Saturday, 27 January 2018

A Few New Purchases

Canadian Nationals - Dance Champions 2018
In one of my last posts, I mentioned the lovely weekend that Jo and I had in Vancouver attending the Canadian National Dance Championships. This was to determine the skaters who would be attending the upcoming Olympics in South Korea.

Pairs Champions
We had a fantastic time. The venue was excellent and even the food was pretty darn good. It was neat to see performers such as Patrick Chan, Duhamel and Radford and Virtue and Moir who were probably participating in their final Canadian nationals. Bittersweet somewhat. The missus was in tears many times over the weekend.

Shae-Lynne Bourne in the stands
It was also neat just checking out the people in the stands; like some favorites like Jeffrey Buttle and Shae-Lynn Bourne who also acted as host of the event.

All in all it was a great weekend. We may check out the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver next December.... depending if there are any Canadians in it, that is. :0)

We had a bit of a surprise this morning. It wasn't forecast but overnight we had a big dumping of snow. Of course, it stopped mid-morning and the sun has come out. It's done a pretty good job of getting rid of most of it. Yay!

New Books

I found a few new books when I went out on Thursday, making the rounds of the local Little Free Libraries and Nearly New Books.

1. C.J. Box - Endangered.  Box is a new author for me. He writes the Joe Pickett mystery series, amongst others.

"Joe Pickett had good reason to dislike Dallas Cates, and now he has even more—Joe’s eighteen-year-old daughter, April, has run off with him. And then comes even worse news: She has been found in a ditch along the highway—alive, but just barely, the victim of blunt force trauma. Cates denies having anything to do with it, but Joe knows in his gut who’s responsible. What he doesn’t know is the kind of danger he’s about to encounter. Cates is bad enough, but Cates’s family is like none Joe has ever met."

2. Ken Bruen - The Magdalen Martyrs. This is the 3rd book in the Jack Taylor mystery series. 

Jack Taylor is walking the delicate edge of a sobriety he doesn't trust when his phone rings. He's in debt to a Galway tough named Bill Cassell, what the locals call a "hard man." Bill did Jack a big favor a while back; the trouble is, he never lets a favor go unreturned.
Jack is amazed when Cassell simply asks him to track down a woman, now either dead or very old, who long ago helped his mother escape from the notorious Magdalen laundry, where young wayward girls were imprisoned and abused. Jack doesn't like the odds of finding the woman, but counts himself lucky that the task is at least on the right side of the law.
Until he spends a few days spinning his wheels and is dragged in front of Cassell for a quick reminder of his priorities. Bill's goons do a little spinning of their own, playing a game of Russian roulette a little too close to the back of Jack's head. It's only blind luck and the mercy of a god he no longer trusts that land Jack back on the street rather than face down in a cellar with a bullet in his skull. He's got one chance to stay alive: find this woman.
Unfortunately, he can't escape his own curiosity, and an unnerving hunch quickly turns into a solid fact: just who Jack's looking for, and why, aren't nearly what they seem."

3. Stephen King - End of Watch. This is the 3rd book in King's Bill Hodges' series. I haven't read the first two; Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers so I might have to start with them.

"For nearly six years, in Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, Brady Hartsfield has been in a persistent vegetative state. A complete recovery seems unlikely for the insane perpetrator of the “Mercedes Massacre,” in which eight people were killed and many more maimed for life. But behind the vacant stare, Brady is very much awake and aware, having been pumped full of experimental drugs . . . scheming, biding his time as he trains himself to take full advantage of the deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room. Brady Hartsfield is about to embark on a new reign of terror against thousands of innocents, hell bent on taking revenge against anyone who crossed his path—with retired police detective Bill Hodges at the very top of that long list..."

4. Orson Scott Card - Children of the Mind. This is the 4th book in the Ender's science fiction series. 

"The planet Lusitania is home to three sentient species: the Pequeninos; a large colony of humans; and the Hive Queen, brought there by Ender. But once again the human race has grown fearful; the Starways Congress has gathered a fleet to destroy Lusitania.Jane, the evolved computer intelliegence, can save the three sentient races of Lusitania. She has learned how to move ships outside the universe, and then instantly back to a different world, abolishing the light-speed limit. But It takes all the processing power available to her, and the Starways Congress is shutting down the Net, world by world. Soon Jane will not be able to move the ships. Ender’s children must save her if they are to save themselves."

