The Pursuit of Love

by Nancy Mitford

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I’m a big fan of Nancy Mitford’s & this is the book of hers that I most wanted to read. I have owned Love in a Cold Climate & Don’t Tell Alfred for a while now, but I am glad I waited till I had the first in the series in my hot little hands.

It was worth the wait – I enjoyed this novel very much. There is a lot of Nancy & her family in this. so your enjoyment of this book may depend on how amusing you have found the Mitfords in various works about them.

I have just knocked half a star off – in part because there were a few lulls for me, but mainly because during some of the funniest lines in the book (view spoiler) Truly, the (brief) change in tone was a shock!

But I am looking forward to continuing the series.

Changes to Goodreads

Are we having fun yet?

For those that don’t know/haven’t realised, anyone used to be able to add a book on Goodreads & would have a limited time to correct any mistakes. & most people did a good or at least reasonable job. Unfortunately the ones that did a bad job were spectacularly bad & often quite prolific!

So I do understand why Goodreads has decided to restrict adding new books, to Librarians, Support (Staff) & Authors, (& the bulk of books added to the GR data base are added by bots) but I am puzzled why they have picked to do it now! Numbers of Librarians responding in the Librarians Group are noticeably down. A lot of reasons for that, other than COVID. (although I believe that is a big one.)

All Goodreads Librarians can ask is;

Please be patient. We are unpaid volunteers. What may have take a few hours to get added in the not so distant past, may take a few days. Just keep bumping up your request every couple of days. Someone will get to you eventually. 😊

Another change, due to start taking effect in July (& they will be fully removed in September) is our lists of our Favorite Authors. Goodreads suggests we follow them instead – but most of my favorites are dead & I find the idea of following deceased people a bit creepy to be honest.

If you object to this change please use GR’s Contact Us link to voice your disapproval.

These are just the main changes – there are more, but to be honest they aren’t issues I care about.

This is the link on Goodreads Help but it may only work for Goodreads Help members.

https://help.goodreads.com/s/article/Why-are-you-removing-multiple-features-on-Goodreads

& finally, please don’t take out your frustration on Goodreads Librarians. We have little to no influence on anything Goodreads decides to do.

Silver Pigs

by Lindsey Davis

I liked this novel, but given many of my GR friends love this book/series, I was expecting to enjoy it just a little bit more.

Silver pigs had me thinking;

but they were actually really heavy lead ingots that had been filled with silver & stolen from Roman Britain. Marcus Didius Falco, a wisecracking Roman imperial agent is on the case after (view spoiler) I will say the spoilered plot development took me completely by surprise. (view spoiler)

This book has a lot of detail. Ms Davis really knows her stuff! I thought I was going to catch her out on the use of coriander in Roman cooking, but no – it did grow in Southern Europe back then. But all the detail & twists in the plot really slowed the plot down. I like my hard boiled detective fiction to move a bit faster than this one did.

Saying that, I do own quite a few Falco novels & I am sure I will read the next couple of Falco novels eventually.

Black Narcissus

by Rumer Godden

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If you want to be thoroughly depressed, this is the book for you!

Five nuns arrive at a former harem in the Himalayas that has been gifted to them. A group of brothers has already tried & failed to establish a Catholic stronghold there. While the nuns (lead by the strongminded Sister Clodagh) wonder about this and Mr Dean, the local representative of the British Empire, strongly tries to warn the nuns off, but they are undeterred. But then the insanity starts…

Rumer Godden is one of my all-time favourite authors, but even though I have given this 4★ it would be the novel of hers I have liked the least. The high rating is for the excellent story structure & evocative language, as well as the occasional flash of humour;

“There are several ways,” he said shyly, “in which I’m trying to improve myself. I have a great many books and records and now I’m learning to play golf. Do you know golf, Sister? The English think it’s a very serious game. I was going to learn a much more serious game called cricket, but you need twenty two people…”

(I have to say, The Little General enchanted me!)

The whole novel ripples with madness and repressed sexual tension. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the read, but I did appreciate the book.

