Forgotten Book: Samsara by John Hamilton Lewis

this is the 232nd in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

samsara-john-hamilton-lewis-hardcover-cover-artSamsara by John Hamilton Lewis, Durbin House, 2002 hardcover, historical, 1940-55, Asia/Hong Kong

I’m not terribly fond of books written in little bits and snatches like two page paragraphs, and I’m not terribly fond of books in which the author makes excessive use of flashbacks. This book has both so my reaction is predictable.

The story begins – or would if the author told it from the beginning and straight through – in a Japanese prison camp near the end of World War II and continues to about 1955, during which time the Crown Colony of Hong Kong has become the primary seat of trade and business in that part of the world. Nick Ridley is interred in Changi, a brutal Japanese POW camp. The commandant is Colonel Tetsuro Matashima and a hate builds between these men ending in a fight neither wins. After the dropping of the A-bombs ends the war and Riddley has recovered in a Manila hospital, he buys some surplus C-47 airplanes and starts up an air cargo service in Hong Kong.

What follows is a little confusing, but there is a great deal of trouble as Ridley is the target of revenge by an English businessman over a business deal gone wrong, and by the still living and obsessed Matashima. There isn’t that much mystery in the genre sense here, the book jacket refers to it as “another spellbinding thriller”. I did finish it and it had it’s moments, but more than once I found myself thinking elements of the book were not dissimilar to James Clavell’s Noble House and I’d prefer to be re-reading that.

Posted in Books & Reading, Fiction, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery | 15 Comments

Current Reading: Krueger, Grecian, and some GNs

Vermillion DriftRealizing a new Cork O’Conner novel by William Kent Krueger is coming next month, I thought I’d better see where I was in that series. I’m much further behind that I realized, so I’ve started Vermillion Drift, which is the 10th in the series, leaving me with – once I finish it – five still to go! How could I have let myself get so far behind on a series that I love by one of my very favorite authors?

I’m also reading Mind Changer, an SF novel by James White and a mystery anthology, plus (gasp!) something new just came in. In addition to the Krueger there’s the new Louise Penny coming, and for me she’s a drop-everything-and-read-it author.

The Yard

Barbara finished Henning Mankill’s The Fifth Woman and is reading The Yard by Alex Grecian. From the description, it sounds like one I’d like to read too.

Though last week I said I’m getting tired of a steady diet of graphic novels, and after this week will be slowing down some” I’ve kept at it anyway. I really want to get through the table full of the graphic novels and get them out of the way, whether that means in a box or into the recycle bin. (click to see them larger)

Planetary – All Over the World by Warren Ellis, one of my favorite collections. This is a clever, insightful, original comic that I just loved back in 2000 when this was published. I still do.

Nightwing – Huntress written by Devin Grayson, art by Greg Land. This collects the Cosa Nostra storyline. Nightwing – Big Guns written by Chuck Dixon, art by Greg Land. Nightwing was a favorite for a while during this time (2003). Nightwing – The Hunt For Oracle also written by Chuck Dixon, art by Greg Land. Really strong storyline on this one, it’s another very good one. Robin – Unmasked written by Bill Willingham, art by Rick Mays. In the chronology of Batman and his several sidekicks, this is the third Robin, Tim Drake, who lives with his father and stepmother. His father discovers Tim’s secret and goes ballistic forbidding his son to continue.

You’ll notice a tendency toward DC over Marvel here. I wasn’t a big Marvel fan.

How about you?
What are you reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Mystery | 20 Comments

Forgotten Book: The Virgin In the Ice by Ellis Peters

this is the 231st in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

The Virgin in the Ice by Ellis Peters, © 1982, Fawcett Crest paperback 1984,
5th in Brother Cadfael series

Virgin in the IceI’ve read many of these Cadfael mysteries, so I’m fairly familiar with the characters, location, historical period. Still, I spent some time reading entries in Robin Whiteman’s The Cadfael Companion to refresh my memory on the historical background since I didn’t recall much about historical events in 1139 when Stephen and Maud were fighting for the crown.

It’s a hard winter. Marauding bandits have been making it even harder for those who hold cotsteads away from the towns. Families are murdered, livestock taken or butchered on the spot. With soldiers away defending King Stephen’s claim to the throne, there is little the locals can do in defense of their property or lives.

Cadfael goes in search of a party of nuns and two older children who have gone missing while trying to escape from a city to the south. Rumor has them attempting to reach Shrewsbury but they’ve not arrived. A Brother of the church, badly wounded, may hold the clue to their whereabouts, but he cannot remember anything. While searching, Cadfael finds a young girl frozen in a stream. Who is she? Is she one of those they have been searching for? How did she come to be there?

This may be my favorite of the Cadfael books I’ve read (all but the final two). The plot, characters, weather and setting combine in the most interesting way of any of the them; mystery, history and human nature are woven together to create a fine puzzle. This one may not be typical in that it has quite a bit of action, but I found it added to my enjoyment of the book.

