Friday, 14 December 2018

My 2018 Musical Advent Calendar - Day 14 and a Reading Update

I picked two songs yesterday for my Day 14 Musical Advent Calendar.

Day 14 - Joseph - SOS (Overboard).

 Joseph is a band from Portland Oregon. It consists of 3 sisters. Their first album was released in 2014. The song, SOS (Overboard) was from their second album. I've chosen a live version which doesn't have the production values of the video, but still shows off their voices and musical talents.

I had a bonus track last night. On CBC TV the past few weeks, they've had a show called From the Vaults. They've been featuring musical artists from the history of CBC. Last night one of the ones they had was Canadian songstress Anne Murray. It reminded me of her first #1 hit, Snowbird. Here it is for you...

Just Finished

1. The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #2).

"The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag is the second Flavia de Luce mystery by Alan Bradley. I read the first about five years ago and left this sitting on my shelves much too long. The Flavia series is quite unique. 11 - year old Flavia is a young girl living with her two older sisters and widowed father in Bishop's Lacey.

The series is set just after WWII, offering an interesting setting as well. Flavia is 'precocious', spending much of her time in her late uncle's laboratory exploring poisons and figuring out ways to get back at her sisters, who can be merciless towards her. And yet, even with all that, they remain a family, bound together with familial ties. Flavia spends much of her time on her own, wandering the local countryside on her faithful bicycle, Gladys, a memory of her dead mother. Flavia's father struggles to control his three daughters, spends a lot of time hiding away with his rare stamp collections. A family of loving misfits, I'd describe them.

Flavia, in her wanderings discovers an old mystery involving the hanging death of a young boy of the couple on the neighboring farm. As well, she meets a wandering puppeteer and his lovely assistant, whose van breaks down. Without the money to get it repaired, they agree to hold a show with the puppets at the local church. They are a mysterious pair. Rupert Porson, it turns out has spent time in Bishop's Lacey in the past. He also has a damaged leg, supported with steel braces. He has a show on the BBC, Snoddy the Squirrel, but has run away from that. Nialla is his assistant. Is she his lover? Their relationship is a fractious one.

Flavia finds herself in the mix of this relationship, helping set up the show, while at the same time exploring the other mystery. A sudden death throws the whole thing into a tumult. And of course, Flavia is determined to assist Inspector Hewitt with his investigations. So much goes on in this story, it is rich with characters and story lines. Flavia is an excellent investigator, finding out things that the police seem unable to.

I've grown to like Flavia; she's quirky without being too irritating. Her family are all unique and different. Throw in the faithful staff, Dogger and Mrs. Mullett, as well as the addition for most of the story of Aunt Felicity, and you've got a rich, fascinating cast of characters. The supporting neighbors and friends all add to the story. It's a book I found I could put down easily but at the same time, when I picked it up again, I became once more engrossed the wonderful world of Bishop's Lacey. (Good book titles too) (3.5 stars)"

I'm now reading 4 books and won't pick any more for December unless I finish these off before the end of the month. I've got a few short books that would fit the bill. Maybe one or two of these.

a. Ethel Lina White - The Wheel Spins. This is the book that Alfred Hitchcock turned into The Lady Vanishes

b. Eric Nicol - A Scar is Born. A book by Canadian humorist Eric Nicol.

Of course, I might read something completely different. ;0) Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, 13 December 2018

My 2018 Musical Advent Calendar - Day 13

Rainy, rainy day today. Winter is here!

Day 13 - Belle and Sebastian - We Were Beautiful

So Jo and I were driving back from Victoria this past weekend and as normal, we were discussing music. This Scottish band, Belle and Sebastian came up in our discussions; I think because they won a Brit award that came as a surprise because another group / artist was supposed to be a shoe-in. Anyway, two days later and this song comes up on my USB, one that I quite like. I won't say it's necessarily a cheerful song, but it develops nicely. I like anyway..

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

My 2018 Musical Advent Calendar - Day 12 and a Reading Update

2018 Musical Advent Calendar - Day 12

I added this song to my USB a couple of years ago and it's a great driving song. When Jo and I came back from Victoria this past weekend, we both enjoyed it. I looked it up online today and discovered that it samples 1970's The Meters funk recording of Oh Calcutta.. A bit of trivia for you.. The song is from American R&B singer, Amerie. The song was originally released in 2005. The song is 1 Thing.

I finished one more book this morning and have started one more. I won't start any more unless I finish the five I'm currently reading before end December.

Just Finished

1. Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor (St. Mary's Chronicles #1).

"Just One Damned Thing After Another is the first book in the Chronicles of St Mary's by Jodi Taylor. In some ways it reminds me of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, with the exception that instead of traveling in books, St Mary's historians travels back in time. It was an interesting, enjoyable concept and an excellent adventure story.

Madeline (Max) Maxwell is a young lady who is recruited to use her history credentials for a secretive organization, a part of Thirsk University. The organization is St Mary's and it offers a unique method of exploring history; that is time travel. Max becomes one of a group of trainee historians who must prove themselves capable of exploring incidents from the past; it takes lots of training. The exploration can be dangerous, even to the point of loss of life and the historians must ensure they leave no aspect of themselves in the  past and bring nothing back.

