books, stats

February Stats

Books read this month: 33*

New books: 29

Re-reads: 4

Books from the to-read pile: 2

NetGalley books read: 6

Kindle Unlimited read: 5

Ebooks: 12

Library books: 6 (all ebooks )

Audiobooks: 2

Non-fiction books: 5

Favourite book this month: Boyfriend Material!

Most read author: Laurie R King

Books bought: About 16 including pre-orders. But I deserved them!

Books read in 2020: 65

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf (I don’t have copies of all of these!): 597

There was so much going on behind the scenes in February. I can’t even explain how much. But the key point is that at least February is short and I made it out the otherside and into March… hmmmm

Bonus picture:

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels (2 this month)

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: February 2021 Mini Reviews

A bit of a strange month all in, because although I read a lot of stuff, there were a lot of series, and there weren’t a lot of books that I really liked that I haven’t already told you about. Still there are a few, so here we go again…

We Are Bellingcat by Elliot Higgins*

Cover of We Are Bellingcat

If you’re a casual news consumer you’ll probably have come across Bellingcat as a result of their investigation into the 2018 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. But the open source investigation team has its roots further back – in the Arab Spring and the dawning of citizen journalism via social media. It’s an absolutely fascinating read, but a warning: if you worked in a newsroom in the period 2011-2015 (roughly) approach this book with care. I wanted to read this book because I was interested in their verification techniques, mission statement and how they work – after all my day job is in a newsroom. But reading it brought back some memories that I’d rather not think about. It’s not that the book is overly graphic – or even excessively so. But if you watched the sort of pictures they’re talking about first time around – most of which didn’t make the tv news because they were so graphic, you’ll find it coming back to you. I started at the BBC fulltime almost exactly ten years ago – and my first job was in picture intake. That first year – through the Arab Spring, Japanese Tsunami, Utoya Island, the assassination of Mummar Gaddafi – I saw so much really grim footage that I invented the Panda scale of how many times did I have to watch my video of baby pandas playing to cheer myself up. And I didn’t even get the worst of it. This brought back some of the images from that time that I thought I had forgotten. But if you’re interested in open source investigation and in how the masses of UGC (user generated content) from the conflicts of the last decade are being preserved and the hopes for how it might be used in the future- this is the book for you.

Teach Me by Olivia Dade

Cover of Teach Me

Not my first time writing about Olivia Dade – and I’ve read this series out of order – but this is a lovely romance between a newly divorced Dad and the teacher whose world history class he’s unwittingly stolen. What I really like about this whole series is that there is no stupid drama. Rose has reasons why she doesn’t trust people and why she won’t let people in. Martin has issues around his self worth. But there’s no big misunderstanding that could (should?) be resolved by a simple conversation, it’s all about two people working out if they are right for each other beyond just chemistry, and then starting to negotiate life together. And it’s very, very romantic despite – Dade is proving you don’t necessarily need high stakes drama to make a satisfying romance. And I don’t need any more angst at the moment, so this was perfect!

These two reviews have turned out to be not quite so mini as I intended, so a quick rattle through a couple of other things: I listened to the audiobook of Strong Poison for the umpteenth time – I still find the mystery incredibly satisfying and Sayers portrayal of “bohemian” writers life, the interwar craze for Spiritualism and surplus women all make for something a little out of the ordinary run of murder mysteries of the time. And that’s before you get to the fact that it is the start of Peter and Harriet. I read The Sugared Game, the second part of the Will Darling Adventures by K J Charles and it was really good and I’m annoyed that there’s no date for the final part yet – although I do have Charles’s new book (in a different series) so that is something. And I also ended up listening to The Unknown Ajax again after I found out that her next series is about smugglers! Apart from that, I read some more romances – historical and contemporary- that I had too many quibbles with to fully recommend, and I carried on with the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series.

In case you missed any of them, the Books of the Week posts in February were: Beekeepers Apprentice, Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, Boyfriend Material and The Holdout. And January’s mini reviews are here.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, Thriller

Book of the Week: The Holdout

Mini reviews coming up tomorrow, but this week’s BotW is The Holdout by Graham Moore. Regular readers will know that I’ve been keen on books with resolutions recently and have been sticking resolutely to romance and cozy crime where I know that it will all turn out ok in the end – the couple will end up together, the murderer will be found. And yet here I am today recommending a thriller – a genre where such things are not guaranteed. But this was such a page turned I couldn’t help myself!

