Thursday, 31 August 2017

August 2017 Reading Summary

Another month has gone by and we're 2/3rds of the way through 2017. Jo and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary on the 30th. We spent a nice relaxing day at home. We may go out for dinner today or tomorrow to further celebrate. I bought her the book above as an anniversary prezzies. Jo does like pop culture.. well, we both do and we enjoy watching the classics on TCM. We used to enjoy the show hosted by Robert Osborne, the author of the Oscar books, so I thought this was an appropriate gift. :)

Now on to the August Reading summary.

I'm happy with my progress to-date. I'm on schedule to read 120 books this year, I guess it depends mostly on how challenging the books are that I choose for the remaining 4 months. At any rate, my main aim is to catch up on series and also try books out of my normal genres.

Now for the General info..

General Stats

                                         Aug                          2017 Total
Books Read                        9                                  80
Pages Read                      2,650                           21,600

Pages Breakdown
       <   250                         5                                 39
250  -   350                         2                                 25
351  -   450                         2                                 12
       >   450                                                              4

5 - star                                0                                   7
4 - star                                3                                 42
3 - star                                6                                 28
2 - star                                                                     3

Author Gender
Female                               3                                  20
Male                                  6                                  60

Fiction                               5                                  17
Mystery                             3                                  39
SciFi                                  1                                  22
Non-Fic                                                                   1
Classics                                                                   1

2017 Reading Challenges

12 + 4 Part Deux (1900 - 1950) - I have one book left to finish in this challenge
C.S. Forester - The Happy Return (4 stars)
Chic Young - Blondie & Dagwood's Secret Service (3 stars)
John Buchan - The Island of Sheep (3.5 stars)
Graham Greene - A Gun for Sale (4 stars)

Canadian Literature (completed 3 of 5)
The Classics (pre - 1900) (completed 1 or 4)

Mysteries (The Cops) (completed 16 or 25)
Julia Keller - A Killing in the Hills (4 stars)
Donna Leon - Fatal Remedies (3.5 stars)

Mysteries (The Sleuths) (completed 15 of 25)
Laurie R. King - A Letter of Mary (3 stars)

Fantasy (completed 4 of 10)
Edgar Rice Burroughs - Tarzan of the Apes (3.5 stars)

Horror (completed 3 of 5)
Jonathan Maberry - Patient Zero (3.5 stars)

Science Fiction (completed 2 of 5)
Fiction (completed 3 of 10)
Spies / Thrillers / War (completed 2 of 10)
Non - Fiction (1 of 5)

Top Three Books of August (no 5-star reads in August)
1. Graham Greene - A Gun for Sale (4 stars)

"A Gun for Sale|2497518] was Graham Greene's 7th novel, published originally in 1936. I've been slowly going through his books, especially his earlier works and he's become a favourite of mine. I can see inspirations for books like Brighton Rock in this book. In fact, it was his next published work.
The story is about Raven, a gun for hire, is sent to kill a foreign war minister. He is paid with stolen money, which makes him the subject of a police investigation by Scotland Yard (who don't know about his assassination). The officer in charge, Inspector Mather, is engaged to Anne, an aspiring actress about to go to Nottwich for a job in a panto show. Coincidentally, the man, Davis / Cholomondeley (he does go by various names) who paid Raven is on the train and being followed by Raven who wants to exact revenge for how he was tricked.
An undercurrent throughout the story is the ominous threat of war, partly due to the assassination, which is causing stress and mistrust within Europe.
The story is a string of coincidences; Anne is kidnapped by Raven as he tries to avoid the police; Anne goes to dinner with Davis and has her life threatened; Mather is assigned the case of trying to track down Raven; etc. It sounds convoluted but the story is presented in a straight-forward manner, tying up many aspects of the coincidences and making for an entertaining, interesting, tense story. The characters are well-crafted and you do get a good sense of who they are and why they are. All in all, a most enjoyable story. (4 stars)"

2. Julia Keller - A Killing in the Hills.

"[book:A Killing in the Hills|18917365] is the first Bell Elkins mystery by [author:Julia Keller|1245113]. The story is set in rural West Virginia and Elkins is the local District Attorney. Something happened to Bell during her childhood in the town of Acker's Gap, which becomes apparent as you progress through the story. She married at a later date and moved to Washington DC with her husband, a new lawyer. Bell also got her law degree but wanted to return to Acker's Gap to help the people of that community; ending up with her going alone with her daughter, Carla.
The story starts with a triple murder in the town, 3 old men sitting having coffee at the local restaurant. Carla is one of the people who sees the shooting. Bell is also working on a case in which a mentally handicapped boy is charged with the murder of his friend. As well, Carla, a typical teenager?, is rebelling, anger issues, suspended driver's license. Bell's best friend, Ruthie, is suffering with cancer, and, oh yes, Bell's sister is coming up for a parole hearing for the murder of their father, many years ago. So, yes a lot is going on.
But Keller is able to tie this all together to make an interesting, tense story. It flows very nicely and there are characters, especially Bell (Belfa) and the sheriff, Nick Fogelsong, with long ties to Bell, who are developed nicely. The past and the present are tied together, the murderer is well-described and interesting/ somewhat scary, and the mysteries are nicely tied up. There are enough loose ends at the end of the book; especially re. Bell's daughter and Bell's sister, to make you want to find out more about this series. I enjoyed very much and look forward to trying the next, Bitter River. (4 stars)"

