Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge 2014 and other mysteries

christmas spirit reading challenge 2014Christmas Spirit
Reading Challenge 2014

This year I decided to finish 2014 by reading 3 mysteries related to Christmas, and I managed to do so. It was a very enjoyable experience that I will definitely try again next year.

So I just read:

 Hercule Poirot's Christmas The Sittaford Mysetry Silent Night

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, by Agatha Christie

I had not read a Hercule Poirot for a while, so that was a treat.
There were some points common to And Then There Were None, which is one of my favorites by Agatha Christie.
Simeon Lee has asked his four sons and their wives to come home for Christmas. But the old man is found lying in a pool of blood on Christmas Eve, in a locked room. Suicide? Murder? The suspects who seem to have the strongest motives have good alibi…

The Sittaford Mystery, by Agatha Christie

To spend an enjoyable evening during a dreadfully cold winter night with a snow storm in Devon, 6 people decide to have fun with a game of séance. But the fun turns sour when the spirit tells them the name of a man who was just murdered. Was he? Is it just a silly joke or really true? Who would have wanted to murder such a nice man? Emily Trefusis is working really hard to figure this one out.

Silent Night, by Mary Higgins Clark

This is finally my very first book by Mary Higgins Clark, and I really enjoyed it a lot!
When her husband is diagnosed with leukemia, Catherine Dornan and their two young sons accompany him to New York, during the Christmas season, for a life-saving operation. Hoping to divert them from worry about their father, Catherine takes the boys to see some of the city’s Christmas Eve sights. When they stop to listen to a street musician, Brian, the younger boy, sees a woman find his mother’s wallet, which also holds a precious family memento he believes will save his father’s life. Unable to get his mother’s attention, Brian follows the woman into the city’s subways — beginning a journey that will threaten his life and change that of his mother and of the woman as well.” [Goodreads]
The family memento mentioned here is a St Christopher medal.
There was lots of suspense, on the background of real Christmas themes –I mean with Christian values. Very enjoyable!


That’s it for the Christmas spirit reading challenge, but I would like to add a few words here of 2 other mysteries I listened to this year:

  Still Life The Monogram Murders

Still Life, by Louise Penny

This is also my very first book by Louise Penny, and I definitely want to read the other books in the series.
I enjoyed the main hero, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, and the inhabitants of Three Pines, in rural Québec. They think Jane must have been the victim of a hunting accident, but Gamache is not convinced.
Gamache is a very kind man, very thoughtful. I really liked his relationships with the other characters and his way of leading his inquiry.
I also enjoyed a lot the descriptions of the setting, a small village.

The narrator Ralph Cosham was excellent. He had a peaceful pace perfect for the story, starting slow, as Penny sets up the characters and place of her series. But he added the necessary tension and eagerness for the more suspenseful episodes. I’m glad he narrates the other books in the series.

The Monogram Murders, by Sophie Hannah

I was fortunate enough to find this audiobook available at my public library.
I only read a few books with Hercule Poirot, but I was intrigued knowing that this author had finally received the official permission to write new episodes with him.
Not knowing thoroughly enough Poirot’s character, I can’t tell if she did a great job at recreating him, but I really enjoyed the plot. As in several other books by Agatha Christie I have read, it ends up being much more complex than what it looks at first sight. And you may well figure out who did it, but could you really figure out why he/she/they did it? This is so smartly done!

The British milieu and characters seemed also very authentic to me.

The audiobook was an extremely enjoyable experience: bravo to the narrator Julian Rhind-Tutt.
He is really incredible at giving each character his/her own voice, special accents, mannerisms, for instance for the hotel manager.
His voice of Poirot is awesome, with great French accent. Hannah uses many French phrases and expressions, and I don’t think Julian makes a single mistake at pronouncing them, which is really unfortunately quite rare. It is really wonderful to find a narrator who does his homework of checking foreign pronunciation of French words –I sure wish all narrators would do so.
His narration is extremely lively and engaging. You can really feel you know the characters of all the people involved through the intonations the narrator gives them.





Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge 2014

christmas spirit reading challenge 2014Christmas Spirit
Reading Challenge 2014

This year I have decided to read 3 mysteries related to Christmas, so I might as well join the fun of this challenge, and go for the Mistletoe level:  read 2-4 books

I plan to read in December:

  1. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, by Agatha Christie
  2. The Sittaford Mystery, by Agatha Christie
  3. Silent Night, by Mary Higgins Clark

Do you want to join the fun?
Click on the logo to sign up!

12 titles for our July Book Club (2014)

Recap of our Block Book Club July meeting



Recap of the titles we shared [synopsis from]:

1) That Is Not a Good Idea!, by Mo Willems (2013)

presented by N., 5! See, never too late to be part of a book club and present your books!

That Is Not a Good Idea! is a hilarious, interactive picture book from bestselling author and illustrator Mo Willems, the creator of books like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, the Knuffle Bunny series, the Elephant and Piggie series, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, and many other new classics.

Inspired by the evil villains and innocent damsels of silent movies, Willems tells the tale of a hungry fox who invites a plump goose to dinner. As with the beloved Pigeon books, kids will be calling out the signature refrain and begging for repeated readings. The funny details in the full-color illustrations by three-time Caldecott Honoree Mo Willems will bring nonstop laughter to story time

2)  The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes #1) by Christopher Healy (2012)

presented by M., 10
Actually this is the 1st book in the series, but M. presented each book of the trilogy

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You’ve never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change.

Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, the princes stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it’s up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Christopher Healy’s Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is a completely original take on the world of fairy tales, the truth about what happens after “happily ever after.” It’s a must-have for middle grade readers who enjoy their fantasy adventures mixed with the humor of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Witty black-and-white drawings by Todd Harris add to the fun.

3) The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2013.  2014  Pulitzer Prize)

presented by R.

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

4) Natchez Burning (Penn Cage #4) by Greg Iles (April 2014)

presented by P.

#1 New York Times bestselling novelist Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated book yet, and his first in five years – Natchez Burning, the first installment in an epic trilogy that weaves crimes, lies, and secret past and present into a mesmerizing thriller featuring Southern mayor and former prosecutor Penn Cage.

5) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (May 2014)

also presented by P.

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

Doerr’s gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work.

6) Speaking from Among the Bones (Flavia de Luce #5) by Alan Bradley (20113)

presented by S.

“A churchyard in the March moonlight should be enough to give anyone the ging-gang-goolies, but not this girl.” Chemist Flavia de Luce 11 finds masked body of angelic church organist Mr Collicott hidden in the tomb of St Tancred. Magistrate Quentin Ridley-Smith, adult son Jocelyn damaged, tries to stop the opening. Adam Tradescant Sowerby is a helpful flora-archaelogist.

7) I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark (2007)

also presented by S.Kay Lansing grew up in Englewood, New Jersey, daughter of the landscaper to the wealthy and powerful Carrington family. One day, accompanying her father to work, six-year-old Kay overhears a quarrel between a man and a woman that ends with the man’s caustic response: “I heard that song before.” That same evening, young Peter Carrington drives the nineteen-year-old daughter of neighbors home from a formal dinner dance at the Carrington estate, but she is not in her room the next morning and is never seen or heard from again.Decades later, a cloud of suspicion hangs over Peter, not only for his neighbor’s disappearance but also for the subsequent drowning death of his own pregnant wife in their swimming pool. But when Kay Lansing, now a librarian in Englewood, asks Peter’s permission to hold a literary benefit cocktail party on his estate, she comes to see Peter as misunderstood…and when he begins to court her, she falls in love — and marries him. However, she soon makes a discovery that leads her to question her husband’s innocence. She believes that the key to the truth lies in the identities of the man and woman whose quarrel she witnessed as a child. What she does not realize is that uncovering what lies behind these memories may cost Kay her life

8) A Passage to India by E.M. Forster (1924)

presented by P.

When Adela Quested and her elderly companion Mrs Moore arrive in the Indian town of Chandrapore, they quickly feel trapped by its insular and prejudiced ‘Anglo-Indian’ community. Determined to escape the parochial English enclave and explore the ‘real India’, they seek the guidance of the charming and mercurial Dr Aziz, a cultivated Indian Muslim. But a mysterious incident occurs while they are exploring the Marabar caves with Aziz, and the well-respected doctor soon finds himself at the centre of a scandal that rouses violent passions among both the British and their Indian subjects. A masterly portrait of a society in the grip of imperialism, A Passage to India compellingly depicts the fate of individuals caught between the great political and cultural conflicts of the modern world.