UK cover of The Holdout

So ten years ago, Maya was part of the jury on a murder trial that saw a young black man acquitted of killing a wealthy white teenage girl. The experience in the courtroom inspired her to become a defence lawyer herself. When a true crime documentary decides to make an episode about her case, Maya finds herself back in the middle of all the controversy again. And then one of the other jurors is found dead in Maya’s room and now she has to prove her own innocence. But what are the secrets that the others have been hiding and which lead to murder?

So this had me on the edge of my seat. It’s dark and twisty and shows some of the workings of the legal system in a way that I haven’t seen a lot (or maybe I just haven’t read the right books!). The twists and turns keep coming at a pace that don’t allow you to think too hard about the bits where it’s getting a bit outlandish! I had an inkling of some of the reveals by the halfway point, but such is the nature of the book that you can’t ever really be sure that’s where it’s going. And Moore has picked out some of the flaws of the criminal justice system very neatly too.

If we were going to beaches at the moment, this would be a prime pick for reading on a sun lounger – at any rate somewhere nice and bright to counteract all the darkness in the book (darkness of subject matter not horror or creepy stuff though).

My copy came from NetGalley, but it’s a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, so it will be easy to get hold of from WH Smith and I suspect it will be in the supermarkets as well. It’s also 99p on Kindle and Kobo at the moment.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: February 22 – February 28

We’ve reached the end of another month and we’re about to be back in March – even though it sort of feels like we’ve never left last March! Anyway, coming up this week, Book of the Week tomorrow, some mini-reviews on Wednesday and the stats on Thursday. May this March be shorter than last one!

Read:

We are Bellingcat by Eliot Higgins*

Hare Sitting Up by Michael Innes*

Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers

The Sugared Game by K J Charles

A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R King

Biased by Jennifer L Eberhardt

The Holdout by Graham Moore*

Started:

A Deception at Thornecrest by Ashley Weaver

Finding Joy by Adriana Herrera

If We Were Us by K L Walther

Still reading:

Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D E Stevenson

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: My mum is a big snowdrop fan, so this one is for her – this is from my Sunday afternoon stroll.

Some snowdrops in a park near my house on Sunday

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, LGTBQIA+, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Boyfriend Material

Another week, another contemporary romance pick for BotW.  This time it’s Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material, which has been much buzzed about, to the point where it took months for my library hold to come in, but it was totally, totally worth it.

Cover of Boyfriend Material

Luc’s parents were rockstars – and back in the day they made some of their best music together. And then they made him. And it means that he’s sort of famous – even though his dad walked out of his life when he was small and his mum hasn’t made any new music in year. But now his dad is making a comeback – and that means more interest in Luc as well. After an unfortunate picture of him tripping up coming out of a club puts his job (fundraiser at a charity trying to save the dung beetle) at risk, Luc decides that the solution is to get himself a nice normal boyfriend. That’s where Oliver comes him. He’s as normal and sensible as it comes – a barrister, an ethical vegetarian and absolutely scandal averse. The only things that they have in common are the fact that they’re single, gay, and they both need a date for a big event. So they come up with a deal. They’ll be fake boyfriends until Luc’s job is safe and Oliver’s family party is over. Then they’ll never see each other again. Simple. Except this is a romance and we all know these sort of arrangements never go to plan!

I loved this so much. I’ve written a lot here about my quest to find more of the funny but romantic books that I love reading and which seemed to be everywhere in the early 2000s, but which seem to have vanished off the face of the planet these days, in favour of really angsty books where everyone has a miserable backstory or comedies where the comedy is based on humiliation or people being terrible at their jobs (and either not really caring they’re rubbish at their jobs or not realising they are) which is really not my thing. But this was just in that sweet spot. It’s witty, it’s fun, the characters are charming and good at their jobs and the secondary characters are hilarious. It’s just a joy to read. I could have read another 200 pages of Luc and Oliver trying to work out how to have a proper relationship. It really was exactly what I needed last week.

It’s had loads of buzz, been various bookclub and magazine picks and so clearly I’m not the only person who wants to read books like this, and fingers crossed it’s the start of a renaissance. If you’ve got any recommendations for books that do the same sort of thing, please drop them in the comments, because the Goodreads and Amazon suggestions aren’t helping me any! This was also my first Alexis Hall book, so I’m off to dig into the back catalogue, although having chatted to my romance reading friends, I think that the steam levels on some of the others is much higher than this – this is kissing and then pretty much closed door. I’ve already pre-ordered Hall’s next book – Rosaline Palmer Takes All the Cake, which is out in May because a romance set on a baking show is exactly what I didn’t realise that I need in front of my eyeballs!

