Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Your Midweek Music Medley - 12 May 2021

Heading out to get some groceries in a little bit. So without further ado, here is your midweek music medley.

Midweek Music Medley - 12 May 2021

1. American singer / songwriter Bebe Rexha - Meant To Be (2017). Performed with Florida Georgia Line.

2. American country pop singer Kelsey Ballerini - Bragger (2020).

3. Canadian country singer Tenille Townes - Come As You Are (2020)

Enjoy the rest of the week. Stay safe. 😷

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

A Reading Update, New Books and Women Authors I Enjoy

I've finished two books in the past couple of days and received 3 in the mail. I'll provide my book reviews and the synopses of the next books I'm reading plus those of my newest books. I'll also continue with my latest theme, women authors I'm enjoying reading.

Just Finished

1. One Fearful Yellow Eye by John D. MacDonald (Travis McGee #8).

"One Fearful Yellow Eye is the 8th book in Travis McGee mystery series by John D. MacDonald. Travis McGee is a beach bum in Florida who gets involved in cases, trying to help people get out of some sort of trouble. He's not technically an official PI, but somewhat more like The Equalizer, but one who works more by the seat of his pants and his intuition in helping these individuals.

McGee gets a phone call from an old friend, Glory, who is now living in Chicago. The two had a past, when Glory got into serious trouble back in Florida and McGee helped her out and helped her find herself again. He also introduced her to her husband and stood in at their wedding. Her husband Dr. Foster Geis has passed away and she has now discovered that his estate has somehow disappeared and that Foster's children from a previous marriage believe that Glory has hidden it someplace. McGee agrees to go to Chicago to help.

Glory is the good Dr's 2nd wife. While his first wife was dying, he had a relationship with his house-keeper's daughter and she got pregnant by him. She was married off and he helped fund the child's life. He also had a relationship with his scrub nurse which had been broken off. Money he had set aside for Glory and his two adult children (50 / 25 / 25) has disappeared. Foster had removed it from trust funds and converted to cash. His financial adviser provides as much info as possible to McGee and McGee begins to check out the children, the cook, the nurse and others in his investigation.

McGee struggles trying to find out what happened but thinks Foster may have been black mailed about something in his past. I'll leave the plot at that. I always like Travis McGee. He's a straight shooter and a trust worthy ally. I found the middle of this story got sort of muddy, almost too much description and time spent with McGee speculating on life, his past and his surroundings. But it still moves along and when McGee begins to grasp the  plot, it moves at a high speed pace with sufficient action and tension to satisfy anyone. There is a mysterious sub-plot that comes to fruition at the end of the story, a fascinating unforeseen (by me anyway) conclusion.

The description of wintry Chicago even gave me chills. The characters are all well-defined and three dimensional. The story is all in all satisfying and an entertaining read. I had some doubts initially but thought the last chapters brought the story to new heights and made it worth starting and working through. (4.5 stars)"

2. Madam President by Nicolle Wallace (Eighteen Acres #3).

"Madam President is the 3rd and final book in the Eighteen Acres political trilogy by Nicolle Wallace. As in the other books the focus is on the 3 women who are the main characters; President Charlotte (now in her 2nd term), Melanie (previously Charlotte's Chief of Staff, now her Defense Secretary) and Dale (a WH reporter previously, who had had a relationship with Charlotte's husband, now her Press Secretary)

Madam President basically takes place over one day when America is hit by terrorist actions in cities across the US, bombings in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami and Washington DC. Charlotte is in the midst of giving a speech about Planned Parenthood when the first bombs explode. Dale is working out of the White House, coordinating a Day in the Life of the President and WH with a CBS crew lead by anchors, Lucy and Richard. Melanie has been in Iraq visiting troops and heading back to try and help Charlotte.

The story alternates between the 3, each chapter dealing with one or the other as they work on the crisis. It's a fascinating look at how a crisis is dealt with by the WH, the people involved, the relationships between the 3 main characters, their loved ones and the press. Of the characters, I continue to prefer Melanie, a level - headed, smart, quick decision maker. Melanie is now pregnant and trying to maintain contact with her husband, a WH reporter. Charlotte is still dealing with her tense relationship with her husband Peter and her children, plus with a possible leaker in the White House. Dale still reviews her feelings for Peter and a budding relationship with a WH adviser, Warren.