It's not a totally unique premise but the story does offer nice twists and turns. Who are the others who seem to be exploring as well? Where do they come from? Are they a threat? Are there spies within St. Mary's?

The story moves along very nicely. We go into England's past, even explore the Cretaceous period. St. Mary's earns its money by providing info on the times explored to Thirsk for their use and credit. It's dangerous work. There is adventure, subterfuge, romance, violence, even a bit of sex. All in all, it's a well-crafted, well-written, entertaining story. The characters, especially the 3 historians, are all nicely presented and enjoyable to follow.

Taylor leaves you just enough of a teaser to make you want to continue with the series. I know I do.. Excellent first book.  (4.5 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. Chinatown Beat by Henry Chang (Detective Jack Yu #1).

"Detective Jack Yu is assigned to the Chinatown precinct as the only officer of Chinese descent. He investigates a series of attacks on children and a missing mistress, shifting between the world of street thugs and gangs and the Chinatown of the rich and powerful.

Detective Jack Yu grew up in Chinatown. Some of his friends are criminals now; some are dead. Jack has just been transferred to his old neighborhood, where 99 percent of the cops are white. Unlike the others, confused by the residents who speak another language even when they’re speaking English, Jack knows what’s going on.

He is confronted with a serial rapist who preys on young Chinese girls. Then Uncle Four, an elderly and respected leader of the charitable Hip Ching Society and member of the Hong Kong-based Red Circle Triad, is gunned down. Jack learns that benevolent Uncle Four had a gorgeous young mistress imported from Hong Kong. And she is missing.

To solve these crimes, Jack turns to an elderly fortune teller, an old friend of his, in addition to employing modern police methods. This debut mystery power-fully conveys the sights, sounds, and smells of Chinatown, as well as the attitudes of its inhabitants."

Have a great Wednesday.  

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

My 2018 Musical Advent Calendar - Day 11

Day 11 - 2018 Musical Advent Calendar Selection.

The first time I heard my Day 11 song choice was an updated version from Marlena Shaw, featuring Ya Boy. That version is excellent. Later on, my wife Jo introduced me to another version, performed by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. The song was originally written by song writing duo, Ashford and Simpson in 1967. So with that preamble, my Day 11 song is California Soul, written by Ashford and Simpson and performed by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Enjoy and have a great day!

Monday, 10 December 2018

My 2018 Musical Advent Calendar and a Book Update

I finished one of my new books this morning. As well, today is Day 10 of my Musical Advent Calendar.

Day10 - 2018 Musical Advent Calendar Selection.

So my song today is a country song from The Band Perry. It was the first song by them that I heard and seeing it in a live format kind of blew me away. The band was in great form, well synchronized and just powerful. They've done other songs that I also like a lot, especially If I Die Young. But this song gets my blood flowing. So here you go, the Band Perry and Done.

Just Finished
I bought this book on our weekend in Victoria. It was a short one so I thought I'd give it a try.

1. Stranger on Lesbos by Valerie Taylor.

"I first heard of Valerie Taylor when I bought another book, Bunny Lake is Missing by Evelyn Piper. The edition I bought was published by The Feminist Press. I began looking for some of the other authors that they published; Dorothy Hughes - In a Lonely Place, Vera Caspary - Laura (I found this one). Anyway, I also managed to find Stranger on Lesbos this past weekend.

Valerie Taylor was a leading light in the lesbian pulp fiction genre of the late '50s and '60s. Stranger in Lesbos was her fourth book, published initially in 1960. It's a simple story really. Frances, a 1950s housewife, finds herself in a boring marriage, ignored by her husband and stuck in a stifling suburban life. She takes a course at university, deciding to work on the degree she never finished due to her marriage. At her first class she meets Bake and an attraction develops rapidly.

Even though still married, she finds herself exploring the lesbian world, her deep attraction and love for Bake enticing her to spend more and more time with her. The book deals with her dilemma, whether to stay in her current family situation or follow her heart and leave her husband. It's a difficult story to rate, but suffice it to say that it is a thoughtful, interesting story; one of love and difficult decision - making. Taylor further explored Frances' life in some of her future books. (3.5 stars)"

Have a great week!

Sunday, 9 December 2018

My 2018 Musical Advent Calendar

We're back from our weekend in Victoria. We picked the puppies up from the kennel. Yes, they were quite excited, especially little Clyde. Got them home and gave them both a bath. Neither was particularly hungry. In fact they are both sound asleep on the couch between. Clyde is twitching in his sleep, must be having dreams.. maybe nightmares. Poor little fella.

Anyway, we're home and happy about it. We watched the result show on the Strictly Come Dancing show and then Dr. Who.

I'm about to see if either pup wants to go out for a pre-bedtime walk. Before I do here is my Day 9 Musical Advent calendar entry. I'll do my Day 10 entry before I go to bed maybe.

My Day 9 song is from Welsh singer Betsy. She has a great voice. Love this song.

Betsy - Wanted More

Enjoy your week!

