Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Top Ten All-Time Favourite Books

It's almost noon Pacific Time, December 31, 2013; in another 12 hours, 2014 will have moved into place in the Pacific West Coast. :0) Happy New Years to those who've already celebrated and the best in 2014 to everybody. I've been studiously avoiding starting any of my 2014 reading selections today but finding it very difficult. I will admit that I read the prologue (3 pages) and the various book reviews and the author's acknowledgements in one of the books, but I will persevere and wait until tomorrow... or maybe when I go to bed tonight, before starting them.

So what to do today to occupy my time. Well, I've gone for my last jog of 2013 and felt pretty good about it I must say and taken the dogs for two walks so far. And it's still only noon.. lol. I also plan to do some ironing tonight, the missus and I do like to relax during our holidays. But in the interim, I've been rereading some of my Blogs and thought that it might be time to update my Top Ten All-time favourite book list. When I first started this Blog, back in September 2010 (has it really been that long?), I did a number of posts (10 to be exact) where I listed my Top Ten Favourite books of all-time. It's been 3 years now and I think time to see if I've changed my mind on any of the books. My original list was -

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (published in 1960)
2. On the Beach by Nevil Shute (published in 1957)
3. Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (published in 1951)
4. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (published in 1898)
5. The Postman by David Brin (published in 1985)
6. The Stand by Stephen King (published in 1978)
7. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (published in 1940)
8. Nineteen Eighty - Four by George Orwell (published in 1949)
9. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (published in 1962)
10. The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman (published in 1962)

My revised list contains some of the previous list as I haven't changed my feelings on them at all. Some that have disappeared may be somewhat arbitrary, but sometimes it is just as simple as I haven't read it in many years and I need to do so to see if my thoughts remain the same. So here you go, my revised all-time Top Ten Favourite books -

10. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute (published in 1942). This has always been a favourite of mine, but I think one reason why I didn't put it in my Top Ten last time was that I already had a book by Nevil Shute. But I've since reread (I think it's the third time I've done so) and I loved it again. Nevil Shute is one of the great story tellers. He puts normal people in often untenable situations and these people, who are kind, decent people, work their way through these situations calmly, gently often and make you love them. In Pied Piper, an elderly Englishman, John Sydney Howard, decides to make a trip to his favourite fishing grounds in the Swiss Alps, feeling it might be his last opportunity with WWII threatening. France is invaded while he is there and Mr. Howard finds himself escorting an ever increasing number of children to England to keep them safe. It is these events which Shute so perfectly describes and it is Mr. Howard's strength under extreme conditions that draws you in to the story. It is a beautifully crafted  and excellent story.

9. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin (published in 1969). I have read this book at least twice since I first read it in my Science Fiction novel course at uni. I will admit that I do need to read again as it's been probably 20 years since I last read it. However, I recall it as a fascinating story. Basically, an envoy from the Ekumen (an intergalactic coalition of humanoid worlds), a Terran native, Genly Ai is sent to the planet Winter (the name explains what the overriding climate of the planet is) to try and persuade the inhabitants of the planet to join the Ekumen. The interesting thing about the people of Winter is that they are ambisexual, spending the majority of the time as asexual and only once a month changing to either male or female during the period of high fertility. This has made Winter a peaceful world, I presume, without the constant irritant of male aggression, there is no desire to fight. There is political intrigue and the Prime Minister, Estraven, tries to escape. Genly ends up in a work camp in the frozen North and the Prime Minister comes to help her. It is their voyage through this frigid North where the relationship between Genly and Estraven develops and this part of the book especially turns an interesting Science Fiction novel into a fascinating must-read novel. I highly recommend and do plan to read again. If you want another recommendation, in the movie The Jane Austen Book Club, The Left Hand of Darkness is a challenge read for one of the couples. How's that for a recommendation?

8. The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier (published in 1969). This is another book I read for the first time while at uni. I didn't take it for a course, I think I liked the cover and then the write up on the dust jacket. Another fascinating story that I think may have influenced other writers such as Diana Gabaldon (and her Outlander series) and maybe even books like The Time Traveller's Wife. Of course, that's just my supposition. But the story is a time-travel novel and a unique one at that. This is the synopsis that drew me in; "Richard Young, tired of his life as a publisher, bored with his wife Vita and his two stepsons, is staying in his scientist friend Magnus' house in Cornwall. Magnus has developed a new hallucinogenic drug which Richard tries. His trips on this drug take him back 600 years as invisible witness to lives more exciting than his own, whose fascination begins to have repercussions in the 'real' world." du Maurier neatly intertwines Richards real life with his visits to the past making a fascinating story. This is especially evident when Richard wakes from one of his trips. The story has everything, excitement, romance, danger and fascinating descriptions of the area where Richard is staying. This is a book I've enjoyed a few times and it's due for a reread.

7. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (published in 1985). This is a dystopian novel, a work of Science Fiction by Canadian author, Margaret Atwood. It's a book I've enjoyed many times and has also been released as a well-received movie in 1990, with the screenplay by Harold Pinter and starring Natasha Richardson in the lead role. This is the synopsis, "Now, in a book that is at once mordant satire and dire warning, Atwood has created an Orwellian 1984 as seen by women in the near future. life in what was once the United States has become a sexually repressed existence in the Republic of Gilead, an intolerant theocracy founded by religious extremists. In a land where today's rhetoric has become tomorrow's reality, a still-young woman hauntingly recalls her old life in the 1980's, and with cool-eyed, often desperate detachment, she describes her new life as Handmaid, enlisted to bear children for the elite." It's a fascinating story, well-thought out and developed, at times scary as Atwood presents her vision of this future. She has carried on her looks at the future in more recent books, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, but consider this book as the precursor and consider it a must-read.

6.  The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (published in 1951). This book may have moved down my list but still strikes a chord with me. Even considering the unfortunate TV adaptation that came out in 2009, starring Dougray Scott, which bore no relation to the book, I still think this is one of the great Science Fiction novels ever written. This was my write up when I did my last Top Ten List. Check it out here.

5. The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham (published in 1944). This was a first time read for me this year. I bought it during a visit to Kingston, Ontario and read it over a weekend basically while the missus and I were attending the World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario. It was a story that grabbed me from the first page. This was my Goodread's review of the story, "I'd never read any Somerset Maugham before and really had no desire to read anything by him either. However recently I saw The Razor's Edge in a antique/ collectibles shop and I liked the look of it. Since one of my Reading groups was reading Modern English Classics as this month's genre, I decided to read it. I must say that I was most pleasantly surprised. Maugham has a way about him of telling a story. His writing style is very fluid and eminently readable. The story was interesting, the dialogue flowed nicely and I found myself waiting anxiously to get back to the book when I put it down. Did a lot happen? It was a tale of people, specifically friends of Maugham's, as he is the narrator and a character, with whom he spends time and observes. I liked the characters and I liked Maugham as well. He's an observer of humanity and expresses his observations so very well. Anyway, I loved the story, it's one of my favourites of this year. Will I read any more of his books? Well I purchased The Moon and Sixpence yesterday, so I hope so." The review doesn't go into detail about the book. It is basically the story of Larry Darrell, an American who is traumatised by his experiences in World War I and goes in search of some meaning in his life. On the way he interacts with Maugham and other friends. The characters are wonderfully portrayed, the dialogue is excellent. Overall it's a wonderful story.

4. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (published in 1940). In my previous iteration of my Top Ten List this book was my number 7 as it was a relatively new read for me and it had been a long time since I'd seen the excellent movie. Since that time, the missus and I have watched again and it's rekindled my feelings for the story. Basically a lovely story about a young woman growing up in the South and her relationships with a group of interesting friends, especially the deaf mute boarder, Mr. Singer. My thoughts on the book in the previous review can be found here.

3. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (published in 1898). I moved this up somewhat from my previous list. It is a book I've read a few times and it is due a reread in 2014. One thing I've always wanted is for somebody to make a movie of the book that follows the book, in the time frame the book was originally set. The most recent adaptation, starring Tom Cruise upset me very much. So many directors have shown the ability to create an excellent period piece. This book would be perfectly suited to such an adaptation. Maybe the BBC can persuade somebody to develop a version for them. I can only hope. My original thoughts on this selection can be found here.

2. On the Beach by Nevil Shute (published in 1957). I have read this book 3 or 4 times and never tire of it. It is probably the best 'end-of-the-world' stories I've ever read and that is a genre that I enjoy very much. It's such a classic and as I mentioned with my other Nevil Shute story, he is one of the best story - tellers ever. No matter what the situation, he presents people gently, demonstrating them to be loving, heroic and thoughtful. He writes such wonderful stories and having most recently read another of his stories, The Far Country, which was one of my Top Tens for 2013, I look forward to reading even more. This is my Goodread's reviews of the book, pretty basic for such an excellent book, "One of my top ten favourite books. I've read it so many times and also seen the movie with Gregory Peck a few times. So low key, yet it's the end of the world. US submarine in Australia, trying to see if there is any life in the Northern hemisphere. Life in Australia as the end draws near. US submarine makes final voyage to US. Truly fantastic story.  (added after most recent read) Having read this again, it's still a great story, what a powerful lesson to teach mankind. So depressing, ultimately, but told with class." More detail on the book, the movie and Nevil Shute can be found here in my original post.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (published in 1960). This book (and the movie adaptation) has been my all-time favourite since the first time I read it. I've read many times, I've watched the movie adaptation many times and each time it makes me laugh, makes me cry, makes me angry. I can see why Harper Lee might not have wanted to write another book after this, her first and only, as it is a perfect, timeless classic. However, at the same time, it would have been wonderful if she could have crafted more classics with her unique view of humankind. This is a touching story of a young girl, Scout Finch, growing up in the Southern US, during the 1930's. Various incidents influence her life, from the rape of a white girl, the trial of the black man accused of the act and other incidents, involving her father, her brother and the secretive neighbour, Boo Radley. There is so much to this story, so many layers, that even writing a bit more about it now, brings back the same feelings I have when I read it or watch it. My original thoughts on the book and the movie can be found here.

So there you have it, my latest iteration. I'll check back in a few years, if the Blog is still going and adjust, maybe.. :0)

Now onto 2014. 10 hours to go!! Happy New Year and the very best for 2014!!

Monday, 30 December 2013

2013 Reading Summary - October thru December

I finished my last book of 2013 this morning so I can finish my 2013 Reading summary. Woo hoo!. Overall it's been a very good year. I had challenged myself to finish 80 books and I ended up reading 98. I also read about 29,500 pages, although this is based on the pages listed for the edition I picked as part of my Goodreads library. However, I'm guessing it's a reasonable total. According to the stats page, the longest book I read this year was Daniel Deronda at 850 pages. So there you go, the stats info. :0) Now onto the summary of the final three months of 2013.


77. South By Java Head (War) by Alistair MacLean (4 stars)
78. An Ice Cold Grave (Harper Connelly #3) (Mystery by Charlaine Harris (4 stars)
79. The Lurking Fear and Other Stories (Horror) by H.P.Lovecraft (4 stars)
80. Daniel Deronda (Fiction) by George Eliot (5 stars)
"Not my normal story at all; I do tend to more light reading, thriller, adventure, but at times I do try to explore more challenging stories. This was definitely one of those. It's a true classic, well-written and intelligent. The story focuses on two main characters, Gwendolen Harleth, a selfish, young lady who thinks the world revolves around her and Daniel Deronda, a gentlemen, searching for himself. This search has many aspects, the simple one being trying to ascertain who his parents are as he has grown up under the protection/ guidance of Sir Hugo Mallinger from childhood. This also involves more internal searching, who is he, why does he think as he does. He is a caring individual, selflessly helping friends and strangers; his flighty school friend Hugo Meyrick, the lovely Jewess Mira and even Gwendolen.. There is so much in this book, unspoken love, a brief study of what it is like to be Jewish in those times, death, romance, etc. I was very surprised how much I enjoyed the story and as I worked my way through the initial pages to get accustomed to the style of the time, it was published in 1876, I enjoyed it immensely. As much as Gwendolen irritated me to no end with her selfishness, at the same time, there was an inkling of sympathy for the plight she finds herself in (even if much of it is due to her own actions) and ultimately.. well, I won't go there. It's a heavy tome, but well worth reading. I'm very glad I did."
81. Night Without End (Spy) by Alistair MacLean (3 stars)
82. The Secret of Crickley Hall (Horror) by James Herbert (4 stars)
83. Circus (Spy) by Alistair MacLean (3 stars)


84. The Far Country (Fiction) by Nevil Shute (5 stars)
"In its way, it's a relatively simple story, but I love Shute's style. He tells a story gently, lovingly and at the same time, matter-of-factly (Is that a proper word? :0)). At its core it's a love story, but it represents its time as well. Set after WWII, England is struggling to feed its people, life is hard; whereas in counterpoint, in Australia, the frontier so to speak, life is pretty good, wool prices are high, money is good, there is work available. Helen goes to England at the request of her auntie, who thinks Australia might represent England more from her time in the early 1900s. Helen visits with an Aunt and her family, meets Carl, a Czech doctor, who works in the forest as a lumberman (as a Displaced Person from the war) he must work where the Australians let him for 2 years as a sort of payment for being allowed to live in Australia. He can then work towards getting his Doctor's certificate. The two meet under very interesting circumstances, a friendship/ relationship develops. This is the simple story, but there is so much more. Shute doesn't get involved in the politics of the time, other than in the background as it affects peoples' lives, but he does present an excellent picture of the time, contrasting life in England and Australia very nicely and very simply. It's a lovely story, not one I would have picked earlier in my life I don't think, but the more I read Nevil Shute's stories (two of my all-time favourites are his, On the Beach and Pied Piper) the more I enjoy his writing and the more of his books I want to read. Highly recommended."
85. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Spy (Spy) by Len Deighton (4 stars)
86. Death in Paradise (Henrie O. #4) (Mystery) by  Carolyn Hart (2 stars)
87. Sin City Vol. 2, A Dame to Kill (Graphic Novel) by Frank Miller (4 stars)
88. Dead Souls (Rebus # 10) (Mystery) by Ian Rankin (4 stars)
89. Revelation (Matthew Shardlake) (Mystery) by C.J. Sansom (4 stars)
90. Set in Darkness (Rebus # 11) (Mystery) by Ian Rankin (4 stars)


91. Fashion Beast (Graphic Novel) by Alan Moore (4 stars)
92. Missing: Presumed Dead (Mystery) by James Hawkins (2 stars)
93. A Morbid Taste for Bones (Cadfael # 1) (Mystery) by Ellis Peters (3 stars)
94. Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend (Non-Fiction) by Susan Orlean (3 stars)
95. Monk's Hood (Cadfael # 3) (Mystery) by Ellis Peters (3 stars)
96. Birdman (Jack Caffery # 1) (Mystery) by Mo Hayder (3 stars)
97. The Ghosts of Belfast (Mystery) by Stuart Neville (4 stars)
"A new author for me. A very gritty story, full of action, but also quite thoughtful. Supernatural sideline that rules the main character's, Gerry Fegan, life. He is haunted by his past and his only way for peace is to follow their dictates and remove those people who caused the deaths of his ghostly followers. Political intrigue, informers, love and murder fill this story. Very well-written and excellent story-telling. I will definitely check out Neville's other books."
98. Saint Peter's Fair (Cadfael # 4) (Mystery) by Ellis Peters (3 stars)

