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Monday, January 28, 2013

TOWARDS ZERO by AGATHA CHRISTIE



This was my first introduction to Inspector Blunt. I am so used to the foibles of Hercule Poirot and the little eccentricities of Miss. Marple that Blunt's straightforwardness was a surprise!

All the characters are not what they seem - they all have a hidden agenda and the plot is complicated (but that is normal for an AC book). At the same time the characters seem typical the gold digger second wife with the eye on the main chance, the put down trodden on first wife humble and subservient, the rich mother, a doting "son", and the various hangers on who seem to drift towards the story but are all very relevant.

A bit that struck me was that it is quite true that unlike in a murder of passion, murders of AC are all premeditated and planned so that the murder actually starts with a series of apparently unconnected events long before the actual event. Apart from that the solving of the murder also depend on totally irrelevant features and people who may have been accidentally passing by, dropping in or waiting nearby for something or the other totally disconnected from what is happening underneath their noses!

A short story and the twist in the tale is typical of Dame Christie's writing.  It was just what I needed.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

THE RAVEN'S HEART by JESSE BLACKADDER









The year is 1561 and the young Mary Queen of Scots is coming back to Scotland from France to take over her rightful throne. She is coming to a place of much intrigue, bloodshed and a very harsh  climate and surroundings, very far removed from the lightness and romance of the French court.
At the same time we have Allison Blackadder masquerading as a male crew member also comes back from France with only one hope - to wrest Castle Blackadder from the hold of the Hume family who took it from its original owners by force.

Allison's ability to masquerade as a boy is her plus point and the means by which she becomes the confidante of the Queen who needs to know the pulse of the people. Mary is surrounded by people whom she cannot trust and those that she trusts invariably betray her starting with her own husband. With his death, she is at the mercy of the Lords led by Bortwell who wants her to marry him so that he can wrest power for himself as King and finally rule both Scotland and England.

A twist to this story which was very unusual was the development of a lesbian relationship between  first Allison and Angelique which was a full blown one and the deep, abiding attraction between Allison and the young Queen who deliberately uses her charms to entice and keep close to her Allison despite it being to Allison's detriment and safety to remain with the Queen.

I did not realize that Allison was a fictional character because the author has faithfully narrated events in history which actually took place. The positioning of Allison is so beautifully executed that it is as if she is actually part of the history of this era. The story of Mary Queen of Scots and Darnley and the rest of the Blackadders is actual history and not fiction.

I am so glad that I read this book as it got me out of the reading slump into which I had not just drifted into but got lodged into! hopefully my reading will improve. The fact that the author herself if a Blackadder and researched her own history added piquancy to this read.
 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

SONGS IN ORDINARY TIME by MARY McGARRY MORRIS


I did a fairly long post on this book. I felt it deserved it as I took over a month to read it. It disappeared from blogger which was very discouraging but since it has to be done, here I go again.

My first read of an Oprah Book Club recommendation. Set in the 1960s at a time when America seemed very simple, very innocent the story revolves around a family and particularly Marie Fermoyle. Marie is confused, bitter, so worried over "what would people say" and seems to think that everyone is judging her and her family by her drunkard husband's behaviour, so much so, that there is nothing in her life that is actually free of this taint.

Marie has three children - Alice on the brink of entering college (money has to be found somehow), Norm hostile and first with his fists and Benjy cowering and nervous, just wanting his mother to be happy.

Enter Omar Duvall - a con artist to beat all con artists. Smooth, slick, oily you want to shriek and warn Marie who is vulnerable to beware. Despite her instincts kicking in and telling her to be cautious, Marie falls headlong into Omar's plans of marketing a miracle soap, ends up signing for a loan and perjuring herself by signing her brother in laws signature as a guarantor for the loan.

The story goes on and on - this is a book of 700 odd pages - and there is a murder, there is cheating, there is alteration of cheques, there are love affairs galore - a priest and Alice, the police chief and his sister in law whilst his wife is an invalid and dying and then there is Omar one love affair with Bernadette and one with Marie. Cleverly balancing both, lying through his teeth with both, cheating both of them financially at one and the same time, Omar is one of those slick men who will escape at the end.

What I found difficult right through the book was that the characters seemed too exaggerated. Their characterization was too minute - Sam was not just a drunk, but he was intent on disgracing his family at every turn, Renie the cowardish brother in law was not just cowed down and nervous but he also made obscene phone calls to women in the locality, Helen his wife was not just mean spirited but also miserly - counting every cent of Sam's expenses so that at the end of the day, he would not inherit even ten cents from his mother's bequest. Every fault was too much for me to handle  there seemed to be such an abundance of faults in everyone. Even our Marie the chief character of the story comes across as being wilful and mean in her remarks, almost deliberately wanting to hurt her own children at every turn with her spite.

The book was not an easy read at all. The font in my version was very small which did not help. I am glad I finished it though as DNF is generally not for me. I will not be going back to this author anytime soon though!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

MAILBOX MONDAY/IT'S MONDAY! WHAT ARE YOU READING?


After a long drought I received a few books in my Mailbox. All gratefully received! The meme hosted by Loris Reading Corner.



A book from a friend of a friend who went on a visit to Egypt. The book came from Egypt to Australia and then back to Sri Lanka!! Looking forward to this memoir from the 1800s.

Two Agatha Christie's from a friend



Finished and reviewed one  already!




 
 
Win from Darlene at Peeking between the Pages and arrived this morning!
 
 
 
 
 
Meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.
 
