Sunday, 13 January 2013

Shopping for Books

I had a very nice Saturday yesterday. Spent the morning reading and watching Premiership footie. Then the missus and I headed down for a day of wandering around shops in Nanaimo. We stopped at the Post Office to pick up a late Xmas prezzie that Jo had ordered for me from a leather shop in England, The Tannery, from Holt, UK. We had visited it when we were in England last fall and wandering through the lovely town of Holt. It turned out the missus had bought me a new Picard briefcase from the store. I can't wait to use it when I go to work on Monday. We got sandwiches at Extra Foods, then headed down island, visiting Urban Barn, a favourite furniture/ accessory store of ours. We then headed over to Home Sense and Home Outfitters. Jo went to those stores and I wandered over to Chapters Books to use up a gift certificate that my daughter Jennifer got me for Xmas. (Well, she actually got me an e-reader, but gracefully let me trade it in for book certificates). Of course, I splurged a bit and bought more than the certificate was worth, but it sure helped out and got me on my way. (Thank you, Jenn) So here are the books I  bought -

1. Introducing the Honourable Phryne Fisher, by Kerry Greenwood. I've wanted to get copies of these books since I watched the Australian TV series, starring Essie Davis. It's a mystery series, set just after the Great War. Phryne Fisher is a member of English high society who returns to Melbourne, Australia, when society life becomes too boring. She decides to become a Private Detective and quickly becomes involved in many interesting cases. The TV series is funny, suspenseful and sexy, helped in great part by Essie Davis. This book has the first 3 stories, Cocaine Blues, Flying Too High and Murder on the Ballarat Train. I'm looking forward to reading these stories, hoping they are as good as the series.

2. The Crow Trap, by Ann Cleeves. The missus has been watching the Vera series, starring Brenda Blethyn. I've also heard about the books in my various goodreads book clubs. Vera Stanhope is a Detective Inspector created by Ann Cleeves. The Crow Trap is the first book in the series and involves a murder in the North Penines.

3. The Eagle of the Ninth Chronicles, by Rosemary Sutcliffe. Back in my public school days, in the late '60s, I read the first book of this series, The Eagle of the Ninth. It's a young adult series, following the adventures of the lost legion. It's a book I've been looking for for a considerable time, one I've wanted to reread to see if it was as good as I remember it. I turns out there are three books in the series, The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers. They involve varied stories, solving the mystery of the disappearing Ninth Legion, undoing a plot to overthrow the emperor or tracking down enemies to exact revenge.

4. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. This is one of those young adult fantasy series that I've pulled off the book shelves many times and then put back. I finally saw the movie of the first book a couple of weeks ago and it was quite entertaining. It re-ignited my interest in reading the books. So when I saw this copy in Nanaimo, I figured I really should finally get it. The book tells the story of Katniss Everdean who volunteers to take part in the annual Hunger Games, a challenge organised by the central government to keep the provinces in its thrall. The Hunger Games bring together challengers, one boy and one girl, from the various regions, in a fight to the death for the entertainment of the public.

5. Plain Murder and The Pursued, by C.S. Forester. C.S. Forester is best known for his series of books on Horatio Hornblower and other classics such as The African Queen. However he also wrote a few mysteries. I had previously read Payment Deferred, a very suspenseful mystery. As I checked out the mysteries in Chapters, I saw that one again, but also the two listed above. Both looked very interesting. The Pursued was lost for 60 years after being written in 1935, so it's great to get a copy of it. Plain Murder involves 3 advertising men, discovered taking bribes and plotting to kill to murder the man who can report them. The Pursued involves the discovery of the dead body of Marjorie's sister, her head in the oven. The mother suspects the death is more than it looks and plots revenge against the suspected killer.

6. The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill. Daniel Radcliffe starred in the recent movie adaptation of this novel and I've wanted to read it ever since as it was a nicely suspenseful movie. The book was written in 1983, one of many fiction works by Susan Hill. She has also written a series of mysteries featuring Inspector Simon Serrailler. The plot summary of The Woman in Black reads as follows, " Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is summoned to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, the sole inhabitant of Eel Marsh House, unaware of the tragic secrets which lie hidden behind the sheltered windows. The house stands at the end of a causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, but it is not until he glimpses  wasted young woman, dressed all in black, at the funeral, that a creeping sense of unease begins to take hold, a feeling deepened by the reluctance of the locals to talk of the woman in black - and her terrible purpose."

