Authors I love, children's books, cozy crime, crime, Fantasy, romance

My Big Obsessions of 2016

As regular readers will know, I’m a binge reader.  I find someone or something new that I like and I gorge on it.  One of the big reasons my to-read pile never seems to shrink is because I’m forever discovering new series and then buying them up to read and ignoring the stuff waiting on the pile. We’ve already revisited last year’s obsessions, and so to mark the end of the year here are my big obsessions of 2016.

Fahrenheit Press

Lets start with the obvious.  And yes, I know. You’ve heard so much from me about Fahrenheit Press this year that you’re starting to think they’re paying me (they’re not) but I could basically have written this whole post obsessing over their books.  But I’m trying to be restrained, so I’m only giving them one entry.  There is something about the books that they publish that just works for me.  They’re not all the same but they work as a group.  I haven’t read all the books that I’ve got through my subscription yet, but everything I have has that same slightly subversive, sideways look at what it’s doing – whether it’s old series they’re republishing (like Sam Jones) or new ones (like Danny Bird).  The truly excellent thing about this particular obsession is that I bought their subscription early in the year, so it’s been excellent value and they’re an ebook publisher so it hasn’t been adding to the actual physical pile. And as I’ve already bought a 2017 subscription I suspect I may be boring you all about them again well into the year.

Girls Own fiction

I’ve always been a sucker for a boarding school story and spent much of my childhood playing made up games about being at one (despite the fact that I’m fairly sure in reality I would have hated it), but until this year my reading in the genre has centred around the authors that were still in print when I was small (so Elinor M Brent Dyer, Enid Blyton, Anne Digby).  In 2016 I’ve managed to lay my hands on some who are more forgotten – like Mabel Esther Allen, Gwendoline Courtney and the downright obscure like Phylis Matthewman – as well as filling in more gaps in my favourites (like the end of Lorna Hill’s Sadler’s Wells series) and some modern fill in titles for my favourite series and it’s been glorious. Some of them are just great stories, some of them are so bad it’s funny and often you’re reading them giving side eye.  I wouldn’t necessarily lend them to a child now, but for me personally they’re a fabulous escape from the misery of every day life.  In Boarding School-land bad deeds are found out, no one is ever bullied, and everyone loves their school in the end (if they don’t, they’re probably A Bad Influence and may not return next term).   I’m still not really into horse books and there’s only so much Guides I can take, but I’ll try anything – up to and including books about girls who want to be kennel maids…

The Chronicles of St Mary’s series

I don’t know how this had passed me by before.  In case you’ve missed it too, The Chronicles of St Mary‘s follows Madeleine Maxwell and her colleagues at St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research – historians who have time machines and use them to go and investigate what really happened in the past.  It doesn’t often go to plan.  It’s made me laugh, it’s made me cry and it’s made me go and check up on some other periods in history that are out of my comfort zone.*  I stumbled across one of the free novellas on audible and listened to it on one of my jaunts to the Youth Hostel back in March and fell in love.  I went back to the start been working my way through the series since, but have been trying to pace myself so I don’t run out of books.  I’ve got just finished book six and I’ve got book seven waiting for me on my Kindle – but book eight isn’t out until July so I’m trying to control myself.

Sarah Morgan

I will confess to not having read any Sarah Morgan before I met her at Sarah MacLean’s London tea party in May and got a goody bag with one of her books in it.  Without that goody bag, I’m not sure I would ever have picked up one of her books, but I’ve read six novels and a prequel novella now, and have an advance copy of her next one on the stack and another few of her backlist on the kindle having picked them up on offer.  They  challenge my ideas about what I do and don’t read.  Morgan’s background is in category romance, which I haven’t really read since I glommed on a box of old-school Mills and Boons at my Granny’s house when I was about 12.  I don’t think that I would read a medical romance (which is what Morgan started out writing as she was a nurse) and I definitely don’t do secretaries and billionaires, but it turns out that I do like contemporary romances where smart, sassy women meet their perfect matches. Because I’ve enjoyed Sarah Morgan’s books I’ve ventured further into some of the other contemporary romance authors I’ve heard mentioned on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.  And if the spines say Mills and Boon, at least the cover designs aren’t cringey any more!

