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Not a Book: Doris Day

You may not know this about me, but my all time favourite five films are probably Pillow Talk, Some Like It Hot, The Philadelphia Story, Mary Poppins and The Parent Trap (the Haley Mills one).  And once you get over the fact that all my favourite films are more than 50 years old, you’ve probably figured out that the death of Doris Day left me feeling quite sad this week.  Actually, my favourite films also shadow my reading tastes in many ways, so maybe you’re not so surprised after all.

In case you’ve never seen it, Pillow Talk is the story of an interior decorator who’s feuding with the playboy she shares a party line with.  He finds out what she looks like, decides he likes the look of her and adopts a fake persona to try and get in her pants.  Of course he falls in love but she’s less pleased when she finds out who he really is.  Yes, by modern standards, there are a few issues – how well does she actually know him when they get their happily ever after considering he’s been playing her – but if we were to turn it into romance tropes, it’s an enemies to lovers, reformed rake, love triangle, sassy confident heroine thing.  And whoo boy is that a whole lot of some of my favourite tropes.  Here’s the trailer – which is very, very retro…

Pillow Talk got Doris her only Oscar nomination, but she was the top female box office start of the late fifties and early sixties and she deserved more.   I’ve seen pretty much the whole of the Doris Day film canon – I had a Lovefilm rental subscription in my final year of uni and used it wisely – and as the best of the obituaries have been trying to point out, she was more than “just” Hollywood’s favourite girl next door.  Everyone has heard of Calamity Jane – and she is brilliant in it – but she’s also fabulous in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.

 

Yes she got stuck in a type – the second Rock Hudson sex comedy, Lover Come Back, isn’t as good as Pillow Talk – and is even more dubious by modern standards as he gets her knocked up while in a false persona – but it’s still got a few laughs and hey, it was daring for the time and got an Oscar Best Screenplay nod (Pillow Talk won that Oscar).  And it’s the law of diminishing returns because Send Me No Flowers – the third and final Rock n Doris – isn’t as good as Lover Come Back, although are some nice farcical moments there.

Move Over Darling has it’s moments – with Doris playing a wife back from the dead after a plane crash and trying to win her husband James Garner back from his new fiancee.  I prefer it to her first film with Garner, The Thrill of It All, but that has its moments too, as well as highlighting the repetitive formula of Hollywood at the time – got a success?  Repeat it with the same actors and a slightly different premise.  On the musicals from, as well as Calamity Jane, Doris gets to be fabulous in the Pajama Game, but all the prints I’ve seen of it have been terrible, so I’m giving you the Calamity Jane trailer instead.

 

 

Calamity Jane was my first introduction to Doris back when I was really young, but as a teen in the late 1990s, early 2000s, I loved romantic comedies.  And when I first saw Pillow Talk, back in those teenage years, it was my introduction to the films of the past that had got us to the modern films that I loved.  It started me down the rabbit hole that lead me to Katherine Hepburn’s screwball comedies and all the rest.  There’s been a bit of a dearth of romantic comedies of that type in the last few years, so imagine how much I was cheered up at the end of the week when this trailer for Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe dropped.  And I’ll leave you on that optimistic note.

 

American imports, Book of the Week, historical, romance

Book of the Week: Day of the Duchess

This week’s pick is a book that I brought back from my American Adventure with me and have been saving for a time of need.  And last week was my time of need for a variety of reasons including but not limited to: a book hangover after finishing the Blessings series, a super stressy week at work, not enough sleep and general life stress that I’m not going to talk about because talking about it makes me anxious. So it seemed like the time to crack out the emergency MacLean.

Paperback copy of Day of the Duchess

Day of the Duchess is the last book in the Scandal and Scoundrel series, which was inspired by modern celebrity scandals and translated them back to the nineteenth century. Seraphina is the most scandalous of the sisters that we’ve been following – she left her husband Malcolm and fled abroad but now she’s back and she wants a divorce. The book flashes backwards and forwards between Sera and Mal before their relationship imploded and now when Sera is very clear that she wants her freedom and her future back no matter what the consequences and Mal is equally determined that he wants her back and that they should and can fix things.

