adult book

Five at the office Christmas party – Christmas book review

Five at the office Christmas party
(Enid Blyton for grown ups)

by Bruno Vincent
Quercus, UK, Oct 2017

Age group: adult book cover of Five at the office Christmas party
Format: 112 page paperback

I grew up reading the Famous Five, Secret Seven and other Enid Blyton books so it was exciting to see a Christmas book involving the Famous Five!

The story

Now grown up, the four cousins are working together for their cousin (I don’t recall him from the original books) who is potentially a bit dodgy. The four are tasked with planning the company Christmas party on a budget.

My review

So, this book is obviously not written by Enid Blyton and is not aimed at children, so there is adult content (namely alcohol and undesirable character traits) and a different feel to the original Famous Five. And it’s not a mystery. If you’re after a rehash of Blyton’s series, you will be disappointed.

I found some of the characters irritating – Dick being irresponsible and lazy was not as far form the original as Julian being whiny and unreliable, for instance. Anne was the closest to the original, trying to get the others ready for work and so forth, but still not fully recognisable.

I also found it quite  weird to have pictures form the original books in this book with a caption suiting the surrounding text – the children five images don’t fit the story!

Inner pages of the book Five at the office Christmas party

Apparently there are a few of these adult ‘Famous Five’ books, starting with Five on Brexit Island, and they are described as hilarious spoofs of the original series.

Would I recommend it? Frankly, no I can neither recommend it or find much about it to enjoy. It was very disappointing to read and not find something that respected the books so many of us enjoyed as children.

 

A Christmas homecoming – Christmas book review

A Christmas homecoming Front cover a A Christmas Homecoming

by Anne Perry
Headline Publishing Group, UK, 2011

Age group: teen to adult
Format: 224 page paperback

Following on from A Christmas Message, I was intrigued about one author having 13 Christmas books, so I grabbed another from the library to see how she does it!

The story

A theatre group preparing to perform Dracula in 1897 is interrupted by a murder…

My review

After finishing A Christmas Message, I was very unsure about how this book would be. I’m very glad to say it was more like my expectations of A Christmas Message and I enjoyed reading this book.

One thing that I had wondered about Perry writing 13 stories (based on the same characters was my initial incorrect thought) was how she managed that over time – surely there can’t be multiple mysteries solved around any particular Christmas by a single character! As it turns out, Perry’s festive series covers many years – one goes back as far as 1847 and A Christmas Message is set in 1900 – so that makes it more feasible!

I really enjoyed this book and the charterers, and it was interesting to think of Dracula as a ‘new craze’ and of dubious value and longevity! There are many reminders in this book of how things have changed, too – no phone to call for help, wood fires as the only source of warmth, no movies/TVs , less exposure to ‘scary’ effects so more sensitive to fear settings, and less general knowledge of investigations and forensics.

The key character, Caroline Fielding was also interesting. An older women (in her late 50s to 60s is my guess) who has been widowed and now remarried to a man 20 years younger and of a lower station, she has depth and experience that I liked. She is depicted as intelligent, resourceful and strong, but also a bit lonely at times so not overly perfect! Caroline’s son-in-law (present in many Perry books I gather) is policeman so she was able to preserve evidence and work on the case.

Much of the book revolves around the development of the play to be performed on Boxing Day – the murder doesn’t occur until over half way through the book! So it seems that Perry’s style is to have a story and work a mystery into it, rather than have the mystery as the key focus – different to what is common but not in a bad way.

I hadn’t realised that Bram Stoker’s Dracula centres around Dracula washing ashore near Whitby in York, but this book is set there which was an appropriate setting for their play, obviously.

Would I recommend it? Yes, I do both as an easy-to-read mystery and as an interesting reminder of how things used to be.

 

A Christmas message – Christmas book review

A Christmas message from cover of A Christmas Message

by Anne Perry
Headline Book Publishing, United Kingdom, 2017

Age group: teen to adult
Format: 176 page hard cover

Does ‘Christmas mystery’ mean a crime story set at Christmas, or a story about the unknown and Christian faith? This book has them both covered…

The story

A couple travel from Turkey to Jerusalem in 1900 and find carrying a message is more complex than it seemed.

My review

I am starting this review despite only have read a few pages as the writing style is so enticing that I already like the characters and want to know more – so a great start to this book which is set (so far anyway) just before Christmas in Jaffa, Turkey.

Actually, this is Perry’s 14th novella in her festive series! I am intrigued as to how she can write so many books all about mysteries/crimes involving Christmas so watch out for future reviews of her books to find out!

After finishing the book…

A Christmas message is set in 1900 with newly weds Victor and Vespasia travelling by train from Jaffa in Turkey to Jerusalem. Both characters have appeared in a number of Perry’s earlier books so there is a progression but I didn’t find this hindered my reading of this book.

The book starts with the couple meeting an older man and receiving from him a message to deliver to a ‘House of Bread’ in Jerusalem. There is intrigue and mystery as to who the man was, what the message is (our heroes can’t read it as it was not in a language they recognised), and how they will manage the delivery. Along they way, they meet a strange character they called Benedict and are threatened by The Watcher. All of that was interesting and somewhat as expected.

