Thursday, 31 March 2016

March 2016 Reading Summary

March has spun by. We finally have had a few sunny days in a row which is lovely. Temperatures have been in the mid-teens (Celsius that is) which for you Fahrenheit users, the low 60s. I will have to get up off my lazy butt and start cleaning up the yard. It's full of branches and stuff... Oh well, it will happen sooner rather than later.

So on to the important things; my March 2016 Reading summary. I have to say March was an outstanding month for me, probably one of my best ever. I did read a few books that were less that 250 pages so I'm sure that helped, but I also read more total pages than any other month this year. I think part of my reading success, if you want to call it that, was my enjoyment of the books of short stories that I've begun to read. Some of the books were excellent.

As an aside, I have had a bit of an idea for a book of my own, partly based on the current election antics that are taking place in the US of A these past few months. Will anything come of this idea? Who knows.

So here we go, my March Reading Summary -


Goodreads Challenge
In March, I completed 13 books. My total for 2016 is 32. According to Goodreads, I'm 8 books ahead of my overall total of hoping to read 100 books this year. Total pages read in March were 4,257 for an overall total in 2016 of 10,341. I haven't set a total number of pages but in the past three years, my total has varied from 29,000 to 35,000. I guess I'm on the way to finishing around that level.

Page Breakdown
       <250   - 5 books
250 - 350   - 2 books
351 - 450   - 3 books
       >450   - 3 books

Author Gender
                                            Mar                     Total
Male                                     8                         21
Female                                 5                         11

                                             Mar                    Total
Fiction                                   3                         4
Biography                             1                         1
Mystery/ Adventure              6                        15
Classic (pre-1900)                1                          2
Horror                                   1                         4
Science Fiction/ Fantasy      1                         4
Humour                                1                         1
Travel                                                              1
(Short Story included in others  - Mar/ 5,  Total / 7)

                                            Mar                     Total
5*                                          4                         7
4*                                          4                         11
3*                                          5                         14


12 + 4 Reading Group Challenge (completed 10 - 16)
I finished 4 more books in this challenge. 3 were average entertaining reads while the other was one of my favourites so far this year. Below is the list of those books completed plus my reviews.

1. The Deep by Nick Cutter (Horror) (3 stars)

"The earth is in the throes of some sort of pandemic, the 'Gets', short for forgets. People begin to forget how to do anything, ultimately even eating. Mankind is being decimated. A small group of scientists are on the ocean floor in the Pacific, trying to harvest something called 'ambrosia', which may have properties that might cure the disease. Luke, a veterinarian who has lost his family, is called to the site by his brother, a famous scientist, and finds himself being transported deep to the facility below the waves, claustrophobic in its own right. But what he finds below is even worse than simple claustrophobia. What is ambrosia? How and why is it affecting the scientists so drastically. A tense, spooky story set in a location that you can't just leave if you want. Almost overloading the senses with creepiness. This is Cutter's second horror story after The Troop. He has a unique perspective. The story is gruesome but more tightly written than the first. I don't know which I enjoyed more, but it was definitely an exciting read. Worth giving a shot to. (3 stars)"

2. Hitman; Forty Years of Making Music by David Foster (Biography) (3 stars)

"David Foster is a Canadian music producer who has been in the business for over 40 years. He's had success writing for and producing such artists as Whitney Houston, Chicago, Boz Scaggs, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Michael Buble, The Corrs, etc. He's won many Grammys and other awards and is also deeply involved in charity work for his David Foster foundation. This book provides a glimpse at his life and his involvement with the music world. It's not overly deep; you won't find out many secrets about his life or his way of thinking, but the bit he shares is interesting. It's obvious, from reading this that he is in the life that he wanted to be in and it's also evident that for a long time his work took a front seat over family and relationships, hence his various marriages and relationships. At the same time, he has tried to be involved with family and over the years, has tried to make amends and develop stronger relationships with his children. It was enjoyable to read and to find out some of the things that have made this talented producer tick. (3 stars)"

