31 December 2008

Farewelling 2008

Ring out the old year
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
It probably won't be frosty here, but I like the idea of ushering the old year out.

Most of us these days reflect on the year that has passed, what we did well, and what we could do better, and perhaps what we shouldn't have done.

Last year's New Years Eve resolution saw the creation of this blog, which it has given me great pleasure to write. This will be post 456, and that's probably way too many. I aimed for one a day though. It has given me a great venue to talk about books. I've instituted a variety of counters and one of them tells me I've had nearly 25,000 visitors this year.

I also resolved to visit the blogs of others more, and, instead of lurking, as many do when they come to this blog, to leave some trace of my visit through a comment. I don't always do that. (I can't always think of something to say.) But I'm enjoying the sense of a blogging community that has come. I created Crime Fiction Journeys to help others participate in that community.

As always I have kept records of the books that I read. According to my records I have read 110 books, possibly 111 if I manage to finish the one I am reading now. I have been keeping records since 1975, and have 2760 books listed. I am impressed with the granularity of Cathy's records, but I won't analyse mine as much as that this year. But like Cathy I have found that most of the books that I tackle are worth reading, probably because all the blogs I read and discussion lists I belong to help me choose more wisely.
My reviews are listed on Smik's Reviews and show the ratings I gave.

I've participated for most of this year in the Sunday Salon, in Friday's Forgotten Books, in What's On Your Nightstand, posted my reviews on Library Thing, some on Reviewer's Choice, Australian ones on Australian Crime Fiction, and created my own Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. I've also been part of the Carnival of Criminal Minds and tomorrow will host the first for 2009.

Have you given me your top 10 crime fiction reads for 2008 yet? If not, you have until January 4 when I try to do something with the mammoth amount of information I'm getting. There should be some great reading lists coming out of it.

So enjoy what is left of 2008.
Ring out the old year and ring in the new with gusto.

But please, if you drink, don't drive!

30 December 2008

Review: THE FENG SHUI DETECTIVE, Nury Vittachi

Duffy and Snellgrove, 2001, ISBN 1-875989-96-X, 256 pages

An Australian 17 year old from Sydney, looking for somewhere to spend her summer holidays is not really Mr Wong's idea of an ideal assistant, particularly when he doesn't really need one. Not only is she female, loud, not Chinese, but she speaks a language he doesn't understand. C.F. Wong is persuaded to take Jo McQuinnie on as a favour to her father, who is by way of being a client.

Mr Wong is a geomancer, a feng shui expert, whose Singapore operation is very small, just two rooms, and just himself and his secretary Winnie Lim. Jo McQuinnie wants to shadow Mr Wong, to spend her summer observing him, and learning about the practice of feng shui.

THE FENG SHUI DETECTIVE is actually a collection of 9 short stories drawn together by their common thread of Mr Wong and his new assistant. They range various locations in South East Asia, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Delhi, and Ho Chi Minh City, providing expert feng shui advice, at the same time solving mysteries from murders to real estate scams.

The reader is introduced to Nury Vittachi's quirky sense of humour early on:
    The neighbourhood was temporarily woken at seven o'clock by a minor emergency: a small fire in the building opposite, apparently caused by a joss stick falling out of a shrine dedicated to the God of Safety, according to the watchman. Sirens shook the buildings until a fireman arrived to find an elderly Buddhist nun had stamped out the fire with her bare feet - hard calloused hooves which were quite undamaged by the harsh usage.
Jo and Mr Wong are an unlikely team, she a lively foil to his more sedate approach to life, and the combination works. Very different style of books I know, but I couldn't help thinking of Colin Cotterill's Dr Siri Paiboun in THIRTY THREE TEETH and other titles.

The structure of the book is interesting too. Each short story is preceded by an old Chinese tale, often related to the practice of feng shui. On the following page is Mr Wong's modern distillation of the old tale. The short story that follows is related somehow to this distillation.

If you know nothing about feng shui are you going to enjoy THE FENG SHUI DETECTIVE? Well, having read the book, my knowledge of feng shui is still at best rudimentary. But I found each story posed an intriguing puzzle. Vittachi pokes fun at a variety of things: Mr Wong's attempts to understand his young assistant's language, the food presented to Jo, the ways in which the practice of feng shui is used, while still giving the reader glimpses of local culture.

My rating: 3.9

About Nuri Vittachi (from his blog)
NURY VITTACHI (also known as MISTER JAM), ... one of Asia's most widely published writers. New pieces are printed every week-day. His writings appear first in the printed press, and then on [his blog].
He has tens of thousands of books in print in many languages under various names and has been on television hundreds of times.
Hong Kongers are more familiar with "Mr. Lai See", people who follow the news media know "Nury Vittachi", young people at school know "Sam Jam the Story Man", and people who read columns in magazines know "The Spice Trader" or "the Travellers' Tales" man.

28 December 2008

Sunday Salon #37 - 28 December 2008

Seasons Greetings fellow Sunday Saloners.
Hard to believe it is nearly the end of the year isn't it?

Here in South Australia it is Proclamation Day.
Back in 1836 the British colony of South Australia was proclaimed at Glenelg on a day when the mercury rose to over 100F under a bent gum tree that formed a natural arch. The Old Gum Tree is still there, but probably dead for at least 50 years, propped into place by concrete and sheltered with a canopy.

I hope you took my advice for the gift giving season and gave books for presents, and I hope you got some in return.
I got 5 books and a book voucher so I did well.

I've got something you can participate in if you are a crime fiction reader in the next few days. I am asking readers of my blog to pop in and leave a comment listing the best 10 crime fiction titles you've read in 2008. On about January 4/5 I will begin to collate the comments into a list. You don't have to read crime fiction only to participate, but I only want your crime fiction titles.

