Am signing off from Random Jottings for four weeks as I am off to Australia tomorrow. Have been packing and sorting and generally tearing my hair out and panicking and keep rushing to the loo and keep checking that I have my passport and that it is still current and that I have my ticket and ....
Well you get the picture I am sure.
I have set up another blog - Random in Oz. Link below
Frozen Out arrived at Schloss Random after a series of adventures and I am indebted to Emily at Constable & Robinson for her perseverance in making sure I received a copy. I had an email from Emily in January checking that the copy she had posted before Christmas had arrived safely - well it hadn't. As half my Christmas cards sent by me failed to reach their destination and I was receiving some well into New Year, did not surprise me that it had gone astray. So another one duly arrived and I started reading and was thoroughly enjoying when I went to London for a couple of days. Book came with me but when I returned discovered that book had remained somewhere in town and I could not track it down. A grovelling note to Emily and another one was duly dispatched and this time I was determined that it was going to be read before a bolt of lightning struck me or I was flooded out.
The last Icelandic thriller I tried floored me completely. The various names of all those involved left me floundering which is a bit daft considering I attend opera performances where the characters rejoice in names such as Grimgerde, Woglinde, Helmwige et al, but it just did so I decided to jot down who was who when I started Frozen Out. I soon found this was unnecessary as I had no difficulty this time at all - probably because the writing and plot were so much better than the earlier novel which I shall not name.
Main protagonist and the detective heading up a murder inquiry is Gunnhildur, a no nonsense lady who is more used to dealing with local traffic and burglary than a dead body washed up on a beach. Gunnhildur is a widow with two children, a son at sea and a teenage daughter at home and, for once, though there are hints that she might like a drink too much, we have a detective who had a happy marriage until her husband's death, and one who seems fairly content with her lot. No angst for the reader to deal with which is a blessed relief.
".......in spite of the broad shoulders, the solid woman with the short fair hair was not the bruiser Haddi had given him to expect. Although she would never be a beauty, she had an angular, handsome face that radiated authority"
(I have this annoying habit of casting characters as if in a film, annoying to me as once done I cannot get the actor's face out of my mind, but in this case I was quite happy to see Frances McDormand as Gunnur. She just seemed to fit somehow).
The death seems a natural one, the victim was drunk and fell off the quay, but those of us who are regular crimefic readers know that this is never the case and when there appears to be a link to an unsolved hit and run some months earlier, the hunt is up. The corpse in the water is identified as a man who worked for a large company in Iceland and it soon becomes clear that there are murky and fraudulent dealings going on with corruption in high places to which his death is linked.
Running alongside the police investigation, we are kept up to date with the goings on by a mysterious blogger who seems to have access to confidential information and is privy to the sexual antics of various ministers and influential businessmen and/or women, and part of the enjoyment of reading this book is to try and guess his/her identity.
Quentin Bates was born in England but ended up living in Iceland after initially going there for his gap year, which turned into a gap decade. He now lives in the UK but this book certainly utilises his knowledge of the country, along with a fascination with the recent upheaveals in Iceland's society and financial institutions of which we are all aware.
In Gunnhildur the author has created a likable, warm and sympathetic character who I took to straight away, the story is well plotted and amusing as well, particularly in the portrayal of an unspeakably awful CEO of one of the companies involved in the widespread corruption, a woman with a fearful temper and a penchant for making her Personal Assistants very personal indeed....
I found the denouement slightly vague with a few unsatisfactory matters left unresolved, including the identity of the blogger though a clue is given just before the final page is reached, but this is deliberate as the opening is now there for a further book. I do hope this is on the cards as I liked Frozen Out very much and delighted to discover another author to add to my increasing list of crime writers to Watch Out For.
My thanks once again to Emily for her patience with me and for supplying me with three copies and my apologies to Quentin Bates for depriving him of three sales. I hope he will like this review and forgive me my transgression.
In 2009 I read and reviewed Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler which I enjoyed very much. Read my review here. Now we have Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, a parallel story line to the first book.
I do have reservations about the Jane Austen Prequel and Sequel Industry, but when the stories are as well done as these two are then I put them to one side. Laurie Viera Rigler's books are not reworkings of any of the Austen canon, rather two stories about Courtney and Jane who love Austen and find they have changed places. In the first story Courtney, from Los Angeles, wakes up and finds that she has been transported back into the time of Miss Austen and her bewilderment when she realises that she is stuck and cannot get back and her coming to terms with the mores and attitudes of the day make for amusing reading.
