Monday, 30 June 2008

Agatha Christie – “Elephants Can Remember”

A Hercule Poirot mystery. One I have read a few times and therefore knew the ending almost as soon as I started it. Since it only took an hour or so to read it this wasn’t a major problem. Agatha remains as readable as ever.

AGATHA CHRISTIE - Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, Lady Mallowan, DBE (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976), was an English crime writer of novels, short stories and plays. She also wrote romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but is best remembered for her 80 detective novels and her successful West End theatre plays. Her works, particularly featuring detectives Hercule Poirot or Miss Jane Marple, have given her the title the 'Queen of Crime' and made her one of the most important and innovative writers in the development of the genre is known throughout the world as the Queen of Crime. Her books have sold over a billion copies in English with another billion in 44 foreign languages. She is the most widely published author of all time and in any language, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare.

Eliazbeth Ferrars – “Smoke without Fire”

Another easy going, easy to read crime novel. Another one cleared out from pensby Library. There are now no Elizabeth Ferrars novels left there. Shame.

ELIZABETH FERRARS – see earlier notes

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Jenny Downham – “Before I Die”

This is a precis of the Before I Die taken from the Internet - Tessa has just a few months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It's her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is sex. Released from the constraints of 'normal' life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa's feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa's time finally runs out. "Before I Die" is a brilliantly-crafted novel, heartbreaking yet astonishingly life-affirming. It will take you to the very edge.

If you don’t cry at the end of this book you aren’t human, and yet not only do I recommend reading it for the good of your soul but it’s also a darned good read. Described as being for young adults I would see it as being appropriate for anyone from young teen to old, old cynic. How anyone can write so believably how a dying sixteen year old may feel is beyond my comprehension. It is also a remarkably brave thing for a mother to do. This is writing at its very best.

was an actress for many years before concentrating on her writing full-time. She lives in London with her two sons. For an interview with Jenny Downham see

Terri Windling – “The Wood Wife”

Winner of the World Fantasy Award – and a worthy winner, too. Published in 1997 it is a brilliant novel. Unlike most fantasy novels that tend to be suitable only for folk like myself who are ‘into’ fantasy this has a plot which any reader might enjoy. It is like an adult version of all the best fairy tales one read as a child.

TERRI WINDLING is a writer, editor, artist, and passionate advocate of fantasy literature. She has won six World Fantasy awards for her editorial work and the Mythopoeic Award for her novel The Wood Wife. She has edited over thirty anthologies, many in collaboration with Ellen Datlow - including the Snow White, Blood Red adult fairy-tale series, The Armless Maiden, Sirens, The Green Man, and Swan Sister. She has also written children's books and articles on myth and folklore, and she edits the Endicott Studio Online Journal of Mythic Arts website. She divides her time between homes in Devon, England, and Tucson, Arizona.

Ellis Peters – “The Will and the Deed”

I’m surprised this is the first Ellis Peters I’ve read since starting this Blog in November 2007.
When legendary diva Antonia Byrne's will is read, it contains some unpleasant surprises for her nearest and dearest - none of them get quite what they were expecting. When the mourners become snowbound in the tiny mountain village, one of their number has lethally sinister intentions.

ELLIS PETERS is a pseudonym used by Edith Pargeter. Ellis Peters is best known for her twenty Brother Cadfael mysteries set in the twelfth century Benedictine monastery of Shrewsbury.
(I’m surprised that I haven’t read a Cadfael since starting this Blog. I must have read them all – bar the couple I have still to read – before last November; doesn’t time fly!)
The Cadfael Mysteries
1. A Morbid Taste for Bones (1977)
2. One Corpse Too Many (1979)
3. Monk's Hood (1980)
4. St. Peter's Fair (1981)
5. The Leper of Saint Giles (1981)
6. The Virgin in the Ice (1982)
7. The Sanctuary Sparrow (1982)
8. The Devil's Novice (1983)
9. Dead Man's Ransom (1984)
10. The Pilgrim of Hate (1984)
11. An Excellent Mystery (1985)
12. The Raven in the Foregate (1986)
13. The Rose Rent (1986)
14. The Hermit of Eyton Forest (1987)
15. The Confession of Brother Haluin (1988)
16. The Heretic's Apprentice (1989)
17. The Potter's Field (1989)
18. The Summer of the Danes (1991)
19. The Holy Thief (1992)
20. Brother Cadfael's Penance (1994)

