Monday, 21 November 2016

Book Choices for Finishing off 2016

Here it is, the 21st of November, and my Book Addicts Reading Group has put up the threads to allow us to sort out our reading plans for 2017. And the excitement it has caused. It's always fun to prognosticate about what you might like to read in the future and it's so much fun checking out what everyone else is thinking about. I've got my 12 + 4 Reading Group Challenge list set up. I've already made two adjustments but I think it'll stay pretty well stable now. I've got my ideas set down for my Individual Challenges too, although I haven't picked specific books yet. I usually do that throughout the year, just adding books to the categories as I read them. But, more on that for a future post. It is still 2016 after all.

What this post is about is to let you know what books I hope to finish before the end of December this year. Since I was in list - making mode anyway (yes, I know, I'm always in list - making mode), I went through my books the other day and picked 8 books for December. For the most part, I tried to pick books that I've had on my to-be-read bookshelves for a very long time. There are a couple of newer books; one that I'm reading as a Group Read for December. So, anyway, with that preamble, below are the books I'm currently reading, followed with my choices for the rest of the year.

Currently Reading

1. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware - This book was chosen by my Mystery Group as one of our Nov/ Dec 2016 Group reads and since I had purchased it recently, I thought I may as well join the Group read. The author is British writer, Ruth Ware and the book is her first. It's an easy read so far and I am enjoying it.

"Nora hasn't seen Clare for ten years. Not since the day Nora walked out of her old life and never looked back.
Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare's hen party arrives. A weekend in a remote cottage - the perfect opportunity for Nora to reconnect with her best friend, to put the past behind her.
But something goes wrong. Very wrong.
And as secrets and lies unravel, out in the dark, dark wood the past will finally catch up with Nora."

There is definitely an underlying menace and tension to the story. I'm about 1/3 through it and it is moving from the events at the hen party to something in the future that is slowly, bit by bit, being laid out. Interesting so far.

2. Fractured by Karin Slaughter. I discovered Karin Slaughter when I first moved out to the West Coast and started reading her Grant County books. Excellent forensic thrillers and real page turners. However, it's been a long time now since I've read any of her other books. I had read the first Will Trent mystery a few years ago so decided to try the second book in this series a few days ago. Will Trent is a Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) agent who has become the subject of a new series by Slaughter. I'm hoping I enjoy his books as much.

"Ansley Park is one of Atlanta's most upscale neighbourhoods - but in one gleaming mansion, in a teenager's lavish bedroom, a girl has been savagely murdered. And in the hallway, her mother stands amid shattered glass, having killed her daughter's attacker with her bare hands. Detective Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is one of the first on the scene. Trent soon sees something that the Atlanta cops are missing, something in the trail of blood, in a matrix of forensic evidence, and in the eyes of the stunned mother."

Like most of the Slaughter books I've enjoyed, it definitely has hit the ground running. Enjoying the start so far.

3. Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh. There is nothing quite like the classics when it comes to excellent mysteries. Ngaio Marsh wrote the Inspector Alleyn mysteries and I've read four or five so far. I don't want to read them all at once because it's so nice to be able to dig through my TBR shelves and dig out another. Overture is the eighth book in this series which consists of 32 books.

"It was planned as an act of charity: a new piano for the parish hall, an amusing play to finance the gift. But its execution was doomed when the prelude was struck: a minor in C: murder the score. A case of sinister infatuation for the brilliant Inspector Alleyn."

I'm over half way through the story so far and enjoying every minute. Unlike so many current mysteries and thrillers, Marsh takes the time to introduce the characters and setting before ultimately displaying the actual crime. All the while, Inspector Alleyn and his intrepid sidekick Sgt Fox wait in the wings for their cue to arrive on the scene, begin their investigation and ultimately.... solve the crime. 😄

4. Fountain of Death by Jane Haddam. Haddam's Gregor Demarkian mystery series is another of my favourites, those comfort reads that you can grab and settle down to enjoy without a second thought. Demarkian is an ex-FBI profiler, an Armenian - American who has retired to live in the Armenian district of Philadelphia and who gets called off at times to help solve crime elsewhere in the US. The newspapers call him the "Armenian - American Hercule Poirot", a name he hates, as he's not small nor is he fastidious like Poirot. Be that as it may, Demarkian is an excellent sleuth, a grumbling giant who puts together clues to solve the most difficult crimes. If you want to focus on a small number of his cases to get the feel for Demarkian and his friends; Bennis Hannaford and Father Tibor, try the Holiday collection.

"Bring your Body... reads the health club flyer, "to the Fountain of Youth Workout Studio - Be a New You for the New Year!" And co-owners leggy Magda Hale and her dashing husband, Simon, are busy signing up a slew of New Haven women eager to be younger, thinner, fitter. But the session gets off to a rather unhealthy start when the body of a weight-training instructor - stark naked and lethally poisoned - is found in the bushes behind the club.
For ex-FBI agent Gregor Demarkian, called in to investigate by a New Haven cop, it's shaping up to be a very strange case indeed. And the mystery will only deepen when the great detective finds himself up against a police contact who's less than helpful, a balcony as fragile as tinsel, and a murderer who keeps toasting the season in arsenic - for the sake of a macabre Auld Lang Syne."

As always, I'm enjoying very much and am looking forward to discovering the solution.

