Friday, 3 February 2017

Our Visit to Victoria - Jan 2017

Last weekend, Jo and I dropped the puppies off at our local boarding kennel, Poochies, and headed off for a long - awaited weekend trip to Victoria. It's been over two years since we last headed down island, so we were looking forward to it.

We stayed at the Harbour Towers Hotel, the place that's become our favourite place to stay in Victoria and splurged a bit and got a room on the top floor. I borrowed the pictures from Google, but it gives you an idea of the kinds of lovely views you get downtown.

We had a nice meandering drive to Victoria, taking the old road instead of the newer inland highway. It follows the shore line to Parksville and is nicely scenic and just an overall nice drive. We stopped at an antique store outside of Chemainus and had a nice time wandering around. We didn't buy anything this time but there are always nice things to look at.

Friday night we just stayed in the hotel, relaxed, had a meal we brought down with us. Unfortunately, there was a loud party in the room next door but it was dealt with and it didn't negatively affect our enjoyment of the night.

Saturday morning after breakfast, while Jo relaxed, I had my normal wander around the downtown bookstores. My favourite used book store is Russell Books on Fort Street and I spent most of my time there. I'll list the books I found after I finish this bit. Once I got back to the room, Jo and I went to see a few open houses. We like to imagine what it might be like to live in Victoria. We checked out three places, the nicest being one on Dallas Road. We think that this company, Nickel Brothers, brought the house to the location by ship as a check on Google maps showed that it wasn't there before. The place had been lovingly updated, beautiful kitchen and fantastic master bedroom. It was only $2 million.... (Like I said, we could only dream).

After a wander around Oak Bay, where we picked up some snacks from Cob's Bread, we headed down to Chintz and Company, one of the neatest stores I've ever been in. It's got a bit of everything, dishware, soaps and stuff, furniture, smellies, fabric, etc. It's one of those places you need to wander around. We found a wall lamp that I will shortly be putting up in our newly updated den and Jo is thinking of ordering two bookshelves she saw, for her new craft room upstairs. I hope she does.

Saturday night, we went out for dinner at Il Terrazzo's, an Italian restaurant we discovered during one of our previous visits. We like to try and go there during our trips to Victoria. It's got a wonderful, warm noisy atmosphere. The staff are excellent, the customers are friendly and the food is excellent. Jo had a Fusilli con Sugo di Manao (a lasagna with fusilli instead of lasagna pasta)  and I had a Cioppino, a tasty fish stew. All in all, a lovely evening out with my missus.

We headed home Sunday morning, with a brief stop at Chintz and then picked up the puppies around 4 pm. My oh my, they were filthy and excited to see us. Quickly home, then they were both installed in the tub for baths and basically they slept the rest of the evening. They must have had an exciting weekend. We had a great time, but it was definitely nice to get home and slip into our pyjamas and relax.

Book Purchases

As I mentioned, I did purchase a few books during our visit, mostly at Russell Books. I did buy one later in the day at Ivy Books, when we wandered around Oak Bay.

Just as an aside, let me tell you a bit about Russell Books. Russell Books seems to get bigger each time I visit it. It does lend me hope that the future of real books still is a strong one. It used to have two premises, one on the street side and an upstairs location that was where I spent most of my time as it had my science fiction, mystery and basic fiction books. When I went there last time, the upstairs section had expanded to cover double the area. This time I noticed that there is now also a below the street section with their antique and collectibles. As I said, it is most encouraging to see book stores doing well.

Anyway, with that preamble, here you go, these are my purchases.


1. Graham Greene - Loser Takes All. I've become such a fan of his writing the past few years. I've been trying to find his earliest works and have enjoyed exploring his writing. Loser Takes All was initially published in 1955.

"Bertram had no belief in luck. He was not superstitious.
A conspicuously unsuccessful assistant accountant, he was planning to get married for the second time. Quite quietly: St Luke's, Maida Hill, and then two weeks in Bournemouth.
But Dreuther, a director of Bertram's firm, whimsically switches wedding and honeymoon to Monte Carlo. Inevitably Bertram visits the Casino. Inevitably he loses. Then suddenly his system starts working..."

2. George MacDonald Fraser - Flashman and the Dragon. It's only in the past year or so that I decided to try the Flashman series. I had read the first book many years ago and then just never got back into the books. It's an entertaining series, with a rogue for an anti-hero, who gets involved in great adventures.

"When all other trusts fail, turn to Flashman - Abraham Lincoln
Unfortunately, in China in 1860, a lot of people did: the English vicar's daughter with her cargo of opium; Lord Elgin in search of an intelligence chief; the Emperor's ravishing concubine, seeking a champion in her struggle for power; and Szu-Zhan, the female bandit colossus, as practised in the arts of love as in the art of war.
They were not to know that behind his Victoria Cross, Flash Harry was a base coward and charlatan. They took him at face value. And he took them, for all he could, while China seethed through the bloodiest civil war in history, and the British and French armies hacked their way to the heart of the Forbidden City..."