My posts this week:
  • Review: THE PRIVATE PATIENT, P.D. James
    At 88 years old P.D. James is still going strong. The first Adam Dalgliesh, in fact Jame's first published novel, for 3 years, but hopefully not her last.
  • Your Best Crime Fiction reads in 2008
    This is the activity that I referred to above. Do come in and leave your list in the comments.
  • Arguing over Books??
    A fellow blogger came across a wonderful cartoon, and an interesting article, about what causes squabbles in book groups. Have you ever had problems with groups that you belong(ed) to?
  • Seasons Greetings to all
  • Progress reports - various books
    In the lead up to Christmas I seemed to make very slow progress on the books I was reading, so I decided to write about how I was feeling about each.
    SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS by Matthew Reilly, CORDUROY MANSIONS by Alexander McCall Smith, and THE PRIVATE PATIENT by P.D. James.
Breaking News
Currently reading:
  • now - THE FENG SHUI DETECTIVE, Nury Vittachi
  • sometime soon - THE 19TH WIFE, David Ebershoff
  • also listening to - CORDUROY MANSIONS, Alexander McCall Smith, ready for ch. 71
  • in the car - SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS, Matthew Reilly
New Year's Resolutions:
As New Year's Eve approaches I am wondering what book or blog related resolutions I can make.
This blog itself is the result of a resolution at the beginning of this year when I decided to create this blog mainly to "publish" my book reviews.
I made some other blog-related resolutions too:
  • to write a review of every book that I read, whether I like it or not
  • to visit the blogs of others and comment as much as I can
More later about about whether I've actually managed to carry those out.
So what New Year's resolutions are you thinking about?

27 December 2008


faber and faber, 2008, 395 pages, ISBN 978-0-571-24244-3

We know right from the start of this novel that 47 year old Rhoda Gradwyn is only 23 days away from being murdered. She has decided to have a leading plastic surgeon remove a disfiguring facial scar that she has had for over 30 years. She goes to the surgeon's private clinic at Cheverell Manor in Dorset to have the operation. The operation is a success, but only hours later Rhoda Gradwyn is dead, throttled.

This is an Adam Dalgleish book and James' fans have been waiting since the publication of THE LIGHTHOUSE in 2005 for the next. We are reminded of that book several times by the investigative team. THE LIGHTHOUSE was a variant on the closed room mystery: an island cut off from the mainland by bad weather with seemingly no-one coming and going, so the murderer had to be on the island. (see my mini-review: my rating was 5.0)

What we have in THE PRIVATE PATIENT it seems is a variant of the same sort of scenario, only this time using an English country house as the backdrop. Cheverell Manor isn't quite as isolated as Combe Island was, but the list of possible perpetrators is limited. Many in the cast of characters have secrets to hide, the Manor itself was locked at the pertinent times, but there is a local legend about the nearby standing stones, just to complicate things.

The thing that struck me most about THE PRIVATE PATIENT is how thoroughly it was plotted. I found it slow reading but I didn't grudge the time. P. D. James takes care of all her characters. Adam Dalgliesh is on the brink of marriage, and it seems that he is also on the cusp of a career change, with every likelihood that his Murder Squad will be redeployed after this case is finalised. Kate Miskin is due for promotion in the very near future, very likely to head her own team. James explores not only the relationships between the residents of Cheverell Manor, but also the way in which the members of Dalgliesh's team work together.

So, yes, THE PRIVATE PATIENT is a very satisfying read, P.D. James still among the best.

My rating: 4.9

Remarkably James is now 88 years old, and this is the 14th in the Adam Dalgliesh series. The series began 46 years ago, and James chose not to age Dalgliesh in "real time", and thus avoided the problems that Ian Rankin and Ruth Rendell have had to face with their aging detectives.

Nevertheless we could be forgiven for wondering if Dalgliesh will make a 15th appearance. I hope so.

The following list is courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.
1. Cover Her Face (1962)
2. A Mind to Murder (1963)
3. Unnatural Causes (1967)
4. Shroud for a Nightingale (1971)
5. The Black Tower (1975)
6. Death of an Expert Witness (1977)
7. A Taste for Death (1986)
8. Devices and Desires (1989)
9. Original Sin (1994)
10. A Certain Justice (1997)
11. Death in Holy Orders (2001)
12. The Murder Room (2003)
13. The Lighthouse (2005)
14. The Private Patient (2008)

Your Best Crime Fiction reads in 2008

Lots of people are publishing their "best reads" for 2008.
Mine are easy to find.

I thought perhaps we could try something different here, by having readers of this blog give me their top 10 crime fiction reads for 2008 via a comment, and then in about a week's time I will collate the lists with mine and give a definitive list.

O.K. So the rules are
  1. it is about crime fiction you've read in 2008. Year of publication doesn't matter.
  2. about 10 titles in the format of title, author (no need for description etc).
  3. any order will do. If you think one was so much better than the others, you might like to put it in your list twice.
  4. You have until Jan 4 to do it.
  5. You can help on your own blog by writing about what I am doing and pointing people to this post, so they can come here and contribute their list.
I'm looking forward to seeing what the final list looks like.

The first results:
What we said - tops in 2008

26 December 2008

Arguing over Books??

Many thanks to Books to the Ceiling whose post today pointed to the wonderful cartoon below and the New York Times article that accompanied it.The NYT article points out that book group troubles usually don't have much to do with books.
How true!

In my experience of both face to face and online discussion groups, it is often a clash of personalities, and once or twice something that goes a little deeper, that disrupts the harmony of the group. Newcomers for example can inadvertently step on the toes of those who have been members for much longer. Moderators can offend by their response in a dispute netween members too.

The groups I belong to all read crime fiction, and perhaps that does make choices a bit easier. In the online groups, which are larger, we get to vote on books to read, and then of course if they don't choose a book you like (or can get hold of) you are free to decide not to read it.
In the face to face group we have a roster of choosers ( we have only 8 members) and then we all try to read the book in the next month.

I think one of the things that has to be part of getting on in all book groups is tolerance. Even when you all read crime fiction, your tastes will widely vary. And just because you don't like a book, doesn't necessarily mean that every one else will hate it, or that if they do actually like it, they are somehow undiscriminating.

One of the things I've thought about is whether a discussion group set up in your work place would actually work. I'm not sure that formalising your discussion about books would result in you and your work colleagues getting closer together. I share books with some colleagues whom I know like crime fiction, but it is an informal exchange of books. Once you formalise the discussion then other work-place related factors may come into account - e.g. your position in the company, who chose the book, who chose not to read it etc. Also a decision by someone to no longer be part of the group may result in acrimony and work place division.

What do you think?

24 December 2008

Seasons Greetings to all

I hope your gifts, both to and from, include a new book or two!

23 December 2008

Progress reports - various books

I have been "reading" 3 books recently and am not likely to finish any of them this side of Christmas so my post today is a progress report.

