Authors I love, books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: October 11 – October 17

Did I finish all the books I had on the go from last week? No. Did I make progress on them? Yes. Did I spent a weekend in London doing activities rather than on my sofa reading? Absolutely. I regret nothing. I’ve absolutely had a blast.

Read:

A Time to Die by Hilda Lawrence*

Death on the Downs by Simon Brett

Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson

The Visit by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is Your Time by Ruby Bridges

Started:

The Torso in the Town by Simon Brett

Still reading:

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman*

Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan*

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne*

Pirate King by Laurie R King

One More Christmas at the Castle by Trisha Ashley*

Four actual books because I went into many bookshops and ended up buying stuff in the British Library shop, Skoob books and Foyles. And a few ebooks as well earlier in the week. What can I say. I just can’t help myself.

Bonus photo: one of the real life things I did was the Paddington exhibition at the British Library which I thoroughly thoroughly recommend. And the theatre was good too.

A model Paddington sitting outside the door to Windsor gardens

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

 

Book of the Week, cozy crime, detective

Book of the Week: The Body on the Beach

Despite all the books I really ought to be finishing, I started a new series last week and it was fun so that made my choice today easier – because the other option was V for Vengeance and not only have I written about Kinsey Milhone before, I’m nearing the end of the series and I feel a series I love post on that in my future!

Carole Sedden is sensible. She makes sensible decisions about what to do with her sensible retirement from her sensible house in the desirable but slightly insular village of Fethering on the south coast. She doesn’t want to get drawn into the petty rivalries of her neighbours or draw too much attention to herself. Her new neighbour Jude is clearly not a sensible person. She wears clothes that waft and encourages visits to the pub and day drinking. Carole isn’t going to encourage her. Except that Carole found a body on the beach while she took her dog on it’s morning walk, the police can’t find the body and don’t believe her and a woman has turned up at her house and waved a gun at her. She’s not quite sure why she told Jude about it, but soon the two of them are investigating the (potential) murder and Carole is doing some very un-sensible things indeed!

So I was recommended this as a “if you like Richard Osman try this” series* and I would say that that’s not a bad call. They predate the Thursday Murder Club series by about twenty years and the protagonists are not quite as old, but this is a fun and clever mystery with two interesting central characters and a cast of eccentric secondary characters. I love Simon Brett’s Charles Paris series, and they have a similar sense of humour in the writing style, although Carole is nothing like the probably alcoholic, grass is always greener, not as successful as he would like Charles. But if you like Charles, definitely try these.

The Body on the Beach is in Kindle Unlimited at the moment and also available on Kobo. If you want a paperback, you’ll probably have to dig around a bit or go second hand (or both!

Happy Reading!

*yes I am aware of the irony of reading this start to finish whilst not having finished the new Richard Osman, but there are a lot of these in the series and I’ll have to wait another year for the next Osman.

Authors I love, books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: October 4 – October 10

Am I making progress at finishing the books I started on holiday? Well sort of, but not in anyway you can tell from this post. Is it stopping me starting other new stuff? Absolutely not. Is the list of books on the go getting out of hand? Just a touch. Did I also end up listening to sections of audiobooks I’ve listened to many times before? Yes absolutely (Gaudy Night, Crocodile on the Sandbank, Busman’s Honeymoon). Welcome to my (reading) life. 

Read:

V for Vengence by Sue Grafton

Death of a Tin God by George Bellairs*

The Littlest Guide by C R Mansell

The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett

Lila by Naima Coster

Started:

One More Christmas at the Castle by Trisha Ashley*

A Time to Die by Hilda Lawrence*

Still reading:

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman*

Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan*

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne*

Pirate King by Laurie R King

Bonus photo: I’m attempting to develop green fingers. I’m having mixed success, but have a picture of my downstairs window sill, where I’m attempting to sprout (is that the right word?) a baby spider plant from Cecil the Spider Plant, and an aloe vera that I’ve managed to keep alive for long enough that I’ve just ordered a fancy pot for it to live in – which is tempting fate to an extraordinary degree.