So there you go, a year's worth of reading material. This is the final breakdown by genres

                                                    Oct - Dec                     Total
Mystery -                                        11                            47                     
Science Fiction/ Fantasy -                                             12
Fiction -                                           2                              8
Horror -                                           2                              4
Non-Fiction -                                   1                             5
War -                                               1                              10
Spy -                                               3                              8
Graphic Novel                                2                              4

                                                       22                             98

Sunday, 29 December 2013

2013 Review - Top Ten Favourite Actresses

I think last year my list tended to lean towards the movies more than TV shows. I think I've kind of gone in the other direction more so this year, but we'll see.  So here are the actresses that stood out for me this year, those I enjoyed watching the most.

10. Elizabeth Shue - Elizabeth made it onto my list last year with her introduction to CSI. I thought she brought a fresh look to the show, something other new actors and actresses haven't done quite so successfully when trying to move into shows that are already successful. This year was no exception. I think she continues to bring quality to one of our favourite mystery TV series and I think it gave her career a bit of a positive kick. Just the other day I also caught her in The House at the End of the Street. While not a classic movie, she did an excellent job with her role, as Jennifer Lawrence's mother. I'm looking forward to seeing how the rest of the CSI season turns out.

9. Sandra Bullock - I've enjoyed many of Sandra Bullock's movies; The Blind Side, The Lake House, Crash, to name a few. However, it's been a long absence since I've watched anything she has been in and looking at her filmography, it's not surprising as she sort of disappeared after The Blind Side in 2009. But this past year, she was in one of my favourite movies of the year, Gravity. It's an excellent performance by Sandra, basically a one-person show. Brief appearances by George Clooney and Ed Harris (voice only), but the movie is all hers. She brings tension and drama to her role. Both the wife and I loved it. Definitely worth an Oscar (nomination, at least) and a great welcome back. Hopefully we'll see more excellent work from her in the near future.

8. Essie Davis - Essie was on my list last year, a new actress for me in one of our favourite new TV shows, the Australian series, Miss Phryne Fisher Murder Mysteries. She plays a glamorous, sexy Private Investigator in Melbourne, Australia, set right after WWI. Her character is bigger than life, getting into all sorts of scrapes and adventures. While she hasn't been in anything new, Season 2 of the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries came out this Fall and she is as wonderful as ever. She breathes life into this character, wears the most lovely outfits and is as sexy as ever. It's a fun show, great mysteries and Phryne is often shockingly sexy in her adventures, not that there is anything wrong with that. :0)

7. Lucy Liu - I've never really been won over by Lucy Liu in the past. I liked her role in Abby McBeal back in 97 - 02, but it still didn't really wow me. She's had a busy steady career, but once again nothing that leaps out at me. It wasn't until the missus and I started watching Elementary that I finally thought, wow, she's great! Even then, we weren't wowed on the premise of Elementary, another take on the Sherlock Holmes mythology and with a woman as Watson. But we gave it a shot, watched a couple of episodes in the first season, then a few more and kind of got hooked on it. There is an excellent rapport between Liu and Johnny Lee Miller and she plays the role in a nicely understated manner. I've since caught her in Southland as well, as Policewoman Jessica Tang and she was excellent in that role, a gritty turn for her. I'm looking forward to more Elementary and to seeing what else she will be in.

6. Jessica Raine - Jessica is an English actress known particularly for her role as midwife, Jenny Lee in the wonderful BBC mini-series Call the Midwife. She is wonderful in this role, a key member in a great ensemble cast. It was our introduction to this actress and I'm looking forward to seeing her in many more roles. She brings intelligence and a wonderful personality to the role. I've since seen her in other roles, a relatively minor role as the nanny in the excellent movie, The Woman in Black and also recently in a spot in an episode of Doctor Who, as Emma Grayling. Series 3 of Call the Midwife comes out in 2014. Looking forward to seeing more of this wonderful actress.

5. Madchen Amick - Madchen Amick has been around for a number of years, acting in both TV and film, starting back in the early 1990's. Her big break was in the cult TV series, Twin Peaks. She's not someone I was terribly aware of, although she did have extended roles in Central Park West and ER. However, this past Fall, I started watching and getting engrossed in a new Lifetime series, The Witches of East End, starring Madchen and Julia Ormond as sisters who are also witches of the Beauchamp clan. It's a wonderful show and all of the main characters are excellent with a real chemistry. I have particularly fallen for Madchen Amick's character, Wendy, as she is full of life, spunky, funny and Madchen seems to be having so much fun with the role.

4. Maggie Smith - To put it succinctly, Maggie Smith is a timeless wonder. She is fantastic in her role as the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley. She has all of the best lines and fills the role perfectly. In the past year, we've also seen her and enjoyed her acting chops in two lovely movies, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet. Of course, who can forget her role as Professor McGonagal in the Harry Potter movies. 79 years young, she seems to get better with age. She is classy, funny and a wonderful, intelligent actress. I can't wait to see what is next for her.

3. Jenna Coleman - The latest companion to Doctor Who, Jenna Coleman leaped into the role of Clara Oswalt, as Matt Smith's newest companion and has not looked back. She is feisty, intelligent, keeps up a wonderful patter with Matt Smith and she's gorgeous. She is slowly building up a nice resume, along with her Doctor Who role. We've enjoyed her very much in the other things we've seen her in, Annie Desmond, in the BBC mini-series, Titanic, and most recently as Lydia Wickham in Death Comes to Pemberley. I've got to say, I almost hated her in that role, but was calmed down my good missus. Lydia is supposed to be like that she told me and Jenna has played the part perfectly. And I must say there were some nice touches later in the mini-series between Jenna and Matthew Goode that redeemed her character somewhat for me. So there you go, not so bad at all. :0)

2. Sarah Shahi - I've liked US actress, Sarah Shahi, in pretty well anything I've seen her in, and it probably hasn't been a lot, given her reasonably extensive filmography. She was excellent as Police detective Dani Reese in the series, Life, and great as the star, Kate Reed, of Fairly Legal. But it's been the past two seasons of Person of Interest that have really brought her to the forefront for me. In it she plays, Samantha Shaw, an ex-CIA contract killer who has now joined the team, with Jim Caveziel and Michael Emerson to follow the instructions of the computer that provides the names requiring the team's attention. She has a wonderful role, basically a sociopath, who likes nothing better than to shoot somebody. But over this past season, she has demonstrated a dry wit, developing emotional attachments (even if mainly for the dog, Bear).  I think she's a great foil to the other characters and she steals most scenes she is in (from my modest perspective anyway. ;0)). I can't wait for Person of Interest to start up again in 2014.

1. Lizzy Caplan - Another actress that's been around for awhile and up until I started watching Masters of Sex, I only recall seeing her in a minor role in the series True Blood and in that she portrayed a character I didn't really like. So not a winning resume. But having watched the first season of Masters of Sex, I think she has been fantastic and deserves to win awards for her role. Lizzy portrays Virgina Johnson of the Masters and Johnson sex research team. It's a unique series, often quite graphic in portrayals of sex, making it potentially a difficult role to act. But Lizzy is a revelation in this series, a job made even more difficult considering the calibre of her co-stars; Michael Sheen as Bill Masters, Beau Bridges, Alison Janney and Julianne Nicholson. She demonstrates intelligence, sensitivity and real strength in this role and I hope it gives her the opportunity to get even better roles.