The story is an excellent mix between personalities, crisis management and relationships. The story flows along at an excellent pace and keeps the tension ratcheted up throughout. Personally I find the relationship aspect tiresome at times, but that's just a personal preference, but they are critical to the way each of the main characters react to the crisis. All in all, it was an enjoyable trilogy and an excellent final book with a satisfying conclusion. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. Pale Gray for Guilt by John D. MacDonald (Travis McGee #9).

"Tush Bannon was in the wrong spot at the wrong time. His measly plot of land just so happened to sit right in the middle of a rich parcel of five hundred riverfront acres that big-money real estate interests decided they simply must have.

It didn’t matter that Tush was a nice guy with a family, or that he never knew he was dealing with a criminal element. They squashed him like a bug and walked away, counting their change. But one thing they never counted on: the gentle giant had a not-so-gentle friend in Travis McGee. And now he’s going to make them pay."

2. The Scar by China Mieville (Bas - Lag #2).

"The second Bas-Lag novel from the author of Perdido Street Station, an epic and breathtaking fantasy of extraordinary imagination.

A human cargo bound for servitude in exile.

A pirate city hauled across the ocean.

A hidden miracle about be revealed.

This is the story of a prisoner's journey. The search for the island of a forgotten people, for the most astonishing beast in the seas, and ultimately for a fabled place - a massive wound in reality, a source of unthinkable power and danger...

The Scar."

New Books

1. Satan's World by Poul Anderson (1968).

"Most men called it the Devil Planet. Only David Falkayn saw it as a world where he could make the greatest fortune of his career - if an entire alien armada could be kept at bay! In his magnificent Future History of mankind's second great age, Poul Anderson has conjured up a universe too immense for even the human race to despoil. Across this grand expanse of space roams the Polesotechnic League, a band of merchant princes from every inhabited planet, in search of adventure and riches beyond the wildest dreams of our earthbound time!"

2. New Hope for the Dead by Charles Willeford (Hoke Mosely #2).

"Miami homicide detective Hoke Moseley is called to a posh Miami neighborhood to investigate a lethal overdose. There he meets the alluring stepmother of the decedent, and begins to wonder about dating a witness. Meanwhile, he has been threatened with suspension by his ambitious new chief unless he leaves his beloved, if squalid, suite at the El Dorado Hotel, and moves downtown. With free housing hard to come by, Hoke is desperate to find a new place to live. His difficulties are only amplified by an assignment to re-investigate fifty unsolved murders, the unexpected arrival of his two teenage daughters, and a partner struggling with an unwanted pregnancy. With few options and even fewer dollars, he decides that the suspicious and beautiful stepmother of the dead junkie might be a compromised solution to all of his problems."

3. Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey #8).

"When ad man Victor Dean falls down the stairs in the offices of Pym's Publicity, a respectable London advertising agency, it looks like an accident. Then Lord Peter Wimsey is called in, and he soon discovers there's more to copy-writing than meets the eye. A bit of cocaine, a hint of blackmail, and some wanton women can be read between the lines. And then there is the brutal succession of murders -- 5 of them -- each one a fixed fee for advertising a deadly secret."

Women Authors I'm Enjoying - Lois McMaster Bujold

Lois McMaster Bujold, an American author of speculative fiction, is a relatively new author for me. She was born in 1949 in Columbus Ohio. Over her writing career, she's been awarded a number of Hugo, Nebula, Locus and other awards. I have begun to explore her Vorkosigan saga. I have read one book and have another awaiting my attention.

1. The Warrior's Apprentice (Vorkosigan Saga #2).

"Discharged from the Barrarayan academy after flunking the physical, a discouraged Miles Vorkosigan takes possession of a jumpship and becomes the leader of a mercenary force that expands to a fleet of treasonous proportions."

2. Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Saga #1).

"A couple of years back, in my BLog, I was daily listing various songs and books that won awards each year from 1955 - the present. There were many new authors for me in those lists and I've purchased a few that sounded interesting. Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold won the Hugo Award for best Sci-Fi novel in 1992. The Vorkosigan saga, of which Barrayar was one the books, also won as beat Sci-Fi series in 2017. Shards of Honor is the 1st book in this series. And it was excellent.

Commander Cordelia Naismith, of the Beta world, leads a scientific exploration to a new world. Her expedition is attacked by soldiers from the Barrayar word, led by Lord Aral Vorkosigan. Due to intrigue within his crew, one of Cordelia's men is killed and another severely injured and Vorkosigan is abandoned, left for dead by his political officer, who takes over his crew.

