Saturday, 21 May 2016

Future Challenges

It's a quiet evening in the Dumoulin household this evening. The missus and I had a nice drive around today, checking out some open houses (one of our past times). I decided to have fish and chips for dinner and went down to the little fish shop on Dyke Road, next to Portuguese Joe's Fish market. I think it's called Trollers. The fish was nice and tender and the fries and onion rings also excellent. All in all a satisfying dinner. While Jo has been listening to music and watching James Corden interviews online, I sat on the deck with the puppies, they sleeping on their cushions and me reading The Shanghai Murders, by David Rotenberg, the first book in the Inspector Zhong Fong mysteries. I've read the others but I have wanted to finally finish this first one. It's part of my Canadian 12 + 4 Reading Group challenge list.

And that is basically why I'm writing this entry. I'm doing extremely well so far this year with my reading challenges. I've finished 13 books in the 12 + 4 Canadian Lit challenge; The Shanghai Murders will be the 3rd last. That will leave me Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel and Dead Cold by Louise Penny, the 2nd book in the Inspector Gamache mysteries. So what I was thinking about the past couple of days was whether or not I should do another 12 + 4 challenge if I finish with this particular one before end June.

If I do, I want to continue with my Canadian Literature reading, although I might just make it a 12 + 0, vice 4. That will leave me room to finish off my other challenges as well.

I do have quite a few Canadian novels on my bookshelf so these are some I was considering choosing.

Canadian Literature

1. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (Fic) - "In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story of the Odyssey, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids, asking: 'What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?" In Atwood's dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as entertaining as it is disturbing. Drawing on the storytelling and poetic talent for which she is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality - and set out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery."

2. Never Saw It Coming by Linwood Barclay (Thriller) - "Keisha Ceylon is a psychic. At least, that's what she passes herself off as. The truth is, Keisha's real powers have more to do with separating troubled families from their money than actually seeing into the netherworld. Keisha watches the news for stories of missing family members. She gives it a few days, then moves in, tells these families she's had a vision, that she may have some clue to where these missing people are. And by the way, she charges for this service, and likes to see the money up front.

Keisha's latest mark is a man whose wife disappeared a week ago. She's seen him on TV, pleading for his wife to come home, or, if she's been abducted, pleading with whoever took her to let her go. Keisha knows a payoff when she sees one. So she pays a visit to our troubled husband and tells him her vision.

The trouble is, her vision just happens to be close enough to the truth that it leaves this man rattled. And it may very well leave Keisha dead.."

3. Rules of Engagement by Catherine Bush (Fic) - "Arcadia Hearne is a researcher who studies contemporary war and specialises in issues of military intervention. Far from her hometown of Toronto, she has created a new life for herself in London. While she pursues the study of violence, surveying the rich arsenal of current global conflicts, she refuses to put herself either physically or emotionally at risk. Thrust into a world full of people who, like her, hide secrets and are in flight from difficult pasts, Arcadia is compelled both to contemplate new possibilities for intervention and to confront her own painful history."

4. The Memory Book by Howard Engel (Mys) - "Left for dead in a dumpster, private investigator Benny Cooperman becomes his own client in his most puzzling mystery yet.

Benny is recovering in a Toronto hospital from a serious blow to the head. He has a condition called alexia sine agraphia; in layman's terms, it means he can still write but cannot read. And his memory has been affected too: although he can quote lines from his high-school production of Twelfth Night, he finds himself brushing his teeth with shaving cream. Even his girlfriend's name - Anna Abraham - continues to elude him.

When Benny learns that he has been found unconscious beside a dead woman, he figures he must have been close to solving a case. With Anna working as field agent and two Toronto cops reluctantly sharing their discoveries, Benny tries to piece together the events that led to a murder - and his own injuries."

5. Seaweed on the Street by Stanley Evans (Mys) - "A billionaire's daughter with an unsavoury past has mysteriously disappeared. Silas Seaweed, a savvy, street-smart investigator based in Victoria, B.C., is put on the case. His search for the young woman leads him on a trail of murder, greed and obsessive violence. Overcoming such obstacles as a pair of ruthless cocaine dealers, the murder of key witnesses and a failed attempt on his own life, Seaweed perseveres in his quest to bring a master criminal to justice, his journey taking him from the darker side of Victoria's downtown to Nevada's glittering casinos."