And it is really good – an estranged couple, a battle of wills, a fiery relationship with amazing chemistry and the ultimate question: is love and chemistry enough? What happens when you are head over heels for someone – and they are for you – but there is a fundamental problem in your relationship and a conflict that isn’t just a misunderstanding. How do you work past that? This is much more melancholic and reflective than a lot of historical romance – if I hadn’t known it was a romance (and that it was written by an author who I trust and who knows the genre rules!) I would have been worried that there wasn’t going to be an Happily Ever After. But there is and I had strong feelings about what needed to happen to get there too. But the end I was a satisfied customer although it sort of broke me and put me back together again along the way, which was not quite what I was expecting.

As I said at the top, this has been on the shelf for a while and there has been another Sarah MacLean since this  which has started a new series which has some set up going on here, but in a subtle way. On reflection I think that I probably should have reread the rest of the series first because it’s nearly 18 months since I read A Scot in the Dark and I forgotten a little bit where everything fitted in and what we already knew. But that’s not to say that it would be a problem to start reading Sarah MacLean here – because it totally isn’t.  It’s more that if you’re a nerd like me it’s nice to remind yourself who everyone else is and how we got here. Although to be fair, I could also just have gone back and checked the archives here to start with!

As I mentioned at the top, my copy of Day of the Duchess came from the US – specifically the Clarendon Market Common Barnes and Noble – and I’d expect this to be easy to find in any US bookstore with a reasonable romance section – because Sarah MacLean is a Big Name.  If you’re not in the US, you can get the UK version (with a cover that does it no justice) from Kindle or Kobo. Amazon are also carrying the paperback, but I suspect if you want to get it from a real shop it’ll be a special order. All I need to do now is figure out how I’m going to get an American edition of the next Bareknuckle Bastards book when that comes out in the summer. I’m open to offers y’all.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: May 6 – May 12

A really, really busy week.  So busy.  But some books finished, some really good ones started.

Read:

Lighting the Flames by Sarah Wendell

The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean

Knit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton

An Unnatural Vice by K J Charles

Just Past Two by Elia Winters

Lies, Damned Lies and History by Jodi Taylor

Fence Vol 2 by CS Pacat et al

Started:

A Gentleman’s Honour by Stephanie Laurens

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Still reading:

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Trainwreck by Sady Doyle

Thanks Obama by David Litt

No books bought – but a couple of pre-orders turned up.

Bonus photo: The stage set for Bill Bailey on Sunday night

stage set up for Bill Bailey

 

American imports, Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Intercepted

It was a bank holiday here yesterday, which means that I wasn’t at work for all the Royal Baby excitement – but then as I’ve done most of the Baby Cambridges, I coped.  It has got me in the mood for another royalty-themes romance – so if you’ve got any recommendations, drop them in the comments.  And yes, I am cross with myself that I’ve already talked about Alyssa Cole so much this year that I can’t jump on the Royal Baby bandwagon and pick A Prince on Paper, which I read on day of release last week.   However we are still firmly in the romance section of my reading life for this week’s BotW pick – to be honest this was on my hold list at the library for months, when it finally came through I absolutely adored it and so it’s a fitting BotW pick – no bandwagon jumping needed!  Intercepted is Alexa Martin’s debut and I’ve wanted to read it since I heard her talking about it on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books podcast as I was wandering round an outlet mall in Maryland in the autumn during my American odyssey!

Cover of Intercepted

Marlee Harper has been dating her NFL pro boyfriend Chris since they were in high school.  Ten years on they’re not married and this makes her the main target of the clique of wives of the other players.  Then the one night stand she slept with while she and Chris were broken up is signed as the teams new quarterback, and she finds out that Chris has been cheating on her. So she starts over – with a new flat, a fresh purpose in her career and determined that she won’t date another sports star.  Except… well Gavin just keeps appearing.  He’s the star player, the key to the team’s Super Bowl chances and he’s also determined to show Marlee that they’re perfect together.  But is he really different?  And how will Marlee cope with the coven of NFL wives who are now on her trail?

