Monday, 29 August 2011

New Books on the Shelves - August update

I've been trying to behave lately and not buy more books than I read, but it's always a losing battle. I love wandering around book stores. I do manage sometimes just to buy my latest comics, but my comic book store is also one of my local used book stores and right around the corner are another used book store and The Laughing Oyster, the new book store. How could I be expected to resist. As well, this month we visited Coombs (Goats on the Roof) to try out their new Italian restaurant (great food, by the way) and I managed to drop into the little used book store in Qualicum Beach before we came back home.

Needless to say, I've managed to buy a few books this past month. Below are some of my latest purchases..

Detective John Cardinal
 One of may favourite mystery series at the moment is set in North Bay, Ontario, my home town. I've read the first Detective Cardinal books and found them very enjoyable. I obviously enjoy reading about the area, often recognizing locales and I enjoy the characters, the main one, of course, John Cardinal and his lovely, smart partner, Lise Delorme. This is the 4th in the series -
"For years, Cardinal's wife, Catherine, has battled severe depression. When she finally takes her life, people are saddened but they are not really surprised. Except for Cardinal, who is not only surprised but completely devastated. Despite the suicide note in Catherine's own handwriting and the coroner's finding that there is no evidence of foul play, Cardinal cannot bring himself to believe that Catherine has really killed herself.
When hateful notes taunting him about his wife's death begin to arrive in the mail, Cardinal begins to suspect that maybe someone he has put in jail over the years has murdered Catherine as an act of revenge. His fellow officers worry whether grief has unhinged the veteran detective and are reluctant to get involved.
So Cardinal goes it alone. And, as he investigates, he uncovers an alarming rash of suicides in Algonquin Bay - far more than would seem natural for such a small city. Is it possible that they are all murders?"

Chief Inspector Barnaby
 The missus and I have enjoyed watching the Midsomer Murder TV series for quite awhile and we await the latest version with anticipation. The series is based on books by Caroline Graham; only 7 have been written. I have had some difficulty finding the books, but have so far managed to find 3 of them. A Ghost in the Machine was the most recent one I discovered and, in fact, is the latest of Caroline Graham's novels set in Midsomer, this one written in 2004 -
"On inheriting his aunt's beautiful house in Forbes Abbot, Mallory Lawson and his wife Kate make the move from London out to the country, where life will be so much gentler and simpler. Or will it?
Forbes Abbot, for all its old-fashioned charm, is not quite the close-knit community it seems, and little differences and squabbles can become violent - even murderous. Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby has encountered many intriguing cases in his years on the force, but the case of the ghost in the machine is one to test even the most experienced of detectives."

Jonathan Strange
I had seen this book mentioned in some of my book clubs and when I saw it at ABC Books one day, I had to take a chance on it. I can't say I know anything about it, but the synopsis did look interesting -

"At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England's history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England - until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.

Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell's student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear."

Kurt Wallander
 I have watched the Wallander mystery series on PBS' Masterpiece Mystery and even though I sometimes find the character of Wallander very frustrating (so wishy washy at times), I also have enjoyed reading Scandinavian mysteries; Karin Altvegen and Jo Nesbo to name a few. So when I saw this Wallander mystery; Firewall, by Henning Mankell, I thought I should check it out and see how the books compare to the TV series -
"A body is found at an ATM, the apparent victim of a heart attack. Then two teenage girls are arrested for the brutal murder of a cab driver. The girls confess to the crime showing no remorse whatsoever. Two open-and-shut cases. At first these two incidents seem to have nothing in common, but as Wallander delves deeper into the mystery of why the girls murdered the cab driver he begins to unravel a plot much more involved than he initially suspected. The two cases become one and lead to a conspiracy that stretches to encompass a world larger than the borders of Sweden."

