Tuesday, 7 July 2020

The Spy / Thriller Novel (Winding Down)

It's been a nice cool, somewhat cloudy day today. The dogs and I went for a drive at lunch time. I refreshed our bread stock, got a couple of individual Hawaiian pizzas at Cob's bakery for lunch, then stopped at the Church Street Bakery and picked up two peach Danishes. They are now selling smoothies so I was one of the first ones to get some, got Jo a strawberry banana one and myself a mixed berry one. Made for a nice lunch as we listened to Deadline: White House and The New Abnormal. At the moment Jo is making supper so I'm going to do this post before it's ready; a nice roast dinner by the way.

I just want to congratulate Nicolle Wallace for the success of Deadline: White House. This was the press release from MSNBC's Press Office today

"On Friday (7/3) @MSNBC’s @DeadlineWH  with @NicolleDWallace  at 4pm was #1 in total viewers for the 7th straight day topping FOX News and CNN. This marks the show’s longest winning streak since November 2019. “Deadline: White House” was also the #1 cable news show at 4pm in June."

Oh while I was out today I noticed that the Day Cares seem to be open again. I'm not sure what the rules are for re-opening, it doesn't really affect me as I am much too old to have kids in Day Care. I just hope they all stay safe. 

My author for my ongoing look at the Spy / Thriller novel is a new one for me. I will probably have two more posts on this topic. Not sure what I will look at next. Any ideas?

The Spy / Thriller Novel - Daniel Silva

Daniel Silva is an American journalist / novelist born in Detroit Michigan in 1960. He is a new author for me and I have two of his spy novels on my bookshelf awaiting my attention. He has one standalone novel, two books in his Michael Osbourne series and 20 in his Gabriel Allon series. Let's check out the two I have so far.

1. The Unlikely Spy (standalone / 1996)

"For Britain's counterintelligence operations, this meant finding the unlikeliest agent imaginable-a history professor named Alfred Vicary, handpicked by Churchill himself to expose a highly dangerous, but unknown, traitor.

The Nazis, however, have also chosen an unlikely agent: Catherine Blake, a beautiful widow of a war hero, a hospital volunteer - and a Nazi spy under direct orders from Hitler to uncover the Allied plans for D-Day..."

2. The Mark of the Assassin (Michael Osbourne #1 / 1998)

"Set in London, Cairo, Amsterdam, and Washington, the story line follows CIA case agent Michael Osbourne as he attempts to locate the terrorists who shot down an airliner off the coast of Long Island. Osbourne has two main antagonists: Delaroche, a KGB-trained expert assassin ordered to kill the handful of people who know the truth, including Osbourne, and the corrupt political culture of Washington, which ominously stymies him at every turn. There's a love story at the core of this book, as well as a brave attempt by Osbourne to reconcile a mystery in his past with a present he has not fully accepted. The prose is slick, and readers will find themselves racing through these pages as the body count grows and the conclusion nears."

The complete listing of Daniel Silva's works can be found at this link.

Hey Old Man! Feed Us!
Enjoy the rest of your week, I've got two puppies telling me it's time for dinner. Have a great week!

Sunday, 5 July 2020

New Books and the Spy / Thriller Novel

It's a sunny, bright Sunday morning and we've got a stack of Indiana Jones movies on Space today. Last night I watched the second episode of a Norwegian series called Occupied. It's based on an idea by mystery writer, Jo Nesbo, he of Harry Hole fame.

This is the synopsis of the show. The episode I've watched was interesting.

"In the near future, Norway is occupied by Russia on behalf of the European Union, due to the fact that the newly elected environmental friendly Norwegian government has stopped the all important oil- and gas-production in the North Sea."

I had my 2nd visit to my local use book store yesterday, the 2nd since everything shut down back in February. It was nice to just walk down the aisles and look at books again. I picked up 4. I'll update those and also continue with my look at the Spy / Thriller novel; two books by different authors today.

New Books

1.The Skin Collector by Jeffery Deaver (Lincoln Rhymes #11). I've read 8 or 9 in this series and I do need to get back to it. I've enjoyed every one of the books so far.

"The killer's methods are terrifying. He stalks the basements and underground passageways of New York City. He tattoos his victims' flesh with cryptic messages, using a tattoo gun loaded with poison, resulting in an agonizing, painful death.

