Saturday, 28 November 2020

A Reading Update and Some New Books

It's been a lazy sort of Saturday. The weather has been lovely, bright sunshine and mild. I watched one footie match on NBC, the Toffees lost unfortunately. Brighton managed a 1-1 draw with Liverpool which was important for them. Of course they missed an early penalty so could have won the game. I read a bit, then dozed a bit. Jo and I dozed some more.. lol

I went out yesterday to run a couple of errands and dropped off some books at our local used book store. I managed to flesh our a few of my ongoing series while I was there. I also got a book in the mail, an interesting looking Sci-Fi alternate history story. I have also finished two books since my last reading update. I'll provide my reviews for those, update my currently reading thread and also provide synopses for the new books on my shelves. I'll get back to my ongoing look at favorite authors next entry, I hope.

Just Finished

1. A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor (St. Mary's Chronicles #2).

"A Symphony of Echoes is the 2nd book in the St Mary's Chronicles by Jodi Taylor. It's an excellent mix of history, adventure, romance, time travel and a great story. I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed the first. It was an excellent, well-paced page turner.

Dr Max, now no longer a trainee historian, is Chief of Operations at St Mary's. She's an intelligent, spunky young lady. She has some issues but they just make her more determined. In this story the team will have a confrontation with Jack the Ripper, battle to help St Mary's in the future against Max's arch enemy, try to find the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and also to Glasgow to meet Mary Queen of Scots. 

It's hard to describe the story, just that it will engross you, teach you a little history and have you on the edge of your seat at times. It's never too technical, never too lost in the history of the events. The cast of characters are colorful, smart, a great team and you find yourself drawn to them. Max is wonderful, causes all sorts of problems, and leads her team with knowledge, verve and pure chutzpah. Jodi Taylor knows how to spin an entertaining yarn. The story is a pure joy to read and is every bit as great as the first book. Number 3 is on my bookshelf (4.5 stars)"

2. What Happened to the Corbetts by Nevil Shute (1939). In November, my focus author was Mr. Shute and this was the 3rd book I enjoyed by him.

"What Happened to the Corbetts was English author Nevil Shute's 5th published book. Suffice it to say that it was excellent. Written in 1938 and published April 1939 it was a cautionary tale about the impact of aerial bombing from the anticipated WWII. Much later he wrote a similar story about his fears for a nuclear war, On the Beach. Both stories are to the point, excellent and thought-provoking. At the time, Shute worked in the aeronautical industry and had a feeling about the possible impact of bombing.

The story focuses on the Corbett family, Peter, Joan and their 3 small children. The family lives in Southampton where Peter works as a solicitor in a small firm. One night the aerial bombardment commences. Southampton and other cities in England are subjected to vicious bombing attacks. Power is lost, water is affected, sewage pipes are damaged, etc. The story deals with the family's efforts to survive and to decide on what they need to do; stay in Southampton or move somewhere safer? They are an average, normal family and put into a situation that forces them to make decisions that they never thought they would ever have to. While the story focuses on the Corbetts, we also meet their friends and neighbours and see their interactions and acts of selflessness. 

Due to water and sewage problems, disease (cholera and typhoid) begins to assert itself and the family moves away from Southampton to live on their small boat. There is a daily struggle to find food, fresh water, milk for the baby. The family will make some decisions that are against their values but it's a rationalization they have to make. 

When the bombings come ever closer, they move again and the story moves along in fascinating fashion. What can Peter do to save his family? In its mild way, the story shows a dedicated, loving family forced into heroic actions. Shute describes them in his usual way. What they do might not be heroic, but it makes you wonder if you would be able to in their situation. 

It's such an excellent story. It draws you in. There are so many fascinating, intelligent, interesting people. Shute doesn't hide the dangers of the bombs, but he prefers to show acts of kindness, selflessness, hopefulness, even in such trying situations. Is it realistic? He could have focused on people who take advantage of people but he prefers to show the other side of life. There is tension, adventure, great people and a great story. What more can I say? (5 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. God Save the Child by Robert B. Parker (Spenser #2).

"Appie Knoll is the kind of suburb where kids grow up right. But something is wrong. Fourteen-year-old Kevin Bartlett disappears. Everyone thinks he's run away -- until the comic strip ransom note arrives.  It doesn't take Spenser long to get the picture -- an affluent family seething with rage, a desperate boy making strange friends...friends like Vic Harroway, body builder. Mr. Muscle is Spenser's only lead and he isn't talking...except with his fists. But when push comes to shove, when a boy's life is on the line, Spenser can speak that language too."