Honourable Mentions

Just a couple for you -

1. Emily Wickersham - Keep an eye out for this lady. She seems to have won the part *fingers crossed* as the replacement for Cote de Pablo on the long-running NCIS series. This past year the show has auditioned a number of women in the part, but Emily has now been in it for 4 or 5 episodes and both the wife and I think she's wonderful.

2. Rebecca Romijn - Rebecca is no rookie to the acting profession, having acted in movies, The X-Men series, and also in long - running TV series, Ugly Betty, but the missus and I were very happy to see her again, this past year in King and Maxwell, as Jon Tenney's partner in a Private Investigation business. It was a very enjoyable show and the two stars had an excellent rapport. Hoping now that it is brought back for a second season.

3. Bree Turner - Bree is now a regular on the TV series, Grimm. She had a minor part in the early season, but must have impressed the creators of the series as she came back as a regular in April 2012 and we were happy she did. She has a wonderful personality, is a perfect fit for Silas Weir Mitchell's character. I'm looking for even more from her..

So there you go, my list for 2013. I hope you like. :0)

Saturday, 28 December 2013

2013 Review - Favourite TV shows, Part Deux

Yesterday, I went through my favourite Comedy series and Mystery shows of 2013. Today I'll complete this review with my favourite Sci Fi/ Fantasy shows and 'Mini-series' of 2013.

Science Fiction/ Fantasy

It seems that almost every second show being produced on TV these days is Science Fiction or Fantasy - themed. I enjoy the genre very much, but find it difficult to just keep up with the shows. I've tried to watch Orphan Black, Atlantis and Being Human (both the original British show and the US spin-off, but can't seem either to fine the time or the show is moved around so much that it's difficult just to keep up with it. But there are a few that have stood out this year, some old familiars and a couple of new shows. So here is a Top Five -

1. The Witches of East End - We found this show almost by accident. Both Jo and I enjoy watching Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime and fortunately this show was advertised to follow the Diva slot on Sunday nights. We gave it a try and got hooked immediately. It reminds me somewhat of Charmed in that it deals with a family of witches, led by Julia Ormond as the matriarch of the family, Joanna Beauchamp, her two daughters, Jenna Dewan-Tatum as Freya and Rachel Boston as Ingrid, plus Joanna sister, Madchen Amick, as Wendy. It's a sexy, exciting show; in the first season, the Beauchamps are being plagued by a shape-shifter, out for something. Some of the episodes are quite gritty, but at the same time, there is genuine affection between the four and they all play their parts superbly. It's an entertaining show and we have become quite addicted to it.

2. The Walking Dead - This is my guilty pleasure. Jo hates shows like this, as it is quite grizzly and sometimes disturbing. Since I read World War Z, I have found myself quite interested in the zombie genre and The Walking Dead, distributed on AMC, is an excellent example of how well the genre can be developed. I am currently half way through Season 4; AMC has manipulated the distribution on this quite nicely, delivering it in tidy little blocks, to whet your appetite and leave you waiting anxiously for the next block. In Season 4, the main group of human survivors remain at the prison where they have beaten off the 'Governor's' attack and added new survivors to their group. The Governor is still about, but travelling on his own, maybe thinking of a new attack on Rick and his group. As I mentioned, it can be very disturbing and graphic, but at the same time, there is a strong group/ family dynamic as the survivors work to make a life, not only while surrounded by zombies, but also fight off plague and other human groups. Of all the 'end of the world as we know it' type shows available, this is one of the best.

3. Doctor Who - Like millions of other fans, this is one of our favourite TV shows of all. Since its rebirth with Christopher Ecclestone as 'the Doctor', it's grown into one of the all-time great shows. This past season was no exception. Not only leading up to the rebirth of the Doctor, but with the lovely Jenna Coleman as the companion and also the 50th anniversary of the show, it's been a wild ride for Doctor Who fans. I can't wait for the next instalment!!

4. Grimm - There is something about Grimm, in its third season, one of many shows based on Fairy Tales, that makes it stand above the crowd. I think the main thing is the excellent group dynamic we have. David Giuntoli, as Nick, a police investigator, one of a age old family of Grimms who fight to rid the world of mythological creatures knows as Wessen, is the leader of a disparate group that include his partner, Russell Hornsby as Hank. Others in the group include some Wessen, themselves, Silas Weir Mitchell, as Monroe, a Blutbac (werewolf), Bree Turner as Rosalee, Monroe's girlfriend, who happens to be a Fuschbau and runs a herb shop and finally, Nick's girlfriend, Juliette, Bitsie Tulloch. Assisted by their boss in the police force, played by Sasha Ruiz, and the excellent Reggie Lee as Sgt Wu, it makes for an great group dynamic and makes it such an appealing show. It is also somewhat grittier than others of the genre, such as Once Upon a Time. It's managed to keep up the excellent pace and story lines in its third season. Hoping it continues to do so.

5. True Blood - This series is based on the Sookie Stackhouse books written by Charlaine Harris and stars Anna Paquin, as Sookie, a telepathic waitress who lives in Bon Temps, Louisiana. In this world, humans co-exist, albeit uneasily at times, with vampires and werewolves and other members of the Fae peoples. The series is definitely gritty and sexy, often graphically so. But there is definitely something so very unique about the show, the characters are well-drawn and well-portrayed, the story lines are fascinating and the action is dynamic. Jo and I were hooked on it when it first came out, but struggled to find the time or the show for the next few seasons. But we've managed to catch up and this past season revitalised our interest in the series. Unfortunately, Season 7, summer of 2014 is supposed to be the last season. We will definitely make sure we watch..

Honourable Mentions - almost too many to list; but some of those excellent shows include, Haven, based on the Stephen King book The Colorado Kid, Once Upon a Time, Sleepy Hollow and Almost Human (new shows this season which seem to have potential). Some Canadian made shows that we've always enjoyed but have difficulty finding at times include Lost Girl and Warehouse 13. It's a great genre and still seems to have a wealth of untapped potential. New shows in 2014 which I may give a try to include Bitten, which is based on the Kelley Armstrong Otherworld series, about a female werewolf, and Helix, starring Billy Campbell, about a group of scientists investigating a possible disease outbreak.


I'm using this category somewhat loosely because some of the mini-series listed have now been around for more than two seasons. But I think they still qualify as mini-series as each season is a mini-series in its own right, and the number of episodes tend to be less than the normal US series of 21 or so shows per season. So there you go, now that we have that qualification out of the way, these are my top five of 2013.

1. Masters of Sex - One of the best discoveries of 2013 for us, Masters of Sex is one of those wonderful HBO series. It stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as pioneers of sex research, Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson. It's another of those shows that grabbed our attention from the very first episode. It's a fascinating look at their work, their lives, the people around them and the time when they were doing their research. Sheen and Caplan are both excellent in their parts; Sheen, very well-known already brings an aura of gravitas to the show as the frigid, internalised, Johnson and Caplan, who I only knew from her brief appearance on True Blood, is a revelation. The show is quite graphic at times, particularly as the two perform their research on individuals and couples having sex, but there are also wonderful story lines; Caplan trying to raise two children, work on her medical degree and working long hours for Johnson; Alison Janney offering a tour de force as the wife of Beau Bridges, the university proctor who struggles with his homosexuality; Caitlin Fitzgerald as Libby Masters, Masters' long suffering wife who wants nothing more than his love and to have a baby. The first season was an eye-opener and I can only hope Season 2 is as good.

