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Lord Peter: The Complete Lord Peter Wimsey Stories

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Overall, 4.5★

I’ve found most of Sayer’s work very hard to acquire second hand. This book & The Nine Tailors turned up at a book fair, so I snapped them up!

I’ve only read a little of James Sandoe’s introduction, as it moved into spoiler territory quite quickly for me – I haven’t read all of Sayer’s novels.

I’ve read the first four stories so far & enjoyed all of them, but I have decided just to write reviews for the ones that were 5★ or 4.5★ reads for me.

The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager’s Will Meleager – what a name! This story was everything I hope for from a Sayer – engaging characters, witty dialogue & a baffling mystery. A bonus was the new fangled thing called a crossword! I’m going to have another attempt at solving it, later on. 5★ Such an outstanding story that I don’t know if any of the others will be able to top it!

The Vindictive Story of the Footsteps that Ran Can I say I’m really loving the titles? This was really ingenious & I loved the byplay between Wimsey & his butler, Bunter. 4.5★

The Bibulous Nature of a Matter of Taste This was funny & silly & I really enjoyed it. 5★

The Learned Adventure of the Dragon’s Head What a wonderful Boys Own Adventure! I can’t get over the witty charm of this one. 5★

The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey With strong echoes of Poe & Conan Doyle, this was melodramatic, OTT & I absolutely loved it. Took a writer of skill to pull this one off! 5★

In the Teeth of the Evidence Very witty title – & a very witty story. Dastardly dentistry. 5★

The Haunted Policeman This one didn’t make much sense to me – but it is so wonderfully witty at the start that I’m going to give it 4.5★ anyway!

Talboys What does this title mean? (seriously, someone please tell me!) More a study of family life (& very funny) & Sayers gets a couple of good shots in at an opiniated busybody. 5★

So there you have it. Sayers is my favourite Golden Age writer. La Christie has far more ingenious plots, but I think Sayers is a writer’s writer. If I could write a hundredth as well as her, I would be one happy woman.

I would love to give this collection 5★because some of it was sublime, but unfortunately (as is usual in short story collections) there was one real turkey in The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba. No book that contains this ridiculousness can possibly get a 5★. Christie & Patricia Wentworth also didn’t do well with these secret society stories & I had to give this story 2★. It will indeed be a miracle if I can ever give a short story collection 5★ (unless it is written by Katherine Mansfield.)

The afterword by John Curran is illuminating. If I reread the whole collection, I will read it in tandem with this afterword.

But while I’m getting rid of most of my books, this one is a keeper which I’m sure I’ll read again & again.

Apex Magazine, Issue 121

by Jason Sizemore (Editor)

I’m just going to pick a few things out of this issue & I have started with a short story by one of my favourite short story authors, Alix E. Harrow

Mr Death
Vivid & thoughtful, I just chewed this story up! About a Reaper (an escort) for the dead, who finds one case too hard to handle. I had tears in my eyes (but also a smile on my face) at the end. This story helps prove to me that Ms Harrow is far better suited to the short story format. 5★

Love, That Hungry Thing
by Cassandra Khaw. Beautifully written & oddly touching. 5★

Gray Skies, Red Wings, Blue Lips, Black Hearts
by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor. My favourite of the three stories I have read so far – but I have already given the other two stories 5★ What’s a girl (ok ancient crone!) to do. Wolfmoor’s writing & breadth of imagination took me so deep into their world. Breathtaking 5★(plus)

All I Want for Christmas
by Charles Payseur Am I ever on a good run with this magazine! This is (as the magazine) says flash fiction, so very short – it took me a minute to read. Not a word was wasted. Will Robby get his Christmas wish? You decide! 5★

The Niddah
by Elana Gomel

The golden era of global health was shattered by COVID-19. There had been epidemics before, of course, but since they had all taken place in the Third World, they did not disturb the placid assumption of the developed countries that the Danse Macabre of ages past had been stopped for good.

