Thursday, 19 September 2019

A Thursday Reading Update

Another week winding down. It's been a bit quieter since my last update. I've done a bit of shopping, did a drive-by at some of the local free lending libraries to drop off a few books and also to  my local used book store, Nearly New Books, to drop some off and check out their stock. Jo and I continue to watch the Blue Jays play ball. They are at least ending the season off somewhat positively. The day before yesterday one of their young players, Cavan Biggio hit for the cycle and yesterday they came back from 9 - 5 down to beat the Orioles soundly, with a grand slam from Mr. Grichuk.

The new TV season starts next week and there are some new shows that look interesting, Evil for one. But this week our national network, the CBC, has started its new season. Great to see Murdoch Mysteries and Frankie Drake back and also the Baroness Von Sketch show. The Great Canadian Baking Show started last night but we recorded it. On Tuesday there was another sketch comedy show that looks promising, TallBoyz. There were definitely a few laugh out loud moments in the first half hour. What Jo and I are really looking forward to is the return of Battle of the Blades. It went for three or four season a few years back and then CBC didn't renew it. Don't know why at all. It's such a neat concept; pro hockey players learning to figure skate as doubles acts with pro figure skaters. I just hope it's as good as it used to be. That's tonight.

You're supposed to be talking about books, Dad!
So there you go, a brief look at the past week. Now, as Clyde so correctly points out, time to focus on the subject of this BLog, books! Since my last update, I've finished 4 books (three mystery novels and one more graphic novel). I've received a book in the mail and also purchased one during my day out yesterday. So with this entry, I'll update my reading, new books started and those I purchased. If I have time, I'll continue with my look at the Mystery genre - American cops.

New Books

1. Ghost of the Well of Souls by Jack L. Chalker (Well World #7). I read the first five books in this SciFi / Fantasy series many, many moons ago and when I first got to the West Coast, I read the three latest ones. For some reason I didn't realize that there were two more. It was a great, unique series about adventures on the Hex World. I've now purchased the remaining two books.

"On the mysterious Well World, the evil tyrant Josich and his dark agents search desperately for the eight scattered pieces of the fabled Straight Gate. Whoever possesses the Gate will wield enormous power, traveling between universes at the speed of light and wreaking havoc across galaxies.

Opposing Josich is a small band of travelers new to the Well World. There is Core, once a machine, now flesh and blood; Ming and Ari, two minds sharing a single body; Jaysu, an angel; and Genghis O'Leary, a lizard being. Unbeknownst to them, they have an unlikely ally; a vengeful entity who is able to clone any person or object with a single touch - and mete out death just as swift..."

2. The Rat Catchers' Olympics by Colin Cotterill (Dr. Siri Paiboun #12). I've read the first two books in this great series and one of Cotterill's Jimm Juree series. If you like the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, you'll like this one too.

"1980: The Democratic People's Republic of Laos is proud to be competing in its first-ever Olympics. Of course, half the world is boycotting the Moscow Summer Olympic Games to protest Russia's recent invasion of Afghanistan, but that has made room for athletes from countries that are usually too small or underfunded to be competitive—countries like Laos.

Ex-national coroner of Laos Dr. Siri Paiboun may be retired, but he and his wife, Madame Daeng, would do just about anything to have a chance to visit Moscow, so Siri finagles them the job of medical oversight for the Olympians. Most of the athletes are young and innocent village people who have never worn shoes, never mind imagined anything as marvelous as the Moscow Olympic Village. As the competition heats up, however, Siri begins to suspect that one of the athletes is not who he says he is. Fearing a conspiracy, Siri and his friends investigate, liaising in secret with Inspector Phosy back home in Laos to see if the man might be an assassin. But Siri's progress is derailed when another Lao Olympian is accused of murder. Now in the midst of a murky international incident, Dr. Siri must navigate not one but two paranoid and secretive government machines to make sure justice is done."

Just Finished

1.  The Magdalena - Blood Divine by M.M. (Marcia) Chen. This is one of the graphic novels I chose as part of my UK Book Club September Genre Challenge - Graphic Novels. I've got one on order and may end up reading one more before end September if it arrives on time.

"The Magdalena by M.M. Chen is a well-drawn action-packed graphic novel. I discovered her when I was enjoying various other Top Cow heroines; Lara Croft, Fathom, and Witchblade, to name a few. The Magdalena is a warrior for the Catholic Church. She is descended from Mary Magdalene and supports the Church in its battles against demons and such. She possesses the Spear of Destiny, made from the spear that pierced Christ's side while he was on the cross. She has other powers, such as the ability to determine if someone is evil.

I think in this story they tried a bit too hard. The artwork, while still dark and rich, is often filled with too many people and objects to make sense of who is who. I found the story in this one also a bit convoluted. There were two ongoing story-lines, one in Paris where the Magdalena is investigating the murder of a priest in an orphanage and it looks like 'vampires'. As well, a priest has arrived at the Vatican from Belgium with a discovery; ancient artifacts and a letter from one of the original Magdalena's to her daughter, telling her that the Church is corrupt. Does that mean that the Magdalena is a threat to the Church?? So there you go, that's the basic story; the Magdalena asks for help to kill the vampires and is sent other Church warriors (who may have been part of the original Inquisition.. complex?). Are the vampires actually a threat? You'll have to find that out. Lots of action and interesting artwork.