When a connection is made to the Bone Collector-the serial killer who terrorized New York more than a decade ago-Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are immediately drawn into the case.

Rhyme, Sachs, and the NYPD must race against time to answer the many questions the investigation uncovers: Whom will the killer attack next? What is the message behind the victims' tattoos? Does the killer's own inking--a fanged centipede sporting a woman's face--hold any significance? And what is his ultimate mission?

As time runs out, Rhyme discovers that the past has returned to haunt him in the most troubling way imaginable..."

2. What Lies Behind by J.T. Ellison (Dr. Samantha Owens #4).

"Waking to sirens in the night is hardly unusual for Samantha Owens. No longer a medical examiner, she doesn't lose sleep over them, but a routine police investigation in her neighborhood has her curious. When her homicide detective friend, Darren Fletcher, invites her to look over the evidence, she jumps at the chance and immediately realizes the crime scene has been staged. What seems to be a clear case of murder/suicide—a crime of passion—is anything but. The discovery of toxic substances in hidden vials indicates that something much more sinister is at play… 

As Fletch and Sam try to understand what and who they are dealing with, they are summoned to a meeting at the State Department. High-level officials are interested in what they know and seem to be keeping secrets of their own. It's up to Sam and Fletch to uncover what lies behind the deception as the threat of bioterrorism is exposed, and her boyfriend, Xander Whitfield, may be in the line of fire. 

Unsure who to trust, Sam and Fletch find themselves up against very powerful people at every stage in the investigation. No one is who they appear to be and with every minute that passes, the danger escalates. It's Sam's most complex case yet and the terrifying reality is beyond anything she could have imagined."

3. When the Devil Holds the Candle by Karin Fossum (Konrad Sejer #4). I've read one book in this Scandi mystery series so far.

"When two teenagers steal a purse from a stroller, it results in an infant’s death. Unaware of the enormity of their crime, Zipp and Andreas are intent on committing another. They follow an elderly woman home, and Andreas enters her house with his switchblade. In the dark, Zipp waits for his friend to come out.

Inspector Konrad Sejer and his colleague Jacob Skarre see no connection between the infant’s death and the reported disappearance of a local delinquent. And so while the confusion outside mounts, the heart-stopping truth unfolds inside the old woman’s home.

Unflappable as ever, Sejer digs below the surface of small- town tranquility in an effort to understand how and why violence destroys everyday lives."

4. Willful Behavior by Donna Leon (Commissario Brunetti #11). One of my favorite mystery series.

"Mystery lovers everywhere are addicted to Donna Leon's ever-honorable Commissario Guido Brunetti and her portrayal of Venice's beautiful but sinister byways and canals. In Willful Behavior, Brunetti is approached for a favor by one of his wife's students. Intelligent and serious , Claudia Leonardo asks for his help in obtaining a pardon for a crime once committed by her now-dead grandfather. Brunetti thinks little of it-until Claudia is found dead. Soon, another corpse and an extraordinary art collection lead Brunetti to long-buried secrets of Nazi collaboration and the exploitation of Italian Jews-secrets few in Italy want revealed."

The Spy / Thriller Novel
Books by two authors in today's post, one is by one of my favorite authors of all time, Nevil Shute, and the other created one of my favorite crime series, Ian Rankin.

Nevil Shute
1. Nevil Shute Norway lived from 1899 - 1960. He was born in Ealing, England and died in Melbourne Australia. He has written some of my favorite novels, On the Beach, Pied Piper, A Town Like Alice, The Far Country. He wrote was stories, personal stories, even science fiction. Today I'll look at one that's on my bookshelf but I haven't read yet that I think might fit the spy / thriller category.

a. Lonely Road (1932).

"This spy thriller finds Malcolm Stevenson, a wealthy, middle-aged shipbuilder, embroiled in an international Communist conspiracy. Smuggling guns into England, he gets caught up in politics and alien ideologies. In time he becomes more concerned with his lone quest for the truth."

If you'd like to explore Shute's books, the complete listing can be found at this link.

