Current Reading: Dunstall, Macdonald, Cornwell

After finishing the Patricia Moyes mystery, I was in the mood for some science fiction, so I decided to read Linesman by S. K. Dunstall, a mass market paperback I bought last year. I liked it quite a lot, both for the characters and the interesting idea of lines of energy that control various aspects of ship controls, including the ability to make jumps through the void (and thus faster than light travel throughout the galaxy).

Ean Lambert is a Linesman Ten, (the highest level) but gets no respect from the other Linesmen (of any level or gender). He “hears” the lines, and sings his communications to them, whereas other Linesmen “feel” them with their minds, an uncertain process. But Ean’s abilities surpass most others, as long as he can sing. When as alien spaceship is discovered in a mostly-deserted corner of the galaxy, Ean is brought to examine it, and discovers an eleventh line, one that speaks only to him.

I’ve just gotten the next two books in the trilogy and will start it after I finish another novel, namely The Galton Case by Ross Macdonald. After Bill Crider posted on a book about Macdonald, I thought it was time to read another of his that I still hadn’t gotten to. This was the choice. I’m about 50 pages in.

Barbara finished John Sandford’s current Prey series novel, Golden Prey, and as usual with these books, enjoyed it.  She’s now about 3/4 of the way through Patricia Cornwell’s latest, Chaos. 

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in current reading, Mystery, Science Fiction | 21 Comments

Friday Forgotten: A Six-Letter Word For Death by Patricia Moyes

This is the 262nd in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

A Six-Letter Word For Death by Patricia Moyes, Henry Holt (an Owl Book) 1985 mass market paperback

I have long been a fan of the mystery novels of Patricia Moyes. Her series featuring Chief Inspector Henry Tibbett (and occasionally his wife Emmy) is excellent, and I’ve read most of them and can now add this one to that number.

This is the 17th in the series, and takes place on the Isle of Wight. Henry has been invited to speak to a small group of authors on Scotland Yard CID procedures, and has a successful talk. Before he arrived, Tibbett had been sent a crossword puzzle to solve, and it turns out that the solution included the names of the authors and other information which the group intended Tibbett to solve, or, embarrassingly, fail to solve. Thus the books titular reference to crossword.

The crossword hints at foul play in past deaths, each clue referencing one of the six authors in the group. The mystery writers all use pen names, keeping their identities secret, but Henry has little difficulty deducing who they are. He presents his police procedure talk, then reveals he solved the crossword, knew which writer designed it, and has investigated the events referenced by crossword clues.

One of the guests makes an appointment, heard by all, to see Henry later in the afternoon but then dies of an apparent accidental death before he can keep it. Henry is suspicious, and does his own unofficial investigation. When the crime scene and evidence are  tampered with, Henry is certain the death was no accident.

He and Emmy extend their vacation, in order to remain in the area and keep investigating. He ultimately stages a re-enactment of a decades-old crime to resolve all mysteries and obtain justice.

Though I found the plot in this one to be more convoluted than usual, I was happy with the conclusion, and as always Henry and Emmy are delightful. Well worth reading

Posted in Books & Reading, Mystery | 8 Comments

The Summer Garden

It’s peak Summer garden time, and I took some photos Sunday. Our Lilies are especially magnificent this year. Lots of pictures for you. Click to see larger image.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 10 Comments

Current Reading: Foster, Moyes, Sandford

I finished Icerigger by Alan Dean Foster, which I first became aware of through a blog review, though I don’t recall which blog. I enjoyed it. It’s nothing literate or thought-provoking, just a fun SF novel about a group of people who get stranded on an ice world, and their struggles to survive, get along, and find a way to somewhere civilized enough to allow them to get off the world and back to their lives. Good characterization, good world-building and nice doses of action and humor. It turns out to be the first in a series, though it could be read as a stand-alone. I’ve found a used copy of the second book.

I then felt in the mood for a British mystery, and spotted a Chief Inspector Henry Tibbit novel in my TBR stack, so I snapped it up. I love Patricia Moyes books, and it’s always a pleasure to come across one I haven’t read. This one is A Six-Letter Word For Death and, at the halfway point, I’m enjoying it very much.

Barbara just finished John Sandford’s current Prey series novel, Golden Prey. She’s not sure what she’s going to read next, she’ll see what’s on hold or pause at the library.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

By the way, I’ll be posting some garden pictures Wednesday, for those who may be interested.

Posted in current reading, Mystery, Science Fiction | 21 Comments

Ow!

Having a bad day – the old devil migraine.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 13 Comments

Current Reading: Edwards, Heywood, Foster, Sandford

Two books read this time, in addition to the Civil War book I reviewed for my FFB.