 I have previously read on of V.S. Naipaul's stories, A House for Mr. Biswas and found it quite interesting; the setting, the style. I do have one other currently on my To-Be-Read shelf, The Mimic Men. I've also had my eye open for this story and when I saw it at 2nd Hand Books, and it was in such excellent condition, I picked it up. (I do love a good Penguin novel)
"The main characters of the book are Jane, a woman from London, and her romantic partner Roche, a white South African man, who have recently arrived on remote island in the Caribbean. Roche is engaged with helping the poor on the island, which puts him in contact with a dishonest revolutionary opportunist named Jimmy. As they socialize with the privileged, Roche finds Jane contradictory and politically naive about her own place in the power structure, while also being challenged about his own motives and purpose. Jimmy has sexual fantasies about Jane, and has a perverse relationship with the boys he keeps in his commune. Amid the tumult of a societal crisis, the climax of the book is violent and tragic."

Fantasy - The Night Watch
And now for a bit of fantasy from Russia.. I had seen this book, the first in a series, at various book stores the past few years and been tempted to try it out. When one of my used book stores had it on the shelf and the price was right, I couldn't resist anymore. It seemed worth a try -
"Walking the streets of Moscow, indistinguishable from the rest of its population, are the Others. Each owes allegiance to either the Dark or the Light, two powerful forces that long ago forged an uneasy truce in order to avert chaos and disaster. They watch each other closely, carefully maintaining the world's precarious balance between good and evil.
Anton, a young Other of the Light, is a Night Watch agent who patrols the streets and subways of the city, protecting ordinary people from the agents - including vampires -  of the Dark. On his rounds, Anton comes across a young woman, Svetlana, who is under a powerful curse that threatens to destroy the city, and a boy, Egor, an Other still unaware of his powers, whom Anton narrowly saves from the vampires of the Dark.
Anton and his partner, Olga, a powerful female Other who has been turned into an owl as punishment, work frantically with their Night Watch colleagues - each gifted with their own particular powers - to deflect Svetlana's curse and to protect Egor from the creatures that pursue him."

This is my most recent purchase Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, an American SciFi writer. It was sitting out at ABC Books on Saturday, hadn't even been logged in yet. The cover grabbed my attention and when I asked if I could buy it, I wasn't turned down. The story seemed very interesting -
"It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and the Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. his own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised a a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way... taking them both aboard the leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever."

Her Fearful Symmetry
 And finally..., this is the latest book from the author of The Time Traveller's Wife, one of my favourite books in a long time. I have awaited the next book by Audrey Niffenegger with anticipation and was thrilled when I saw this one in The Laughing Oyster -
"Julia and Valentina Poole are twenty-year-old sisters with an intense attachment to each other. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs in Chicago. Their English aunt, Elspeth Noblin, has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions for this inheritance: that they live in the flat for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the girls' aunt Elspeth and their mother, Edie.
The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders the vast Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Stella Gibbons and other luminaries are buried. Julia and Valentina become involved with their living neighbours: martin, a composer of crossword puzzles who suffers from crippling OCD, and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. They also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including - perhaps -  their aunt."

I know that I have too many books in my TBR book shelves, but just from this cross-section, how could a person resist buying books. So many interesting, fascinating writers who produce great books that stimulate and enthrall you. I hope you might find some of these books interesting too.

Good reading!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Top Ten Lists - Favourite War Movies

It's been awhile since I've done a Top Ten Movie list. I was looking at my various lists from days gone by and I figured it's time for the War movies. As a kid I loved going to war movies and then my buddies and I would spend days with our toy guns re-enacting these self-same movies. Funny how 7 or 8 guys could relive the Battle of the Bulge or the D-Day invasion, but we were able to do so. Funny thing is, that even though we enjoyed playing with guns back then, I think for the most part we ended up pretty sane, normal adults. Anyway, that was a bit of a self-righteous digression. Not only did we enjoy war movies, we bought war comics, like Sgt Rock and Sgt Fury and The Haunted Tank and played with GI Joes. What fun!

I can think of so many books I read that also struck a chord; Leon Uris' Battle Cry, which was about the US Marines during WWII; Torpedo Run by Robb White (from my public school days), On The Beach (almost anti-war or at least nuclear bombs, by Nevil Shute), Fail-Safe by Eugene Burdick, amongst others.

But anyway, this was supposed to be a Blog about war movies. I haven't watched so many recently, unless I see them on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) so the list may be somewhat dated; more movies from my childhood and early teens, than recent movies. So bear with me. Maybe there are some movies you haven't seen that you might find worth watching. I hope so.

