Thursday, 26 December 2013

Final Books of 2013 #35 - #53

Click on the 'Book Review' label in the left menu for the other reviews. My others this year have been January, April and July so not exactly very frequent, but I have been reading the whole time so get ready for a motherload. Pictures are linked to am amazon affiliates account, but I just want them for illustrations so don't worry about the clicking through to buy thing.

#35 One Block Wonders Encore

An interesting way of making hexagonally tessellated quilts using triangles cut in strips based on the repeat of the fabric. You need a multiple of 6 repeats so depending on the length of the repeat and the size of your triangle this could eat up a lot of fabric. This is the technique used on one of my favourite quilts from this year's Festival. A la this one:
The technique being basically what I just said, this book adds a few curve balls with ways to create 3-d effects and then fills up the rest with patterns. Good read but not really needed if you're just looking for instructions. 

#36 Bruno, Chief of Police
by Martin Walker
#37 Dark Vineyard
#38 Black Diamond
#39 The Crowded Grave
#40 Bruno and the Pere Noel (A Kindle freebie short story)
A series recommended by Liz and something I am very glad I followed up on. Plus only £1.20 ish on Amazon as a kindle download. Bruno is the town policeman in a small french town with a history of wine, truffles and resistance fighting. This first book in the series introduces all the people you get to know during the series and the various relationships, good and bad, between them. It all reminds me of where my cousin lives in France and the stories she has told me about local politics and goings on. I really enjoy the books, as you can see from my having gobbled four of them in six months. The seasonal short story isn't great but is a nice gift to people who are already keen on the series. 

#41 The Moor 
by Laurie King
This is the latest in the series focusing on Sherlock Holmes' wife (hmph) with this one harking back to the hound of the baskervilles and the way the same house and area has developed some 20 (?) years later. I do find these books rather compelling, despite the whole nonsense of this woman being Holmes' wife. Mind you some aspects of their relationship do remind me of Pooch and I which makes me think the author has a rather trying partner in a background. Despite all this they are well written and if you are a Sherlock aficionado and know all the real stories backwards they do pick up on details within them rather cleverly. 

#42 Japanese Fairy Tales
by Yei Theodora Ozaki
My copy was a kindle freebie and had no illustrations but it looks like for 61p you now get a proper cover and drawings so that seems like a bargain. I downloaded this when the move to japan was first mooted and read it on the DLR over about 2 months. Each story is a few pages long and they vary from the "and then he died which was a good thing" type ending to "and they lived happily ever after". There were many serpents, dragons and centipedes. There was also a king who lived under the sea who came up quite a lot. A lot of people wanted children but couldn't have any and many others worked very hard and were kind to their neighbours even though they were mingers. Overall it gave a lovely insight into the traditional values of the japanese and was well worth a read if you are interested in their culture. 

#43 Death in Hyde Park
by Robin Paige 
Another in this never ending series of cosy mysteries. This one brings in anarchists and a bit of women's lib all against the background of the king's coronation. Naughty policeman and vanishing editors abound. These are really nice to read. Relaxing and enjoyable. 

#44 Cocaine Blues
by Kerry Greenwood
Although I am a big fan of the australian tv series (you get used to the accents) which is now at the end of the second series, I had not experienced any of the books until this one. This, the first in the series, was an unabridged audiobook and I listened very intently as it really was rather good. This isn't high art and probably falls quite nicely into the same category as the Paige series at #43 - these are books that aren't going to shock you despite the fact they have moderate sex and, in this case, drugs in. They hold your interest but you won;t be compelled to stay up all night to see what happens next. I'll definitely be putting the rest on my wishlist for the future. 

#45 Raising Steam
by Terry Pratchett
The fortieth Discworld book and as everyone says, surely one of the last to appear considering wonderful Sir Terry has Altzheimers. As I read the first few pages I almost groaned as this was not the quality I had grown to love in the previous 39 books. However, it quickly picked up and then it was like being on a rollercoaster as we sped through the story which brought in lots of favourite characters doing little cameos as well as lots of the Patrician and Moist Von Lipwig who, although he usually annoys me, was actually rather good in this. Clearly the railway has come to Ankh Morpork and it coincides with a dwarf civil war. Train spotters abound and it all comes down to an impressive chase and battle at the end. Like all the best books, I was saddened that it ended, but happy that I'd read it. 

