Saturday, 31 March 2018

March 2018 Reading Summary

Well, it seems that I jinxed Brighton Hove-Albion football club this morning. They were happily at 0 - 0 when I decided to check out the game on the BBC website Live Text; since the game was not being televised here on Sportsnet or TSN. It all went downhill from there. They missed a penalty chance and then had two goals scored on them by Leicester, even with Leicester spending the end of the game a man down.. *Sigh*

Of course, to compound my irritation at this loss... Everton are currently losing 2 - 0 to Manchester City and I don't think they will be able to come back. City are just too powerful this year.

... And then President 'Spanky', once again abandoning his responsibilities as Prez is down in his resort hidey - hole in Florida. Not satisfied with just spending the whole weekend golfing, he's also managing to tweet more lies. If I were Amazon, I'd be tempted to just stop using the US Post Office is, as Cadet Bone Spurs lies, just to show how many billions of dollars it would lose without their business. Anyway, my morning rant is now passed....

On to my March 2018 Reading Summary.

Mar 2018
General Info                Mar               Total
Books Read -                 10                    29
Pages Read -                 3,180              9174

Pages Breakdown
    < 250                           2                    10
250 - 350                         3                      8
351 - 450                         3                      7
   > 450                            2                      4

5 - star                                                     2
4 - star                            7                     19
3 - star                            2                       7
2 - star                            1                       1

Female                           2                       9
Male                               8                     20

Fiction                           3                       8
Mystery                         5                     14
SciFi                              2                       4
Classics                                                  1
Poetry                           2                        2

Top 3 Books
1. A Necessary End by Peter Robinson (4 stars)
2. Murder at Madingley Grange by Caroline Graham (4 stars)
3. The Beggar King by Oliver Potzsch (4 stars)

Reading Challenges

12 + 4  Challenge (completed 5)
Two books currently on the go but none completed in Mar.

New Series (completed 6)
1. Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill (4 stars)
2. The Maze Runner by James Dashner (3.5 stars)

Ongoing Series (completed 6)
3. A Necessary End by Peter Robinson (4 stars)
4. The Beggar King by Oliver Potzsch (4 stars)

Decades Challenge (completed 6)
5. Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey (1910 - 1919) (2.5 stars)
6. Murder at Madingley Grange by Caroline Graham (1990 - 1999) (4 stars)
7. The Common Lawyer by Mark Gimenez (2000 - 2009) (3.5 stars)

Canadian Content (completed 6)
8. Shakespeare's Rebel by C.C. Humphreys (4 stars)
9. Power Politics by Margret Atwood (4 stars)
10. The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Poems by Michael Ondaatje (4 stars)

April Books

Currently Reading
1. Heartstone by C.J. Sansom (12 + 4 Challenge)
2. Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer (12 + 4 Challenge)
3. Magician: Apprentice by Raymond Feist (New Series)
4. The Ash Garden by Dennis Bock (Canadian Content)

In the Mill
1. Ongoing Series - The Murder Stone by Louise Penny

"Beneath the scorched summer sky, the wealthy Finney family have gathered at a lakeside manor to honour their late father. But when the heat wave boils over into a mighty storm, a dead body is left in its wake - and Chief Inspector Armand Gamache finds himself with a building full of suspect."

2. Decades Challenge (1920 - 1929) - The Maracot Deep by Arthur Conan Doyle

"This was one of the works of fiction published during Doyle's life. The story features Professor Maracot who leads an expedition to the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, discovering a lost race of Atlanteans."

3. Canadian Content - The Kingdom of Cats by Phyllis Gotlieb

"The Time: A millennium after the Mayflower, on Solthree, once Mother-of-Worlds, now merely an area government in the Galactic Federation.
The Place: Solthree's immense Grand Canyon, temporary habitat for the great telepathic cats of Ungruwarkh.
The Grievance: The great cats had come in peace from a distant planet, to let Solthree scientists study their remarkable powers of perception. They were docile as Solthree house cats, until ... the unthinkable happened! And Solthree suddenly had a terrible wrong to right, before peace would come again to ... The Kingdom of the Cats."

There you go. Looking forward to my April 2018 selections. I'm already enjoying the 4 I've got on the go.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Back to Basics - New Books, Just Finished and Started and Author A - Z

My chatting on and on yesterday about the Toronto Blue Jays and baseball didn't help them win their home opener yesterday. They had a grand total of 2 hits, even though one was a home run. Hoping with that out of the way, they'll be a bit more productive with Aaron Sanchez on the mound today... Go Jays???

New Book

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan (Non - Fiction). A friend left this in my Little Free Library outside the house. I switched it for one I'd read. This sounds very interesting.

"When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she’d gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?
In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Cahalan tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family’s inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen."

Just Finished
I've finished 2 books since my last update. They will most likely be my final 2 books of March as I'm not far enough along with any others to finish before April.

