book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: June 2022 Quick Reviews

I read a lot of books last month. But there were also a lot of rereads, and I do have this terrible tendency to have already written about al lot of books by the time we get to this point in the months. But I have a plan to try out for that in July, so I’ll keep you posted…

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Cover of Lessons in Chemistry

Elizabeth Zott is a scientist. The trouble is that it is America in the 1960s and women apparently women aren’t meant to be scientists. Her Nobel nominated colleague Calvin can see that she’s a scientist and a lot more and the two of them start a relationship. But three years later Elizabeth is a single mother and is presenting the world’s most unconventional cooking show on regional TV. I need to give you a warning serious sexual assault early in this book and a death a little while after, but if you can cope with that once you get out the other side you’re ok. And we all know that I’ve had trouble with dealing with stuff like that recently and I was find with this. Elizabeth is an brilliant character – she knows what she wants to do and refuses to understand people who tell her no or change what she’s doing if she thinks she is right. The book is told from various different character’s perspectives, including her dog and her daughter and it’s just a delight. Six Thirty is the smartest of us all. This s Bonnie Garmus’s debut novel and it’s such a delight it was nearly BotW yesterday. It’s had a lot of buzz so you should be able to get it really easily – and if you are going on holiday, it was definitely in the airport bookshops when we were there!

Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron by Julia Quinn and Violet Charles

This is much referenced in the later Julia Quinn novels, and now we finally have (a graphic novel version of) Miss Butterworth! In the books it’s a romantic and gothic novels – much play is made of its outlandish plot – a character is pecked to death by pigeons for example. And it’s everything you would expect – utter, utter madness, beautifully illustrated by Quinn’s sister Violet Charles. I enjoyed this and I’m so glad it got published – for reasons that will become clear if you read to the end.

The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle by Neil Blackmore

Benjamin and Edgar Bowen head out into Europe on a Grand Tour that their mother has devised for them to help them meet People of Quality so they can come back with an enhanced social standing to help the family. But when Benjamin meets Horace Lavelle, the brothers’ paths and goals diverge. This came out in 2020 – I got a copy from the work book sale a few weeks back and then realised that I had it in the NetGalley backlog as well. Oops. Anyway, I liked the premise and the writing style, but it was a bit too bleak for me in the end. I don’t do well with books that are hurtling towards disaster at the moment, even if they are dealing with expectations and society and judgment and constructs and stuff that I am interested in. I wanted it to be ok for Benjamin; but I knew it wouldn’t be. But historical fiction isn’t always neat and happy, and may be that is the point. I suspect that pre-pandemic I would have been more enthusiastic about it – so I suspect other people who are not in need of neat resolutions and/or happy endings at the moment may really enjoy it.

Paper Lion by George Plimpton

So this was one of the longest of the long runners on the still reading pile. And that’s partly because it was a paperback so didn’t go in the work rucksack but mostly because I managed to lose it for ages! Anyway, this is a legendary book about American football in the 1960s when a journalist managed to persuade the Detroit Lions to let him join their preseason training camp as a quarterback. Obviously a lot has changed in professional football since then, but this is a fascinating glimpse of how sportsmen trained and lived at the time as well as the workings of an NFL team. If you like sport it’s definitely worth looking out for.

Enjoy!

Book of the Week, fiction, reviews

Book of the Week: The Unsinkable Greta James

So, I had a really hard time picking today’s choice, because I loved Lessons in Chemistry *and* The Unsinkable Greta James and I could only pick one. But as Lessons in Chemistry is all over the place – including in paperback at the airport – I thought I’d write about Great today because you might not already have heard of it.

