Saturday, 6 August 2011

Current Readings

Let's see, what have I been reading the past few weeks? Of the last three, there's been a mystery, a book from the humour genre and a non-fiction that covers almost everything..

Just Finished

"Judge William Hereward Barber's tour of the Southern Circuit starts off normally enough, with as much ceremony as wartime England would permit and a calendar consisting of the usual array of civil disputes and criminal cases. But then, as a series of strange incidents occur, Francis Pettigrew is faced with a perplexing, perhaps deadly, puzzle. Are these unrelated mishaps a string of particularly nasty practical jokes, or is someone trying to murder Judge Barber?"

Tragedy at Law was written by Cyril Hare, a British judge, in 1942. He draws upon his own experiences as a judge in this story, and introduces two characters, barrister Frances Pettigrew and police officer, Inspector Mallett. This wasn't an action-packed mystery, but an interesting description of the life of the travelling judge in England, whose duties involved travelling to the various municipal courts from London to hear cases there. Included in his retinue are his staff, his interesting wife and various barristers who work the various cases, including Mr Pettigrew. In this story, incidents occur that add to the journey, threats are made that affect the judge and involve his wife, Hilda. There are many nice little twists and turns, the story is well - written and I enjoyed the mystery very much. This is the first Cyril Hare story I've read and I will try to find some of the others.

Over the past few years, I've bought my wife, Jo, various of Bill Bryson's books; his travels through England, Australia, Europe, his latest book on the Home and of those she's managed to read so far, she has enjoyed his humour and writing style. I decided to try one that she hasn't read yet, a Short History of Nearly Everything. I've got to say, I agree with her assessment. Bill Bryson is an American - born writer who has spent much of his life in Britain, and as of 2003 was Chancellor of Durham University.

As the title of this book states, this is a short history of nearly everything and he's not kidding. He covers everything from the Big Bang Theory, Physics, Geology, Biology, etc etc. Luckily, even with such potentially heavy subject matter, Bill has managed to write a nicely - flowing, interesting novel, that moves smoothly from subject matter to subject matter. Even though you might not think that this topic would lend itself to much humour, he even manages to add interesting humorous side stories about the people and scientists who developed and created much of what we know about the Earth today and also of the people he met as he explored the various themes in this book. I have now added his other books to my list of 'to be reads'.

In my UK Book Club, the theme for August was 'humour' books. When I was in high school, I read two books by Leo Rosten, who moved from Poland with his family at the age of 3. Both involved a night school teacher, Mr. Parkhill, who teaches English to immigrants to the US. The stories revolve around his most precocious student, Mr Hyman Kaplan, an engaging, entertaining student, who's manipulation of the English language often cause both consternation and admiration from his fellow students, depending on which side of the fence they sit and often give poor Mr 'Pockheel' nightmares.

I had been looking through my used book stores for the past few years to find Mr Rosten's books (the other being The Education of Hyman Kaplan) when I found this one, The Return of Hyman Kaplan, in a fantastic used book store in Ottawa, The Book Bazaar. When the theme for August was announced by my Book Club, this story was my first choice. Even with the gap of about 40 years from my last reading, this story has lost none of its gentle humour. I enjoyed every page and every situation in each chapter. If you are ever lucky enough to find these stories, I'm sure you'll find them as wonderful and entertaining as I have.

Currently Reading

Having completed the genre challenge in my UK Book Club so early, I decided to read another in the humour genre. This is another book that I had purchased for my wife, one that she told me was a good chuckle.

"Inspired by breathtaking views and romantic dreams of finding love in the mountains, Tony Hawks impulsively buys a house in the French Pyrenees. Here, he plans to finally fulfil his childhood fantasy of mastering the piano, untroubled by the problems of the world. In reality, the chaotic story of Tony's hopelessly ill-considered house purchase reads like the definitive guide to how not to buy a home overseas. It finds him flirting with the removal business in a disastrous attempt to transport his piano to France in a dodgy white van; foolishly electing to build a swimming pool himself; and expanding his relationship when he starts co-habiting; not with an exquisite French beauty, but a middle-aged builder from West London."

I've just started this story, but it already has pulled me in. If it continues in this vein, I may also find myself reading Round Ireland with a Fridge and Playing the Moldavians at Tennis.

One fantasy series that I've enjoyed both as a TV series, comic books and novels is Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. Fool Moon is the second in the series and I started that at the same time as I was reading Mr Kaplan. It's my upstairs book. :0)

"Business has bee slow. Okay, business has been dead. And not even of the undead variety. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn't been able to dredge up any kind of work - magical or mundane. But just when it looks like he can't afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise. A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon. Take three guesses - and the first two don't count."

I'm enjoying immensely even after only a few chapters. Butcher tells his story with a nice irreverence and develops his stories and characters nicely. I like Harry and his pal, spirit Bob and I have a crush on his friend, police officer Murphy. I'm looking forward to continuing reading.. Will let you know how it all ends up. :0)

Next in Line

It may change but these are the next two books I'm leaning towards.

While I'm somewhat unfamiliar with Iris Johansen's writings, this one did sound interesting.

Deadlock "Emily Hudson is a renowned archaeologist who travels the world to save priceless artifacts from theft or destruction. Her best friend and partner, Joel Levy,  is always at her side - until one day, when her entire crew comes under attack. Joel and Emily are taken hostage by a sadistic captor who is determined to find the missing link to a legendary treasure. For weeks they struggle to survive against terrifying odds, pushed to their limits -  and beyond. John Garrett has worked for the CIA, British intelligence and whoever else will pay for his services. This time, a Washington operative hands him what at first appears to be just another assignment; to track down and save Emily and Joel. but it quickly becomes much more, especially when Garrett finds himself drawn to someone as dauntless and bent on revenge as Emily. Soon, they're catapulted into an astonishing adventure in which nothing, and no one, is what it seems. And lives hang in the balance as one man and one woman unravel the explosive truth behind a conspiracy hidden for generations." Mwuuuu haaaaa!

Next is the third book in the Matthew Shardlake series; one I've quite enjoyed so far.

Sovereign - "Autumn, 1541. King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to attend an extravagant submission by his rebellious subjects in York. Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as legal work processing local petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special mission for Archbishop Cranmer - to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator who is to be returned to London for interrogation. but the murder of a York glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle, but to the royal family itself. And when Shardlake and Barak stumble upon a cache of secret documents which could threaten the Tudor throne, a chain of events unfolds that will lead to Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age."

Sounds great!

Keep on reading and support your local book store and library. :0)

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