Books with Brontes

This seems bonkers considering the fact that I’ve never read Wuthering Heights all the way through, and haven’t read Jayne Eyre since I was  about 9, but this year seems to have been the year of me reading books featuring the Brontes in some shape or form. I think I’ve read about half a dozen now.  Some have been amazing, like The Madwoman Upstairs or Jane Steele, some have been less so, none have made me want to re-read Jane Eyre (but lets face it, if Thursday Next couldn’t manage that, I don’t think anything will) or have another go at Wuthering Heights, but I’ve enjoyed them and done some more reading around the Brontes.  I think perhaps it’s because I don’t know much about them or their books that I enjoy them so much – there’s not much chance of me spotting mistakes or inconsistencies!  And on top of all this, Trisha Ashley’s next novel, which I’m lucky enough to have an advance copy of, is set in Bronte country as well!

So there you have it, my bookish obsessions of 2016. Place bets now on what might make the list in 12 months time.

*My comfort zone being Western European history post 1485, with a strong preference for post 1750.

Authors I love, books, cozy crime, historical, Series I love

My Big Obsessions of 2015: Revisited

As we all know, I am the bingiest of binge readers, so before I post my 2016 obsessions post, I thought it might be fun to revisit my obsessions from last year to see if I’m fickle and flighty, or true to my obsessions before you point and laugh at all the ways I’ve been derailing my efforts to shrink the to-read pile this year!  NB links to series are to Goodreads and links to individual titles are to Amazon as I’ll be here all week if I link to all the different sellers and Goodreads will give you links through to retailers via the individual book pages that way.

Janet Evanovich

So after binging on Evanovich last year, the pace has slowed somewhat in 2016.  From 30 books last year, to 6 this year.  And that’s not because I’ve gone off her – just that I’m running out of books to read.  I’m up to date in the Lizzie and Diesel and Fox and O’Hare series, I’ve read another of her backlist romances and the first book in the new series (didn’t like it sadly, but it’s the first real big failure I’ve had from her).  I’ve only read one more Stephanie Plum, although I have book 20 waiting on the pile, so I’m still a few behind in that, but that’s because I’m waiting for the prices to drop/paperbacks to appear.

Deanna Raybourn

I’ve been very good at rationing myself with Deanna Raybourn this year.  She doesn’t turn out as many books as Janet Evanovich (who does?!) so I’m very aware that if I’m not careful I’ll find myself with a long wait to read more from her.  I’ve now read all of the Lady Julia books and novellas, but I still have a couple of  her standalone books waiting for me to read.  I loved the first Veronica Speedwell (A Curious Beginning) – and have managed to get the second one, A Perilous Undertaking, from NetGalley – it’s out in January so I’ve just started reading it in the last week as a post-Christmas treat to myself for being back at work.  Now you may remember that this time last year I did a bit of bulk Raybourn purchasing because the prices had dropped – and I’m delighted to report that at time of writing the same things seems to have happened again – and you can pick up the first Lady Julia, Silent in the Grave, for 99p and none of the others cost more than £2.99. A Spear of Summer Grass has also dropped in price – making it cheaper than when I bought it last year gnash – and most of the others are cheaper too.  Tell you what, I’ll just leave the link to her Amazon kindle title list here.

Historical Romance

So, after spending 2015 searching out new historical romance authors, this year I have tended to stick with authors I’ve already read, with a few exceptions.  I also think that although I’ve read about the same amount of romances over the year, I’ve read more contemporary romances and less historicals, partly because of all the bingeing on historicals meaning that I’ve run out of cheap backlist titles and unless I can get them through NetGalley the new releases are more expensive on Kindle than I’m prepared to pay for a book that is only going to take me a few hours to read, so I wait until they go on offer/second hand prices sort themselves out.  I also think I’ve got pickier about the tropes that I’m prepared to read.  So unless it’s an author that I know I usually like, I tend to avoid Highland romances, pirates, amnesia, accidental pregnancies, secret babies, tortured heroes and heroines and to a lesser extent reunited romances (it depends what it was that split them up first time around) in historicals – and in contemporaries too, although you don’t get a lot of pirate or highland contemporaries – and going straight for my catnip: disguises, enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, marriages of convenience, rakes, guardians/wards (a la Regency Buck, not creepy old men and young girls obviously) and fake engagements.

