book round-ups, crime, detective

Recommendsday: Historical Mysteries

After the latest batch of cozy crime recommendations, I wanted to flag up a few series set in the past as well – Historical mysteries is the closest I could get for a theme, but it’s not quite right – to me historical feels like they’re written now, but set pre-20th century and these are a mix of books written now and set in a previous period, or books in a contemporary setting for the time that they were written in.  And they’re also all set post 1900. And so, in chronological order…

The Lady Hardcastle series by TE Kinsey

Cover of The Burning Issue of the Day

Set in the Edwardian era, this follows Emily, Lady Hardcastle, a widow in her 40s and her maid Florence as they embark on life in the English countryside after returning from a spell abroad on diplomatic business curtailed by Lord H’s death.  Emily didn’t spend her time abroad sitting around and having afternoon tea – and Florence has some special skills of her own from her time with the circus.  They can’t help but stumble over murders and mysteries – and when they do they can’t resist trying to find the culprits.  These are fun and frothy and a nice way of passing a couple of hours if you want something to bridge part of the gap between Veronica Speedwell  and Phryne Fisher or Daisy Dalrymple.  There are five novels in the series (I’ve read all five – with one as a BotW) with a sixth due in the autumn, as well as a Christmas-themed short story.  Definitely worth a look – especially as there’s usually at least one or two of them in the lower end of the ebook price bracket.

Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen

Cover of Her Royal Spyness

Set in the later years of George V’s reign, the heroine is Lady Georgina Rannock, 30-somethingth in line to the throne, single, pretty much penniless and trying to establish a life for herself which doesn’t involve marrying an obscure European minor princeling. I’ve mentioned these here before – Royal Pain was a BotW back in 2016 and got a (very brief) mention in my 2017 obsessions post.  And I still have to not think too hard about the premise (because I know far too much about Queen Victoria’s family tree) but they dash along so fast that most of the time I don’t even have time to remember that.  Georgie is endearing and really quite self-aware, her sister-in-law is amusingly awful and the pen portraits of the bits of the Royal Family she comes into contact with are amusing and fact based enough to work for me.  There are twelve books in the series with a thirteenth to come next month – and I’ve read eleven of them.  I’m getting to a point where I want a bit of development in the running plot of Georgie’s love life, but I’m prepared to give it a couple more books to sort it out.

Flaxborough Chronicles by Colin Watson

Cover of Coffin, Scarcely Used

These got a bit of a mention in last year’s anti-World Cup post, but they deserve a wider airing.  There are twelve books in the series, set in the late 1950s and 1960s in a fictional market town based on Boston in Lincolnshire and apparently informed by the author’s experiences as a journalist in Lincolnshire.  They’re clever and wry and have a couple of very funny reoccurring characters.  They’re not as straight down the line as most of the Golden Age mysteries, but they’re not exactly comic murder mysteries either.  If you like series like George Gently or Charles Paris, these may well work for you.  They were all re-issued last year as paperbacks and ebooks – so it should be fairly easy to get hold of them, although I don’t know if bookshops are holding them in stock.

The Country Club Murders series by Julie Mulhern

Cover of The Deep End

I’ve read four of this series (there are nine currently) about a society wife – and soon widow – in 1970s Kansas City.  Ellison gets sucked into investigating murders when she becomes the prime suspect in the murder of her philandering husband’s mistress, but as the series continues bodies just keep turning up in her orbit – much to the distress of her mother.  I like these because it’s a really different setting – 1970s and middle America.  Ellison is an interesting central character too – she’s a lady of leisure, because that’s what was expected of her as the wife of a banker,  but it doesn’t really suit her independent streak and this makes for some really good cranky and antagonistic family dynamics.  And the Country Club set provide for some laughs too.

So there you are.  There’s a few other series that I’ve written about before that fit into this category – I’ve already mentioned Phryne Fisher and Daisy Dalrymple, but you could also add Dandy Gilver, Maisie Dobbs and Sidney Chambers series.  I would add the Charles Paris series to that list – but setting is a bit slippy slidey – they are contemporary to when they were written, but Charles isn’t aging properly, meaning if you read them one after the other you’ll notice that they start off in the 1970s, but are very definitely set in the now in the latest ones – and Charles is not 40 years older…

You should be able to get hold of all of these nice and easily, ideal for binge reading on your holidays. And don’t forget, if you want your mysteries more contemporary, there’s last week’s post full of cozy crime recommendations.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases

Book of the Week: Evvie Drake Starts Over

Such an easy choice for this week.  I had to be dragged away from this one and it totally lifted me out of what had been a bit of a reading slump as I rationalised the to-read shelf and discovered that there was a fair number of books on it that I didn’t like when I started reading them.