1. Murder at Madingley Grange by Caroline Graham (Mystery / Decades Challenge).

"Caroline Graham is best known as the creator of the Midsomer Murders / Inspector Barnaby books. She also has written 3 standalone books, of which Murder At Madingley Grange was one.
Simon Hannaford and sister, Laurie are asked by their aunt to look after Madingley Grange during her annual month long vacation cruise. Simon, always looking to make money, has the great idea of using the estate to host a murder mystery weekend and persuades Laurie to help him organize and run it. An eclectic group of people show up for the weekend. He as well hires a brother and 'sister', Gaunt and Bennett, as butler and maid. They also have an interesting back story.
Adding spice to the story, a dead body is discovered the next morning and all are suspects. So there you go, the basic story. I like the way the story is laid out; 4 chapters, Simon Says Do This, The Set-up, Fun and Games and Murder. Each person plays a role and each chapter deals with each person's actions and story.
It's hard not to get involved in each character's story. They are quirky and interesting. There is romance, jealousy, suspense, everything you like. The story moves along nicely, then there is a twist to the left, then another twist to the right, then another little jig and a satisfying ending. I thought I had an idea of what was going on, but then there was a nice surprise and a final satisfying ending.
The setting is lovely and I found myself very engaged with both the story and characters. It's a  an excellent story and will keep me reading Graham's other books. It's unfortunate that she has a relatively small catalogue as she is an excellent story-teller. (4 stars)"

2. The Beggar King by Oliver Pötzsch (Historical Mystery / Ongoing Series).

"The Beggar King is the 3rd book in the Hangman's Daughter series by German author Oliver Pötzsch. It's an excellent historical mystery series and I've enjoyed every book so far.
Jacob Kuisl is the Hangman for the town of Shongau. He also provides medicines for the people of the town. Has daughter Magdalena is a fiery, outspoken person who works with the local midwife (some call her a witch) learning about herbs and medicines. Her boyfriend, Simon, is the son of the local doctor and he has taken medical training but never obtained his license. Magdalena is perceived to be unsuitable for Simon as she is of a lower class.
Jacob is called to Regensburg by his sister, who moved there many years before and operates a bathhouse with her husband. Jacob finds them murdered and is arrested on suspicion of committing the murder. He is tortured by the Regensburg hangman, but there is more to this story than we know. Magdalena and Simon go to Regensburg, partly because of difficulties they are having with local people in Shongau and partly to find her father.
There are many mysterious people operating in this story; the Beggar King, Nathan, the Italian representative to the city, Silvano and even the monk who meets Simon. While Jacob tries to remember what in his past has caused his problems, Magdalena and Simon race against time to find out what is going on and to try and save Jacob.
A fast paced story with many twists and turns and also an interesting look at Regensburg during the 1600's. Not a perfect story but totally entertaining. (4 stars)"

Just Started

The books I started to replace those just finished are from my 12 + 4 challenge and my New Series challenge.

1. Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer (Mystery / 12 + 4 Challenge).

"Guests spending the summer at an ancient priory mansion find it has a charm all its own--no modern conveniences, but it does have a resident ghost. In this case, however, the things that go bump in the night are flesh and blood . . . and deadly!"

2. Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist (Fantasy / New Series). This is the 1st book in the Riftwar Saga.

"To the forest on the shore of the Kingdom of the Isles, the orphan Pug came to study with the master magician Kulgan. His courage won him a place at court and the heart of a lovely Princess, but he was ill at ease with normal wizardry. Yet his strange magic may save two worlds from dark beings who opened space-time to renew the age-old battle between Order and Chaos."

Bill's Author A - Z
Belinda Bauer
Belinda Bauer. Bauer is a British mystery writer. Her first novel, Blacklands came out in 2009. Since that time she has published 7 novels. I've read the first and have two more waiting on my bookshelf.

a. Blacklands (2009).  

" I finished Blacklands by Belinda Bauer this morning. Stephen Lamb, a 12 year old boy, from a damaged family wants to put it back together. Many years ago, his uncle was murdered when he was a young boy and his body never found. Stephen's Nan sits at the window every day hoping her son, Peter will come home. Stephen's mom, Lettie, realizing she will always be 2nd place in her mother's heart, wanders from relationship to relationship. Stephen fells that if he can find the body, believed to be buried somewhere on the Moors, he can bring the family back together and he spends his days digging on the Moors. At some point, he realizes/ thinks that the person who can help him find the remains is the man in prison for the murders, so Stephen begins a secret correspondence with him. And from there the story takes off. Very dark but engrossing. Stephen is a quiet but smart boy, picked on by the hoodies in his school. Avery, the child killer, is a sociopath who has spent 18 years in prison and has his killing instincts aroused by Stephen's letters. Well worth reading. Belinda Bauer has written other stories set in the town of Shipcott, UK. I'll have to find them as I enjoyed this very much."

b. Darkside (2011).

"It is freezing mid-winter on Exmoor, and in a close-knit community where no stranger goes unnoticed, a local woman has been found murdered in her bed. This is local policeman Jonas Holly's first murder investigation. But he is distracted by anonymous letters, accusing him of failing to do his job.
Taunted by the killer and sidelined by his abrasive senior detective, Jonas has no choice but to strike out alone on a terrifying hunt . . . but who is hunting who?"

c. Rubbernecker (2013). 

"Winner of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, and one of the Guardian’s Best Crime and Thrillers of the Year, Rubbernecker is a can’t-put-it-down page-turner from one of the finest voices in UK crime, about a medical student who begins to suspect that something strange is going on in his cadaver lab. “The dead can’t speak to us,” Professor Madoc had said. But that was a lie. The body Patrick Fort is examining in anatomy class is trying to tell him all kinds of things. But no one hears what he does, and no one understand when Patrick tries to tell them. Life is already strange enough for Patrick - being a medical student with Asperger’s syndrome doesn’t come without its challenges. And that’s before he is faced with solving a possible murder, especially when no one believes a crime has even taken place. As his determination to uncover the truth grows, so do the suspicions of his classmates, teachers - even his mother wonders if Patrick is all right. Now he must stay out of danger long enough to unravel the mystery. But as Patrick learns one truth from a dead man, he discovers there have been many other lies closer to home."