2. Game of Thrones - We've been hooked on this show since its inception; the amazing world created by George RR Martin's Fire and Ice saga, the superb cast, the complex plots of war, love, subterfuge and the amazing land in which the action takes place. Season 3.... gads, it's amazing to think that there have already been three seasons, was fantastic, more plots, action in the frozen North, which introduced new and different characters to the stories and surprise after surprise. The writers have no qualms of turning the story on its head and removing key characters, to further the plot and leave the audience gasping. Excellent show and I can't wait for Season 4. And to read the 4th book sitting on my bookshelf.. :0)

3. Call the Midwife - This show completed its second Season in 2013. It's a period piece, based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, set in East London in the 1950's and follows a group of midwives on their daily duties. They are a mix of nurses, lead by star Jessica Raine, Nurse Jenny Lee, and the nuns with which the live and work, lead by the wonderful Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne. It's a wonderful show, touching your heart in every episode and beautifully produced and acted. I can't say enough about the series, except to say that I have now bought the first book and plan to read this year. Season 3 starts in 2014. Excellent!

4. Downton Abbey -  A wonderful period English drama created by Julian Fellowes, who also wrote the wonderful Gosford Park. It follows the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants as they live and work to maintain their hereditary estate in Yorkshire, Downton Abbey. The drama starts with the sinking of the Titanic, works through WWI, the Spanish influenza pandemic, financial scandals, etc and is a wonder to behold. The cast are excellent, from Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern as the patriarch and matriarch of the Crawley family and Jim Carter and Elsie Hughes as the Head Butler and the Housekeeper of Downton Abbey. We've loved every episode and enjoy the time period, the lovely estate and costumes and just the love and care with which the show is developed and has grown since its inception.

5. Last Tango in Halifax - Another new show for us, this is a lovely British romantic drama starring Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid as two old friends who missed the chance at a romance when they were young due to extenuating circumstances, who are meet again many years in the future and fall in love. It follows them, both such talented actors, and their families, each with their own unique issues and problems, in a humorous and also touching manner, as Alan and Celia get to know each other once again and plan a future together. Season 1 was laugh out loud funny, tear bursting crying and extremely dramatic in almost every episode. Excellent show.

So there you have it, my Top 5 of 2013. I might add another that the missus watches, one I will admit that I had difficulty watching, but nonetheless a powerful entry in the mini-series category; that being Live Schreiber's Ray Donovan. Give it a try, it's definitely different and worth a try.

Friday, 27 December 2013

2013 Review continued - Favourite TV shows

OK, I readily admit it. I watch too much TV. It's always been an enjoyment of mine. From when I had to decide if I wanted to stay in Boy Cubs or quit so I could watch The Man from U.N.C.L.E, back in the '60s, I've always enjoyed the Tube. There was a time, from 1968 - 71, when my father was transferred to Germany that I had to suffer with watching just the German TV channel. It was definitely a different experience, but interesting nonetheless. It's one thing that I enjoy, spending my evenings at home with the missus and puppies, relaxing in our family room, comfortably ensconced on the sofa, book at my elbow, our schedule in front of us as we settle down to a pleasant, relaxing evening watching some of our favourite shows. Of late we find ourselves watching more shows on line or on the less than main networks, like HBO, AMC, A&E, Lifetime, there are some excellent shows there. My list from last year is at the link attached. I still enjoy many of the same shows, but quite a few excellent new shows have made their way to our viewing pleasure. Jo and I enjoy many of the same shows, but we also have our own different favourites; she likes The Good Wife and Scandal, I like The Walking Dead, for example. Anyway, here is a non-all-inclusive look at what I've enjoyed for the most part this past year.


Some tried and true favourites remain on our must - see TV list, but there have been a couple of new ones as well that have provided much enjoyment and laughter..

1. The Big Bang Theory - It's been one of our favourites since its inception. I think last year was a bit of an off-year, until the episode when the ladies decided to see what the thrill of comics was while the boys went to Comicon. It's such an excellent comedy and the addition of Melissa Rauch, as Bernadette Wolowitz and Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler has refreshed what is already an excellent show.

2. New Girl - The first time we saw New Girl, starring Zooey Deschanel as Jess, who moves in with three men, we thought that it was just another attempt to imitate Friends. We were already watching and enjoying another gang comedy, Happy Endings and we didn't really think this one would work. But to our surprise, it grabbed us very quickly and had us laughing out loud. It's a silly show, but at the same time, quite endearing. Jess' supporting cast, Jake Johnson as her boyfriend, Nick, Max Greenfield as Schmidt, Lamorne Morris as Winston make up her eccentric roommates and the rapport between the group makes for an excellent comedy. Throw in the lovely Hannah Simone as Jess' best friend and Schmidt's on-again, off-again girlfriend, Cece, and you've got one of our favourite comedies. This season has continued the excellent work, especially throwing in Damon Wayans Jr (ex of Happy Endings) as Coach and it's added to the humour and the silliness.

3. Modern Family - This has been one of our favourite shows since the first moment we saw it. It's a lovely, funny, at times, touching show about family, all kinds of family; from Jay (Ed O'Neill) the patriarch, who has married a younger woman, Sophie Vergara, with her son, Manny, to his daughter, Claire (Julie Bowen) in the most 'typical' family situation, married with three children and his gay son, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), married to his partner, Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and their adopted Vietnamese daughter, Lily. This odd grouping finds themselves in funny situations every week, but they teach us that love and family are the strongest bonds. Excellent show.

And then a couple of new shows..

4. The Millers - We're never sure about getting involved with new shows as they have such short life spans. But this comes on right after The Big Bang Theory on Thursday, so we took a chance on it as a possible fill-in. Fortunately, we were immediately taken with it. It's a silly show, but the cast makes it hilarious. There isn't an episode when we aren't laughing out loud, enjoying the dialogue, the characters and the action. It stars Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale as newly divorced parents of Will Arnett (the main character) and Jayma Mays as their long-suffering children who are now forced to have their parents living with them, dad with Jayma and mom with Will. So far it's been a hit with us and we're sitting with fingers crossed, hoping that it keeps up its quality and stays on the air!!

5. Mrs. Brown's Boys - Deciding to watch this show was definitely a fluke. It was on last year when we went over to England for the Olympics, but our brief exposure to it didn't grab our attention. BBC Canada started showing the first season and Jo watched one and thought it was cute. I sat with her to watch another and was immediately taken with it. It's a unique show, set before a live audience, and many of the best lines are due to mistakes or reactions of the cast in front of the audience. It stars Brendan O'Carroll (Yup, he's a man), the writer and creator of the show as Agnes Brown, an Irish matriarch in Dublin, who is raising her adult family, five children, 1 girl (Brendan's real life wife) and 4 boys. It's often slapstick, often loud, but it makes us laugh and often get the sniffles as each show has a lesson of some sort. It's been the pleasant surprise of our viewing season.

Honourable Mentions include The Mindy Project and old favourite How I Met Your Mother (which is in its last season, each episode basically one hour closer to the wedding of Barney and Robin. It also has finally introduced 'your Mother'.)