3. C.S. Forester - The Happy Return.

"Chronologically, [book:The Happy Return|84753] is the sixth book of the adventures of Horatio Hornblower by [author:C.S. Forester|932179]. It was the first book of Hornblower adventures written by Forester, published in 1937. It's the eighth book I've read so far, so as you can see, I've not been following either sequence. lol
With all that preamble, The Happy Return, like most of the Hornblower stories, was an excellent adventure. In this story, we find Horatio in a new location, in the Pacific, off the coast of Nicaragua. His secret mission is to provide arms and assistance to a colonial revolutionary, El Supremo, in his battle against the Spanish colonisers. It turns out that El Supremo is quite mad. Hornblower captures a Spanish two-decker and is ordered to turn it over to El Supremo and his crew. Hornblower then escorts El Supremo's army to Managua, or nearby, and then continues to Panama.
His orders are there changed as England and Spain are now allies in the war against Napoleon. Hornblower with a passenger on board, Lady Barbara Wellesley, must now go and try to keep El Natividad, the Spanish ship from capturing Spanish cargo ships headed to Panama. The battle with El Natividad is a fascinating story in its own right and so well described.
All in all it's a great adventure tale. You still have to deal with Hornblower's many moods; especially his self-criticism. This is compounded with the presence of Lady Barbara. However, his crew loves Hornblower, for his tactical flair and his sailing skills and his fairness (for the most part) to them. You take the good with the bad in a Hornblower tale. Well worth reading if you want to get a feel for the time period and also like a rollicking good adventure. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

As we end August, I'm currently reading -

1. Charles Dickens - Nicholas Nickleby. I'm over half way through so hope to finish in September.
2. Jacqueline Winspear - Birds of a Feather. This is the second Maisie Dobbs mystery.
3. John P. Marquand - Last Laugh, Mr. Moto. I've enjoyed the other Mr. Moto spy thrillers I've read so far.
4. C.S. Forester - The African Queen. This is my last book in the 12 + 4 challenge.

Monday, 28 August 2017

A bit of a Mish Mash; Finished Reading, New Starts, etc

A new week starts and we come towards the end of another month; 2/3 of a year gone. Egads!

Just Finished

Since my last BLog entry, I've finished 3 books and enjoyed them all.

1. The Island of Sheep by John Buchan.

"The Island of Sheep is the fifth of five books by John Buchan featuring intrepid Richard Hannay. The most well-known book is the first, The 39 Steps, which was also made into at least two movies. I've read the first three and jumped book 4, The Three Hostages, for one of my reading challenges. I will get back to the 4th book in the near future.
With all that preamble, The Island of Sheep brings a retired Hannay and some friends back into adventure to follow up on a promise they made to an old friend many years ago. That promise was to help this man's son should he ever be endangered by the friend's enemies. Hannay is enjoying retirement, living at Fosse with wife and son but still feels that he's getting rusty. Brief meetings with other old friends, Lombard, and Sandy, lord of Clanroyden, bring back the events in Africa that lead to the promise to help their old friend, Haraldsen, a Norlander and adventurer. A group of old and new enemies are threatening the son of Haraldsen to get his wealth. Hannay and his friends decide to help him against them.
The adventure moves to Scotland, home of Sandy and then to the Island of Sheep, somewhere near Denmark / Norway, the home of Haraldsen and his clan, for the final confrontation. The story moves along nicely, with sufficient action to keep you involved and also develops the characters in a manner where you can see them shaking off the rust of their retirements and inactivity to become more resolute in their efforts to help their friend. Buchan has an excellent descriptive writing style and you can see and feel the land he describes and his characters. In many ways it's probably a man's story, the women, wives of Hannay and his friends, are strong and resolute and supportive of the men but also play minor roles. I also liked Hannay's son, Peter John, who plays a nicely major role in the events.
All in all, an excellent ending to the Hannay adventures, enjoyable to read and a satisfying ending. (3.5 stars)"

2. Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon. "Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti and Martin Walker's Bruno books are two of my favourite mystery series. They are more than a mystery; they are about communities - the people, the families, the food, etc. I've read 10 of the Brunetti books, with Fatal Remedies being the most recent.
This story involves Brunetti's wife, Paola, being arrested for breaking the window of a travel agency involved in arranging tours for men to go to places like Thailand to have sex with underage prostitutes. There is definite tension between Brunetti and Paola throughout the story but there is also the underlying love each feels for the other.
The owner of the tourist agency is murdered and suspicion falls on Paola, or at the least, suspicion that her previous actions might have encourage some radical to act. Brunetti must walk a tight rope trying to solve the murder and to keep Paola out of the investigation. With the help of his ever present Sgt Vianello and the lovely, intelligent secretary, Signora Elletra, Brunetti works steadily to solve the murder, which could now involve the sale of out-of-date drugs.
I enjoyed this story as I have enjoyed all of the Brunetti mysteries but at the same time I think Donna Leon kind of coasted a bit with the story. I missed the family interactions but the children didn't play much of a role in this story. We never got to experience the family dinners, wonder at the great meals Paola usually makes. And I didn't enjoy the tension between Brunetti and Paola, even though their love trumps even that. I liked that Signora Elletra played a bigger role this time. She is one of my favourite characters.
All in all, still an enjoyable, comfortable read, with even a bit of action. A great series (3.5 stars)"

3. Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry. "This is the 2nd book I've read by Jonathan Maberry and the first in the Joe Ledger horror / thriller series featuring Joe Ledger, ex-Baltimore cop, ex-army martial arts expert, etc etc. Patient Zero was definitely a thrill ride. Ledger is hired by a top secret government agency, Dept of Military Sciences (DMS), headed by a mysterious personage, Mr. Church, and is immediately thrown into action with a quick response team to fight what can only be described by zombies.
These zombies have been created by a pathogen created by a combination drug expert and terrorist organization with competing goals. The threat to the US is evident and Ledger, Church and the other team leader, Maj. Grace Courtland must go into action quickly and constantly to discover the source of the pathogen, discover who might be a mole in this secret organization and at the same time keep the country from being destroyed by this pathogen. Body counts rise, action is constant and the story moves from Maryland to Afghanistan at a hectic pace.
It's an interesting story and keeps you enthralled. I enjoyed the first Maberry book, Ghost Road Blues, as well. I look forward to continuing both series. I just need to take a breath from all of the action.. (3.5 stars)"

I'm on track with my overall Goodreads challenge and I hope to maybe finish one more book before the end of the month. I'm slightly over half way through Nicholas Nickleby and have started three other books -

1. A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene.
2. Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear (Maisie Dobbs #2).
3. Last Laugh, Mr. Moto by John P. Marquand.

The Missus's Pop Culture Challenge (Finito)

Today I go through the final Days of this challenge. Jo is taking a rest from it for now. I have a feeling she won't come up with a new one, but you never know.

Day 28 - Film or TV Show that reminds you of your Dad.  I chose Blazing Saddles. I remember going with my younger brother, John and my Mom and Dad and my Dad laughing and laughing. Every time I see it, it makes me think of him. Jo chose ITV World of Sports, a show she enjoyed watching with her Dad. Other choices included Morecombe and Wise, Peter Seller's The Party (another good laugh), Father Knows Best, Dad's Army, etc.

Day 29 - What is your favourite Radio programme. I chose The Royal Canadian Air Farce. I remember how much we enjoyed listening to it when we were stationed in Lahr, Germany. It was a touch of home. Jo chose Sara Cox's Sounds of the 80's on BBC Radio 2, a show I enjoy too. Other choices included The Archer's, Woman's Hour, The News Show, etc.

Day 30 - What is your favourite Movie. My favourite movie has been To Kill a Mockingbird and over the years, even with many other excellent movies, it remains my favourite. Jo chose The Women, a movie we've watched many times as it's a favourite of TCM. Other choices included Brief Encounter, Gone with the Wind, West Side Story, etc.

and the final day....

Day 31 - What is your all-time favourite TV show. This final challenge was difficult for me as I've been a TV addict since I was a little kid. But I ended up choosing Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was a unique show and I met Jo through it so it's definitely got a special feeling for me. Jo chose Suits, another favourite of ours. We do like a good lawyer show. Some of the other final choices included Strictly Come Dancing, Game of Thrones, NCIS, Thirty Something, etc. So many possibilities.

So there you go. That finished the latest iteration of the Pop Culture challenge. It was very popular, helped folks bring back fond memories. There were many who asked her to come up with another challenge. But she's taking some time off for awhile at least.

Well, I think I'll stop there today and get back to regular scheduled posting next entry. Have a great week. Stay safe in Texas!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Time for the Mid-Week +1 Day Shuffle..

It's hard to believe that this week has passed so quickly. Already Thursday. I think I've been pretty good about book buying this year. Having said that in the past two days I've acquired 7. On Tuesday I dropped off a couple of books at my local used book store, Nearly New Books, and found a couple more. Then yesterday the pups and I went for a drive around the four Little Free Libraries in our local area that folks have outside their homes and I traded two books. Then lo and behold, a book order arrived, slightly overdue but welcome. So these are the books -

Nearly New Books

1. Shotgun by Ed McBain. This is one of the 87th Precinct books. I've enjoyed the first two so far. Number 3 is on the docks awaiting my attention. This is slightly further down the list.

"Detective Kling looked at the pair of faceless bodies and threw up...
A shotgun fired at long range can really do a job on you. But when it's fired point-blank in your face, what's left is sickening enough to make anyone puke ... even a cop.
A psycho had butchered a nice young couple - and he was loose somewhere in the 87th Precinct. He had a name, an address, an identity: Walter Damascus, a third-rate lothario who liked his women well-off, well-built, and - apparently - dead, along with their husbands. Sooner or later he would surface and the men of the 87th would be waiting - for the biggest shocks of their careers."

2. Fatal Pursuit by Martin Walker. Somewhat less gritty fare than the 87th Precinct book, this is part of the Bruno, Chief of Police series, set in the French countryside, one of my favourite series.

"It's the start of summer, and Bruno's found himself the last-minute replacement navigator in a car rally race. The event has attracted a spate of outsiders with deep pockets, big egos, and, in the case of one young Englishman, an intriguing story about a lost Bugatti Type 57C. Having disappeared somewhere in France during WWII, and worth millions of dollars, it's among the most beautiful cars ever made, driving its pursuers mad with greed.
When a local scholar turns up dead, Bruno suspects unnatural causes. Still, while life may offer its challenges - often in the form of distractingly comely Parisiennes - there is always time for a good bottle and a home-cooked meal."

Little Free Libraries

3. Second Wind by Dick Francis. Francis is an author I've not tried yet but I'm interested in checking him out.

"For a few precious seconds, the shrieking wind dies down and the colossal waves lie flat. Airborne in the heart of the storm, TV weather forecaster Perry Stuart braces himself for impact. Then suddenly all is blackness as the small aircraft plunges out of control...
It takes a truly frightening accident for Stuart to discover the secret of Trox Island - and plenty of things about the human race that he would rather he didn't know. He came as a half-drowned hurricane victim lucky to be spared from the ocean. He left with information that would bring down an evil worldwide conspiracy - if they didn't kill him first."

