Friday, 31 March 2017

A Bit of History and My March 2017 Reading Summary

After a brief break, I'm back to looking through Treasures of Use and Beauty, Great Historical Events and Miscellaneous Letters by Eminent Persons. I also want to provide my March reading summary. So a busy post.

The 1500s were a busy time for exploration in the Americas so I'll probably break this down to a few posts. You'll see also that some of the worst aspects of mankind are also featured. So without further ado, here we go. The 1500s -

"1500. Columbus is sent to Spain in irons by Bovadilla; November 5. - Columbus upon his arrival in Cadiz meets with Ferdinand and Isabella, who being ashamed of their course toward him, invite him to court and openly apologize for their conduct.
1501. Negro slaves are imported into Hispaniola.
1502. May 9, - The Spanish government send Columbus upon a fourth and last voyage.
1503. The Spaniards introduce Negro slaves into the West Indies.
1504. Columbus again arrives at St. Domingo.
1506. May 20. - In the fifty-ninth year of his age Columbus dies at Valodolid. The gold mines of Hayti yield great wealth to Spain.
1508. A Canadian Indian seen in France.
1512. Juan Ponce-de-Leon discovers Florida.
1513. September 26. - After exploring Central America, Balboa crosses the Isthmus of Darien and discovers the Pacific.
1515. Alonzo de la Rua, a Spaniard, begins the exploration of Peru.
1516. Nata, the first Spanish city founded on the Pacific Coast.
1516. The Rio de la Plata discovered.
1517. Charles V. grants a patent for an annual import of 4,000 Negroes from Africa.
1518. Mexico discovered by Grijalva, and gold in considerable quantities found."

Next entry will focus on Montezuma and Cortez..

Miscellaneous Letters from Eminent Person

This letter is from Charles Dickens to his son, Harry, on going to College.

"My Dear Harry:

I have your letter here this morning. I inclose you another check for 25 pounds. Now observe attentively. We must have no shadow of doubt. Square up everything whatsoever it has been necessary to buy. Let not a farthing be outstanding on any account when we begin together with your allowance. Be particular in the minutest detail. I wish to have no secret from you in the relations we are to establish together, and I, therefore, send you Joe Chitty's letter bodily. Reading it you will know exactly what I know, and will understand that I treat you with perfect confidence.

You know how hard I work for what I get; and I think you know that I never had money help from any human creature after I was a child.

Whatever you do, above all things, keep out of debt and confide in me. If you ever find yourself on the verge of any perplexity, come to me. You will never find me hard with you while you are manly and truthful. As your brothers have gone away one by one, I have written to each of them what I am now going to write to you. You know that you nave never been hampered by religious forms of restraint, and that with mere unreasoning forms I have no sympathy. But I most strongly and affectionately impress upon you the priceless value of the New Testament, and the study of that book as the one unfailing guide in life. Deeply respecting it, and bowing down before the character of our Saviour as separated from the vain constructions and inventions of men, you cannot go very wrong, and will always preserve at heart a true spirit of veneration and humility. Similarly I impress upon you the habit of saying a Christian prayer every night and morning. These things have stood by me all through my life; and remember that I tried to render the New Testament intelligible to you and lovable by you when you were a mere baby. And so God bless you. Ever your affectionate father,

Charles Dickens"

(How many parents have had similar conversations or written similar letters to their children when they've left home?)

March 2017 Reading Summary

So here we go, my monthly stats. All in all, it's been a very good month and I'm keeping up with my overall Goodreads challenge of 120 books read in 2017.

General Stats
                                                     March          2017 Total
Books read                                     11                    33 (5 books ahead of schedule)
Pages read                                   2900                8,500

Pages Breakdown
       < 250                                         6                     18
250  - 350                                         3                     10
351 - 450                                          1                       3
       > 450                                         1                       2

Author Gender
Female                                             3                       7
Male                                                8                      26

5 - star                                             1                       2
4 - star                                             6                      19
3 - star                                             3                      11
2 - star                                             1                       1

Fiction                                             1                      3
Mystery                                           4                     14
SciFi                                                5                     15
Non-Fiction                                     1                      1
Humour                                                                   0
Classics                                                                   0

Reading Group Challenges

12 + 4 - Science Fiction Stories

I read 5 books in this challenge and that brings my total completed to 14 books. I'm currently reading The Wrong End of Time by John Brunner. I expect I'll finish the last two in April. (I've already pretty well sorted out what my follow-on 12 + 4 challenge will be.) Most of the books haven't been terribly long but for the most part they've all been interesting.