Cozy Crime

I said last year that I felt more cozy crime reading coming on in 2016 and I was right.  I have read *so* much cozy crime this year.  So much.  I’ve worked my way through various of Henery Press’s offerings on NetGalley, carried on with Jenn McKinlay‘s series (when prices allowed), tried various crafting-based cozies and quite a few with journalists as main characters (some successful, some less so), some with vicars, a few with police as main characters (more unusual in the genre than you’d think), wondered how many bodies need to turn up outside a cafe/bakery to make the business unviable and even dipped my toe into paranormal/ghostly cozy crimes.  I still have the rule about how much I’ll spend on them (which is pretty much the same as with historical romances) so I’ve read a lot of first in series (which tend to be cheap/free) and then added the rest to my ever-growing Amazon list to wait for the prices to drop on the sequels.  I’m still working out which sort of plots work best for me, but I reckon by the end of 2017 I should have got it sussed.

Historical Crime

As with 2015 I’m still searching for those elusive books that will scratch my Daisy Dalrymple/Phryne Fisher itch.  We haven’t had a new Phryne for 3 years now and I’m starting to wonder if we’ll ever get any more (the TV series is Not The Same) which fills my heart with dread, so I’ve read pretty much all of Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman books this year (I read one in 2015 when I happened up it at the library) to try and cheer myself up but as they’re set in modern day Melbourne they are really quite different.  I’m pretty much up to date with Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series now thanks to a string of them popping up at The Works, and the latest Sidney Chambers appeared on the shelf of books at work too although I find that they’re a bit out of my favourite time period now they’ve hit the 1960s.  I’ve filled in pretty much all the gaps in Flavia de Luce and Dandy Gilver now so I’ve had to cast my net further.  The results have been somewhat mixed.  I like Ashley Weaver’s Amory Ames series, but the third book has only just come out, so there aren’t enough of them and Frances Brody’s Kate Shackleton series has grown on me.  I’m still searching for another good 1920s or 1930s-set murder mystery series now I’ve exhausted all the obvious options.  I’ve read one of Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series and have another on the pile so it’s too early to tell if I like them, but if I do, Bowen’s Molly Murphy series might be my next stop.  Luckily, I was sent some of Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion series that I hadn’t already read to read and review (on Amazon) so I’ve filled my historical crime gap with some actual genuine Golden Age crime instead.

So there you have it – a look back at last year’s obsessions and an insight into what happens after you’ve binged on an author and can’t get your fix.  Any suggestions for historical romance, cozy crime or historical crime books or series that I might like are gratefully received.

Coming tomorrow: My 2016 obsessions…

 

The pile

State of the To-Read Pile: 2016 edition

Well it’s that time of year again where I consider the state of the to-read pile, given that the stated aim of this blog is to try to conquer it.  The literal state of pile is that it’s mostly in boxes at the moment, because we were meant to be having a new fireplace installed in the sitting room, which has ended up being more complicated than we thought, so we now have a hole where the fireplace used to be and a Victorian fireplace in the cellar while we wait for some more work to be done. (And breathe)  But that’s not the point is it.  What you want to know is how many books are in the backlog at the moment.

Gulp.

So I have two big boxes of books full of waiting to be read and a third big box that’s about half full.  I had got it down somewhat with a session of 50-pages and out a few months back, but there’s been a spate of book sales at work, and the shelf of free books is a constant temptation as a means of acquiring new release hardbacks that I couldn’t justify buying.  I think I have got the pile so that it is slightly smaller than it was this time last year, but it’s not a massive difference.  And to make it worse, looking back at the state of the pile post I wrote when we had the windows done 18 months ago, I think it’s grown.  Which is less than ideal.  Looking at the pictures of the books I thought I was mostly to read first, all bar 4 have now been read, which is better than I feared it would be because of my terrible habit of jumping new acquisitions to the top of the pile and because the books I review for Novelicious come in hard copy and get priority as well.

So what am I going to do about it?  Well deny everything if Him Indoors sees this post for a start.  No, in all seriousness, I think it’s time for another session of 50 pages and out when I unpack the boxes and be ruthless about it, even if it affects my book totals for that week (and month) because the pile needs to shrink.  I’ve read slightly fewer books this year than I did last year, both in actual book count and page count and the world is not ending.  In fact part of the reason for the reduced page count is probably my pile weeding session back in the summer when I got a couple of dozen lingerers off the pile which don’t count in my total for the year (duh) or in my page count.