7. The Snowman, by Jo Nesbo. Jo Nesbo is a Norwegian crime writer who has introduced Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo police to the world. I've previously read The Redbreast and enjoyed very much. Nesbo has created a gritty, realistic crime novel and since reading The Redbreast, I've also purchased, but not yet read, Nemesis. I thought it would be good to get another in the series while I was in Chapters, hence the purchase of The Snowman. In this book, Harry and his team work to find a number of missing wives/ mothers. As the case progresses, he discovers he is working to find a serial killer working on his own turf.

8. The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Over the past couple of years, I've become quite addicted to Scandinavian mystery writers. I saw this book at one of the local book stores, but didn't get around to buying it before. Jussi Adler-Olson is a Danish crime writer and this is one the Department Q mysteries. Department Q is the equivalent of the Cold Squad, except in this series, the Department consists of only one person, Detective Carl Morck. Set in Copenhagen, the case involves the vanishing of a liberal politician over five years before. The politician is presumed dead, but Carl doesn't believe this and so the case begins. I look forward to reading this; my one concern being whether the translation into English works effectively, as I've found in at least one case where it didn't and that can definitely ruin a novel.

So there you go, both the missus and I had a nice day out; finished off with Wendy's Baconators and an excellent movie on the tube, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, an excellent, well - made romantic comedy with Emily Blunt and Ewen MacGregor. I highly recommend.

Anyway, had a lovely Saturday and now it's time to head off to get a few groceries. Have a great week and keep on reading!

Monday, 7 January 2013

January 2013 - Individual Challenge - Ngaio Marsh

One of the individual challenges I decided to take on for 2013 was to focus, each month, on a specific author/ series, that I've neglected for awhile. Over the next 12 months, besides my other challenges and attempts to read the odd freebie, I'll try to read 3 or 4 books by a specific author. Some will be parts of series, such as John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series, or others will just be specific authors, such as Phillip K. Dick's SciFi. For January I've chosen Ngaio Marsh. (Apologies but I don't seem to be able to upload photos today, so this will be strictly a text post)

"Dame Ngaio Marsh was born in New Zealand in 1899 and died February 1982. She wrote over twenty-five detective novels and many of her stories had theatrical settings, for Ngaio Marsh's real passion was the theatre. She was both actress and producer and almost single-handedly revived the New Zealand public's interest in live theatre. It was for this work that she received what she called her 'damery' in 1966. Ngaio Marsh's last detective story, finished just before she died, is Light Thickens. Her autobiography Black Beech and Honeydew, is also a Fontana paperback" excerpted from Death in Ecstasy, published in 1936.

Ngaio Marsh's most enduring character is Metropolitan London Police Inspector Roderick Alleyn. She wrote 32 novels featuring Inspector Alleyn. Over the past few years, at various used book stores and the annual local Rotary Club Book fair, I've collected 17 of Marsh's novels. I've previously read 3 of them;

1. Vintage Murder - It was published originally in 1937 and was the fifth Roderick Alleyn novel. It follows Alleyn to New Zealand where he is involved trying to solve a murder in a travelling acting troupe.
2. Died in the Wool - This is the 13th Alleyn mystery, published in 1945, and once again finds him in New Zealand. The novel is set in 1945 and finds Alleyn involved in counter-espionage work.
3. Tied up in Tinsel - One of Marsh's last novels, it was published in 1972. I read this one in Dec 2012 as part of a Xmas - type genre challenge. The novel is set during the Xmas period and takes place at a celebration in a country estate, that is being visited by Alleyn's wife, Troy.

So as you can see, I do have quite a few lining my shelves that are still to be read. I started January's challenge by reading the first ever Alleyn novel, A Man Lay Dead. The mystery was published in 1934 and takes place at a country estate in England, where, of course, a murder takes place. Alleyn is called down from London to help with the investigation. It's a wonderful introduction to his cool, suave character. He has a casual, relaxed manner, but at the same time, when it comes time to place the facts out and solve the crime, he is relentless and forthright. Marsh presents the mystery and characters in a well-thought out, well-crafted manner. Excellent story to start off my January challenge.

I am currently reading the third Alleyn mystery, The Nursing Home Murder, which is set in London and involves the murder of the Home Secretary, anarchists and other factors. Reading this story reminded me that the BBC has adapted nine of Marsh's mysteries and presented them between 1993 and 1994 as The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, starring Patrick Malahide as Chief Inspector Alleyn, William Simons as Inspector Fox and Belinda Lang as Agatha Troy. The reason I bring this series up at this point is because while visiting my sister-in-law and brother-in-law in England over Xmas 2011, we watched this particular episode. Quite entertaining.

