Monday, 8 December 2014

2015 Reading Group Challenges

Good morning!! What a rotten day we have, rainy and windy.. and I do mean WINDY! Spent the morning running around doing some errands; ordering new glasses, mailing parcels, getting a Tim Horton's Steeped Tea for the missus and a Double Double for moi.. Now back in the warmth and comfort of our home, puppies have been fed their lunch and it's time to settle back with my next Blog.

It's that time of year when members of one of my goodreads book groups, The Book Addicts start identifying what they hope to accomplish reading-wise in the upcoming year. We have two types of challenges; the Reading Group Challenge, which is a 12 + 2 or 4, list of books that you plan to read in 2015. The other is your Individual Reading Challenge, which is wide open; basically your hopes for reading in the next year and however you might like to challenge yourself. Today, I'm going to lay out my 12 + 4 list (I like having the 4 alternates since it was introduced last year, I don't really use them as alternates, just make it more of a 16 book list I plan to try and read).

This year I decided to focus my Reading Group challenge on new series. Over the past few years, I've purchased many new series; for a variety of reasons, some from TV series that I've enjoyed, some from recommendations from other group members and some just from liking the plot line at my local book stores. I've mentioned many times that I like to mooch around book stores, to see what's new and what looks interesting. :0)

Anyway, this year, I've pulled down 16 books that are the first in a particular series (I guess they all fall into the mystery/ thriller/ adventure genre) and that have been sitting on my shelves for awhile and I will read them in 2015. These are the 16 books/ series I've chosen.

1. The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett (The Fethering Mysteries). I first heard of Simon Brett when Jo, the missus, listened to another of his series being dramatised on BBC Radio. This was the Charles Paris series. She enjoyed it so much I looked up Mr. Brett and discovered that he had written not only the Charles Paris mysteries, but also Mrs. Pargeter and the Fethering mysteries, amongst other books. I have purchased a few of his books, but The Body on the Beach is the only first of series that I have. The Fethering mysteries are set in a fictitious English village on the south coast and feature amateur sleuths Carole Seddon and her neighbour and friend, Jude Nichols. The Body on the Beach is the 1st book in a 14 book series.

2. Raven Black by Ann Cleeves (The Shetland Series). Ann Cleeves is another prolific mystery writer. I first heard of her when Jo and I enjoyed the Vera TV Series, starring Brenda Blethyn. I've read the first book in that series and enjoyed very much. Checking out Ann Cleeves bibliography I discovered that she also had written other series, including the Shetland series. I've since seen a couple of the TV mini-series based on these books and enjoyed very much (Jo might argue that point, saying that I usually fall asleep during. But I know I've seen at least one right through. :0)). Anyway, the series is set on the wind swept Shetland Islands and features Detective Jimmy Perez as the protagonist in the books.

3. Murder in the Marais by Cara Black (Aimee Leduc mysteries). This is a completely new series for me. It, obviously features detective Aimee Black, a Paris - based detective. As of 2013, there were 13 books in this series. To get a feel for what the stories might be about this is the synopsis of the first book, "Aimee Leduc, the half-French, half-American detective in Paris, is approached by a rabbi to decipher a fifty-year-old encrypted photo and deliver it to an old woman in the Marais, the old Jewish quarter. When she does so, she finds a corpse on whose forehead a swastika has been carved. With the help of her partner, a dwarf with extraordinary computer skills, she sets out to solve this horrendous crime and finds herself in the middle of a dangerous game of current politics and old war crimes." So there you go.

4. Zoo Station by David Downing (John Russell mysteries). Another brand new series for me, I saw this book recently at the Laughing Oyster and took a fancy to it. David Downing is a British author who has written a series of espionage novels featuring Anglo-American John Russell exploring Germany during the 1940's. They are known as the Station series because they all feature train stations in the title. There are currently six books in this series.

5. The Merchant's House by Kate Ellis (Wesley Peterson mysteries) - I have previously read Kate Ellis' first book in her DI Joe Plantagenet series. But the Wesley Peterson series seems to be a favourite of hers. I'm basing this strictly on the fact that there are 16 books in that series, and only four in the Plantagenet books. As I mentioned, I have read Seeking the Dead and enjoyed very much. I've purchased a few of the Wesley Peterson books as they look quite interesting; adding an archaeological twist to the mysteries. The books feature black policeman, Wesley Peterson, who has just been transferred to a West Country seaside town.

6. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (Thursday Next mysteries) - I have to say that I don't know what to expect from this mystery. It looks quirky and strange. The mystery is set in an alternative 1985 where literary detective Thursday Next pursues a master criminal through the world of Jane Austen's Jane Eyre. What more can a person say? Jasper Fforde has written more than just the Thursday Next books, but this series has 7 books in it. Looking forward to trying it out.

7. A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch (Charles Lenox mysteries) - This series falls within the historical mystery genre, featuring Victorian gentleman and amateur sleuth, Charles Lenox.  Charles Finch is an American author so it'll be interesting to see how he manages the setting of Victorian England for his series, which up to now consists of 8 books. I do like the historical mystery genre, having read some of the Cadfael, Matthew Shardlake, Mistress of the Art of Death and the Gaslight series, to name a few. I hope this one is as enjoyable.