3. Lost Girls by Andrew Pyper (Horror/ Mystery) (3 starts)

"I'm not sure exactly what to say about this story. Is it a mystery, the trial of the man suspected of killing two girls in a small Ontario town? Is it a horror story, the Lady of the Lake, who reaches beyond the lake to attract young girls to their death in the lake? Is it a discovery of ones self, the lawyer, who has hidden his past with drugs and such, a past that has affected his life to the extreme and who finds himself back where it all began? It's definitely an interesting story, but I don't know if the questions have been satisfactorily been answered for me. I mean there is a resolution and the story kept me turning pages to see what would happen next, but it left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied. The main character, Bartholomew Crane, the lawyer sent to Murdoch, Ontario to defend the man accused of killing two school girls, isn't a very likable character. He obviously has many personal issues, which originate from a tragic incident that occurred when he was a teenager. He is drug addled throughout the story, is haunted by his past and by the ghosts of the two girls (maybe) and the Lady (maybe). Or is he just hallucinating? The man charged with the crime does little to help his own case. He is also dealing with issues, especially the divorce that took his daughter from him and he also is haunted. There are many things going on. Does Crane come to a resolution about his past? Sort of. You can judge for yourself. Was the story worth the effort to read through these 400+ pages? Sure, I guess so. It did move along fairly nicely. It won't stop me trying the other Andrew Pyper story I have on my shelves but I won't rush to do so. (3 stars)"

4. Beast in View by Margaret Millar (Mystery) (5 stars)

"Beast In View was a true gem. I've enjoyed a couple of Margaret Millar's other books in the past few years, when I've been able to find copies. The Soft Talkers was one of my favourites of last year. Beast in View is another 5-star read. It's such an interesting story. I love how Millar develops her plots. Is it about Helen Clarvoe, who lives alone in her apartment, isolated from the world about her? Is it about Mr. Blackshear, Helen's financial adviser, bored with his work. Helen asks him to help her find the woman who made the distressing call to Helen and he begins to conduct an investigation on Helen's behalf? Or is it about Evelyn Merrick, the woman who makes the initial call to Helen and who seems to be making many calls to other people that have upset her? I loved how it moved along, from the one character to the other, how the tension builds, how the story surprisingly makes a turn to the left. Excellent, excellent!! She is such a wonderful writer."

2016 Individual Reading Challenges

One Book Per Decade (I've read one book for 6 decades and one extra for one. Total 6 +1 of 12)

1. 1900 - 1909. The Best of Saki by H.H. Munro (Fiction/ short stories) (5 stars)

"I heard about Saki (AKA H.H. Munro), a British short story writer from the early 1900's only by chance. I found this book while wandering through a used book store in Kingston, Ontario and bought it partly because I liked the binding. Now that I've read the collection of short stories, I can honestly say how glad that I was to have taken the chance on this book. Saki's stories are funny, witty, sharp and to the point. Each story runs from 3 to 6 pages and each is concise and exact and so well-written. The foreword mentions that writers such as PG Wodehouse, of the Wooster and Jeeves stories, were influenced by Saki's works. I can see the similarities in humour, although Saki is more biting. I was not bored by any of the stories, and there are many in the collection, some made me laugh out loud, some chuckle and many had me thinking about the mind that created them. I don't know if you'll find a similar collection anywhere else. It was an excellent, most enjoyable read. (5 stars)"

2. 1920 - 1929. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster (4 stars)

"A Passage to India continues my enjoyment of the stories of E.M. Forster, along with Howard's End and A Room with a View. A Passage to India offers a story of the British rule in India, the differences between the Indian nationals and the English establishment as well as even some of the differences between the Muslim and Hindu Indians. The story focuses on a young woman, Miss Quested, who has newly arrived in a small community with her escort, Mrs. Moore. She is ostensibly there to see if she and Mrs. Moore's son Ronnie are a fit for marriage. Miss Quested wants to see the real India and she and Mr. Moore go with an Indian doctor to explore the Caves at Marabar. There is an incident at the caves which turns the community upside down, causes great turmoil for Doctor Aziz and further explores those attitudes between Indian and English. So very well - written, easy to read, thoughtful and an interesting story. Well-worth trying. (4 stars)"