The story now follows Cordelia and Aral as they struggle across the planet in an attempt to find safety, then to Vorkosigan's ship, where Cordelia is held prisoner and involved in both an escape and an attempt to prevent Aral's ship from being taken over by mutineers. There is more of course; a war between Barrayar and Escobar (assisted by Beta) and other activities. The story is about the relationship between Cordelia and Aral, their growing affection and love. It's about political intrigue, both on Beta and Barrayar. For a relatively short story, it's packed with action, great characters, intrigue, romance, everything you might like in a great story.

Bujold has an excellent way with developing characters (Cordelia and Aral are strong, intelligent and not without flaws) and the surrounding cast is also excellent. She presents the story concisely, neatly and draws you in to the events taking place. I especially enjoyed the to and fro of the main character's relationship. I also liked the intrigue and how it's resolved (or not). It was an excellent introduction to this series and I will read more. Loved it. (4.5 stars)"

The complete listing of Lois McMaster Bujold's works can be found at this link. Take care and enjoy the rest of your week. 😷

Sunday, 9 May 2021

A Quick Reading Update and Favorite Women Authors

It's been a nice sunny Sunday. Happy Mother's Day to all Mothers especially mine, who I miss every day. It's not Mother's Day in England but I also wish Jo's a Happy Mother's Day. I know Jo misses and feels her in our house all the time. (She keeps changing traffic lights to our advantage).

Friday I finally got my first Covid jab. I'm a member of the Pfizer gang. Jo gets hers next Friday. That'll be a relief. No real problems, except that I almost missed my appointment. 😰 For the past week or so, I've been reminding Jo about my appointment and then as Friday came, I told her that I couldn't wait until I got my shot, thinking my appointment was at 3:30 p.m. We were relaxing having a late lunch and I was getting a coffee and a couple of cookies when I double-checked the time and realized I was almost late! Egads! Well, I made it in time. Luckily we only live about a two or three minute drive from the base arena where the shots were being given. What a dope... 

I finished one book this morning. I'll provide my review and also continue with my latest theme, women authors I enjoy.

Just Finished

1. Black Out by John Lawton (Inspector Troy #1). This is a new mystery series set during WWII. 

"Black Out by John Lawton is the first book in his WWII mystery series featuring Scotland Yard DS Frederick Troy. I don't think it was perfect but it was entertaining, action-packed and ultimately satisfying.

Troy is a DS in bombed out London and is called to investigate the discovery of an arm in a bombed out house. The arm is discovered by a bunch of kids who spend their days playing in the ruined houses on London's streets. Troy is sure that a murder has occurred as the arm appears to have been surgically removed. He gets the boys to keep searching and when further evidence is discovered, he is sure of the murder. In a somewhat convoluted way, he now may be related to other disappearances / murders of ex-patriot German scientists, who may have been brought to England to work on the British munitions program. (As I said, somewhat convoluted).

This leads to possible American OSS involvement, a possible serial killer and ultimately, a trip to Berlin after the war's conclusion. There are many leaps of intuition (to my mind anyway) by Troy, but they don't take away from the entertainment of the story. Troy is one of those frustrating characters; he's determined, solitary, smart and never listens to his boss, preferring to work on his own assumptions. On his own, the story might not have been so enjoyable but it is also peopled with an excellent surrounding cast; his subordinate DC Wildeve, who is some ways is smarter than Troy; the fascinating, sexy American Sgt Tosca, a bit of a man-eater, even his boss, DCI Onions, frustrated by Troy's attitude but also willing to give him his rein. There are others that also make the story richer, the Polish / English coroner Kolankiewicz and his assistant Anna (who I hope makes more appearances in follow-on stories) and even Troy's neighboring hooker acquaintance, Ruby, who looks after him during his many injuries.

It's a messy story. London is a mess, bombed out with people living in the subway stations (described very well, in fact), the case is a messy one and even the sex is messy. There is lots of action, lots of violence. Troy is injured seriously many times but continues to get up and plug away at his case, refusing to let it go even after the end of the war. Lawton creates a rich, dark story and setting and I do look forward to seeing how the next one moves Troy's life along. (3.5 stars)"

Women Authors I'm Enjoying - Linda Buckley-Archer

Linda Buckley-Archer

Linda Buckley-Archer is a London based author who I know best for her Gideon the Cut-Purse trilogy, a young adult fantasy series. She also has written one other book, The Many Lives of John Stone. I discovered the first Gideon book when Jo and I were living in Victoria, at a neat little book store out in Cadboro Bay. It's unfortunately since closed, but there are still shops that Jo and I like to visit there. I finished the last of the trilogy last year. 

