The Case of the Dotty Dowager by Cathy Ace

The Case of the Dotty Dowager (WISE Enquiries Agency #1)The Case of the Dotty Dowager by Cathy Ace

My rating: 4 of 5 stars (8/10)

I borrowed this one from the library when I saw the third book in the series recommended online. Being me, I had to start at the beginning.

The book starts slowly, and I felt it was trying a bit too hard to be quirky as we were introduced to the Duke and his mother before we ever met the investigators the series is supposed to be about. Considering how many other books I had on the go at the time, I decided to DNF the book.

But as I picked it up to put back on the shelf, I read a bit more. And suddenly I was caught. Things really picked up and I found myself very much enjoying the rest of the story. It’s not a long book, and I settled down to it and finished it quickly.

So stick through the first chapters and enjoy a light-weight and enjoyable mystery with a satisfying solution.

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A School Camp Fire by Elsie J. Oxenham

A School Camp Fire (Woody Dean, #1)A School Camp Fire by Elsie J. Oxenham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars (7/10)

The latest read for the NZ Abbey Girls Lower North Island Group.

This is a fairly early book for EJO (1917) and one that is somewhat disjointed. It is really four stories that are connected with each other (the last three more so that the first one). Their quality varies, although all have well drawn characters, if not always satisfying plots.

This book was written at the time the author had become part of the Camp Fire Girls of America movement within the UK (so they may have dropped the “of Amercia” part). It was something I had never heard about before, and I did some online research when we read The School of Ups and Downs, which is actually a loose sequel to this books – ie totally different characters, but essentially the same school and similar themes.

Mostly, this book exists for EJO to enthusiastically tell all her readers about Camp Fire and how wonderful it is. She manages to do this in the guise of a story, but the two sections where this is the focus do read less well I think, because the story is subject to the information dump rather than the opposite.

This isn’t a bad book, but it isn’t one of her best either.

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The Devil’s Children by Peter Dickinson

The Devil's Children (The Changes Trilogy)The Devil’s Children by Peter Dickinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars (8/10)

This is another book I picked up due to childhood memories and the bad influence of my no-longer-so-new book collector friends. I know that I knew about these books as a child but I truly can’t say if I actually read them or not. I feel that I must have, or I wouldn’t have felt the urge to pick this one up (technically, I’m reading an omnibus edition, but I’m going to read the books as separate entities, so I’m reviewing them that way). There was a TV show, made by the BBC in 1975, and when I checked its entry on Wikipedia, the still image from the credits on that page feels very familiar. We didn’t have a TV for a lot of my childhood, so I can’t say for certain that I saw the show, but maybe I did, or at least some of it.

Anyway, I picked up the book and decided to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. (I’m having a good run on books lately.)

This is the first book chronologically, and covers the start of “The Changes”, focussing on Nicky Gore and her time with a group of Sikhs. Living in London in the late 1960s, Nicky has no idea what a Sikh is and she has to learn to accept an entire new culture at the same time they all cope with what is happening to the world around them.

Suddenly, people have turned against technology, both losing any understanding of how it works and seeing it as evil and something to be destroyed. A hint is given at the beginning of the book of why this might have happened, but it is not a factor in this story. It is, however, very interesting that this “madness” has not affected the Sikh community, making this a very British madness. Nicky becomes the Sikhs’ “canary” as she can warm them what levels of technology are “okay” and what are not.

Looking at this from the point of 2018, this suggestion that only the “true” British are affected seems a little odd, since Britain these days is such a melting pot that, if the logic follows, there would be many people unaffected. I guess that in 1969, when the book was published, the percentage was a lot smaller, making the storyline work.

There are hints early on that the rest of the world is okay and people that made it out of Britain are doing fine. This seemed odd to me, as I couldn’t see how the rest of the world would just leave this alone. However, this is explained well at the end of the novel and I was happy with the way it was done.

