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Review: Heading Over the Hill by Judy Leigh

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My Interest

I so enjoyed Judy Leigh’s Old Girls Club that I knew I’d go on to read her other books.  I like her books because people over 30 get to have fun, romance, and, well…a life!

The Story

Dawnie Smith and Billy Murphy have been married for years and years. They’ve raised Lindy Lou and Buddy, and have recently made their home into a multi-generational one with their daughter, her daughter, and their great-grandchildren. Now it’s time to let the kids have the place and strike out on their own to a seaside retirement where Billy can tinker with his Harley-Davidson and blast his rock music or beat on the drum set and Dawnie can have room for her vintage clothes and wig collection. Oh, and both would like a nice kitchen. While they get to know their chosen area they land in a real dive of a townhouse on “Maggot”..er..Margot Street. The man next door is an old grump who assumes the worst about people and his wife lives in dread of his next barked command.

Fortunately, the other neighbors are great–their Lester who also loves Harleys and his shy wife Ursula, there’s Aud and Sylv who work at the hospital, Vinnie and his Bruce Willis-adoring 86-year-old mother and friends of friends. While Dawnie and Billy search for their dream retirement place, the make friends, and make a new life. As the neighbors get to know the newcomers, secrets come out, love is found, love is healed, and all are glad Billy and Dawnie have landed on Margot Street.

My Thoughts

There were a few moments when I thought the conversation was too contrived, but in the end that didn’t really matter. Judy Leigh’s stories are fun and loving and this one is no exception. I’d love to know Billy and Dawnie and all of their new friends.

My Verdict

3.0

I listened to the audio version

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Review: Winter and Rough Weather by D.E. Stevenson

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Thank you to Liz Dexter at Adventures in Reading... for her review that prompted me to buy this gem.

My Interest

“The hills were not really a very cheerful sight this morning for they were garlanded with scarves of trailing mist and it was raining gently and inexorably as if it never meant to stop.” (p. 26)

When I saw the review I was making my plans to read seasonally this year. A title like Winter and Rough Weather was perfect for that plan!

The Story

“It was as if some giant with a pukish sense of humor had taken his tablecloth and laid it lightly over the whole countryside…and what a gorgeous tablecloth it was! How it gleamed and glittered in the dazzling sunshine! Rhoda took her painting materials and went out to make a picture; it was too cold to sit for long of course by she could not resist the lure. She had intended her picture to be a study in Chinese white and sepia but she found that would not do; there were all the colors of the rainbow latent in the giant’s tablecloth….” (p.183).

Newlyweds James and Rhoda have taken a farm in the wilds of Scotland for their first marital home. They are somewhat well-heeled, if not in money at least in terms of background, education, and societal standing. (James mentions being in the first XI at Stowe). They have what would be called either a Maid of All Work or possibly a Cook-Housekeeper? I’m not sure. Rhoda is a talented painter, much in love with her husband, and happy to be out of London. Jim is learning farming, It is, post-war Britain, possibly January of 1947 from the weather. (The year the Royal Family went to South Africa during one of the worst winters in memory in the UK with fuel shortages everywhere). The local gentry has fallen on hard times and a nouveau riche person has gobbled up an estate nearby. Rhoda’s cook/housekeeper, “Flockie” has been let go from that estate that was “home” to her. The times are changing.

Lives, too are changing. Sir Andrew and Lady Shaw may not be able to host one hundred to dinner due to rationing and no servants to wait at table, but better times are ahead for several in the story. There are secrets to be discovered, a severe snowstorm to endure, and much more! And the secrets are so worthy of the story!

“Rhoda was getting to know this land and to make friends with it. In certain lights it was sad and lonely and cold but when the sun shone suddenly from behind a cloud the whole landscape smiled.” (p. 82)

My Thoughts

What a delight! Nothing icky, no bad language–how was this published? (Joke). I loved this book from start-to-finish. The tender way James and Rhoda were together, the nice way the boor was put in his place, and especially the way the secrets unfolded. This is a well-told story!