5. Kerry Greenwood - Raisins and Almonds. This is the 9th book in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher mystery series. 

"In investigating the poisoning of a young man in a bookshop at the Eastern Market, and the wrongful arrest of one Miss Sylvia Lee, Phryne Fisher is plunged into another exciting adventure. Stopping only for a brief, but intensely erotic, dalliance with the beautiful Simon Abrahams Phryne picks her way through the mystery with help from the old faithfuls - Bert, Cec, Dot and Detective Inspector 'Call Me Jack' Robinson. But ultimately it is her stealth and wit which solve the crime - and all for the price of a song."

So there you go. At the moment, Jo and I are watching the first round of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Curling for those of you who might not know what it is. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Mid January 2018 Update

We've been building an ark out in the back yard the past few days... (just kidding of course). But it's been very rainy and windy since the missus and I returned from our excellent weekend in Vancouver. There is a duck pond just down the road from our house and it connects to a farmer's field where he lets his dairy cows graze. When the pups and I went for our noon walk today (thankfully, it's sunny and fresh for a change), I could see that the pond has expanded by about 4 times its normal length. I'm sure the ducks like it but the cows won't be too happy.

Last weekend, as I mentioned, Jo and I went to Vancouver to watch the Canadian National Figure Skating championships, held at University of British Columbia. It was a great weekend. This was our first time staying in an Air B&B place and it was excellent; a comfortable basement flat very near to the event. We brought food for the first couple of nights but went out the last two; a nice Italian restaurant and an equally nice Greek restaurant. The figure skating was fantastic; brought Jo to tears a few times. It was probably our last opportunity to see some of our favorites live; Duhamel & Radford, Virtue & Moir, Patric Chan, etc. It was an excellent mix of veteran skaters and up-and-comers. Even the gala on Sunday was super; just an excellent afternoon. We picked up the puppies at the kennel Monday afternoon; they were so dirty and tired. LOL! It's been nice to be back home I must say; fun to go away for a couple of days but great to get back out home stomping grounds.

Finished Reading

I've finished two more books since my last update. It's been somewhat slow but I'm enjoying all my books. Below are my latest two books with reviews.

1. Mrs. Pargeter's Package by Simon Brett. This was my first book in Brett's Mrs. Pargeter mysteries. I didn't have copies of the first two books so started with #3. I don't think it affected my enjoyment. My review is below.

"I've read books from other series by Simon Brett; 3 of the Fethering books and one of the Charles Paris books. I enjoyed both series so have been looking to try the Mrs. Pargeter mysteries and have just finished the third book in the series, Mrs. Pargeter's Package. Overall, I preferred the other series but I still liked this book. It was cozy, light and entertaining.
Melita Pargeter is a 60ish widow. Her husband was a successful businessman, some of his methods may have been less than legal. But he also had many friends and it seems that they feel an obligation to support Melita due to their working with her hubbie.
Melita is taking a trip to Corfu, the Greek Island, with a friend, Joyce, who is trying to get over the death of her husband. There is a mystery here. Joyce is looking for something in Corfu and she ends up dead. The local police officer says it was suicide but after looking the situation over, Melita feels that it was murder.
With the help of Larry Lambeth, a fellow pretty good at forgery, Melita searches for clues to Joyce's death. Back in London, detective Truffler Mason and wheeler dealer Hamish Ramon Henriques (HRH), help Mrs. Pargeter look into deaths and other clues that might help.
It wasn't a complex story but it moved along nicely and it kept me interested. Call it light and fluffy and a fun read. (3 stars)"

2. Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham. I've read and enjoyed a few of Maugham's works. I read this as part of my 2018 12 + 4 Challenge, recommended by one of my Goodreads' compatriots, Bob.

