Friday Fun: Chateaux with Vineyards

My lifelong dream was to own a chateau with a magnificent view and a vineyard, where I could write (of course) but also run my training courses and serve my wine to a captive audience. Here are some chateaux which come close to my high demands.

Chateau Allaman in Canton Vaud, from liens-du-vin.ch
Chateau Allaman in Canton Vaud, from liens-du-vin.ch
Chateau Barbeyrolles, near Saint Tropez. From barbeyrolles.com
Chateau Barbeyrolles, near Saint Tropez. From barbeyrolles.com
Chateau Bizanos in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques, from communes.com
Chateau Bizanos in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques, from communes.com
Chateau de la Mission, Haut-Brion, from avis-vin.lefigaro.fr
Chateau de la Mission, Haut-Brion, from avis-vin.lefigaro.fr
Chateau Lonay near Lausanne, from morges-tourisme.ch
Chateau Lonay near Lausanne, from morges-tourisme.ch
Chateau Maison Blanche, from liens-du-vin.ch
Chateau Maison Blanche, from liens-du-vin.ch

A few beehives would also not come amiss! Where did you dream of living when you were a child?

Home-Grown Crime Fiction

mina

Some quick reads well within my comfort zone this past week.

Denise Mina: Gods and Beasts

In the run-up to Christmas, an elderly man and his grandson are queuing at the post-office in Glasgow, when a gunman bursts in and empties the cash register. The elderly man appears to be helping the gunman and gets shot dead for his pains. But what possible connection can a solid pillar of society have with a criminal and why would he hand his grandson over to a weird-looking stranger in the queue? This is not the only investigation that Alex Morrow has to solve: dodgy politicians and criminal gangs, her own brother with his shady dealings, and corruption within her own department make her wonder if there is any part of Glasgow society that she can trust.

Mina can certainly write: she conveys character with just a few traits of the pen and speech patterns. While this story doesn’t quite reach the emotional depth of the Garnethill or Paddy Meehan trilogies, it’s a great read, with an undercurrent of despair. The corruption of politicians and ongoing criminality of Glasgow are ever-present, but there are some characters that you feel hopeful about, some that you hope will be able to create a new life for themselves.

withouttraceSimon Booker: Without Trace

Booker is a TV scriptwriter, and there is an urgent pace and compulsive storytelling quality to his book which proves that. This is less noir than Mina’s work, more of a ‘read all night’ thriller.

Single mother and journalist Morgan Vine has campaigned for more than four years for the release of her childhood sweetheart Danny Kilcannon from prison. She does not believe he killed his wife and stepdaughter, and when a key witness recants his statement, Danny is freed. But then Morgan’s own teenage daughter goes missing and she no longer knows what to believe.

I couldn’t stop reading this, as I too started to doubt and suspect everybody and everything, just like Morgan. Cleverly constructed and full of suspense, with plenty of dodgy characters and grudges, it is a twisty rollercoaster of a book. My one gripe would be that some of the characters are perhaps a bit sketchy or clichéd and the ending felt a trifle over-elaborate and long.

bloodwilltellJeanne M. Dams: Blood Will Tell

Not strictly speaking ‘home-grown’, since the author is American, as is her amateur investigator Dorothy Martin, but Dorothy is married to a retired British chief constable and they are visiting Cambridge, so it will pass muster for now. Except that it really is the vision of olde worlde England and traditional college life that Americans want to see, as the recent success of Downton Abbey has proved.

What I did like was that Dorothy and her husband are in their 70s, happily retired but still keeping themselves very active mentally, although they do complain about their knees and joints and bruises. There aren’t many books featuring elderly investigators out there, so this one has to be praised for that fact alone. The storyline, however, was too cosy and twee, too slow and ponderous for my taste. A bloodstain on the floor leads to all sort of speculations, most of them wrong – it just didn’t arouse my curiosity enough.

 

Friday Fun: More Writers’ Homes in France

Seems like I can never get enough of houses in France, especially those which belong to writers and artists. I’m ranking them in order of luxury. Some of them appear to have come from moneyed backgrounds, others seem to have made a fortune from their work… or perhaps houses were much cheaper back then. Here’s to hoping!

Colette's birthplace, the house of Sido. From maisondecolette.fr
Colette’s birthplace, the house of Sido. From maisondecolette.fr
Alain-Fournier lived here, from berryprovince.com
Alain-Fournier lived here, from berryprovince.com
I'm guessing Rabelais didn't live here during his period as a monk. From laparafe.fr
I’m guessing Rabelais didn’t live here during his period as a monk. From laparafe.fr
Painter Gustave Courbet's birthplace, now a museum in the picture-pretty village of Ornans. From museefrance.fr
Painter Gustave Courbet’s birthplace, now a museum in the picture-pretty village of Ornans. From museefrance.fr
Poet Mallarme's house and garden. From jeanro.canalblog.com
Poet Mallarme’s house and garden. From jeanro.canalblog.com
Alphonse Daudet clearly didn't write about this house in his Lettres de mon moulin. From maison-alphonse-daudet.com
Alphonse Daudet clearly didn’t write about this house in his Lettres de mon moulin. From maison-alphonse-daudet.com
Clearly, if you are a politician as well as a writer, and inherit money from the Tsarina, like Chateaubriand did, your house is outstanding. From artslettres.ning.com
Naturally, if you are a politician as well as a writer, and inherit money from the Tsarina, like Chateaubriand did, your house is outstanding. From artslettres.ning.com

 

 

I Thought I Was Doing So Well…

I haven’t signed up to the TBR Triple Dog challenge this year (which means no purchasing or borrowing new books for 3 months, until you reduce your TBR pile considerably). I love the concept, but I failed rather dismally last year. Secretly, however, I was planning to tag along unofficially. I noticed, with some satisfaction, that in January I managed to read 14 from my TBR list, 2 review books, 1 from the library and 1 that a friend lent me. So I blithely informed James at his end of January update that I had done quite well.