Peter S. Beagle
Peter S. Beagle. Beagle is an American writer who was best known for his Fantasy novel, The Last Unicorn. I took this in university but honestly can't remember if I ever read it. I found a copy recently and have added it to my bookshelf.

The Last Unicorn (1968). 

"The unicorn discovers that she is the last unicorn in the world, and sets off to find the others. She meets Schmendrick the Magician--whose magic seldom works, and never as he intended--when he rescues her from Mommy Fortuna's Midnight Carnival, where only some of the mythical beasts displayed are illusions. They are joined by Molly Grue, who believes in legends despite her experiences with a Robin Hood wannabe and his unmerry men. Ahead wait King Haggard and his Red Bull, who banished unicorns from the land."

MC Beaton
MC Beaton. British writer Beaton also writes historic romance novels under a form of her maiden name, Marion Chesney. She is also the prolific writer of two mystery series that I have enjoyed so far very much; Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth. She has also written under various other names.

 There are currently 33 books in the Hamish Macbeth series. It started in 1985. There are 28 books in the Agatha Raisin books. It started in 1992. I've highlighted the first two books in each series for your info. These are 'cozy' reads.

a. Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death.

"When Mrs. Agatha Raisin decides to retire early to the English Cotswolds, she envisions herself enjoying all that country life has to offer: garden parties, tea at the vicarage, and a cozy home far from the noise and smell of London. Life in the village of Carsley is not as Agatha anticipated, however. Much to her surprise, she doesn't attract much interest among the villagers. No one comes to call; there are no invitations to tennis or tea. A miserable Agatha is forced to acknowledge that she is but another newcomer to the well-established Carsley society. Agatha didn't succeed in business by being a shrinking violet, though, so she shakes off her doubts and resolves to make her mark on the village: She will enter Carsley's Great Quiche Competition and win! The fact that Agatha has never baked so much as a potato in her life doesn't stop her; she submits a delectable store-bought quiche as her own. Having dusted off her mantle-piece to accommodate her silver cup, Agatha is stunned to see the award go to another entry. Her surprise turns to horror, however, when the contest judge drops dead - from poison the police trace to Agatha's "homemade" spinach pie. Agatha is now the talk of the town - though not exactly in the manner she had hoped. In an effort to clear her name, she turns amateur sleuth - as Beaton introduces a witty and well-crafted new mystery series peopled with quirky characters and all endearingly eccentric sleuth."

b. The Vicious Vet

"Feisty Agatha Raisin, former London PR exec, retired to quiet Cotswold village. Handsome vet Paul Bladen accidentally kills himself while attending Lord Pendlebury's horse. Agatha and attractive neighbor James Lacey investigate the curious lack of sorrow shown by his divorced wife while a killer plans another "accident".

c. Death of a Gossip

"When society widow & gossip columnist Lady Jane Winters joins the local fishing class she wastes no time in ruffling the feathers of those around her. Among the victims of her sharp tongue is PC Hamish Macbeth, yet not even Hamish thinks someone would seriously want to silence her - until her strangled body is fished out of the river."

d. Death of a Cad

"When Priscilla Halburton-Smythe brings her London playwright fiancé home to Lochdubh, everybody in town is delighted . . . except for love-smitten Constable Hamish Macbeth. Yet his affairs of the heart will have to wait. Vile, boorish Captain Bartlett, one of the guests at Priscilla's engagement party, has just been found murdered-shot while on a grouse hunt. Now with many titled party guests as the prime suspects, each with a reason for snuffing out the despicable captain, Hamish must smooth ruffled feathers as he investigates the case. When the hidden culprit strikes again, Hamish will find himself trying to save Priscilla from a miserable marriage-and catch a killer before he flies the coop."

I've read the first two books in the Hamish MacBeth series so far and have read three or four of the Agatha Raisin books as well. I've been collecting them slowly and enjoy trying to read at least one of each per year. 

There you go. Some reading material ideas to start your Easter weekend. In my next entry, I'll do my monthly reading summary. 


Thursday, 29 March 2018

And It's One, Two, Three Strikes You're Out.......

at the old ball game...

It's noon, Thursday 29 Mar 2018 and we're only about 30 minutes from the Blue Jays' 2018 season home opener with the New York Yankees. Jay Happ getting his first season opener start in his career against Luis Severino. I'm not getting my hopes up this season but I will still enjoy the season.

Baseball has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I first got hooked watching baseball with my Dad back when we lived in Chatham, New Brunswick in the early '60s. We spent many an evening relaxing in the living room; my dad on his easy chair, me usually sprawled on the floor with a bag of corn chips and either a cold Mountain Dew or an Orange Crush. There were no Canadian teams in the Major Leagues back in those days and since we were on the east coast, I think we mostly got Yankee and Red Sox games. If Dad fell asleep in his chair, which he often did, I'd get to stay up until the end of the game.