6. The Kingdom of the Cats by Phyllis Gotlieb (SciFi) - "A millennium after the Mayflower, on Solthree, once Mother - of - Worlds, now merely an area government in the Galactic Federation. Solthree's immense Grand Canyon, temporary habitat for the great telepathic cats of Ungruwarkh. The great cats had come in peace from a distant planet, to let Solthree scientists study their remarkable powers of perception. They were docile as Solthree house cats, until.... the unthinkable happened! And Solthree suddenly had a terrible wrong to right, before peace would come again to... The Kingdom of the Cats."

7. The Celtic Riddle by Lyn Hamilton (Mys) - "The co-owner of a Toronto antiques store, Lara McClintoch is obsessed with finding rare and beautiful artifacts. Her travels take her to the ends of the earth, where history jealously guards its treasures - and where the mysteries of the past meet the dangers of the present.

Lara accompanies her employee to County Kerry, Ireland, for the reading of an old friend's will. The well-to-do Eamon Byrne left each of his quarrelling heirs a clue - a piece of a puzzle that wold lead to a mysterious treasure - but the family wold have to work together, combining the clues to give them meaning. When Lara discovers the ancient Celtic poem that serves as the key, she begins to close in on the treasure, fascinated by the intricate riddle. Line by line, stanza by stanza, she comes closer to the secret, but someone thwarts her at every turn - with murder..."

8. Scar Tissue by Michael Ignatieff (Fic) - "A philosophy professor shares the story of his mother's dying. Through him, we see her measured steps into the mysterious depths of neurological illness. More than a tale of isolated tragedy, Scar Tissue explores the fragile lines of memory, their configuration in identity, and the ways in which both are one moment formed and then shattered. This is an intensely personal novel about family, love in all its guises, and the ultimate triumph of life over loss."

9. The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper (Thriller) - "When Patrick Rush, a recently widowed journalist and failed novelist, decides to join a writing circle, it seems a fertile time for the imagination. In the city of Toronto, a murderer is striking at random, leaving his victim's bodies mutilated and dismembered, and taunting the police with cryptic notes.

Influenced by the atmosphere of menace and fear, the group begins to share their own dark tales. One member, Angela, tells a mesmerising story about a child-stealer called the Sandman. Patrick, though, finds fantasy and reality blurring. Is the maniac at large in fact the Sandman? Is Patrick himself being stalked by the killer? What does Angela really know?

And when his own son is snatched, Patrick must embark on a horrifying journey to track down the elusive figure known as the Sandman."

10. Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordecai Richler (Fic) - "Moses Berger, son of the failed poet L.B. Berger, is in the grips of an obsession. The Gursky family with its colourful bootlegging history, its bizarre connections with the North and the Inuit, and its wildly eccentric relations, both fascinates and infuriates him. His quest to unravel their story leads him to the enigmatic Ephraim Gursky: document forger in Victorian England, sole survivor of the ill-fated Franklin expedition and charismatic religious leader of the Arctic. Of Ephraim's three grandsons, Bernard has fought, wheedled and cheated his way to the head of a liquor empire. His brother Morrie has reluctantly followed along. But how does Ephraim's protégé, Solomon, fit in? Elusive, mysterious and powerful, Solomon Gursky hovers in the background, always out of Moses's grasp, but present - like an omen."

11. The Wives of Bath by Susan Swan (Fic) - "In late 1963, Mary 'Mouse' Bradford is sent to boarding school by her unsympathetic father and jealous stepmother. There, she meets the rebellious Paulie, and together they embark upon a quest to discover what, fundamentally, separates men from women."

12. City of Ice by John Farrow (Mys) - "A bomb explodes in a busy Montreal street. A Mob lawyer blown apart, an innocent child murdered. Watching and powerless to prevent it is Montreal's most illustrious policeman - Emile Cinq-Mars. Then the corpse of a young man, Artinian, is found with a meat hook through his heart and the inscription M-5 round his neck. M-5, March 5th, a calling card in English. When Cinq-Mars discovers that Artinian had infiltrated the mob he is drawn back to the bombing.

