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!

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