Sunday, February 28, 2010

And Only to Deceive

By Tasha Alexander

This is a wonderful historic 'Novel of Suspense'.

Emily finds herself a widow at a young age when her husband dies while on safari in Africa. This suits Emily quite well as she barely knew her husband before his untimely death and only married Philip, the Viscount Ashton, to escape the nagging of her mother. In fact, Emily's mother makes Sam Shephard's Mum look positively saintly.

Emily starts to delve into the life of her husband and finds herself in the unusual situation of falling in love with him when it is too late. She follows his trail to the British Museum and as well as finding a theft ring of stolen artifacts, finds intellectual stimulation, a love of Greek and the Classics, and a personal liberty afforded by her wealthy widow status she could never have dreamt of. In fact one of the delights of this book is seeing Emily flourish and blossom under the influence of some strong-minded women friends.

Of course there are dashing suitors involved, but they seem to have their own agenda, and who can she trust?

This is a delightful Victorian era novel with fabulous characters. I love Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody novels, and I will now place Tasha Alexander's Emily up there as one of my favourite heroines.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Kill of Crime Writers?

So what is the collective noun for a group of crime-writers? A Kill of Crime Writers? A Murder of Mystery Writers? A Torture of Thriller Writers?

I had these things going through my head as I got to enjoy a cuppa and Danishes at the home of Christchurch crime writer Paul Cleave. We also had the company of Hubby, Paul's partner, and our Webmaster. As you can imagine, given the company, talk couldn't help but steer towards murder most foul. We also played a fun game of what to do with reviewers who give us crap reviews (please note the distinction here, we weren't referring to reviewers who don't like our books, but still give a balanced and constructive review - we like them, they are quite safe from our scheming, we're talking about the ones who trash the book and make stupid, stupid, hurtful, comments.) Our favourite was torture by a thousand paper cuts, followed by a dip in a tub of salt.

We had a good discussion about Paul's latest novel Blood Men, which I can't wait to read. It was intriguing timing with Paul's novels set in a Christchurch with a seedy underbelly, and a crime capital, and then to see this week's Listener with the front cover head line "Why are so many Christchurch women brutally murdered?" I think Paul taps into that darkness very, very well.

It was a great way to spend a morning, and Paul is good company. He's like me. Sure, we might spend our days imagining up ways to kill people and where to dump the bodies, but underneath it all we're really quite normalish, and despite what you might think, it is safe to dine at our houses without running risk of, er, terminal gastric complaints afterward. We're not like method actors, after all.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hunting Ngaio

Hubby and I are off for a few days to have our first ever child-free weekend away! (Yes, I know, it's taken us ten years) Christchurch is the city that beckons, that and the Diana Krall concert.

Of course, while in Christchurch I'll be stopping in at the Ngaio Marsh House, in the Cashmere Hills. It will satisfy a few curiosities, and hopefully help in my research.

I'll send pictures, promise.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

By Agatha Christie.

I had so many people tell me I simply must read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie I thought I had better be an obedient wee Vanda and jolly well do so. I am so glad I listened!

As you can see by the picture my copy of the book is a rather well loved, liver spotted second hand (or many hands, as the case may be) find. I do love the Green Penguins. As an aside, I do wish Penguin had produced their new New Zealand Popular Penguins as black with orange writing, instead of the traditional orange with black writing.

Back to Roger Ackroyd. The narrator in this story is Dr James Sheppard, family physician and friend who is called back to the Ackroyd house when Roger Ackroyd is murdered by an ornate knife stabbed into his back. When M Poirot is called out of retirement to investigate the murder Dr Sheppard effectively becomes his Watson, commenting on the various characters in this cast, all of whom have something to hide and many of whom are delightful, including the good Doctor's sister Caroline who would put the SIS's snooping skills to shame. We also get to see the uncanny skills of M Poirot as he quietly, and inexorably goes about getting his man.

This was a captivating and very clever story with plenty of twists and turns and red-herrings and where, it seemed, almost everyone could be looked at with suspicion. No wonder everyone recommended it - it's a fabulous book.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Fings...

...I last posted on Tuesday - what happened to the days in between? I think I blinked.

...Warwick Roger from North & South magazine actually gave me a good review!

...According to Craig over at Crime Watch, Alix Bosco's novel Cut & Run is to be made into a two part mini series. Go the Kiwi's! Great to see some New Zealand crime fiction being put onto the screen. Of course I'm slightly jealous...

...I'm enjoying Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

...I'm getting the last bit of gratification out of the back to School Stationery sales.

...I'm doing nasty things to poor old Sam Shephard again...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Write On Radio Show Day Wednesday

My how a month comes around so quickly.

Wednesday is Write On Radio Show Day, which airs live on Toroa Radio, Dunedin, 1575kHz AM, and is live streamed from the Toroa radio website, for those people not blessed enough to live here. The show runs from noon until 1.00pm and features talented Dunedin folk. I must also thank the show's sponsor, bless the sponsors of the world, the make things possible. So thanks Java Hair Studio. (You've got to love a hair salon that cares enough to sponsor a show about books!)

My first guest is jeweler, print maker and painter John Z Robinson who has recently had his book Red Studio: Forty-Five Prints published. We'll talk about print making, and art, and the process of having art transformed into a book.