Linking the two crimes, the detective finds himself in the midst of the Canadian mob. Their new ally is the ruthless Russian mafia, and in particular an enigmatic crime boss known as the Czar. When Cinq-Mars uncovers the identity of another mole within the Czar's organisation, he knows it is a race against time. Can she help him catch the Czar? Can he save her from almost certain death?"

So if I do decide to do one more CanLit challenge, I've got a nice mix I think. There a few other possibilities; Guy Vanderhaeghe's The Last Crossing, David Adams Richards Nights Below Station Street, William Gibson's Virtual Light or Douglas Coupland's Player One. They look interesting as well.

There you go. Enjoy your weekend. It's almost time for a new Midsomer Murders here.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Book Purchases Update No.2 - April 30th (Rotary Club Book Fair)

Two posts ago I updated my book purchases for 2016, including the first day of the Comox Rotary Club's Biannual Book Sale. Saturday, 30 Apr was the closing day so I went back one more time to see if there were still any good books to be had. The good thing about the last day is that you only pay $7.00 for each bag of books you buy. I managed to find 14 books, so basically they were only $.50 a book, quite a bargain.

I've been slowly incorporating these latest purchases into my various book lists; my 2016 Challenge listings, my old MS Access book database, my Goodreads book lists and my hard copy 'Books I want to Read' books. Now it's time to let you all know what I've added to my overflowing book shelves. I think I've got a nice variety of series, fiction (classics), Science Fiction and my new Canadian Literature listing. Let's start with that...

Canadian Literature

Canadian Literature
In my post on the 28th of April, I mentioned that I've been reading a book which highlights the author's favourite Canadian Literature (Can Lit) since 1984. Since I did take a Can Lit back in my university days, 1976 I think it was, I thought it might be a good idea to check out some of the more recent authors, you know, from the 1980's to present. Or maybe I'm just trying to become a literary snob.. :) I had added a few books from the catalogue in this past month. I found two more at the Book Sale - Rules of Engagement by Catherine Bush and The Wives of Bath by Susan Swan.

Rules of Engagement is described as 'an exceptional second novel from Catherine Bush, a powerful exploration of what love is, the emotional borders we must cross in order to try to attain it, and the responsibilities inherent in its possession." The Wives of Bath was a finalist for the 1993 Guardian Fiction Award. According to a blurb by the Boston Globe, it is 'a wry coming-of-age story built around a murder tale that bristles with sexual secrets." (Yup, they are both definitely down my alley)

Ongoing Mystery Series
Dutch and Canadian mysteries
I've read two or three of AC Baantjer's Dutch Inspector DeKok mystery series set in Amsterdam and enjoyed very much. I was pleasantly surprised to find an excellent copy of another in this series. According to Wikipedia, 23 of his 60 books have been translated into English.

"In The Geese of Death, DeKok takes on Igor Stablinsky, a man accused of bludgeoning a wealthy old man and his wife. to DeKok's unfailing eye the killing urge is visibly present in the suspect during questioning, but did he commit this particular crime?"

Alan Bradley is a Canadian but his Flavia de Luce series takes place in England. Flavia is a precocious child who gets involved in crimes in her town of Bishop's Lacey. I read the first book a couple of years ago and have been looking for the 2nd in the series, The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, (You could buy these books just because of the titles) so I could continue it.

"Flavia de Luce didn't intend to investigate another murder - but, then again, Rupert Porson didn't intend to die. When Porson's van breaks down in Bishop's Lacey, he becomes the victim of an electrocution too perfectly planned to be an accident."

(Did the teasers make you want to try these books?)

More Crime Stories / Thrillers

US Crime Fiction
I've not read any of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct books, although they have been pretty highly recommended in my Mystery Book Club. I've bought a few of the series, mostly his more recent stories. The Mugger was released in 1956 (one year after my birth.. egads!) and is the 2nd book of the series. From what I understand, different police tend to feature in each story, so I shouldn't have to worry about missing the first.

"Clifford thanks you, Madam," he said, bowing from the waist. Then the mugger vanished into the night, leaving behind his battered, terrified female victim. It had happened fourteen times so far. The cops of the 87th Precinct wanted it to stop now. Then a beautiful young woman is found dead, and the case of Clifford turns uglier. Enter a handsome blond patrolman named Bert King, who knew the murder victim, knows the rules, and may just catch a killer in spite of himself."

