Monday, 28 April 2014

April 2014 Review and Currently Reading, plus whatever.. :0)

It's not quite the end of April, but I don't think I'll finish any of the books I'm currently reading by end month, so let's take a look back at the past month. Overall, I've completed 8 books this past month, making a total for the year of 32. So I'm well on my way to meeting my goodreads challenge total for the year of 90 books. I've currently got 3 on the go and should finish at least two of them early in May. I'm pretty happy overall with what I've picked and with my pace. I've also completed 11,500 pages so far, that's purely for interest sake.

Looking back over the month, six books were mysteries, 1 was an adventure and the 8th was a biography. One five - star read, one four - star and six three - star selections. These are the books I completed this month:

1. The Long Run: A New York Firefighter's Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete (Biography) by Matt Long. This was a three star read. "A very interesting story. Matt Long was a NY fire fighter who ran the New York Marathon and was training for the Boston Marathon. While riding his bike for training he was run over by a bus, sustaining severe, life-threatening injuries. The story is about his struggle to regain his body and try to get his life back a semblance of normalcy. It also goes into his past, his relationship with his family and friends."

2. Endangered Species (Mystery) by Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon #5). 3 - star read. "The Anna Pigeon books are comfort food. I always enjoy entering Anna's life and finding out about which National Park she will be working at. In this story she is in Cumberland Island Park in Georgia as a Fire fighter, there with other Park Service employees just in case. Also in the mix are the Loggerhead turtles, coming ashore during their annual migration to lay their eggs and as well, a plane crash and possible murder. The story meanders through the mystery, Anna is lovely as ever. I also liked the bits involving Frederick, her FBI friend in Chicago, and her sister in New York who is receiving threatening letters and phone calls. All in all, I enjoyed very much and look forward to my next Anna Pigeon mystery, Blind Descent, set in Carlsbad Caverns, NM."

3. The Lost World (Adventure) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 3 stars. "A good solid adventure from the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Professor Challenger and a team of associates head to South America to prove that his original discovery of a plateau where creatures from the deep past still live. A well-written and interesting story. I've seen the movie adaptation and also enjoyed. Doyle writes with a nice flow and creates interesting heroic characters. I enjoyed the story very much. Supposedly there are others in the Professor Challenger series. I will definitely look them up."

4. Blind Descent (Mystery) by Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon #6). 3 - star read. "Another solid Anna Pigeon mystery, this one is set in Carlsbad Caverns. Almost a parlour mystery in its inception as Anna's friend Frieda is injured in a closed cavern with limited people about to have committed the murder attempt. There are many claustrophobic periods as Anna crawls through narrow tunnels with other cavers trying to extricate Frieda. A totally new experience for me, this caver's world, both exciting and terrifying. The mystery broadens once the group is above surface, with many suspects. Excellent mystery all round and most enjoyable read."

5. Gently Down the Stream (Mystery) by Alan Hunter (Inspector George Gently #3). 3 stars. "This was my first attempt at a George Gently mystery. It is the third in the series. I've watched and enjoyed the British TV series based on the books very much. Having said that, this book had a totally different feel than the TV series; most of the characters, other than Gently, were different and I believe even the setting is a different part of England. I still enjoyed the story mind you. It had a nice feel and pace to it and I liked Gently and his partner, Dutt. I will say that fairly early on, I had it basically figured out and found myself silently shouting at Gently as he worked methodically to come to his solution. All in all, I enjoyed and will read more of the series."

6. Murder on Astor Place (Mystery) by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mystery #1). 3 stars. "A new author for me, this is the first book in the Gaslight mystery series. I enjoyed this very much. I liked the setting, New York city when Teddy Roosevelt was trying to improve the police force. The story resolves around mid-wife, Sarah Brandt, a widow, and Police Sgt Frank Malloy. Malloy asks her help to go through the effects of a young woman murdered in a flat in a house where Sarah has gone to perform her mid-wife duties. Almost against his will, Frank finds himself getting more assistance from Sarah in investigating the case. With her background with the rich of New York, she can gain ready access to the people involved. The story was interesting, well-paced and well-written. I'm looking forward to starting the second book, Murder on St Mark's Place."

