Wednesday, 20 March 2013

I've Been Away.....

The missus and I just returned from our travels to Ontario. We had a very nice two weeks, visited my daughter and her boyfriend in Kingston, my Dad and sister in North Bay, then finished off our trip to London where we enjoyed the World Figure Skating Championships. Stayed in a very nice B&B in Ingersoll and had a mere 30 minute drive into the event each day. It was pretty darn perfect. We ate well, visited family, saw some of Ontario, met new friends at the Championships and basically enjoyed the trip. However, it's always so nice to step in our front door and settle down in our comfy home. (The only bad thing that came out of the trip was that I managed to catch a head cold, now I've got a sniffly nose and sore throat..) :0(

Even though we were travelling I did manage to read a few books and also visited a couple of used book stores in Kingston and in London. It always makes a trip that bit more enjoyable if I can wander through a couple of bookstores and find some good books.. So let's see what did we find??

Kingston - Jo and I wandered around the center town area one day and found quite a few nice places. We started in an antique/ collectibles place called Turks on Princess Street. Unfortunately, the store is closing down after many, many years in business. It's hard times for the antique business. I bought a few books there as they did have a section at the back with some excellent books -

The Razor's Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham. I found this particular edition of The Razor's Edge in the store. I wasn't familiar with Maugham's writing but since one of my Goodread's Book Groups was featuring modern British classics, I thought this might be appropriate. I liked the age of the book, which was published in 1945 by Blakiston's and just the overall feel of the book. I decided to read the book as well for the genre challenge and must say, it is one of my favourite books of 2013 (heck, one of my favourite books ever). Maugham has such a flowing style and tells a great story. I'm so glad I found it and bought it.

Leave it to PSmith, by P.G. Wodehouse. I did like the look of this book. I have read some of Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster books and enjoyed his humour. It was first published in 1923 and, as I've since discovered, is the fourth and final installment of the PSmith stories. The synopsis of the story is as follows -

"A debonair young Englishman, Psmith ("the p is silent, as in phthisis, psychic, and ptarmigan") has quit the fish business, "even though there is money in fish," and decided to support himself by doing anything that he is hired to do by anyone. Wandering in and out of romantic, suspenseful, and invariably hilarious situations, Psmith is in the great Wodehouse tradition."

Can You Forgive Her, by Anthony Trollope. This was a book the missus found and liked the look of. I've never read any Trollope so if and when I do, I'll be having a new experience. :0) The story synopsis is -

"Can You Forgive Her? (1864-5) is the first of the six famous Palliser novels which, as a group, provide us with the most extensive and contradictory expose of British life during the period of its greatest prestige. In Can You Forgive Her? Trollope inextricably binds together the issues of parliamentary election and marriage, of politics and privacy. The values and aspirations of the governing stratum of Victorian society are ruthlessly examined and none remain unscathed. Above all Trollope focuses on the predicament of women. 'What should a woman do with her life?' asks Alice Vavasor of herself, and this theme is echoed by every other woman in the novel, from the uncomfortably married Lady Glencora to the coquettish Mrs Greenow and Alice's clear-headed cousin Kate."

Novel Idea, Kingston, ON

Parade's End, by Ford Maddox Ford. Jo and I watched the HBO / BBC series based on the book and were drawn in and enjoyed it so very much. I had added the book to my TBR list and while checking out other bookstores in Kingston, I found this copy, a Penguin edition published in 2012. I purchased the copy and do look forward to reading it and seeing how much I enjoy the book.
"Ford's masterly story of destruction and regeneration follows the progress of Christopher Tietjens as his world is shattered by the Great War. In four volumes - Some Do Not . . ., No More Parades, A Man Could Stand Up and The Last Post - Parade's End traces the psychological damage inflicted by battle, the collapse of England's secure Edwardian values and the new age, embodied by Tietjens' beautiful, selfish wife Sylvia. It is an elegy for the war dead and the passing of a way of life, and a work of amazing subtlety and profundity."

London ON - The Book Dealer. During one of the breaks from the Figure Skating, Jo and I went our separate ways and I checked out a couple of neat used book stores. At The Book Dealer I found the following books.

Russian Hide and Seek, by Kingsley Amis. Over the past couple of years, I've found a few Amis books and discovered that I enjoyed his humour and style of telling stories. I particularly enjoyed The Riverside Villas Murder. So when I saw this book and the excellent condition it was in, I took a chance on it. The story, itself, sounded very different.

"The scene is England 50 years after its conquest by the Soviets. The plot is to turn the occupying government upside down. A handsome and highly sexed young Russian cavalry officer, Alexander Petrovsky, joins the plot and learns to his regret that politics and playmates don't mix."

Clouds of Witness, Dorothy L. Sayers. I've been slowly gathering the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries and adding them to my shelves. I still have to read one, mind you, but each story sounds interesting and I will get to them. This is the second in the series -
"Rustic old Riddlesdale Lodge was a Wimsey family retreat filled with country pleasures and the thrill of the hunt -- until the game turned up human and quite dead. He lay among the chrysanthemums, wore slippers and a dinner jacket and was Lord Peter's brother-in-law-to-be. His accused murderer was Wimsey's own brother, and if murder set all in the family wasn't enough to boggle the unflappable Lord Wimsey, perhaps a few twists of fate would be -- a mysterious vanishing midnight letter from Egypt...a grieving fiancee with suitcase in hand...and a bullet destined for one very special Wimsey."

Time Out of Joint, by Philip K. Dick. Dick's unique SciFi stories are very hard to find in used book stores. (I look in each and every one.. lol). As I was paying for the other two purchases, I mentioned another author to the lady behind the counter (H.P. Lovecraft, that is) and she laughed and said they couldn 't keep Lovecraft on the shelf. Shepointed out this particular story that was on the shelf behind the cash. Yup, I had to get it and add it to my Philip Dick collection. (I did a Blog on him earlier this year as he was a feature author for me.) I enjoyed rereading my stories and look forwad to reading this one.
"Ragle Gumm, mathematical genius, earned his living in a queer way, solving complicated puzzles in the daily newspaper. But soon, imperceptibly, his vast network of equations began to go out of control...everything was out of its natural order...and the world and time were out of joint! "

City Lights, London, ON

The Moon and Sixpence, by W. Somerset Maugham. It was sort of fitting that I ended my journey by purchasing another Maugham novel. I enjoyed the first so very much that when I saw this in City Lights (such a neat store), I bought it too. It's listed as one of Maugham's top three novels.
"The Moon and Sixpence, published in 1919, was one of the novels that galvanized W. Somerset Maugham's reputation as a literary master. It follows the life of one Charles Strickland, a bourgeois city gent whose dull exterior conceals the soul of a genius. Compulsive and impassioned, he abandons his home, wife, and children to devote himself slavishly to painting. In a tiny studio in Paris, he fills canvas after canvas, refusing to sell or even exhibit his work. Beset by poverty, sickness, and his own intransigent, unscrupulous nature, he drifts to Tahiti, where, even after being blinded by leprosy, he produces some of his most extraordinary works of art. Inspired by the life of Paul Gauguin, The Moon and Sixpence is an unforgettable study of a man possessed by the need to create—regardless of the cost to himself and to others."

So there you go, not only did Jo and I have a great trip, I also managed to add a few books to my collection. I did read a few books during our travels as well. I'll try to talk about those next time.

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