I have read the first book in the Butcher Boy series by Thomas Perry. My brother told me that he thinks the Jane Whitfield series is even better. Shadow Woman is the third book in this series.

"Jayne Whitfield is a name to be whispered like a prayer. A shadow woman who rescues the helpless and the hunted when their enemies leave them no place to hide. Now with the bone-deep cunning of her Native American forebears, she arranges a vanishing act for Pete Hatcher, a Las Vegas gambling executive. It should be a piece of cake, but she doesn't yet know about Earl and Linda - professional destroyers who will cash in if Hatcher dies, killers who love to kill slowly. From Vegas to upstate New York to the Rockies, the race between predator and prey slowly narrows until at last they share an intimacy broken only by death."

Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe detective series is another I've been slowly collecting, but have yet to delve into. I definitely plan to give it a go this year. And a Villain was originally published in 1948 and is the 13th book in the series.

"Horse racing expert Cyril Orchard unintentionally made broadcasting history when he died of cyanide poisoning on Madeline Fraser's popular radio program. Now Nero Wolfe is about to make history - by agreeing to investigate the case with his sizable fee contingent on his solving the murder. It's a rare gamble for the great detective - and the odds are stacked high in the killer's favour."

A couple of more thrillers
I read the first of US thriller writer, Meg Gardiner's, Jo Beckett series, The Dirty Secret's Club last year and found it a nice, tense story. Since then, I've bought a few more of her books. Jericho Point is the third book in her Evan Delaney series.

"When the body of a young woman washes up on the black sands of the California beach Jericho Point, it's identified as Evan Delaney's. But Evan is very much alive - apparently the victim of an identify thief who was playing the Hollywood rich for everything they're worth. The crook may be dead, but the crimes she was murdered for - crimes committed in Evan's name - are turning Evan's life into a nightmare. Now, in the shadow of a dead woman's lies, it's all Evan can do to survive."

Daniel Silva is another new writer for me. His books have been nominated for group reads in my Mystery, Thriller book club, so once again, I thought I should check him out. The Mark of the Assassin is the first of two books in the Michael Osbourne series. He's also written a number of books in the Gabriel Allon series.

"When a terrorist bomb blows Flight 002 out of the sky off the east coast, there is only one chilling clue. A body found near the crash site bears the deadly calling card of an elusive, lethal assassin - three bullets to the face. Michael Osbourne of the CIA knows the markings. Personally."

Classics / Literature
The Classics (1)
I've read a few of English writer, Evelyn Waugh's stories over the past few years. I like his dry sense of humour. I've never read anything by Baroness Orczy before. In fact, I'd never really ever heard of her before. I had, of course, heard of The Scarlet Pimpernel, so thought I should give it a try when I saw the book. It could suit my upcoming 'book to movie genre challenge' nicely.

This is the synopsis for Evelyn Waugh's Put Out More Flags -
"What happened to the characters of Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies when war broke out? Put Out More Flags shows them adjusting to the changing social pattern of the times. Some of the play valorous part; others, like the scapegrace Basil Seal, disclose their incorrigible habit of self-preservation in all circumstances. Basil's contribution to the war effort involves the use of his peculiar talents in such spheres of opportunity as the Ministry of Information and an obscure section of Military Security."

This is the synopsis for The Scarlet Pimpernel -
"Each day this question grew more pressing to the rulers of the French Revolution. Only this man and his band of followers threatened their total power. Only this maddeningly elusive figure defied the vast network of fanatics, informers and secret agents that the Revolution spread out to catch its enemies. Some said this man of many disguises, endless ruses and infinite darin was an exiled French nobleman, returned to wreak vengeance. Others said he was an English lord, seeking sheer adventure and supreme sport in playing the most dangerous game of all. But of only one thing could those who sought him be sure. They knew all too well the symbol of his presence, the blood-red flower known as the Scarlet Pimpernel."

The Classics (2)
W. Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene have been two of my favourite writers over the past couple of years. I enjoy their writing style and skill and their story-telling. I've also enjoyed Greene's Travel novels, his journeys to Liberia and Mexico. I'm looking forward to taking another book off the shelves this year to continue reading their novels.

