Sunday, 23 July 2017

Just Finished and Currently Reading, the Music Challenge and other stuff...

What ho!... I don't know, it sounded like a good way to start off today's entry. Sort of fresh and full of vigour. No? Oh well, then let's get on to what's what.

Just Finished

I've finished two books since my last entry. Enjoyed them both.

1. The Guards by Ken Bruen. A nice surprise. It took me no time at all to get into and through this mystery. My review is below.

"The Guards by Ken Bruen is my first exposure to Bruen's writing, which was convenient as it is his first Jack Taylor mystery. I'd watched the TV series. Iain Glen plays Jack Taylor and now, having read the first book, he did an excellent job.
Taylor is an ex-Garda (the story is set in Ireland), who was drummed out for bad behaviour and now he works as an independent investigator. Well, he actually spends most of his time soaking up booze but he still tries to help people when he can. In this case, his client is Ann Henderson, who wants Taylor to prove his daughter, Sarah, did not commit suicide. Taylor doesn't want to take the case, but ultimately, decides to help Ann.
How much help does he provide Ann? Well, that's debatable as Taylor spends quite a bit of this book in a state of constant drunkenness. But he does investigate and manages, after a stint in the drunk tank, to find out that other girls have also 'committed suicide' in similar circumstances. Now I won't get into the details too much, rather I'll mention the style of the story.
I liked very much how it was written; a very much stream of consciousness, but still easy to read. At times, very poetic or maybe more like song lyrics. It flowed very nicely, from scene to scene. The story is peopled with interesting characters, some threatening, some lovely. It was an easy read and a book that was difficult to put down. How much help was Taylor to Ann? You'll have to check it out. I liked this a lot and will move on to the next book now that I've tried Bruen's work. (4 stars)"

2. The Anti-death League by Kingsley Amis. Probably not my favourite book by Amis but I still enjoyed. He definitely is a unique writer. As before, my review is below.

"On the whole, I've enjoyed every book by Kingsley Amis that I've read. The Anti-death League was no exception. It wasn't necessarily the best book by Amis that I've read, but it was still a different, enjoyable read. It took a bit to get into and get hold of the story-line but it improved steadily.
The book tells the story of a Army unit created and housed somewhere in England. It's part of a special project, Project Apollo, that is to take action sometime in the near future. The personnel are training for Apollo, but we don't really know what it is. One of the officers, Capt. Leonard, isn't really an officer, but assigned to ferret out a spy in their midst. It's not a secret that he is, but that's his job. Into the mix as well, are two women, Catherine and Lucy. Lucy basically has men over to her house every night and spends the night in bed with each visitor, commitment issues it seems. Catherine lives there after a stay at a local asylum and is hiding from an abusive husband and trying to get her life in order. Capt. Churchill, another officer, falls for Catherine.
Throw into the mix, Dr. Best, the head of the asylum, who has treated both Catherine and Churchill and seems to be somewhat off.
So you've got a varied mix of characters and story-lines. Is it a spy story? Is it a romance? And what is the Anti-Death League, you ask? Well, they all make for an increasingly interesting story that does for the most part come to a satisfying conclusion... Well, except for one thing that I don't get really. You'll know that on the last line of the story. Amis has an interesting way of creating and telling stories. Worth giving a try. (3.5 stars)"

Currently Reading

I've replaced the two above with a mystery and a Science Fiction story.

1. A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller. This is a new author for me. A Killing is the first book in her Bell Elkins mystery series.

"Acker's Gap, West Virginia. Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, visitors see only its stunning natural beauty. But for those living there it's a different story. The mountain roads harbour secret places, perfect for selling the prescription drugs that temps its desperately poor.
Bell Elkins left Acker's Gap a broken teenager, savaged by a past she couldn't forget. But, as prosecuting attorney for Raythune County, Bell is back and determined to help clean up the only home she has ever known.
As winter sets in and her daughter is witness to a shocking triple murder, Bell finds her family in danger. Can she uncover the truth before her world is destroyed again?"

2. Cemetery World by Clifford D. Simak. Back in my university days, *hack kaff* (the '70s), I read Simak's City and loved it. And then I never read anymore until the past couple of years. I've reread City and loved it again and also enjoyed The Werewolf Principle very much. Time is the Simplest Thing was ok. However, I still want to explore more of his work, hence, Cemetery World.

"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.
Once again master tale-spinner Clifford D. Simak has woven an adventure of alien worlds to match the excitement of Out of their Minds and The Goblin Reservation."

The Missus's Music Challenge

We finished off the final 3 challenges this past week, much to the chagrin of those who've enjoyed participating so very much. It's all about fond memories and thinking of music and old friends. We persuaded Jo to do another challenge, so we've now had two days of that one. Everybody is happy again.. :)
Day 58 - Song that Uses a Sample of Another Song.  I chose This is the World We Live In by Alcazar. It samples both Upside Down by Diana Ross and Land of Confusion by Genesis. Jo chose Will 2K by Will Smith. Other choices included Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve, Got Til It's Gone by Janet Jackson, Empire State of Mind by Alicia Keys, etc.
Day 59 - Song With a Place in its Title. I chose California Soul by Marlena Shaw. Jo chose Pompeii by Bastille. Other choices included London Calling by The Clash, Massachusetts by The Bee Gees, By the Time I Get to Phoenix by Glen Campbell, etc. (Lots of excellent choices)
Day 60 - Favourite Song of All-Time. It being the final Challenge, I chose two; Summer Rain by Belinda Carlisle and Angry Young Man by Billy Joel. Jo chose The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby and the Range. Other choices included The Long and Winding Road by The Beatles, Until You Come Back to Me by Aretha Franklin, To Sir with Love by Lulu, etc.
After much thought, Jo agreed to do another challenge. This is more of a Pop Culture (movies, TV, radio) challenge. We started yesterday so I'll post the first 15 days and yesterday's inputs. Everybody seems to like it so far.

