Sunday, 22 March 2015

New Purchases

I was sort of a good/ bad boy on Saturday. I brought about 6 or 7 books to my used book store for credit to make a bit of room on the bookshelves, but I ended up using some of that credit to buy a few more books. Darn that Nearly New Books, they had quite a few I was interested in. They usually do. So let's see what I found this time.

1. The Beggar King and The Poisoned Pilgrim by Oliver Potszch (Historical Mystery). I've read the first book in this series, that being The  Hangman's Daughter. It is a historical mystery series set in Germany during the 1660s. I quite liked the first book and last time I went to Nearly New Books I noticed they had the other three in the series. I only picked up the 2nd at that time but when I saw they still had the remaining two books, I twisted my arm and picked them up to. Better to have them on my shelves than to miss out on them when I have a chance to read them. I'm really looking forward to tackling the second book, The Dark Monk.

2. St. Alban's Fire by Archer Mayor (Book 16 in the Joe Gunther series). One of my goodreads friends mentioned this series to me and I was pleasantly surprised to find one of the books at the store. I haven't tried the series yet and I may wait until I find the first book before I try this one. But who knows. This is the synopsis.
"Winter is on the wane in Northwestern Vermont. The moon hangs bright and cold in the silvery night sky over hundreds of square miles of a peaceful, dormant landscape of dairy farms. Bobby Cutts—young, heartbroken, and unable to sleep—enters the family barn to tend to the beasts within… and encounters the last nightmare of his life. Suddenly and explosively surrounded by bolts of fire racing in all directions, Bobby and the entire herd perish in a searing, stampeding, Hellish circle of flames. Called to the scene to investigate, Joe Gunther instantly recognises arson. But why, and by whom? And for what possible reason? There is little insurance, the family is loving and tightly knit, and there are few neighbourhood animosities. But murder this is, and Gunther quickly discovers it’s just one of a series of recent barn-related arson. Someone is wreaking havoc across the bucolic farmlands surrounding the town of St. Albans, and before Joe can discover who that is, he must dissect the social fabric of the community, the soul of Bobby’s family, and the complex, cut-throat business of farming lurking under its placid exterior. This journey will take Joe and his sidekick, Willy Kunkle, from the country to gritty Newark, New Jersey, where they will get lessons in the ways of both big city cops, old-time Mafia soldiers, and the power of money. Before it is all done, Joe will engage in a deadly game of chess that transcends mere police work, and confront at last an opponent with nothing to lose, whose final mission in life is to destroy the woman closest to Joe’s heart. And when the Oberfeldt case takes a turn for the unexpected, Joe realises that he is faced with a politically perilous situation—and a possibly lethal one personally."

3. People Who Knock on the Door by Patricia Highsmith. Patricia Highsmith is an interesting author. Besides the Ripley series, she basically writes one of mysteries and each (at least those I've read) deals with psychological aspects of the protagonists. This one did look interesting. This is the synopsis.
" When small-town insurance salesman Richard Alderman becomes a born-again Christian, his once tight-knit family quickly begins to rip apart at the seams. He and his youngest son, Robbie, embrace their newfound faith, while his elder son Arthur rejects it. Caught in the middle of the ensuing web of lies, his wife, Lois tries to keep the family together, but when the church elders start to interfere in Arthur's love life, events spiral toward violence. In this masterful late work, Highsmith weaves a powerful tale about blind faith and the peculiar ideas of justice that lie underneath the veneer of respectability."

4. The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall (Vish Puri Number 3). I've read one of this series and found it generally to be humorous and interesting. I've got the 2nd book still to read and was pleased to add number 3 to my bookshelf as well.
"Long-held secrets, deadly lies, a sports scandal, and a poisoned helping of butter chicken - all in a day's work for the head of Delhi's Most Private Investigators, in this latest book in the delightful Vish Puri detective series. When the father of a Pakistani star cricket player falls dead during a glamorous India Premier League dinner, clearly it isn't just a case of Delhi Belly. But which of the VIPs at the victim's table is responsible for poisoning the man's butter chicken? And was the victim killed for his involvement with a gambling syndicate that controls cricket's illegal billion-dollar betting industry? The answers seem to lie across the border in Pakistan - the one country Puri swore he would never set foot in. Or do they? For Puri's beloved Mummy-ji, who has a unique insight into the killing, believes there is much more to this murder than meets the eye. Puri and Mummy-ji's search for the truth will lead them to uncover decades-old secrets and tragedies thought best forgotten in their most compelling case yet."

5. Kittyhawk Down by Garry Disher (Inspector Challis #2). I have to admit I bought this one because I liked the cover. As well, I haven't read very many books set in Australia and this seemed to provide that opportunity.
"A missing two-year-old girl, and the body of an unidentified drowning victim have brought Homicide Squad Inspector Hal Challis, of the Peninsula Police Force, to Bushrangers Bay at the Australian seaside not far from Melbourne. All is not idyllic in this resort community; far from it. Cars are stolen and torched; letter boxes are being burned. Is it mischief, or the prelude to even more serious crimes? A good friend, attractive Kitty Casement, runs an aerial photography service and flies a Kittyhawk. Challis is restoring a 1935 Dragon Rapide aeroplane; their mutual interest has brought them together. Each of them prefers to soar alone, high above the earth. And then one of Kitty Casement's aeroplanes suffers malicious damage." The once-peaceful beach resort becomes the site of multiple murders. Are all the crimes linked? It is up to Inspector Challis to find out before more innocent people are killed."

6. The Chase by Clive Cussler (Isaac Bell #1). This book was also a chance selection. One of my goodreads friends has been reading Clive Cussler and enjoyed the Isaac Bell series so I thought I'd give this a try.
"April 1950: The rusting hulk of a steam locomotive rises from the deep waters of a Montana lake. Inside is all that remains of three men who died forty-four years before. But it is not the engine or its grisly contents that interest the people watching nearby. It is what is about to come next . . . 1906: For two years, the western states of America have been suffering an extraordinary crime spree: a string of bank robberies by a single man who cold- bloodedly murders any and all witnesses and then vanishes without a trace. Fed up by the depredations of the "Butcher Bandit," the U.S. government brings in the best man they can find-a tall, lean, no-nonsense detective named Isaac Bell, who has caught thieves and killers coast to coast. But Bell has never had a challenge like this one. From Arizona to Colorado to the streets of San Francisco during its calamitous earthquake and fire, he pursues what is quickly becoming clear to him is the sharpest criminal mind he has ever encountered, and the woman who seems to hold the key to the bandit's identity. Using science, deduction, and intuition, Bell repeatedly draws near only to grasp at thin air, but at least he knows his pursuit is having an effect. Because his quarry is getting angry now, and has turned the chase back on him. The hunter has become the hunted. And soon it will take all of Isaac Bell's skills not merely to prevail . . . but to survive. Filled with intricate plotting, dazzling signature set pieces, and not one but two extraordinary villains, this is the work of a master writing at the height of his powers."

