Monday, 7 May 2012

Currently Reading/ Recent Purchases

It's a quiet morning, just recovering from my latest attempt at keeping fit. Not my best run/ walk by any means, but I guess it's still exercise. :0) I thought I would take this opportunity to let you know what I'm currently reading and also what books I've bought in the recent weeks.

Currently Reading

HMS Ulysses
 I've had a great time with my reading selections so far in 2012; found some excellent books. At the moment, I'm reading two books. The first is Alistair MacLean's very first novel. I have blogged about my love of his books previously. I read this probably 40 years ago when I was but a lad and loved it. It tells the story of a light cruiser, the HMS Ulysses, a well-armed ship, with crew issues that is sent on the Murmansk run (the resupply of Russia), to escort a convoy of supply ships. I've just begun the story, but it has drawn me in immediately. It tells of the strain on the crew, the harsh weather in the North Atlantic, the Captain trying to keep his ship together for this last trip so they can head South to the Mediterranean for a 'break'. Excellent stuff and if you wish to introduce yourself to Alistair MacLean's writings, I'd recommend this as a starting point.

Knights Templar
The other book I have on the go is the second in Jack Whyte's Templar trilogy. I read the first, Knights of the Black and White earlier this year and did enjoy. It is a long book, as is this second book, Standard of Honor. While I do find his style somewhat dry, the book is easy to read. It continues with the adventures of the Knights in Outremar, the Holy Land. There are two story lines in this book. Overall it deals with the defeat of the Second Crusade by Saladin and the launching of the Third Crusade by Richard Lionheart. In Outremar, Alexander Sinclair, a Scots Templar Knight is taken prisoner by one of Saladin's Captains. Back in France, another Templar Knight, Andre St. Clair assists Richard in his deployment to the Holy Land. This is the story in its very simplest. There are plots within plots; the Templars being but one force. I do find the intricacies of the plot sometimes a bit overwhelming; I'm still confused about the differences between the Knight's Templar, the Order of Sion, the Hospitaler Knights.. and now thrown into the mix, the Teutonic Knights of Barbarossa. But I enjoy the characters; Sinclair, Andre and his father Henry, Eleanor of Aquitaine. I'm half way through at the moment and looking forward to seeing how it all ties up.

Latest Purchases

Manuel Vazquez Montalban is a new writer for me. I happened to see his books in The Laughing Oyster the other weekend and the stories looked interesting. So I had to try one. Montalban is a Spanish writer who started out writing poetry, then tried novels. His main character is Pepe Carvalho, as he is described in the write up to this novel, an ex-CIA agent. He is now a detective with a gastronomic flair. In this novel, a woman shows up to tell him that her husband, Antonio Jauma, has been murdered. The police say he was murdered by a pimp. Pepe decides the police are wrong and goes to solve this case. It involves book-burning, cooking a grand meal or two, discussing democracy and fascism with his assistant and relaxing with his girlfriend Charo, whose last name he can't remember. And finally discovering his own life is in danger for not accepting the initial version of the death. There are other Montalban books, so this may be a new series for me. Don't tell the missus.

Anna Pigeon # 14
I've always enjoyed Nevada Barr's style of story - writing and I like her main character, Anna Pigeon, of the US Park Service. I enjoy visiting the various National Parks where Anna's mysteries take place. Who knew there were so many. In Winter Study, "soon after Anna Pigeon joins the famed wolf study team of Isle Royale National Park in the middle of Lake Superior, the wolf packs begin to behave in peculiar ways. Giant wolf prints are found, and Anna spies the form of a great wolf from a surveillance plane. When a female member of the team is savaged, Anna is convinced they are being stalked, and what was once a beautiful, idyllic refuge becomes a place of unnatural occurrences and danger beyond the ordinary..."

If you enjoy excellent mysteries and unusual settings and plots, Nevada Barr is definitely worth a visit.

