Monday, 9 June 2014

Decisions/ Decisions - What to read in June?

So here we are, 9 days into June 2014. It's a lovely cool day and I'm presently avoiding doing housework or yard work. However after this short Blog, I plan to do some laundry (darks) and then if I don't work on my continued efforts to wash down the outside of the house, I think I'll cut down a few more dead trees out back.. The dogs have had their walk and are now resting awaiting my next step.

So back to my initial subject, what to read in June? I've managed to finish three books so far, all started just at the end of May and finished fairly quickly. All most enjoyable. What were they, you ask impatiently?

1. Morality Play by Barry Unsworth (4 stars) - "Definitely an interesting, different story. It deals with a group of 'players', a travelling acting troupe, travelling around England in the 14th Century. Running out of money, they decide to perform a true play, a play dealing with the murder of a young boy. Normally their plays are based on the liturgy, but when they performed one in the village, it wasn't well received. Doing a true play, they hope will bring in the crowds as the play deals with happenings in their town. Little do they know that the play will also bring the troupe to the attention of those involved in the killing. The story was interesting, I think it needed a bit more oomph, but I still enjoyed very much. If you like historical mysteries, you'll probably enjoy this."

2. A Murderous Procession (Book 4 in the Mistress of the Art of Death series) by Ariana Franklin (4 stars) - (Note, this was also published as The Assassin's Prayer) "I've mixed emotions about this one. I love the series and wanted it to go on, but with the death of Ariana Franklin a few years back, this is the last book in the Mistress of the Art of Death series. I'm so glad I discovered the books, each one was better than the previous one. I've grown to feel a sentimental, personal attachment to the characters; the lovely, independent Adelia Aguilar, the Mistress of the art of death, who is confined to England by the King Henry II; her lover, Bishop Rowley, grumpy, irascible but always loving Adelia and their child; the aloof Mansur, the Arab eunuch who accompanied Adelia to England as her bodyguard and companion in the first book and has remained loyally by her side ever since and the others, an interesting assortment of well-crafted personalities who all enhance every story. Added in this story is the Irish Sea Captain, the O'Donnell, who also loves Adelia and you've got a fantastic mix. In this story, Henry assigns Adelia, Mansur and Rowley to escort his daughter, Princess Joanna, to Sicily to marry the Sicilian King as an alliance measure. An evil character from the previous story accompanies the party, with dangerous intent. A great story and mystery, as always, and a story filled with historical facts. Loved it. Try the series, you'll be hooked."

3. Mars Eclipsed by Karen Irving (4 stars) - "I've quite liked this series. I do still have to read the middle book, as many of Katy Klein's issues that crop up regularly in Mars Eclipsed are a result of tragic events that appear to have taken place in the third book. However, not having read it yet, didn't detract from this story at all. Katy, her daughter Dawn and her Internet friend, Flavia, are to spend a weekend at an island retreat with other astrologers, but the trip is cut short due to a murder. A very complex plot unwinds through the rest of the story, involving Russian mobsters, multiple suspects, Katy's issues, and on and on. But ultimately, it ties all together very nicely and the story is enjoyable, especially because of the family relationships, which are the core of her stories. I do hope that there will be more books in this series, it's grown on me. I've ordered book 2, Jupiter's Daughter, and am looking forward to reading it as well." When I looked up this series to see if there was a plan for follow-on books, it stated that "Following Raincoast Books' 2005 decision, the Katy Klein series has been put on hold indefinitely." Checking into this, it appears that Raincoast ceased its publishing arm at that time due to the rise in the Canadian dollar. While interesting, it's unfortunate that Karen Irving hasn't found another publisher; although I do like the quality of the books published by Raincoast.

Currently Reading

I've currently got three books on the go; two downstairs books and one bedtime book.

1. What's Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies -  This is the second book in the Cornish trilogy by Canadian writer, Robertson Davies. I read the first book, this being the first time I'd picked up one of his books in about 30 years or so. I had originally read the Deptford Trilogy (Fifth Business, The Manticore and World of Wonders) back in my university days and enjoyed very much. Last year I read the first book in the Cornish trilogy, The Rebel Angels and was once again very impressed by the intelligence with which Davies writes. I've started the second book and am enjoying even after only the first 50 pages or so. (This is one of my 12 + 4 Reading Challenge selections for 2014) This is the synopsis. "Francis Cornish was always good at keeping secrets. From the well-hidden family secret of his childhood to his mysterious encounters with a small-town embalmer, a master art restorer, a Bavarian countess and various masters of espionage, the events of Francis's life were not always what they seemed. In this wonderfully ingenious portrait of an art expert and collector of international renown, Robertson Davies has created a spellbinding tale of artistic triumph and heroic deceit."

2. Night Frost by R. D. Wingfield (Inspector Jack Frost #3) - I have read the first book in the Jack Frost series and have also enjoyed the TV series very much. As part of my Bedtime Reading Challenge, I plan to read books 3 and 4 in this series next. "A nasty flu bug is going around the town of Denton leaving the police department woefully understaffed and overworked. That's not the only nasty thing making the rounds; a rash of poison-pen letters has broken out, prompting one recipient to commit suicide and another to make an attempt. Another of Denton's fine citizens is taking a more direct approach, picking off vulnerable senior citizens in a series of brutal murders. Reeling from too many bodies and too little sleep, Jack Frost is praying he'll find a clue - or succumb to the flu - before the Granny Ripper strikes again."