Ripper Street

Mystery is one of Jo and my favourite genres; it kind of goes hand - in - glove with my love of the written mystery. There are so many shows that I could pick as my Top Five. To name a few, there are the old familiar stand-bys, NCIS, CSI, Blue Bloods, Criminal Minds and some newer shows, such as King & Maxwell, White Collar, Murder in Paradise, Murdoch Mysteries, Broadchurch, Vera, Longmire and Elementary. They are all unique in their own right and all excellent and pass an hour allowing us to try and figure out who has committed the crime. But here are five that I will somewhat arbitrarily choose as my favourites -

Ripper Street - oddly enough, we get this on Space in Canada. It's a period-piece mystery set in the Whitechapel district of East London in 1889. It stars Matthew MacFadyen of DI Reid in the starring role, capably assisted by Jerome Flynn, DS Drake and Adam Rothenberg as American Capt Homer Jackson. It's a gritty show, dealing with cases like the Ripper murders, abortion, robbery, etc. It has a wonderful cast and the setting is beautifully portrayed and the cases interesting and sometimes brutal.

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries - Another period piece, set in Australia, after World War I and based on the books by Kerry Greenwood, it follows Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) as a Private Detective, trying to help, often hindering, the Melbourne police, led by Capt Jack Robinson (Nathan Page). This is another show with a great cast. It's more in the line of Hercule Poirot (not so intellectual) and the Inspector Alleyn mysteries. Wonderful costumes (Essie wears such beautiful clothes... says the man.. (*sigh), a wonderful, sexy leading lady and fun all around.

Cracked - From the Canadian contingent comes Cracked, starring David Sutcliffe, who you might remember as Christopher of Gilmore Girls' fame, as a Toronto Police Detective assigned to the Psych crimes unit (and with his own psychological issues as well). The premise is that a detective is assigned a partner who is a psychologist or psychological nurse to deal with crimes involving people with obvious mental issues. It's an interesting premise that works very well. David Sutcliffe is surprisingly good (saying that because I didn't like him, well, his character, in Gilmore Girls) and the supporting cast is excellent. Brooke Nevin of Breakout Kings joined the cast this year and had fit right in. The crimes can be gritty, but they are treated with care and it's nice to see Toronto so unashamedly featured. Excellent series from CBC.

Perception - Another psychological mystery show, but from the perspective of Dr Daniel Pierce (played brilliantly by Eric McCormack) an neuroscience professor who is contracted to assist the FBI (set in Chicago) with strange cases. His liaison is portrayed superbly by Rachel Leigh Cook, as Special Agent Kate Moretti. What makes the stories so interesting is that Daniel has mental issues of his own, coping with a past of paranoid schizophrenia. In each case he must cope with 'visions', who try to assist him in solving the cases. Also along for the ride is his constant companion, Kelly Rowan as Natalie, his imaginary best friend and adviser. The cases are interesting, the cast excellent and it's been a must-see show for us.

Person of Interest - What can I say about this show? It's become one of our favourites; it's gritty, wonderful, full of action and sort of fantastical. The premise is that a mysterious billionaire, played by Michael Emerson, hires an ex-CIA agent, Jim Caviezel, to help people whose numbers come up via a computer program that Emerson has developed, originally to combat possible terrorists in the U.S. Whether the person, whose number comes up is the victim or criminal is determined throughout each episode. As the series has progressed, we've learnt more of each of the main character's pasts and that of the other supporting cast. The supporting cast, from Taraji P. Henson as Detective Carter, through Lionel Chapman as ex-bad cop Detective Fusco to new character, Sara Shahi, another ex-CIA operative, aka stone-cold killer, is fantastic as well making this a true gang show. It draws you in, you love the characters, feel their pain and cheer them on. This past year has had so many surprises that we can't wait for it to start up again in January. Fantastic show.

I've got a couple of other categories to go, but will hold off until tomorrow, supper and evening television calls.. :0)

More to follow, enjoy your weekends.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

2013 Lists - Top Five Music Artists

For the past 3 days I've been reviewing my 2013 reading. I still have October thru December, but I'm going to wait a couple of days with that as I am not quite finished reading yet in 2013. So I'll finish off that review closer to the 31st of December.

For today I thought I'd post my Top Five favourite artists of 2013. The songs might not necessarily be new ones, but for me they were. I've gone through a favourite song countdown on my Facebook page, I'll list the top ten here, then I'll list my favourite artists, those who I've downloaded more than one or two songs over the course of the year.. Exciting, huh?? :0)

Top Ten Favourite songs of 2013

10. Leanne Mitchell - Pride
9. Caro Emerald - I Belong to You
8. Janelle Monae - Dance Apocalyptic
7. Dave Stewart w/ Martina McBride - Every Single Night
6. Tegan and Sara - I Was a Fool
5. Walk of Earth - Red Hand
4. London Grammar - Strong
3. Imagine Dragons - On Top of the World
2. Thea Gilmore - Start as We Mean to Go On
1. Lisa Stansfield - Change

Top Five Artists

My Top five do come from my top ten list (conveniently). They have provided me with much listening pleasure over the course of the year. So here they are:

Number 5 - Caro Emerald

Caro Emerald is a Dutch singer who specialises in jazz and pop songs. I discovered her music a couple of years ago, but this year I found another 3 songs that I really enjoyed very much. She has a unique style. You can hear her songs on the links below -

Completely - from her album The Shocking Miss Emerald

Liquid Lunch - from the same album

I Belong to you - from the same album

Number 4 - The Band Perry

The group is made of lead singer Kimberly Perry, accompanied by her brothers Reid and Neil. They are a country music group who became popular with their first album in 2010. I've got to say, even though country music isn't necessarily my favourite music genre, I have liked the songs of theirs I've been introduced to this past year very much. I like Kimberly's vocal style and the music is excellent.

Done - From the 2013 album, Pioneers;

Die Young - From their 2010 album, The Band Perry; and

Don't Let Me Be Lonely - Second release from Pioneers.

Number 3 - Imagine Dragons

A few new groups intrigued me over the course of the year, Hurts, London Grammar and Walk Off the Earth amongst them. But I especially liked this group out of Las Vegas. Their debut album, Night Visions, came out in 2013. I quite like their instrumentation and the variety of their music. Here are the songs that I particularly liked this year.

Radioactive - This is the first song I heard of theirs and I quite loved it. Super sound, great drums..

It's Time - This was the first single they released, once again a great beat.

On Top of the World - My favourite of theirs so far, kind of a reggae thumping beat, very positive.

Demons - Their most recent single release, a moodier, thoughtful song.

Number 2 - Thea Gilmore

The first of two female vocalists who are my two favourite artists of 2013. 2013 was my introduction to Thea Gilmore and I loved her vocals, her intelligent songs, the music, everything about her. Such wonderful music. She's from Oxford, been around for awhile, her first single was in 2001. I'm glad I finally discovered her. These are the songs from that I downloaded in 2013.

Love Came Looking for Me - This is her most recent release. Such a wonderful voice and such beautiful songs.

Start as We Mean to Go On - My Number 2 song of 2013. I love the lyrics, the way her voice changes, and great music.

Beautiful Day - A lovely song from her most recent album, Revelations. Her voice reminds me of Enya at times. Beautiful lyrics, once again and I love the keyboards and the orchestration.

Number 1 - Lisa Stansfield

I've got to thank my wife for discovering the music of Lisa Stansfield. The missus loves to listen to BBC Radio 2 on line and I started scrolling through various of the DJ's play lists to find songs I might like to download. If it hadn't been for that, I probably never would have discovered Lisa Stansfield's music. She's been around for awhile, having put her first album out in 1989. She's still going strong, her most recent album, Seven, came out in 2013. I've definitely fallen in love with her music over the past couple of years. There is something so 'cool' about her sound, it just rubs me the right way. She has a fantastic voice and her songs are all wonderful. These were my picks from 2013 -

Change - My Number 1 song of 2013 actually came out in 1991. I love it! Jazzy, bluesy, great music and accentuates her voice to its best.