"I've previously read 3 other books by English author W. Somerset Maugham; The Razor's Edge (5 stars), The Moon and Sixpence (5 stars) and Ashenden (4 stars) and as you can see I've enjoyed them all. The Razor's Edge in particular was one of my favourite books of all-time. It is that book that got me so interested in reading more of Maugham's works. Cakes and Ale: Or, The Skeleton in the Cupboard was recommended to me by one of my Goodread friends. (Thanks Bob.)
So the book... The story is purportedly a story about an acquaintance, author Edward Driffield, of the narrator, William Ashenden, another writer. In fact, it is more about the writer's first wife, barmaid Rosie. The reason for Ashenden telling this story is that another writer and acquaintance, Alroy Kear, has been requested to write a biography of Driffield, now deceased, by Driffield's second wife. Kear knows that Ashenden met Driffield as a young boy and later as a young man and he wants Ashenden's assistance in getting a feel for Driffield's earlier years as a writer.
This request causes Ashenden to cast back into his life and to his early memories of Driffield and also of Rosie. It's an interesting tale. We get a great perspective of his small town of Blackstable, the snobbery of his uncle and aunt towards Driffield and his wife, etc. We do get to meet Driffield but the author's first person account focuses more on Rosie, understandable because she is a memorable character; good-hearted, fresh, humorous, attractive. There are many interesting incidents; the midnight move from Barnstable by Driffield and Rosie leaving behind many unpaid debts; Rosie's relationship with 'Lord' George, Ashenden's later relationship with Rosie, etc.
I do like Maugham's writing style; it seems unemotional and factual at times but there is an underlying feeling throughout, evidenced by his attraction and feelings for Rosie; his defense of Rosie later in the book. It's a joy to read his thoughts on writing and just to delve into the story itself. I find it interesting that he uses the character 'Ashenden' in this story and also in others; Razor's Edge, Ashenden itself. I also liked his first person style of story telling, it makes it more personal. Excellent story and well-worth reading. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

With my two longer term stories, I've also started the two books below. Enjoying both so far. The synopsis of both books are below the photo.

1. Wings of Fire by Charles Todd. This is book two of Todd's Inspector Rutledge mystery series. It is part of my Ongoing Series challenge.

"Inspector Ian Rutledge is quickly sent to investigate the sudden deaths of three members of the same eminent Cornwall family, but the World War I veteran soon realizes that nothing about this case is routine.
Including the identity of one of the dead, a reclusive spinster unmasked as O.A. Manning, whose war poetry helped Rutledge retain his grasp on sanity in the trenches of France. Guided by the voice of Hamish, the Scot he unwillingly executed on the battlefield, Rutledge is driven to uncover the haunting truths of murder and madness rooted in a family crypt..."

2. Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carré. This is a selection from my Decades Challenge.

"At a time when Britain is in the depths of a recession, a left-leaning young Oxford academic and his barrister girlfriend take an off-peak holiday on the Caribbean island of Antigua. By seeming chance they bump into a charismatic Russian millionaire called Dima who owns a peninsula and a diamond-encrusted gold watch. He also has a tattoo on his right thumb, and wants a game of tennis. What else he wants propels the young lovers on a perilous journey through Paris to a safe house in the Swiss Alps, leading them into the murky cloisters of the City of London and its dark dealings with rogue elements of Britain's Intelligence Establishment and the Russian mafia."

I'm hoping that in the last ten days of the month to read another two, maybe 3 books. We shall see.. Enjoy your week!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

And So 2018 Moves Along; Books Read, Books Started and Even Some New Arrivals

Well, here it is, January 9th. Our snow is pretty well gone; we've had our first rain falls and I'm progressing with my 2018 challenges. I've also had a few books arrive in the mail and also purchased a couple at my local used book store. So, all in all, a normal, nice start to 2018. All is well in the valley. So with that preamble out of the way, below are reviews of the first 3 books I've finished in 2018, what I'm currently reading and a look at the new books being added to my book shelf.

