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Archive for the ‘Books I’ve read’ Category

This is an absorbing story of Juliet’s adjustment to getting older. We all eventually face old age, except for those whose lives are cut short. I learned recently that our age can be estimated from our DNA because our chromosomes get shorter as we age.

Juliet suggests that the simple pleasure of being in the moment can be more frequent as we age. She also advocates the need to surrender to fatigue and allow ourselves a rest day when required. I like her idea that we can have rest days and test days, and I’ve had both of those recently. I can also relate to the idea that the limb that opens childproof lids and cans may drop off as we get older. Mine went some time ago.

The links and tendrils of connection are important, like the fungi that communicate beneath the earth through the roots of trees, creating a thriving ecosystem. This reminded me of my recent pleasure in meeting an old friend, unseen for years, who suggested a lunch date next week. Spirituality is another important support as we grow older.

I found it hard to read of Juliet experiencing continual pain, and am grateful not to be dealing with that, although over the last few weeks Stephen and I (and Ziggy) have all had hospital appointments in preparation and follow-up for various surgeries. While I don’t have chronic pain I’m aware that parts of me no longer work the way they used to and anything strained or damaged takes longer to heal.

Juliet’s few poems had an inspiring resonance for me. In her last chapter Juliet invites us to keep a reflective journal, writing about the challenges of life. I used to write Morning Pages, but rarely do these days. This blog has become my journal, although I avoid sharing anything too personal here.

We learn just how this author copes
and gently cultivates her hopes

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This novel is about two women who are in hospital. Lenni is a 17 year old who lives on the terminal ward for people with “life-limiting” conditions. Margot is an 83 year old with a heart condition, who wears purple, and is referred to as the mauve miscreant, the periwinkle perpetrator. The hundred years of the title is the sum of their ages. By coincidence I read the first part of the book while waiting at Burwood Hospital for a friend who was having a C.T. scan, which all added to the book’s atmosphere for me.

I loved the candid humour of the young dying woman, and the supportive friendship they share. They recount their lives to each other, and each story is a little gem, often very moving. Although Lenni knows she will soon die, she is able to experience Margot’s full life. In the art therapy room they illustrate their stories with the goal of producing 100 pictures before one of them dies. There are some beautiful characterisations in this very different book, which is well worth reading.

Their stories span one hundred years
provoking laughter and some tears

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This book is truly a thriller. Not a genre I usually choose, but I was attracted by the authors. Hillary is well-known as the person who might have been the first female President of the United States. Louise is one of my favourite mystery writers, and I appreciated the occasional references to the small Canadian village where her crimes are often set.

The story moves at a breathtaking pace, in a United States just recovering from four years under an idiotic, possibly deranged conservative president. The main character is the female U.S. Secretary of State, and there are many other characters of interest, some obviously based on well-known world leaders. It’s absolutely gripping, with an authenticity that’s enhanced by Hillary’s experience, and it celebrates women’s skills and support for each other. Thoroughly recommended.

These two women collaborate
to write a book that’s simply great

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This is a gritty novel, or maybe edgy is the better word. The setting of inner city Auckland is one that was once very familiar to me and Kasmara portrays it authentically. The story starts in Symonds Street Cemetery, where I remember discovering the grave of a first cousin thrice removed over 40 years ago. There are references too to Grafton Bridge and Karangahape Road, all of which seemed more innocent to me then than they do in this book.

There are links to a secret drugs trial, and even the possibility of time travel. The writing moves at a fast pace, and a good dose of mystery and suspense makes it a worthwhile read. The descriptions of people and places are impressive. This is the author’s first novel, and future books will be worth looking out for.

This book the Isobar Precinct
tells of an Auckland quite distinct

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I support euthanasia being available to those who want it, and I voted in favour of the End of Choice Act last October. As someone now facing the latter stage of life, the topic of this book attracted me, but I was disappointed.