Saturday, 8 December 2018

My 2018 Musical Advent Calendar and some Book Purchases - Day 2 of Our Victoria Trip

After keeping Jo up for most of the night with my snoring, this morning I walked up to Chronicles of Crime on Fort Street, while Jo had a bit of a doze. It's one of the book stores I always try to visit on our annual trip to Victoria. Yesterday was Russell Books (see books from my post of yesterday). We haven't gone anywhere today, may take a quick drive up to Oak Bay and have a bit of a wander. Otherwise we'll just relax.

So firstly my Day 8 of my 2018 Musical Advent Calendar and then the books I bought today.

Bill's 2018 Musical Advent Calendar - Day 8.

1. Zedd ft Alessia Cara - Stay. Zedd is a Russian / German producer who has produced some favorites of mine. He usually has feature singers; Foxes, Hayley Williams, Selena Gomez. On this song he features Canadian singer Alessia Cara. Enjoy the song.

New Books (Courtesy Chronicles of Crime)

1. Rex Stout - The Red Box (Nero Wolfe #4 / 1937).

"A beautiful model who should have been watching her figure never dreamed that one little piece of candy could kill her. But it did. And her untimely death put Nero Wolfe in line for the supreme insult of his career—another murder, right in his own home. He had to solve the case to save his pride. But the only clue was an odd red box—and, oddly enough, that had disappeared!"

2. Sax Rohmer - President Fu Manchu (Fu Manchu #8 / 1936). Fun thrillers!

"Here is another incredible tale of the perilous adventures of Sir Denis Nayland Smith--a terrifying thriller in which Dr. Fu Manchu cunningly plots to fulfil his most gargantuan dream: to be the dictator of the United States. Can Nayland Smith stem the terrible tide that threatens to elect the arch-fiend's puppet to the presidency? The world waits breathlessly for the answer." (I don't imagine he'd be any worse than the current dictator wannabee. I bet he'd spell his tweets correctly)

3. Ross MacDonald - Sleeping Beauty (Lew Archer #17 / 1973). I've enjoyed the books I've read so far in this series.

"In Sleeping Beauty, Lew Archer finds himself the confidant of a wealthy, violent family with a load of trouble on their hands--including an oil spill, a missing girl, a lethal dose of Nembutal, a six-figure ransom, and a stranger afloat, face down, off a private beach. Here is Ross MacDonald's masterful tale of buried memories, the consequences of arrogance, and the anguished relations between parents and their children. Riveting, gritty, tautly written, Sleeping Beauty is crime fiction at its best."

4. Peter Lovesey - The Detective Wore Silk Drawers (Sgt. Cribb #2 / 1971). I enjoyed the first book in this series, a historical crime series.

"The second Sergeant Cribb mystery is set in the world of Victorian bare-fisted pugilism—an illegal sport. Constable Jago is sent, undercover, to Radstock Hall by Sergeant Cribb, who suspects that when fighters who train there lose, they are murdered."

5.  M.C. Beaton - Death of an Outsider (Hamish MacBeth #3 / 1988). I am enjoying both of Beaton's cozy mystery series; Agatha Raisin and Hamish MacBeth.

"Dreary Cnothan's most hated man is dumped into a tank filled with lobsters then eaten in Britain's best restaurants. Exiled there with his dog Towser, Hamish Macbeth misses his beloved Highland village Lochdubh, Priscilla, and easy lazy days. His superiors want the business hushed up, a dark-haired lass wants his body, and a killer is out for more blood." 

6. Margery Allingham - Mystery Mile (Albert Campion #2 / 1930). A mystery series in the line of Dorothy Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey books. 

"Judge Crowdy Lobbett has found evidence pointing to the identity of the criminal mastermind behind the deadly Simister gang. After four attempts on his life, he ends up seeking the help of Albert Campion." 

7. Vera Caspary - Laura (1942). According to the lady at the book store, it's one of the classics of the noir genre. Was also turned into an excellent movie.

"Laura Hunt was the ideal modern woman: beautiful, elegant, highly ambitious, and utterly mysterious. No man could resist her charms—not even the hard-boiled NYPD detective sent to find out who turned her into a faceless corpse. As this tough cop probes the mystery of Laura’s death, he becomes obsessed with her strange power. Soon he realizes he’s been seduced by a dead woman—or has he?" 

8. Cornell Woolrich - Rear Window and Four Short Novels (1984).  A new author for me, I was actually looking for another story. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this collection contained Rear Window, a favorite Hitchcock movie of mine. According to the lady at the book store, once again, Woolrich lived a very interesting life.

9. Victor Canning - Doubled in Diamonds (Rex Carver #2). Another new author for me, this is the second of 4 books featuring his detective, Rex Carver.

"Rex is a private eye and a case leads him to Ireland and to France, where he is trying to find a man left a legacy by an aunt. The man is involved with a large haul of diamonds, and Rex has to deal with people about to trade these stolen diamonds for heroin."

Well, there you go. I'd say I had a successful book shopping trip this weekend. Most enjoyable. I've also decided to take it easier the next couple of years as regards book buying. My book shelves are full. I'll limit myself to a bit less time spent in local book stores and try to keep my shopping on visits limited to our annual trip to Victoria. We'll see of course.. lol

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