theatre

Not a Book: Best of Enemies

Getting this in quickly before the barrage of Christmas posts as I went to see this the other week when it was in late preview stages and it’s now open and has been reviewed.

Best of Enemies is a new play by James Graham about the televised debates between Gore Vidal and William F Buckley Jnr at the Republican and Democratic conventions of 1968. The two men represented the new left and the new right respectively and hated what each other stood for. In real life, they remained enemies for the rest of their lives – with lawsuits and counter suits – extending even beyond Buckley’s death when Vidal was still happy to insult him. The play uses transcripts of the dialogue from the TV debate for those sections and imagines what was going on behind the scenes.

In the play Buckley is David Harewood and Vidal is Zachary Quinto. Casting a black actor as the white Buckley does highlight the times when Buckley is talking about race – but that’s not the main focus of the clashes between the men shown in the play. Quinto is excellent as Vidal – arch and snarky and supremely confident in his own abilities and beliefs. The staging – as you can see from the photo has TV like windows – that can show you the control room behind or be used as TV screens to project the actors during the debates, or the sections of rival newscasters talking you through the events of the day.

The play is making the argument that the debates are the start of the commentator-led, TV politics that has turned into the polarisation you see on social media – and while that may sound like a bit of a reach, the debate sections of the play feel very timely – almost spookily so at times. I thought it was really, really good – and if you’re in London before the 18th of February and fancy a show, this would be a good pick.

book round-ups

Buy myself a Book for Christmas

As I mentioned in last week’s Buy me a Book for Christmas post, I did a bit of purchasing while I was putting that post together, so this weekend, here’s the stuff I bought, in case you need further inspiration!

Firstly I should say that the way that I put together the Buy Me a Book post is the same every year – I go through my Amazon wishlists of Books and my Goodreads to-read shelf to look for books that I’ve added over the course of the year but haven’t bought. And then I go wandering around the various book buying websites to see how easy (or otherwise) they are going to be to get hold of. And secondly I try not to ask for books that might go on offers, be available in the supermarket 2 for however many offers and thirdly I should say that I was writing the original post in November, but it’s now December, so bear that in mind if I’m mentioning offers. Oh – and there are no graphic novels on the list because I buy those from my local comic book store and want to give them the custom.

Fiction picks

And the reason that the Buy me a book post was non-fiction heavy was partly because a lot of the fiction I was after was on some kind of offer! So I picked up the latest Emma Straub novel, This Time Tomorrow, and also the next book in Alexis Hall’s baking show series, Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble. I also preordered the next in Jen DeLuca’s Willow Creek series Well Traveled as well as the new Olivia Dade (which as you know already came out and I’ve already read), and I finally bought Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow. And because I happened to wandering around the Waterstones site, I picked up a signed copy of Rainbow Rowell’s new short story collection Scattered Showers. I did look at the British Library Crime Classics selection too – but that just added a load of books to my Kindle Unlimited list! Finally there’s Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, which was on offer in a special tie-in edition because the movie came out a couple of months back.

Non fiction picks

I’ve had my eye of Julia Boyd’s Travellers in the Third Reich for a while and this year a follow up is out. but both Travellers and A Village in the Third Reich were on offer on Kindle when I was putting the post together so rather than asking for the paperbacks, I just bought them! The new Anne De Courcy about Nancy Cunard (another in that group from the 1920s who pops up a lot) Five Love Affairs and a Friendship was on offer on Kindle at a sensible price for non-fiction, as was Mary Churchill’s War (the wartime diaries of Winston Churchill’s daughter, edited by Emma Soames) and Spying and the Crown by Richard J Aldridge and Rory Cormac. Then there is Heiresses by Laura Thompson, about heiresses from the Seventeenth Century to the present, which is in Kindle Unlimited at the moment, so I borrowed it. Oh What a Lovely Century would also have been on the list for this Christmas – if I hadn’t found that copy in the work charity book sale.

