This Mortal Boy

This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I wasn’t sure if this book was quite a 5★, but a day later & I’m still thinking about both the book & the subject matter so…

Fiona Kidman is one of New Zealand’s most respected fiction writers. From her bio on Goodreads;

Much of her fiction is focused on how outsiders navigate their way in narrowly conformist society.

Perfect description of this book – & of 1950’s New Zealand society.

Young Irishman Albert “Paddy” Black

emigrates to New Zealand as a “Ten Pound Pom” – an immigrant who receives an assisted passage to New Zealand. Kidman’s interpretation has Black as happy in his new country at first, but he soon becomes homesick and he leaves Lower Hutt & the good friend he has made to chase better pay in our biggest city. Black becomes a caretaker for an inner city boarding house. Johnny McBride (real name Alan Jacques)

Is bigger, meaner & (Black believes) older than Albert, and he forces his way into the boarding house. Things come to a head and after a severe beating at Jacques’ hands & provocation at a milk bar, Black stabs Jacques in the neck. Against the odds, the stabbing proves fatal and Black is arrested.

“This Mortal Boy” is in all kinds of trouble. His new Auckland friends desert him, he is up against prejudice against youth, new immigrants – & the Minister of Justice “Gentleman Jack” Marshall. Marshall was a great contradiction -gentle and charming in his manner, but a hardcore proponent of the death penalty.

I wasn’t around in 1955, but I do remember Marshall from later in his career (He was briefly the New Zealand Prime Minister) as one of the most honorable NZ politicians.

Poor “Paddy” never stood a chance. He was the second to last person hanged in NZ. His death and the cruel way his mother was denied permission to visit NZ to farewell her son, caused an outcry and the death penalty as a punishment for murder was abolished in 1957.

Kidman’s writing style is literary, thoughtful and reflective. She does a good job of showing the contradictions in New Zealand society of the time. I’m not totally convinced by her interpretation of Black’s character, but I was still fascinated.

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Book Review:The Group

The Group

The Group by Mary McCarthy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Fairly near the start this book had waaay too much detail about 1930’s contraception for my tastes – it went on for pages. Yes, I should be more sympathetic – this chapter also evoked the feelings of confused and furtive shame about sexual matters that I remember from the 70’s.

But the further into this groundbreaking novel I got, the more absorbed I became. I especially like the way The Group moved in and out of each others lives – some of the characters disappear for chapters and chapters. This very much reflects real life. Most of the women have absorbing lives, but only the most frustrating member Kay has a real career. Kay also has a real devotion to the unlovely Harald.


Polly was my favourite, Libby felt the most realistic.

I found the ending confusing and a bit hard to follow, but still this is a most excellent book.

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Welcome to Temptation

Welcome to Temptation (Dempseys #1)

Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


2.5★

I was away on a yacht for my holiday break (thanks to some very kind friends). My friends/family were reading Agatha Christie & Georgette Heyer

Far better choices.

Let me explain. I have read & enjoyed some of Crusie’s romances in the past when she was a fresh, funny, new voice in romance. I may still find some of her work amusing. But this one (which has won a lot of awards) hasn’t aged well.

Our Hero has unusual definitions of what constitutes sex and consent when the woman is drunk. In fact Our Heroine doesn’t get to consent to much at all, given the unbelievable way her younger sister pushes her around about trivial matters like [ Sophie’s career and car. One of Sophie’s main turn ons sex with the risk of discovery isn’t mine.

One of the other romances made me feel uncomfortable and queasy.

Large and mostly boring caste of cliches characters.

Some of the sex was pretty hot though.

I’m not abandoning Crusie altogether, but my faith has been shaken.

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Next… (Arc for One of Us is Next)

Next… (One of Us Is Lying, #2)

Next… by Karen M. McManus

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I was hoping Penguin NZ would give me to chance to read this novel as an arc – and they did! Just as good as a Christmas present! Thanks so much!