In Rude Awakenings we have Jane waking up and finding that she is now living Courtney's Life in modern day USA complete with laptops, mobile phones, cars, trains and all the day to day technology which we all take for granted. Apparently Courtney/Jane cracked her head in a swimming pool so all her friends think that her memory loss and strange way of speaking will disappear and she will be back to normal in no time. There is no sign of it happening and as she hasn't the faintest idea that she dumped her fiance just before she was due to be married (see review of earlier book) or that she has a job of work to go to, they take her along to a psychiatrist to see if anything can be done.
As with the first book, it is clear that both Courtney and Jane had unhappy dealings with their respective men in their lives and this seems to have triggered off the subconscious wish for something different, something better. I mentioned in my review of Confessions a meeting Courtney had with Jane Austen in Bath, in Awakenings Jane spots all the Austen books in Courtney's bookcase and is delighted that there are more to read as they had not yet been published in her other life. She spends happy days curled up reading them all totally oblivious to the fact that this odd machine is bleeping and ringing and decides to ignore it until her frantic friends turn up on the doorstep wanting to know what has happened to her and why she has not answered the phone or responded to their texts.
I am not going to give away the ending as the same dilemma arises in both books - do Courtney/Jane decide to stay where they are and seek happiness in their new lives or will they find a way back to their own time? As with the first title, this was a hugely enjoyable read and though it was fun to find out what happened to Jane after reading Confessions, I was left wondering at the end, which would be more difficult - Courtney going back in time and coping or Jane waking up in modern day America.
Give me a good Regency romance with a feisty heroine and a dashing hero and I am filled with bliss. Having fallen in love with Georgette Heyer in my teens this period of history has always fascinated me and I love books set in this time so when I received a copy of The Kydd Inheritance I knew I was in for a treat.
Jan Jones is a good friend of mine but she knows full well, as I hope do all Random readers, that I would not say I enjoyed her book if I did not and her latest, The Kydd Inheritance, was a real curl up on sofa on grey afternoon read. This is a prequel to Fair Deception which I reviewed here, and tells the story of Nell Kydd immured in the country with her widowed mother following the tragic death of her father in a riding accident and at the mercy of her Uncle Jasper who has taken over the running of the estate in the absence of the new heir, Nell's brother Kit who has gone missing on his way home from India.
You know immediately that the uncle is up to no good as anybody rejoicing in the name of Jasper has to be a villain (my apologies if there are any delightful Jaspers out there who read this), but it is not just his name but his bad tempers, his ill treatment of his niece and the contempt in which he holds the old family retainers who he is getting rid of one by one, that alert us to his machinations.
There is nothing Nell can do except hope that her brother will soon arrive and kick out the usurper but as the months go by this looks increasingly unlikely. And then an old school friend of Kit, Hugo Derringer, turns up unexpectedly who seems to be showing an unusual interest in the estate and what is going on there. Nell is hugely attracted to him but at the same time feels he is harbouring a secret and is not to be trusted.
Difficult to say any more without giving away the plot because though one can guess at the ending and the knowledge that Nell and Hugo will fall in love, we do not reach this point without lots of adventures on the way, not the least tracking down the contents of Kydd Court being sold by Uncle Jasper, being held up by highwaymen and then Nell in danger of being burned alive.
As a strong willed woman I should get cross when the heroine melts into the arms of the hero, but I don't. I just sigh and think oh wouldn't it be wonderful to meet a man like that, who would take care of you and treat you so gently and lovingly and as if you were a piece of precious china....then reality kicks in and I know it would irritate the hell out of me after a while. But just for a moment...
"The feelings Hugo had engendered when he had caught her as she slid from Snowflake's saddle were beyond her power to describe. They had taken her completely by surprise. No one had the right to be so strong and yet so delicate of touch. No one had any right to laugh so softly in her ear and call her a poor, brave girl in such bone melting tones. And no one, no one at all, had the right to cradle her against their immensely comforting chest as if she were the most precious thing in the world"
See what I mean?
Great stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed this and already looking forward to the next. I LOVE romantic novels.
