Monday, 26 May 2014

Latest Update - Parade's End and others (May 2014)

It's been a nice spring so far, the lawn is growing well, as good as it's ever been. Getting a sprinkler system installed has been one of the best decisions we've made here. Everything is pretty lush and it looks so nice. Still stuff to do around the outside, but we'll work on that in bits and pieces. A rainy day today and the past couple, truth be told, but that's what Spring is all about, eh? The dogs are doing well, had their spring clean up a couple of weeks ago. Bonnie gave us a bit of a scare, she reacted quite seriously to her booster shots, had to be given anti-histamines and spend a couple of unplanned hours at the vet so they could keep an eye on her. But all seems pretty good now, she's eating well and spending lots of spare time in the backyard playing with Clyde.

So let's see, what am I reading currently. I just finished The Collector by English writer, John Fowles, this morning. The missus and I had seen the movie a couple of years ago. It was released in 1965 and starred Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar. We both liked it very much, it was a different, creepy but engrossing movie. I found the book only in April at my local used book store and couldn't resist picking it up. I don't usually read books I buy quite so quickly as I've got a few hundred unread books on my shelves at the moment. But one of my book clubs was focusing on madness/ psychiatry as the genre for May and I thought this might fit in. So there you go. Like the movie, it was a very interesting book. It's laid out in two parts, the first from the perspective of Frederick (called Caliban by Miranda), as he stalks, falls in love (so he thinks) with Miranda, and then prepares his house for her. She is kidnapped by Frederick and then spends the next months in his basement cellar, his butterfly, basically. The story is from his perspective, then halfway through, switches to Miranda's perspective, told in diary format. We relive the incidents that Frederick has previously described, plus get into Miranda's mind as she looks at her life. Quite a different story. I believe I have previously read Fowles' The Magus as well, but it was many years ago so I'd have to reread to see what I think of it. At any rate, The Collector is highly recommended.

Currently Reading

I've been working through Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford since mid-April. It's been a challenging read but the more I get into it, the more I've enjoyed. It was originally written as four separate books, Some Do Not... in 1924, No More Parades.. in 1925, A Man Could Stand Up... in 1926 and The Last Post... in 1928. The book focuses on three people; Christopher Tietjens, a second son, facing personal dilemmas and dealing with after-effects of World War I, Sylvia Tietjens, his wayward wife, selfish and a woman who loves Christopher, but at the same time, makes every effort to drive him to distraction, with various affairs and by telling lies about him, and, finally, Valentine Wannop, a young woman who has captured Christopher's heart, but lives a life, for the most part, distant from Tietjens, even though she is the subject of much negative speculation about possible relations with Tietjens. As of today, I've finished the first three books. I have to say that it has taken some time to get my frame of mind into the writing style of Ford, but I now find it difficult to put the book down. I do limit myself to reading during quiet periods, early morning when the TV isn't on, that sort of thing as it is always necessary to focus just on the book. The most recent book, A Man Could Stand Up has been particularly interesting as it deals with the war at the Front and the Armistice and Tietjen's reactions to the life in the trenches. Fascinating stuff. It seems as though many critics feel that the book should only have been three stories, that the fourth doesn't really fit in. I'll let you know. All that I know is that it's a great story.

I'm also reading the first Katy Klein mystery by Karen Irving, Pluto Rising. It is a trilogy, the other books being Jupiter's Daughter and Mars Eclipsed. The reason I picked the book originally is because it is set in Ottawa, Ontario, a place I lived for at least 18 years of my life. So it is always interesting reading about familiar locations and trying to picture it in my mind. I'm enjoying the story so far, have read about half of it. Katy Klein is an ex-psychiatrist who has changed professions and is now an astrologer, making her living preparing star charts for clients and using them to explain their lives, paths, etc. She meets Adam, a man with hidden issues who wants her to help divine his problems (I'm putting it much to simply). Adam ends up dead and where we go from there, I don't know yet, but I'm looking forward to finding out. :). I have the third book in the series so far, still have yet to find the second. But I shall persevere! The story is interesting enough to make me want to read the complete trilogy.