A baby spiderplant in water and a small aloe vera plant on a window sill.

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

 

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: September 2021 Mini Reviews

Another month has come and gone, and so I’m back with some more mini reviews. And as promised yesterday, you don’t need to have already read 9 novels to get the most out of them. You’re welcome!

Misfits by Michaela Coel*

Cover of Misfits

First up is this book version of a speech that Coel made to an audience of creatives and media people at the Edinburgh TV festival a few years back. It looks at her experiences in the industry and what that tells you about how marginalised people are treated by the tv machine. I think Coel is amazing and I love what she’s doing in her writing and I could hear her voice reading this throughout. Whether it will work as well if you’re not as familiar with her, I don’t know. An uncomfortable read for the creative industry and for people from more dominant cultural backgrounds.

A Line to Kill by Antony Horowitz*

Cover of A Line to Kill

This is the third in the really quite meta Hawthorn series and sees the fictional version of Antony Horowitz on the island of Alderney for a literary festival with Nathanial Hawthorn, the detective he’s writing a series of books about. While they’re there a murder takes place and they find themselves involved in the investigation. The island setting means it has a clear set of suspects and on top of that, there are plenty of them because the victim is not a particularly likeable character. The solution is quite satisfying and I continue to enjoy the weirdness of the conceit of this series. Horowitz has two meta series on the go at the moment – and I don’t think I like them as much as I like the book-within-a-book Atticus Pünd series, this is still a really readable murder mystery with a strong sense of place

A Death in the Dales by Frances Brody

I’ve been working my way through this series when I can pick them up a a sensible price which means that I’ve read them slightly out of order, but it hasn’t impaired my enjoyment. In case you haven’t come across them before, Kate Shackleton lost her husband in the Great War and after the war was over started a business of a private investigator. Her father is an senior police officer so she has some connections and also a regular group of helpers. This book is skipping back in the series compared to where I’ve been and this fills in some gaps I had wondered about. Kate is on holiday with her goddaughter in a house whose former owner was convinced that the wrong person was convicted (and hanged) for a murder she witnessed. Kate feels called to investigate but also finds herself exploring a community that she could potentially be about to a part of and who really don’t want her investigating their secrets.

Peril in Paris by Katherine Woodfine

Cover of Peril in Paris

I really enjoyed the Sinclair Mystery series and this is the first book in the follow up series. Sophie and Lil have set up their Private Investigation agency and are also doing a little government work on the side. This is definitely more of an espionage story than a mystery and sees our heroines gallivanting in Paris and beyond in a story that has plucky royal children, dastardly deeds and aeroplanes. Oh and for the older people like me, there are some lovely nods to Girls Own stories of years gone by, including a shout out to the Chalet Schools own Belsornia.

Murder Most Fowl by Donna Andrews

Cover of Murder Most Fowl

And lastly this month, I wanted to give a shout out to the latest Meg Langslow mystery. I’ve written about how much I love this series before, but I’m so impressed that Donna Andrews manages to keep coming up with more scenarios for Meg and the gang. This time it’s troupe of actors rehearsing Macbeth, complete with historical reenactors camping nearby and the ongoing inter-departmental feud at the college. The mystery is good and it’s funny too. Roll on this year’s Christmas book!

And in case you missed any of them, the Book of the Week posts in September were Traitor King, The Cult of We, Death in High Eldersham and The Chelsea Girls. And here are the rest of the year’s mini reviews: January, February, March, April, May, June and July.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases, reviews

Book of the Week: Ambush or Adore

I’m going to start this review with an apology: Ambush or Adore is a fan service piece from Gail Carriger, so really it will only work for you if you’ve already read a lot of Gail Carriger’s works. But it was also the only book I read last week that made me cry and it was the book I enjoyed the most. So sorry to the rest of you – but you have mini reviews coming up tomorrow to help ease your pain and if reading this makes you want to read some of the Carrigerverse I will provide pointers on that at the end.