All round the country today events are being planned on Save the Libraries Day. I find it difficult to sit and write about the threatened closure of so many libraries without steam issuing from both ears and a stream of four letter words from my mouth. The level of illiteracy in this country is truly shocking, children struggle to learn to read and so many homes do not contain books so a child will never ever have access to the printed page.
As a child I remember my visit to the junior library - in those days it was the Brown system, one book per ticket so books had to be carefully chosen. By the time I had haunted the library for weeks, Miss Collins (oh she of blessed memory) was so tired of seeing me that she allowed me to take out two books per ticket so now I could choose six at a time. Bliss. The library was part of St Pancras public libraries (now Camden - oh horror) and this particular branch, Gatesden, was in the basement at the bottom of a block of council flats. Could not do that now - it would be wrecked and vandalised in no time at all. If I close my eyes I can see it now, non fiction to the right, fiction to the left and a small closed off reference section where I could sit and do my homework.
It was at Gatesden that I borrowed all of the Malcolm Saville books, Trouble at Witchend etc, read all the 'Wells' books of Lorna Hill, the Kathleen Fidler books about the Brydon family, Mabel Esther Allen, K M Peyton and Jill's Gymkhana (name checked in VIcar of Dibley years later!) even though I knew nothing about ponies and riding. There was a series of books on Great Composers in the non-fiction section written especially for children with interspersed sheets of music and explanations of the works. From these books I learned what a fugue was and that Haydn was known as Papa Haydn and that poor Beethoven went deaf and could not hear his glorious 9th Symphony when it was premiered. Facts from these books stayed in my mind and years later, as an adult at a concert, I would suddenly think 'Oh that is what they meant' when I heard a rallatando or a diminuendo. Don't tell me that things you read as a child don't stay with you all your adult life.
It was also at this library that one day I came across a tiny little Oxford World Classics - shiny and new and never borrowed or taken out - and decided I would take it home with me. I was ten at the time and Miss Collins asked if I was sure I wanted to read it. 'Oh yes' said I blithely and she said she would be interested to hear what I thought of it. Well, that put me on my honour to make sure I did read it and I did. I loved the first half, did not really understand a lot of the second and did skip some pages, but I remember feeling totally overwhelmed by it and eager for more. And the book? Jane Eyre. This is what started me off on my love of the classics and all things Victorian and every time I look at my copy sitting on the shelf I remember that tiny little book. It had a crimson cover and I have the very same edition now in my possession, tatty cover and all which I came across in a second hand shop and had to have.
OK I am rambling, nothing new I hear you cry, but I so want people to know how important the reading experience is for a child and any cuts in their services and closures is just plain WRONG and shortsighted. When I read of the huge bonuses still being pocketed by bankers, the obscene amount just being paid to a footballer who has probably never read a book in his life (yes and I know I am falling for a stereotype here and I could be wrong) and the expenses that MPs claim and....oh I had better stop as the steam coming out of my ears is getting worse.
I ended up working in Camden libraries from the age of 16 for a period of twelve years, (a very happy five years in the Highgate Carnegie library here) and a year before that as a Saturday girl and am steeped in the love of the public library. It has shaped my reading life and, indeed, all my life and I am filled with sorrow that the joy I discovered at the age of 7 is being denied to so many children who will never know what they have missed as they will never have the experience.
Went into town yesterday to carry out a few errands. I avoid going into Colchester at the weekends as it is horrendous but early in the week it is ok. Booked appointment to have eyes tested and new sunglasses for Oz, left it a bit late but time has flown so quickly I nearly forgot to do it. Arranged with Thomas Cook to apply for a pre-loaded card to take with me so won't need cash all the time and, once again, checked out the shops for T-shirts and a few other odds and ends. Gave up.
One thing I did accomplish and that was to take my mother's pearls into a jeweller and left them to be cleaned, restrung and a new clasp. Going to cost but it will be worth it - this string is over 50 years old and is beautiful and I am looking foward to wearing them myself. I also took with me a travelling clock which I wanted repaired. This was given to me many moons ago by somebody very dear to me and accompanied me on my first trip to Australia and many other trips since. However, several years ago it stopped working, seemed to have got jammed and there it sat in my dressing table drawer - could not bring myself to throw it out so showed it to the jeweller who said they did not repair clocks any more but gave me the name of a shop in Trinity Street who did.
