Thursday, 1 June 2017

Odds & Sods, the Music Challenge and my May 2017 Reading Summary

Just to start off, this post won't contain the Great Historical Events nor the Birth Day Thing. Back next time. Today, I've got some odds and sods, the missus' Music Challenge update, a few new book buys and my end month reading summary.

Odds and Sods

We've got a couple of sad puppies in the house today. Bonnie spent yesterday at the vet, having a lump removed from her tail so it could be biopsied (hence the big bandage). So far she's avoided trying to lick or chew it. Otherwise she will become a cone head for a couple of days. She did eat a hearty brekkie this morning. Always a good sign.  Clyde had been favouring his back left foot for a few days. So he's been to the vet as well and they've decided on a course of antibiotics for now. Poor puppies'

View of lounge from dining room
While I was downloading the photos of the dogs and of some new books, I noticed that Jo had taken some pics of the newly updated lounge and dining room. They are definitely much better than any I have taken.

View of dining room from lounge
So for your viewing pleasure, above are a couple of more pictures of the lounge and dining room, fully equipped with new floors and also new rug in lounge. We are pleased with it. Just a few more things to get on with. We've been a bit lazy this past week.

30 Day Music Challenge

What else? Oh yes, the latest inputs to Jo's Facebook Music Challenge. Since my last post we've completed Day 9 - Songs that Make you Happy and Day 10 - Songs that Make you Sad. Today we're getting inputs for Day 11, but that can wait until my next post. So below are a few of the varied suggestions from the people who participated for Day's 9 and 10. It's been lots of fun, everybody had great, interesting selections.

Day 9 - Songs that make you Happy. My selection was Sun by Belinda Carlisle. Jo chose Don't Rain on my Parade by Barbra Streisand. Her sister, Sue, chose The Fighter by Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood. (You can see the variety in just those three selections.) A few others included; Happy Talk by Captain Sensible, Dear Mr. Fantasy by Steve Winwood, Boogie Nights by Heatwave, etc.

Day 10 - Songs that make you Sad. I chose Army Dreamers by Kate Bush, Jo picked The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics, Sue picked Air 'on the G-String' by Bach. A few others included Tears by Rush, Rosemary's Sister by Simon Nicol, How Can I Tell You by Cat Stevens, etc. (You can find all the selections on You Tube if you're interested in listening to them.)

May Reading Summary (stats and all that stuff)

I had to fiddle-fart around with these a bit as nothing seemed to be adding up. (Now where did that word come from? I think it must have been basic training. lol.. Although, I think it's a perfect description for the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Definitely a fiddle-fart there. Anyway, as my older brother has been telling me - 'Just don't go down that road, you'll only make yourself ANGRY!'. As always, you're right, Rick. Thanks.)

Anyway, I managed to get the stats sorted. So here you go. My May 2017 reading summary.

                                         May        Total
Books read                         9              49
Pages (rounded off)        2,500      12,600

Pages Breakdown
      < 250                            5               28
250 - 350                            2               12
351 - 450                            1                 6
      > 450                            1                 3

5 - star                                2                 4
4 - star                                3                25
3 - star                                4                17
2 - star                                0                 3

Author Gender
Female                               3                 13
Male                                  6                  36

Fiction                               3                  6
Mystery                             5                 23
SciFi                                  0                 18
Non-Fiction                       0                  1
Humour                             0                  0
Classics (pre-1900)           1                  1

Reading Challenges

12 + 4 (Books published from 1900 - 1950 plus the longest on my book shelves)
1. A Wreath for Rivera by Ngaio Marsh. This is one the Inspector Alleyn mysteries (3.5 stars)
2. Most Secret by Nevil Shute. (5 stars)

Mysteries (the Cops)
3. Cop Hater by Ed McBain (87th Precinct #1) (5 stars)
4. The Mugger by Ed McBain (87th Precinct #2) (4 stars)
5. silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason (Detective Erlendur #4) (3.5 stars)

Mysteries (the Sleuths)
6. S is for Silence by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Milhone #19) (4 stars)

Fantasy / Horror / Science Fiction - None read in this category in May.

Spy / Thriller / Adventure
7. Sliver by Ira Levin (3 stars)

Classics (pre-1900)
8. The Deerhunter by James Fenimore Cooper (3.5 stars)

9. Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel (4 stars)

Top Three Books of May 2017

3. Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel. The first book that I read by Mandel was Station Eleven, a favourite of last year. This was her first published book. My review is below.

"I had previously read Emily St. John Mandel's 4th novel, Station Eleven and it ended up being one of Top Ten favourites of 2016. I was pleased to find Last Night in Montreal, her first book, this year and have been looking forward to trying it and comparing it to Station Eleven.
It didn't disappoint and as you read it, you can see how her writing is both similar to her latest work and how she's progressed as well, especially with her story-telling. Last Night in Montreal is a meandering story, like Station Eleven, it wanders from past to present and character to character. The story basically tells the story of Livia, a young lady, who when she was just a child is abducted by her father from her mother's home. Livia and her father, then later on just Livia, spend their lives wandering from town to town across the United States. A detective, Christopher, becomes addicted to trying to find her and basically abandons his family, especially his daughter Michaela, in this search. Finally there is Eli, Livia's most recent boyfriend, from New York, who Livia leaves one day and never returns. This begins Eli's search to find her.
It's a fascinating, sad, but also somewhat positive story, depending from whose perspective you are looking at. (Is that a sentence??) As in Station Eleven, as the story progresses, characters start to tie in with each other and there are neat little links, which finally leads to a very interesting (sad?) conclusion. I enjoyed this very much; it was an excellent first effort by St. John Mandel. (4 stars)"

2. Cop Hater by Ed McBain. This is the first book in the 87th Precinct series by McBain. I had heard many good things about it and wanted to start it this year. I've now read the first two and will be looking for the follow-on books. My review is below.