So on with the list. (You'll note many movies that are left out that other folks would put in, such as Full Metal Jacket, Saving Private Ryan, Das Boot, etc. But the list is of course, very personal, some I've watched many, many times or others that have hit close to the heart, even if only watched once, and a couple are movies I remember as a youngster, from my time at Saturday matinees with my best friends) Anyway, once again, on with the list!

Number Ten - This is one of those movies from my Saturday matinees, 55 Days at Peking. It was a movie about the Boxer Rebellion in China and the siege of the Foreign Embassy compound in Peking; with a heroic defence led by Charlton Heston as the head of the US Marine Corps detachment. I recall this being a very exciting, sit on the edge of your seat movie; the threat of the Boxers, the efforts to protect the foreigners until help can arrive.

I don't think I've ever seen since that Saturday matinee at the Base Theater in Chatham, N.B., unless I caught it on an afternoon spent on the couch watching old movies. But it is one that I always remember.

Number 9 -  Oddly enough, this is another movie with Charlton Heston in the starring role; this time a British officer, Sir Charles 'Chinese' Gordon in Khartoum. Released in 1966, the movie revolves around the siege of the city of Khartoum by the Mahdi, played by Sir Laurence Olivier. Gordon is sent to the Sudan as a token by the British government but in the movie, disobeys his orders and begins a defence of the besieged city of Khartoum, ultimately with tragic results. It's an intense interesting movie, very dramatic and well-acted by Heston, even playing a British officer.

As a side note, I received an interesting book from my daughter and her boyfriend for my 55th birthday, War Made New by Max Boot, which discusses various battles and weaponry that have made the modern world and one of those is the battle between the relief soldiers sent to the Sudan after the siege of Khartoum; quite interesting.

Number 8 - Two movies based on books by Cornelius Ryan have made my Top Ten list; the first is about Operation Market Garden, the assault by Allied Air Forces, during World War II on the Netherlands. The movie is A Bridge Too Far, directed by Richard Attenborough and with as fantastic a cast of actors as you'll see today; Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Ryan O'Neal, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, James Caan, Colin Farrell, etc.

It's one of those epic war movies, great scope, great action, great actors. The aim of the Operation was to seize the bridges of the Netherlands before the German armies could destroy them, thereby easing the follow-on invasion of Germany and achieving a quick end to WWII. Great in scope, it also focuses on smaller more intimate actions taking place; that of Anthony Hopkins small group of paratroopers trying to hold a particular bridge and Gene Hackman's failed drop into the area with his Polish troops, only to be massacred by waiting German forces. It's an excellent movie, covering a key battle of WWII.

Number 7 - This next movie is based on a classic novel by Alistair MacLean, The Guns of Navarone. the book was written in 1957 and is about an Allied commando team dropped onto the fictitious island of Navarone in the Aegean Sea with the mission of destroying the impregnable Nazi fortress that threatens Allied shipping in the area.

The movie was released in 1961 and stars David Niven, Anthony Quinn and Gregory Peck amongst a great cast. As with most Alistair MacLean stories (one of my favourite authors of the time), there is much intrigue as the small group of commandos makes its way across the island to find and destroy the Nazi fortress.

This was a great book and a great movie, both interesting in their own right and well worth watching and/ or reading.

Number 6 - This next movie features Stanley Kubrick's foray into the Cold War, with a classic anti-war movie, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The film was released in 1964 and features the great Peter Sellers as three characters; Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, a RAF liaison officer trapped with a mad US BGen on a Strategic Air Command base; as flustered US President Merkin Muffley, trying to stop a nuclear war and deal with his insane staff in the War Room, and as the wheel-chair bound, Dr Strangelove, a science advisor, also located in the war room.

This is a fantastic black comedy, with many excellent roles, George C. Scott, as Gen Buck Turgidson, Slim Pickens as Maj 'King' Kong, a SAC bomber pilot leading his aircraft on an erroneous bombing mission into Russia. A very funny movie, but also very topical at the time as the US was in the midst of the Cold War with the USSR and the US public (well, the whole world, actually) was trying to live with the constant threat of nuclear war.