7. Hour Game by David Baldacci (King & Maxwell #2). King and Maxwell was one of the more entertaining TV mystery series that Jo and I have watched. It was disappointing when it was cancelled. So I want to start reading the series and see if it is as entertaining.
"A woman is found murdered in the woods. It seems like a simple case but it soon escalates into a terrible nightmare. Someone is replicating the killing styles of the most infamous murderers of all time. No one knows this criminal's motives...or who will die next. Two ex-Secret Service agents, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, have been hired to defend a man's innocence in a burglary involving an aristocratic family. Then a series of secrets leads the partners right into the frantic hunt that is confounding even the FBI. Now King and Maxwell are playing the Hour Game, uncovering one horrifying revelation after another and putting their lives in danger. For the closer they get to the truth, the closer they get to the most shocking surprise of all."

8. Stolen by Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Otherworld, #2). This was my only fantasy purchase. Jo and I have really started to enjoy Bitten, the TV series based on the books and I did enjoy the first in the series. I thought it would be good to try the others as well.
"Even though she's the world's only female werewolf, Elena Michaels is just a regular girl at heart -- with larger than normal appetites. She sticks to three feasts a day, loves long runs in the moonlight, and has a lover who is unbelievable frustrating yet all the more sexy for his dark side. Like every regular girl, she certainly doesn't believe in witches. Then again, when two small, ridiculously feminine women manage to hurl her against a wall, and then save her from the hunters on her tail, Elena realises that maybe there are more things in heaven and earth than she's dreamt of. Vampires, demons, shamans, witches -- in Stolen they all exist, and they're all under attack. An obsessed tycoon with a sick curiosity is well on his way to amassing a private collection of supernaturals, and plans to harness their powers for himself -- even if it means killing them. For Elena, kidnapped and imprisoned deep underground, separated from her Pack, unable to tell her friends from her enemies, choosing the right allies is a matter of life and death."

9. The Reckoning by Rennie Airth (John Madden #4) - This is one series that I've made some headway with, excellent historical crime series from between the Wars, set in England, with John Madden as the protagonist. The stories have been getting better as I've read one through three.
"On a quiet afternoon in 1947, retired bank manager Oswald Gibson is shot in the head while fishing. In Scotland, a respectable family doctor is killed in the same  manner, and with the same gun. What is the connection? Scotland Yard’s Detective Inspector Billy Styles and local detective Vic Chivers are baffled until a letter from Gibson is discovered that might shed some light on the case—a letter concerning former Scotland Yard detective John Madden. Despite Madden’s legendary memory, he has no recollection of meeting Gibson or any idea of what their relationship might have been. Madden is happily retired from police work, but agrees to help his former protégé Styles and the clues they uncover only deepen the mystery. When a third man is killed in a similar fashion, Madden and Styles find themselves in a race against time to find the killer before another man ends up dead."

So there you go. Any interest you? :0)

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Reminiscences of a Military Brat (Part 6) - Our Stay in Germany Begins

At the time we moved to RCAF 3 Wing Zweibrucken, Canada had 3 Air Bases in Germany; 3 Wing Zweibrucken, 4 Wing Baden Sollingen and 1 Wing Lahr (which was also our HQ in Germany. We also had 3 army bases up in Northern Germany, Hemer, Verl and Soest. (I think anyway). While we were there from 1968 - 1971, Canada started a major withdrawal of its forces in Germany, so ultimately our stay in Zweibrucken was a relatively short one, one and a half years.

We did have some snow
We did make the most of our time there. For the first part of our stay we lived in the village of Großsteinhausen. I finished off my Grade 7 and the first part of Grade 8 while we lived in that town. That meant I was bused into school each day. There were two schools for the Canadian kids. From Kindergarten to Grade 6, the kids went to school in the Military Housing area, which was located a few miles off base, just on the outskirts of the city of Zweibrucken. The PMQs sat on a hillside overlooking the city, with a lovely view. On the other hill, hence the name of the city, was the American Army base of Zweibrucken. We used to shop there at their Grocery store and Exchange, just for a change from our own base grocery store.

My Grade 8 Class (that's me beside Miss Preston, our teacher)
But back to school. The Junior High and High Schools were on the base proper. (Well, I'm assuming that the High school was there, I just don't recall associating with anyone but my classmates.) So as I mentioned, I was bused into school each day, I think our town was the second stop on the route and we took a meandering route around the various villages picking up other Canadian kids, came into Zweibrucken from the back, dropped off the little ones at the PMQ school and then finally the rest of us on the base. I think it was at least a half hour to 45 minute trip each way. John started in the Fall with some of the other kids in the village, all of them heading off to Kindergarten.

So if we wanted to go anywhere, it meant a drive into town or to the base for groceries, movies and other entertainment activities. My mom decided pretty early on that she needed to learn to drive so after work, Dad and she would head off to some farmer's fields and she would practise shifting gears and getting used to driving. I remember at least once, while I sat in the living - room, babysitting John and waiting for them to return, feeling the house tremble because she didn't stop quite on time and gave the house a love tap with the front of the car.

Eventually, sometime in the Fall of our first year there, we moved into the PMQs. Our apartment was a two bedroom on the 2nd or 3rd floor and at the bottom of the hill. John could now walk to school and I just caught the bus that went from PMQs to the base. That was definitely a lot more convenient as most of my classmates lived in PMQs, even if they were pretty well all at the top of the hill (officer's country). It made it much easier for attending activities. I could now take the bus in the evening with my mates to go to movies or on weekends to the base to use the swimming pool or library.

