Saturday, 18 November 2017

Just Finished, Currently Reading and What's Left for 2017?

Well, it's the middle of November 2017... Wow! As of today, I've completed 105 of what I hoped would be 120 books in 2017. I've been in a bit of a slump in November, not sure if I've just chosen more difficult reads or if I'm just finding myself getting more occupied with other things.. *hack kaff, like this Blog*. ;0) The other day I went through my book shelves (that in itself can take a couple of hours) to choose the books I'll try to read to finish off the year. If I can finish the four I've got on the go plus those I've picked I would end the year with 121 books. We'll see.

Just Finished

At any rate, I finished my 105th book a couple of days ago. It fit into my Mystery - Sleuths sub-genre. Running Blind is the 4th book in Lee Child's Jack Reacher thriller series. As usual, it didn't disappoint. My review follows.

"Running Blind is the 4th Jack Reacher thriller by Lee Child. Like the other Reacher stories I've read, it's definitely long, but like the others, as well, it is eminently readable, moving along at a nice pace.
There were things that irritated me about the story; how the FBI coerces Reacher into helping them, Reacher's negative attitude to helping them (both somewhat related of course). But it was an interesting case and I really liked Harper, his FBI partner; intelligent, attractive and a strong character.
A number of women, ex of the Army, have been murdered in strange circumstances (very strange). They were all involved in sexual harassment cases while in the military. FBI profilers feel it's someone 'like Reacher' and force (almost blackmail) him into helping them.
The killer leaves no clues and there are no signs of violence. The murders take place in all parts of the country. Reacher and Harper work as a team to try and find clues and catch the killer before any more women die. Complicating the case is that Reacher knows one of the women as he investigated her rape case while he was an MP and he wants to keep her safe. Reacher must also decide if the wants to live a more settled life with his girl friend Jodie, introduced in the previous story.
It's a fast-paced story with a fair bit of action; nothing excessive mind you. I had an idea about the killer about half way through the story. I wasn't totally correct but had the gist of the solution. I can't say I was totally satisfied with the ending; it was a bit pat and seemed a bit of a throw away, but all in all it was still an entertaining story. (3.5 stars) Echo Burning is the next Reacher story."

Currently Reading

To replace the Reacher story, I've moved over to my other mystery sub-genre; the Cops. This is my first exposure to Peter Lovesey. Wobble to Death is the first book in his Sgt Cribb historical mystery series. The synopsis is below.

"London, 1879. In the vast, freezing Agricultural hall the crowds are gathering to bet on which of a motley group of pedestrian walkers will become Champion Pedestrian of the World. The race will last six days, covering over five-hundred miles around and around the hall. Conditions are barbaric: the rivalries are even worse. As the contestants wobble dizzily onwards, they are overtaken ... by unexpected death.
With the help of sore-footed Constable Thackeray, Sergeant Cribb must also race against time to catch the ruthless murderer."

The other books I'm currently reading are -

1. George MacDonald Fraser - Royal Flash. This is the 2nd book in the Flashman series and finds Flash being forced to impersonate the Prince of Denmark in a plot by Bismark. Interesting so far.
2. Anne Bronte - The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. My first exposure to this Bronte sister. Slow go so far but still interesting.
3. CJ Cherryh - Downbelow Station. This is my first attempt at Cherryh's science fiction. It's taken a bit to get into the story but I'm enjoying now.

I hope to finish these stories and maybe one more by the end of November which should give me a good chance of achieving my 120 book total for the year. We'll see. Below are the 12 books I've set aside for the rest of the year. I've got a few other in mind should I really get going with my reading.

The Rest of 2017

1. Carl Reiner - How Paul Robeson Saved My Life and other Mostly Happy Stories. I've had this for 7 years or more. I think it'll be fun to finally try this, a nice light story.

"Filled with rich, multidimensional tales, this collection of short stories from one of America's truly great comedic minds is at once poignant, nostalgic, and laugh-out-loud funny. "How Paul Robeson Save My Life," the story of Reiner's experiences in the army during World War II, is a darkly funny look at racism. "Lance and Gwendolyn" is a modern-day fairy tale with some surprising twists. "Dial 411 for Legal Smut" is a tongue-in-cheek look at phone sex. Whatever topic he tackles, Reiner always manages to capture the highs and lows, the follies and foibles of everyday life."