7. The House of Silk (Mystery) by Anthony Horowitz. 4 stars. "Pleasantly surprised by this story. This was a new author for me, trying for a new twist on a classic character, Sherlock Holmes. Mr Horowitz didn't disappoint. The story was well-written and had a very interesting plot. I will say I had a reasonable idea of what the House of Silk was, I also didn't know what the House of Silk was involved with and I also didn't know how the original story line linked up with the House of Silk story line. Very pleased that I enjoyed it so much. Worth anybody trying."

8. Disordered Minds (Mystery) by Minette Walters. 5 stars. "Excellent 'mystery' by Minette Walters. I think she is one of the unique mystery writers I've ever read. Each story I've read is unique in its own right and covers different aspects of human behaviour. In this story, two investigators, one a university professor and the other a town councillor, Jonathan and George, delve into the past to try and prove that a convicted murderer, a young man with mental difficulties, who committed suicide in prison, was, in fact, innocent of the murder. The trail of their investigation is an interesting one, involving many twists and turns, potential suspects, deceit, etc. As well, they both must deal with their own issues, that many or man not colour their investigation. Walters has a unique style of writing, this story is partly written in emails, case transcripts, etc. I liked both Jonathan and George and their book editor, Andrew Spicer and the other characters are interesting and full of mystery. Excellent story and highly recommended."

Currently Reading.

1. Parade's End (Classic) by Ford Madox Ford. This is one of my 12 + 4 Reading Group challenge selections. I have previously enjoyed the BBC mini-series. The book is challenging, but I'm enjoying so far. "In four volumes (Some Do Not..., No More Parades, A Man Could Stand and the Last Post), Parade's End traces the psychological damage inflicted by battle, the collapse of England's secure Edwardian values and the new age, embodied by Christopher Tietjen's beautiful, selfish wife, Sylvia. It is an elegy for the war dead and the passing of a way of life, and a work of amazing subtlety and profundity."

2. Murder on St. Mark's Place (Gaslight Mystery #2) by Victoria Thompson. I enjoyed the first book very much. This is in aid of my Bedside Table challenge. "Thinking she has been summoned by German immigrant Agnes Otto to usher a new life into the world, Sarah Brandt is greeted by the news of an untimely death instead. It seems that Agnes's beautiful younger sister, Gerda, had fallen into the life of a 'Charity Girl'. Caught up in the false glamour of the city's nightlife, she would trade her company - and her favours - not for money, but for lavish gifts and an evening's entertainment. And now she was dead, victim, no doubt, of one of her 'gentlemen friends.' No one cares much about the fate of girls like Gerda; but Sarah does. And she vows to find her killer. To do so, she turns to Sergeant Frank Malloy. As the two pursue an investigation that leads from the bright lights of Coney Island to the stately homes of Fifth Avenue, the find that their shared passion for justice may cost them dearly.."

3. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Mystery/ Horror) by Patrick Suskind. "In the slums of 18th-century Paris a baby is born. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille clings to life with an iron will, growing into a dark and sinister young man who, although he has no scent of his own, possesses an incomparable sense of smell. He apprentices himself to a perfumer and quickly masters the ancient art of mixing flowers, herbs, and oils. But his quest to create the 'ultimate perfume' leads him to commit a series of brutal murders until no woman can feel safe as his final horrifying secret is revealed."

Newest Purchases

1. Stardust (Fantasy) by Neil Gaiman. I've seen the movie previously and enjoyed very much. "What happens when you make a promise to bring back a fallen star? Teenager Tristran Thorn is about to find out, as he ventures beyond the wall of his English countryside town. After falling in love with the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester, he sets out on a quest to fulfil his promise to his beloved--and stumbles into the magical realm that lies beyond. "

2. The Armada Boy (Mystery) (Wesley Peterson #2) by Kate Ellis. I've read other Kate Ellis series, the Joe Plantagenet mysteries, and enjoyed very much. I'm looking forward to trying her other series featuring Wesley Peterson. "An American veteran of the D-Day landings on a sentimental journey with his old unit to their base is the last body archaeologist Neil Watson expects to find in the ruins of an old chapel. Neil turns to his old friend from student days, Detective Sergeant Wesley Peterson, for help. Ironically, both men are looking at an invading force—Wesley the World War II American veterans, and Neil a group of shipwrecked Spaniards reputed to have met a sticky end at the hands of outraged locals as they limped from the wreckage of the great Armada in 1588. Local memories prove retentive and Wesley is soon caught up in 50 year-old accusations, resentments, and romances. Wesley's case grows more perplexing, while Neil uncovers a tragic story from the distant past. More than 400 years apart, two strangers in a strange land have died violently. Wesley is running out of time to find out why."