In the salt mines, that's me grimacing (the Dumoulin smile) behind the pretty girl
One thing about living in Germany was that we got to travel a lot. This was the first time that I went away on overnight school trips. In Grade 7, we took a weekend trip to the US recreation facility in Berchtesgaden.

We had tours of the Salt Mines and also of Schloss Linderhof, one of Mad King Ludwig's castles. In Grade 8, Miss Preston took us on an overnight trip to Luxembourg to visit the Catacombs and see the history. It was a fascinating time, just being able to hop on a bus and head off down the road. Unlike in Canada, everything was so close, often just a 3 or 4 hour drive to be able to experience these sites. I also thought it was kind of cool, that being just in Grade 7 or 8 (13 or 14 years of age) and being able to walk into a wine store and buy a bottle of wine; which I did during a day trip to Berncastle and buying my parents a bottle of Berncastler Riesling (honest, it was for them).

Heading to Holland to get our trailer
Of course I didn't just go on school trips. Pretty quickly we went up to The Hague and picked up the Alpen Kreuzer, tent / trailer that my parents bought so we could spend our summers travelling around Europe (we normally headed south to the Mediterranean), spending time on many beaches. We used the trailer quite often just on the base. Most families kept them in a trailer park just by the bomb dump and on the weekend, everybody would head there, open their trailers and set up the BBQ and just spend a Sunday afternoon playing, eating and enjoying each others company.

Camping by Pisa, just by the beach
It was a pretty big trailer, especially with the extension and the awning. We slept on air mattresses, John and I on the lower portion, Mom and Dad on the upper. It was pretty self-sufficient and obviously you could keep yourself well-supplied wherever you were visiting. We always managed to find other Canadian families wherever we seemed to set up and quite often ended up travelling around with them.

Yup, it's really leaning
Our first summer with the trailer we went to Italy, planning to go to Rome. But we ended up having so much fun on the beach in Pisa and Livorno (or Leghorn as the Americans called it) that we talked Mom out of heading to Rome and extended our stay in Pisa.

Once we explained to John that the corn was for the pigeons...
We then headed to Venice (one of two trips I made there), camped on the Lido and went exploring St Mark's Square and other sites. A great trip, made more entertaining because we did manage to find another Canadian family to share the adventure with.

Ah, that German beer.. at least so I heard at the time
Zweibrucken was a great city and fantastic Air Base. We went to movies regularly, Dad and I used to go most Sunday's to the driving range on base. I think he and Mom continued curling. There were always activities; the Flying Fathers or the Montreal Canadian Old Timers coming to visit and play hockey against the base team. I wasn't as involved with organised activities while we were there, but that came later when we moved down the road to Lahr, Germany. But there were so many good friends, Grant Gerlitz, Michael Siemens, Dave Deveau, Rejean Duscheneau, to name a few.

It was a sad day when 3 Wing closed down. We used to go to the Cinema to say good - bye to friends and families that were busing back to Lahr to catch their flights back to Canada and then eventually, on completion of Grade 8, we followed them down the road. Luckily for us, we were staying two more years, but just starting new adventures in Lahr, Germany.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Currently Reading - Mar 20, 2015

Just a quick post on a rainy first day of Spring. It really hasn't stopped since early this morning. A grim old day, but it's still nice to have a Friday off. This working full-time skit gets a bit tiring at times.

Anyway, I wanted to provide a brief mid-month update on what I'm currently reading. I've got three books on the go and each is excellent, even if they are all somewhat different.

So let's get started.

1. Sharpe's Fury by Bernard Cornwell. This is the 11th novel in the Richard Sharpe historical adventure series. I've enjoyed every book so far and Jo and I have enjoyed the TV series that was based on the books. I like to try and read one or two a year; they are comfort food in a way; easy to read, a good adventure and pure entertainment. This is the synopsis for Sharpe's Fury. "In the winter of 1811, the war seems lost. Spain has fallen to the French, except for Cadiz, now the Spanish capital and itself under siege. Inside the city walls an intricate diplomatic dance is taking place and Richard Sharpe faces more than one enemy. The small British force is trapped by a French army, and their only hope lies with the outnumbered redcoats outside refusing to admit defeat. There, in the sweltering horror of Barrosa, Sharpe will meet his old enemy  Colonel Vandal again." And it's moving along very nicely so far.

2. One Good Turn by  Kate Atkinson. This is the second book in the Jackson Brodie mystery series. Now that I look at the books I'm reading, they all have one thing in common; TV series were created based on the books. The Jackson Brodie mysteries on BBC were somewhat different from the books in that they were all set in Edinburgh. The first book was set in England and this book, while set in Edinburgh, finds Jackson Brodie retired from being a detective and visiting Edinburgh with his girlfriend, Julia. The plot is familiar and I do recall the gist of it from one of the TV shows, but it's still nice to read it and see the differences. Atkinson has a nice meandering style that wanders from character to character and gradually starts to tie things together. This is the synopsis of this book. "Two years after the events of Case Histories left him a retired millionaire, Jackson Brodie has followed Julia, his occasional girlfriend and former client, to Edinburgh for its famous summer arts festival. But when he witnesses a man being brutally attacked in a traffic jam - the apparent victim of an extreme case of road rage - a chain of events is set in motion that will pull the wife of an unscrupulous real estate tycoon, a timid but successful crime novelist, and a hard-headed female police detective into Jackson's orbit. Suddenly out of retirement, Brodie is once again in the midst of several mysteries that intersect in one giant and sinister scheme."

3. The Cold Dish by Craig Longmire. This is the first in the Walt Longmire mystery series. I've had the book on my shelf for a couple of years now, at least, and now that I'm finally getting around to reading it, I'm kind of upset that I waited this long to start it. Once again, this was made into an excellent TV series on AMC; in fact, it quickly became one Jo and my favourites. Unfortunately, for some reason having to do with a preference to silly reality shows, AMC cancelled it last season. So now I get to read the books and I'm quickly realising that they are also excellent and I will be reading the whole series. Set in Wyoming, Longmire is the sheriff of Absaroka County. I find the style of the book nice and folksy and at times laugh out loud humorous. In a way, the book reminds me of two other favourite series of mine; the Bruno, Chief of Police books by Martin Walker and the Inspector Brunetti books by Donna Leon. I say this because the story is more than a mystery, it's a social interaction. We get into the community, the lives of the characters and I find myself wanting to meet then, to spend time with them. Anyway, this is the synopsis of this first book. "After twenty-four years as sheriff of Wyoming's Absaroka County, Walt Longmire's hopes of finishing out his tenure in peace are dashed when Cody Pritchard is found dead near the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Two years earlier, Cody had been one of four high school boys given suspended sentences for raping a local Cheyenne girl. Somebody, it would seem, is seeking vengeance, and Longmire might be the only thing standing between the three remaining boys and a Sharps .45-70 buffalo rifle. With lifelong friend Henry Standing Bear, Deputy Victoria Moretti, and a cast of characters both tragic and humorous enough to fill in the vast emptiness of the high plains, Walt Longmire attempts to see that revenge, a dish best served cold, is never served at all."