Day 1 - Favourite TV Show from your Childhood. I picked an old CBC show from when my family lived in Chatham New Brunswick, one I used to watch after school. That was The Forest Rangers. Most of the other choices were from the BBC but I still found them interesting. Jo picked a show called Double Deckers. Other choices included H.R. Puff'n Stuff, Follyfoot, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, etc.

You can find trailers for pretty well all of these shows on YouTube, sometimes even whole episodes. Neat to look back. As well, if you click on the titles of my choices, I've linked to versions of the songs or Shows. Today's challenge is your favourite film from the '40s. A great year for movies.

OK, for those of you who might have been missing the Great Historical Events and the Science Questions, you'll have to wait one more BLog entry, I'm afraid. I want to do the Birth Date portion today. Sorry, mates. :)

The Birth Date Thing 10 November 1999

US Billboard #1 Single 10 November 1999

Smooth by Carlos Santana ft. Rob Thomas. Mexican / American musician, Carlos Santana, has been performing since 1965. Black Magic Woman is a favourite song of mine. Around the time of this single, he started doing compilation albums, featuring a variety of singers. Smooth was co-written by Rob Thomas, of Matchbox Twenty and he performed the vocals on the song.

UK #1 Single 10 November 1999

Keep On Movin' by Five. Of course this period was also the time of Boy and Girl Bands. My daughters both liked the music. I'm sure one of them had cd's by English band, Five. They formed in 1997 and performed until 2001. Keep On Movin' was their first UK #1. It came from their 2nd album.

New York Times #1 Fiction Best Seller, 10 November 1999

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. There is probably nothing that I can tell anyone about the success of the Harry Potter books and movies. If you've never heard of them, you've probably been living in a vacuum. GET OUT!! This is the third novel in the 7 book series. (Yes, I did read it.)

Pulitzer Prize Winner 1999

The Hours by Michael Cunningham. I've never read the book or seen the movie, but I have heard of them... well, I had heard of the movie and never really explored it to discover it was also a book.

It was Cunningham's 4th novel and tells the story of three generations of women affected by Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. (I have Mrs. Dalloway on my bookshelf, but haven't tried yet)

The movie starred Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore.

Nobel Prize Laureate 1999

Gunther Grass (Germany). German author Grass lived from 191927 - 2015. I'm familiar with one of his works, that being The Tin Drum, as I've seen the movie... many years ago, mind you. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Fiction as a writer 'whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history.'

Hugo Award Winner 1999

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. American writer Willis is a new writer for me. To Say Nothing of the Dog is a comic science fiction story. It takes place in the same universe explored by time-travelling historians in other books she wrote; Fire Watch, Doomsday Book (a Hugo winner in 1993) and Blackout / All Clear.

Edgar Award Winner 1999

Mr. White's Confession by Robert Clark. This is another book I've never heard of. And I consider myself to be pretty well - read. *Sigh*

American writer Clark writes both non-fiction and fiction. Mr. White's Confession was his second work of non-fiction.

"St. Paul, Minnesota, 1939. The body of a beautiful dime-a-dance girl is found on a hillside, and Police Lieutenant Wesley Horner, struggling and alone after his wife's recent death, heads the investigation into her murder. His chief suspect is Herbert White, an eccentric recluse and hobby photographer who spends his days recording his life in detailed journal entries and scrapbooks."

Man Booker Prize Winner 1999

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee. Disgrace was the 2nd Booker Prize winner for South African writer, Coetzee, the first coming in 1983. Disgrace tells the story of David Lurie, a South African professor of English, who loses everything: his reputation, his job, his peace of mind, his dreams of artistic success, and finally even his ability to protect his own daughter.

Giller Prize Winner 1999

A Good House by Bonnie Burnard. Canadian writer Bonnie Burnard lived from 1945 - 2017. A Good House was one of only 2 novels she wrote. She also wrote 3 collections of short stories.

"In Canadian short-story writer Bonnie Burnard's deeply moving novel, we meet the Chambers family: Bill and Sylvia and their three children, an ordinary family from Ontario. Beginning in 1949, we follow the Chambers for the next fifty years through the many joys and disappointments of their lives: a childhood accident, a tragic illness ending in death, and a remarriage for Bill. Some of the children choose a traditional route, marrying and having children of their own. One forges her own very new path. The clan expands and changes; marriages fail and careers bloom. But despite the heart-aches and difficulties each member of the family faces, there is never a lack of love to be found."

