It's been lovely and sunny the past few days; a nice change from the week of rain we had before. Yesterday Jo and I took a drive down island to Qualicum. We planned to have lunch at Cuckoos at Goats on the Roof but it's not yet opened from their winter holiday. It's closed until sometime in March. So instead we had lunch at Bailey's in Qualicum, nice comforting food. Always a nice, friendly place.
I checked out two used book stores in Qualicum as Jo and I wandered around; found a few at the Book Nook. Unfortunately I forgot my book lists (I had planned to bring them) so I ended up buying a couple of books I already had.. *sigh* They'll go in my little free library. The location is now listed on the Little Free Library website. :0)
We drove back to Comox via the coast road, just an all-around pleasant, relaxing day. The puppies were very excited to have us home; Clyde, especially, doesn't enjoy it when we're away for more than an hour or so.
We're now quite heavily involved watching Winter Olympic coverage, at the moment especially enjoying the mixed curling. It's a neat take on the game and Canada is doing very well so far, qualified for the semi-finals. This afternoon we've got team figure skating; that should be good.
Anyway, on to book updates. I've finished two books so far in February and hope to finish a couple of more shortly. My reviews of the two completed books, plus synopses of the books I've started and recently purchased follow.
"The Sourdough Wars by Julie Smith is Smith's second book in her Rebecca Schwartz mystery series. She also writes the Skip Langdon and Tabitha Walls' series. Rebecca Schwarz is a lawyer based in San Francisco working in partnership with her friend, Chris Nicholson. This mystery finds them involved in the world of Sourdough bread and bakeries.
Both attend a play by acquaintance Peter Martinelli. Martinelli, it turns out, comes from a family that had been successful in the sourdough bread industry, supposedly very big in the San Francisco area. He inherited the 'starter' dough for their famous sourdough bread. Martinelli is persuaded to sell this starter dough off at an auction, which sparks interest from rival bakers, the brothers Tosi, Sally Devereaux (a smaller baker) and Clayton Thompson, rep for a major bread-making conglomerate. All the interested parties arrive for the auction but when Martinelli doesn't show up, Rebecca and her boy-friend Rob the reporter discover his dead body (murdered).
This begins an investigation by Rebecca, Rob and Chris into the world of sourdough bread and who might be guilty of the murder. It's a fun ride, in a similar vein as those of Lilian Jackson Braun's 'Cat who' mysteries, or Karen Kijewski's Kat Colorado mysteries. There are plenty of suspects, including all the competing parties and even Peter Martinelli's sister, who had also wanted the starter dough.
Combined a quick paced mystery / adventure with lots of action, you also have Rebecca's relationships, with her Jewish parents, her sister and boyfriend and all of the other's mentioned. It's not a complex mystery, just an entertaining one. Enjoy. (3 stars)"
"The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler is my first exposure to this excellent writer of the noir genre. Chandler created Private Investigator Philip Marlowe, who worked the streets of San Francisco. There was a movie made of this story starring Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe. I think I've seen it but will now have to watch it again.
Marlowe is hired by a wealthy San Francisco family to try to sort out a black-mailing situation. The wealthy senior of the family has two wild daughters, especially Carmen, who is the subject of 'personal' photos. The investigation moves Marlowe into the criminal underworld and into close contact with various criminals and also murders. It's a nicely confusing plot, with many twists and turns and enough action to keep you very interested in the story.
Chandler has a way with telling his story. His characters are so well-described that you can picture them clearly. They have unique personalities and you do find yourself drawn to some and repulsed or afraid of others. His story telling is straight-forward, with a touch of humour and also a nice flair for the written word. I love this line, "I went back to the office and sat in my swivel chair and tried to catch up on my foot-dangling." I know it's just one small sample but it's so perfect and the story is filled with such perfection.
You don't necessarily get to know a great deal of Marlowe's past but you definitely get a feel for the type of character he is. Even though a private eye, he's got friends in the police force who respect him. He's similar to Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer, John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee, a loner private eye with standards. I don't know that I see Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe but I'll have to think more on that subject. I do know I am looking forward to reading the other books in this short series. Excellent and for lovers of great mystery, must-reads. (5 stars)"
I've been working on two books since the beginning of January and can finally see the end of the tunnel for both. Adam Bede by George Eliot is getting better and better and for a book written in 1859 has quite a controversial subject matter. Order in Chaos by Jack Whyte, the 3rd book in the Templar trilogy, moves along nicely but it's probably a couple of hundred pages too long. But I have invested enough time in it that I want to finish to see how it ends.
I've started two new books, one from my Decades Challenge and one from my Canadian content challenge.
"Who is the Scarlet Pimpernal?
Each day this question grew more pressing to the rulers of the French Revolution. Only this man and his band of followers threatened their total power. Only this maddeningly elusive figure defied the vast network of fanatics, informers and secret agents that the Revolution spread out to catch its enemies.