So there you have it, my current selections. I'm not sure what I'll pick next, but I'll let you know in an upcoming post. Have a great first day of Spring!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Reminiscences of a Military Brat (Part 5) - We Move to Germany

My last report card (Chatham)
In April 1968 we left Chatham and started on our journey to RCAF Air Base 3 Wing, Zweibrucken (2 Bridges), West Germany (as it was still at that time). This was a very exciting time for us and somewhat nervous-making. If I remember one of my last nights in Chatham, I camped in my friend's trailer, beside their PMQ, with my buddies. They presented me with a hard cover copy of Alistair MacLean's Caravan to Vaccares as a going-away present. We had a bit of a party, then either next day or shortly thereafter, we hit the road. There was lots of preparation as pretty well all of our furniture and stuff was put in long term storage for the three years we were to be out of the country. I seem to remember my parents got a number of tri-wall boxes. Now here I'm probably wrong, but a certain number were classified red-ball, meaning they had to get to Germany when we got there; things like clothes, bedding, etc. The other ones were green-balls and they took a bit longer.

My dad was going to ship his car over to Germany; he had a green Ford Galaxy 500 (is that right Dad?) and it was pretty new. But there was a dock workers strike in the port of Montreal, so since he didn't know how long the strike might last, he decided to sell the car before we left for Germany. We were going to fly out on the Service Flight from RCAF station Trenton, Ontario, so we took the opportunity to drive up to Ottawa and Northern Ontario and Quebec to say good - bye to our relatives before we went to catch our flight. There were five of us going to Germany, my parents, Christine, John and me. I think we probably said good-bye to Ricky before we left New Brunswick as he was still finishing university.

Anyway, we headed up to see our relatives and finished our visit in Timmins, Ontario, saying good-bye to Meema, Uncle Biddu (well, actually his name was Raymond, but for some reason, we all called him, Biddu (I have no idea how to spell it, but it's how we pronounced it anyway.. ) and Aunt Dora and everybody else. Dad sold his car in Timmins, then we boarded the train to head down to southern Ontario and our flight. For me and John, well, probably for all of us, this was such a neat trip. We had a sleeper car as the train trip from Timmins to Toronto was overnight. What luxury! I don't know the sleeping arrangements, we may, in fact, have had two rooms. But there was a bottom bed and the other was pulled down from the ceiling by the porter. So cool!

The Yukon Aircraft
After we got to Toronto, we switched to another train and as that was only a day trip, we just had seats. We took this train to RCAF Base Trenton, in southern Ontario. That's where our flight left from. We stayed at the Yukon Lodge, a hotel on the base for families heading off to Germany. I think we just stayed over night and then next day we caught our plane to Germany. Trenton was a very big base, our main Air Transport base, I believe. There were all sorts of planes on the ramp; Hercules, etc. On the Yukon we sat facing the back, well, some of us did. It was a long flight to Lahr, Germany (5 Wing), our first stop on the way. John was just a little tyke and as I recall, he fell asleep in his food as soon as we took off and pretty well slept the whole way over to Germany.

We arrived in Lahr and after we cleared through Customs and such (I think there was customs, remember I was only 13.. lol). The people who were continuing on to Zweibrucken were put on a bus, driven to the Mess Hall for lunch and then we went straight to 3 Wing. I think that might have been a 4 or 5 hour bus ride.

Our first home in Großsteinhausen (Big Stone Houses), W Germany
When we arrived at the base in Germany, our sponsors met us. Mr. Jones drove a black VW Beetle. Picture this. We were driven around for a couple of days in this, 5 of us and the Jones', 4 of them. What an adventure! Try to imagine if you would even be allowed to do that nowadays. We all fit in, John was only little and the Jones' girls were as well. It was lots of fun. We got to see the city of Zweibrucken and were taken out to the village in which we'd live for the next few months. There were no PMQs available I don't think at first. Our first house was in the town of Großsteinhausen (which means basically Big Stone Houses). As you can see from the picture above, we had half of the second floor of the house. The lady and little boy were our neighbours. They were a Canadian family. I think, altogether, there were 4 Canadian families living in the village. Looking at our flat, the living room and dining room were by the balcony. My parent's bedroom was next to that room and John and I shared the other bedroom. I think it was only a two bedroom apartment as the bathroom and kitchen were on the other side. So I guess Chris shared the room with John and I. She moved back to Canada in the summer, I think, as she was getting married so it wasn't for too long.

Dad, Christine and John in our living room
The next town over from us was Kleinsteinhausen (basically Small Stone Houses) and heading the other way back towards Zweibrucken was Großsteinhausen Mueller (the Big Stone Houses Mill) where another Canadian family lived.

Großsteinhausen was a small village, a farming community. Down the street from our house was the town centre, with a little grocery store. Across the road from us, the family raised pigs. We used to watch with delight when the sow opened the gate with her snout and escaped down the road. It was hilarious. One of the Canadian families lived just up the road from us about two houses and the other one lived at the other end of town. None had any children my age, they were better suited for John. It was amazing that all of these kids were fluent in German. They didn't have the inhibitions we older kids did. Having said that, I became somewhat comfortable with German, enough to get by anyway. For my mother, who'd emigrated to Canada from Germany as a child, this would be an opportunity for her to visit relatives and to update her skill with the German language.

Our car, Volksie
Once we were settled in the apartment, Dad got the car that would take us all over Europe for the next 3 years; that was Volksie, a VW 1600 hatchback. It was a great car. We squeezed many people in that at times and toured all over the place.