So there you go. Any good ideas for you? Did the Challenge bring back any fond memories for you? Enjoy the rest of your Sunday and have a great week. I'm off to walk my two puppies. They are looking askance at me for the moment, wondering what the heck is going on to disrupt their lunch!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Just Finished, some New Books and the Music Challenge

With it being so nice and sunny, we usually leave the patio doors open to let the fresh air in. The dogs love it. They basically have free access to the garden and can bark at the neighbours any time they might happen to dare to use their backyards. One little trick I like to use, when my voice starts to go from shouting at the dogs to 'SHUT-UP' so much, is to turn the sprinklers on in that portion of the yard. That works pretty good, but Clyde likes to then stand on the bottom step of the deck and drink from one of the sprinkler heads. It's hard to see but that is what the video above is trying to show. Ed Note - It appears that this video isn't working. I'll try once more and see what happens.. I'll have to substitute a picture of little Clyde instead as the video is not working)

Just Finished

I finished the 2nd Inspector Morse mystery this morning and loved it. Unfortunately, I think I was lying down on the couch in an uncomfortable position because I've had a stiff shoulder ever since. Not that that has anything to do with how much I enjoyed the book. :) My review is below.

"Last Seen Wearing by Colin Dexter is the second Inspector Morse mystery. I've watched all of the episodes of the TV series based on the books and I've also enjoyed both the follow-on Lewis and the prequel, Endeavour. Having said all this, it was nice to find the book was still fresh and as much as some of the story seemed familiar, I still had no idea where it was headed.
Morse is assigned a cold case by his chief, Superintendent Strange, because the previous inspector had been killed in a car accident. Morse doesn't want the case as it involves a missing girl; she'd been gone for two years. He wants murders, something he can sink his teeth into. However, forced to take the case, he asks for Sgt Lewis to be assigned to help him.
The case revolves around a few people, Valerie Taylor's parents, the new Head of her high school, her old French teacher and the assistant Head. The question to be answered is whether Valerie is dead or has run away? With many plodding first steps, the case begins to interest Morse. He's sure she is dead, but a letter purportedly from the girl, throws a spanner into his theory.
It was interesting to follow the investigation, the stops and starts, the threads that Morse and Lewis follow, have to backtrack, and then the new paths they lead to. I had my ideas about the case and parts came to fruition but the ultimate solution was still a nice twist and also very satisfying. Morse is an interesting inspector, smart, relying on intuition, often following the wrong path, but finding inspiration at the end. Lewis is a rock, more steady and reliable and helps keep Morse grounded. I've enjoyed both of the first two books so far and will continue to follow Dexter's stories of his great investigator (4 stars)"

Next in line is the first Jack Connolly mystery by Ken Bruen, The Guards. Connolly is an Irish ex-policeman turned private eye. He's a hard drinker with many issues. Jo and I enjoyed the TV series based on the books very much. Iain Glen stars as Jack Connolly and does an excellent job. Now to find out how good the books are.

Just Purchased
I got the following four books yesterday from Nearly New Books, my local used book store.

1. Cimmarron Rose by James Lee Burke.
"Small - town attorney Billy Bob Holland has haunting secrets - and enemies more lethal than when he was a gun-carrying Texas Ranger. When Vernon Smothers' stepson Lucas is charged with a young woman's brutal murder, Billy Bob must come to the teenager's defense - for Lucas is actually Billy Bob's illegitimate son. In a town where the powerful exploit the innocent with impunity, Billy Bob must stir up a passel of would-be killers - from wealthy, wilful Darl Vanzandt to bitter ex-con Garland T. Moon to the privileged youths of the elite East End - to shoot down a murder rap and redeem his own scarred past."

2. The Desert Spear by Peter Brett.
"The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that prey upon a dwindling population forced to cower behind half-forgotten symbols of power. Legends tell of a Deliverer: a general who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. But is the return of the Deliverer just another myth? Perhaps not. Out of the desert rides Ahmann Jardir, who has forged the desert tribes into a demon-killing army. He has proclaimed himself Shar' Dama Ka, the Deliverer, and he caries ancient weapons - a spear and a crown - that give credence to his claim. But the Northerners claim their own Deliverer: the Warded Man, a dark, forbidding figure. Once, the Shar' Dama Ka and the Warded Man were friends. Now they are fierce adversaries. Yet as old allegiances are tested and fresh alliances forged, all are unaware of the appearance of a new breed of demon, more intelligent - and deadly - than any that have come before."

3. The Ghostway by Tony Hillerman.
"Old Joseph Joe witnessed the shoot-out between two strangers at the Shiprock Wash-O-Mat. One died. The other drove off into the dry lands of the Big Reservation. But not before he had given Old Joe a look at a Polaroid of the man he was searching for. The old Navajo couldn't tell Tribal Policeman Jim Chee what was written on the photo. He didn't read the white man's words.
But Chee had enough to send him after a killer. The trail led to an Indian Hogan infected by a corpse, a ghost kept from its journey into the underworld, and an odyssey of murder and revenge that stretched from the desert to the dark underbelly of Los Angeles... and a healing ceremonial where the cure may turn out to be death."

4. For Kicks by Dick Francis.
"Proprietor of a stud farm in the breathtaking region of Australia's Snowy Mountains? Or muck raking stable boy in Yorkshire?
the Earl of October persuades young Australian Danny Roke to accept the English alternative. It's the change of scene and the challenge that pushes Danny undercover, on the scent of a suspected racehorse dope scandal.
But the pain involved, dealing with vicious swindlers and the Earl's two attractive daughters, could overturn all his pleasure in the chase..."
The Missus's Music Challenge

Today I'll look at Days 56 and 57.