Still enjoying playing at a much later age
I got involved playing in Little League back in Chatham. I started as a pitcher but fairly quickly moved to 2nd base and then my favorite position in Center field. There is such a great feeling chasing down a fly ball and making a nice catch. I did that once or twice. :0)

My Dad used to play baseball when he worked in the gold mine up in Timmins Ontario and he liked to play catch with me and the other neighborhood kids. He was a pitcher as well as a fielder so he could throw it fairly hard. I don't know how many times he popped Paul Duggan's thumb. Even just playing 500 up was a fun time for us. Do you know that game? One guy bats and the rest of us catch fly balls. You got 100 pts for a fly ball, 75 if you caught in on the first bounce, 50 for a two - bouncer and 25 for a grounder. 500 points and you got to bat. Of course we also used to play make up games in the field near our house. If you didn't have enough players for two teams, you'd get two batters and the rest in the field. Every time one guy got out, you'd all shift positions, the guy who got out moving to the outfield and everyone else shifting closer. So much fun.

Softball / fastball....
I played baseball and then fastball. I played in leagues at most of the bases I was stationed at when I was in the military; usually center field although as time moved on, I also moved to catcher and first base. I'll play any position just to be on a ball diamond. Love the game.

I always enjoyed watching the game. I remember in Grade 7 our teacher, Miss Lee, let us listen to the World series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox on the radio during class. So exciting. When Canada got it's first professional Major League team, the Montreal Expos, it added an extra level of excitement to watching. Dad and I went to watch one home game at the old Jarry Park to see the Expos play and lose against the Cincinnati Reds 13 - 3. But all it took was one home run from Ken Singleton to get the fans on their feet cheering. I went to a double header against the New York Mets with my cousin Denis but unfortunately the game was rained out. The games on CBC TV were so much fun. They used to have this little promos explaining the various pitches in French; Slider - Balle Glissante, etc.

Exhibition Stadium
When the Expos were on the West Coast I used to listen to the games on the radio as I lay in bed. Yup, I was hooked. And then in 1977, along came the Toronto Blue Jays, playing their first seasons in a converted Canadian Football League stadium, Exhibition Stadium. I wanted to go to their first home opener against the Chicago White Sox but had an exam that day (I was attending University of Toronto at the time). But I managed to see quite a few games while I was finishing my degree. Just hop on the trolley cars and subway and there you were. Cheap tickets and on days when it wasn't a sell-out, just buy a ticket down the right field line and as the game progressed, move down closer to first base. Always a great time.

Lucky for me, Jo got hooked on the sport when she came to Canada so we have enjoyed spending our evenings watching the games. It was especially fun when they had two play off runs  in 2015 and 2016. Maybe another one this year??? *fingers crossed*

There have been so many excellent baseball movies. A few of my favorites below.

A League of Their Own. My personal favorite, a movie about baseball during WWII and the establishment of the professional women's baseball league. Great cast, funny and sad, one of the best baseball movies and just movies ever made.

Bull Durham. Kevin Costner has made some great movies but he is especially great at making a baseball movie. This is a true classic.

Field of Dreams. Probably Costner's best movie, it's essentially about the soul of baseball. Based on a book by W.P. Kinsella, it's one you can watch time after time.

Moneyball. Fascinating movie about the origins of Billy ball, the Oakland A's manager, Billy Beane and his attempts to assemble a competitive team during the 2002 season.

For the Love of the Game. Did I not say that Costner makes excellent baseball movies? This one was a bit soppier but still strikes a chord, the story of a washed up pitcher and his look back on his life as he tries to finish off his career.

The Rookie. One of Dennis Quaid's best movies, about a high school teacher who agrees to try out for the major's if his high school baseball team makes the playoffs.

Trouble with the Curve. It doesn't hurt that this movie stars the fantastic Amy Adams. About Clint Eastwood, a decorated baseball scout possibly at the end of his career and his fractious relationship with his daughter who tries to resurrect their relationship by helping him on a scouting tour.

These are just a few of the excellent movies with baseball as a theme. Check out some of them and find others that I never mentioned.

Baseball Books

I have to say I haven't read that many baseball books but I remember a couple that made me chuckle many years ago.

Jim Bouton's Ball Four. Bouton was a knuckle ball pitcher who played for both the Houston Astros and the Yankees. He wasn't the most successful pitcher in baseball but this book provided insight into some of the more unsavory aspect of the game. Not to say it wasn't funny because it was that. But it also talked about drug use and obscene language and tomcatting. I'm not sure how it would be received today.

Joe Garagiola's Baseball is a Funny Game. Garagiola was a professional catcher who played from 1946 - 1954. He wasn't one of the best ever but had a successful career and then followed that as a baseball announcer for many years after that. This is a cozy book with many humorous anecdotes from his career. Many laugh out loud moments as I recall.

Well, there you go, the game is just about to start. I'll be watching during the commercial breaks as I watch Deadline: White House. Then all focus on the game!! GO BLUE JAYS!!!

Monday, 26 March 2018

Just Finished and Starting a New Book Plus My Continuing Author's A - Z

Here we go, the start of another week. Like 20 million+ Americans, Jo and I watched the Stormy Daniels interview on CBS' 60 Minutes last night. She's very credible but as is the case with most of these types of interviews (are there really that many of 'these types' of interviews?), it was a bit anti - climactic. Still interesting though. Today before we head out to do a little bit of shopping, we're watching Deadline: White House.... Nicolle Wallace is back from vacation!!! Yay!!

So now on to the book stuff...

Just Finished

The Maze Runner by James Dashner (YA / Adventure). This is the first book in the Maze Runner series. I've got the second book on my shelf so will read at least that one.

