Thursday, July 28, 2016

Disney Book Tag

It's been awhile since I have done a book tag. I have always been a Disney fan. My favorite character is Mickey Mouse. I don't know how or why Mickey Mouse. Maybe, because it's the first Disney character ever created and the most popular or I sub-consciously want to be as carefree as Mickey.

This book tag is taken from a book lover's playlist. This was done originally by Kat from Katytastic.

Disney Book Tag

Let's all be kids again and talk about our favorite Disney characters and movies.

1. The Little Mermaid - a character who is out of their element, a “fish out of water”

It would be Derek Franklin in Straight by Dick Francis. Derek is a steeplechase jockey who was forced to take over his deceased brother's gemstone trading business. What would a jockey know about gemstones or running a business?

2. Cinderella - a character who goes through a major transformation

I think it would be Bella of the Twilight series. Because of love she asked to be turned into a vampire and from a clumsy girl, she turned into a woman who is capable of protecting the whole coven.

3. Snow White - a book with an eclectic cast of characters

It would be the characters from Alice in Wonderland. A combination of mad, angry  and queer characters with their own colorful personalities.

4. Sleeping Beauty - a book that put you to sleep

I don't usually fall asleep when reading books. I actually lose my sleepiness, especially reading very interesting ones. I have lots of books that I put down and have not finished until now because I got bored. One of them would be the Iliad by Homer, the Dover and Thrift Edition. I bought the book in  2005 and until now I haven't gotten to finishing it. I stopped reading when I reached the part where it enumerated names. I think I should get another book by a different publisher and translator.

5. The Lion King - a character who had something traumatic happen to them in childhood

It would be Sky of the Hopeless series by Colleen Hoover. Her experience was too traumatic that her brain decided to forget what she has been through as a coping mechanism.

6. Beauty and the Beast - A beast of a book (a big book) that you were intimidated by, but found the story to be beautiful

Wicked by Gregory Maguire. The book is physically massive and thick. I was afraid it would take me long to finish it but I didn't and I really enjoyed the book. I am looking forward to reading the rest of Maguire's books.

7. Aladdin - a character who gets their wish granted, for better or worse

Abdullah in And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. He got his wish to be reunited with his long-lost sister who got adopted when they were young. Only he does not remember her because he has Alzheimer's but still it was a bittersweet reunion.

8. Mulan - a character who pretends to be someone or something they are not

Daniel of the Fallen series by Lauren Kate. He is a fallen archangel. He pretended to hate and be uninterested in Luce in the beginning. 

9. Toy Story - a book with characters you wish would come to life

It would be all Dirk Pitt books by Clive Cussler. I would love to see Dirk, Al Giordino, Admiral Sandecker, Dirk's twins, Dirk's Father, Hiram Yaeger and Congressman Loren to come alive and I could call them to come to my rescue if I am in need.

10. Disney Descendants - your favorite villain or morally ambiguous character

It would be the notorious French criminal Hercule Flambeau of the Father Brown series by G. K. Chesterton who had turned his life around after Father Brown convinced him to.

All pictures are from Google except for the Clive Cussler books.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Three of A Kind - James Herriot: 1/3 All Creatures Great and Small

Three of A Kind - James Herriot: 1/3 All Creatures Great and Small

Our Three of a Kind feature for this week is Dr. James Herriot. He was a British veterinarian. He was born James Alfred "Alf" Wright but used the pen name James Herriot. He died in 1995 at 78. His books are all about his experiences as a country vet in Yorkshire. His books are filled with anecdotes and his funny encounters with different unique characters and animals in the farms he visited. His books are my first initiation into the world of veterinary medicine and the hazards and fulfillment that came with it. After reading his books I realize that I need not just read joke books to make me laugh. There are actually novels that are comical and outrageously tickling that I can read. I just have to sharpen my book-finding-senses. After reading Herriot's books, I have started to rummaged for other books with the same theme - the witty, funny and hilarious kind. Books that have authors who do not take themselves seriously. And true enough, I have found a few.