4. Winter Prey by John Sanford. I've read the first two Lucas Davenport thriller mysteries and have enjoyed them both. This is the fifth book in the series.

"The Iceman crept up to the house on the edge of the lake. He killed the father first. Then the mother and child. And when his work was done, he set the house on fire...
Lucas Davenport had tracked killers in cities across America. But the woods of rural Wisconsin are as dark and primal as evil itself. The winters are harsher and colder. And in the heart of every mother and father, there is fear...
Because tonight, the Iceman cometh."

Better World Books, Dunfermline UK

5. The Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak. I've read a few of Simak's science fiction offerings in the past couple of years. Each story is unique and interesting.

"There was Maxwell - he had just returned from discovering a new planet ... and Sylvester, the sabre-toothed tiger ... and Mr. O'Toole, the goblin ... and Ghost, who didn't know who he was ... And Alley Oop who had been brought back from Neanderthal times.
Just an ordinary bunch of everyday galactic folk - who got caught into something sinister - something concerning a big, black, impenetrable block of stone - and a mysterious crystal planet - and the life-form known as the Wheeler - the Wheeler, a bulging sack of writhing worms suspended between two wheels - the Wheeler, whose intentions were evil, and whose appearance was revolting..."

6. The Quiller Memorandum/ Quiller in Berlin by Adam Hall. I became interested in this series in my Birth Date thing. Hall won the Edgar award for one of the Quiller books. It turns out that Hall is actually Elleston Trevor who wrote The Flight of the Phoenix.

"You are a secret agent working for the British in Berlin. You are due to go home on leave, but you are being followed-by your own people, or by the enemy. A man meets you in the theatre and briefs you on a plot to revive the power of Nazi Germany. You do not believe him, but you remember that one of the suspects mentioned was a senior SS officer you met with in the days when you were working as a spy in Nazi Germany. The next day you make contact with a beautiful girl who may know something. Someone tries to kill both of you.
Your name is Quiller. You are the hero of an extraordinary novel which shows how a spy works, how messages are coded and decoded, how contacts are made, how a man reacts under the influence of truth drugs-and which traces the story of a vastly complex, entertaining, convincing, and sinister plot."


7.  The German Agent by J. Sidney Jones. Jones wrote a series called the Vienna mysteries. I've been trying to find them but haven't had any luck so far. But this standalone thriller sounded interesting. It's set in 1917 when the Germans were making every effort to keep the US out of the war. They tried to involve Mexico to keep the US occupied on its southern border. The Zimmerman telegram contained news which was sure to bring the US in to the war on the side of Britain. That is the premise for this book about a German agent trying to prevent  the British from delivering the telegram to the US.

The Missus's Pop Culture Challenge

Today Jo put out the last challenge, which will finish it. We've had 90 days of fun with her challenges. I'll be checking on Days 25 - 27 today.

Day 25 - Your favourite TV quiz show, current or old. I chose Jeopardy, a long-time favourite of mine and of Jo. We do like to sit down before supper and watch. She chose A Question of Sport, which I've also enjoyed. Other shows included Only Connect (another favourite of ours), Pyramid), Blockbuster, Hollywood Game Night, etc. We do like a good game show.

Day 26 - What's your favourite movie Musical. I don't often watch musicals more than once, but I do enjoy. I chose Cabaret, although I did consider The Music Man. Jo's pick, which did not surprise me was West Side Story. Other choices included Oliver (sis-in-law Sue's pick), High Society, Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music, etc.

Day 27 - Who is your favourite Movie or TV Villain. I chose Julie Newmar as TV's Catwoman. Loved her. Jo chose Sue Sylvester from Glee, a villain with a heart. Great character. Other choices included Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca, Thomas Barrow from Downton Abbey, Norman Bates from Psycho, etc. So many excellent villains.

So there you go for today. I'll finish the last 4 days next entry. That will end the quizzes which have been lots of fun. Many of the people playing have pleaded with my wife to start a new quiz. We'll see. :)

I'm going to pass the Great History events and Science portions of the BLog for today and move right along to the Birth Date Thing..

The Birth Date Thing 10 November 2006

The music selections are getting to songs I'm not familiar with and don't really care for. But I shall continue!

US Bill Board #1 Single 10 November 2006

Money Maker by Ludacris ft. Pharrell. Born in 1977, Ludacris is an American rapper and actor. Money Maker, written by Pharrell Williams was his second US #1 single.

UK #1 Single 10 November 2006

Star Girl by McFly. McFly are an English band formed in London in 2003. Star Girl was their 6th #1 UK single.

New York Times #1 Fiction Best Seller 10 November 2006

For One More Day by Mitch Albom. Albom had the #1 best seller as well in 2003. "The book tells the story of a troubled man and his mother, and explores how people might use the opportunity to spend a day with a lost relative."

Pulitzer Prize Winner 2006

March by Geraldine Brooks. This book retells the story of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women from the point of view of the family's absent father. The book was Australian / American author Brooks' 2nd novel.

Nobel Prize Laureate 2006

Orhan Pamuk (Turkey). Born in 1952 in Istanbul, Pamuk is a Turkish novelist and screenwriter. The Nobel Prize citation read, "In the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city, Pamuk has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures."

Hugo Award Winner 2006

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. Spin is the first novel by American author in his Spin trilogy, which was followed by Axis and Vortex. (This is another book and author with which I'm unfamiliar.)