This is the Right Time - Going back to 1989 for this one, love the beat and how her voice plays with the music. Sexy, funky, cool!

Can't Dance - Her most recent release, from her 2013 album. She still has it.

(I look forward to discovering more of her gems over the next year.)

So there you have it, my Top Ten songs from 2013 and my Top Five Artists. I hope you like them.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

2013 Reading Summary - July thru September

Amazing that today is already Christmas Day (now evening) 2013. The year has soared by. It's been a lovely Christmas Day for us. Relaxing with the dogs, we Skyped with the Sis-in-law in England, watching each other opening the presents we'd sent across the ocean. We kept some presents back, went and had croissants for lunch, watched some British Xmas Day specials; Coronation Street, Downton Abbey. The missus put the turkey on around 2 p.m., we then skyped with my daughter from Kingston, had a lovely chat while we opened our final few prezzies. I got some lovely sweaters, new slacks, boxers, soaps and a vintage Gruen watch that looks great on my wrist. :) I think the missus liked her presents, especially the Smallbone of Devizes catalogue (brochure) and her Archers mug.

Just waiting for Xmas dinner to be ready, smells great so far. So while we wait, I'll continue with my review of my 2013 book reads; this Blog entry will cover July thru September.


52. The Mad King (Fantasy) by Edgar Rice Burroughs (3 stars)
53. Titanic, First Accounts (Non-Fiction) by Tim Maltin (3 stars)
54. The Water Rat of Wanchai (Ava Lee #1) (Mystery) by Ian Hamilton (3 stars)
55. Passport to Eternity (Science Fiction) by J.G. Ballard (4 stars)
56. The Moon Men (Science Fiction) by Edgar Rice Burroughs (3 stars)
57. The Maltese Goddess (Mystery) by Lyn Hamilton (3 stars)
58. A Train in Winter (Non-Fiction) by Caroline Moorehead (5 stars)
"Excellent history, well-told story. Disturbing subject matter, but still a must-read. Tells the story of one group of women, ladies who were part of the French resistance, who were taken prisoner by the Nazis or French Police, during World War II and ultimately sent to one of the Nazi death camps, Auschwitz in Poland. It's well organised, telling of their activities in the resistance, the terrible ordeals they were put through in Auschwitz and other places and ultimately the return of those who managed to survive to France and the adjustment to that new life, life without husbands, children, friends.. Of course, this story is just a microcosm of the killing machine of the SS, but it is presents a picture of heroism, friendship, survival (in some cases, too few cases), of torture, abuse.. It brought me to tears at times."
59. A Princess of Mars (Barsoom #1) (Fantasy) by Edgar Rice Burroughs (4 stars)
60. Murder in the Central Committee (Mystery) by Manuel Vazquez Montalban (4 stars)
61. The Gods of Mars (Barsoom #2) (Fantasy) by Edgar Rice Burroughs (3 stars)


62. Sharpe's Havoc (Sharpe #7) (War) by Bernard Cornwell (4 stars)
63. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (Fiction) by Howard Pyle (4 stars)
64. Sharpe's Gold (Sharpe #9) (War) by Bernard Cornwell (3 stars)
65. Consider Phlebas (Science Fiction) by Iain M. Banks (5 stars)
66. The Maltese Falcon (Mystery) by Dashiell Hammett (5 stars)
"Dashiell Hammett has produced an excellent example of a hard-boiled mystery and Sam Spade is the penultimate gumshoe, staying one step ahead of trouble and playing off the baddies against each other. It's a classic mystery, turned into an excellent movie by John Huston, one of Humphrey Bogart's best movies. A great cast of characters, from Brigid O'Shaugnessy to Joel Cairo and Kasper Gutman, through his faithful, lovely secretary, Effie Perine. A story that everyone should read and marvel about."
67. Sharpe's Escape (Sharpe #10) (War) by Bernard Cornwell


68. The Deep Blue Good By (Travis McGee #1) (Mystery) by John D. MacDonald (4 stars)
69. Sir Nigel (Fiction) by Arthur Conan Doyle (4 stars)
70. Nightmare in Pink (Travis McGee #2) (Mystery) by John D. MacDonald (3 stars)
71. A Purple Place for Dying (Travis McGee #3) (Mystery) by John D. MacDonald (5 stars)
"Definitely the most enjoyable so far, this is the 3rd Travis McGee story. He's developing into such an interesting, 3-dimensional character. The story was interesting, the mystery was solved without my assistance and the other characters had flaws, strengths. Very good."
72. The Courtyard (Graphic Novel) by Antony Johnston (3 stars)
73. Sin City Vol 1, The Hard Goodbye (Graphic Novel) by Frank Miller (4 stars)
74. The Quick Red Fox (Travis McGee #4) (Mystery) by John D. MacDonald (4 stars)
75. Death is No Sportsman (Mystery) by Cyril Hare (4 stars)
76. A Deadly Shade of Gold (Travis McGee #5) (Mystery) by John D. MacDonald (3 stars)

Well, there you go. Three months to go. It's been an enjoyable year. Starting to really look forward to 2014 now. :0)

                                                   Jul - Sept                     Total
Mystery -                                        10                            36                      
Science Fiction/ Fantasy -               5                             11
Fiction -                                           2                              6
Horror -                                           1                              2
Non-Fiction -                                   2                             4
War -                                               3                              9
Spy -                                               5                              5
Graphic Novel                                2                              2

                                                       30                             76

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

2013 Reading Summary - Monthly Breakdown (Apr - Jun)

So continuing with my thread of yesterday, this is my reading summary for April thru June 2013.



28. Precious Blood (Gregor Demarkian #2) (Mystery) by Jane Haddam (3 stars)
29. The Fry Chronicles (Non-Fiction) by Stephen Fry (4 stars)
30. The Bridge Over the River Kwai (War) by Pierre Boulle (4 stars)
31. The Old Contemptibles (Richard Jury #11) (Mystery) by Martha Grimes (3 stars)
32. Feast of Murder (Gregor Demarkian #6) (Mystery) by Jane Haddam (3 stars)
33. The Ship (War) by C.S. Forester (5 stars)
"Excellent naval war story. Forester sets his story in the Mediterranean on HMS Artemis, a British cruiser part of a convoy of ships trying to relieve isolated Malta. Each chapter starts as an excerpt from the Capt's log with the chapter detailing the actions that make up this simple entry. Forester explores the ship, the crew as he tells his story. A simple story, but one of heroism, one battle against an Italian fleet. So well written, smoothly paced to keep the pages turning. Excellent story. I rank it up with Alistair MacLean's HMS Ulysses in great naval war stories."
34. Grave Surprise (Harper Connelly #2) (Mystery) by Charlaine Harris (4 stars)
35. Dear Old Dead (Gregor Demarkian #9) (Mystery) by Jane Haddam (3 stars)