This is the synopsis for Maugham's Cakes and Ale, originally published in 1930 -
"Rosie, in less decorous days, had been married to a famous author whose second wife later nursed him into the position of Grand Old Man of English Letters. Some have professed to see a likeness to Thomas Hardy in Edward Driffield, and to Hugh Walpole in Alroy Kear, the ambitious but untalented biographer. Maugham, however, denied any such connection."

And this is the synopsis for Greene's The Captain and the Enemy, originally published in 1988 -
"The Captain always maintained hat he won Jim from his father at a game of backgammon. Fraud, adventurer, robber and thief, the Captain has as many tall stories to tell as Jim has had boarding-school dinners. Now aged twenty-two, a hack journalist and unwitting Judas, Jim attempts to piece together the Captain's story."

Science Fiction / Fantasy
Two favourites, Wyndham and Burroughs
John Wyndham is one of my all-time favourite Science Fiction authors. The Day of the Triffids and The Chrysalids both rank in my top-ten Science Fiction stories. I thought I'd read all of his stories, but The Secret People was published under John Benyon in 1935 and was his first full-length novel. It was a nice surprise to see it at the Book Sale. As to Edgar Rice Burroughs, I read his John Carter of Mars series back when I was a high school student and then again a few years later. I'd avoided the Tarzan series, but of late, thought it might be interesting to give it a try. Tarzan Lord of the Jungle is the 11th book in this series.

This is the synopsis for The Secret People -
"The planners of the world's greatest engineering feat - the flooding of part of the Sahara desert - knew nothing of the life which teemed below their New Sea. But for the accident which plunged Mark Sunnet and his girl-friend into a cavernous world, nothing would have been known of the catastrophe which now threatened the survivors of an ancient race. Their struggle against doom, and Mark's flight for survival, is the theme of this fascinating story."

And, finally, this is the synopsis for Lord of the Jungle -
"Tarzan, always alert against intruding despoilers of his beloved jungle, orders an American hunter and an Arab slave trader to leave his country. But all are trapped in an ancient, medieval community isolated behind a wall of mountains for seven hundred and fifty years - and Tarzan is involved in one of the most fantastic adventures he has yet encountered."

There you go, all up-to-date. Do any of the books tweak your interest?

Sunday, 1 May 2016

April 2016 - Monthly Reading Update

It's a lovely, fresh Sunday. The sun is shining and there is a cool breeze blowing into the den window. I've spent my morning reading, relaxing and watching English footie. It's been a strange exciting season, with the Big Four struggling to stay in the top four and teams like Leicester, Tottenham and West Ham making significant progress. It'll gratifying to see if Leicester and Tottenham can take the top two positions. I always enjoy cheering for the underdogs. Now if only the stupid darn Blue Jays would wake up and start hitting a baseball like they are supposed to and I'd be really happy.

I've got a couple of other BLog entries sitting on the back burner but today I'm going to do my monthly reading update. So let's get on with that April update.

Goodreads' Challenge and General Stats

Goodreads' Challenge

I had a really good April, finishing 13 books. Having said that, there were a number of short books but they were still challenging enough. I'm particularly enjoying getting into short story collections. They have been most enjoyable. So 13 books in April, with an overall total for 2016 of 45 books. I'm 12 books ahead of schedule for completing 100 books by end-year. In April, I completed 4008 pages for a yearly total of 14,349 pages. So even though I read a number of shorter books, my overall page count for April was still pretty satisfactory.

Page Breakdown
                           April                  Total
       < 250     = 6 books                  18
250 -  350     = 3 books                  12
350 - 450      = 0 books                    5
       > 450     = 4 books                  10

Author Gender
                           April                  Total
Male                    9                            30
Female                4                            15

Fiction                2                              6
Mystery/ Adv     6                             21
SciFi/ Fan           2                             10
Non Fict             2                               4
Humour              1                              2
Classics              0                              2

 5-star                 1                               8
4-star                  7                              18
3-star                  5                              19

 12 + 4 Reading Group Challenge (Canadian Literature)

I only finished one more book in this challenge, but after only 4 months, I've read 11 of the 16 books I selected. The Lyre of Orpheus by Robertson Davies was also my favourite book of April and my only 5-star rating. This is my review.

