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Little Plum

Little Plum by Rumer Godden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Now this book was the escapist read I needed in troubled times!

I read Little Plum in my childhood and loved this exquisite cover

Little Plum by Rumer Godden

but the cover of my edition

Little Plum by Rumer Godden

works in a different way. It shows the character of the untidy, boisterous Belinda and her cousin, the neat as a pin Nona.

Miss Happiness and Miss Flower was Nona’s story. This is Belinda’s.

& what a believable little girl Belinda is. Rude, tactless, aggressive and a bully. Probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer either! Yet her determination to befriend the wealthy but lonely Gem shows endearing side to her character.& she tries so hard to fix things, when – to no one’s surprise but Belinda’s her methods don’t work.

If I could make one tiny criticism it would be that Japanese doll Little Plum remains – a doll. Yet Miss Happiness & Miss Flower still have their personalities.

A wonderful tale from an author who understands that real children are not PC. (although Ms Godden would have despised that term if she had ever heard it!)

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Reckless Conduct

by Susan Napier

I’m having all sorts of trouble adjusting to the all new improved WordPress. Still, while my country is in lockdown will be a good time to adjust.

1.5★

“Be kind,” our Prime Minister said as we head into lockdown.

& I’m trying but I just didn’t like this book.

With Corona virus, I was having trouble concentrating & super stressed. I thought a light romance, by one of my two favourite Mills & Boon writers would lighten my mood – but it didn’t.

I’m trying to be fair & I will try to find positives.

The idea – as presented by the not completely accurate blurb – was good. I have been trying to correct Ms Napier’s listings on Goodreads ad this book’s premise sounded fun. It was a variant of blondes have more fun. I wish I had read that book!

Let’s get on with it.

▪ Plotting is normally Ms Napier’s great strength. But this story is awkward, clumsy & just doesn’t hang together well.

▪ I don’t usually like romances that have teens and children as part of the plot. I can let it go if the author has handled it well & Ms Napier has done so in the past. Nicola barely had any personality or presence in the book. She was merely a plot device. Even worse Napier obviously couldn’t think of what to do with the story. Of course Harriet became pregnant. With triplets as a happy ending – and another child on the way? Harriet really wasn’t ever given much chance to shine with her new, brave personality.

▪ Nicola was 15 & without permission from her father, Harriet persuaded Nicola to have her ears pierced. In New Zealand you have to be at least sixteen. I used to have pierced ears myself – loved them. But it is like tattoos & other permanent changes to someone’s appearance- parents should have the final say.There is a fault in the timeline with Nicola at the end of the book as well.

▪ A Napier man will be your Alpha male type. But usually they have a sense of humour and some endearing quirks. Out of the Napier titles I have read, Marcus is the first of her heroes that hasn’t. I disliked him intensely.

I still want to reread my favourite Napier title [book:Sweet Vixen|5461453] but in fairness to this author, I won’t read any of her other works.

Looks like I have outgrown them and I feel like I should apologise for reading this one when I should have realised that.

Sorry.

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Captain Blood

4.5★

With the world in crisis, this is the sort of escapist reread I needed!

Unjustly convicted after the Monmouth rebellion for an act of humanity,Dr Peter Blood is transported to the Caribbean & becomes a slave to the cruel Colonel Bishop. The colonel has a lovely niece…

On about my tenth read I still loved this book, although it doesn’t hold up to rereading as well as the author’s [book:Scaramouche|938105] did. The hero and heroine are both appealing characters although man, Blood really needs to let go! One remark by Arabella colours his actions for chapters. And chapters. And… I loved the physical description of Arabella – I could see her in front of me. So far all the Sabatini’s I have read have given his heroines very varied descriptions.

While there are exciting parts where I could scarcely bear to put the book down, there are also parts that drag. Sadly the heroine appears only in Peter’s thoughts for large chunks of the book. I knocked half a ★ off my rating, but keep in mind if you are more a reader of the historical than the historical romance genre things that bothered me may not bother you.