Number 5 - The next selection is based on a 1952 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny. The book was excellent, tense, exciting and so well-written. The movie was released two years later, starring Humphrey Bogart as Lt Cmdr Queeg, Van Johnson as Lt Steve Maryk and Fred MacMurray as the ship's doctor, Lt Tom Keefer.

The story/ movie follows the USS Caine during WWII as it takes part in various actions. During their cruise, Van Johnson and other members of the crew become increasingly aware that Lt Cmdr Queeg is mad and in the end take over the ship, relieving him of this command. The remainder of the movie revolves around the Court Martial hearing into the 'mutiny' of the crew as charged by Queeg.

This is a fascinating movie, great character studies and leaving us with the question to answer; was it mutiny or a justified ethical decision by Van Johnson to take over the ship.

Number 4 - I've only ever been able to watch this next movie once and don't think I could watch again. It's one of those 'must-see' films, intense, powerful and covering an area of WWII that speaks of the 'evil' that took place. Based on the novel by Thomas Keneally, the movie was released in 1993 and is probably Stephen Spielberg's most powerful directorial effort.

The book was also powerful and a page-turner, one that you couldn't put down; describing the efforts of Oscar Schindler to save over 1200 Jews from concentration camps in Poland and Germany.

The movie was a tour de force for Spielberg; intense, powerful, even terrifying, with excellent acting roles for Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes, to name just a few of the excellent actors that were in this movie. As I stated at the beginning, this is a must-see movie, if you want a portrayal of a time in history that must never be forgotten, but be aware how powerful this movie is.

Number 3 - This next movie is a David Lean epic from 1957, starring Alex Guinness as Col Nicholson, leading a band of British and American P.O.W's in a Japanese P.O.W camp. The movie is based on a French novel, written in 1952, by Pierre Boulle, one that I remember reading in high school.

This movie features a powerful piece of acting by Sir Alex Guinness, as the Colonel who must assist the Japanese in building a railroad bridge of the River Kwai. The movie is a battle of wits between Guinness and the Japanese Col, Sessue Hayawaka, as Guinness strives to ensure his officers are not treated as slave labour and as he gradually takes over the construction of the bridge, not realizing that the Allies have a plot to destroy this same bridge.

This is very much a psychological movie, as Guinness strives to maintain morale, his ethics and standards in this battle with the Japanese Colonel. Excellent, powerful, lovingly filmed movie.

Number 2 - This is the second movie based on a Cornelius Ryan novel, epic in scope and fascinating; The Longest Day. Once again, this movie is grand in scale, with a cast that rivals any movie you might ever see. Every actor of the time is in it, John Wayne, Eddie Albert, Sal Mineo, Richard Burton, etc....

The movie is about the D-Day invasion; the planning for it, the waiting for the weather to clear so it could take place, the initial invasion and the struggle to establish and maintain the beachhead and then to movie inland.

So well filmed, so dramatic and just excellent to watch. The action keeps you on the edge of your seat, the humour is great and the cast making the movie one of the best ever. Released in 1962,this is a true classic and one I've watched many times.

OK, now on to the one you've been waiting for, my favourite all-time war movie -

Number 1 - I can't think how many times I've watched this movie. I can catch it in the middle and still enjoy and I've never tired of watching it from beginning to end. The Great Escape was released in 1963, directed by John Sturges. It was based on a novel of the same name by Australian writer and member of the RAAF, who was in Stalag III and participated in the planning of the Great Escape. Due to claustrophobia he did not do any of the tunnelling nor did he try to escape through the tunnels.

The movie stars Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, to name just a few and is based on a true attempt by Allied aircrews to conduct a major escape from a German POW camp and thereby cause German forces to waste time trying to capture them.

The movie is fascinating, the planning for the escape, the work conducted to dig the tunnels, deceive the warders of the activities, dispose of the dirt, prepare false papers and cloths for the escapees and then the actions of the actual escape.