I've read on Nicholas Freeling previously, a Van der Valk mystery and enjoyed the story. I found this in ABC Books and the write - up on the back looked interesting enough to give the book a try. "Sitting on his garden terrace one French autumn evening, John Charles's reverie is shattered by a single gunshot. It is obvious he was the target, but what was the purpose? To murder, to intimidate or simply to shock? Charles, an ageing English crime writer, is fascinated by this sudden threat to his cosmopolitan, comfortable life. After his attempts to expose his unknown assailant result in another man's shooting and a fire which destroys his house, he embarks upon a sentimental investigative journey around his beloved Europe. But when he is kidnapped on a German street, The Ruhr, scene of his military posting at the end of the Second World War, becomes the setting for an unfamiliar plot in which Charles is merely a player." Definitely sounds interesting.

Black Mischief
 I've read a couple of Evelyn Waugh's books before and find his style very unique, dry and witty. He often takes on the most interesting subjects; even the world of funeral parlours. In Black Mischief, we head to Africa; Azania specifically, one of those famous empires of King Solomon's time, but now a backward and barbarian land. "There had lately ascended to the throne, however, a young man called Seth, whose list of sonorous titles - Emperor of Azania, Lord of Wanda, Tyrant of the Seas - ended unexpectedly with 'Bachelor of Arts of Oxford University'. At the court of this progressive but inexperienced monarch there arrived a clever and dissolute adventurer from Mayfair who had been at Oxford with Seth. Between them they set about the vain endeavour of reforming the ramshackle dominion".  Interesting, eh? We'll see.

Inspector Sejer Mystery
Don't Look Back is my first Karin Fossum novel. I have enjoyed the other Scandinavian writers I've tried the past couple of years; Karin Alvtegen, Jo Nesbo to name a couple. Fossum is a Norwegian writer and features the Inspector Sejer mysteries. Don't Look Back is her second novel and was released in 1996. "At the foot of the Kollen mountain lies a small village where the children play unafraid in the streets. But the tranquillity is about to be irrecoverably shattered by a most sinister crime when a young woman's naked body is found lying by the lake. Inspector Sejer - smart, tough and enigmatic - is called in to investigate. Only he can uncover the dark secrets of this quiet community, hidden by deep family ties."

I do enjoy a good mystery these days and seem drawn to the Scandinavians for some reason. I enjoy their style and the unfamiliar cities and areas. I'm very much looking forward to this story.

The missus and I watched the Case Histories BBC TV series, starring Jason Isaacs, recently and loved it. It has a lovely feel to it, besides the fact that Isaacs is a great actor. I discovered that the series is based on books written by Kate Atkinson. I've been on the look out for them and recently I found Started Early, Took My Dog, which was released in 2010. "It's a day like any other for security chief, Tracy Waterhouse, until she makes a purchase she hadn't bargained for. One moment of madness is all it takes for Tracy's humdrum world to be turned upside down, the tedium of everyday life replaced by fear and danger at every turn. Witnesses to Tracy's Faustian exchange in the Merrion Centre in Leeds are Tilly, an elderly actress teetering on the brink of her own disaster, and Jackson Brodie, who has returned to his home country in search of someone else's roots. All three characters learn that the past is never history and that no good deed goes unpunished." I still have to find the earlier Brodie mysteries, but this should be an excellent starting point.

So there you have it, new books and good reading.. Reading a good book always puts a smile on my face.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Book Shelves - The Lounge

The built-ins in the lounge
 Last Blog I was showing off the smaller book shelves we use for storing / displaying our books. I talked about the family room and the book shelf on the half landing. I mentioned the built-ins that we had constructed for us as well. Above is the full view of them. I have mentioned them previously in a much earlier Blog when I was just starting to post here. Today, though, I'm focusing on the smaller more intimate book shelves where we store our books.

Off to the right of the built-ins, tucked into a corner by one of our comfy chairs is one of those cases. It's a cozy, sunny corner and it contains a mix of books, some I've read and some I haven't. Some of my favourite series are there.