There is a bonus story at the end, where the Magdalena goes to Central America to contact Angelus, an ancient deity. They really tried to cram too much into this short story. Anyway, I do like The Magdalena, another powerful female comic character, this just wasn't her best story. (3 stars)"

If you are interested in comics / graphic novels, I did write a few threads on the subject back a few years ago. If you scroll down the main page of this BLog, you will note in the right hand column, a topic called Labels. I highlight my individual threads with specific labels. There is one called Comic Books. That will provide all of my threads where I discuss that topic. Or... lol... I guess I could just do it for you and provide a link, eh? So there it is.. Comics

2.  Gideon's Week by J.J. Marric (Commander Gideon #2). One of my favorite books of September so far.

"Gideon's Week is the 2nd book in the Commander Gideon series by prolific author, J.J. Marric. In many ways it reminds me of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series. Both are excellent police procedurals. They are concise, well-crafted and grab your attention.

In Gideon's Week, Commander George Gideon of Scotland Yard is dealing with many situations. The main crisis is a prison break in Manchester. Of the 9 men who have escaped was one Syd Benson, gangster, murderer. He was put in prison by Gideon on the testimony of Benson's wife. Benson wants to get down to London to get vengeance on his wife. As they wait to see if Benson and the other escapees are captured or make it to London, Gideon prepares the force, protecting Mrs Benson and her children.

As well, the daily caseload never stops. Bad weather helped the escape in Manchester and kept the day-to-day criminal activities in London down. But the weather is improving and while Gideon's force is stretched thin, robberies are on the uptake as well as other crimes. These must be dealt with as well. There are other cases that take up Gideon's time, including the suspected murder of a young woman by her boyfriend. This case incites the interest of one of Gideon's daughters.

The story is fascinating, moves along nicely and holds your attention throughout. The various cases are all detailed and investigated individually, with Gideon tying them all together. There is intimidation, tension and excellent character development. All in all, an excellent mystery, well worth attempting. (4.5 stars)"

3. The Rose Rent by Ellis Peters (Cadfael #13). I've enjoyed this series immensely. It's one of my regular comfort reads.

"I've always enjoyed Ellis Peters's Cadfael mystery series. The 13th book in the series, The Rose Rent was no exception. Cadfael is one of a few historical mystery series that I have particularly enjoyed; e.g. The Mistress of the Art of Death and also the Matthew Shardlake books. Cadfael is set the earliest I think. This story takes place in May 1142 in the town of Shrewsbury mainly at the Abbey where Cadfael works as a monk. The story is set during the battles between King Stephen and Queen Maud for overall rule of England. While some of the other stories use these wars as key aspects to the stories, it plays relatively no role in this particularly story.

A wealthy widow, Judith Perle, has rented her manor to the Abbey. With the deaths of her husband and child she no longer needs the house and instead lives in the home attached to her factory. In the garden of the manor is a rose bush. On the day of St Winifred's holiday, the abbey were to give Judith one rose from the bush as the annual rent. Currently living in the manor is a widower, a craftsman.

The rose is normally given by a young trainee monk who finds himself attracted to Judith. He asks to be taken off the duty. After this preamble to introduce the plot, the young monk is found dead at the base of the rose bush, which has been chopped but not destroyed. Various reasons are provided for this action. If the rose bush is destroyed, the arrangement Judith has with the monastery would become nul and void. A number of wealthy merchants in the town want to marry her to gain access to her properties.

Cadfael and Hugh (the sheriff of Shrewsbury) begin to investigate the murder. Other events take place that will add to the tension and the urgency of solving the crime(s). It's an interesting story. You will be lead down paths to various possible solutions and then (I hope) to a nice surprise and ultimately satisfying ending. Cadfael is always an interesting, a down-to-earth ex-soldier who found the monk-hood late in life. He is always thoughtful and has a nice knack for working through the clues to solve crimes (probably pretty useful when it comes to crime solving, eh?) The stories never disappoint (3.5 stars)"

4. Jazz Funeral by Julia Smith (Skip Langdon #3). I've read books from all three of Smith's various mystery series. I've struggled with some and this was one of those, unfortunately.

"I readily admit that I struggled with Jazz Funeral by Julie Smith. This is the 3rd book in the Skip Langdon mystery series set in New Orleans. The basic gist of the story is that jazz impresario, Ham Brocato, is found murdered in his home, just before the big party at his home to open the annual Jazz and Heritage Festival. At the same time, Ham's younger sister Melody disappears; a suspect or maybe a witness? Other suspects include Ti-Belle, a singer discovered by Ham and his live-in lover, or maybe his father, Gregory or even his mother Patty.

It's a rambling sort of story with all sorts of main characters; Skip, of course, but also Ti-Belle, Melody and the fore-mentioned Gregory and Patty. Skip is looking for Melody, trying to find her in case she is in danger. Melody has run away from home (for what reason?) and hiding out in New Orleans town center. It's just a disconnected story and there is no real investigation of the murder... other than Skip showing up at peoples' homes and asking a few questions.

The more I got into the story, the better it got, but it was still frustrating. No real police work, just wandering from character to character. Unfortunately, I didn't find any of them particularly sympathetic and some (Melody) were down right irritating. Maybe I just can't relate to teenagers anymore. Even the ending was sort of a throw-in. I do have the next book on my shelf and will read it, but I don't know if I'll be in a particular hurry to grab it. (2.5 stars)"

Currently Reading
I've started the following books since my last entry.

1. Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton (Anita Blake #16). It's been a few years since I last explored Hamilton's fantasy world. I've started the book and I guess there will be some sex in this particular story. Yup, definitely some sex...

"A favor for Jason, vampire hunter Anita Blake's werewolf lover, puts her in the center of a full-blown scandal that threatens master-vampire Jean- Claude's reign, and makes her a pawn in an ancient vampire queen's new rise to power."

2. The Last Temptation by Val McDermid (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan #3). I've enjoyed the first two books in this mystery / thriller series. I hope this is as good.

"Coming to terms over her breakup with criminal profiler Dr. Tony Hill, Chief Inspector Carol Jordan plunges into a risky undercover sting: track down a European drug trafficker and gain his confidence. But she's being tracked as well-by a serial killer whose psycho-sexual madness is born out of the darkest corners of history. In quiet isolation, Tony Hill is laying to rest the scars of his past-until he's recruited back into business on a case he can't ignore. An evil is striking uncomfortably close to home, and casting a killer shadow over the life of his long-time colleague and sometimes lover. As the danger closes in, and as Tony and Carol cross paths to navigate the terrain of a shattered human mind, they have no one left to trust but themselves-and fear that there's no place left to run as a killer promises to fulfill his most twisted dreams."

My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - American Cops

Lyn Hightower
1. Lyn Hightower - Detective Sonora Blair.  I've highlighted Lyn Hightower previously in my look at American PI's. She has written 4 books in this series featuring police detective Sonora Blair. Back in the early 2000's I read the fourth book in the series. It's taken me a little while to find other books by Hightower. I've currently got the third book in the series on my book shelf.

a. Eyeshot (#1 / 1986)
b. Flashpoint (#2 / 1995)

c. No Good Deed (#3 / 1998).

"It happened in broad daylight.  .  . 

The pretty fifteen-year-old had saddled up for an afternoon ride and never come back.

She was gone.  So was her horse.  Left behind was a splintered fence.  The tracks of a pickup truck.  A discarded riding boot.  And a great deal of blood.

As a mother herself, Cincinnati detective Sonora Blair knew she was looking at a parent's worst nightmare.  As a homicide cop, she tried not to think about what might be happening to the young girl right now .  .  .  or what the police would find if they didn't get to her in time. 

But nothing in Sonora's experience could prepare her for the chilling revelations that would emerge from this case .  .  .  or for the truth about other missing children, a lover's betrayal, and another unthinkable crime.  .  ."

d.  The Debt Collector (#4 / 1999). This was my first exposure to Lyn Hightower and I was very impressed with it. As I recall it was an interesting look at the cheque cashing industry.

"'No survivors,' Sonora Blair said to herself as she passed through the front door of a neat suburban home ... and entered a scene of horror: a family caught in the middle of an ordinary day, caught by a killer’s rage. Then Sonora found the dying mother huddled under her bed, and heard her last words: 'Two men. And the Angel.'

Within forty-eight hours, Sonora’s fellow detectives have two killers in jail and the case neatly wrapped. But Sonora — a good cop, a single mother, and a woman who has been a little too lonely a little too long — believes there is something more to this case. A third man in that house — maybe a killer, maybe a savior. And as she moves further down a trail full of shocking surprises, bitter revelations and unpaid debts, Sonora knows one thing for sure: if 'The Angel' is out there she will find him — and give him his due..."

So there you go. I hope you see some interesting books here. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Thursday, 12 September 2019

A Thursday Reading Update

That feels better
It's been a busy week. The puppies have been to the cleaners and look neat and trim and smell pretty good too. 😏

Yesterday I went and donated at the Blood Clinic. Happy that my blood pressure was pretty good. This morning I went for my physio treatment and even got a hair cut. Whew! Now that's busy.. I am retired you know! Tonight we're going to treat ourselves with either a curry or a pizza.

We've finally had some rain. It's been raining all day. Funny how Fall has come up on us so quickly. It's getting dark earlier, staying dark longer.

Well, how about some book discussion. Since my last entry, two books have arrived in the mail. I've finished two books and one graphic novel and have started 2 more. I'll update that and if I have the energy, I'll continue with my look at the Mystery Genre - American Cops. (I'm supposed to be weak from giving blood.. lol). So without further ado, here we go.

New Books

1. Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (Fantasy / Young Adult). This is the first book in The Dark is Rising series.


Throughout time, the forces of good and evil have battled continuously, maintaining the balance. Whenever evil forces grow too powerful, a champion of good is called to drive them back. Now, with evil's power rising and a champion yet to be found, three siblings find themselves at the center of a mystical war.

Jane, Simon, and Barney Drew have discovered an ancient text that reads of a legendary grail lost centuries ago. The grail is an object of great power, buried with a vital secret. As the Drews race against the forces of evil, they must piece together the text's clues to find the grail -- and keep its secret safe until a new champion rises."

2. The Cool Cottontail by John Ball. (Virgil Tibbs #2) I enjoyed In the Heat of the Night very much. This is the 2nd book in the series.