The first book on the list under James Herriot would be All Creatures Great and Small. This is the first book he has published as a journal to his veterinary practice. It was published in 1972 but it was about his experiences in the 1930's - the early years of his practice. Those years where also not so advanced yet for veterinary medicine. The methods were still a bit primitive and crude. The book may be called an autobiography in some way since most of what is written were his real encounters. His books are now a classic.

Three of A Kind - James Herriot: 1/3 All Creatures Great and Small 2

His books have become widely known not just in Britain but also in America. There is even a TV series and a movie of the same name. I am actually curious to watch the film. Would it be as hilarious as the book? 

There is also a train service operated by Grand Central Railway that runs from Herriot's hometown, Sunderland to London King's Cross that was named after him. 

All Creatures Great and Small narrates the story of Dr. James Herriot's early years as a vet. After he qualified and his being accepted as an assistant to Dr. Siegfried Farnon of Darrowby. His life as a country vet thus begins and he is initiated into country-living. A totally different world from having grown in the city.

You would be surprised to know that Herriot's life as a country vet is far from boring. In fact, his everyday life is filled with various interesting characters of both animals and humans. In the Skeldale House alone, where Herriot lives with Siegfried and his brother Tristan and five dogs, is a riot. Siegfried and Tristan may be related by blood but they are polar opposites. Siegfried is temperamental and moody but a good boss. While Tristan is a happy-go-lucky kind of guy who sees the world as a big playground. I actually love Tristan's character compared to Siegfried. Siegfried is at times bordering on bi-polar tendencies. But even so, you'll find that the characters are all adorable even with their individual quirks and sometimes annoying antics. Not to mention the animals who also have personalities of their own. This is a really hilarious read. I often caught myself laughing, good thing I'm just at home and my family is used to me giggling and laughing alone while holding a book or an e-book reader. Beware if you are outside and reading Herriot's book, someone might think you have loose screws. There are just a lot of silly things here that you can't help but be amused and laugh out loud.

As I have mentioned, Herriot does not take himself seriously. I can vividly imagine his experiences in the book and if I were there in the farms, I would have rolled over in the grass with his antics. You just can't help but fall in love with the adorable and warm character of James Herriot. He's definitely one of the best writers I've known. Even to this modern day and age, his books have not gone out of style. I can't feel any generation gap. His humor is universal, even if you do not love animals, you will find yourself turning into a grinning idiot. His books are priceless and a pleasure to read. I read the books again for my three of a kind feature and I am taken back to the same  feeling I had when I first read the books, only this time it is much better because I had to be reminded of the experience and relive it again. It's a double doze of the amusement.

Yes, you are right, the titles of his books are from a famous poem of Cecil Frances Alexander. These titles are actually a series but the titles do not follow the order of the lines of the poem. The poem begins with All Things Bright and Beautiful but Herriot's series started with All Creatures Great and Small. The titles are really fitting. The book for me is like an ode to God by Herriot. Thanking Him for the blessings and experiences he has in his everyday vet life. It has been a very interesting existence. If I were him too, I would not trade it for anything. 

Here are certain rules and scientific theories that Dr. James Herriot has formulated after his two years of attending to various farm and domestic animals:

  • That it was always the biggest men who went down - like seeing blood
  • That big dogs were kept by people who live in small houses and vice versa
  • Clients who often said "spare no expense" never paid their bills, not ever.
  • When he asked his way in the Dales and told "you can't miss it", he knows he will soon find himself hopelessly lost.

If you are in dire need of entertainment and would want to belch out the excess gas in your body or want to exorcise the bad energies that is hindering your potentials, then by all means read a James Herriot. I am definitely positive, you will feel a lot better. You'll see the world in a different light and get a new perspective. And mind you, this is all clean fun. No swearing and cussing. Just a lot of muck and animal body parts. 

...but you never know what's in store for you. It is a funny profession (veterinary medicine). If offers an unparalleled opportunities for making a chump out of yourself.

-James Herriot

2/3 All Things Bright and Beautiful
3/3 All Things Wise and Wonderful

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton

The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton book review

As promised, I read another book of G. K. Chesterton. The Father Brown series is said to be one of his most praised works. And I, being an avid mystery reader, decided to start my study of Chesterton through The Innocence of Father Brown. This is the first of the series.

