Category Archives: Books

Well Read on Wednesday

New Orleans was on my Must Visit list from the time I started making such a list, way back when I was a teenager.  I got to check this off in 1990 when my DYS (Dashing Young Scotsman) and I took an extended trip to the southern states of the US.  I was not disappointed.  I/we loved everything about it.  We loved the Hotel St Marie in the Old French Quarter  just a short walk from Bourbon Street; we loved the food, the beignets at the Cafe Du Monde, the music, the atmosphere and most of all we loved the friendly people we met.

Do not disturb

Some may say that I wasted Wednesday afternoon but I disagree;  I spent it reading.  What was I reading all afternoon and well past dinner time?  The latest in the Charlie Fox thrillers – Die Easy, set in New Orleans.  Double pleasure.

If you were reading my blog posts in the middle of last year, you would know that I am a fan of Zoe Sharp and her feisty, female protagonist Charlie Fox.   I read the first book in the series after reading somewhere that Lee Childs thought Zoe Sharp one of the best thriller writers to emerge in recent times.  And I have followed/stalked Zoe and Charlie ever since.

I have awaited with impatience the publication of each book, and have read devoured each of them with undisguised pleasure, always in one sitting.  This tenth book in the series has not disappointed me and has kept me reading all afternoon.

Die Easy

This time we find Charlie and her partner/lover in New Orleans to act as body guards to a wealthy investor from Florida.   Many people feel that New Orleans the city and the people, have been ignored for too long and a celebrity  fund raiser is planned.  This is the reason Blake Dyer, the client, is going to be in New Orleans at this time.

As may be expected, this job does not go smoothly and is complicated by the fact that Sean Meyer, Charlie’s partner, has not totally recovered from the devastating accident that put him into a coma for several months.  He has woken from the coma  apparently recovered physically but there are large parts of his past that he doesn’t remember, including Charlie.

Even some of the skills at which Sean excelled before the accident seem to have deserted him/been forgotten and Charlie is not completely happy to rely on somebody who is not really at the top of his game to be part of her team.  However, she has no choice but to obey her boss when he says Sean is to be part of the close protection team.

Without giving too much away, Charlie has to face an opponent from her past, deal with a threat not only to herself but also to Sean and more importantly the client while all the time not being sure whether she can rely on Sean to watch her back.  A robbery turned hostage situation develops around the fund raiser and while there are many close protection operatives on board the boat, Charlie is thrust into the lead role as the one to ameliorate the situation and get the passengers off the boat unharmed.  As usual Charlie shows herself both physically and mentally able to cope with all that is put in her path, but with some disastrous consequences.

So I urge you to  get your hands on a copy of this book by fair means or foul – buy, borrow but perhaps I shouldn’t encourage you to steal – and set  aside a Wednesday (or any other) afternoon to read this book.

Once again I commend Zoe Sharp on writing this book, her imagination and her characters.  I like to think of her as a friend.

And I think this quote is particularly appropriate for this book.

A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end.  You live several lives while reading it. “~William Styron,  American novelist and essayist
1925 – 2006

Related posts

Wild Windy Wellington Wednesday

Another Christmas has come and gone, another New Year’s Eve celebration followed it as always and has also passed  and now we are back to the everyday life that we know.

All the festivities and fun are great.  It’s always good to catch up with friends and family and what better time than at Christmas and New Year?  But don’t you feel rather flat when the day has passed, the friends have left for home and things are really no different than they were on December 24th?  If like me, you were lucky to receive some gifts and now you have a few more ‘things’ to find places for, you will be adding the fact that you have friends and family who care to your Gratitude List.

Here in the Southern Hemisphere of course, it is summer (?)  Well here in Wellington we had a glorious Christmas Day – Mother Nature pulled out all the stops, sunshine, no wind and not even a hint of rain.  The next day was the same but since then we have had a really mixed bag.  Sunny and warm one day, overcast and windy the next.  Today we are living through gale force winds.  We went for a walk  in the Town Belt (625 hectares of Crown-held land “reserved for the enjoyment of the public and not to be built upon,”) that circles our city.  Unfortunately it was a very short walk as the wind was so strong that several times it threatened to blow me over – and Lotte?  Well her ears were blown right back as we walked into the wind and forward over her face when we walked in the other direction.  Really it is not at all the warm, dry summer we were promised.

