Monday, 27 December 2010

Xmas Bounty - More Books!!! Woooo hooooo!

It's the 27th of December 2010; I'm back from my run (well, more of a run/ walk this time, what with all that Xmas turkey I had to try and work off), relaxing in my new towelling bathrobe and wondering what to post about as the first post-Xmas day thoughts.

Xmas was very nice this year, what with my daughter Jennifer and her boyfriend, Eric, flying in from Ottawa to visit Jo and I. We played lots of cards, went to see the Xmas pantomime at the Sid Williams, went out for dinner Xmas Eve and generally relaxed. Now I've got another 10 days off to enjoy the company of my lovely wife Jo. Perfect way to end 2010 and start 2011.

I thought I'd write this Blog about the books and movies that Jo and I received for Xmas this year. I love giving and receiving books and this year was no different. Jo and I will have much reading enjoyment over the coming months. So pitter patter, let's get at 'er.

My Books

From Jo -

Barbarians is a book I've had on my wish list for quite awhile. I saw it originally at Munro's Book Store in Victoria and it seemed very interesting. It was such a nice surprise to see it under the tree this year.

Terry Jones is one of the members of Monty Python's Flying Circus. In this book, he 'takes a completely fresh approach to Roman history. It reveals that most of those written off by Rome as uncivilized, savage and barbaric were in fact organized, motivated and intelligent people with no intentions of overthrowing Rome and plundering its Empire. In fact, it was Rome who celebrated savage slaughter and who eventually looted the city of Rome themselves, while leaving a lasting legacy of propaganda attacking everyone else.'

It looks like an interesting perspective of history from one who is not a 'historian.' Jones has also written 4 books on medieval England as well as various children's books. His co-author, Alan Ereira, is a producer and writer of history programmes on radio and TV for over 40 years. Jones and Ereira also collaborated on Crusades and Medieval Lives.

I started reading Iain Banks science fiction stories last year. He is known for his Culture series, two of which I've read so far and enjoyed immensely.

This year, Jo added to my collection of Banks' books with this Gothic horror story, as it's described. The Wasp Factory concerns the extraordinary private world of Frank, sixteen, and unconventional, to say the least.

'Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different reasons than I'd disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim. That's my score to date. Three. I haven't killed anybody for years, and don't intend to ever again. It was just a stage I was going through.'

The short write up at the back has definitely peaked my interest. This is Banks' first novel, written in 1984. Since then he has become well established as a fiction and science fiction author. I'm very much looking forward to getting into this book.

Another author that I've developed a strong interest in is C. J. Sansom, writer of the Matthew Shardlake mysteries, one of which I commented on previously in this Blog. Revelation is the fourth book in the series and from the back page description, it looks just as interesting as the others.

The series is set during the reign of Henry VIII and Matthew Shardlake is a hunch-back lawyer who often gets involved in cases at the behest of the crown or his advisers, Thomas Cromwell, and in this book, Archbishop Cranmer.

In this story, Henry VIII is wooing Catherine Parr, to be his sixth wife. Archbishop Cranmer and the Protestants in court are concerned as Catherine Parr has Reformist sympathies.

Matthew Shardlake, meanwhile, is working on a case of a teenage boy who has been placed in Bedlam insane asylum and fears that the boy may be burned at the stake as a heretic.

Involved in another murder case, the murder of an old friend, leads Matthew to Cranmer and Catherine Parr and to the prophecies of the Book of Revelations. Sansom excels at weaving the historical perspective of this period of English history with the mysteries that Matthew Shardlake is involved in and I'm sure this story will be as interesting as the others.

From Jennifer and Eric -

I received two books from my daughter and Eric, who continue to try to prove to me that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Just kidding.

Firstly, a political biography of our current Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Stephen Harper.

Harperland was published in 2010, written by Lawrence Martin, a columnist for the Toronto Globe and Mail. He worked as a Washington and Moscow based columnist before becoming an Ottawa-based national columnist and he has written ten previous books.

In this book, he portrays the leader of the Conservative government as a leader firmly in control of his agenda and a man who will go to any lengths to ensure it is implemented. He 'charts how a prime minister, with only a minority government has made significant progress in undermining the old Liberal consensus while fashioning a new Conservative order.

It looks like a very interesting book. Mr. Harper is a right wing Conservative who has succeeded where other Conservative leaders seem to have failed. It will be interesting to see how the author perceives him.

Knowing how much I read, the kids also bought me a book with a series of essays on various Canadian fiction. Hooked on Canadian Books was written by T. F. Rigelof, a Canadian writer and reviewer to the Globe and Mail 'Books' section.

For more than 20 years he has reviewed countless Canadian books. 'He does more than opine whether a book works or not; he seeks to understand why, through writing that is approachable as it is insightful. He also writes about Canadian literature itself, defending it from stereotypes, lauding its successes, and promoting its future.'

I took a Canadian Literature course in my university days and have a mild acquaintance with some Canadian writers; William Gibson, Rohinton Mistry, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, etc. I think this will be an interesting book, both to provide both some insight into Canadian fiction, itself, and also maybe to provide me with some other ideas for books that I might want to read. (Because that's just what I need, more books to read.. :0) ).

From Sue and Rob -

The final book I received was from my sis-in-law and bro-in-law from England. Just for a bit of a historical perspective here, before I met Jo in 2002, I didn't know a great deal about footie. I think I'd watched some World Cup footie and I had also I'd gone to see the Edmonton Drillers of the old NASL play once, back in 79 or 80, when I was working at Cold Lake Alta.

When Jo came over in 2002, the World Cup, hosted by Japan and South Korea was just about to take place. Jo asked if I minded if she watched the England games. And basically, the rest is history. I have totally embraced the wondrous game, got hooked during the World Cup and now watch as many Premiership games as I can, getting up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday to start the weekends games, and so on.

I've received many excellent footie books over the past few years, autobiographies of the great Bill Shankly, a book about the worst team in British footie, at the time it was East Stirling of the lowest Scottish division.

Jo calls me an 'anorak', a fond name for someone who gets down in the weeds about something, to find all the trivial facts they can. Well, thanks to Sue and Rob's Xmas present, I'll be able to become a much higher quality 'anorak'. The Book of Lists features great facts and stories, such as, the 7 fastest goals, 10 brainiacs, 10 tattoos, 11 words of wisdom, etc. I've started it already and am really enjoying. I'll leave you with a couple of quotes from within the book; from the category, 12 geography students.

"It was like playing in a foreign country", from England player, Ian Rush, talking about his time playing with Juventus of the Italian Serie A.

and from the great David Beckham, when asked if he was a 'volatile' player....

"Well, I can play in the centre, on the right and occasionally on the left side".

I'm so very happy about the books I received as Xmas presents, love them all and can't wait to get into them.

Next Blog I'll go through the books that the missus received. Yay for books!!


  1. Everton, man.. You're just saying Millwall because they scare you.. ;0)


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