#46 Beware of the Trains
by Edmund Crispin
#47 Fen Country
Two classics from the golden age of crime fiction. Short stories which can be read as diy puzzles or just as simple stories, which is the way I like to approach them. Gervase Fin appears throughout helping the police and being all intelligent and so on. Great stuff. 

#48 The Viaduct Murder
by Ronald Knox
This was an experiment for me since I don't know this series but thought I'd give it a whirl. Four friends find a member of the golf club dead on the course. The police call it an accident but they are sure it can't be. It was quite funny in places as they all try out their detective skills. 

#49 Operation Pax 
by Michael Innes
This was a very odd and unsettling book. A small time crook gets desperate and seems to try and rape a girl in the middle of the countryside. To his surprise she beats him up and when he seeks help from a local house he ends up really in the poo. You have absolutely zero empathy for this guy, but meanwhile we're introduced to war refugees, kidnapping, biological warfare, animal cruelty, human experimentation, star-crossed lovers, helicopters, fast cars and more. It was all together unlike any previous Inspector Appleby stories. Not one to start with if you want to try this series. 

#50 Lestrade and the Sawdust Ring
by M J Trow
These books are really quite bizarre. It is Lestrade from the Sherlock Holmes stories but as a real man, not the idiot he is portrayed as in those stories. In all these books he picks up a large number of fairly serious and painful injuries in the course of his duty. Here he goes undercover with a circus for reasons I can't remember now but it is all highly unorthodox. I do love this series - another one Liz introduced me to - and look forward to the next. 

#51 Lonesome Road
by Patricia Wentworth
Good old Miss Silver. This is what Miss Marple would have been like had she had to work as a Governess for 30 years or so. Adorable stories - their only downside tending to be how the women want nothing more than to be crushed in a strong man's arms until it bruises them. Great cosy mysteries. In this one Miss Silver must prevent the murder of her hostess who, although lovely, is disliked by most of her relatives. 

#52 Bertie and the Tin Man
by Peter Lovesey
The premise of this series is very silly. King Edward is a secret detective, as well as a real legover merchant, and goes about solving crimes. In this one he is convinced a jockey friend was murdered although the police are happy that it is a natural death. To solve the crime he has to have sex with a number of women and put on various lowly outfits to disguise himself as a commoner. Silly but harmless. 

#53 Bryant and May and the Invisible Code
by Christopher Fowler
The tenth in the series and I swear they keep getting better. The plot turns in this one are fiendish. Bryant and May are two elderly detectives who head the Peculiar Crimes Unit in London which answers to the home office. In this story they get an SOS from their former arch nemesis, Oscar Cassavian, who is worried about his wife. There follows all sorts of ups and downs and wrong turns before the secret is finally revealed. As I have said before, I love the London settings of these books as well as the peculiar flights of fancy that end up bringing in witchcraft and clairvoyance. Brilliant, modern detective series. 

It seems sad to end the year on an odd number so I shall endeavor to finish my current read (another of the Robin Paige books) before the end of the year. For more intelligent book reviews do head over to Liz's blog as she reads a much wider selection of things than me, as well as being a demon knitter!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

Being 9 hours ahead means we have already had our frenzy of opening presents here in Tokyo. This is my main present from Pooch:
The Japanese seem big on their ornamental cabbages and I'd much rather admire them than eat them so am all for it. These will be the start of my balcony garden once the weather warms up.

Pooch is very happy about Christmas. He loves his food and so the opportunity to cook huge meals makes him all smiley. Look at him smiling as he gets all the food to take home.

We got one particularly nice present from Noriko a few days early. Here I am as it is patina'd.
The flame underneath is rather beautiful.
This is a traditional way of cooking and you prepare the vessel for the first time by making a sort of rice porridge and then leaving it for 6 hours to plug the pores in the ceramic. This we duly did and the meal we had the following day was delicious! We also had xmas themed chopsticks.
For the rest of the day I shall be making like a Calico Cat Cafe cat and finding somewhere comfortable to sit about and lounge.

I hope you all have a wonderful day!
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