The book talks about how Father Brown came to be involved in the solving of most crimes; how he was instrumental in the change of the life of the most notorious French criminal Flambeau; how their first meeting came to be; and how Flambeau was convinced to turn his life around and become a law-abiding citizen. All credits to Father Brown's persuasion. 

The book talks about all the adventures Father Brown and Flambeau did together. How they find themselves in the middle of theft, murder and other sinister things. And how Father Brown's amazing powers of intuition and analysis often solved the mysteries of the bizarre crimes. How Flambeau became a student of Father Brown's study of human interests, frailties and oddities.

The book is a collection of short stories of the adventures of Father Brown. The stories do not come in chronological order. They are individual stories and often, I can't figure out the key to the mystery. Like the other clueless characters in the stories, only when Father Brown explains himself and his observations, I finally get to understand the motive and the mystery. True enough, Father Brown is the opposite of Sherlock Holmes. His powers are more intuitive rather than deductive. He gets this from his long experience of listening to people in the confessional. His exposure to human nature and frailties makes him a bit of an expert in the understanding of what makes the human mind tick. Unlike Sherlock, Father Brown is the last person you will think who will be able to help solve crimes. He is a Roman Catholic priest and he has a way of finding himself in the vicinity of most of the mysteries. 

I enjoyed the stories but I think I would have appreciated them more if the stories were in a way part of one big story, not separate stories altogether. I wanted them to be chapters of one cohesive journey of Father Brown and Flambeau. I wanted them interconnected and there is a transition how one story came to be out of a particular event in another or previous story. I would have preferred them to be like that. Hopefully, the next set of stories will be more connected. I will have to find that out.

I gave this three stars.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

If everything really does get better, the way everyone claims, then happiness should be graphable.
You draw up an X axis and a Y axis, where a positive slope represents a positive attitude, plot some points, and there you go. 

This is one of the lines I can relate to in the book. It makes a lot of sense and I pretty much agree with Ezra on this. Yes, it is crap because this is not how real life happens. 

The Beginning of Everything , the first chapter alone may seem like a book of tragedy and regret but it is actually full of hope. Of the realization that everything happens for a reason but you only find out after understanding all the hurt, after your heart has been broken.                                                                                                                               According to Ezra, everyone has a tragedy waiting to happen and when that tragedy happens you realize that it is only the beginning of everything that is meant to happen in your life. When you have come to that eureka moment, everything will fall into place and you understand your mission and place in the universe.                                                                                           Ezra was a Junior when he was hit by a car that ran thru a red light. His car was battered and the last thing he remembered was being alone in the ambulance. He broke his knee and had to rely on crutches to get around. The doctors told him he will never play tennis, ever again. His life has been changed from the popular school jock to a pitying spectacle. He missed prom and finals because of the accident. And the saddest thing about all of it, the reason why he got into an accident was because of his now ex-girlfriend Charlotte. Not that he blamed her. If only he had done things differently that night, like not park his car two blocks away.

When Senior year started, Ezra felt he no longer belonged to his old friends. He felt like an outsider. He was no longer the golden boy. He can no longer play tennis, not ever. He thought tennis was everything...his ticket to college. It was what he was good at. Probably, the only thing he was good at. With this change, he started hanging out again with his best friend way back in grade school - Toby. Toby who had had his share of tragedy. 

There is also a new girl in school which seems to pique the curiosity of Ezra. He became friends with Cassidy. And as they got closer, he realized  that Cassidy has her own share of tragedy too and that they are doubtlessly more connected than they think they can ever be.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider book review

I started reading this book around 9pm and ended staying up until 2am because I had to finish the book. It seemed that my hand had a mind of its own and can't seem to let go of the e-book reader. My hand felt like glued to the device and will only release it when I have read the last word.

