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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


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


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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A Christmas Book

A Christmas Book

A Christmas Book by Elizabeth Goudge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Christmas time is just the best time to read Elizabeth Goudge, as you are entering a world of love, goodness, happiness and hope.

I was lucky enough to purchase this book very cheaply at a local op (charity) shop. I believe it is normally very hard to find. This is a shame, as it is mostly a collection of Christmas themed extracts, with a couple of short stories thrown in. This is a good way to sample Goudge’s work to see if her style is for you.

Rereading the extract from The Dean’s Watch was a chance to reread a section of one of my favourite reads since I have been a Goodreads member.

But all the reads were 5★ for me, with the exception of the final one Christmas With the Angels Well written as always but too biblical for me.

My favourite read was one of the two short stories, Christmas in the Village. So touching and even a little bit of reality there.

This book definitely a keeper for me – same as most of Goudge’s are!

Wishing everyone on Goodreads a Wonderful holiday season and a Glorious Reading Year in 2020!…

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A Christmas Memory

A Christmas Memory

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sweet, tender and achingly sad, this beautiful childhood memory of Truman Capote gathering ingredients for and making fruitcake for Christmas with his childlike and much older cousin had me in tears by the end.

Cruelly separated by life (aka his mother) I wish these two lovely souls had been able to reunite – just once- before the real Sook’s death.

I’m glad Truman carried this memory in his heart.…

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Syrian Brides

Syrian Brides

Syrian Brides by Anna Halabi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This collection started with the weakest of Ms Halabi’s short stories – Nobody’s Bride– which if I was rating individually I would have at 2⭐ and was followed by the strongest – The Groom’s Miracle. I really didn’t predict where this slyly funny short story was going and for me it was an easy 5⭐.

Most of the other short stories would have come in at about 3 or 3.5⭐ (except for The Old Groom – that was predictable & silly. And I found The Counterfeit Bride 4⭐ worth of funny!)As another reviewer has pointed out, the tone is a lot like fables we read at school. They are good moral stories,but there is a certain “samey” tone to Ms Halabi’s work. I would recommend spacing the reads out.

This does sound quite critical,but i am envious of Anna Halabi’s ability to write in a language that is not her mother tongue. And the cover of my edition is gorgeous!

I was gifted a copy of this book by the author and she was happy for me to share my honest opinion of it.…

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Still Life With Menu Cookbook

Still Life with Menu Cookbook

Still Life with Menu Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


If I was judging by appearances only, this would be a 5★ book.

I love the idea, as each menu looks like an it is indeed an illustrated menu from a fancy restaurant.

Design, editing & above all Katzen’s pastel drawings – all impeccable.

And this book contains my favourite pasta sauce from weird ingredients – the wonderful Spaghetti Elliana. (Page 204 -I’m noting the page number because I always have trouble finding the recipe. It is listed under spaghetti but not under Elliana, Pasta or Sauces) Who would think the (optional) anchovies, nuts, garlic, parmesan & raisins would work so well together? Katzen fell off the vegetarian wagon for this recipe!

But other than the eccentric indexing system, I just don’t like cookbooks where the the recipes are grouped by menu – in particular if the indexing isn’t perfect. I may want to choose a different selection of dishes together & having to flick randomly through a recipe book isn’t my idea of fun and is why this book is in just about immaculate condition.

The other standout recipe is the yoghurt scones – my family was very grateful that I found this one, as my NZ scones always turned out like flat pieces of cardboard. I’ve just made the Sunonomo (Japanese Cucumber & Noodles Salad) I remembered it from 20 years year ago & it is still just as good.

I’m going to try some of the eggplant recipes as eggplant very cheap in NZ this year & I just love it.

This is a cookbook I would recommend borrowing rather than purchasing. It is good, but not quite good enough to justify the shelf space.…

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The Unfinished Clue

The Unfinished Clue

The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Could there be any greater happiness for a Heyer devotee to discover a book of hers that you haven’t read – one that is actually excellent!

Ok, I have come back to earth now. I powered through the book in less than 24 hours.

Believe anyone that tells you this is the best GH mystery – it quite definitely is!

It has everything I want in a murder mystery – a loathsome victim, a colourful cast of characters, most of whom have plenty of motives to kill the unlovely General Sir Arthur Billington-Smith. Just when I was reading, smugly thinking I had guessed the solution – there is The Twist. & she twists again. Wow.

My only quibble. (view spoiler)[ It is Heyer. So there was a romance. Heyer just can’t help herself. (hide spoiler)]

Heyer in this mystery proves the equal of my personal big three in Golden Age mysteries – Christie, Sayers and Tey. Read it. I know I’m right.…

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The Wind Off the Small Isles

The Wind off the Small Isles

The Wind off the Small Isles by Mary Stewart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book up at a book fair (back when it was hard to find) and I’m glad to have finally read it.

Perdita and her employer, (writer Cora Gresham’s) adventures in Lanzarote may start slowly, but the story really picks up from when Michael enters the story. This will seem a bit of a contradiction in terms as Michael doesn’t have much in the way of personality. But Perdita is a resourceful, brave heroine and Stewart writes so vividly about Lanzerote.

The book cover by Laurence Irving on my edition may look unattractive at first, but it grew on me as the story progressed and All Became Clear. Let’s just say it is very appropriate for the book.

The charming illustrations inside are also by Irving.

Recommended for the Stewart completists.…

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Death in Cyprus

Death In Cyprus

Death In Cyprus by M.M. Kaye

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book made me think – so much -of the old black & white postcards. I loved looking at them when foreign travel was just a dream for so many people.

I loved this book!

It was light,frothy and fun – for the most part. There is one scene that made me jump out of my chair!

A large caste of characters (including Miss Moon’s house – the house just about seemed to breathe) and I had no problem telling them apart.

I did have to knock off a ★ for a couple of the characters behaving in ways that made zero sense and because Ms Kaye didn’t play fair with the solution. I did guess the murderer – but logic and I aren’t great friends.

Read with the Retro Reads Group. We are hoping to read Death in Berlin In February 2020. Come join us!…

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