3. 2000 - 2009. The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates (Mystery/ short stories) (4 stars)

"This was my first exposure to Joyce Carol Oates and it was an enjoyable experience. Excellent short stories, some quite perfect, most very good. Her writing style is quite different from anyone else that I've read. I love how she is able to create a mood with her writing, to describe a picture. All of the stories managed to leave me feeling unsettled and there were often nice little twists that I didn't see coming. More suspense than mystery, but that doesn't matter. The Hunter was probably my favourite, felt like an episode of the best crime series. Some of the endings left me confused, but that is probably a good thing. That is the only reason that I give it a 4 instead of a 5. However, each story is a gem and I highly recommend. Another author I'll have to explore more."

Science Fiction/ Fantasy/ Horror (completed 3 of 12)

1. Perdido Street Station by China MiĆ©ville (SciFi/ Fantasy) (5 stars) *My favourite book in March*

"Wow! My first exposure to China MiƩville's writing and I'm so very impressed. Call it a combination science fiction/ fantasy. China has created such a unique world in New Crobuzon and wonderfully described and written characters and species. New Crobuzon is a city that is built beneath the ribs of some ancient creature. It is filled with humans, other species and also remade creatures (a form of punishment) and also mechanical creatures. It's basically a dictatorship masked as a democracy. Crime is rife, the city is a maze of districts and it's all so interesting. The story is a slow - burn at first; rebel scientist Isaac is asked by a garuda (a flying creature) to help him get his wings back, as they had been removed as a punishment. Isaac's girlfriend, a khedri (an insectoid - type creature) is an artist who has been commissioned by the city's biggest criminal, to do a statue of him/ her (he is a remade to the extreme). Isaac, while exploring theories of flight, has a petty thief find him specimens of as many flying creatures as he can, including eggs, so he can explore flight and see how he can help the Garuda. Unfortunately, one of the eggs contains a slake moth (one of the most horrific fictional beasts you will ever read about, I think) and when it hatches, it escapes and sets in motion the rest of the story. The City governors have had 4 other adult slake moths as prisoners. When they all escape, the whole city is in danger. This leads to the 2nd half of the story, a fascinating chase by Isaac, Derkhan, another friend and my favourite character, and the Garuda to try and stop the Slake Moths. I hope I haven't told too much of the story; just suffice to say it's fascinating and worth the read. 5 stars (I've since ordered the next book about the New Crobuzon world, Scar (although it's supposedly not necessarily a sequel). I can't wait!!"

Classics (pre-1900) (completed 2 of 4)

1. Four Short Stories by Elizabeth Gaskell (Fiction/ Short stories) (5 stars)

"This collection of short stories contains 4 stories by writer, Elizabeth Gaskell; The Three Eras of Libbie Marsh (1847), Lizzie Leigh (1855), The Well of Pen-Morfa (1850) and The Manchester Marriage (1858). From the introduction by Anna Walters, they were unique not only because they were written by a woman but also for the subject matter. Popular at that time were stories of the upper classes, where women chiefly looked to be married to fulfil their lives. Gaskell's stories featured women as the protagonists, women who were of the lower classes, who had to struggle to live, single mothers, seamstresses, prostitutes. The stories are hard looks at life, but at the same time, feature tenderness, love and even optimism. I loved how she crafted these tales, well-written, well-described and thoughtful. They were very much a pleasure to read as Gaskell creates such excellent pictures and characters and stories. This was my first experience with Gaskell's writing and I'm very happy that I was able to experience her talent. (5 stars)  "

Ongoing Series (completed 9 of 50ish)