Agatha Woosnoss is the greatest intelligence gatherer of her generation, but you wouldn’t know it to look at her. In fact, so skilled is she that you probably wouldn’t be able to find her in the room to look at her, even if you knew she was there. Pillover Plumleigh-Teignmott is a professor of ancient languages at Oxford. He’s also probably the only person who has always seen Agatha, even if she doesn’t realise it. Ambush or Adore spans more than forty years and follows these two from school through Middle Age, so you can see what happened to them after Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Academy crashed.

If you don’t know what Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Academy was (or how it was able to crash) this book probably isn’t going to be for you. Yes it’s a slightly star crossed friends to lovers story across the decades but really this is for the fans. It starts with the flight home at the end of Reticence, skips back to the end of Manners and Mutiny and fills in the gaps of what happened to two members of the Finishing School posse across the course of the entire Parasol Protectorate and Custard Protocol Series. There are guest appearances from everyone’s favourite vampire* and some of the other finishing school crew. There are references to the ones you don’t see. There are nods to the events of the series. It has pretty much everything I wanted and I loved it. As I said at the top, it made me cry with all the heartache and yearning but it’s also incredibly tender and there is such a satisfying resolution to it all.

I had my copy of Ambush and Adore preordered but you can buy direct from Gail Carriger as well as from Kindle and Kobo and the audiobook will arrive some time in the near future.. There is no physical edition at the moment, but it will be included in a hardcover omnibus of the Delightfully Deadly series that it’s a part of early next year. If you have not read any Gail Carriger before and now fancy reading about a steampunk Victorian Britain with vampires, werewolves and a society of lady intelligencers, you have two options: chronological order or publication order. I’ve written a whole post about the series, but in short chronological order puts the Young Adult Finishing School series first, publication see you start with Soulless and the Parasol Protectorate series, then go backwards to Finishing School and then forwards again to Prudence, which is set a decade or so after the end of the Parasol Protectorate. I prefer chronological because you get some delightful reveals, but that may also be because that’s the order I read them in. How can I really tell because things are only a surprise once! Whatever you try it’ll be fun.

Happy Reading!

* Lord Akeldama of course. Who else could possibly be.

Authors I love, books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: September 27 – October 3

Another busy week in reading and “real” life too. Some interesting stuff read here – and less progress on some of the books that I started on holiday than maybe there should have been. That can be a goal for this week. In case you missed it, the September stats are here and Mini Reviews are coming up on Wednesday.

Read:

Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L Sayers

The Blitz Detective by Mike Hollow*

The Visitor by Dodai Stewart

Say You’ll Stay by Susan Mallery

Hacked by Duncan MacMaster

Ambush or Adore by Gail Carriger

Speed Grieving by Allison Ellis

Started:

V for Vengence by Sue Grafton

Pirate King by Laurie R King

Still reading:

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman*

Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan*

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne*

Bonus photo: After last week’s photos from our holiday, today I’m going for some autumnal Britain – this is somewhere you’ve seen before here – as the leaves start to change and with a slightly stormy sky.

A small river/large stream and surrounding trees and fields

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

 

books, stats

September Stats

Books read this month: 30*

New books: 26

Re-reads: 4 (3 audiobooks)

Books from the to-read pile: 3

NetGalley books read: 6

Kindle Unlimited read: 9

Ebooks: 5

Library books: 3 (all ebooks)

Audiobooks: 3

Non-fiction books: 3

Favourite book this month: Traitor King I think

Most read author: George Bellairs… again!

Books bought: 5 ebooks, 3 real books

Books read in 2020: 296

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf (I don’t have copies of all of these!): 611

A fairly steady month in reading. I’ve fallen behind on adding reviews to my goodreads so my first target for October is to catch up with that. And my next is to try and read some more books from the to read shelf. I’ve done quite well on the NetGalley front this month, so I want to keep that going, but also try and make some progress towards getting that bookcase spread in my journal filled up…

Is my bonus picture another one from my holiday? Why yes. And I’m not sorry about it. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve done in months!