3. Playing the Moldovans at Tennis by Tony Hawks - I have read comedian Tony Hawks's A Piano in the Pyrenees before and I liked his light gentle sense of humour and his story - telling. When the genre challenge for June was Humour, I had an easy choice to make in selecting another of his books, Playing the Moldovans at Tennis. I'm enjoying already. "It doesn't take much - 100 pounds is usually sufficient - to persuade Tony Hawks to take off on notoriously bizarre and hilarious adventures in response to a bet. And so it is, a pointless argument with a friend concludes in a bet - that Tony can't beat all eleven members of the Moldovan soccer team at tennis. And with the loser of the bet agreeing to strip naked on Balham High Road and sing the Moldovan national anthem, this one was just too good to resist. The ensuing unpredictable and often hilarious adventure sees him being taken in by Moldovan gypsies and narrowly avoiding kidnap in Transnistria. It sees him smuggle his way onto the Moldovan National Team coach in Coleraine and witness (almost) divine intervention in the Holy Land." Sound interesting? :)

New Books

While I was wandering around Courtenay High Street, AKA 5th Street, on Saturday, I visited both The Laughing Oyster Book Shop and the Used book store. I was very good, only bought two books. The missus was very pleased at my restraint.

1. The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit - It caught my eye as I walked into the store and when I read the synopsis, I thought it was definitely worth giving it a try. "They arrived in New Mexico ready for adventure, or at least resigned to it. But hope quickly turned to hardship as they were forced to adapt to a rugged military town where everything was a secret - including what their husbands were doing at the lab. Though they were strangers, they joined together - adapting to a landscape as fierce as it was absorbing, full of the banalities of everyday life and the drama of scientific discovery. While the bomb was being invented, babies were born, friendships were forged, children grew up and Los Alamos gradually transformed into a real community: one that was strained by what they couldn't say out loud or in letters, and by the freedom they didn't have. But the end of the war would bring even bigger challenges, as the scientists and their families struggled with the burden of their contribution to the most destructive force in the history of mankind."

2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman - I have previously read Neverwhere by Gaiman and enjoyed very much. I've been keeping my eyes open for any others of his writing; managed to find Stardust at the local book fair back in May and this time I saw a copy of American Gods. If it's as interesting as Neverwhere, I will not be disappointed. "Shadow is a man with a past. But now he wants nothing more than to live a quiet life with his wife and stay out of trouble. Until he learns that she's been killed in a terrible accident. Flying home for the funeral, as a violent storm rocks the plane, a strange man in the seat next to him introduces himself. The man calls himself Mr. Wednesday, and he knows more about Shadow than is possible. He warns Shadow that a far bigger storm is coming. And from that moment on, nothing will ever be the same.. "

Possible Next 3 Reads

So what's next on the table. I'm sure about two of them at least. I will be following up my Bed-time reading challenge book with the next in the series. And also I plan to get back to my Alphabetical Mystery Author challenge. My third choice might be one of my 12 + 4 challenge books. We'll see. Anyway, these are the possibilities -

1. The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola - The missus has been watching the excellent BBC series based on Emile Zola's classic and enjoying very much. I decided to get a copy of the book for Xmas 2013 and also added it to my Reading Group Challenge choices for this year. "The Ladies' Paradise (Au Bonheur des Dames) recounts the spectacular development of the modern department store in late nineteenth-century Paris. The store is a symbol of capitalism, of the modern city, and of the bourgeois family; it is emblematic of consumer culture and the changes in sexual attitudes and class relations taking place at the time. Octave Mouret, the store's owner-manager, masterfully exploits the desires of his female customers. In his private life too, he is the great seducer. But when he falls in love with the innocent Denise Baudu, he discovers she is the only one of the salesgirls who refuses to be commodified."

2. Hard Frost by R. D. Wingfield (Frost #4) - It's a high price to pay for a pack of smokes when Frost interrupts his vacation to filch some of Commander Mullett's cigarettes and finds himself pressed into emergency duty. Denton Division is shorthanded after a car crash involving several tipsy high-ranking cops, and on Guy Fawkes night there's more mischief abroad than just a few children making the rounds begging pennies and lighting firecrackers. In the next few days, Frost will deal with a parade of miscreants, including a blackmailer, a shifty business man, a not-so-grieving widow, a sexual pervert or two, a crazed housewife, and a cold-blooded kidnapper. The clock is ticking and Frost is perilously short of clues..." It's unfortunate that Wingfield only ever wrote six Frost mysteries. I've enjoyed them very much so far. I'll have to find the other 3 books to complete my library.

3. Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason - I've enjoyed my exposure to Scandinavian mystery writers for the most part. I've had this book by Icelandic author Indridason for awhile and am looking forward to finally giving it a try. "A man is found murdered in his Reykjavik flat. There are no obvious clues apart from a cryptic note left on the body and a photograph of a young girl's grave. Detective Erlendur is forced to use all the forensic resources available to find any leads at all. Delving into the dead man's life, he discovers that forty years ago he was accused of an appalling crime. Did his past come back to haunt him? Finally, Erlendur's search leads him to Iceland's Genetic Research Centre in order to find the disturbing answers to the mystery."

So there you go, a recap of the latest reads, currently reading and a forecast of the future.. Now off to saw some branches.. Have a great day!


  1. Hi! It's so nice of you to mention my books here--as you note, they're all out of print now, but it's great to see that they haven't been completely forgotten.

  2. Thank you for you kind words, Karen. I'm sorry for not replying sooner but I wasn't expecting any comments and didn't notice this until today. Have you any plans to continue the series or start a new one?


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