"The Cool Cottontail is the second Virgil Tibbs mystery series (the first being In the Heat of the Night). In this mystery, Tibbs finds himself at a nudist colony in Los Angeles where the victim (who was not one of the guests) is found floating dead in the pool. Set against this unusual backdrop, the guests of the resort prefer guarding their secrets to solving the murder mystery, particularly when the investigating detective is black. Author John Ball often used social issues of the day to feature as issues in his work, making his work controversial but at the same time, some of the best and most relevant fiction of his time. Along with racism other social taboos, Ball had no problem with nudism; naked people are the least of the problems these characters face."

Just Finished

1. Friends in High Places by Donna Leon (Inspector Brunetti #9). One of my favorite series.

"I always enjoy reading an Inspector Brunetti mystery. Friends in High Places is the 9th book in the series created by Donna Leon and it contains the regular cast of excellent characters.

Brunetti is relaxing alone at home one Saturday; his wife Paola and two children are all out. Brunetti is reading the Anabasis, a story written by Greek philosopher and warrior, Xenophon, when he is interrupted by one Franco Rossi who works for the Ufficio Catasto. (I understood it to be the Venician government department dealing with housing licenses, etc.) Signore Rossi wants to ensure that Brunetti's top floor apartment is official. Due to a reorganization within the various organizations, it appears that no official paperwork has ever been filed authorizing this apartment. Brunetti risks both fines and possibly having the apartment dismantled.

Thrown into this mix are the crimes; one being Rossi's eventual death (murder?) at the site of another apartment. His body is discovered after Rossi tries to make an appointment with Brunetti for some secretive meeting. As well, Vice Questore Patta (Brunetti's boss and pain in the ass) needs Brunetti's help because his son was arrested on suspicion of dealing drugs. Finally, a young man is found dead in another building of an apparent overdose.

So these are the cases that will occupy Brunetti's time in this entertaining mystery set in Venice. As always we get to meet the wonderful, capable, intelligent, beautiful Signora Ellettra (Patto's secretary and Brunetti's source of information), his Sergeant Vianello, straight forward and competent, and Brunetti's family, his wonderful wife Paola, his son Raffi and daughter Chiara. Such a wonderful cast of regular characters, who all play important roles in assisting Brunetti or living with him.

The cases are all very intriguing and possibly intertwined. Other bodies crop up and besides the drug trade we discover the evil world of loan-sharking which may play an even more important role in Brunetti's case. I do enjoy how Brunetti gathers information; using the skills of Signora Elletra, and also of Brunetti's friends who he meets throughout the city.

I enjoyed this story. The ending wasn't necessarily a pat one but it was also a satisfying one. I loved the atmosphere that Donna Leon creates and the characters and dialogue and the food and the city. There isn't much not to enjoy in her Brunetti series and this story did not let me down.  I look forward to visiting with this wonderful cast of characters again in the near future. (4 stars)"

2. Birds of Prey Vol. 3 - Of Like Minds by Gail Simone.

"As a kid I always liked strong female characters. I preferred reading Nancy Drew and the Dana Twins to the Hardy Boys. When I started reading comic books, I liked Super-girl and Bat-girl, amongst other super heros. Leap forward many years, I liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena and when the TV series came out, Birds of Prey. Strong, intelligent, beautiful women.. what's not to like.

So after enjoying the TV series, I did try some of the comics (graphic novels) featuring them as well. Birds of Prey, Vol. 3: Of Like Minds is the third volume of the series by Gail Simone and it didn't disappoint. Excellent drawing (yup, probably not the technical terminology), great colours and an entertaining, action filled story with sufficiently satisfactory dialogue and emotional content.

The Birds of Prey are Oracle, Commissioner Gordon's daughter, ex Bat-girl who is paralyzed from the waist down from being shot years ago. She has assumed the role of Oracle, the computer genius who is the lead of the Birds of Prey. Black Canary is her eyes on the ground, ex of the Justice League. She can fight, shoot and has the sonic cry. Also assisting at times but not trusted by Oracle is The Huntress, trained by the Mafia, expert with bow, guns, etc. They are the main characters in this novel, with a brief appearance by the new Bat-girl.

Black Canary is on the job trying to exact justice on Mr. Fisher who has been robbing clients of their money and is planning to escape the country. They let him go when he tells them he is being blackmailed. Tricked into going back to Fisher's house (he is threatening to kill his family and himself), Canary is trapped by Savant, the mastermind who is blackmailing Fisher and many other wealthy crooked people. Savant and his assistant want Oracle to work for him or he will kill Canary. He wants to know Batman's real identity and and also Oracle's. Oracle must get Huntresses assistance to save Canary's life.

That's the gist of the story. As I said, lots of excellent action; strong women; great drawings and a fun, entertaining read. Loved it (3.5 stars)"

3. Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh (Inspector Alleyn #9).

"Death at the Bar is the 9th book in the Inspector Roderick Alleyn mystery series by Ngaio Marsh and the 14th that I've read; obviously not all sequence. I don't think it's critical to read them in order but there are changes in Alleyn's life that do make it worth while to do so.

The story start at an isolated village and pub in south Devon. We meet the main characters; one Luke Watchman, distinguished barrister, gets into a fender bender with another man, while on his way to the Plume of Feathers. He plans to spend his annual holiday with his cousin; an actor and his best friend, a painter. The rest of the cast is a small group; a young woman graduate, a lady (another painter) from Ireland, a drunk farmer and the inn owner and his son. Someone will die and although the inquest seems to indicate it may have been an accident, the inn owner, not satisfied and also fearing for his inn's reputation, goes to Scotland Yard and presents himself to Inspector Alleyn and his intrepid Sgt Fox. Alleyn can't just go lollygagging down to Devon without a request from the local authorities but this also comes.