1. Philip K. Dick - Time Out of Joint (4 stars)
2. Clifford D. Simak - Time is the Simplest Thing (2 stars)
3. John Brunner - The Super Barbarians (3 stars)
4. Philip K. Dick - The Crack in Space (4 stars)
5. Michael Moorcock - Behold the Man (4 stars)

Canadian Fiction - I never read any more books in this grouping in March. So far I've read 1 of a possible 5.

The Classics (pre - 1900). I've not read any books in this challenge yet. I've started The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper but I've put it aside in the past few days so I could complete a couple of other books. I will spend more time with it now that April is on us. I've enjoyed what I've read so far.

Mysteries (The Cops) - I've completed 6 of a planned 25 in this category so far. In March I read 2 more. I will be starting the first Aurelio Zen mystery next, that being The Ratking by Michael Dibdin.

1. Tony Hillerman - Listening Woman (Joe Leaphorn #3) (3 stars)
2. Ann Cleeves - Telling Tales (Vera Stanhope #2) (4 stars)

Mysteries (The Sleuths) - I've completed 8 of a planned 25 in this category. In March I read 2, including my favourite book of the month. I'm currently starting the 2nd Smith & Wetzon mystery, Tender Death by Annette Meyers.

1. Victoria Thompson - Murder on Washington Square (Gaslight #4) (4 stars)
2. Rex Stout - The League of Frightened Men (Nero Wolfe #2) (5 stars)

Fantasy / Science Fiction / Horror - I hoped to read at least 5 in each of these categories. At the moment I've neglected them all mainly due to my 12 + 4 challenge as I wanted to try to get a few different genres into my monthly reading. Depending on which 12 + 4 challenge I use as my next one, I will definitely be working on these genres for the rest of the year.

Fiction - I hoped to read about 15 books in this challenge in 2017. So far I've completed two. However, if I make my next 12 + 4 challenge authors between 1900 and 1950 as I'm leaning towards, I'll finish a few more of these as part of this challenge.

1. Sarah Waters - Fingersmith (4 stars)

Spy / Thriller / Adventure - I've not read any in this category yet. I had hoped to read 10 books in this category. Some of those I have outlined in my possible 12 + 4 challenge would fit into this grouping as well.

Non-Fiction - I've read one of five so far.

1. Bill Bryson - Shakespeare: The World as a Stage (3 stars).

Top 3 Books of March

3. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.

"Fingersmith is the first book I've read by Sarah Waters. Some of my Book group friends had read it and gave it good reviews. The synopsis was intriguing enough that I thought it worth giving it a try.
I honestly didn't know what to expect when I started it and there were many little surprises contained within that kept intriguing me. Quite a different, unique story.

Sue Trinder is a fingersmith (hence the title), basically a pick pocket who works the streets of London for her adopted mother and other acquaintances. She lives in a back alley and we soon discover that her real mother was executed for crimes she committed and that Mrs. Sucksby promised to take care of her. Mrs. Sucksby makes a living buying unwanted babies and selling them on. She lives with Mr. Ibbs who runs a shop selling stolen goods. There are a cast of other characters who also live in the house, including John and Dainty. The other character of note is Gentleman, as he is called, who comes to Mrs. Sucksby with a scheme to swindle a rich man of his estate by marrying his niece, Maud. Sue is a key part of the scheme as she will become the girl's maid.

There you have the story in its simplest, but don't even think that that's it and all about it. There is a great deal of plotting and neat little twists and turns that you won't see coming that keep this book moving along nicely. The story is told in a unique fashion as well; the first part from Sue's perspective, the second from Maud's and finally the third from Sue's once again as we move along at a clip to the exciting finale.

I will admit to being somewhat irritated at the beginning of the 2nd part as it seemed like a rehash of Part 1. However, I readily admit now that it is as interesting as the first, especially as it ties in two complex story lines and provides a nice outlet for Maud's views and feelings about what is happening.

All in all, a surprising and excellent story. (4 stars)"

2. Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves.
"Telling Tales is the second Inspector Vera Stanhope mystery by Ann Cleeves. I had read The Crow Trap a couple of years ago and enjoyed very much, then got sidetracked by her Shetland series. Everything I've read by Ann Cleeves so far, I've enjoyed very much.

Telling Tales revisits a 10-year old murder after the woman convicted of the crime kills herself in prison and after a new witness comes up clearing her of the murder. Vera Stanhope is assigned to go to the Yorkshire village of Elvet to re-open the investigation. Another murder takes place while Vera is there, begging the question if this murder is related to the previous.

