Sunday, 7 December 2014

I Can't Believe It's Already December 2014!

Well, here it is, the 7th of December 2014. Where has the year gone? We've had a wet week here in the Comox Valley, December started off quite cold by our standards but it's since warmed up a bit and clouded over. I think we're expecting temperatures in the teens (Celsius that is) so 40's - 50's Fahrenheit later in the week.

I must say I'm struggling to get motivated putting up the Xmas lights outside. The neighbours have started to do so. I imagine I'll pull out the strings of lights to see how many are still working, today. It looks like a reasonable day out there. I had a nice run this morning and it was mild and fresh. Jo and I still have to go get a tree as well, if we are going to have a real tree this year. That is one of our plans for the weekend, mind you, I'm off tomorrow as well, so maybe if we don't get around to it today, we can go out tomorrow afternoon, make a lunch date and then pick up our tree.. Sounds like a nice plan.

Onto books, I've had a reasonably slow November when it comes to reading. I only managed to finish 6 books; well, more like 5 and a half I guess. One of my challenges was poetry and I read about 3/4s of a book of poetry by Carl Sandburg. Poetry and I are not close friends. I can appreciate his writing style, I liked his use of words, but the poems basically fell on deaf ears. Ah well. I'll try again another day. So other than that I finished five books, 3 mysteries, one fantasy and a non-fiction;

1. Wycliffe and the Guilt-Edged Alibi by W.J. Burley (4 stars). My Review - This is the second Wycliffe mystery I've read in Oct/ Nov and once again I've enjoyed very much. I like Burley's writing style. Wycliffe is a diffident copper, one who isn't easy to really like or put a finger on. He has a lazyish style of investigating, preferring to wander about on his own and let the information he accumulates formulate a conclusion. He is distant from the people he works with, often sharp with them but at the same time his number two, Inspector Gill seems to like him and respect him. The story was very interesting, the people interesting as well and I was ultimately satisfied with the result. I'm looking forward to reading more of the Wycliffe mysteries.

2. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin (4 stars) My Review - Most enjoyable. I've enjoyed this series, even the 4th book. I can see now why Martin split up Books 4 and 5, it would take forever to read, even to publish. This was somewhat a back to form for the series, maybe just because there were more characters and familiar ones than in Book 4. Fascinating continuing development of the story and characters. Continued willingness to show main characters the door, or did he? I guess we'll find out when the 6th book comes out. Get writing Mr. Martin!!

3. The Falls by Ian Rankin (5 stars). My Review - It's been about a year since I read my last Rebus mystery and I'm sorry it's taken me so long to read the next, The Falls. I can't recall when I've more enjoyed a mystery. Rebus and the gang are involved trying to solve the disappearance of a young woman, the gang including Siobhan Clark, Ellen Wylie, and new boss, Gill Templer. Rebus is looking at his life, as always, trying to sell his flat, see a potential new lady friend, fend off Templer's attempts to make him see a doctor, while investigating the disappearance. He finds similarities to old cases and heads down past byways, while Siobhan is investigating a computer - based role-playing game that the missing girl was involved with, meaning involvement with a cryptic online 'Quizmaster'. The story was so well-crafted and presented and I just enjoyed getting involved with Rebus, his life and his friends. It's nice about these stories that Ian Rankin takes the time to develop the characters of those around Rebus and to get them deeply involved in the cases as well. Excellent and most enjoyable read.

4. Rules of Prey by John Sandford (4 stars). My Review - This is my first experience with John Sandford's Prey series. I quite enjoyed it. It's an easy read and Lucas Davenport is an interesting character. He isn't a super-human like many thriller protagonists. He definitely has many strengths, his love of firearms, his way with women, his game playing skills, but at the same time he has many doubts and flaws that make him a more rounded character. This first story was an excellent introduction to the series; the 'villain', a serial killer dubbed 'maddog', was unique as well, not perfect but scary. The story moved along quite nicely and I liked the process of the investigation itself. Overall, it was a tense, well-crafted thriller/ mystery and definitely makes you want to continue with the series to see how much Davenport's character and those of his acquaintances are further developed.

5. Honey and Salt by Carl Sandburg - No review as it would really be unfair for me to comment.

6. A Crack in the Edge of the World by Simon Winchester (3 stars). My Review - Like most of Simon Winchester's novels, I enjoyed this one. The focus is the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906. The earthquake, while the focus, is more an opportunity for Winchester to discuss fault lines, new geology, some history, sociology, etc. I like his meandering pace and always find the information he provides on his subject, accessible and interesting. Worth reading.