I’m also going to try really hard not to buy any books in January.  I’m not going to attempt a book-buying ban because I know I’ll fail because there is a new Eloisa James out on the 31st.  But I do already have advance copies of two of the other books that I might have been tempted to buy in January so I’ve got a fighting chance.  The other reason for me not to do a book-buying ban is because it invariably leads to me having a buying spree before the appointed date for the start of the moratorium which defeats the object entirely.

On top of that, I’ve already started requesting less books from NetGalley.  Although NetGalley’s books are e-proofs, I try and read them all before they come out – or at least in the month that they come out and that means I read more ebooks than actual books.  But with another year of Fahrenheit Press, there’s no danger of me running out of ebooks to read on the train. So on that basis, I’m trying to only request things that I really, really want to read, by authors that I like (that I’ll buy the paperback of when they come out) or books I’ve heard lots of buzz about that sound like my sort of thing.  This should mean that my at-home reading time can go towards the pile more as well as taking a paperback with me on the train when I have space in my bag.

Will 2017 finally be the year I get the to-read pile under control?  We can but hope.

PS I apologise for the lack of pictures in the posts at the moment – it’s a combination of being away from home, having a sitting room that’s a mass of boxes and dustsheets, and reading lots of e-books which means not a lot of photographic options.

cozy crime, detective, holiday reading

Not Christmas Reading

Bored of Christmas? Had it up to here with left over turkey and reheated sprouts?  Overdosed on sugar and fed up of books with Christmas trees and tinsel in them?  Look no further because I have some book suggestions for you.  And no, I’m not Scrooge or the Grinch, but I’m back at work after my Christmas days off today and I find that reading about Christmas when I’m not on holiday starts to annoy me very quickly.  And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Nothing helps me with my post-Christmas funk than a bit of crime.  If you haven’t tried Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series yet, now might be a good time.  I haven’t been reading these in order (more fool me) and recently read The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, which is the second in the series and want to get my hands on the latest installment, Thrice the Brindled Cat Hath Mew’d, but suspect I’m going to have to wait for the price to come down.  If you don’t want historical crime, how about some slightly meta crime?  I’m working my way through L C Tyler’s Elsie and Ethelred series – which starts with The Herring Seller’s Apprentice.  I’ve read as far as book 4 and they’re bonkers, but sort of delightful, especially if you’ve read a lot of mysteries and can spot the tropes they’re spoofing. Baking and crafts are a massive trend in cozy crime novels at the moment and I’ve mentioned her Cupcake Bakery series before, but it bears mentioning again – as they’re set in Arizona they’re perfect if you want to escape winter and cold weather all together.  The first one is Sprinkled with Murder, but tragically you can only get her books over here in paperback so it may not arrive in time to scratch that post-Christmas itch.  So, how about some catering crime with Shawn Reilly Simmons?  The first in her Red Carpet Catering series, Murder on a Silver Platter, is 99p as I write this and they’re fluffy and sunny and see a caterer for film crews get tangled up in deaths.

If if you don’t want murder – no matter how cozy or bloodless – how about some romance?  I tend to read historical romances more than any other, so I can give you a whole host of those.  I read A Bachelor Establishment, by Jodi Taylor writing as Isabella Barclay last week – which is sort of Georgette Heyer’s Venetia with added shooting and housebreaking.  It’s short, but fun and might help you out of your Christmas hangover. Fancy something a bit more overblown?  How about the very melodramatic Kerrigan Byrne?  I read The Highlander back in August and it’s packed with kilts and angst and drama.  It’s still a bit expensive on Kindle at the moment, but former BotW The Highwayman, the first in the series is a bit cheaper and is, I think possibly even better.  Of course my go-to writers in circumstances like this are Eloisa James and Sarah MacLean. I still haven’t got MacLean’s latest, A Scot in the Dark, (gnash teeth) but I can heartily recommend any of her others if you fancy some smart, funny, sexy historical romance. And as I write this, my first ever Eloisa James, Duchess by Night, is on offer for 99p on Kindle.  It ticks a lot of my boxes – girls dressed as boys, mistaken identities, scandals, wallflowers – and it’s a great gateway drug (so to speak) into the historical romance world.  I’m sorry.  It may get expensive.

