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Monday, January 30, 2012


This book is choc full of history - but I thank God that the history is to a great extent fictional. It would have been absolutely dreadful if the book was in any way faithful to what exactly happened.
I was in turns horrified and then fascinated as to what "could have been" very easily actually, if things turned out differently.

To get to the story Lucy - the daughter of the story comes from a minor titled background. Strangely peculiar family. The father dotes on her as his only surviving child but is controlled viciously by his wife - Lucy's mother who seems to intensely dislike her and all she stands for because Lucy has done the cardinal sin of not following in her mother's footsteps but has married a Jew. Jews are hated, distrusted and viciously attacked in subtle/and unsubtle ways in the Britain of this story.  David and Lucy are the fall guys for a murder of a high ranking politician, whilst the couple are spending a weekend with Lucy's parents at their invitation.

Lucy comes across as a spoilt, indulgent child - she seems to have lived in a cocoon of her own, oblivious to the world around her. A very artificial little world in only what counts is her comfort and very little else. Married to David she is forced to put up with subtle put downs, which she blithely ignores but her redeeming grace is her loyalty and love for David.  We have Inspector Carmichael at the other end - brought in to "solve" the murder by putting the blame squarely on the Jew irrespective of whether he is guilty or not.

Between the two we have a story which is frightening and tense, one which will make you want to know what is actually going to happen as it seems so wildly improbable that it most probably is true.
The story pivots around power, more power and hanging on to that power at any cost, prejudice and more prejudice and working on that prejudice so that you can cling on to the power for longer and be stronger as a result.

A difficult read but a must read.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mailbox Monday/It's Monday - What are you Reading?

Mailbox Monday is hosted for January by At Home with Books.

It's Monday What are you Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

My last week was a busy one trying to catch up with chores both at home and office. I returned last night from Rozella to another busy week ahead.

The following books were waiting for me - the Sandra Byrd one was a win. The others were what I had picked up on my last week in December.

The Tudor saga from another angle! Will never get tired of any angle.

I had read about this on The Reading Life - history with a huge dose of murder and mystery set in a monastery.

Science fiction within my comfort zone! I can never reconcile the picture of P D James with what she writes!!! does anyone else have this feeling????

This is the book I am currently reading. A S Byatt's POSSESSION.  A Booker Prize winner this one - combines the espionage of yes university professors (I had you there!) and simultaneously a love story one set in the 20th century and another in the 19th century - at times a bit heavy going but interesting nevertheless.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


This was one book which I enjoyed very much. A mix of Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen and a dollop of Sophie Kinsella!!

Clever and independent - two traits not very popular with women of her era Lydia had spurned the advances of her neighbour and beau Lewis - an extremely eligible bachelor. Ten years down the line Lydia has put matters of the heart behind her (so she thinks) and lives a very peaceful life in the country with her father. Lurking at the back of her mind however are the daunting thoughts of the future once her father is no more and she is without her beloved home.

Appealed to by her godmother to take on the responsibility of a young lady and introduce her to society in Bath as a chaperone was a matter of some chagrin to Lydia who did not think that at thirty she had progressed to being a wallflower and a chaperone but she gracefully accepts the assignment and then the adventures begin.

The young lady in question - Phoebe has two men in love with her and she cannot decide on either. She seems to love them both though she does not actively encourage either. The two ladies seem to be enjoying the pleasures of a season in Bath with its balls, picnis, riding and general fun. However, the tables are turned when one of Phoebe's admirers fall in love with Lydia instead and Lydia is faced with dilemmas on every side which for once she does not know how to cope with. On top of that add a sudden elopement, Lydia having to engage the services of Lewis to stop the elopement, prevent scandals, and generally put things in order.

As expected things turn out nicely, everyone is happy and peacefully settled and you breathe a sigh of satisfaction at the end. Do you want anything else?

On another note - just wanted to ask my other bloggers what does one do if someone stops following you? I feel a bit sad when this happens but never know what is the etiquette in these cases.