Edgar Award Winner 2006

Citizen Vince by Jess Walter. This is American author Jess Walter's fourth of five books.

"At 1:59 a.m. in Spokane, Washington—eight days before the 1980 presidential election—Vince Camden pockets his stash of stolen credit cards and drops by an all-night poker game before heading to his witness-protection job dusting crullers at Donut Make You Hungry. Along with a neurotic hooker girlfriend, this is the total sum of Vince's new life. But when a familiar face shows up in town, Vince realises his sordid past is still too close behind him. During the next unforgettable week, he'll negotiate a coast-to-coast maze of obsessive cops, eager politicians, and assorted mobsters—only to find that redemption might exist, of all places, in the voting booth."

Man Booker Award Winner 2006

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. This is the 2nd book by Indian writer Desai. Among its main themes are migration, living between two worlds, and between past and present.

Giller Prize Winner 2006

Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam. This is a collection of short stories inspired by Lam's experiences in Medical School following the lives of four young medical students in Toronto.

Well, there you go, finished for another day. I did take a break mid-preparation to do some yard work.. How multi-talented.. :)

The weekend is almost here. Enjoy!

Sunday, 20 August 2017

End of Week Catch-up

The haze from the mainland fires turned the moon red
Happy Sunday! The sun is shining, there is a nice breeze coming in the den window... which now that I look at it, needs a good cleaning. Jo and I went out for a drive with the pups a week ago or so when we had a particularly hot spell and you could taste some of the smoke from the fires they've been dealing with on the mainland. It was so hazy, the moon had turned a reddish. Don't know if you can tell from the picture Jo took. It's much better now... well, better here on the island. It's probably not much changed on the mainland as we still haven't really had any of the rain that was supposed to fall.

Sunday morning on the couch as Dad watches footie and reads
Clyde survived his trip to the vet to get his teeth cleaned and a couple more removed. He felt sorry for himself for a couple of days (can't really blame the poor fella) but he's pretty well back to normal now, scrapping with Bonnie and barking at the neighbours.

I finished the third book in Laurie R. King's Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes mystery series. I have to say that I like it but don't love it. The stories read OK, but they don't leave me feeling wow or anything like that. Anyway, my review is below. I've started the 8th book in one of my favourite mystery series next, Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon, the Inspector Brunetti series. I've only read the first 3 chapters but I already know I'm going to like it.

"A Letter of Mary is the 3rd book in the Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes mystery series by Laurie R. King. I have to say that I continue to have mixed feelings about the series. The concept in itself is interesting; Russell who started off being mentored by Holmes and is now his wife and works cases with him. Holmes, himself, is basically retired from detective work and they live on a piece of land in Sussex where Holmes raises bees and Russell works on a degree at Oxford while also spending time with her husband.
An acquaintance of Russell, a lady archaeologist, Dorothy Ruskin, visits them, and gives them a letter she had found in a dig in the Middle East, a letter purported to have been written by Mary Magdalene to her sister. The next day, Ruskin is found dead, hit by a car in London. Holmes and Russell get involved, suspect that Ruskin has been murdered for some reason. The same day, Holmes' home is broken into and searched. Further suspicion now that it was murder and not an accident.
The rest of the story involves their investigation, with help by the son of Lestrade (now a police detective) and also by Sherlock's brother Mycroft. Both Holmes and Mary follow different suspects; one a misogynist Colonel, the other the sister of Dorothy.
So that's the barest outline. The story is interesting, but, personally, I do find it difficult to warm to Russell. At one point she calls Holmes a prig and I thought, no, you're the prig. She is a strong-willed, intelligent character, but so much time is spent with her kind of anti-snobbishness that she seems to be a snob. I'm not saying this correctly. I like Holmes, I like Mycroft, I like Lestrade and Russell is OK in her own way. I liked the story, but I didn't love it. At the end, I thought, OK, there you go. So what. Does that mean I won't read any of the others I still have on my bookshelf. No, it doesn't, but I'll read a few other books before I do. Try the series and let me know what you think. (3 stars)"

New Purchases

I found a couple of books on a recent trip downtown. Two from series I've been collecting and one I don't think I knew had actually been a book before it became a movie.

1. The Pyx by John Buell. I saw this many years ago, an interesting crime drama / horror story starring Karen Black in the lead. The book is by Canadian writer John Buell. I'm very interested in reading it.

"When heroin-addicted call girl Elizabeth Lucy dies in a fall from a swanky penthouse terrace, homicide detective Henderson is assigned to the case. Was it murder? Suicide? Through his investigation, Henderson uncovers a frightening underworld that is far more dark and dangerous than those of prostitution and the drug trade. But more than anything, this is Elizabeth's story. Told through flashbacks and by hose who knew her, revelations unfold, revealing a life that ends with a struggle unlike any other."

2. Wings above the Diamantina by Arthur Upfield. This is the third book in the Australian Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte mystery series. I've found 3 or 4 of the books so far and look forward to delving into it.

"The discovery of a stolen monoplane on the dry, flat bottom of Emu Lake meant many things to many people: for Elizabeth Nettlefold, it meant a new purpose in life; for Dr. Knowles, brilliant physician and town drunk, it meant the revival of a romantic dream; for person or persons unknown, it meant a murder plan gone badly awry; and for Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, it meant one of the toughest cases in his career."