Just Starting

Having finished The Collector, I'm going back to my Alphabetical Mystery Author's Challenge. I am currently working on the letter 'I', so I've dusted off a book by Frances Iles, Malice Aforethought. Just reading about Francis Iles, I've discovered that he is actually a pen-name for British mystery writer Anthony Berkeley Cox. I have read The Poisoned Chocolate's Case by Cox previously and enjoyed very much. The synopsis for Malice Aforethought reads as follows, "Crafty D. Bickleigh coolly murders his detestable wife. Murder becomes a mania with the good doctor, until he is brought to trial - a magnificent trial, full of wit and drama - and the climax of his story provides a superb piece of ironic and clever humour. This is a murder without a mystery, where the readers are told all and yet are kept guessing." Looks interesting.

What to read next?

From my basic challenges, these are possible options for next books -

Alphabetical Mystery Author's Challenge - When I finish Malice Aforethought, I move back to the end of the alphabet. That will mean the letter 'U' as I look at my books to read list and one by Barry Unsworth, either Morality Play or Pascalis Island.

Bed-time Authors Challenge - This will be the second Karen Irving mystery as I read two of each author for this challenge. If I don't find the second in the trilogy, I'll be reading Mars Eclipsed.

12 + 4 Reading Group Challenge - I've read 7 books in the challenge so far and when I finish Parade's End, that will be 8 of course. I think I might try one of my lighter selections from this list next, probably A Murderous Procession (or The Assassin's Prayer) by Ariana Franklin, the last book in the Mistress of the Art of Death series. Such an excellent series; it's so unfortunate that Ariana Franklin passed away so soon in her life.

Finally, my UK Book Club will either have humour or travel as the genre for June and I figure I could cover either genre with a Tony Hawks book, either Playing the Moldovans at Tennis or Around Ireland with a Fridge. Then again, for straight travel, there is Bill Bryson's Neither Here nor There or Carol Drinkwater's The Olive Farm.. so many excellent choices.. :)

So there you have it... latest update complete. Now off to do some laundry.. woooo hoooo!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Comox Valley Rotary Club Book Sale - Last Day

Back to work tomorrow so today I planned to do some yard work. I've managed a bit, but it's not quite as nice out as was originally planned, so using any excuse, I've done part of what I'd planned to do. As the missus requested, I weed - whacked around a clump of trees we have in one corner to get rid of the vines that had crept over the edge of the stone outlining. I also raked the small path we made to try and level it out a bit and cleaned up a few more weeds. So all in all, I guess not a bad job, more to come in the following day.

On Saturday, I went to the last day of the Rotary Club Book Sale as prices for the last day are always excellent, basically $5.00 for a bag of books. They provide the bag of course, to make sure everybody gets roughly the same amount. So I bought one bag and spent yesterday updating my various book lists and then, while the missus was working on the computer, I re-organised my TBR bookshelves in the den. I must say it does look more organised. Still some books on the floor in front of the book shelf, but instead of stacks of paperbacks, they are the oversize books. The paperbacks are much better organised, nicely alphabetical and stacked properly. Gotta love it.

Basically for $5.00 I got 16 books, a nice mix of classics and mysteries. Interested in seeing what I managed to buy?

1. Blindness  by Jose Saramago - I'd seen most of the movie once before and it seemed weirdly interesting. I didn't realise it was a book until one of my goodreads friends posted it as a Challenge read this year. So I was pleasantly surprised to find this at the book fair. "A city is hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" that spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and assaulting women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides her charges—among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears—through the barren streets, and their procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. As Blindness reclaims the age-old story of a plague, it evokes the vivid and trembling horrors of the twentieth century, leaving readers with a powerful vision of the human spirit that's bound both by weakness and exhilarating strength."

2. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. This is a series of 3 novels published originally in 1922. it chronicles the lives of the Forsytes. It's been made into movies and as well into an excellent television series by ITV in England.

3. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. I am currently reading and greatly enjoying Ford's Parade's End and I know that The Good Soldier was on my reading list at university for one of my courses (but I don't remember reading it). I hope this is as good as Parade's End.

