a signed first edition of a memoir by nineteenth-century explorer Sir Richard Burton, he becomes embroiled in a mystery involving a lost library of rare Burton material." (4 stars)

4. The Bookwoman's Last Fling (Janeway #5 / 2006).

"This is the fifth and last Cliff Janeway mystery, a series I've enjoyed immensely. Cliff Janeway is an ex-Denver cop who has become a book dealer in Denver who also hunts down antique books and is often hired to estimate costs of antique books. He also still becomes involved in mysteries, often with a book-theme. In this story, he travels to Idaho to help estimate the value of an estate's books and also to solve a mystery; some of the books have been disappearing and being replaced by cheaper editions. Throw in an old death in the family that might have been a murder and bring in the horse - racing world and you've got the makings of a great mystery. It's an excellent series and I highly recommend. (4 stars)"

5. The Bookman's Wake (Janeway #2 / 1995).

"Denver cop-turned-book dealer Cliff Janeway is lured by an enterprising fellow ex-policeman into going to Seattle to bring back a fugitive wanted for assault, burglary, and the possible theft of a priceless edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." The bail jumper turns out to be a vulnerable young woman calling herself Eleanor Rigby, who is also a gifted book finder. Janeway is intrigued by the woman -- and by the deadly history surrounding the rare volume. Hunted by people willing to kill for the antique tome, a terrified Eleanor escapes and disappears. To find her -- and save her -- Janeway must unravel the secrets of the book's past and its mysterious maker, for only then can he stop the hand of death from turning another page...." (4 stars)

All in all this was an enjoyable series. I did read one of his standalone mysteries, Two O'Clock Eastern Wartime and have to say I didn't enjoy it as much. One of those books, as I recall, that I just didn't seem to get. But I should try his other books. The complete listing of Dunning's books can be found at this link.

The weekend is almost upon us. Stay safe, read a good book.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

You Mid-week Music Medley

 Still smoky here in the Valley. We've had a bit of rain the past couple of days. I hope they get some down south. Now for your Mid-week music medley for Wednesday, 16 Sep 2020.

Mid-week Music Medley

1. Irish singer / songwriter Dermot Kennedy - Giants (2020).

2. English singer / songwriter James Bay - Chew On My Heart (2020).

3. American singer / songwriter Lucky Daye - Fly (2019).

Enjoy the rest of your week. Stay safe. Please wear a mask. It's not that difficult.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

My Ongoing Look at my Favorite Authors

Just a quick post on this hazy Sunday. I can't imagine what they are going through in California, Oregon and Washington state. Since yesterday we've had a low lying haze over the valley. It's much cooler but the sky has this strange orange color and when I take the dogs out for their abbreviated walk, you can taste the air. The only good thing about it is that it's much cooler. I hope there is rain all along the coast next week. If you believe in the power of prayer, please pray for the West Coast of the US.

On that note, here is my ongoing look at my favorite authors.

My Favorite Authors - Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier

English author, Daphne du Maurier, Lady Browning, was lived from 1907 -1989. She has written some classics of English literature. My first and only exposure to her writing for the longest time was a fantastical, time -travel story of sorts, a story that is fueled by the protagonists drug use; The House on the Strand. It's a story that I've read a few times and it's included below. I avoided trying any others of her books for the longest time; I guess I thought they were 'women's' stories. Yes, forgive me please. But since 2000 I've explored others of her books and am so glad that I have. What a great story -teller and author.

1. Classics of the Macabre (1987).

"Classics of the Macabre is a collection of short stories by Daphne du Maurier. I had previously read another collection; The Blue Lenses and other books by du Maurier; The House on the Strand and Rebecca and the more I read, the more I've enjoyed her stories and writing style.

Classics of the Macabre contained a couple of stories I'd already read from The Blue Lenses, but I scrolled through them again to remind myself about how much I'd previously enjoyed them. This book contained 6 of her short stories; Don't Look Now, The Apple Tree, The Blue Lenses, The Birds, The Alibi and Not After Midnight. I was particularly interested reading The Birds as I've enjoyed the movie many times. It didn't disappoint and had a similar theme to the movie (obviously, I guess), but was more focused on one particularly family in England. The ending was also not quite so optimistic. 