But then books started arriving in the post, my willpower weakened and my clicky finger got activated…

So here is the truth of the matter:

Books I borrowed and had to read quickly before returning:

Christos Tsiolkas: Dead Europe

Ian Rankin: Standing in Another Man’s Grave

Books I got sent by publishers:

Karl Ove Knausgaard: Some Rain Must Fall – Vol. 5 about attending writing school and becoming an adult – I dived into it at once

Peter Gardos: Fever at Dawn – 1945 and Hungarian Miklos has just emerged from Belsen and is recovering in a refuggee camp in Sweden; he is looking for love and writes a letter to 117 Hungarian women from his village.

He Jiahong: Hanging Devils – Set in the mid 1990s, this debut by one of China’s foremost legal experts turned crime fiction author describes a rapidly-changing society.

Succumbed to Netgalley temptation:

Simon Booker: Without Trace  – a miscarriage of justice, a childhood sweetheart released from prison and then her own daughter goes missing – can she trust anyone?

Lisa Owens: Not Working – 20-something stops working to figure out what her purpose in life is

Joanna Cannon: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep – 1976 and 2 ten-year-olds decide to uncover the mystery of the missing neighbour

Melissa Harrison: Rain – 4 walks in the English weather – better get used to it again

Ordered thanks to enthusiastic reviews (I name the guilty party too):

Javier Marias: Your Face Tomorrow trilogy (Tony Malone)

Andrew McMillan: Physical (Anthony Anaxagorou) – poetry: hymns to the male body, friendship and love

Rebecca Goss: Her Birth (Anthony Anaxagorou) – poetry: series of poems documenting the short life of a daughter born with a rare and incurable heart condition

Claudia Rankine: Citizen (Naomi Frisby) – I’ve read this but wanted my own copy

Complete Novels of E. Nesbit (Simon Thomas) – because I haven’t read any of her novels for adults

So I acknowledge defeat on the buy/borrow/download front, but will stick to reading more from the TBR pile at least…

 

 

Friday Fun: The Teen Bedroom I Wish I’d Had

Have you ever noticed how pathetically floral and pastel teenage girls’ bedrooms are? What I would have liked as a teen (and what I still like in a bedroom) was a cave-like atmosphere, with plenty of room for books, and a hankering for exploration and dreaming.

Sporty but nice, from Decoist.com
Sporty but nice, from Decoist.com
Bunkbeads have always been a secret dream of mine, from pinterest.com
Bunkbeds have always been a secret dream of mine, from pinterest.com
For the Indian Jones at heart, from pinterest.com
For the Indian Jones at heart, from pinterest.com
Perfect place to read, from bedroomdesigncatalog.com
Perfect place to read, from bedroomdesigncatalog.com
Hidden storage ahoy, from mediabookbub.com
Hidden storage ahoy, from mediabookbub.com

But if I were to go with the truly grandiose, I would have liked to have a room in a tower, a whole floor to myself. Below is just a small part of the ideal…

Reading in the round, from Domaine.com
Reading in the round, from Domaine.com

Friday Fun: Abandoned Places

January and its sunless days are taking their toll on me, so after cemeteries I now offer you ruins and abandonment. Picturesque, of course! Cheerful? Well, you decide…

Abkhazia, Georgia. From lifestyle.allwomenstalk.com
Abkhazia, Georgia. From vmulder.livejournal.com
Beelitz Hospital near Berlin, from 28dayslater.co.uk
Beelitz Hospital near Berlin, from 28dayslater.co.uk
Chateau de Carnelle, from reddit.
Chateau de Carnelle, from reddit.
Another French chateau, from a website dedicated to ruins www.bcd-urbex.com
Another French chateau, from a website dedicated to ruins http://www.bcd-urbex.com
Wooden house in Oblast, Russia, from russiatrek.org
Wooden house in Oblast, Russia, from russiatrek.org
The sand-covered town of Kolmanskop in Namibia. From National Geographic website.
The sand-covered town of Kolmanskop in Namibia. From National Geographic website.

Sic transit gloria mundi, as Mary Beard might say.

Friday Fun: Cemeteries

Not quite so fun, really, but in a week where we’ve lost two very talented people, this is a reminder of the transience of life, or, as the Japanese poem goes:

Colours are fragrant but they
will eventually scatter.
Who in our world
is unchanging?
The deep mountains of karma
we cross them today,
we shall not have superficial dreams,
nor be deluded.

Bellu Cemetery in Bucharest, from crestinortodox.ro
Bellu Cemetery in Bucharest, from crestinortodox.ro
Highgate Cemetery in London, from Wikipedia.
Highgate Cemetery in London, from Wikipedia.
Jewish Cemetery in Prague, from architecture.about.com
Jewish Cemetery in Prague, from architecture.about.com
Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, from Promptguides.com
Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, from Promptguides.com
Muslim cemetery in Sarajevo, from Wikipedia.
Muslim cemetery in Sarajevo, from Wikipedia.
The Cheerful Cemetery in Sapinta, Romania. Each gravestone has a humorous poem about the deceased. From turismland.ro
The Cheerful Cemetery in Sapinta, Romania. Each gravestone has a humorous poem about the deceased. From turismland.ro