Amazing story, amazing movie and one I most highly recommend if you've never seen. Just to watch Steve McQueen on his motorcycle chase across the country or James Coburn as he slowly makes his way across Germany and France. Excellent through and through!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Mid Year Review continued - Pt 4

In previous Blogs I have highlighted some of the Individual and Group Reading Challenges that I decided to take part in this past year. The Challenges were from the Book Addicts Group. I also have joined various challenges in the UK Book Club. Some of the books from my other challenges fit in nicely with the UK Challenges, but they do cover different themes. The first one is the monthly Genre Challenge, where we vote on a particular genre to read that month and then are free to choose any particular book you wish to read. So far we've covered the following genres -

January - Historical Fiction - Mistress of the Art of Death, by Ariana Franklin (a great historical mystery set in the UK. I really enjoyed)
February - Crime/detective - The Red House Mystery by AA Milne (something different from the author of Winnie the Pooh)
March - Classics - Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
April - Biography/Memoir - A Soldier First General Richard Hillier (the biography of one of Canada's most well-known Chief of Defence Staffs)
May - Dystopia - Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
June - Fantasy - The Time Thief by Linda Buckley - Archer (this is book 2 of the Gideon trilogy, an interesting young adults fantasy series. Quite entertaining)
July - Young Adult - The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
August - Humour - The Return of H*y*m*an K*a*p*l*a*n by Leo Rosten (this was an old favourite of mine, one I'd read in high school back in the 60's and I finally managed to find a copy while in Ottawa. It was a lovely gentle humorous story)
We have yet to pick September's Genre.

The next challenge is kind an interesting one; the A-Z Author Challenge, somewhat self-explanatory. In that one we try to read a book by various authors with the ultimate aim of reading the whole alphabet. I'm finding this one a bit of a challenge as I don't particularly focus on a particular letter of the alphabet when I pick an author as my next book. I do find I'm reading a number of B's and S's, amongst others.. Anyway, here is where I am so far -

A - Rennie Airth, River of Darkness
B - Anthony Berkeley, Poisoned Chocolates Case
C - Howard L. Cory, The Mind Monsters
D - Philip K. Dick , The Unteleported Man
E -
F - Ariana Franklin, Mistress of the Art of Death
G - Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants
H - Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
I -
J - Terry Jones, Barbarians
K - H.H. Kirst, Night of the Generals
L - Linda LaPlante, Above Suspicion
M - A.A. Milne, The Red House Mystery
N - Jo Nesbo, The Redbreast
O - George Orwell, Burmese Days
P -
Q -
R - Lester del Rey, Outpost of Jupiter
S - Nevil Shute, On the Beach
T - Harry Turtledove, Opening Atlantis
U -
V -
W - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
X -
Y -
Z -

The final challenge in the UK Book Club is a newish one that one of the Moderators decided to try out. I like it too, it's the Around the World in 80 Books Challenge. Like the Jules Verne book, we have to read 80 books set in 80 different countries. Cool, eh? Since this one just started, I've decided to start with the books I have read since Jan 2010 to the present. Still have only about 18 countries covered, but eventually, over the next... er, 10 years???, maybe I'll have visited 80 countries.. This is where I am so far...

1. England - Above Suspicion by Lynda LaPlante
2. US of A - The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
3. Java - Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester
4. Canada - Black fly Season by Giles Blunt
5. Norway - The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo
6. India - Ragtime in Simla by Barbara Cleverly
7. Switzerland - Pilgrim by Timothy Findley
8. Burma - Burmese Days by George Orwell
9. France - The Night of the Generals by Hans Hellmut Kirst
10. Australia - On the Beach by Nevil Shute
11. France - A Piano in the Pyrenees by Tony Hawkes

Good think I applied for a new passport..

So those are the challenges I've taken this past year. I'll give an update at the end of the year to see if I've managed to finish any.. All good fun anyway.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Lists and things

One thing about me, I do like the odd list. If you've read through my Blogs at all, you'll notice I've provided various lists, my Top ten books of all-time, Top ten SciFi movies, etc. I take part in various Fantasy pools, my favourite being the English Premier League Fantasy pool, which I've been part of for going on 4 or 5 years now. I think I like it mainly because I can make teams, create lists of players and that sort of thing. It's loads of fun. :0)

On Facebook, my wife and I and various friends went through a process of listing our Top Ten favourite songs and then continued with favourite artists, and so on.. For posterity and if you're interested, my top ten favourite songs are (in no particular order) -

Mary Chapin Carpenter - This Shirt;
Cream - Badge;
Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit;
Billy Joel - Angry Young Man;
Chantal Kreviazuk - Before You;
Led Zeppelin - Immigrant Song;
Loggins and Messina - The House at Pooh Corner;
Martha and the Muffins - Echo Beach;
Joy Drop - Sometimes Want To Die; and
The Veronicas - Untouched.