Currently Reading

I've started off December with 4 books (kind of by accident). I had picked 3 books to start with but I was downtown one afternoon waiting for Jo and usually I bring a book with me to pass the time. Since I'd forgotten this day I wandered around the shops, then visited The Laughing Oyster Bookshop and ended up buying a book. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading as Jo finished her business, hence why I'm now reading 4 books.. lol. So these are the books occupying my time at the moment.

1. Blondie and Dagwood Adventure in Magic by Chic Young - Yes, I admit it, this is bit of fluff. Chic Young was noted for his newspaper cartoon series featuring the antics of Dagwood and Blondie Bumstead. The series also was made into a few movies and as I discovered, also a few books. I found this book, plus one other in an antique shop down in Chemainus at the Willow Antique Mall a few years back. The book was published in 1944 by Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin. It was a cute hard cover book, one I thought looked good on our shelves and that maybe someday, for fun, I'd read. Well, here it is a few years later and I've got an alphabetical author challenge to finish, the letter 'Y' and I figured this would be the perfect December book to finish that off. It's a light story, easy to read and enjoyable. Dagwood tries to fulfil a childhood dream of being a magician and antics ensue. That's probably all you need to know about the story. :0)

2. The Dark River by John Twelve Hawks. This is the second book in The Traveler series, also known as The Fourth Realm trilogy. I enjoyed the first book, The Traveler, very much and I've had the second book on my shelves for a couple of years now. I'm enjoying it very much so far. This is the synopsis of the book, "Two brothers born into a race of Travelers - prophets able to journey to different realms of consciousness - have just discovered that their long lost father may still be alive. Gabriel, who could be humanity's saviour, wants to protect him. Michael, however, wants to destroy his father and humanity's hope for freedom. As they race across the globe, their frantic search puts them on a collision course, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance". Most enjoyable so far, well-paced, full of action and tense situations.

3. Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin. This is the 13th book in the Inspector Rebus mysteries; a series that Jo searched for and bought for me for Christmas back in 2008 I think. I've been slowly working through and savouring the series since. I read two or three books a year and we've enjoyed the TV series based on the books as well. Rankin is an excellent writer and I'm finding the stories getting better and better as I get into each book. Only a few left to go, I'll have to pace myself. I'm enjoying this story very much; it finds Rebus in a unique situation. The synopsis is as follows - "Rebus is off the case - literally. A few days into a murder inquiry following the brutal death of an Edinburgh art dealer, Rebus blows up at DCS Gill Templar. He is sent to the Scottish Police College for 'retraining' - in other words, he's in the Last Chance Saloon. Rebus is given an old unsolved case to work on, in order to teach him and others the merits of teamwork. But there are those in the team who have their own secrets - and they'll stop at nothing to protect them. Then Rebus is asked to act as a go-between for gangster 'Big Ger' Cafferty. And as newly promoted DS Siobhan Clarke works the case of the murdered art dealer, she is brought closer to Cafferty than she ever expected... " Cool!

4. Confined Space by Deryn Collier. This is the book I bought while I was downtown waiting for the missus. It's by a Canadian author and is set in British Columbia, which caught my attention. Awhile ago, my brother-in-law, Rob, suggested that I should try and write a book, based on my military experiences maybe and maybe set in my comfortable Vancouver island. Well, that was the other reason that this book attracted me; the protagonist is an ex-military officer who is now the local coroner of his community in the Kootenays. So far I'm enjoying very much. This is the synopsis "When respected ex-Canadian Forces commander Bern Fortin cuts short his military career to take a job as the coroner for a small mountain town in the heart of BC, he's hoping to leave the past behind. Bern's looking forward to a quiet life; but the memories of what he witnessed during his stints in Afghanistan and other war-torn countries haunt him still. When the body of one of the workers is found in the huge bottle-washing tank at the local brewery, Bern is called in for a routine investigation. What first appears to be a tragic accident takes a menacing turn when the body of the worker's girlfriend is discovered in a nearby field. Bern needs the help of brewery safety investigator Evie Chapelle, who, burdened by tragedies she might have prevented, is more determined than ever to keep her workers and their tight-knit community, safe. Soon, Bern and Evie find themselves risking their jobs - and their lives - to uncover a killer hiding in a place where it is awfully hard to keep a secret."

Well, there you go. I hope to squeeze in another few books before year end; I'm looking at possibles like Frost At Christmas by R.D. Wingfield and An American Boy by Andrew Taylor as a couple of possibilities. I also would like to finish the year with one or two Agatha Christies.

Next Blog I will update on my 2015 Challenge plans and then over the next couple of weeks, my Top Tens of the year, in a variety of categories; actors/ actresses, songs, and of course, books.. Have a great December and Keep on reading!!!

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