8. A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn (Emmanuel Cooper mysteries) - Shhhhh, don't say anything but this is another series that I discovered only recently (darn Laughing Oyster Bookshop). This is Malla Nunn's, also a film maker, first mystery novel and it is set in South Africa in the '50s, a toxic time in South Africa's history. Emmanuel Cooper is an English WWII veteran who has emigrated to Johannesburg and finds himself in the midst of this time of strife as he works to investigate crime.

9. The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson (Longmire mysteries). Jo and I have enjoyed all three seasons of the Longmire TV series; it's one of our favourites. Set in the American Midwest, it finds Longmire and his small police staff walk a fine line, investigating crimes that often involve people from the Reservation. I've had this first book on my shelf for quite awhile now and I'm looking forward to seeing how it compares to the TV series (which I've heard has just been picked up by Netflix... yay!). If it's a well-written series, there are another 11 books in the series awaiting my reading.. :0)

10. Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell (Wallander mysteries) - Moving from the US to Sweden for my next mystery series, this is another that came to my attention via a TV series. Wallander is an excellent BBC series starring Kevin Branagh as Kurt Wallander, a police detective from Sweden, who can be as frustrating as he is successful at solving crime. It is a moody TV series so I'm expecting the same from this first book. I've enjoyed quite a few of the multitudinous Scandinavian mysteries that are flooding the market these days. Some, like Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole books and Karin Alvtegen's one of mysteries, I've enjoyed very much. Others, not so much. So we'll see what the Wallendar books are like, finally.

11. The Missing File by D.A. Mishani (Avraham Avraham mysteries). I've not read any mysteries set in the Middle East, well, if you don't count Turkey as the Middle East.. :0). Dror (D.A.) Mishani is an Israeli crime writer. The Missing File is the first of two books (so far) in the series featuring Police Inspector Avraham Avraham. I do like many of the mysteries that I've read that are set in exotic locales; Thailand, India, China, Turkey; I'm hoping this one is as good.

12. Death at Bishop's Keep by Robin Paige (Kathryn Ardleigh historical mysteries). Robin Paige, born Susan Wittig Albert, has also written under the pen name Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew anyone??). Along with her husband, Bill, she has written a dozen mysteries set in the late Victorian/ early Edwardian period, of which Death at Bishop's Keep is the first. I've been somewhat leery about this series, but I now have a reason to start it. I hope it's as interesting as some of the other new series I've tried in the past couple of years.


Alt 1. Still Life by Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache) - It's only appropriate that I should have one Canadian mystery in my list. I've enjoyed many Canadian series; Giles Blunt's series set in my home town of North Bay, Howard Engel's Benny Cooperman series, etc.. Jo and I watched the CBC TV movie based on this book, with Nathaniel Parker (AKA Inspector Lynley) as Inspector Arnold Gamache, a mystery set in rural Quebec. This is also the first book in a successful series by Louise Penny. There are already 10 books and I'm looking forward to finally giving this first book a try.

Alt 2. The French Executioner by C.C. Humphreys (The French Executioner series) - Another historical series, this one also with a Canadian connection. The connection is that C.C. Humphreys was born in Toronto Canada, but he did grow up in the UK. Also an actor he is noted for his role as PC Richard Turnham in The Bill. The French Executioner is the first, of course, of two novels in the French Executioner series. Would you like a synopsis? "It is 1536 and the expert swordsman, Jean Rombaud, has been brought over from France by Henry VIII to behead his wife, Anne Boleyn. But on the eve of her execution Rombaud swears a vow to the ill-fated queen. He promises to bury her six-fingered hand, symbol of her rumoured witchery, at a sacred crossroads. Yet in a Europe ravaged by religious war, the hand of this infamous Protestant icon is so powerful a relic that many will kill for it... From a battle between slave galleys, through the hallucinations of St Anthony's Fire to the fortress of an apocalyptic Messiah, Jean seeks to honour his vow."

Alt 3. Gallows View by Peter Robinson (Inspector Banks) - Another great British mystery TV series, featuring Stephen Tompkinson as DCI Banks and also one of my favourite actresses, Caroline Catz as DI Helen Morton, this series is another written by a Canadian, Peter Robinson, this time, a Canadian originally born in Britain. This is also another TV mystery series that Jo and I have enjoyed immensely, even with the irritating Andrea Lowe as DS Annie Cabot (her character, not necessarily her acting). I've been buying books in this series for awhile now. I hope it's as entertaining to read as it is to watch.

Alt 4 - Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (Martin Beck mysteries) - This is the first book in another of the crop of Scandinavian mysteries, this one written by husband/ wife team and featuring detectives of the special homicide division of the Swedish National police. Martin Beck is one of the main protagonists. Another series that has been on my bookshelf for awhile and I'm looking forward to getting it started.

So there you have it, my 12 + 4 2015 Reading challenge. I hope maybe some of these books might give you ideas of trying them out. Next Blog will feature my Individual Challenge ideas.

Take care, stay dry and Keep on reading!

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