So our two intrepid investigators head off to see what's what and that's the gist of the story. It appears that the victim has been poisoned with arsenic. How this happened is one of the subjects of the inquiry. Was it when he was pricked by a dart? Was it when he drank the glass of brandy? Or something else? And who might have done it? The woman he harassed? The cousin who would inherit his estate? The man who collided with him? Or one of the others?

It's an interesting, nicely paced mystery, as are all of the Alleyn mysteries. The witnesses / suspects aren't very forthcoming, quite often due to their distrust of the police; the big machine! Alleyn and Fox make a great team, one playing off the other and the local police are also interesting enough. The story builds very nicely and gets quite exciting as we near the end, no big bombs going off or anything like that, but very tense. All in all, a satisfying, excellent, entertaining story. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. The Rose Rent by Ellis Peters (Cadfael #13).

"When Judith Perle's husband dies, the young widow bestows one of her properties - a house in the Monk's Foregate - on the Abbey of Shrewsbury. The only rent: a single white rose, to be delivered, annually upon the day of translation of St. Winifred.

But a beautiful woman with a substantial dowry must represent a target for would-be suitors. How much greater the dowry if the house should revert to her! Someone, it seems, will stop at nothing to prevent payment of the rose. In the summer of 1142, te rose is violently hacked down and lying beside it, equally brutally hacked, a murdered man is discovered.

To Brother Cadfael, as ever, falls the enquiry into this sensational crime of passion."

2. All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse #7).

"Louisiana cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has her hands full dealing with every sort of undead and paranormal creature imaginable. And after being betrayed by her longtime vampire love, Sookie must not only deal with a new man in her life—the shapeshifter Quinn—but also contend with the long-planned vampire summit.

The summit is a tense situation. The vampire queen of Louisiana is in a precarious position, her power base weakened by hurricane damage to New Orleans. And there are some vamps who would like to finish what nature started. Soon, Sookie must decide what side she'll stand with. And her choice may mean the difference between survival and all-out catastrophe."

My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - American Cops
In my last entry on this topic, I highlighted Lisa Gardner's Quincy & Rainey mystery series. In this one, I'll look at another of her series, that featuring Boston Police Detective D.D. Warren .

Lisa Gardner
1. Lisa Gardner - D.D. Warren. Gardner has written 12 books in this series. It's a new series for me. I currently have two books in the series.

a. Live to Tell (DD Warren #4 / 2010).

"On a warm summer night, in a working-class Boston neighborhood, four family members are brutally murdered. The father—and possible suspect—clings to life in the ICU. Murder-suicide? Or something even worse? Veteran police detective D. D. Warren is certain of only one thing: There’s more to this case than meets the eye.

Danielle Burton is not only a dedicated nurse at a locked-down pediatric psych ward but the haunted survivor of a shattered life. Meanwhile, devoted mother Victoria Oliver will do anything to ensure that her troubled son has some semblance of a childhood.

The lives of these three women unfold and connect in unexpected ways, as sins from the past emerge—and stunning secrets reveal just how tightly blood ties can bind. Sometimes the most devastating crimes are the ones closest to home."

b. Catch Me (D.D. Warren #6 / 2012).

"Charlene Grant believes she is going to die. For the past few years, her childhood friends have been murdered one by one. Same day. Same time. Now she’s the last of her friends alive, and she’s counting down the final four days of her life until January 21.

Charlene doesn’t plan on going down without a fight. She has taken up boxing, shooting, and running. She also wants Boston’s top homicide detective, D. D. Warren, to handle the investigation.

But as D.D. delves deeper into the case, she starts to question the woman’s story. Instinct tells her that Charlene may not be in any danger at all. If that’s true, the woman must have a secret—one so terrifying that it alone could be the greatest threat of all."

The remaining books in the D.D. Warren series can be found at this link.

Friday, 6 September 2019

My First September Reading Update

The Great Presidential Sharpie Crisis
Well, here it is, September already. Labour Day weekend is past, the kids are back at school,  baseball season is winding down and it's a warmish day outside this afternoon. Just finished watching Deadline: White House and waiting for the evening's TV. The new series Pennyworth starts tonight and Janet King is on later on. Plus I will keep an eye on the Blue Jays to see if they might be able to play a bit of a spoiler role in the play off race.

Regarding books, I received two I had on order in the mail this week. I've finished three books this week. Actually they were graphic novels as in one of my reading groups the graphic novel is the genre of the month. It's been kind of nice refreshing myself with some of my favorites. I've started one other book as well since my end month update. I'll update all of that and if this doesn't take too long I'll continue with another entry in my Mystery genre entries.

So without further ado, here we go.

Whatcha doing Dad? You have big feet, you know!
New Books

1. Death of a Stray Cat by Jean Potts. I've read one of Jean Potts' mysteries before and enjoyed it. She had a unique style. I'm hoping this one is as good.

"She started a hoarse scream, turned it into a whimper as the fingers twisted and dug into her arm. There was no one to hear, anyway. From over by the fireplace came the sprightly chirp of a cricket. No other sound, except their panting, hers and his.

"No. Please. No," she whispered.

"Why did you have to come?" he asked again, "I can't stand it. Don't you see? I have to." The fingers moved up her two arms, encircled, almost tenderly, her long, pulsing throat..."