3. Maigret in Holland by Georges Simenon. I like the Inspector Maigret series very much and I especially like it when I come across Harcourt Books special editions. I like the covers. What can I say. :)

"In his latest case, Maigret finds himself in the town of Delfzijl investigating the murder of a teacher. He is presented with two clues - a sailor's cap in the bathtub and a Manila cigar butt - and a gaggle of suspects, including a flirtatious farmer's daughter, an angry lawyer, a larcenous ship owner, an unaccountably frightened cadet, and a pompous criminologist with a revolver. The Inspector, in turn, is preoccupied with a suspicious pathway lit by a lighthouse beam, which leads him to wonder if this is the kind of spot where secret lovers might be discovered."

The Missus's Pop Culture Challenge

Today I'll look at Days 22 - 24. I'm falling behind on this.

Day 22 - Name a Film Guaranteed to Make you Cry.  Jo's one caveat was that you should want to watch it again. I chose To Kill a Mockingbird, especially the scene at the end where we finally meet Boo Radley, who has just saved Scout's life. Jo chose the end of Love Actually. She is a soft touch and has vowed never to watch some of the movies I've recommended because the make her sob throughout. Her sister Sue chose the scene in Funny Girl where Barbra Streisand signs My Man. Other choices included On the Beach, A Touch of Class, Beaches, etc

Day 23 - Which TV Series do you Wish had never Ended. I chose the short lived Firefly, Joss Whedon's entry into the Space genre. It was a combination Space / Wild West adventure. Jo chose The Newsroom, a favourite of ours. Other choices included New Tricks, Dragnet, The West Wing, etc.

Day 24 - Your Favourite James Bond theme. I chose the theme of the first Bond movie I ever saw, that being Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey. Other choices included Live and Let Die by Wings, Casino Royale (Burt Bacharach) as chosen by Jo, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever, etc.

Great Historical Events

Today's entry covers 1783.

"Loss During the Revolution

1783. Seventy thousand men estimated to have been lost during the Revolutionary War.
Oliver Evans introduced the first improved grain mill.
Fur-trading established in Alaska.
Feb. 5. - Independence of United States acknowledged by Sweden.
Feb. 25. - Independence of United States recognised by Denmark.
March 24. - Independence of United States acknowledged by Spain.
April 11. - Peace proclaimed by Congress.
April 19. - Peace announced by Washington to the army.
July. - Independence of United States recognised by Russia. (Ed. note. Seemingly Russia now wants US to be a province under Mr. Putin.)
Sept. 3. - Definitive treaties of peace between England and the United States, France, Spain, and Holland.
Oct. 18. - Proclamation of disbanding of the army.
Nov. 2. - Washington's farewell orders.
Nov. 25. - New York evacuated by the British.
Dec. 23. - Washington resigns his commission."

So lots happened in 1783. Will 1784 be similar?

Science of Common Things

Today's excerpt from Prof. L.G. Gorton discusses the rays of light and other things of interest.

What is a ray of light? It is the smallest portion of light discernible. What is a beam of light? A collection of rays. of what is a ray of light composed? It is composed of seven elementary parts, giving the colours violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. (Ed. note. As I was taught in school, ROYGBIV - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.)"

Next entry the good Prof will explain colour.

The Birth Date Thing 10 November 2005
I was now 50 years old (the old half century) and Jo and I had been married for 3 wonderful years. You'd think that better songs could have been on the list for my 50th birthday, eh?

US Billboard #1 Single 10 November 2005

Gold Digger by Kanye West. American rapper, singer, song writer, or Happy as I like to call him has been active since the mid-90s. Gold Digger, which features Jamie Foxx, was his 2nd US #1 single.
UK #1 Single 10 November 2005

You Raise Me Up by Westlife. Westlife were an Irish boy band formed in 1998 and disbanded in 2012. They had a string of #1 hits in the UK before You Raise me Up. The song was originally recorded by Irish / Norwegian duo, Secret Garden.

In Memoriam

Rest in Peace
It was just reported on CBC News, which I've got on in the background, that legendary comedian Jerry Lewis has passed away at the age of 91.

New York Times #1 Fiction Best Seller 10 November 2005

At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks. At First Sight is the sequel to American author Nicholas Sparks' previous book, True Believer. Sparks has published 18 novels, including At First Sight, A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe and The Notebook.

Pulitzer Prize Winner 2005

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Gilead is American author Marilynne Robinson's second novel. "It comprises the fictional autobiography of the Reverend John Ames, an elderly Congregationalist pastor in the small, secluded town of Gilead, Iowa, who knows that he is dying of a heart condition. At the beginning of the book, the date is established as 1956, and Ames explains that he is writing an account of his life for his seven-year-old son, who will have few memories of him."

Nobel Prize Laureate 2005

Harold Pinter (United Kingdom). English playwright, screenwriter, actor and director, Harold Pinter lived from 1930 - 2008. Three of Pinter's plays, The Birthday Party, The Homecoming and Betrayal were adapted for the screen by him. He also adapted a number of other works for the screen; The French Lieutenant's Woman, Sleuth, The Servant, etc. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature as a writer who "in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms".

Hugo Award Winner 2005

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I read this in 2012 and enjoyed very much. It took a bit to get into but then it just drew you in to the unique world Clarke had created. It was also turned into a TV series, but I've yet to watch. My review is below.

"I was unsure whether to give this three or four stars. The story was very interesting and flowed nicely. I felt at times that it didn't have to be so long. The plot was interesting, but the ending somewhat of a let down; only somewhat, as the story was resolved satisfactorily. It was interesting and different and worth reading. The characters were well crafted and in some cases quite menacing. The magic was quite intriguing and I liked both Strange and Norrell, for different reasons as they are quite different characters. I think my favourite characters were Childermass, Arabella Strange and Flora Greysteels.. as well as Mr Segundus.. Worth reading and making the effort. (3 stars)"

Edgar Award Winner 2005

California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker. Parker also won this award in 2002. I might have to try his work. California Girl was one of his standalone works of crime fiction.