9)  Malgudi Days by R.K. Narayan (2006)

presented by R.

Introducing this collection of stories, R. K. Narayan describes how in India ‘the writer has only to look out of the window to pick up a character and thereby a story’. Malgudi Days is the marvellous result. Here Narayan portrays an astrologer, a snake-charmer, a postman, a vendor of pies and chappatis – all kinds of people, drawn in full colour and endearing domestic detail. And under his magician’s touch the whole imaginary city of Malgudi springs to life, revealing the essence of India and of human experience

10) I, Claudius (Claudius #1) by Robert Graves (1934)

also presented by R.

From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius, Born 10 B.C., Murdered and Deified A.D. 54:
Considered an idiot because of his physical infirmities, Claudius survived the intrigues and poisonings of the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and the Mad Caligula to become emperor in 41 A.D. Historical novel set in 1st-century-AD Rome by Robert Graves, published in 1934. The book is written as an autobiographical memoir by Roman emperor Claudius. Physically weak, afflicted with stammering, and inclined to drool, Claudius is an embarrassment to his family and is shunted to the background of imperial affairs. The benefits of his seeming ineffectuality are twofold: he becomes a scholar and historian, and he is spared the worst cruelties inflicted on the imperial family by its own members during the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula. Palace intrigues and murders surround him. Claudius’ informal narration serves to emphasize the banality of the imperial family’s endless greed and lust. The story concludes with Claudius ascending to the imperial throne. A sequel, Claudius, the God and His Wife Messalina (1935), covers Claudius’ years as Roman emperor.

11) 1913: The Year Before the Storm by Florian Illies (2013)

presented by J.

“An absolute gem of a book.” –“The Observer
“Just before one of its darkest moments came the twentieth century’s most exciting year . . .
It was the year Henry Ford first put a conveyer belt in his car factory, and the year Louis Armstrong first picked up a trumpet. It was the year Charlie Chaplin signed his first movie contract, and Coco Chanel and Prada opened their first dress shops. It was the year Proust began his opus, Stravinsky wrote “The Rite of Spring,” and the first Armory Show in New York introduced the world to Picasso and the world of abstract art. It was the year the recreational drug now known as ecstasy was invented.
It was 1913, the year before the world plunged into the catastrophic darkness of World War I.
In a witty yet moving narrative that progresses month by month through the year, and is interspersed with numerous photos and documentary artifacts (such as Kafka’s love letters), Florian Illies ignores the conventions of the stodgy tome so common in “one year” histories. Forefronting cultural matters as much as politics, he delivers a charming and riveting tale of a world full of hope and unlimited possibility, peopled with amazing characters and radical politics, bristling with new art and new technology . . . even as ominous storm clouds began to gather

Death in Pont-Aven

12) Death in Pont-Aven (Kommissar Dupin #1) by Jean-Luc Bannalec (April 2014)

presented by me

At the Central Hotel in Pont-Aven, Brittany, ninety-one-year-old manager Pierre-Louis Pennec is found murdered. Commissaire Georges Dupin and his team take on the investigation and narrow the list of suspects down to five people, including a rising political star, a longtime friend of the victim and a wealthy art historian. Further incidents – first a break-in, then another mysterious death – muddy the waters yet more. As Commissaire Dupin delves further and further into the lives of the victim and the suspects, he uncovers a web of secrecy and silence that belies the village’s idyllic image.

A summer hit in its original German, Death in Pont-Aven introduces readers to the enigmatic Commissaire Dupin, an idiosyncratic penguin lover and Parisian-born caffeine junkie whose unique methods of detection raise more than a few eyebrows. It is a book so atmospheric readers will immediately want to wander through the village’s narrow alleyways, breathe in the Atlantic air and savour Brittany’s seaside specialty dishes. Death in Pont-Aven is a spellbinding, subtle and smart crime novel, peppered with cryptic humor and surprising twists.

If you want to see my personal review, please come over here.