Sunday, 31 July 2011

Mid Year Review Continued - Part 3

I've always enjoyed Sci Fi and Fantasy, at one time I belonged to the Science Fiction Book Club. But over the past few years my tastes have changed somewhat and I lean more toward a good mystery. For this year as one of my Reading challenges, I decided to focus on science fiction/ fantasy. Like the other challenges, I chose 12 + 2. I'm glad I did, as on the whole, I've very much enjoyed the stories I've read so far.

I tried to pick a mixture, older writers and newer, plus throw in some fantasy as well. So here goes...

Ursula K. Le Guin - The Lathe of Heaven. One of my favourite all-time Sci Fi stories is Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness but I hadn't read much else of her writings. I very much enjoyed this story, gave it 4 stars. It was an interesting concept, a man whose dreams alter reality, being used by a psychologist to change reality. It was quite fascinating.
Whitley Streiber/ James Kunetka - Nature's End. I had read War Day previously, at least twice and loved it. I found this story excellent as well. (4stars). It's a story of an apocalyptic future, with a group of people fighting to save the world. Nicely written.
Philip K. Dick - The Unteleported Man/ Howard L. Cory - The Mind Monsters. This book was a throwback to many of the pulp Sci Fi stories I read as a kid. 2 stories in one, each interesting. I preferred The Unteleported Man, but both were readable and entertaining. (3 stars)
Lester del Rey - Outpost of Jupiter. This is a classic outer space adventure, interesting, quick to read and holds your attention. (3 stars)
William Gibson - Burning Chrome. I find Gibson's vision of the future very interesting. I've enjoyed most of the books of his that I've read, with a couple of exceptions, this book of short stories being one of them. There were a couple that I thought were OK; Red Star, Winter Orbit, The Winter Market, but on the whole, I just didn't get it, I'm afraid. Of interest, one of the short stories, Johnny Mnemonic was turned into a successful movie. I'd say, stick with the novels, although this would probably be worth reading to get a quick idea of Gibson's interesting vision. (2 stars)

Phyllis Gottlieb - Son of Morning and Other Stories. I've enjoyed everything I've read by Phyllis Gottlieb so far. She's a Canadian writer and her stories and ideas are fresh and unique. This is another book of short stories and on the whole I found it very successful. She has a way of drawing you in very quickly. (4 stars)
Jim Butcher - Fool Moon. This is the second book of the Dresden Files series. I enjoyed the first, have enjoyed the graphic novels and also quite liked the short - lived TV series. I've just started this book, but I'm sure I'll enjoy the latest Harry Dresden, Wizard/ Private Investigator, story very much.
John Brunner - The Shockwave Rider. He's another writer that I've enjoyed. Stand on Zanzibar was a fascinating story, a true masterpiece. I quite enjoyed this as well; another story of a future on the brink, but with strong characters and a positive ending. (3 stars)
Iain M. Banks - The State of the Art. One that I still have to read. Banks is a new author for me, but I have found the stories I've read so far, The Algebraist and Matter, both excellent. Another unique vision of space, the future. This is a book of short stories.
J. G. Ballard - The Crystal World. This is another that is still to be read. I've read quite a few of Ballard's Sci Fi stories, The Drowned World, Kingdom Come, High Rise, etc and all are strange and interesting.
Fred Hoyle - Fifth Planet. A nicely written outer space adventure. I had no idea what to expect from this story and was very pleasantly surprised. I had read A for Andromeda  and Andromeda Breakthrough  previously and enjoyed very much. This one was also very good. (4 stars)
Tanya Huff - Blood Lines/ Blood Pact. I had previously read The Blood Books, Vol 1 and very much enjoyed. I also liked the Sci Fi TV series based on the books. I have yet to read this one, but I'm quite looking forward to an entertaining read.
Aldous Huxley - Brave New World. A classic of Sci Fi, I'd read previously, one of the novels that we read for a Science Fiction Novel course I'd taken at university. It had been many years since I'd read it, so it was nice to reread and confirm my memories that this is a pretty good story. Not one of my all-time favourites, but still worth reading. (3 stars)
Ray Bradbury - Fahrenheit 451. Another I'd read many years ago, that I recalled liking. Also a successful movie, that I have enjoyed a few times. I was happy to discover that I enjoyed the story immensely and that my memories of it were correct. Thought-provoking and still current. I recommend to anyone. (5 stars)

Well, there you have it, my reading challenge picks (Sci Fi genre) for 2011. I've made a good stab at them so far and look forward to finishing off the challenge. Check them out.

