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!

Right Ho, Jeeves

by P.G Wodehouse

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I laughed outloud so many times whilst reading this book, in which poor deluded Bertie thinks he can manage other people’s affair better than that most impeccable of manservants, Jeeves. It isn’t a spoiler to say that of course Bertie can’t, & much hilarity ensues.

In particular you should look out for Aunt Dahlia giving instructions to Bertram what he should look out for when going for a walk & an impassioned speech from the French chef, Anatole.

I’m not knocking half a ★ off for one piece of casual racism. (I’m wondering if it has been censored from other copies as none of my friends at Retro Reads have mentioned it) but because just before the peerless Jeeves  resolved everything,  there was a portion where it dragged. The resolution though was highly satisfactory & left me craving more Wodehouse!

Mophead Tu

by Selina Tusitala Marsh

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved Mophead and I love it’s sequel as well!

Selina (NZ’s Poet Laureate at the time) is invited to read a poem to the Queen at Westminster Abbey.

Being called a


doesn’t phase her, but having to work from a word that the Queen has chosen calls for a bit of thinking and reflection.

The book that has resulted is hilarious!

The illustrations aren’t quite the same quality as the first Mophead book (but I love this one of the late Prince Philip!)

This book has some important and thought provoking messages.

Rock on, Selina!

Dear Donald Trump

by Sophie Siers

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This is the title this book was published under in the author’s home country of New Zealand. In other countries this book was published as Dear Mr President.

Interestingly, my review received fewer likes than usual on Goodreads.

This book has a lot of charm.

Young Sam has a problem. His older brother keeps winding him up – & they share a room. Sam needs advice – fast. Who better to turn to than the most powerful man (at the time of writing) on Earth? & Trump is building a wall. Surely a wall would be the answer to all Sam’s problems.

The humour is gentle, but the book makes it’s point. It has a moral but doesn’t hit the reader over the head with it.

Trump haters – his presence is very subtle;

Spot the Trump!

Delightful!

Summer Half

by Angela Thirkell

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I was so hoping this would be a Thirkell that I could wholeheartedly recommend, as I found the beginning very amusing. Minor character Edith reminded me greatly of a family member of my husband’s who never listens properly!

“Well,” said Colin, “I went over to Southbridge today and saw the headmaster. I think…”

“I don’t know him well but I know his wife,” said Edith, “She is charming. My brothers were there when Mr Birkett was the headmaster of the preparatory school, and they adored him.”

“I liked him very much. We had quite a long talk and he said…”

“Then you can give me really good advice about sending Henry there…”

You get the idea!

There were parts that showed a quite magical England in the countryside.

But the book for me had three faults;

• The supposed main character Colin was the least interesting in the book.

• Nothing much happened for very long periods of time.

• A piece of really appalling racism in Chapter 6. Normally I am very good at shrugging this stuff off as a product of it’s time, but this was really bad & frankly, really unnecessary.

I could still laugh at dim bulb Rose & I do hope to meet the outspoken Lydia again some time, but I have had to reduce the rating for this book.

A pity. The parts I enjoyed, I enjoyed very much.

Rhodendron Pie

by Margery Sharp

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Firstly, thanks to my very good Goodreads friend, Abigail, for sending me a copy of this book. I enjoyed it very much!

Abigail is a retired proofreader, & all the typos & missed punctuation obviously drove her bonkers as she has put little proofreaders marks right through the book! 😊 Was the original this poorly edited or have the mistakes crept in on this edition? I guess I’ll never know!

Still need to give Dean Street Press big ups for rescuing this gem from obscurity – it was Ms Sharp’s first book and hadn’t been republished since 1930!

The father of the Laventie children had passed on to his two elder children both his artistic inclinations & his really odious air of self satisfaction. (although Elizabeth is nothing like as bad as her male relatives) He hasn’t noticed that his daughter Ann is more, well… ordinary & aspires to quite a different life. When it looks like Father, Dear, Father will try to thwart this, help comes from a surprising source!

Sharp out Thirkells ([authorimage:Angela Thirkell|142160]) throughout this book. She is far more perceptive, far more witty & Sharp only falters with a slightly clumsy ending – total forgivable in a first novel when the writer was only 24!

I will definitely search for more of her adult books – although some of the old hardbacks (including this one!) are an absolutely eye watering price!

No Bed for Bacon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dagglebelt almost snatched the held-out pumpkin in his eagerness. His big chance had come. “Now just watch me a minute,”he pleaded. He planted his feet in an open fourth. He threw up one pumpkin. He threw up another. He threw up the third. “Juggler, “explained the Master of the Revels. Breathing heavily Dagglebelt caught the first pumpkin. He clutched at the second. He missed the third. “A bad juggler,” said Burghley disappointed. “It was an accident,” said Dagglebelt. He picked up the pumpkins. He tried again. “Dolt,” cried a raw voice from an upper storey. “Run away and practice while you still have hands to do it with.” Dagglebelt gave one glance. He abandoned his pumpkins. He ran. Elizabeth of England withdrew from the window. She was smiling.