This is such an excellent series, it’s worth reading and, probably, rereading. This one is quite good and highly recommended.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery | 13 Comments

Current Reading: Henning Mankill, more graphic novels

We’re both doing less reading, due to watching a lot of Olympics plus Barbara’s quilting and my current lack of enthusiasm (perhaps due to the fact that our weather has caught up to the rest of the country and it’s gotten quite hot here). I’m getting tired of a steady diet of graphic novels, and after this week will be slowing down some, but here’s what I read through in the past week:

Superman For Tomorrow volumes 1 and 2, Teen Titans – A Kid’s Game, Teen Titans – Beast Boys and Girls, X-Men – The Dark Phoenix Saga and Xtreme X-Men Volume 1. I found the Superman volumes a bit tedious, the Teen Titans fun and the X-Men, well, pretty boring. I used to like X-Men, but I guess I’ve lost the love. Of this lot, I’ll only keep Beast Boys and Girls. I’m clearing a lot of space, and that’s good. There are still stacks to go through, but I’ll need a break.

5th woman

I have an anthology I’m halfway through, an omnibus of James White SF novels I’m two-thirds into, a mystery novel I’m just starting. More on all that next time, probably.

Barbara is still working her way through Henning Mankill’s The Fifth Woman which she’s enjoying. She’ll finish it up in a few days, quilting and Olympics-watching permitting.

How about you?
What are you reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Mystery | 27 Comments

Forgotten Book: The Long-Winded Lady, Notes from the New Yorker by Maeve Brennan

this is the 230th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books


The Long-Winded Lady, Notes from the New Yorker by Maeve Brennan, 1969, 1998 non-fiction, collection of essays.

I grew up in the country, and the closest I ever got to living in the city was the suburbs, with the exception of a single year in the MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles.

That was in the mid-Sixties, about the time these pieces were written, and the area of L.A. I was in was safe, the park nice. You could sit on benches and watch children sail little boats on the lake, and watch the ducks swim and preen. I was going to art college and had a small apartment. My energy was focused on classes, not so much on the city I was in.

But Maeve Brennan knew her city, New York City, and sees it with clear vision. She describes it beautifully in The Long-Winded Lady, notes from The New Yorker. She observes, and comments on what she sees. People on the sidewalk, in restaurants, conversations she hears or overhears. She has a feel for the streets themselves, their nature and personality; dreary, light, dreaming, weary, overshadowed by the towering skyscrapers that dwarf them and the smaller buildings on them.

This book is a collection of pieces printed in The New Yorker magazine in the”Talk of the Town” column, each preceded with the notation that “We have received a letter from the long-winded lady…” The pieces appeared mostly in the Sixties, and are so very insightful into life in New York City at the time that they are like portraits. Appearing in a weekly magazine, and only once every couple of month or more, they were both entertaining and thought-provoking. 

In the places she lived, mostly in one or two areas of the city, she describes her rooms, the view from her windows, the feelings of the places she lives. When she goes out for a meal, or just coffee on a frigid morning, she encounters the world with the eyes of a writer, a painter with words, and in these short pieces she shares her vision, thoughts, feelings. It’s really very fascinating. Highly recommended!

Posted in Books & Reading, Non-fiction | 8 Comments

Current Reading: non-fiction & more graphic novels

cover-long-winded-ladyI finished  The Long-Winded Lady, notes from The New Yorker by Maeve Brennan. It’s a collection of pieces printed in The New Yorker magazine in the”Talk of the Town” column, and I enjoyed it a lot. Review coming Friday.

I’m still reading through the graphic novels that got ruined, and it’s taking longer than I thought. I finished the last two StormWatch collections, A Finer World and Final Orbit (covers in last week’s post).

Also read were a Nightwing graphic novel, On the Razor’s Edge, two Superman collections, The Death of Superman and World Without A Superman and two collections of a comic by artist/writer Tony Daniels, The Tenth – Abuse of Humanity and The Tenth – The Black Embrace. When I bought these in 1997-1998, I  particularly liked Daniels’ art style, with it’s elongated figures and drenched colors.

5th woman

Barbara, meanwhile read Henning Mankill’s The Fifth Woman until it was due back at the library, then waited a week or so until it came around again. She’s nearly finished with it now, and as always with Mankill, she’s really enjoying it.

She’s also still doing a lot of  of quilt work, so reading time has been a little limited, plus both of us have been watching the Olympics, which takes many evening hours.

How about you?
What are you reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Fiction, Graphic Novel | 21 Comments

Forgotten Book: The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke

this is the 229th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke, written and edited by Arthur C. Clarke, Tor 2002 trade paper, science fiction short story collection

collected ClarkeCertainly Clarke isn’t in the least a forgotten author, but he may be seldom read these days. It’s difficult for me to imagine anyone, however faintly familiar with science fiction, not knowing Clarke’s works, if nothing else from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Still, it’s possible this particular definitive collection may have slipped under the radar of many science fiction readers. The author cooperated in the preparation of this massive collection of his short works comprising 104 short pieces in 996 pages. He provides some brief comments on many of the stories.