Designed for me by my daughter, Chloe.

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The Denniston Rose

The Denniston Rose by Jenny Pattrick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Damn Denniston
Damn the track
Damn the way both there and back
Damn the wind and damn the weather
God damn Denniston altogether


J.T. Ward 1884

Last time I was on the West Coast, we went for a drive and my sister pointed out the site of Denniston perched high in the hills. As beautiful as the West Coast is, it is also a challenging, wet environment.

To this most inhospitable place came the fictional characters of the fierce Evangeline and her daughter, five year old Rose. Why did they come? Certainly no one would travel up the Incline in a storm and travel up a wagon on the tracks by choice!

The opening scenes of their arrival up The Incline is one of the best I have ever read and had me hungry to read more. I was totally enthralled by Rose (nicknamed Rose of Tralee by her new Denniston friends) and her strong will to survive and triumph. Rose’s flaws (among other things Rose is[ light fingered stop her becoming a Mary Sue character, her story is by turn inspiring and harrowing – I kept praying what was foreshadowed wouldn’t happen to this little girl.

Loved the ending and I now want to read the sequel Heart of Coal

I am already certain this will be one of my favourite reads in 2020.

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Tōtara: a Natural and Cultural History

Tōtara: a Natural and Cultural History by Philip Simpson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Once you get past the High School Science Class tone of the early chapters this book, about one of New Zealand’s most iconic trees, is both fascinating and readable.

My little town has both a suburb and a vineyard named after this mighty tree.

In spite of the tōtara’s iconic status, both Māori and Pakeha have done large scale clearances of this wonderful tree. Simpson laments this, especially in the case of farmland, where tōtara is actually a wonderful livestock shelter.

I gained a lot of knowledge from this book. My favourite was learning about the waka tōtara

Where Maori shaped a living tree into a waka. (canoe) Talk about planning ahead!

This book is lavishly illustrated and well worth the time spent perusing it.

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Dark Desires

Dark Desires by Eve Silver

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


My reasons for reading this novel were not my usual reasons.

❤ The stunning cover. I mean, just look at it! (you will have to look on Goodreads. I’m struggling to post images now for some reason)
One of my favourite covers of all time.
❤ Kindle freebie.

OK I’m lying. These are quite usual reasons for me! 😅

But the third reason is not so usual.

These six books keep being made into a series and I don’t think this is a series by Goodreads standards. A series on Goodreads should have a character, setting or an overarching story line in common – & that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Dark Gothic is a theme not a series – otherwise all Victoria Holt‘s books would be a series.

I’ll discuss here in a few days why readers should be glad Goodreads has set this standard.

So…seduced by the incredible cover, I was entranced and intrigued by the first chapter & the horrible position the destitute Darcie was in. But after that things started to plateau and then go downhill. Darcie (not a usual female name in nineteenth century England) & the hero’s attraction never seemed real to me & multiple depictions of the hero’s grey eyes do not a character make. I became bored.

DNF at 34%. Supposedly. This book finishes at 93%.

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The Persian Ransom

The Persian Ransom by Evelyn Anthony

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Edge of the seat excitement!

I have quite a few Evelyn Anthony novels, mainly acquired from Little Free Libraries & the like, but I have never read one of her books – until now!

Anthony turned to writing thrillers because the mid twentieth century historical market was saturated. Don’t go into this book expecting the softer edges of a Mary Stewart novel. One of the things I loved about this book was that i wasn’t sure what the outcome for anyone was going to be. There were quieter spots, but they were needed for the admittedly minimal character development – and because (view spoiler)[ there would be quiet times in a hostage situation. (hide spoiler)]

The chauvinist remarks I don’t think (but don’t know) reflected Anthony’s own point of view – she was the main money earner in her marriage – & wasn’t shy about saying so! In 1994 She became the first female High Sheriff of Essex in 700 years. Quite an honour. I’m not so sure about the generalisations about the Syrian & Iranian character. A modern writer wouldn’t use them – but this is a twentieth century book.