3. Sanctuary (Mystery) (Jack Taylor #7). The missus and I have watched the first two episodes of the TV series based on the books. It's gritty but well worth watching. When I discovered that Ken Bruen wrote the books, I started looking for them. This is the first one I've found so far. "When a letter containing a list of victims arrives in the post, PI Jack Taylor is sickened, but tells himself the list has nothing to do with him. He has enough to do just staying sane. His close friend Ridge is recovering from surgery and alcohol’s siren song is calling to him ever more insistently. A guard and then a judge die in mysterious circumstances. But it is not until a child is added to the list that Taylor determines to find the identity of the killer, and put a stop to the killings at any cost. What he doesn’t know is that his relationship with the killer is far closer than he thinks, and that it’s about to become deeply personal. Spiked with dark humour, seasoned with acute insights into the perils of urbanisation, and fuelled by rage at man’s inhumanity to man, this is crime-writing at its darkest and most original."

4. The Hanging in the Hotel (Mystery) (Fethering #5). I have slowly been buying Simon Brett mysteries for awhile, but have yet to read one. He writes various series; Charles Paris, Mrs. Pargeter and the Fethering series. I plan to start at least one in the next month or so.. " The Hopwicke Country House Hotel, owned by Jude's glamorous friend Suzy Longthorne, is to host an event for the all-male society, The Pillars of Sussex. On the night, Jude helps Suzy serve dinner, and in the early hours of the morning they watch with relief as the guests drag themselves to their beds. The next morning, one young solicitor does not come down for breakfast. Jude heads for Nigel Ackford's room, presuming he is feeling the effects of the night before. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Nigel has been spared his hangover. For Jude finds him hanging from the beams of his four-poster bed . . . Convinced it was not suicide, Carole and Jude must now find out the truth behind an elaborate attempt to cover up a simple, cold-blooded murder . . ."

So there you go, another month updated. I'm enjoying my selections so much this year and I do like the focus that the various challenges has given me, as well as letting me read such a great variety of books. More in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Spring has Sprung... woooo hoooo!

It's been a pretty good April. The sprinkler system has been successfully installed, the missus and I have done a fair bit of yard work, enjoying the sunny break and I've even done some grass seeding and stuff like that. Still some big chores, once the fella comes around (hoping this week) to do some de-thatching of the front yard and aerating of the back, then we can get around to seeding and fertilising the whole yard and I can get up on my ladders and do a spring cleaning of the gutters and maybe this year get all the windows and siding scrubbed down. Oh I do love yard work.. ;0). Mind you, we're supposed to be in for a few days of rain. Feels like that a bit today, a cool breeze, cloudy skies. Well, I can always settle down and just read.

Speaking of which, April has been a bit slow reading-wise, but I've finished my first three books and have made a good stab at the next three. I'm currently reading the following books and enjoying them all as well.

1. Disordered Minds by Minette Walters. I've read a few of Minette Walters' mysteries; The Scold's Bridle, The Ice House, The Tinder Box and Acid Row to name a few. I quite enjoy her style. Each story stands alone, well, they have so far anyway and she focuses on the individuals, their personalities, issues and such. I'm currently enjoying Disordered Minds very much. It flows so nicely; I sit down for a quick read and find I've gone through 50 pages. This is the synopsis, "In 1970 Howard Stamp, a retarded twenty-year-old, was convicted on disputed evidence of brutally murdering his grandmother in her Dorset home. Less than three years alter he was dead, driven to suicide by self-hatred and relentless bullying by other prisoners. When anthropologist Dr Jonathan Hughes re-examines Stamp's case for a book on injustice, his research into the written evidence leads him to believe that Stamp was wrongly convicted. But is the forgotten story of one friendless young man compelling enough to persuade Jonathan to confront the real murderer? One person believes it is. George Gardener has been trying to bring Stamp's case to public attention for years and has unearthed new evidence that might exonerate him. But Gardener needs Jonathan on board if it is to be used to maximum effect... and Jonathan is too consumed by his own demons to expose a dangerous killer who may still be at large." It's an excellent story so far (I'm about 1/3 of the way through) and I like that it displays many misconceptions; I sure had mine. Excellent writer.

