Sunday, 16 January 2011

January 2011 Reading - Where I'm At...

It's January 16th already, time has gone by so quickly. I thought I'd use this Blog to tell you what books I've read so far in 2011, what I'm currently reading and my next two books. (I usually have two books on the go at any time; one for while I'm relaxing downstairs  curled up on the couch in the family room, and the other by my bedside, for when I'm relaxing just before I fall asleep). So far in 2011, I've finished two mysteries and am in the middle of another as well as a SciFi novel.

Completed Books

 "It is 1921 and a terrible discovery has been made at a manor house in Surrey - the bloodied bodies of Colonel Fletcher, his wife and two of their staff. The victims have all been stabbed - and the lack of disturbance in the house suggests the attack was one of terrifying speed.
The Surrey police seem ready to put the murders down to robbery with violence, but Detective Inspector Madden, from Scotland Yard, sees things slightly differently.
For he has experienced the horrors of World War I and has seen madness at first hand. And this crime, he is sure, has been perpetrated by a psychopath who will strike again.. and soon."

Rennie Airth is a new author for me. I picked the book up by chance at the used book store as the cover looked very interesting and the write up above was also interesting. Rennie Airth is an author born in South Africa who now resides in Italy. River of Darkness was originally published in 1999 and introduced his character DI John Madden. He has since written two more stories in this series; The Blood-Dimmed Tide and The Dead of Winter. River of Darkness was a pleasant surprise. It started slowly, but I gradually became very interested in the story and the main characters, Madden, his boss, Chief Inspector Sinclair, Sgt Billy Styles and his possible love interest, Dr. Blackwell.
The story is nicely paced, the mystery well crafted and the time frame, immediately after WWI and set in post-War England, is nicely described. At times I thought I had the story figured, but Mr Airth managed to throw a few little twists in to keep it challenging. I do heartily recommend the story, if you enjoy a historical mystery. I personally look forward to getting the other books in the series.

Now, Number 2.. "In medieval Cambridge, four children have been murdered. Hoping scientific investigation will catch the true killer, Henry II asks the King of Sicily for his finest  'master of the art of death,' the earliest form of medical examiner. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is an expert in the science of anatomy and the art of detection. But her name is Adelia; the king has been sent a 'mistress of the art of death'.
Adelia faces danger at every turn as she examines the victims and retraces their last steps. Along the way, she's assisted by one of the king's tax collectors, Sir Rowley Picot, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. A former Crusader knight, Rowley may be a needed friend.... or the fiend for whom they are searching. As Adelia's investigation takes her along Cambridge's shadowy river paths, and behind the closed doors of its churches and nunneries, the hunt intensifies and the killer prepares to strike again....."

Mistress of the Art of Death, by Ariana Franklin was a fascinating, excellent historical mystery. I don't think I've been so immediately engrossed by a story like this since I read The Alienist by Caleb Carr. Ms. Franklin, the pen name for writer Diana Norman, has such a grasp for the historical period in which the story is set and she also has a knack for grasping your attention from the get-go. I found this story so very hard to put down each night; I loved the characters. Adelia is fantastic, a confident, out spoken woman, living in a time when a woman would be accused of witchcraft for what she did. Every character was nicely described, right down to Gyltha, the eel-seller's, grand son, Ulf. The story covered horrific crimes, but as much as there was horror, there was humour as well and romance. I can't say enough about this story, except 'READ IT!'. Ariana Franklin has since written sequels to this story that I can't wait to get my hands on; The Serpent's Tale (08), Grave Goods (09) and A Murderous Procession (10).

Currently Reading

My current upstairs book is The Lathe of Heaven, a SciFi story, by Ursula Le Guin. "Reality is a dream. George Orr is the dreamer. George's dreams can change the world.
In the hands of a power-mad psychiatrist George is forced to dream up a new reality, free from war, disease and overpopulation. But there are terrifying side-effects, and George must dream and dream again, forever seeking utopia, until the fabric of existence must itself collapse..."

My first experience with Ursula Le Guin's stories was the excellent Left Hand of Darkness, one of my all-time favourite SciFi novels. The Lathe of Heaven was written in 1971. I am currently about half way through the story and am enjoying it. It's quite low key for the subject matter, but well written and very engrossing. George Orr is a quiet man with a problem that can literally change the world. Dr Haber is the psychiatrist who is trying to use the power to change reality. Such an interesting concept and so very well-written. Ursula Le Guin definitely has a unique style that draws you in. I can't wait to see how the story resolves itself.