Each story was interesting, not scary really, just odd and strange. Don't Look Now is set in Venice and tells the story of a young couple getting over the loss of their daughter and people they meet who seem to have the ability to see spirits. The Apple Tree tells of a husband who ignores his wife even to her death and is haunted by an apple tree (his wife's spirit?????). The Blue Lenses (a favorite) tells of a woman who has an eye operation with interesting after effects. The Birds tells of an invasion of England by birds, birds and more birds. The Alibi is another tale of a husband who is tired of his life and wants something more exciting... and finds it. Not After Midnight is the story of a man's visit to Crete on a solitary vacation who is caught up in a strange situation.

du Maurier is an excellent story teller and her tales are always unique. Well worth trying (4 stars)"

2. The Blue Lenses and Other Stories (1959).

"An interesting collection of short stories by the author of Rebecca and The House on the Strand. The book was published in 1959 and contains 8 stories, each different and unique in its own right. I particularly liked The Alibi and The Blue Lenses; the first about a man trying to get some excitement into his life and finding that his plan takes an unexpected turn to the left and the second, almost science fiction, a strange tale of a woman seeing life through new lenses, a very strange and disturbing vision. The Pool and The Archduchess were good, but missed the mark somewhat from my perspective. But all in all, an excellent, well-written book. It's continued to whet my appetite for more du Maurier fiction. (4 stars)"

3. The House on the Strand (1969). A while back I posted, over a period of time, my list of my Top 100 books. This story made it into that list.

"Richard Young, tired of his life as a publisher, bored with his wife Vita and his two stepsons, is staying in his scientist friend Magnus' house in Cornwall. Magnus has developed a new hallucinogenic drug which Richard tries. His trips on this drug take him back 600 years as invisible witness to lives more exciting than his own, whose fascination begins to have repercussions in the "real" world.

Daphne du Maurier skillfully intertwines the lives of Richard in the present and Roger Kylmerth, his alter ego, in the past, so that two stories unfold simultaneously, both leading to separate, but related, deaths and disasters. Her description of the Parish of Tywardreath in Cornwall in the present and in the past possess an unforgettable vividness." (5 stars)

4. My Cousin Rachel (1951).

"I've read a few books by Daphne du Maurier the past few years, short story collections, Rebecca and I'm growing to enjoy her stories more and more. My Cousin Rachel was another excellent story, even if it was kind of depressing.

Ambrose Ashley who has raised his cousin Philip since a child, has to start spending winters on the continent (Italy) due to health issues. Philip stays at the estate in Cornwall and runs it in Ambrose's absence. The two are confirmed bachelors who live a staid, comfortable existence, managing the estate, spending time with relatives and local friends and both are very satisfied.

A surprise is in store for Philip. He gets a letter from Ambrose stating the Ambrose has married a distant cousin that he has met in Italy. Rachel is a widow, previously married to Count Sangalletti. Philip's life is turned upside down, especially when follow-on letters from his cousin seem to indicate that Ambrose's health is deteriorating and that he suspects that Rachel might have poisoned him. Philip goes to Italy to see to Ambrose, only to discover that Ambrose is dead and that Rachel has disappeared.

Returning to Cornwall, Philip soon receives a visitor, that being Rachel. Thus begins a strange, winding suspenseful story. Philip's anger at Rachel changes the longer she stays in Cornwall. It's a story with twists and turns, suspicions of Rachel's motives and actions, suspicions from Philip's godfather and his daughter about what Rachel wants. Philip wanders from love to confusion. Clues pop up, discovered Ambrose letters, a visit from Rachel's friend from Italy, Rainaldi. Philip must reconcile his strong feelings for Rachel with disturbing concerns that she might have murdered his cousin.

I don't think the story is as great as Rebecca but it's still an excellent, suspenseful dramatic work of fiction (4 stars)"

5. Rebecca (1938). This story also made it into my Top 100 books.

"Wow! I cannot believe it's taken this long for me to pick up this book and read it. I had read The House on the Strand a few times and enjoyed, but for some reason, I've never read anything else by du Maurier, maybe some misguided feeling that it was 'chicklit'. I'm glad that I've started exploring more and more classic and modern classic fiction. 

This was a fascinating story, well-crafted, intelligently written and a page turner. At first I was irritated by the new Mrs. de Winter, her naivety and innocence, but as I read more, her character made more sense; a young woman with little life experience and low self-esteem. Marrying the older Maxim de Winter, an experienced but damaged and withdrawn individual didn't help her attitude, even with how much she loved him. Being placed in a strange, almost other worldly situation as the new mistress of de Winter's estate of Manderley, which had been run masterfully by his first wife, Rebecca, added to her discomfort. Throw into the mix, the house keeper, the creepy Mrs. Danvers, who seems to resent the new lady of the manor and you've got a tense, fascinating situation. 

The story builds and builds (I won't spoiler this for anyone who hasn't read before... even though I think I'm probably one of the few who hasn't) and draws you in. Such an excellent story. I've discussed with the missus as I've progressed and now will have to sit down with her and watch the movie version. (5 stars)"

I have two other du Maurier stories on my bookshelf; Jamaica Inn (1936) and The Glass Blowers (1963). I'm looking forward to continuing my exploration of her work. The complete listing of du Maurier's stories can be found at this link. Have a great, safe week!
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