Authors I love, Chick lit, cozy crime, crime, Fantasy, Series I love

Pick Me Up Books

It’s a funny old time at the moment isn’t it?  There’s so much news about – and lots of it is depressing for various reasons, that working in news for my day (and this week night) job* is getting a bit tough.  I’ve retreated into the world of Happy Endings.  Dystopian fiction is firmly off the menu, as is anything that might end on death, destruction or a down note.  This means I’ve been revisiting some old favourites again as well as reading loads of romance and cozy crime.  You’ll get some posts soon on the best of the new stuff – but I thought I’d also share some of my favourite old friends and Not New books.

Angela Thirkell

Angela Thirkell books from Virago
Aren’t they gorgeous? And there are more coming later in the year too.

Witty interwar comedies, mostly of manners, set in Barsetshire.  They’re a bit Mapp and Lucia (but with more sympathetic characters) and they remind me of the Diary of a Provincial Lady as well.  If you like the world of Golden Age crime, but don’t want the murders, then come take a look for a bit of wry social satire.  Virago are re-releasing them at the moment – and they’re gorgeous – but you should also be able to get them from a good second hand shop too.  You may remember I had Northbridge Rectory as a BotW a few weeks back, but as well as that one, if you liked Provincial Lady… start at the beginning of the series with High Rising, but if you loved boarding school stories, start with Summer Half and if you liked Downton, start with Pomfret Towers.

Charlaine Harris

 

Charlaine Harris books
The Charlaine Harris shelf, several series, mostly matching but with a few size issues!

Sookie Stackhouse, Harper Connelly, Lily Bard, Aurora Teagarden (a new book coming soon!) or Midnight, Texas, it doesn’t matter.  Yes they all have a body count, and you might lose a character you like from time to time.  But as escapist reading they’re pretty much all you could want.  Soapy melodrama with vampires (sometimes), small towns and kick-ass women (although Rue can be a bit wet at times).  Perfect for binge reading to take your mind off the real world.  After all there aren’t any vampires, werewolves or witches in the real world.

The Cazalet Chronicles

I had four matching copies. Then the fifth book arrived. And I got the hardback.

Retreat into the world of Home Place, the Brig and the Duchy, their children and grandchildren.  You meet them in 1937 and you can follow them through the Second World War and beyond across five books – until the grandchildren are grown up with families of their own.  There are so many characters and so many different stories that you can read 400 pages without out noticing.  Everyone has a favourite or two – mine are Rupert (from the children) and Polly and Clary (from the grandchildren).  I think my mum’s copies are so well thumbed that they fall open to my favourite sections about each of them – especially in Casting Off.  Glom on them on the beach if you’re on holiday, as I resist the temptation to rebuy a new matching set – you can get all 5 books for £6.99 from the Book People as I write this.

Vicky Bliss and Amelia Peabody

My kindle go-to at times like these is Elizabeth Peters’ Vicky Bliss and Amelia Peabody serieses.  I tried to pick one, but I couldn’t.  I mentioned both in passing in my Nightshift books post back in this blog’s early days and Amelia got a shout out in my Summer Reading post two years ago, but I was shocked I hadn’t given either a post of their own.  Amelia is a female Egyptologist in the late nineteenth century.  Vicky is an art historian in sort-of fairly recent times.  Both end up in thrilling adventures.  Amelia picks up a crew of regular side-kicks along the way including, but not limited to a husband, a son, a faithful site foreman and an arch-nemesis and Vicky just keeps running into this gentleman thief-con artist type.  Both remind me in some ways of a female Indiana Jones, but funnier.

And on top of all that, there’s Georgette Heyer, Janet Evanovich, Peter Wimsey and a few of my recent BotW picks that would serve the same purpose and cheer you up too – check out Little Shop of Lonely Hearts, The Rogue Not Taken, Sunset in Central Park and Fangirl.  Also, if in doubt, read Georgette Heyer – start with Venetia or Regency Buck. Coming soon: Summer Holiday reading recommendations…

*In case you missed it I’m a journalist in real life.

 

Book of the Week, books, children's books

Book of the Week: Curtain Up

I’m back in the world of children’s books for this week’s BotW and Noel Streatfeild’s Curtain Up or Theatre Shoes as it’s called in the US and some newer editions here. I was sure that I had already read this – but it turns out, I hadn’t and it had been sitting on my children’s book shelf unread.  A travesty.

copy of Curtain Up
The book has a plastic protective cover, so the photo isn’t great – but it’s so pretty I had to have a photo!