But for now, I'll stop there, as the Dumoulin family settle into their new country and home and discover the delights of living in a foreign country. More in the next entry.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Reminiscences of a Military Brat (Part 4) - Still in the Maritimes

In my last BLog entry, I talked mostly about school and how much of a change from Bagotville, QC, the move to Chatham NB was. We had a nice big PMQ in Chatham; at the start my parents had the master bedroom at the top of the hallway and down the right; Rick and I shared a room (much to his chagrin, I'm sure). It wasn't huge but my parents bought bunk beds for us. I got the top bunk and got used to his kicking the bottom of my bed and telling me not to breathe so loudly. Christine had the room at the far end.


Our favourite past-time, on the floor watching TV
Later on this changed of course due to the addition of the fella you see above, my baby brother John Andrew. I think he spent a little while in my parent's room but then Chris inherited the boy's room and the three boys moved into the back room; bunk beds for Rick and I and the crib for John. Not a lot of room for anything else there. Rick gradually moved into the basement and also off to university, so it gradually became John's and my room.

Chatham was a great place to live. PMQs were full of kids; I had so many friends in our little neighbourhood. I was thinking of what we used to get up to as I was out jogging this morning and trying to figure the best way to portray it. Let's start with summer. For pretty well every summer we lived in Chatham, my morning started off with swimming lessons at the base pool. Of at first light, running or riding my bike to the Base - side and the Rec Centre, I'd spend an hour at swimming lessons. I did my Beginners, Intermediate Red Cross and as well, my Elementary and Intermediate RLSS badges while there.

Just to digress slightly before I continue, the Rec Centre was a great place at that time. Everything went on there. When we were in Chatham, there was an indoor swimming pool, a five-pin bowling alley, a gymnasium, a movie theatre, a great snack bar, a corner store with all the sweeties you'd want to take to the Saturday matinee, a post office (after John was born, my mother started working there), a barber shop and I'm sure just near there was a library. I spent a great portion of my life in Chatham hanging out there.

So back to summer activities. After swimming lessons, back home and then across the highway into the woods with my pals, playing guns or just running about. Either that or a make up baseball or football game in the field just between the highway and 'across the highway'. For your understanding, just past our area of PMQ's was an open field that bordered the main road from the town of Chatham to the main base. Across that highway was a large forested area that bordered the Air Force base's runway. There were great places to run around, playing soldiers or cowboys. At one part there were a couple of old graders and plows (I'm assuming that they belonged to the Motor Transport section and were used for training or something.) Well, they were available for us kids to climb over and pretend we could drive. Lots of fun. So around lunch, it was time to head home for a quick lunch and then normally we headed back to the swimming pool for an afternoon swim. A couple or more hours in the pool and dashing back home for afternoon TV and supper and then quite often back to the pool for an evening swim. By the end of the day, every light had rings around it from all the chlorine our eyes absorbed. The pool was always a fun place to spend time. I remember, not fondly, my brother, Rick, encouraging me to finally try the high spring board. After I climbed that ladder, went to the end of the board and looked down at how far it was to the surface of the pool, I headed back to the ladder to climb back down again. He, of course, knew how gullible I was, told me it was against the rules of the pool to climb back down the ladder. I HAD TO JUMP!.. So I sat on the edge of the board and pushed off, screaming all the way down. Of course, after that it was fully speed run down the board and launching yourself into the pool. Amazing that nobody was ever hurt with all the kids that were in that pool.

Summers didn't just revolve around the pool, of course. I played hardball as soon as I was old enough to, moving from pitcher to 2nd base and then out of harm's way into Center field. I loved baseball, still do enjoy watching. My dad used to pitch to us in the front yard to teach us how to catch. He'd played in the leagues up in Northern Ontario when he worked in the gold mines and he had been a pitcher. He could throw it pretty hard; I'm sure he held back for us, but we did learn to catch. Poor Paul Duggan used to get a dislocated thumb from catching the wrong way.

Most summers we used to rent a cabin at Manderson's Beach for a week and stay out there, swimming, spending evenings around a campfire, roasting marshmallows and twisters (dough rolled around a stick, toasted and then filled with jam... to die for). Every year the fairgrounds opened up in Chatham and my Dad would drive me and my friends down one day, drop us off so we could spend the afternoon on the rides and stuffing our faces with snacks. It was a nice adventure as we weren't much older than nine or ten and off by ourselves. Most summers, we would also pile into the car and head off to visit our relatives back in Ontario and Quebec. Mom would make sandwiches, pickled eggs and other snacks for the first part of the journey and we'd either drive through the United States on the way up or on the return trip and through New Brunswick and Quebec the other way. One summer we visited Boston Mass, stayed at a hotel outside, took the subway into the downtown core, were amazed at how big the buildings were. The subway took us by Fenway Park, neat to see it from close up. On these trips, just before we left, I used to gather my comic books up, get my wagon and take about 30 or 40 of them around PMQs, knocking on doors and seeing if anyone wanted to trade comics with me. That was a cheap way for me to get new comics for a trip. I'm amazed when I think about it, that I was allowed to do that, but the PMQs were a relatively benign, closed environment, so I guess my parents weren't too worried about anything happening. The funny thing about this was that in many cases I ended up trading comics with the dad, not the kids. Funny that.

My love affair with comics/ reading and with Supergirl :0)
I digress a bit again just to mention or highlight my love of reading. I read voraciously back then, as I do now. I used to get books from Christmas from my parents and even at Easter, in my Easter basket.

One year I got the Book of Knowledge (I think they were 3 books), all fascinating reading. Loved them. I was a regular at the base library pretty well reading anything they had; from a science fiction story about a young boy whose mental powers could  'white out' other people's powers, his were so strong to a book about the Chinese invasion of Tibet and how a group of English escaped (it had something to do with CB radios too, I'm sure). All so long ago, I can't remember who wrote them or what they were called. But comics were my pure entertainment joy. My parents always put one or two in our stockings, probably to keep us in bed a bit longer on Christmas mornings and I bought so many at the corner store when I was there picking up snacks for Saturday matinees. Back then they were $.10 a comic, gradually went up to $.12 (what a shock). I read all of them, the Classics, stories about superheroes (as mentioned above, I did have a crush on Supergirl, loved those red stockings.. ) ,the standards like Archie, Little Lulu, westerns featuring the Rawhide Kid or the Two-Gun Kid, war stories, with GI Combat or The Haunted Tank. I used to take comic books on our trips up to the relatives and almost make myself car-sick reading to much; well, truth be told, I did make myself car sick a couple of times. There was a corner store in Kirkland Lake, at the end of Mutti's street where I could restock my comics. Yes, yes, I was pathetic.. probably still am a bit, as I still enjoy a well-written and drawn graphic novel.