My copy of Boyfriend Material came from the library, but it’s available on Kindle and Kobo and as an audiobook. It’s a paperback too, but the shops have been closed so long now I’ve lost all sense of what is going to get stocked where and so don’t know how easy it will be to get hold of if you’re trying to order from your indie, but Foyles have it available to order if that’s any indication.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: February 15 – February 21

Well it’s been another rollercoaster week of 2021. But then I don’t know why I’m even surprised by that any more because it’s been nearly a year of it now. I’m hoping that the worst is behind us now, and that soon I’ll have more to do than just working, reading and running around the local park. But I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, because 2021 just keeps kicking. Anyway, a fun week of reading, including the latest Chalet School reissue – Jo Returns, in which Elinor M Brent Dyer, notorious for mixing characters up and changing people’s names (sometimes even in the same book) makes Jo confuse some characters in her first school story and tells us about the importance of making list. Truly, a gem.

Read:

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham

A Wedding in the Country by Katie Fforde*

You’ve Got Mail by Kate G Smith*

Jo Returns to the Chalet School by Elinor M Brent Dyer

Teach Me by Olivia Dade

Sanctuary by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Started:

We are Bellingcat by Eliot Higgins*

Hare Sitting Up by Michael Innes*

The Sugared Game by K J Charles

Still reading:

Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D E Stevenson

A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R King

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: collected from the framers this week, the Theatres of London print I was given for my birthday. I miss the theatre so very much, any given day one of my Facebook memories will probably be about going to the theatre or buying tickets or thinking about a show. My last show in the West End was a year ago last week (the 18th) when I went to see Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, but after that before everything shut down I also did a fringe show about The Navy Lark, a talk at the National Theatre marking Michael Billington’s retirement as chief critic with readings from Simon Russell Beale, Oliver Ford Davis and Penelope Wilton, and some comedy. I miss sitting in a room with people watching other people perform. As the pandemic went on, shows have been bumped, cancelled or rearranged and my ticket box has been far far emptier than I would like. The next thing is due to be Hairspray at the Coliseum in early June (rearranged, twice, from last Easter) and I’m really hoping it will go ahead.

An illustrated map of London Theatres.

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, romance

Book of the Week: The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows

Well after last week’s (slightly cheating) pick of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, another book featuring bees gets the nod this week. And this wasn’t the only other book with a bee connection – because Rose Learner’s Taste of Honey was also on the list, and while that’s not really bee keeping in the way that the other two are, it’s got honey right there in the title!

 

Anyway, to the plot: since Agatha’s husband died, she’s had to run the family printing business, whilst reining in her son’s radical tendencies. Whilst visiting the company’s warehouse she finds the last thing she needs – a colony of bees has taken up residence in amongst the printing plates. Penelope Flood is the town’s go to person when it comes to moving hives, so she’s the person that Agatha is recommended to get help from to move the hive. The two become friends – but each is wondering if it could be something more. There are obstacles though – aside from being two women in a relationship in the nineteenth century. Agatha has her family and her business responsibilities in London, and Penelope has a complicated situation in Melliton – she’s not one of the gentry, but she’s not precisely one of the tradespeople either. And it doesn’t help that her husband is away for years at a time on his whaling ship, along with her brother. Agatha and Penelope are drawn to each other from the start, but everything is also complicated by the return of Queen Caroline from abroad and tensions start to boil over in the town.

This has two older female heroines, a slow-build friends to lovers relationship and a really interesting setting. I loved all the details about the bees and their hives and I really, really liked the setting within the unrest and societal disorder that found an outlet when George IV tried to divorce his wife – with people who wanted reform coalesing behind the queen and those trying to preserve the status quo behind the king. I’ve read a lot about this period while I was studying history and in my history reading since – but it’s not a series of events that I can remember seeing used in historical romance and after reading this I find myself wondering why because it works brilliantly here.

This is the second in Olivia Waite’s Feminine Pursuits series – the first, The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, was also great – with women looking to get their work recognised under their own names (rather than those of men from their families) and finding love along the way. The third book, The Hellion’s Waltz, is out in June and about all we know about it is that it’s a heist story – I have it preordered already.

You can get The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows from all the usual places – Kindle and Kobo and as an audio book. It’s a bit pricey as an ebook at the moment, but the good news is that The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics is only £1.99 on Kindle and Kobo at the moment and so you can just start the series! I don’t know how hard these are going to be in physical copies, but judging from the price of it on Amazon, it shouldn’t be too hard.

Happy Reading!

 

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: February 8 – February 14

Another busy week – and a working weekend. I’ve been saying for months that my brain can’t cope with anything complicated, but never has that been more true than at the moment. A few pages of Mrs Tim at bedtime, some romance, a mystery to solve, that’s about all my brain can cope with. This is the first week in a few that there hasn’t been an Amelia Peabody book on the finished list – but they’re still there in the background too.