Greta James is an indie music star. She’s had magazine covers and sold out gigs and a few hit songs. So why is she on a cruise around Alaska with her dad weeks before she’s due to be launching the always tricky second album? Her parents were meant to be taking the trip together for their fortieth wedding anniversary, but her mum died suddenly three months before the cruise. And at her first gig after her mother’s death, Greta had an onstage meltdown that went viral. So she’s on the trip with her dad, attempting to ignore what’s going on with her career and trying to improve her relationship with her dad. Because her mum was the supportive one – who encouraged her to follow her dreams and her dad was… not. Will this trip bring them closer together or drive them further apart than ever? Also on board the ship is author Ben Wilder – who is there to deliver a lecture about his book about Jack London’s Call of the Wild, but is struggling with writing his follow up…

I really enjoyed this. I do like a book about a musician (see Daisy Jones and the Six) and I love stories about family relationships (see Guinevere St Clair and Young Pretenders most recently) and it’s only a couple of weeks since I wrote a post about mysteries set on ships, so we know that I like them too. And this does everything that I was hoping it would do. Greta is passionate about her music and determined to succeed and her fractious relationship with her dad, her blossoming relationship with Ben and her grief and anxiety about the death of her mum add up to a fascinating leading character. And it’s a minor thing, but I really liked how explicit the book was about the work and the practice that had gone into Greta’s success – she plays her guitar, you hear about the hours she puts in to playing and composing. I feel like you don’t always get to hear about that in books about people in the arts – it’s portrayed like a magical thing that comes easily to people. And maybe to some people it does, but I think to a lot of musicians and other artists of various kinds it actually comes after thousands of hours of work and the first song you write (or painting you make, or book you write) isn’t the one that’s the big sucess – it’s the 5th or sixth or tenth or thirtieth.

I hate the term women’s fiction, but that’s the best I have got for this. It has a romantic plot strand but it’s not primarily a romance. And it’s much easier to read than literary fiction (another label I hate) tends to be. I read it across two evenings once the actual physical copy arrived chez moi after I bought this as part of my sample reading spree the other week. I’m not sure where I saw it recommended. I thought it was from Goodreads, maybe in their Anticipated Summer reads article, but no. So it could have been twitter or the algorithm because I can’t find it in any of my book-ish emails. Anyway this is the first Jennifer E Smith book that I’ve read and I shall keep my eyes out for more because it was a really delight.

I bought mine in hardback because after reading the sample I thought it might be one I would want to lend (and I think the prices for the physical copy vs the ebook were not that far apart on the day I bought it) and I have already sent it out on loan! I can’t see that it’s in stock in any of the Foyles stores so it may be one that you do have to order rather than pickup in a store, but it’s also available in Kindle and Kobo. The paperback is out early next year….

Happy reading everyone

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: June 27 – July 3

Another fun week of reading, with two of my favourite books of the year so far on this list. I’m actually surprised how much is on this list considering the holiday and the fact that it was the British Grand Prix this weekend. And I’ve finally got all the long runners off the still reading list – but I haven’t managed to finish everything that I started last week. But I will get there, although Great Circle is 600ish pages and I have it in paperback so we’ll see how that goes…

Read:

Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E Smith

A Lowcountry Bride by Preslaya Williams

Heartstopper Vol 1 by Alice Oseman

Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer

Plan for the Worst by Jodi Taylor

The Romance Recipe by Ruby Barrett*

Started:

Mean Baby by Selma Blair

Another Time, Another Place by Jodi Taylor

Still reading:

Shipped by Angie Hockman

Godemersham Park by Gill Hornby*

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Ummmmm. I may have bought a couple of books at the weekend. Just two. Nothing really. And put in a preorder. And nobly resisted some more on Kindle, but I haven’t really got very far through this month’s special offers yet…

Bonus photo: the wisteria is trying to flower again!

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, tv

Not a Book: Hollywood Houselift

So this Sunday I have a comfort TV recommendation for you. Because sometimes you just need to watch something with very low stakes. And I like programmes about houses. And this is that.

This is basically a group of famous people getting bits of their houses redecorated by Jeff. I’ve never come across Jeff before, but he had a reality show on Bravo that followed him flipping houses and doing interior design projects and he also presents a radio show on satellite radio station in the US.