I appreciated how topical this story is, but this was a strange one. Very imaginative though – I didn’t predict the twists & turns the plot took. 4.5★

The Ace of Knives
by Tonya Liburd

Canadian – yay! After a very ordinary beginning this became beautifully twisty. I’m surprised that in such a short short story how much I came to care for The Ace of Knives. 4.5★

Your Own Undoing
by P.H. Lee

But I do know this: You stopped and looked at him. Then he met your eyes and your whole body shuddered.

Beautifully written but very strange & masochistic. 3.5★

So I think this is as far as I will take reading this magazine. I’m not feeling a strong pull to the other titles. Unusually for me, I’m going to round up rather than down & make my rating 5★

I’m just going to pick a few things out of this issue & I have started with a short story by one of my favourite short story authors, Alix E. Harrow

Mr Death
Vivid & thoughtful, I just chewed this story up! About a Reaper (an escort) for the dead, who finds one case too hard to handle. I had tears in my eyes (but also a smile on my face) at the end. This story helps prove to me that Ms Harrow is far better suited to the short story format. 5★

Love, That Hungry Thing
by Cassandra Khaw. Beautifully written & oddly touching. 5★

Gray Skies, Red Wings, Blue Lips, Black Hearts
by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor. My favourite of the three stories I have read so far – but I have already given the other two stories 5★ What’s a girl (ok ancient crone!) to do. Wolfmoor’s writing & breadth of imagination took me so deep into their world. Breathtaking 5★(plus)

All I Want for Christmas
by Charles Payseur Am I ever on a good run with this magazine! This is (as the magazine) says flash fiction, so very short – it took me a minute to read. Not a word was wasted. Will Robby get his Christmas wish? You decide! 5★

The Niddah
by Elana Gomel

The golden era of global health was shattered by COVID-19. There had been epidemics before, of course, but since they had all taken place in the Third World, they did not disturb the placid assumption of the developed countries that the Danse Macabre of ages past had been stopped for good.

I appreciated how topical this story is, but this was a strange one. Very imaginative though – I didn’t predict the twists & turns the plot took. 4.5★

The Ace of Knives
by Tonya Liburd

Canadian – yay! After a very ordinary beginning this became beautifully twisty. I’m surprised that in such a short short story how much I came to care for The Ace of Knives. 4.5★

Your Own Undoing
by P.H. Lee

But I do know this: You stopped and looked at him. Then he met your eyes and your whole body shuddered.

Beautifully written but very strange & masochistic. 3.5★

So I think this is as far as I will take reading this magazine. I’m not feeling a strong pull to the other titles. Unusually for me, I’m going to round up rather than down & make my rating 5★

Steampunk Fairy Tales

by Leslie Anderson, David T. Allan, David Lind & others

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Steampunk came back to my little town a few weekends ago!

I think something did happen last year, but we were away.

In any case, it is definitely back this year, but it wasn’t at pre-COVID levels of excitement. Whatever. I love Steampunk & I love dressing up!

The cover on this book is just stunning! (I can be seduced by a good cover)These stories are supposed to be based on traditional fairy tales from around the world.

Let’s go!

The Clockwork People by Angela Castillo
What a charming, old fashioned story beautifully told. I like the twist at the end. 5★

Perfection by Chris Champe
Mildly horrific, a little predictable. 3.5★

OK, this is ominous! I read the next two stories less than 24 hours ago & already can’t remember a thing about them! I’ll just reread enough to get the sense of them…

The Mech Oni and the Three Inch Tinkerer by Leslie and David T. Allen.
I’m not sure why I forgot this one so quickly, as it had an interesting (if kind of silly) premise. Well written. 3.5★

The Copper Eyes by Allison Latzko.
Out of the stories in this collection I have read so far, this one had the most Steampunk feel. Machinery! Diagrams! Goggles! But for all that, the writing was a bit pedestrian. 2.5★

Strawberry Sins by Heather White.
I liked this one! I was beguiled by Eliza too & there was a definite Steampunk feel. 4.5★

The Yellow Butterfly by Ashley Copeland
Japanese with a definite Steampunk feel. I couldn’t predict where this one was going. 5★

Aubrey in the World Above by Daniel Lind A strong steampunk feel & very obvious which fairy tale inspired it. 4★

The stories finish at around 83%. The authors list the stories that inspired them. I did guess correctly for two original stories. There were then author bios, extracts to other works & various links – none of which I bothered to read.