2. The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A classic from the pen of AC Doyle, also known for his Sherlock Holmes series. The pictured book is the edition I have. I do like it when I can find the book cover of my edition (I guess I could just photograph mine, eh? I have done that before to be fair). The book was first published in 1912, the first of the Professor Challenger series. This edition was published in 1964 by John Murray as a reprint. I'm enjoying it very much. I've seen the movie before and enjoyed, but it's always good to read it in its original format. This is the synopsis, "On a high plateau in South America a group of explorer-scientists led by the famous Professor Challenger discover a huge tropical marsh surviving from prehistoric times inhabited by gigantic reptiles and the grotesque half-ape forerunners of man. In the face of fantastic dangers they capture one of the flying reptiles and bring it back to London, where it escapes and causes havoc. The Lost World was the first of the full-length novels of this kind, and its breathtaking combination of science and fiction and real characters keeps it without a rival."

3. Blind Descent by Nevada Barr. I do enjoy the Anna Pigeon series very much. I've read 8 books in the series over the past 3 or 4 years. Anna is National Park Service ranger and finds herself at different National Parks in pretty well each story and also finds herself enmeshed in some sort of mystery. I can only think of one that I didn't enjoy all that much and even that was just some minor complaints, to do with a more supernatural element. I prefer the more straight-forward mystery. I read Endangered Species (Book # 5) previously and am now half way through Book # 6. This story finds Anna in Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico, deep underground with a rescue team trying to bring out her friend Frieda who has been injured. An interesting place for a mystery you might ask? It sure seems to be. I can totally relate to Anna's feelings of claustrophobia as she works to extricate her friend, alive and well. For a further synopsis, this is the summary on the book back, "Anna Pigeon, the intrepid National Park Service ranger in Nevada Barr's superb wilderness mysteries, has had some perilous experiences in the five novels that preceded Blind Descent, but none compares with this thrilling subterranean adventure in the underground caverns of Lechuguilla, 'a monster man-eating cave; in New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns. When a fellow ranger is injured in a caving accident, Anna chokes back the willies of claustrophobia and joins the rescue team. Burrowing 800 feet below ground, she negotiates airless tunnels, gaping pits, vaulting caverns and silently flowing rivers, each hazard with a daunting name like Razor Blade Run or the Wormhole. At the end of the dangerous descent, she reaches her friend and hears her say, 'It wasn't an accident'." :0)

Newest Purchases - I went for some classics this time in my weekend visit to return some books I don't want to keep. I'm looking forward to reading them in the near future.

1. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier. I've only ever read one du Maurier novel up to now, that being The House on the Strand, a novel I've enjoyed a few times. Quite a few members of my goodreads book club, the Book Addicts, have been choosing others of du Maurier's novels this year as challenge reads and have enjoyed. I found this one on Saturday so thought I should try something else by du Maurier. "Ambrose married Rachel, Countess Sangalletti in Italy and never returned home. His letters to his cousin Philip hinted that he was being poisoned, and when Philip arrive in Italy, Ambrose was dead. Rachel comes to England, and soon Philip is torn between love and suspicion. Is she the angel she seems or a scheming murderess?"

2. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. My UK book group is running through the centuries, a new century each quarter. April to June is the 18th Century, so when I saw this book, set in 1757, I thought it would be a perfect fit. The book was originally written in 1826 and is the second of five novels in the 'Leather Stockings Tales'. I have seen a movie version, with Madeline Stowe and also remember reading the Classics comic back when I was much, much younger. I'm quite looking forward to reading this. Who knows, I may decide to read the others in the series. "It is 1757. Across north-eastern America the armies of Britain and France struggle for ascendancy. Their conflict, however, overlays older struggles between nations of native Americans for possession of the same lands and between the native peoples and white colonisers. Through these layers of conflict Cooper threads a thrilling narrative, in which Cora and Alice Munro, daughters of a British commander on the front line of the colonial war, attempt to join their father. Thwarted by Magua, the sinister 'Indian runner', they find help in the persons of Hawk-eye, the white woodsman, and his companions, the Mohicans Chingachgook and Uncas, his son, the last of  his tribe."