I've been faithfully reading Alexander McCall Smith's online novel CORDUROY MANSIONS for 14 weeks now. There are 6 weeks to go.
Today the Telegraph has changed the way you access the book, particularly the audio part. The result is that, rather inconveniently, the widget that I have running on Crime Fiction Journeys now takes you to the home page of the Telegraph, not to the exact page of the chapter you've chosen. So then you have to locate the link to CORDUROY MANSIONS. Once you get there, they have changed the chapter layout, and it is not easy to locate the audio file you've gone there to listen to. Grrr..
The book (or rather Alexander himself we are told) is taking a 2 week break and will resume on January 5. I hope they've reinstated the old system by then.
Am I enjoying the book? As I've commented before I'm enjoying listeningto Andrew Sachs reading each chapter, but I'm not quite sure where the book is heading. You'd think that, 2/3 of the way through, I'd have more idea wouldn't you?

For the last week I've been listening to Matthew Reilly's SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS in the car to and from work. There are 11 CDs with over 13 hours and I'm in the middle of CD 3, so I'll be a while yet. If you want to read a blurb, here's the one on Fantastic Fiction.
Basically it is a thriller where opposing forces are looking for pieces of gold that basically make up the golden capstone of the Great Pyramid. It a race against time to save the world from a cataclysm that will be caused by a sunspot on the Sun's surface.
It is not my usual style of "reading", rather a thriller that makes me feel like I'm inside an action game, a bit like World of Warcraft or a Dungeons and Dragons one. There's a lot of description, and for the first hour at least falling stones, great dangers, boiling lakes of tar and so on.
Reilly has rather disconcertingly begun the book with the search for the first piece, and then regressed 10 years to tell us why this is all happening.
I hope I don't forget too much in the 10 days I'm having off from work.

The third book is THE PRIVATE PATIENT by P.D. James. We know right from the start of this novel that 47 year old Rhoda Gradwyn is only 23 days away from being murdered. She has decided to have a leading plastic surgeon remove a disfiguring facial scar that she has had for over 30 years. She goes to the surgeon's private clinic at Cheverell Manor in Dorset to have the operation. Indeed the operation is a success, but only hours later Rhoda Gradwyn is dead, throttled.

This is an Adam Dalgleish book and James' fans have been waiting since the publication of THE LIGHTHOUSE in 2005 for the next. We are reminded of that book several times by the investigative team. THE LIGHTHOUSE was a variant on the closed room mystery: an island cut off from the mainland by bad weather with seemingly no-one coming and going, so the murderer had to be on the island. (see my mini-review below: my rating was 5.0)

What we have in THE PRIVATE PATIENT it seems is a variant of the same sort of scenario, only this time using an English country house as the backdrop. Cheverell Manor isn't quite as isolated as Combe Island was, but the list of possible perpetrators is limited. Many in the cast of characters have secrets to hide, the Manor itself was locked at the pertinent times, but there is a local legend about the nearby standing stones, just to complicate things.

Combe Island off the Cornish coast has a bloodstained history of piracy and cruelty but now, privately owned, it offers respite to over-stressed men and women in positions of high authority who require privacy and guaranteed security. But the peace of Combe is violated when one of the distinguished visitors is bizarrely murdered.
Commander Adam Dalgliesh is called in to solve the mystery quickly and discreetly, but at a difficult time for him and his depleted team. Dalgliesh is uncertain about his future with Emma Lavenham, the woman he loves; Detective Inspector Kate Miskin has her own emotional problems; and the ambitious Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith is worried about working under Kate. Hardly has the team begun to unravel the complicated motives of the suspects than there is a second brutal killing, and the whole investigation is jeopardized when Dalgliesh is faced with a danger more insidious and as potentially fatal as murder.

21 December 2008

Sunday Salon #36 - Sunday 21 December

Today it feels like we are galloping towards Christmas.
Did you know that NORAD tracks Santa on Christmas Eve?

Here down under today is also the Summer Solstice - the "longest day" of the year, which feels a bit strange as we really haven't had much warmer weather so far.

It is also apparently St. Thomas' Day. Apparently traditionally in England the poor went from door-to-door begging, collecting food stuffs for the coming Christmas feast. Dove Grey Reader wrote about this custom today.

We finished our Christmas shopping yesterday and today I've been wrapping the gifts - virtually all books, so the wrapping is pretty easy.

This week's posts:
18 people participated in the poll, and basically proved for me that many who visit here are dedicated readers.
more than 15 hours a week : 6
10-15 hours: 8
5-9 hours: 2
less than 5 hours: 2
That's my last poll for the year. If you have taken part in any of them, thank you. I'll run some more in 2009.

Breaking News
Currently Reading
  • now - THE PRIVATE PATIENT, P.D. James
  • sometime soon - THE 19TH WIFE, David Ebershoff
  • also listening to - CORDUROY MANSIONS, Alexander McCall Smith, ready for ch. 70
  • in the car - SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS, Matthew Reilly

20 December 2008

Looking for books to buy?

I've finished my buying: and I'm pleased to say all my gifts are books!

Lots of people have been publishing their best for 2009 already, although there are really 10 days to go.

So, in case you are looking for some recommendations, I've listed in my Breaking News, 10 lists of "best" fiction that I've seen recently.

Of course you could simply go to the book shop armed with my "top 30" of what I've read this year:
5.0, SHATTER, Michael Robotham
5.0, NEMESIS, Jo Nesbo
5.0, FAN MAIL, PD Martin
5.0, DIRTY WEEKEND, Gabrielle Lord
5.0, A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES, Reginald Hill
4.8, VOODOO DOLL, Leah Giarratano
4.8, THE LORDS' DAY, Michael Dobbs
4.8, WATER LIKE A STONE, Deborah Crombie
4.8, NOT DEAD ENOUGH, Peter James
4.8, CARELESS IN RED, Elizabeth George
4.8, OVERKILL, Vanda Symon
4.7, WHAT THE DEAD KNOW, Laura Lippman
4.7, DEAD MAN'S FOOTSTEPS, Peter James
4.7, WORLD WITHOUT END, Ken Follett (Audio CD)
4.7, COLD IN HAND, John Harvey
4.7, SUCKED IN, Shane Maloney
4.7, THE PURE IN HEART, Susan Hill
4.7, THE VOWS OF SILENCE, Susan Hill
4.7, NO TIME FOR GOODBYE, Linwood Barclay
4.7, DEATH DELIGHTS, Gabrielle Lord
4.7, A NAIL IN THE HEART, Timothy Hallinan
4.7, A KILLING FROST, R.D. Wingfield

And you could look further than that.
When I started posting on this blog I listed the books chosen by oz_mystery_readers as the best for 2006 and 2007
They were
BROKEN SHORE (THE), Peter Temple
DIAMOND DOVE, Adrian Hyland
RAVEN BLACK, Ann Cleeves

Top by a long way is THE BROKEN SHORE with which Peter Temple has won the Ned Kelly award for Best Novel in 2006, and then the 2007 CWA Duncan Lawrie Award

19 December 2008

Review: THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT, Barbara Vine

Penguin Books, 2008, ISBN 978-0-67090176-1-7, 274 pages.