Love the Arc cover!

In spite of a few lulls (mostly near the start) I’m going with my overall feeling that this is a 5★ book. Once the story got going I was really engaged and as much as I loved One of Us Is Lying I preferred the character development for previous characters like Maeve and Bronwen in this sequel. I also found the main new characters and the way they worked together (or against each other) far more convincing. The further I got into the book,the harder it was to put down. It was meant to be my holiday read, but I finished it before I went away. All strands pulled together (view spoiler)[ Well…almost. I had a bit of difficulty with Emma’s character and motivation. I also really didn’t like her much. Fortunately I don’t require all characters to be likeable. (hide spoiler)] Fantastic ending, which will have me coming back for more!

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On Christmas Day in the Evening

On Christmas Day in the Evening

On Christmas Day in the Evening by Grace S. Richmond

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


3.5★

I’ve hit my target for the Goodreads Challenge – This is read Number 90, so go me!

We are back with the wholesome and loving Fernald family that features in On Christmas Day in the Morning. While I preferred the first book (which was more about honouring your family, this is more about the importance of a community) this is still a lovely tale, with the sort of sentimental message I am in the mood for at Christmas time.

Best wishes for 2020 everyone! Love each other, be kind to one another.

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Killer Dolphin aka Death at the Dolphin

Killer Dolphin (Roderick Alleyn, #24)

Killer Dolphin by Ngaio Marsh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I can see it’s flaws, but I can’t help it – I just love this book

This is all the more surprising as I am not a big Marsh fan. I think this one was the first Marsh I read and maybe that explains my love for it.

The Dolphin Theatre is described with such love and detail. Ms Marsh is totally at home with her theatrical characters and she also makes them believable as people from the sixties – my favourite decade! I don’t think the murder was as important to Marsh in this mystery, as the fun she was having with the setting.

Alleyn and Fox are witty together without Marsh making Alleyn too arch – Marsh is prone to do that. No Troy is a bonus. Troy and Alleyn’s relationship has never seemed believable or comfortable to me.

Lovely, escapist fare!

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Mrs Tim of the Regiment

Mrs Tim of the Regiment

Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D.E. Stevenson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


2.5★

I’m sorry, I really tried, but I just can’t finish this. One session (And oh, it did feel like a session!) reading I fell asleep before I read a single line.

Time to tidy up 2019 reads and move on.


There are exceptions (Desiree for one) but I’m rarely a fan of the diary format, as it is very limiting. But I did mildly enjoy the first half of the book that was based on Ms Stevenson’s real life diaries. The authentic quickly jotted down style was really authentic and it was interesting reading about what an army wife’s life was like between the wars. Stevenson is often very witty.

I still enjoyed the early June entries, even though each day is now more like a chapter written in the first person. Hester (Mrs Tim) now journeys by train to holiday with a former neighbour, Mrs Louden.

The Christie’s second child Betty gives me some laugh out loud moments. There is the unwelcome intrusion of a snobbish and disliked acquaintance on the train.

“…I thought Mummie didn’t know anyone in Kiltwinkle. Of course I knew lots of children at school, but it was awfully dull for Mummie. Mrs Watt said there would be lots of parties, and Mummie bought a new dress, and then nobody asked her.”



Haven’t we all had those moments with our children? I had high hopes the read would improve but for me this was the last entertaining moment until my decision to DNF at 76%. I carried on that long because in spite of the difference in children ages, I was reminded (a lot) of British bittersweet comedy series Butterflies.

Major Morley = Leonard for those who have seen Butterflies, and I was visualising actress Wendy Craig while I was reading. I wouldn’t be at all inspired to find out that the Major Tim books were a very loose inspiration for this TV series. Please note I am saying inspiration not carbon copy!

Since I have a number of unread Stevenson at home and my local library has started carrying some of her titles, I will try another Stevenson. This author has wonderful descriptive powers and a very observant eye.

DNF with regret @76%

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