As mentioned above, I hope to read 3 - 5 of Marsh's mysteries over January. If I manage to do so, I'll continue in a chronological manner. The next novels would be -

Death in Ecstasy - (1936) "The poison was cyanide, slipped into the sacred wine of ecstasy just before it was presented to Miss Cara Quayne at the House of the Sacred Flame. The Victim was a deeply religious Initiate who had trained for a month for her last ceremony. She was also a very beautiful woman. The Suspects were the other Initiates and the High Priest. All claimed they were above earthly passions. But Cara Quayne had provoked lust, jealousy - and murder. Roderick Alleyn suspected that more evil still lurked behind the Sign of the Sacred Flame...."

Artists in Crime - (1938) "It was a bizarre pose for beautiful model Sonia Gluck - and her last. For in the draperies of her couch lay a fatal dagger, and behind her murder lies all the intrigue and acid-etched temperament of an artist's colony. Called in to investigate, Scotland Yard's Inspector Roderick Alleyn finds his own passions unexpectedly stirred by the feisty painter Agatha Troy -brilliant artist and suspected murderess."... Of special interest in this novel, is the introduction of Agatha Troy who will play an important role in Alleyn's future.. :0)

Death in a White Tie - (1938)  The Social Event of the Season Has Death on Its Guest List. No one is more popular on London's champagne-and-caviar circuit than charming Lord Robert Gospell. However, on the morning after the year's most glittering ball, someone finds a reason to asphyxiate “Bunchy” Gospell in a taxi headed across town. Scotland Yard’s Inspector Roderick Alleyn is called in to find out who killed his old friend, and to cleverly unwind a tangle of murky secrets that began far from the ballroom floor."

So with luck, I'll manage some of those stories over January. I'll try to summarise them at the end of the month. Just for info, below is the complete list of Alleyn mysteries. I've asterisked those that I currently have on my shelves. I hope you feel enough interest to read one or two of Ngaio Marsh's mysteries.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

My January 2013 Reading Plan

Now that we're into 2013, it's time to get a bit organised. Overall, this year, I hope to read 80 books. I managed 81 last year so I think it's a reasonable output. That'll be somewhere between 7 and 8 books per month. Based on the various challenges I've taken on and looking at my bookshelves, this is my tentative reading plan for January.

Beekeeper's Apprentice
 Genre Challenge. In the UK Book Club, we've started a new genre challenge this year. There are 24 various genres listed which should last for the next couple of years. For January we voted on Historical (either fiction or non-fiction.) My plan at the moment is to read The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King. This is a new series for me, featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. The story is set in 1915, hence the historical aspect and we find Sherlock Holmes retired, living on the Sussex Downs and engaged in the study of honeybees. He finds himself mentoring a young 15 year old girl, Mary Russell, who becomes his new partner. This has become a very big series for Laurie King, an American author. She has now published 11 novels in the series since 1994, with a new one on the way. I've got a couple of books already, so am looking forward to starting the series. And conveniently, it'll more than satisfy this challenge.

Reading Group Challenge (12 + 2). I won't get into this too much as it was the subject of my BLog yesterday. Suffice it to say that I plan to start this challenge with J.G. Ballard's, Hello America.

Elizabeth George
 Individual Reading Challenge. This is  two part challenge for me. One is to continue working my way through my Mystery authors alphabetically, continuing on from 2012. I am currently at the letter G and reading one book in this challenge. Elizabeth George is responsible for the very popular Inspector Lynley series. It was also a popular television series. Lynley is an English Lord who chooses to step away from his roots and instead becomes a Police officer. His partner is the troublesome Sgt Barbara Havers who has been given a second chance to work with Lynley. It's quite an excellent series, with well-crafted mysteries. Deception on his Mind is the ninth book in the series and for once it features on Sgt Havers. Lynley is away on his honeymoon and takes off to the coast on a supposed vacation and becomes involved helping the local police solve a potentially racially-charged case. I started this one in December, but only got half way through so it has become my first book of 2013.