December Books

I hope to read at least the below books by the end of the year. If it all goes well, maybe one or two more might be squeezed in. So here you go, my final books of 2016.

1. The Professor by Charlotte Bronte. I'm trying to squeeze one more classic in this year. I've had a nice year when it comes to the Classics (pre - 1900) and I plan to continue with that trend next year as well. The Professor was written before Jane Eyre but only published posthumously in 1857.

2. Wycliffe and Death in Stanley Street by W.J. Burley. Like most of my ongoing series, it's been awhile since I have read one of the Wycliffe mysteries. This is the fifth book in the series, featuring Chief Superintendent Wycliffe.

"In a sprawling West Country port lies the insalubrious Stanley Street, a dubious cul-de-sac just off the busy main road. And when a prostitute is found naked and strangled in her bed there, Chief Superintendent Wycliffe is called in to investigate.
But things aren't quite as straightforward as they seem. The victim, Lily Painter, is the kind of girl who likes Beethoven and has plenty of qualifications to her name - not the usual sort of prostitute at all.
The more Wycliffe investigates, the more surprises he uncovers. But it takes a dangerous arson attack and a second murder before the solution to this complex and fast-moving puzzle can be found."

3. My Father and Other Working Class Football Heroes by Gary Imlach. I got this for Christmas a few years ago, along with a number of other footie - related books. For some reason, this is one that I never got around to reading. I plan to rectify that this month. Fitting, I guess, it being a Xmas book and me reading it in December.

"Stewart Imlach was an ordinary neighbourhood soccer star of his time.
A brilliant winger who thrilled the crowd on Saturdays, then worked alongside them in the off-season; who represented Scotland in the 1958 World Cup and never received a cap for his efforts; who was Man of the Match for Nottingham Forest in the 1959 FA Cup Final, and was rewarded with the standard offer - 20 UK pds a week, take it or leave it.
Gary Imlach grew up a privileged insider at Goodison Park when Steward moved into coaching. He knew the highlights of his father's career by heart. But when his dad died he realised they were all he knew. He began to realise, too, that he'd lost the passion for football that his father had passed down to him. In this book he faces his growing alienation from the game he was born into, as he revisits key periods in his father's career to build up a picture of his football life - and through him a whole era.
Steward Imlach travelled a long way from the tiny Scottish fishing community of Lossiemouth to the World Cup in Sweden. But in one sense he didn't move at all. He played in the last days of the maximum wage, when footballers were serfs, owned by their clubs - and the men who played the game and those who watched it led fundamentally the same lives together in the same communities."

4. The Man Within by Graham Greene. I've become quite addicted to Greene's writing the past few years. I remember reading some of his books many years ago, but I lost touch with his writing then. I've been searching for his earlier works and managed to come up with his debut novel, The Man Within. It was written in 1929.

"Andrews has informed on his fellow smugglers. He takes refuge from his avengers in a girl's house. She persuades him to give evidence in court against his accomplices. This gives Andrews, a coward, his first glimmer of self-respect... but his mission proves fatal for them both."

5. Gideon's Month by J.J. Marric. I've collected quite a few of the Gideon books over the past few years, partly because I enjoy the book covers. I've managed to read one so far and look forward to trying his fourth book in the series, Gideon's Month.

"Crime seems to be taking a holiday in the sunny weather. But the lull does not last. Homicide, larceny and suicide soon find their way back into the life of Gideon of the Yard."

6. Landfall by Nevil Shute. Shute is another of my favourite writers. I haven't read a book of his that I haven't enjoyed. And at least two rank right up there in my favourites of all-time. Landfall was written in 1940 and falls into his World War II period.

"Against the grim background of England at war, the romance of Jerry Chambers and Mona Stevens stands out like an unexpected spring day in the midst of a brutal winter. Jerry is a flying officer in the RAF. At the hotel which is the hangout for officers he sees Mona. She has taken the job of barmaid at the Royal Clarence because it is more exciting than anything else she can find to do. They are both young, both lonely.
It might have turned out to be just another wartime romance, but Jerry's job got him into serious trouble from which there might have been no escape if it hadn't been for the loyalty and wisdom of Mona."

7. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck wrote this novel in 1941. It was originally fashioned for theatre and he received the Norwegian King Haakon VII Freedom Cross for it.

"For the first time since he wrote his first novel, twelve years ago, Steinbeck has gone outside of America for his setting. Yet this book, more than any other he has written, is of our times and of our hearts today. It's people are men and women like ourselves, and its hero, Mayor Ordern, will stand with George and Lennie, Tom Joad and Jody Tiflin, among the immortal characters of fiction.
The Moon is Down continues the experiment begun with Of Mice and Men, that of writing a short novel having the time and place disciplines of the stage. The scene of the book is any conquered country in any time. The author has purposely refrained  from making it literally true to actual events. Although the weapons and ideologies may be of the present, they are only vehicles for the theme that a free brave people is unconquerable."

8. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson - This is the Group Read selection for December. I've had it for awhile so am looking forward to reading and discussing it.

"Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love- all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may be telling you only half the story.
Welcome to Christine's Life."

So there you go, my end of the year reading choices. We'll see if I manage to squeeze in one or two more. Next in line, I'll go through my 2017 12 + 4 Reading challenge. Can't wait, eh?

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