2. Dearly: Poems by Margaret Atwood (2020).

"By turns moving, playful and wise, the poems gathered in Dearly are about absences and endings, ageing and retrospection, but also about gifts and renewals. They explore bodies and minds in transition, as well as the everyday objects and rituals that embed us in the present. Werewolves, sirens and dreams make their appearance, as do various forms of animal life and fragments of our damaged environment.

Before she became one of the world's most important and loved novelists, Atwood was a poet. Dearly is her first collection in over a decade. It brings together many of her most recognizable and celebrated themes, but distilled - from minutely perfect descriptions of the natural world to startlingly witty encounters with aliens, from pressing political issues to myth and legend. It is a pure Atwood delight, and long-term readers and new fans alike will treasure its insight, empathy and humour."

New Books

1. Grave Secrets by Kathy Reichs (Temperance Brennan #5).

"t was a summer morning in 1982 when soldiers ravaged the Guatemalan village of Chupan Ya, raping and killing women and children. Twenty-three victims are said to lie in the well where, twenty years later, Dr. Temperance Brennan and a team from the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation now dig. They are packing up for the day when an urgent satellite call comes in. Two colleagues are under attack. Shots ring out, and Tempe listens in horror to a woman's screams. Then there is silence. 

With this new violence, everything changes, both for the team and for Tempe, who's asked by the Guatemalan police for her expertise on another case. Four privileged young women have vanished from Guatemala City in recent months, and one of them is the Canadian ambassador's daughter. Teaming with Special Crimes Investigator Bartolome Galiano and Montreal detective Andrew Ryan (who may have more than just professional reasons to join her on the case), Tempe soon finds herself in a dangerous web that stretches far beyond Guatemala's borders as power, money, greed, and science converge."

2. The Face-Changers by Thomas Perry (Jane Whitefield #4).

"The courageous and ingenious Jane Whitefield has worked as a "guide" for over a decade, helping people in danger disappear. Now she has promised her new husband, Dr. Carey McKinnon, that she will never work again. But then Carey's mentor, a famous plastic surgeon, seeks him out, desperate and pursued, wounded and wanted for murder. Carey asks Jane to perform her dangerous magic one last time. But as Jane tries to save her husband's friend, she uncovers the perverse activities of the Face Changers: Using Jane Whitefield's name, reputation and techniques, they are destroying human lives rather than saving them."

3. Death and the Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn #12).

"The party's over when murder makes an entrance...

With the notion of bringing together the most bitter of enemies for his own amusement, a bored, mischievous millionaire throws a house party. As a brutal snowstorm strands the unhappy guests, the party receives a most unwelcome visitor: death. Now the brilliant inspector Roderick Alleyn must step in to decipher who at the party is capable of cold-blooded murder..."

4. Odd Hours by Dean Koontz (Odd Thomas #4).

"Only a handful of fictional characters are recognized by first name alone. Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas is one such literary hero, who has come alive in readers’ imaginations as he explores the greatest mysteries of this world and the next with his inimitable wit, heart, and quiet gallantry. Now Koontz follows Odd as he is drawn onward, to a destiny he cannot imagine. Haunted by dreams of an all-encompassing red tide, Odd is pulled inexorably to the sea, to a small California coastal town where nothing is as it seems."

5. W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #23). Winding down a great series.

"Two dead men changed the course of my life that fall. One of them I knew and the other I’d never laid eyes on until I saw him in the morgue.

The first was a local PI of suspect reputation. He’d been gunned down near the beach at Santa Teresa. It looked like a robbery gone bad. The other was on the beach six weeks later. He’d been sleeping rough. Probably homeless. No identification. A slip of paper with Millhone’s name and number was in his pants pocket. The coroner asked her to come to the morgue to see if she could ID him.

Two seemingly unrelated deaths, one a murder, the other apparently of natural causes.

But as Kinsey digs deeper into the mystery of the John Doe, some very strange linkages begin to emerge. And before long at least one aspect is solved as Kinsey literally finds the key to his identity. “And just like that,” she says, “the lid to Pandora’s box flew open. It would take me another day before I understood how many imps had been freed, but for the moment, I was inordinately pleased with myself.”