Miraculous Mysteries, edited by Martin Edwards, is a collection of “locked-room murders and impossible crimes”. An anthology of 16 stories, published recently by British Library Crime Classics (Poisoned Pen Press in the U.S.) these are mostly well-known classics of the type. I’m always eager to buy and read new books in the BLCC series, but in this case I should have been more careful. I’d read three-quarters of these stories in the Otto Penzler edited Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries just over a year ago. I re-read them anyway, and enjoyed them, as I did the few stories that were new to me, but there was a great deal of overlap.

The other book was Hard Ground by Joseph Heywood. Heywood writes two series, one is the Woods Cop series featuring Conservation Officer Grady Service, who works in the farthest reaches of Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula, the other  – with a 1913 historical setting – features Lute Bapcat, a former Rough Rider turned Michigan Game Warden. Hard Ground is a story collection set in the same area as the Woods Cop series, though only one of the stories features Service, all of the stories are very good indeed. I really enjoyed this one. Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for recommending Joseph Heywood’s books!

I’m currently reading, in addition to more Civil War non-fiction, Icerigger by Alan Dean Foster, which I first became aware of through a blog review, though I don’t recall which blog. So I thought I’d try it, and so far, so good.

Barbara got about a third way into The Thirst, the latest Harry Hole novel by Jo Nesbo and gave it up, at least for now. As much as she loves the character and series, she was finding this one more than usually disturbing, and since there were over 135 people in the library waiting list for the book, back it went. She may get back on the list for it at some time in the future, but not right away.

So now she’s begun John Sandford’s current Prey series novel, Golden Prey.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, current reading, Mystery | 24 Comments

Friday Forgotten: The Coming Fury by Bruce Catton

this is the 262nd in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

The Coming Fury – Centennial History of the Civil War, Volume I, by Bruce Catton, Doubleday hardcover (1961) 565 pages – Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

In light of a new documentary by Ken Burns on Viet Nam coming this Fall, we were talking about his many other fine documentaries. We decided we wanted to watch The Civil War again, and got it from the library. It’s on 6 DVDs, and we watched it over a couple of weeks. We’d forgotten a lot of the content and details, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

I then decided I wanted to read more and was going to read Shelby Foote’s The Civil War, A Narritive in three volumes. However I remembered I had the Centennial History of the Civil War, by Bruce Catton, also in three volumes, on the shelf, unread for more than forty years. So this, the first volume, is what I decided to read.

The Coming Fury describes the event and forces leading up to secession, as well as the beginnings of the combat, and then leading to failure of political processes from Ft. Sumptor to Bull Run, and those battles. Though Ft. Sumpter wasn’t really a battle, just the marking point of the beginning of armed hostilities.

Yes, this is somewhat dated compared to the Foote trilogy, which has a more modern tone. But it’s also less oriented toward a every-sentence-everyone-said-counts approach. I found it quite readable and sufficiently detailed. Note that the first shot at Ft. Sumpter is described on page 313, so much has gone on before that April morning.

Catton was and is a superb historian, as he seemed so many decades ago. A fine piece of scholarship neatly presented. If you’d like to learn more about the Civil War, perhaps the defining time of our nation, this isn’t a bad place to start. After a break for some other reading, I’ll come back for the second volume, The Terrible Swift Sword.

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

Computer Adventures

Okay, I bought the new iMac. It’s 27-inch with the Retina display. It has a quad‑core 3.3GHz Core i5 processor, a 2TB Fusion Drive, and a 2GB AMD Radeon R9 M395 graphics processor.  I upgraded the RAM at the point of purchase to 32GB. I improved the multi-core performance by opting for the 4.0GHz Core i7 upgrade. So all the bells and whistles. I expect this will be the last large desktop computer I’ll buy. By the time this is out of date, it will be enough to just have a laptop. It might have been enough this time, but I’m  kind of hard-nosed about a big monitor and full keyboard (which is extra).

New…shiny…fast…lots of storage…

So then there is the setup. Man, I hate setting up a new computer. Here’s why.