So, Curtain Up tells the story of the Forbes children – Sorrel, Mark and Holly.  Their mother is dead, their father is missing in the Second World War.  They had been living with their grandfather, but when he dies, they’re sent to live with their other grandmother – part of their mother’s family who they’ve never met.  When they arrived in London, they discover that she is an actress and that she intends for them to follow in her (and their mother’s) footsteps and make a career on the stage. They’re not all happy about this – and life with their grandma is very different from what they’re used to and the book follows them as they get used to their new life – and discover some new interests along the way.

If you read any Noel Streatfeild as a child (or an adult) it will probably have been Ballet Shoes,the story of the three Fossil sisters – Pauline, Petrova and Posy – and you’ll re-encounter these three (albeit at a distance) here, along with their theatre school. It’s a fun and sweet story which features rationing and wartime problems as well as the workings of the world of child actors. I love this sort of story – although today’s children may find bits of it strange – unless they’ve done the Home Front at school already!

I think my favourite Streatfeild may still be White Boots (Skating Shoes) but that’ may be because there are a lot of books about dancers and the theatre and not many at all about figure skating (I wish I could have been a figure skater, but even if my mother had sent me for lessons my flexibility, athleticism, build and height would’ve ruled me out pronto) but all the “Shoe” books I’ve read are great stories, well told that children can wish they were a part of, and adults can enjoy as well.

You should be able to get a copy of Curtain Up – probably badged as Theatre Shoes from any book shop with a good children’s department, Amazon have copies under both names –  new copies of Theatre Shoes, a Kindle edition and second hand copies as Curtain Up. I suspect the bigger second hand book shops would be able to help too.  Happy reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: July 18 – July 24

A bit of a struggle in the middle of this week – no idea why.  And as I started a run of five nightshifts on Sunday evening, expect light, non-taxing reading next week!

Read:

Trouble at Melville Manor by Mabel Esther Allen

Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander

A Demon Summer by GM Malliet

Curtain Up by Noel Streatfeild

Man on a Rock by Grant Sutherland

A Woman Unknown by Frances Brody

Started:

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink

Still reading:

Daughters of the Bride by Susan Mallery

The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

3 second hand books bought – one to replace a book I lost a while back, two to read.

Book of the Week, new releases, romance, women's fiction

Book of the Week: Sunset in Central Park

This week’s BotW is Sarah Morgan’s latest book – Sunset in Central Park.  This is the second book in her new series – about three young women who leave Puffin Island (the location of her previous series) for the bright lights of New York and a career in events management.

This is Frankie’s story – and Frankie is extremely wary of relationships after watching the fallout from her parents’ divorce when she was a teenager.  She avoids emotional attachments to anyone except her two closest friends – who she works with – and garden designer Matt, one of her friend’s brothers and the owner of the brownstone where they all have flats in Brooklyn.  She’s determined to keep their relationship strictly platonic, even though he makes her insides feel a bit odd, because all relationships end and she wants to keep him in her life.  But what she doesn’t know is that Matt’s been crazy about her forever, but has kept quiet because he knows how fragile she is.  But as he finds out more about her hidden depths as they work together on a project, the sparks fly.  Will he be able to convince her to take a chance on what they have?

This is romantic, fun and satisfying.  You know where it’s going, but it’s so much fun watching the characters work through all their issues to come to a happy conclusion.  Sarah Morgan has created a great group of strong competent women and is busy pairing them up with the men they deserve – equally strong and competent, and who compliment the girls – who definitely don’t need a man to complete them or fix their lives.  They can fix their own lives and problems, but the men will support and help them as they do it.  I did want to give Frankie a bit of a slap at times, but I always understood why she was behaving the way that she did.  I think I preferred the first book in the series slightly* – but that’s because I’m more of a Paige than I am a Frankie.

Copies of two Sarah Morgan books
I don’t have a paperback copy of Sunset in Central Park, but I do have other Sarah Morgans!

If you asked me, I would probably tell you that I don’t like contemporary romances, but that’s because when people say contemporary romance I think of billionaires and secretaries, doctors and nurses, nannies and lonely widowers, secret dukes and princes, secret babies and accidental pregnancies – none of which float my boat. I like smart heroines getting a happy ending – and if the books have a touch of humour, so much the better.   Thinking about it – and looking at the downstairs keepers bookshelf – there’s a lot of contemporary romance there – the sort of books that 10 years ago would have been called chick lit.  I don’t like chick lit as a term – but women’s fiction is too broad a description – so they probably would fall under the contemporary romance banner.