3. The Collector by John Fowles. I've read The Magus by Mr. Fowles a few years or more ago (I hate to say it, but I don't remember it very much). A couple of years ago, TCM showed the movie version of this book, starring Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar. We both were very pleasantly surprised. It was excellent, strange and weird, but excellent. When I saw the book, I had to get it, to see if it is similar to and if it is as good as the movie. "Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs. A chance pools win enables him to capture the art student Miranda and keep her in the cellar of the Sussex house he has bought with his windfall. The situation is seen first from the collector's point of view: he thinks the chloroform pad no more vicious than his butterfly net, and patiently waits for the barriers of class and taste that inhibit their love to break down in the limbo of their isolation. She, the creator, desperate for her freedom, tried to be understanding but cannot banish her contempt for everything anti-life the collector stands for."

So there you have it, my mid-month update. I'm looking forward to finishing off my current reads and seeing what I might pull out of the hat next.

Monday, 7 April 2014

A Quick Update

I don't have a lot to say this morning, just sitting at my desk on a drizzly sort of Monday, sipping a Tim Horton's coffee and watching the workmen finish off the sprinkler system installation. Hopefully the last day as the puppies do get excited whenever they hear the fellows working, especially Bonnie. At the moment they are both lying down relaxing, Bonnie on the floor at the entrance to the study and Clyde on the poof beside my desk. I think he's part cat.. lol

Yesterday, I stopped off at my local used book store when I went out to get some milk and bread. I've mentioned it in one of my first posts ever here, Nearly New Books. A very nice place to wander around; I always find something. I was a bit surprised when I was told they are moving two doors down, into the shop on the corner. I think it's encouraging news as I imagine that means the couple who run the store plan to stay with it for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, I did find three books that caught my interest; one that continues a favourite series, one by one of my favourite authors and a new author for me... So here they are -

1. A Dance With Dragons is the fifth book in George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones series. I just finished book four last month and now that Season 3 of the TV series is starting up, I thought, since they had an excellent copy in stock, I should get the next book. It's such a great series and has been translated to the TV screen so professionally. Jo and I were so happy to watch the Season 3 premiere last night. We have become quite engrossed in the world of Westeros. As I understand, Books 4 and 5 were originally to just be one book, but it got so cumbersome that Mr. Martin decided to break it apart, with Book 4 featuring events more in the Westeros region and Book 5 the rest. Anyway, this is the back page synopsis for anyone who hasn't given the series a chance. (Don't read if you haven't finished the books before as it might give clues to some of the things that happened before.. I still think it's pretty generic, but I don't want to ruin anything for you)

"In the aftermath of a colossal battle, Daenerys Targaryen rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousand of enemies, and many have set out to find her.Fleeing from Westeros with a price on her head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way east - with new allies who many not be the ragtag band they seem. And in the frozen north, Jon Snow confronts creatures from beyond the Wall of ice and stone, and powerful foes from within the Night's Watch. In a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics lead a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skin-changers, nobles and slaves, to the greatest of all."

2. C.J. Sansom is the author of one of my favourite historical mystery series, that of the dwarf lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, which is set during the political and religious intrigue of the reign of Henry VIII. I've enjoyed every book I've read so far; they've improved with each story. I was pleasantly surprised to see he's delved into the realm of alternate history with this book, Dominion. I have enjoyed this genre, Harold Turtledove has written many excellent books, wondering what might happen during specific points of history, if events had turned out differently. This book by C.J. Sansom explores WWII and wonders what might have happened had England lost. This is the synopsis -

"1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany. The global economy strains against the weight of the long German war against Russia still raging in the east. The British people find themselves under increasingly authoritarian rule  - the press, radio and television are tightly controlled and British Jews face ever-greater constraints. But Churchill's Resistance soldiers on. As defiance grows, whispers circulate of a secret that could forever alter the balance of the global struggle. The keeper of that secret? Scientist Frank Muncaster, who languishes in a Birmingham mental hospital. Civil servant David Fitzgerald, a spy for the Resistance and university friend of Frank's, is given the mission to rescue Frank and get him out of the country. Hard on his heels is Gestapo agent Gunther Hoth, a brilliant, implacable hunter of men, who soon has Frank as well David's innocent wife, Sarah, directly in his sights."

3. The Mongolian Conspiracy is by a new author for me, Mexican ex-diplomat and author, Rafael Bernal. I saw the book sitting on a table by the door, was drawn by the cover and then the synopsis sounded very interesting. The success or failure of the book will be down mostly to the translation. I've had some books that I just couldn't read because the translator failed to pass along the story so that it was accessible. Having said all that, I'm looking forward to giving this a try.