And I think that’s the lot. Have a great weekend everyone!

series

Wintry series: O’Neil Brothers

We’re moving towards Christmas and so I thought I would start a seasonal series strand to help with your festive reading needs! And I’m starting with an old favourite author – Sarah Morgan and her O’Neil Brothers series, which is are nearly a decade old now – which is frankly quite scary.

And I’m going to say at the outset, that only two of the three books in this series are set at Christmas – but that’s two thirds so it still counts. This series is set in the Snow Crystal ski resort in Vermont. Our three heros are the O’Neil brothers – whose family run the resort. In the first book in the series. Sleigh Bells in the Snow, Kayla would rather ignore Christmas than celebrate, but she heads to Snow Crystal to try and win the marketing business of the resort’s owner Jackson. Suddenly Last Summer is about Elise, a chef in the town and the runway brother Sean, who is a surgeon who had a one night stand a few years back and are busy ignoring it. And the third book in the series is Maybe this Christmas where ex-ski racer and single dad Tyler ends up with his friend Breanna (who is secretly in love with him) staying in his chalet because the resort is overbooked. So that’s a career girl finding love while turning aroudn the fortunes of a ski resort, a second chance romance and a single dad romance. If you don’t want to read the whoel series – and why wouldn’t you because you’ll then get to see the previous couples pop back up again – you can pick your trope and start there!

Sarah Morgan has a long list of Christmas books now, so it took a bit of thinking to pick one to feature here – but I went for the O’Neil brothers, because the snowy setting makes it feel extra Christmassy. But if you want more Sarah Morgan Christmas, there is a Christmas book in her Puffin Island and From Manhattan with Love series as well as various standalone novels.

You should be able to get hold of these fairly easily in ebook, but I don’t know how likely you are to find paperbacks nearly decade on. But to get yo sgtarted here is the Kindle link to Sleighbells in the snow and a Kobo link to the “box set” of all three.

Happy Friday everyone!

books, stats

November Stats

Books read this month: 30*

New books: 30

Re-reads: 0 – which is frankly astonishing given this year so far

Books from the to-read pile: 8

NetGalley books read: 5

Kindle Unlimited read: 8

Ebooks: 9

Library books: 0

Audiobooks: 0

Non-fiction books: 1

Favourite book this month: Probably Carrie Soto is Back – for all that it took me ages to read

Most read author: SJ Bennett on that binge read of HM the Queen Investigates series

Books bought: Oh dear. Quite a lot. Because of the research for the Christmas books posts. Yes, posts. About 20 books, including a couple of pre-orders. Eeeeeeeeep.

Books read in 2022: 350

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf (I don’t have copies of all of these!): 667

Well. This is quite an interesting list. I have two audiobooks that I’ve nearly finished, but not in time for this list. I’m on a big podcast kick at the moment, and the proportion of my listening time that is audiobooks has gone down. And the fact that I didn’t reread anything is interesting. But then it’s nearly the end of the year and I have been trying to get on top of the NetGalley list again so have focused on that a little. But good progress in reading stuff off the physical to-read pile so that’s good. Win some and lose some.

Bonus picture: an action shot from the figure skating. As I said, hard to do on a phone but this is the best I have!

*includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels – including 3 this month

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Books to reread

It’s getting pretty wintery, and when the weather is like this, it often makes me feel like rereading something that’s going to make me feel cozy and warm inside. Please note, that that last sentence was going to be about liking nothing more than to curl up on the sofa with a blanket and a book to reread. But we all know that that’s not just a winter thing. Give me a comfy seat, a blanket and a good book and you won’t see me again for a few hours. Anyway, this week, have some suggestions for books that hold up to more than one reading.

Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield

So this was one of my picks for escapist books for difficult times back in the early pandemic and I stand by it as being one of the best comfort reads. It is what the title suggests – a provincial lady in the 1930s struggling to keep control of her household. I sometimes describe it as being a bit like the Bridget Jones of its time, but I think that’s underselling it. It’s very low stress, very low stakes and it’s charming and witty. If you liked Miss Buncle and haven’t read this, then why not?