MP Ivor Tesham's secret affair with stunningly beautiful housewife Hebe Furnal comes to an abrupt end when she is killed in a car accident. Hebe was only in that car because Ivor had her snatched from the streets in a mock kidnapping, designed to spice up their encounter later that night. The kidnapping/adventure is Hebe's birthday present.

The police investigation after the accident comes to the conclusion that Hebe is the victim of mistaken identity. There is no linking at the time between Ivor and Hebe although there are those who know bits of the truth. For the moment Ivor's meteoric rise in Parliament is unchecked, even when his next girlfriend is the the former lover of the other passenger in the car, who was also killed. But five years later things start to unravel.

The main narrator of THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT is Rob, Ivor's brother in law. I actually found him a very annoying narrator, taking far too long to spill the beans, parsimonious with the truth. He is telling the story retrospectively, there is no doubt that the whole story is all over, but he goes about it in an exasperatingly long winded fashion.
There is a secondary narrator, Jane, Hebe's girlfriend, the source of her alibis when Hebe, a married woman with one child, has an assignation with Ivor. Jane has a sense of foreboding and keeps records on sheets of paper which she keeps in a shoebox in her flat.

There was a point about 70 pages from the end when I wondered why I was still reading THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT. There is a lot of minutiae that feels like the basic story is being padded out. I think perhaps it would have made a good short story or even a novella, and I understand that Barbara Vine wanted to explore the intertwining of relationships between the characters, but I think she really milked this scenario for all it was worth. There's a lot of detail supplied by Rob, in keeping with his pedantic longwindedness, about his family, his children, and how he and his wife Iris are devoted to Ivor. The second narrator Jane, a rather unstable character, similarly supplies details about her relationship with Hebe, and then later with Hebe's widowed husband.

My rating: 4.1

Fantastic Fiction lists the following books for Barbara Vine
A Dark Adapted Eye (1986)
A Fatal Inversion (1987)
The House of Stairs (1988)
Gallowglass (1990)
King Solomon's Carpet (1991)
Asta's Book (1993)
aka Anna's Book
No Night Is Too Long (1994)
In the Time of His Prosperity (1995)
The Brimstone Wedding (1995)
The Chimney Sweeper's Boy (1998)
Grasshopper (2000)
The Blood Doctor (2002)
The Minotaur (2005)
The Birthday Present (2008)
King Soloman's Carpet (2009) - this appears to be a reprint of a similar title published in 2001.

Barbara Vine won an Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1987 for A DARK ADAPTED EYE.

Barabra Vine is a pseudonym for Ruth Rendell.

18 December 2008

Spreading the Love, thanks Cathy

Many thanks to Cathy at Kittling: Books who has given me her "Best Observer of all things Mysterious Award."

This award is all about values that we hold dear and attitudes that we hate.
And after I've talked about my values, I'm supposed to nominate 6 friends (who won't ever talk to me again!) for appropriate awards.

Six things I believe in

literacy for all
the power of books
universal education
the right to vote
the role that libraries play in our communities
our obligation to help each other

Six things I abhor
racial prejudice
cruelty to animals
restrictive practices

My Awards
  • The Caring for Others Award goes to Marg at Reading Adventures who has organised a great Blog Advent Tour this year.
  • The Caring for Animals Award goes to Sunnie at Sunnie's Book Blog who is doing heaps of voluntary work for the RSPCA at present.
  • The Caring About What we are Reading Award goes to Karen at Euro Crime who is building an amazing resource.
  • The Caring about Scandinavian Crime Fiction Award goes to Barbara who constantly points us to new books.
  • The Amazing List Award goes to Janet who has today produced the most amazing list of Christmas and Miseltoe Mysteries
  • The Encouragement to Kerrie Award goes to Bernadette whom I first met online when she commented on my blog earlier this year.
So now blogging nominees, it’s up to you to go forth and follow these simple guidelines:
  • Mention the blog that gave it to you.
  • Comment on their blogs to let them know you have posted the award.
  • Share 6 values that are important to you.
  • Share 6 things you do not support.
  • Share the love with six other wonderful blogging friends.

17 December 2008

Forgotten Book: THE KILLING GIFT, Bari Wood

Another contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books theme.

This book took my eye as I scanned my records. I apparently read it late in 1977 and it is truly a "forgotten book". - I can't remember anything about it. So what you read here is the result of my research. Perhaps you remember the author or the book?

The following blurb is courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.
The man who broke into the Gilberts' apartment died brutally. His spine was snapped like a drinking straw. . . . but no one had touched him. For Stavitsky of the homicide squad a highly unusual murder investigation becomes an obsession. Twice before Jennifer Gilbert had been near to people who died horribly and inexplicably. Has she The Killing Gift?

One of the Amazon reviews of THE KILLING GIFT says it was a Putnam Award novel (I'm not sure what that means exactly). Another says "Scary, suspenseful, tragic - I've read this book so many times I've worn out my copy and need a new one! Definitely recommend."
There's another, more revealing Amazon review available which makes it sound a tantalising read.
The most recent printing of THE KILLING GIFT was apparently a paperback in 1988. Used copies are available from $0.01 plus postage!

Fantastic Fiction lists Bari Wood as the author or co-author of 8 books over a period of 20 years:
However according to Wikipedia TWINS and DEAD RINGERS are the same book. In 1988 DEAD RINGERS was made the basis of a film: Dead Ringers is a 1988 psychological horror film starring Jeremy Irons in a dual role as identical twin gynecologists.

DOLL'S EYES became the film IN DREAMS in 1999: In Dreams is a psychological thriller directed by Neil Jordan, released in 1999. The film has a running time of 1 hour and 40 minutes.In Dreams has the distinction of being the last film Robert Downey, Jr. completed before being sent to Corcoran State Prison on drug charges.

Bari Wood was an American author born in 1936.

