Prosperous Gaming

At last the chagim are over, and a return to some sort of routine was possible. So, what better way to celebrate than restarting the regular games sessions? Newcomer Avri joined Azriel, Peleg, Rosalynn, Sheer, and me for some across the board action.

At the faraway end, Avri, Peleg and Sheer played a thrilling game of Automobiles. (At least, it sounded thrilling.) I believe Sheer won, though there were a couple of great runes celebrated by the others in the run up to the finishing line.

Then the terrific trio switched to R-Eco, with Sheer and Avri fighting it out to their mutual destruction, leaving Peleg to survive for the win. He’s a mean recycler is our Peleg!

At my end, Azriel, Rosalynn, and I played Dominion: Prosperity. Azriel won that by a single point. His combination was not that efficient, but did allow him run through his deck virtually every turn, with more than enough money to keep buying victory points. Rosalynn and I seemed to get caught with dud hands jammed up by these same victory point cards, but sadly not enough of them.

Then the same three did a quick game of Splendor. Just as I was about to get my ducks in order (or cards in this case) Rosalynn claimed the win.

They retired, and I joined Avril, Peleg, and Sheer for a closing game of Reibach & Co. The lead went from player to player in the three scoring rounds, but I lucked out the best and managed a win by a couple of points. Luck, of course, played its part. The others refused to agree with me that it was the ultimate game of skill. Spoilsports!

Thanks to all for coming and making the night.

May your games always be good fun.

The Killing II – David Hewson

The second in the series featuring the somewhat abrasive Detective Sarah Lund, sees old ghosts from Denmark’s wartime past stirred up. Our heroine, packed off out of the way to a remote posting after the disaster of the Nanna Birk Larsen case (in the first book), is brought back to solve the slaying of a female lawyer. Nothing, of course, is quite what it seems, and Lund can be relied upon to kick up enough of a storm to unsettle the perpetrator just as much as her colleagues.

The central character is uncompromising, and the portrayal no less so; she carries the show with aplomb, and the odd grimace as you wonder ‘how – or why – the hell did she do that?’ The plot is well constructed, and equally well revealed.

While not as fresh as the first book, it still packs a wallop. Highly recommended, but only after reading the first

September goes out (with a) fast

I haven’t felt like blogging for the last couple of months. My head has been elsewhere, mostly because of the extended birthday tour and celebrations – thanks Susan! – which I do need to cover at some point. Gaming has also suffered. Too many things to do, not enough time. Maybe the situation will improve after Yom Kippur. Certainly, Sukkot should be a good break and another chance to recharge my batteries.

To those fasting, may it be meaningful and easy.

Gmar chatima tovah – גמר חתימה טובה

The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

The second of an unfinished fantasy trilogy, this book continues the biographical narrative by Kvothe, as he tells the story of his life to a scribe. Around this island of history, we get hints of a world on fire, with death and destruction circling in the background and perhaps getting closer with every chapter in the telling.

The quality of the writing also continues the same high standard on show in the first book, and it is an immensely enthralling tale in the main. I would exclude from that one extended sexual encounter which simply did not work for me. Or, it didn’t work because it went on for too long and bored me. That apart, there were plenty of surprises, some loose ends tantalizingly dangled in front of us to – no doubt – give some meaty hooks for the next book to connect to.

It’s not the absolute best of the genre that I have read (as mentioned last time) but I’ll be getting the next book whenever it finally appears.

If you like fantasy fiction, this is a pretty close thing to a sure bet.

The Killing – David Hewson

This is a novelization of a Danish television series that has attracted rave reviews for matching – if not exceeding – the high quality of the source material. The story is simple, but complex. The simple part is that a young girl is found, murdered, having been brutalized then dumped to drown in the boot of a car driven into a lake. The complex part is unraveling how she got there and who did it.

The central police character is a somewhat loose cannon called Sarah Lund. She is supposed to be going off to Sweden to start a new life with her son and boyfriend. But her last day turns up the young girl’s body, and from there things spiral out of control.

One reason for the chaos is that there is an election going on for the mayor, and the key challenger and his party are dragged in to the investigation. Politics being what it is (or can be) the truth about who was where, and when, and what they were doing, is not something the witnesses are so keen to divulge. So false lead follows false lead, until the investigation appears to be eating its one tail. At the same time, the distraught parents are eager for news and justice.