In the first series, Jeff renovates a pool house, a couple of gardens, a bathroom and dressing room and a dining room and family room and more for various people you may or may not recognise depending on which pop culture you consume (like Anthony Anderson from Blackish, Ashlee Simpson, Wilmer Valderama). Jeff has a group of people who work for him and an engagingly irreverent way of talking about his clients that reminds you that he knows exactly how ridiculous it is to be spending $5,000 on towel rails and robe hooks but is doing it any way!

It’s basically like Selling Sunset had a baby with Christina on the Coast or the design bits of Flip or Flop, but with no drinks party or brunch bitching. So more design and more houses. I’m sure it is very staged but it’s not staging fights or drama, and the people working together all seem to actually like each other. Which you can’t say about many shows like this…

You can watch Hollywood Houselift on Freevee – which used to be called IMDb TV and which I get for free bundled in with Amazon Prime. It has a few ad breaks but it makes me so chilled that I can cope with it. I’ve watched all six episodes that have been released so far and there are new episodes each Friday…

Happy Sunday!

books

Books in the Wild: Luton airport…

The other reason for last week’s longer reading list is revealed – I have been on a little holiday! And as that involved going through an airport, I took some pictures of the book selection for those of you who are heading out on a trip soon and want to see what your airport choices might be so you can save space in your baggage – on the way out at least!

I was quite disappointed with the new this week shelf – too much Stephen King and self help, not enough fiction and some of the fiction is the paper back release of hardbacks – like Circus of Wonders.

And this is the shelf where I usually make at least one of my purchases – the airport exclusives! Except this time I had sort of scuppered myself because I already had Murder Before Evensong and Lessons in Chemistry in hardback at home! I’ve finished them both now and can (and will!) recommend them! I got a bit excited about the Anthony Horowitz, until I realised it was a Bond Continuation and not a new Hawthorn, but there’s also the latest Marian Keys and Beth O’Leary for you if you don’t want to wait for the paperbacks.

This is the non fiction shelf, which I was a little disappointed by, although I’m not sure what I was hoping would be there – just that I usually end up getting some interesting non-fiction from this shelf – like Traitor King – but not this time!

I was going to call this the usual suspects shelf – Richard Osman, Sally Rooney, Lee Child, some duplication from the first photo… still if you haven’t read Malibu Rising, here is your chance ahead of the release of the release of Carrie Soto is Back, which is sort of connected.

And here we have the paperback fiction. A bit of Bridgerton, Daisy Jones and the Six, Circus of Wonders again and one of my purchases – Great Circle.

And to be honest it was a very poor showing for books that I have read – but here finally we have a few more – recent recommendation Book Lovers and slightly longer ago BotW pick Educated. If I didn’t already have Beach Read and You and Me on Vacation on the Kindle, I would have been picking one of them up here I think.

And that’s your lot. I didn’t take any pictures of the tables because there was nothing else exciting there, and in case you were wondering, yes I did take advantage of the buy one get one half price – but it was for a book for Him Indoors and not for me!

books, stats

June Stats

Books read this month: 35*

New books: 23

Re-reads: 12 (6 audiobooks, 6 books)

Books from the to-read pile: 11

NetGalley books read: 5

Kindle Unlimited read: 6

Ebooks: 7

Library books: 0

Audiobooks: 6

Non-fiction books: 1

Favourite book this month: Either Lessons in Chemistry or The Unsinkable Greta James – reviews of both to follow

Most read author: Kerry Greenwood – six Phryne Fishers in the reread pile!

Books bought: I don’t really want to talk about it… 5 actual books, 15 ebooks…

Books read in 2022: 201

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf (I don’t have copies of all of these!): 663

 A fun month in reading. Yes there are a fair few rereads in there, but there are also a lot of physical books from the shelf, and I think I’ve reduced the NetGalley list too. Of course a bit of a holiday helped with that by providing some quality reading time! And I think I may be starting to be able to read a bit more stuff that’s not romance or mystery – there are five whole books that definitely aren’t either of those this month, and you can increase that to seven depending on how you characterise women’s fiction.