Cover of Evvie Drake Starts Over

Evvie Drake has the car packed. She’s leaving her husband. But just as she’s about to about to go when the phone rings: Tim has been in a car accident, she needs to get to the hospital, fast.  We rejoin Evvie nearly a year later – when everyone in town thinks it’s grief that’s keeping her at home and she hasn’t done anything to correct them.  To help out a friend – and to help pay the bills, she lets the apartment at the back of her house to Dean Tenney, former Major League Baseball pitcher and now a byword for blowing it after a major case of the yips saw him lose his aim.  The two of them make a deal – she won’t ask about his baseball career and he won’t ask about her late husband.  But as the months go by the two of them grow closer and a friendship looks like it could develop into something more.  But those demons are going to need addressing before they can really move forward.

This is just what I hoped it would be.  It’s warm and has a great slow burn romance and two people trying to figure out whether they are right for each other – and whether they’re actually ok themselves.  Evvie (rhymes with Chevy) is a wonderful heroine – smart and funny but also a little bit broken and trying to figure out who she really is and if she can get her life back on track.  And Dean is such an appealing hero – he’s lost the ability to do the thing that defined who he was and has to figure out who he is if he’s not a baseball player.  The supporting characters are wonderfully drawn too and Evvie’s complicated relationship with the town feels very realistic.  I had a few minor quibbles here and there – but nothing that took me out of the story or disturbed my warm and cozy feeling at the way that it was all unfolding.

I had been a little worried that this wouldn’t live up to my expectations for it: I had been looking forward to reading this ever since I heard about it.  Linda Holmes is the presenter of the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast from NPR and mentioned more than a year ago (as part of their things that are making them happy this week section) that she had written a novel and that it was going to be published.  On top of that, it’s got great reviews, been picked for a big TV book club in the US and the UK version has blurbs from Rainbow Rowell, Helen Hoang and Taylor Jenkins Reid.  How could it ever live up to all that?  But it did, it really did.  I’m often moaning about not being able to find the sort of romantic novels that I like, the sort of thing that I used to be able to buy really easily 10 years ago – with smart heroines and humour and where people fix themselves and get romance as a bonus – and this did everything that I wanted it to do.  When I got to the end and read the list of thank yous from the author, it was a list of people who I listen to on podcasts or read on my favourite websites and I realised that I should have had more faith and been less worried.

British cover of Evvie Drake Starts Over

My copy of Evvie Drake Starts Over came from the library – and I got there before a huuuuuuge queue developed behind me – I only had to wait a couple of weeks after release for my hold to come in.  But its available now in Kindle, Kobo and hardback (with a paperback coming out in March 2020).  It would make a perfect read on your sunlounger this summer.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: July 8 – July 14

I thought this list was going to be shorter than usual this week but actually it’s worked out ok. Why did I think the list would be shorter? Well the Michelle Dean is long and I’ve spent a lot of train journeys reading that, and secondly because I’ve had one of my periodic culls of the tbr-pile which included another round of “50 pages and out” on stuff that I wasn’t sure whether to keep or jettison.

Read:

The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

Best Of My Love by Susan Mallery

Of Dogs and Walls by Yuko Tsushima

Springtime at Cherry Tree Cottage by Cathy Woodman

All Or Nothing by Rose Lerner

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Dockside by Susan Wiggs

One Hot Summer by Kat French

Started:

The Burning Issue of the Day by T E Kinsey

The Great Successor by Anna Fifield

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Still reading:

Gallows Court by Martin Edwards

Sharp by Michelle Dean

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby

And no books bought – I’m trying hard to restrain book buying urges and the library with its ebook loan service is really helping me.  I did pick up a kindle freebie or two though.