I absolutely love this book! I felt an extraordinary kinship with Ezra. I know exactly how he feels right to the marrow of my bones. I like that it was written in a not so dramatic way. It is still straightforward but the emotions and tragedy were never downplayed. I definitely wish I could write the way Robyn Schneider did in this book. Superbly amazing! I dig the way everything turned out and that Ezra was wiser in his age. The way he came to understand everything and accepted it as part of the way life dealt its cards. There are just some things we don't have a hand in and that what we do with what life gives us is how we deal with our individual tragedies. 

I did not cry in this book. Not that it did not touch me, but because it was so full of hope which I could really use a lot right now. That there is no need to despair just because things are not what we want them to be. Only in accepting our situations can we actually become the person we are really meant to be. Our tragedies force us out of our comfort zones and teach us to adapt, to change and sometimes cower and hide. But if we learn and adapt, we find that we can do more. We are destined for bigger and better things. Only our own selves are the ones stopping us. And I wish, like Ezra, I too will eventually find the beginning of everything amazing in my life. Not that nothing good ever happens in my life. It just that right now, I actually need a miracle because I sure don't know what I really want to do and where I am headed. Or I know what I want and I know where I want to go but it is so scary and I don't know if I am strong enough go through with it. I am not sure that I will come out of it alive and intact. I'm afraid I might end up more shredded than I ever was from the start.

I give this book five stars.  I was so pleased I found this book. Aside from that fact that it made me think about my own life. Ezra is strangely speaking directly to me and telling me to hold on. When things get worst, they will surely get better, because nothing comes after worst. It just makes sense that everything will turn around. Definitely, Robyn Schneider is the next author to watch out for. I think she might soon join my favorite authors list. I am excited to read her other books. I was so delighted with this one that I can't wait to find out if I can have her featured in my "Three of A Kind" post.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

I think everyone knows who Stephen King is. Although he is so popular, I have not really read his books. I have watched a few of his books that have been adapted into movies though, like the Green Mile and Shawshank Redemption and I actually enjoyed those movies.

Bazaar of Bad Dreams might be my first actual encounter of Stephen King the author. The real up close and personal thing with the famous author of horror, supernatural, suspense and mystery. I had been seeing a few people reading this book on Goodreads so I might as well start reading a Stephen King.

Bazaar of Bad Dreams is a collection of short stories accumulated throughout the writing career of King.  Some of them have been published and some have not. And I thought what better way to immerse into a Stephen-King-experience than by reading a book of his short stories. I thought, I am in for a wild ride.

Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King book review

What I like about the book is the introduction of King for each story. He explains how the story came about. It would be about a friend, an experience, a scene before him and a lot of other things. As what happens to all ordinary people, when we see a picture before us or an incident, sometimes our brains start to run wild and make up stories. This is also true for King. The book is called Bazaar of Bad Dreams because most of the stories are gearing on the supernatural, bizarre and scary aisle. Bazaar because as to the start of the book, King tells his readers that you are in a night bazaar, all wares are laid out for both the curious and the ones who want to buy an item. Each item represents a bizarre story born out of King's very incredible and limitless imagination. But mind you, the stories are not for the chicken-hearted and I would definitely not recommend them to be read by kids who scare easily. I think, kids should not read them at all as their imagination would surely get a better of them and give them bad dreams. But then, read them at your own risk. You have been warned, both by King and yours truly.

Like the first story for example, I thought it was a story for kids, only to find out that I would certainly keep my nephews and niece away from it. Until they are mature enough to understand that this is just a story and is just a product of a very active imagination. No need to worry that this will happen in real life. That's how talented Stephen King is. Even at my age, the story scared me a bit but I am more in awe of his writing skills and his power to spin stories. Amazing!

So far, there are about three stories that I really like in the collection. These stories are what I think the-feel-good ones. I think I can allow kids to read them. Two may be about death but there is a light aspect in them that makes me want them to be real--like maybe we can have a second chance, a chance to live our lives again but then, everything will happen the same way because you will never know that you have lived thru the same experience once before. Hmmm, ever wonder about deja vu? Well, as per the story, deja vu feels like you have done the same thing before because you exactly did. Part of the agreement for the second chance is that you won't ever remember a thing of the previous life. So, if you wanted a second chance to do a do-over, you will not actually get to remember what you wanted to change in the next life and end up doing literally the same thing to the letter, as what you have done in the past or past lives. Bummer!