Day 56 - A Song from your First Singing Crush. This was an easy one for me. I chose All That You Dream by Linda Ronstadt, from her Living in the USA album. What a great voice!
Jo chose Darlin' by David Cassidy. He seemed a popular choice, his songs were chosen a few times. Some other non-David Cassidy choices included Silence is Golden by The Tremeloes, I'm Into Something Good by Herman's Hermits, Blues Away by The Jacksons, etc.
Day 57 - Song that Reminds you of the One that Got Away. Kind of a difficult one for me, as I've not had a great many relationships, but I chose Special To Me by Jessica Harper from the Phantom of the Paradise movie. Jo picked Everything You Want by Vertical Horizon. Other choices included Shipbuilding by Robert Wyatt, Sunshine After the Rain by Elkie Brooks, Got You Under My Skin by Frank Sinatra, etc.

(If you want to hear my selections, just click on the song title and it'll take you to You Tube.)
Only 3 more days left of this challenge. Many folks are asking for a new one, as it was as popular as the first one Jo posted. She may have run out of ideas though.

I'm going to stop there today. Next entry, I'll get back to the history and science excerpts and continue with the Birth Date Thing.. Have a great mid-week!

Monday, 17 July 2017

Just Finished, the Music Challenge, some Great Historical Events and the Birth Date Thing

First, of course, the daily West Coast weather update. Sun is still shining brightly, although we did get a few light (and I do mean light) sprinkles yesterday. There is a nice fresh breeze whispering in the den window at the moment. Very nice indeed.

Yesterday, Jo and I treated ourselves to a late breakfast out at Atlas, one of our favourite restaurants in the Valley. They did not disappoint; it was excellent. We just had the Classic, scrambled eggs, bacon for Jo (perfectly crispy as she likes it) and chipotle sausages for me, with yummy fried potatoes, toasted focaccia and slices of fruit to cleanse the palate at the end. It was great. Then we went to Home Depot and bought some new hanging baskets to replace the ones by the front door and also a nice rose tree; the flowers smelled great.

Just Finished

The Hounds of the Baskervilles was an excellent, entertaining quick read; another of the books in my 2nd 12 + 4 challenge (the 10th). It's probably my favourite of the Sherlock Holmes books so far. My review is below.

"The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle is one of those classic mysteries that should be on everybody's 'must-read' list. It's been made into many TV and movies, all of which have kept the story alive and fresh.
I don't know that I've read it previously; it's one of those books that I think I probably have, but maybe it's just that I've seen one or two of the adaptations. However, with all of that preamble, I'm pleased to say that I have now read and enjoyed immensely.
The story is familiar to so many people that I won't go into it in detail. Suffice it to say a family legend draws Holmes and Watson to the Dartmoor moors to try and help the heir to a family estate, one that might have been cursed by a supernatural hound. They work diligently to keep the heir alive as they try to solve the murder of the previous heir.
The nice thing about this particular Holmes' mystery is that the focus is Watson for a nice change. Holmes sends Watson ahead with Henry Baskerville, both to keep him safe and to investigate the neighbours and to try and find out more about the death / murder of Sir Charles Baskerville, Henry's uncle. Holmes stays behind to work on other cases.
It's a different way of telling a Holmes mystery, relying on Watson's correspondence to Holmes and also Watson's diary entries. But don't let that mean that there isn't lots of action because for a Holmes' mystery, there is a fair bit and the story moves along nicely and tensely. It's an interesting mystery with nice twists and turns and the ending is exciting and satisfying. One of the best Holmes' mysteries I've read so far. (5 stars)"

Currently Reading

The next book in my 12 + 4 Challenge is a Horatio Hornblower adventure, The Commodore by C.S. Forester. More excitement and adventure from one of England's most popular sailors.

"Fresh from his triumphs in Flying Colours, Hornblower leads a powerful squadron into northern waters in a desperate mission to hamper the onslaughts of Napoleon's armies. 'Fog and ice and snow in the Baltic; the Russian navy and the Swedish navy and the French privateers; the Baltic trade and the Russian alliance and the attitude of Prussia; high politics and vital commerce; during the next few months the fate of Europe, the history of the world, would be balanced on a knife edge, and the responsibility would be his."

The Missus's Music Challenge

Today's entry will cover only Day 55, the First Single you ever Bought.

The first 45's that I purchased were in Lahr, Germany when my Dad was stationed there. I used to buy them in a German department store in the town center; Kaufhaus Kraus (I think that is the spelling). It's center left in the picture to the right. Anyway, the song I chose was one of the first I bought, I'm sure, Ode to Joy by Miguel Rios. This would have been in 1970 or so. Click on the title if you want to hear the song.

Jo picked Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Other choices included Let 'Em In by Wings, Needles and Pins by The Searchers, Sugar Sugar by The Archies, Downtown by Petulia Clark, etc. One of the nice things about the challenge is the fond memories they bring back along with great music.
Today's category is a Song by your Singing Crush. Another interesting one that you'll find some of the results in my next entry. (I do have to give you something to look forward to, don't I.)

Great Historical Events

Today's excerpt will discuss the treason of Benedict Arnold.