1. Gideon the Cut-Purse (aka The Time Travelers / 2006).

"Gideon Seymour, cut-purse and gentleman, hides from the villainous Tar Man. Suddenly the sky peels away like fabric and from the gaping hole fall two curious-looking children. Peter Schock and Kate Dyer have fallen straight from the twenty-first century, thanks to an experiment with an anti-gravity machine. Before Gideon and the children have a chance to gather their wits, the Tar Man takes off with the machine -- and Kate and Peter's only chance of getting home. Soon Gideon, Kate, and Peter are swept into a journey through eighteenth-century London and form a bond that, they hope, will stand strong in the face of unfathomable treachery." (3 stars)

2. The Tar Man (aka The Time Thief / 2007).


"Peter Schock has been left behind in 1763. Kate Dyer is beginning to suffer some disturbing side effects from time traveling. And the Tar Man, who was terrifying even in the eighteenth century, is loose and wreaking havoc in twenty-first-century London with twenty-first-century technology at his disposal! Can Kate find a way to bring Peter back and stop the Tar Man for good?" (4 stars)

3. Time Quake (2008).

"Time Quake by Linda Buckley-Archer is the third and final book in her Gideon trilogy. I read the first two books back in 2011ish so it took me a while to get back into the flow of this trilogy. The basic premise is that two young people Kate and Peter play with her father's anti-gravity machine and it is in fact a time travelling device. In this final chapter, Kate and Peter are stuck in London of 1793. 18th Century autocrat, Lord Luxon is using the device and is in present day New York, associating with a young historian and trying to discover a way of defeating George Washington to keep America in English hands. Kate's parents and friends are trying to devise a new machine to get Kate and Peter back to the present. Gideon, the Cut Purse, once their enemy is now helping the two try to find his brother, the Tar Man, as he has another machine, but works for Lord Luxon.

Phew, that's the briefest of incomplete summaries of this story. Kate is greatly affected by her various time travels. She is beginning to fade from existence and can only keep in her present by holding on to Peter. Whenever she lets go, she jumps forward in time losing track of herself. All of the time travelling also is causing time quakes, mixing up the various time frames of earth. Also parallel worlds are being created, which adds to the confusion.

So there you go. It's a very tense story and suitable finale to the events of the first two books. Things look very dire for the 'good' guys and Lord Luxon seems to have the upper hand and threatens to destroy the future (present?). I did enjoy this story but probably would have enjoyed it more if I'd read it sooner than later, and that's not the fault of the book, that's my fault. All in all, the three stories are well written, filled with action and neat ideas about time travel and peopled with great characters, both good and bad. Please check this book out, but read the first two before you do. (3.5 stars)"

A short but sweet post today. I hope you have a safe, happy week. 😷

Thursday, 6 May 2021

A Reading Update, New Books and Women Authors.. What a Bounty!

I haven't had a reading update for awhile. I finally finished my first book of April so I'll provide my review and the synopsis of the follow-on book. I'll also provide the synopses of some new books. I got two in the mail, one ordered by me and one by Jo. I also dropped off some books at the local used book store and picked up a few. Then I'll finish off with my ongoing look at favorite women authors of mine.

Just Finished

1. Rumpole and the Primrose Path by John Mortimer (Rumpole #12).

"Rumpole and the Primrose Path is one of the latest of John Mortimer's Rumpole collection. Primrose Path is a collection of six short stories, all entertaining and enjoyable.

Primrose Path starts with Rumpole in a care home, recovering from a heart attack. A new member of his legal practice, one Luci Gribble, hired as director of marketing is trying to organize a remembrance party for Rumpole. Rumpole escapes in the middle of the night and begins an investigation on a death in the home. The results are excellent. The rest of the stories carry on from there; a case with a modern day Fagin, a case involving privacy concerns, one with a re-offending con, etc.

The familiar cast is still there and all playing their roles; Rumpole's long suffering wife, Hilda (aka She who must be Obeyed), practice head Soapy Ballard, the husband / wife team of the Erskines, Phillida now a justice, etc.

Mortimer has a knack for creating nicely flowing, entertaining short stories, interesting cases with very satisfying resolutions and fun characters. Rumpole is always entertaining; curmudgeonly but smart, able to cull information from his legal briefs to get to the grit of the case and the solution. The stories aren't deep but they are fun. I enjoyed each and every one and especially the final chapter where we see that Hilda really does love and care for her recalcitrant husband. Choked me up a bit. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. The Kindness of Strangers by Julie Smith (Skip Langdon #6). I haven't read the 5th book, but so far it doesn't seem to matter.