Just Finished

1. Banquets of the Black Widowers by Isaac Asimov. This book came from my new series challenge. It's one of a series of mysteries, collections of short stories about a group of men who meet monthly to solve mysteries.

"I've read many of Isaac Asimov's science fiction books; the Foundation and Empire trilogy, the robot books, Fantastic Voyage, etc. He was such a good story teller. It's been many years since I last read one of his books and recently I discovered this mystery series; the Black Widowers and I bought one of them; Banquets of the Black Widowers.
The Black Widowers are a group of six gentlemen who meet on a monthly basis for a dinner and drinks and then to interrogate a visitor about a mystery in their life. They are ably assisted by their waiter, Henry, maybe the smartest member of the group.
The collection of short stories are gentle and cozy. They follow the same formula for the most part. In each one, one of the members is the host of a visitor; they chat and have dinner and then while they relax over drinks afterward, they interrogate the visitor. Even their interrogation starts off in a similar fashion; first the member must justify their lives and then they tell a story that has troubled them while the members try to offer a solution that might help the person.
There is no violent crime just incidents in their lives that they need help either remembering or rationalizing. The six widowers are middle-aged or older, curmudgeonly and interesting. Their waiter Henry serves and observes and is the voice of final solution, deferred to by the others. I enjoyed this collection very much and will search for the others. Excellent concept. (3 stars)"

2. The Pyx by John Buell. I bought this book because I'd seen the movie starring Karen Black many years ago and enjoyed it. This book fit into my Canadian Lit challenge.

"When I saw this book, The Pyx by John Buell I was interested to read it because I had enjoyed the movie based on it very much. It was an easy read but unfortunately didn't live up to the enjoyment I'd felt from the movie.
The story is presented in an interesting fashion. It starts with a possible suicide of a prostitute (falling from a high-rise building to her death) and the investigation by a Montreal police detective. The story wanders from the past, Elizabeth Lucy's weeks leading up to her death, and the present, Ferguson's investigation into the death.
The portion with Elizabeth is often rambling, with Elizabeth's thoughts. She is an addict and this impacts how she thinks. This all builds up to her final climactic scene in the apartment. The detective travels through her life in a much more rational way and has his own climactic scene.
The movie had more detail and implied devil worship. (The Pyx is the holder of the holy host and is used in black masses). The book intimates this but in a much less clear fashion and I'm not sure I would have known if I hadn't seen the movie. All in all, still an interesting book with a moody atmosphere. Glad I read. (3 stars)"

3. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. This book came from my 12 + 4 challenge. I had asked 8 Goodread friends to recommend books from my reading list and this was one of them. Thanks to Alissa for the recommendation. It was most enjoyable.

"The Winter People by Jennifer  McMahon was a total surprise; a nice surprise I must say. I went in to it with no expectations. I thought it was a basic mystery but was I in for a surprise!
Ruthie comes home one night from a date and discovers that her mother Alice is not home and that her sister Fawn has been left alone. This begins a search through their farmhouse in Vermont to discover clues to what might have happened. As well, we meet Katherine, a woman newly moved to West Hall, Vermont, searching for clues as to why her dead husband, killed in a car crash, lied to her in his last days and went to this town.
We also journey to the past, through journals discovered by both Ruthie and Katherine and also to the thoughts of Sara Harrison, who also lived in this farm house in the early 1900's. Sara has lost two children and reels with despair and loss. She blames her husband, Martin. She looks for mystical ways to get her daughter, Gertie, back and also to find out how she died.
At this point, the story veers from mystery to 'horror' and creepy. Who is this Auntie who has inserted herself into Sara's life upon the death of her mother? What are all of the things that Ruthie finds throughout the house as she searches for clues to her mother's disappearance; wallets, a hand gun, a backpack, etc? How about the tales of The Winter People dead spirits that have been seen wandering the woods and through the town streets? What about the disappearances that have taken place over the decades?
It's a fascinating story, with reminders of HP Lovecraft and Stephen King, esp It and Pet Sematary. I was drawn to the story. It was so well written and moved along between Ruthie, Katherine and Sara very nicely, in such a way to make the story so very interesting. And the ending was a nice surprise and satisfying. Loved it. Always so nice to read a book that just takes you by surprise. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

My current reading list includes two books I've previously mentioned; Adam Bede by George Eliot and Order in Chaos by Jack Whyte. My synopses of them both can be found here. I have just started the below two books.

1. Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham. This is one of my 12 + 4 challenge books. It was recommended by Bob. I've read three other books by Maugham and enjoyed them all, especially The Razor's Edge. The synopsis is below -

"Of all Somerset Maugham's novels, Cakes and Ale is the gayest. The entrancing character of Rosie, a barmaid with a history and a heart of gold, places the book, as creative literature, on a level with Of Human Bondage.
Rosie, in less decorous days, had been married to a famous author whose second wife later nursed him into the position of Grand Old Man of English Letters. Some have professed to see a likeness to Thomas Hardy in Edward Driffield, and to Hugh Walpole in Alroy Kear, the ambitious but untalented biographer. Maugham, however, denied any such connection."

2. Mrs. Pargeter's Package by Simon Brett. This is a new series for me even if I'm starting at #3. I've started Brett's two other series; Charles Paris and the Fethering mysteries and enjoyed them both. I hope this is as entertaining.

"Mrs. Pargeter had not reached the indomitable age of sixty-something by neglecting her friends. Even if two weeks in Corfu was probably just about as far as she was prepared to go.
Joyce Dover had recently lost her husband. She needed the company. Yet the hot sunshine soon revealed an unsuspected dark side to the widow.
For Joyce Dover came to Agios Nikitas to die. Bu, wondered Mrs. Pargeter, was it really suicide? Or murder?"

New Books

I bought two books at Nearly New Books on the weekend when I dropped off a couple for trade-in and then today, I received two books in the mail, one from the Victoria Bookshop and one from Awesome Books, both in the UK. These are the new books.

Nearly New Books

1. Hickory Dickory Dock by Agatha Christie. This is one of Hercule Poirot's mysteries.

"Mrs. Nicoletis runs a students' hostel. Grasping and sly, she is about to become a very frightened woman.
Celia Austin is a nice enough girl - if mildly kleptomaniac. Love is doing wonders for her.
Miss Lemon is a secretary. She functions like a formidable machine - never ill, never tired, never inaccurate.
So when Hercule Poirot finds three mistakes in one of her letters, he knows something is amiss. Then comes murder number one..."

2. A Siege of Bitterns by Steve Burrows. This is a new series for me. It sounded interesting enough to give it a shot.

"Inspector Domenic Jejeune's success has made him a poster boy for the U.K. police service. The problem is Jejeune doesn't really want to be a detective at all; he much prefers watching birds.
Newly posted to the small Norfolk town of Saltmarsh, in the heart of Britain's premier birding country, Jejeune's two two worlds collide as he investigates the grisly murder of a prominent ecological activist. His ambitious superintendent foresees a blaze of welcome publicity, but she and others begin to have their doubt when Jejeune's most promising theory involves a feud over bird-watching lists. A second murder only complicates matters.
Everyone in town seems to have something to hide. But to expose the secrets of others, Jejeune will first have to face his own inner demons. In the case of the Saltmarsh murders, the victims may not be the only casualties."

Awesome Books

3. The Haunting of Toby Jugg by Dennis Wheatley. I've been interested in trying Wheatley's work. He was a prolific writer in adventure and horror.

"The devastation of the Second World War continues. In a castle in Wales a crippled pilot fighter pilot struggles to regain his strength. And to preserve his sanity.
Toby Jugg's courage in the air ha won him a D.F.C. But now he faces the most terrifying challenge of his life.
For in the quiet corridors of Llanferdrack House a ghastly conspiracy is moving towards its climax. A conspiracy planned and executed by an enemy as old as Chaos itself..."

4. Under Orion by Janice Law. I've been interested to find something by Law. This is the third book in her Anna Peter's series.