"1780. Treason of Arnold.
Sept. 23. - Treason of Benedict Arnold, and arrest of Major André.
Maj.-General Benedict Arnold was an officer of high rank and had been greatly admired for his bravery and uncomplaining fortitude and endurance during the first years of the war. He had been promoted from the office of Captain to that of Maj.-General, but, being of a proud and haughty nature, and exceedingly ambitious, his envy at seeing others rank above him, laid the foundation of his treachery and treason, which finally culminated in the betrayal of his country to its enemies. He had been stationed in Philadelphia while unfitted for service from wounds received in a battle near Stillwater, and while there his reckless extravagance caused his censure by Congress, and a trial by court-martial and reprimand from the Commander-in-chief of the army, which was approved by Congress. This disgrace was more than his proud, imperative nature could brook, and he immediately began plotting to betray his country. His correspondence with the British commander, Sir Henry Clinton, was conducted through Maj. André, an officer, of great distinction and merit, in the British army. He was captured upon his return from an interview with Arnold, within the American lines, by three privates, John Paulding, David Williams and Isaac Van Wert, who searched his person an discovered the treasonable documents in his boots. Arnold learned of the capture of André, and succeeded in making his escape but a short time before the arrival of Gen. Washington, who had appointed to breakfast with him."

(Ed. Notes - I'm surprised that the current resident of the White House hasn't mentioned this possible link between Sir Henry Clinton and his adversary during the 2016 presidential campaign. It's right up his alley. Anyway, I dissemble. Fascinating story which will continue with the next entry, dealing with the hanging of Maj. André)

Science of Common Things (From Prof. L.G. Gorton)

I'll be providing you with a couple of visual aids in today's excerpt about clouds.

What are the different kinds of clouds? The principal are the cirrus or 'cat's-tail', the cumulus or 'ball of cotton', the stratus or 'white sheet', and the nimbus or 'rain-clouds'. 

What produces the various shapes of clouds? The state of the atmosphere, the electrical condition of the clouds, and the winds.

What do cirrus clouds foretell? When they are high, thin and light, fair weather; when they form fleecy lines across the sky, light rains or a gale of wind.

What do cumulus cloud foretell? Fine weather when they are well defined and advance with the wind. Rain, when they are thin and dull and float in a direction opposite the surface wind. A thunder storm, when they increase in size and become dull and gray at sunset.

Next entry, there'll be more visual aids and I'll excerpt the good professor's explanation of stratus and nimbus clouds.

The Birth Date Thing 10 November 1998

US Billboard #1 Single 10 November 1998

The First Night by Monica. Monica is an American R&B singer from Georgia. She began her career in 1995 when her first album went multi-platinum. The First Night was the 2nd single from her The Boy is Mine album and the second #1. The song is built around a sample of Diana Ross's Love Hangover.

UK #1 Single 10 November 1998

Believe by Cher. Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves was the first of Cher's songs to be at #1 on my birthday. That was back in 1971. Here she is again, 17 years later, with her 3rd UK #1. Believe is the title track from her 22nd album. Now that's staying power.

New York Times #1 Fiction Best Seller 10 November 1998

The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan. The Path of Daggers is the 8th book in American fantasy writer Jordan's Wheel of Time series. The series was originally planned as a six book series but has expanded to 14 books. Jordan died after completion of his 12th novel in the series but had prepared copious notes so another author could continue.

Pulitzer Prize Winner 1998

American Pastoral by Philip Roth. American Pastoral tells the story of Seymour 'Swede' Lvov, a successful Jewish-American businessman an high school basketball star from New Jersey. Roth is also known for Goodbye Columbus and Portnoy's Complaint, amongst many other books.

American Pastoral was adapted for film in 2016, starring Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning.

Nobel Prize Laureate 1998

José Saramago (Portugal). Saramago was a Portuguese writer who lived from 1922 - 2010. I have actually read one of his books, Blindness, an interesting novel. Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature as an author 'who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality'.

Hugo Award Winner 1998

Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman. Forever Peace is a 'thematic' sequel to The Forever War. The pictured book contains the three books in the series; The Forever War, Forever Free and Forever Peace. Forever Peace is not a direct sequel and takes place on a different future of Earth closer to present day. I just bought this book in 2017 and am looking forward to trying it.

Edgar Award Winner 1998

Cimarron Rose by James Lee Burke. Cimarron Rose is the 1st Billy Bob Holland book by James Lee Burke. Burke won the Edgar Award for Black Cherry Blues in 1990. There are currently 4 books in the Holland series.

"Texas attorney and former Texas Ranger Billy Bob Holland has many secrets in his dark past. Among them is Vernon Smothers' son Lucas, a teenaged boy about whom only Vernon and Billy Bob know the truth. Lucas is really Billy Bob's illegitimate son, and when Lucas is arrested for murder, Billy Bob knows that he has no choice but to confront the past and serve as the boy's criminal attorney. During Lucas's trial, Billy Bob realizes that he will have to bring injury upon Lucas as well as himself in order to save his son. And as a result, Billy Bob creates enemies that are far more dangerous than any he had faced as a Texas Ranger.  "

Man Booker Prize Winner 1998

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan. Amsterdam was English writer Ian McEwan's 7th novel. It is the story of a euthanasia pact between two friends, a composer and newspaper editor, whose relationship spins into disaster.

Giller Prize Winner 1998

The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro. The Love of a Good Woman is a collection of eight short stories by Munro dealing with the themes of love, secrets, betrayal and the stuff of ordinary lives.

