Archive for the ‘Books I’ve read’ Category

I was attracted when I saw this book on the library shelf a few weeks ago.  Like many women in the 1960s and ’70s I appreciated the Woman’s Weekly for its recipes, knitting patterns, and sensible articles.  Jenny Lynch was the editor from 1987 to 1984, and her memoir covers all of her journalistic career.  It’s an easy read, and I enjoyed the Auckland references (Jenny and I went to the same school where Marjorie Adams was the headmistress).  However, for me the book lacked substance and became a little tedious.  In yesterday’s Press’s Your Weekend Donna Fleming’s review gives all the highlights of the book.  Frankly, if you’ve read this I see no need to bother with the book.  There are now four people on the Library waiting list for it.  I wonder what they will think?

Since this book was written Bauer Media have ceased publication of the Woman’s Weekly, although now that it’s been sold to Mercury Capital it may be resurrected.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

It was a local institution
with sadly lowered distribution

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The suspense in this book is almost unbearable.  The protagonist, Trish Maguire, is a London barrister who relentlessly pursues justice.  In this novel her determination brings danger to family and friends.  There’s an act of terrorism from thirty years ago, and a libel case being brought by a politician.  The many threads of the complex plot make the book unputdownable, and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a mystery and can cope with a small amount of violence.

This mystery kept me wondering
just what would each new chapter bring


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This novel, which won a Christian Book Award deals with the machinations of a group of senior clerics, and a young woman obsessively in love with one of them.  The author quotes frequently from Honest to God, by John Robinson, the Suffragan Bishop of Woolwich, which in the 1960s was the fastest-selling book of serious theology in the history of the world and apparently shook the foundations of the Church of England.  I had to resort to the dictionary to discover that a Suffragan Bishop is a kind of assistant bishop who may be summoned to attend synods and give his suffrage/vote.

The theological arguments seemed peripheral to the story until about halfway through when I was obliged to stop and consider the difference between pantheism  and panentheism, the latter of which is not in the Shorter Oxford.  Thereafter I began to find the theology tedious and wondered just what the motivation for the novel was.  If I’d been so inclined I could have learned a lot more about legal aspects of the Church of England, but my interest soon waned.  I found the last few chapters repetitious, and I skipped the theological monologues, but kept on because I wanted to find out what happened.  I really need not have bothered.  This book is definitely only for those with a strong interest in theology.  The Washington Post critic suggested Susan Howatch may well become the Anthony Trollope of the 20th century.  I haven’t read Anthony Trollope, and now suspect I wouldn’t want to.

The characters’ psychology
was outdone by theology


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To me, the name Ann(e) Summers conjured up a chain of English shops that sell risqué items for hen parties.  This Anne Summers is someone very different!

She’s an award-winning Australian journalist brought up in a Roman Catholic family, who became a Marxist, then gradually awakened to feminism.  Her autobiography outlines social changes in Australia, with reference to local politicians of the 1960s and 1970s.  Marilyn Waring’s book told some similar stories for Aotearoa, and the parallels are fascinating, as is the way Anne’s political thinking changed and developed.  Many of us will remember The Tyranny of Structurelessness which she refers to.  Her story of the birth of the first Australian Women’s Refuge (financed by drug dealing!) reminded me of my time working at the Christchurch Women’s Centre.

Anne gives an incredible amount of detail about her personal history.  As one reviewer (Lesley Beasley, Canberra Times) said: The history is interesting, the issues important, but it’s the personal that keeps you turning the pages.  I’m currently writing pieces of memoir, and would hesitate to be as frank, but greatly admire Anne’s openness.  The graphic account of her younger brother’s death from cancer is especially raw.  This book is an engrossing and readable account of three decades of Australian social history.

I loved the way this candid book
described the path that her life took


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This book is ideal comfort reading at rāhui time.  It’s the fifth in the author’s Earth’s Children series, a saga of pre-historic Europe is the ice age.  I’ve read all five books before, and was pleased to find this hard cover edition in the Book Fridge.

Jean has meticulously researched the era, and gives diverting details about stone-age customs, animals, plants, and technology.  In this volume Ayla, whom we first met in The Clan of the Cave Bear journeys to a distant land (north-west France) to meet her lover’s family.  The clashes between the cultures of Cro-Magnon and Neanderthals are believably portrayed.  Incidents that happened in the previous books are repeated here, and I admit I skimmed some of this, but still enjoyed the slow-moving story.

Apparently there’s a sixth book The Land of Painted Caves, which I don’t believe I’ve read, but it doesn’t seem to be in the library catalogue.