Here is a souvenir bookmark from my town’s festival.

& I loved this year’s festival & had such a good time!

The Lottery

by Shirley Jackson

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Read here

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1948/06/26/the-lottery

My Hallowe’en read.

I read this short story last night & I’m glad I read it again this morning as I missed a crucial sentence which bumped my rating up half a ★.

This is a well written story with a quite definite message against reactionary thinking.

Very thought provoking.

The Woman on the Island

by Ann Cleeves

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

No way is this short story 32 pages long!

That would be the length including the extract from The Rising Tide
So it was a good story, but the ending was on me before I was ready! This really isn’t a good marketing practice (I just rechecked on Amazon – different edition now, but there is no mention of this short story being bundled with a book extract.)

I disagree with reviewers who say you have to be familiar with the series to enjoy this short story, as it is dealing with some of Vera’s backstory – & her troubled relationship with her father. It is very well written & I was enjoying it right until the abrupt ending.

Damn.

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.

Lady Susan

by Jane Austen

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Possible alternative titles…

Lady Fortune Hunter?

Mistress of Deceit?

Mommie Dearest?

This early work (written around 1794, but not published until 1871* well after JA’s death) was Jane as I had never seen her!

This is the first time an epistolary novel has truly worked for me and it works because all the characters are completely unguarded in their letters.

My dear Alicia, of what a mistake were you guilty in marrying a man of his age! Just old enough to be formal, ungovernable, and to have the gout; too old to be agreeable, too young to die.

I was really surprised by how ruthless Lady Susan was and I do have a sneaking admiration for her, although I pity her daughter and anyone else who gets in her way!

Facts are such horrid things!

Like that ever stopped Lady S!

Readable and great fun! Even if you don’t normally enjoy JA’s books you might like this one!

* I’m really surprised this was originally published in the Victorian era when this novel is so amoral!

The Children’s Book of Christmas Stories

Asa Don Dickinson & Ada M. Skinner

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Retro Reads Group on Goodreads read a selection of stories from this book.

We started with A Christmas Matinee by M.A.L. Lane.
So touching and with lots of good messages – not the least was that it feels good to do the right thing. I had tears in my eyes at the end! 5★

The Queerest Christmas by Grace Margaret Gallagher
I had tears in my eyes again. What was so lovely was that Betty didn’t realise she had done anything special. Heartwarming 4.5★

The Telltale Tile by Olive Thorne Miller.
I found the writing a little awkward in this story, but it was still a very sweet tale. 3.5★

Little Gretchen and the Wooden Shoe by Elizabeth Harrison More tears! But I liked that the outcome for Gretchen was realistic. & Gretchen was so sweet. 5★

The Philanthropist’s Christmas by James Weber Linn
I liked that the resolution had a little bit of the unexpected. (view spoiler) 4★

The Chimes I thought The Chimes was beautiful. Once again I cried. 4.5★

‘Tis the Season

by China Miéville

Rating: 4 out of 5.

 I was looking for a more modern Christmas story and knew I had this one on one of my to-read lists.

I liked it! I don’t read much dystopian fiction, so to me it was a fresh & funny take on the commercialisation of Christmas and a real contrast to the sweet, old fashioned values of Christmas Day in the Morning which I have also just read.

It also reminded me of some recent protests in my own country where sometimes I had trouble recognising ‘my’ Aotearoa.