2. The Python Project by Victor Canning (Rex Carver #3).

"Private investigator Rex Carver accepts a mundane commission to recover a gold python arm bracelet and steps right into a spider's web of intrigue involving the secret services. As the plot ricochets between Paris, Italy, Libya, Tunisia and Ibiza, with Carver dodging bullets from all sides, Canning justifies his reputation as one of the finest thriller writers in the world."

Just Finished

1. Tank Girl: Carioca by Alan Martin.

"Tank Girl: Carioca #3 was my first exposure to this graphic novel series by Alan C. Martin. I remember watching the movie when it came out and thinking it was very strange. This graphic novel also would fit that category, but at the same time, it was very entertaining.

This story finds Tank Girl and her friends, Booga, and the others trying to change the course of their lives by practicing Carioca, a kind of peaceful Buddhism philosophy. However, they are attacked by a team of hit men, hired by U-Leen Happy as she wants to exact revenge on Tank Girl for the killing of her husband. Tank Girl and her friends decide they need to take out U-Leen. On their way to U-Leen's beer factory, they discover Jet Girl's burned out jet and think she is dead. In fact, the body belongs to Jet's butler.

OK, there's the story but I wouldn't take it too seriously. This is a wild, fun, frisky adventure. The story is filled with songs and fun and fighting. That's all you really need to know. It's quirky and entertaining and I liked the drawings and ink work. I will have to get the rest of the Carioca story as re-reading this has piqued my interest in this series. (3 stars)"

2. Tank Girl: Bad Moon Rising by Alan Martin.

"Tank Girl: Bad Wind Rising is an entertaining graphic novel by Alan C. Martin. This is the 2nd of this series that I've enjoyed.

Tank Girl and her friend, kangaroo Booga, have had devices planted in their bodies, to monitor their whereabouts and also to affect their nervous systems and cause them to fight and argue with each other. While the gang is resting and relaxing, Booga is sent to get some treats. Because he doesn't have sufficient money, he decides to rob the post office but an alarm is set and brings the police. Tank Girl brings the tank to rescue Booga. This sets off a chain of events, a fight and split between Booga and Tank Girl. Tank Girl leaves with another of her group, Jet Girl and they go to visit Green Norman, while Booga and Barn, help two other folks take part in the robbery of a truck full of weapons.

Unfortunately it turns out that the truck is full of boxes of underwear and is driven by members of Booga's old gang of Kangaroos. Tank Girl and Jet Girl try to discover who has placed the tracker in Tank Girl and get involved with a mad scientist.

So there you go, the gist of the story. Make sense? :0)  All in all, as per the other graphic novel I read featuring Tank Girl, it's a fun, entertaining, wild ride. The artwork is excellent and the story is excellent, totally wild and fun. Don't expect anything deep and profound, but you will be entertained. I do want to read more of this series. (3.5 stars)"

3. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier by Alan Moore.

"Alan Moore is a prolific writer. His League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book series encompassed 2 Volumes of six issues each as well as his graphic novel, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier. The novel is written in both comic book and novel form. It tells the story of Mina Harker and Alan Quartermain, both part of the original League, which has been long-disbanded, now in the 1950s. They seek and find and try to escape with the Black Dossier, a legendary document that purportedly details all known facts of the League.

Their adventures as they try to escape England and its spies, led by M, now one Harry Lime, are told in comic book form. But as they rest and take respite, they read the Dossier, in a more novelish form complete with drawings and photos. The stories that make up the Dossier cover the history of the League, its varied break-ups, its reformations, its battles. It's fascinating reading, in many different styles as the stories progress through the ages. We have Orlando, whose gender changes from man to woman and back over the course of his life. We hear the continued adventures of Fanny Hill as she travels the world (this section has a large number of erotic drawings). We find out how Mina Harker recruited Captain Nemo, the first member of the League besides her. We even have a beatnik story from the US in which Mina and Alan are involved.

The novel contains so many characters, fictional and fantastical. References are borrowed from the works of H.P. Lovecraft, from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (Gulliver being a character in this novel and also an original member of the very early League). I referenced previously the amorous adventures of Fanny Hill (One of the chapters of the Dossier is written by John Cleland who wrote the book of Fanny Hill's adventures. This chapter provides new information about her further adventures). Just a few examples of what is sampled in this rich, interesting graphic novel.

I've read many of Alan Moore's works and enjoy his unique story-telling and his ability to stretch the boundaries of comic / graphic novel telling. This was no exception. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading
I'm enjoying the books I've currently got on the go and am looking forward to starting this next one as well.

1. Gideon's Week by J.J. Marric (Inspector Gideon #2).

"Gideon’s week…was long, and getting longer! It had all started when battered wife Ruby Benson set up her wanted-killer husband Sid for capture by the cops, hoping he’d be spending the rest of his worthless life in jail. But Benson had other plans. The brutal madman had escaped. And now he was back on the streets with only one thought in mind…revenge! And it looked like it was up to Commander George Gideon of Scotland Yard to save Ruby from her sadistic spouse’s blood vendetta…or die trying!"

Well, there you go. I won't do a Mystery genre post today but will definitely try to do so in my next entry. Have a great weekend and read a good book.

Have a great weekend! Woof!

