Friday, 14 November 2014

Latest Update - Shopping, Challenges Nov 2014

It's been a few weeks since my last update. Since then, I've been working fairly regularly, doing some fall yard work (still a few things to do there) and last week I travelled back to Ontario to visit my father on his 90th birthday and combined it with a trip down to Kingston to see my daughter. Had a nice time seeing my older brother and sister, my dad, sister-in-law, nephew and my daughter and her boyfriend. Mind you, it had been my first trip alone since about 2009, other than the odd over-nighter for work and I found that quite difficult. I guess I just don't like being away from Jo and the puppies. No bad thing, that.

Actually had some snow in North Bay and it was sleety and cold for most of the trip. Came back to bright sunshine in the Comox Valley, still coolish (0 degrees Celsius) but it doesn't seem to matter much, just happy to be home.

I missed the November Rotary Club Book Sale because of my trip, but I think I made up for that by visiting a few used book stores and adding to my bookshelf. In North Bay, I went to Allison, the Book Man, a store I frequented when I lived there back in the early '70s. Love that store.. In Kingston, I wandered around downtown with Jenn and Martin, hit a couple of more stores; Berry & Peterson Booksellers and Wayfarer Books. I was slightly more successful at the former.

So what books did I find on my journey? I thought you'd never ask.. :0)

Allison the Bookman, North Bay, ON

1. The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper by John D. MacDonald. This is the 10th novel in the Travis McGee mystery series. I've read the first 5 and have enjoyed them all. It took a long time for me to decide to give the series a try and I'm glad that I finally did. McGee is an old-school detective, with standards and morality. When he decides to help someone, he stands by his word. The series was written throughout the '60s and on and is well-set. Excellent series.

2. Rules of Prey by Lucas Davenport - Don't tell my wife, but this is a new series for me. I can't comment on it much except to say it features a cop, Lucas Davenport. This book, the first, was released in 1989. Nice teaser of a synopsis - "The killer was mad, but brilliant. He left notes with every woman he killed. Rules of murder. Never have a motive. Never follow a discernible pattern. Never carry a weapon after it has been used. So many  rules to his sick, violent games of death.. But Lucas Davenport, the cop who's out to get him, isn't playing by any rules."

3. In the Teeth of the Evidence by Dorothy L. Sayers. The Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries is another series that I've only recently started. I had heard of the series, but I think I can safely say that I can blame Jo for getting me started, as if I'm not mistaken, she was either listening to radio dramatizations of the books on BBC radio or watching the old TV series. At least that's my story and I'm sticking with it. I've read a couple of the books and have enjoyed very much. Sayers is up there as a classic mystery writer with Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, maybe not quite so prolific, but still all excellent reads. This story was originally published in 1939, "All that was left of the garage was a heap of charred and smouldering beams. In the driving seat of the burnt-out car were the remains of a body. An accident, said the police. An accident, said the widow. She had been warning her husband about the dangers of the car for months. Murder, said the famous detective, Lord Peter Wimsey... who proceeded to track down the killers."

4. Vermilion Sands by J.G. Ballard. JG Ballard is one of the most unique SciFi writers I've read. He's not always accessible, sometimes very strange, e.g. High Rise, Crash, etc. but one of those authors that you should experience. Vermilion Sands is a series of short stories and as stated in the synopsis, 'embodies the languid decay of a tawdry dream.'.. See what I mean. Looking forward to giving this a try.

5. Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser - When I was in High school, I remember giving this series a try, but at the time my interests lay in other directions so I never managed to read too many of the books. But when I saw this copy at Allison's, I thought I should try again. I do enjoy various historical series at the moment; Sharpe and Horatio Hornblower, especially, so now seems the time for another kick at this. Flashman is basically a rogue and coward who finds himself in predicaments that often make him come out smelling like a rose. This is the first book in the series, originally published in 1969. "Flashman, soldier, duellist, lover, imposter, coward, cad and hero, triumphs in this first instalment of The Flashman Papers. His adventures, as a reluctant secret agent in Afghanistan and his entry into the exclusive company of Lord Cardigan's Hussars culminates in his foulest hour - his part in the historic disaster of the Retreat from Kabul."