3.  C.S. Forester - The Gun. Forester was a prolific writer. I've enjoyed his Horatio Hornblower books very much and still have a few to finish off for that series. I have read and enjoyed one of his mysteries that her wrote in the early 1900's. I found this book and the next one at the antique and collectibles portion of Russell Books.

"Like Mr. Forester's Death to the French, this is a story of the Peninsular War. 'His best works,' wrote Sir Hugh Walpole, 'these two military episodes are remarkable for their vividness and common sense. He writes like an eye-witness.'
This is a book without a hero - or rather there is an impersonal character - an eighteen-pounder siege gun which has adventures enough to satisfy the most exacting reader of adventure stories, and it makes its appearance in the theatre of war at a moment when circumstances are such as to make its use decisive."

4. C.S. Forester - Death to the French.

"In this exciting story of the Peninsular War Rifleman Matthew Dodd gets cut off from his regiment, and has to fend for himself with the help of a group of Portuguese peasants. The story of his struggle and bravery, and of the French Sergeant Godinot's efforts to restrain him make this early novel of Forester's one of his best."

5. H.H. Kirst - The Revolt of Gunner Asch. I've read a few of German author H.H. Kirst's books. He offers a unique perspective of WWII. I especially enjoyed his Night of the Generals. I found two of his Gunner Asch books at Russell Books.

"Gunner Asch was fed up with his brutal barrack-room companions, with his Nazi bosses, and with the horror and stupidity of the coming war. Also because he was seeing far too little of his girl.
But what can one man do against the mightiest army in the world? It is a known fact that every army has its weak spot. So Asch found the Wehrmacht's - and struck hard!"

6. H.H. Kirst - The Return of Gunner Asch.

"The war was over for Germany, and for Gunner - now Lieutenant - Asch. It was particularly over for Asch's men who had been killed in a last foolish battle - fought solely to let a German officer escape with his loot.
So Asch had one piece of unfinished business, vengeance. And in the ruins of Hitler's Germany, he outwits Nazis, black marketeers and Occupation Forces in a tense, deadly manhunt."

Science Fiction
I have enjoyed getting back into Science Fiction and Fantasy the past years. I found a few interesting books that I had on my list of  'I want to try' books.

1. Alfred Bester - Golem100. Bester is a newish author for me. I have read one of his books previously and enjoyed.

"In a mega-city of the future...
They were nice ladies, really. Just bored. And they never expected to succeed. But intoning ancient rituals to raise the devil, they unwittingly began a rampage of rape, torture and murder. For  they concocted a new demon: Golem100. And the Golem continues to grow...
Tracking the monstrous path of depravity are three super talents: Gretchen Nunn, beautiful, black master of psycho dynamics; Blaise Shima, her brilliant chemist lover; and the shrewd policeman Subadar Ind'dni. Their hunt takes them into real and subliminal worlds of dazzling intensity, through the heart of the collective unconscious and beyond... where they battle for their souls and for the survival of humanity.
But even these three super intelligences are up against their limits. For now the Golem has acquired a new identity. And the Golem continues to grow..."

2. Roger Zelazny - Damnation Alley. Zelazny wrote one of my favourite fantasy series, The Chronicles of Amber. I've wanted to try some of his other works. This one looked interesting.

"Damnation Alley: three thousand miles of radio-active wasteland, torn by hurricane winds and giant fire storms, the domain of mutants and monsters, a wasteland few men dared to cross.
Hell Tanner: the last Angel left alive, his gang wiped out in the Big Raid that destroyed most of America. Hell Tanner, the only man in California with a chance of getting through Damnation Alley to Boston with the plague serum the ravaged city needed to survive."

3. Philip Jose Farmer - Dare. I was looking for Strange Relations as I'd seen it highlighted in the back of one of my other Science Fiction books. They didn't have that, but this one, amongst all the others on the shelves, looked very interesting.

"No fraternising with the natives...
Earthmen had first landed on the planet Dare three hundred years before, but they were still bound by the same standards of snobbery and fear.
Yet Jack Cage, eldest son of a wealthy human farmer, found himself strangely drawn to the native inhabitants of the planet, spectacularly beautiful humanoids whose rich, magnificent hair grew down to the base of the spine. To consort with one meant death, he realised. But why? Was it merely a matter of prejudice? And what were humans doing on the planet anyway?
These were questions which plagued Jack, and which were avoided by his fellow Earthmen, but he felt they were questions which could be answered by one of these sultry, glamorous aliens - if only he could win her trust."

4. Clifford D. Simak - Cemetery World. I've previously read and enjoyed Simak's City (a book I plan to revisit this year) and The Werewolf Principle, both excellent books. I've wanted to try more of his work.

"Carson the Creator - Loose on a doomed planet.
Fletcher Carson has come on a journey of high purpose to an unwelcoming world, accompanied by a sentient machine, an ancient, powerful robot and a treasure-seeking beauty on a quest for a mysterious and vital bounty.
But here is hostile terrain, where their footfalls call the Wolves of Steel to the hunt - where the bitter landscape never carries them beyond the reach of ephemeral beings called...The Shades."

