books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: November 16 – November 22

Some really good stuff read this week – and I held a pre-December audit of where I am with regard to my reading challenges for the year. Expect to here more about that anon!

Read:

Life, Death and Cellos by Isabel Rogers

Bold as Brass by Isabel Rogers

Steamed Open by Barbara Ross

Help Yourself by Curtis Sittenfeld

First World War Poets by Alan Judd

The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower

Peace Breaks Out by Angela Thirkell

Cosmoknights by Hannah Templar

Death in Daylesford by Kerry Greenwood

Started:

Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen

Sick as a Parrot by Liz Evans

Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz*

Still reading:

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

Murder on Mustique by Anne Glenconner*

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: I found this blue plaque for Edward Murrow just up the road from work on a lunchtime stroll. I don’t know how I haven’t noticed it before. If you’ve never heard of him, he was a legendary war correspondent for CBS during World War 2 and then went on to be instrumental in bringing about the downfall of Senator Joseph McCarthy (as in McCarthyism and the Red Scare). Here’s his wikipedia page, but I also reccomend the film Goodnight and Good Luck (named for his famous sign off) about his work on McCarthy – David Strathairn was nominated for an Oscar for playing Murrow and which also has George Clooney in it – here’s the trailer.

Blue plaque on a wall commemorating Edward R Murrow

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, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Grumpy Jake

As I mentioned yesterday, it was a bit of a patchy week in reading last week, because it’s 2020 and all normal rules are suspended. You’ll hear more about Mr Wilder and Me at some in the (hopefully near) future, but today I want to talk about Melissa Blue’s novella Grumpy Jake.

Cover of Grumpy Jake

Bailey knows all about Jake the Rake. He’s been making his way through the single members of the faculty, while his son has been working his way through pre-school. Now Jayden is in Bailey’s Kindergarten class and it feels like it’s going to be a long year. And then they get stuck in a lift together and she starts to see what all her co-workers fell for. For his part Jake knows he shouldn’t fall for her, but he needs stability for his son. Bailey knows the clock is ticking – will she end up like all the others?

I mean I think you can probably answer that question now, but this novella is a lot of fun. It is a novella though and that means that perhaps there’s not as much time as you want for everything to develop and it all to play out. Most of the time here is focused on Bailey and Jake getting to know each other and it all wraps up quite quickly at the end. But it’s a lot of fun – really quite steamy – and Bailey keeps everything professional at work. It did exactly what I wanted it to do one evening last week and that’s basically the ideal for a story right? Fills the craving you have at the time.

You can get Grumpy Jake on Kindle – where it’s only 77p at the moment – and Kobo.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: November 9 – November 15

Spent the weekend at work – which is why I have a whole bunch of stuff started and not finished – or still going – I’m reading across physical copies, kindle and iBooks and it all got a bit complicated. I’ll get it under control though.

Read:

The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found by Karina Yan Glaser

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote*

Mr Wilder and Me by Jonathan Coe*

Grumpy Jake by Melissa Blue

Iced Under by Barbara Ross

Stowed Away by Barbara Ross

Started:

Murder on Mustique by Anne Glenconner*

Life, Death and Cellos by Isabel Rogers

Cosmoknights by Hannah Templar

Steamed Open by Barbara Ross

Still reading:

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower

Peace Breaks Out by Angela Thirkell

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: my latest bunch of flowers. They’re Peach Amaryllis and they’re gorgeous.

Close up of Peach Amaryllis

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: Someone to Romance

As I said in yesterday’s post, most of last week’s books were nice soothing reading to help my frazzled brain after a lot of work on US election coverage. And a fair few of them were old favourite authors or the latest in long-running series. So today you get a romance pick!

Cover of Someone to Romance

Jessica Westcott has decided that this season she’s going to get married. After years of ignoring the marriage mart because of the way they treated her best friend Abigail, she’s decided that she can’t be left behind any more. She might be older than some of the other debutants, but she’s the sister of a duke, so there will be options. Gabriel Thorne has just returned to England from Boston in order to reluctantly claim his inheritance. When he sees Jessica he decides that she might be his ideal wife. And when she learns more about him, she is intrigued and drawn to him. But will he manage to claim his birthright and will Jessica be at his side if she does?

This is the seventh in Balogh’s Westcott series, but you don’t have to have read the others for this to make sense – as with most romance series they’re a linked set of standalone stories rather than an ongoing plot with the same characters. I’ve read two of the others – the first and the fifth. This one is not quite a marriage of convenience, not quite a lost heir, but it’s also really quite low angst for all of that. Mary Balogh has been writing reliably good romances for decades and on the drama scale they clock in closer to the Georgette Heyer end of the drama scale than the Big Confrontation, Major Twist into a Sudden Ending one. And ditto on the steaminess scale – more Georgette than Sarah MacLean. It’s a lovely, romantic and calming read that did exactly what I wanted it to last week. And if you’re feeling stressed about the world – and goodness knows 2020 has dealt a lot of stress – than this would be a perfect read for you.

