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Proud of My Adopted Country

You may have seen the news about Fort MacMurray, Alberta, Canada, which was hit very hard by wildfires in recent days - extremely dry conditions and extreme (for May) heat in the 90s Fahrenheit, resulted in a massive firestorm that engulfed the whole small city in a very short period of time. Here's the thing: Upwards of 88,000 people were under mandatory evacuation in a 24-hour period of time, and those 88,000 people ALL were evacuated, with NO reported deaths.

Think of that. 88,000 people all fleeing one place, mostly in one direction, all at the same time, and nobody died. Wow.

Now, Fort Mac is the centre of the tar sands, and of course it's both ironic and some would say appropriate that the excessive destruction of Mother Nature there ends up being almost utterly destroyed by Mother Nature. But that's not what makes me proud to be Canadian today.

Instead, think of this: the CBC quickly mobilized to set up a national phone-in radio show for 2 hours today, so that Albertans could get their stories out and so that Canadians in the rest of the country could voice their concerns, support or what-have-yous. I heard some of it, including people calling in to say a loved one had been evacuated, had been in contact and then there'd been no word for 12 hours, could anyone help them find their loved one? to people calling to say we in (city/town/village) (province) are raising funds right now for you, hang in there; to one guy calling to say he's not far from the disaster (but far enough away), has house-space for a family and has enough land to house four or five tents full of fleeing people - and then he gives out his personal telephone number, not once but three times! On a national broadcast!

Reports can't be clear yet, but it seems likely that most, if not all, of that community of 88,000 people has been utterly destroyed. And yet here's a country just... well, just caring enough to respond in big ways (Quebec, for example, is sending 4 Bombardier fire-bombing planes - and they've got the best such planes in the world) and in small (a woman from Ontario said her Rotary club would be sending clothes post-haste).

Sorry, America, land of my birth: You believe yourselves to be big-hearted, and you are, but you'd never be able to safely, quickly and efficiently evacuate a town of 88,000 with no deaths, and you'd never ever give out a personal telephone number on national radio (well, you don't have national radio) in order to help some disaster-stricken strangers. Can't hold a patch to Canada, and I can't be more proud of my adopted home.

(If you see the situation and want to help, go to the Canadian Red Cross, donate there.)

Thinking About Safety

Today a young man in Montreal was charged with first degree murder, representing the *second* murder in Montreal in 2016. The first one occurred about March 25th, around two weeks ago or so.

Yeah. Three million people living here; two murders in 3 1/2 months. I kinda think that's a record in North America, that is the fewest murders in a major North American city in that length of time.

Think maybe the lack of easy gun ownership here has something to do with it? Heh. (I should point out that I don't remember for the first murder but this second one was committed by knife, not gun.)

If I was on Twitter, I'd be ending this with #nevergoingbacktoUSA for sure!

CNN Needs a Proof-Reader!

For example,

"A U.S. geologist discovered that the San Andreas and the San Jacinto faults may have ruptured together about 200 years ago in the past..."

Ya know, 'cause 200 years ago isn't descriptive enough of being in the past.


Books in February

I spent the first 8 days of February traveling and visiting family in California, as a result of which I got little reading done during that period. It turns out that in Richmond, California, the public library holds a book sale on the first Wednesday of every month, each book available for 30 cents apiece; naturally, I ended up with 6 books for a whole $1.80! Several books this month are from that haul - and given that we’re having the coldest days of the winter right now (-25C for a *high* temperature, anybody?), these books come in handy for cozying up to!

English Country House Murders: Classic Crime Fiction of Britain’s Upper Crust, edited by Thomas Godfrey.Collapse )

Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King.Collapse )

Past Reason Hated, by Peter Robinson.Collapse )

Wycliffe and the School Bullies, by W.J. Burley.Collapse )

So, a short list of reading for a short month, but then again I really only had three weeks of reading time. Happy Leap Day, everyone!

Books in January

2016 is starting off snowy and very cold here in Montreal; temperatures are so low that the only thing to do is to stay inside and read!