Death of an Airman

by C. St. John Sprigg

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If you read Sprigg’s bio on Goodreads, you will find a very interesting man who died way too young.

Certainly I would like to know more about him.

Reading this book, I would have sworn that Sprigg was a pilot. Reading his bio on Wikipedia Under his real name of Christopher Caudwell,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christo… I found out that he was knowledgeable about flight and wrote a couple of books about it.

& this book got off to a cracking start when an Australian bishop turns up at the Baston Air Club wanting flying lessons. But there are some strange goings on…

The book was terrific at the start, (& had some wonderful characters throughout, like Lady Crumbles the ruthless fundraiser!) it did lose a bit of momentum in the centre, but the ending tied up all the loose ends. & just for once I guessed the chief villain – only two pages before the reveal but still!

One of the better Golden Age books I have read by a lesser known writer.

If This Gets Out

by Sophie Gonzales & Cale Dietrich

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Most of my Goodreads friends have rated this one 3★, & that is actually a very fair call. I’m giving this one 4 (weak)★, due to my own fascination with boy bands (& to a lesser extent girl bands) & their often toxic world.

& this book does cover this – quite exhaustively actually – what life could be like in a boy band. Exhausting work schedules, closeted homosexuals, management exerting absolute control over every moment of the boys lives, fear of their more extreme fans. All this is documented here. X 2. as Sophie wrote the chapters from Rubens POV, & Cale wrote Zack’s. At the start this made for a very slow telling of the story (more showing & a bit less repetition would have been good) But at the halfway point with fellow band member Angel’s disintegration the pace picks up & there is a good story in there. One reservation I had (& I can’t post because I still haven’t figured out how to do spoiler tags on WordPress)

but the story kicked along at a good pace from then on, & I was able to finish my read quickly. I’ll mention this is my first time reading homosexual love scenes – they were sensitively handled.

My own favourite boy bands. I like the oldies but goodies Westlife & the now defunct Boyzone (this story of a 15 year feud between Shane & Mikey is hilarious though) https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/boyzone-the-secret-icy-rift-1681059

Those Irish voices (swoon!)
Out of the current crop I like CNCO the best in spite of the horrifying (to me) way the group was put together. (Like a meat market.)

 

…although their last couple of singles have been disappointing. The fifth member Joel departed with out rancour last year, & Christopher in particular seems a happy, sunny personality.

I’d recommend this book to boy band fans only.

Collected Poems

by Ivor Gurney

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This year we had quite a strange ANZAC Day for us, as we didn’t go to either of the parades – & in fact, don’t even know if the parades even happened due to COVID. I still wanted to do my annual war poetry reading, but I ran into a slight snag. I wanted to read a New Zealand war poet, & my Google skills must be lacking as I couldn’t find a Kiwi poet from WW1 or WW2. If anyone knows of one (preferably where their poetry is online) please give me the names in the comments for this review.

But Googling did lead me to the very sad case of Ivor Gurney – a British poet from WW1 who had a nervous breakdown before he went to war! He was gassed 1917 & had a second breakdown in 1918. His family had him declared insane in 1922 & he spent the rest of his life in an institution. Gurney died in 1937.

Such a sad life & some of his work has never been published.

So I read a selection from this website. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/ivor-gurney

Ballad of the Three Spectres Certainly shows a grim set of mind. 3.5★

To the Poet Before Battle Beautiful and sad. 5★

Strange Service Again, beautiful where Gurney realises what he has done enlisting – & what he is sacrificing. 5★

When you know the back story, you can’t help but be moved.

All Systems Red

by Martha Wells

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book turned out to be everything I want in a science fiction book!

Now, before anyone gets too excited, what I really like in my science fiction is a bit of humour (like the Hitchhiker Books) – & this book had it in spades! After a great start, this novel did slow down for a while, then headed for the finale with a breathtaking speed. I laughed out loud often enough for my husband to finally poke his head through the door to ask me what was so funny!