Lotte on desk

Would have been better to stay at home
writing our blog

Many people are away on their Christmas/Summer holidays and this weather is not helping them enjoy themselves.  In the South Island we have heavy rain warnings in many places; roads are closed; the Milford Track said to be NZ’s premier walking track has been closed for the past two days because of heavy rains.  Approximately 120 trampers were stuck as the track was too difficult to maneuver.  Trucks and cars are stuck in the Buller Gorge in the north-west of the South Island.  And parts of the North Island are faring no better with Severe Weather warnings in place for parts of the lower island.

So what to do in the face of this awful weather.  There is always the television of course and today I chanced on a wonderful programme written and fronted by Griff Rhys-Jones about the “Wind in the Willows”.  Along with Alice in Wonderland, this has been an all time favourite of mine.

In this programme, Rhys-Jones introduced us to Kenneth Grahame, the retiring scholarly man who wrote this story for his somewhat troublesome only child Alistair.  At the time, Grahame was the Secretary of the Bank of England.  He had written some books about children for adults but this was the first (and only) book for children. Do you know this fabulous fable?

The story is set along a river bank.  In fact it is subtitled Tales of the Riverbank. We are introduced to the kindly, self-effacing, industrious Mole (Grahame himself perhaps?), Rat, Badger, Otter and of course the incredible, irascible  Mr Toad.  Who hasn’t met a Mr Toad in real life?

These woodland animals are given human characteristics and live an indolent  life on the riverbank often messing about in boats.

But Toad it is who fills the book with his antics and exploits.  He is very sure of himself and he is very conceited.  He sings about himself  “Ho, ho!  I am The Toad, the handsome, the popular, the successful Toad”.  And he  thinks that he alone knows anything.   Consider -

“The clever men at Oxford
Know all that there is to be knowed
But they none of them know one half as much
As intelligent Mr Toad”

toad

When Toad sees a shining red motor car he cannot resist it and drives it off eventually being caught and being sent to prison -

“The motor-car went Poop-poop-poop
As it raced along the road.
Who was it steered it into a pond?
Ingenious Mr Toad!”

The book was originally published in 1908 and  my copy of the book is 55 years old, well read, well-thumbed but still securely bound in spite of that.

Quite late in life, by then considered a confirmed bachelor,  Grahame married the shy and retiring, scatty and whimsical Elspeth Thomson.  They had only one child, a boy named Alastair (whose nickname was “Mouse”).  Unfortunately, he  was born blind in one eye and plagued by health problems throughout his short life.  It was for this child that the book was written.

The-Wind-in-the-Willows-001

‘Simply messing about in boats’ …
EH Shepard’s illustration of Ratty and Mole.
Photograph: EH Shepard/PA

So I am glad for a cold, windy January evening that allowed me to find this programme on the TV.  I thank Rhys-Jones for taking us along the riverbank and telling us about Grahame and his strange little family.

And as an aside in 2010 a First Edition of the book was sold by Bonhams in London for 32,400 GBP.

Wet Wild Windy Wellington Weekend

Well it’s the second weekend of Spring but somebody forgot to tell the powers that be.  We should be out and about smelling the spring flowers, enjoying the balmy weather and wearing our lighter spring attire.

Alas, both yesterday and today the fickle Wellington weather has proven to us once again that it cannot be relied upon.  Yesterday we had wild winds and today we have had torrential rain and gale force winds.  We have hunkered down only venturing out when absolutely necessary.  Fortunately for me (and Lotte) my friend is quite happy to take her out for her walk while I sit reading my Charlie Fox novel.

I have written before about Zoe Sharp’s protagonist Charlie Fox  and today I read Fifth Victim.  At the end of the earlier novel – Fourth Day – Charlie’s lover Sean Mayer was critically injured and now lies in a coma.  Charlie is attempting to come to terms with this as she sits at his side each day hoping for some sign of life and/or recognition from him.  But he lies unmoving and unresponsive and she wonder what will become of her without him.

Her boss, Parker Armstrong head of the Close Protection Company, Armstrong-Meyer determines that Charlie needs to do something and so he assigns her to guard a rich young woman.  The young woman, Dina lives in the Hamptons with her  mother and fills her days riding her champion horses, shopping  and attending social  functions and parties.   Because of a spate of kidnappings among the children of the fabulously wealthy set in which her daughter moves, her mother is fearful that she might be the next  victim

While Charlie strikes up a friendly relationship with her charge she is hard put to keep her out of harm’s way and when another of the set is kidnapped and brutally murdered Charlie must unravel the mystery of who, what and why.