However, there is an increasing level of religious and spiritual discussion in the story as it progresses. There are pages and pages of these discussions rather than focusing on the mystery of the message – from thoughts about redemption to the star within (as distinct from the wise men following a real star to Bethlehem). It was not as expected and fits an entirely different genre to a mystery book.

It is a modern book (Perry published this in 2017) so uses contemporary writing but works in the 1900 atmosphere nicely. Even to the point that Vespasia is having these religious epiphanies but can’t mention them to her husband as ‘one doesn’t bring up such things’!

I would have liked a bit more about Jerusalem as it was and certainly more focus on the mystery (although the philosophy sections finally connected with the mystery, it was unnecessary and over the top for me).

 

Would I recommend it? Hard to say really – it is easy to read, has some interesting things in it (like the train from Jaffa to Jerusalem as that line only existed between 1891 and 1948), and I like the characters. The religious thoughts and underlying message was a bit much for me – both in it being religious but also it was based on metaphors and a deeper level of thought than the book enticed me to.
If you already know Perry’s character, I dare say this is a great read for giving them a happy ending; if you like theology and mysteries together, you will love this book; if you just want a simple mystery without the morals and religion, find another story!

 

Another little Christmas murder – Christmas book review

Another little Christmas murder

Front cover of Another Little Christmas Murder

Front cover

 

by Lorna Nicholl Morgon
Sphere, London 1947

Age group: teen to adult
Format: 256 page paperback

A mystery read with no real connection to Christmas…

The story

Therese Brown unexpectedly plays host to 8 extra people due to a blizzard on treacherous roads beside her house on the same night that her ill husband dies – but not all goes as one would expect.

My review

This story takes place over a few days in December along a deserted road in Yorkshire. At the end, two characters drive off to a family Christmas gathering. Unfortunately, that is the entire Christmas connection for this book.  Apparently, this is a publisher effect as the original version was actually called Another little murder.

Being written in 1947, the remote house is truly remote without mobile phones or even a landline, and the house doesn’t even have electric lighting to add further atmosphere. It is a simpler plot and less gruesome than many modern crime books, but that didn’t stop my enjoyment of it.

The motive behind the crimes was a complete surprise, which is unusual in the crime genre, but clues and the culprits are present throughout. It is a bit ‘secret seven’ like with people bumbling around at night but that feels like the period.

It was a bit strange to have so many people turn up at Wintry Wold – why were so many people on this remote road so far into a storm? – but it kept the story moving and the plot hidden.

Would I recommend it? As a Christmas book, obviously not! And as a serious crime book with a plot to get engrossed in, no not really. As a pleasant read in front of a winter fire, yes I would so maybe you can pop it in someone’s Christmas stocking this year!

 

Dear Santa – Christmas adult book review

Dear Santacover of Dear Santa from Samuel Johnson

edited by Samuel Johnson OAM
Hachette Australia, Sydney, 2018

Age group: teen to adult
Format: 148 page paperback

A compilation of letters to Santa, written by Australian celebrities as adults.

The story

Not a story as such, but the book was thought of and executed by Samuel Johnson (unicycle rider, TV celebrity, brother who founded Love Your Sister) as a fund raiser in the fight against cancer. All of the letters have been written without the celebrities receiving any payment for their contribution to the book.

My review

Obviously this is a collection so there is a lot of variation from page to page – some letters are nostalgic, some are funny and some are a bit political (such as wanting refugee children out of detention on Nauru). There is also variation from a few lines to a few pages – either way, giving you space to read it slowly over time or easily read it as a single entity.

inside the book, Dear Santa

I found it interesting that the people I was most drawn to read were not always the letters I most enjoyed reading. A couple of letters felt like they were trying too hard – trying to be clever or impressive rather than getting into the spirit of writing to Santa (to me, that is genuine and heart felt) but the range of topics and styles was interesting and thought provoking, too.

It is nice to have it adult centric – I mean, it could have been letters of what they imagined they wrote as children, or some other child centric model.

Celebrities included…

There are 68 letters to Santa in the book, written by a range of Australians, including:

  • Gus Luenig, artist
  • Shane Jacobson, Chief Scout (Vic), actor
  • Deborah Mailman, actor
  • Leigh Sales, ABC presenter
  • Rove McManus, TV personality
  • Hildegrad Hinton, prison guard
  • Stuart Coupe, band manager of old, broadcaster
  • Paris Mitchell, public speaker
  • Helen Garner, writer
  • Ian Smith, political lobbyist, married to Natasha Stott Despojer
  • Peter FitzSimmons, ex rugby player, presenter

Would I recommend it? How can I not? Raising money to fight cancer is such a worthy cause – cancer causes so much pain and suffering. Add in it is about letters to Santa and it has my vote!

But seriously, it is an interesting book and has some letters well worth reading. Sure, some of the letters I didn’t like much and others didn’t add a lot of value, but overall the letters are good. It is an easy read given you can read just a page or two at a sitting, so I think it makes a great Christmas gift.

 

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