Friday, 1 February 2013

January 2013 - Monthly Summary

Amazing how quickly the month has gone by. I can 't say it's been an overly busy month, I've worked a bit more than usual as they've given us 16 days instead of the normal 12 - 14. But other than that, it's been a nice quiet month and I guess for that reason I had a pretty successful month of reading. I finished 10 books. None of them were major challenges, but I enjoyed them all and at the end of the month I was pretty satisfied with what I'd read and how much I'd accomplished. As to the number of pages, well, as I just said, none of them were major challenges and i finished about 2800 pages. There were no 5 star books, just entertaining, well-written stories that I enjoyed very much. So let's see how I did in January. I'll list the books by the various challenges, just as a means of organising my choices.

12 + 2 Reading Group Challenge - I completed one book off my list, J.G. Ballard's Hello America. Ballard writes SciFi, of the dystopian - type. This story concerns a group of explores from Europe who have come to America, years after a major disaster to see how America is faring. They travel across America, to Las Vegas, where they find a society ruled by a psychotic who has returned to America from Europe. I've read quite a few Ballard stories, some I've found to be fairly inaccessible, but the majority have been interesting in their own right. The Day of Creation, Kingdom Come, High Rise, The Drowned World, all were most interesting. I found Hello America to be one of his more 'enjoyable' stories. Interesting plot, interesting concept and well-crafted. It didn't blow me away, but I enjoyed it all the same. (3 stars)

Genre Challenge (Historical Fiction) - I chose to read The Beekeeper's Apprentice, the first Mary Russell/ Sherlock Holmes story by Laure R. King. It's a series I've had my on for awhile now and it loosely fit the historical fiction genre, as it is set during WWI. Mary Russell is an orphan who lives in Sussex and meets Sherlock Holmes, who has retired to the area to raise bees, also keeping his hand in, helping the government fight spies and taking on the odd case. There is an attraction that develops between the two, not a physical one, mind you, but a mental one. Holmes likes Mary's intelligence, ability to solve puzzles so he takes her on as student. Over the course of the book, they are involved in a variety of cases and are stalked by a villain that seems to be their match for craftiness and intelligence. It's an entertaining story, with nice twists and turns. I look forward to reading the next in the series, A Monstrous Regiment of Women. (I gave The Beekeeper's Apprentice 3 stars)

Individual Challenge (Alphabetical Mysteries)  - I've continued this challenge from 2012, basically reading one mystery / thriller/ spy story by each author, working my way from A - Z. In January, I had reached G and managed to read three different authors' stories.
Deception On His Mind, by Elizabeth George is the 9th Inspector Lynley mystery, an excellent book series and TV series. The nice twist in this story is that Lynley plays no part as he is on his honeymoon. The story is a Barbara Havers story, Havers being his Sgt. She follows her neighbour to the coast, worried about him and his daughter and becomes involved in solving the murder of an Indian immigrant and must navigate the racial tension between the local towns folk, the Indian community and the police inspector, an old colleague of hers. It had been awhile since I'd read a Lynley story and I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed the series. Maybe it could have been tied together a bit quicker, but all-in-all an excellent read (3 stars)
Close Quarters by Michael Gilbert. Another British police mystery, this one from 1947, was Michael Gilbert's first novel. It's an interesting mystery, with two police officers trying to solve various murders in a Church school. Nice twists and turns, interesting characters, perfect for when it was written. (3 stars)
Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton. This is one of the many mysteries featuring Kinsey Milhone, female Private Eye from California. I've read all up to this one, of course, one or two a year and enjoy Kinsey, her friends and find her cases always interesting. Q did not let me down. In this story, she is helping two old cops try and solve an old cold case. Both cops, who I found so interesting, are suffering from various ailments, and the case is something to occupy them and distract them from things missing in their lives. I liked them very much, two old friends, more like an old married couple. Kinsey helps them, becomes deeply involved. Interesting cold case, interesting solution. (3 stars)

Individual Reading Challenge (Focus Author). I came up with a new challenge this year, that being focusing on a specific author each month to catch up on series that have been sitting on my shelves, either to make up some ground on them or to reread old favourites. The focus author's books will be my bedside book and with luck I'll read 3 or 4 in the month. January's focus was Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn series. I'd read a couple previously, kept buying more and watched some of the TV series when I was in England with the missus. In January, I managed to read four, starting with the very first and working my way through the early books. Each one was better than the last and in the last story, Artists in Crime, we were introduced to Alleyn's mother, Lady Alleyn, and to the lady (a possible suspect), the lovely artist, Troy, who would play a much bigger role in future books. The books I finished were, A Man Lay Dead (the first, 3 stars), which introduced us to Alleyn, his assistants, Inspector Fox and Sgt Bailey, plus a couple who would become close friends and feature in future books, Nigel Bathgate and his girl-friend, Angela. Second read was The Nursing Home Murder, involving the murder of the Home Secretary, in an operating room, a case which implicated subversive organisations in England, plus jealous lovers. (3 stars). Third story was Death in Ecstasy, a murder in a evangelic church, with a dark, but interesting story line. (3 stars) The final selection was Artists in Crime, the sixth mystery, which causes many trials and tribulations to Alleyn, as it involves the murder of a model at the art studio of the woman who has attracted his attentions, a case in which she is a possible suspect. My favourite Alleyn mystery so far (4 stars). I still have another six or seven to read, but they will be read at leisure.

Freebie - This was my favourite book of the month, a recent purchase. I'd seen the recent movie starring Daniel Radcliffe and both the missus and I had enjoyed very much. A nicely, spooky ghost story. I discovered the book was written by Susan Hill and decided to hunt down a copy, the one you see to the left. I was over-joyed to find it and enjoyed the story so very much. It's a short story, but packed with suspense. It had me on the edge of my seat at times, holding my breath at others. It's not terrifying, or grossly violent, just scary, moody. Very well-written, grabs you right away and satisfies you totally. (4 stars)

So there you have it, my readings for January. I've started my February books already, am enjoying my first two. But that discussion is for another day, maybe tomorrow or Sunday. :0)

I hope you enjoyed your January selections and have good luck with your February choices.

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