Bonus picture: look who is on schedule!!! A veritable first.

*Usually includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels – this month 2 graphic novels

The pile

End of the first half of 2022

It’s the last day of June! How?! Where did the first half of the year go? And why did I write 2020 in the title of this post when I started putting it together? I mean I think the answer to that is the fact that it does sometimes feel like we got to March 2020 and never left it…

Anyway I started pulling together my favourite books of the years so far for this post, but it got way too long and unwieldy so I have split it up and it’s going to be two posts. Tomorrow it’s the stats as usual, then we have the quick reviews next week but there’ll also be a Fifty States 2022 update too.

I would say that so far in 2022 it has been the year of rereading. Last year I was revisiting old favourites mostly by listening to them on audiobook, this year it’s been actual rereading as well and going back through some of my favourite series. And although I’m still reading a lot of romance and mystery, in the last month I’ve also read a bunch of stuff that’s not either of those so maybe I’m finally starting to emerge from the anxiety related quest for resolution and happy endings? We can hope.

cozy crime, crime, mystery, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Antipodean mysteries

So as you know from the weekly lists, I’m on a big old re-read of Phryne Fisher mysteries at the moment, so I’ve taken my inspiration for this week’s Recommendsday from that!

A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

Lets start with something set just after Phryne – the first book in the Rowland Sinclair series is set in the 1930s. Like Phryne, Rowland is spending money and causing scandal – he’s the son of a well-to-do Sydney family – but rather than embracing a life of gentlemanly pursuits, he’s an artist. I’ve only read one of this series, I have the second book on the kindle and a couple more on the physical to read pile (see Books Incoming) but the first one sees Rowland investigating the death of his uncle – the only other Bohemian-y member of the family. This has politics and tensions and you see some of the same factors you see on the rise in Europe at the same time at play in Australia. It’s not witty like Phryne, and it’s further towards the thriller end of the spectrum than the cozy, but I liked it (as you can tell from the fact I have more waiting to be read!

Murder in the Telephone Exchange by June Wright

This was a really interesting murder mystery, written in the late 1940s and set in an Australian telephone exchange: When Maggie finds one of her unpopular colleagues with her head smashed in, she finds herself drawn into the mystery – not just because she was the person who found the body, but because she’s not sure that the police are on the right track. But soon the danger is increasing and someone else turns up dead. I read this a couple of years ago and loved the setting, liked Maggie, I though the mystery was clever and tense and packed with suspense. I’ve been looking for something else set in a telephone exchange ever since. And then…

A Matter of Love and Death by Carmen Radtke

I read this the other week: and it’s a murder mystery with a telephone exchange! Frances overhears a threatening message while she’s on shift at the exchange and thinks it might be linked to a robbery where a man died that she sees in the paper a few days later. Along with her family’s new lodger Phil and nightclub owner Jack, they decide to investigate. This is the first in a series that has gone through several covers and a change in author name and is trying to do quite a lot, but it was in Kindle Unlimited and wasn’t a total bust!

I’m fairly sure I read a contemporary murder mystery set in the outback not that long ago, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called or who wrote it, so I can’t look up what I thought of it on Goodreads! And I called this Antipodean mysteries – so I ought to mention a New Zealand-set book or two – so here’s a reminder that Ngaio Marsh set some of the Inspector Alleyn series in her home country. Vintage Murder sees Roderick investigating a murder at a cast party after the first night of a play. He is somewhat taken with the leading lady – which always makes me smile because this is the trip to that he’s on ship home from when he meets Agatha Troy in the next book in the series (Artists in Crime). Marsh sends Alleyn back to New Zealand during the Second World War and that’s where we get Colour Scheme – victim lured into boiling mud (yuck), complete with espionage and counter espionage – and Dyed in the Wool – a country house-style murder mystery but set on a farm and where the victim turns up packed in a bale of wool (also yuck). And even later in the series there is Photo Finish, with an opera diva who is taken to an island by her boyfriend to escape the paparazzi, where she plans a performance of a piece written specially for her by her younger lover and who is then murdered. And an honourable mention should go to A Surfeit of Lampreys, which starts off in New Zealand before the action moves to London and the murder happens, and Opening Night (also known as Night at the Vulcan) where the leading lady is newly arrived from New Zealand.