Gone with the Windsors by Laurie Graham

It will surprise you not at all if you’ve been here a while that Gone with the Windsors features on this list. Because I read it so often I own multiple copies and I keep them scattered around the house. If you don’t already know, it’s the story of the Abdication Crisis as seen through the eyes of a school friend of Wallis Simpson, who comes to England to visit her sister. It’s brilliant for just dipping into, or for reading the whole thing. And it still makes me chuckle eleventy billion reads later.

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

Again, not a surprised that I’d have a Georgette Heyer on this list either, but maybe a surprise that it’s Sylvester. A year or two ago, it would probably have been Regency Buck or Devil’s Cub, but I’ve listened to the audiobook of this at least three times this year and that’s before we talk about the times I’ve picked up the boo, so I’m going to put it here because I do grab it more often than most of them. This has two people who definitely don’t want to marry each other, but then get thrown together a lot – there is the Regency equivalent of a road trip as well as a trapped at an inn situation, an adorable nephew (“Uncle Vester will grind your bones”) and it’s just delightful.

There were a lot of things that I could have included in this, but a lot of them that I’ve already written about relatively recently, so just want to throw in here that I do regular rereads of Soulless, the Rivers of London series and the Peter and Harriet end of the Wimsey series.

Happy Wednesday everyone.

Book of the Week

Book of the Week: Jane Fills the Breach

So I read a fair few things last week, some from series that I’ve talked about before and some that you’ll see pop up in other posts over the next few weeks. But BotW is one of those where very much not recommending the book that I’m talking about, but just needed to talk about it because it’s bonkers.

Bessie Marchant wrote adventure stories for girls in the first half of the twentieth century. She was the subject of one of the talks at this summer’s Book Conference, and I bought this after the talk because it promised to be absolutely crazy. And oh boy, did it deliver.

Firstly I cannot convey to you exactly how much plot this has got. It’s under 250 pages, but it has a kidnapping, a runaway marriage, the rescue that you can see on the cover above, the heroine’s attempt to replace her missing (presumed kidnapped) brother in the family firm, a subplot around a will, a shipwreck and a romance – and that’s just the main stuff. Our heroine is Jane – she’s basically a plucky doormat who will Do The Right Thing – she puts everyone else’s interests ahead of her own but secretly is smarter than all of them. Or at least I think that’s what Marchant was aiming for, it’s hard to tell because the writing is so muddled. At one point within the space of a page Jane goes from thinking it’s ridiculous that the senior partner in the firm has retired to study bees to completely understanding it because his garden is so pretty.

The dialogue is consistently dreadful – in a genre where dialogue can sometimes be a bit weird, it jumps out as feeling particularly unrealistic. It’s meant to be set in Argentina but to be honest it’s basically Generic South America as envisaged by someone who has never been there. It also has all of the British colonialist attitudes of a lot of the adventure books for girls and boys, although thankfully it doesn’t have much religion in it.

As I said, this is very much not a recommendation – it is is objectively terrible, but if you are a Girls own reader who has mostly read school stories, this and C Bernard Rutley will give you a taste of the utter bonkers that got published before World War Two.

I bought my copy at the book conference for £5, and that’s probably too much to pay for this – but the talk was genuinely entertaining and the speaker was selling her spares so how could I not get one. I have no idea where you could find a copy, and suggest you don’t try.

Happy reading.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: November 21 – November 27

Another super busy week – I’m beginning to think that’s the only sort of weeks that I have these days. Anyway, some interesting reading, one off the long running list and progress made on some of the others. It’s nearly December too, so as well as the usual end of month posts, I’ve been working on all the Christmas content. My Buy me a book for Christmas post is the first of them, but there is much more to come!

Read:

On the Hustle by Adriana Herrera*

An Act of Foul Play by TE Kinsey*

Snowed in for Christmas by Sarah Morgan*

Crook O’Lune by ECR Lorac

Murder on a Summer’s Day by Frances Brody

Beginner’s Luck by Kate Clayborn

Jane Fills the Breach by Bessie Marchant

Started:

Green for Danger by Christianna Brand

A Sunlit Weapon by Jacqueline Winspear

Still reading:

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Going With the Boys by Judith Mackrell

The Inverts by Crystal Jeans

The Empire by Michael Ball*

Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd

Well, there were a few books bought – because as as I said in Buy Me a Book, I did buy a fair few things while putting it together.