"Just days before the President of the United States arrives in Mexico City, rumours swirl of a Chinese-Mongolian plot to assassinate the Mexican and American presidents at the ceremonial unveiling of a statue. To investigate the truth of these reports, the Mexican police turn to Filiberto Garcia; an impeccably groomed 'gun for hire', former revolutionary - and classic antihero. Garcia travels through the opium dens, curio shops, and Cantonese restaurants of Mexico City's Chinatown, sifting through clues and dispatching numerous bad guys along the way. As the bodies pile up, he discovers traces of slimy political dealings. Are local gears turning the cogs of this 'international incident?' Behind the smokescreen of this classic noir are fierce curses, a surprisingly innocent and tender affair, dialogue that smolders, and unforgettable riffs about women, the meaning of life, how real men do things, the Revolution and the best gun to use for close-range killing."

So there you go, some new books to tease your appetites. Check them out and let me know what you think of them. :)

Friday, 4 April 2014

1st Quarter 2014 Review and other Miscellany

It's hard to believe it's already April 2014. I've been looking back over the past few months and I don't know where the time has gone. But, hey, that's what life is all about, right? The past couple of weeks have been kind of busy and fun as well. Our contractor is now almost finished installing our sprinkler system for our garden. They've had nice weather for the most part, except yesterday, when it was pretty well steady rain. I'm looking forward to getting it working; I'm the laziest guy I know and after a few weeks of spending my alternating evenings moving the sprinkler around the yard, those alternating days sometimes became once a week or maybe even longer. I love our house, but yard work is probably my lowest priority. (It's hard to watch the TV or sit on the sofa and read if you're out in the yard working.. ).. lol. Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how it all works out when they are done and if we can finally get the whole yard up to snuff. We did do a pretty good job last year. The yard was the best it's been since we moved in here.

Besides that, I've been having fun on Facebook with the missus, her sister and her husband. I started a thread about 3 weeks ago, complaining about all the crappy songs that came out in 1974 and started posting them on my Facebook page; songs like Billy Don't Be a Hero, The Night Chicago Died and others. Well that kind of graduated into posts from the four of us about songs from 1974 that weren't all that bad; Rikki Don't Lose that Number, Help Me (Joni Mitchell) and many, many others. Well, we've kind of carried that theme on the past two weeks; we've just finished some of the great songs of 1976 and this weekend, we'll start 1977. I've got to get into my archives and start picking some of my favourites to start posting on Saturday.