Bryant and May and the Burning Man, by Christopher Fowler.Collapse )

The Edge of Nowhere, by Elizabeth George.Collapse )

The Edge of the Water, by Elizabeth George.Collapse )

The Edge of the Shadows, by Elizabeth George.Collapse )

Hide Me Among the Graves, by Tim Powers.Collapse )

The Hanging Valley, by Peter Robinson.Collapse )

The Brewer of Preston, by Andrea Camilleri.Collapse )

Wycliffe and the Pea Green Boat, by W. J. Burley.Collapse )

January ends with extremely mild temps and easy minds; we're off to San Francisco tomorrow to visit my family, back in a flash as they say!

David Bowie

Best comment/tribute I've seen on this sad day:

"David Bowie didn't die. Ziggy Stardust just went home."

RIP, Starman.

Most to me is "Rock'n'Roll Suicide," from the Ziggy period - "you're NOT alone!" kinda sorta actually kept me alive at certain times in my life.

And for that, thank you, Mr. Bowie.

Books in 2015

I read a total of 76 books in 2015 (71 if you don't count the re-read of Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain series); in the past I've been closer to or just over the 100 mark, but I've noticed that my reading speed has slowed somewhat over this past year. I wonder if reading more slowly is a sign of aging? Hmmmm.... Anyway, in no particular order except the chronological order in which I read them, here's my favourite reads of 2015:

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, by Alan Bradley. The continuing story of Flavia de Luce, one of the most delightful characters in recent memory; it's necessary to have read the previous six books in the series before tackling this one.

Foxglove Summer, by Ben Aaronovitch. Another series choice, in this case the modern urban fantasy world of London Police Constable and fledgling wizard Peter Grant. Two words for this one: carnivorous unicorns! Yum....

Galapagos Regained: A Novel, by James Morrow. In which a sometime actress races against time and competition to secure creatures cited in Darwin's Origin of Species to prove, or disprove, the existence of God. Oh, and to win a bunch of money too. Morrow is consistently one of the best, and wittiest, satirists working today, and this is one of his best.

Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First-Class Passengers and Their World, by Hugh Brewster. Non-fiction covering the topic that the title suggests, using primary sources. Fascinating insights into a long-lost world.

Fantasy for Good: A Charitable Anthology, edited by Jordan Ellinger and Richard Salter. Good fantasy work from James Enge, Katherine Kerr, Carrie Vaughn, Michael Ezell, Samit Basu and Kelley Armstrong, among others; the proceeds of which go to research on colon cancer.

The Julius Katz Collection, by Dave Zeltseman. Six stories and a novella featuring Nero Wolfe homage character Julius Katz and his sidekick AI Archie; fun stuff.

The Seven Wonders, by Steven Saylor. Young Roman citizen Gordianus travels the world with his Greek tutor, learning how to solve crime, among other things.

The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I know some readers found this novel disappointing from such a hugely talented author, but I adored it. Even if the story doesn't mean anything to you, read it for the sheer beauty of the writing itself.

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, by Catherynne M. Valente. The fourth in her fantasy series, but featuring almost none of the main characters from the earlier books; a good introduction to her highly imaginative world.

Falling in Love, by Donna Leon. The latest Commissario Guido Brunetti novel, no need to say more.

The Fourth Secret, by Andrea Camilleri. Novella featuring Sicilian Chief Inspector Salvo Montalbano, translated by Gianluca Rizzo and Dominic Siracusa, rather that Stephen Sartarelli; it was very interesting to "hear" these characters in the voices of different translators, and much as I love Sartarelli, it was quite refreshing too!

Sorrow Lake, by Michael J. McCann. The first in a projected detective series set in rural Ontario with a couple of engagingly flawed main characters. I didn't like other work from this author, but look forward to reading more in this particular series.

Killer, by Dave Zeltseman. One of only three authors to have two spots on this list, this couldn't be more different from the other book cited here; instead, we have the story of a Mafia hitman who has killed some 28 people and, newly released from prison, has many seeking revenge. A fast-paced thriller that's actually well-written too!