"This is the 3rd book in the Cornish trilogy. I enjoyed the first, The Rebel Angels, very much. It had been most enjoyable to get back into Robertson Davies, after a 20+ year absence. The second book, What's Bred in the Bone, while interesting, didn't hold the same level of enjoyment that the first did. So The Lyre of Orpheus sat on my shelf for a couple of years now,  awaiting my attention. I'm so glad that I dusted it off and got back into this trilogy. It was excellent. I loved everything about this, the writing, the characters, the story.

The basic story is that the Cornish foundation, run by Arthur Cornish and his lovely wife, Maria, and assisted by a loose collection of directors, agrees to use Cornish foundation money, to fund the doctoral work of a young music student, Hulda Schnakenburg. She is trying to complete an unfinished opera by Hoffman, the Story of Arthur of Britain. A concurrent story has Simon Darcourt, old friend of Francis Cornish and of Arthur and Maria, seeking to complete a biography of Francis Cornish. The investigation into this biography, to find out the missing middle of Francis' life and the development of the opera, are fascinating stories. The characters, from the main ones, as well as Schnak and the others brought in to help with the creation of the opera, were lovingly written and so interesting.

I can't say I'm an opera fan, but watching the creation and development and the ultimate presentation of this opera, was a joy to read. Throw in asides by the ghost Hoffman, throughout the story, as he watches from Limbo and waits to see what the ultimate result will be, and you've got a richly textured story. Sex, cuckoldry and just downright entertainment and you have a fantastic, wonderful story. A perfect ending to this trilogy."

Decades Challenge

I read three books in this challenge. The unfortunate thing is that two of the books were from decades where I had already read stories. I've completed 7 of 12 decades and have 3 duplicate decades overall.

1940 - 49 - This was the 2nd book from this decade. Hurrah for St. Trinians is a collection of cartoons by Ronald Searle, some which formed the St. Trinians book and movie series and others that he produced during his life. It was basically a fun read and is the second book of his works that I've collected.

1950 - 59 - The Blue Lenses and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier is one of the collections of short stories that I've read this past year. Most enjoyable. This was the 2nd book from this decade.

"An interesting collection of short stories by the author of Rebecca and The House on the Strand. The book was published in 1959 and contains 8 stories, each different and unique in its own right. I particularly liked The Alibi and The Blue Lenses; the first about a man trying to get some excitement into his life and finding that his plan takes an unexpected turn to the left and the second, almost science fiction, a strange tale of a woman seeing life through new lenses, a very strange and disturbing vision. The Pool and The Archduchess were good, but missed the mark somewhat from my perspective. But all in all, an excellent, well-written book. It's continued to whet my appetite for more du Maurier fiction."

1960 - 69 - The Pale Betrayer by Dorothy Salisbury Davis is the first book I've read by this author and it didn't turn me off trying more of her work.

"I'm not sure where I first heard of Dorothy Salisbury Davis, but I think The Pale Betrayer was listed in the back of another similar type story I read. The plot looked interesting so I ordered it and have finally got around to reading it. Sort of a simple plot, a scientist, a physicist who works in nuclear physics, returning from a conference in Greece is murdered on his way to his university labs to show a movie he had received from a Russian physicist. This is during the Cold War period, which adds one possible motive. As well, his friend, who may also love his wife, seems to have some involvement, as he might be being blackmailed.

The story is a slow-burn, but from the beginning I liked some of the main characters; the police investigating the crime, the young female physicist student, Anne Russo, who the lead cop, Lt Marks, is taken with. All are interesting and I liked them very much. As well, Louise Steinberg, best friend of the victim's wife is down-to-earth and adds nice colour. The story moves along at a nice pace and, ultimately, gets you hooked and as the plot becomes clearer, it is even more enjoyable. I did like this and it was worth getting through the vagueness of the first few chapters to get into the story. Well worth reading. I think I will look up more of her books now."

Science Fiction/ Horror/ Fantasy
I have read 5 of 12 planned books in this challenge now.

1. Goliath by Scott Westerfield. This is the third book in this Young Adult/ Dystopic Science Fiction story and as entertaining as the other two books. I enjoyed this series very much and kind of wish it was more than just a trilogy as there are more stories that could be told about the characters and the world in which they reside.