So back to the subject; lists. My favourite lists of late have been my lists for keeping track of my books; books I'd like to read, books I've read, books I have, where I store them, the possibilities are boundless.

What a present!
 Thanks to my lovely wife, Jo, when I go shopping for books now, I rarely buy books I have already read or are currently sitting in my bookshelves. Probably the most thoughtful gift she has ever bought me was this little book you see. I take it everywhere; at the beginning of each section (broken down by letters of the alphabet) in pencil, I keep track of books I'd like to read. If I'm not in a buying mood, I still write down interesting books I've not seen before. After each section are two pages where I can keep track of books I've already purchased or read. That way, if I'm keeping my lists up-to-date, I shouldn't fall into that trap of buying books I've already got. (it still happens.. lol). I also have small additions; books I've bought already for Jo (or might buy for a gift) and also for other close friends/ family. Also the list of comics that I'm interested in and which ones I already have. The only problem is that my book is filling up; some letters definitely more popular than others, so I'll soon have to start adding pages.. Now that will be fun!

Of course, that's the low - tech way of keeping track of books; I also have a few higher tech ones. (Did you think I wouldn't?). MS Access has a template already set up for keeping track of books. I must have begun that before I moved to Victoria, so probably in 2005 or 2006. I track my books and Jo's (basically all the books in the house) by title, author's name, Category (Fiction, Design, SciFi, etc), Copyright, when the edition was published, where I bought it, when, price, etc. Some books don't have as much info provided as, of course, since the spreadsheet started recently, I don't necessarily remember which book store I purchased a book I've had since, say.. University. But it's a pretty complete listing.

The Den
 Now recently, Jo asked me if I knew where each book was in the house. Good question that, especially since I think it was just after I had spent a frustrating time searching through the shelves trying to find a particular book. She suggested, quite smartly, that maybe I might want to identify where the books we have are located. (I think she regrets that now.. ). What a great suggestion, though. The MS database does allow for that; I just use the remarks column. So how is this list progressing so far? Well, I've finished the den. Doesn't look that full, but bottom left are 3 shelves double stacked of books that I want to read, and behind both sets of doors are more books.

Best lounge
 I've also finished the small bookshelf in the family room, the bookshelf on the front hall landing and the small bookshelf in the best lounge. I've almost finished the built-ins in the best lounge as well, just a few books in a couple of bottom rows. All that will remain after that are some books in both the master bedroom and the visitors bedroom above the garage. :0). What will I do when that update is finished? Maybe Jo will have another suggestion for me.

Now that's not all, mind you. What will I do if we ever buy another new computer and there is no longer a MS Access program. Gad, it actually doesn't bear thinking about. We were lucky when we bought our latest PC (or I was anyway) as the data could still be transferred. I'm hoping this one will last a long, long time!

Anyway, last October (2010), I signed onto a Book club website; I've mentioned it before. It's called Goodreads and it's a spot where people go to talk about books and such. I've joined various clubs there and in previous Blogs have mentioned some of the reading challenges I signed up for in some of them. (in fact I still have to finish off talking about that in a future Blog). Anyway, luckily, Goodreads also has the capability for people to make their book lists; books they wish to read, books they are reading and books they have read. It's done in a slightly different format than my MS Access database, but it allows for book reviews, the capability to see what other people think about the books you have read, where you bought your books, what genres you are reading, etc. It's great and I've been updating that listing as well while I've been updating the MS database.. Hours of fun.

Finally, and last but not least, you may have noticed on the right hand column of this Blog, a bookcase with book titles contained therein. Well, that's another online site, Shelfari. I don't use it to its full capability, but I've begun keeping track of the recent books that I'm reading and have already read. It's slowly filling up. This database allows you to keep track of books you're read/ want to read/ are reading and also rate them, write reviews and provide other sorts of info.

So there is a lot of places out there for the enquiring mind and many, many, many ways of keeping track of your books and of satisfying your passion for creating lists at the same time.


