Just for Fun 2013

The third book in the cozy mystery series set in Melbourne.

Publication year: 2006
Format: Audio
Narrator: Louise Siversen
Running Time: 9 hrs
Corinna Chapman is a former accountant and now she’s a baker and owns the Earthly Delights bakery. Life is good: she has a lovely lover, Daniel, lots of friends, and business is good. But then two things disturb her peace: her mother is coming to town and wants to see her, and a couple of her friends have apparently been poisoned.

Corinna’s parents are hippies who live in a commune outside Melbourne. They were quite neglectful parents and barely noticed when Corinna’s grandmother took her away when she was just five years old. Not surprisingly, Corinna resents her parents and don’t want anything to do with them. However, her father, called Sunlight, has gone missing and her mother, Starshine, is frantic and demands that Corinna should find her father. Reluctantly, Corinna agrees. Fortunately, Daniel is a private detective. Corinna is forced to confront her feelings towards her parents and her past. Starshine is quite a manipulative woman and she seems to loath Corinna’s weight.

Greenwood also addresses our Western culture’s obsession with weight. It turns out that Kayle and Gossamer have not been poisoned, after all, but that they have taken herbal tea which should work as a weight-loss product. While trying to find out who is selling the tea, Corinna stumbles upon a fanatical cult who is trying to convince people that God himself hates fat people. The cult also sells its services as a weight-loss program.

Helping Corinna are the usual cast which include her apprentice the ex-junkie Jason, her best friend the witch, and assorted cats. I really enjoyed this book, just as much as the previous ones. It’s full of interesting characters and references to pop culture.

A new book in the Diving universe!

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Narrator: Jennifer van Dyck
Running Time: 8 hrs 39 min

The story is split between the main character, “Boss” and Jonathan “Coop” Cooper. Boss is in the Bonyards, which seems to be a graveyard for star ships from the legendary Fleet. The star ships have the anacopa drives which is able to travel through fold space. Apparently they also have a cloak around them which has prevented the locals from looting them. Meanwhile, Coop is in his own star ship, the Ivoire, and is trying to defend Boss’ science station against the might of the Enterran Empire. The Empire want the anacopa drive technology and they’re also looking for revenge from a previous skirmish. The story is also divided between two time periods, now and four years ago when Coop encountered a group of Empire soldiers.

Coop and his shipmates were stranded 5000 years into the future when their anacopa drive malfunctioned. When they realized that they couldn’t get back, they tried to cope, each in their own ways. Some quit, some even killed themselves. But Coop and some of his crew remain aboard the Ivoire and work with Boss. Coop need to know what has happened to his old Fleet and he feels that ships in the Boneyard will have a lot of answers. But exactly because of his eagerness to find answers, Boss doesn’t want him there. So, Boss takes her own team to investigate the ships slowly and cautiously.

Four years ago, Coop realized that he and his group needed a mission in order to feel like they are doing something. Then he decided to go again to the Room of Lost Souls, as Boss calls the station where she first encountered a malfunctioning anacopa drive. It’s outside the regular space lanes but nominally in the hands of the Enterran Empire but Coop isn’t interested in the Empire at all, just taking the anacopa drive. Boss didn’t like the mission but she isn’t can’t order Coop or his crew. However, the mission becomes much more complicated when a group of soldiers come to the station.

We also get to know more about the people in the Enterran Empire. One the POV characters is an Enterran soldier, Elissa Trekov. It seems that the people in the Empire aren’t the evil monsters Boss and some of her people think they are.

This is another very enjoyable diving universe story. Boss and Coop are very different people and they clash occasionally. We get to know a bit more about the universe and more secrets are added. I would strongly recommend reading the previous books first, even though the book explains the major points.

Boss is again out of her element because she has to take in with her a larger group of people than she would have liked to. But on the other hand, she’s back to her first love, exploring ancient ships. This was a great combination.

The second book in the mystery series.

Publication year: 2005
Format: Audio
Narrator: Louise Siversen
Running Time: 9 hrs

Corinna Chapman used to be an accountant but now she’s a baker and even though she has to wake up at four in the morning she still prefers running Earthly Delights. Her life is good: she has a gorgeous new lover, her new apprentice seems to be supernaturally talented at inventing new muffins, and her bakery is doing well.

However, when Corinna is given some excellent chocolates from the nearby chocolate chop, Heavenly Delights, she bites into chili sauce. Then breathless Juliette Lefebvre, the Belgian chocolatier, explains that someone has been sabotaging her chocolates. Apparently, someone has put in chili or soybean sauce in some of her chocolates which has angered her clients. Juliette hires Daniel to find out just who is behind it all and Corinne, of course, assists him. She finds out a lot about the chocolate trade and how the sweets are made, in addition to getting to know the people who work in the chocolate shop. It turns out that one of the workers is missing.