I did not realize until that this was not a sequel, but the last of a trilogy. No matter–it worked fine as a stand-alone. I also did not put together that this was the author of my beloved Mrs. Tim books. Duh! This publisher is bringing back older writers and keeping the Kindle price very reasonable, too. I will definitely be buying and reading more.

Winter and Rough Weather by D.E. Stevenson

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud

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Once again, I’ve challenged myself not to go back to the old favorites. So, no Patrick Dennis (Auntie Mame and The Joyous Season are my two favorite funny books). Not Changing Places by David Lodge–another old favorite. Only “newer” funny books. No Bailey White. I so hate leaving out the gospel walnut, but no Calvin Becker trilogy.And not A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, either.You can read about some of those HERE.

Here are some of my newer favorites

(Not in any ranked order)

Helen Ellis, of “What I Do All Day”-fame on Twitter, is a bright light in the last gloomy year for me. Her stuff is just plain funny. Southern Lady Code and American Housewife. Her new essay collection comes out in July. I can’t wait.

These three delightful British ladies from the late twenties to the post-war years have become firm friends of mine. Whether it’s poor Miss Pettigrew getting sucked into the world of society, or Mrs. Tim making due on an Army officer’s between-the-wars-pittance of a paycheck , or the dear Provincial Lady with her husband falling asleep behind the Times–I love all three.

Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield and The Provincial Lady Goes Further by E.M. Delafield. Mrs. Tim of the Regiment by D.E. Stevenson and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson.

This epistolary novel (i.e. told in letters or emails, etc.) is hilarious if you are familiar with academic life. If you’ve ever worked, at any level, in a college or university you will laugh out loud at this. Dear Committee Members: A Novel by Julie Schumacher.

Mother and daughter duo Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella are like old friends–that’s how many of their collections of essays/columns/blogposts I’ve listened to. I love these, though I’d advise skipping the election ones from when Trump ran the first time–no one needs to re-live that year or last year. (Though there humor is not offensive). These are just fun.

I see Life Through Rose-Colored Glasses (contains links to past review, too).

Need more? Here’s 100 Funny Books from NPR

Why not join the fun next week? You can read the rules here.

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Japanese Lit Challenge #14 Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold: A Novel by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

My Interest

Thanks to Deb Nance at Readerbuzz who introduced me to this book. I tucked this one away for this year’s Japanaese Lit Challenge.

The Story

Four patrons decide to test the urban legend that the backstreet, basement,  Cafe Funiculi Funicula offers time travel–but with a whole bunch of rules! Each person must obey the rules or …. [no spoilers]. They cannot change things (think Marty McFly starting to disappear). And, your time in the past must end before the coffee gets cold or [Sorry! No spoilers].

My Thoughts

Time travel is one of those things that I can occasionally enjoy. This story was perfect for my current mood. It reminded me a lot of Sarah Addison Allen–just a touch of magic. I liked the real world way the patrons responded to or learned from their experiences. There is a sweet poignancy to the story that never gets too precious of cloying–it is realistic. This is a quick, light read but well worth it.

My Verdict

4.0

Before the Coffee Gets Cold: A Novel by Toshikazu Kawaguchim

I listened to the audio version.

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Review: Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft

My Interest

I saw an ad for The Bibliolifestyle on Instagram and agreed to get their newsletter. This was one of the books in their Winter 2021 newsletter and it sounded good” “…at the stroke of midnight, Maddy meets Luke Devereaux…” The cliched name of the hero did it for me. I needed to read it.

FYI: The The Bibliolifestyle newsletter had several books I had put on my TBR already and had a few others I had not yet encountered such as na hour-by-hour, day-by-day account of the Abdication (Crown in Crisis by Alexander Larman) and a new William Boyd (Trio) so I’m glad I agreed to receive it.