Ian Rankin
2. Ian James Rankin was born in Carendon, UK in 1960. I have featured him previously in my look at the mystery novel, with his crime series set in Edinburgh and featuring crusty cop, Rebus. I'll feature his 3rd published novel here, one dealing with the UK spy services.

a. Watchman (1988).

"I've enjoyed reading Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus books very much. I'm well in to that series. Watchman was Rankin's 3rd novel, written after the first of his Rebus books. It's quite different from the Rebus books; in fact, it's more in line with early John le Carré than what you expect from Rankin.
Miles Flint (from the intro, Rankin borrowed the name from the In Like Flint movie series starring James Coburn) is a Watchman, working for the British Secret Service. Having issues with his marriage, he decides one night to assist in the monitoring of an Arab spy instead of going home. Unfortunately, the spy gives the group the slip and the Arab ends up killing an Israeli arms dealer.

This starts a somewhat convoluted series of events as the story follows a variety of people; Flint, his wife Sheila, a news reporter trying to get a big scoop, other members of the spy agency, a politician, etc. At times it's a bit hard to follow who is who and what is going on, but like the best of le Carré, slowly and then more quickly, the various stories begin to tie themselves together with an ultimately satisfying ending.

There is a great deal of political and in-office intrigue. Who is phoning the reporter with clues? Who is threatening the politician? Who can Flint trust in his department? Why is he suddenly sent to Northern Ireland? The story is set during the period when the IRA is bombing regularly in London and other English cities, which adds a very interesting atmosphere to the story. I wasn't sure I'd like it, at the beginning, but as the story moved along, it got more and more interesting. Well worth trying if you want to see a different side to Rankin's writing. (3.5 stars)"

Ian Rankin's complete catalogue can be found at this link.

So there you go. Have a great week!

Friday, 3 July 2020

New Books and My Ongoing Look at the Spy / Thriller Genre

Well, another Friday is upon us. Paid the property taxes this week and had a nice bonus of sorts, a further discount because I'll officially be a senior (by their standards) this year. Also sorted out the home insurance. I was planning to stop into my local used book store but there was a line-up to get in, so I'll go back and try again tomorrow. Why was there a line-up you ask? Well, under the Canadian reopening guidelines, the store is limiting 5 people at a time inside. I've no problems with that at all. It definitely makes me feel safer and I'm sure it makes the owners feel the same. So I'll check in again tomorrow, it's been nice to be inside a book store again.

My last two books on order arrived yesterday, one from England so that was also a good thing. I'll update those for you and also continue with my look at the Spy / Thriller genre.

New Books

1. Gideon's Night by J.J. Marric (aka John Creasey) (Commander Gideon #3 / 1957). I've enjoyed the first couple of books in this series and look forward to continuing it.

"On this particular night Commander George Gideon has to deal with a couple of psychopaths, who trail pain and blood in their wake. One targets infants, and the other young women on London’s foggy streets. There’s also an explosive gang war in the offing, and one way or another all of these cases are coming to their breathtaking conclusions at the same time. Can Scotland Yard’s finest deal with such a nightmarish scenario, with what would ordinarily be months of time consuming police work crammed into just one night?"

2. The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery by Kyril Bonfiglioli (Charlie Mortdecai #4). I read the first book in this series a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. I have the complete series now.

"The Hon. Charlie Mortdecai (and his intrepid moustache) is invited to Oxford to investigate the cruel and most definitely unusual death of a don who collided with an omnibus. Though her death appears accidental, one or two things don't add up - such as two pairs of thugs who'd been following her just before her death. With more spies than you could shoe horn into a stretch limo and the solving of the odd murder along the way, The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery is a criminally comic delight."

The Spy / Thriller Novel - Peter O'Donnell

Peter O'Donnell
Peter O'Donnell lived from 1920 - 2010. He was born in Lewisham and died in Brighton. He wrote thrillers and comic books and under the pseudonym, Madeleine Brent, wrote historic romances. He is best known for his stories featuring ex-criminal, now undercover agent who sometimes works for the British government, Modesty Blaise. I'm not sure where I discovered the series, probably listed in the back of one of my other books, but I've now read 4 in this entertaining, action filled thriller series. There are 13 books in the series and I have most of them. I'll check out the first 5 or so for your interest.