4. Pascali's Island by Barry Unsworth. Like others in my TBR shelves, I already have a Barry Unsworth novel/ mystery on my bookshelves; A Morality Play, which looks interesting. This one as well had an interesting synopsis. "For twenty years, Basil Pascali has sent his reports from a shimmering Aegean island to his imperial paymasters in Constantinople.. Now the Greeks seem to have discovered that he is a spy, and the Turks to have forgotten his existence. When a tall, enigmatic Englishman purporting to be an archaeologist arrives on the island and seduces Lydia, the beautiful Viennese artist who is Basil's only friend, it seems that he may have found his means of escape. But nothing is as it seems under the Mediterranean sun. And Pascali the intriguer finds himself to be in the middle of a plot that is not his own."

5. Laughing Gas by P.G. Wodehouse. I have enjoyed Jeeves and Wooster books by Wodehouse. He is a great comic writer. He isn't limited to his Jeeves books mind you. This is a case in point. "Funny things can happen in old Hollywood. When Joey Cooley, the child star, and the third Earl of Havershot swap souls in the fang-wrenchers surgeries.. it's a gas.. in the fourth dimension."

6. The Breaker by Minette Walters. I'm hoping this is a continuation in a long line of Minette Walters' mysteries. I read Disordered Minds just this past month and enjoyed immensely. Her books are standalones and the five or six I've read so far have been excellent.

7. The Passion of Artemesia by Susan Vreeland. I will readily admit that part of the reason I bought this book was that it was in such excellent condition and had an interesting cover. We already had The Girl in Hyacinth Blue, one of the missus' books, on our bookshelf in the best lounge and this seemed to go with it perfectly. As well, it had an excellent, interesting synopsis. I hope to read at least one of them this year.

8. Legacy of the Dead, Seeing the Dark and Wings of Fire by Charles Todd. These are books 2 - 4 of the Inspector Rutledge mystery series. I already have Book 1 and I'm looking forward to delving into this series. Yes, yes, I know, I have about 25 other series to finish as well. Challenge Accepted!!

9. Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey.   I have read others of Josephine Tey's library (she lived from 1896 - 1952); she wrote 5 novels in the Inspector Grant series and as well a few standalone mysteries. Brat Farrar is one of her standalones. "If Patrick had really committed suicide, then who was the mysterious young man calling himself Brat Farrar, who had returned to claim the family inheritance?"

10. Sourdough Wars by Julie Smith. Julie Smith has written three different series; Skip Langdon, Rebecca Schwartz and Talba Wallis. Rebecca Schwartz is a feminist based in San Francisco. The other characters' stories are set in New Orleans. The books in the Rebecca Schwartz series include; Death Turns a Trick, Sourdough Wars, Tourist Trap, Dead in the Water and Other People's Skeletons.

11. Catalina by W. Somerset Maugham. One of the best books I read last year was The Razor's Edge by Maugham. I loved his writing style, his way with words and his manner of presenting his story. It's made me interested in reading others of his books, hence when I saw Catalina, I thought I should pick it up. I'll let you know what I think.

12. The Green Ripper by John D. MacDonald. Last year I finally took a chance and read the first 3 Travis McGee novels and I was hooked on them. I love Travis McGee, his outlook on life and I enjoyed the stories very much. Since then I've slowly been picking up other McGee stories when I see them. The Green Ripper is the 18th of the 21 books in the series. It centers on revenge against a secretive, terrorist cult that is responsible for the murder of McGee's girlfriend, Gretel. Sounds excellent.

The remaining books are also from favourite series; Donna Leon's Through A Glass Darkly (of the Inspectore Brunetti series set in Venice), Janet Evanovich's Lean Mean Thirteen (Stephanie Plum's 13th adventure) and Death in Disguise by Caroline Graham (the 3rd in the Inspector Barnaby Midsomer Murders series).

So all in all, it was another productive Rotary Club Book Sale. I hope they did well too as the money is used to support those in need. I'm looking forward to the next sale, whenever that might be..

Have a great week!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Comox Valley Rotary Club May 2014 Book Sale - 1st Visit

The twice annual Rotary Club book sale started on the 7th of May and runs until tomorrow, 10 May. The cause is a good one, the money goes to various needy organisations in the local area. And personally, it's a great place to look for books and get a great deal on them. Small price to pay if it helps out somebody.