"The sequel to House of Blues, Smith's latest novel features the return of New Orleans police detective Skip Langdon. The upcoming mayoral election pits the the usual thugs and vipers against a Errol Jacomine, a liberal-minded, civic-spirited preacher. The trouble is, in Skip's opinion, Jacomine is a psychopath and dangerous as hell."

New Books

1. Angels Flight by Mike Connelly (Harry Bosch #6). 

"An activist attorney is killed in a cute little L.A. trolley called Angels Flight, far from Harry Bosch's Hollywood turf. But the case is so explosive--and the dead man's enemies inside the L.A.P.D. are so numerous--that it falls to Harry to solve it. Now the streets are super heating. Harry's year-old Vegas marriage is unraveling. And the hunt for a killer is leading Harry to another high-profile L.A. murder case, one where every cop had a motive. The question is, did any have the guts?

2. Broken Harbour by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad #4).

"In Broken Harbour, a ghost estate outside Dublin – half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned – two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder Squad’s star detective. At first he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once.

Scorcher’s personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family, one summer at Broken Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk . . ."

3. The Killing Hour by Lisa Gardner (Quincy and Rainie #4).

"Each time he struck, he took two victims. Day after day, he waited for the first body to be discovered--a body containing all the clues the investigators needed to find the second victim, who waited...prey to a slow but certain death. The clock ticked--salvation was possible.

The police were never in time.

Years have passed; but for this killer, time has stood still. As a heat wave of epic proportions descends, the game begins again. Two girls have disappeared...and the clock is ticking.

Rookie FBI agent Kimberly Quincy knows the killer’s deadline can be met. But she’ll have to break some rules to beat an exactingly vicious criminal at a game he’s had time to perfect.

For the Killing Hour has arrived...."

4. The Murder Room by P.D. James (Adam Dalgliesh #12). I seem to see a theme with my purchases... Murder, killing... My, my.

"Commander Adam Dalgliesh, P. D. James’s formidable and fascinating detective, returns to find himself enmeshed in a terrifying story of passion and mystery -- and in love.

The Dupayne, a small private museum in London devoted to the interwar years 1919 -- 1939, is in turmoil. As its trustees argue over whether it should be closed, one of them is brutally and mysteriously murdered. Yet even as Commander Dalgliesh and his team proceed with their investigation, a second corpse is discovered. Someone in the Dupayne is prepared to kill and kill again. Still more sinister, the murders appear to echo the notorious crimes of the past featured in one of the museum’s galleries: the Murder Room.

The case is fraught with danger and complications from the outset, but for Dalgliesh the complications are unexpectedly profound. His new relationship with Emma Lavenham -- introduced in the last Dalgliesh novel, Death in Holy Orders -- is at a critical stage. Now, as he moves closer and closer to a solution to the puzzle, he finds himself driven further and further from commitment to the woman he loves."

5. Summer of the Dead by Julia Keller (Bell Elkins #3).

"It's high summer in Acker's Gap, a small town nestled in the beautiful but poverty-stricken West Virginia mountains—but no one's enjoying the rugged natural landscape. Not while a killer stalks the town and its hard-luck inhabitants. County prosecutor Bell Elkins and her closest friend, Sheriff Nick Fogelsong, are stymied by a murderer who seems to come and go like smoke on the mountain. At the same time, Bell must deal with the return from prison of her sister, Shirley—who, like Bell, carries the indelible scars of a savage past.

In the third mystery chronicling the journey of Bell Elkins and her return to her Appalachian hometown, we also meet Lindy Crabtree—a coal miner's daughter with dark secrets of her own, secrets that threaten to explode into even more violence. Acker's Gap is a place of loveliness and brutality, of isolation and fierce attachments—a place where the dead rub shoulders with the living, and demand their due."

6. About Face by Donna Leon (Commissario Brunetti #18). One of my all-time favorite mystery series.

"The Publication of each Commissario Brunetti mystery is an event antici­pated by Donna Leon's many readers. In About Face, she returns with a dazzling mystery that puts Brunetti's own family at risk. Soon after meeting Franca Marinello, the wife of a wealthy Venetian businessman, Brunetti comes across her name in his investigation of a trucking company owner found murdered in his offices. Though charmed by Franca's love of Virgil and Cicero, he must now unravel her connection to the Carabinieri's prime suspect. As Brunetti delves into the murder, he comes face to face with violence and corruption as dangerous as he's ever seen."

