Monday, 29 July 2013

August 2013 Focus Author - Bernard Cornwell

Before I get into my August focus author, just one word on the latest book I bought. It was recommended by one of my compatriots in one of my goodreads book clubs so I was pleasantly surprised to find it in my local book store. As the cover photo states, it's called Wool and is written by Hugh Howey. When it was mentioned in my book group, it sounded interesting and now that I've read the cover write up, my opinion hasn't change.  A very simple teaser, "What would you do if the world outside is deadly, and the air you breathed could kill? And you lived in a place where every birth required a death, and the choices you made could save lives - or destroy them. This is Jules's story. This is the world of Wool." The story is made up of five individual sub-stories. I'm definitely looking forward to reading it.

Now onto my Focus Author.

Bernard Cornwell

Bernard Cornwell, born in 1944, is an English author of historical adventures. The series I've been interested in is the Sharpe series, but he's also written the Warlord series, the Saxon stories and the Grail Quest novels.

I began following Sharpe on the British TV series starring Clive Owens as Richard Sharpe, an English soldier who fought during the Napoleonic wars. Over the past three or four years, I've been acquiring and reading the series and enjoying very much. I've managed to read the first six books in the series thus far, travelling from India, to Portugal and even to Denmark. Sharpe is a true adventurer, also quite a lady's man. In chronological order, the books feature various famous battles of the period;

1. Sharpe's Tiger - the Siege of Seringapatam;
2. Sharpe's Triumph - the Battle of Assaye;
3. Sharpe's Fortress - the Siege of Gawilghur;
4. Sharpe's Trafalgar - the Battle of Trafalgar;
5. Sharpe's Prey - the Siege of Copenhagen;
6. Sharpe's Rifles - the French invasion of Galicia;
7. Sharpe's Havoc - the Campaign in Northern Portugal (not yet read);
8. Sharpe's Eagle - the Talevera Campaign.

These first eight stories cover the period between 1799 and 1809. At the moment, the Sharpe books number 24 and end in 1820- 21.

In August, I hope to read three or four more of the series, starting with Sharpe's Havoc, which I missed previously. Of those I presently own, the others, trying to fit into the chronological order as much as possible will include:

Sharpe's Gold - the destruction of Almeida, August 1810;
Sharpe's Escape - the battle of Bussaco, September 1810; and
Sharpe's Fury - the battle of Barrosa, Winter 1811.

Of course, I have a few others in my book shelf just in case I finish all of these early enough.. 3 more days and then I start.. :0)

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Currently Reading - Jul 2013

Just a quick post tonight. In between our Sunday night TV fare; having just watched Endeavour on PBS (excellent series) and about to watch True Blood on HBO (of course, another of our favourites, one of the few shows that keeps us guessing all the time.. weird and strange folks involved in that series) and then The Newsroom, one of the missus' favourites..

Had a reasonably productive day today, finished cleaning the highest gutter while the missus trimmed trees and such. Then we felt somewhat energetic and washed down the back of the house.. it needed it.. I do feel as though I got a mite too much sun today, beautiful day that it was.. So now we relax, will take the puppies out for a walk around the Close after The Newsroom.. Oh, here are a couple of new photos of the two terrors.. they both went to the 'cleaners' this past week.. Bonnie was 'the dream dog' according to Lindy, our pet groomer....

Bonnie, slightly distracted in mid-pose
Clyde was 'ok', it being his first visit to the groomer, since we got him.. :0)
Clyde, posing with a little help from a friend.
They have adjusted reasonably well to our life-style, or rather we've been assimilated into theirs.. *g*.. We've started going for 3 or 4 walks a day. All is well, they have enlivened up our place..
So.. to books.. What am I reading currently...

Murder in the Central Committee by Manuel Vazquez Montalban. I bought another book in this series, The Angst Ridden Executive, at my local book store, but I wanted to start with the first book in the series. Set in Spain, this time in Madrid, it features, ex-Communist, ex-CIA operative, Pepe Carvalho, now a private detective, hired by the Spanish Communist party to solve the murder of the party leader at a meeting of the Central Committee. I'm enjoying the story overall, so far. I do find the translation cumbersome at times, or maybe it's just the flowery style of the author. But there are pearls within the story and I'm finding as I get into it, that I'm enjoying it more and more and getting into the flow of the writing. I look forward to seeing how it all resolves itself.
The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This month I've focused on various Edgar Rice Burroughs' stories, two new series and so far, the first John Carter book, A Princess of Mars. To finish off the month, I'm reading the second book in the Barsoom series. This story takes place 10 years after the first, when John Carter has returned to Earth and is desperate to return to Mars, as when he was thrust out of Mars last book, the atmosphere was disappearing and he wants to find his dear wife, Dejah Thoris. In this story, so far, he has landed (so to speak) in the land of the Dead and is trying to find his way out.  As the write up on the back says, "After the long exile on Earth, John Carter finally returned to his beloved Mars. But beautiful Dejah Thoris, the woman he loved, had vanished. Now he was trapped in the legendary Eden of Mars, an Eden from which none ever escaped alive".. So far, the story is as good as the first, with new beings, the Plant people, the fierce Black Pirates of Barsoom and the Holy Therns being introduced so far, as well as Thuvia, the Maid of Mars.. Great stuff!
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, by Howard Pyle. I'm reading this as part of my Time Traveller's Challenge. For Jul to Sept, we are reading books set in the Middle Ages, 5 - 15 AD. I've chosen the adventures of Robin Hood. I found this edition at Russell Books in Victoria; it was published in 1952. Love the drawings within and so far, the story is excellent. Not a surprise, really. I may read another book in this challenge later, but first I plan to enjoy this thoroughly. The book was originally written in 1883 by American illustrator and writer, Howard Pyle and features a number of stories, adventures of Robin Hood and his merry men. It's been enjoyable, so far.
So there you have it.. Next BLogs I hope to review my July readings and also provide an idea of some of the books I plan to read in August. It's been a great year so far. :0) 


Sunday, 7 July 2013

Currently Reading - Jul 2013

The missus and I spent a couple of hours this morning (before it got too hot), reducing the pile of top soil we got yesterday, working around in the back garden. Lovely sunny day, a little breeze, it was darned near perfect. But we're now at the hot part of the day, relaxing after refreshing showers and a bite to eat. Time to take a look at the books I'm currently reading. I've got 3 on the go at the moment, one a series of short stories, one a classic SciFi novel and, finally, a history book.