The other story is about obituaries. I wondered also how would it be like if you hold a power in your hands. A power to impose death on people who deserve it because they have hurt and have done injustices in this world. Of course, there are grave consequences. So, beware...

The third story is a very modern one --about an e-book reader. I really liked it because I can totally relate to how fun it is to be reading books from mobile devices. Though of course, I think, most book lovers would agree, that there is no substitute for the simple act of flipping through the pages and the smell of printed paper or just yellowed paper. Not to mention, the pleasure of highlighting your favorite lines or make notes on the margins. Though, I am more of a dermatograph type. No hassle of removing the cap of a highlighter and dermatographs last longer. I also like the part when you have to remove the twirling paper to expose more tip. Yes, I am absolutely a true-blooded bookworm though my blog says i-am-not-a-bookworm. I like to play reverse psychology most of the time. What I like about modern reading devices is the convenience, especially when the book you are reading would be a very bulky and heavy one to carry around it if was in print. Everyone is taking advantage of technology, why not the nerds as well. I am a tech-y person also. I love technology.

This book has been a really good introduction to Stephen King. I would definitely read more of his works. Although I have to say, there are some stories that I really did not like but more because of the theme or that the story was not really clear. There is no arguing about his writing prowess. King is a legend and no one could discount his abilities. It was just that some are just too impossible for my taste. But then, I applaud his super uncanny power of imagination. Just extraordinary! 

I give the book two and a half stars. I think some stories are too short. I want them to be longer. Some were also not so clear or I just didn't get them. But I think I would appreciate more of King if I read his other books. One novel at a time. 

So, onward to reading more of Stephen King. I am not sure what I should read next. Maybe, I will start with the ones I have seen in the movies like Green Mile and Shawshank Redemption. I am sure, the books are always way better that the movies. Way, way better.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Three of A Kind - Dick Francis (Part 3/3): Hot Money

The third and  last installment of this current feature of Three of A Kind by Dick Francis is Hot Money. Hot money refers to the bets made by people who have inside information. 

Hot Money is the author's ninth novel to appear in condensed books. The Francises love to travel. In this novel, they have traced the route followed by our main characters - Malcolm and Ian Pembroke of Lambourn, England - from England to America to Australia.

Who are the Pembrokes?

Malcolm Pembroke is the father of Ian Pembroke. Ian is an amateur horse jockey. Malcolm earned his fortune as a gold speculator. He is dubbed to be with a Midas touch. Malcolm has been married five times. His fourth wife died in a car accident, along with their son. The other son survived with a brain damage. Ian is his only son by his third wife, Joyce. Malcolm's fifth wife, Moira, just died. She did not produce any children with Malcolm. The rest of Malcolm's brood is relieved that Moira is gone. They won't have to worry about getting less of Malcolm's wealth. Each offspring from the three divorced wives, except for Ian, have their own problems with life and money. They wanted Ian to patch up his relationship with their father and convince Malcolm to not squander his money in various donations, charities and frivolous expenses. They wanted Ian to convince their father that he needs to give them the money instead of going to those charities. Before Ian could actually make up with his father, Malcolm called him and asked him to accompany him in his appointments. Ian, realizing that his father was indeed serious in his offer of peace, accepted. Only to find out that someone has been trying to kill his father. One of the attempts was thwarted by Ian. Now, Ian has to protect his father and he has to make sure that his half-siblings, their respective other halves and his ex-step-mothers are not involved.

Like all families of multiple marriages, there is always this one person who serves as a keeper of peace. Ian is that sort of person in this story. His father listens to him, so it is just logical that his half-siblings will request him to intercede for them to their father. The story circles on Ian's efforts to keep his father alive and to find out who is trying to kill him. And like in real life, Ian realizes that it's not always money that drives people to madness. Some deep need and lacking would drive some to desperation and do the unthinkable. I reveled in the process on how Ian was able to get to know more of his family's lives, of their wishes and dreams, their frustrations and drives. 