Mystery / Thriller / Spy
I've fleshed out some of my favourite series and also found a couple of books by new authors.

1. Louise Penny - The Cruellest Month. This is my one new book that I found at Ivy Books, a neat little shop in Oak Bay. It's the third book in the Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series. How I wish that CBC would make another movie based on the 2nd book.

"A vast abandoned house. A chilling séance. A sudden death. To Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, it's the stuff of an old novel - but when he discovers the victim was murdered, a sinister shadow falls over the town of Three Pines...and an old secret, buried deeper than the dead, returns once more to haunt the living."

2. Len Deighton - Horse Under Water. I have enjoyed the Deighton books I've read so far, e.g. The Ipcress File and Funeral in Berlin. He has a different style to le Carré, but they are both excellent spy authors.

"The depths of perfidy are sounded in this taut, technical story of a bid to back a revolution with counterfeit money lying in a sunken German U-boat"

3. Margaret Millar - Beyond This Point are Monsters. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Millar has become one of my favourite mystery writers, along with writers like P.D. James and Minette Walters. Not to denigrate all of my other favourites, mind you. I've slowly been gathering her books. I've found each one to be excellent and different.

"Young Robert Osborn was a successful California rancher, a happily-married man with a beautiful, devoted wife. he walked out onto his property one night to look for a lost dog and was never seen again.
Devon Osborn couldn't help but believe her husband was dead: the police had found traces of his blood in the bunkhouse, and a possible murder weapon was discovered in a nearby field. But Robert's strong-willed mother was convinced her son was still alive and she was more than ready to prove it. The two women met head on in a California courthouse, determined to settle the mystery of Robert Osborn's whereabouts. Their search for truth would ultimately subject Devon to an ordeal of unspeakable horror!"

4. Colin Wilson - The Schoolgirl Murder Case. This is one of the new authors I thought I'd like to try.

"'Body of a young girl, probably between twelve and fourteen years of age. Death apparently due to strangulation with white plastic-covered flex, tied around the throat with three knots..'
A straightforward case of rape and murder? Some aspects of the case puzzled Chief Inspector Saltfleet. But not even Saltfleet suspected his investigations would draw him deep into a dark labyrinth of sexual magic, perversion and devil worship..."

5. Howard Engel - A City Called July. This is another series that I started many years ago but then neglected. The Benny Cooperman mysteries are always entertaining and fun to read.

"'I was thinking about a noisy glad-hander like Geller taking the Jewish community of Grantham for two point six million dollars. Why should a guy like Geller come into money like that, while I pick up nickels and dimes looking through people's keyholes?'
There's something missing from the long, hot summer that Canadian detective Benny Cooperman can't quite put his finer on - something that blowing the dust off otherwise perfectly good paper clips doesn't solve. Then his rabbi arrives with the news.
Larry Geller, upstanding citizen and prominent lawyer, has riled his address as Nowhere and packed a cool two million dollars of other people's savings to help with the moving party. Now Geller is probably salted away in a distant country, sipping long, cool drinks and laughing up his sleeve. Benny takes the case. After all, when did he last have a long, cool drink?"

6. Ruth Rendell - Wolf to the Slaughter. This is one of the Inspector Wexford books. I've enjoyed the first in the series so far.

"It was better than a hotel, this anonymous room on a secluded side street of a small country town. No register to sign, no questions asked, and for five bucks a man could have three hours of undisturbed, illicit lovemaking.
Then one evening a man with a knife turned the love nest into a death chamber. The carpet was soaked with blood - but where was the corpse?
Meanwhile, a beautiful, promiscuous woman is missing - along with the bundle of cash she'd had in her pocket. The truth behind it all will keep even veteran mystery fans guessing through the very last page."

7. Eric Ambler - Cause for Alarm. Ambler is a writer I've wanted to try for awhile now. I was looking for A Coffin for Dimitrios or this one.

"Marlow was a young innocent, deeply in love - and in terrible trouble. The job he was taking on was more dangerous than he could imagine. The man he was replacing had been murdered, brutally run down by a car accelerating violently in the fog of Milan...
Now Marlow was catapulted into the deadly world of foreign agents where he would become a target of convenience - and lose his innocence in gunfire and a surprising nightmare of suspense and violence."

8. Agatha Christie - Nemesis. This actually came in the mail between my last BLog entry about book purchases and this one. I've been looking for Nemesis for awhile and my sis-in-law kindly sent it to me.

"In utter disbelief, Jane Marple read the letter addressed to her from the recently deceased Mr Rafiel - an acquaintance she had met briefly on her travels.
He had left instructions for her to investigate a crime after his death. The only problem was, he had failed to tell her who was involved or where and when the crime had been committed. It was most intriguing.
Soon she is faced with a new crime - the ultimate crime - murder. It seems someone is adamant that past evils remain buried."

So there you go, our trip to Victoria and book purchases. Loved going to Victoria and look forward to our next trip there.

As a final note, it's been snowing since around 8 this morning. Steady, steady and everything is white, white and more white. I think we'll be staying indoors today.

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