This is a brilliantly constructed crime story. The writing is terse, short, descriptive, and full of non stop action and an ever changing focus. Lund is a whirlwind, and her partner Meyer suffers from the fallout. There’s a bitter inevitability about the hunt that the author postpones with surprise after surprise. It’s a great example of a page turner that left me gasping for breath at the end, while simultaneously trying to work out how all the loose ends came together.

In short, it’s great.

Blood Wedding – Pierre Lemaitre

Sophie is slowly going mad. Those around her are suffering, some fatally, and there seems no way out of the nightmare. But will things get worse when she goes on the run?

This is a white hot novel, full to the top with suspense and twists, and rushing along at a frantic pace. There’s a lot to recommend here, including the carefully weighted portrayal of Sophie, and the slick plotting. It’s a story well told, and well worthy of your time. Highly recommended.

Two out of three isn’t bad

With Peleg and Sheer unavoidably detailed – they had an urgent meeting with their respective hairdressers – Rosalynn brought along her daughter Eliana, and we had a pleasant three person gaming evening.

We started with Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries, as it is designed specifically for 2-3 player play. Eliana was familiar with the core game, and she had no trouble picking up the differences. Play went smoothly, with Eliana crushing my hopes for victory by inadvertently – I think – blocking me off from my main ticket route. Meantime, Rosalynn nabbed the long 9 space route, and sauntered to victory. Eliana was second. I was after Eliana…

We moved on to Ivanhoe, a game which I taught Eliana and Rosalynn to play. Of course, I taught it so well, Eliana won. Rosalynn had gone in to an early lead, Eliana and I caught up, and then the youngster just kept going for the win.

We finished with Take it Easy and finally I could claim a win.

The ladies won two out of three, though. Not bad, eh? Eliana proved herself a genuine game player. They must have interesting games in that household given the number of good players there.

Radiohead Report

As you may have heard, Radiohead‘s Tel Aviv concert went ahead. By all accounts (locally) it was a great success.

This is how the Guardian chose to headline its report:

This is how the Guardian, had it been a bit more frank, should have headlined its report:

And this is how the Guardian, had it been completely honest, should have headlined its report:

The Guardian’s (rarely seen) honest face

On the Table – Catch-Up Time Again

I love gaming. I love writing. One day I will have these in the right balance. For now, it seems that I play more than I write, and that’s not balanced correctly. Which is another way of saying that work on the novel project has hardly progressed, and here’s another writing task I would rather do: catch-up with the wargames that have crossed my game table in the last wee while. Continue reading

The Deepest Grave – Harry Bingham

This is book six of the series featuring Fiona Griffiths, a very singular police detective character. The five preceding books have been, on the whole, excellent. I wondered if the author could maintain the quality. Having read the book, I can confirm the character is still as engrossing, and the portrayal is top notch. However, this time around I didn’t feel quite the same connection between our heroine and the deceased, and the plot was way beyond far fetched. However, it was still a great read.

The story begins with a murder. Not your average murder, but one involving the beheading of an archaeologist with nary an Islamist in sight. Fiona is on the case, and soon she has worked out what is going on. Unfortunately, her colleagues – especially her boss – is going off on a different investigative direction. Inevitably, the tension builds up, and there is more danger for Fiona to face.

So, on the plus side, the main character is an absolute corker, and is brilliantly and sympathetically described.  Some of her colleagues are a bit too cliched. The baddies are a bit trickier for me to rate. I thought that some of the scenes featuring the main criminal were good, but the motivation and plausibility were a bit lacking. The plot is tight in the sense that it is logical, but I found it wholly implausible.

The book was still a page turner, but just couldn’t match the quality previous books. I must stress that it is not the case of the author going off track; simply that this is a good book that is not quite as good as the others.

One interesting aside is that the book includes an essay by the author explaining – almost justifying – why he writes about such fanciful crimes. He claims to follow the Arthur Conan Doyle line in preference to the Raymond Chandler one. I wasn’t sure I completely understood the necessity for the essay, nor its likely effectiveness, but I did enjoy seeing how the author was thinking about matters.

Bottom line: I’ll be buying the next one, for sure!