1. Modesty Blaise (1965).

"In her first adventure for British Intelligence Modesty Blaise with her loyal lieutenant, Willie Garvin, must foil a multi-million pound diamond heist. They travel from London to the South of France, across the Mediterranean to Cairo before battling, against impossible odds, a private army of professional killers."

My Review - "I've read two other books in this series but finally managed to snag a copy of the first book. It's an entertaining series. Modesty Blaise was a war-orphan who moved about and eventually, relying on strength of character and other factors, ended up running The Network, a successful 'crime' organization that operated in Europe and other locations. 

In this story, she has retired and is living in London, when the secret service asks her to come out retirement to help them stop a major robbery and prevent an international incident. She accepts and bringing along her friend and partner, Willie Garvin, begins an adventure that will take her through the Mediterranean, Egypt and other locations as she tracks down Gabriel and his gang who want to rob a ship of millions in diamonds. It's kind of James Bondish, Doc Savage, etc but with a heroine who is confident, successful and talented. Lots of fun and a good entertaining adventure. (3 stars)"

2. Sabre-Tooth (1966).

"Karz, a modern day Genghis Khan with an army of ruthless mercenaries, plans to take over Kuwait. Modesty Blaise and her loyal lieutenant, Willie Garvin, investigate Karz before an epic battle in the Hindu Kush mountains. Modesty must fight alone to prevent an invasion that will change the world."

My Review "Exactly what I expected and I wasn't disappointed. An interesting adventure/ thriller. Modesty Blaise and her partner Willie take on mercenaries to help out MI-6. Modesty is larger than life, competent, skilled, imaginative and able to think out of any problem. Willie is the perfect partner, what Modesty can't do, he can. Their lives are at risk, but they find ways to even the odd. A perfect Saturday afternoon serial type movie. I enjoyed very much. (3 stars)"

3. I, Lucifer (1967).

"This installment of the Modesty Blaise adventures finds Modesty and faithful friend Willie Garvin trying to get to the bottom of another of Seff's evil plots. When it is discovered that a disturbed young man named Lucifer has the ability to foresee the death of those around him, Seff recruits the boy into his gang and uses his powers of premonition to evil ends, extracting ransom from rich victims who have been told of their impending death. During the course of her investigation Modesty's cover is blown, and she finds herself trapped on Seff's island stronghold and must use all of her guile and brains to escape." (3 stars)

4. A Taste of Death (1969).

"The fourth Modesty Blaise title sees the rugged team of Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin take on impossible odds, pitted against Simon Delicta, the man with a taste for death, and Swordmaster Wenczel in a duel to the death. As the adventure unfolds, travelling from London to Panama before reaching the depths of the Sahara desert, the pair will need all their skills to survive."

My Review - "A Taste for Death is the 4th book in the Modesty Blaise adventure / thriller series by Peter O'Donnell. I enjoyed this as much as the first three. Modesty is a strong, independent woman (think Lara Croft) who finds herself in many sticky situations and is helped to deal with them by her partner / best friend Willie Garvin. Both started out in the criminal world and have retired. Living in England and enjoying life they regularly help British spymaster, Tarrant, with various situations that need an independent, non-governmental hand.

In this story, Willie Garvin is on vacation in Panama, diving for pearls, when he comes across an attack on two women and saves one, her sister being murdered.

The enemies involved include Gabriel and McWhirter, who Modesty and Willie have battled previously. A new foe also is involved, one from Willie's past. The two, along with Modesty's beau, Stephen Collier, must travel to Algeria, to try and save blind Dinah Pilgrim and a group of archeologists from Gabriel and Delicata (one of the more vicious villains I've met yet), risking their lives in the process.
Like the others, this is an entertaining, page turner, with strong likeable characters who you find yourself rooting for. Most enjoyable (3.5 stars)"

5. The Impossible Virgin (1971).

"Mischa Novikov died trying to preserve his discovery of the Impossible Virgin, a secret that meant enormous wealth. But right at the last moment, he babbled. When Modesty makes a forced landing in Central Africa, she meets the man who possesses Novikov's secret without knowing it — Giles Pennyfeather, the guileless and blundering young doctor with a gift for healing. In saving Giles from Brunel, a dangerous killer, she buys yet another ticket to danger, for Brunel is determined to have the secret. Modesty and her lieutenant, Willie Garvin, take on Brunel and his partners in a fierce and devious battle, where Modesty is brought to the most shattering reverse she has ever suffered. How she fights back, and at last learns the truth of the Impossible Virgin and her ferocious guardians, brings this fifth tale in the saga of Modesty Blaise to an astonishing climax."