In this multilayered tale, the surfaces seem clear, but the underpinnings are full of betrayals, misunderstandings, and outright murderous fraud. And Kinsey, through no fault of her own, is thoroughly compromised.

W is for . . . wanderer . . . worthless . . . wronged . . .

W is for wasted."

6. The D.A. Holds a Candle by Erle Stanley Gardner (Doug Selby #2). Gardner is best known for his Perry Mason series. There were other series and standalones as well. This one looked interesting.

"Douglas Selby, the ambitious young District Attorney of the territory around Madison City, had up before him a young man guilty of embezzling a comparatively small sum of money which he had spent gambling. Selby could have locked him up - and perhaps ruined his life. But he wanted to find the how and the why of this otherwise law-abiding young man's gambling.

Selby's investigations led him to a hit-and-run motorcycle accident, to blackmail, and to the doorstep of DeWitt Stapleton, the local big-wig, who ran things in that part of the country by and for himself. "

7. Ammunition by Ken Bruen (Inspector Brant #7). I have been enjoying Bruen's Jack Taylor mystery series. Looking forward to giving the Inspector Brant series a try.

"Over the many years that Inspector Brant has been bringing his own patented brand of policing to the streets of southeast London, the brilliant but tough cop has made a few enemies. So when a crazed gunman, hired by persons unknown, pumps a magazine full of bullets into Brant in a local pub, leaving him in grasping at life (but ornery as ever), his colleagues on the squad are left wondering how to react.

Brant's old partner Inspector Roberts, the man who may know him best, finds himself wondering why someone didn't shoot the hateful detective years ago. In Ken Bruen's Ammunition, they're all about to find out that the answer is quite simple: if you come after Brant you'd damn well better kill him the first time--because if you don't, you won't want to stick around to find out what happens next."

8. Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore (1953). A science fiction author I've not tried before. This story looked interesting.

"Trapped in 1877, a historian writes an account of an alternate history of America in which the South won the Civil War. Living in this alternate timeline, he was determined to change events at Gettysburg.

When he's offered the chance to return to that fateful turning point his actions change history as he knows it, leaving him in an all too familiar past.

There you go folks. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. 😷

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Your Midweek Music Medley

Wednesday 25 Nov has started off quite mild outside. This is your midweek music medley to help get you through the rest of the week. Enjoy. 😷

Your Midweek Music Medley

1. American pop band, a trio of sisters, Haim - The Steps (2020).

2. English pop duo, Shampoo - Trouble (1994).

3. American country band The Chicks - Sleep at Night (2020).

Take care and stay safe.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

New Books and My Ongoing Look at my Favorite Authors

We've had a bit of a windy morning here in the Valley today, also a fair rainfall. But it seems to have calmed down now. When I took the puppies out for their noon walk, it was mild and just drizzling.

I finished Top of the Lake, a crime TV series set in New Zealand, starring Elizabeth Moss, yesterday. I had been taping the 2nd instalment, Top of the Lake; China Girl, but I've deleted it. I don't think I got Top of the Lake, at least it really wasn't for me. I've also been watching a CBC TV series set in New Zealand, The Sounds, starring Rachelle Lefevre. For some reason, I've found it also a bit convoluted. Not as dark as Top of the Lake, but it's kind of how I perceive Killing Eve (maybe unfair as I haven't watched); he's dead! No, he's not dead! Yes, he's dead! That sort of thing. It sure makes that corner of New Zealand look beautiful, mind you, while I would never want to visit where Top of the Lake was set.

I was out doing some shopping yesterday and stopped in our newest bookstore, Books4Brains. It specializes in Young Adult books, but there is a nice little adult section as well. I bought two books there. I'll update those and also continue with my look at my favorite authors.

New Books

1. Dearly by Margaret Atwood (2020). I started reading Atwood's books back in my university days when I took a Canadian Lit course. I've enjoyed her fiction, science fiction, even her poetry. This book is her first collection of poetry in years.

"By turns moving, playful and wise, the poems gathered in Dearly are about absences and endings, ageing and retrospection, but also about gifts and renewals. They explore bodies and minds in transition, as well as the everyday objects and rituals that embed us in the present. Werewolves, sirens and dreams make their appearance, as do various forms of animal life and fragments of our damaged environment.