"The Maze Runner is the first book in the Maze Runner YA/ Fantasy / Dystopian series by James Dashner. Thomas wakes up with no memories on an elevator which empties out on to the Glade. It's peopled by a bunch of teenage boys who live and work there and are trying to find the way to escape by searching for a way through the Maze. The boys who take on this task are, of course, the Maze Runners.
Normally, it seems that the new boy or the Greenie works his way through various tasks in the Glade until he finds his official duty. Thomas, for some reason, is drawn to being a Maze Runner.
Events speed up rapidly with his arrival. Normally a new boy arrives once a month. Each night the entrances to the Maze close, which is a good thing, as the Maze is peopled by creatures known as the Grievers. If the gate were left open, they would kill every body. The Maze Runners must get back to the Glade before the gates close or they will have to stay overnight in the Maze, a fatal situation. The sting of the Griever causes hallucinations and a Changing (you have to read about it, I'm not telling you everything.)
There is normally a new arrival once a month but the day after Thomas arrives, a new person arrives... A GIRL!!! And then things start happening more and more rapidly. The idea is that the boys have to find a way to escape the Glade or who knows what might happen.
It's an interesting story, with a few neat twists and an interesting ending.. well, not really an ending but rather a cliff hanger. I have the second book on my shelf so I'm sure I'll see how the story moves along and see if any other answers are provided. (3.5 stars)"

Now Starting

The Ash Garden by Dennis Bock (Can Lit). I've moved over to my Canadian Content challenge with this book.

"A scientist stealing across the Pyrenees into Spain, then smuggled into America... A young woman quarantined on a ship wandering the Atlantic, her family left behind in Austria... A girl playing on a riverbank as a solitary airplane appears on the horizon... Lives already in motion, unsettled by war, and about to change beyond reckoning -- their pasts blurred and their destinies at once bound for the desert of Los Alamos, the woman unexpectedly en route to a refugee camp, the girl at Ground Zero and that plane the Enola Gay. In August 1945, in a blinding flash, Hiroshima sees the dawning of the modern age.

With these three characters, Dennis Bock transforms a familiar story -- the atom bomb as a means to end worldwide slaughter -- into something witnessed, as if for the first time, in all its beautiful and terrible power. Destroyer of Worlds. With Anton and Sophie and Emiko, with the complete arc of their histories and hopes, convictions and requests, The Ash Garden is intricate yet far-reaching, from market streets in Japan to German universities, from New York tenements to, ultimately, a peaceful village in Ontario. Revealed here, as their fates triangulate, are the true costs and implications of a nightmare that has persisted for over half a century. In its reserves of passion and wisdom, in its grasp of pain and memory, in its balance of ambition and humanity, this first novel is an astonishing triumph."

 Bill's Author A - Z

Nevada Barr
1. Nevada Barr (Mystery). Barr is an American mystery novelist who writes about a subject with which she is very familiar; the US Parks' System. Her novels center around a Park Ranger, Anna Pigeon, who travels around the National Parks in the US and finds herself involved in mysteries / murders in each location. It's an excellent series, one that I discovered at ABC Books when I first moved to the Comox Valley. Her first book came out in 1993, Track of the Cat, to 2016, Boar Island, a collection of 19 books. I've read 11 so far and enjoyed all of them but one. I'll highlight some of my favorites below.

a. A Superior Death (#2, situated Isle Royale National Park).

"Park ranger Anna Pigeon returns, in a mystery that unfolds in and around Lake Superior, in whose chilling depths sunken treasure comes with a deadly price. In her latest mystery, Nevada Barr sends Ranger Pigeon to a new post amid the cold, deserted, and isolated beauty of Isle Royale National Park, a remote island off the coast of Michigan known for fantastic deep-water dives of wrecked sailing vessels. Leaving behind memories of the Texas high desert and the environmental scam she helped uncover, Anna is adjusting to the cool damp of Lake Superior and the spirits and lore of the northern Midwest. But when a routine application for a diving permit reveals a grisly underwater murder, Anna finds herself 260 feet below the forbidding surface of the lake, searching for the connection between a drowned man and an age-old cargo ship. Written with a naturalist's feel for the wilderness and a keen understanding of characters who thrive in extreme conditions, A Superior Death is a passionate, atmospheric page-turner. (not my review, this is the synopses)

b. Ill Wind (#3, Mesa Verde National Park).

"In Ill Wind, Barr's powerful new novel, Park Ranger Anna Pigeon confronts death among the ruins. Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park is noted for its well-preserved cliff dwellings, the sole legacy of the Anasazi civilization, which vanished without any other trace in the twelfth century. Separated from friends and family and haunted by personal demons, Anna finds solace in these quiet ruins, their pinon-scented turrets and towers backlit by the fading blue of distant mountain ranges. But the rugged beauty of the park and the mystery of the Anasazi are cruelly overshadowed by danger and death. An unusually high number of medical rescues and the unexpected death of an asthmatic child are followed by the sudden demise of a fellow ranger who is found neatly curled up in one of the ancient kivas, his hat and shoes at his side. Anna had thought she'd found a friend in this man, had seen him as a kindred spirit, but his death transforms him into an enigma. Puzzled and more deeply wounded than she'd ever dare admit, Anna immerses herself in the ensuing investigation. As she sifts through shifting loyalties and struggles to honor the past, she must face forces both seen and unseen which threaten her career - and her very life."

c. Firestorm (#4, Lassen Volcanic National Park).