Some said this man of many disguises, endless ruses and infinite daring was an exiled French nobleman, returned to wreak vengeance. Others said he was an English lord, seeking shear adventure and supreme sport in playing the most dangerous game of all.
But of only one thing could those who sought him be sure. They knew all too well the symbol of his presence, the blood-red flower known as the Scarlet Pimpernal..."
"Look at one of Go Jung-hwa's clients sideways, expect to end up on the floor with a broken arm and busted nose - if she's feeling merciful.
As one of the few people without bioengineered genetic enhancements, Hwa is part of a dying breed in the city-sized oil rig New Arcadia. But she's in peak physical condition and, combined with her speed and cunning, can easily go toe-to-toe with some of the most augmented men in town. After all, she's the best bodyguard employed by the United Sex Workers of Canada.
When Lynch Ltd., a technological tycoon dynasty, purchases the entire rig, Hwa's talents and lack of any sort of altering attract their attention. They have a fifteen-year-old heir to protect, and Hwa fits the bill - any cyborg meathead can be hacked and rewired, but not her. It's an opportunity of a lifetime, especially for someone who's been living on the fringes of poverty her entire life.
But when one of her former client's - and friend - dismembered body is found floating in the North Atlantic, Hwa finds her loyalties split between her past and future. And it looks as if the future came to collect in the present..."
The books below came from various orders, my local book store and the Book Nook in Qualicum.
"Connoisseur of antiques, rhapsodizer of women, and all-around scamp, Lovejoy is hired by a millionaire collector to 'rescue' every art treasure in Venice before the fabled city sinks into the sea. His winning ways, flexible ethics, and resourceful chicanery are put to vigorous test by the murderous men and dangerous women who cross his gondola's path. In this fast-paced and outrageous caper, Lovejoy's quest for the exquisite leads to an unexpected and terrifying climax."
"The Queen Elizabeth docks at Southampton and soon Gideon is called after the criminals that had crossed the Atlantic in her - the rapist, the kidnapper, the vice-ring boys and the usual small-fish such as the thieves, the smash-and-grab and fraud operators.
They are all headed to London and London is Gideon's territory, and he sets out to make life for these men as tough as possible."
"Just days before a massive exhibition opens at the popular New York Museum of Natural History, visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum's dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human...
But the museum's directors plan to go ahead with a big bash to celebrate the new exhibition, in spite of the murders.
Museum researcher Margo Green must find out who - or what - is doing the killing. But can she do it in time to stop the massacre?"
"When overwork catches up with Dr. James Scotland, he takes himself off for a month's rest to the Melchester Chorister's School, where his cousin is headmaster.
Cathedral cloisters should offer peace, but the calm is deceptive. And from the moment James witnesses one of Melchester's traditional living chess games, he begins to realise that in such a tight community one makes an ill-considered move at one's peril.
Dean against Archdeacon, Archdeacon against Organist ... these devious clerical maneuverings have lethal consequences. And when sudden death strikes, suspicion invades the close like a pernicious weed."
"Spring 1915: World War One rages across Europe. Amidst this bloodbath of nations, where one man's flag is another man's shroud, a British spy is asked to do the impossible: seduce and betray the woman he loves, again. Only this time betrayal is a two-way street.
Jack McColl, a spy for His Majesty's Secret Service, is stationed in India and charged with defending the Empire against Bengali terrorists and their German allies. In England, meanwhile, radical journalist Caitlin Hanley begins rebuilding her life after the execution of her brother - an IRA sympathizer whose terrorist plot was foiled by Caitlin's ex-lover, the very same Jack McColl. The war is changing everything and giving fresh impulse to the causes Caitlin has long supported. The threat of a rising in Dublin alarms McColl's bosses as much as it dazzles Caitlin. If another Irish plot brings them back together, will it be as enemies or lovers?"
"Travel writer Lo Blacklock's latest assignment is tantalizing: write a story about the maiden voyage of the luxury cruise ship Aurora. The promise of clear skies, calm waters, and a small list of well-heeled guests awaits. How could she say no?
As the voyage sets out, it is everything Lo could hope for. The ten cabins are plush and the guests are elegant. Soon, though, frigid winds lash the deck while dark clouds conspire overhead. Then Lo is awakened to something out of a nightmare - a sickening splash and a woman's body disappearing beneath the waves. But the passengers and crew remain accounted for, and nobody admits to having seen this woman on board.
Lo knows something has gone horrifyingly wrong. But who was the woman in cabin 10? and why will no one believe what Lo saw?"
Well, there you go. Just watching a fascinating bio on one of Canada's medal hopes, Mark McMorris, one of our snowboarders. Figure skating starts in an hour or so. Guess I'll head off to get some groceries. Enjoy your weekend!