  1. Everything looks different. What used to be here is now there. Why developers feel obligated to move stuff around and make changes to the placement of objects is something I don’t understand. but it’s a fact to be dealt with.
  2. Setting up a network should be easy, but it never is. I spent 2 hours trying to get the laptop to print remotely to the printer that’s hooked up to the new iMac. No luck so far, even though that function was just fine on the old computer. It’s something we use a lot, and it needs to be solved. Gaah!
  3. Different physical design. The old iMac (hereafter OM) had an optical drive for CDs and DVDs, a slot in the right side. Worked great, very convenient. New iMac (NM) doesn’t have it. Would I rather have “Oh, how sleek!” or “Oh, how useful!”. I’ll bet you can guess. I had to buy an optical drive (called an Apple SuperDrive or some such silly name).
  4. Different connectors. The Old Mac had several USB ports plus Firewire 400 and 800 receptors and an Ethernet port. The New Mac has the USB ports and 2 Thunderbolt slots. So where the hell am I supposed to plug in my backup hard drive (needed to use the backups to load all my files and stuff onto the new machine)? That drive uses the Firewire 800 cable. Solution: a return trip to Apple Store, steam coming from my ears, to point out that I asked this very question when I bought the NM, and they said adapters would be included. Nope! At least they gave me half off on the ones I had to buy – and they were NOT cheap.
  5. The new, “better” programs (the new kids like to call them apps, short for applications, but they are in fact programs in my opinion). Whatever, these “improvements” make all my stuff look, feel and act differently than before. My music is in iTunes, and the face of the program has been changed a lot. It may look more zingy and cool to Millenials and under, but I value function over style. Lots of adjusting default views and such.
  6. More of the same with the Photos app. I liked the way iPhoto was set up, easy to find and organize what I had and wanted to see. Now it’s Photo, and all zingy. “Hey, we’ve found all the pictures with a specific face in them!” “Hey, look at all the ones with a mountain, or taken at the beach, or…” NO, NO, NO! I want them grouped into events by date, like before. No such luck.
  7. Someone decided that everyone has great eyesight and so small text is just the ticket. I’ve been two days going through the programs trying to find a way to increase default font size. I’ve been successful about half the time so far.

Oh, I’ll get this all sorted out, and get used to the changes, and it will be great. But for a few days, what a pain in the neck!

Update: I’m all set up now (July 4) including a 4 terabyte secondary hard drive used for backups and extra photo storage. Niiice.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 7 Comments

Current Reading: Krueger, O’Brien, Nesbø

While having computer problems and ultimately buying a new one, then doing all the setup and organizing required to have a working system and LAN, I did less reading, but finished a couple of things.

I decided to get current on William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series prior to the new one coming in August, so I read Manitou Canyon. As always with Krueger, I liked it a lot, and am eager for the next book.

I also read Silver Chief, Dog of the North by Jack O’Brien (illustrated by Kurt Wiese). A couple of years ago I picked up several O’Brien dog books on ABE, and have been reading one now and then as the mood strikes. Silver Chief  is the son of a husky and a wolf, born in the wild. He is extremely mistrustful of humans, but is captured, tamed with kindness and love by Jim Thorne of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

On assignment to bring in a killer, Silver Chief saves his master’s life and brings the assignment to a successful conclusion.  I enjoyed this one quite a bit, and though there are some grim moments all turns out well in the end.

Barbara is finished All the President’s Men and has started The Thirst by Jo Nesbo, a Harry Hole novel.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, current reading, Mystery | 23 Comments

Friday review: Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death by James Runcie

This is the 261st in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie, Bloomsbury Publishing 2012 trade paperback, the first volume in the series of The Grantchester Mysteries

shadow-of-death

I first became aware of this author, book, and series through an article in Mystery Scene magazine, and then borrowed the book from the library.

The Grantchester Mysteries is a series of books by British author James Runcie, set during the 1950s in Grantchester, a village near Cambridge in England. The books feature the clergyman-detective Canon Sidney Chambers.

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, is comprised of six short standalone mysteries. This is a short story collection in all but name. The “stories” are just chapters, but each is a separate story. However there is no table of contents showing them and no separate title for each.

The first chapter/story is about a suicide that has a close friend certain it must have been murder. The vicar, Canon Sidney Chambers, decides to poke about and uncovers some interesting discrepancies. The second story involves a missing engagement ring, one that disappeared during a New Years Eve celebration in the home of a popular MP.

I won’t go through all of them, but I think you get the idea. The are gentle, character-driven mysteries with a solution solvable by the man who is able to ask questions and get to the bottom of things. You wouldn’t be far off the mark if you thought of Aird, Allingham or Christie short stories but without the golden age twists in the plot. I was also reminded, in some cases, of the stories of H.R.F. Keating

I enjoyed the book. The character is appealing, I liked the reference to jazz, an important element in one of the stories, and the portrayl of village life. Though it’s a bit lighter than my usual fare, this went quickly and was a nice diversion.

The books were turned in the ITV detective drama Grantchester in the same time and setting  as the books. They feature Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton), who develops a sideline in sleuthing with the help of Detective Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green). The first series was based on the six stories from the first book, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death. A second series was commissioned in late 2014 and broadcast in March and April 2016 and a third series is airing in 2017.

I’ve seen Season 1 and enjoyed it quite a bit. We’re watching Season 2 now.

The books in the series include:

  1. Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death (2012)
  2. Sidney Chambers and The Perils of the Night (2013)
  3. Sidney Chambers and The Problem of Evil (2014)
  4. Sidney Chambers and The Forgiveness of Sins (2015)
  5. Sidney Chambers and The Dangers of Temptation (2016)

A total of six books are planned. The series was inspired by James Runcie’s father, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie.

note: Some of the foregoing information was found on Wikipedia.

Posted in Books & Reading, Mystery, Short Stories | 12 Comments