Also, Daniel had a run-in with a “prophet” who is called Darren the God-boy. Darren had kidnapped a girl and Daniel had been hired to get her back. Now, Darren is in prison but he says that he’s been possessed by evil spirits. Additionally, the house where Corinna and all of her neighbors live in, gets two new residents.

Heavenly Pleasures is a delightful and charming book. The mysteries aren’t the main draw, but the characters and also the humorous writing. Corinna is a warmhearted and confident and she has a great sense of humor. She’s also fat which is still quite a rarity in heroines.

Corinne’s young apprentice Jason is a former drug addict and Corinne is still worried that he will start using again. He loves baking and inventing new tastes. Daniel is a former soldier and now he’s private detective. He’s devoted to Corinne and they are a very cute couple. However, Daniel has a hero complex which causes some trouble for them. Her best friend Meroe is a witch. And then, of course, there are the many cats who all have their own personalities.

17th book in the series.

Publication year: 2008
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 8 hrs and 37 minutes

The year 1929 begins with a heatwave, at least in Melbourne. Phryne’s 29th birthday is coming up and she’s starting to plan for it. But then, Phryne’s sister Eliza brings to her a distraught woman, Mrs. Manifold. Her only son has died and the police are saying that it’s a suicide. However, Mrs. Manifold is convinced that someone has murdered her son. Phyrne agrees to investigate and soon plunges into the life of Augustine Manifold. He was an antique dealer and good at his job. He knew just how to find the hidden treasures from any estate or garage sale, and he also hired to capable people; a girl for his shop and a carpenter who is a genius in his job. He was also excited about the future and telling people that soon he can buy his mother a house of her own. Phryne has to get to know his friends and she isn’t impressed; she thinks that they are not only obnoxious but frightful.

She’s also investigating another matter. A lawyer brings to her a case where an old, wealthy woman has died and left her fortunes to her children, divided equally between “the issue of her body”. She has four living children but the lawyer suspects that Mrs. Bonnetti had another child before marrying her husband. Phryne agrees to look into it, discreetly. This is not an easy task, because Mrs. Bonnetti was old and her possible child would be quite old, too. Phryne just thinks of this as a challenge.

This time Phryne involves some of her friends more than usual. Dot’s knowledge of all things domestic is particularly useful. Phryne’s adoptive daughter Jane wants to become a doctor, which has been established before, but here she works like a forensic pathologist, figuring out if Augustine died at the sea or not. Pretty gruesome work for a 12-year old but she’s just fascinated!

We also get small snippets of Cec an Bert’s adventures during the war. However, the purpose of these small scenes doesn’t come clear until the very end.

This is a highly enjoyable Phryne mystery with all of the familiar cast running around.

The fifteenth book in the series.
Publication year: 2005
Format: Audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 8 hrs and 7 minutes

This time Phryne is asked to solve a series of jewlery thefts on a luxury liner, SS Hinemoa. Four very expensive jewels have been stolen from the ship, from locked rooms. Nobody has been able to find the thief and the the company has had to pay for the jewels. Even though Phryne loves her friends and family, they make a lot of noice and Phryne is ready for a small vacation. So, Phryne and her level-headed companion Dot board the huge ship.

SS Hinemoa sails around New Zealand and Phyrne gets to know a lot about that country and especially about the Maori culture. She also gets to know her eccentric fellow passangers, all of whom are suspects because they sailed on the ship during the other thefts, some of the crew, and especially, the band: Mavis and the Melody Makers. But then, one of the passangers is murdered.

Death by Water has very interesting descriptions of both luxury ship and Maori culture. In fact, Greenwood says in her notes afterwards that she had to built a model of the ship and researched it throughly. Even though the first class passangers seem rich and therefore happy, most of them have quite dysfunctional relationships. Some of them are also very racist. Each chapter starts with a letter. I wasn’t able to guess why they were included and that wasn’t reveled until near the end.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think the mystery was the best of the series. But the characters and the setting more than made up for that.

The thirteenth book in the historical mystery series.

Publication year: 2003
Format: Audio
Publisher: Belinda audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 8 hrs and 14 minutes

Phryne’s sister Elizabeth has come to visit. However, the old Beth has become very much a young lady and she disapproves of pretty much everything in Phryne’s life. Phryne suspects that something is wrong in Eliza’s life and she’s trying to give her sister room so that she will tell it on her own time. Phryne takes her whole family to the local amusement park Luna Park. After a couple of diversions, they go to the Ghost Train but end up finding a real corpse. It’s an old and mummified man with a bullet hole in his head. The police aren’t really interested in find out what happened to him so it’s up to Phyrne and her adoptive daughters to solve his murder.

