Saturday, 2 March 2013

The February That Was - Monthly Update

Well, there you go, another month passed. They seem to go faster all the time. Ah well.. I had a positive month in February, work was busy what with them granting up to 16 days if we wanted them. A few visits upcoming to the Base so we've been busy getting all the details and support finalise. Makes for a profitable, busy time. Jo and I have been keeping track of a schnauzer breeder as her puppies have been having babies and in the next few months we hope to be getting a boy and a girl. The puppies are so cute. This a link to her website.. It's been awhile now since Nikki and Norman passed away and we're ready now to get some new puppies. We were thinking of names last night.. lol

Anyway, as to the purpose of this Blog, I also had a successful month on the reading front. I managed to complete  books, bringing my years total up to 19, 24% of my Goodreads challenge of 80. I've also read about 4600 pages overall. So I'm pretty satisfied so far. I know that there will be months when I'm reading more challenging books that I'll not complete so many. But ultimately, it's about enjoying the reading and that I do, so very much. The challenges are just a fun add-on; especially as they let me make more lists.. :0)

So this is a bit of a summary of my February readings, broken down by my various challenges.

12 + 2 Reading Group Challenge - I completed two books from this challenge, which brings my total to 3 of the selections. Of the two selections, both of which I enjoyed very much, my favourite was Kate Atkinson's Case Histories. It was a well-written, fascinating mystery. Jackson Brodie is an interesting protagonist, a weathered private detective and the various cases he becomes involved with in the book introduce quirky, neat characters and cases that in some ways tie together nicely and satisfyingly. I will be reading more of Kate Atkinson's stories. This was a five - star book. Loved it. The Water Man's Daughter by Emma Ruby-Sachs was quite a different story. It is set in South Africa, a locale that is most unfamiliar to me and it added a definite flavour to the novel. Interesting story, 3 women, a police officer, a local civil activist and a Canadian girl who goes to South Africa to find out why her father was murdered there. I had purchased the book on a whim as it looked interesting and the write-up was interesting. It didn't disappoint. I enjoyed discovering more about South Africa, even if just a small portion and the story moved along nicely. Quite interesting. I gave it 4 stars.

Individual Reading Group Challenge - Alphabetical Mystery Writers. I also completed two books in this challenge. I'm working through the 'G's at the moment, winding them down in fact. This month I completed the first book in Caroline Graham's Midsomer Murder series (In fact I had previously read another, but that was a whole ago and  in this challenge, I do like to try to read the authors as much as possible in a chronological order). Anyway, I've always enjoyed the Midsomer Murder mystery TV series and have wanted to read the books too. The Killing at Badger's Drift was an excellent intro to Chief Inspector Barnaby. I think he's a little crustier than the TV series, but it's a most enjoyable, comforting mystery series. It didn't let me down; the mystery was interesting and also the characters. (4 stars) The pleasant surprise in this challenge was Winston Graham's Marnie. I found the book at the annual local Charity Book sale and picked it up so I could compare it to the movie. I liked the movie, didn't love it. So I read the book with some trepidation. However it was an excellent surprise. The Alfred Hitchcock movie follows the story for the most part. There are obvious differences, Hitchcock sets the movie in the US whereas Graham sets it in England. There are some different characters in the book and also the story develops differently. However, it's an excellent story; Marnie herself is an interesting character with deep-rooted issues. I enjoyed it very much, such a nice surprise to find a book like this. (4 stars)

Individual Reading Challenge - Focus Author - Philip K. Dick. My February focus author was SciFi author Philip K. Dick. One of my favourite novels of all-time has been his The Man in the High Castle. It's a book I've read a few times and it never disappoints. I also had a couple of other novels of his on my shelf that I bought back in the late '70's/ early '80s but I couldn't recall the stories. So I thought the challenge lent itself to my rereading the books to see what I thought. I started with The Man in the High Castle and enjoyed it again as much as always. It's an excellent alternative history novel; the scenario being that Germany and Japan have won WWII and now occupy/ share the US and the rest of the world. However in a twist on the alternative history genre, a book is making the rounds in the US which presents another history, one in which the US and allies actually won the war. How to reconcile this. It's a fascinating story and I enjoyed it immensely and it reminded me why I had given it a 5 star rating. The next choice was A Maze of Death, a more 'traditional', and when you say traditional in the context of a Philip Dick novel, you are using the term somewhat loosely, outer space story. A group of people are transferred to a planet, not knowing what their mission is. There is a mysterious building on the planet; over a very short space of time, a number are killed and the rest try to solve the mystery. So you have an outer space adventure with an Agatha Christieish 'And then there were Ten' type mystery thrown in and a few other twists and turns. Very interesting story and a surprise ending to boot. (4 stars). My third book in this challenge was The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Here we explore the future, planetary expansion and drug-use of a sort. What is reality, what isn't? An interesting concept and thoughtful story which can leave you confused. I liked this one too. (3 stars). My final choice was Dr. Bloodmoney or How We Got Along after the Bomb. I do like a well-written post-apocalyptic disaster book; some of my favourite books, The Chrysalids, War Day, World War Z, The Road etc have all dealt with man's efforts to survive a cataclysmic disaster of some sort. Dr. Bloodmoney is such a story. The story is set in California and deals with a group of people who have survived such an event; a freak, a young girl with an interesting condition and various others. The story drew me in immediately, just so interesting. I had to see how it would end and was overall so very satisfied with how it was developed to its very satisfying final pages. Excellent! (4 stars)

Genre Challenge - Mysteries/ Thrillers. Many of the previously mentioned books would have fit this challenge, but I also specifically selected Ann Cleeves The Crow Trap for the challenge. It is the first in the Inspector Vera Stanhope mysteries. My wife, Jo, had read about a TV series starring Brenda Blethyn as Vera Stanhope and when I discovered it was also a mystery book series, I purchased the first one so I could try it out. I had enjoyed the episodes I'd watched with Jo; Brenda Blethyn portrays a crusty, at times grumpy, Vera, solving murders in her Northumbrian county. I had seen The Crow Trap and as usual was interested in comparing the book with the show. Both had their own manner of presenting and developing the story; the TV series was obviously more Vera-centric, whereas the book took time to develop the other characters and the events leading to the murder before even introducing Vera. It was a most enjoyable read. I gave the story 4 stars. Ann Cleeves has also written mysteries featuring other protagonists besides Vera. I've also got Raven Black, the first in her Shetland Island Quartet which I'm looking forward to reading. I'm always glad to discover a new author to add to my bookshelves (much to Jo's chagrin as I add more books.. lol) and Ann Cleeves is one such author.

So there you have it, my February summary. Next up will be my planned March readings.. Can't wait!!

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