You’re welcome!

Book of the Week, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Acting Up

Plenty of options to chose from this week, and I’ve gone with a romance novel to make a nice change for the summer heat. Or what I hope is going to be a summery week!

Cath and Paul have been friends since college – and Cath’s been hiding a crush on Paul all these years. Now he’s a theatre director, and she’s a stage manager and they do their best work together. As friends. Just friends. Nothing more. And that’s fine with Cath, because she doesn’t want to risk losing the friendship she has with him. This summer, they’re working on a production of a new play at a regional theatre in Connecticut. If it goes well, it could go to Broadway – but will it go well if Paul insists on hiring Cath’s college nemesis to play the leading role? When rehearsals start, Paul realises that his leading lady is making Cath’s life miserable. And also that the leading man is showing an interest in Cath. Paul realises that what he wants is Cath – but can he persuade her that it’s worth taking a chance on?

Regular readers will remember how much I enjoy Lucy Parker’s theatre-set romances and that I always say I want more books like them. Well, here is more like them. This is friends-to-lovers rather than enemies-to-lovers and it’s in American regional theatre rather than the West End, but it’s got great characters, cracking banter – they quote plays at each other everyone, including some Busman’s Honeymoon, what more could I want – and the supporting characters are also amazing. Plus more backstage theatre details than you can shake a stick at, but not in an info dump sort of way. I read it in two sittings – it would have been one sitting, but it was 2am and I had to go to bed. Then I bought the next one so that I can read it on the train to work this week when I have finished the other things I am meant to be reading.

I bought this as part of my read the samples of books on offer spree (as mentioned yesterday) and it is 81p at the moment on Kindle everyone. EIGHTY ONE. And 99 cents in the US. Run don’t walk everyone, because I suspect this offer is going to finish at the end of June. It’s also available on Kobo (for 99p) and in paperback. You’re welcome. I’m off to see what else Adele Buck has written and buy it add it to my wishlist.

Happy reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: June 20 – June 26

Well. Last week was another big news week then. Blimey. Anyway, I had some time off work, so I got a lot of reading done as you can see. I was aiming to get the still reading list all read, but as you can see I didn’t quite manage it. Maybe this week?! Anyway, it’s also nearly the end of the month, and with it the end of the first half of the year, so as well as starting a new journal I have some halfway point posts planned – so look out for those over the next week and a bit along with all the usual end of month goodies.

Read:

The Golden One by Elizabeth Peters

The Castlemaine Murders by Kerry Greenwood

Paper Lion by George Plimpton

A Lonely Little Death by Beth Byers

Betraying the Crown by T P Fielden

Cue the Easter Bunny by Liz Evans

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Beach House Summer by Sarah Morgan*

Murder Before Evensong by Rev Richard Coles

Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood

Acting Up by Adele Buck

Started:

Shipped by Angie Hockman

Godemersham Park by Gill Hornby*

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E Smith

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Still reading:

Plan for the Worst by Jodi Taylor

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Yeah, so I had a little slip up. One actual book bought – but a whole load of e-books, including the Adele Buck you see on the list and its sequel. There was a whole bunch of stuff on offer and I did a bit of a spree on sample reading to see if I liked them, and I liked all of them. Whoopsie. Sorry, not sorry.

Bonus photo: this month’s peonies, after my best attempt to arrange them. Flower arranging is not my forte. But they do look beautiful and survived being delivered to behind my hedge on really quite a hot day.

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