"The Orange County, California, that the Becker brothers knew as boys is no more -- unrecognisably altered since the afternoon in 1954 when Nick, Clay, David, and Andy rumbled with the lowlife Vonns, while five-year-old Janelle Vonn watched from the sidelines. The new decade has brought about the end of the orange groves and the birth of suburban sprawl. It is the era of Johnson, hippies, John Birchers, and LSD. Clay becomes a casualty of a far-off jungle war. Nick becomes a cop, Andy a reporter, David a minister. And the decapitated corpse of teenage beauty queen Janelle Vonn is discovered in an abandoned warehouse."

Man Booker Prize Winner 2005

The Sea by John Banville. The Sea is the 18th novel by Irish writer, John Banville.

"The story is told by Max Morden, a self-aware, retired art historian attempting to reconcile himself to the deaths of those whom he loved as a child and as an adult."

Giller Prize Winner 2005

The Time In Between by David Bergen. Bergen was born in 1957 and has published 9 novels. The Time In Between was his 4th novel.

"In search of love, absolution, or forgiveness, Charles Boatman leaves the Fraser Valley of British Columbia and returns mysteriously to Vietnam, the country where he fought twenty-nine years earlier as a young, reluctant soldier. But his new encounters seem irreconcilable with his memories.

When he disappears, his daughter Ada, and her brother, Jon, travel to Vietnam, to the streets of Danang and beyond, to search for him. Their quest takes them into the heart of a country that is at once incomprehensible, impassive, and beautiful. Chasing her father’s shadow for weeks, following slim leads, Ada feels increasingly hopeless. Yet while Jon slips into the urban nightlife to avoid what he most fears, Ada finds herself growing closer to her missing father — and strong enough to forgive him and bear the heartbreaking truth of his long-kept secret."

Well, there you go. A lengthy update for you. On Friday a favourite series of ours finished on our local PBS station, Knowledge Network. We enjoyed The Indian Doctor very much. Tonight, happily, the 4th season of Endeavour starts. I'm looking forward to it. For now, it's time to watch the Blue Jays lose their 3rd straight against the Cubbies. *sigh*

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Pop Culture Challenge, History and Science Excerpts and the Birth Date Thing..

I wish Clyde was here so I could pick on him, er.. play with him.
Two sad puppies today. Clyde is off to the vet to get his teeth cleaned and NOT HAPPY about it. Bonnie, for all she ignores him or picks on him, doesn't really seem to know what's going on and is a bit restless. It does seem quiet without the little fella around. In sympathy, I'm going to my dentist today to get a chipped tooth looked at. WE DON'T LIKE DISRUPTIONS!

Well, let's move on to the normal things.

(Update on Clyde. Two teeth pulled and he's doped up until I go get him this afternoon.. Poor little boy. He's had a few teeth removed the last couple of years.)

The Missus's Pop Culture Challenge

Today, I'll look at Days 19 - 21.

Day 19 - TV Series You wish they would Rerun from the Beginning. I chose The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. It only ran for one year and was the sequel to the Man from U.N.C.L.E but I liked it so much. Stephanie Powers, as April Dancer, was lovely and Noel Harrison as her partner, was soooo cool! Jo chose Capital City, which I've watched with her, from her videos. :). Other selections included Ashes to Ashes, Lost in Space, L.A. Law, etc.

Day 20 - Who is your Favourite Actress. I chose Amy Adams, such a great actress. Jo chose Bette Davis. Other choices included Helen Mirren, Holly Hunter, Audrey Hepburn, Reese Witherspoon. The options were pretty well endless, in my mind.

Day 21 - Favourite Television Series of the '80s. I picked Family Ties. It didn't hurt that it featured Meredith Baxter Birney and Justine Bateman. Of course, it also introduced Michael J. Fox to the world. Jo chose a show she still watches online, Howard's Way. Other choices included LA Law, Dynasty, Hill St. Blues, etc. All excellent.

Next category will be a film that made you cry. Too many to name in my case.. :)

Great Historical Events

Today's excerpt from Treasures of Use and Beauty cover 1782.

"First Steamboat

1782. First boat propelled by steam was placed upon the Potomac river, by James Rumsey, a Bohemian, which was seen and certified to by Washington.
Feb. 6. - Resolutions passed in the House of Commons in favor of peace.
April 17. - Holland acknowledges the independence of the United States, and a treaty of amity and commerce secured through negotiations of John Adams.

Last Battle of the Revolution

June 24. - Last battle of the Revolutionary War - a skirmish near Savannah, and some slight skirmishes in South Carolina, in one of which the gallant young Col. John Laurens lost his life.
July 11. - Savannah, Ga., evacuated by the British.
Aug. - War closed between the United States and Great Britain.
Nov. 13. - Preliminaries of peace between the United States and Great Britain signed in Paris.
Dec. 14. - Charleston, S.C. evacuated by the British."

Moving along to 1783 in my next entry.

Science of Common Things

Today's excerpt from Prof. L.G. Gorton discusses the sun and other things of interest.

"How far is the sun from the earth? Ninety - one million miles. (Ed. Note. According to Google it is 92.96 million miles) What is light? (Ed. Witty response. The opposite of dark?) Light is that mode of motion which is capable of affecting the optic nerve. It is the vibration of an infinitely rare, exceedingly elastic, and subtle medium known as ether, which fills all space and permeates every transparent substance. (Ed. Note. The good professor waxes quite eloquent on this idea.) How fast does light travel? One hundred and eighty-six thousand miles per second."