Before she became one of the world's most important and loved novelists, Atwood was a poet. Dearly is her first collection in over a decade. It brings together many of her most recognizable and celebrated themes, but distilled - from minutely perfect descriptions of the natural world to startlingly witty encounters with aliens, from pressing political issues to myth and legend. It is a pure Atwood delight, and long-term readers and new fans alike will treasure its insight, empathy and humour."

2. The Siberian Dilemma by Martin Cruz Smith (Arkady Renko #9). I read the first six books in this series quite awhile ago. There are two others before I get to #9, but I might read it anyway. It's been an excellent series.

"Journalist Tatiana Petrovna is on the move. Arkady Renko, iconic Moscow investigator and Tatiana’s part-time lover, hasn’t seen her since she left on assignment over a month ago. When she doesn’t arrive on her scheduled train, he’s positive something is wrong. No one else thinks Renko should be worried—Tatiana is known to disappear during deep assignments—but he knows her enemies all too well and the criminal lengths they’ll go to keep her quiet.

Renko embarks on a dangerous journey to find Tatiana and bring her back. From the banks of Lake Baikal to rundown Chita, Renko slowly learns that Tatiana has been profiling the rise of political dissident Mikhail Kuznetsov, a golden boy of modern oil wealth and the first to pose a true threat to Putin’s rule in over a decade. Though Kuznetsov seems like the perfect candidate to take on the corruption in Russian politics, his reputation becomes clouded when Boris Benz, his business partner and best friend, turns up dead. In a land of shamans and brutally cold nights, oligarchs wealthy on northern oil, and sea monsters that are said to prowl the deepest lake in the world, Renko needs all his wits about him to get Tatiana out alive."

My Favorite Authors - Alistair MacLean

Alistair MacLean
Alistair Stuart MacLean lived from 1922 - 1987, born in Glasgow and died in Munich. Back in my younger years, he was one of my favorite writers of wartime and spy thrillers. I read quite a few of his books back then and also enjoyed many of the movies based on his books. As I became a more 'serious' reader I stopped reading his books. But when I first came to Comox, I discovered his books again at one of the local used book stores and I've been enjoying them again. MacLean can be hit or miss, some of his later books seemed to be sort of paint by numbers; same theme, same type of characters, that sort of thing. But he has written some excellent thrillers.

1. The Guns of Navarone (1957). MacLean's 2nd novel. I had seen the movie many years ago, but finally read it in 2019.

"The Guns of Navarone was Alistair MacLean's second novel, published in 1957. I've read others of his earliest books, HMS Ulysses and South by Java Head and they, like Guns, were excellent. For some reason I never tried Guns, maybe because I've instead focused on the excellent movie. But I'm glad that I finally decided to read it.

If you want a wartime thriller, filled with action and desperation and heroism, you need to try The Guns of Navarone. It's a non-stop action story in a three day period. A group of 5 men, lead by New Zealand mountain climber and now Allied soldier, Captain Mallory, must make their way to the Greek island of Navarone and there to destroy the huge German guns that threaten a British fleet that must make its to withdraw a British force isolated on the island of Kheros. Previous attempts both by sea and by air have tried to neutralize these guns but they have failed.

So Malloy and his group, consisting of his Greek ally Andrea, an American explosive expert, Cpl Dusty Miller, a British sailor and communications man, Brown and a young office, Lt Stevens must safely make it to Navarone, scale the cliffs to get onto the island and then avoid German mountain troops to get to the fortress that houses the guns and dispose of them. Hindering their trip, besides terrible weather, is a spy within the British ranks and possible a traitor amongst the Greeks on Navarone.

It's a fascinating, thrilling story and features great acts of heroism. It draws you in immediately and holds your interest and attention throughout. How they manage to avoid and foil every attempt on their lives, makes for such an interesting story. If you enjoy thrillers, you really need to try this story, a page-turner and excellent war story. This type of story is Alistair MacLean's specialty. (4 stars)"

2. The Last Frontier (1959).

"This wasn't my favorite Alistair MacLean thriller. In this one, we find British agent, Reynolds, sneaking into Hungary during the Cold War, with the aim of bringing out British scientist, Jennings. Reynolds gets into trouble almost immediately but with the help of Hungarian underground, Janszi, the Major and their team, he continues with his mission. Reynolds continues to get into predicaments, but with the help of his new friends must try and get Jennings. There is a fair bit of action, but also considerable pontificating, on Communism, misunderstandings between nations, etc. As I say, not my favorite, but still entertaining. (3 stars)"

3. Ice Station Zebra (1963).

"I've read many of English thriller writer, Alistair MacLean's books. He can be hit of miss. I've read some that were not very good and then some that were excellent. Some of his war stories, HMS Ulysses, Guns of Navarone, South by Java Head are excellent. Generally, he writes an action-packed, tense thriller with 'secretive' anti-hero. With that preamble, Ice Station Zebra is one of his better stories. It was turned into a movie in 1968 which was also excellent but at the same time quite different from the book.