I absolutely raced through this.  I know I’ve said before that I don’t really do sports romances, and then here I am, picking another sports romance, after that Susan Elizabeth Philips streak the other year and then the Farah Rochon book in the diverse romances post last month, but this is so good.  One of my guilty pleasures is the TV show Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team and the action between the wives here is just what I imagine goes down behind the scenes there with all the picture perfect cheerleaders who make nice for the cameras but who you suspect are a sea of backstabbing, rivalries and jealousy behind the scenes.  And Alexa Martin was an NFL wife – and so this is all informed by her experiences, which makes it all the more delicious.

Marlee is great a great heroine too – she’s not in the Coven and unlike most of them, she hasn’t turned herself into nothing but an accessory to a football player and his career.  When we meet her she’s busy making sure that she maintains her independence and has her own business – despite her boyfriend’s efforts – and after the break up she goes all out to make her life into what she wants it to be.  And part of the conflict in the budding relationship with Gavin is that she wants to be independent, fight her own battles and be treated like an equal.  As you know, I’m all about the strong women and competency porn and so this ticks all my boxes for that.

It’s also really funny.  I didn’t love the #hashtagoneliners but then I’m old and boring.  The dialogue is great, the characters are witty and it’s just not taking itself too seriously.  What’s not to love. There’s a reason this made pretty much all the Best Romances of the Year posts at the end of 2018 – and why I had to wait about 6 months on the library waiting list to read it.  I’m currently in an estimated 16 week wait for the second book in the series – Fumbled – which came out at the end of April and features an adorable side character from Intercepted.  It’s £10.99 to buy on Kindle at the moment which is the only reason I’ve managed to resist buying it so far.  I’ll keep you posted…

You can get Intercepted on Kindle, Kobo or in paperback, or you can get to the back of the queue for your library’s copy.  And if you’re an American reader (*waves*) then I reckon it should be super easy to find in Barnes and Noble and maybe be even at Walmart.  If you like Alyssa Cole*, Jasmine Guillory, Jenny Holiday or the aforementioned Susan Elizabeth Philips Chicago Stars series I don’t think you will regret it.

Happy Reading!

*Check out my restraint in not writing about A Prince On Paper this week, because you know I read that the day it came out!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: April 29 – May 5

Another busy week – because it was the local elections so I got to work on the coverage!  But those train journeys meant some good reading time – and then there was a bank holiday weekend at the end.  Not bad going at all.

Read:

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujaya Massey

Second Time Sweeter by Beverly Jenkins

A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole

A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian

Web of Love by Mary Balogh

Out of Time by Katy Monger

Intercepted by Alexa Martin

First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh

Daily Grind by Anna Zabo

Started:

Lighting the Flames by Sarah Wendell

An Unnatural Vice by K J Charles

Thanks Obama by David Litt

Still reading:

Lies, Damned Lies and History by Jodi Taylor

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Trainwreck by Sady Doyle

Four books – that copy of Bonfire of the Vanities I mentioned in last week’s BotW post and the first three cozy crimes in a series that I spotted in the Oxfam bookshop when I was on my lunchbreak on Friday!  Oh and two graphic novels at the Comic Book shop on Free comics day too..

Bonus picture:  My view from results duty on Friday!

View of the houses of parliament from an upper floor window

 

books, stats

April Stats

New books read this month: 34*

Books from the to-read pile: 8

Ebooks read: 2

NetGalley books read: 6

Library books: 18 (all ebooks)

Non-fiction books: 3

Most read author:  Beverly Jenkins (8 books – 7 Blessings books and one historical romance)

Books read in 2019:  107

Books bought: 2 ebooks, 2 books

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf: 588 (I don’t have copies of all of these!)