Well, there you go. Another entry for you to peruse and maybe get some ideas for a good read or just some general information. Enjoy!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Just Read, the Music Challenge, Historical Events and Science and the Birth Date Thing

The sunny skies continue. Temperatures haven't gone much above the mid-20s here on the island. Chances of rain are slim until maybe Thursday. I wish the sturdy folks fighting forest fires on the mainland would get some to provide them some relief.

Just Finished Reading

The other day I finished The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is the 8th book in my second 12 + 4 challenge for 2017. I've moved on to my next book in that challenge, another Sherlock Holmes story, The Hound of the Baskervilles and I'm enjoying very much so far. My review of The Return of Sherlock Holmes is below.

"The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was originally published in 1905. Doyle had tired of his famous sleuth before this and killed him off in 1893 in The Adventure of the Final Problem. Due to popular outcry against Holmes', he released The Hound of the Baskervilles and a number of short stories featuring Holmes. This book contains 13 excellent short stories with the first, The Empty House bringing Holmes back to Watson and it includes his explanation of how he survived the battle of Reichenbach Falls, all very interesting.
I enjoyed the collection; every story was well-crafted, tightly woven and entertaining to read. I always like Holmes' crime solutions and these stories had this excellent quality. I don't think I had a favourite, each was a tidy, entertaining story and had an interesting cast of characters. You can see why Sherlock Holmes is such a world-wide favourite sleuth. Great stuff. (4 stars)"

The Missus's Music Challenge

Last entry I incorrectly said that Your Favourite TV Theme was Day 50. As you can see it was actually Day 51. My bad. Today Days 52 - 54. So here we go.

Day 52 - Song from an Artist not from your Country. I chose a Dutch artist for my choice, one Caro Emerald and a nice jazzy number, A Night Like This. Jo chose a Norwegian number, Downtown by One 2 Many. Other choices included Al Mu Allim by Sami Yusuf, Love is Like a Butterfly by Nana Mouskouri, Ntsware by Brenda Fassie, etc. (Interesting category).

Day 53 - Song that takes you back to a very Specific Moment in your life. A difficult one for me, this, as I don't tend to relate specific music to a time in my life. But I came up with this song, as I can remember sitting in residence in university when I first heard it and it started a love affair with the music of this talented artist. The song is Them Heavy People by Kate Bush. Jo chose Takes a Little Time by Total Contrast. Other selections included Good Life by Inner City, Catch a Falling Star by Perry Como, etc.

Day 54 - Song that Reminds you of your Dad. I picked a couple for this. My Dad likes a good laugh and we always had comedy records around the house. I remember this from my childhood, Beetlebaum by Spike Jones. My Dad also likes country music a lot. I think Merle Haggard was one of his favourite country singers. I chose Okie from Muskogee for this one. This was a very popular category as well as many of the folks participating could remember specific songs. Jo picked Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell. Her sister picked It's Impossible by Perry Como. Some other choices included Dr. Beat by Gloria Estefan, Civilization (Bongo, Bongo) by The Andrews Sisters, Chattanooga Choo Choo by Glenn Miller, etc.

Jo is taking Saturday off so we'll get back to the final 6 categories tomorrow. I can't wait.. :0).

Great Historical Events

We move to a brief visit to 1779 and then on to 1780.

"1779. Dec. - Coal first used in America by some Pennsylvania blacksmiths.
Death of Patrick Henry, aged 63.
1780. Feb. 6. - Congress calls for 35,000 men.

Notable Dark Day

1780. May 19. - Notable dark day in New England. A dense and mysterious darkness covered the land, continuing from twelve to fifteen hours, filling all hearts with wonder, and multitudes with fear and consternation - the superstitious regarding it as the 'day of doom', and the learned and scientific wholly unprepared to account for the wonderful phenomenon. The darkness at midday was so dense that people were unable to read common print, or determine the time of day by clocks or watches, and at night, although at the full of the moon, the darkness was so impenetrably thick that traveling was impracticable without lights, and a sheet of white paper was equally invisible with the blackest velvet. The atmosphere seemed charged with a thick, oily, sulphurous vapor, and streams of water were covered with a thick scum, and paper dipped in it, and  dried, appeared of a dark color, and felt as if it had been rubbed with oil."

(Ed. Note - other than supernatural reasons attributed to the dark day, scientists claim that it appears to have been caused by a great forest fire in Ontario Canada, in an area now part of Algonquin Park.)

Next entry we'll find out about Benedict Arnold.

Science of Common Things (More answers from Prof. L.G. Gorton to scientific questions)

"What is hoar frost? Frozen dew. What are clouds? When the air is cooled the moisture in it is partially condensed and thus rendered visible as clouds. What are fogs? Clouds, near the earth. Why do they disappear soon after sunrise? Because the heat of the sun expands and disperses them."

More info on clouds will be in the next entry. If I remember I may provide some photos from the book.

The Birth Date Thing 10 November 1997

US Billboard #1 Single 10 November 1997

Candle in the Wind by Elton John. This was the 2nd time that Elton John had the #1 single on the US charts on my birth day, the first being back in 1975. Candle in the Wind was originally written in 1973 in honour of Marilyn Monroe who'd died 11 years earlier. He performed this rewritten version in honour of Princess Diana and it was #1 in many countries and was recognised as the 2nd best selling single of all time, after Bing Crosby's White Christmas.