The new investigation brings back old bad memories to the community of Elvet, some that they would rather forget. I liked how the story is presented. Vera is an ever-present character, along with her Sgt Ashworth, who assists with the investigation. But the story is also told from other perspectives, those of the town folk proper and this adds a nice touch.

All in all, I enjoyed this immensely and I'm glad that I've finally revisited the Vera series. (4 stars)"

1. The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout.
"Rex Stout is another of those authors that I have come to late in my reading life. My first experience was with one of his last books, a short story collection, Death Times Three, which I enjoyed quite a bit. I've been trying to find his first book, Fer de Lance (1934) but so far with no luck. But I did find this book, The League of Frightened Men, his second book, originally published in 1935.

From being someone who enjoyed my first experience of the great detective, Nero Wolfe, I now find my self an unabashed fan. This book was excellent, a fascinating, entertaining, great mystery. Nero Wolfe and his partner, Archie Goodwin are a great team and both interesting in their own rights. Wolfe is an oversize detective, basically housebound, whose life, while he works to solve mysteries, is quite regimented. Each morning and each afternoon, he works upstairs in his home, tending his multitude of orchids. While he can be visited, no business is conducted. He settles the remainder of his day, in his office, tending to business.

Archie is his eyes, ears, arms and legs. Archie conducts the investigations, travels around New York and local environs, interviewing, gathering information. He can be Wolfe's strong arm man if necessary. The stories are told in Archie's voice, from his perspective. (Oddly enough, Wolfe does sometime leave his home, this I discovered in this story. But this seems to be a rarity, not the norm)
So this story; a group of men, Harvard classmates have a secret past. While in university, they hazed another classmate and as a result caused him to have severe injuries. Out of guilt, they have banded together to pay medical bills, etc. Now two have died, or maybe been murdered. They think that Paul Chapin is involved and that he plans to kill them all. Wolfe is hired and so the story begins.

I enjoyed so much how the story is presented; small details like how Wolfe decides how to bill each of the different members of the group, and so many other aspects. The story has a surprising menace throughout and the case is so very interesting (even when Archie and Wolfe seem to be grinding their heels trying to get information.) I love Archie's manner of presenting the case, his thoughts on Wolfe; a combination of affection and anger. Great story and now I will have to read the whole series. An excellent story and mystery. Can you figure out the ending? (5 stars!)"

Currently Reading

I'm starting off April with the following books.

1. The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper (Classics)
2. Tender Death by Annette Meyers (Mystery - Sleuths)
3. Ratking by Michael Dibdin (Mystery - Cops)
4. The Wrong End of Time by John Brunner (12 + 4 - Science Fiction)

One final thing. I was pleasantly surprised when thriller writer, T.V. LoCicero from Grosse Pointe, Michigan sent me a review copy of his The Car Bomb. I'm looking forward to reading it and maybe adding a new author to my TBR lists.

"Detroit Nielson king Frank DeFauw hunts down the story of a judge who may be corrupt - and is one of his best friends. Booze, drugs, womanizing and a passion for the news are all part of what makes this brilliant, erratic TV anchor a major player in this deeply troubled city. Finally, Frank decides if digging out the truth about his pal the judge is worth risking his own career, family and life."

There you go. Time to relax a bit with the missus and dogs. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

A Brief Break for Family History

Dad receiving French Legion of Honour
Yesterday, 29 Mar 2017, my father, RĂ©al Dumoulin, received the French Legion of Honour at the Naval Association in North Bay, Ontario, for service during World War II. During the war, he served in the Royal Canadian Navy on the HMCS Iroquois as an Able Seaman.

My Dad, who is now 92, is among 1300 Canadians who have received the award for their aid in helping France's liberation from Nazi Germany during this war. My older brother, Richard, worked very hard over the past couple of years to coordinate the receipt of the award for my father.

Chris, Rick, Dad and Honorary Consul Jean-Charles Cachon
He and my sister, Christine, were in attendance. We're all very proud of my Dad. His time in the war isn't something that he talks about very much, but over the past few years, he's opened up more to share some of remembrances with me when we've chatted.

My Dad, front row centre, as a young sailor
The HMCS Iroquois was launched 23 September 1941. In 1943, the Iroquois was used as a convoy escort for Gibraltar convoys. On 11 Jun, a convoy was attacked by German aircraft in the Bay of Biscay. SS California and SS Duchess of York were both hit and abandoned. The Iroquois rescued 628 survivors from the Duchess of York. I remember my Dad mentioning this and that many years later he was recognised by one of the survivors who he had pulled into his boat for transport back to the ship. (I will readily admit that my memories are sometimes confused, but I'm pretty sure my Dad told me this story during one of our chats.)