My copy of Someone to Romance came from the library, but it should be fairly easy to get your hands on – there are Kindle and Kobo editions as well as a paperback release in the UK. All the physical bookshops are shut at the moment, but bookshop.org.uk has stock of it. If this were normal times I’d say that these often crop up in The Works a year or so after release so you should be able to find them in supermarkets or Waterstones on release. But these aren’t normal times so who knows.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: November 2 – November 8

Well. Well. That was a week wasn’t it? I did a lot of hours at work – and my brain was correspondingly fried, so there’s a lot of familiar authors on this weeks list as I retreated to books I knew wouldn’t require too much effort of my frazzled brain!

Read:

The Body on the Train by Frances Brody

Somebody to Romance by Mary Balogh

Musseled Out by Barbara Ross

The Churchill Complex by Ian Buruma

The Last Mrs Summers by Rhys Bowen

The Falcon Always Wings Twice by Donna Andrews

Started:

The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found by Karina Yan Glaser

The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower

Peace Breaks Out by Angela Thirkell

Still reading:

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: Early morning in central London on Thursday on my way for some post-US election action at work.

Fitzroy square in London slighly pre-dawn with the BT tower in the background

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: Mini Reviews from October

Here we are again, another month is over, and I have more books to tell you about from my last month in reading. We’re starting to get towards the end of the year, so there’s a few here that would make for good gifts either to go on your own list or to buy for other people. So without further ado, here we go.

Sweet Dreams by Dylan Jones*

Cover of Sweet Dreams

I’m a little bit young to remember the New Romantics when they were new, but I listen to a lot of the music and I like a good music memoir or history so this really appealed to me. Dylan Jones is the editor of GQ magazine – and former editor of i-D – who was there in and amongst the scene at the time. This makes him ideally placed to write this – using the voices of people who were there, through new interviews with him and previous ones. This is a chunky old book – and is occasionally a little bit too in depth – but by the end I felt like I really understood the scene and the characters in it. I read a ebook copy and haven’t see the physical version, but I suspect this would make a great gift for Christmas as well as being a good read for anyone interested in the 80s and the music scene.

Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody by Barbara Ross

 Cover of Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody

I know I reccomended a Barbara Ross book yesterday, but I can’t help myself, this is a lot of fun and also quite different to Boiled Over. Jane Darrowfield is settling into her retirement – bridge games with friends, gardening, a bit of travel. The trouble is she’s bored. Then her friends start asking her to help solve their personal problems and soon she’s getting a bit of a reputation as someone who can stick their nose in to a problem and fix it for you. And soon she has her first professional assignment – to try and resolve some issues at an over 55s complex – where it’s all getting more than a little high school. But soon after she arrives, a leader of one of the cliques is killed and Jane’s investigation is suddenly much, much more serious. I love an older lady heroine, and Jane is a really good one. On top of that the mystery is good and I like the side story lines that are being set up for the series. Easy, calming reading.

Bear Markets and Beyond by Dhruti Shah and Dominic Bailey

Bear Markets and Beyond in Hardback

I posted a photo of this earlier this month and I need to add a disclaimer: Dhruti is a friend and work colleague. She’s great. And this book is great but  wouldn’t expect anything less from her to be honest. This is a beautifully illustrated, smartly written guide to all those jargon-y terms you’ve heard (or read) used in business articles but dint quite get. And then there’s a whole bunch more you might not have heard of but are equally fascinating. It’s great. Perfect for a non-business person to get some info, great for the business person who has everything! Also would make a good stocking filler, because it is nearly that time of year after all.

Jeeves and the Leap of Faith by Ben Schott*

Cover of Jeeves and the Leap of Faith

This is an authorised Jeeves and Wooster continuation, which sees Bertie’s beloved Drones Club in a spot of trouble and his friends entangled romantically again. This isn’t quite a full throated recommendation –  I liked this, and it is undoubtedly Wodehouseian in tone and the style is there, but it just felt like it was too long. One of the plot strands would have been enough for me. One of the things I love about the original books is their light tone and brevity – they breeze in, make you laugh and then they’re gone and you want more. But it’s a minor quibble, because it is fun.

And that’s your lot for this month. If you’ve missed the previous posts, here are the mini-reviews for the rest of the year: September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February and January. And just in case you missed them, here are the books of the week from October: Merit Badge Murder, Manhunting, The Haunting of Alma Fielding (which I’ve just realised is the only one which doesn’t start with an M!), and Money.

Happy Reading!

*an asterix next to a title means it came from NetGalley, in return for an honest review (however belated that might be) ** means it was an advance copy that came some other way

Book of the Week, cozy crime

Book of the Week: Boiled Over

It’s Election Day in the US today, so it seems fitting that this week’s pick is a US-set book.