"As part of the army battling the Jackknife fire in northern California's Lassen Volcanic National Park, Anna, in her capacity as spike camp medic and security officer, tends the injuries and the frayed nerves of the firefighters. When the National Weather Service predicts a cold front followed by snow, promising to all but extinguish the fire, the camp is demobilized, but a last-minute rescue of a firefighter with a broken leg detains Anna and the San Juan crew. Driven on by the erratic thunderstorm of the front, wind shears in the steep canyon, creating the deadly weather conditions for a firestorm. As the ravine explodes in flames propelled by the racing winds, the crew tries desperately to outrun the blaze, ultimately seeking refuge in their individual silver fire shelters wryly referred to as shake 'n' bakes. When the fire finally passes, Anna emerges from her shelter to check on the fate of her companions. The sound of each exhausted voice, the sight of each bruised and blackened figure, is cause for celebration - until one member of the crew is found inside his shelter with a knife in his back. With darkness comes snow, making immediate rescue impossible, and Anna must tend to the physical and emotional wounds of the crew while seeking the identity of the murderer in their midst."
The only one I didn't enjoy that much was Flashback set in Dry Tortugas National Park. I think it was the 'ghost story' aspect that I didn't care that much about. The historical aspect of the park, which was a prison for Lincoln conspirators. But even that was still interesting. I have 4 more of the books sitting on my book shelves waiting my attention. It's a great series to enjoy once or twice a year. You even get to visit another area of the US if you're so inclined.

Jefferson Bass
2.  Jefferson Bass (Forensic Crime). Jefferson Bass is the pen name of contemporary American novelist, Jon Jefferson and forensic anthropologist William M. Bass. They have penned so far 10 books in the Body Farm series, from 2006 - 2016. I've read the first 4 books in the series. It's set in Tennessee and revolves around University of Tennessee anthropologist, Bill Brockton, who founded the universities Body Farm. Interesting series, especially if you like forensic mysteries.

Below are synopses of the first book and my favorite so far, the 4th.

a. Carved in Bone.

"In a forest in Tennessee, rotting bodies litter the ground.
This is not a mass murder scene; it's the Body Farm, where human remains lie exposed to be studied for their secrets. Its real-life founder has broken cold cases and revolutionized forensics...and now he spins an astonishing tale, inspired by his own experiences.
A woman's corpse lies hidden in a cave in the mountains of East Tennessee. Undiscovered for thirty years, her body has been transformed into a near-perfect mummy. Clueless, the local police enlist the help of Dr Bill Brockton, renowned anthropologist and founder of the Body Farm.
The body has been found in Cooke County, a remote community that's insular and distrustful. When Brockton's autopsy discloses an explosive secret, old wounds are reopened and feuds rekindled. As the powerful and uncooperative sheriff and his inept deputy threaten to derail Brockton's investigation, even Brockton, after years surrounded by death and decay, is baffled by this case as it unfolds in a unique environment, where nothing is quite what it seems."

b. Bones of Betrayal.

"Each book in this series gets better and better. Bones of Betrayal by Jefferson Bass, the 4th book in the Body Farm, forensic series, was no exception. This book finds the head of University of Tennessee's Body Farm, Bill Brockton, and his assistant, Miranda Lovelady, heading off to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the site of the nuclear laboratories of WWII fame, to work on a body frozen into an abandoned hotel's swimming pool. They are in for a shock as it turns out the body died of radiation poisoning and others will be infected. The story involves a search into the history of the Oak Ridge facility as the body belongs to one of the scientists who worked their during WWII. I enjoyed the historical aspects of the story and, as always, I liked the main characters, Brockton and Miranda. For all its tension, the story has a nice folksy quality to it, that brought about by these characters. The mystery itself was interesting and well-developed. I had an idea of those who would be involved in the murder(s) but the reasons were still a surprise. The books have all been enjoyable and very readable. The Bone Thief is next and is sitting on my bookshelf awaiting my attention. Excellent series. (4 stars)"

H. E. Bates
3. H.E. Bates. English writer Bates lived from 1905 - 1974. He was a prolific writer of novels, short stories and non-fiction. He is probably best known for the Pop Larkin series, which included The Darling Buds of May. I've not read this series. I've quite enjoyed his books set in the Far East. I first read The Purple Plain back in my high school days but have read it a couple of more times since then. I've read 4 of his books and of them only Dulcima wasn't worth the effort. It was a romance that really did nothing for me. Anyway, below I'll highlight the three books that I enjoyed.

a. The Purple Plain (1947).

"During 1945 H. E. Bates spent some time in Burma and India with the aim of writing about the Burmese war for American readers. The experience inspired three ‘Asian novels’, one of which was “The Purple Plain”. After returning to England he heard a story about a pilot who, having lost his wife to a German bomb while on honeymoon, as a consequence had become "a much-decorated hero by the dubious method of trying to get himself killed". It provided the spark that prompted Bates to start working on the novel (in any event, because of his experiences while over there, he was already keen to write about his time in Burma). In the novel, Forrester, commander at an air station on the "purple plain" of Burma, loses the will to live, but regains it upon meeting a young Burmese woman, Anna, who has passed through her own wartime trauma. He survives a plane crash, rescues a fellow pilot, and is finally reunited with Anna. It is a tale of human courage and endurance in the face of tremendous odds, and it was certainly “something different” for Bates. The book was published in late November 1947, and in 1954 the story was filmed starring Gregory Peck and Win Min Than."

b. The Jacaranda Tree (1949).