Some of the stories in this collection were later turned into novels. The  length of the works varies from 15-20 pages to as short as a single page. With this many stories there are sure to be a few that don’t tickle any particular reader’s fancy, but overall this is an excellent collection, and if you are going to own, or only read, just one collection of Clarke’s fine short science fiction this should be the one. Highly recommended

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 15 Comments

Quilts in Progress

I mentioned in Monday’s Current Reading post that Barbara has been busy working on some new quilts. These things take time; there is a lot of design work, a lot of fabric choices, an awful lot of piecing to make these things. She’s been working over the last couple of months on two. Here they are, partially completed, on the design wall in her quilt studio. Both of these quilts will be wall hangings.

The left photo shows both unfinished quilts on the design board. She doesn’t usually have more than one up at a time, but I wanted to show both for this post.

Middle photo shows (on the left) an as yet unnamed quilt, which will still need borders, backing and binding.

The right photo shows the quilt named Cinco de Mayo. It still has a number of blocks left to be made, as well as borders, back, binding and the rest.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 14 Comments

Current Reading: graphic novels

I discovered last week Expresso had “marked” the spines of some graphic novels on the bottom shelf of a bookcase full of them. I’ve been cleaning them up the best I can, and some can be saved, but many cannot. In the process of this work, I saw many I decided I wanted to re-read, so my current reading, now and for a couple of weeks, will be graphic novels and collected comic issues.

Way of the Rat by Dixon (writer), Johnson (penciller), [Crossgen Comics Jan 2003] – One of the later series Crossgen published, this collects the first 6 issues. There was a second collection, The Dragon’s Wake published by Crossgen (July 2004) and a third by Checker (now itself defunct), Haunted Zhumar published by Crossgen/Checker April 2007. Way of the Rat was a good comic that lasted only 24 issues total.

Monkeyman and O’Brien by Arthur Adams (creator, author, illustrator) [Dark Horse Comics June 1997] – collects the Special Edition (introductory issue) and issues 1-3. Art Adams is a legend among modern comics illustrators and much loved by me. This is one of the no-saves, but I had to read it one last time.

StormWatch by Warren Ellis (writer), Tom Raney (penciller) [Wildstorm/DC Comics 1993-2001] – Stormwatch began in the comic book Stormwatch, published by Image Comics and owned by Jim Lee. Early writers of Stormwatch included Jim Lee, Brandon Choi, H. K. Proger and Ron Marz; early artists included Scott Clark, Brett Booth, Matt Broome and Renato Arlem. After a second imprint-wide crossover, Warren Ellis took over writing StormWatch (now with a capital W) with #37 (July 1996). Ellis’ run on StormWatch was collected into these five trade paperbacks:

  • Force of Nature collects StormWatch Volume 1 #37-42
  • Lightning Strikes collects StormWatch Volume 1 #43-47
  • Change or Die collects StormWatch Volume 1 #48-50, preview and Volume 2 #1-3
  • A Finer World collects StormWatch Volume 2 #4-9
  • Final Orbit collects StormWatch Volume 2 #10-11 and WildC.A.T.S/Aliens

5th womanI still have some of the StormWatch collections to go, so that’s current reading. I’m having a lot of fun reading these graphic novels. So would you, if you were into super team graphic novels.

Barbara, meanwhile has finished the Stephen King book End of Watch which she zoomed right through and liked a lot, and plans in the next couple of days to start reading Henning Mankill’s The Fifth Woman which she had read just a half dozen pages of when the King showed up from the library.

She has also been doing a lot of quilt work, and before too long I might have pictures of a new quilt for you.

How about you?
What are you reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Fiction, Graphic Novel | 22 Comments

Good Night, Sweet Prince


Expresso, February 2005 – July 2016

Personality? You bet. He loved to play, and would fetch a ball of paper over and over. He would romp around the house making delighted mewing noises, and if a cat toy was available he would chase and bat it ’til it wound up under the sofa. Then he would tell us about this tragedy until we fished it back out.

He loved water. He would stand in his wide, shallow water bowl, splashing and pawing at the water before taking long drinks. His paws were often soaked. He followed me from room to room. Wherever I was, he was there, curled up next to me on the love seat or sofa, stretched out beside my chair.

Every night, when I was sitting on the edge of the bed ready to swing my legs up and under the covers, he would come and stand between my ankles for a good-night skritch. It was a ritual. When I woke in the morning he was laying against my ankles. He hated a closed door if I was on the other side of it; he would cry until it was opened. Then he trotted along with me as I walked to wherever I was going. He was my pal, my buddy, my friend.

But after several months of battling illness, yesterday we had to have our Bengal cat Expresso put to sleep. Good night, sweet prince.

Posted in Books & Reading | 29 Comments