Mr. Dressup, Casey and Finnegan the dog
So, let's see, where was I? OK, not onto to Fall/ Winter. Of course, that meant going back to school. The first week or so were always exciting to me. I loved getting a new pencil case and pencils, was always excited when the teachers gave us our new text books for the year. Of course, that didn't last too long, but I generally liked school, was probably a bit of brown noser and geek. Before John was born, I loved running home for lunch. Mom would have soup and sandwiches for me, or something else as enjoyable and I'd settle in front of the TV with a TV tray and watch The Friendly Giant, Mr. Dress-up and Chez Helene (with Suzie the mouse). It was comforting and pleasant. Once John was born and Mom started working at the Post Office, I think I tended to have lunch with the neighbours, as they babysat John. However, I may have been old enough that my parents let me eat lunch by myself at home.. Too long ago to remember, lol.

The $.10 solid bar of toffee if you wanted to splurge
I still had swimming lessons for a couple of years in the Fall. I'd go right after school, but that didn't last quite so long. Saturdays were always the highlight day. In the morning we had 5-pin bowling league, so much fun and then it finished just in time for the Saturday matinee at the Base Cinema. I was pretty lucky as Dad either was the projectionist at the Cinema or later on, managed it. So basically, I got in free. :0) I used to wait for my friends to get their tickets and then we'd troop in for the Matinee. Of course, first we had to visit the Snack Bar for a swamp water (all the different soda pops mixed into one drink) and to the corner store, for a couple of comics, and then $.25 worth of candy; a five-cent bag of Hadfield's potato chips (with either toy soldiers or hockey cards inside), a five-cent package of six individual Mackintosh toffees (you could get a solid bar for $.10) and various other snacks; candy cigarettes, licorice pipes/ cigars, Hubba - Bubba or Black Cat bubble gum... All great for our teeth. I guess that's why I still spend so much time at the dentist.

The matinees were great. They always started with the weekly serial, either a western or a detective story or something with knights. Each week left you with the cliff-hanger (how was he going to survive his car driving off the cliff!!!) And this was followed by the feature film. I don't know about the normal Saturday kid's matinee, but we had some pretty scary films at times; The Murders of the Rue Morgue and others. I often spent part of my afternoon in the bathroom, waiting for the scary bit to finish (yes, I was and still am a chicken). But there were great comedies, westerns, war movies. I did love going to the movies, it was such a great experience. I remember my sister Christine taking me and my buddies to see A Hard Day's Night (it was an evening movie, so I guess I needed a chaperon, or she just wanted to see it... it was The Beatles of course) and afterwards, all of us singing Beatle songs and dancing in the streets on our way home. Or going to see Goldfinger (another evening movie... my parents were pretty relaxed about this) and on the way home after waiting for Odd Job's metal hat to come sailing out of the woods at our necks).

My first remembrance of going to a scary movie was when Dad took me and Rick and Chris to see The Mysterians, a Japanese horror film. I wasn't very old, 7 or 8, maybe a bit older. The plot, as you can see, featured invading aliens who would float down to your window and abduct you (well, actually, they preferred women) and bring you back to their spaceship. Yes, that night, rather than put my jammies on in my bedroom, BY THE WINDOW, I put them on in the hallway at the top of the stairs. (what that would have accomplished, I have no idea.) My general strategy to avoid having to face monsters when I went to bed was to close ask God to make sure none came to my house and then to close my eyes so I couldn't see them if they did... It seemed to work.

Of course the highlight of the year was Christmas. I love, love Christmas! at that time I loved receiving gifts, of course. I was a bit of a snoop, I admit. I knew my parents hid most presents under their bed. So I did make the rounds and check out the packages there. Luckily, they hid other presents places I never found, so there were always surprises. The tree was half buried with presents in the morning. I was always the first up. Even when John came along, that was the one day he usually decided to sleep in, so I couldn't rely on him to get my parents up early. So I would wake up, check out my stocking, open the blinds a bit so I could read my comics, then wait impatiently for Mom and Dad to let us downstairs to open the bounty! Usually, a friend of my Dads, Mr. Macmillan, would come over Christmas day, spend the day. We would play the games we got, have a fantastic, loud, enjoyable Christmas dinner, retire to the living room, play some more, a perfect day really.

As Rick moved on to University and Chris started working downtown and dating, John was pretty well my main companion at home. I babysat him, we played GI Joes, had lots of fun. Of course, he was also the brunt of most of our jokes; we did like tying him up with his pyjamas and throwing him on the couch to see how long it would take him to untangle himself. And when he did, we'd do it all over again.

Open Channel D
One thing we all enjoyed was spending the evening watching our favourite shows. And since we had only one channel, the CBC, we all enjoyed the same shows. I quit Boy Cubs so I could spend my Wednesday evenings watching The Man from U.N.C.L.E. There were so many great shows; Ripcord, Combat, The Rat Patrol, Gilligan's Island, The Man, and later The Girl, from U.N.C.L.E., the Red Skeleton Show, Ed Sullivan, Bonanza, such variety.  We watched as a family, enjoyed spending the time together. In the summer, I'd lie on the floor, Dad would get comfortable in his easy chair and we'd watch baseball. If I was lucky, he'd fall asleep during the game and I could stay up late and watch the whole game; a bowl of corn chips and a bottle of Mountain Dew or Orange Crush for my eating pleasure. In the winter, on Saturday nights, we'd watch Hockey Nights in Canada and then my parents would follow that with The Juliet Variety Show. Many nights, Rick would come home from an evening out with one girl friend or other, and he's whip out a Chef Boyardee pizza mix and soon the house would smell like pizza and we'd all enjoy a piece before heading off to bed. I don't know, but it's the small things like that which bring the fondest memories.