"During World War II, a small English community are forced to flee when Japanese forces invade Burma. Paterson, the manager of a rice-mill, organises the evacuation and takes with him his Burmese mistress and her young brother. The rest of the party take along their prejudices, their pettiness and their squabbles, and a small enclave of English insularity moves north through Burma. Inevitably, as the journey continues, bitterness, tension and insoluble conflict unfold...Inspired by Bates' period of service in the Eastern theatre of war, "The Jacaranda Tree" skillfully evokes the atmosphere of Burma during the chaos of invasion."

c. The Scarlet Sword (1950).

"The entire action of The Scarlet Sword takes place in rather less than ten days at a Catholic mission in Kashmir . There, at the moment when Kashmir breaks under the ferocious tribal rush of Pathans and Afridis. About sixty people of many nationalities are trapped. They include not only nuns, two priests, and many Sikh and Hindu women and children, but a war correspondent named Crane, a young English Colonel and his wife, a nurse from Glasgow, an English girl and her mother, and a dancer from the brothels of Bombay. In the first murderous descent of Pathans several of these are killed. The rest, fortified and led by the two priests, succored and nursed by the nuns, remain to resist by immense courage, fortitude and humour tens days of nightmare."

So there you go. I plan to finish Murder at Madingley Grange tonight as I enjoy an evening's television. Enjoy your week!


Friday, 23 March 2018

Book Recommendations and Bill's A - Z Author's List

Well I've not finished any books over night nor have I purchased any new books so no update there today. Jo and I have been enjoying watching the World Women's Curling in my birthplace of North Bay, Ontario. We talked about going to watch in person but it would been fairly costly. It's been fun watching on the tube. I'm sure my Dad has been watching as well. He was a very good curler, even tried to represent New Brunswick in the Men's Brier a couple of times.

As well, as normal, I've spent too much time watching the antics at the White House. More staff changes and it looks like the Prez is leaning even further to the right. Scary stuff! So since I have no new books to highlight for you, instead, today I've got some book recommendations for the US Secretary of Defense, Gen Jim Mattis. You probably don't have much time to read as you try to keep the fires tamped down there, but as one of the only adults left in the Cabinet, these are some very interesting books.

Firstly, just as a bit of a scare -

1. Fail Safe by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler. Please keep control of the red button!!

"Something has gone wrong. A group of American bombers armed with nuclear weapons is streaking past the fail-safe point, beyond recall, and no one knows why. Their destination - Moscow.
In a bomb shelter beneath the White House, the calm young president turns to his Russian translator and says, "I think we are ready to talk to Premier Khrushchev." Not far away, in the War Room at the Pentagon, the secretary of defense and his aides watch with growing anxiety as the luminous blips crawl across a huge screen map. High over the Bering Strait in a large Vindicator bomber, a colonel stares in disbelief at the attack code number on his fail-safe box and wonders if it could possibly be a mistake.
First published in 1962, when America was still reeling from the Cuban missile crisis, Fail-Safe reflects the apocalyptic attitude that pervaded society during the height of the Cold War, when disaster could have struck at any moment. As more countries develop nuclear capabilities and the potential for new enemies lurks on the horizon, Fail-Safe and its powerful issues continue to respond."

2. On the Beach by Nevil Shute.  If the first book doesn't give you enough incentive, try this one. 

"After a nuclear World War III has destroyed most of the globe, the few remaining survivors in southern Australia await the radioactive cloud that is heading their way and bringing certain death to everyone in its path. Among them is an American submarine captain struggling to resist the knowledge that his wife and children in the United States must be dead. Then a faint Morse code signal is picked up, transmitting from somewhere near Seattle, and Captain Towers must lead his submarine crew on a bleak tour of the ruined world in a desperate search for signs of life. On the Beach is a remarkably convincing portrait of how ordinary people might face the most unimaginable nightmare."

3. The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon.  A book to give you pause. Can you think of someone in power who might be susceptible to ummmm, maybe brain washing or blackmail by a foreign power?

"Everyone knows the controversial 1962 film of The Manchurian Candidate starring Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury, even though it was taken out of circulation for 25 years after JFK's assassination. Equally controversial on publication, and just as timely today, is Richard Condon's original novel. First published in 1959, The Manchurian Candidate is Condon's riveting take on a little-known corner of the cold war, the almost sci-fi concept of American soldiers captured, brainwashed, and programmed by their Chinese captors to return to the states as unsuspected political assassins. Condon's expert manipulation of the book's multiple themes – from anticommunist hysteria to megalomaniacal motherhood – makes this one of the most dazzling, and enduring, products of an unforgettable time"

4.  Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II. Don't you have a big parade planned in Washington?? ;0)

"Gentleman Jim Scott was a brilliant magnetic general. Like a lot of people, he believed the President was ruining the country. Unlike anyone else, he had the power to do something about it, something unprecedented and terrifying. Colonel "Jiggs" Casey was the marine who accidentally stumbled onto the plot. At first he refused to believe it; then he risked his life and career to inform the President. Jordan Lyman was President of the United States. By the time he was finally able to convince himself of the appalling truth, he had only seven days left to stop a brilliant, seemingly irresistible military plot to seize control of the government of the United States."

5. The Dead Zone by Stephen King. The theme I remember is "show the coward for what he is." And it's just a fine story.

"Johnny, the small boy who skated at breakneck speed into an accident that for one horrifying moment plunged him into The Dead Zone.
Johnny Smith, the small-town schoolteacher who spun the wheel of fortune and won a four-and-a-half-year trip into The Dead Zone.
John Smith, who awakened from an interminable coma with an accursed power—the power to see the future and the terrible fate awaiting mankind in The Dead Zone."

