Friday, 27 June 2014

Jun 2014 - Monthly review

It's the Canada Day weekend, starting off with some rainy weather, but that's OK. I've got the next 4 days off and I'm looking forward to spending with the missus and puppies. I hope to get a bit of reading in as well. I think I'll be able to squeeze in a bit.

In my next post I'll maybe look back at the past half year, but for today, let's look back on June itself. So far this month, I've managed to complete 7 books. I'm currently reading two others and I'm pretty sure I'll get them finished by the end of June.

Currently reading

1. A Test of Wills by Charles Todd - This is a new series for me. I managed to find four of the Inspector Rutledge mysteries at the Rotary Club book sale and this one is the first in the series. It's a period piece, set just after WWI. As I've gathered so far, Inspector Rutledge has just recently returned to work in his old job at Scotland Yard after spending a considerable time being treated for post-traumatic stress. He still suffers, he has conversations with Hamish, in his head. Hamish is one of his soldiers who it appears that Rutledge had executed for cowardice during the War. I'm enjoying it so far; in some ways his personality reminds me of Inspector Monk, somewhat grim, serious and adjusting to work again. This is the plot as outlined in the synopsis - "It's 1919 and the "War to End All Wars" has been won. But there is no peace for Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge, recently returned from the battlefields of France shell-shocked and tormented by the ever-present voice of the young Scot he had executed for refusing an order. Escaping into his work o save his sanity, Rutledge investigates the murder of a popular colonel in Warwickshire and his alleged killer, a decorated war hero and close friend of the Prince of Wales. The case is a political minefield and it's resolution could mean the end of Rutledge's career. Win or lose, the cost may be more than the damaged investigator can bear. for the one witness who can break the case open is, like Rutledge, a war-ravaged victim... and his grim, shattered fate could well prove to be haunted investigator's own."
The series is written by mother and son writing team Charles and Caroline Todd who have written 13 books in the series. I guess I've got a few to go. :0)

2. Hard Frost by R.D. Wingfield - This is my second Inspector Frost mystery this month. R.D. Wingfield only wrote six Inspector Frost mysteries; I've so far read two and will soon complete my third. However, from this short bibliography came one of the most popular and enjoyed British cop shows of all time, running for 15 seasons and 42 episodes. Hard Frost is the fourth book in the series and once again we have Frost, bumbling, a bit of a dinosaur with his attitudes, but still using his gut feel to solve the many mysteries that come to Denton. The synopsis for Hard Frost is - "It's a high price to pay for a pack of smokes when Frost interrupts his vacation to filch some of Commander Mullet's cigarettes and fins 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 kids making the rounds begging pennies and lighting crackers. In the next few days, Frost will deal with a parade of miscreants, including a blackmailer, a shifty businessman, 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."

Favourite June Read

3. A Murderous Procession by Ariana Franklin (4 stars) - This is the fourth instalment of the 'Mistress of the Art of Death' historical mysteries. I highly recommend. Each story is better than the last and the characters are well - developed and the stories are intense and excellently paced. This was my review. "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."

Remaining June Reads

4. Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason (3 stars) - This is the first in the Reykjavik mystery series. It wasn't as good as I'd hoped but still held my interest enough that it won't dissuade me from reading any others in the series. My review - "I have somewhat mixed feelings about this mystery. A cop story set in Iceland, it features Police Detective Erlendur and his team of Sigurdur Oli and Elinburg. A man is murdered and the investigation leads them to previous rapes and a story involving genetics and hereditary disease. I had some difficulties with the overall plot, there were some great leaps of deduction made by Erlendur as he tracks down clues and the suspects. At the same time, there were interesting characters and I especially liked the troublesome relationship Erlendur has with his daughter and how they deal with each other. For all my difficulties, I felt a tug at the heartstrings at the ending. All in all, an interesting story, that wasn't perfect but still held my interest."

5. Morality Play by Barry Unsworth (4 stars) - Another new author for me, I enjoyed this historical mystery by Barry Unsworth. My Review - "Definitely an interesting, different story. It deals with a group of 'players', travelling acting troupe, travelling around England in the 14th Century. Running out of money, they decide to to 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."