Paddy Richardson has recently released her third novel, Hunting Blind, a psychological thriller which starts out with the disappearance of a little girl in Wanaka, and moves around Dunedin, and other familiar locations in the South Island. We'll talk about Hunting Blind, the allure of writing crime fiction, and the perception of crime fiction in the writing world.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The bliss of the mundane

The kids have gone back to school and life has fallen back into some semblance of rhythm. It is that rhythm of the expected, the orderly (or frantic, depending on what you are doing) and even mundane which I sorely miss during the holidays.

Don't get me wrong, I'm the kind of mum who loves the big break with plenty of time to chill out, or see new things, catch up with friends, fossick in the garden, read lots of books, walk along the beach, do lots of baking, eat too much and all the other traditional summery things shared together.

But we are all so very ready to get on with our own things by the end of six weeks. Actually, Mr Eight-Year-Old had been asking if he could go back to school since Christmas. I asked if that was because he was missing his friends, and he said yes, and that he also really missed doing maths.

So now, they're back at school, and normal transmission resumes. Its just me, my computer, and the snoring cat.


Friday, February 5, 2010

My favourite time of year...

...and no, it's not summer (well, it is that too) it is...

Back to School stationery time!!!!!!!!!

OMG, it's paper-o-holic heaven, all those exercise books, and notebooks, not to mention the pens, and pencils and must have pencil sharpeners. I fell vicitm to a set of Curly Girl pencils in The University Book Shop, but hey, it's a seasonal thing, you have to do it, otherwise it would be like not buying daffodils in the spring, or not eating yourself stupid on the cherrys at this time of year, it would be foolish.

So instead of fighting my inner bean counter, I embrace the season, fill up the cupboard, and then flop down in the chair feeling happily sated for another year.

Happy sigh.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hitting the ground, running...

Today was the first day back at school for the boys. One of them was all fed, dressed, bed made, teeth brushed and bag packed ready to go by 7.30am. Get the feeling he was a bit excited? The other was about half an hour behind, but still pretty excited.

So what does a girl do with her first kiddy free day in six weeks?

She works her butt off, of course.

Got some writing done, pre-recorded a radio interview for next week's Write On Radio Show with Paddy Richardson, met Hubby for our first kiddy-free lunch in ages, had a meeting to hammer out the year's programme for the Otago Southland Branch of the NZSA, and did my book reviewing spot on Channel 9 Television's Dunedin Diary programme - the first show of the year. And yes, I did remember to go pick the kids up from school. After their first tiring and I must say very hot and sunny day at school they required treatment with ice cream.

Here are my notes for Dunedin Diary of the two books I reviewed today. remember, this is what I intended to say. Of course the actual twaddle that came out of my mouth when confronted with a bad case of nerves, a very dodgy memory and Dougal being as rusty as I was after the holidays was probably quite different to this, but you get the gist.

Hunting Blind by Paddy Richardson.

This story starts a number of years ago with the disappearance of a little girl from a school picnic at lake Wanaka. the family is devastated and the community is stunned by the loss. Her body is never found and the coroner rules that she most likely drowned in the lake. The novel follows the life of Stephanie, the little girl's older sister and the immense impact the loss has on her. She was a teenager at the time of Gemma's disappearance. Stephanie later in life becomes a psychiatrist and for her the alarm bells start ringing and the tragedy is brought back by her realisation of the similarities between her story and that of a patient who has also lost a little sister.

This is a fabulous book, superbly well written that looks deeply into the huge emotional toll a tragic event like this can have on a person, a family and a community. It's a psychological thriller, and I loved it. I highly recommend it.

Red Studio by John Z Robinson.

John Z Robinson is a local print maker, painter and jeweler and red studio is a selection of 45 of his prints, the majority being lino cuts. I'll state from the outset I am not an art critic, but I am someone who loves art and art books. I have always had a soft spot for prints and found this a delightful book.
Lino prints is a simple and humble medium that John clearly enjoys. He has had a lot of fun with creating these lovely, small works. I very much enjoyed the brief commentary which went with each, they are entertaining and informative. This makes this a lovely book to either read from cover to cover, or to dip into and discover. It is beautifully produced and would be very happy on anyone's coffee table.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Books for Boys

I have on occasion asked the folk out there in the blogosphere their opinions on good books for boys. I feel blessed to have two boys who devour books, all kinds of books. Over the holidays Mr Eight-Year-Old has become addicted to Enid Blyton's Famous Five books. Mr Ten-Year old can't get his hands on enough Star Wars books.

A friend who understands these things (ie she's blessed with two boys who love books as well) sent a link to this excellent selection of best books for boys and young men as expressed by The Art of Manliness. There are lots of titles in there I have read, and a number that have made me curious enough to want to track them down.

There are a few I would add to that list, that were favourites of mine as a kid - I had a liking for adventure novels and anything to do with Medieval times and the Romans.

The Gauntlet by Ronald Welch.
Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliffe.
The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart.
The Sword in the Stone by TH White.

I'd also have to chuck in some great New Zealand boys books mine have loved

Under the Mountain, by Maurice Gee
My Life of Crime, by Fleur Beale
Space Gum, by Tania Roxborogh
Recycled, by Sandy McKay
Sting, by Raymond Huber,
Castaway, by Bill O'Brien

To name a few.

The hardest thing is deciding what fab boys book to read to them or introduce to them next. Our next bedtime reading book is to be The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkein.

It's great having boys!