6. The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill. Hill is an author who I became acquainted with after watching the movie dramatization of The Woman in Black. Jo and I both enjoyed the movie immensely. After finding out who had written the story, I began to search for Hill's stories. I have since enjoyed The Woman in Black and also have read at least one of her Simon Serailler mysteries. I was pleasantly surprised to find this in North Bay. "An inveterate traveller, Sir James Monmouth has spent most of his life abroad. He arrives in England on a dark and rainy night with the intention of discovering more, not only about himself but of his obsession with Conrad Vane, an explorer. Warned against following this trail, Sir James experiences some extraordinary happenings - who is the mysterious, sad little boy, and the old woman behind the curtain? Only he hears the chilling scream and the desperate sobbing..."

7. The Magyar Venus by Lyn Hamilton - I've read a couple of Canadian author, Lyn Hamilton's archeological mysteries, featuring Toronto antique store owner, Lara McClintoch. Sometimes you need a light, entertaining mystery and this series provides just that. Nothing too strenuous, just an enjoyable story. "During a night carousing with her old college gang, Lara McClintoch attends an opening at a museum where an extraordinary artifact is revealed. The Magyar Venus is the head and torso of a woman carved from mammoth ivory during the Upper Paleolithic period. but after its appearance leads to the suicide of one of her friends, Lara determinedly traces its provenance to Budapest - and discovers a truth that arises from the secrets of the past."

8. Death on the Downs by Simon Brett - I've been taking a bit of a chance with the Simon Brett books. Jo had been listening to one of his series on BBC radio, that being Charles Dance, with Bill Nighy starring as Charles Paris. She enjoyed it very much so I added Brett to my TBR list. He wrote 3 series; Charles Paris, Mrs. Pargeter and this one, the Fethering Mysteries. I've been buying books as I find them, but still I haven't managed to sit down and read one. I've added Brett to my 2015 challenge list so I'll be at least breaking the ice with one of the series in 2015, if I don't end up trying on before the end of this year. Death on the Downs is the 2nd book in the Fethering series. I'll let you know how it goes.

Berry and Peterson, Kingston ON

9. Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender by Evelyn Waugh. I have previously read Men at Arms, which came out in 1952, and enjoyed the humour and the story. I was very pleased to find the other two instalments of the Men at War series by Waugh and both in such excellent condition. I do like a Penguin book. Officers was released in 1955 and the finale, Unconditional Surrender in 1961. The books continue and complete the story of Guy Crouchback, a member of the Halberdiers, following him to the Isle of Mugg, Crete and Yugoslavia. I look forward to reacquainting myself with Crouchback.

10. Diamonds Are Forever and For Your Eyes Only by Ian Fleming. I've been slowly collecting the James Bond books, the Pan editions, over the past few years. It was a series I read most of during my junior high school days, liking the adventure, sex, action and I also enjoyed the original Sean Connery Bond films. When I saw the books, probably back when I first came to Comox, back then I went to ABC books in Courtenay, I knew that I should revisit the series. I'm so glad I did. Not only do I like the look of the books, but I'm once again enjoying reading of 007's adventures. Now that I've got the whole series, I can start to look for other new ones.. ;)

Wayfarer Books, Kingston, ON

11. Walking on Glass by Iain Banks - This was the last store that I visited on my trip and I was very good. I didn't have any books to buy, but then I saw this in the corner. I've enjoyed Banks' Culture SciFi series and also had previously read, The Wasp Factory, a strange but interesting fiction work. This was the second book he had published, in 1989 and the story did sound interesting. "Graham Park is in love. But Sara ffitch is an enigma to him, a creature of almost perverse mystery. Steven Grant is paranoid - and with justice. he knows that They are out to get him. They are. Quiss, insecure in his fabulous if ramshackle castle, is forced to play interminable impossible games. the solution to the oldest of all paradoxical riddles will release him. But he must find an answer before he knows the question. Park, Grant and Quiss - no trio could be further apart. But their separate courses are set for collision.."