The Iroquois was part of a number of convoys to Murmansk Russia that year. When I read the HMS Ulysses by Alistair MacLean, a story about a ship on the Murmansk run, it made me feel closer to my Dad and the experiences he must have had at that time. One of the convoys was used as a lure for German battleship Scharnhorst which was sunk by British forces 26 December. After D-Day, the Iroquois was assigned to carry out patrols of the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay. During this time, she took part in many operations, including Kinetic, whose purpose was to eliminate German warships all along French ports. She took part in three actions including the Battle of Audierne Bay in August 1944, in which they destroyed 8 German ships. Iroquois remained in British waters until the German surrender, being involved in support of Royal Navy action off the coast of Norway.

It was part of Crown Prince Olaf's return to Norway and then sailed to Copenhagen where she was an escort to German cruisers Prince Eugen and Nurnberg until their formal surrender.

Mom and Dad
Dad retired from the Navy after the war and returned to Timmins, Ontario where he worked for awhile in the Hollenger gold mine. He met my mother, Edith Siewert, of Kirkland Lake, Ontario and they were married. He felt that he could better support his family if he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (by then Rick and Chris had been born). The rest, as they say, is history. I've highlighted our lives together in previous BLog reminiscences from the time my Dad was in the Air Force and I was born in North Bay, Ontario in 1955.

Back to the ceremony yesterday, CTV Northern Ontario did a very nice feature on the presentation. I hope you can see the video. If not, there was also a nice article today in the local newspaper, the North Bay Nugget. I'm sure it brought many memories to my Dad of his time in the Navy and of his crew mates.

I'm very proud of my Father and I hope he's not too embarrassed by me writing this. Love you, Dad.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

A Bit of History and March 2017 Book Purchases

Bonnie and Clyde having a nap... sometimes they are quiet.
Today is a typical spring day in the Valley, windy, rainy and mild. The missus and I spent the night trying to get poor Bonnie to relax. Her allergies seem to have flared up and Jo gave her some ear drops just before bed time. That calmed her until about 3:30, then she couldn't relax; she just gets so itchy when they act up. Finally gave her an antihistamine, which, after 30 minutes or so, seemed to help her finally relax. Now we've got her spring allergy meds, which seem to work. *fingers crossed*. Poor little thing. She's now just as you see her in the photo above, curled up in the study with me as I write this. I think Clyde, who rarely seems to get sick, must be upstairs with the missus. :)

So toddling along to my ongoing excerpting of Treasures of Use and Beauty, a Canadian book published back in 1885. In the last entry of Great Historical Events, I stopped in Dec 24, 1492, where Christopher Columbus received aid from natives off the coast of Hayti. So moving along, we finished the 1400's

Great Historical Events

"1493. Columbus leaves Hayti for Spain, leaving behind him a colony of thirty-eight men; March 15. - He arrives in Spain and is received with every mark of gratitude; September 25. - He returns on his second voyage to the West Indies with a larger fleet consisting of seventeen ships and fifteen hundred persons; November 22. - He arrives in Hayti and finds his colony destroyed, but plants another, naming it Isabella.
1494. Columbus suppresses a conspiracy at Hayti and sends the leader to Spain. He discovers gold in large quantities; May 4. - Continuing his voyage among the West Indies he discovers Jamaica and Porto Rico; September 27. - He returns to Hayti and finds his brother Bartholomew whom he had sent to the Court of England in 1481.
1496. June 11. - Columbus learning that enemies in Spain were working his overthrow repaired to court with products of his adventure in gold from the New World, and convinced his patrons of his success and the value of his enterprise.
1497. June 24. - John and Sebastian Cabot, Italians, sent out by Henry VII and discover Labrador and Newfoundland.
1498. May. - Sebastian Cabot sets out upon his second voyage to the New World and explores the coast from the extreme to Florida.
May 30. - After a delay of nearly two years Columbus sails from Spain on his third voyage with ten ships; July 31. - He discovers Trinidad and the Orinoco; August. - He discovers the continent of South America.
1499. May 16. - Americus Vespucius, after whom America is named, sailed from Spain to explore the new world. He follows the course of Columbus."

So there you go, the last entry of the 1400's. Looking ahead, events start happening fast and furious now. The 1500's next.