In the next entry we'll discuss rays and beams of light and other things.

The Birth Date Thing 10 November 2004

US Billboard #1 Single 10 November 2004

My Boo by Usher and Alicia Keys. My Boo was the 4th single released from American R&B artist, Usher's, album Confessions. It was co-written by Usher and Alicia Keys (and others).

UK #1 Single 10 November 2004.

Wonderful by Ja Rule. Ja Rule is an American rapper, singer, song writer and actor from Queen's New York. Wonderful was his first UK #1. The song featured American pop singers R. Kelly and Ashanti.

Moving along to the world of books and awards...

New York Times #1 Fiction Best Seller 10 November 2004

Northern Lights by Nora Roberts. This is the second time since 2001 that Nora Roberts had the #1 on my birth day... and I've never read any of her books. I probably never will.

"Lunacy, Alaska - population 506 - is Nate Burke's last chance. As a Baltimore cop, he had watched his partner die - and the guilt still haunts him. With nowhere else to go, he accepts a job as Chief of Police in this freezing, remote town, where darkness falls by mid-afternoon. It's a big change - maybe too big. But just as he's beginning to wonder if this has all been a terrible mistake, an unexpected kiss with feisty bush pilot Meg Galloway under the brilliant Northern Lights lifts his spirit and convinces him to stay a little longer.

However, when Nate uncovers an old unsolved crime, he discovers that Lunacy isn't quite the sleepy little backwater he imagined. And his discovery will threaten the new life - and the new love - he never dreamed he'd find . "

The book was turned into a made for TV movie starring Eddie Cibrian, LeAnn Rimes and Rosanna Arquette.

Pulitzer Prize Winner 2004

The Known World by Edward P. Jones. This was the 2nd book by American writer Jones.

"Set in Virginia during the antebellum era, it examines the issues regarding the ownership of black slaves by both white and black Americans."

Nobel Prize Laureate 2004

Elfriede Jelinek (Austria). Born in 1946, Jelinek is an Austrian playwright and novelist. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for her "musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that, with extraordinary linguistic zeal, reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power."

Hugo Award Winner 2004

Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold. This was Bujold's 4th Hugo winner since 1991. I will have to try one of her books and see what I think of her writing. It is a fantasy novel, the sequel to The Curse of Chalion.

"In a land threatened by treacherous war and beset by demons, royal dowager Ista, released from the curse of madness and manipulated by an untrustworthy god, is plunged into a desperate struggle to preserve the endangered souls of a realm."

Edgar Award Winner 2004

Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin. Resurrection Men is the 13th book in the excellent Inspector Rebus mysteries by Rankin. Conveniently it's also the last one I've read so far. Jo bought me most of the series for Xmas back when I was stationed in Victoria. This was one she couldn't find but I managed to get a copy at a local bookstore. It's a great series, well worth trying. The first book is Knots and Crosses if you want to start it. My review is below.

"Another excellent Rebus story. This book finds DI Rebus sent back to refinishing school (in a way) after an incident at his local police station. He throws a mug of tea at boss, Gill Templar, and finds himself sent for retraining with a group of other reprobates from other districts. But there is more to this assignment than meets the eye and I'll let you read the book to see what. In the meantime, DS Siobhan Clark, Rebus' protégé, is deeply involved with a team trying to solve the murder of an art dealer. This brings her into contact with an old adversary of Rebus, Big Ger McCaffrey. I have enjoyed the Rebus stories so much over the past two or three stories. Ian Rankin has really hit his stride over the past couple of stories. I do like how the other characters, especially Siobhan have come into their own and are well-developed personalities. Rebus is still Rebus, although he now has a lady friend (I hope it lasts). This story moved along very nicely, had some very suspenseful moments and was entertaining from beginning to end. If you haven't tried the Rebus series, you really need to do so." 

Man Booker Award Winner 2004

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. Hollinghurst is an English novelist, short story writer and poet, born in 1954, and has won various awards, the Somerset Maugham award, the James Tait Black Memorial Award and the Man Booker Prize. The Line of Beauty was his 4th novel.

"In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens: conservative Member of Parliament Gerald, his wealthy wife Rachel, and their two children, Toby-whom Nick had idolized at Oxford-and Catherine, highly critical of her family's assumptions and ambitions.

As the boom years of the eighties unfold, Nick, an innocent in the world of politics and money, finds his life altered by the rising fortunes of this glamorous family. His two vividly contrasting love affairs, one with a young black clerk and one with a Lebanese millionaire, dramatize the dangers and rewards of his own private pursuit of beauty, a pursuit as compelling to Nick as the desire for power and riches among his friends."

Giller Prize Winner 2004

Runaway by Alice Munro. This was Munro's 2nd win since the inception of the award in 1994.

"The incomparable Alice Munro's bestselling and rapturously acclaimed Runaway is a book of extraordinary stories about love and its infinite betrayals and surprises, from the title story about a young woman who, though she thinks she wants to, is incapable of leaving her husband, to three stories about a woman named Juliet and the emotions that complicate the luster of her intimate relationships. In Munro's hands, the people she writes about women of all ages and circumstances, and their friends, lovers, parents, and children become as vivid as our own neighbors. It is her miraculous gift to make these stories as real and unforgettable as our own."

There you go. Maybe I'll get a picture of Clyde for my next entry. Have a great day!
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