Still not seen anything you fancy?  I like to return to my favourites at this time of year.  It’s a great time to start a big old series of books.  If you haven’t read Elizabeth Jane Howard’s series of books about the Cazalets yet, now would be a perfect time to start.  The Light Years is the first, and slightly more expensive than I’d hope at the moment, but you should be able to pick it up cheaper than that in actual book form – Book People often have the whole set (although not at the moment) and they pop up in The Works from time to time too.  Or you could try your local library.  They are classics.  Talking of classics, if you haven’t already read Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, now would be a good time.  It’s twisty and creepy and goes from sunny climes to stormy Cornwall.  And although the Kindle edition is pricier than I’d hope, you should be able to get hold of it easily in the real world – if you don’t want the gorgeous Virago Designer hardback like mine of course…

So there you have it.  I hope you’re having a good day and that you find something good to read.  I intend to cheer myself up with a trip to Foyles later to console myself for being back at work already!

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Christmas Ever After

What else could I pick for a Christmas book this week except for a book set at Christmas-time? Exactly. It has to be a Christmas book in Christmas week. And I’ve read a lot of Christmas books this year – don’t believe me? Check out my Christmas books post.

Cover of Christmas Ever After
I think this might be the last Christmas book cover of the year. Maybe.

So my Christmas book of choice this week is the third in Sarah Morgan’s Puffin Island series, Christmas Ever after, which has Christmas twice – once in the UK and once on the island – and an enemies to lovers sort of plot where artistic Skylar’s politician boyfriend hijacks her big exhibition and then runs out on her, leaving unwilling acquaintance Alec to come to her rescue.  She ends up meeting his family – who think she’s his first girlfriend since his disastrous marriage, and well, it goes from there. There’s lots of sparky dialogue, sexy times, snow, sexy times, discussions about how relationships would bring out the best in you and not stifle you and romantic times.

This was so much fun. I like fractious relationships with romantic undertones – or ‘I hate you, I hate you, I can’t stop touching your hair’ as Sarah Wendell at Smart Bitches puts it –  so this is right up my street and it was the perfect book for me to read on Christmas Eve. It was warm and festive and if my new fireplace had actually been installed (don’t ask) I would have read it tucked up in front of a roaring fire and it would have been perfect. I’ve read the Puffin Island series slightly out of order, but I don’t think it’s been a problem at all – because for me the fun of a romance isn’t who people are going to end up with, but how they get there so I don’t mind knowing in advance who is going to end up with whom because I haven’t read the books in order.

So, in short, lovely Christmas romance, perfect for reading in front of the fire on your Christmas days off (like today if you have a bank holiday too) or on New Year’s Eve if you’re not all Christmassed out by then (or by now!) – or just put it on your list for next December.

Get your copy from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles or on Kindle (a bargain £1.99 at time of writing) or Kobo.

Happy reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: December 19 – December 25

Happy Boxing Day everyone.  I hope you all got what you wanted and have a lovely day and that your food babies today aren’t too big.

Read:

Deadly Treasures by Vivian Conroy

Twas the Night before Christmas by Sabrina Jeffries

A Cornish Christmas Carol by Liz Fenwick

The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? by Jodi Taylor

A Bachelor Establishment by Jodi Taylor writing as Isabella Barclay

Christmas Ever After by Sarah Morgan 

Started:

 A Red Herring without Mustard by Alan Bradley

Still reading:

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

I had nights last week, so there was the usual nights related impulse purchasing – but on a fairly small scale as I was trying to restrain myself because i was hoping for Christmas books!

cozy crime, romance, women's fiction

Christmas Reading

The schools have broken up, offices are starting to wind down and although I’m only midway through my run of nights, it really is starting to feel a lot like Christmas.  So if you’re already in full-on festive mode, here are some Christmassy reading suggestions for you.  All my links in this are to the Kindle editions – partly because there are so many e-specials in here, but also because it’s so close to Christmas now you’re probably not going to be able to get the actual book in the post in time.