Michael Gilbert
 2. The second book in the Individual challenge that I plan to read is the first novel by Michael Gilbert, British writer of mysteries and thrillers. I have read one of his books previously and enjoyed. Close Quarters was published in 1947. "Anonymous letters, broadsheets, comic flags - these intrusions on the quiet of Melchester Cathedral Close were sufficient for the Dean to invite his nephew down from Scotland Yard for a 'holiday'. Then murder struck - most brutally, and more than once. And among the canons and vicars, the vergers, organist, clerks and constable was one man who would make that single deadly mistake which has brought the greatest murderers to the scaffold. For murder, though it has no tongue, will speak with miraculous organ."

A Man Lay Dead
 Individual Challenge Part Two - The second part of my Individual Challenge is to focus on various series, one per month, that I've been collecting books for but have neglected over the past couple of years. They are a mix of mystery writers, SciFi, adventures and thrillers. For January, I'm going to try and read 3 or 4 of Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn mysteries. Ngaio Marsh was born in New Zealand and became one of the Grand Dames of mysteries; along with Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Margery Allingham. Over her career she wrote 32 novels featuring the Scotland Yard detective Roderick Alleyn. I've read 3 of the series previously, but I hope to make a dent in my bookshelf this month. I've already started the first book in the series, A Man Lay Dead, which was published in 1934. Ngaio Marsh published until 1982. The series was also a very popular BBC between 1993 and 1994, with nine of the novels produced for TV. The plot of A Man Lay Dead - "To amuse his house guests (and Sir Hubert is famous for his amusing house parties) Sir Hubert Handesley devises a new form of the Murder Game. But when the lights go up there is a real corpse, with a real dagger in its back - and all seven suspects have had time to concoct amusing alibis."

With any luck I'll manage at least two others, and if I do, these will probably be the choices.

The Nursing Home Murder

The Nursing Home Murder  was published in 1935. It was Marsh's third book after Enter a Murderer. In fact this is one of the BBC mysteries, that I saw while visiting with the in-laws in England last Christmas. It was quite good. "When Britain's Home Secretary complained of abdominal pains, it seemed like a simple case of appendicitis. But minutes after his operation, the ill-fated politician lay dead on the table. When Chief Detective-Inspector Roderick Alleyn arrives to dissect the situation, he finds many a likely suspect, including a vengeful surgeon, a lovelorn nurse, an unhappy wife, and a cabinet full of political foes."

Death in Ecstasy

Death in Ecstasy was published in 1936 and is the fourth book in the Alleyn series. "When lovely Cara Quayne dropped dead to the floor after drinking the ritual wine at the House of the Sacred Flame, she was having a religious experience of a sort unsuspected by the other initiates. Discovering how the fatal prussic acid got into the bizarre group's wine is but one of the perplexing riddles that confronts Scotland Yard's Inspector Roderick Alleyn when he's called to discover who sent this wealthy cult member to her untimely death."

So there you have it, my plan for January 2013. With any luck, I'll manage another of Ngaio Marsh's mysteries and maybe move on to the next mystery writer in the alphabet. I'll keep you up-to-date.

Enjoy your own reading; I hope your 2013 is successful and a happy one.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2013 Reading Challenges

Hey, hey! It's January 1, 2013! How the time has flown. I've spent the past few posts summarising the books and some other things, music, TV shows, actresses that I enjoyed in 2012. It's time to start looking forward. I will start with some of the Reading Group Challenges that I took on for 2013, starting with The Book Addicts Reading Group Challenge, otherwise known as the 12 + 2. In that we pick 12 books, plus 2 alternates that we would like to read in the upcoming year.

This is my third year doing this challenge and I've enjoyed it very much. I think I've picked a nice mix of books this year. So here goes. I hope you find my choices interesting.

1. Hello America, by J.G. Ballard. I've read a fair number of Ballard's unique SciFi books. I saw this one in the past year and thought it also sounded interesting. This is the summary - "Following the energy crisis of the late 20th-century America has been abandoned. Now, a century later, a small group of European explorers returns to the deserted continent. But America is unrecognisable - the Bering Strait has been damned and the whole continent has become a desert, populated by isolated natives and the bizarre remnants of a disintegrated culture. The expedition sets off from Manhattan on a cross-continent journey, through Holiday Inns and abandoned theme parks, to uncover a shocking new power in the heart of Las Vegas."

2. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. I watched and enjoyed the TV series starring Jason Isaacs as Detective Jackson Brodie. So when I saw the book by Kate Atkinson, I had to get it. I've been looking forward to reading some of her work. "Investigating other people's tragedies and cock-ups and misfortunes was all he knew. He was used to being a voyeur, the outsider looking in, and nothing, that anyone did surprised him anymore. Yet despite everything he'd seen and done, inside Jackson there remained a belief - a small, battered, bruised belief - that his job was to help people be good rather than punish them for being bad. Cambridge is sweltering, during an unusually hot summer. To Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, the world consists of one accounting sheet - Lost on the left, Found on the right - and the two never seem to balance. Jackson has never felt at home in Cambridge, and his a failed marriage to prove it. Surrounded by death, intrigue and misfortune, his own life haunted by a family tragedy, he attempts to unravel three disparate case histories and begins to realise that in spite of apparent diversity, everything is connected..."

3. Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks. I've read a couple of the Culture SciFi novels and enjoyed both The Algebraist and Matter. Quite a different sort of SciFi story. Consider Phlebas is the first in the series. "The war raged across the galaxy. billions had died; billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, coldblooded, brutal and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith, the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender. Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within the fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction."

4. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. I had to go for a couple of classics. George Eliot was born Mary Ann Evans in 1819. Daniel Deronda was published first in 1876. My wife listened to an adaptation on BBC Radio and it sounded interesting. "As Daniel Deronda opens, Gwendolen Harleth is poised at the roulette-table, prepared to throw away a small fortune. She is observed by Daniel Deronda, a young man groomed in the finest tradition of the English upper classes. And while Gwendolen loses everything and becomes trapped in an oppressive marriage, Deronda's fortunes take a different turn. After a dramatic encounter with Mirah, a young Jewish woman, he embarks on a search for her lost family and finds himself drawn into ever-deeper sympathies with Jewish aspirations and identity."

5.  The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry. "Stephen Fry arrived at Cambridge on probation: a convicted fraudster and thief, an addict, liar, fantasist and failed suicide, convinced that at any moment he would be found out and flung away. Instead, university life offered him love, romance and the chance to stand on a stage and entertain. He met and befriended bright young things like Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie and (after working out how to cheat the university examination system) emerged as one of the most promising comic talents in the country. This is the intriguing, hilarious and utterly compelling story of how the Stephen the nation knows (or thinks it knows) began to make his presence felt as he took his first tentative steps in the worlds of television, journalism, radio, theatre and film. Shameful tales of sugar, shag and champagne jostle with insights into credit cards, classic cars and conspicuous consumption, Blackadder, Broadway and the BBC."

6.  Stamboul Train, An Entertainment by Graham Greene. I've begun reading Greene's stories this past while and have enjoyed his literature very much. Brighton Rock and Our Man in Havana were both excellent stories. In the past I've enjoyed The Third Man, The Honorary Consul. So I wanted to continue exploring his fiction and chose this one off my bookshelf. "As the Orient Express crosses Europe, it seems to draw a trail of lust, murder, revolution and intrigue from Ostend to Constantinople, in this early 'entertainment' by a master of the spy thriller." Stamboul Train is one of Greene's first novels, published originally in 1932.

7. Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling. I found this book at the most recent Rotary Club Book Sale and when I read the back, it sounded very interesting and I had to purchase it. "The stories in Puck of Pook's Hill were inspired by Kipling's instinctive understanding of English rural life. Two children, Dan and Una, acting out their version of A Midsummer Night's Dream in a Sussex Meadow, miraculously conjure up Puck himself. Small blue-eyed Puck, as old as Time itself, brings back the past for them to witness. He recreates a Roman centurion, a Norman knight, a Renaissance craftsman and the villages of times gone by and, in so doing, gives Dan and Una a clear sense of history and their own heritage."

8. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence. I actually had purchased this last year as part of a genre challenge. That month's challenge was Erotica. However, I ended up reading other books, including Lawrence's The Virgin and the Gypsy so this classic was returned to my bookshelf for future reading. So this is the future.. :0) I have read Woman in Love previously but that was back in the late 1970's during my university days. It's time I read some more of his work. "Clifford Chatterley returns from the First World War as an invalid. Constance nurses him and tries to be the dutiful wife but begins to feel oppressed by their childless marriage and isolated life. partly encouraged by Clifford to seek a lover, she embarks on a passionate affair with the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors. Through their liaison, Lawrence explores the complications of sex, love and class."