My downstairs book is another historical mystery; Ragtime in Simla, the second in the Scotland Yard detective Joe Sandilands series. "Simla, 1922. At the foothills of the Himalayas lies the summer capital of the British Raj, where the English share tea, tiffin and tales of the notorious radical, Gandhi. It is here that Scotland Yard detective Joe Sandilands senses the sinister work of a calculating assassin.
For Sandilands, the investigation of two chilling murders hearkens back to a horrific train crash, and the suspicion that one of the survivors is living in Simla, driven by a powerful motive to keep the past a secret. While the latest dance crazes and racy rumors entertain his countrymen, Joe has fascination all his own - with the beautiful Alice Conyers-Sharpe, who seems to be at the center of the case. But is she a victim or a suspect? This enigmatic woman will lead Joe through a maze of changed identities, secret passions, and blackmail - toward a shocking conspiracy and a murderer's unrelenting quest to quell the truth forever..'

I was introduced to Joe Sandilands in The Last Kashmiri Rose the first of his mysteries, set in India just after WWI. The stories are entertaining and full of action and I do enjoy the setting and the time frame when it takes place. While the mysteries can be somewhat formulaic, if you want an enjoyable mystery, combined with the wonders of India, I do heartily recommend. Now to find out how Sandilands solves his latest mystery!

Next On the List

Next for me on my To-Be-Read list are a classic and a mystery.

The first is Nevil Shute's On The Beach.

"The last generation.. innocent victims of an accidental war, living out the last days, making plans that will never be carried out, making do with what they have - however temporary it might be - hoping for the miracle that will not come. As the deadly rain moves ever closer, and the world as we know it winds toward an inevitable end."

This is an old favourite of mine. I've read it many times and every time I enjoy it even more. Nevil Shute has this way of telling a story about huge events by focusing on normal people, people trying to maintain an every day life when all about them might be falling apart. While it's not a new book for me, it's a book that I have to read every five or six years as it is one of my all time favourites.

I heartily recommend to anyone and I also recommend the excellent movie starring Gregory Peck.

The next book in my To-Be-Read list is another new author to me, mystery writer, Anthony Berkeley and the story is The Poisoned Chocolates Case.

Anthony Berkeley lived from 1893 - 1970 and was a prolific mystery writer. This mystery was originally written in 1929.

"Sir Eustace was surprised when the box of chocolates arrived at his club. It was an ideal gift for the man of taste, but he didn't have a sweet tooth. So he gave them to George Bendix, who gave them to his wife, who gobbled them down. there were perfectly fresh. Perfectly delicious. Perfectly poisonous.

Was this fiendish work of a lunatic or an ingenious murderer? And who was his intended victim? The famous Crimes Circle Club is determined to help Scotland Yard find out. Each member, a famous dramatist, a brilliant novelist, a lawyer, a detective writer and a nobody named Ambrose Chitterwick, has a theory. One will be right. One will be 'dead' wrong."

Sounds great! Can't wait. I'll tell you how it turns out.

Good reading!


  1. Wao! All books I would love to read! Do you really read two books at the same time? I would get confused!

  2. Oh, I get confused, but it just makes the books more exciting.. ;0). I'm enjoying my books so far this year.

    Nice to see your comments, Siri, neither Jo nor I could access your Blog yesterday.

  3. Really? I`ve had some problems. I`ll try to fix it once again.

  4. I hope you're able to, we both enjoy your Blog very much.

  5. Hi Bill! Thank you for that comment! It warmed my heart! I haven’t had the time to read or write blogs lately, as I’m busy with the baby, rehabilitation of my neck + back, and getting some distance healing which also is making me so tired! I wrote a blog a week ago and saved it, and when I opened it to edit a bit and put the pictures in before I was to post it, half of it had disappeared.. So I’m having huge problems with and just haven’t had the motivation after that incidence. How are the two of you doing?

  6. I've been finding it difficult to get motivated to work on my Blog as well, although I do try and check on other folks every day. How are your neck and back doing? Is the rehab helping? I imagine the baby keeps you busy too, eh?

    Jo and I are fine, thanks. Just got back from the Canadian Figure Skating championships which were held last weekend. It was very entertaining. Otherwise, we're just enjoying our lives together. :0)

  7. I don’t know what to tell you really.. I mean, I feel that I’m getting stronger, but it is very hard training, and since it is going to take between 4-6 months to reach the strength that I need, I still have a long way to go. I started 3 weeks ago. My problem is that when I have been up there doing the workout for two hours, then I’m so tired and feel like going home to rest... But I can’t.. I have to take care of my baby.. And he’s so busy trying to walk and check out his surroundings, cruising around the living room. So I’m walking around saying no! - bending over to get him away from all the places he’s not allowed to go... So my back starts hurting. He’s heavy! 10 kg.

    Good to hear that you are fine! Hope the weather is good over there! Here it has been mild for a week. I’m very content with having rain! Si hi to Jo!

  8. It sounds a bit of a vicious cycle. Hopefully as your rehab progresses, you will feel a bit stronger every week. I wish you steady progress.

    I remember what it's like to try and keep an eye on a young one who is learning to walk and finding out how much fun it is to explore. He is a big fellow.

    The weather has been surprisingly good here lately. The rest of the country seems to be getting record snowfalls and cold temperatures, but it's been mild and even sunny here the past few days. I hope it stays that way! Jo says hi and passes on her best wishes.


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