1. The Treatment by Mo Hayder (4 stars)

"This is the 2nd book in the Jack Caffery mystery/ thriller series. I felt many of the same frustrations with this book that I felt with the first book, Birdman. Caffery is a cop with many issues, most trailing back to the disappearance and possible murder of his brother, Ewan, back when they were both children. He became a cop partly because he wanted to stop other people from murdering, committing crimes. He still lives in his family house and is haunted by his brother's presence and by his neighbour, the man who he thinks abducted and maybe abused and murdered his brother. Compound that with the troubles he's coping with from his girlfriend, Rebecca, who he met through a previous case and who is dealing with her own demons and you've kind of got a Rebus on steroids. The case is very interesting, the murder and abuse of a young boy (flashbacks to his brother's case??) while his parents were held prisoner in the same house. Caffery works on this case but at the same time, his past and his dealings with Rebecca are a constant distraction. Another family is currently being held prisoner and the clock is ticking. It's a very suspenseful story even with the frustrations. I do really like his boss, DI Souness; she's a breath of fresh air when you need it. For all the frustrations, it's at times spellbinding. There are a few other books in the series, so I'll be looking for them. (4 stars)"

2. The Chase by Clive Cussler (3.5 stars)

"This is my first experience with Clive Cussler and I enjoyed very much. A nice, well-paced historical thriller with car chases, train chases, bank robberies, all good stuff. I especially found the bit about the San Francisco earthquake interesting as I had read a book about those events last year and it reminded me of that excellent story. Isaac Bell is an interesting character, son of a rich banker who has chosen to fight crime and now chases a bank robber/ murderer for the Van Dorn Detective agency. He's definitely larger than life but still thoughtful. The killer is also interesting, a sociopath who thrives on the thrill of the robberies he commits and cares not for life. An extreme challenge for Bell. An interesting time in history, pre WWI as the US is becoming a major power but still a bit of a wild frontier. Most enjoyable. 3.5 stars"

3. Pieces of Modesty by Peter O'Donnell (3 stars)

"The Modesty Blaise series is a fun, entertaining, action-packed thrill ride. Modesty is a larger than life heroine, a one-time master criminal who lead the Network, ably assisted by her right-hand man and best friend, Willie Garvin. Now retired, she still helps British Intelligence when requested by her friend, Sir Gerald Tarrant, as she does in the 2nd story, The Giggle Wrecker. But more often than not, she just gets caught up in situations, finding herself and Willie rescuing friends from unfortunate situations. She is matter of fact, a marksman, physically talented in hand-to-hand combat and at the same time, a lady and with a strong moral compass about what is right and wrong. I enjoyed this series of short stories, all entertaining and finding Modesty in Britain, Finland and the Mediterranean. Best story for me was I Had a Date with Lady Janet, where we saw Willie in the major role, forced to save Modesty from an old enemy. Lots of fun and an enjoyable read."

4. Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L. Sayers (4 stars)

"This book contains 12 mysteries featuring Dorothy Sayers' famous sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey and each was unique in its own right and all were interesting and entertaining. I've grown to like Lord Peter very much as I've begun to explore this series. Short stories can be so hit or miss. It all depends on how quickly the author can get into the story and grab your attention and then come to a satisfying resolution. Dorothy Sayers succeeded with this much to my satisfaction. Lord Peter is such a wonderful character and the stories helped develop his character even more. He loves a mystery, loves to snoop and explore diverse situations, and is intelligent at coming up with logical solutions. I loved each story and was very surprised by the last one, The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba as it was quite different from all of the others. Excellent, entertaining read. (4 stars)"

Non-Fiction (completed 1 of 6)

None completed in March.

So there you have my reading update. For your interest, these are the 4 books I'm starting April with.

1. The Blue Lenses and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier (Short stories)

2. The Lyre of Orpheus by Robertson Davies (Canadian Fiction)

3. The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas (Mystery)

4. One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson (History)

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