UK #1 Single 10 November 1997

Barbie Girl by Aqua. Aqua were a Danish Euro-pop group which formed in 1989. They were very successful in Denmark and Barbie Girl brought them world-wide fame. It was such a fun, upbeat, finger-snapping song. I loved it.

New York Times #1 Fiction Best Seller 10 November 1997

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. I've never read this and, in fact, probably didn't realise that the movie of the same name came from a book. I've never seen the movie either and this seems very petty but I don't like Renée Zellwegger and the trailers for the movie turned me off. "If you call me, I will come." she says. Gad, that irritated me. lol.

Anyway, with that vent out of the way, the story tells the tale of a wounded Confederate deserter who walks for months to return to the love of his life. As I mentioned, it was also made into a movie, which also starred Nicole Kidman and Jude Law. Maybe someday I'll try the book... maybe not though.

Pulitzer Prize Winner 1997

Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser. The novel follows the exploits of an entrepreneur in late 19th Century New York City.

Martin Dressler was Millhauser's 7th book and brought many of his older books back into print after its success.

Nobel Prize Laureate 1997

Dario Fo (Italy). Dario Fo (1926 - 2016) was a multi-talented Italian; a playwright, actor, comedian, singer, songwriter, painter, etc. He was awarded his Nobel Laureate as a writer 'who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden.'

Hugo Award Winner 1997

Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. Robinson also won the Hugo Award in 1994 for Green Mars. Blue Mars is the 3rd book in his Mars series. It deals with the long results of the settlement of Mars.

Edgar Award Winner 1997

The Chatham School Affair by Thomas H. Cook. Thomas Cook, an American author born in 1947 had his first book published in 1980. The Chatham School Affair was his 15th book.

"On a summer day, a young woman alighted from a bus in the small Cape Cod village of Chatham and took up residence in a cottage on the edge of Black Pond's dark waters. She was embarking on a voyage she could not foresee - one that would bring catastrophe to her, to those she loved, and to the town of Chatham itself. Now, seven decades later, only one living soul knows the answer to the question that irrevocably shattered hearts, a town, and a way of life: What really happened on Black Pond that day?"

Man Booker Prize Winner 1997

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. The God of Small Things was the debut novel by Indian writer Arundhati Roy. It is the story of fraternal twins whose lives are destroyed by the "Love Laws" that lay down "who should be loved, and how. And how much." The book explores how the small things affect people's behaviour and their lives. Roy waited until 2017 for her next novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.

Giller Prize Winner 1997

Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler. I haven't yet read this Richler novel but it awaits my attention on my bookshelf. Most recently I enjoyed Solomon Gursky Was Here and it rekindled my interest in Richler's work. Basically Barney's Version is an autobiography of Barney Panofsky, retelling his life in various detail.
The book was also turned into a movie in 2010, starring Paul Giamatti, Rosalind Pike, Minnie Driver, etc.

Another bit of history told, another year discussed and more music for you to check out. Have a great day and weekend!!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

New Books, the Music Challenge, Great Historical Events and the Birth Date Thing.

A nice surprise yesterday when I checked the mail. I received a book I'd ordered from Discovery Books. It's the 3rd book in Australian mystery writer Garry Disher's Hal Challis police procedural series. I've read the first two books so far; Dragon Man and Kittyhawk Down and enjoyed them very much. I like a well-written police mystery and these have definitely fit the bill. I'm looking forward to starting this one. At the moment, there are only 7 books in this series but he has written other mysteries, including the Wyatt series, who is a professional thief and burglar, so lots of time to continue enjoying his writing. The synopsis is below.

"It had taken months for Janine McQuarrie to succumb to her husband's pressure to have sex with strangers at suburban spouse-swapping parties. But after attending a few such events on the Mornington Peninsula, this Australian social psychologist rebels. And then, driving with her young daughter one day, she gets out of the car to ask for directions and is shot and killed. The child escapes.
The case falls to Inspector Hal Challis of the Mornington Peninsula Police Force and his homicide squad. But the dead woman was Police Superintendent McQuarrie's daughter-in-law and the boss seems more interested in protecting his son than in finding her murderer.
The husband is always a likely suspect. So, too, are the dead woman's clients and the swingers she met at the parties she attended. But this could also have been a random crime, or one in which the actual victim was not the intended one.
Challis and his squad have solved a lot of cases but this time the villain turns out to be someone they never would have suspected."

The Missus's Music Challenge

Just one category for today's music challenge.

Day 50 - Your Favourite TV Theme. This was another popular category. Everybody who participated had fond memories of various TV shows; being a mainly British crowd, the majority were British shows, but that made it more interesting for me. I had two choices, one from the '60s and one from the late 90's / early '00s. I chose the them from the Man from U.N.C.L.E, a favourite show of mine back then. I even quit Boy Cubs because it was the same night. My second choice was the theme from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as if I hadn't been so fixated on the show and the discussion groups on line, I'd never have met Jo. :0)

Other picks included the Theme from True Blood, Theme from The Professionals, Theme from Van der Valk, Hawaii 5-0 theme, Hill Street Blues theme (Jo's sister, Sue's pick), St Elsewhere Theme (Jo's pick). There were so many more, as I said, it was very popular

Today's pick has been as popular so far, a song from an artist not your home country. She further said you couldn't pick a song from an American artist as there were just too many.. :)

Great Historical Events

September 1778 is our focus today.