The central couple make a pact that they will commit suicide together when they’ve both turned 80, but it doesn’t work out the way they’d planned. The author gives twelve different scenarios for what might happen, but I started to find them tedious. After three days of sporadic reading I’d got only half way through and decided not to bother with the rest. I’ve been disappointed by this author’s books before, and it seems she’s not able to repeat the success of “We Need to Talk about Kevin”. Have you tried this latest novel?

The question of to stay or go
to me seemed infinitely slow

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This book is set in Dorset during the English Civil War of the seventeenth century. Supporting either the Royalists or the Parliamentarians split families in two, in a way that parallels our current disagreements over vaccines and mandates.

There were several mentions of Bridport, where I stayed in 2013, the only time I’ve slept in a four poster bed, which definitely felt historical.

The main character is a woman who is a qualified doctor, determined to remain neutral and treat people from both sides of the conflict. She’s brave and feisty, and seemed to me to be slightly fantastical, like a modern feminist transported back to the 17th century. Despite this (or maybe because of it) I found the story absorbing and stayed up till 1am this morning to finish it. The author gives a good outline of the development of the Civil War, and an intriguing romance alongside.

The Civil War portrayed crescentic
the heroine not quite authentic

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This is one of a series of 15 books that grows on you, and I’ve read several of them now. Dandy (short for Dandelion) is a 1920s wife and mother living comfortably in Scotland with a butler, cook, and a lady’s maid. Together with a neighbour she sets up a detective agency and solves crimes. Her husband tolerates this activity, but only just.

This book is set in a Hydropathic Hotel, complete with all kinds of therapeutic treatments. There’s a supernatural aspect to the story as well. The lack of modern communication devices is refreshing and brings it down to a charming human level.

The story is expertly and wittily written with interesting characters and relationships. I look forward to more adventures with Dandy Gilver.

You can always rely on Dandy
to suss out modus operandi

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This is the third mystery I’ve read by this N.Z. author and I’ve found all of them gripping. The fact the setting is a small Waikato town gives extra interest, and the suspense is held right to the end. Miller Hatcher, the journalist who was the focus of Crutchley’s first book, features again here, and is sympathetically portrayed. Relationships and characters are well drawn, especially the long-lasting effects of violent deaths.

It’s great to have a local author writing excellent mysteries. It’s no surprise that this book was short-listed for the 2021 Ngaio Marsh Award.

He targets women on their own
and sneaks in when they’re all alone.

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This is a beguiling story set in the the aftermath of the first world war. It tells of a young woman forced to give her baby up for adoption, and what happens to that baby. All the characters are sympathetically drawn, even those who are driven by the conventions of the time to do cruel things. The book authentically portrays the choices available to women in the early 20th century, and the various discriminations they faced. I felt the ending was a little too convenient, but none-the-less satisfying. This is an absorbing yarn that tugs at the heartstrings. I’ve read others by the same author and enjoyed them too.

Decisions can be hard to make
uncertain which road best to take

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Ark Epidemic

I’ve been contemplating “in the dark” which is the theme for this week’s poetry group, and the pandemic is also on my mind. A poem I learned as a child keeps coming to the fore. I remembered that it came from a book I read, and Google tells me it’s by Susan Coolidge who wrote the books about What Katy Did. It must have made a strong impression on me as I memorised it and can still remember most of it over six decades later. Maybe I just have an affinity for rhyming verse. Do you have a childhood poem that’s stayed with you?

Measles in the Ark

by Susan Coolidge

The night it was horribly dark,
The measles broke out in the Ark;
Little Japheth, and Shem, and all the young Hams,
Were screaming at once for potatoes and clams.
And ” What shall I do,” said poor Mrs. Noah,
” All alone by myself in this terrible shower?
I know what I’ll do: I’ll step down in the hold,
And wake up a lioness grim and old,
And tie her close to the children’s door,
And give her a ginger-cake to roar
At the top of her voice for an hour or more;
And I’ll tell the children to cease their din,
Or I’ll let that grim old party in,
To stop their squeazles and likewise their measles.”
She practised this with the greatest success:
She was everyone’s grandmother, I guess.

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