I found the ending both satisfying and realistic.

Highly recommended.

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Love-At-Arms

Love-at-Arms by Rafael Sabatini

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5★

What a tale of derring-do!

I’m a big fan of Sabatini’s well known novels

Scaramouche Scaramouche (Scaramouche, #1) by Rafael Sabatini & Captain Blood Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini. I was expecting this early work to be inferior in quality. & so it is – but only marginally.

The lovely Madonna Valentina’s uncle wishes to marry her to the unlovely Duke of Babbiano to cement an alliance against Caesar Borgia. But in spite of only recently having emerged from a convent, Valentina isn’t one to submit tamely to her uncle’s commands. Willing to aid her is the impoverished courtier, Romeo. But Valentina doesn’t realise Romeo’s true motives – or character. But there is another…

Out of all the wonderful features of this book, one of the best is the characters of the heroine & hero. Valentina isn’t typical of heroines of romantic fiction written in the early twentieth century – she is no passive damsel in distress but wishes to control her own destiny. Francesco is courtly,brave, handsome and intelligent.

I did have to knock half a star off for a somewhat confusing beginning and a very sudden ending. (anyone who thinks Georgette Heyer ends her books abruptly, really should read this one) I had to check the page count on Goodreads to make sure there weren’t a couple of pages missing.

Speaking of Heyer, it is clear that Sabatini is a strong influence of some of her early works.

A wonderful book.

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Foggydale Farm Jam Sessions

Foggydale Farm Jam Sessions by Linda Hallinan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I’m going to be a bit soft with my rating for this book because…

✔ New Zealand Author

✔ Borrowed from the library so I didn’t pay for the book.

✔ The two recipes I have made so far (Blackberry Jam and Tomatillo Salsa) have been really good. I am still licking my lips after sampling the salsa.

I probably should have added more coriander (cilantro)* for a greener colour, but the taste is delicious.

As good as the Blackberry Jam is , it only had four ingredients and I could have got the recipe from anywhere. I really think, in spite of all the hassles picking the berries, Blackberry may be my favourite jam.

It is just that this book is trying to be too many things. Coffee table (and the black cover hasn’t worn well) gardening tips, pretty but largely irrelevant photos (Jamie Oliver has a lot to answer for!) chat about Hallinan’s family life. The gardening tips are ok, but for the rest I like my cookbooks to be cookbooks – i.e. they need to work for their place in my home!

But in winter I will probably borrow again to make the Peach (I’m going to be lazy and make the tinned version) or Cape Gooseberry Jams. I run a small Airbnb and am constantly on the lookout for new recipes.

* We will have a falling out if you try to tell me I should be calling the leaves cilantro – in New Zealand the whole plant is called coriander.

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Death in Berlin

Death In Berlin by M.M. Kaye

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe because this was a sadder time and setting, but I didn’t enjoy this Kaye as much as the previous Death In… titles I have read.

Other than with the two main characters Kaye shows her usual gift for characterisation and dialogue. Miranda is a very colourless heroine. So is the hero, Simon. I really was starting to wonder (view spoiler)[if a romance would eventuate – finally happened on the last couple of pages. (hide spoiler)]

I also think though that this was in part the construction of the book, as it felt like Kaye was going to originally try her hand at an Agatha Christie style murder mystery and then went more for her usual exotic setting and mystery. Some scenes really felt like filler.Also I’m noticing that Kaye heroines seem to work out what is the stupidest, most dangerous action for the heroine to take and then she does just that. Exasperating to a 21st century reader.

This book was heading for a 2★ rating, but I was slow to guess the villain and the denouement was genuinely thrilling, but i would not describe this book as a “must read.”

Logo designed by my daughter, Chloe Fill

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