Cover of Boiled Over

Boiled Over is the second in the Maine Clambake series, but you don’t need to have read the first book to follow what’s going on (and if you did, I wouldn’t be recommending it because I have Rules!). In book one, Julia Snowden took a sabbatical from her job in New York for the summer to try and save the family business in Maine. Now the immediate danger seems to have passed, but the season isn’t over so she’s still in Busman’s Harbor for the Founder’s weekend celebrations. But things take a turn for the worse when a body is found in the fire under her family’s seafood cooker. The victim owns the local RV park and was on the committee planning the event with Julia. And when one of her employees becomes the prime suspect, Julia starts digging around to try to solve the crime and save her family’s business – again.

This is a fun cozy crime, with plenty of suspects, a great setting and enough going on in the heroine’s personal life that there’s more than just the murder happening. I enjoyed the mystery in the first book but was frustrated with Julia’s love life. This does better on that front so that makes it pretty much a winner all around. There are nine books in the series and I have the next one already so I’m looking forward to seeing where it all goes next.

You can get a copy of Boiled Over on Kindle or Kobo. It’s also available in paperback (and with a discount on the sticker price!) from the newly launched UK bookshop.org site – which has already raised more than £20,000 for independent bookshops in the UK in just 24 hours.  With lockdown 2 about to start in the UK and non-essential shops closing for a month, there has never been a more important time to support your local bookshop.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: October 26 – November 1

In case you missed it, it was October Stats yesterday. Book of the Week as usual tomorrow and Mini reviews coming up on Wednesday. I had a few days off work last week, which was delightful and very nice ahead of what is going to be a very, very busy week in the day job – with US presidential elections and a second lockdown in the UK. I feel like it’s going to be escapist reading all the way this week because my brain won’t be able to cope with any complicated ideas.

Read:

Southern Peach Pie and a Dead Guy by A Gardner

Sweet Dreams by Dylan Jones*

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Dance of Death by Helen McCloy*

Happily This Christmas by Susan Mallery*

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Boiled Over by Barbara Ross

This Green and Pleasant Land by Ayisha Malik*

Started:

Musseled Out by Barbara Ross

Still reading:

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

The Body on the Train by Frances Brody

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: I made my Christmas cake, here it is, fresh from cooling and ready for feeding and maturing over the next few weeks….

A christmas cake on a cooling rack

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

October Stats

New books read this month: 31*

Books from the to-read pile: 7

Ebooks read: 8

NetGalley books read: 9

Library books: 7

Non-fiction books: 8

Favourite book this month: Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas or Team of Five by Kate Andersen Brower

Most read author: Raina Telgemaier by numbers (three graphic novels) but Jennifer Crusie by length

Books bought: still not counting

Books read in 2020: 329

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf (I don’t have copies of all of these!): 577

A strong month for me in reading in the end, even if parts of it were truly awful in my normal life. I very nearly met my (self-imposed) NetGalley target of 10 and I’ve resisted the urge to request more stuff from there, so my November list is nice and short and achievable and should allow me to work towards meeting my end of year goals.

Bonus picture: Speaking of end of year goals, here’s the latest progress on the 50 states challenge

Map of the US with 37 states coloured in

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels (4 this month)

Book of the Week, cozy crime, detective

Book of the Week: Merit Badge Murder

As I said yesterday, last week was a much better week all around. And as today is a week to go before Election day in the United States, I’m conceding defeat – I’ve read as many electiob books as I’m going to and it’s soon going to be too late, so there is a Recommendsday post coming up tomorrow. Meanwhile, as far as today’s post goes, I started a couple of new mystery series last week, and as I read two from the Merry Wrath series, I thought I ought to pick it for my Book of the Week this week, as I clearly like them and we all know I have rules (albeit flexible ones) about book series, reading orders and spoilers as the affect recommendations…

Cover of Merit Badge Murder by Leslie Langtry

Former CIA agent Merry Wrath is used to being undercover, but after her identity was unmasked and she was forced into (very) early retirement, she has to reinvent herself as a normal person with a fresh identity in a small town in Iowa. And while she is figuring out what she wants to do next, she’s helping run a Girl Scout group. But when dead enemy agents start turning up on her doorstep (literally), she has to try and figure out who is trying to frame her, all while preserving her cover. Add into the mix her ex-handler who the CIA send to help her, and her new neighbour across the street who happens to be the investigating police officer and suddenly Merry’s new life is getting really, really complicated.

I love a cozy mystery and I love a Steph Plum-style comedy thriller and this is pretty much in the Venn diagram of those. Merry is a fun heroine – massively clueless about normal life and how to be a regular person and you’re rooting for her as she hides behind her Dora explorer sheets-cum-curtains to see what is going on in her neighbourhood. The Girl Scout troop is a really nice touch – adding an extra level of complications to everything – and there are plenty of twists and turns in the plot. I raced through it and then went straight on to the net one – which is always a sign that I’ve enjoyed myself. It’s quite a long running series – so there are plenty more for me to read, just as soon as I get the rest of the TBR-pile down a bit!

You can buy Merit Badge Murder on Kindle and Kobo. Physical copies are listed on Amazon, but it looks like it’s an Amazon inhouse publisher, so you won’t be able to get hold of it in stores.

Happy Reading!