Peace at Last

Peace At Last

Peace At Last by Jill Murphy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


3.5★

An early Jill Murphy that I hadn’t read before.

This book is witty, sweet and charming. It probably would have been 4★, except I know that Ms Murphy can and has done better – both with the text and illustrations. I’m a big fan of the Large Family series. But it gave me one knowing laugh out loud moment and I’m sure most small children will love it!

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The Widows of Malabar Hill

The Widows of Malabar Hill (Perveen Mistry, #1)

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I struggled with this book and it came perilously close to a DNF. Only my interest in the character of Perveen – lawyer/female gumshoe/fighter for women’s rights- enabled me to pick up this book again.

This book had a major stylistic fault.I hate flashbacks at this best of times and the flashbacks in this novel overwhelmed the mystery – and the mystery is what I signed up for. Ms Massey may have done this because the whodunnit part of this novel is very slight. Just not enough meat to sustain a whole book. I think Ms Massey would have been better advised to build up both the mystery, give more depth to the supporting characters and have Perveen’s back story revealed over the course of several books – sort of like Sue Grafton did with Kinsey Milhouse. In particular, her husband Cyrus’s fate could have been left for a sequel.

Also, for such a strong character, Perveen gave up her fight to qualify as a lawyer in 1910s Bombay very quickly. Consistency in character was sacrificed to the storyline.

The writing also had faults. Lots of asking questions, lots of explaining. Made the read very heavy going.

I had an earlier book of Ms Massey’s on one of my to-read lists, but deleted it when this story hit a particularly exasperating road bump. But I don’t rule out reading the next Perveen story The Satapur Moonstone if I read that the author stays in one time period and doesn’t make the next book so much of a history lesson!

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Stormy Petrel

Stormy Petrel

Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Some of my favourite authors turned out some real duds at the end of their careers. Georgette Heyer was endlessly writing because of financial difficulties, Agatha Christie is believed to have has Alzheimer’s. Did the wonderful Mary Stewart give in to pressure from fans to churn out another book when well into her seventies? If so, I really wish Lady Stewart had resisted, as this book is as dull as dishwater!

Beautiful, evocative descriptions of the fictional Hebridean island of Moila can’t make for a lack of plot or any kind of tension. Any time anything seems about to happen, Lady Stewart pulls back. The romance isn’t just understated this time – it’s non-existent. I had trouble even figuring out where to shelve this one on Goodreads.

I was surprised Rose Cottage was written after this title, as it is a far superior book.

For Stewart completists only.

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The Demon in the House

The Demon in the House

The Demon in the House by Angela Thirkell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I usually rate short stories individually in collections, but these stories following the adventures in a year in the life of the enterprising Tony Morland are linked – both by characters & the seasons. So I’m just giving an overall rating.

I would recommend spreading the reads out as much as possible – especially if character development is important to you, as except in the (outstanding)Paradise Pool & the final story Farewell, Morland, Tony changes very little. He remains the same infuriating know-it-all who can’t/won’t take responsibility for his own actions. His mother, Laura, is exasperated & exhausted by Tony – but loves him just the same.

The Nurserymaids is the other story with a lot of depth & charm.

Other readers have found Tony very young for his age – I’m afraid 21st century children are now very old for their ages. Reading older collections like this makes this reader realise how much magic & innocence has been lost – & for me that is very sad.

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Stonedogs

Stonedogs

Stonedogs by Craig Marriner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5★

Wow, this book is one wild ride!

Normally, this wouldn’t be my sort of read at all! This book is violent – very violent – & there is frequent use of my least favourite word in the English language. This book ended up on one of my to-read lists after reading literary snob Graeme Lay‘s snooty article about the author. (see my review of The Scene of the Crime if you want the link to the article & to read the discussion in my comments section).