If looking for a book to blob
out with, this saga does the job

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This was an edgy book that sometimes made me feel uncomfortable.  The several narrators have different secrets they are holding.  It’s well-written and I liked the familiar Auckland setting.  Matters were resolved at the end – in a way that was not entirely satisfying.  The publishers describe it as being wickedly funny, but I didn’t find much humour.  Definitely a book to make you think.

Although these garments might be proud
there’s much that’s hid behind a cloud



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Hooray, I’ve finally found a book that held my interest.  Historical romance is one of my favourite genres, and this novel has the added attraction of a New Zealand flavour.  Set in the Arrowtown goldfields, in the mid-nineteenth century it tells the stories of three different people who immigrated to Aotearoa from different places.  One of them is a Chinese woman, who has come to the goldfields in the place of her brother, and taken on his identity.  Another is a stonemason and musician from Orkney, and the third is an English settler nurse.

The book gives authentic insights into Chinese culture and the prejudice and discrimination those miners suffered.  The tragic love story, which yet ends positively, is well written, and the characters beautifully portrayed.

This book can help you understand
the unseen history of our land


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Reading books has long been my first choice for relaxation.  In recent years I’ve usually read a couple each week, and most of my reading is done in bed before I go to sleep.  I’m an avid library user and also avail myself of the assortment provided in the nearby book fridge.  In late February I stopped borrowing library books.  I had a pile of about twenty from the book fridge waiting beside the bed, and decided to get through those before I went back to the library.  Friends have often given me a pile of books to put in the fridge, and I pick out those I want to read before I deposit them, which is why I’d accumulated a pile.  So, when the rāhui was announced I had no library books, but plenty (I thought) to see me through the next few weeks.  However I’m now finding that few books engage me.  Out of the last five books I’ve started only two have interested me sufficiently to continue right through.  I long to lose myself in a book, but it just isn’t happening.

I know that I could choose and read e-books on my tablet, but when I tried that seven years ago I found it a poor substitute for real pages.  When I’ve finally finished the book fridge pile I may have to try e-books again.

Luckily I now have Netflix to occupy my evenings.  When Cathryn was here we enjoyed all three seasons of The Crown.  Now that she’s gone Stephen and I are relishing Miss Fisher’s Mysteries.  We saw the first series some years ago, but still love the costumes and the stories of early Victoria.  The TV series is based on books by Kerry Greenwood, which have long been favourites of mine.  After one episode (or occasionally two) I’m happy to retire to bed with a book, but usually find that quickly loses its attraction, and I end up listening to the radio or a podcast before I go to sleep.  When I’ve eventually exhausted the book fridge pile I’ll re-read some old favourites that are on my bookshelf, and hope that the library re-opens soon.  Has anyone else found their ability to enjoy reading has diminished lately?

A good book was the thing I’d choose
to relax just before I snooze

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When I want a book to relax with I usually choose an historical romance.  This one appeared in the book frig and proved to be an excellent ‘blob out’ book.  It’s years since I’ve read anything by Georgette Heyer.  Her books give a wonderful picture of London in the Regency era of the early 19th century, and social aspects of that time.  I particularly like her use of the language that would have been in vogue then.

Heyer’s novels tend to have a happy romantic ending, and Frederica follows this pattern, with a feisty heroine who refuses to conform to societal norms.  An old maid of 24 years, she’s come to London to seek a husband for her beautiful younger sister.  She enlists the help of the Marquis, a bored dandy who is a remote relation.   He is beguiled by her younger brothers, the family Beluchistan hound, and eventually by herself.  The characters are delightfully drawn, there’s witty dialogue, amusing incidents, and a satisfying ending.  How long is it since you read something by Georgette Heyer?

A perfect book for relaxation
with tales of lifts and aviation

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This is Paula’s personal view of New Zealand women’s poetry, and it is also scholarly.  There’s obviously been a great deal of research, and there’s also a great deal of love for the writers mentioned.  Only those who’ve published a book of poems qualify for inclusion which means some names I looked for weren’t there.  I was pleased to find a couple of sentences about Airing Cupboard, the women poets’ group I’ve belonged to for the last five years.  Pleased too to see my friend the late Lorna Anker is included.

This is a substantial volume, of 461 pages, plus biographies and notes, and that sign of a quality book, a ribbon marker.  Paula made it easy to relate to the different poets with fragments of their lives and motivations, and a detailed explanation of their work with examples.  My time is over-committed during the next few weeks so I’m returning the book to the library having thoroughly read only about a third.  A sister blogger has done a more detailed review.

This book records the history
of local women’s poetry


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