"Cop Hater is the first 87th Precinct mystery by Ed McBain. I'd only really started to get interested in McBain's stories (this one was initially published 1956) and I finally found a copy of the 1st book this past month. It was with anticipation that I started to read it a week ago.
What a great, entertaining story! It's a simple story that reminds me of the best cop TV shows; Law and Order, Dragnet etc. A police detective is murdered by being shot in the back. This starts a major investigation by the detectives of his precinct, the 87th Precinct. The story is methodical, there are nice explanations of forensic techniques and other police procedures and you get into the lives of the police detectives taking a major role in the particular investigation.
For a relatively simple, short story, a great deal happens and lots of excellent, interesting detail is provided.
I enjoyed everything about this initial 87th Precinct story and I have #2, The Mugger, teed up for my follow-on read. Even though it might not be profound or offer deep philosophical ideas, it presents an excellent look at how the police act in an investigation and is told in a tidy, entertaining way and was totally enjoyable. (5 stars)"

1. Most Secret by Nevil Shute. For the longest time I'd limited myself to just two of Shute's excellent stories; On the Beach and Pied Piper, books I've read a few times over the years. But in the past few years, I've begun to explore more of his works. I'm so glad I have as he's a fantastic writer and story teller.

"Nevil Shute continues to be one of my favourite authors. I've now read 4 or 5 of his books and each one has been so excellent. I can't sing the praises of books like On the Beach, Pied Piper and The Far Country enough. Today I finished Most Secret, published originally in 1945, during his war period.
On the surface, it's a simple war story, 4 men of diverse backgrounds coming together to devise a plan for the English to harass and destroy German assets and at the same time to give new courage to French citizens on the French coast, who have been under the thumb of German rule throughout the war.
But as always with such a well-crafted Shute story, it's much more than that. Shute takes the time to tell us about the characters, to develop feelings for them and what they've been through. His narrator is a Navy Commander, drawn into the scheme to bring 'fire' to the Germans, who becomes invested in them and who tells their story in such a matter-of-fact way, but also manages to provide us with the emotion and caring he has for Simon, Boden, Rhodes and Colvin.
Shute also adds in the Navy Wren who is assigned to transport the crew and the Commander and who falls in love with Rhodes. The story is one of great heroism and daring and also fairly technical in its own way. The plot basically is to convert a French fishing vessel into a raider, equipped with flame throwers to go across to France and fight the Germans. That is it in its very simplest forms. The four men each has his own motivations, which you find out throughout the story.
I thought as I read it, that yes, it's a pretty interesting story, but more and more I became invested in these characters, even with Rhodes' rabbit and by the end felt quite choked up with the ending and how everything turned out. Shute writes in a very understated manner but at the same time manages to get you completely involved in his story. His heroes are everyday people who strike a deep chord with you. Another of my favourites. (5 stars)"

Currently Reading

I may have mentioned this in my last post, but what the heck. These are the four books that I've begun June 2017 with.

- Classics of the Macabre by Daphne du Maurier - a collection of du Maurier's short stories, including The Birds.
- Kittyhawk Down by Gary Disher - the 2nd book in the Australian mystery series featuring Inspector Challis.
- Maigret in Exile by Georges Simenon - one of the excellent books in the Inspector Maigret of the French police series.
- The Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall - the second book in the Vish Puri mystery series, featuring Private Detective Puri and set in India.

and finally...

Most Recent Purchases

1. Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey.

"Cottonwoods, Utah. 1871. A woman stands accused. A man, sentenced to whipping. Into this travesty of small-town justice rides the one man the town elders fear. His name is Lassiter, a notorious gunman who'd come to avenge his sister's death. It doesn't take Lassiter long to see that this once-peaceful Mormon community is controlled by the corrupt Deacon Tull - a powerful elder who's trying to take the woman's land by forcing her to marry him, branding her forearm as a dangerous 'outsider'. Lassiter vows to help them. But when the ranch is attacked by horse thieves, cattle rustlers, and a mysterious Masked Rider, he realizes they're up against something bigger, and more brutal, than the land itself."

2. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

"Mary Lennox grows up in India, a thin, spoiled, lonely child who is used to getting her own way. When she is nine, her parents die in a cholera epidemic and she is sent back to England to live with her rich uncle in the isolated Misselthwaite Manor. Gradually she makes friends with Martha, the maid, Dickon, her brother, who can talk to animals, and poor, sickly Colin, who has lost the will to live. Then one day, with the help of a friendly robin, she finds a key to the mysterious walled garden."

3. Flashman and the Mountain of Light by George MacDonald Fraser.

"In 1845, Harry Flashman is given the task of infiltrating the decadent court of the Punjab, where he must match wits with a lascivious Maharani, her minions, and other dangerous foes as they compete over the fabulous Koh-i-nor diamond."

4. The Bookseller by Mark Pryor

"Hugo Marston, head of security at the US embassy in Paris, watches helplessly as his friend, Max - an elderly bookstall owner - is abducted at gunpoint. In a race against time, Hugo enlists a beautiful and mysterious journalist, a semiretired CIA agent, and a reluctant police detective to help him negotiate political intrigue, police corruption, an escalating drug war, and the ghosts of Nazi collaboration that haunt some of Paris's most prominent citizens. The stakes are raised when other booksellers begin to disappear, their bodies found floating in the Seine, and unknown assassins target Hugo himself. As the clues begin to fall into place, Hugo follows them, quite literally, to the enemy's lair.... just as the killer attended."

There you go. Hope you enjoy the rest of your week and maybe get some ideas from the info above.

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