Letters of Affection

The following is a letter written by John Wesley, an Anglican cleric who founded Methodism. The letter was written in his 70th year to Mrs. Eliza Bennis, Feb. 12, 1773. Her daughter gave the letter to Dr. Wm. Gray of Philadelphia as compensation for medical services. Dr. Gray willed the letter to Julius King of Cleveland, Ohio, and he presented it to Mr. Lou Burt of Detroit Michigan, who had possession of it at the time of its inclusion in this book.

"Feb. 12, 1773

My Dear Sister:

When we draw near unto God in His appointed ways He will surely draw nigh unto us. Pray remind Mr. Glasbrook of using the same means and you will find the same blessing, and when you write, encourage Mr. Slater to do at Waterford as he did at Limerick. I am glad Mr. Scott has so much courage as to receive the preachers, and still more so, that Mr. Fleury is rather a friend than an enemy. This hath God wrought!

I can observe by Mrs. Dawson's manner of writing, a very considerable change in her spirit; more acquaintance with God; more humility, and more artless, simple love. She is an amiable woman. I lover her much, and so I do all of the family that I know.

Charles Harrison does not see with my eyes or he need have gone no farther than Athlone. I wish he does not make a foolish bargain at last, one that he will repent of as long as he lives. He surely will if he does not acknowledge God in His way, but lean to his own understanding.

As long as you trust, not in yourself, but in Him that has all power in Heaven and in earth, you will find His Grace sufficient for you and His strength made perfect in your weakness. Look to Him continually and trust on Him, that you may increase with all the increase of God. I am,

My Dear Sister,

Your ever affectionate Brother,

J. Wesley"

March Book Purchases

I've just got a very short list this time. I do have a couple of books on order that have not yet arrived. I'll include them in a future list. So here we go.

1. Gold from Gemini by Jonathan Gash 1978). This is the 2nd book in the Lovejoy mystery series.

"To my mind, making love is a lot like picking blackberries - you need both hands and a lot of skill to do it properly and get away unscathed, yet your mind can be miles away.

When my mind wanders, it's invariably in the direction of an antiques deal, and what could attract an antiques dealer's mind more irresistibly than a trail of clues leading to a treasure trove of Roman gold?

It might have put me off a bit had I known that following the trail would involve violence and murder, but I doubt it would have put me off for long. And when your friends are in the firing line, you have to make sure your enemies get what's coming to them..."

2. Cast, in Order of Disappearance by Simon Brett (1975). I read the 5th book in the Charles Paris mystery series in January and enjoyed it very much. I finally found a copy of the first book and just received it. I'm looking forward to reading this.

"Who killed Marius Steen, the theatrical tycoon with a fortune to leave to his young mistress Jacqui? And who killed Bill Sweet, the shady blackmailer with a supply of compromising photographs? Charles Paris, a middle-aged actor who subsists on booze and women, takes to detection by assuming a variety of roles, among them that of a Scotland Yard Detective-Sergeant ... and the results are both very funny and highly dramatic."

3. The Forgotten Legion by Ben Kane (2008). I've had the 2nd book in this trilogy for ages and haven't been able to find the first so I could finally read it. As luck would have it, I finally found a copy. Oh the excitement!

"Tarquinius, Etruscan warrior and soothsayer, Brennus the Gaul, one of the most feared gladiators in Rome. And Romulus, the boy slave, sold to gladiator school, but dreaming of vengeance for himself and for his twin sister, Fabiola.

Fabiola, sold into prostitution at thirteen, loved by the second most powerful man in the Republic, driven by hatred for the unknown father who raped her mother.

Their destiny is bound and interwoven in an odyssey which begins in a Rome riven by political corruption and violence, but ends far away, at the very border of the known world, where the tattered remnants of a once-huge Roman army - the Forgotten Legion - will fight against overwhelming odds, and the three men will meet their destiny."

4. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (1968). Another book I've been looking for, for awhile. My local book store, The Laughing Oyster, had a copy.

"The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived alone... so she ventured out from the safety of the enchanted forest on a quest for others of her kind. Joined along the way by the bumbling magician Schmendrick and the indomitable Molly Grue, the unicorn learns all about the joys and sorrows of life and love before meeting her destiny in the castle of a despondent monarch - and confronting the creature that would drive her kind to extinction."

5. Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh (1939). This is the 9th book in the Inspector Roderick Alleyn mystery series. I've enjoyed every one so far. They seem to get better as the stories develop.

"At the Plume of Feathers in south Devon on midsummer evening, eight people are gathered together in the tap-room. They are in the habit of playing darts, but on this occasion an experiment takes the place of the usual game - a gruesomely fatal experiment which calls for investigation.

A distinguished painter, a celebrated actor, a woman graduate, a plump lady from County Clare, and a Devonshire farmer all play their parts in the unravelling of the problem."