Bonus photo: Summer flowers in my parents’ garden this week – it looks so perfectly English country garden to me.

flower borders

 

American imports, Series I love

Series I love: Blessings

As regular readers to this blog are aware, I’m a serial book glommer.  If I find a series I like and circumstances allow, I will absolutely read them one after another and my annual Big Obsessions posts are proof of it – with Steph Plum, Kinsey Milhone, Charles Paris among a list to which we can now add Beverly Jenkins’s Blessings series which I read in a month, including four of them pretty much back to back in the run up to Easter.

Cover of Bring on the Blessings

The first in the series, Bring on the Blessings, was BotW pick at the start of April, but here’s the series set up: Bernadine Brown is a very wealthy divorcée. After discovering her husband was cheating on her on her 52nd birthday, she took him for half his fortune and starts to think about what she can do with her life now.  It turns out that what she can do is buy the town of Henry Adams in Kansas – a historic black township founded by freed slaves after the Civil War, but now struggling and in decline.  It’s for sale on ebay as the town’s mayor tries to stop it being absorbed by a neighbouring town.  Her plan: to revitalise the town and to use it as a place to give troubled kids a second chance at life by setting them up into good foster homes.  Not everyone is onboard with the plan – some of the Henry Adams residents are sceptical and some of the kids would really rather be elsewhere, but over the course of the nine (so far) books we see Bernadine’s plan grow and develop.

As well as watching the town develop you get a romantic element in each book – whether its a couple getting together, or reconnecting.  They are a Christian Inspirational series – but not in a overly moralising way, so I don’t think you’ll find them too much if you’re not really interested in that – they’re not out to convert you.  And the characters aren’t all perfect people living perfect Christian lives.  They’re sometimes messy, all make mistakes or do the wrong thing at times – and learn from it.  And because there’s such a lovely big cast, who all have running storylines, even if a novel is focused on someone who isn’t one of your favourites, there’s still plenty from the rest of town to keep you happy.  Don’t expect gritty realism here – this is pure escapism and some of the coincidences are totally farfetched – but that’s a romance genre staple.  There’s nothing here that hasn’t happened at least once in a small town romance – and we all know that I find them totally glommable.

Screen grab of blessings book covers marked as read

I was trying to think which was my favourite storyline, but it was actually easier to come up with my favourite character – Amari the reformed underage car thief.  He gets the best lines, he’s got a handle on who he is and what he’s up to and he feels like a real boy.

I borrowed the whole series from the library, run after another, but you should be able to get hold of these fairly easily on Kindle – although the paperbacks may prove harder in the UK as they look like a special order from the US.

Happy Reading!

cozy crime, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Cozy Crime

Following on from my own summer holiday reading post, I thought I’d drop a few more posts over the next few weeks which might provide some other suggestions for reading for your summer holidays.  Today I’m looking at some cozy crime series that might make for binge reading on the sunlounger!

Campbell and Carter series by Anne Granger

Cover of Mud, Muck and Dead Things

Jess Campbell and Ian Carter are two British police detectives in the Gloucestershire countryside.  Over the course of the books that I’ve read they’ve investigated mysterious bodies found in houses, after a house fire and a long dead cold case murder.   At their best, I can read them in practically one sitting.  They’re an British-style cozy crime, police procedural hybrid.  I was a big fan of Anne Granger’s Mitchell and Markby series, when I read them in the dim and distant pre-blog days.  I still recommend them – but they’re older and harder to find.  This series however is still going – and the latest book features the return of Mitchell and Markby as an added bonus.

The Tj Jensen series by Kathi Daley

Cover of Pumpkins in Paradise

Tj helps run her family resort alongside her career as a high school teacher and she just seems to keep getting involved in murder investigations.  The latest one is just edging too close to my rules about meddling where people shouldn’t be, but for the most part I’ve really enjoyed them.  If you fancy some small town cozy crime with a setting that’s not a cupcake bakery or a bookshop, this might be the one for you.  This a series from Henery Press – who I’ve mentioned here before and whose older/longer running series I find to be consistently quite readable.  I’m not such a big fan of all of the more recent ones though. I made one of these my BotW back in April 2018, and I’ve read most of the rest of the series since.