Saturday, 31 August 2019

August 2019 Reading Update

Oh that feels so good after a stressful morning!
As I sit here watching the Blue Jays and hoping they can hold on to their lead, I guess it's time for my monthly update. Jo is relaxing as are the puppies. Not so hot today which is nice. I would say I'm enjoying the long weekend, but since I've retired, I guess they all are long weekends.. 😆

Let's play later, Dad, it's time for my nap
I have to say that I've actually spent some time this week thinking about my 2020 reading challenges. Yes, I'm a saddo...

So now, let's move on to my August Reading Update. I'll start off showing you three books I bought yesterday when I dropped off some books at my local used book store, then I'll give you my update.

New Books

1. For the Dead by Timothy Hallinan (Poke Rafferty #6). A new author for me. Actually all of these books are by authors I've yet to try.

"After seven years in Bangkok, American travel writer Poke Rafferty finally feels settled: his family is about to grow larger, and his adopted Thai daughter, Miaow, seems to have settled in at junior high school. All that is endangered when Miaow helps her boyfriend buy a stolen iPhone that contains photographs of two disgraced police officers, both of whom have been murdered. As Miaow's carefully constructed personal life falls apart, Rafferty discovers that the murders are part of a conspiracy that reaches the top rungs of Bangkok law enforcement, and beyond. Miaow's discovery threatens the entire family—and if that's not enough, in order to survive, they may ultimately have to depend on someone who has already betrayed them."

2. Blood Alone by James R. Benn (Billy Boyle #3). I have the first three of this series. Now to read that first one.

"Billy Boyle awakens in a field hospital in Sicily with amnesia. In his pocket is a yellow silk handkerchief embroidered with the initial L. Gradually he remembers: he has been sent ashore in advance of the troops with this token from Lucky Luciano to contact the head of the Sicilian Mafia. But he must also thwart a murderous band of counterfeiters of Army scrip led by Vito Genovese."

3. Frozen Out by Quentin Bates (Gunnhilder #1).

"The discovery of a corpse washed up on a beach in an Icelandic backwater sparks a series of events that propels the village of Hvalvik's police sergeant Gunnhildur into deep waters. Although under pressure to deal with the matter quickly, she is suspicious that the man's death was no accident and once she has identified the body, sets about investigating his final hours. The case takes Gunnhildur away from her village and into a cosmopolitan world of shady deals, government corruption and violence. She finds herself alone and less than welcome in this hostile environment as she tries to find out who it was that made sure the young man drowned on a dark night one hundred kilometres from where he should have been - and why." 

Be still our hearts. We can't wait
OK, now for some stats..  

August 2019 Reading Update

Aug 2019

General Info                June                Total
Books Read -                  13                     96
Pages Read -                2,900                28,600

Pages Breakdown
      < 250                          4                     38       
250 - 350                          5                     24
351 - 450                          4                     23
   > 450                                                    11

5 - star                             0                        5
4 - star                             5                      49
3 - star                             7                      40
2 - star                             1                        2

Female                            6                      33
Male                               7                      59

Fiction                            3                      14
Mystery                          6                      64
SciFi                               4                      12
Non-Fic                                                    5
Classics                                                    1           

Top 3 Books
No five - star reads this past month. In fact, maybe I've been a bit harder with my reviews as I've only had 5 so far over the course of the year. Does it have anything to do with the fact that I've read so many mysteries? That's a thought.

1. Jan Struthers - Mrs. Miniver 4.5 stars

"I've seen Mrs. Miniver, the movie starring Greer Garson, many times. So when I saw the book by Jan Struther I thought it might be worthwhile comparing the two. Well, there is no comparison because the book is totally different from the movie. However, both are excellent.

The book, as I understand it, was originally a series of columns that she wrote for the Times newspaper about 'an ordinary sort of woman who leads an ordinary sort of life - like yourself'. The movie, for those who might not have seen it, is about an ordinary English family living life during the initial parts of WWII. The book is set before the world, with the last chapter ending "Christmas 1939".

Each chapter presents a vignette as described by Mrs. Miniver, featuring her life and those of her husband, Clem and her three children, Vin, Judy and Toby. It presents her thoughts and observations about trips, events and sundry other items of their lives. It's very matter of fact in many ways but also very thoughtful. There were some chapters that I preferred more than others, some that stood out for me. Even one where she is deciding what new engagement book she wants to buy to record the events of the upcoming year struck a chord with me. Probably a personal one as I know how much my wife loves wandering through proper stationary stores. The last chapter where Mrs. Miniver is making her Christmas shopping list for her family and looks back over the last 17 years' lists and how her family has changed when she made up her lists was especially poignant.

In many ways, each chapter is a simple little story but some will definitely strike a chord with you and when you put them all together, it's a wonderful, rich story. I don't know how William Wyler came up with the idea to transition this book into a movie but he seems to have and made it just as rich and wonderful as this little book. You should try it. (4.5 stars)"

2. Josephine Tey - The Franchise Affair 4 stars


 "The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey is listed as the 3rd book in her Inspector Grant mystery series, but in fact, he plays only a very minor inconsequential role in this story. Josephine Tey wrote six books in this series over the course of her life. I've now read four of them. I think, though, that my favorite book of hers so far was her standalone mystery, Brat Farrar, which was an excellent story.