2015 Reading Challenges

I have been slowly starting to look at what challenges I might get involved with for 2015. It's now mid November and I'm pretty well done my 2014 challenges; more on those as we get into December. I've also been starting to look at my Top Ten lists of 2014; favourite books, favourite actresses, etc. What fun!

As to my reading challenges, I've started putting down some options.

1. Goodreads Challenge - every year I've increased my total by about 5 books. I have completed my 90 books for 2014 (will exceed that by a few), so for 2015, I'm thinking I'll try to read 95 books.

2. 12 + 4 Reading Group Challenge - This one is an annual challenge in my Book Addicts group. This is the first year we had 4 alternates, usually it was just two. Whichever way we go this year, I'm thinking that in 2015, I'm going to pick 'first' books in series I've had on my shelf for awhile, but haven't gotten around to starting yet. I've definitely got enough. I've been going through my lists to get some initial ideas and these, at least have sprung to the front - Ann Cleeves (Shetland mysteries) - Raven Black, Cara Black (Aimee Leduc mysteries) - Murder in the Marais, Craig Johnson (Longmire mysteries) - The Cold Dish and C.C. Humphreys (The French Executioner series) - The French Executioner.

3. Individual Challenges - Rather than pick specific

a. Classics (books written before 1900) - These will probably be my heavier reads so I'm focussing on trying to read 4 over the course of the year. Some ideas include; Wilkie Collins - The Moonstone, George Eliot - The Mill in the Floss, etc.

b. Non-Fiction (history, biography, etc.) - I'm looking to try and read at least 4 books in this section as well. Some books on my tentative list include; Lynne Olson's Citizens of London and Margaret MacMillan's The War that Ended the Peace.

c. Science Fiction/ Fantasy/ Steam Punk, etc - I'm looking to try and read at least 6 in this genre. Some of my ideas for this include; Jim Butcher (Dresden Files) Grave Peril, Jose Saramago - Blindness, J.G. Ballard's Crash, etc.

d. Fiction (written after 1900) - I will try and read at least 10 books in this section, not as heavy as the Classics, but still some challenging (I hope) reads. Books I've tentatively added to my list include; Grace Metallious - Peyton Place, W. Somerset Maugham - The Moon and Sixpence, Nevil Shute - So Disdained, Virginia Woolf - Mrs. Dalloway, etc.

e. Mysteries/ Thrillers/ Spy, etc (Series I've already started and want to get into more) - Mysteries is my main reading genre these days and I have many on the go. I feel quite comfortable looking to try and complete 25 book from different series; Rennie Airth (John Madden) - The Dead of Winter, John Buchan (John Hannay) - Mr. Standfast, Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum) - Hard Eight, Alan Hunter (George Gently) - Gently Through the Mill, Donna Leon (Inspector Brunetti) - Quietly in their Sleep, etc.

f. More Mysteries (Standalones) - As I said, I tend to read a lot of mysteries over the course of the year. This section will focus on authors who don't necessarily have specific series or crime fighters, rather standalones. (10 books) Some examples would include ; Karin Altvegan - Shame, Len Deighton - Funeral in Berlin, James Kennaway - The Mind Benders, Minette Walters - Breaker, Hillary Waugh - A Death in Town, etc.

This leaves me lots of flexibility for just reading freebees, that might satisfy other challenges. If I added everything up correctly, it should leave me 20 extra books. Anyway, that's just for starters, I'm sure I'll adjust as I get closer to 2015. I do enjoy the list making as much as the actual trying to complete it.. :)

Have a great weekend!
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