2. Jean Potts - The Man with the Cane. This is my first attempt at anything by Potts. The Man with the Cane was written in 1957.

"It all started when Val Bryant took out his six-year-old daughter, Annabelle, for the afternoon. She lived with her mother, Val's ex-wife, Doris, now married to rich executive, J. Monroe Ward.
Annabelle happened to mention a man she had met, a man she called Cane. She told Val he had eyebrows like little moustaches, whiskers in his ears, and that he always carried a cane (with which he could swing Annabelle up to the ceiling).
Val might not have remembered her remarks but for a strange and sinister coincidence. That very night he found the body of a man sprawled on the church steps. The man was violently dead - obviously murdered with his own cane. It didn't take Val long to realise that he fitted exactly the description Annabelle had given him of her Mr Cane.
No one could work out how Annabelle knew him. She had never been left on her own. Neither Doris nor Monroe claimed acquaintance. And Maudie, Doris's sprightly mother, and Barbara, her beautiful sister-in-law, also denied any knowledge of him.
So Val started probing and it wasn't long before he discovered that Mr Cane, alias Mr Custer, had an unpleasant hold on nearly all of them."

3. Ellis Peters - The Pilgrim of Hate. This is the 10th book in the Cadfael series. I've enjoyed all of the others very much so far.

"Pilgrims are gathering from far and wide to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the translation of Saint Winifred's bones to the Benedictine Abbey at Shrewsbury. In distant Winchester, a knight, supporter of Empress Maud, has been murdered - not apparently an event of importance to those seeking miraculous cures at the saint's shrine. but among the throng some strange customers indeed begin to puzzle Brother Cadfael -  and as the story unfolds it becomes evident that the murder is a much less remote affair than it first seemed."

4. Martin Limon - Jade Lady Burning. This is not only a new series for me but also one of my more recent purchases. I like the locale, South Korea, and hope it is an interesting series. It features US MP's George Sueno and Ernie Bascom. Sounds like an interesting concept.

"Almost twenty years after the end of the Korean War, the US Military is still present throughout South Korea, and tensions run high. Koreans look for any opportunity to hate the soldiers who drink at their bars and carouse with their women. When Pak Ok-Suk, a young Korean woman, is found brutally murdered in a torched apartment in the Itaewon red-light district of Seoul, it looks like it might be the work of her American soldier boyfriend. Sergeants George Sueno and Ernie Bascom, Military Police for the US 8th Army, are assigned to the case, but they have nothing to go on other than a tenuous connection to an infamous prostitute. As repressed resentments erupt around them, the pair set out on an increasingly dangerous quest to find evidence that will exonerate their countryman."

5. Susan Hill - The Various Haunts of Men. This is the 1st book in Hill's Inspector Chief Simon Serrailler mystery series. I have previously read one of the series but I'm looking forward to starting at the beginning.

"A woman vanishes in the fog up on 'the Hill', an area locally known for its tranquillity and peace. The police are not alarmed; people usually disappear for their own reasons. But when a young girl, an old man and even a dog disappear no one can deny that something untoward is happening in this quiet cathedral town. Young policewoman Freya Graffam is assigned to the case; she's new to the job, compassionate, inquisitive, dedicated and needs to know - perhaps too much.
She and the enigmatic detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler have the task of unravelling the mystery behind this gruesome sequence of events. From the passages revealing the killer's mind to the final heart-stopping twist, The Various Haunts of Men is a masterly crime debut and is the first in what promises to be a magnificent series featuring Simon Serrailler."

6. Winston Graham - Poldark. I've read other books by Graham, especially Marnie, which became one of Hitchcock's more popular mysteries. Jo and I watched season 1 of the Poldark series and enjoyed it. Now I'd like to check out the books. I've had this since 2015, awaiting my attention.

