Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Debbie Macomber and a nod to LaVyrle

A recent read, back in the old romance vein, that I adored was
Cottage by the Sea, by Debbie Macomber.
Macomber has moved more into women's fiction in recent years, and I do prefer these to her category novels ~ unlike Nora Roberts, whose categories I prefer to her single titles. Don't get me wrong, though, I love them all.
Cottage by the Sea is a wonderful story, with romance, friendships, tragedy, redemption and great characters. I read it over two days and couldn't put it down. Gotta love those books. While Annie and Keaton are the main hero and heroine, the character of Mellie was particularly wonderful, and added nice touches of humour, the more you got to know her.
If you've ever read Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer, possibly my most favourite book ever, then  Mellie was reminiscent of Elly Dinsmore.
On that note, my memory is so shocking I had to google Morning Glory to remember what Elly's name was. If you've never read LaVyrle Spencer, then  do check out this review of Morning Glory. The reviewer calls it her masterpiece and by George, I completely agree.
~ Joanne

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Baking biscuits~ Peanut and chocolate chip

I made some biscuits aka cookies the other night. It turned into an episode of the Great British Bake Off with the sampling, the analysing, the dissecting both in terms of the actual product and the discussion, but it was good fun, albeing fattening fun. Fatteningly fine fun. Naturally, I indulged in too many, along with huge amounts of the uncooked mixture, oh the joy.
The only thing, of course, is that you can’t really go and re-do the biscuits if they're a disaster after you’ve spent all the time, all the mess-making (oh, the mess-making), and the money to buy all the ingredients. Especially at ten o'clock at night when you're taking them to work the next day for a Bake Sale.
However, praise be, they were fine. Absolutely fine.
The recipe, replicated below, is for them: Peanut cookies. The only thing I did differently was add chocolate chips to them, as one does when one can. Also, I had normal peanuts that I roasted in the oven for a bit and rubbed most of the skins off after, not blanched ones.
I do think the chocolate was a nice addition and they were quite yummy and peanutty. I made about 16 of them so they were a respectably good size.

125 g
1 cup
1 tsp
1¾ cups
1 tsp
1½ cups

.    Heat an oven to 160C.
     Place the butter and sugar in a mixer bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again.
    Sift in the flour and baking powder and combine. Lastly, mix through the peanuts (and the chocolate chips, I used about a half cup of these divine morsels.)
  Place tablespoons of mixture on a greased baking tray. Press gently with a fork. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and cooked through. Remove and cool on a rack.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Cats and writers

I found this Irish poem, The scholar and his cat, in a book on Celtic wisdom, author unknown.
There seem to be different versions and I won't reproduce the whole poem, but some of the verses I do rather like. Notice the picture of one of my cats, Billie, is as far off catching mice as you can get...

I and Pangur Ban, my cat,
'Tis like a task, we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight
Hunting words, I sit all night.

So in peace our tasks we ply
Pangur Ban, my cat and I;
In our arts we find our bliss
I have mine and he has his

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Nevil Shute and Pied Piper

My love affair with Jack Reacher has come to a bit of a halt. I am discovering that binge reading 
Reacher doesn't work for me. Slowly does it, is the way to go, with Mr Child's creation,  so he's on hold for a bit.

However, in the meantime... I was chatting to a man the other day who was researching a paper on the late British/Aussie author, Nevil Shute, and I recall reading Shute's "On the Beach" some years ago. So I searched the library catalogue. The book "Pied Piper" took my fancy so I got it out and 24 hours later, on the bus, in my lunch breaks, on the bus again, and at home when I should have been doing actual writing of a romance novel, I have devoured and finished this wonderful story. 

It is set soon after the beginning of the Second World War, and is the story of an Englishman, John Howard, who is in France when the German army is advancing.  His pilot son has died and, grieving, Howard heads over to do some holiday fishing, not aware that life there is about to become very dangerous, very soon. He ends up with a bunch of children (that he picks up along the way), as he tries to get them to safety. Hence the Pied Piper title.

They are of different nationalities, these young boys and girls, and he cares for them, determined to somehow get them out of harm's way, even as his plans seemingly fall apart right in front of him as the Germans advance closer and closer.
It is filled with detail, like what they eat (the kids all drink coffee and there's lots of bread and wine, of course, and smoking), and details of this perilous journey as they navigate occupied France to try to make it north and head across the Channel to England.

You know, there is even a kitten called Jo-Jo, at one point. Jo-Jo! Such an adorable name for a kitten.

It builds to a gripping climax with an unexpected (I thought) ending. It’s the kind of book that makes you wonder how you'd have coped if you were in Mr Howard's position, back in the war, as our ancestors did. I also rather liked the odd bits of French. Isn't it amazing how you can remember so much French from school girl days? I impress myself at times.