6. Mars Eclipsed by Karen Irving (4 stars) - This is the third and final (so far anyway) book in the Katy Klein astrological mysteries series. Last month I read the first and since, at the time, I didn't have book 2, I followed up with the third. An excellent series and even better that it is set in Ottawa, Canada, a place I'd lived for 18 years of my life. Lots of action and fun, interesting cast of characters. I've since found a copy of the second book so will be enjoying that soon, I'm sure. My Review - "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."

7. Playing the Moldovans at Tennis by Tony Hawks (3 stars) - This is my second exposure to the humour of British comic Tony Hawks. I have to say I didn't enjoy this one as much as my first read but, still, it's entertaining and pretty gentle. My Review - "A nice light, entertaining read. The story follows English comedian to Moldova, Northern Ireland and Israel as he tries to win a bet with his friend Arthur. The bet is that Tony will beat the Moldovan national footie team at tennis, all 11 players. The loser of the bet will sing the Moldovan national anthem, naked on the High Street. Tony's experiences in Moldova are quite interesting; his attempts to contact the players and teams to set up the tennis matches, his feelings about Moldova, his thoughts on the lovely family with which he stays while in Moldova. It's the briefest of insights, but I found it all very interesting. He then must follow the National team to their match in Northern Ireland to try to play 3 players he missed while in Moldova and then to Israel to meet the final player. Does Tony win the bet? Well, you will have to read to find out. Entertaining story, generally a fun read."

8. Night Frost by R.D. Wingfield (4 stars) - I've discussed R.D. Wingfield and Inspector Frost in my Currently Reading post above. This is the third book in the series and as enjoyable as the one I'm currently enjoying. My Review - "A most entertaining, fast-paced police mystery. This is the third book in the DCI Jack Frost series that became one of the most well-loved British cop shows. From an eight book series, the creators spun out a TV series that lasted for 42 episodes. In this book, the Denton Police Dept is suffering with manpower shortages due to a flu bug that is running rampant through the station. New DS Gilmore is forced to work with scruffy DCI Jack Frost and finds himself working all hours, affecting his home life as he travels around with Frost trying to solve a multitude of crimes; the Granny Ripper, the Poison Pen letter sender, a young girl's murder. As well, Frost, who is sloppy about paperwork must deal with the Superintendent Mullet, who is concerned only with his image with the higher HQ. It's a non-stop mystery, well-written and entertaining. Highly recommend. This is the second in the series that I've enjoyed. Will be taking up Book 4, Hard Frost, next."

9. What's Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies (4 stars) - The second book in the Cornish trilogy by Canadian writer Davies. I'd read the first, The Rebel Angels, last year and enjoyed immensely. It had been my first exposure to Davies' writing since my university days when I enjoyed the Fifth Business, The Manticore and World of Wonders. I managed to find the other two books in the Cornish trilogy and have been looking forward to reading the second for quite awhile. I added it to my Reading group challenge list for 2014. My Review - "This is the second book in the Cornish trilogy. It basically tells the life story of Francis Cornish, with side discussions by his daimon and an angel analysing how his life is progressing. The reason for this story is that Simon Darcourt is one of a trio, including Arthur Cornish (Francis' nephew) and Maria, Arthur's wife, are tasked with managing Francis' Trust. Darcourt is having difficulties writing Francis' biography, feels there are potential scandals in his life and finds too many secrets in his life. So the story begins then with Francis life and follows through until his death. What I do like about the story is the fluency of Davies' writing. It's intelligent but still accessible and flows so nicely. My only issue is that ultimately, it doesn't really mean much to me. I kind of felt, so what... but it hopefully ties into the final book, The Lyre of Orpheus to round up everything. Still so well-written and if read in concert with the first book, The Rebel Angels, I'm sure you would enjoy very much."

So there you go, my reading for June. I hope in my next post to do my half year review and also my plans for the next few reads. Until then, have a great week-end. Happy Canada Day week-end!!

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