"Anna Peters and a company scientist fly to Germany to buy an oil formula that spells big profits for New World Oil. Anna must determine if the scientist, his go-between and a purported genius in oil chemistry are on the level. She suspects  fraud, at the very least.
The beauty of Germany's magnificent cities and countryside takes on an ominous cast as Anna unravels a tangle of personal and financial obsessions. She's on her own in trying to outmaneuver a tough adversary and to protect a foolish but gifted scientist. The bottom line of New World's latest venture is murder."

Well, there you go. Major Crimes is about to start and supper is almost ready. I hope some of the above books are interesting to some of you. Enjoy the rest of your week.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Some Holiday Photos and some New Books

Our Tree this Year

It's now the second of January 2018. Starting to get back into our usual routine. I went to the gym at the Base (19 Wing Comox) for the first time in 2018 and spent 30 minutes on the running machine. Bought some fresh bread and bananas at Extra Foods and then got the missus a large steeped tea and myself a double/double at Tim Hortons. At the moment, I'm watching footie, jumping between 3 games - Manchester City vs Watford, Southampton vs Crystal Palace and Swansea vs Tottenham, while the dogs relax with Jo upstairs.

We had a very nice, relaxing holiday season, even got some snow. Nothing like some areas get and definitely not the freezing temperatures that they got back East. But for us, it's always a surprise when we get snow and it stays. And it has for the most part. When it does snow we do get a good dump usually.

Xmas is so exhausting!
Anyway, as I said the holidays have been very nice. We've eaten well; Jo has outdone herself as always. We had a fantastic Xmas dinner and then some really super meals all week. No wonder I needed to get to the gym today. I've got to keep my chubby figure, don't you know.

Bonnie and Clyde have had a good time, well, why wouldn't they! They are spoiled rotten. They had so much fun on Xmas day, as you can see from the video above. Clyde loves nothing more than to tear apart a piece of paper. Bonnie prefers to eat it. No wonder they were so tired. LOL!

In my last BLog entry, I listed the four books I was starting off the year with. I'm enjoying so far, each is unique in its own right. A couple, Adam Bede by George Eliot and Order in Chaos by Jack Whyte are quite long but I'm enjoying how they've started so far. I think I've chosen four good books to read.

New Books

I received three books from Awesome Books in the UK just after Xmas. They are all parts of series I've been enjoying.

1. Gideon's Week by J.J. Marric. I've read two in this series so far and have enjoyed. They remind of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct books, basically excellent police procedurals.

"Commander George Gideon of the Yard - his life is a tough one, with the activities of the London police his responsibility; and the week that we share with him here is no exception.
He has two big headaches - an escaped convict swearing vengeance on his wife and an innocent-looking young boy accused of murder - as well as the usual minor ailments, like burglaries and smash-and-grabs. The pressures crowd in as Gideon strives to allow London to sleep safely."

2. Wycliffe and the School Girls by W.J. Burley. Another favourite of mine. Wycliffe is another police inspector. I always enjoy how he handles a case and the mysteries are always interesting.

"First Debbie Joyce, a cabaret singer, was found strangled. A week later, in the same city, Nurse Elaine Bennett was murdered in the sae way and the alarm went out - a psychopathic killer is on the loose.
But Wycliffe was not convinced. Slowly he dug into the past of the murdered girls - a past that took him back to a school holiday and the persecution of one particular child by 'the group'. Was someone working off an old revenge - and how many more women would die because of a cruel schoolgirl joke?"

3. So Much Blood by Simon Brett. I've only read one of the Charles Paris mysteries so far and enjoyed. I've also read 3 or 4 of his Fethering mysteries and enjoyed them. They are nice light, cozy mysteries for the most part.

"Edinburgh and the Festival form both the background and the foreground to this lively whodunit. Charles Paris is flitting between a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, a 'mixed-media satire', a late-night revue, and his own one-man show on Thomas Hood when a fading pop star is murdered, there is a bomb scare in Holyrood Palace, and someone make a suicide leap from the top of the Rock.."

They've been added to my 2018 Challenge spreadsheet.

So there you go, 2018 is officially started and progressing nicely. I hope everybody has a great year!
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