Sunday, 3 February 2013

February 2013 - Possible Reading Choices

Another month, another list of possible reading choices. In my last BLog, I highlighted my February Focus author, Philip K. Dick. I'm hoping to read about 8 books in February (if I manage to read 10 like last month, I'll be thrilled) and at least four of those selections will be Philip Dick novels. My other choices will fit into my various challenges. Luckily the genre challenge this month is Mysteries, so both my Individual Challenge (Mystery writers alphabetically) and the book I'm currently reading, taken from my 12 + 2 list will conveniently fit that challenge. Now on to my selections -

12 + 2 Challenge - Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. I first heard of this book when Jo and I started watching the TV series on BBC Canada. It stars Jason Isaacs as Jackson Brodie, the Private Detective who features in the books. I bought the book as soon as I realised that the series was based on a book and this is my first chance to read it. The summary provides you a bit of an idea about the book. "Cambridge is sweltering, during an unusually hot summer. To Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, the world consists of one accounting sheet - Lost on the left, Found on the right - and the two never seem to balance. Jackson has never felt at home in Cambridge, and has a failed marriage to prove it. Surrounded by death, intrigue and misfortune, his own life haunted by a family tragedy, he attempts to unravel three disparate case histories and begins to realise that in spite of apparent diversity, everything is connected." I started this book at the crack of February and it has drawn me in totally. The story meanders through the various cases and Brodie's life, introducing characters, the case histories. It draws you in immediately, it is intelligently written, with a lovely pace. I'm looking forward to seeing where else the stories lead me.

I will maybe read another selection from my 12 + 2 Challenge (my list is here) but I don't know which one yet; another mystery, something biographical?.. Time will tell.

Individual Reading Challenge (Alphabetical mystery writers) - In January my last book for this challenge was Sue Grafton's Q is for Quarry. I hope to read 3 in this challenge, continuing with the letter G. (I'll only list the first two, just in case I get bogged down with my monthly reading).

Caroline Graham, The Killing at Badger's Drift. This is another series that I first became aware of while enjoying the TV series. So many excellent British author's stories have been presented on British television as series. Caroline Graham's mysteries are available as Midsomer Murders (the Inspector Barnaby mysteries) and an excellent series it is. I've read one of the books previously and have had difficulty locating books from the series. The Killing at Badger's Drift was released in 1987 and was the first of the series. "Badger's Drift - a tranquil English village, home to Miss Emily Simpson, a well-liked spinster. But a gentle stroll in the nearby woods brings an abrupt end to her peaceful existence. To the village doctor, Miss Simpson's death looks natural enough but her old friend Lucy Bellringer is unconvinced and eventually drags the unwilling Chief Inspector Barnaby into the case. His investigations reveal an unexpected side to Badger's Drift - old rivalries, old loves and new scandals. And then a second, more horrifying killing shocks Barnaby into running the murderer into the ground... "

Winston Graham, Marnie. Winston Graham is an author I'm unfamiliar with, but I have found some of his books grabbing my attention and being added to my book shelf. He is noted for writing the Poldark series and also Marnie, which was made into an excellent movie by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. The book synopsis is short and to the point. "Who is Marnie? Is she a sexy, hard-bitten, hands-off blonde, cold and calculating, a liar and a thief, taking her own secret revenge on the world? Or is she the world's victim, who has learnt that the only reality is money - and the greatest enemy is love?"

I don't know but I guess I'll find out.. :0)

Depending how my reading goes, I may read one more in this challenge or I may grant myself some freebies. But which ones to read? That will be a challenge in its own right. I'll let you know how it goes at the end of the month.

Good reading!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

February 2013 Individual Reading Challenge - Focus Author

Well, I've now started my February Book choices. I've a variety of challenges; today I'm going to concentrate on my Individual Reading Challenge - Focus Author. In January, I concentrated on the mysteries of Ngaio Marsh (see the link for my BLog on her books). I use my Focus author as my bedside book. In January I managed to read 4 of the Inspector Alleyn mysteries.

In February, I'm going back to my SciFi roots and focusing on the stories of Philip K. Dick. I hope to read 3 or 4 again; these will all be re-reads, from back in the late 70's and early '80s. I was introduced to Dick's stories in one of my university courses; the Science Fiction novel. It was a great course as it introduced me to so many excellent SciFi authors. We read two books a week, so it was great. Philip Dick was one of the authors selected and with an intro to his stories, I read a few others over the course of the next few years. Recently, I've started reading his books again; The Unteleported Man (1964) and A Scanner Darkly (1973). I do still look for his books in the Used book stores, but they seem to be books/ stories that people keep.

Philip Dick was born in Dec 1928 and died Mar 1982. He was an American novelist whose published work focused mainly on SciFi. He explored alternate realities, drug-states, authoritarian states, so many varied topics. For more information about him, check out the wiki page.

Unless things change and I manage to find some other Philip Dick stories, my selections for February will include -

My favourite Philip K. Dick novel is The Man in the High Castle. I've read two or three times since I bought this copy which was an 11th printing, published in 1983. It was one of my first forays into Alternate History. I've started with this story and have once again been dragged into it immediately. The basic story line offers the premise that Japan and Germany won WWII and the United States is split in two, the East run by the Germans and the West Coast by the Japanese. There are many interesting themes in the story, the I Ching, the clash of cultures (the Japanese love of the old West and their symbols), the struggle of the US citizens to live in these worlds. My memories of the story don't go much beyond this, but as I'm reading I have had my love for the story immediately rekindled. I look forward to seeing what happens again.

The other books I don't remember at all so they will be like new reads for me. I can't wait.

Dr. Bloodmoney or How We Got Along After the Bomb was published in 1965, the date of this edition. The write up inside the dust jacket reads "Below him the world was in darkness, its night side turned his way; yet already he could see the rim of day appearing on the edge, and soon he would be passing into that once more. Lights here and there glowed like holes poked in the surface of the planet which he had left seven years ago - left for another purpose, another goal entirely. A much more noble one. His was not the sole satellite still circling Earth, but it was the sole one with life aboard. Everyone else had since perished... He was lucky: besides food and water and air he had a million miles of video and audio tape to keep him amused. And now, with it, he kept them amused. Dangerfield's satellite provided the last link binding humanity together. It was seven years after the day of disaster, the day one world died and another world began.. Dr. Bloodmoney's day."

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch was published 1964, with my edition released in 1975. I could not find a cover that I could link with, but this site does provide the various cover jackets. This is one of Dick's drug-influenced stories. "When Palmer Eldritch returned from a distant galaxy, he claimed he had brought a gift for mankind. It was a drug that would transport one into an illusory world. One could spend years in this other dimension and never lose a second of Earth time. Eldritch offered immortality, wish fulfilment.. the posers over time and space. but he exacted a terrible price: he, Palmer Eldritch, would enter, control and be a god in everyone's private universe - a universe from which there was no escape, not even death."

A Maze of Death was originally released in 1970, with this Bantam edition released in 1977. From the write-up it sounds like a SciFi Agatha Christie story.. "Fourteen earthly exiles on an island in boundless space. Fourteen victims of a murderous power. Is this nameless menace the product of their own darkest imaginings - or some richly mysterious, infinitely more terrifying other?"

So there you have it, my tentative Philip K. Dick selections for February.

One final point - if you think you are unfamiliar with Dick's writings, many of his stories have been translated into film; A Scanner Darkly, Blade Runner (based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), Minority Report (based on the short story of the same name), etc.

Tomorrow, I'll highlight some of the other books I've tentatively selected for February. I hope it's as good a month as January.

Good reading!

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.
Related Posts with Thumbnails