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels (7 this month)

Book of the Week, holiday reading, new releases, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Traitor King

So as you can see from yesterday’s post, I read a lot of stuff while we were on holiday, so I had plenty of choice, and a lot of the stuff from that list will pop up somewhere else on the blog. But for today’s pick I’m going with Traitor King – which I spotted in Waterstones in hardback the other week and really wanted, but couldn’t justify buying two hardbacks – as I was also buying a signed hardback of the new Judith Mackerell. But when I spotted the airport version (that’s the giant sized paperback, but it’s still a paperback and not a hardback so easier to read) in the WH Smiths at Luton, I was delighted to pick myself up a copy as my holiday book.

Slightly battered copy of Traitor King - its been to Spain and back as well as to the beach in the beach bag!

Andrew Lownie’s Traitor King examines the life of the former Edward VIII did in the years following his abdication. As the title suggests (I mean it doesn’t have a question mark after Traitor King, so I think it’s fair to say that) what Lownie says he did was a lot of scheming and intrigue against the interests of his former Kingdom in the interests of himself and his wife both in terms of their position and their financial gain.

A lot has been written about the events leading up to the abdication, but not so much about what happened after – or at least not in as much detail as this. Lownie starts with the day of the abdication and moves on from there – assuming that the reader will know what has happened, which obviously I did because I’ve read a lot of stuff – fiction and non-fiction about this whole sitauation. Most of what I have read has suggested that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (as they became) were as the blurb says “naïve dupes” of the Germans in the run up to and the early stages of the Second World War, but Lownie’s thesis is that they knew what they were doing and were active participants themselves. He draws together threads of stories that I’ve come across before – the closeness of Wallis to von Ribbentrop, the rather dubious Charlie Bedaux and the trip to visit Hitler among other things – and comes to the conclusion that this was part of a concerted effort by the couple to conspire against British interests to try and benefit themselves. Unfortunately for Edward – and fortunately for the UK – Edward was not that bright and his plans were spotted by the various arms of the British establishment that were keeping an eye on him (which range from his friends, to his secret service detail, to the embassy staff and more) and documented. This is the documentation that Lownie uses to make his case – and he’s got the footnotes to prove it! The book also touches on the more usual aspects of the Windsor’s married life – ie were they actually in love, was it worth it and did Wallis learn sex tricks in when posted with her first husband in China – and draws some conclusions about them that I won’t spoil here, but the main focus is on the macchinations.

And it’s a very enjoyable and interesting read. As regular readers of this blog will know, I am very interested in the history of the first half of the Twentieth Century and the abdication crisis is one of the key events of it for Britain, outside the two World Wars. I’ve read a lot on the subject and this added some new perspectives and interpretations of events that I have read a fair bit about before. It’s got an extensive set of references – whether it’s the author’s own research or references to other authors working in the field – and it’s also got a really good further reading list at the back, which has a fiction list featuring my beloved Gone with the Windsors, as well as the nonfiction stuff. Speaking of Laurie Graham’s novel, I don’t think you can read that and come away with it with a particularly high opinion of the couple, but it would seem from this that Graham understated the case when it came to their meanness and the way they treated their friends and their staff. Despite the couple’s efforts to establish their relationship as the romance of the century, public opinion at the time was mostly against them and reading about it in the history books it is hard to draw a lot of favourable conclusions about them – even before you come to the Nazi connection.

I’m very pleased with my decision to buy this, it’s about to be sent out on loan to my mum and when it returns, it will undoubtedly find it’s way on to the Keeper Shelf. If you’ve got an interest in the period, or in the history of the British Monarchy, or even on stories about awful people, this is probably one you’ll be interested in. You’ll probably do best with it if you have a working knowledge of the abdication crisis to start you off with, but it does give you the basics so it’s not essential. I’m off to try and get hold of some of the other books Lownie mentions at the end, as well as his previous book about the Mountbattens.

As mentioned at the top, this is a hardback if you’re not going to an airport anytime soon, but it’s in the bookshops (the Waterstones I found it in isn’t a massive one in the grand scheme of things, especially as they have their top floor shut at the moment for Covid safety reasons) and Foyles have lots of options for click and collect. And of course it’s on Kindle and Kobo as well – but because it’s a hardback, the ebook versions are fairly expensive at the moment – more than £7 as I write this.