Leaving for Rozella this afternoon and will be away till Sunday. No internet and only books and some blessed cool I hope after the heat of Colombo. Leaving Googly but waiting to see my other two dogs!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I read a story about twins and then one week later I pick up another book about twins. It was eerily similar. This is again about twin sisters who are unalike - totally different from each other. One is a determined career woman, who has almost reached the pinnacle in her field (advertising) and the other is a beautiful model who is intent on making a wonderful marriage and securing a financially viable future.

Lindsey gets cheated out of a big account and the prestigious position that would have been offered to her if she clinched the deal. She also makes a stupid mistake professionally and is kicked out of her job. She returns home under a false pretence as she is too ashamed to admit that she has lost her job. On returning home she finds that everything seems to have fallen into place beautifully for her sister and Lindsey resents this. With no effort at all Alex has found everything she wants in her life.

The book has some unusual twists and turns. Both sisters had a lot of growing up and maturing to do at the beginning of the story and this is what happens by the end. Even at 29 they do not know each other, neither do they know themselves and this acknowlegement of their misunderstandings is a key element of the story.

My first read of Sarah Pekkanen. I have also read her next book Missing a Beat - the review of which will follow. A good read for teenagers as well.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


One of the places I have wanted to visit has been the Kashmir area. Manali, Srinagar, the Leh district and Dharamsala.  This book made it worse!

On her father's death, the task of clearing up the house falls to Mair and she discovers an exquisite shawl with a lock of hair enclosed within and the hair was definitely not her grandmothers. Mair knows that her grandparents worked as missionaries for a while in the Kashmir region but because her grandmother died when she was a child, she had never questioned her mother and obtained more details of their life out in India at the time.

Mair decides to trace the journey of this shawl from its origins and how it ended up in her family's possession. The story is twofold. There is the story of Mair who is restless and feels drawn towards India. She feels that answers for her future as well lie there. Then there is the story of her grandparents - a dour stern grandfather and a fun loving, lighthearted grandmother and the story of their life and work as missionaries in the Kashmir valley.

The background to the story is the British colonial life and the gradual animosity that was developing in India against British rule. The stories of life for the British is in turns happy, sad, pitiful and overbearing. Those who felt that they were pukka sahibs and lorded over it all were one and people like Nerys who genuinely loved the children of the mission and felt it an honor to try to teach and enlighten them in general, and even to a lesser extent Ethan who believed in what he was doing unlike most of the colonial administrators who felt that they not only knew it all, but that they knew what was good for the locals and acted accordingly.

Mair developed very well throughout the story. She began to realize what she wanted in life and how she wanted to live. The links between Kashmir and Wales were beautifully interwoven and the story though not with a neat ending of happily ever after was a good one.

One felt transported to the Kashmir valley and I for one would have liked to have gone immediately to see whether it is actually as picturesque as the story depicts. This book transported me also into colonial India so that I felt I was actually living the part there at the time. Bringing me back to present day Wales (unknown territory for me) which was very pleasant as well.

A very intense read.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mailbox Monday/It's Monday - What are you Reading?

Mailbox Monday hosted by At Home With Books for January.

It's Monday What Are you Reading ? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

My books are still only what I read and (finished) in Carnegie. There are several books which I have won as well which have come in my absence but I don't seem to be able to locate them as my husband
has put it somewhere safe!!!! That will be next week's reading.

The books which I thoroughly enjoyed each and everyone of them are :

I think I first read about this author on Cornflower Books. Enjoyed it very much.

I am only very sorry that I could not find any more from this author. I was alternately horrified, shocked, saddened and only glad that it did not happen!!!

This finished the week with a more light hearted read.

Right now (just came back from Melbourne) trying to get to grips with the unseasonal hot weather!!!
It is still so good to be back home.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I was intrigued by this story on reading the review from Book Chick. I also like the effect of a story told in two parallel lines. Sometimes the story is told by two different people and very often in two different time frames. This is the latter.

We have the present day story of Moira - a respected languages professor, lonely, her best friend is wondering about her sanity, her mother avoids her at all costs and that makes her more and more introverted and lonely.

We have the past story of Moira and Maeve the twins who could not be more unalike! Maeve vivacious, pretty, bubbly, attractive. Moira the "plain" one, shunned, not popular and on the sidelines. The story of their childhood and young teen years are heart breaking. Sisters fight it is true but this quiet enmity and standoffishness is something else.