A solid month all things considered, and some wonderful books read.  I seem to have swapped the Susan Mallery binge for a Beverly Jenkins one, although now I’m up to date with the Blessings series that may slow down somewhat!

Bonus picture: Finishing April with a trip to Fiddler on the roof on Tuesday night!

Programme and stage set up of Fiddler on the Roof

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics (1 this month)

 

Book of the Week, non-fiction, reviews

Book of the Week: The Right Stuff

It’s the last day of the month, and that means a stats post tomorrow, but before we get to that, here’s another Book of the Week post for you! Today’s pick may have taken me a while to finish – but it was an absolutely stonking read. This isn’t the first time I’ve recommended a space race-related book here – Lily Koppel’s The Astronauts Wives Club was a pick a couple of years ago (Editors note: more than four years ago, doesn’t time fly!) so maybe this isn’t a big surprise to you all, but it is a bit of a change from the recent run of BotWs which have been mostly romances and and romance adjacent.

Paperback copy of The Right Stuff

This is pretty much a modern classic of narrative non-fiction. Tom Wolfe tells the story of the American journey into space, starting with the history of America’s military aviators and test pilots, through the selection process to pick the Mercury Seven, then their training and the rivalries within the group and outside. Based on interviews with the astronauts, their wives, the test pilots it will take you through the early days, the competition with the test pilots working on rocket powered aircraft and the friction between the administration and the astronauts who wanted to actually pilot the missions rather than just be cargo and right to the to the end of the Mercury missions. It covers the selection of the second batch of astronauts (the New Nine) but doesn’t go beyond into the Apollo programme and the moon shot, which is probably a good thing, because you’ve grown attached to these guys and, spoiler alert, the Apollo programme did not always go well.

It is incredibly readable, for the most part you don’t want to put it down. But be warned, in the early stages where it talks about pilot training and testing, there is an incredibly high rate of attrition, which meant that I needed to pace myself a bit in reading it and is the main reason it took me longer to read*. I don’t even think you need to have any prior knowledge of the space race really, although obviously it helps. If you saw First Man last year, like I did**, it makes for a great companion piece to that very introspective look at one astronaut’s life, as it takes in the broad sweep of American ambition in space, the competition with the Soviet Union and the public and media attention that focused on the men they hoped were going to restore American dominance in the heavens.

Friendship 7 capsule
It’s really hard to get a good photo of the Friendship 7 capsule at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, but I tried!

I remember people telling me that I ought to read this back when I reviewed the Lily Koppel, but it took until Tom Wolfe’s death last May for me to get around to adding it to the to buy pile.  There has been a new edition since my version – which has a snazzy new cover and, more importantly, an introduction from Scott Kelly, the astronaut who spent a year in space a couple of years back and was (probably still is) the subject of a study into the long term effects of being in space as he has an identical twin brother (Mark Kelly, also a former astronaut who is married to former US Representative Gabrielle Giffords and who himself is making a run for Democratic nomination for one of Arizona’s Senate seats) which enabled almost direct comparison.  After reading this, I’ve got a mad yearning for more space books, but also to read more of Wolfe’s works.  So I went for a wander on Amazon and discovered that Bonfire of the Vanities is only £2.99 in paperback there at the moment.  I may have bought myself a copy.  Oopsy daisy.  And I have a couple more sitting in my shopping basket, waiting for the tbr shelf to empty out a little.  If you have any other recommendations for where I should go next – drop them in the comments.

You should be able to get hold of a copy of The Right Stuff from any reasonable book store, it’s also available on Kindle and Kobo and I suspect that you’d have a good chance of finding a copy of it in any reasonably sized charity or second hand bookshop.

Happy Reading!

*the other reason being my long-standing rule about not taking books I’m more than halfway through on overnight trips, or books I have less than 100 pages to go on the train for the daily commute.

** I saw it at the IMAX at the Smithsonian, having spent an afternoon looking at actual space race artifacts.