I only started reading Sarah Morgan because I met her at Sarah MacLean’s London tea-party and got given a free copy of one of the Puffin Island books (although I then went out and bought the first in this series and read that first after hearing Sarah Morgan talk about it on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books at the end of May) but it turns out that her latest books are exactly what floats my boat.  There was a sampler for Eva’s book at the end of this one and it left me desperate to read a Christmas-themed book – in July.  And you know my feelings on starting to read about Christmas too early.

My copy of Sunset in Central Park came from NetGalley – but you can get a copy from Amazon and Kindle (actually cheaper in book form at the time of writing) and I suspect possibly in supermarkets and other bookstores.  Don’t be put off by the Harlequin logo on the spine – if you are, you’ll be missing out.  I’m off to mine more of Sarah Morgan’s back catalogue – although I’ll never get through all of it and some of them are medical romances…

Happy reading!

*I read Sleepless in Manhattan the same week that I read The Rogue Not Taken or it would probably have been BotW that week.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: July 11 – July 17

A fair mix (for me) of reading this week – romances contemporary and historical, mysteries contemporary and historical, non-fiction, a children’s book and a comedy of society and manners.  But as you’ll notice, I’m still mostly on books with resolutions and happy endings.  And expect I will be until silly season finally gets underway – if it ever does.

Read:

Only a Kiss by Mary Balogh

Sunset on Central Park by Sarah Morgan

The Secret by Lorna Hill

Before Lunch by Angela Thirkell

Dead is Best by Jo Perry

Death of an Avid Reader by Frances Brody

Queen Bees by Siân Evans

Started:

Daughters of the Bride by Susan Mallery

The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

Still reading:

n/a

One ebook bought – and Gail Carriger’s next Custard Protocol novel (Imprudence, out on Thursday this week) pre-ordered along with a cookbook to get myself free postage!

Book of the Week, Fantasy, graphic novels

Book of the Week: Ms Marvel

As I said yesterday, it’s been a tough decision about what to pick as BotW this week.  In the end I settled on Ms Marvel, because it was my favourite thing that I read last week, even though I don’t always have a lot to say about graphic novels/comics when I write reviews.  But then as I’m thick with cold and cough (in July! I know! So ridiculous) perhaps its the lurgy blocking my creative juices.  Lets stick with that.

 So, Ms Marvel.  I am not up on the Marvel Universe – I’ve seen a few films (they didn’t have Ms Marvel or Captain Marvel in them), but then who hasn’t, but I think this may be my first actual Marvel Comic.  I believe – although I may be wrong – that this is a reboot of an earlier character, but I haven’t read any of the earlier stuff so I don’t have the full back story.  But then I don’t think it affected my enjoyment not knowing any of the rest of the history.

 So, the story.  Kamala Khan is a Pakistani American teenager in Jersey City.  She’s Muslim and her parents are very protective of her.  She chafes at some of the restrictions placed upon her by her family – and ends up with superpowers after an incident at a party she sneaked out to.  In the first trade – No Normal – she gets her powers and starts to get entangled with the Inventor (who we assume is a villain).

I enjoyed this – Kamala is fun and multi-dimensional and she has real-life as well as superhero-y conflicts in her life.  The supporting characters are also great and I learnt a few things as well  but in a subtle way.  It ends in a bit of a cliff-hanger and I’m fairly sure I’ll be buying Volume 2 when I next get to the comic book shop.  I’m not putting any links to buy – because I want you to go down to your comic bookstore and do it there.   Find your local comic book store here.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: July 4 – July 10

A mixed bag of reading this week – and I’m really puzzling over what to pick for my Book of the Week tomorrow.  Watch this space.

Read:

How the Duke was Won by Lenora Bell

Total D*ck by Christina Saunders

Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh

Pagan Spring by GM Malliet

The School by the River by Elinor M Brent Dyer

Vicki in Venice by Lorna Hill

Miss Marvel by B Willow Wilson

Cream of the Crop by Alice Clayton

Started:

n/a – finished everything I started this week!

Still reading:

Queen Bees by Siân Evans

One e-book bought, another free ebook bought, but that’s about it.  Although I did acquire a few from other sources – but then I always seem to!