This is another well written, fast paced novel that is hard to put down.  The very thing to fill in a wet, wild, windy, Wellington day.

Obviously, I am completely taken with Zoe Sharp’s character and can’t wait for the next book.  I hope you are sitting at the computer writing away now Zoe.

Related Posts

 

What Are You Reading?

 

“Progress is impossible without change
and those who cannot change their minds
cannot change anything.”
George Bernard Shaw.

I have long been a follower of Dr Wayne Dyer from way back in the 1970s when I first read “Your Erroneous Zones”, “Pulling Your Own Strings” and “The Sky’s the Limit”.  Over the years I have read many of the books he has written, bought videos and CDs and in fact think he is great.

On his behalf, I was upset to learn that his 20-year-old marriage had ended in divorce following closely some major health problems he had suffered.

In 2007 Dr Dyer published the book “Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life after taking himself off on “a year long journey of research, contemplation and application of the Tao Te Ching book of wisdom.”  I have had the book since it was first published when I tried to read it, but up until now haven’t read it all.  So about this book..

Five hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ a Chinese man named Lao-tzu  put together 81 verses that many regard as the “ultimate commentary on the nature of our existence.” The text and the 81 verses offer advice and guidance on achieving a balanced, moral and spiritual life.

Dr Dyer reviewed many translations of the work and has now written an essay for each of the verses showing how we can apply this ancient wisdom to today’s modern world.  Each chapter is devoted to living the Tao and concludes with a section entitled “Doing the Tao Now”.  The titles of some of the chapters are:

Living Without Resentment; Living By Being Here Now; Living By Letting Go; Living By Contentment; Living Naturally etc, etc.

This is not a book to sit down and read as a novel.  It is a whole work to be read slowly, one essay at a time.  As Wayne Dyer says, “This is a book that will forever change the way you look at your life, and the result will be that you’ll live in a new world aligned with nature. Writing this book changed me forever, too. I now live in accord with the natural world and feel the greatest sense of peace I’ve ever experienced. I’m so proud to present this interpretation of the Tao Te Ching, and offer the same opportunity for change that it has brought me.”

So I am starting from the beginning again and this time intend to read all 81 chapters and take time to understand them.  Verse No 1 is “Living The Mystery” and here we learn that “The Tao is both named and nameless.  As nameless it is the origin of all things; as named it is the Mother of 10,000 things”  As I said, not a book to be read to fill in an odd half hour while you are waiting for the dentist.

And because the water in the waterfall keeps moving onwards, day after day, I shall keep this in mind as I work my way through this book.

Waterfall

 

A Letter to Mr Toad

Recently Val Erde aka ArtyOld Bird asked “What would you say to a fictional character”.  she referred us to  Letters With Character and suggested we try our hand at writing to a fictional character.  Well, Mr Toad has long been a favourite of mine, so here goes….

My dear Mr Toad

I am compelled to write to you regarding your recent quite erratic behaviour.

For many years I have followed your progress through various adventures and yes, cheered you on for the most part.  But now I am becoming concerned at your blatant disregard for not only your own safety but that of several of your close friends.  Of course, here I refer to Ratty and Mole. 

These two (and occasionally Badger and Otter) have stood beside you through thick and thin.  Sticking up for you when everybody else was against you, and how have you repaid them?  They have been hounded by the Stoats and Weasels, (the Wild Wooders), even having had their own houses broken into by these vagabonds.  And you did nothing.

While you were breaking out of jail and being pursued around the countryside, the Stoats and Weasels were harassing your friends,  And the only thing that Mole and Ratty were guilty of was that of being your friend.  On several occasions you have ruined the clothes lent to you so generously by Ratty and have also  lost him his boat.

Ratty has reminded me that while you were riding about the country in expensive motor cars and galloping proudly on blood horses and breakfasting on the fat of the land, your two steadfast friends, Mole and Badger were camping out in the open watching over your house and contriving ways of getting  your property back to you.  I think at the very least you owe these two good friends an enormous debt  of thanks even if they weren’t very successful.

And breaking out of gaol was probably the most foolhardy thing you could have done.  Oh I know that being in gaol was not comforting or comfortable to you, but really.  The gaolers daughter took pity on you and tried to improve your lot.  It was she who arranged for you to escape and how have you repaid her?  You have complained about the manner in which you had to effect your escape.  Shame on you.

So Mr Toad, may I ask you to reflect on these things and being the gentleman you are, make redress to these close friends of yours.  They are all feeling pretty well put upon at present and I know each would welcome a few kind words from you.