Meanwhile, Phryne’s Chinese lover Lin Chung is having a difficult time. Chung’s grandmother has supposedly handed over the Lin family to her grandson. Unfortunately, she still has a lot of influence and she disapproves of everything Chung does. She even forbids Chung to meet with the head of the Hun family. The Lins and the Huns have been in a feud for decades and Chung is trying to end that. However, with Phryne’s help, Chung is able to arrange a meeting and end the feud. But the end of the feud starts a mystery: about 80 years ago a group of Lin men in Castlemain carrying gold were supposedly murdered by Hun men who took the gold. The bodies were never found. But now Chung finds out that the Hun were not responsible after all and he has to travel to Castlemain himself and find out just what happened.

I enjoyed both plots but I was really interested in history of the Lin family and the Chinese emigrants in general. Chung has to talk to a lot of venerable Chinese to find out what has happened to his relatives. The old people tell their stories which are often sad and horrible because they have been treated awfully by the local white people. Each chapter also starts with a letter from a Lin immigrant to his family in China. He was supposed to become a scholar but failed his test so he ran away to Australia in order to find gold and return with it back home.

The familiar, delightful cast returns. Another great Phryne Fisher mystery.

The twelfth book in the historical mystery series.

Publication year: 2002
Format: Audio
Publisher: Belinda audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 9 hrs and 38 minutes

This time the Honorable Phryne Fisher has two unrelated mysteries to deal with. Anatole Betrand is the owner and the chef in one of the best French restaurants in Melbourne. He’s around forty years old and has found an eighteen-year-old girl, Elizabeth, for himself. Unfortunately, Elizabeth has vanished and Anatole wants Phryne to find her. Elizabeth’s father is a “well-known racing identity” who is a terror to his servants and most likely a crimina. He sent the girl to a finishing school years ago. So, he doesn’t really know his daughter.

Phryne’s friends Cec and Bert tell her that two of their friends have died. Officially, their deaths are accidents but Cec and Bert are convinced that someone has murdered their friends. Cec, Bert, and the two victims are part of a group of seven soldiers who have kept in touch over the years. Since they haven’t done anything remarkable after the war, Phryne concludes that they must have seen something during their time in Paris, when they were together celebrating the end of the war. Cec and Bert reminisce about their time in Paris and Phryne also remembers her time just after the war. She was an ambulance driver during the war and after is she met some of the famous Parisian artist and modelled for a while in order to buy rent and food. She fell in love the first time, but unfortunately for a completely wrong man.

Also, Phryne’s Chinese lover Lin Chung announces that he’s been engaged to be married. His fiancée is a lovely, seventeen-year-old virgin from mainland China and she will arrive soon. Phryne has understood that this will happen and she would like to meet the girl and put her at ease. However, Phryne’s dependable servants, Mr. and Mrs. Butler, are resigning. Mr. Butler doesn’t want to live in a household where adultery is going on. Phryne is miffed and sets out to find a new butler.

It was great to see more of Phryne’s history and to glimpse into the bohemian side of Paris right after the war. As far as I can tell, Greenwood captures it wonderfully.

Even though Greewood writes with humor, she deals (again) with serious issues such as racism and attitudes towards immigrants.

The main cast are back and even Phryne’s adoptive daughters will have a larger role in the book than usual. Since meeting Lin Chung, we been told that his family will arranged a marriage for him so it wouldn’t be possible for Lin and Phryne to get married. I’ve been wondering about this; if Greenwood would make the prospective bride a criminal or otherwise unsuitable so that Phryne could marry her Chinese lover. Thankfully, this didn’t happen. In fact, it was dealt with tastefully, if perhaps a bit too easily. I was a bit sorry for the poor girl; she would be moving to another country getting married to a man she doesn’t know and the man is already in love with someone else and continuing the relationship. Hardly fair for her.

A great continuation to the series.

11th book in the series.

Publication year: 2001
Format: Audio
Publisher: Belinda Audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 8 hrs and 5 minutes

The Honorable Phryne Fisher is a bit bored: life is good but her Chinese lover Lin Chung has been sent to China to buy silk. Then Detective Inspector Robinson asks Phryne to look into a suspicious death. Marcella Lavender has reported that someone is threating her and Robinson looked into the matter but didn’t find anything. However, now Lavender is dead and Robinson feels really guilty about it. Of course Phryne agrees to look into the matter.

Lavender wrote and illustrated children’s books, specifically fairy books. She also worked for the Women’s Choice magazine. She lived in a boarding house with a motley crew of other people and her house was decorated with fairies. She even inflicted garden gnomes on the hapless gardens. Phryne interviews her house mates without getting much clues. However, she’s invited to write for the Women’s Choice magazine and this gives her an excellent opportunity to investigate.