This novel was a controversial winner of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards (now known as the Ockham’s) One of the many things I’ve always liked about the NZ Awards is that they are – quirky. Expect the unexpected. The Luminaries didn’t win the overall award, the judges often seem to follow their own drum. (although the selection committee can be depressingly predictable)

So the judges went for a raw, fresh talent who spoke Kiwi as she is spoken! Gator & his friends just jumped off the page at me. These blokes aren’t wholly admirable, but they aren’t complete villains either. Marriner has enough writing skills to show that both he & Gator don’t share the misogynist characteristics of many of the denizens of Roto-Vegas.ϟ (Affectionate nickname for tourist town Rotorua – although even now it still has quite a bleak underbelly) Most of the book’s pace was fast & furious, other than an occasional philosophical detour. To be honest, I skimmed most of those. Marriner is a very intelligent man, but I felt these excursions gave the book some pacing problems. For foreign readers & nowadays ( & even some Kiwis) some mentions may have readers scratching their heads – for example Jim Hickey, a TV weatherman of the time.

But if you can get hold of this story of a road-trip through a group of Kiwi dole bludgers lurching into a world of crime, this is well worth reading. Some of the twists and turns really surprised me!

Marriner wrote another book Southern Style in 2006. Rumour has it that a third novel will be coming soon. I hope so. I would love to see what direction his writing has taken in middle age.

ϟ Other cities – if Kiwis can give something a nickname, or better still abbreviate, we will!
Auckland = The Big Smoke (Called The Smoke by Marriner though – probably to distinguish from the many, many other cities that have this nick))
Hamilton = The ‘Tron
Wellington = Wellywood
Dunedin = Dunners
Gisborne = Gizzy
Palmerston North = Palmy or Balmy Palmy
Whangarei = FUNgarei
Thames= The Thames – well when it is just one syllable, of course you have to make the name longer!

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Building Thames

Building Thames

Building Thames by Althea Baker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I’ll bet some of you think that I have nothing better to do all day than hang around Goodreads!

And for the most part you would be right, but one afternoon a month I volunteer at my little town’s local museum. I sit there hoping we will have visitors. It is beyond boring, although it amusing to watch people get as far the doorstep, find there is an admission, & then back off. This is a real shame, as the kauri models of buildings crafted by Ted Egan are really worth the price of admission.

Most Kiwis love and treasure New Zealand kauri and Ted’s models are a homage to long gone buildings.

Most of the miniature buildings are in their own little gallery. There is a map of the old town on the floor.

Thames was originally three settlements – Grahamstown (& from ready this trusty little book I found out this settlement was named after a hotelier of the time) Shortland & the usually ignored Irishtown. It boomed because of goldmining (hard to believe now, but at one stage it was the second largest town in NZ) and had around 130 pubs. (pubs was probably a grand name for some of them, some of them were probably just tents where an enterprising soul sold beer from a flagon!)

Leafing through this little booklet had a tinge of sadness for me. So many of the old buildings were lost to fire – not that surprising, given that so many of them were pubs! But some were also pulled down – only the old clothing factory & one of the pubs since I’ve been here.

This book made me think about my town’s heritage – & in the week before Heritage Week, that is no bad thing.

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Duplicate Death

Duplicate Death (Inspectors Hannasyde & Hemingway #7)

Duplicate Death by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5★

GH wrote this, one of her her final mysteries, after a break of ten years. I believe she really enjoyed working with her husband on these light, fun novels but the Rougiers lack of understanding of the British taxation system (& the strong minded Heyer’s reluctance to take advice from anyone!) meant they were constantly in financial difficulty – & her Regencies paid better.

This one had the welcome return of the Harte family from

They Found Him Dead by Georgette Heyer

& I think I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been so long since I had read that book. No one could forget Terrible Timothy, but I was a bit confused by the other relationships. I love GH’s mysteries but other than

Envious Casca (Inspectors Hannasyde & Hemingway #6) by Georgette Heyer

I don’t remember them as well as her romances/historicals.

As well as a most ingenious murder method (& a title that is a play on both the social activity & the number of deaths) & engaging, vivid characters this is interesting as a slice of life in post war Britain, which GH handles without any sentimentality. I’m surprised how well she tackles homosexuality & homophobia this time around (earlier books GH has seemed quite naive) & convincing depictions of drug users. I am to have a lot of questions for the British members of the Reading the Detectives Group when they catch up to me – due to a complete brain fart, I’ve read this earlier than the rest of the group. My main question was would it be normal for a Scottish policeman to burst into snatches of Gaelic at every possible opportunity. My word, that was annoying!