Thus I do believe I'm on the cusp of a Nevil Shute binge.
Oh, there is just so much to read in this world, and so little time.
So little time!!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Books from the past

I was talking to a friend the other day about reading, and happened to mention that one of the things I liked about romance when I was a teenager was that they were quite empowering books. She went silent (as in, I can't believe you read romance!) so I proceeded to tell her what I meant, specifically that there's a lot more to it than the romance. There are other things at play here, such as overcoming past difficulties, challenges with the family, things that lead into the conflict that will rear its head between the protagonists and get in the way of the Happy Ever After.... So much more.
But enough of that, and on to these so-called empowering books of mine.
A lot of these novels revolved around careers, hence the empowerment thing of being independent, following your dreams, moving out of home, getting a flat, managing your finances and paying your bills, and all that grown-up stuff.
One of the series I adored as a girl were the Sue Barton books.
They followed the young Sue Barton through her student nursing days, progressing up the career ladder in nursing, getting married and having a family. I liked the whole notion of them, of the camaraderie of the nursing schools, and all that. They were great books, a great series.
Then there were the career novels such as Janet Carr Journalist, and Jill Kennedy Telephonist. They
were English, and being a Kiwi, one had plans to travel to England but one I never actually did. (I am still waiting for that experience.)
Clearly these stories are from a time when the 'telephonist' was a career option. Nowadays, who would know what one even is? Was it even such a great job? Well, it was for Jill Kennedy, I suppose, but I'd have to dig out my copy (yes, I am 99% 50% sure I still have it in a box somewhere) to find out about it all. Of course, the journalist thing, as in Janet Carr Journalist, well, that appealed hugely because I loved reading magazines that had sailed all the way over to New Zealand from England, and of course there was Fleet Street, the place to go and be a journalist. I probably set my sights a bit closer to home in Wellington, where they published the Dominion and the Evening Post newspapers, but like my trip to England, that never eventuated either.
And neither, it must be said, did a career in nursing.
I think I'll dig these books out and see what they're like now. I could read them on the bus to work. What a hoot, a middle-aged chook reading Sue Barton on the bus. Yes, I am totally up for that.
~ Joanne

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Autumnal reads

Ah, reading. Perfect all the year round, but even better in the best seasons of the year, autumn and winter, hence the picture of some wintry trees in the Manawatu.
I’m starting back at the beginning, and I’ve read the first Jack Reacher, Killing Floor. It went with me on the bus to work, to the staff room for my breaks, on the bus back home, and at home. Boy, it was gripping. However, I did do one bad thing in that I had to skip to the end to see what happened to Reacher’s love interest, Roscoe. I just could not face reading the second half not knowing if she made it or not. I had to be prepared, I’ll say no more on that (Yes, I'm a failure when it comes to suspense.) I also decided I should read Pride and Prejudice. I hadn’t watched the Colin Firth TV series, but I had seen the movie with Keira Knightley and rather (very much) liked it. I especially liked Donald Sutherland as the pop. What a character. So I dragged out a copy of P & P determined to read it. But I couldn’t. There I was thinking I’d become an Austen girl, going around quoting bits, wearing Austen fan girl T-shirts, but I just couldn’t. This is terrible, so I think maybe I should read one that I haven’t seen the movie of. I recall that once, a long time ago, I got out the TV series on DVD for a blitz, and only watched one episode. Maybe there’s actually no point, I don’t know. I did read a new author, however, that I totally loved,  Illona Andrews. It was a novella called Magic Steals, in an anthology. In fact, I read it on a short flight recently, and was hooked. Could not put it down.  I'm not an urban fantasy paranormal reader really (an exception is Nalini Singh’s Psy Changeling series) but I totally loved the novella, and Illona Andrew’s writing, and I've got some in a series to get stuck into soon, just ready and waiting. I am also one day going to really stop saying "I am not an urban fantasy reader" because clearly... I am!! I just haven't read a lot of it - yet!
~ Joanne

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Reading Round Up

What have I been reading of late?
Just finished a book "Murder at an Irish Wedding" by Carlene O'Connor. I picked it up at the library because it was on a
display of Irish books over the St Patrick's Day weekend. So many good books on that display, too, and with the exception of Marian Keyes and Maeve Binchy, most were authors I hadn't read before.
Case in point was this book.
It was fun, laugh out loud in a lot of places, very witty, un-put-downable, and with an intriguing murder to solve. Great cast of Irish characters. I want to go around now saying Feck and Jaysus but I spose I shouldn't. I could dig out some 'Father Ted' though.
I'll be looking for the other books featuring sleuth, Siobhan O'Sullivan
Also read, was a charming Debbie Macomber featuring her angels, Shirley, Mercy and Goodness. It dealt with gritty topics, including teenage pregnancy and youth suicide.
I had a few DNFs (Did Not Finish) but a lot of it is you have to be in a certain head space and tbh, I just want light reading that is entertaining and fun with great emotion in it, and a Happy Ever After.
I was thinking of that this past week, following the attacks at the  mosque in Christchurch.
In that vein of entertaining and fun and really, what is comfort entertainment, I avoided TV and re-watched a few movies, that I just love, however many times I watch them:
Tootsie, Morning Glory, and Kate and Leopold.
~ Joanne

Debbie Macomber and a nod to LaVyrle

A recent read, back in the old romance vein, that I adored was Cottage by the Sea , by Debbie Macomber. Macomber has moved more into wom...