Yours very sincerely

Judith Baxter

Note Mr Toad is a character from The wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Graham.

Stalking Charlie Fox

“If you stay involved with Sean Meyer you will end up killing again,” my father said. “and next time, Charlotte, you might not get away with it.”
Charlie Fox’s father in Road Kill.

Yes, I am still reading and following the adventures of my favourite heroine Charlie Fox.  I have somehow got them out of order, but as I have already said, each novel stands alone and one doesn’t have to have read any of the others in the series.

In Road Kill we find Charlie involved with a group of bikers who are really so innocent that they get themselves involved with an unscrupulous gang of thieves.

Charlie is taking time out to sort out her life and her feelings for her boss, Sean Meyer..  She is refurbishing her parents’ cottage and instead of overseeing the refurbishment is doing much of the hard work herself.    Into this scene comes a friend to advise that a really close friend has been seriously injured in a motor cycle accident and a second person has died.

Leaving the demolition  work unfinished she rushes  to Clare her friend’s side and is relieved to find that the dead man is not Clare’s partner  but some other  man.  Jacob, Clare’s partner is away in Ireland on a buying tour for his business.  Stories about the accident flow around; there is bad feeling towards Charlie from the biking group and when Charlie is brutally attacked  by Jacob’s ex-wife and her strongman thug things begin to get out of hand.

Clare is very vague and secretive about what she was doing with this other man and how she came to be riding with him on his motorbike instead of riding her own beloved bike.   Gossip has Jacob’s son involved with Clare (surprising  to Charlie given how close Clare and Jacob are) and Charlie decides to investigate further.  She learns that there is to be a trip to Ireland for the motorcycle group and is determined to become part of the trip, partly because Clare and Jacob have asked her to look after Jacob’s son, but also because nobody will or can give them a straight answer as to why the trip has to go ahead even after the tragedy.   After proving herself capable of riding and keeping up with them, she is allowed to join them.  Sean is also allowed to go along after he proves to the group that he would be a good person to have along.

I won’t go into more detail as it would spoil the story for any one else but it is well written (of course) and has a good plot, with our heroine (is there a better word for this) coming up trumps once again.

Needless to say, this novel is full of motorcycles (both Zoe and Charlie’s favoured form of transport), guns, shooting, good guys and plenty of bad guys; innocents abroad who really should not be allowed out on their own, murder, mayhem and some good love scenes between Charlie and Sean.  I wonder where this relationship is going.

So as you can see a jolly good read and again, one that I recommend.

Road Kill

Click on the image to go to Zoe Sharp;s home page

And I still have the next two books in the series sitting patiently waiting for me to get to them.  So look out for more on this feisty woman, her lover and her exploits.

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience:
this is the ideal life.
Mark Twain

Hard Knocks

I introduced you all to Zoe Sharp and her feisty protagonist Charlie Fox a few days ago.  My addiction to Charlie is growing and I found that I was still reading at 1.15am this morning.  Far too late when at this late stage in my life I need all the beauty sleep I can get!

Book cover - Hard Knocks

Anyway, I finished Hard Knocks on Sunday night but wanted to think on it before writing a review.  So here goes -

In this, the third in the series, Charlie is reluctantly spending Christmas with her disapproving parents as her apartment was trashed in a fire.  Into the strained atmosphere comes a call for help from her friend and lover Sean Meyer.  He sends his assistant to tell Charlie that an ex army “buddy” has been killed while on a mission for Sean.  Charlie doesn’t care about the dead “buddy” but for various reasons, not the least to get away from her parents, she agrees to go to Germany to discover how he died.

To do this she has to enrol in a course in close protection work in Germany; this is where Kirk (the dead ex soldier) was prior to his death.    The school is run by a Major Gilby and various (rather dodgy) instructors and it is soon clear to Charlie that they are hiding something.  She of course, sets out to discover what.  She eventually of course, discovers that they are involved in a series of kidnappings with somewhat disastrous results as stronger, more powerful forces are at work here also.

As the novel progresses we learn more about the various characters that people the story and some more about the mysterious Sean to whom Charlie is strongly attracted but whom she also knows is a danger to her.

So more rapid page turning to an unexpected ending.  If you want to know about motor bikes, close protection work, the workings of convoluted minds, then this is a book for you.  Enjoy!

I have started the next in the series – Road Kill and have two more patiently waiting for me to get to them.  So expect my addiction to keep turning up in these blogs.