7.  Lost by Michael Robotham (Joseph O'Loughlin #2).

"Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz can’t remember how he got to the hospital. He was found floating in the Thames with a gunshot wound in his leg and a picture of missing child Mickey Carlyle in his pocket. But Mickey’s killer is already in jail. Add to this the blood stained boat found near where Ruiz was pulled from the water, and the pieces just don’t add up.  Now, accused of faking amnesia and under investigation, Ruiz reaches out to psychologist Joseph O’Loughlin to help him unlock his memory, clear his name, and solve this ominous puzzle.   Michael Robotham is one of the finest new thriller writers working today.  Marked by vivid characters and full of unexpected turns, Lost is a hair-raising journey of vengeance, grief, and redemption through the dark London underworld."

8. Mad Hatter's Holiday by Peter Lovesey (Sergeant Cribb #4). 

"Brighton in 1882 is the setting of this novel of crime and tangled emotions. Albert Moscrop, a visitor whose holiday is dedicated to peering through a telescope at the seaside scene, marches down Queen’s Road to the beach and draws us through a sequence of disarmingly trivial observations into a compelling drama, played in the fashionable haunts of the nineteenth-century resort: beach, piers, promenade, swimming bath, aquarium, and Devil’s Dyke.

A keen student of human nature, Moscrop concentrates his interest on one particular family of holidaymakers—the Protheros, and especially the beautiful Zena Prothero, whose husband appears to take her excessively for granted. Gradually Moscrop moves into the circle of the Prothero family, only to become involved in a sensational murder. All Brighton is horrified by the gruesome crime. The local police seek the help of Scotland Yard, which is provided in the persons of Sergeant Cribb and Constable Thackeray. These indomitable detectives soon find themselves challenged by the strangest case of their careers, one that is as mystifying as it is macabre."

Women Authors I'm Enjoying - Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Bronte was one of the Bronte's one of the most famous writing families, I believe. She lived from 1816 - 1855 and over the course of her short life, she wrote 5 novels, the last which she never finished. She also wrote a number of stories in the juvenilia category plus poetry. Since early 2000's I've completed 3 of her novels. I still have to find a copy of Villette to read. Here are my reviews of the other three.

1. The Professor (1857).

"The Professor by Charlotte Brontë was Bronte's first book but not published until her death. I have read Jane Eyre this past year and enjoyed very much. I had an inkling about The Professor but the overall story was a nice surprise for me. I thought it was about a woman who goes to Brussels to teach and falls in love with a professor. In fact, it was probably the polar opposite.

Basically, William Crimsworth finishes school and turns down his relatives who offer him a job as a minister. He instead goes to the north and gets a job in his brother's factory as a clerk. His brother basically treats William like dirt and pays him a pittance. In the end, William goes to Brussels, receiving a recommendation of an acquaintance of his brother and obtains a job as a professor at a boy's school; teaching English. He also manages to obtain a job teaching part-time at a girl's school next door and the mistress develops a crush on him. He discovers that she is instead engaged to the master of the boy's school.

William instead finds himself falling for a young woman who teaches lace work at the girl's school and begins to take lessons with the Professor to learn English. The story develops, with Crimsworth leaving his jobs, Frances (the young woman) losing her job and a relationship developing between Frances and William. I won't elaborate any more as I don't wish to ruin the ending of the story.

All in all, I enjoyed the story and like Charlotte Bronte's writing style. I enjoyed how the story moved along and how the characters developed. The story ended very nicely, which was also a pleasant surprise. It ended up being a very satisfying and enjoyable. I will try her other stories and I think I'll have to brave Wuthering Heights, written by her sister, again as I took that in high school and never could get into it. Suffice it to say, I've been enjoying my exploration in the Classics and hope to continue to do so. (4 stars)"

2. Shirley (1849).

"I was surprised to discover that I'd already read two of Charlotte Brontë's novels before I enjoyed this one, Shirley, her 2nd of 4 completed novels. I've enjoyed every one and Shirley was no exception. It was originally 1849. According to the synopsis on my edition, it was written after the deaths of her brother and 2 sisters and she found it difficult to finish. Her main characters, Shirley Keeldar and Caroline Helstone, displayed her feelings towards her beloved sisters.

The story is set during the early 1800s when Britain was engaged in a long lasting war with Napoleon and was also struggling with Luddite riots (fighting against modernization of factories), bad harvests and social unrest. All of these themes feature throughout this excellent book, but the main theme revolves the two excellent women leads mentioned in the previous paragraph.