Keep on reading!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Mid-Year Review continued, Part 2

The next few months will be great. I've been working full-time since January and while I've enjoyed it and the money has been very useful, I'm looking forward to getting back to part time at the end of August. I must say it's a bit harder to keep up and wasn't in my plans when I retired. Having said that, the past three years working back at Comox has been most enjoyable. I've also got six days of vacation time I have to use up before end of August so I plan to have long weekends up to September. That will provide me nice time to do some reading, maybe the missus and I will head down to Victoria or Coombs one weekend. Lovely, lovely.

Anyway, to get to my topic. Last post I highlighted one of the reading challenges I took on at the beginning of the year. That was the Reading Group Challenge from the Book Addicts Reading group at Goodreads. I have also taken on some Individual Reading Challenges, the first being to read 14 specific Mysteries by the end of the year. I tried to pick books by authors from my To Be Read list that were new to me. So far on the whole, I've enjoyed every one.

This is the list and where I am with it.

Anthony Berkeley's - The Poisoned Chocolate Mystery. - a nicely written British mystery that I gave 3 stars.
Mark Billingham's - Sleepyhead. Another British police drama. I gave it 4 stars. While there were some frustrations, it moved along nicely and had a satisfying ending.
C.S. Forester - Payment Deferred. This was quite different from his Horatio Hornblower books and quite tense. I gave it 4 stars.
Ariana Franklin - Mistress of the Art of Death. I've written about this novel previously. Suffice it to say, I discovered Ariana Franklin by chance and was thrilled with my find. This was a fantastic period mystery, set in England. Great characters, well-paced interesting and even exciting plot. I look forward to reading the remaining books in the series and have the next awaiting me on my TBR shelf. It is definitely one of my top reads of 2011 so far. It's unfortunate that Ariana passed away not too long ago, so the series is very short.
Nicholas Freeling - The King of the Rainy Country. I gave this Inspector Van der Valk mystery 3 stars. It wasn't my favourite of the year, but interesting enough to keep my attention.
Cyril Hare - Tragedy At Law. I am currently reading this mystery, an old fashioned British mystery and enjoying very much.

Patricia Highsmith - Strangers on a Train. This was a book I've wanted to read for a long time; it was after all made into a classic by Alfred Hitchcock and the plot line has been used in many TV mysteries. I ultimately found it too psychological, less story, but still enjoyed and was glad I'd read. I gave it 3 stars.
Iris Johansen - Deadlock. Still have to read this one, a standalone mystery adventure. The plot sounded interesting.
A.A. Milne - The Red House Mystery. Who knew that the writer of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories was also a mystery writer. I sure didn't. I found it an interesting parlour house mystery and gave it 3 stars.
Kay Mitchell - A Lively Form of Death. One that is still to be read. The plot sounded interesting; it's a Inspector John Morrissey mystery
Lynda Laplante - Above Suspicion. Lynda Laplante is most well-known for her Prime Suspect stories, but she is a prolific mystery writer. This story is the first of a new police procedural, with Detective Constable Anna Travis. I quite enjoyed and gave it 4 stars. I hope that in Canada we get the TV series based on the books.
Patricia Wentworth - Wicked Uncle. This is still on my TBR list. This is one of her Miss Silver series, a character compared to Miss Marple.
Josephine Tey - A Shilling for Candles. Also still on my TBR list. This story was the basis for Hitchcock's Young and Innocent.
Margery Allingham - Pearls Before Swine. My final mystery selection, also still to be read. This is the twelfth novel in the Albert Campion mysteries.

So there you have it, the 14 mysteries I chose for one of my Reading Book Challenges. Next on the list are my 14 Sci Fi books. I hope, if you enjoy a good mystery, you might dig one or two of these stories out and enjoy as much as I have.