Trivia about Dead Ringers:
David Cronenberg ("The Fly"/"Videodrome"/"Shivers") bases this intense psychological medical drama on a true story about identical twin gynecologists Stewart L. Marcus and Cyril C. Marcus, whose decayed bodies were found in their posh East 63rd Street pad. Stewart apparently died several days before Cyril, and the cause of death was blamed on a barbiturate withdrawal. Bari Wood and Jack Geasland based their 1977 fictional novel, Twins, on that bizarre incident. Cronenberg and Norman Snider, the cowriters, take so many liberties until it completely meets the director's usual themes of existential horror, the battle of the sexes, the macabre contraptions used in medical treatment, the arrogance of the medical profession and falls into line as a classic study of mortality. The director almost entirely invents his own pathological take on that fact-based story. Jeremy Irons superbly acts as both Beverly Mantle and Elliott Mantle, the names of the scientifically gifted identical twin gynecologists who sub for the real doctors. In the ten or so shots when the twins were on the screen together, Cronenberg used a stand-in played by John Bayliss. Irons' performance earned him the Best Actor award by the New York Film Critics Circle.

16 December 2008


This is a 2 CD set of 2 radio plays based on the Agatha Raisin stories: THE QUICHE OF DEATH, and THE VICIOUS VET. So I guess it is not the same as reading the full book really.

Nevertheless they make good listening. The cast is headed by Penelope Keith in each case. I've had unkind things to say about Agatha Raisin books in the past, to the point where someone felt they had to contact me by email to tell me I wouldn't know a true cozy if I fell over it. Perhaps I've turned the corner!

THE QUICHE OF DEATH is set just after Agatha Raisin has left her PR business in London and retired to the quiet life in a Cotswold's village. It is typical of Agatha to want to make her mark, so she enters the village quiche baking competition. But of course she can't really bake to save herself so she enters a bought quiche. She doesn't win, but the judge takes her quiche home to eat for his dinner. The next morning he is dead. Agatha is convinced his widow isn't sufficiently grief stricken.

THE VICIOUS VET is set a year later. Agatha has had a spell of PR work back in London but has been defrauded by someone she thought was a friend. So it's back to the village and the quieter life. She has a new neighbour, James Lacey, a retired colonel who simply wants to get on with writing a military history. When the local vet dies, hoist on his own syringe, and then his death is followed by that of one of his clients, then Agatha drags the unwilling James into what she is convinced are two cases of murder.

So now I've read 5 Agatha Raisins, and I actually have one more book out from the library. I have met Mrs Bloxby the Vicar's wife, Bill Wong the policeman, and Roy, Agatha's London friend. I'm not yet rescinding all of my earlier criticisms, but I certainly enjoyed these two tales. Would I have enjoyed them as much if I had not been listening to them being read I wonder?

My rating: 3.9

15 December 2008

Poll: How many hours a week do you spend reading for pleasure?

This week I am running a poll to see how long people spend in an average week on reading for pleasure.
It would be a very rare day that I would not spend at least half an hour, but it varies from day to day, with much longer times on the weekend. The need to read seems to be part of my sense of well being.

Various bloggers throughout the year have asked "why do you read fiction?"
There is no correct answer!
Here are some of the suggestions:
  • it helps you understand problems.
  • it challenges your thinking or gives you new ideas to think about.
  • you can escape the problems in your life.
  • you enjoy the puzzles.
  • you get caught up in the plot of a good book.
  • you enjoy meeting new characters and being part of their world for a while.
  • at the end of the day reading becomes a form of relaxation.
Perhaps you'd like to comment about why you read fiction. The list above doesn't cover everything.
And while you are here on my blog, look for the poll in the right hand column.
Work out how long you spent reading novels last week and how long, on average, you spend on reading for pleasure.

Your choices: >15 hours, 10-15 hours, 5-9 hours, <5 hours.

14 December 2008

Sunday Salon #35 - 14 December 2008

My postings in the last week have had a bit of a Christmas focus including a post for the Christmas Advent Tour that I have participated in, and a look at Christmas trees, Christmas lights (and where to find them in Adelaide), and crime fiction books I have read with Christmas connections.

I haven't really done a lot of reading, apart from other people's blogs, although I finished one hand held book, and one I've been listening to in the car.

Have you done your Christmas shopping yet? For me this is the year of the book. I've bought some and have a few to buy.

Posts since last week:

  • Review: BLINDSIDE, J. R. Carroll
    An Australian author explores a scenario about bent cops. Raunchy, noir, violent.
  • Review: SKINNY DIP, Carl Hiaasen
    Crime fiction with a comic twist. Not quite my cup of tea but it did make me smile in places.
  • Light up your houses, read more crime fiction too
    Like many other cities, suburban Adelaide has a number of Christmas Lights schemes. If you want to know where they are then there's a link in this post. I also listed some crime fiction titles set at Christmas.
  • Trees and more Crime Fiction titles
    Decorating Christmas trees in public places. Adelaide has a huge one in our central square, Victoria Square. Some more Christmas crime fiction to read too.
  • Christmas preparations, & some crime fiction reading
    I am far from ready for Christmas. My youngest daughter and her husband have made some lovely gingerbread houses and there's a slide show of them to see. Me, I focus on the suggestions for books you can look for.
  • 2008 Blog Advent Tour - my "window"
    In my posting for the Blog Advent Tour I focussed on Christmas music and located a number of YouTube videos for you to watch.
  • Forgotten Books: Simon Brett's Charles Paris series
    This is where I started reading Simon Brett. Nicy cozy series with a dipsomaniac as an unlikely amateur detective.
  • What is your favourite fiction style?
    This was the poll that I ran this week. 21 people answered.
    Predictably what I would call crime fiction accounted for 12 votes: crime 2, detective 5, mystery 5. But then there were romance 2, realistic 2, historical 2, fantasy 2, action-adventure 1. No-one chose horror, science fiction, or western.
  • ACRC Update, 7 December 2008
    An update of where I am up to in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. 5 books and a set of short stories down. 75+ books and an unknown quantity of short stories to go, but I still feel motivated.
Currently reading:
  • now - THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT, Barbara Vine
  • sometime soon - THE 19TH WIFE, David Ebershoff
  • also listening to - CORDUROY MANSIONS, Alexander McCall Smith, ready for ch. 66
  • in the car -AGATHA RAISIN and THE QUICH OF DEATH, M.C. Beaton
Breaking News
This week's poll
How many hours a week do you spend reading for pleasure (on average)?
Your choices: >15 hours, 10-15 hours, 5-9 hours, <5 hours
Pop over and participate.