Basically, the US nuclear submarine USS Dolphin is called into action from its base in Holy Loch in Scotland to try to conduct a rescue mission under the polar ice cap. The Captain of the ship, Commander Swanson, is forced to take along British civilian, Dr Carpenter, who is supposedly an expert on Arctic survival. The reason for this rescue mission? Ice Station Zebra, a scientific outpost on the arctic ice cap has been destroyed by a fire and the Dolphin is to try and rescue any survivors. This will mean a trip under the ice cap and an attempt to breach the ice and then conduct the rescue attempt.

Of course, there is much to this story than just a rescue attempt. Like any MacLean thriller, Dr Carpenter probably isn't quite who he seems. What was the purpose of Ice Station Zebra? To discover the answers, the crew of the Dolphin and Dr Carpenter will be subjected to many threats and risks, sub-zero temperatures on the surface, risks to the sub under the ice and physical threats for forces unknown.

It would ruin the story for me to get into more detail. Suffice it to say that the action and tension starts at the beginning and continues to the end. You will be literally able to feel the severe weather conditions on the surface, be amazed at the strength, perseverance and dedication of the crew. Dr Carpenter is one of MacLean's better crafted heroes and his supporting cast; Commander Swanson and his irreverent, sturdy crew add to the story. One of the better MacLean thrillers. (4 stars)"

4. Circus (1975).

"This wasn't the best Alistair MacLean thriller. In most ways, it felt like he was writing this by rote, a heroic protagonist, thrown into an impossible situation, working for the CIA behind the Iron Curtain. People aren't whom they seem; against impossible odds, he must get scientific papers and bring them safely to the West. Not his best work, more of a 2.5 than a 3. Ah well."

5. When Eight Bells Toll (1966).

"Millions of pounds in gold bullion are being pirated in the Irish Sea--and investigations by the British Secret Service, and a sixth sense, have brought Philip Calvert to a bleak, lonely bay in the Western Highlands. But the sleepy atmosphere of Torbay is deceptive: many mysterious disappearances have occurred there, and even the unimaginative Highland Police Sergeant seems to be involved. But why?" (3 stars)

6. Puppet on a Chain (1969). This was one of the first ever MacLean books I read and one of the first movies I watched as well. One of the stars was Barbara Parkins, which didn't hurt. It helped me get hooked on his works.

"From the acclaimed master of action and suspense. The all time classic. Paul Sherman of Interpol's Narcotics Bureau flies to Amsterdam on the trail of a dope king. With enormous skill the atmosphere is built up: Amsterdam with its canals and high houses; stolid police; psychopaths; women in distress and above all -- murder." (4 stars)

7. Night Without End (1959).

"One of Alistair MacLean's earliest thrillers, it's a well-paced, page-turner. Perfect setting, the frigid Greenland ice sheet, a group of scientists rush to save the passengers of a plane which has crashed on the plateau. What they find is even more surprising as some of the passengers are more than they seem. struggling to survive in sub-zero temperatures and survive a murderer in their midst, it's definitely an action packed story. Excellent stuff. (4 stars)"

8. HMS Ulysses (1955).

"I'm left speechless by this story. A truly amazing story of heroism of men tired beyond belief fighting a war in conditions unbelievable but true. The HMS Ulysses is a Royal Navy cruiser whose crew have recently mutinied and are tasked once again to meet and escort a convoy on the Murmansk run to Russia. The crew is beaten, tired and the Captain is dying. They sail to meet the convoy of merchant ships at Iceland to take over from the warships escorting the convoy from Canada. The result is a fascinating, horrifying, touching story of this voyage; the love of the crew for their ill Captain, his love for them; the many personalities of the crew and the ordeal they must sail through. The story makes me think of my father as he also sailed to Murmansk, something he doesn't tell me much about. I've read this story before, but so long ago. I'm glad I read again. (5 stars)"