"Sept. 3. - Paul Jones' great navel victory off the coast of Yorkshire, England. This was the first American naval victory, and was the most sanguinary battle ever fought between two ships. Paul Jones was commander of a squadron of 5 ships. The Bon Homme Richard, his own ship - an old and clumsy vessel of 42 guns - engaged a British man-of-war, the Serapis, a new ship of 50 guns, commanded by Commodore Richard Pearson, and manned by 320 picked men. A desperate fight ensued. The Serapis swung around, by the force of the wind, square alongside of the Bon Homme Richard, and their yards being entangled. Jones lashed the two ships together. Then began the most fearful encounter recorded in naval history. The cannon of each ship touching, and amid their incessant war and crashing of falling masts, both vessels took fire. At this terrible crisis, the captain of the Alliance, one of Jones' squadron, began firing broadsides into the stern of the Bon Homme Richard, causing her to leak at a fearful rate. This dastardly and traitorous act was caused by personal hatred toward his superior commander. The fire increasing in the ship, Jones' officers endeavoured to persuade him to strike his colors, but he refused to yield, and soon the Serapis surrendered." (Ed. Comment. Wow, that was fascinating. I knew about Jean Paul Jones, but didn't know much about the battle. Described excellently)

Science of Common Things (Today we learn more about dew from Prof. L.G. Gorton)

"Why is dew heavier on some objects than on others? Because some objects are better radiators of heat than others. Why is but little dew formed on cloudy nights? Because the heat radiated from the earth is reflected back by the clouds and the earth is thus kept at nearly the same temperature as the air. Why do heavy dews foretell rain? Because they show that the air is well charged with moisture."

Next entry we'll move on to hoar frost and other natural phenomenon.

The Birth Day Thing 10 November 1996

Billboard US #1 Single 10 November 1996

No Diggity by Blackstreet. Blackstreet are an American R&B band formed in 1991 in New York City. No Diggity, from their second album, Another Level, was their first US #1. Besides band members, Bill Withers is also credited with writing the song.

UK #1 Single 10 November 1996

What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted by Robson and Jerome. Robson and Jerome are British actors Robson Greene and Jerome Flynn (check out Grantchester and Game of Thrones if you want to see some of their work). Their songs are all covers but they also released 3 singles which reached #1 in the UK, so not to bad. What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted was first performed by Jimmy Ruffin in 1966.

New York Times #1 Fiction Best Seller 10 November 1996

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacqueline Mitchard. This is the first novel by American writer, Mitchard. It is about an American middle class family that is torn apart when the youngest son is kidnapped and raised by a mentally ill woman, until he appears at the front doorstep of his real mother and asks if he can mow the lawn.

It was made into a movie in 1999 and starred Michelle Pfeiffer and Treat Williams.

Pulitzer Prize Winner 1996

Independence Day by Richard Ford.  Independence Day is a sequel to Ford's The Sportswriter and two other novels followed it; The Lay of the Land (2006) and Let Me Be Frank with You (2014).

It tells the story of Frank Bascombe, ex-sportswriter and now real estate agent as he visits his ex-wife, troubled son and current lover over the Independence Day weekend.

Nobel Prize Laureate 1996

Wislawa Szymborska (Poland).Wislawa Szymborska was a Polish poet and essayist who lived from 1923 - 2012. She was awarded the Nobel Laureate "for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality."

Hugo Award Winner 1996

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. Stephenson is a Science Fiction author I'm just beginning to explore. I have one of his books, Anathem, awaiting my attention. Stephenson is an American writer who has been writing since 1984, specialising in speculative and historical fiction.

The Diamond Age is his fifth novel and focuses on a young girl, Nell, who lives in a future world dominated by nanotechnology.

Edgar Award Winner 1996

Come to Grief by Dick Francis. This is the 3rd time that Dick Francis has won the Edgar Award since 1955. Come to Grief is the 3rd book in his Sid Halley series.

"When ex-jockey Sid Halley becomes convinced that one of his closest friends--and one of the racing world's most beloved figures--is behind a series of shockingly violent acts, he faces the most troubling case of his career."

I think I said this before but I will have to try Francis before too long.

Man Booker Prize Winner 1996

Last Orders by Graham Swift. Swift was born in London in 1949 and published his first novel, The Sweet Ship, in 1980. Last Orders was his 6th novel. It tells the story of a group of war veterans who live in the same corner of London. It was turned into a movie in 2001, starring Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Bob Hoskins, etc.

Giller Prize Winner 1996

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. Alias Grace is a novel of historical fiction by Atwood. The story is about the notorious murder in 1843 of Thomas Kinnear and of his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. Two of the servants in the household, Grace Marks and James McDermott were convicted of the crime.

I've enjoyed many books by Atwood over the years; The Handmaid's Tale is a long-time favourite of mine. I thought I'd read this one before, but, nope, I was wrong. So now I'll have to get a copy.

The book has been adapted into a mini-series by Sarah Polley and will be released in September 2017. Amongst cast members are Sarah Gadon (Murdoch Mysteries) and Anna Paquin, who seems to be doing a fair bit of work in Canada. I'm looking forward to checking this mini-series out. I should read before, eh?

So there you go, a new book and a few more to check out. Enjoy the rest of your week!
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