So there you go. It's an entertaining series so far. The complete listing of O'Donnell's books can be found at this link.

Have a great weekend and if you're celebrating a safe Independence Day weekend. Wear a mask!

Thursday, 2 July 2020

My Ongoing Look at the Spy / Thriller Genre - Anthony Morton

Anthony Morton / JJ Marric / John Creasey
Anthony Morton was one of many pseudonyms of English mystery / thriller writer John Creasey. He lived from 1908 - 1973. He also wrote under the pseudonym JJ Marric (I discussed his Inspector Gideon books in my look at the Mystery genre), Norman Deane, Jeremy York, etc. Over the course of his life he wrote 1 million books.. Er, well I'm exaggerating a bit but he was prolific. In my look at the Spy / Thriller genre I'm going to highlight a series I've only begun to explore, that of The Baron. The series was also turned into a 1960s TV series starring Steve Forrest as The Baron, an antiques dealer and sometimes undercover agent. From 1937 - 1979, he wrote 40+ books in the series. I have read one so far and have 4 more on my book shelves. So let's take a look at them shall we.

1. Meet the Baron (aka The Man in the Blue Mask) (1937).

"John Manering (aka The Baron) makes his first appearance in this volume. Lord Fauntley cannot help showing off both his daughter and the security under which his precious jewels are kept. Mannering finds himself attracted to both .... Money is tight and so he plans a burglary, but this fails and unexpected consequences result. The relationship with Lorna Fauntley flourishes, and a series of high profile thefts and adventures ensure Mannering's future, so he believes, until Lorna equates him with The Baron. One of the many further twists in this award winning novel occurs when the police appear to seek Mannering's help, only to have everything turned upside down as the plot develops . . . .

2. Alias The Baron (aka Alias Blue Mask) (1939)

"John Mannering (aka 'The Baron') bought the Dellamont Emeralds in Paris. They were beautiful, expensive - and sinister. But Mannering, connoisseur of precious gems, chose to ignore their history of misfortune. Then things began to happen - an attempted robbery of the famous jewels; and a quarrel with Lorna Fauntley. Seemingly separate incidents, yet all connected. The strangest thing of all was that someone was impersonating the Baron ....

3. The Baron and the Stolen Legacy (aka Bad for the Baron) (1962).

"John Mannering (aka ‘The Baron’) is a retired jewel thief who is regularly consulted about cases by Scotland Yard. Now, however, he finds himself the chief suspect in a murder and robbery and is locked up in jail where, from his prison cell, he must find the answer to thirteen difficult questions in order to solve the crime and prove his innocence. Meanwhile, the real perpetrators are free and able to further complicate matters and make Mannering’s task even more difficult."

4. Last Laugh for the Baron (1970).

"John Creasey was a thriller writer who wrote over 200 books during his lifetime. He wrote under a number of pseudonyms; J.J. Marric, Anthony Morton, Gordon Ashe, etc. I've enjoyed his Inspector Gideon books (as Marric) very much. I have read one of his Dr. Palfrey books (as Creasey) as well. This was my first attempt at The Baron series. I've had two of the books in the series for a number of years and thought it about time to finally try one.

Last Laugh for the Baron is the 42 book in this series. As I said, Creasey was prolific. The Baron, John Mannering, is an ex-jewel thief, cat burglar, etc. In this book, he's retired from his life and runs an antique store in London. While he is away on business, a strange event occurs. His manager, John Larraby, receives a very strange phone call and sends one of his clerks to investigate. At the same time, a young lady, Belle Danizon, arrives at the shop demanding to speak to Mannering. When Mannering is caught up with via a phone call, she leaves him with a strange message.

So there you go, that's the start of this story. As it progresses, we follow a series of jewel robberies from rich families of London, with their adult children suspected of involvement, a threat to the career of Mannering's friend, Inspector Bristow and murders and threats to Mannering's wife. The central villain is a mysterious man who seems to have power over the young people.