Bonus photo: the houseplant obsession continues – one of my friends brought me some cuttings, which I carefully nurtured on my desk for three days before I could take them home. Hopefully they survived the journey…

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley. ** indicates it was an advance copy from a source other than NetGalley.

not a book

Not a Book: Bad Bets Trevor Milton

As long time readers of this blog will probably be aware, one of my non-fiction areas of interest is business scandals or frauds of various kinds. I’ve written about Bad Blood – and the TV series The Dropout based on it – as well as We Work and Empire of Pain. And over the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading about the collapse of the FTX crypto exchange, which is absolutely going to be the next big book and TV series on the subject – not the least of which is because the guy who wrote The Big Short was been embedded there for several months ahead of the collapse (which should probably have been a warning sign.

Anyway, I’m a big podcast listener, and on my way back from Essex in mid-October, there was an episode of Vox’s Today Explained called Nikola (not Tesla) about the conviction for fraud of the founder of an electric truck start up. It was fascinating and the main interviewee mentioned that he had his own podcast coming out about the case – and so off I went. And that’s what today’s Not a Book post is about – the latest series of the Wall Street Journal’s podcast Bad Bets, which is about Trevor Milton and the rise and fall of Nikola.

The basic outline is this: in mid October, a federal jury found 40-year-old Trevor Milton guilty of defrauding investors over statements he made about his company Nikola. Prosecutors said that he had lied about the techical achievements of the company to make it sound like their hydrogen powered lorries (or trucks if you are American) were closer to being production ready than they really were.

In Bad Bets, reporter Ben Foldy takes you through Milton’s life and career and unravels the story behind that conviction. And oh boy is it fascinating. I’m trying not to give too much away about any of it, but this is the intersection of my interest in big buiness failures and stuff about religion in America and particularly the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints aka the Mormons. I’ve posted a fair bit about the latter before – whether it’s books like Educated or series like Murder Among the Mormons and Lularich – and this fits into that oevre quite neatly. If you like any of them or any of the books above (or both) then this might well be the six part series you need to binge while you’re doing whatever it is you do while listening to podcasts.

Happy Sunday everyone.

books I want

Buy Me a Book for Christmas: 2022 edition

Hi mum! I know you’re reading this. And that’s the very reason I’ve posted this in November – so you have *plenty* of time to chose what you’d like to get me. You’re welcome and also thank you. Anyway, this is the gift guide for what I’d like to find under the tree – so if you know a reader who likes my sort of books, hopfeully this will help you with them too. It’s a little bit longer on the nonfiction options – but that’s because the fiction side of things tends to go on offer more than the other – or at least in the bits of history and similar that I read!

Non fiction

I’ve written about novels set around Truman Capote a few times and there are a couple of non fiction books about his set that I have my eye on – Capote’s Women by Laurence Leamer about Capote and his Swans or Deliberate Cruelty by Roseanne Montillo about the Capote’s inclusion of Anne Woodward’s marriage to Billy Woodward – and his death when she accidentally shot him – in his fiction.

I also have a regular thing for Hollywood History and Shawn Levy (who wrote Castle on Sunset that I read last year) has a new book out – In On The Joke, about the early female pioneers in standup comedy. In non Hollywood history, there is Noble Ambitions by Adrian Tinniswood, about British country houses after the Second World War. And I keep thinking about buying Nazi Billionaires by David de Jong – which I think might fit into my historical interests, but also could be way too dark.

I do love a non fiction book about something you’ve never really considered before and The Address book by Deirdre Mask – about what you can learn from street addresses and how street names came about really interested me when I saw it recommended a few weeks back. Also in this niche would be Butts – A Backstory by Heather Radke.