There you go. As I said, not too many this time. Next entry might not be for a couple of days as I wind up my March reading. We'll see though. Have a great safe week!

Monday, 27 March 2017

A Bit of History and Currently Reading

Continuing my perusal of Treasures of Use and Beauty, the Great Historical Events portion, I move now in the 1400's. One of the most famous personalities of this period, especially in respect to the Americas is the one and only, Christopher Columbus. The majority of entries in this book relating to this century feature Columbus. I'll probably provide two entries for the 1400s as it is a bigger entry than the preceding ones. So here you go, the 1400s

"1447. Christopher Columbus is born at Genoa - exact date disputed
1461. He goes to sea at the age of fourteen - his first voyage on the Mediterranean
1467. At the age of twenty he visits Iceland and the Northern Seas
1470 - 74. He conceived the idea that by sailing west he would reach the East Indies - that continent must lie in that direction
1471. He applies to the Senate of Genoa and the courts of Portugal, Spain and England for aid. He is refused.
1492. April 17. - Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain grant him a commission. Isabella fitting out the expedition at her own expense; August 3. - He sails from the port of Palos with three small vessels and ninety men; August 13. - He arrives at the Canary Islands; September 6. - He left the Canaries, and, when out of sight of land his men become dejected and beg of him to return. He encourages them and restores confidence; October 1. - Not having discovered land his officers and crew threaten mutiny, but with great effort he quiets them; October 12. - Land discovered, when his men prostrate themselves at the feet of Columbus and beg his forgiveness. On landing he finds the shores lined with naked inhabitants. Columbus named this island San Salvador, and continued his voyage in search of gold; October 28 - He discovers Cuba and numerous other small islands, all of which are inhabited, and fins small quantities of gold; December 6 - Columbus sailed eastward; December 24 - One of his vessels is lost in a storm off the coast of Hayti. The natives assist him in landing and treat him with kindness..."

I'll continue with the 1400`s in my next post. More excitement from Columbus and other famous explorers.

Letters of Affection

As I've been reading through these letters from historical personalities, I have been thinking of our daily news coverage of the current President of the US and his proclivities toward Twitter usage and the thought of future generations reading them to get a perspective of our time, makes me shudder. People knew how to correspond back then, how to write letters, to put two sentences together without making one cringe. Maybe 45 would learn something by reading some of the letters and correspondence from his earlier predecessors in the Presidential office. I doubt it though. Anyway, I shouldn't rant, it wouldn't achieve anything but some minor self-satisfaction. :)

So today, I present an extract of a letter from then Gen. George Washington to Miss Nellie Custis (his step-daughter), providing some advice in selecting a husband.

"Men and women feel the same inclination towards each other now that they have always done, and which they will continue to do, until there is a new order of things; and you, as others have done, may find that the passions of your sex are easier raised than allayed. Do not, therefore, boast too soon, nor too strongly of your insensibility. * * Love is said to be an involuntary passion, and it is, therefore, contended that it cannot be resisted. This is true in part only, for like all things else, when nourished and supplied plentifully with aliment, it is rapid in its progress; but let these be withdrawn, and it may be stifled in its growth. Although we cannot avoid first impressions, we may assuredly place them under guard. * * When the fire is beginning to kindle and your heart growing warm, propound these questions to it. Who is this invader? Have I a competent knowledge of him? Is he a man of good character? A man of sense? For, be assured sensible woman can never be happy with a fool. What has been his walk of life? * * * Is his fortune sufficient to maintain me in the manner I have been accustomed to live, and as my sisters do live? And is he one to whom my friends can have no reasonable objection? If all these interrogatories can be satisfactorily answered, there will remain but one more to be asked; that, however, is an important one. Have I sufficient ground to conclude that his affections are engaged by me? Without this the heart of sensibility will struggle against a passion that is not reciprocated.

Yours affectionately

George Washington."

As a matter of interest, Nellie married Washington's nephew, Lawrence Lewis, in 1799. Throughout her life she regarded herself as a preserver of George Washington's legacy.

Currently Reading

As always, I have 4 books on the go. I hope to finish one more before the end of March, that being Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves. This is the second book in the Vera Stanhope mystery series. The Crow Trap was the first and most enjoyable. I'm about 1/3 of the way through this second book and, like the first, I'm enjoying the story, the characters and the way that Cleeves develops her plot.