Mannering must rekindle his skills as The Baron in fighting the stranger, a man called Yenn, and utilize all of the friendships at his disposal to try and solve what is going on and to save himself and these same friends. It's all a bit of a wild ride, reminding me of The Avengers TV show from the '60s. In fact, The Baron was also turned into a TV series (I've got to find an episode or two) starring Steve Forrest as The Baron.

Suspend disbelief, get a bowl of popcorn and just enjoy a light, entertaining, pulp action / mystery. Don't expect any grand motives or such, just entertainment. Now to find a few more of the series. (3 stars)"

e. The Baron and the Arrogant Artist (1972).

"When an unpleasant young man called Forrester forced his way into Quinns, determined that Mannering should finance his artistic efforts, the art dealer was firm but unimpressed.

The Baron was not to know that later that day he would receive a desperate phone call from the artist's terrified girl-friend. She had found Forrester half-dead, hanging with a noose round his neck.

But why should such a brash young man want to kill himself? Or was he the victim of attempted murder?"

So there you go folks. The complete listing of this author's works can be found at this link.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

My June 2020 Reading Update

Bonnie and Clyde wish you a Happy Canada Day
Jo and I and the puppies are having a relaxing day so far. It's sunny, cool and breezy. I think I'll be bbq'ing burgers for dinner tonight. Right now though below is my Reading update for June. I'm happy with my progress and hope it continues for the last half of the year.

Jun 2020
General Info               Jun                 Total (Including my current read)
Books Read -                 11                    64
Pages Read -               3300                18100 (Avg per book - 282)

Pages Breakdown
    < 250                           7                    32       
250 - 350                         1                    16
351 - 450                         1                    11
   > 450                            2                      5

5 - star                                                     6
4 - star                             8                    36
3 - star                             3                    21
2 - star
No Rating (NR)                                      1                       

Female                            3                    32
Male                                8                    32

Horror                             1                     4
Fiction                            5                   18
Mystery                          4                   37
SciFi                               1                     3
Non-Fic                                                 1
Young Adult                                          1

Top 3 Books

1. Dean Koontz - Brother Odd (4.5 stars)
2. Jean Rhys - Wide Sargasso Sea (4 stars)
3. Deborah Harkness - A Discovery of Witches (4 stars)


12 + 4 (Finish off Some Series) (completed 9)
1. Evelyn Waugh - Unconditional Surrender (4 stars)
2. Ian Fleming - The Man with the Golden Gun (4 stars)

Individual Challenge - First Book in Series (completed 9)
1. Deborah Harkness - A Discovery of Witches (4 stars)
2. Andrea Camilleri - The Shape of Water (4 stars)
3. Magdalen Nabb - Death of an Englishman (3.5 stars)

Individual Challenge - Next Book in Series (completed 17)
1. Dean Koontz - Brother Odd (4.5 stars)
2. Alexander McCall Smith - Blue Shoes of Happiness (4 stars)

Individual Challenge - Non Series (completed 14)
1. Joseph Kanon - Stardust (4 stars)
2. Jean Rhys - Wide Sargasso Sea (4 stars)

Monthly Challenge - January (CanCon) (completed 1)
Monthly Challenge - February (Margaret Millar) (completed 4)
Monthly Challenge - March (C.S. Forester) (completed 3)
Monthly Challenge - April (Minette Walters) (completed 2)
Monthly Challenge - May (Dennis Wheatley) (completed 2)

Monthly Challenge - June (George Orwell) (completed 2)
1. A Clergyman's Daughter (4 stars)
2. Coming Up for Air (3.5 stars)

Currently Reading

1. 12 + 4 Challenge - Guillermo del Toro - The Night Eternal
2. First in Series - Taylor Stevens - The Informationist (Vanessa Munroe #1)
3. Next in Series - Julie Smith - New Orleans Beat (Skip Langdon #3)
4. Non-Series - Paula Hawkins - The Girl on the Train
5. July Challenge (Graham Greene) - It's a Battlefield (1934)

Next In Line (Possibles)

1. 12 + 4 Challenge - John Buchan - The Courts of Morning
2. First in Series - Kerry Greenwood - Earthly Delights (Corinna Chapman #1)
3. Next in Series - Michael Connelly - The Concrete Blonde (Harry Bosch #3)
4. Non-Series - Malcolm Gladwell - Talking to Strangers (2019)
5. July Challenge (Graham Greene) - England Made Me (1935)

Back to your regularly scheduled programming next post. Take care.