As I mentioned Inspector Grant makes only a couple of brief appearances in this story and is mentioned once or twice besides. The story belongs to small-town English lawyer, Robert Blair, who may be considered somewhat staid and comfortable with his life. However this will be turned upside down when he receives a call from one Marion Sharpe who lives at an estate called The Franchise (understand the title now?) with her mother. They have been accused of kidnapping a fifteen year old girl and keeping her locked up in the attic for a month, basically as a free labor force, until the girl escapes and eventually reports the two to the police.

Inspector Grant (in his main appearance) brings the girl to the estate, accompanied by the local police inspector and also Robert Blair, where the girl describes the house and shows where she was held. The rest of the story involves Robert and some friends investigating the claims and trying to prove the girl is a liar. This is something very new for Roger and he finds himself drawn to Marion and frustrated with his perceived limitations.

It's a very interesting, different mystery. It moves along slowly as Roger tries to determine his courses of action, how to investigate, how to protect the two women from curious onlookers and more dangerous intruders. The whole process is fascinating and while resolution might seem somewhat pat, ultimately, it doesn't really matter as the journey to this solution is readable and enjoyable. The story is peopled with wonderful characters, from Roger's Aunt Lim and his cousin Nevil and the two garage men, Stanley and Bill, who help Roger and the ladies; and of course, Marion and her mother as well, both down to earth and matter of fact in the middle of this awful situation.

Entertaining mystery, great characters and story telling and satisfying resolution. (4 stars)"

3. C.S. Forester - Hornblower in the West Indies 4 stars


 "I've read most of C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower books and have enjoyed the adventures. Hornblower in the West Indies is a series of five short stories covering the period 1821 - 1823 when Hornblower is an Admiral and in charge of the Royal Navy's West Indies fleet. The book consists of five separate events and all of them are enjoyable and entertaining.

Hornblower, now an experienced navy man, has more confidence in himself but still possesses those curmudgeonly qualities that endears himself to the reader. His men love him and he has capable staff, especially his Flag Lieutenant, Gerard, his clerk Mr Spendlove and his attendant Mr. Giles.

The five stories consist of -

- St Elizabeth of Hungary - We find Hornblower sailing into New Orleans and discovering a ship of French soldiers planning to help Napoleon escape from imprisonment in St Helen's. Hornblower must risk his honor and career to stop this fast ship from accomplishing their mission.

- The Star of the South - One of Hornblower's missions in the West Indies is to disrupt the flourishing slave trade and he is on the trail of one such ship. Following it into a port in Haiti, he must figure out a way to disable the ship prior to its departure, without offending his hosts and to enable him to catch the ship when it leaves.

- The Bewildered Pirates - Hornblower and his clerk, Spendlove, are kidnapped by a crew of pirates from a party he is attending near Montego Bay. Released so he can try to get the Governor to pardon them, Hornblower heads back to their hideout with his crew to save Spendlove and to deal with them

- The Guns of Carabobo - Hornblower finds himself involved in Bolivar's war to oust the Spanish from South America. A rich British merchant who is part Venezuelan, tricks Hornblower and others so he can deliver arms to Bolivar's rebels. Hornblower must calm the Dutch and Spanish who have been caught up in Ramsbottom's schemes.

- The Hurricane - Hornblower's time as Admiral of the West Indies fleet is over. His lovely wife Barbara has come to bring him back to their home in England. Hornblower must try to deal with a mutinous musician and then survive a hurricane on the trip home.

All of the stories were quite excellent, especially building up to the grand finale The Hurricane. There was tension throughout, crafty plans on Hornblower's part to solve his problems and pure heroism as he fights the devastating hurricane. It was a great way to end the story. As always, I've enjoyed sinking into Hornblower's world and taking part in his nautical adventures. Forester spins a fine, entertaining yarn. I'm almost sad that I've only two more of the Hornblower adventures to enjoy. (4 stars)"

12 + 4  Challenge (completed 16) (Challenge Complete)
1. Josephine Tey - The Franchise Affair 4 stars
2. Ian Fleming - You Only Live Twice 3.5 stars

Papa Bear Challenge (Books I've had the longest on my Goodreads bookshelf)
3. Jan Struthers - Mrs. Miniver 4.5 stars
4. C.S. Forester - Hornblower in the West Indies 4 stars

Mama Bear Challenge (Middle of my Goodreads bookshelf)
5. David Downing - Jack of Spies 3 stars

Baby Bear Challenge (Books most recently added to my Goodreads bookshelf)
6. Kelley Armstrong - Broken 2.5 stars
7. Philip Kerr - Field Gray 3 stars

Goldilocks Challenge (Random Number Generator)
8. Susan Hill - The Vows of Silence 4 stars
9. Val McDermid - A Distant Echo 4 stars

Break from Challenge Challenge (Freebees every time I complete 10 books)
10. Matt Rees - The Collaborator of Bethlehem 3.5 stars
11. Anne Elizabeth - Truth and Consequences: The Hall of Insides Collection 3 stars

12. J.G. Ballard - Concrete Island 3.5 stars
13. Philip K. Dick - Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said 3 stars

Challenges from other Groups

Sep 2019 Books Currently Reading

1. Julie Smith - Jazz Funeral
2. Donna Leon - Friends in High Places
3. Kathy Reichs - Fatal Voyage
4. Ngaio Marsh - Death at the Bar
5. Julia Keller - Bitter River

Next Possibles in Line

1. Ellis Peters - The Rose Rent
2. Charlaine Harris - All Together Dead
3. Laurell K. Hamilton - Blood Noir

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