In my UK book club, the genre challenge for July is short stories. I had a few in mind, but decided to start with Passport to Eternity by J.G. Ballard. I may read another selection if I have time at the end of the month. This series of stories was originally published by Berkley Medallion books in September 1963. I found my edition at one of my used book stores in Victoria, BC in April  of this year. It is in remarkably good condition. This was Ballard's third collection of short stories and his fifth published book. His second novel, The Drowned World is one of my favourites. I've also enjoyed some of his other stories; he is definitely unique amongst SciFi writers. This book contains the following stories:
The Man on the 99th Floor (1962) - already enjoyed this one;
Thirteen to Centaurus (1962) - very interesting
Track 12 (1958) - strange, good
The Watch-towers - (1962)... hmmmm
A Question of Re-entry (1963) currently reading
Escapement (1956), The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista (1962), The Cage of Sand (1962), Passport to Eternity (1962)

I've enjoyed a few of Edgar Rice Burroughs stories, one of my favourite series ever is the Barsoom series; aka John Carter of Mars. For July, I chose Burroughs as my focus author and planned to read a couple of the Mars books; to refresh my memories of them. Also in my list is The Moon Men. It was a series of three books; The Moon Maid, The Moon Men and The Red Hawk, published in 1925. The Ace Edition I have, was purchased at ABC Books in Courtenay, in 2010. It has only the second two books in the series. I'm currently reading The Moon Men and enjoying very much. It's quite different from the Mars books, so far. The Moon Men tells the story of Julian 9th, who takes on the Moon men )conquerors of the Earth) and their human allies. The second book deals with Julian 20th, The Red Hawk. From what I've read, originally, the series was to actually deal with the Communist threat, but Burroughs' publishers persuaded him to change it invaders from the Moon. I can see the allusions to Communist Russia in the story, so far. Very interesting.

I purchased A Train In Winter at Ivy's Books in Victoria in April this year. I read the synopsis of the book and it hooked me immediately. I'm reading this for my Book Addicts Book club, as the Non-Fiction selection for Jul thru September. The book is written by Caroline Moorehead was born in London in 1944 and is human rights journalist. She has previously written six biographies, including one on Bertrand Russell. In 2011, she published A Train in Winter; A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival. The book focuses on 230 French women of the Resistance, who were captured and sent to Auschwitz; and of whom only 49 survived. This was the only train, in 4 years of German Occupation of France, to take women of the Resistance to a death camp. The book sounds fascinating, as Caroline Moorehead, sought out and interviewed various survivors of the camp and also families of some of those who had died.

So there you have it, my current reading list. I don't think it'll take me long to get through them, as so far, they all seem very good.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Currently Reading - Titanic First Accounts

One of the books I'm currently reading is Titanic First Accounts, by Tim Maltin. Tim Maltin has been studying the Titanic for 25 years and has compiled an interesting book; at least, so far. I'm currently about 3/4 of the way through, and overall, have enjoyed the story.

As it states, it features first hand accounts by the various passengers and crew members who survived the disaster. I have found, over the first part, that the story has been somewhat repetitive. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing and thinking about it, it's almost impossible for it not to be, considering the closed subject matter. The first half features excerpts from two passenger's books on the disaster, Tim Beesley's Chapter 4 of his book The Loss of the Titanic and seven chapters of Archibald Grace's The Truth about the Titanic. The former is more of a personal narrative of Beesley's observations. Grace includes his observations of what he saw and what he did, but his also includes reports from both the British and American hearings on the disaster, a summary of each life boat that was launched and excerpts of observations from the various persons in each life boat.

The second portion are individual person's reports to either of the commissions set up to examine the disaster and the third portion (this is where I currently find myself) contains newspaper accounts from various passengers, including Molly Brown's article in the Newport Herald.

At times the story has been somewhat dry, but as you read, you get a feel for the expanse of the disaster and maybe the dryness makes it seem even more incredible. There are acts of heroism described throughout and the matter-of-fact way in which this is done makes them seem more heroic. There are intimations of impropriety as well, especially those of one of the owner of the Titanic, Mr. Ismay, who chose to depart on one of the last lifeboats. However, this isn't harped on at all, rather the overall impression left is one of the many men who willingly stood back to let the women and children take advantage of the few lifeboats so they could be saved.

I still have a way to go to complete the book, but I find as I get into it that it gets better and better and has been a most interesting read. I'm looking forward to reading the final chapters; which include further news paper accounts and also excerpts from Logan Marshall's Sinking of the Titanic.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Bonnie and Clyde - Our new puppies

Resting up for the next battle..

I just wanted to quickly add a couple of photos of our two new mini-schnauzers; Bonnie and Clyde. They have added new life to our household; tiring but great.

This is Bonnie. We got her in April. She's about 5 months old now.

Smile, Bonnie. :0)

And here is Clyde. We picked him up about 2 weeks ago. We fondly call him the demon dog, although you'd not know when he's sleeping.. lol

Who do I bite next.. mwuu haa

At the moment, they're tuckered out from the heat and having to have baths this evening. :0)
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