The Story

Madeline Bright (aka “Maddy”) is the daughter of the head of the Civil Service in Bombay. It is 1913 and so far it is only an arms race in Europe. The Heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne is alive and well. No reason to worry. At the Club’s New Year’s party Maddy meets her soulmate–Luke Deveraux, dashing my hopes of a lovely older man–younger woman romance with the very nice, very suitable Dr. Guy to pieces. I couldn’t blame her. Luke was exciting and nice and sexy and decent and her age. Fast-forward to August 1914. We all know what happens. Luke is among those damaged by the war. He undergoes operations and therapy, but nothing brings back his memory….until… I liked Maddy and Luke. I liked Guy, I liked Maddy’s parents. Cliched or not, it was a good story.

My Thoughts

Even with a cliched storyline, it was a good read, but there were problems. For example:

  • I found it hard to believe that daughter of such a high-ranking Brit would be sent to University to become a teacher in 1913. That seemed very unlikely, but perhaps the author found someone similar in her research. Otherwise, it was an attempt to lure modern readers into liking her more. That was unnecessary.
  • No spoilers, but part of the romance was not likely to happen given how small British Civil Service Bombay was in terms of gossip.
  • No British woman of that era would have encouraged a male, Muslim servant in India to be familiar and call her “Maddy.” Maddy’s father would have sacked the man instantly. That was another absurd addition to “modernize” it for current-day audiences. Better to have just let the story of what those previously invisible Indian troops did and endured at the front speak to the modern-day.
  • Not so the idea that Major’s wear stripes on their sleeves–they don’t. Nor would a mere Seargent be at the same club with officers. Even today that would be a tough sell.
  • I could be wrong, but a mosque doesn’t have monks, Plus, I was left wondering if the author even knows what a “bearer” was–he crops up in unusual places.
  • Also, there was a chapter so poorly proof-read it said Bombay, but they were having trouble seeing out of the ice on the windscreen. Hmmm…Audio version so it might have simply been a reader’s mistake.

I had problems with the ending–it seemed the author painted herself into a corner (no spoilers). I also felt everyone was shockingly self-aware.

If there were so many problems, why did I enjoy it? Except for my issues with the ending, the problems did not affect the story. I cannot tell more about the story without major spoilers. Were there cliched moments? Of course–the whole set-up was cliched, but it was a “good read” and that’s what it was meant to be. I liked how things from the past emerged over time in the first half of the story. I liked that Maddy wasn’t insane and didn’t go to the front via u-boat infested waters and miraculously find her man. I liked the way others protected her and loved her. I liked sweet Guy–always there to fall back on. I liked Luke and Peter, I felt sorry for Ernest and disliked Diana. I liked that Maddy and Della pushed the boundaries at various times, but overall were true to their times. I felt sorry for Alice and was glad she saw that she did truly love Richard. I didn’t like Iris, but she was just a prop anyway!

Note on the reader. She called “Lyons Corner House LEE-OWNS” and Maddy forever said Mah-Mah for Mama like an infant. Very weird. But those are not the author’s fault.

My Verdict

3.5

If you like Colonial India fiction, you’ll like The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Purple, Yellow, and/or Green Book Covers in honor of Mardis Gras, which is today!

 

 

First, A Few Books Set In New Orleans

My review of Dollbaby was lost in a crash of my old blog, but on Goodreads I gave it 4 stars and still remember the story so that’s a great recommendation! My reviews of  The Yellow House and of Five Days at Memorial,

 

New Orleans Public Library’s Carnival Collection

Click here to view the Carnival Collection

 

A Few Children’s Madi Gras Books

 

Nancy Drew Even Loved Madi Gras

Some Grown-Up Madi Gras Books

 

 

Now the Book Covers In Green, Yellow, and Purple

 

 

 

Do you or your family celebrate during Madi Gras? Have you read any good books set in New Orleans or set during carnival and Mardi Gras? Do you bake a King Cake? Leave me a comment or a link to your post.

Quick King Cake from Betty Crocker recipe

Why not join the fun next week? You can read the rules here.