Good reading.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Mid - Year Review - What I've been reading, yada yada....

It`s been a couple of months since I last posted anything. It`s not that I lost interest, but many things have happened in recent months and I`ve been very busy at work, all this full-time work and things like that. I just haven`t found the energy to write another and also wasn`t sure what I wanted to write about.
I thought now, that since it`s the middle of July and 2011 is half-way past that it might be nice to look back at what I`ve been reading and what books have struck my fancy the most of those I`ve read so far in 2011.
I have found this year to be much more directed or maybe guided as to what I`ve read. I discovered a website late last year,, which basically is groups of people in various clubs that like to talk about the books they`ve been reading and various other interesting topics that crop up. I joined Goodreads and gradually joined five `clubs` or groups;

The James Mason Community Book Club, dedicated to the late great actor, James Mason. There are no specific genres that are discussed, just general interesting discussion on varied and sundry topics;
The Mystery, Crime and Thriller Group - discussions center on, of course, whodunits, mysteries, thrillers, great for a mystery lover like myself;
The SciFi and Fantasy Book Club - another title that`s self-evident, where discussions revolve around scifi and fantasy stories, movies, TV shows and the like;
The Book Addicts - another that suits my personality. Ask Jo and she`ll probably confirm I`m somewhat of a book addict, enjoying reading, having books around to look at and hating to part with any book, even when I haven`t enjoyed it; and
UK Book Club - OK, this one`s a bit of  stretch as it generally is for folks from the UK. The nice thing is they don`t limit themselves to it and I`ve found discussions enjoyable and interesting. Besides I do have a link to the UK, what with Jo coming for there and her family still residing there. :0)

Thanks to my membership in the various clubs I`ve found my reading this past year, as I mentioned earlier, somewhat more guided. Various of the clubs have challenges that go on over the course of the year and also most of them choose a book or two a month for specific discussion. While I haven`t necessarily took part in the specific discussions, except for the discussions pertaining to Harry Turtledove`s Opening Atlantis which I will say was somewhat disappointing.

I have taken part, or more correctly, am taking part in various reading challenges, from a couple of the groups and these are what is helping me in guiding my reading in 2011.

In The Book Addicts, they have both Group and Individual Reading challenges. In the Reading Group Challenge, group members choose 12 books plus two alternates from their bookshelves, their To Be Read lists and try to read them over the course of the year. My list is as follows -
Rennie Airth - River of Darkness (4*), a very interesting mystery, set in England after WWI.
Nevil Shute - On the Beach (5*), a classic, one I`ve read many times and enjoy every single time.
H.H. Kirst - Night of the Generals (4*), interesting story about WWII and also a murder mystery. Also a very good movie.
George Orwell - Burmese Days (3*), I didn`t know what to expect and wasn`t disappointed, interesting story about British colony in Burma.
Graham Greene - Brighton Rock (4*), excellent story. I now want to see the new movie with Helen Mirren.
E.M. Forster - Howard`s End. Not much to say, it was eminently readable.
Timothy Findley - Pilgrim (4*). Quite a different, interesting story.
Simon Winchester - Krakatoa - The Day the World Exploded. Very interesting analysis of the world at the time of Krakatoa and the science and many other facets surrounding this volcanic eruption.
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything. Currently reading. One of Jo`s favourite authors and I can see why so far as he is able to make what could be an extremely dry subject very interesting.
C.J. Samson - Sovereign. still to be read, but I have enjoyed the previous mysteries revolving around Matthew Shardlake.
Donna Leon - Dressed for Death. Still to read. One of the best mystery writers I`ve ever read.
William Gibson - Spook Country. still to read. I do find his scifi ideas very interesting.
Giles Blunt - Black fly Season - (4*). Loved it, very interesting Canadian mystery.
Edmund Crispin - Glimpses of the Moon. still to be read.

I think for today, I`ll stop here. It`s been nice just to open up this Blog and write a few words. Over the next few days (weeks, maybe more accurately), I`ll try to write about some of the other challenges and review some of my favourite books so far that I`ve read in 2011.

I`m still loving reading and still enjoying buying books and wandering around book shops. Keep on reading!

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