13 December 2008

Review: BLINDSIDE, J. R. Carroll

Unabridged Australian Audio, 2005, ISBN 0-7320-2987-2
First published by Allen & Unwin in 2004
Read by Peter Hosking.

Shaun McCreadie made the mistake of his life when he joined two fellow detectives in a home invasion. George Petrakos is a Greek immigrant who has done well, on the surface by selling used cars, but in actual fact through his association with the Australian underworld. His mansion's strong room is rumoured to hold millions just for the taking.
Sydney detective Mitch Alvarez, who hates all Petrakos stands for, organises his two pals for what looks like an easy heist. In the long run the trio gets away with $2.8 million, leaving in the strong room a huge cache of heroin. But then George and his wife Stephanie are later discovered dead, the getaway van is found, with evidence that points back to young detective Shaun McCreadie. McCreadie keeps stum and takes the rap, going to jail for life.

Eleven years later McCreadie is released, his fellow home invaders are dead, and Shaun is determined to find out how Petrakos and his wife were killed, and to wreak a little vengeance of his own. Within a day, on his visit to Buzzard's Hut in mountains to retrieve the loot, he meets up with Joanna Steer, wife of high profile lawyer Raydon Steer, who becomes his soul mate and sexual partner. Others know that McCreadie is out of jail and guess that he will lead them to the money. Some come looking for him.

When I wrote my progress report a week ago, I said that this book really needs an R rating. Those who have said it is raunchy, violent, and noir are not wrong. It really did get to the stage when I was quite glad that Shaun and Joanna were apart because that meant there would be relief from the graphic sex.

The novel is read by Peter Hosking who did such a good job of reading Peter Corris' APPEAL DENIED that I listened to back in July. His was the voice that I could "hear" when I read Shane Maloney's SUCKED IN. He does again a very good job in BLINDSIDE with more voice variation than I noticed in APPEAL DENIED.

Shaun McCreadie is no innocent. He is a corrupt cop. Admittedly the Petrakos home invasion was the first time he had "crossed the line", but his stint in prison toughened him and he does not flinch from taking a life if he has to. The fiction of BLINDSIDE seems to have a lot in common with the real life drama of Underbelly.

My rating: 4.5

Read the first chapter on Amazon

Review: SKINNY DIP, Carl Hiaasen

publ. 2004 by Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 0-375-41108-9, 355 pages.

Chaz and Joey Perrone are celebrating their second wedding anniversary with a luxury cruise on the M.V. Sun Duchess near Florida. Chaz has a pretty dodgy job as a marine scientist. He is the stooge of a business tycoon who is polluting the Everglades by illegally dumping fertiliser. Chaz thinks Joey has rumbled that he is submitting doctored water samples to the authorities. Nothing is really further from Joey's mind. She thinks the anniversary cruise is a wonderful, romantic idea, and that's why it comes as a surprise when Chaz grabs her by the ankles and dumps her overboard into the Atlantic in the middle of the night.

Forunately for her Joey was a champion diver and instinct takes over as she plunges towards the ocean. Joey is rescued after almost 24 hours in the water and decides to wreak her own vengeance on Chaz.

SKINNY DIP is a strange mix of crime fiction and light humour. It seems to me written with half an eye on a screen version. Episodic chapters are populated by larger than life characters, with sometimes humorous overtones. And yet the content is serious enough. Chaz, as far as he is concerned, has murdered his wife, and later on goes on to demonstrate his ineptitude by trying to murder two other people. Chaz has one main focus in life: sex. His attempts to prove his virility and to increase his vigor through little blue pills are increasingly unsuccessful. Most of the action takes place against the backdrop of the pollution of the Everglades. Joey's brother flies in from New Zealand, getting to Florida in what seems to me to be remarkably quick time, having been alerted by Joey to her attempted murder. He holds a memorial service for Joey designed to make Chaz even more unhinged.

There were two characters who stick in the mind.
Karl Rolvaag, the cop whose investigation it becomes, is convinced that Chaz is the key to Joey's disappearance. All Karl wants to do get away from Florida and go back up north. He keeps two pet pythons who are missing for much of the book, presumably on the loose in the condominium where he lives in disharmony with other residents whose small pets go missing.
The pick of the bunch is Tool, an intellectually challenged giant who is engaged by Chaz's employer as a minder. He is addicted to morphine and raids hospitals for the aged to acquire morphine patches. On one such excursion he has a life changing experience when he meets and falls for Maureen, an eighty year old waiting to die.

So does the mix work? Well yes, it does in a way. There were bits that made me smile, but for me the action could have moved just a bit faster. But then I read for mystery and crime rather than for humour. SKINNY DIP may tickle your fancy just a bit more than it did mine.

My rating: 4.0

See Bernadette's review.

Light up your houses, read more crime fiction too

We are never organised enough to do this but I do admire people who do, and I get great enjoyment in driving around the suburban streets looking at the creations of others.

If you are from Adelaide, here is a list of the houses to visit.

Here are some crime fiction titles to look for too.

THE DEVIL'S COMPANION, John Misto, rating 4.0
On Christmas Eve, three-year-old Anna Brennan disappears from a crowded church during midnight mass. She is kidnapped, believed murdered. Twenty years later, in the process of a burglary investigation, a startling piece of evidence accidentally comes to light. Could Anna still be alive? If so, who abducted her, and why? Detective Constable Greg Raine is assigned the task of solving the case and reuniting Anna with her parents. But a nightmare of treachery and murder lies ahead. In a shattering climax, the detective unearths the secret behind Anna’s disappearance … and it’s a discovery that comes at a terrifying price.

A CHRISTMAS JOURNEY, Anne Perry, rating 4.1
A novella rather than a full novel. With the London season over, Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould like most of her peers is now looking forward to the Christmas holidays. Vespasia's husband is abroad on business and her children remain in London while she attends a party at Applecross, home of friend Omegus Jones. Vespasia feels good about life in general, but hers in particular as she reflects that her nation is prospering in the peace of the middle of the century though rumors fly that war in the Crimea is imminent. However, at a gala, Vespasia's friend Isobel Alvie's behaves is rather spiteful and nasty especially towards widow Gwendolyn Kilmuir. The next day, Gwendolyn is found dead, apparently having jumped off a bridge. Everyone blames the tragedy on acrimonious Isobel due to her cruel words so no one will talk to the "culprit" except Vespasia. A despondent remorseful Isobel accompanied by her only loyal friend Vespasia journey to Scotland to offer sympathy to Gwendolyn's mother where they will learn the truth behind the suicide and the true meaning of friendship.

