Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The Pop Culture Challenge and my July 2017 Reading Summary

There was a bit of excitement around the old homestead last night as a little sparrow decided to fly into the family room to see what we were watching on TV. Bonnie and Clyde who spend half the day trying to chase any bird that dares settle on our backyard didn't even notice the fellow in the house. In fact it was on the shelf just above Bonnie's head at one point. We managed to get it out with not too much fuss and without hurting it. I did manage to break a few of Jo's fingernails as we were trying to remove the screen from the study window so the bird could fly out. Yes, I admit, I'm pretty clumsy at times.

The breeze is coming more from the mainland the past couple of days and it's gotten very hazy here. I think it's blowing some of the smoke from the forest fires across the Straits. More sunny, hot weather in the forecast for the next couple of weeks. It does cool down a reasonable amount overnight, but it's quite stuffy during the days. Ah well, that's summer for you.

The Missus's Pop Culture Challenge

The Challenge is going strong. Yesterday I looked at some of the inputs for Days 5 - 7. Today, let's explore Days 8 - 10.

Day 8 - Name your favourite ever soap character (Day or night time soap). Back in the days when I was stationed in Cold Lake, Alberta and watching TV on the little portable TV my brother gave me as a present, I remember following Dallas. I mean, who didn't want to know who shot JR. Well, Victoria Principal was also quite pleasing to the eye, hence my favourite soap character. Jo chose Donna Mills from Knot's Landing. Other choices included Hilda Ogden from Coronation Street, Joan Collins from Dynasty, etc.

Day 9 - Best Scary Movie. (Or more accurately, the scary movie that scared the pants off you). Most scary movies did that to me, but I chose the first movie in the Halloween franchise. Not too gory like most movies these days, just keeping you on the edge of your seat for the whole darn film.. Jo chose Aliens 2. I think they were all scary but this was probably the best of the franchise. Other selections included The Omen, Jaws, The Exorcist, etc. If you're interested, back in Nov 2010, I made a list of 10 horror movies that scared me a lot, my top ten list, if you will. Click on List if you would like to check it out.

Day 10 - First ever date movie. A difficult one for me as I don't recall ever going on too many date movies. Back in Grade 5, I invited a girl from my class, who I had a bit of a crush on, to go to a movie with me, but, heck, that was over 50 years ago. I don't remember at all what the movie was. I ended up picking Phantom of the Paradise from when I was at university. It was sort of a date. Can I pick them or what? Jo chose Quadrophenia for her first date movie. Other choices included Love Story (now that's more appropriate, I guess), Casino Royale (the David Niven version), Tess, etc.

Today we're on to Day 11.. More about that next entry.

July 2017 Reading Summary

OK, now we move on to my July 2017 Reading summary. Overall, a very successful month of reading and mostly an enjoyable selection of books. So here we go..

                                     July                Overall
Books Read                   10                      71       (I'm supposedly 3 books ahead of my planned total)
Pages Read                  3,250              18,950    (I do round this somewhat)

Pages Breakdown
       < 250                        2                      34
250 - 350                         5                      23
351 - 450                         2                      10
      > 450                         1                        4

5 - star                             1                        7
4 - star                             7                      39
3 - star                             2                      22
2 - star                             0                       3

Author Gender
Female                            1                       17
Male                                9                       54

Fiction                            3                       12
Mystery                          5                       36
SciFi                               2                       21
Non-Fic                          0                         1
Classics                          0                         1

Reading Group Challenges

12 + 4 (Books from 1900 - 1950)
I've completed 11 so far.

1. The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (4 stars)
2. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (5 stars)
3. The Commodore by C.S. Forester (4 stars)

Canadian Literature
I've completed 3 of an anticipated 5

4. The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe (4 stars)

The Classics (Pre-1900)
(I've completed 1 of an anticipated 4)

None read in July

Mysteries (The Cops)
I've completed 14 of 25

5. Last Seen Wearing by Colin Dexter (4 stars)

Mysteries (The Sleuths)
I've completed 14 of 25.

6. The Archer Files by Ross MacDonald (4 stars)
7. The Guards by Ken Bruen

I've completed 2 of 5

8. Midnight Crossing by Charlaine Harris (4 stars)

I've completed 2 of 5

None read in July

I've completed 3 of 10

9. The Anti-Death League by Kingsley Amis (3.5 stars)

Science Fiction
I've completed 2 of 5

10. Cemetery World by Clifford D. Simak (3 stars)

Spies/ Thriller / War
I've completed 2 of 10

None read in July

I've completed 1 of 5

None read in July

Top Three of July

1. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

"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)"

2. The Archer Files by Ross MacDonald.

"The Archer Files: The Complete Short Stories of Lew Archer, Private Investigator by Ross MacDonald is my first exposure to MacDonald's writing. I have enjoyed quite a few books by his wife, fellow mystery writer, Margaret Millar and have wanted to explore the world of Lew Archer, as created by MacDonald.
The book is a series of short stories featuring PI Archer and also a number of unfinished stories showing some of the other cases that Archer might have been involved in.
I enjoyed MacDonald's writing, in the style of Dashiell Hammett and John D. MacDonald and enjoyed PI Archer. Archer takes on cases where he feels a responsibility to the person hiring him or the person being investigated. In a number of cases, he just falls into by accident and wants to correct a wrong or just help a person in need. He never overcharges; $50 a day plus expenses and he doesn't like helping the Mob or being bought. He's an ex-boxer and officer from WWII and knows how to handle himself in a bad situation. He works in California with a small office on Sunset Boulevard. The book starts off with a nice biography of Lew Archer, his past and what makes him tick.
People get killed in his cases, sometimes by him, sometimes by someone else. There are nice little twists in each one, some not complex. You can figure out who is responsible, but the explanations are always interesting. MacDonald's description of the people and the surroundings are always on point and he has a nice, tidy way of getting out the facts and the stories. I enjoyed very much and now look forward to trying one of Lew Archer's cases in novel format. (4 stars)"

3. Midnight Crossing by Charlaine Harris.

"Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris is the first book in a new trilogy. The other books are Day Shift and Night Shift. It will soon be a TV series. From what I read it will start Jul 24th.
I loved the story. There were so many neat things about it. What I especially liked was that it featured characters from other series by Harris. We are introduced to Manfred Bernardo, who has appeared in a couple of the Harper Connelly books. We meet Bobo Winthrop who appeared in one of the Lily Bard, Shakespeare series. In fact, he refers to his friend, Lily.
Besides that, the remaining characters are all interesting and all have their secrets. Will their characters become clearer in the next two books? I hope so. Fiji Cavanaugh is a witch with a crush on Bobo and her cat is interesting. Lemuel, who works evenings in Bobo's pawn shop, is a vampire. What is Olivia? How about Joe or the Rev? What about them? Yup still lots to find out.
The story itself was interesting too. We have white nationalists stirring up trouble because of Bobo's past, his grandfather is supposed to have had a secret cache of weapons that they think Bobo now possesses and they seem desperate to find them.
There is murder, a bit of mayhem and just downright neighbourliness between the folks of Midnight, Texas. They stand by each other help each other. The story moves along nicely, some mysteries are solved and we get to know the characters better. I enjoyed it very much and look forward to getting into the other two books. (4 stars)" (Update - Jo and I have enjoyed the first two episodes of Midnight, Texas very much. It's been excellent)

Currently Reading

I'm starting off August (IT'S ALREADY AUGUST????) with the following books.

1. The Happy Return by C.S. Forester
2. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
3. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
4. A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller

There you go, folks. I'm hoping August is as successful a month as the past 7. Have a great August!

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