"Goliath is the third and final book in the Leviathan trilogy, an excellent series of YA fantasy/ steampunk. Set during WWI, it features a war between the Darwinist states (UK, France, etc.) and the Clanker nations (Germany, Austro/ Hungary). The Darwinists use genetically-modified creatures as their war weapons; Leviathan is a whale like creature that acts as a Zeppelin and its weapons feature strafing hawks and flechette bats). The Clankers use mechanical weapons. Into this mix is thrown Alek, the son of the assassinated ruler of Austro Hungary, who was rescued in the 1st book by the RAF ship, Leviathan. Also is Deryn, a young girl disguised as a boy (Dylan) so she can fly in the airship (girls can't join the Air Force), and the development of their budding relationship.

In Goliath, the Leviathan finds itself traveling over Russia to rescue mad inventor, Tesla, who claims to have built a weapon to end the war (Goliath) and the continued journey and adventures of the crew over the US and Mexico. You will meet new characters, including Tesla, and interesting adventures. Goliath has everything and is an excellent page turner and end to this enjoyable trilogy. Lots of adventure, great characters and budding romance await you. You've got to try this excellent series."

2. News from Elsewhere by Edmund Cooper. Another collection of short stories, this one from Science Fiction writer, Edmund Cooper.

"A collection of short stories dealing with space exploration, either outward by humans or inward by aliens to Earth. A nice mix, some ending not so happily, others quite humorous. I enjoyed them all, some more than others. The first two ended somewhat obliquely, but for the most part they were all excellent.  The Lizard of Woz, an alien lizard coming to Earth to make contact and his experiences on Earth was my favourite. It definitely made me chuckle. If you are a fan of speculative fiction from the '60s, give this one a try. You'll be pleasantly entertained."

Classics - I didn't read any books in this category in April so I remain at 2 of 4 completed.

Ongoing Series
I read five books in this challenge and have now completed 14 books. I didn't set a limit on this challenge. I've got so many series on the go or awaiting my initial attention that I will just read as many as possible.

1. Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas - This is the first book of the Commissaire Adamsberg mystery series. I was somewhat disappointed with it, I must say. I don't know if it was the translation or just that the author seemed to be trying too hard. It ended better than it started and some of my acquaintances in my Goodreads' book groups say that the series is worth continuing. So we'll see.

2. The Allingham Minibus by Margery Allingham. This is a collection of short stories by British crime writer, Margery Allingham, some of them featuring her favourite detective, Albert Campion. Most enjoyable.

"An excellent collection of short stories from Margery Allingham. I expected them all to feature her favourite detective, Albert Campion, but, in fact, only two of them did. Both of them were excellent, demonstrating Campion's ability to grasp the salient clues to quickly solve both mysteries. I enjoyed them very much. I was surprised, pleasantly it turned out, that there were 3 or 4 ghostly stories contained in the book. I can't say the endings totally surprised me, but I enjoyed them very much. My favourite story also happened to be the longest, A Quarter of a Million, which featured a gang of ruthless, cunning robbers who didn't mind killing to get what they wanted and an intelligent police inspector who was able to outsmart the gang, with a neat little twist at the end as he explained how he had figured things out. All in all, a most enjoyable collection."

3. Winter Frost by R.D. Wingfield. This is the 5th and 2nd last book in the Inspector Frost mystery series, everyone excellent and entertaining.

"I do enjoy the Frost series. Each story is somewhat similar, Frost bumbles and stumbles through a variety of cases, with a short - manned police station, fighting with his boss, Superintendent Mullett, trying to stay out of trouble and solve his cases. In this story, prostitutes are being raped and murdered, there are missing children, an old skeleton has been found and the 'pillow case' robber is robbing houses.

Frost works on each case, as Mullett has loaned half of his station to another detachment working on a drug case. The weather is awful, Frost gets no sleep, working around the clock, trying to deal with a bit of a wastrel on his staff and with friction from a female acting inspector who is trying to make a name for herself. He stumbles from one solution to another, often finding himself on the wrong track.

But even with that and with his sexist remarks and curmudgeonly personality, Frost draws you in. He cares about his people and about the victims. I like how cases are worked, methodically at times, with bursts of inspiration. The story moves along nicely, keeps you hooked and the result is always satisfying. Only one book left in this series. I look forward to reading it, but not finishing it."