Your Canada Day Mid-week Music Medley


Here are your three Canada Day music selections, obviously from Canadian artists.

1. Canadian singer - songwriter Mac Demarco from Duncan, British Columbia - On The Level (2017).

2. Canadian singer - songwriter - producer The Weeknd from Toronto, Ontario - Blinding Lights (2019).

3. Canadian EDM duo Young Bombs from Vancouver, British Columbia - Starry Eyes (2019).

I might do my Monthly Reading Update later today. Enjoy your Canada Day. Stay safe!

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

New Books and a Reading Update

Just a quick entry today. It's the 30th of June, tomorrow is Canada Day. I finished my last book of June this morning. I'll update that plus what I'm starting next. I also have a few new books, two came in the mail and my neighbour gave me another one.

Just Finished

1. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

"Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) is the 3rd book I've read by Jean Rhys. I can't say she is one of my favorite authors but she has a unique style. Wide Sargasso Sea is a period piece, set in the Caribbean Islands. It follows Annette, who is also the lady in the tower in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.

The story is told in three parts; the first is narrated by Annette and follows her life from childhood until she is introduced to Rochester (not named in the book); the second is narrated by Rochester, describing his marriage and their life at their honeymoon home near a town called Massacre; the third part has moved to England and Rochester's home and is narrated first by Grace Poole (the nurse) and finally by Annette.

It's a fascinating story, often harsh and depressing. Annette's childhood is actually quite terrifying, her mother alone with a sick boy and a young girl and being harassed by Negro population and also looked down upon by the English population. It's a period I'm not familiar with set after the Emancipation Act of 1833, when the Negro slaves were freed in the Caribbean Islands. It's a period of transition and Annette and her mother do not fit into any group. Annette's mother was a Creole women who had married a white Englishman, meaning she didn't fit into any group. It makes her life harsh and ultimately there is a tragic event. (You read it). Annette ultimately is married off to Rochester and we follow that part of her life, also tragic.

Reading the story made me think of the current situation in the US with the BLM movement. Wide Sargasso Sea is only peripherally related but the underlying issue of race made it especially topical. The story has a dark tone throughout. The different narrative perspectives makes it interesting and at times difficult to follow. But the story does draw you in and it can be difficult to put down. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She's even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life--as she sees it--is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It's only a minute until the train moves on, but it's enough. Now everything's changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?"

New Books

1. Without Trumpet or Drum by John Sanders (Nicholas Pym #3)

"In a fast-moving tale of witchcraft, desperate chases and heady excitement Colonel Nicholas Pym investigates a warlock scientist and the strange rites practised at a country mansion .. crosses swords with a dangerous bigot who threatens a new Civil War ... and foils an attempted assassination - with his old enemy Charles Stuart fighting at his side ..."

2. Tourist Trap by Julie Smith (Rebecca Schwartz #3).

"The Edgar Award-winning author of New Orleans Mourning offers more of her bestselling series starring San Francisco lawyer/sleuth Rebecca Schwartz. Rebecca heads to an Easter morning sunrise service and gets the shock of her life: the body of a tourist has been nailed to the cross."

3. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell.

"How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn't true?

While tackling these questions, Malcolm Gladwell was not solely writing a book for the page. He was also producing for the ear. In the audio book version of Talking to Strangers, you'll hear the voices of people he interviewed--scientists, criminologists, military psychologists. Court transcripts are brought to life with re-enactments. You actually hear the contentious arrest of Sandra Bland by the side of the road in Texas. As Gladwell revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath, you hear directly from many of the players in these real-life tragedies. There's even a theme song - Janelle Monae's "Hell You Talmbout."

Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don't know. And because we don't know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world."

There you go. For anyone celebrating Canada Day tomorrow, enjoy but stay safe. Wear a mask if you're outdoors.
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