The other thing that lost this book half a ★ was the decision to … I haven’t figured out how to do spoiler tags on WordPress yet, but it was part of the resolution of the story.

There were some very quotable quotes as well – & I’m going to go through what is left of my copy to try to find a couple to add to Goodreads. I have a first edition & it is a gorgeous thing

Duplicate Death (Inspectors Hannasyde & Hemingway #7) by Georgette Heyer

– but completely falling apart! A trip down Memory Lane for me as it used to be the property of The London Book Club – a private lending library in Auckland that I remember well!

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Eat, Pray, Die

Eat, Pray, Die (An Eat, Pray, Die Humorous Mystery, #1)

Eat, Pray, Die by Chelsea Field

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Chelsea Field is obviously a massive fan of Janet Evanovich‘s Stephanie Plum series, but she has managed to find a new twist on this tired, tired theme, by having her heroine Isabel be a poison taster for the rich & famous. There is (of course) a Joe to rescue Izzy from her stupider mistakes & I think I have picked out this book’s Ranger.Field strays into Kinsey territory with the friendly older neighbor, but the personality is more like my favourite Evanovich creation, Grandma Mazur.

Isabel has a bright & quirky personality, but although Field is an Australian herself, Isabel doesn’t seem particularly Australian – other than her longing to find a decent cup of coffee in Los Angeles. Possibly Ms Field’s editors & beta readers have urged her to remove every bit of Aussie slang from her vocabulary, but I think that is a pity. A writer can chase the American market too hard. Saying that, I like this series spoof literary titles & clever jacket branding. The constant book cover changing of some new authors just makes me crazy!

The book itself did have a couple of patches where the pace slowed & the whole story was highly improbable. I enjoyed, partly because I’ve had a run of dull, turgid books & partly because I switched my brain off and just had fun!

But if you want a decent coffee – pfft! New Zealand coffee & cafes are way superior to any I have encountered in Australia.

So there!

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Black Roses

Black Roses (Clara Vine, #1)

Black Roses by Jane Thynne

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Ms Thynne obviously didn’t want to waste a single bit of research. Not. One. Bit. It weighs the story down -& that is the main reason I’m giving up on this novel. I feel like I have been reading it forever!

I have other peeves.

❁I make no secret of being very shallow – good cover art is very important to me. My edition has dark haired, olive skinned Clara as a blonde with a tanned back.

Black Roses (Clara Vine, #1) by Jane Thynne

Jars every time I look at it!

❁ Flat characters

❁ After a good beginning there is a lack of excitement, in what was a very exciting time

I’ve fallen asleep the last two times I’ve tried to read this.

Time to move on.

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The Wheel Spins (AKA: The Lady Vanishes

The Wheel Spins (The Lady Vanishes)

The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I loved this one & wish I had had the time to review this book straight after I finished it! You know, when I was sitting on the edge of my seat with the excitement. It has been a while since I book made me feel like that.

Iris Carr would appear to have everything going for her. She is young, beautiful, bright and wealthy. But she is also bored & disenchanted with both her life style & the so called friends she is holidaying in Europe with. She decides to let these leeches travel back to England without her. Iris has a couple of adventures that make her feel somewhat vulnerable, before she boards the train for home.

The train is crowded, uncomfortable & Iris isn’t getting the attention that, with unconscious arrogance, she takes for granted. Luckily she is befriended by an experienced traveller, sprightly governess Miss Froy. Luckily until – Tah Dah! – The Lady Vanishes.

Although you may have seen this plotline a thousand times before, don’t forget that in 1936 (original date of publication) this idea would have been fresh and new. I also see a secondary theme selfishness. Watch out for this.

My only criticisms are that the ending seemed a bit drawn out, then pouf! All over. & Max is a bit of a wet noodle. I wanted to reach into my computer monitor & throttle him!

From the film, The Lady Vanishes. Michael Redgrave & Margaret Lockwood.

But all-in-all, a rattling good yarn!

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