4. For Your Eyes Only by Ian Fleming. This is an excellent collection of 5 short stories featuring James Bond, 007.

"I enjoyed this collection of James Bond short stories very much. Three of them feature as titles (titles only really) in recent full-length 007 movies; Quantum of Solace, For Your Eyes Only and From a View to a Kill. I enjoyed each story as they offered different perspectives on James Bond's Life.

Quantum of Solace was especially interesting as Bond appears only as an interested listener; a visitor to the British diplomats house in Bahamas and listening to a story about a married couple. Definitely not a typical Bond story, more a tale of relationships and how they can go bad. A View to a Kill is set in Paris and Bond is sent to find out why and how a despatch rider has been killed, a nice taut suspense story. In For Your Eyes Only, M asks Bond to enact revenge on a Cuban killer, who has murdered friends of M's in Jamaica. Bond goes to the US (a house in the wilderness of Vermont) to complete the job and finds himself assisting the daughter of the family, a very satisfying story. In Risico, Bond heads to Venice to assist in dismantling a drug operation and finds that there are two sides to every story. I liked this one especially. The final story, The Hildebrand Rarity, finds Bond at the end of a mission in the Seychelles and helping a millionaire find a rare fish. Of course, there are twists as the millionaire isn't very nice. Every story was enjoyable and nicely, tautly written."

5. Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser. The first book about English adventurer, Flashman.

"A good historical adventure, in the style of CS Forester's Hornblower books or Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series. Flashman originally showed up as a minor character in Tom Brown's Schooldays. He is a bounder, a coward and a ne'er do well, but he always seems to come up smelling like roses. He readily acknowledges his characteristics, of course, but others see him as a hero. This is usually because there is nobody else left around to contradict these assessments. In the first Flashman book, he finds himself deployed to Afghanistan during the English retreat, in disarray, from Kabul. Flashman has many adventures, is captured by an arch enemy and has relationships with many women, some not of a willing nature. He always manages to escape from these situations, often with the help of others, who naturally don't survive very well. Even with his faults, and they are many, he's still entertaining and interesting. Worth reading if you want an excellent adventure."

I read two books this month and now have completed 3 of a planned 6.

1. One Summer: America 1927. My wife, Jo, introduced me to Bill Bryson's work. He writes excellent travel novels and also histories.

"I was introduced to Bill Bryson by my wife when she was reading his travel books. I've read a few now and do enjoy his style of writing. One Summer: America 1927 highlights a specific period of time in American history, focusing on a number of the important public figures of the time; Charles Lindbergh's crossing of the Atlantic, Babe Ruth's run at his home run record, Al Capone's rise in Chicago, etc. It was interesting to see that time in history, having said that, considering the intolerance of the time, I don't know that I would have wanted to live there then. You have Sacco and Vanzetti's trial for murder; were they really guilty? It didn't seem to matter because there were Italians. You have the popularity of the Eugenics ideas; e.g. the strong race concept. You have the rising popularity of the Ku Klux Klan. It was definitely a tumultuous time and a time of great discoveries. Fascinating read."

2. Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French. This was one of those books I saw in the window of my local used book store, Nearly New Books, and it grabbed my attention right away. My initial impressions weren't disappointed.

"This was one of those opportunistic purchases; the cover caught my eye and the blurb inside sounded very interesting. Set in Peking just before WWII, when Peking was being pressured by the Japanese armies that surrounded it, it is the story of the murder of a young English girl and the investigation into her murder. The story is recreated by English writer, Paul French, as he researched through varied archives and the letters of her father.

I found the locale intriguing, the lives of the people who lived in Peking (both the Chinese themselves and the foreigners who worked and lived there). Such an exotic location; with White Russians hiding from Communist Russia, English/ Americans and other nationalities living in the Foreign Legation district and the locals as well. Peking must have been such a fascinating city, trying to cope with threats from without and also trying to live a normal life. The book follows the initial investigation by the Chinese police officer, Han, and the English Detective brought in from Tsintsen. The last half is taken from the father of Pamela Werner as he tries to continue with the investigation on his own, always suffering with the intransigence of the British ambassador. A true story and a very interesting one."

So there you go. That is my April reading. All in all, I enjoyed every book. I've got four on the go at the moment and hope May will be as successful and as entertaining.
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