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;

Murder in Vienna

by E.C.R Lorac

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
[edit]2.5★

I’ll make this review short & sweet.

I really enjoyed an earlier Lorac I read, Fell Murder, but this one fell (tee hee!) more than a little flat.

I did really enjoy the travelogue-like descriptions of Vienna. I’ve been to this city twice, both times a long time ago, & loved both visits. But when the mystery began, I rapidly became bored. There was so much repetition on quite trivial matters that the whole story just dragged. By the time of the resolution, I no longer cared who had done it.

If I read any more Lorac, it will be books earlier in her career than this one.

The Abundant Garden : A Practical Guide To Growing A Regenerative Home Garden

by Niva & Yotam Kay, Jane Usher (photographer)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Saying I know Yotam & Niva is pushing it, as where I know them from is the Saturday markets in our town, when I was often served by a smiling, curly haired young man or a serene dark haired young woman.. But my husband has done one of Yotam’s workshops about basic vegetable gardening. Marty came home really inspired- & I soon became sick of the words “Yotam says…” Marty had already developed a strong interest in vegetable & fruit tree gardening (he isn’t keen on plants he can’t eat!) in part due to the ever rising price of all food in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Other than my herbs (& Marty has now muscled in on those too!) I’m not a keen gardener, but I am enjoying reaping the benefits!

How did the Kays get a book deal? I’ve been told someone employed at Allen & Unwin (NZ) did one of Yotam’s workshops, was impressed & said he should write a book. Yotam & Niva did just that, one of Aotearoa’s best photographers ([author:Jane Ussher|7136545]) took some amazing photos & the book became a runaway best seller. Unfortunately the publisher seriously underestimated demand & what with COVID & the book being printed overseas, we had to wait quite some time for our second edition copy.

The book is very well laid out, with lots of photos, b/w drawings & graphs. The Kays think about gardening in a different way from anyone else I’ve seen. For example, Yotam doesn’t turn (dig) the garden over, as you lose the top 4 inches of nutrients. Instead he just forks it.

Quite a different way for us Kiwis to think about gardening. But the proof is in the pudding (so to speak)

From the back cover;

Other than the tomatoes & flowers (we grow our own tomatoes & you won’t catch Marty eating flowers!) I’ve eaten all of these from Yotam’s stall. I particularly recommend the baby turnips. The products are always fresh & tasty.

I know this book is available in Australia – I hope it is available throughout the Southern Hemisphere. & Yotam is supposedly working on a cookbook now.

Frenchman’s Creek

by Daphne du Maurier

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I tried this book when I was younger – & like Jamaica Inn it was a DNF. But I have become such a big fan of Du Maurier’s work & it was one of the books in the Book Pool at Retro Reads, so I thought I would give it another shot.

I couldn’t warm to the character of bored aristocrat, Dona St Columb (view spoiler) & wondered if she was based on Du Maurier herself. She improved by the end of this book, & was certainly very brave. I can’t even remember the name of the French pirate Dona fell in love with – & I only finished the book last night. He didn’t have much personality at all.

There was a lot of fast paced action, some of the more minor characters like the enigmatic William were very well depicted. I enjoyed this book, but I know I will never read it again.

The Outsiders

by S.E. Hinton

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I am in a bit of a quandary about how to rate this YA novella, I may still bump it up to 4★,because the ending had such a terrific impact on me.

But a lot of the book (dare I say it) dragged for me – although, of course it was a very sad story.

Three brothers are orphaned young. The eldest, Darry, has given up on his dreams & is working hard, desperately trying to keep what is left of the family together.

This book is told through the eyes of the youngest, Ponyboy (yes that is his name) & it is pretty much unrelentingly depressing & bleak.

The exception is the joy Ponyboy takes in little things like sunsets.

Finished my review & it is still feeling like 3.5★ I’m afraid.

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