It's a rich, textured story. We meet Robert Gerard Moore, an industrialist originally from Antwerp. He runs a local mill which he is trying to modernize and is struggling due to trade restrictions caused by the ongoing war. Workers are protesting his mill and he must deal with this. It's a tense, violent time as he gets rioters, threats of violence. At the same time, we meet Caroline Helstone, his cousin who loves him very much. This dynamic plays out throughout the book. Caroline lives with her uncle, Rev Matthew Helstone, a hard, cool man. Caroline's father is dead and his mother abandoned her when she was young. (She will discover more about her mother as the story progresses).

The owner of the land on which resides Moore's mill, Shirley Keeldar, arrives and brings her head strong, independent attitude to the story. We follow her growing friendship with Caroline. Shirley's London family, the Sympsons, comes to visit and we meet Moore's brother Louis, who tutors the Sympsons frail, young son. He also tutored Shirley when she was a mite younger. The main four characters remain the two women and the Moore brothers but it's a richer story than just that. There are so many excellent story lines to follow and fascinating peripheral characters.I can't do the whole story justice but suffice it to say it's a wonderful romance (s), dramatic (riots, shootings, deathly illness) and just a fascinating portrait of the times, both the people and current events and their impact. I have had difficulties getting into some of the classics I've enjoyed, the language of the time mainly, but this story grabbed me immediately and had a perfect flow to it and got better and better as I delved further into it. I'm not a 'romance' follower but I found myself cheering on both Caroline and Shirley, smacking their potential 'lovers' on the head to help them get a move on. It was a wonderful story, tragic at times but peopled with two fascinating and strong women characters. Charlotte Bronte has written some of my favorite classics, Jane Eyre and The Professor, and now this also ranks amongst my favorites. (5 stars)"

3. Jane Eyre (1847).

"Great story. I had great difficulty putting it down. Jane is a fantastic character; strong, intelligent, independent. I liked how she stood up to her cousin, how well she did at the boarding school she was sent to (as an outcast) and how she performed at Rochester's home when she became governess to his ward, the lovely Adelie. Even with the 'plot device' as my wife calls it, which kind of makes you go, 'yeah right', it's a fantastic story; a love story, a gothic romance at times, an adventure (Jane's life is an adventure) and just a great work of fiction. There were characters I liked very much; Mrs Fairfax (Rochester's house keeper), who treats Jane so caringly, after a life of much tribulation for Jane; St. John's sisters, Diana and Mary, both lovely, who take Jane and make her part of their family; even the headmistress of the boarding school, who loves her charges, even under the strictures of the school's Master. The scenes with Rochester's 'wife' are quite intense and even spooky. The description of the north of England, where the story takes place, is well - described. The story is excellent, the characters well-developed and I'm glad that I read it finally. I guess I'll now have to try Charlotte Bronte's sisters, Wuthering Heights again now.. :) (5 stars)" (Hmm. I seem to like using well-developed and well-described)

So there you go, one of the great classic authors in my opinion. Check them out. Enjoy the rest of your week. Stay safe. 😷

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Your Midweek Music Medley - 5 May 2021

What's up, pup?
A strange night last night. Our female mini-schnauzer, Bonnie, hopped off the bed around 3:30 a.m. and sat in front of the bedroom door. I got up and put her outside. She did what she had to do, returned to the family room and we went back to bed. Two or three minutes later, she sat up again, hopped off the bed and we merrily went off back downstairs and I let her out again. This time I went with her, carrying my jogging head lamp to make sure she was ok. Of course, this time Clyde joined us and Bonnie decided she wanted to play with him a bit. But basically she stood in the back yard looking up at the sky and sort of sampling the air. So back we went to bed again and off she hopped again. I put her back in bed, she hopped off again, so I ignored her. She decided this time just to lie down in her doggie bed and that seemed to be everything. But sort of strange anyway. I wondered if maybe she had heard or sensed something outside and it just unsettled her. 

Of course, now they are quietly sleeping beside me on the couch while I catch up on some reading. Well, Clyde seems to be dreaming about running away from bunnies, but other than that. So.... on to music. Here is your midweek Music medley for the first Wednesday of May 2021.