In 1967, we were posted to Germany in March. Rick didn't accompany us as he was still going to university and soon to join the military. I think he's wearing his Saint Thomas jacket in the picture. So after packing up the house, sending most of our things into storage for the next 4 years, Mom, Dad, Christine, John and I flew across the ocean in a Yukon and started the next phase of our life at 3 Wing RCAF Base in Zweibrucken, West Germany. More on that next entry.

Monday, 2 March 2015

February 2015 Reading Update

Another month has passed us by and as I sit here in the study, it's a coolish day but the sun is shining and our plum tree has blossoms on it already. One of these days I will get out there and rake the pine needles off the yard and let the grass start up again. Tonight we take the schnauzers to their obedience class, lots of fun that. They do seem to be learning little things. Any improvement will be a plus.

So let's take a look back at February. It was a relatively good month for reading. I read one more book than in January, although one of them was a carry over from January. Still, a pretty good month. Overall I've completed 15 books in 2015, almost on track for my Goodreads challenge total of 95 books.

Time for my stats -

January - 7 books, 2431 pages
February - 8 books, 2676 pages

Total - 15 books, 5107 pages

Sex of Author -

Female - 2
Male - 6

Ratings -

5 star - 2
4 star - 6

Genres -

Mystery - 4
Fantasy - 1
Classic - 1
SciFi - 1

Reviews -

1. Crash by J.G. Ballard - (SciFi /4 stars) A very strange, but at the same time, compelling/ engrossing story. The basic premise being a group of people who have been involved in car accidents that now equate car accidents with sex. It does sound strange doesn't it. The story focuses on the author, who is in effect, JG Ballard, his wife and a man he meets after his car accident, that being Vaughn. There are also other characters but these three are the main focus. The story starts at the end then with flashback works it's way from the beginning; Ballard's car accident, through a variety of incidents until the start of the story (in effect, the end). There is a lot of sex in this story, it's been described in some reviews as pornographic) and interesting discussion/ comparison with the human body and that of an automobile. The people involved have issues, sex is often only satisfying in automobiles, even in broken automobiles. It's a hard story to describe, but it's so 'out there' that it can draw you in very deeply. David Cronenberg made a movie in 1996 based on this book, starring Holly Hunter, James Spader and Elias Koteas, amongst others and as I recall it, he very successfully captured the mood and strangeness of the story. It can be a graphic story to read, but I found it also very interesting. Did I like it? Like isn't the right word, but I found it hard to put down.

2. Zoo Station by David Downing - (Spy/ Mystery 5 stars) I was very pleasantly surprised by this mystery/ thriller. I rarely give 5 - star ratings to mystery/ thrillers, but this was an such an engrossing story. It's my first book by David Downing, the first in his John Russell series. Russell is a British reporter living in Berlin just before WWII as the Nazis are consolidating power in the country and beginning to make waves in the world. He's a bit of a cynic, reporting on small items, making ends meet, living with his girl friend, German actress, Effi and spending time with his German son, Paul on weekends. While in Danzig gathering information for a news article, he meets a Russian spy who offers to pay him well to write a series of stories on Germany, a comparison between Communism and Socialism (and maybe also provide the Soviets with information useful to them). Russell is also given a job teaching a Jewish family English, a family who are trying to gain exit visas from Germany (as are countless other Jews at that time). Russell finds himself becoming more and more involved in issues, trying to help the Jewish family, trying to avoid the Gestapo, and so on. It's a very well-written story and the development of Russell's character is carefully and well-crafted. I liked many of the characters; I think I've got a bit of a crush on Effi. The story builds tension excellently, the story keeps you deeply engrossed. All in all, I'm glad I discovered this and look forward to continuing to see how Russell manages to survive in Nazi Germany as war becomes more and more of a given and also to see what other situations he will find himself in. Excellent!!

3. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins - (Classic/ Mystery 4 stars) This was a bit of a slow read for me at times, but I did let myself get distracted with some of my other books. However, having said that, I enjoyed this book very much. I liked how Collins laid out the mystery; letting various characters provide their inputs to the events to help present the whole story. I enjoyed the characters; Betteridge the butler (the first narrator) and how he used the Robinson Crusoe story to provide him guidance on the goings on; Ezra Jennings, the Dr Candy's assistant and an outcast for his strange appearance, but at the same time, a gentle, caring soul, who comes up with a unique solution to working out the mystery; the Scotland Sgt Cuff, droll, caught up with roses, but a sharp mind. As the story progressed, I did have the workings of a solution, but still enjoyed following through with it. I liked Collins' style of writing, finding it very accessible. Was the story too long? I thought it might have been at the beginning, but I think originally it was presented as a serial to magazines, so for that reason, it makes sense. And anyway, as the story progressed, the tension and pace, quickened perceptibly. All in all, it was an excellent story and I'm glad that I've started reading some of these classics over the past few years. It's allowed me to discover the wonders of story - telling from the past century. Highly recommended. I will check out Collins' other stories, I think.

4. The Merchant's House by Kate Ellis - (Mystery / 4 stars) This is the first Wesley Peterson mystery. Sgt Peterson has moved to a small town in England after a start in London. A smaller force, a new start for his wife and Wesley, he arrives as the local force is investigating the disappearance of a small boy and has just started investigating the murder of a mysterious woman. Thrown into this mix, Peterson's wife, Pamela is struggling to sort out why she can't get pregnant, involving visits to a private clinic. Peterson is a likable character and the other main characters on the force, Rachel and Inspector Heffernan, make him welcome and are well-described. The investigations of the two mysteries meander nicely but steadily to an interesting conclusion. I enjoyed the investigation and the story. An archaeological mystery also takes place; a college friend of Peterson's is surveying an old building site, which turns up a dead body. Each chapter starts with an excerpt from the diary of the previous owner of the site. All in all, it's an interesting entertaining introduction to Wesley Peterson's mysteries.

5. The Borribles by Michael De Larrabeiti - (Fantasy/ 4 stars) I read this book back in the mid-'80s and remember enjoying very much. I wanted to read again as I've ordered the third book in this series and wanted to refresh my memories. Basically an adventure where a group of Borribles (edgier Borrowers) are tasked to take a trip into Rumble (furry rat like creatures) territory to cause much havoc and prevent a Rumble invasion into Borrible territory. The story is set in London and an adventure like this will grant the tasked Borribles a name. The eight will be given the names of the eight Rumble leaders they kill in their adventure. On the way, they encounter plotting Borribles who want the treasure that will be acquired, Borrower kidnappers, who like to use Borribles for their dirty deeds and of course, the Rumble kingdom. A fast-paced adventure that is easy to read. It's not necessarily a child-friendly adventure, but good for teens and adults. The Borribles is an interesting adventure and worth giving a try. Not as good as my memories but still entertaining.

6. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde - (Fantasy (mystery) / 5 stars) I don't normally like to give 5-star ratings but this book was just such a fun, entertaining read that I couldn't give myself a reason not to. I liked Thursday Next's character very much and the strange and wonderful persons who surrounded her made for a joyful ride, from her time travelling father who dropped in and out for little moments to Uncle Mycroft and Aunt Polly and even the only lightly introduced pet Dodo. There are so many characters and back stories that I want to find out more about that I'm really looking forward to finding the next episode in Thursday's adventures. What about this story? Well, basically Thursday Next is an SO-27 Literatec agent who works to find lost books, false books, etc. That's such a simplification in this fantastical world, where the Crimean conflict is still taking place, where the walls between reality and fiction are fragile and people can travel both ways, into and out of stories, but that's the gist of her job. She is seconded to a higher branch of Special Ops and finds herself arrayed against Acheron Hades, a mad, psychopath, who has stolen the original Martin Chuzzlewit and intends to kill off the main character if his demands are not met. Of course this will have a catastrophic impact on the story, of course; it will no longer exist basically. So there you have the beginning; Thursday's adventures progress from there. It's fascinating and wild and well-written and so darned interesting. Enjoy!!!

7. The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen - (Scandinavian Mystery/ 4 stars) The first book in the Station Q mysteries, set in Denmark, was a pleasant surprise last year. I was worried about the sophomore jinx with this second book, but I needn't have been. The story was different and excellent. Detective Inspector Morck is such an interesting character, intelligent, troubled, thoughtful and funny. His assistant, Assad, is a wily, hard working character and I still want to find out more about him. Added to the mix in this second story is Rose, an unwanted assistant thrust upon Morck by his boss. But we find that Rose, even though she is outspoken and irritates Morck to no end, she also proves to be a smart, independent thinking and hard working. I like how Olsen presents his stories, alternating from the point of view of Morck and that of the suspect(s). It's a dark story, edgy and hard hitting but engrossing all the same. If you enjoyed the first book, you won't be disappointed with the next in the series. Give it a try.

8. Shame by Karin Alvtegen - (Scandinavian mystery/ 4 stars)  - I've read 4 of Karin Alvtegen's books and have enjoyed every one. Shame was excellent. It's usually found in the mystery section, but really, it's about situations and people and how these situations are resolved. And when Karin Alvtegen is writing the story, the resolution is very well-crafted. The two main characters in this book are Monika, a successful doctor, and Maj-Britt, an extremely over-weight home-ridden bitter woman. Both have issues and in many ways are broken. Gradually through the course of the story, they are brought together and by this contact a resolution of sorts comes about. Is it a satisfactory resolution? You'll have to read to decide. Neither character is particularly likable, but you are drawn to them. There are some interesting supporting characters as well, especially Ellinor (who I liked very much) and Vanya, an old friend of Maj's. The story is gritty, at times dark, with many psychological issues, but it's also engrossing and draws you in deeply. As you get further into the story, you may find yourself turning page after page to see how things will tie up. I think in some ways, Alvtegen is a similar type of writer to Minette Walters, dealing with interesting story lines and characters. I've not been disappointed yet.

March Selections

I've got 3 books on the go at the moment to start off March. They are -

1. A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch - (Historical Mystery) This is the first of the Charles Linux mysteries, set in London. It reads easily but even though I'm half way through it, I still haven't totally warmed to the character. Linux is a gentlemen detective, who spends most of his time in his den, reading up on places he hasn't really visited. He finds himself involved in the death of a serving girl, requested to investigate by his neighbour, the lovely Lady Jane, an old acquaintance. There is maybe a frisson of a romance between the two, but time will tell about that. Linux doesn't really seem to do much, but he is investigating the various suspects, getting assaulted by mysterious gangsters. It's an interesting read, not sure how entertaining it's been. Time will tell how it all ends up.

2. Bitten by Kelley Armstrong - (Fantasy - werewolves/ Canadian Lit) - I decided to read this book and maybe the series due to the fact that it's been turned into a Fantasy series by our SciFi television network and both Jo and I have really enjoyed the first season and are enjoying Season 2 even more. This is the synopsis of the book "Elena Michaels is the world's only female werewolf - and she's tired of it. Tired of a life spent hiding and protecting, tired of a world that not only accepts the worst in her - her temper, her violence - requires it. Worst of all, Elena realises she's growing content with that life, with being that person. Overwhelmed by the new passions coursing through her body, Elena leaves the Pack and moves to the city to try living as a human. When the Pack leader calls to ask for her help fighting a sudden uprising, she only agrees because she owes him. Once this is over, she'll be squared with the Pack ad free to live life as a human. Which is what she wants. Really." I'm enjoying the book so far, it's slowly developing the characters, so it's not a fast read at the moment, but I'm looking forward to seeing how the book develops and how it might differ from the TV series.

3. The Dead of Winter by Rennie Airth - (Historical Mystery) This is the third book in the Inspector John Madden series. I enjoyed the first and the second even more so. This latest is set during WWII and brings back Madden out of his retirement to try and solve a murder. "On a freezing London night in 1944, Rosa Novak is brutally murdered during a blackout. Scotland yard suspects the young Polish refugee was simply the victim of a random act of violence. They might have dropped the case if former police investigator John Madden hadn't been Rosa's employer. Madden feels he owes it to Rosa to find her killer. Pushing the investigation, he stumbles upon the dead girl's connection to a murdered Parisian furrier, a member of the Resistance and a stolen cache of diamonds. But with all of Europe ravaged by the war, can Madden find the killer before he strikes again?"

Possible other March Reads -

1. A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nun (Mystery set in Africa, Emmanuel Cooper #1)

2. Sharpe's Fury by Bernard Cornwell (Historical Adventure, Sharpe #11)

Enjoy your March Reading choices!
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