9. Titanic, First Accounts by Tim Maltin. I'm probably reading this book a year too late, as the anniversary of the Titanic disaster was last year. It was a book I saw in my local bookstore and it intrigued me. "Imagine a ship nearly a sixth of a mile long, seventy-five feet high at the top decks, with four enormous funnels above the decks; with her hundreds of portholes, all her saloons and other rooms brilliant with light, and all round her, little boats filled with those who until a few hours before had trod her decks and read in her libraries and listened to the music of her band in happy content; and who were now looking up in amazement at the enormous mass above them and rowing away from her because she was sinking."

10. Murder in the Central Committee by Manuel Vazquez Montalban. A new mystery writer for me. I've got a couple of his books and I'm anxious to give him a try. "At a meeting of the central committee of Spain's Communist Party, in a room both locked and guarded, general secretary Fernando Garrido is stabbed to death. But the Party refuses to believe it was an inside job. They turn to former member Pepe Carvalho. But he’s soon out of his depth in unfamiliar Madrid, where he spends nearly as much time investigating the chorizo, lamb-kidneys, and tripe, and the uninspiring selection of wine on offer, as he does murder. With time out for his signature book burning (Engels’s The Housing Question), cooking (shellfish risotto), and an ill-advised bajativo (cognac, crème de menthe) inspired romp with Gladys, Pepe Carvalho leads a wry and cynical tour through the labyrinth of post-Fascist Spanish politics amid violent jostling for power."

11. 1000 Years of Annoying the French by Stephen Clarke. I had to buy this book, it looked so interesting. "The English Channel may be only twenty miles wide, but it's a thousand years deep. Stephen Clarke takes a penetrating look into those murky depths, guiding us through all the times when Britain and France have been at war - or at least glowering at each other across what the Brits provocatively call the English Channel. Along the way he explodes a few myths that French historians have been trying to pass off as 'la vérité', as he proves that the French did not invent the baguette, or the croissant, or even the guillotine, and would have taken the bubbles out of bubbly if the Brits hadn't created a fashion for fizzy champagne. Starting with the Norman (not French) Conquest and going right up to the supposedly more peaceful present, when a state visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy becomes a series of hilarious historical insults, it is a light-hearted - but impeccably researched - account of all our great fallings out."

12. Rin Tin Tin, The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean. This was a Christmas present from my daughter and her boyfriend 2011. I've been looking forward to reading it. "It begins on the battlefield in France during WWI, when a young American soldier, Lee Duncan, discovered a newborn German shepherd in the ruins of a bombed-out dog kennel. To Duncan, who came of age in an orphanage, the dog's survival was a miracle. He saw something in Rin Tin Tin that he felt compelled him to share with the world. Duncan brought Rinty home to California, where the dog's athleticism and acting ability drew the attention of Warner Bros. Over the next ten years, Rinty starred in twenty-three blockbuster silent films that save the studio from bankruptcy and made him the most famous dog in the world. At the height of his popularity, Rin Tin Tin was Hollywood's number one box office star. "

Alt 1. The Waterman's Daughter by Emma Ruby-Sachs. In Johannesburg, South Africa, Peter Matthews, a Canadian water company executive, goes out to unwind with a group of local politicians and business contacts. The next morning, he is found dead in a black township, the victim of a violent attack. Zembe Afrika, a career policewoman trying to balance her commitment to the law with her deep ties to the community, is in charge of the investigation. The crime looks gang-related, but Matthews's involvement in a controversial water privatisation project suggest that his murder may have been about more than money. When Matthew's 21 year old daughter, Claire, arrives in Johannesburg, distraught and determined to find out what happened to her father, Zembe has to scramble to keep the Canadian out of her way. In an effort to distract Claire from the investigation, Zembe pressures a young anti-privatisation activist, Nomsulwa Sithu, to escort Claire during her visit. Gradually the two women find themselves drawn together in spite of their differences - and in spite of a troubling secret that could destroy more than one life."

Alt 2. The Far Country by Nevil Shute. I love his stories. On the Beach and Pied Piper are two of my all-time favourite novels. I hope this is as good. "Australia - the land of opportunity, and a place to build a new life in a new world. For Carl Zinter, the Czech doctor, the end of the war and his move to Australia signals a period of unexpected hope. It is a time for exploration - together with Jennifer Morton, young, lovely and far from her English home. But Carl is not all that he seems, and even Jennifer is not privy to his dark secret. A secret that, when exposed, threatens to shatter all his dreams and expectations."

So there you have it, my 12 + 2 challenge. I hope the books interest you. I'll try to comment throughout the year as I read them. Tomorrow I'll talk about some of the other challenges I'm going to work on.

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