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Review: Ru: A Novel by Kim Thuy

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My Interest

For once I honestly cannot recall how I learned of this book. I suppose in trolling for prize winners (it won Canada’s prestigious Governor General’s Award) or for books in my Reading The World project. Regardless of how I found it, I’m glad I read it.

The Story

“From my father I inherited the permanent feeling of satisfaction….Very early, my father learned how to live far away from his parents, to leave places, to love the present tense, to let go any attachment to the past.”

(p. 64)

Nguyen An Tịnh, the fictionalized version of the author, tells her story in vignettes. Her birth in Vietnam, the harrowing trip out by boat. The years of waiting. Arrival in Quebec, which she confusingly calls her ‘American Dream’ which I supposed is more understandable than simply “my North American dream,” her life is told in episodes that sometimes run a few pages, sometimes barely cover an entire paragraph. The family’s immigrant experience is familiar–well off, well educated parents who speak fluent French had to earn a living cleaning toilets. Their daughter takes Quebec life in stride.

The writing was so captivating, the emotions right on the surface, that I had to remind myself again and again that this was a novel. Like many children whose childhoods are marred by trauma, she is always ready to go–she packs light, taking only books (p,100). Her memories in the story circle in and around present-day and everywhere in between.

“As a child, I thought that war and peace were opposites. Yet I lived in in peace when Vietnam was in flames and I didn’t experience war until Vietnam had laid down its weapons. I believe that war and peace are actually friends, who mock us.”

(p. 12)

My Thoughts

While there was one scene I felt must have been added to meet that seemingly mandated list of must-haves in the very p,c, world of publishing (well, it seems that way), this book is exactly enough of her story. Even one more page would have sent it over the edge and into “ordinary.” It is just short of extraordinary–exactly where it needs to be. I do not always agree when books have a long list of awards, but this one definitely earned them.

4 Stars

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Review: Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym

 

“Something to love, oh, something to love!” “Some tame gazelle or some gentle dove, Something to love, oh, something to love.”

(Donall Dempsey)

My Interest

Since picking up Pym’s Excellent Women last year, I’ve been on a quest to read all of her books. Her stories are compared to those of Jane Austen. I agree. Comedies of manners are always fun–especially for me since I love social history. The sly, dry, humor. The occasional &ictchy comment. And, oh the delicious shade thrown! The side-eyes! The resting &itch faces! Then too, in one of my [yet-to-be-published) novels I have an Agatha who is a Bishop’s daughter. You read it here first. I created my Agatha about seven years before I read this book!

“…as the wife of an Archdeacon she always had very good clothes which seemed somehow to emphasized the fact her father had been a Bishop….[X] would look odd in a familiar old-fashioned grey costume whose unfashionably narrow shoulders combined with [her] broad hips made her look rather like a lighthouse. Her relation Miss {Y] would wear a fluttering blue or grey dress with a great many scarves and draperies and she would as always carry that mysterious little beaded bag without which she was never seen anywhere. …the most magnificent person there would be Lady Clara…who was to perform the opening ceremony. It was, of course, fitting this should be as she was the daughter of an Earl and the widow of a former M.P., an excellent man in his way, although he had never been known to speak in the House [of Commons] except on one occasion when he had asked if a window might be opened or shut.”

This is a great example of her Pym’s style. I love the way each lady is “given her due” as though she were a balloon being pricked by a pin!

The Story

“Spinster” sister Belinda and Harriet live in a quiet country town. Well-educated, they have reached a “certain age” and they are comfortable in their spinsterhood. Oh, Poor Belinda has her old boyfriend nearby and dotes on him. Sadly, he married someone else. And Harriet dotes on each young curate in the parish in turn. Suddenly, their world, and their peaceful spinster lives, are threatened by visitors.

“Good wine and old books seem to go together.”

My Thoughts

“Nearly twenty-past one!’ said Harriet, as they sat down to their meal. ‘The Archdeacon has delayed everything. I suppose he imagined Emily would be cooking.’ ‘I don’t suppose he thought about it at all, men don’t as a rule,’ said Belinda, ‘they just expect meals to appear on the table and they do.”