Added to a family story we then get to the point of where the story turns in another direction. Upto now it would seem a normal family saga - here we have the spirit of mysticsm and spirituality come in. I found this part a little difficult to comprehend. For me,  though of course linked to the story it seemed like a third dimension which for me was not quite necessary.

The book is beautifully written though and very descriptive. Human feelings of compassion, forgiveness and love and that these would conquer all other things is paramount in the story.  The story is a haunting one.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Mailbox Monday hosted for January by Alyce from At Home with Books.
It's Monday What Are You Reading hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. 

This is my last week in Melbourne. I leave on Sunday back to Colombo. The books that I got from the library were

All these books have been selected because of book blogger's recommendations and reviews. I have already finished The Kashmir Shawl and this would be my second book for the 2012 South Asian Challenge.

Presently reading An Accomplished Woman - a cross between Georgette Heyer and a bit of Austen thrown in!

I am very keen on the Daphne book. There was a movie on her and I missed it so this book was a real bonanza for me.

Awaiting me at home in Colombo apart from my husband is the undersigned!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


The Victorian era is ended and Edward has ascended the throne. Not a very popular choice and we open the book at his coronation (which had to be put off once due to an onset of appendicitis). A bomb goes off in Hyde Park killing the person who was supposed to plant it and anarchy is rife. Charles and Kate Sheridan are in charge of finding out the whys and wherefores and report to the King directly as to what exactly is happening. Apparently the King is surrounded by sycophants who are only giving him reports of what he actually wants to hear.  That this King is not really interested in what is happening to the common man, the suffering undergone by his people is by the way.

My first read of Robin Paige and for this era as well. It was an interesting read which apart from unravelling the mystery of the anarchists also was very descriptive of the time. The upheaval in the working class with many people returning from war and unemployment rife, the beginning of a rift between the haves and the have nots, lots of historical features in this book discussed at length with the addition of mystery, murder and a bit of romance.

Also good to know that terrorism is not a modern invention - homicidal bombers existed during this period too.

An interesting read of an interesting era.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


This has been on my list for a while. Add to that this cover and wouldn't anyone want to read it!  Lady Julia and her husband are just trying to settle into married life after their honeymoon but Julia of course just cannot be like the other ladies around her. She has to always stick her nose into Brisbane's business as well as continue her experiments with substances like for example explosives.

The series which involve this unusual Victorian lady is as usual intriguing. Julia is so different to the ladies of her time that she has to meet opposition/interest/intrigue wherever she goes. She is feisty, independent, free thinking, very supportive of her husband actively so - all traits as mark her as very unusual. In this book Julia meets up with several men who do not see quite like the way she does, neither do they like her behaviour and she meets trouble as usual head on.  Another thing which is maybe an addition, and could be the branching out for future novels is the introduction of a slightly different interpretation to Brisbane's blinding migraines. A slightly supernatural view that these migraines are a portent of something to come?

I liked reading the book as this is part of the series I have been looking forward to. Awaiting more.

On another note Melbourne is having a cold spell. It was 14 last morning and this morning its just 17. I know that for readers this may be very mild but believe me for someone from tropical Sri Lanka, this is cold. I am having being very virtuous and doing my usual walk (which is very unusual for me anyway). So its back to the library which involves a 2 km walk. All for the love of books!!! Happy weekend everyone.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


This is going to be my first read for the South Asian 2012 challenge. This is Shilpa Agarwal's debut novel and it is almost a ghost story. Not my favourite genre at all, but I do like to read Indian authors and have had such good books from them that invariably if I do see something new I will pick it up irrespective of the fact that I have not seen a review or even heard of the book.
The book starts ordinarily enough. Pinky Mittal lives with her grandmother after she lost her mother in the Indo Pakistan partition. Along with the matriarch of the family Maji lives his son and wife and their three sons. Shortly after Pinky joined the household much against Savita (the aunt's wishes) she loses her infant daughter and a domestic is charged with negligence for this child's death. 