I made my first visit after work on the first day. The price was basically $5.00 for three books. You can't knock that. I had my Books to Read guide with me and for the first day just went through the alphabet looking to see what was available. They are laid out quite well, best selling authors are usually in a group by themselves, alphabetically and the rest are also organised alphabetically. Specialities; westerns, SciFi, cook books, gardening books, history are laid out by themselves. I was mostly interesting in fiction and mysteries this time so I went through those areas. Nicely, it wasn't all too busy for the time of day, so it wasn't very claustrophobic. It can get that way and I imagine when I go again on Saturday for a last sweep, there will be many more folks checking out the place.

Anyway, I had a nicely successful visit, spent $20.00 and got 12 books. These were my finds; mostly mysteries, but also a couple of classics and fantasy.

Fantasy/ Young Adult

1. Cornelia Funke - Inkspell - This is the second book in the Inkheart trilogy. I had read the first book earlier in the year and enjoyed very much; just as I had previously also enjoyed the movie based on the book. This second book continues the adventure of Meggie and her friends. "A year has passed, but not a day goes by without Meggie thinking of Inkheart, the book whose characters came to life. For the fire-eater, Dustfinger, the need to return to the tale has become desperate. When he finds a crooked storyteller to read him back, he abandons his apprentice Farid and plunges into the pages. Before long, Farid and Meggie are caught inside the book, too. But the story is much changed - and threatening to end tragically"

2. Alan Bradley - A Red Herring without Mustard -  Alan Bradley is a Canadian author who has set his Flavia de Luce mysteries in the English hamlet of Bishop's Lacey. I enjoyed the first book quite a bit, although it did take me a bit to get into the writing style and the characters. This is the third book in the series. The synopsis looks interesting; "In the hamlet of Bishop's Lacey, the insidiously clever and unflappable eleven-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce had asked a Gypsy woman to tell her fortune - never expecting to later stumble across the poor soul, bludgeoned almost to death in the wee hours in her own caravan. Was this an act of retribution by those convinced that the soothsayer abducted a local child years ago? Certainly Flavia understands the bliss of settling scores; revenge is a delightful pastime when one has two odious older sisters. But how could this crime be connected to the missing baby? As the red herrings pile up, Flavia must sort through clues fishy and foul to expose dark deeds and dangerous secrets.


3. Daphne du Maurier - Rebecca - I've been slowly collecting other books by du Maurier after enjoying The House on the Strand so very much. A classic, this was also an excellent movie. "There are said to be three books that every woman reads: Jane Eyre, Gone with the Wind and Rebecca. And who can say how many men have read them all? Certainly no 'blurb' on the back of the book can do justice to Rebecca. There is a sort of witchcraft in the tale. Ancestral Manderley and all that happens there possess the reader's mind with a subjugating sense of mystery. Neither can one ever forget the romantic Max de Winter, the sinister Mrs. Danvers, the odious Favell or the nameless heroine fore ever at grips with the ghost of the beautiful Rebecca. In this book du Maurier achieved one of the few triumphant novels in the language."

4. E. M. Forster - The Longest Journey - "The novel, Forster's favourite amongst his novels, revolves around Rickie Elliot, a congenitally lame young man with a tragic past. Raised in a stifling English suburb, Rickie is sent to Cambridge to achieve greatness and there encounters the temptations of an 'impractical' life - one of philosophical questions, wild hopes, and imaginative flights. His marriage to the conventional and pragmatic Agnes Pembroke, whom he mistakenly believes is his great passion, and his subsequent move to Sawston to live and teach provide the background for this, the story of Rickie's true enlightenment."

5. A. A. Milne - Winnie the Pooh - I had this book, along with The House at Pooh Corner during my university years.. Yes, that's what I said, my university years.. ;). I gave them away at some point in the past ten years and kind of regretted doing so. When I saw this copy of the first book of Milne's Pooh stories, I had to pick it up. I will get the other someday. "A.A. Milne wrote these stories and poems for his son, Christopher Robin. When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six are collections of verse. Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner contain all the Pooh stories. Winnie the Pooh was a teddy bear given to Christopher Robin on his first birthday, and the other animals were also once nursery toys. Ernest Shepherd went to see them all before he drew his unforgettable pictures." Great stories!