My guess on who the murderer of the story wasn't close. I did not expect it. I thought the attempt to kill Malcolm was all because of money but it wasn't. It wasn't so obvious and you have to have really amazing powers of deduction to figure it out. Like Malcolm, I have to see the culprit in the act to believe. This is a well-written story. I don't like it as much as the two previous books - Straight and To the Hilt, but I still enjoyed it. A Dick Francis is always a wonderful read. This one though wasn't as superb as the two but still worth the time. 

And if you want to know how to create a secret room or storage, read this book. It will tell you how to make a room with a magic door, where to hide your treasures. You won't need a door knob, only a length of wire.

1/3 Straight
2/3 To the Hilt

Here are the rest of my books of Dick Francis.

Paperbacks (from left to right):
Wild Horses 
Blood Sport
Odds Against
Whip Hand

Condensed books (top to bottom)
Second Wind
Hot Money
To the Hilt
Driving Force

Three of A Kind - Dick Francis (Part 2/3): To the Hilt

Second book feature on three of a kind by Dick Francis is To the Hilt. According to Merriam Webster, this idiomatic expression means to the very limit or completely or with nothing lacking. 

Three of A Kind - Dick Francis (Part 2/3): To the HiltAgain, as with the other posts, you would need to read the book to judge if the title is really fit for the story. If I may lay my opinion, it is. Alexander Kinloch, has protected the Kinloch's honor and has fulfilled his promise to the dying step-father, Ivan George Westering, to the hilt
Well, here's the story. Alexander, he prefers to be called Al,  is the only son of the fourth dead son of an earl. He is often called the weirdo of the family - Mad Alexander and his acrylic and brushes. Alexander is a very talented painter of golf scenes. Some of his paintings were sold in New York galleries. If you think about it, he is not so mad after all, as his art is actually appreciated and bought by people. One art critic even said that he does not paint golf but the perseverance of the human spirit. 

Ivan, Alexander's step-father and his mother's second husband, had a heart attack. Alexander being the only and dutiful son, came to London to support his mother. Ivan, owns a brewery and is in the brink of bankruptcy because the Finance Director ran off with the money. Ivan and Alexander's Uncle, the current Lord of Kinloch, whom they call Himself, are tight friends. Himself have mentioned to Ivan that Alexander can be trusted with the earl's life. That's how trustworthy Al is. So with this, Ivan gave Alexander a special power of attorney to act on his behalf to save the brewery while it's still possible. Also, according to Himself, Alexander is good in hiding things. As Himself had asked Al to hide the Kinloch family's legacy, the often subject of debate among historians and citizens - commonly known as the Kinloch Honor or the Prince Charles Edward Stuart's sword. It is often questioned if the hilt rightfully belongs to the Kinlochs as the castle and surrounding estates has been turned over to the government. As to Al's talent in hiding things, another of his assignment is to hide Golden Malt, Ivan's race horse, to stop the bank from taking it and to hide the famed and historic King Alfred golden cup. Will Al save the brewery? Will he be able to make sure that the golden  cup and the race horse are safe from the creditors and other greedy hands? Will the hilt stay hidden and not be taken by the state as property?

Arg... Alexander is faced with a Herculean feat and all these tasks are dizzying, to say the least. He is a painter. What does he know about running a business, much less saving it from running into the drain? Aside from that, he has to hide two very important things. Well, as I said, he is not so mad at all. There is a method to his madness. You will be surprised to know how he was able to amazingly perform the three impossible jobs. You have to find out for yourself. I don't want to ruin the thrill and the mystery. I think, of all the main characters of Francis, Mad Alexander Kinloch, is my favorite. He may appear extrinsic but he is actually very gifted and sharp. So sharp, he is in danger of cutting himself. I love his character, very adorable and would take him any day as company. 

Aside from being amused with Mad Alexander's personality, one awesome character of the book is its abundance of witty phrases like the one I highlighted in the previous paragraph. These phrases are so amusing and catchy, just like the title is. I think, to the hilt, is one of my favorite idioms. Just as I would say, I will protect my family, especially my nephews and niece, to the hilt. 