If this strikes you as funny (or like in my case, mildly amusing) this might be the book for you! There were only a couple of parts that I laughed out loud (the best one was Elizabeth of England choosing her outfit for the day) but I read most of it with a smile.

A wild mixture of Shakespearean fact & the authors’ equally wild imagination (they were both Fire Wardens during WWII when they wrote this together) , until near the end when this tale started to drag a bit.

I was curious what a pantoble was. Some of the characters threw one quite a bit. Sounded like a small piece of furniture. The (uninformative definition) I googled said it was another name for a pantofle. (which sounds like a pastry)

It is actually;

a type of footwear.

Good fun!

August Folly

Rating: 4 out of 5.

August Folly by Angela Thirkell




I’m going to have a problem with my rating though as I gave Wild Strawberries & The Demon in the House 4★, & I liked this one quite a bit more – but not enough to give 4.5★. There were patches where I lost interest.

But the bits that worked were a lot a lot of fun. I loved the village politics & jostling for power (not so different from small town life, really) and I loved that all the characters had their flaws & quirks – just like real people.

The cricket scene was hysterical – & I lead the list of people who normally never enjoy anything about cricket!

The main things I didn’t like were the contemptuous anti- women remarks that Thirkell puts into some of her characters’ mouths.

& the ending was an (unnecessary) attempt to wrap everything up in a neat, tidy bow. Really Richard’s (view spoiler)[ maturing was enough of a story resolution for me! (hide spoiler)]

& bonus points for this;

“Tell Aunt Louise to boil her head,” said Robin.

I’ve never heard anyone other than my husband use that expression!

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A Damsel in Distress

I am very far behind indeed with adding my book reviews to my blog. I got a bit discouraged, then New Zealand went out of Lockdown, so I have been away on holiday.

& then I got sick. Not Coronavirus thank heavens, but until today I didn’t feel like doing much. So let’s see how I get on!

A Damsel in Distress by P.G. Wodehouse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5★

You would think being in a country where Lockdown has been taken very seriously indeed that an avid reader such as myself would be losing themselves in a mountain of books! Not so, I have found it very difficult to concentrate on anything that isn’t a beloved reread.

Thank heavens this book entered my life.

Honesty compels me to admit it isn’t quite perfect. Far too many characters were introduced at the start and I had trouble figuring out who were the important ones. But once the love story of George and Maud kicks off, it does so with a bang and every few pages had me giving a chuckle – and chuckles are hard to come by in these Coronavirus filled times.

Two tramps of supernatural exuberance called at the cottage shortly after breakfast to ask George, whom they had never even consulted about their marriages, to help support their wives and children.

Vintage Wodehouse.

I can’t go to quite the whole 5★ as P.g.w has done very similar stories to this one even better – most notably Frozen Assets by P.G. Wodehouse but still highly recommended!

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Book Review: Biltmore Oswald The Diary of a Hapless Recruit

Biltmore Oswald The Diary of a Hapless Recruit

Biltmore Oswald The Diary of a Hapless Recruit by Thorne Smith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


2.5★

Ugh. Originally the page count on GR was around 85. By the time I figured out it was much longer than that I was at around the 60% mark. I made it to 66% before -heh- abandoning ship!

This book was originally a series of comic stories written for the Naval Reservist journal The Broadside while Smith was in the Navy about raw recruit Biltmore Oswald. My (admittedly free) copy doesn’t make this clear, so I was baffled by the disjointed approach. My copy also is shown as being illustrated & I think maybe Dick Dorgan’s black & white sketches may have given the story more charm. Frustratingly though the table of illustrations is on my copy, but not the illustrations themselves.

“‘Do you enlist for foreign service?’ He snapped. ‘Sure,’ I replied, ‘It will all be foreign to me”
Source of cartoon:Gutenberg

This flippant yet, naive exchange was so typical of the later works Smith became famous for. Smith was my parents’ favourite humorous writer – that in itself was pretty funny if you knew my parents who were both really straightlaced . Just talking about the skeleton dog in

Skin and Bones by Thorne Smith

scratching for nonexistent fleas would reduce my mother to tears of helpless mirth!

But this first work of Smith’s while riotously funny at the beginning (the scenes with Oswald and his mother reminded me -a lot! – of Private Pike and his overprotective mother in Dad’s Army – right down to the scarf!)

I may download the Gutenberg copy (which does have the illustrations) at some point and try again. Luckily I have already read some of Smith’s funniest works (he is best known for Topper, but some of his other books are better) and know Smith was only in his early twenties when he wrote this.

I wouldn’t make this a first Smith read. Try Skin & Bones or The Glorious Pool first.

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