Edith Mary Pargeter, BEM (September 28, 1913 in Horsehay, Shropshire, England October 14, 1995) was a prolific author of works in many categories, especially history and historical fiction, and was also honoured for her translations of Czech classics; she is probably best known for her murder mysteries, both historical and modern. Born in the village of Horsehay (Shropshire, England), she had Welsh ancestry, and many of her short stories and books (both fictional and non-fictional) were set in Wales and its borderlands, and/or have Welsh protagonists.
During World War II, she worked in an administrative role in the Women's Royal Naval Service, and received the British Empire Medal - BEM. Pargeter wrote under a number of pseudonyms.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Mitch Albom - "Tuesdays with Morrie"

The story of Mitch's weekly visits to his former college professor, Morrie Schwartz, who was dying of ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). A moving account of an old man attempting to pass on to a young one his views on what is important in life. I have read it before about six or seven years ago but it was well worth reading again when I found it on GB's bookshelves.
There is a quote in it from Mahatma Gandhi -"Each night, when go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn."

An a couple of quotes from the book itself that I found thought provoking:-

How can you ever be prepared to die?
"Do what the Buddhists do. Every day, have a little bird on your shoulder that asks, "Is today the day? Am I ready? Am I doing all I need to do? Am I being the person want to be?"

"... everyone is in such a hurry. People haven't found meaning in their lives, so they're running all the time looking for it."

MITCH ALBOM - For a mini-biography see

For a description of ALS - see Wikipedia

Friday, 6 June 2008

Diane Schoemperlen - "Our Lady of the Lost and Found"

A unique piece of writing by this Canadian author. It has made me want to find all her other books. It is a story about the Virgin Mary coming to stay with an ordinary Canadian housewife / author and the two women spend one week cooking, cleaning, and shopping, but any attempt at doing a precis would not do the work justice. It is one of those books which has to be read to be appreciated. (What a silly comment but I know what I meant!)
One of the ways I judge how much I have got out of a book is by the number of quotations I copy down from it. In this case there were 15 - some of them very long. That's a very high score. Here are some of my favourites:-
"For those of us with a bookish bent, reading is a reflexive response to everything. This is how we deal with the world and anything new that comes our way. We have always known that there is a book for every occasion and every obsession. When in doubt, we are always looking things up."
"Have you never looked at your own face in the mirror and thought that you both are and are not the same person from one day to the next?"
"Ordinary Time is the spaces between events, the parts of a life that do not show up in photo albums or get told in stories. In real life, this is the bulk of most people's lives...."
"We must pray as if everything depends on God (it does) while at the same time living and working as if everything depends on us (it does)."
"There are many ways to divide up the world. One of those divisions is betwen those who make lists and those who don't. To my way of thinking, this distinction has been sadly neglected in favor of the more usual demographic categories such as male and female, young and old, blakc and white, have and have-not. I am sure that a detailed investigation of the propensity to list or not to list would yield remarkable new insights into the deepest psychological crevices (or crevasses) of human nature."
"To paraphrase saint Augustine, miracles are not contrary to nature or science or history. They are only contrary to what we know (or think we know) of nature, science and history."
"Mary seemed to approach housekeeping as an action, rather than a reaction. As she worked it was clear that she was involved not in a process of negation (of dirt, dust, and the inevitable debris spawned by every activity of daily life) but of creation (of order, shiny surfaces, perfectly aligned towels, floors to which your feet did not stick)."
"On a good, when I am writing and it is going well, this is the only time that I am truly happy. This is the feeling I love the most. This is enough. This is better than winning the lottery. This is better than hearing the words 'I love you' fall from those much-desired lips that are at long last clamped onto yours. "

Some more quotations can be found at

DIANE SCHOEMPERLEN, Canadian novelist and short-story writer, was born on July 9, 1954 and has been labelled 'one of the most vibrant and original voices in our literature". Certainly, if her other works are as innovative as "Our Lady of the Lost and Found" then that is a well-earned comment. She was born and raised in Ontario and after qualifying at Lakehead University and living in Alberta for some years is now back in Ontario where she lives with her son Alexander.
Her first novel, In the Language of Love (1994), is composed of one hundred chapters, each one based on one of the one hundred words in the Standard Word Association Test, which was used to measure sanity. There are chapters entitled "Table," "Slow," "Cabbage," and "Scissors."

For some reason she has yet to appear on the Fantastic Fiction site. but more details can be found on the Penguin site.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Mitch Albom - “The Five People you meet in Heaven”

Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination. It's a place where your life is explained to you by five people. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie's five people revisit, their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his "meaningless" life and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: "Why was I here?"

MITCH ALBOM was born in 1958 and is a bestselling author who has written eight books, including the phenomenally popular “Tuesdays With Morrie“. Published in 1997, it stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for four straight years. Albom serves on the boards of various charities and in 1999 he was named National Hospice Organization's Man of the Year. He lives with his wife, Janine, in Franklin, Michigan.