The Zoe Chambers series by Annette Dashofy

Cover of Circle of Influence

Zoe’s a paramedic and part-time assistant coroner and a serious horse rider.  When we meet her in the first book, a corpse has been found in a car and she’s in a race to find out who does it as a blizzard sets in.  As the series goes on, romantic entanglements form as she investigates drug deaths, a possible case of elder abuse, tries to clear a suspected wife kille and faces numerous threats to her beloved horses and the space at the ranch she rents.  I’ve read four books in the (currently) seven novel series, and like the set up and the characters although sometimes the Zoe can border on the foolhardy/willfully blind.  This is another Henery Press series, but I will say that they are consistently darker than most of their stablemates (see what I did with the horse joke there?!)

This post has actually been a long time in the writing because I wanted to recommend more series than just three.  I read a lot of cozy crime – but not a lot of them are actually good enough for me to want to recommend – or if they’re in series, I like to have read a few of the series before I’m prepared to recommend them to people.  And of course some of the other good ones have already made it on to the blog – as BotWs – like Death by DumplingAunty Lee’s Deadly Delights, and Lowcountry Bonfire, or as series I love posts like Charles Paris. And of course you can check out previous Cozy Crime Roundups: from 2017, 2016, and 2014.

I’ve got a bunch of cozies waiting to be read – including two more in the Maggie Sefton series (I’ve read one, quite liked it, but see above for wanting to have read a fair sample before recommending a whole series), the second Noodle House mystery, the second Auntie Poldi mystery and first in series from a couple of new-to-me authors including Bree Baker and Shami Flint.

No specific links to books to purchase today – but you should be able to get hold of all (or most) of these by ordering from your local independent bookseller or Foyles or Waterstones or similar as well as on Kindle or Kobo.

Happy Reading!

 

Book of the Week, LGTBQIA+

Book of the Week: Proud

Picking a BotW this week was a mix of hard and actually quite easy this week. I read a lot of stuff, but actually didn’t love a lot of it – and some that I did like were by authors that I’ve already written a lot about. But then there was Proud. And it was Pride in London this weekend and I spent my Saturday walking through happy, rainbow-bedecked crowds – firstly on their way to the parade, which started by work and secondly wandering through the after parties in Soho on my way to the theatre in the evening and then back to my hostel afterwards.

Proud is a collection of Young Adult short stories poetry and art edited by Juno Dawson and featuring a mix of new and established LGTBQ+* authors. There’s a huge range of experiences and identities here – including a few that I haven’t seen represented much in my own reading.

I can’t pick a favourite of the stories, because they’re all good and there were several that I really liked. I love a Pride and Prejudice retelling, so I Hate Darcy Pemberley really appealed to me. But then so did The Courage of Dragons – a story about a group of Dungeons and Dragons playing friends who band together during prom to right some wrongs done to one of their number. And then there is Penguins – about prom and crushes and two male penguins who have fallen in love.

Although I read a lot of Middle Grade fiction, I don’t really read a lot of YA – because I find it can tend towards the depressing – particularly when dealing with LGTBQ+ issues. But this is the opposite of that – the stories are affirming and joyous and romantic which is exactly what you want in a book called Proud.

My copy came from NetGalley (yes, I know, I’m super behind because this came out in March and I’ve only just read it) but you should be able to get a copy of Proud from any good bookshop and it’s also available on Kindle and Kobo.

Here’s a bonus picture of the post-Pride march parties.

Partying in the street in Soho near the King Edward Theatre which has Rainbow flags on its big screens

Happy reading!

* I’m using LGTBQ+ here as this is how the book itself describes itself and its contributors.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: July 1 – July 7

After all the nonfiction reading of the last few weeks, this week was thoroughly fiction centric.

Read:

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

Proud ed Juno Dawson

It Takes Two by Jenny Holiday

Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas

Thrill Me by Susan Mallery

Hot Head by Damon Suede

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

Marry Me at Christmas by Susan Mallery

Started:

The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

Sharp by Michelle Dean

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby

Still reading:

Gallows Court by Martin Edwards

One book bought – but it’s a replacement for a Laurie Graham that I’ve lost – so it totally doesn’t count at all.

Bonus picture: The Coliseum on Saturday night, in the middle of the Pride parade party – I was on my way to see On Your Feet!

St Martins Lane in London