Each Pym book that I read ends up being my favorite. I loved this story! The discussions of hand-knitted socks, of darning, of grafting heels! Loved it. The watered-down canned soup that tastes like the “fermented native porridge” according to the Bishop from a thinly disguised Malawi/Zambia/Zimbabwe (then The Federation of Nyasaland, and [Northern and Southern] Rhodesia). I could well imagine to what he was referring. It was called “Chimbuku” and it was a local “beer” that tasted like vomit mixed with dirt. The shade!

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I wish my audiobook had had this cover–it’s so much more in keeping with the book which gave so much thought to esthetics, and higher learning.

My Verdict

4.0

Such a good read that I may have to break with my decision not to re-read books any more and enjoy it all again.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Valentine’s Day/Love Freebie OLDER Couple Romances

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Inspiration for my topic came from Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Books With Couples Who Met After Age 30. The books listed here are all ones I’ve read. And, the couples are beyond 40 years old or more.

Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf

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This novel is almost perfect. It is a classic. Two lonely people, in a lonely small Colorado town, Addie and Louis, are drawn together to stare down the dark of night, find love.  Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

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There is just too much to love about Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali! From the pitch-perfect dialogue, to the very real emotions discussed, to the love that they find. This is one of my favorite novels of this century.Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson (link is to my review).

The Old Girls’ Network by Judy Leigh

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Judy Leigh makes being “older” fun! This lively novel involves two sisters and some good old romance. Old Girls Network by Judy Leigh (link is to my review).

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler.

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This great Anne Tyler novel has two older romances going. While the one might feature a woman on the shy-side of 40 all of the other 3 are over 40. Macon, finds new love, and his henpecked sister finds first and lasting love. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler.

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

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This one has a romance at both ends of the age spectrum! Grandma and Granddaughter find love in this fun story. The Switch by Beth O’Leary (link is to my review).

Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson

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This gentle love story, told through letters, is a new favorite of mine. Tina Hopgood is an ignored farm wife while widower Anders Larsen is a curator at a museum in Denmark. A single letter of inquiry by Tina starts the ball rolling. Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson (link is to my review).

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith

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Precious Ramotswe, the Botswana’s first lady detective, finds love with Mr. J.LB. Matekoni, owner of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. These books are annual treat for me. No 1 Ladies Detective Agency is the first book.

Jan Karon’s Mitford series

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Father Tim (he’s an Episcopal priest, not Catholic) and his author-illustrator-neighbor Cynthia fall in love, marry, and live a wonderful life in the fictitious Mitford, North Carolina. Two series of books, a super cookbook, and more comprise this huge series. The cast of characters surrounding Father Tim and Cynthia is large, colorful, and unforgettable. I’ve loved every minute spent read these books. The first book is At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon.

The Cherry Cola Book Club series by Ashton Lee

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Miss Voncille Nettles lost her fiance in Vietnam and has stayed single, still in love with him. Locke Linwood had a happy marriage until his wife died. The two come together aided by the Cherry Cola Book Club at the public library in Cherico, Mississippi. This series is wonderful. A feisty young librarian, a dastardly politician, and all kinds of local Southern charm. And food. Oh the food! Oh my! The first book is: The Cherry Cola Book Club by Ashton Lee.

Waltzing at the Piggly-Wiggly series by Robert Dalby

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Dance instructor Powell Hampton and widow Laurie Lepanto waltz their way to love in Second Creek, Mississippi, where there is a Miss Delta Floozy Contest with it’s own theme song, “She’s a Doozy, she’s a floozy….” The dancing is in aid of the local independent grocery story run by Mr. Choppy. A merry group of widows calling themselves the “Nitwits” organize everything in the town including the fun. This is a small series, book one is Waltzing at the Piggly-Wiggly by Robert Dalby

Why not join the fun next week? You can read the rules here.