After all is said and done, they are just excellent books. Enjoy!

Bill's Author's A - Z

Continuing with my ongoing theme, I'm still in the 'B's.

Iain M. Banks
a. Iain M. Banks. British author, Banks, lived from 1954 - 2013. He wrote one of my favorite Science Fiction series, the Culture books. I've also read one of his fiction stories and a standalone Science Fiction novel and enjoyed them very much. The Culture books consists of 9 books. I've read four so far. Below are links to books that were listed in my Top 100 books of all-time BLog entries of the past few weeks.

 - Matter (#39).
- Excession (#70).
- Consider Phlebas (#79).

Below are a few other books of Bank's that I've enjoyed.

The Algebraist (2004).

"It is 4034. Humanity has made it to the stars. Fassin Taak, a Slow Seer at the Court of the Nasqueron Dwellers, will be fortunate if he makes it to the end of the year. The Nasqueron Dwellers inhabit a gas giant on the outskirts of the galaxy, in a system awaiting its wormhole connection to the rest of civilization. In the meantime, they are dismissed as decadents living in a state of highly developed barbarism, hoarding data without order, hunting their own young & fighting pointless formal wars. Seconded to a military-religious order he's barely heard of - part of the baroque hierarchy of the Mercatoria, the latest galactic hegemony - Taak has to travel again amongst the Dwellers. He is in search of a secret hidden for half a billion years. But with each day that passes a war draws closer - a war threatening to overwhelm everything & everyone he's ever known."

 The Wasp Factory (1984). Think of Lord of the Flies in some ways. 

"Frank, no ordinary sixteen-year-old, lives with his father outside a remote Scottish village. Their life is, to say the least, unconventional. Frank's mother abandoned them years ago: his elder brother Eric is confined to a psychiatric hospital; and his father measures out his eccentricities on an imperial scale. Frank has turned to strange acts of violence to vent his frustrations. In the bizarre daily rituals there is some solace. But when news comes of Eric's escape from the hospital Frank has to prepare the ground for his brother's inevitable return - an event that explodes the mysteries of the past and changes Frank utterly."

I've still got the following books on my bookshelf from Bank.
- Walking on Glass (1985)
- Complicity (1993)
- Surface Detail (2010 / Culture #9).

Linwood Barclay
b. Linwood Barclay. Barclay is an American - born Canadian writer. I've read one of his mystery novels and was pleasantly surprised by it. Since 2004 he has written 19 novels. I have one other of his books awaiting my attention and if I enjoy it as much as the first, I will continue to try his books.

Never Saw it Coming (2013).

"This was a pleasantly surprising book. The basic premise from the back cover synopsis is that a woman, Keisha Ceylon, a bit of a con-woman, who pretends to have powers to talk to spirits, uses her pretense to try and con a man whose wife has gone missing, into paying her for her supposed help. But this activity might end up endangering her life. So with little expectation I began the book and was nicely surprised at the twists and turns. Every time I thought it would go one way, Barclay would turn it another. For all her conman activities, it's difficult not to like Keisha. I also liked the police detective, Rona Wedmore, for her ability to get to the crux of the situation. It's not a complex story, but the writing style was easy and smooth and the story most enjoyable. A real pleasure to finally try a book by Linwood Barclay. (4 stars)"

The Accident (2011).

"Glen Garber, a contractor, has seen his business shaken by the housing crisis, and now his wife, Sheila, is taking a business course at night to increase her chances of landing a good-paying job. But she should have been home by now. With their eight-year-old daughter sleeping soundly, Glen soon finds his worst fears confirmed: Sheila and two others have been killed in a car accident. Grieving and in denial, Glen resolves to investigate the accident himself - and begins to uncover layers of lawlessness beneath the placid surface of their Connecticut suburb, secret after dangerous secret behind the closed doors. Propelled into a vortex of corruption and illegal activity, pursued by mysterious killers, and confronted by threats from neighbors he thought he knew, Glen must take his own desperate measures and go to terrifying new places in himself to avenge his wife and protect his child."

Clive Barker
c. Clive Barker. Clive Barker is an English writer, director and screen-writer, specializing in the horror genre. Since 1985, he has written 16 novels, with another due to come out in 2018. Below are two I've found interesting.

The Damnation Game (1985).

"Experience the unspeakably evil games no gambler can resist. Meet the man who gambles his soul to the monarch of Hell - and tries to avoid paying his final debt. Now Joseph Whitehead has Hell to pay. And no soul is safe from the resurrected fury of The Damnation Game."

Mister B. Gone (2007). 

"You hold in your hands not a book at all, but a terrifying embodiment of purest evil. Can you feel the electric tingle in your fingers as you are absorbed by the demon Jakabok's tale of his unintentional ascent from the depths of the Inferno? Do you sense the cold dread worming its way into your bloodstream, your sinews, the marrow of your bones as you read more deeply into his earthly education and unspeakable acts? The filth you now grasp has been waiting patiently for you for nearly six hundred years. And now, before you are completely in its thrall, you would do well to follow the foul creature's admonition and destroy this abomination of ink and paper before you turn a single leaf and are lost forever.

You have been warned."

Well, there you all go. I hope you find a good book amongst those mentioned. Have a great weekend. Curl up with a good book!
Related Posts with Thumbnails