Monday, 26 May 2014

Latest Update - Parade's End and others (May 2014)

It's been a nice spring so far, the lawn is growing well, as good as it's ever been. Getting a sprinkler system installed has been one of the best decisions we've made here. Everything is pretty lush and it looks so nice. Still stuff to do around the outside, but we'll work on that in bits and pieces. A rainy day today and the past couple, truth be told, but that's what Spring is all about, eh? The dogs are doing well, had their spring clean up a couple of weeks ago. Bonnie gave us a bit of a scare, she reacted quite seriously to her booster shots, had to be given anti-histamines and spend a couple of unplanned hours at the vet so they could keep an eye on her. But all seems pretty good now, she's eating well and spending lots of spare time in the backyard playing with Clyde.

So let's see, what am I reading currently. I just finished The Collector by English writer, John Fowles, this morning. The missus and I had seen the movie a couple of years ago. It was released in 1965 and starred Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar. We both liked it very much, it was a different, creepy but engrossing movie. I found the book only in April at my local used book store and couldn't resist picking it up. I don't usually read books I buy quite so quickly as I've got a few hundred unread books on my shelves at the moment. But one of my book clubs was focusing on madness/ psychiatry as the genre for May and I thought this might fit in. So there you go. Like the movie, it was a very interesting book. It's laid out in two parts, the first from the perspective of Frederick (called Caliban by Miranda), as he stalks, falls in love (so he thinks) with Miranda, and then prepares his house for her. She is kidnapped by Frederick and then spends the next months in his basement cellar, his butterfly, basically. The story is from his perspective, then halfway through, switches to Miranda's perspective, told in diary format. We relive the incidents that Frederick has previously described, plus get into Miranda's mind as she looks at her life. Quite a different story. I believe I have previously read Fowles' The Magus as well, but it was many years ago so I'd have to reread to see what I think of it. At any rate, The Collector is highly recommended.

Currently Reading

I've been working through Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford since mid-April. It's been a challenging read but the more I get into it, the more I've enjoyed. It was originally written as four separate books, Some Do Not... in 1924, No More Parades.. in 1925, A Man Could Stand Up... in 1926 and The Last Post... in 1928. The book focuses on three people; Christopher Tietjens, a second son, facing personal dilemmas and dealing with after-effects of World War I, Sylvia Tietjens, his wayward wife, selfish and a woman who loves Christopher, but at the same time, makes every effort to drive him to distraction, with various affairs and by telling lies about him, and, finally, Valentine Wannop, a young woman who has captured Christopher's heart, but lives a life, for the most part, distant from Tietjens, even though she is the subject of much negative speculation about possible relations with Tietjens. As of today, I've finished the first three books. I have to say that it has taken some time to get my frame of mind into the writing style of Ford, but I now find it difficult to put the book down. I do limit myself to reading during quiet periods, early morning when the TV isn't on, that sort of thing as it is always necessary to focus just on the book. The most recent book, A Man Could Stand Up has been particularly interesting as it deals with the war at the Front and the Armistice and Tietjen's reactions to the life in the trenches. Fascinating stuff. It seems as though many critics feel that the book should only have been three stories, that the fourth doesn't really fit in. I'll let you know. All that I know is that it's a great story.

I'm also reading the first Katy Klein mystery by Karen Irving, Pluto Rising. It is a trilogy, the other books being Jupiter's Daughter and Mars Eclipsed. The reason I picked the book originally is because it is set in Ottawa, Ontario, a place I lived for at least 18 years of my life. So it is always interesting reading about familiar locations and trying to picture it in my mind. I'm enjoying the story so far, have read about half of it. Katy Klein is an ex-psychiatrist who has changed professions and is now an astrologer, making her living preparing star charts for clients and using them to explain their lives, paths, etc. She meets Adam, a man with hidden issues who wants her to help divine his problems (I'm putting it much to simply). Adam ends up dead and where we go from there, I don't know yet, but I'm looking forward to finding out. :). I have the third book in the series so far, still have yet to find the second. But I shall persevere! The story is interesting enough to make me want to read the complete trilogy.

Just Starting

Having finished The Collector, I'm going back to my Alphabetical Mystery Author's Challenge. I am currently working on the letter 'I', so I've dusted off a book by Frances Iles, Malice Aforethought. Just reading about Francis Iles, I've discovered that he is actually a pen-name for British mystery writer Anthony Berkeley Cox. I have read The Poisoned Chocolate's Case by Cox previously and enjoyed very much. The synopsis for Malice Aforethought reads as follows, "Crafty D. Bickleigh coolly murders his detestable wife. Murder becomes a mania with the good doctor, until he is brought to trial - a magnificent trial, full of wit and drama - and the climax of his story provides a superb piece of ironic and clever humour. This is a murder without a mystery, where the readers are told all and yet are kept guessing." Looks interesting.

What to read next?

From my basic challenges, these are possible options for next books -

Alphabetical Mystery Author's Challenge - When I finish Malice Aforethought, I move back to the end of the alphabet. That will mean the letter 'U' as I look at my books to read list and one by Barry Unsworth, either Morality Play or Pascalis Island.

Bed-time Authors Challenge - This will be the second Karen Irving mystery as I read two of each author for this challenge. If I don't find the second in the trilogy, I'll be reading Mars Eclipsed.

12 + 4 Reading Group Challenge - I've read 7 books in the challenge so far and when I finish Parade's End, that will be 8 of course. I think I might try one of my lighter selections from this list next, probably A Murderous Procession (or The Assassin's Prayer) by Ariana Franklin, the last book in the Mistress of the Art of Death series. Such an excellent series; it's so unfortunate that Ariana Franklin passed away so soon in her life.

Finally, my UK Book Club will either have humour or travel as the genre for June and I figure I could cover either genre with a Tony Hawks book, either Playing the Moldovans at Tennis or Around Ireland with a Fridge. Then again, for straight travel, there is Bill Bryson's Neither Here nor There or Carol Drinkwater's The Olive Farm.. so many excellent choices.. :)

So there you have it... latest update complete. Now off to do some laundry.. woooo hoooo!

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