As with every year there is a healthy crop of new festive novellas about.  In the main, I think they mostly work for people who are already fans, rather than people who are new to the author, but if you’re a fan of Katie Fforde, you can check in with some old friends in Candlelight at Christmas, or with the characters from Cathy Bramley‘s Plumberry School of Comfort Food in Comfort and Joy.  Alex Brown returns to Tindledale to write a emotional story about finding a new love in Not Just for Christmas.  Liz Fenwick has written a Christmas Carol-inspired novella, A Cornish Christmas Carol, for those of you who want to see a Scrooge converted.  And there are short stories from Jennifer Crusie, Donna Alward and Mandy Baxter in It Must Be Christmas – I liked the Crusie the best, but be warned it’s been previously published (I discovered I’d already read it) and I think it’s a little expensive (over a fiver at time of writing) for what it is as I thought the other two stories each had a problem or two with them.

I reviewed Sarah Morgan‘s Christmas novel Miracle on Fifth Avenue for Novelicious – it’s wonderfully Christmassy even if it’s not quite grovelly enough in the resolution for me.  Morgan writes excellent Christmas stories – I read the first book in her Snow Crystal trilogy, Sleigh Bells in the Snow, a couple of weeks back and that’s great as well.  I’m currently trying to resist the urge to buy the other two in the series.  It’s not new, but I read Tessa Dare‘s Spindle Cove fill in Once Upon A Winter’s Eve this year – and whilst I took an early dislike of the hero and didn’t think it was long enough for him to be able to redeem himself fully, I know that other people have loved it.  I’ve also read the last in Sabrina Jeffries‘s Hellions of Halstead Hall series this year, Twas the Night after Christmas, which is actually mostly set in the run up to Christmas.  I found the characters a bit stubborn and the central plot device is a bit melodramatic and overblown, but other people ha

There’s also no shortage of Christmas books in the series that I follow and I’ve read quite a few of them this year.  The latest in Robin Stevens‘ Wells and Wong series , Mistletoe and Murder is a Christmas one – as I’ve already mentioned in a BotW post and you’d be fine starting the series there if you really wanted to.  And I think Donna Andrew‘s Duck the Halls would be fine for someone to read if they haven’t read the other 15 Meg Langslow books – although you’d be missing the background to Meg’s eccentric extended family so she might come across as barking mad.  I’m behind in the series (because I collect them in papberback but wait for the secondhand prices to come down because of the backlog) so there’s another Christmas-y Meg after this one, The Nightingale Before Christmas as well as an earlier festive one, Six Geese Are Slaying.  Alan Bradley‘s fourth Flavia de Luce novel is set at Christmastime.  In I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Flavia is cooking up a trap for St Nick but a film crew is snowed in at Buckshaw and a murder is committed. The fifth in Kerry Greenwood‘s Corinna Chapman series, Forbidden Fruit, is a Christmas book – but it’s Christmas in Australia which makes a lovely change from snow scenes and roaring fires.  It also has recipes at the back, which is always a bonus – and one of things I like about Trisha Ashley‘s books.  I’ve mentioned her a fair bit here before – but she has some fabulous Christmas books – particularly my favourite A Winter’s Tale, which I usually re-read at this time of year.

Some of the series have Christmas fill-in novellas too – in Jodi Taylor‘s Chronicles of St Mary’s series When A Child is Born sees Max and the gang in England for Christmas 1066 and all does not go as planned (but then when does it ever?) and A Christmas Present had me in tears twice as Max goes back in time to avert a double tragedy.  this year I’ve also enjoyed Silent Night and Twelth Night, the two Christmas fill-ins in Deanna Raybourn‘s Lady Julia Grey series but much as I love her,  I really do think you need to have read the other books to be able to get the best out of them.

This is a real monster list (much longer than I thought it would be when I started writing it) and I hope this has provided plenty of Christmas-y reading for you – but if this is still not enough, here’s last year’s Christmas-themed reading post with some more suggestions.

Book of the Week, literary fiction, women's fiction

Book of the Week: Angel

You may be relieved to hear that this weeks BotW is neither Fahrenheit Press book or a Christmas book – even though the title might suggest that it could be the latter.  It is however the perfect book for curling up with on a sofa on a wintry afternoon.

hardback copy of Angel by Elizabeth Taylor
My second hand copy- the stain on the front was there when I got it, the dent in the top… I’m not sure.