I've got to say, looking over the songs of the mid-70's has brought back many fond memories of my university years, 1974 - 78 and working at CHCL Radio in Cold Lake from 1978 - 81. I bought my first stereo, a quadraphonic stereo with 8-track and turntable and radio when I went to university. I'd love to show you a photo of it, but all I can seem to find is the one above which only shows one of the speakers. It was a great little system (at least I thought so anyway); when I moved into residence in '75, I used to use it for our House parties and I really started to accumulate LPs at that time. Some of my favourite record stores with Sam the Record Man, Round Records (you could trade in records there), I think A&M records? It has been awhile. I definitely spent too much money on records. When I moved to Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake and worked a the Base radio station, you could order records for dirt cheap; I think $3.00 an LP instead of $10ish downtown. The record company would punch a hole in the jacket and they were called deletes. Ah yes, fond memories. I'm looking forward to seeing what songs/ albums from 1977 will come up next week.
Now on to books. Since we've just completed the first quarter of 2014, I thought I'd just review what I've managed to accomplish from Jan through Mar. So here we go -
My Goodreads Challenge. This year I decided to try and read 90 books. So far, after 3 months, I've completed 24 books. If I can keep that pace up, I should manage to exceed my challenge by a couple of books. I do have a few big tomes to read this year, but I'll keep trying. Looking at my stats page on Goodreads, I've also read 8,800 pages. I didn't really set a challenge for number of pages, but over the last couple of years I've averaged 28,500 pages. So all things being equal, I'm good to exceed that as well. We'll see how it all ends up Dec 31st.
Favourite book so far - I'm kind of surprised by this, but this was definitely my favourite book so far and my only 5 star read. If you're interested, this was the review I added to my book page - "Definitely a book out of my normal comfort zone, but such an excellent read. I had ideas about what to expect; a banned book, due to its rawness, explicit sexual language, but I was surprised. It's a thoughtful story of a woman, living in a marriage with a broken man; physically broken from the war, but also emotionally broken. Constance loves Clifford Chatterley anyway, cares for him, comforts him, but finds her life to be stagnant, loveless, emotionless. She meets Oliver Mellors, an other ex-soldier who now works as the game keeper on the Chatterley estate and finds herself drawn to him. The story is about their developing relationship, both emotional and sexual. I expected the sex to be graphic, raw, but other than some language, it was crafted very lovingly, very gently on the whole. The story itself is interesting, the characters as well and the interludes describing the countryside, coal mining country are also well-crafted. An excellent story and I'm glad I finally pulled the book off my shelves to read."
So far I've had -
5***** reads - 1
4**** reads - 14
3*** reads - 8
2** reads - 1
Least favourite book - This was the second V.S. Naipaul book I've ever read and it was so very disappointing. I've got a couple of others still sitting on my shelf to read, but I won't leap to try them after this one. Here was my review - 
"This book was a real chore for me. I just couldn't get into the main character, who was basically writing his autobiography. It was well-written, but it didn't draw me in at all, didn't grab my interest. It's unfortunate, as I've previously read A Home for Mr Biswas and enjoyed that more. I don't know what else to say, but that it was disappointing. However, I'm sure others might like it. Just not for me."
Various Stats -
Male/ Female Authors
Male - 10, Female - 13
Mystery - 16
Fantasy - 2
Thriller - 2
Fiction - 1
Classic - 2
1st time Authors - 9
Challenge Status
12 + 4 Reading Group Challenge - So far I've read 5 of my selections and am currently reading my sixth. These are the books I've read so far -
1. Mimic Men by V.S. Naipaul - 2 stars (see thoughts above)
2. In the Woods by Tana French - 4 stars
3. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman - 4 stars
4. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster - 4 stars (probably my favourite of this Reading challenge so far
5. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke - 4 stars
(I'm currently reading The Long Run by Matt Long and enjoying so far)
Alphabetical Mystery Author Challenge - I've read six books in this challenge so far; this is a continuation from last year, with the exception that this I year I alternate from the bottom of the alphabet to the top of the alphabet with each book. I've enjoyed all of my selections so far -
1. Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith - 4 stars
2. The Sultan's Seal by Jenny White - 4 stars
3. No Good Deed by Lynn S. Hightower - 4 stars
4. She Came Back by Patricia Wentworth - 3 stars
5. The Pure in Heart by Susan Hill - 4 stars
6. Last Seen Wearing by Hillary Waugh - 4 stars
(I've now moved back to the H's for my next selection, The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz and enjoying very much. This story is a Sherlock Holmes mystery)
Bed-time Authors Challenge - These are my bed-time books; I try to read two books by each author. At the moment it seems that all of my authors are mystery writers but I will read others as well. I'm enjoying very much so far, have read 10 books. It's allowed me to mix up first-time authors (for me) and re-engage with authors whose books have been neglected on my TBR shelves for much too long. These are the authors I've read so far -
1. Agatha Christie - The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and N or M? both 4 star books
2. Jefferson Bass (author of the Bone Yard series, a new author for me) - Carve in Bone and Flesh and Bone (both 4 stars)
3. Margery Allingham (Albert Campion mysteries) - Death of a Ghost and Dancers in Mourning (both 3 stars)
4. Lee Child (Jack Reacher thrillers) - Killing Floor and Die Trying (both 3.5 stars)
5. Kate Ellis (DI Joe Plantagenet mysteries, a new author for me) - Playing with Bones and Seeking the Dead (both 4 stars)
(I'm going back to an old favourite for my next author, Nevada Barr, who writes the Anna Pigeon mysteries, each set in a US National Park. Love them, they are like comfort food. I'm reading Number 5 at the moment, Endangered Species.)
There are various other challenges going; the Genre Challenge, Time Traveller's Challenge, etc. They are all going very well, steady progress so to speak.
Finally, these are my favourite 3 books so far -
1. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
2. The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
3. A Room with a View by E.M.Forster.
So there you have it, my latest. Have a great weekend. I hope it's sunny and spring-like wherever you might be.
Keep on reading!

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