This is a well told tale, although I can’t decide if it would work if written and set today. That doesn’t actually matter, since it isn’t, and I’m looking forward to reading the next two books when I find the time.

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The Bone Tiki by David Hair

The Bone Tiki (Aotearoa, #1)The Bone Tiki by David Hair

My rating: 4 of 5 stars (9/10)

My son is a very smart young man and an avid reader, but he has some trouble with executive function, making showing what he knows and understands harder than it should be.

He is currently studying this novel in English class and it seemed to me that the best way that I could help him keep on top of his assignment work for it, was to read it too. Even before I started reading, I was pleased to see that his class was reading a modern, New Zealand author who was incorporating Maori culture and myth and New Zealand history with what promised to be a fast paced and interesting story. Compared to the ancient and extremely British books I read for class when I was his age, this is a much more suitable book for Kiwi teenagers to study at school.

It was indeed all those things and I very highly recommend this book. The protagonist, Mat, comes across as a well-rounded fifteen year old Kiwi boy who, while part Maori, has never really felt the need to take the time to embrace his heritage, to his detriment when that heritage is suddenly the things he needs for survival, let alone victory. Mat is a very relatable hero, as are the friends and allies he picks up along the way.

I also liked that while Maori culture is foremost, the book doesn’t forget New Zealand’s Pakeha history either and the two coexist both easily and uneasily, much like in the real world.

As an adult, I enjoyed this book very much. I know my son did as he raced ahead of me (struggling not to “spoil” me on the bits I hadn’t read yet) and has also read the second book in the series, with the third on reserve at the library. This book works completely as a standalone novel, but there are five more in the sequence. I’m interested in reading them, but I’ll have to find the time around all the others things I want to reread.

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Twice Upon a Time by Paul Cornell

Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time: 12th Doctor NovelisationDoctor Who: Twice Upon a Time: 12th Doctor Novelisation by Paul Cornell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars (8/10)

This was my second dip into the new Target Novelisations the BBC has released based on featured episodes of the current iteration of Doctor Who.

This is a much more standard retelling than Steven Moffat’s very clever The Day of the Doctor, but still gives the reader a highly enjoyable ride through 2017’s Christmas Special. There is a smattering of added content and Cornell writes in a smooth and breezy style that makes this a very enjoyable read. The end, as the Doctor finally decides to regenerate, is beautifully done.

Well worth the read.

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The Day of the Doctor by Steven Moffat

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor (Target Collection)Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor by Steven Moffat

My rating: 5 of 5 stars (10/10)

I reviewed this and then lost it and don’t feel up to rewriting it all just now.

Steven Moffat has done clever and interesting things with the story in this book, especially adding interesting ideas on identity (mostly as relates to the Doctor in all their incarnations). There are some typical Moffat gags (the one about Chapter 9 is both clever and meta), although the one about the Tenth Doctor’s horse doesn’t quite do as he intended.

This explores more than just the events of the TV story and becomes a deeper and more fulfilling read because of that. It made this Doctor Who fan very happy.

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Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey

Babylon's Ashes (The Expanse, #6)Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars (9/10)

It took me two attempts to read this.

It starts is a difficult place, given the events of the previous book, and I was really annoyed with both the main antagonist and his son (trying to avoid spoilers), especially as the latter’s mood was making me want to pound some sense into him.

So I got only a little way in and stalled.

Then season 3 of The Expanse started on TV and I was reminded how much I like the books. In the end, I just started again from the beginning and read fairly steadily until I was finished (with a few forays into other books). This finished in a very different place from where I was expecting it to, and it was much the better for that. Clearly the authors are much better and plotting out the adventures in their world than I am!

I knew the next book was out and I’d seen people comment about “that first line!” I had carefully made sure I wasn’t going to be spoiled before I finished this one, but I admit that I went out and bought Persepolis Rising very soon after finishing Babylon’s Ashes. I am equally astonished by “that first line” and I look forward to finding out more soon. But because they are such big books, I’m going to read some other things first. All the same, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what happens next.

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