Saturday, 20 May 2017

Currently Reading and the Normal Items

It's been a slow month reading-wise. I've only finished 4 books so far. But this morning, I finished two and I'm about half way through my third and a bit less on my 4th book. These are the books I finished this morning -

1. A Wreath for Rivera by Ngaio Marsh. I've read 10 of Ngaio Marsh's Chief Inspector Alleyn mysteries the past few years. They are always enjoyable and good classic cop stories. A Wreath for Rivera is the 15th book in the series. I jumped ahead a bit with this one but it was because of a reading challenge in which I am taking part. There were some ongoing personal items mentioned, but it didn't affect the enjoyment of the story. If you like the classics; Christie, Sayers, etc. you should also try Marsh. My review is below.

"  I enjoy the Chief Inspector Alleyn mysteries very much. The series, by Ngaio Marsh is right there with other classic mystery series; like those by Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Elizabeth Daly, amongst others. I've read 7 or 8 of the Alleyn books and they get better with each new story. A Wreath for Rivera, also published under the title 'Swing Brother Swing' is the 15th Alleyn story. I'm reading it out of sequence as I've followed them in order for the most part, but it doesn't take away any of the enjoyment by reading this one now.
There are some details of Alleyn's private life with Agatha Troy that seem to have progressed but they don't play major parts in the story. We have here the story of the family of the Marquis of Pastern and Baggott, a strange and eccentric individual, heading to watch him play in a jazz band; one of his new whims. There is a murder that takes place; one which Alleyn actually witnesses as he and Troy are also at the club.
The murder investigation, lead by Alleyn and his resolute and steady team; his right-hand man, Detective Inspector Fox and the others, is a methodical process and enjoyable to follow. Alleyn is the main character but Ngaio Marsh also provides a voice to Carlisle 'Lisle' Wayne, Lord Pastern's niece, who I liked very much.
It's a quirky story; the dialogue between Alleyn and Fox is excellent. They are obviously well-used to each other and have an excellent rapport. Lord Pastern is definitely eccentric and his family also have unique characteristics. The mystery is interesting, but at times, not as important as the development of the story, the investigation and the interactions between the characters. The ending was ultimately satisfying and I liked how it was resolved. As always, I enjoy this series very much and look forward to my next one. (3.5 stars)"

2. The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper. I've had another of Cooper's books on my shelf for a few years, that being The Last of the Mohicans. I found this book at a recent Rotary Club Book Fair. When I researched (googled) Cooper, I discovered that even though he wrote this book last, it was in fact the first book in the Natty Bumpo series of five books. So when I decided to read one for my Classics (pre-1900) challenge, I picked this one off the shelf. My review follows.

"The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper was the last book in the series that Cooper wrote, but chronologically, it is the first book of the Natty Bumpo series of five books. It introduces us to the Deerslayer, also known as Hawkeye.
The Deerslayer and his acquaintance, Hurry Harry, another frontiersman travel to Glimmerglass Lake to meet his friend, a Delaware Indian named Chingachgook, and help him save his love, Hist, from a band of Huron Indians.  He as well meets a family, Tom Hutter and his two daughters, Judith and Hetty, who live on the lake in a floating house.
Various adventures take place during the course of this novel, Hurry and Tom are taken prisoner by the Huron when they invade the camp for the purpose of getting scalps (a bounty has been offered by the English authorities; the Huron being an ally of the French in Canada). Deerslayer must work to try and get them back and also try to help free Hist. Deerslayer is later taken prisoner by the Huron and from their the story progresses to a somewhat satisfying ending.
I enjoyed the story overall; one that I've never considered reading before. It does portray the early struggles of the English trying to conquer and settle the North American continent, even if just from the limited area in New York that this story follows. I liked the characters for the most part; Hurry and Tom Hutter are after money and whether trapping or acquiring Indian scalps, they don't really care. We also find out more of Hutter's past as the story progresses.
Judith is described as a beautiful woman, who Hurry, amongst many others (such as soldiers from forts and villages some distance from the lake) all want. She is smart and headstrong and falls for the Deerslayer when they meet. Hetty is described as a young woman who does not possess her full wits, although she often seems to be the most rational person of the group. She misses her mother, who is buried in the lake and is very religious.
Natty Bumpo is a frontiersman with a strong moral code, but also at times, seemed to me to be a bit of a dumbass; when it comes to dealing with women, especially. It is for that reason that I found the story somewhat frustrating and the ending not totally satisfying. All in all, though, it was an interesting story. I did find it easy to put down for a day or two, but as I got into the story more and more, I found myself spending more time with it and then not putting down until I discovered how it would end.
Lots of talking and moralising, but still relatively easy to read and enough action to keep the story moving along. (3.5 stars)"

Currently Reading

Besides the other two books I'm working on; S is for Silence by Sue Grafton and Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason, I will be starting these stories -

1. Most Secret by Nevil Shute. Nevil Shute is one of my favourite authors. He has written some of my favourite books; On the Beach, Pied Piper, Far Country, etc. This book was written 1942 and was his 11th work. This is the synopsis.

"Not even his smash best sellers, On the Beach and No Highway, can surpass the drama and narrative suspense which Nevil Shute poured into Most Secret. One of the most exciting novels ever written, it is the story of four men who carry out a private and terrible mission of vengeance in the dark days of the Second World War.