Sunday, 14 August 2011

Purchasing Books - Magrudy's Books, Dubai, U.A.E

For the past little while, at Jo's suggestion (although she now sort of regrets it), I've been merrily going through our bookshelves and updating all my various book lists and in my database, adding a location where the books are shelved. But more on that in a future Blog. The reason I mention this is because as I've been going through my lists, I've come across the name of a bookstore where I spent a few happy moments while I was in Dubai back in 2005.

The store is Magrudy's and I must say that of the two or three book stores that I did buy books at while I was there, this was my favourite. I've been trying to find the specific one that I used to shop at, but it's been difficult even to find the shopping mall as in the intervening years, the face of Dubai seems to have changed drastically.

After much perseverance and a bit of luck, I finally found the shopping mall that I frequented the most. It was a nice mall, the Deira City Center, with lots of interesting, high end shops and luckily, as well, a cinema. They had the most comfortable seats and a great sound system. I went to a few movies during my stay in Dubai, Flight of the Phoenix, Kingdom of Heaven, and Hostage, to name some.

But I'm digressing. My favourite way to spend some time off was to catch the bus down to the Deira City Center and arrive about an hour before a movie and head to Magrudy's to look at books until the movie started. Conveniently, they were both on the same floor, the best of both worlds.

At the time I was very much into Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books and Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency so I was able to keep up with them while there. It was so nice being in a strange country and having something so familiar to make the time pass more quickly.

Unfortunately, my search for Magrudy's store in the Deira City Center seems to show that it was replaced with a Borders.  However, the store otherwise looks very similar. I hope the continued economic downturn doesn't mean that there is no longer a book store in the mall. A good book store is always needed.

Next time I plan to let you know about bit more about my book lists and how my organizing and list making is progressing.. Lucky you!

Keep on reading and buying books!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Current Readings

Let's see, what have I been reading the past few weeks? Of the last three, there's been a mystery, a book from the humour genre and a non-fiction that covers almost everything..

Just Finished

"Judge William Hereward Barber's tour of the Southern Circuit starts off normally enough, with as much ceremony as wartime England would permit and a calendar consisting of the usual array of civil disputes and criminal cases. But then, as a series of strange incidents occur, Francis Pettigrew is faced with a perplexing, perhaps deadly, puzzle. Are these unrelated mishaps a string of particularly nasty practical jokes, or is someone trying to murder Judge Barber?"

Tragedy at Law was written by Cyril Hare, a British judge, in 1942. He draws upon his own experiences as a judge in this story, and introduces two characters, barrister Frances Pettigrew and police officer, Inspector Mallett. This wasn't an action-packed mystery, but an interesting description of the life of the travelling judge in England, whose duties involved travelling to the various municipal courts from London to hear cases there. Included in his retinue are his staff, his interesting wife and various barristers who work the various cases, including Mr Pettigrew. In this story, incidents occur that add to the journey, threats are made that affect the judge and involve his wife, Hilda. There are many nice little twists and turns, the story is well - written and I enjoyed the mystery very much. This is the first Cyril Hare story I've read and I will try to find some of the others.

Over the past few years, I've bought my wife, Jo, various of Bill Bryson's books; his travels through England, Australia, Europe, his latest book on the Home and of those she's managed to read so far, she has enjoyed his humour and writing style. I decided to try one that she hasn't read yet, a Short History of Nearly Everything. I've got to say, I agree with her assessment. Bill Bryson is an American - born writer who has spent much of his life in Britain, and as of 2003 was Chancellor of Durham University.

As the title of this book states, this is a short history of nearly everything and he's not kidding. He covers everything from the Big Bang Theory, Physics, Geology, Biology, etc etc. Luckily, even with such potentially heavy subject matter, Bill has managed to write a nicely - flowing, interesting novel, that moves smoothly from subject matter to subject matter. Even though you might not think that this topic would lend itself to much humour, he even manages to add interesting humorous side stories about the people and scientists who developed and created much of what we know about the Earth today and also of the people he met as he explored the various themes in this book. I have now added his other books to my list of 'to be reads'.