Reading about the disturbance to Mad Alexander's quiet and uneventful life has been really really pleasing. I can't help but be astounded at his antics. Knowing Mad Alexander, the queer one, has outsmarted his adversaries and done his duty, to the hilt!

I highly recommend this book to everyone. Even if you hate horses, I am sure, you will love Mad Alexander, the master in hiding things. 

**Tip: He hides them in the last places you will look.

Three of A Kind - Dick Francis (Part 1/3): Straight

Another one of my favorite authors on three of a kind - Dick Francis. I came to know him via the Reader's Digest Condensed books. As you may have seen on in my previous posts, this is how I met most of my favorite authors. 

Let's meet Dick Francis...

Three of A Kind - Dick Francis
Francis is a former British professional horse jockey. He is not just any jockey, he is Britain's champion steeplechase jockey. A steeplechase is a race for thoroughbred horses over fences. And true to his old profession, his novels are about or involve horse racing, horses and jockeys. Since 1957, Francis started writing and he has over 40 published crime novels. He collaborated with his son Felix on four of his novels. Even after his death in 2010, Felix still published the books with his father's name on them. Francis novels used different male heroes in his stories though he had two protagonists that appeared more than once in few of his novels - Sid Halley, an injured ex-jockey and the other is Kit Fielding.  Though his novels are centered on the subject of horses, they also opened doors to other fascinating professions such as a chef, private investigator, painter or artist, wine merchant, pilot and many others. People seem to enjoy his books because they learn about a trade they know little or nothing about. 

Most of the research for his novels are a family affair. His wife, Mary, is the main researcher and their children help too. Their eldest son, Merrick, is a horse trainer in Lambourn, England and their younger son, Felix, is the head of the Physics Department in an English school and is also a  skilled marksman. His research for his works takes him to places around the globe. Most of his novels are featured on Reader's Digest Condensed Editions.

Francis is the only three-time recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award for Best Novel for Forfeit in 1970, Whip hand in 1981 and Come to Grief in 1996. He also received various awards from various British writers association. 

Three of A Kind - Dick Francis (Part 1/3): Straight
The first Dick Francis book feature is Straight. This novel is about gemstones and precious stones trading. The hero is Derek Saxony Franklin, a steeplechase jockey who got injured in one of his races. Derek was shuffling on a broken ankle when he received a call that his older brother Greville died. Greville was not married and Derek was listed as his next of kin. Derek has to take over Greville's affairs and that includes handling his precious stones trading business until Greville's estate is put to order. What would an injured jockey know about precious stones? Derek is as sharp and as smart as his dead brother. But will he be able to keep Saxony Franklin afloat or lead it to bankruptcy? Not to mention, someone is trying to kill him for reasons still unknown to Derek.

Straight is the first Dick Francis novel that I read and I was hooked. It was through this that I learned that Cubic Zirconia could pass as Diamonds for those untrained eyes. A tip for all the ladies, a karat of diamond equals  1.7k of CZ. I think this should come handy if you are looking to buy diamonds so don't be fooled. This book also introduced me to horse racing. All its hazards and malice, the money and the greed.

Well, this won't be a crime novel without vicious attempts on the life of our hero. Aside from that, there are other sinister things on the work also. This is a truly wonderful journey. I have become a believer of Francis right after reading this novel. This is an amazing exercise of the senses and you will definitely enjoy it. You will keep wanting for more, as I do.

Truly, Dick Francis is a master storyteller and I am glad I knew him through his very entertaining works. Every time I go to a bookstore, it never fails, Dick Francis' works are one of the first things I look for.

If you want to know what Straight means in this novel, better read it. I don't want to spoil it for you. It would be a very interesting ride. Believe me. I have been there twice over.

If you love horses, you will definitely love Dick Francis' novels. And even if you don't, you will still want to read more. His works are addictive. Consider yourself warned!

2/3 To the Hilt
3/3 Hot Money

Information sources: Wikipedia and the About the Author page at the end of the story.