Friday, 4 April 2014

1st Quarter 2014 Review and other Miscellany

It's hard to believe it's already April 2014. I've been looking back over the past few months and I don't know where the time has gone. But, hey, that's what life is all about, right? The past couple of weeks have been kind of busy and fun as well. Our contractor is now almost finished installing our sprinkler system for our garden. They've had nice weather for the most part, except yesterday, when it was pretty well steady rain. I'm looking forward to getting it working; I'm the laziest guy I know and after a few weeks of spending my alternating evenings moving the sprinkler around the yard, those alternating days sometimes became once a week or maybe even longer. I love our house, but yard work is probably my lowest priority. (It's hard to watch the TV or sit on the sofa and read if you're out in the yard working.. ).. lol. Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how it all works out when they are done and if we can finally get the whole yard up to snuff. We did do a pretty good job last year. The yard was the best it's been since we moved in here.

Besides that, I've been having fun on Facebook with the missus, her sister and her husband. I started a thread about 3 weeks ago, complaining about all the crappy songs that came out in 1974 and started posting them on my Facebook page; songs like Billy Don't Be a Hero, The Night Chicago Died and others. Well that kind of graduated into posts from the four of us about songs from 1974 that weren't all that bad; Rikki Don't Lose that Number, Help Me (Joni Mitchell) and many, many others. Well, we've kind of carried that theme on the past two weeks; we've just finished some of the great songs of 1976 and this weekend, we'll start 1977. I've got to get into my archives and start picking some of my favourites to start posting on Saturday.

I've got to say, looking over the songs of the mid-70's has brought back many fond memories of my university years, 1974 - 78 and working at CHCL Radio in Cold Lake from 1978 - 81. I bought my first stereo, a quadraphonic stereo with 8-track and turntable and radio when I went to university. I'd love to show you a photo of it, but all I can seem to find is the one above which only shows one of the speakers. It was a great little system (at least I thought so anyway); when I moved into residence in '75, I used to use it for our House parties and I really started to accumulate LPs at that time. Some of my favourite record stores with Sam the Record Man, Round Records (you could trade in records there), I think A&M records? It has been awhile. I definitely spent too much money on records. When I moved to Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake and worked a the Base radio station, you could order records for dirt cheap; I think $3.00 an LP instead of $10ish downtown. The record company would punch a hole in the jacket and they were called deletes. Ah yes, fond memories. I'm looking forward to seeing what songs/ albums from 1977 will come up next week.
Now on to books. Since we've just completed the first quarter of 2014, I thought I'd just review what I've managed to accomplish from Jan through Mar. So here we go -
My Goodreads Challenge. This year I decided to try and read 90 books. So far, after 3 months, I've completed 24 books. If I can keep that pace up, I should manage to exceed my challenge by a couple of books. I do have a few big tomes to read this year, but I'll keep trying. Looking at my stats page on Goodreads, I've also read 8,800 pages. I didn't really set a challenge for number of pages, but over the last couple of years I've averaged 28,500 pages. So all things being equal, I'm good to exceed that as well. We'll see how it all ends up Dec 31st.
Favourite book so far - I'm kind of surprised by this, but this was definitely my favourite book so far and my only 5 star read. If you're interested, this was the review I added to my book page - "Definitely a book out of my normal comfort zone, but such an excellent read. I had ideas about what to expect; a banned book, due to its rawness, explicit sexual language, but I was surprised. It's a thoughtful story of a woman, living in a marriage with a broken man; physically broken from the war, but also emotionally broken. Constance loves Clifford Chatterley anyway, cares for him, comforts him, but finds her life to be stagnant, loveless, emotionless. She meets Oliver Mellors, an other ex-soldier who now works as the game keeper on the Chatterley estate and finds herself drawn to him. The story is about their developing relationship, both emotional and sexual. I expected the sex to be graphic, raw, but other than some language, it was crafted very lovingly, very gently on the whole. The story itself is interesting, the characters as well and the interludes describing the countryside, coal mining country are also well-crafted. An excellent story and I'm glad I finally pulled the book off my shelves to read."
So far I've had -
5***** reads - 1
4**** reads - 14
3*** reads - 8
2** reads - 1
Least favourite book - This was the second V.S. Naipaul book I've ever read and it was so very disappointing. I've got a couple of others still sitting on my shelf to read, but I won't leap to try them after this one. Here was my review - 
"This book was a real chore for me. I just couldn't get into the main character, who was basically writing his autobiography. It was well-written, but it didn't draw me in at all, didn't grab my interest. It's unfortunate, as I've previously read A Home for Mr Biswas and enjoyed that more. I don't know what else to say, but that it was disappointing. However, I'm sure others might like it. Just not for me."
Various Stats -
Male/ Female Authors
Male - 10, Female - 13
Mystery - 16
Fantasy - 2
Thriller - 2
Fiction - 1
Classic - 2
1st time Authors - 9
Challenge Status
12 + 4 Reading Group Challenge - So far I've read 5 of my selections and am currently reading my sixth. These are the books I've read so far -
1. Mimic Men by V.S. Naipaul - 2 stars (see thoughts above)
2. In the Woods by Tana French - 4 stars
3. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman - 4 stars
4. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster - 4 stars (probably my favourite of this Reading challenge so far
5. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke - 4 stars
(I'm currently reading The Long Run by Matt Long and enjoying so far)
Alphabetical Mystery Author Challenge - I've read six books in this challenge so far; this is a continuation from last year, with the exception that this I year I alternate from the bottom of the alphabet to the top of the alphabet with each book. I've enjoyed all of my selections so far -
1. Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith - 4 stars
2. The Sultan's Seal by Jenny White - 4 stars
3. No Good Deed by Lynn S. Hightower - 4 stars
4. She Came Back by Patricia Wentworth - 3 stars
5. The Pure in Heart by Susan Hill - 4 stars
6. Last Seen Wearing by Hillary Waugh - 4 stars
(I've now moved back to the H's for my next selection, The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz and enjoying very much. This story is a Sherlock Holmes mystery)
Bed-time Authors Challenge - These are my bed-time books; I try to read two books by each author. At the moment it seems that all of my authors are mystery writers but I will read others as well. I'm enjoying very much so far, have read 10 books. It's allowed me to mix up first-time authors (for me) and re-engage with authors whose books have been neglected on my TBR shelves for much too long. These are the authors I've read so far -
1. Agatha Christie - The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and N or M? both 4 star books
2. Jefferson Bass (author of the Bone Yard series, a new author for me) - Carve in Bone and Flesh and Bone (both 4 stars)
3. Margery Allingham (Albert Campion mysteries) - Death of a Ghost and Dancers in Mourning (both 3 stars)
4. Lee Child (Jack Reacher thrillers) - Killing Floor and Die Trying (both 3.5 stars)
5. Kate Ellis (DI Joe Plantagenet mysteries, a new author for me) - Playing with Bones and Seeking the Dead (both 4 stars)
(I'm going back to an old favourite for my next author, Nevada Barr, who writes the Anna Pigeon mysteries, each set in a US National Park. Love them, they are like comfort food. I'm reading Number 5 at the moment, Endangered Species.)
There are various other challenges going; the Genre Challenge, Time Traveller's Challenge, etc. They are all going very well, steady progress so to speak.
Finally, these are my favourite 3 books so far -
1. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
2. The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
3. A Room with a View by E.M.Forster.
So there you have it, my latest. Have a great weekend. I hope it's sunny and spring-like wherever you might be.
Keep on reading!

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