PAST REASON HATED, Peter Robinson, rating 4.7
Susan Gay, newly appointed Detective Constable at Eastvale, her second day on the job in D.I. Bank's team, is called to a murder scene. It is 22 December, Christmas is approaching, and the rest of the team are at D.S. Hatchley's wedding celebrations. The victim Caroline Hartley lies stretched out on the lounge in front of the fire, with multiple stab wounds in her throat and chest, and blood drenching her whole body. She is part of the cast of a local dramatic production of Twelfth Night, and right from the beginning it seems as if there are far too many suspects.

LIGHT ON SNOW, Anita Shreve, rating 4.7
Thirty years old Nicky looks back at the event that changed her and her father from gloom and depression to hope for the future. Just prior to Christmas 1983 in New Hampshire, twelve years old Nicky Dillon and her father Robert walk in the woods when they find an abandoned newborn female with the umbilical cord still attached. They take the blood drenched infant to the nearest hospital while the police search for the parents. The incident shakes both Dillons to the core because it serves as a fragile reminder of life; two years ago Nicky's mother and her one-year-old sister died in a car crash in Westchester County. Not a mystery, but a good read none-the-less.

FROST AT CHRISTMAS, R. D. Wingfield, rating 4.7
Ten days to Christmas. 8 year old Tracey Uphill disappears on her way home from Sunday School. D.I. Jack Frost has been assigned a new helper, the Chief Constable's nephew, D.C. Clive Barnard. As Christmas approaches, Frost is typically behind with his paper work and the trail to Tracey seems cold. His investigations unearth information about the vicar, about a teacher who regularly visits Tracey's prostitute mother, and about a robbery that was committed a long time ago.

12 December 2008

Trees and more Crime Fiction titles

I guess every large city has a tree or two at this time of the year and Adelaide is no exception .

Here is last year's tree in Victoria Square which is in the centre of Adelaide.

Here are some more crime fiction titles with seasonal overtones to look for.

A HOLLY, JOLLY MURDER, Joan Hess, rating 3.2
This is the 11th title in Joan Hess' Claire Malloy series. Claire owns a book shop in Farberville Arkansas. As Christmas approaches, business is rather slow. Then less than a week before Christmas and the Book Depot has a visit from Malthea Hendlerson, an Arch Druid in search of New Age titles. Claire is able to order the books in for her.
Claire's teenage daughter Caron and her friend Inez have found what look like the ideal, well paying, holiday jobs at Santa's Workshop. They will be reindeer assisting in taking Christmas photos of children sitting on Santa's lap. What could be simpler?
Claire's friend Peter, the local police chief, has had to leave town for a few days to deal with a family emergency, and Claire is feeling rather disappointed. But the final few days to Christmas prove to be far from uneventful. Claire is invited by Malthea to be an observer at a winter solstice celebration. Just before dawn, as the ceremony is about to start, an older male member of the Druidic community is found dead, murdered. The subsequent hunt for the murderer reveals that the Druidic community is full of problems.
Just to complicate things Caron's job as Santa's helper turns out to be part of a scam for the unsuspecting.
In the police chief's prolonged absence Claire works with the local officers in finding out the truth about who committed the murder and why.

VOICES, Arnaldur Indridason, rating 5.0
The doorman at a Reykjavik hotel who doubles every year as Santa at Christmas parties in the hotel is found dead by one of the hotel maids, stabbed to death, in his squalid basement room. Christmas is fast approaching and the detective Erlendur is confronted by the problem of how or even if he is going to celebrate Christmas. Is there anything to celebrate? Strangely he moves into the hotel while the investigation of the murder is carried out just feeling he can't go back to his flat. This is Indridason's 3rd novel to be translated into English. It was originally published in 2003 and made it into English in 2006. Erlendur of course eventually solves the murder mystery but along the way we learn a lot about the ghosts of his own past, and gain insight into his relationship with his drug-addicted daughter Eva Lind. And even in the last 10 pages we are still juggling candidates for the killer.

CROWNER'S QUEST, Bernard Knight, rating 4.3
Set in Exeter 1194 AD. Sir John de Wolfe, ex-Crusader and king's man through and through, is the King's Coroner in Exeter. He leaves a party being given on Christmas Eve by his wife Matilda to investigate the death of a canon found hanging in his cell. Set against the background of a country on the verge of rebellion against its absentee king, Richard Couer de Lion. The action comes thick and fast, a local lord is killed, and we learn a lot about the Norman legal system.

BLOOD FROM A STONE, Donna Leon, rating 4.8
On a cold Venetian night shortly before Christmas, a street vendor is killed in a scuffle in Campo Santo Stefano. The closest witnesses to the event are the American tourists who had been browsing the man's wares—fake designer handbags—before his death. The dead man had been working as a vu cumpra, one of the many African immigrants peddling goods outside normal shop hours and trading without work permits.
Commissario Brunetti's response is that of everybody involved: Why would anyone kill an illegal immigrant? Because these workers have few social connections and little money, infighting seems to be the answer. And yet the killings have all the markings of a professional operation. Once Brunetti begins to investigate this unfamiliar Venetian underworld, he discovers that matters of great value are at stake within the secretive society.
While his wife, Paola, struggles to come to terms with their young daughter's prejudices about the immigrants, Brunetti finds that his own police force shares many of the same biases. Warned by Patta, his superior, to desist from further involvement in the case, Brunetti only becomes more determined to unearth the truth. How far will Brunetti be able to penetrate the murky subculture of Venice's illegal community? And how high does the corruption reach into the upper echelons of Brunetti's own world and the world at large?

COLD GRANITE, Stuart Macbride, rating 4.8
Aberdeen, oil capital of Europe … Christmas is coming, cold, dark and wet, bringing death with it.
It's DS Logan McRae's first day back on the job after a year off on the sick, and it couldn't get much worse. Four-year-old David Reid's body is discovered in a ditch, strangled, mutilated and a long time dead. There's a killer stalking the Granite City and the local media are baying for blood.
If that wasn't enough, Logan also has to contend with a new boss, DI Insch, who doesn't suffer fools gladly and thinks everyone's a fool, and his own ex-girlfriend, the beautiful but chilly Isobel MacAlister, who also happens to be the chief pathologist. The only good news is WPC 'Ball Breaker' Watson, Logan's new guardian angel.
The dead are piling up in the morgue almost as fast as the snow on the streets, and Logan knows time is running out. More children are going missing. More are going to die. If Logan isn't careful, he's going to end up joining them.
Very readable. Black humour mixed in with the serious stuff about the world of crime and child abuse. Interesting thread about how Colin Miller from the press is getting his information and the effect that the press can have on an investigation.