2. The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper. I have started this already but haven't made quite as much progress as I'd have liked, but I have been focusing on one book at a time to finish some off by month's end. This was Cooper's last book in the Leatherstocking series, written in 1841, but, in order of the adventures of Natty Bumpo, The Deerslayer, it is the introduction to his story. I'm enjoying what I've read so far, very much. It's nicely accessible for a book written almost two centuries ago.

3. The Wrong End of Time by John Brunner. This is the 2nd last book in my 12 + 4 Science Fiction challenge.

"The time is the future. The place, an America so isolated by fear (hmmmm) that it is cut off from the rest of the world by a massive defence system. Into this armed, barricaded state comes a young Russian scientist bearing a strange - and almost unbelievable story.

Superior, intelligent life - of a far higher order than any on earth - has been detected near the planet Pluto. Immune themselves by virtue of their far greater intelligence, these Aliens are about to destroy the planet Earth."

4. Tender Death by Annette Meyer. Back a few years, I read Free Love, a detective mystery by Annette Meyers and enjoyed very much. I bought this book shortly afterwards and unfortunately it has sat on my bookshelves for about 7 years or so. This is the 2nd book in the Smith and Wetzon mystery series.

"Xenia Smith and Leslie Wetzon. "Executive search specialists." Boardroom detectives. They seek out Wall Street's top guns and steal them away from their employers. They're headhunters - and they go for the big game.

When a wealthy Fifth Avenue widow takes a walk out of her twentieth-story window, Wetzon suspects that the old lady's Russian immigrant nurse may have given her a nudge. And Peepsie Cunningham's death is just the tip of the iceberg. Soon the body count is rising faster than the Dow Jones average, as Wetzon struggles to uncover a billion-dollar scandal in the booming home health-care business - a scandal that somehow involves Wetzon's own partner... in a scam that could get two experienced headhunters killed.

Next up will be my March purchases and then my monthly summary. Have a great week!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

A Bit of History and 2017 Reading Group Challenges

Continuing my perusal of Treasures of Use and Beauty, I move on to the 1100's in the Section entitled Great Historical Events. Clearly as I look at this period of North America's history, the original inhabitants were living relatively peaceful lives, uninterrupted by explorers that would begin hitting their shores and disrupting their lives in future centuries. There is one entry for the 1100's;

1170 - A Welch (as it is spelled in the book) prince, named Madoc, supposed to have discovered America.

(Next entry will cover the 1400's)

Letters of Affection

I had posted some correspondence between Napoleon and Josephine in my previous posts. This next letter was written Feb 8, 1813, from Andrew Jackson's wife to Andrew, himself.

"My Dear Husband

Your letter of 18th January from the mouth of the Cumberland River came safe to hand. It was everything to  me. I rejoiced, I was happy to hear you were in health. It was my nightly prayer to the Almighty God. My thoughts are forever on thee. Where'er I go, where'er I turn, my thoughts, my fears, my doubts distress me. Then a little my hope revives again, and that keeps me alive. Were it not for that I must sink; I should die in my present situation. But my blessed Redeemer is making intercession with the Father for us to meet again, to restore you to my bosom, where every vein, every pulse beats high for your health, your safety, and your wishes crowned. Do not, my beloved husband, let the love of country, fame and honor make you forget you have one. Without you, I would think them all empty shadows.
May the Almighty God of Heaven shower down His blessings, His mercy on you, assist you in the ways of life, in the ways of righteousness, be your shield in the time of danger, support you in all things and keep you in the paths of wisdom, - the ways thereof is peace afar. Well, think on me, your dearest friend on earth.

Rachel Jackson"

(I believe Mrs. Jackson loved her hubby. :))

2017 Reading Group Challenges

 I've progressed very nicely with my 12 + 4 Reading Group challenge. I've read all but the final 2 Alternates. I'm about to start The Wrong End of Time by John Brunner next. Since it's so early in the year, I've been going through my book lists to see what books I might pick for a follow-on 12 + 4 challenge for the 2nd half of the year. At the moment, I've got two in mind. I'll pick one or the other when I finish my last book in this challenge.

Option 1 - Continuing my Science Fiction book challenge

 My current challenge features Science Fiction novels, my oldest published to one of the more current. If I decided to continue with Science Fiction books. This time I thought what I would do is make a Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror challenge, with 6 fantasies, 5 Science Fiction and 5 Horror books. These are the books I've tentatively picked if I go with this challenge. (If I go with the other, I would read these anyway in my Individual challenges.


1. All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris. This is one of the Sookie Stackhouse series.

2. King Kull by Robert E. Howard. I've read all of the Conan books by Howard. I thought it would be worthwhile to try one of his other series.

3. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I got this book for Christmas a few years back and have heard very good things about it.

4. Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I enjoyed the movie very much. I've also enjoyed other books by Gaiman.

5. Summer Knight by Jim Butcher. The Dresden Files is one of my favourite fantasy series. This is the 4th book in the series.

6. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I have previously read Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series a couple of times and enjoyed very much. I've avoided the Tarzan books, for some reason, but I'm looking forward to starting the first one.

Science Fiction

1. Concrete Island by J.G. Ballard. I've read quite of few of Ballard's unique views of Science Fiction. This is one of two or three awaiting my attention on my book shelves.

2. The Kingdom of the Cats by Phillis Gotlieb. Canadian writer has become a favourite Science Fiction writer of mine. The Cats series are especially fun reads.

3. Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks. The Culture series is one of the great Science Fiction series. I've read 3 or 4 so far and enjoyed them all.

4. Venus on a Half Shell by Kilgore Trout. Trout was a character in books by Kurt Vonnegut, supposedly based on his friend Theodore Sturgeon. This book was written by Phillip Jose Farmer using the pseudonym of Trout. Interesting eh? I hope the book is as well.

5. The Warlord of the Air by Michael Moorcock. I read this many years ago and just want to see if it's as good as I remember it.


1. Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton. It's been a few years since I picked up an Anita Blake horror adventure. At one time I used to read one after the other. I think when you've got to wait for a couple of years for the next one that your patience is tested somewhat. At least in my case anyway.

2. Cold Streets by P.N. Elrod. I've read three or four books in The Vampire Files. It's a combination hard boiled detective story / vampire story, set in Chicago during Al Capone's time there. A neat concept and interesting stories so far.

3. Someone Like You by Roald Dahl. This is a collection of horror short stories by a talented writer. I've read others and enjoyed.

4. Forever Odd by Dean Koontz. Forever Odd is the 2nd book in the Odd Thomas series. I read the first one last year and was very impressed. I hope this sequel is as good.

5. Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry. Super zombies... woo hoo!! I read the first book in another Maberry's series a couple of years ago and liked his style. This one sounds cool.

Option 2

I'm leaning toward Option 2 for my next challenge. This challenge would be books published between 1900 and 1950, including 1950. As well, I vetted against how long I've had the books on my shelves. The 16 books below have been waiting my attention for a very long time.

1. Night Walk by Elizabeth Daly (1947). This is one of the Henry Gamadge mystery series.

2. Death and Letters by Elizabeth Daly (1950). Another of the Gamadge books.

3. A Wreath for Rivera by Ngaio Marsh (1940). Another of the classic mystery writers, Marsh wrote one of my favourite mystery series, that featuring Inspector Alleyn. I usually try to read one or two a year.

4. Most Secret by Nevil Shute (1945). Some of my favourite books of all time have been written by Shute; On the Beach, Pied Piper and The Far Country. I've been collecting his books for awhile now; I'd like to read everything he's written eventually.

5. Maigret in Exile by Georges Simenon (1940). Simenon wrote so many of the Inspector Maigret books. I've enjoyed the ones I've read so far.

6. Maigret Meets a Milord (1931). An earlier Maigret mystery.

7. To Love and Be Wise by Josephine Tey (1950). Josephine Tey was one of the female mystery writers who made up the golden age; Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, etc. She wrote the Inspector Grant mysteries.

8. The Chequer Board by Nevil Shute (1945). Another of Shute's war period books. I am really looking forward to catching up on his stories.

9. The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1905). A self-explanatory book. The continuing adventures of one of the world's most famous sleuths.

10. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1902). One of Holme's most famous cases.

11. The Commodore by C.S. Forester (1945). Forester has written so many excellent stories; the Hornblower adventures, mysteries and many excellent war stories. I'll get a chance to read a few of his books if I do this challenge.

12. The Happy Return by C.S. Forester (1937). The continuing adventures of the intrepid Horatio Hornblower.

13. Blondie and Dagwood's Secret Service by Chick Young (1942). This is a bit of fluff that I found many years ago in an antique store. Based on the comic serial that used to show up in the daily newspapers.

14. The Isle of Sheep by John Buchan (1936). This is the 4th book in the John Hannay adventure series that started with The 39 Steps.

15. A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene (1936). Besides Nevil Shute, I hope to eventually find and read all of Greene's stories. I've enjoyed all of Greene's books so far whether fiction or non-fiction.

16. The African Queen by C.S. Forester (1935). My 3rd Forester book in this challenge, this was also a classic movie.

So there you go, my two options for my next 12 + 4 challenge. Of course, I've still got to finish my first one.. Take care.
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