The titular Angel is the spoilt darling of a grocery shop proprietress, who spins fantasies to her school mates about a glamorous house where her aunt is a maid.  When she is found out she takes to her bed, refuses to return to school and starts to write novels.  These turn out to be bestsellers – at least at first – even if they’re wildly inaccurate, far-fetched and slated by the critics.  But Angel doesn’t care – she believes she is one of the world’s greatest writers and nothing and nobody is going to stand in her way.

Elizabeth Taylor (not that one) has created a monster.  Angel is dreadful in every way – delusional, deceitful, ungrateful, selfish, vain and more.  But you can’t stop reading about her in a sort of fascinated horror.  She is oblivious to her faults and to the way that others view her and is able to sail through life in the comfortable delusion that she is clever, witty, brilliant and under-appreciated.  You would never want to spend any time with any one like her in real life, but I could happily have spend hours more reading about her antics.

There are a fair few women in books who become writers as a response to straightened circumstances – often with a trusty maid in attendance.  But they are almost always portrayed as gentlewomen brought low by financial troubles not of their own making.  Angel is not one of these – she starts writing as a way of getting her own way – initially she’s more interested in showing her neighbours that she’s better than them.  Then the money enables her to exert power over her mother, who in her attempts to allow her daughter to go further in life by scrimping and saving for a better education for her has created a stubborn tyrant who will brook no opposition.  As we follow Angel through 40 plus years we see the changes in British society as it moves from the Victorian era, through two World Wars – and we see Angel rewrite her past and invent new fictions for herself – which she believes even if those around her know other wise.

Although Angel is the centre of this book we also get to see the people she uses up and spits out – her mother, her aunt, a wannabe poetess, her husband, her servants – and the people who manage to survive her onslaught – only really her publisher and his wife.  It’s a portrait of a tyrant and it’s very, very good.

My copy of Angel is a lovely Virago Designer Hardback which I got second hand and seem to be quite hard to come by, but it’s also available in paperback from Amazon, Foyles and Waterstones and on Kindle and Kobo.  And as it was first published in 1957, you have a fighting chance of being able to find yourself a second hand copy in a charity or second hand bookshop.

Happy reading.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: December 12 – December 18

So this week coming is Nightshift week, so that means impulse purchases and light reading. So not that different to a normal week then!  And this week’s reading ended up being really un-Christmassy – even though I’m feeling quite festive now.  And in unrelated but rather lovely news, I’m on Fahrenheit Press’s list of Book Bloggers of the Year which was very touching and made me come over all teary eyed.  But then I’ve got a fractured elbow, a terrible cough and am fighting off the newsroom lurgy so I think I’m particularly suseptible to tears at the moment.  Or that’s my story and I’m sticking to it – after all I cried at the Strictly final on Saturday night.  Twice.

Read:

The Case of the Screaming Beauty by Alison Golden

Last Boat to Camden Town by Paul Charles

The Case of the Hidden Flame by Alison Golden

Sweetest Regret by Meredith Duran

Juniors at the Chalet School by Katherine Bruce

A Little Murder by Suzette A Hill

Angel by Elizabeth Taylor

Started:

Deadly Treasures by Vivian Conroy

Still reading:

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Three e-books bought – and three real books when I went into The Works for some Christmassy bits.  Oops.  And I’m never good at avoiding buying books on nights either am I?  Still I’ll try and restrain myself – because who knows what Santa might bring – if you want to know what I’m hoping he’ll bring, check out my Christmas gift post – or if you’re still looking for last minute things here’s the book gift guide.

fiction, Gift suggestions, non-fiction

Give Me a Book for Christmas 2016

Yes, it’s that time of year again, where I tell you what’s been sitting in my Amazon Shopping basket for months as I try to justify buying more books in the guise of offering recommendations for people who like what I like but actually offer last minute hints to my loved ones who read the blog and anyone else who wants to buy me something.  In writing this I went back over last year’s version of this post and was cheered over how many of my 2015 wishes I’ve got and have read – and there are a couple more on my Kindle too that I bought myself!

Non Fiction

The non fiction section of this list always seems to be bigger than the fiction one – I think because non-fiction books are often more expensive or come out in hardback first so I’m less likely to buy them myself and it takes longer for them to drop down in price secondhand.