9. South By Java Head (1958).

"An Alistair MacLean story I'd not read previously. Excellent, MacLean at his very best. From the first moment, it was a tense, thrilling adventure; a group of British men and women escaping from Singapore during WWII in the face of the Japanese invasion. Going from threat to threat, displaying understated heroism and growth, the characters are interesting and well-presented. I liked the surprises and twists and ultimately the whole story. Excellent. (4 stars)"

10. Fear is the Key (1961).

"Alistair MacLean is my focus author for September. Fear is the Key was originally published in 1961 and is my first book of the month. I read many of MacLean's books back in the late '60s as he was a favorite of mine. But when I came to the Valley in 2001, I found his books again and over time have begun exploring his work again. So with that boring preamble, these are my thoughts on Fear is the Key.

Like every MacLean book, you have a sort of 'everyman' anti-hero caught up in a dangerous, thrilling situation. Of course this man is more than he seems and this will come out as the story progresses. In the prologue to this story, a small cargo aircraft carrying cargo (of some value it seems) from Colombia to Florida is shot down by a fighter jet. This is witnessed (via radio communication) by the partner (and pilot's brother) of the cargo business. Also on board is the wife and child of the man witnessing the event.

The story jumps to a trial in Florida many years later. The defendant escapes, taking along a woman as a hostage. People are killed during this escape. And so begins an action-filled, far-fetched but totally entertaining thriller. The adventure will take John Talbot to the 'home' of multi-millionaire oil baron, General Ruthven and then to his oil well off the coast of Florida during a hurricane. He will battle hardened criminals, search the ocean floor for a mystery cargo and ultimately risk his life for vengeance. 

As I say, it's often far-fetched, as most of MacLean's books are. His stories are often hit or miss. Fear is the Key is a hit, exciting, non-stop & filled tension. If you like to escape to this kind of story, try Fear is the Key. Most enjoyable. (4 stars)"

11. The Satan Bug (1962). This book came out as a movie in 1965. My dad was stationed in Chatham New Brunswick then and had a part time job managing the Base Cinema. I remember seeing the poster for this movie and, while I didn't see it until much later, I think it was one of the first books I read. 

"To the outside world, the Mordon Labs existed solely for experiments in preventive medicine… but in reality they were secret laboratories for the development of germ warfare. The most carefully hidden secret was the Satan Bug -- a strain of toxin so deadly that the release of one teaspoon could annihilate mankind.
Late one night, the Mordon security officer was found murdered outside that lab.
And the Satan Bug was missing...
 " (3 stars)

I have read a few others but I'll stop there. 😉 The complete listing of MacLean's books can be found at this link. His earlier books are the best. I personally haven't read any since Circus.

Enjoy the rest of your week. Stay safe. 😷

Saturday, 21 November 2020

New Books and a Reading Update

 As November winds down, there is fall smell in the air here in the valley. You know, that damp sort of decay as the leaves all fall off the trees and the mornings are misty, if not rainy. I love the changing colors of the trees but the thought that winter is on the way is a bit depressing. 

I finished off a couple of books the past two days. As a side note, my Goodreads challenge, planned total books read, was 115 books for 2020. I have surpassed that total by one so far. 

This morning I watched another episode of War of the Worlds (a British / French collaboration) and continue to enjoy it. I also watched another episode of Peter Gunn. I should be running out of those in the near future. I had the Aston Villa / Brighton footie match on live text and was happy that Brighton won the game. They needed a victory. Then I went back upstairs to watch the Manchester City / Tottenham game on NBC and fell asleep. LOL 

I've received a few books in the mail this past week as well, an order I'd placed with Russell Books in Victoria and one book from Reusebooks in the UK. So what my post this morning will include is the synopses of the new books, two book reviews and the synopses of the next books I've started. I'll get back to my ongoing look at my favorite authors in the next thread.

Just Finished

1. Lonely Road by Nevil Shute (1936).

"Lonely Road by Nevil Shute was his third published book, originally published in 1936. I've read quite a few of Shute's works this past few years and have always enjoyed his story - telling. The Lonely Road, while it started off slightly strangely, drew me in and by the end, I couldn't put it down. I just had to finish it.

As I mentioned just before, the story starts off somewhat strangely. Malcolm Stevenson leaves a pub he's been at, drinking with friends, and, clearly drunk, begins his drive home. But the next sequence is almost dreamlike, switching from his drive to visions he seems to be having, until he ends up in a hospital, with little to no recollection of what happened.