Pinky loves her grandmother dearly and has a growing adolescent crush on her cousin Nimesh who is attracted to the girl next door. The family is affluent, no shortage of any kind and the descriptiveness of living in an extended family is very beautifully told. Of special interest to those who have not experienced this kind of living - the pretentious manner in which it must be maintained that everyone gets on with everyone else whereas there are tensions seething underneath it all are almost a story in itself.
However the main gist of the story is the ghost of the long lost baby who has gradually taken over the household starting with Pinky and then gradually affecting the whole family. The spirits are not benign ones but vengeful ones which seek to get revenge from those who have not appeased them or looked after them in the afterlife very well. 

Agarwal's attention to detail - specially of the environs of Bombay not just the residential, elite areas but also the slums, her vivid details regarding the role that religion plays in the daily life of its people, and this family are very well told. This was a good start for my South Asian Challenge 2012.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Flora a citified girl decides to go live with her rural relatives when she is orphaned. The move is not without its moments! The characters that Flora meets up with - extended family - are eccentric, strange and I thought some of them not quite there!!

Cousin Judith spends her days locked up in her room almost in love with her handsome son Seth who is out carousing with the village damsels and making everyone he meets pregnant. We get Amos breathing hell and damnation for all souls who do not follow his spiritual guidance.  Their eldest son Reuben is depressingly despairing of making a life for himself, moving away from the farm, taking any kind of decision even a decision to improve the lot of the farm and then you get Elfine young and pretty whom Flora decides to take in hand before she also becomes a lost case.  The oldest is Aunt Ada who hasn't left her room for twenty years and rules the household despite this with a rod of iron and you get Adam the household help, Jack of all trades, master of none and mad as a hatter. 

Flora takes it as her right to lead the family one by one out of the dark mire that they have got into. First to be entranced is Elfine and with that the disintegration of the earlier rigid life they had begins.  The manner in which Flora handles them is masterful - half the time no one realizes that she is doing it "her way". 

I was determined to read the entire book (as I felt like chucking it halfway) which has been made into a mini series. I think a TV adaptation must be more humourous than the written word. Towards the end of the book I was beginning to get bored of the continuous round of depression, misery and negativity that surrounded the Starkadders.  Too much of oppression can be depressing.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Mailbox Monday is being hosted for January by At Home with Books. It highlights books which came into one's home for the week.

The books I had this week were all courtesy of Carnegie library.

The Sugar Queen - Sarah Addison Allen
The Last Will of Moira Leahy - Therese Walsh
Death in Hyde Park - Robin Paige
A rather lovely inheritance - C A Belmond
The Dark Enquiry - Deanna Raybourn

Other than the Robin Paige book, all my choices have been influenced by reviews on book blogs I follow. I am just
delighted that I am able to get my hands on the books as and when I read about them.

The meme hosted by Sheila of Book Journey highlights what one is reading right now.

The book right now is Death in Hyde Park by Robin Paige.  Set in 1902 starting with the coronation of King Edward VII - a Victorian mystery. I have just started finding books of this period so this is a new one for me.

Books read and reviews not done as yet for this week are :

Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
Haunting Bombay - Shilpa Aggarwal (my first read for the South Asian challenge 2012)
The Dark Enquiry - Deanna Raybourn

Lots of reading to get done and so many books on reserve as well at the library. Leaving Melbourne on the 22nd so I am trying to read as much as possible!


Penny researches history for the movies. She loves her work which is not very richly remunerated and leads a very simple life. Enter Aunt Penelope who dies and leaves "something" for her in her will. It necessitates her being present for the reading of the will and Jeremy her cousin (who is one of the lawyers) will help her out with the details.

Penny finds that she is now the owner of the garage of the villa which Aunt owned and of course everything that is in the garage. Apart from old tools and rusty tins, there is a pristine, hugely expensive car which needs just minor repairs but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Enter an evil cousin Rollo and his equally oily mother who are out to get whatever more they can get from the inheritance.

The book was light - romance, complicated family relationships and skeletons in the closet (lots of skeletons actually), a chase through several countries trying to locate a missing painting and general fun. I also think people had a lot of fun in the 1920s period and we are staid in comparison!