Still in a slump though I did get one book read. I have two DNF which is sad for me as I seldom if never do not finish. I took the advice of so many bloggers who said time is limited, the range of books out there is enormous and to get on to what interests me more.
 
Hopefully this week will be better.
 
 
 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

SHORT PREVIEW - DEATH IN THE CLOUDS BY AGATHA CHRISTIE



This seemed a very simple detective story. A murder takes place on a very short flight between Paris and Croydon. The time could almost be put down to the very minute and the number of people on the flight is very limited. The number of people who could be eliminated from the list of suspects is also great so that the number of suspects is quickly whittled down.

I thought for once I had got it down not even half way through the story and was quite chuffed that for once in my life I had got it right!!!! AC is much cannier than I am and to cut a long story short I was way too wrong in my assumption.

A quick, very easy read which was what I needed. I have been reading, have been visiting the blogs but not finishing a book and not done any reviews since last Sunday. Work has been heavy and one crisis after another at home!

 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

MAILBOX MONDAY/IT'S MONDAY! WHAT ARE YOU READING?



Hosted by Loris Reader Corner for January. No new books this week as well.  Work has definitely got in the way of even looking out for new books though I am visiting the blogs as usual.


 
 
This meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey has got me in a spin. I am reading but its always a bit of each book, nothing is finished. AND THAT IS THE PROBLEM!!! Three books on my bedside table - Myra Breckenridge (very slow going), Purge by Sofi Oksanen (I cannot understand why I am finding this a drag) and Songs in Ordinary Time - I really thought this family story would keep me going (as it usually does) but 150 pages in I find myself dawdling. No other word for this.
 
I have a pile of books still to be read but it seems so undisciplined for me to do this!!! I think my convent upbringing has a lot to do with this. Finish what you started. Old habits die hard.
 
 
 

Friday, January 11, 2013

A TASTE FOR DEATH by P D JAMES




I love P D James's books and only dread me coming to the end of the list! This was once again absolutely delightful.

We have a tramp and a baronet - found murdered, throats slashed in the vestry of a very ordinary church. No links between the two and a more unlikely pair you could never come across but there you have it. An Adam Dalgleish detective spectacular. In the most unobstrusive, logical manner they are (sorry I forgot Kate Miskin and Massingham) working blind trying to find some chink in the murderer's armour, some small slip which will be the short end of the wedge as it were to solve the crime.

We have an upper class family closing ranks, but there are small upheavals. A second wife, beautiful and spoilt who thinks the world should revolve around her, her lover a famous gynaecologist who is also her cousin, we have Lady Ursula the matriarch who knows much more than what she reveals, a jealous, envious brother in law and subordinates treated as servants in the household.  We also have a very mild mistress self effacing and selfless and a rebel daughter who wants to make a statement. All have reasons for murder in  plenty but tying them down and proving it is not going to be easy.

P D James is a very descriptive writer - both of places, people, events and happenings in general. One is kept enthralled by the language used (I've picked up a couple of new words in fact from this one!) and the final effect of the writing is superb.

A wonderful read.

Monday, January 7, 2013

BRING UP THE BODIES by HILARY MANTEL



 
 
In this story we join Cromwell as he helps Henry VIII maneuvre his way out of his 1000 day marriage to Anne Boleyn and the machinations that evolve as a result involving the innocent and the not so innocent indiscriminately as long as the King's wishes are met.
 
The former Queen Katharine is dying - still not allowed to see her daughter the Lady Mary who schemes and has her own followers, Anne is on the way out and Jane Seymour the pale, lifeless one in comparison to the vivacious Anne has caught the King's interest and is on the way in and Elizabeth is still a toddler with Fitzwilliam the bastard son also on the horizon.
 
Europe in general have not accepted the King's second wife calling her a concubine and the greater majority of the English people also dislike her thinking she is "foreign" and the English nobility have never quite forgiven her relations for their overbearing and grasping ways starting with her brother and father.  Add to this mercurial mix, the fact that Henry is obsessed with begetting a son and Anne's failure to produce one is just driving Henry away (not that he needs very much in that line anyway!). Cromwell realises that not only is the need for an heir important to Henry but Anne's increasingly reckless behaviour with a number of young men are going to lead her to her doom sooner than later and even though he tries to warn her, the warnings go unheeded.
 
The story more than about Henry and Anne and the turbulent times they live is is about Cromwell's machinations to get one marriage (Katharine) annulled, get a second put aside for whatever reason possible so that the King can be accommodated for a third time. His own head being on his shoulders depends on whether he pulls it off or not and how he goes about it is not the King's concern.
The absolute cruelty of Henry VIII will be forever remembered, particularly as he wants to come across as a benign, benevolent leader whereas he is a megalomaniac who wants what he wants and wants it now. Cromwell is a murderer who hangs on to power and makes a fortune in the process. Not a pleasant bunch of characters but a book which for lovers of history is a must read.
 
I found the book slow in the beginning and only warmed to it half way through. The ending was brutal but that is history.
 
 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

MAILBOX MONDAY/IT'S MONDAY! WHAT ARE YOU READING?



Nothing new in my mailbox!

BUT I was delighted when I was featured by Stacy in The Novel Life on her post Sunday Serenade!


 
Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.
 
This has been a very bad week reading wise. I just am not getting anywhere on the books. I am still reading Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. It was slow going for almost 150 pages but it seems to have picked up for me now (getting to the really heated up part of the story now) and hopefully I will finish this quickly.
 
With the start of the New Year there have been too many things to do and not enough time to finish all in time!