In the author's note (in this Berkeley edition), he states that the first chapter was an experiment that didn't get well received but that the ultimate story was reasonably successful. Suffice it to say, don't be dissuaded by the first chapter, it's not long and the events within will play a role in the ultimate end of the story. (Teased your interest?)

Malcolm Stevenson is a war hero, for events that took place in WWI while he was a sailor, but he doesn't really want to remember these events and his life, while successful, is dissolute. He's a lonely man, drinks too much and sort of coasts through his life. His real joy is the sea and he owns a shipyard in Dartmouth. He is friend with the main character of Shute's 1926 novel, Marazan. It struck me as quite interesting to once again meet Philip and Joan Stenning (Joan being Malcolm's cousin) and also over the course of the novel, the two Scotland Yard officers, Maj Malcolm and his boss, Sir David Carter.

In his wanderings, Malcolm meets a dance hall girl, Mollie, in Leeds. He spends an evening with her dancing and in some ways is quite taken with her. Things that she tells him during this evening and things that Philip Stenning tells him, as well as sudden remembrances of his accident, make Malcolm suspicious about things that might be happening in England. Things like smuggling, or maybe worse. He explains these suspicions to the local Chief Constable Fedden and they go to London where we meet Norman and Carter.

Thus begins a fascinating adventure and a lovely growing romance. I won't ruin the story by getting into more detail. Suffice it to say that Malcolm, with assistance from Stenning, will assist the police in trying to track down this smuggling operation. But the main part of the story, and the best part (as in all of Shute's stories, I think) is the growing bond between Malcolm and Mollie. As I mentioned, Malcolm has been a single man, his life lonely (Lonely Road?) and this bringing together of him and Mollie changes his life. Malcolm is wealthy and from a wealthy family and Mollie is a wonderful, thoughtful girl, not in Malcolm's social circles. The time they spend together (Mollie plays an important role in this story) is so well told and his growing feelings for her (and hers for him) is beautifully told.

The intertwining of their developing relationship with the increased tension of their situation as they get closer to a resolution of the mystery is developed so thoughtfully, displaying the very best of Shute's story-telling abilities. Great, emotional story. Shute continues to be one of my favorite all-time authors. (4.5 stars)".

2. Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum #12).

"Twelve Sharp is the ... wait for it .... 12th book in the Stephanie Plum mystery series by American author Janet Evanovich. For those who might not yet heard about this series, Stephanie is a bounty hunter working in the Burg in New Jersey for her cousin Vinnie, a bail bondsman. Along for the ride is Vinnie's office manager, Connie, ex-hooker and Stephanie's partner in hunting down court no-shows, bigger than life, Lula. There are the two men in Stephanie's life, cop and boyfriend, Morelli, and mystery man, also bounty hunter, amongst other enterprises, Ranger. Then you have her wonderful family; mother, ever-suffering father, wild grandmother and others.

Like the others I've enjoyed, the story is basically predictable, but it's a good, entertaining, fun predictability. Stephanie and Lula will struggle to catch and bring in their FTA's, i.e. Failures to Appear. I have to say, that after 12 books, they are having more success now. Stephanie's complicated relationships with Morelli and Ranger (who will eventually win?) is once again complicated, but nicely so. And then there is Grandma, well, what can you say about Grandma? Adventurous, always getting into hilarious trouble and causing Steph's mother to consider taking up drinking as a serious occupation.

The premise for this story is that someone is after Ranger, who seems to have disappeared. Someone is stalking Stephanie. People begin to go missing, dead bodies begin to turn up. Lula has joined transvestite rocker Sally's band as lead singer and eventually Grandma wants to give it a try. Vinnie's bail bonds office is being overwhelmed with FTA's and Connie wants to hire another bounty hunter. There's more to it, of course, but there is the gist. 

As always there is humor, even laugh out loud moments. Consider the band rehearsal at Steph's parent's home with Grandma in tow. Consider the antics at the funeral parlor (once again with Grandma in the middle). But there is nicely developed tension as Evanovich develops the plot against Ranger. There is also neat investigative work. And there is a great cast of characters beyond the main group.

All in all, it was an entertaining, sexy and action packed story. So there is an element of predictability, but this predictability holds the story together while the rest is developed. You will always be entertained and Twelve was one of the more entertaining ones. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor (St. Mary's Chronicles #2). I enjoyed the first book in this series very much.