2. Sliver by Ira Levin. I read Levin's Rosemary's Baby last year and enjoyed very much. This was also turned into a movie and I want to compare.

"Thirteen hundred Madison Avenue, an elegant 'Sliver' building, soars high and narrow over Manhattan's smart upper east side. Kay Norris, a successful single woman, moves on to the twentieth floor of the building, high on hopes of a fresh start and the glorious Indian summer outside. But she doesn't know that someone is listening to her. Someone is watching her."

Great Historical Events

Today's excerpt starts at Dec. 16, 1773.

"Destruction of Tea in Boston Harbour

Dec. 16. - The citizens of Boston throw a cargo of tea into the ocean, which was sent by Great Britain in open disregard and violation of the act of the colonies against receiving any merchandise subject to tariff.
1774. Shakers founded by Ann Lee, an English woman. (Ed. Note. The Shakers were officially called the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing. They were initially known as 'Shaking Quakers' because of their ecstatic behaviour during services.)
General Gage arrived in Boston harbor as commander of the royal forces of North America.
June 6. - Boston harbor was blockaded by the English, and all commerce interdicted.
The members of the Massachusetts Assembly resolve themselves into a Provincial Congress.
The Colonies all unite in approving the spirit of resentment shown by Massachusetts against the oppressive taxation of Great Britain.
Gen. Gage was reinforced by two regiments of soldiers.
1774. The colonies proceed to enlist and drill a portion of the citizens as minutemen, and appoint committees of safety and supplies.
Massachusetts calls for 12,000 men to be equipped for service.
Great Britain prohibits the exportation of military stores, upon which the people of Rhode Island seized 40 pieces of cannon from the public battery, and proceed to arm the inhabitants."

Well, well, interesting stuff. The First Continental Congress will follow next!

Science of Common Things.

The next excerpt from facts provided by Prof. L.G. Gorton.

"What is an element? An element is a body composed of but one kind of atoms. What is a compound? A compound is a body composed of two or more kinds of atoms. What is combustion? It is the rapid union of elements in forming compounds. Why does exercise make one feel warmer? Because muscular tissue is torn down, consequently more carbon is given off to unite with the oxygen, thus producing heat."

Well, there you go. Nothing wrong with a bit of science to start your day, eh?

The Birth Day Thing 10 November 1979

US Billboard #1 Single 10 November 1979

Heartache Tonight by The Eagles. The Eagles formed in Los Angeles in 1971 with founding members Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner. They had 5 number one singles and six number one albums. Heartache Tonight was the first single from The Long Run and was written by Henley, Frey, J.D. Souther and Bob Seger.

UK #1 Single 10 November 1979.

One Day at a Time by Lena Martell.  I have never heard of Lena Martell, I don't believe. She is a Scottish singer and this was her sole #1 song.

New York #1 Fiction Best Seller 10 November 1979

Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut. I have read at least one of Vonnegut's books, Slaughterhouse Five, which I enjoyed. But I've kind of avoided his other works. I know I purchased a few at one time or another, but they seemed to disappear from my book shelves. At the moment, I've got Deadeye Dick, which was written in 1982.

Jailbird is classified as Vonnegut's 'Watergate' novel. It tells the story of Walter F. Starbuck, released from prison after a small role in the Watergate Scandal.

Pulitzer Prize Winner 1979

The Stories of John Cheevers by John Cheevers. Cheevers is another of those writers I've never read. This book is a collection of short stories, one of which was turned into a movie starring Burt Lancaster. That story was The Swimmer, which I saw a couple of years ago and found it kind of interesting. Will this make me read any of Cheevers' books? *shrug*

Cheever was an American writer who lived from 1912 - 1982. He wrote novels and short stories and was called the 'Chekhov of the Suburbs.'

Nobel Prize Laureate 1979

Odysseus Elytis (Greece). Odysseus Elytis who lived from 1911 - 1996 was considered one of the major exponents of Modern Romanticism in Greece and the world. He was awarded the Nobel Prize 'for his poetry, which, against the background of Greek tradition, depicts with sensuous strength and intellectual clear-sightedness modern man's struggle for freedom and creativeness'.

Hugo Award Winner 1979

Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre. Here we go, another new writer for me. Vonda McIntyre is an American writer who was born in 1948. She has written novels and short stories, including a number of Star Trek and Star Wars related pieces.

Dreamsnake is a post-apocalyptic novel telling the story of a healer on the quest to replace her Dreamsnake, a snake whose venom produces hallucinations in people.

Edgar Award Winner 1979

Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett. This was an excellent, tense novel and also an excellent movie starring Donald Sutherland. Follett is a Welsh author born in 1949, who has written thrillers and historical novels, such as The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, amongst many others.

The Eye of the Needle was Follett's first successful, best selling effort. It tells the story 'die Nadel', a German spy working in England whose preferred method of killing is using a stiletto.

Excellent story. I highly recommend if you like wartime thrillers.

Man Booker Prize 1979

Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald. Penelope Fitzgerald was an English writer from Lincoln who lived from 1916 - 2000. Offshore tells the story of her time spent on the river boats on the Thames. The story is about Nenna, whose husband takes a job overseas and she ends up living on a houseboat on the Thames.

There you go. Next time we move on to the '80s, when I hit the grand old age of 25...

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