36. Moonraker (James Bond #3) (Spy) by Ian Fleming (3 stars)
37. Dr. No (James Bond #6) (Spy) by Ian Fleming (4 stars)
38. 1000 Years of Annoying the French (Non-Fiction) by Stephen Clarke (3 stars)
39. Goldfinger (James Bond #7) (Spy) by Ian Fleming (3 stars)
40. Thunderball (James Bond #9) (Spy) by Ian Fleming (3 stars)
41. The Spy Who Loved Me (James Bond #10) (Spy) by Ian Fleming (4 stars)
"Definitely not your typical James Bond story; in fact, Bond is almost peripheral to the main story. It features a Canadian lass, Vivienne Michel, starts with her and ends with her. The story is more of a Mystery noir, not a spy story at all. Vivienne tells her story through flashback as she works at a motel in New York state. As the story progresses, she is placed in a terrifying situation by two thugs and then Mr Bond shows up for the finally. Excellent story, nice change for both Fleming and Bond."
42. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) (Mystery) by Alan Bradley (4 stars)


43. The Case of the Missing Servant (Mystery) by Tarquin Hall (3 stars)
44. The Eagle of the Ninth Chronicles (Fiction) by Rosemary Sutcliffe (4 stars)
45. Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (War) by C.S. Forester (4 stars)
46. Puck of Pook's Hill (Fiction) by Rudyard Kipling (4 stars)
"A series of short stories told by various characters (a Roman Centurion, a Norman knight, a Pict, etc), all linked together by Puck, the faerie, the last of his kind in Britain. The stories are told to two children, Dan and Una, brother and sister, as they wander around their estate in Burwash, Sussex. The stories tell of Britain and ultimately are linked together by a sword with runes and also a discovery of gold. This is the first Kipling story I've read and I enjoyed very much. They flowed nicely, were interesting. I liked the characters."
47. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (Horror) by H.P. Lovecraft (4 stars)
48. Hornblower and the Hotspur (War) by C.S. Forester (4 stars)
49. Hornblower and the Crisis (War) by C.S. Forester (3 stars)
50. Devil Bones (Mystery) by Kathy Reichs (3 stars)
51. Flying Colours (War) by C.S. Forester (4 stars)

So there you go, my April thru June reads. I think a nice mix and an opportunity to focus on some I've had on my shelf for awhile.
                                                Apr - Jun                     Total
Mystery -                                        8                             26                       
Science Fiction/ Fantasy -                                              6
Fiction -                                          2                              4
Horror -                                          1                              2
Non-Fiction -                                  2                             2
War -                                              6                              6
Spy -                                               5                              5

                                                      24                             51

Well, it's Xmas Eve. I hope everybody had a Merry Xmas and Holiday season and the very best for 2014!

Monday, 23 December 2013

2013 Reading Summary - Monthly Breakdown

Before I start baking cookies for Xmas and on, I thought I'd review my reading selections of 2013. Just a monthly look at what I read and my favourites of each month. I'll review January thru March for this Blog entry.

January 2013

1. Deception in his Mind (Inspector Lynley #6) (Mystery) by Elizabeth George (3 stars)
2. A Man Lay Dead (Inspector Alleyn) (Mystery) by Ngaio Marsh (3 stars)
3. Hello America (Science Fiction) by J.G. Ballard (3 stars)
4. The Nursing Home Murder (Inspector Alleyn #3) (Mystery) by Ngaio Marsh (3 stars)
5. The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell #1) (Historical Mystery) by Laurie R. King (3 stars)
6. Death in Ecstasy (Inspector Alleyn) (Mystery) by Ngaio Marsh (3 stars)
7. Close Quarters (Mystery) by Michael Gilbert (3 stars)
8. The Woman in Black (Horror) by Susan Hill (4 stars) My favourite of the month.
"I bought this because I had enjoyed the movie with Daniel Radcliffe. Taking account of the differences between the movie and the original book, I found this to be an intense, well-written horror story. It's a relatively short story, but Susan Hill manages to pack in an excellent, complete story into the space. She also manages to create a spooky atmosphere very quickly and had me holding my breath as I read it. Not terrifying, but a spooky story with an excellent feeling about it. Loved it."
9. Artists in Crime (Inspector Alleyn) (Mystery) by Ngaio Marsh (4 stars)
10. Q is for Quarry (Kinsey Milhone) (Mystery) by Sue Grafton (3 stars)

February 2013

11. The Man in the High Castle (Science Fiction) by Philip K. Dick (5 stars)
12. Case Histories (Jackson Brodie) (Mystery) by Kate Atkinson (5 stars) My favourite of February
"Such an excellent book and definitely my favourite of 2013. I had seen the BBC TV series starring Jason Isaacs as Jackson Brodie, which I'd enjoyed immensely. So I approached this with both trepidation and excitement. I did find it somewhat odd that the book is set in Cambridge, whereas the TV series was set in Scotland, but once I'd accepted the difference, I enjoyed the book so very much. Kate Atkinson draws you in immediately, introducing the various Case Histories, then Jackson Brodie, then meanders through each, tying them together when felt necessary. Every character is interesting and well-presented, Jackson Brodie is super, witty but with his own issues. The story isn't really tense, even though there are awful crimes involved, but it's more of a character study. The writing is subtle, intelligent, funny at times. Loved it so very much. I look forward to reading more of Kate Atkinson's work. Thanks to the BBC to introducing me to her and making me search out her books."
13. The Killings at Badger's Drift (Chief Inspector Barnaby #1) (Mystery) by Caroline Graham (4 stars)
14. A Maze of Death (Science Fiction) by Philip K. Dick (4 stars)
15. The Water Man's Daughter (Mystery) by Emma Ruby-Sachs (4 stars)
16. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Science Fiction) by Philip K. Dick (3 stars)
17. The Crow Trap (Vera Stanhope #1) (Mystery) by Ann Cleeves (4 stars)
18.  Marnie (Mystery) by Winston Graham (4 stars)
19. Dr. Bloodmoney or How We Got Along after the Bomb (Science Fiction) by Philip K. Dick (4 stars)

March 2013

20. Shakespeare's Trollop (Lily Bard #4) (Mystery) by Charlaine Harris (3 stars)
21. Stamboul Train: An Entertainment (Fiction) by Graham Greene (4 stars)
22. Bangkok 8 (Sonchai Jitpleecheep #1) (Mystery) by John Burdett (4 stars)
23. The Razor's Edge (Fiction) by W. Somerset Maugham (5 stars) My favourite of March and of 2013)
"I'd never read any Somerset Maugham before and really had no desire to read anything by him either. However recently I saw The Razor's Edge in a antique/ collectibles shop and I liked the look of it. Since one of my Reading groups was reading Modern English Classics as this month's genre, I decided to read it. I must say that I was most pleasantly surprised. Maugham has a way about him of telling a story. His writing style is very fluid and eminently readable. The story was interesting, the dialogue flowed nicely and I found myself waiting anxiously to get back to the book when I put it down. Did a lot happen? It was a tale of people, specifically friends of Maugham's, as he is the narrator and a character, who he spends time with and observes. I liked the characters and I liked Maugham as well. He's an observer of humanity and expresses his observations so very well. Anyway, I loved the story, it's one of my favourites of this year. Will I read any more of his books? Well I purchased [book:The Moon and Sixpence|527107] yesterday, so I hope so.. "
24. Definitely Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #6) (Fantasy) by Charlaine Harris (3 stars)
25. Grave Sight (Harper Connelly #1) (Mystery) by Charlaine Harris (3 stars)
26. Dead over Heels (Aurora Teagarden #5) (Mystery) (3 stars)
27. Introducing the Honourable Phryne Fisher (Phryne Fisher #1-3) (Mystery) by Kerry Greenwood (4 stars)

So there you have it. Mostly mysteries it seems out of the first 27 books -

Mystery - 18
Science Fiction/ Fantasy - 6
Fiction - 2
Horror - 1

Next entry April thru Jun. :0)

2 more shopping days until Christmas. Enjoy!
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