"Book Two in the madcap time-travel series based at the St Mary's Institute of Historical Research that seems to be everyone's cup of tea. In the second book in the Chronicles of St Mary's series, Max and the team visit Victorian London in search of Jack the Ripper, witness the murder of Archbishop Thomas A Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, and discover that dodos make a grockling noise when eating cucumber sandwiches. But they must also confront an enemy intent on destroying St Mary's - an enemy willing, if necessary, to destroy History itself to do it."

2. What Happened to the Corbetts by Nevil Shute (1939).

"Set in 1938, this novel tells the story of the Corbetts, a family preparing for the coming war. As the world begins to collapse around them, Peter Corbett, a local lawyer, his wife, Joan, and their children make the decision to move away from the war zone after their house, and Corbett’s offices, are destroyed. They quickly realize that escaping all the mayhem will be no easy task at all. The novel addresses the issues of the aftermath of bombing, such as the spread of disease from lack of clean water, and what may be done to relieve the distress of those affected by it."

New Books

1. Extraordinary People by Peter May (The Enzo Files #1).

"PARIS. An old mystery. As midnight strikes, a man desperately seeking sanctuary flees into a church. The next day, his sudden disappearance will make him famous throughout France. A new science. Forensic expert Enzo Macleod takes a wager to solve the seven most notorious French murders, armed with modern technology and a total disregard for the justice system. A fresh trail. Deep in the catacombs below the city, he unearths dark clues deliberately set - and as he draws closer to the killer, discovers that he is to be the next victim."

2. Dead Beat by Val McDermid (Kate Brannigan #1). I've enjoyed other books by McDermid.

"Dead Beat introduces Kate Brannigan, a female private detective who does for Manchester what V.I. Warshawski has done for Chicago.

As a favour, Kate agrees to track down a missing songwriter, Moira Pollock, a search that takes her into some of the seediest parts of Leeds and Bradford. But little does she realize that finding Moira is a prelude to murder…"

3. Faces of the Gone by Brad Parks (Carter Ross #1). I've looked for this book for awhile as I wanted to check out this series.

"Investigative reporter Carter Ross finds himself with gruesome front-page news: four bodies in a vacant lot, each with a single bullet hole in the back of the head. In a haste to calm residents, local police leak a story to Carter’s colleagues at the Newark Eagle-Examiner, calling the murders revenge for a bar stickup. But while Carter may not come from the streets, he knows a few things about Newark’s ghettos. And he knows the story the police are pushing doesn’t make sense. He enlists the aide of Tina Thompson, the paper’s smoking hot city editor, to run interference for him at the office; Tommy Hernandez, the paper’s gay Cuban intern, to help him with legwork on the street; and Tynesha Dales, a local stripper, to take him to Newark’s underside. Soon, Carter learns the four victims have one connection after all, and knowing this will put him in the path of one very ambitious killer."

4. Death of a Dancer by Caro Peacock (Liberty Lane #2). I also have the first book of this series on my bookshelf.

"In this novel set in Victorian times, a public spat between two dancers at a London theatre has a dramatic conclusion that wasn't in the script: one dead, the other arrested for murder. As far as the jury's concerned, it's an open-and-shut case, but Liberty Lane believes otherwise. Soon Liberty's leading her own investigation."

5. Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (Armand Gamache #6). I've been enjoying this series very much.

"As Quebec City shivers in the grip of winter, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache plunges into the most unusual case of his career. A man has been murdered in a library where the English citizens safeguard their history. The death opens a door into the past, exposing a mystery that has lain dormant for centuries."

6. Hyperion by Dan Simmons (Hyperion Cantos #1). OK this is silly but I thought for the longest time that Dan Simmons was also the fellow who wrote The Da Vinci Code which I thought was a better movie. So I've avoided his books until I realized my stupid error. 

"On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope—and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands."

7. Sharpe's Enemy by Bernard Cornwell (Sharpe #15). I'm winding down this series. I've enjoyed it very much.

"A band of deserters led by a cook and Sharpe's vicious longtime enemy, Obadiah Hakeswill, holds a group of highborn British and French women on a strategic mountain pass. Outnumbered and attacked from two sides, newly promoted Major Sharpe leads his small force into the biting cold of the winter mountains to rescue the hostages."

So there you go. See any good reading possibilities there? Enjoy the rest of your weekend and please remember... 😷

Related Posts with Thumbnails