Midweek Music Medley - Wednesday 5 May 2021

1. American reggae band Big Mountain - Baby I Love Your Way (1994).

2. British electronic / reggae group Dreadzone - Little Britain (1996).

3. Scottish rock / soul group Love and Money - Strange Kind of Love (1989). 

Enjoy the rest of your week. Stay safe. 😷

Thursday, 29 April 2021

My April 2021 Reading Summary

April was a good reading month. I'm satisfied with the number of books I read and enjoyed, although they tended to be relatively short. Below is my monthly reading summary, starting with stats as per usual, then a look at my ongoing challenges.

Next Friday I've got my appointment for my first jab. I hope Jo gets her appointment soon. She has a registration number, but it's so slow here.

General Info               Apr                Total (Including my current read)
Books Read -                13                    47
Pages Read -               3000               12000 (Avg per book - 255)

Pages Breakdown
    < 250                        10                    30       
250 - 350                        1                    10
351 - 450                        1                      1
   > 450                           1                      6

5 - star                            1                      3           
4 - star                            7                    28
3 - star                            5                    15
2 - star                              
No Rating (NR)                                     1                                   

Female                           4                    26
Male                               9                    21
Not Stated                           

Fiction                           3                      6
Mystery                         7                    31
SciFi                              2                      4
Non-Fic                                                 1   
Classics                                                 1                   
Young Adult                                          3           
Short Stories                  1                      1    

Top 3 Books

1. Virtual Light by William Gibson (5 stars)
2. The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien by Georges Simenon (4.5 stars)
3. Last Ditch by Ngaio Marsh (4.5 stars)


12 + 4 (Finish off Some Series) (completed 9)
1. Last Ditch by Ngaio Marsh (4.5 stars)
2. King Kull by Robert E. Howard (3.5 stars)

Individual Challenge - First Book in Series (completed 6)
1. Virtual Light by William Gibson (The Bridge #1) (5 stars)
2. The Suicide Murders by Howard Engel (Benny Cooperman #1) (4 stars)

Individual Challenge - Next Book in Series (completed 5)
1. The Man Who Went Up in Smoke by Maj Sjowall (Martin Beck #2) (4 stars)
2. Murder in Belleville by Cara Black (Aimee Leduc #2) (4 stars)

Individual Challenge - Non Series (completed 7)
1. The Miracle Strain by Michael Cordy (3 stars)
2. The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers (3 stars)

Monthly Challenge - January Focus Author - Simon Brett (completed 4)
Monthly Challenge - February Focus Author - M.C. Beaton (completed 5)
Monthly Challenge - March Focus Author - Agatha Christie (completed 5)
Monthly Challenge - April Focus Author - George Simenon (completed 5)
1. The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien (Maigret #4) (4.5 stars)
2. The Blue Room (1963) (3 stars)
3. Act of Passion (1947) (3 stars)
4. Maigret's War of Nerves (Maigret #5) (4 stars)
5. The Yellow Dog (Maigret #6) (4.5 stars)

Currently Reading

1. 12 + 4 Challenge - Rumpole and the Primrose Path by John Mortimer
2. Individual Challenge (1st Book in Series) - All the Dead Things by John Connolly (Charlie Parker #1)
    - Black Out by John Lawton (Sgt Troy #1)
3. Individual Challenge (Next Book in Series) - Madam President by Nicolle Wallace (Eighteen Acres #3)
4. Individual Challenge (Non- Series) - Shadow's End by Sherri S. Tepper
5. Monthly Challenge - May Focus Author (John D. MacDonald) - One Fearful Yellow Eye (Travis McGee #8)  

Next Challenge Books in Line

1. 12 + 4 Challenge - The Kindness of Strangers by Julie Smith (Skip Langdon #6)
2. Individual Challenge (1st Book in Series) - The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (Ruth Galloway #1)
3. Individual Challenge (Next Book in Series) - The Scar by China Mieville (Bas-Lag #2)
4. Individual Challenge (Non-Series) - Three Days of the Condor by James Grady
5. Monthly Challenge - May Focus Author (John D. MacDonald) - Pale Gray for Guilt (Travis McGee #9)

There you go folks. Back to regular programming in my next post. Take care. Stay safe. 😷

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Your Midweek Music Medley - 28 April 2021

Slowly getting the deck and yard in order. A new fridge / freezer arriving tomorrow. Very exciting!!

Here is your midweek music medley for Wednesday Apr 28.

Midweek Music Medley - 28 April 2021

1. American blues / rock musician Gary Clark Jr - When I'm Gone (2019).

2. American singer / songwriter Stan Ridgway - Camouflage (1986).

3. Spanish songwriter / musician Gizmo Varillas - Burning Bridges (2020).

Enjoy the rest of your week. Stay safe 😷

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