I have a lot of cookery books already, but one of my favourite of the lesser spotted TV chefs has his first cookbook out this year: I’ve loved Jeremy Lee since I first saw him on the Great British Menu in one of the very early – if not the first – series. I’ve had a peek at the book in several bookshops and it looks like a delight to read.

I’ve already treated myself to one of the celebrity books I was looking forward to this autumn when I bought the Richard E Grant, but the other one is the Alan Rickman Diaries – even if I’m very conflicted about whether he would have wanted them published.

Fiction

I rarely buy myself hardback fiction, but for the Christmas list, here are a few I wouldn’t mind not having to wait for the paperback of: Vacationland by Meg Mitchell More – about a summer at a family’s summer home in Maine which I’m hoping will scratch my Rich People Problems itch. Or maybe Let’s Not Do That Again by Grant Ginder about a woman running for senate but struggling with her grown up children.

I’ve read a lot of Lauren Willig and Beatriz Williams solo novels – but not as many of their collaborations along with Karen White. But the Lost Summers of Newport – a time slip novel about a historic house on Rhode Island – sounds right up my street. There is also a Williams novels I wouldn’t mind finding in my stocking like The Golden Hour – about a woman who gets sucked into the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s circle in Nassau – as well as Willig’s Band of Sisters.

I wrote a whole post about Adventure Capers recently, so a historical heist novel is right up my street – so how about The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope, which is set in a magical version of 1925 Washington DC where the heroine needs to steal a magical ring from a powerful woman to escape a curse. I’ve also been eyeing up Kosoko Jackson’s I’m So (Not) Over You – a second chance fake relationship romance that I keep seeing every time I go into Charing Cross Road Foyles. And of course I still haven’t read TJ Klune’s Under The Whispering Door or

Lastly, a couple of wildcards. As this mentions grief in some of the blurbs, it may turn it to be too much for me, but On The Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton also jumped out at me when i saw it reviewed the other weeks. It’s about three women who form a girl group and their careers. Also in the night turn out to be too miserable but I’m very tempted list is The Circus Train by Amita Parikh, which is set in 1938 and follows a circus that travels around Europe by train.

Amusingly, this post took me a lot longer to write than I intended as several of the books that I was going to mention were on offer on Kindle while I was putting this together, so I just bought them! And mum – if you’re still reading pick something you would like to borrow after I’ve read it, and let me know if you want any of these for your Christmas book!

series

Series reminder: TE Kinsey

As I mentioned in the Kindle deals post – the series is on offer at the moment – and it turns out it’s because the new one is out on the 29th, so this Friday I’m taking the opportunity to remind you about the series as well as give you a quick review of the new one – as far as I’m able without spoilers!

You can get the full lowdown in my series post here from June, but the quick set up is that these are late Edwardian/early 1910s murder mystery novels featuring an eccentric widow (but not as old as you think when you see widow!) with a mysterious past and her maid who start solving mysteries after they move to the countryside and stumble upon a body. As the series goes on, extra strands get added and the core group of character widens, but they’re basically pre-World War One historical cozy crime stories.

In the new book, number nine in the series, we’ve reached 1911 and our intrepid duo are at the theatre celebrating Lady Hardcastle’s birthday when murder victim is discovered on stage at the start of the second half. Of course they’re soon investigating and trying to discover what’s going on behind the scenes of the theatre company that could have led to murder. I read it across about 24 hours and really enjoyed it – it was just the break from the day to day that I needed this week. I don’t think you need to have read the rest of the series to enjoy it, although if you have it will obviously work better for you. And as the rest of the series is on Kindle Unlimited at the moment, you can try the series in the next few days ahead of this coming out if you want to.

I got my copy from NetGalley – hence why I’m able to review it a few days before publication – but it looks like it’s going into KU when it comes out as well, so it may just be on Kindle to start with at least. And I’m never sure where this series lands in ease of getting hold of hard copy terms – there is a paperback listed of this new one, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of them in the flesh. I will try and remember to check Foyles next time I’m in there though! And if you want more books set in theatres, I have a whole post of those for you too!

Have a great weekend everyone.