A nice warm feeling at the end. Good always prevail the evil are vanquished and happy ever after. Just what I needed.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I got this in a large print which made it easier for me to read this book - my first read of this author and this book has been recommended by so many book bloggers that it had been on my list for some time now. This was a disquieting book for me. It underlined that however smooth a relationship may be and we may think we are very close to someone, there are undercurrents and under lying feelings and unknown incidents which may remain closed to us forever and it is only through some chance incident that some of these things may come to light.  They were intended to remain closed and hidden and in the past.

We have Lexie in the mid 1950s a young girl living in the bosom of her family in Devon and waiting for the adventure of life to begin. Coming from a large and protective family they are aware that they cannot hold on to her for long and Lexie flies off to London to begin her adventures.  Getting into a relationship and starting to live with Innes a journalist much older than her, married with a young daughter on the side as well is one way of severing relationships with her own family and we do not hear of them from this point on.

Alongside this story we have the story of Elina and Ted - Elina just after the traumatic birth of their first baby. Elina having (for me) glimpses of post natal stress and Ted having an illness of his own which has been there for years but apparently not fully diagnosed and we are not told at this stage what the illness is. He shrugs the symptoms off and the couple try to get on with their lives amidst the huge stress of a new baby and the constant work involved let alone the lack of sleep. Elina tries to cope on her own without asking for help, and Ted tries to help not really knowing what he should do to help.

The stories continue in two separate veins but one does realize that the idea of these two distinct stories is that at some time they have to come together in some way or the other otherwise there is no meaning to the plot. And they do. In the most strange, complicated, unbeknown to us way. Which makes it very intriguing and then almost at the end you begin to see the light.

A lovely, compelling story of love, lack of communication in relationships, and from a very practical point of view impressed upon me the importance of writing a will! A very good story teller Maggie O'Farrel.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


For me this was an ideal mystery murder. You have the formerly rich but now impoverished family - father distant and not forbidding but just seems untouchable, motherless three daughters, Flavia our heroine brilliant, creative, innovative - two beastly sisters and an old faithful Dogger who seems to be the pivot of the household. Set in the 1950s and the timing was a severe winter, most picturesquely described that you could almost feel the freeze, the ice and the wind creeping around you whilst reading this book.

Flavia is a brilliant chemist with a razor sharp mind though just eleven. She has an affinity to solve murders through a method of deduction and logic more suited to someone triple her years. In this story the family home has been rented out for a film - with famous actors and actresses - it is also over the Christmas period and the cast have decided as a special treat to do a mini performance from Romeo and Juliet for the inhabitants of Bishop's Lacey.  The performance proceeds not without its mishaps of lighting and ends in a storm of such proportions that everyone is forced to stay back at Buckshaws and wait out the snow which has made roads impassable.

This is when the murder occurs but Flavia has already planned and is ready to execute a trick to ensnare Santa Claus so that she can get to the bottom of the story as to who actually comes down the chimney. In addition to that she has experimented with various chemicals to have a fireworks display as well. No murder is going to stop her from attending to either of her plans!

The murder takes place and inquiries are also set in place - all this takes place within the confines of a single house as no one has been able or allowed to leave or enter the premises from the time the play commenced. This adds to the story.  Since the story was confined only to the house, we can see Flavia's  interaction with her immediate family, much more than in the previous stories. I still cannot understand the nastiness of the two sisters towards their youngest sister and am only hoping that at some stage this stops. I wonder whether the father is so blind that he does not realize what is happening under his own nose. Dogger is the only support that Flavia has and we see much more of him in this book. The behaviour of the sisters is not just tedious it is downright poisonous.

As usual I liked Flavia very much and enjoyed this book which was a bit shorter than the previous novels. A lovely read.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


How people totally unrelated or unconnected can come together and how their lives can enmesh so that they are permanently entwined as it were is this story. Four women - different ages, different groups socially come together in a strange way and then we see the bigger picture through four differing points of view.

We have Jules - a impoverished student trying to find a way to help her father out of his addiction and to put him into rehab, we have  Annie her husband an airline mechanic student whilst working, also a mother of two infants trying to stay afloat each month and  desperately seeking a way to add to the family income. We have India - rich, forty threeish surprisingly in love with her much older husband and desperate to have a baby and we have Bettina her step-daughter who hates her guts, thinking that she is out for what she can get from her father who is besotted with India.