"Cornwall in the 1780's... County of mine-masters, wreckers - and turbulent passions Back to this land, his own land, comes Ross Poldark.
Ross looked across at Francis. 'I've interrupted a party. Is it in celebration of the peace or in honour of the next war?'
'No,' said Francis. 'I - er - The position is-'
'We are celebrating something far different,' said Charles, motioning for his glass to be filled. 'Francis is to be married.'
'To be married,' said Ross. 'Well, well; and who - '
'To Elizabeth,' said Mrs. Chynoweth.
There was silence. Ross put down his knife..."

7. Ian Fleming - On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I've collected and enjoyed at least half of the James Bond books so far. It's fun reliving these books. this is the 11th book in publication sequence.

"When James Bond rescues a beautiful, reckless girl from self-destruction, he finds himself with a lead on one of the most dangerous men in the world: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, an evil genius who is conducting research that could threaten the safety of the world."

8. Jasper Fforde - Lost in a Good Book. I enjoyed The Eyre Affair, the first book in the Thursday Next series very much. It was a unique, interesting story. I've had this second book for awhile and am looking forward to finally giving it a read.

"For Thursday Next, literary detective without equal, life should be good. Riding high on a wave of celebrity following the safe return of kidnapped Jane Eyre, Thursday ties the knot with the man she loves.
But marital bliss isn't quite as it should be. It turns out her husband of one month actually drowned thirty-eight years ago, and no one but Thursday has any memory of him at all.
Someone, somewhere is responsible.
Having barely caught her breath after The Eyre Affair, Thursday heads back into fiction in search of the truth, discovering that paper politicians, lost Shakespearean manuscripts, a flurry of near-fatal coincidences and impending Armageddon are all part of a greater plan.
But whose? And why?"

9. Elizabeth Ferrars - The Cup and the Lip. I've had this since 2012 and reading it will help me try a book I've had for quite awhile. Ferrars is an English crime writer. I have previously read a couple of her other mysteries.

"There is nothing unusual about stepping out of your own front door to take a walk.
Except, possibly, in the case of the distinguished novelist Dan Braile. After all, he was not only old but very sick. And it was a wet, stormy evening.
The problems began when he didn't come back. Add to that the fact that several of his friends and family wouldn't have been sorry to see him disappear. Then add to that the claims he'd made that someone was trying to poison him...
The mystery deepens when Peter Harkness finds that one of Braile's friends has been shot dead. Deepens for all of them, that is, except the murderer himself..."

10. Kilgore Trout - Venus on a Half-Shell. This is another book I've had for a long time, over 7 years I'd say. Kilgore Trout is a pen name used by science fiction writer, Philip Jose Farmer.

"The Space Wanderer, an Earthman wearing a eye-patch, levis, and a shabby gray sweater who roams the cosmos in a Chinese spaceship...
The Space Wanderer, a man without a planet who has gained immortality from an elixir drunk during a sexual interlude with an alien queen in heat...
The Space Wanderer, an intergalactic rover whose constant companions are a dog, an owl, and a female robot programmed for, among other things, unique fleshly delights...
The Space Wanderer, a pretty nice guy whose only fault is that he asks questions that no one can answer; primarily, Why are we created only to suffer and die?"

11. Agatha Christie - The Man in the Brown Suit. I wanted to try this book because it doesn't feature either Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot, rather it is about Colonel Race.

"There was a strangeness about him, the man with the bronzed face, and it repelled Anne at the same time it fascinated. She thought, sometimes, she was in love with him; she knew, always, that she was a little afraid of him.
He called himself Colonel Race and it was rumored he was Secret Service.
But for Anne a feeling persisted ... that the Colonel's interest (in a mysterious master criminal whose face was unknown) stemmed from some other motive ... deeper ... more personal ... darkly dangerous..."

12. Catherine Bush - Minus Time, a Novel. This was the debut novel by Canadian author, Catherine Bush.

"Helen's world is the ultimate survival test, where toxic-food scares, contaminated water, sweeping chemical fires, and monumental earthquakes have become indistinguishable from the collapse of personal relationships and the distance within families. What can you do when your astronaut mother orbits the earth, your father finds saving people from earthquakes more important than keeping a family together, and the media persist in manipulating your private life?"

Well, there you go, the books I hope to finish off 2017 with. We'll see how well I succeed. Now to get back to reading.... Enjoy your weekend!

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