Read:

The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie R King

Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras

Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite

Death in the Beginning by Beth Byers

My Fake Rake by Eva Leigh*

Haven by Rebekah Weatherspoon

A Taste of Honey by Rose Lerner

Started:

A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R King

A Wedding in the Country by Katie Fforde*

Still reading:

Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D E Stevenson

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: A snowy morning in Fitzroy Square last week. This is the row of houses that you see in all sorts of films and costume dramas – there’s a really good shot of it at the start of Phantom Thread – and I walk through it on my way to work (and back to the station) every day I’m in the office. It’s not the first time I’ve had a photo from the square on the blog – it’s also the location of Maisie Dobb’s office so it has a bookish connection too. I keep meaning to go back through the Maisie books and see if it mentions which number Maisie’s office was meant to be in, but I only ever remember while I’m walking through the square – and then I forget again!

Snowy railings and the fancy houses behind them

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, historical, mystery

Book of the Week: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

A long old reading list last week, and this is slightly cheating because I finished it on Monday, but I enjoyed it – despite it taking me a few weeks to read – and I Have Thoughts. It is also the first in the series so that’s nice too…

Cover of The Beekeeper's Apprentice

An aging Sherlock Holmes has retired to the Sussex Downs. There in his cottage, he is concentrating on his experiments and his bee hives, away from the bustle of London. One day on the downs, he meets the teenage Mary Russell, a young orphan, unhappy with the aunt that she lives with and searching for knowledge. In her, Holmes sees a mind similar to his own and essentially takes her on as his apprentice and involves her in his work. But of course danger comes calling again and a deadly foe threatens their lives and those of Mrs Hudson and Doctor Watson.

This book covers a considerable period of time – taking Mary from her mid-teens through to having nearly graduated from Oxford – and starts off as a series of small investigations and episodes before building to a bigger and more dangerous case in the second half. I quite liked Mary as a character – I’ve seen complaints that she’s a Mary Sue, but to be honest considering Sherlock’s own startling gifts, I didn’t think it was that implausible for a woman to be similarly clever and perceptive – and there’s also no point in creating a young Watson facsimile for a foil – because why would someone like that interest an ageing Holmes, who already has the original Watson?

I do have a few reservations about the huge age gap that’s going on here and where this is going* but the mystery is good and the whole thing swept me along nicely enough while I was reading it. Writing this has made me think about it a bit more closely and although I didn’t love it, love it, it’s still the book I have the most to say about from the last week.  I think you will probably like this more the less attached you are to the original series – I see a lot of people on Goodreads complaining about the treatment of Watson, most of them the same people who were complaining about Mary. I’ll admit I’m not a massive Sherlock Holmes reader, but I do like a Sherlock reinvention – as my love of Lady Sherlock shows – so this ticked some fun boxes for me.

This was originally published back in 2002 and is the first in what is now a long series. I’ve lined up the second one to see what happens next. If I change my mind about everything, I’ll try and be big enough to come back and let you know!

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice should be fairly easy to get hold of – I read it on Kindle (where it’s under £2 at time of writing), it’s also on Kobo (just over £2) and all the usual platforms and I’ve seen them in shops and library collections as well – including the discount bookshops like The Works and the charity shops when that was a thing.

Happy Reading!

* Spoiler: having got a later book in the series on the tbr shelf somehow I know they get married.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: February 1 – February 7

Actually quite a productive week in reading. The New Year self improvement kick has extended into February, the Elizabeth Peters re-read continues (and we finished the audiobook of He Shall Thunder in the Sky on Sunday, so technically that could go on the list again, but twice in three weeks seems a little much), and there’s a relisten of the audiobook of the Unknown Ajax on there too. And I’m making progress on the list of lingerers.

Read:

The Sweetest Fix by Tessa Bailey

Joe Biden by Evan Osnos

Caught Looking by Adriana Herrera

The Art of Saying No by Damon Zahariades

The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer

The Children of the Storm by Elizabeth Peters

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier

Well Played by Jen De Luca

Wicked Deeds on a Winter Night by Stacy Reid

Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden

Started:

Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras

Death in the Beginning by Beth Byers

Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite

Still reading:

The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie R King

My Fake Rake by Eva Leigh*

Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D E Stevenson

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: After the death of Christopher Plummer on Friday, I went on a bit of a Captain von Trapp gif fest on Twitter, and happened to see my Frequently used gif list, which I thought was actually a pretty good summary of my currently life and interest, so I post it here for your amusement.

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