The book is pretty ordinary Phryne book until about the half-way point: funny and witty but showing also how people’s lives can be hard. However, about half-way through the book Phryne finds out that her lover has been kidnapped and the book’s tone for that plot becomes far more serious.

As usual, the book has a range of interesting characters. In addition to the usual cast, there are lot of new characters. It seems that miss Lavender wasn’t much liked. Her co-workers at the magazine aren’t grieving; they are focused on getting the next issue out. She wrote also the advice column for the magazine which widens the field of suspects.

I really enjoyed this one.

The tenth Phyrne Fisher mystery.

Publication year: 1999
Format: Audio
Publisher: Belinda Audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 8 hrs and 01 minutes

The Honorable Phryne Fisher and her maid Dot Williams have traveled to Sydney for a holiday and some cricket. However, as soon as they arrive, a couple of nice young men beg Phryne to investigate “a horrible event”. It turns out that their friend, Adam Harcourt, is in serious trouble. Someone broke into the Dean of Arts’ safe and Harcourt is being accused of it. Even worse, some of the papers which have been stolen were found on Harcourt’s things. But other items remain missing, among them an old papyrus, the Dean’s wife’s rubies, and the Faculty books.

Even though Phryne has promised her maid Dot that their stay in Sydney would be a holiday, she agrees to look into the theft. After all, it’s not a murder. She immerses herself into Sydney’s academic life which turns out to be full of secrets and lies. She also gets to dip her toe into black magic.

Meanwhile, Dot visits her Joan who is married to an ironmonger and they have two kids. However, to her horror she finds out that her sister has vanished and everyone, especially her husband, thinks that she has run away with a lover. However, Dot is convinced that Joan wouldn’t leave her kids. Phryne is afraid that something horrible has happened to Joan but because of Dot Phryne will find Joan. The search takes them to the bohemian side of Sydney. While Phryne knows all about the Bohemia in Paris and Melbourne, she finds out that Sydney is a bit stranger..

We find out about Phryne’s old hobby: cricket. I have no idea if the cricket information in the book is historically true but the majority of Greenwood’s facts tend to be correct.

This time Phryne is away from her friends who usually help her with investigations. Dot is the only familiar supporting character. The new characters are entertaining enough, especially the artists. Phryne is looking for Joan among Sydney’s artists and night clubs, and they tend to be entertaining. However, I missed Phryne’s lover Lin Chung.

Another entertaining Phryne story.

The first B5 book which is set during the second season of the science fiction show Babylon 5, before Bester’s second appearance (A Race Through Dark Places).

Publication year: 1995 (during season 2)
Page count: 246
Format: print
Publisher: Boxtree

The Psi Corps are going to have a convention. At first, it was going to be held on Mars, in a luxury hotel but a new group of Martian terrorists blow it up. So, military liaison and telepath Harriman Gray (last seen in the episode “Eyes”) gets the bright idea to change it to Babylon 5. Captain Sheridan thinks it’s a fine idea and a chance to brighten the station’s rather mixed public image. Commander Ivanova and Security Chief Garibaldi can’t stop it, so 400 telepaths are going to come to Babylon 5, including mister Bester and Harriman Gray. Joy! Not.

Most of the telepaths coming to B5 are working in the commercial sector but about 100 Psi Cops and some military telepaths are coming, too. Harriman seems to have a huge crush on Ivanova and he almost stalks her. Talia Winters is happy to see other telepaths and she even gets a job offer which would take her away from B5.

I started giggling aloud when I realized what the premise was: it’s such a juicy idea. Of course, they couldn’t actually change anything so a fistfight between Ivanova and Bester was out but otherwise I expected to be very entertained. And mostly I was. I was a bit disappointed that when G’Kar had a fistfight with one of the telepaths in a bar, we saw only the aftermath but that was entertaining, too. Garibaldi giving a tour of the Down Below to the sheltered telepaths, and Talia, was great.

Harriman, Garibaldi, and Talia are the main POV characters. I was very interested to see more of Talia who I think was underused in the show.

The first half of the book is entertaining and the character interactions seem ok to me, except that a couple of time they changed their minds pretty quickly. However, the second half of the book isn’t set on B5 and we meet new characters. The characters’ moods and motivations change quickly and I was baffled by some of the choices they made. One group of people seemed pretty out of place to me.

Unfortunately, I was a bit distracted by Vornholt’s writing style. For some reason he tends to avoid using characters’ names and instead uses brief descriptions like “the young telepath” or “the statuesque woman”. Also, even I know that Mars isn’t a hot planet (and I was 100% Arts student). Vornholt also uses pretty juvenile humor.

Sadly, the book started promisingly but couldn’t live up to B5 standards I’m used to.

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