As an aside, the painting you see above the bookcase is by a Victoria painter, Alesha Davies Fowlie. We saw it at a local art festival and fell in love with it.

On the top of the bookcase are a mix of books, from fiction through history to biography -
Howard Engel - The Ransom Game (A Benny Cooperman mystery)
Hakan Nesser - The Return
Terry Jones - The Barbarians
A.C. Baantjer - DeKok and the Death of a Clown
General Rick Hillier - A Soldier First
Val McDermid - A Darker Domain

The bookcase is a very simple one; we either bought it at a yard sale or at auction.It's very simple, doesn't even have a back. But the missus gave it new life with a fresh coat of paint and it tucks perfectly into that corner.
On the bottom shelf, at the far end you can see one of Jo's memories of home in the UK; it's a carrying case with her father's jumper cables in them, kind of a neat item.
As to books, one of my high school favourite series is displayed in the middle; Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter of Mars series. I had to replace most of the original books over time as they got quite worn with all the travelling I did as a youngster. My Blog on the series was viewed quite heavily when the movie came out this year. Other authors displayed on this shelf include James Patterson - 4th of July and The 5th Horseman, Max Brooks - The Zombie Survival Guide, Simon Winchester - Outposts, Martin Cruz Smith - Stalin's Ghost, Georges Simenon - The Blue Room, Karen Irving - Pluto Rising and two Jeffrey Deaver's - The Cold Moon and The Bodies Left Behind.

The middle shelf features two of my favourite series, one old, one new.. About, it must be five Christmases ago now, Jo got me the Ian Rankin, Rebus series. It involved ordering some on line, searching through bookstores in Victoria, especially one of our favourites, Chronicles of Crime, located on Fort Street. It was such a nice surprise. I've been working my way through the series and enjoying every moment of it. You can see where I am at the moment, The Hanging Garden turned back to front. Jo and I have also over time enjoyed both TV versions of Rebus, although, personally I think Ken Stott makes a better Rebus. To the right of the Rankin books is another James Patterson, Cross and two wartime, erotic books, George Revelli's Commander Amanda Nightingale and Amanda's Castle.To the right of them are my other series. I had read most of Ian Fleming's James Bond books back in junior high school; they were quite exciting for my adolescent mind. I've been slowly collecting them again; have read three or four so far. They're nice to pick up and relive; excellent spy novels. So far I've found Goldfinger, From Russia with Love, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Thunderball, Live and Let Die, Dr No, Octopussy/ The Living Daylights, Casino Royale and The Spy Who Loved Me. Great stories, all written between the mid-50'sto mid-60's. Real classics.

Finally we move to the top shelf, a true mish-mash. They are a mix of hard covers/ paperbacks, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, history, a really nice mix of favourites. Let's see what you can find there -
Tom Robb Smith - Child 44
David Rotenberg (a great mystery series set in China) - The Golden Mountain Murders, The Lake Ching Murders and The Hamlet Murders
William Gibson - Spook Country
Stephen Donaldson - The Man Rides Through and The Mirror of her Dreams
James Patterson - Four Blind Mice
Jeffrey Deaver - The Sleeping Doll
David Benioff - City of Thieves
Cormac McCarthy - The Road
Jim Butcher - Grave Peril and Small Favor, David Brin - Heart of the Comet, Max Boot - War Made New, Simon Winchester - Krakatoa, Jo Nesbo - The Redbreast, Zoe Heller - Notes on a Scandal, Michael Connelly - City of Bones, Robertson Davies - What's Bred in the Bone and Christopher Golden - The Gatekeeper Trilogy.

Anyway, there you have it, another nice little bookcase, packed with joy. I'll leave this Blog with a piece of art, this is the painting by Alesha Davies Fowlie that sits above this peaceful corner.

Keep on reading and supporting your local book stores.
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