Happy Reading!

Authors I love, books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: September 20 – September 26

So, for the first time in 18 months we’ve been abroad on holiday! And it was lovely.  A week in Mallorca, enjoying some sun and relaxing and just generally not being in our house. And it meant plenty of time for reading. And no, this list isn’t quite as long as some holiday reading lists that I have previously had, but I had to wrestle the kindle off Him Indoors (who is reading some of the Amelia Peabody novels that we can’t get on audiobook in the UK) and that meant a bit of stopping and starting because the Kindle didn’t like the hotel wifi and so I couldn’t sync it to the iPad. First world problems… And I also read quite a bit of non fiction and that takes me longer than fiction does. There are a few on here that you’ll be hearing about – probably in the end of month mini reviews at the end of next week, but I reserve the right to change my mind and do a separate post after all!

Read:

A River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters

Traitor King by Andrew Lownie

A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz*

The Christmas Wedding Guest by Susan Mallery*

Peter Cabot Gets Lost by Cat Sebastian 

All Night Long with a Cowboy by Caitlin Crews*

Peril in Paris by Katherine Woodfine

Death in High Provence by George Bellairs

Murder Most Foul by Donna Andrews

Started:

Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan*

Hacked by Duncan MacMaster

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne*

The Blitz Detective by Mike Hollow*

Still reading:

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman*

Bonus photo: So because we’ve been on holiday, it had to be a holiday picture this week. Rather than a boring picture of me, or of the beach and the sea, I’m going for this picture of the path leading down to a particularly nice, quite remote and unspoilt beach on the island that we had a nice time at. I read a couple of hundred pages of Antony Horowitz on this particular beach, but it was just generally lovely to be away.

A path leading to a beach, with bushes and small trees arching over it

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

 

Book of the Week, new releases, non-fiction

Book of the Week: The Cult of We

Have I already written about one book about We Work? Yes. Is it going to stop me from writing another one? Nope. You’re welcome and also welcome to my reading life!

Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell’s The Cult of We is, as the subtitle suggests an examination of start up culture viewed through the prism of the rise (and fall) of We Work. In case you’ve missed my previous post or in fact the whole We Work saga, We Work was set up by Adam Neumann as reimagining the work space. It was subletting office space to smaller companies – like other companies had done before – but managing to make it sound like something new and revolutionary and get it classed alongside tech startups with much lower price overheads. The company started to implode when it tried to launch its IPO – which it needed to raise more money to keep the lights on – but Neumann walked away with much of his fortune intact.

I’ve already written about Reeves Wiedeman’s Billion Dollar Loser, which also covers Neumann and We Work and yet I still got new perspectives from this. This answers some of the questions Wiedeman didn’t – partly because it had more time to see what happened, but also takes a bigger look (I think) at how the financing of these sorts of companies is done and how made investors went for unicorn start ups that weren’t making profits. It could be recency bias, but my inclination is to say that this is the better choice if you’re only going to read one – you get all the mind boggling stories about the antics of Neumann (extra cleaning on private planes because of the cannabis-fueled partying on board) and his wife Rebekah (including the recipe for Cheezy sprinkle – hint, there is no cheese but there is nutritional yeast) but you also get more detail on the high finance side of things and who was investing in all of this.

Which ever book you read though, the story of We Work probably won’t make you as angry as Bad Blood or Empire of Pain – but that may be because office rental is not as easy to get worked up about as revolutionary blood testing or the opioid epidemic. Or maybe the story of Theranos really is that bonkers. But it’s still definitely worth a read if you like a Big Business explosion story and also if you don’t want to get so angry about the contents you want to throw the book/e-reader across the room!

My copy of The Cult of We came from NetGalley, but it’s out now and should be available via all the usual sources as well as in Kindle and Kobo. It’s also available in audiobook and I would expect the hardback to be in stock in the larger bookstores – Foyles have click and collect as an option for several stores, in London and outside, which is usually a good sign.

Happy Reading.