For example:

Yes, talk to Murderbot about its feelings. The idea was so painful I dropped to 97 percent efficiency. I’d rather climb back into Hostile One’s mouth.

I enjoyed Murderbot a Sec Unit, (who reminded me of Marvin the Paranoid Android) develop feelings for his humans whether he wanted to or not!

Definitely my best 21st century read so far this year, & I’m just about to buy the next installment!

Magnolia

by Nina Mingya Powles

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The rising star of New Zealand poetry

I read Two Portraits of Home – [IMG_098] & [IMG_227] in the New Zealand Listener (Jan 23 2021) and I am intrigued. Very pretty use of words.

Let’s call it 4★ & see what the rest of the collection looks like.

Sonnet with particles of gold

Lovely – Powles works so effectively with colour & taste 4★

If anyone is interested, https://thespinoff.co.nz/tag/ockham-poetry-shortlist-2021 has one poem from each shortlisted entry to the Ockham’s.

I’m puzzled why Maggie Cheung’s Blue Cheongsam was chosen to represent Powles work. It is a fragment of prose. I normally hate fragments, but this one is pretty. Ok so 2.5★

Field Notes from a Downpour Pretty & yet profound. Loved this one! 5★

Girl Warrior, or; Watching Mulan (1998) in Chinese with English Subtitles. Outstanding! Captures the feeling of displacement one gets when not completely from the place where you are living. 5★

Breakfast in Shanghai sigh. Fragments. But lovely descriptions that make me feel like I’m in Powles world – in particular for a pink morning in late spring another sigh for the lower case titles though. 3🍑💫

Maps Another fragment of prose. 2.5★

The Great Wall, 2016 This may be a fragment but watching the author read it made a big difference for me. 3★
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-d601HfAfE

I have been given some Amazon gift vouchers & this is one of the books I have purchased. I’m probably not going to review every poem the way I have above, but let’s see how I get on.

One thing I’m finding (& I don’t think it’s my kindle) is that the pages ‘stick’ a bit & are hard to turn. Haven’t had this with a kindle book before.

Edit; & I have thrown in the towel & returned the kindle edition to Amazon. There is a note on the Amazon page warning that this is a large file (for 81 pages!) & it has proved impossible to read, as it sticks & jumps pages. I can’t get hold of the author, but I have contacted her publicist to suggest this needs fixing.

Edit: Never did hear from the publicist.

Marking as a Can’t Finish for now.

Impossible: My Story

by Stan Walker, Margie Thomson (Ghostwriter)

First, let’s get one thing out of the way. Impossible couldn’t be nominated for the Ockham’s (NZ Book Awards) last year as although Stan’s voice shines through, he had the services of a ghostwriter, Margie Thomson. The Ockham rules are clear – the majority of the book has to be written by the writer.

For the most part Ms Thomson does a sterling job of organising Stan’s thoughts, although the ending of the book rambles a bit.

For those of you who don’t know him, Kiwi Stan Walker won the final series of Australian Idol aged only 19. Stan has the voice of an angel, but that isn’t the most remarkable thing about him. What is truly remarkable is Stan’s ability to forgive a nomadic childhood full of physical and sexual abuse.

but when we landed on the Gold Coast the heat was a whole other thing. It was so hot it shocked us when we got off the plane. And there was Pāpā, and we had our new beginning. But of course we didn’t. You can’t just move somewhere else and expect the problem to change. You’re the problem, and you take it with you wherever you go. Be a drug dealer and a rip off and an abuser in New Zealand, you’ll be exactly the same in Australia. It was all exactly the same, and the cops started coming around to get my dad, just like they did back home.

Since this is real life, I don’t consider it a spoiler to say Stan’s whole immediate family healed through finding their faith, although finding out some truths was hard for them. And I haven’t even touched on Stan getting stomach cancer…

Not a perfect book, but still very highly recommended.

Those of you who would like to discover Stan’s voice… Much to my surprise I found that Stan himself doesn’t care much for this song.

And my favourite is the duet he sang with fellow Kiwi Ginny Blackmore;

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