The story winds around surrogacy - the pitfalls and obstacles surrounding it - because you are not dealing with something, you are dealing with several someones. All with feelings that they think they can control and which they sometimes cannot, all human beings dealing with an issue in different ways.

How the four women handle the question of donating an egg, being a surrogate mother, (and also deal with a bewildered father),  dealing with the adoption of the baby when it comes and how does the welcome for a baby happen when his father dies just before his birth and the mother disappears and the step sister is forced to take over guardianship is the story of this very complicated saga.

I liked the manner in which the four different characters acted out their roles. I also liked how each person accepted their childhood and were determined that this time around with their own children, those same mistakes were not going to be repeated. That is a very good thing from the parenting angle! if we can improve our parenting skills and how we handle situations with children would be a very good thing avoiding any mistakes that may have happened with our own parents. 

My first read of Jennifer Weiner (who is described in one review as the Queen of Chick Lit). I wouldn't have said this was Chick Lit but maybe I am wrong. I enjoyed this read.

On a lighter note the dreadful heat of Melbourne has gone and we are now back to a very pleasant, slightly chilly 25. For me bliss!

Monday, January 2, 2012


I am still not getting the pictures right but that can't be helped right now. Reading about this author is amazing. She was in her sixties when her first novel got published, she wrote prodigiously, won the Booker prize and passed away just last year.

Her collection of short stories is my first foray into her writing and what is remarkable is that each story is so distinct, so separate (I know I know short stories are meant to be separate) but these go from the 17th century to a small boy who has lost a locket of value to him to that of a young very conventional lady who helped a convict to escape, then on to the puzzling story of the music director on the very remote island to the painters in Victorian times in Brittany. I was a little bit confused at the end as I could not quite understand what I was supposed to understand for some of the stories but from the blurb I also understand that the collection stands for missed opportunities.

Reading on I also got the impression that not just lost opportunities but what may have been if things had been different would also be an interpretation of this collection.

An intriguing writer - one I hope to go to back again before I leave Melbourne. Melbourne is on a heat wave roll. Yesterday 40, today 35, hopefully God willing it is going down now. I never could believe about automatic combustion of trees as it were, but with yesterday's temperatures and heat, anything was possible.


One morning William Harris gets up and knows that something is wrong.  The woman he loves - his partner has not contacted him, replied his messages for three days. On the other side Melissa - the missing woman's daughter also figures that something is not quite right. Both of them decide to go and look at Julia's house and the shocking discovery is made that this is no ordinary disappearance neither is it an abduction - Julia has systematically cleared out her wardrobe, her house making all necessary arrangements to cover her disappearance.

Trying to unravel the reasons as to why Julia - a rational person, a doctor who is methodical and who has not shown any signs of upheaval should do such a thing is what William sets out to do. William loves Julia deeply and knows the feelings were reciprocated so he is nonplussed at her behaviour knowing that it is completely out of character for her to act like this, unless there is a very valid reason. Using simple logic and basic detective skills he unravels a story of personal anguish that Julia has borne alone and comes to the realisation that her disappearance in the way it happened is merely to protect those she loves against a possible law suit and disgrace.

From Ireland to London to Chennai the story travels as Julia tries to find peace for herself away from the turmoil of what has happened.  Nice story telling here.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Mailbox Monday is being hosted for January by At Home with Books.

It's Monday What are you reading is hosted by Sheila
at Book Journey.

The books that I picked up for this long weekend which ends tomorrow are :

Stella Gibbons Cold Comfort Farm has been on my radar for quite some time.

Jennifer Weiner's Then Came you is also a book that I have read reviews about and have  been wanting to pick up.

And lastly Missing Julia is one I picked up as I liked the cover. I also liked the Chevy Stevens book with a similar title but this is nothing of that story. 
I still have books left over from my last foray into the library. Hopefully all will be read and finished soon as I have another list (all culled from everyone's 2011 best reading lists!).

The book I am reading right now is the Then Came You - just 50 pages in and very interesting. Its the second of January here and everyone's thoughts are now turning to the mundane and getting back to work tomorrow (today is mainly a holiday here though my daughter the nurse is working!)

I hope everyone had a very good New Years Eve and that the New Year will be blessed for all.