Off I went. First of all, I got the 'oooh-not-sure-about-this' while whistling through teeth reaction, shaking head at same time and pursing of lips. 'Terribly busy at the moment but I might be able to fit it in'. Well that would be great says I, how much will it cost do you think? 'Well, something as old as this, it's tricky you know.....reckon about £75'.
I leave you to guess my reaction. Just imagine me ricocheting off the ceiling, shrieking at the top of my voice YOU MUST BE JOKING and steam coming out of my ears and you would be pretty close to the mark. Picked up clock and swep out crashing door behind me.
Sitting here tonight watching NCIS, a mindlessly fun prog which I love and my eye fell upon the sad looking clock on the shelf. In the ad break (first of many) I got up and gathered together my baby screwdriver (out of a Christmas cracker some years ago and incredibly useful), baby buds, olive oil and duster. Spent half an hour unlatching timepiece from its case, undoing minute screws on back of clock and removing casing. Blew dust away and then cleaned with a baby bud dipped in olive oil. The winder had felt tight so I made sure that was well oiled and clean when suddenly it gave a whirring sound, whizzed backwards and I felt it loosen. I then put the back on, screws in, set it up and wound it. It started straight away and is still ticking merrily as I speak. If it is still going in the morning then I know I have cracked it.
Total cost: three baby buds, one teaspoonful olive oil, piece of kitchen roll to catch oil = £1.00
Do you ever feel that you are being ripped off? I felt it the other day and next time I pass by I am going to go in and tell them how I repaired my clock and then sweep out again. Fingers crossed it is ok and if it is then it will be coming with me to Australia again.
I know that the person who gave me this clock will read this post and will be as delighted as I that once more his gift is travelling to the other side of the world.
I first came across The Prisoner of Zenda, a gorgeously wonderful story when I was about twelve or thirteen and there was a BBC version of it - old black and white telly in those days - and I was simply entranced by it though looking back I am sure it creaked a bit and the sets wobbled and since then have read it several times.
I did not know there was a sequel, Rupert of Hentzau, until I discovered a copy in my local library years later and well remember crying at athe ending. I have just read it again, this time on my Kindle as I was able to download it for free and could not miss the opportunity to do so. Loved it all over again and then went hunting for more by Anthony Hope, found a free Rupert so that is now on there too, and then searched Dodo Press about whom I posted a week or so ago. Lots of other titles by this author, none of which I know about, and so they are now nestling on my Kindle awaiting my attention. Buying these titles would have set me back about £30 so the fact that they cost me nothing will add to my future enjoyment....
After finishing this book I had a sudden yearning to see the movie again. I have seen two versions, a black and white one with Ronald Colman as Rudolf Rassendyl and the later one with Stewart Granger. I was always a huge fan of Stewart Granger, thought him very handsome and dashing, remember him well in striped tights in a film called Scaramouche, lots of sword play again and of course, he was Beau Brummell in the marvellous old movie with Peter Ustinov as the Prince Regent. The second version is a direct copy of the Colman production, literally, each scene exactly the same. I presume they either wanted to pay a tribute to the earlier one or, more likely, script writers couldn't come up with anything better so they just copied it.
I nipped over to Amazon and was rather dismayed to find that it is unavailable at the moment. There appears to be a DVD with both these versions which would be an excellent one to have, but is is the wrong region so that is that. I would say that I will keep an eye out for one or the other when on TV and record it, but the films shown on TV these days seem to be of a certain vintage and anything before the mid sixties seems to be neglected. This is just an impression of mine, I could be wrong, but it is ages since I have spotted an old movie I wished to watch and the ones they do show are repeated ad nauseam.
It appears there are other versions of Zenda as well, one starring Peter Sellers of all people and that might be worth a look at some time. There is also a cartoon version, of which the only reviewer says 'utterly appalling' so will give that one a miss, then another animated version in Story Book Classics. There also seems to be a film called The Prisoner of Zenda Inc starring William Shatner. The mind boggles.
What I have always loved about this Anthony Hope book is its romanticism, glamour and dashing hero and beautiful heroine. It is also a story of the victory of good over evil and the real king, a bit of a waster and a drunkard thanking Rudolf Rassendyl for his services and telling him 'you have made me a better king'. And then Stewart Granger takes a farewell of the woman he loves but must give up and rides off over the hill and into the titles.
I was wondering who I would cast if they ever made it again and no prizes for guessing that Richard Armitage came to mind......