In my UK Book Club, the theme for August was 'humour' books. When I was in high school, I read two books by Leo Rosten, who moved from Poland with his family at the age of 3. Both involved a night school teacher, Mr. Parkhill, who teaches English to immigrants to the US. The stories revolve around his most precocious student, Mr Hyman Kaplan, an engaging, entertaining student, who's manipulation of the English language often cause both consternation and admiration from his fellow students, depending on which side of the fence they sit and often give poor Mr 'Pockheel' nightmares.

I had been looking through my used book stores for the past few years to find Mr Rosten's books (the other being The Education of Hyman Kaplan) when I found this one, The Return of Hyman Kaplan, in a fantastic used book store in Ottawa, The Book Bazaar. When the theme for August was announced by my Book Club, this story was my first choice. Even with the gap of about 40 years from my last reading, this story has lost none of its gentle humour. I enjoyed every page and every situation in each chapter. If you are ever lucky enough to find these stories, I'm sure you'll find them as wonderful and entertaining as I have.

Currently Reading

Having completed the genre challenge in my UK Book Club so early, I decided to read another in the humour genre. This is another book that I had purchased for my wife, one that she told me was a good chuckle.

"Inspired by breathtaking views and romantic dreams of finding love in the mountains, Tony Hawks impulsively buys a house in the French Pyrenees. Here, he plans to finally fulfil his childhood fantasy of mastering the piano, untroubled by the problems of the world. In reality, the chaotic story of Tony's hopelessly ill-considered house purchase reads like the definitive guide to how not to buy a home overseas. It finds him flirting with the removal business in a disastrous attempt to transport his piano to France in a dodgy white van; foolishly electing to build a swimming pool himself; and expanding his relationship when he starts co-habiting; not with an exquisite French beauty, but a middle-aged builder from West London."

I've just started this story, but it already has pulled me in. If it continues in this vein, I may also find myself reading Round Ireland with a Fridge and Playing the Moldavians at Tennis.

One fantasy series that I've enjoyed both as a TV series, comic books and novels is Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. Fool Moon is the second in the series and I started that at the same time as I was reading Mr Kaplan. It's my upstairs book. :0)

"Business has bee slow. Okay, business has been dead. And not even of the undead variety. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn't been able to dredge up any kind of work - magical or mundane. But just when it looks like he can't afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise. A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon. Take three guesses - and the first two don't count."

I'm enjoying immensely even after only a few chapters. Butcher tells his story with a nice irreverence and develops his stories and characters nicely. I like Harry and his pal, spirit Bob and I have a crush on his friend, police officer Murphy. I'm looking forward to continuing reading.. Will let you know how it all ends up. :0)

Next in Line

It may change but these are the next two books I'm leaning towards.

While I'm somewhat unfamiliar with Iris Johansen's writings, this one did sound interesting.

Deadlock "Emily Hudson is a renowned archaeologist who travels the world to save priceless artifacts from theft or destruction. Her best friend and partner, Joel Levy,  is always at her side - until one day, when her entire crew comes under attack. Joel and Emily are taken hostage by a sadistic captor who is determined to find the missing link to a legendary treasure. For weeks they struggle to survive against terrifying odds, pushed to their limits -  and beyond. John Garrett has worked for the CIA, British intelligence and whoever else will pay for his services. This time, a Washington operative hands him what at first appears to be just another assignment; to track down and save Emily and Joel. but it quickly becomes much more, especially when Garrett finds himself drawn to someone as dauntless and bent on revenge as Emily. Soon, they're catapulted into an astonishing adventure in which nothing, and no one, is what it seems. And lives hang in the balance as one man and one woman unravel the explosive truth behind a conspiracy hidden for generations." Mwuuuu haaaaa!

Next is the third book in the Matthew Shardlake series; one I've quite enjoyed so far.

Sovereign - "Autumn, 1541. King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to attend an extravagant submission by his rebellious subjects in York. Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as legal work processing local petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special mission for Archbishop Cranmer - to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator who is to be returned to London for interrogation. but the murder of a York glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle, but to the royal family itself. And when Shardlake and Barak stumble upon a cache of secret documents which could threaten the Tudor throne, a chain of events unfolds that will lead to Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age."

Sounds great!

Keep on reading and support your local book store and library. :0)

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