The Ghost Fields, by Elly Griffiths. More murder and archaeology in Norfolk, UK, this time involving WWII secrets.

The Christie Curse, by Victoria Abbott. The first of a series of cozy mysteries featuring Jordan Bingham and her boss, avid mystery book collector Vera Van Alst, written by a mother-daughter team. Engaging characters and breezy writing style, which is all you need in a cozy, after all!

A Fatal Inversion, by Barbara Vine. Five young people interacting in Suffolk in 1976, and the discovery of a couple of corpses many years later. Good psychological suspense from Ruth Rendell writing under her long-time pseudonym.

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Second Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois. As always, the single best and most valuable collection of science fiction at short length published in a given year, in this case 2014.

The Madonna and the Starship, by James Morrow. Gonzo 1950s science fiction TV show, crazily fanatical religious TV show, and the alien who may or may not destroy the world because of one or the other, or both. A short, hilarious novella.

Far Beyond the Pale, by Daren Dean. Realistic coming of age novel set in the mid 1970s in Missouri; sharp writing, very evocative.

The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny. The latest in her Chief Inspector Gamache series (although he's retired now), with lots of intrigue involving Canada's spy agency CSIS.

Mortal Mischief, by Frank Tallis. First of a series set in 1902 Vienna, featuring young Jewish psychiatrist Max Liebermann and his friend, Police Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt, with whom he shares a love of music and mystery solving. Excellent portrayal of a time and place not really all that long ago.

Hawk, by Marie Powell. YA fantasy set in 13th Century Wales, with bits of Celtic mythology giving the story a strong sense of identity, and well-researched, too. I'm looking forward to more from this author!

The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith. First in J. K. Rowling writing as Galbraith's hard-bitten detective series featuring Cormoran Strike and sidekick Robin Ellacott; definitely gritty, lots of interesting characters.

A Banquet of Consequences, by Elizabeth George. This 19th entry in the long-running Detective Inspector Lynley series brings him back to a more centered and calm place, as opposed to the past few books.

The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft, edited by Aaron J. French. I'm pretty sure that this is the only sf/f anthology that I've ever read where I just adored every single one of the stories; diverse and brilliant all the way through!

The Zig Zag Girl, by Elly Griffiths. This non-series effort is set in 1950 in England, with magicians and cops and murder and secrets from the war all collide; hopefully it will become a new series of its own.

Here's hoping for more happy reading for everybody in 2016!

Books In December

December seems to be full of series reads; that is, most of the books I read this month were entries in long- or short-running series. It’s getting so that I have no time to discover new authors because there are so many books to catch up with amongst old favourites!

Fatal Lies, by Frank Tallis.Collapse )

Wycliffe and Death in Stanley Street, by W. J. Burley.Collapse )

Darkness Rising, by Frank Tallis.Collapse )

A Necessary End, by Peter Robinson.Collapse )

Most years, in the run-up to and days after Christmas, I tend to return to old fantasy favourites for a cozy re-read: usually it’s Susan Cooper’s pentalogy The Dark Is Rising or at least some of the books in that series. Sometimes it’s diving into a re-read of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (but not The Hobbit, which I never liked). This year, however, I’ve been watching a Great Courses lecture series on the Arthurian legend (taught by the very engaging Professor Dorsey Armstrong of Purdue University) and that turned my thoughts back to a series, another pentalogy, that I haven’t read for probably 35 or more years: Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. If you don’t know it, the series includes The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer and The High King; they together tell the story of Taran, Assistant Pig Keeper, and his adventures in the magical land of Prydain, which is not quite Wales but which has much that is Welsh about it. Lovely books that I’d almost forgotten about; I think they shall enter my tradition of fantasies to read at Christmas!

Dark Corners, by Ruth Rendell.Collapse )

The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson.Collapse )

Well, the month began with sequel-itis and ends with something that makes me want to go travelling; perhaps 2016 will be the year to break out of the first and do more of the second! Happy New Year to all!