Mysteries (The rest of my purchases are mysteries by some of my favourite authors, trying to flesh out various series I've enjoyed)

1. Karin Alvtegen - Shame - Karin Alvtegen is a very unique writer. Her mysteries delve into the minds and personalities of her characters. Each book stands on its own and I've enjoyed a few of her stories so far. Shame also sounded interesting. "At first sight, Maj-Britt is as different from Monika as possible. Monika is a successful physician who works long hours restoring others to health. Housebound, Maj-Britt spends her days tormenting the volunteers who care for her apartment and bring her groceries. The one thing these two women have in common is a fierce determination to be left alone. But then a letter arrives, bringing the past back to life. Unexpectedly forced into a confrontation, each woman will prove to be the catalyst for the other's salvation.. or destruction."

2. Sue Grafton - V is for Vengeance - The Kinsey Millhone alphabetical series is like comfort food, interesting stories that you can pick up when you want to cuddle up with a good mystery, but that you don't feel the pressure to read them all at once. In fact, it's better to make them last; there are only 26 letters in the alphabet. ;0) I've so far read up to Q is for Quarry and enjoyed everyone. So as you can see, I've got a few to read yet. Yay! In V, "Private detective Kinsey Millhone feels a bit out of place in Nordstrom's lingerie department, but she's entirely in her element when she puts a stop to a brazen shoplifting spree. For her trouble she nearly gets run over in the parking lot by one of the fleeing thieves - and later learns that the one who didn't get away has been found dead in an apparent suicide. But Audrey Vance's grieving fiancé suspects murder and hires Kinsey to investigate - in a case that will reveal a big story behind a small crime, and lead her into a web that connects a shadowy private banker, an angry trophy wife, a spoiled kid with a spiralling addiction and a brutal killer without a conscience.:

3. Mark Billingham - Scaredy Cat - Mark Billingham has created the DI Tom Thorne mysteries, gritty and interesting. I've read a couple so far and watched the TV mini-series based on the books, also gritty and excellent. Scaredy Cat was one of the books represented by the TV series. "It was a vicious, calculated murder. The killer selected his victim at Euston station, followed her home on the tube and strangled her to death in front of her child. At the same time, killed in the same way, a second body is discovered at the back of King's Cross station. It is a grisly coincidence that eerily echoes the murder of two other women, stabbed to death months before on the same day. It is DI Thorne who sees the link and comes to the horrifying conclusion. This is not a serial killer the police are up against. This is two of them. Finding the body used to be the worst part of the job. Not any more. Now each time a body is found, Thorne must live with the knowledge that somewhere out there is a second victim, waiting to be discovered."

4. Edmund Crispin - Frequent Hearses - Crispin writes the Gervase Fen mysteries, humorous, somewhat out there, but interesting. "For Oxford don, Gervase Fen, a stint as a story consultant to a film biography of Alexander Pope comes as a piquant change of pace, particularly when the production is disrupted by the suicide of a bit player - and someone has taken great pains to hide the victim's real identity. When a lecherous cameraman is poisoned before his very eyes, Fen finds himself 'consulting' on a far more familiar matter, 'murder'."

5. Alan Hunter - Gently Does It - I've read a couple of the Inspector George Gently mysteries, but this is the first and I'm glad I finally got a copy. "For most people, that would easily qualify for a holiday from hell. For George Gently, it is a case of business as usual. The Chief Inspector's quiet Easter break in Norchester is rudely interrupted when a local timber merchant is found dead. His son, with whom he had been seen arguing, immediately becomes prime suspect, although Gently is far from convinced of his guilt. Norchester City Police gratefully accept Gently's offer to help investigate the murder, but he soon clashes with Inspector Hansom, the officer in charge of the case. Hansom's idea of conclusive evidence appals Gently almost as much as Gently's thorough, detailed, methodical style of investigation exasperates Hansom, who considers the murder to be a straightforward affair."

6 and 7. Peter Robinson - A Dedicated Man and Past Reason Hated - Peter Robinson is a Canadian crime writer born in England. His DI Alan Banks mysteries are set in Yorkshire and have been made into a very popular TV series starring Stephen Tompkinson as DI Banks. The missus and I have watched them on Knowledge network and enjoyed very much. I've been collecting the series but have yet to crack open the books. They await my attention anxiously. A Dedicated Man is the second of the series and Past Reason Hated is the fifth. I'll let you know how I enjoy them once I get them started. Gallow's View will be my first read.

So there you go, my purchases from Wednesday. I'll let you know how my visit tomorrow goes. But now it's time to pack the puppies up in the car and go get the missus.
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