11 December 2008

Christmas preparations, & some crime fiction reading

We know Christmas is not far off when the daughters get into gingerbread house mode. Click on the image and enjoy the slide show.

If you are one of those who likes to get into the spirit of the season by reading a book with Christmas connotations, then in my next few blog postings I'm going to list some crime fiction titles for you to look out for.

Phyllis Tamworthy, about to celebrate her 80th birthday, contacts Agatha Raisin because she thinks someone from her family will try to murder her at her birthday celebrations. And they do - Mrs Tamworthy dies of hemlock poisoning despite the fact that Agatha is on the case, and actually staying in the manor house! That's enough to raise any female PI's dander. Phyllis Tamworthy was universally hated by her family and all the villagers, so the list of suspects reads like the local telephone directory.
The author just managed to retain my interest in the whodunnit side of this story, but I came close to not finishing the book when it side-tracked to Agatha Raisin's plans for the best Christmas celebrations ever. I can't get away from the feeling that these books are meant to be a spoof on the village cozy, but there is so little in them that I find amusing. The author does far too much "telling". The reader is never in a position to solve the mystery because not all the salient facts are at their disposal. There are occasional glimpses of good characterisation - perhaps the fact that I find Agatha Raisin so detestable is evidence of that - but there are others who are mere caricatures. The fact that KISSING CHRISTMAS GOODBYE is the 18th in the series is probably indicative that someone out there likes them, buys them, reads them, but perhaps not me.

WATER LIKE A STONE, Deborah Crombie, rating 4.8
The first Christmas with your partner's parents is never an easy one, and Gemma James is not sure she is looking forward to the one that she and Duncan Kincaid and their two boys will be spending with his parents in Cheshire. However on the eve of their arrival, Duncan's sister Juliet finds the mummified body of a baby concealed in the wall of a barn she is renovating, and everything takes on a different twist. Duncan finds the investigating officer called to the scene is someone he was at school with. Despite the setting in the small Shropshire town where Duncan Kincaid grew up, WATER LIKE A STONE has a big canvas feel to it. There are a number of threads, at least one murder, a couple of mini-mysteries to be solved, and plenty of action, all taking place in the holiday season of Christmas to New Year. Most enjoyable read. #11 in the James/Kincaid series

CITY OF LIES, R.J. Ellory, rating 4.3
Until a week before Christmas John Harper living in Miami had thought he was an orphan. That was when he got a phone call from his Aunt Evelyn stressing that it was important he get to New York city as soon as he could. It has been 17 years since he left New York and now he learns that Lenny Bernstein, the father he had thought dead for 30 years, is lying in a Manhattan hospital critically wounded in a liquor store hold up. At the hospital Harper meets up with an old family friend whom he had always thought of as Uncle Walt.
A little faster than John, the reader learns that things are not what they seem. There is a vortex of evil that slowly begins to suck John Harper in as he struggles to understand who his father actually is, and the events rush towards a climax that will mean death for many. I liked the pace at which this book moved, but I did have a problem in seeing John Harper as a real person. In my opinion too there were a couple of improbabilities, and a couple of loose ends- but I am not going to spoil your reading by talking about them here.

A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS, R.J. Ellory, rating 5
Death took Joseph Vaughan's father in the summer of 1939 just after Joseph, 11 years old, had picked up a long slender white feather, perhaps from an angel's wing. Death came that day. Workmanlike, methodical, indifferent to fashion and favor; disrespectful of Passover, Christmas, all observance or any tradition. Death came - cold and unfeeling, the collector of life's taxation, the due paid for breathing.
In the following years Death visits the small community of Augusta Falls where Joseph lives with his mother, many times, as a serial killer who takes the lives of young girls after doing unspeakable things to them. At school Joseph learns of unbelievable events happening in Europe through the evil of Adolf Hitler, and when after Pearl Harbour America goes to war, the murders of the young girls continue, all girls that Joseph knows well. Joseph organises a young band of vigilantes who call themselves The Guardians, but they can do nothing, and when the latest victim is a young Jewish girl, the community of Augusta Falls turns on non-Americans, including the Krugers who live next door to Joseph and his mother. These deaths dominate the path that Joseph Vaughan's life takes and what happens to the Krugers is nothing to what will happen to Joseph Vaughan.

MURDER IN THE DARK, Kerry Greenwood, rating 4.5
#16 in the Phryne Fisher series. It is the end of 1928. We celebrate Christmas with Phyrne and her family and then she is off to the Last Best party of 1928, being held by the Golden Twins, Isabella and Gerald Templar. The party is a 4 day event being held at Werribee Manor outside of Melbourne. Someone tries to dissuade Phryne from going, but that of course makes her more determined to be there. Once the party gets underway there is plenty to keep Phryne occupied, including cryptic threatening notes, an extravaganza of activities for rich young things, the kidnapping of a child, and the discovery of one that has been kidnapped and belongs to no-one.

CHOCOLAT, Joanne Harris, rating 4.5
Vianne Rocher, with her small daughter Anouk, arrives at a small French village on a festival day leading up to Christmas. She decides to stay and sets up a chocolaterie in the square directly opposite the church. As Lent approaches the village priest identifies her as a corrupting influence, confirmed in his mind when Vianne decides to have an Easter Chocolate Festival. Is this a mystery book? - some would say not - but there is plenty of mystery, even an old case of murder - and who is the old priest in a coma whom Father Reynaud visits on such a regular basis? Is Vianne herself who she thinks she is? I read this as a BBC Audiobook on 8 CDs, beautifully read by Juliet stevenson.

10 December 2008

2008 Blog Advent Tour - my "window"

Today is my "window" on the 2008 Blog Advent Tour organised by Marg at Reading Adventures. I've been enjoying everyone's postings. I love the music that comes this time of the year.

Here is a rag-taggle of videos to enjoy.

One of my favourite voices: Dean Martin

And Sir Harry Secombe - one of best voices ever

Rolf Harris - Six White Boomers

Disney Christmas clips

The Night Before Christmas with John Cleese

Vicar Of Dibley Christmas Special Part 2.1
You will find this gives you links to the other parts of the series

Mr Bean Conducts Brass

Festive Brass

Burl Ives sings The Twelve Days of Christmas

Shrek - the Twelve Days of Christmas


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