A new addition to the list is Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Mock, Hate and Fear by Sady Doyle, which Sarah MacLean recommended in her Christmas mailing list.  It’s a look at troubled women in the public eye through history – from Mary Wollstonecraft through Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse – examining what makes a “trainwreck” and why we’re so fascinated by them.  I’ve had my eye on The End of the Perfect 10 by Dvora Meyers since the Olympics in the summer, but haven’t been able to justify shelling out for it when I have so much waiting on the to-read shelf.  And then there’s Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me which I’ve just heard so much about but haven’t got around to reading yet.

There’s a few memoirs that I’m interested on – I keep hearing good things about Tara Clancy’s The Clancy’s of Queens about her childhood growing up in different parts of New York.  Then there’s Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime about growing up in South Africa when his parents’ marriage (between a white Swiss man and a black Xhosa woman) was illegal.  Noah is almost exactly my age and it’s crazy to me that this was still happening in my lifetime, to my contemporaries.

In history terms, I’d like First Women by Kate Anderson Brower about modern First Ladies of the US,  I want to read Barbara Leaming’s Kick Kennedy because I already have Paula Byrne’s novel Kick waiting on the shelf and I wouldn’t mind Rosemary by Kate Larson (although I fear it may make me sad and angry) because most of my knowledge about the other Kennedys comes from Laurie Graham’s novel The Importance of Being Kennedy and Robert Dalek’s biography John F Kennedy: An Unfinished Life.

I’m not one for science books in the main – although I’d also like to read several of the Mary Roach books I recommended yesterday – but I’d really like Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are which is an exploration of female sexuality and sex, but I’m not sure there’s anyone I know well enough that I can ask them to buy it for me!  Perhaps I’ll treat myself to it in the New Year!

Fiction

The fiction section this year breaks down into authors I want to try or books I keep hearing about and series/authors I collect.  I’ll start with the former, because if you’ve been here a while the latter may seem a bit familiar to you…

Last year I was asking for the last of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation books – this year i’m asking for her first collaboration with Beatriz Williams (who I also really like) and Karen White, The Forgotten Room, which is a timeslip novel covering three generations of a family in New York.  And incidentally I still haven’t managed to read Willig’s other novel from last year That Summer, where a woman inherits a house and discovers a painting and a mystery.

I’m always wanting non-Christmassy books to read in January – particularly because that’s when my birthday is and I’m sick of tinsel and mistletoe by New Year’s Day – which conincidentally is when Sherlock is back on TV, so Brittany Holmes A Study in Charlotte (female Holmes descendant at a US boarding school) or Sherry Thomas’s A Study in Scarlet Women (historical romance with female Sherlock) which I’ve been coveting for ages might well suit my mood early in 2017.

On the collection front, Virago reissued three more Angela Thirkells recently that I have not yet read or added to my collection (I wasn’t allowed to buy myself when Foyles were doing 20% off online, apparently 1 book as a present and 1 book for me was not an acceptable purchase ratio…) Miss Bunting, The Headmistress and Marling Hall.  There’s also a few more of Virago’s Designer Hardbacks that I’d quite like to add to the shelf – notably the two Daphne Du Maurier short story collections – Don’t Look Now and Other Stories and The Birds and Other Stories and Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on the Train.

And in more boring every day reading so to speak, I really want to read the new Aurora Teagarden Mystery by Charlaine Harris, All the Little Liars, partly because I like the series but also because the idea of an author coming back to a series after nearly 15 years fascinates me. I still don’t have the latest Julia Quinn (Because of Miss Bridgerton) or Sarah MacLean (A Scot in the Dark) so I’m falling behind in my historical romance reading as well as the rest of the backlog.

Bookish Stuff

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve already bought myself another year of Fahrenheit Press books and a couple more years of Literary Review, and I have Vanity Fair as well.  I did investigate a membership of the London Library, but I don’t know anyone who would spend nearly £500 on a library membership for me – especially with the massive backlog I have at the moment (and I can get a *lot* of books for £500 – that’s probably more than I’ve spend on books for myself this year anyway!).

I do fancy a new Kindle e-reader though – my first generation Kindle Touch has given me faithful service for more than 4 years, but it’s now struggling a little bit (it keeps stalling, possibly because of the amount of stuff on it) and the paint is scratching off it.  It’d also be nice to have two so that Him Indoors could use one on the beach on holiday (he ended up using mine for a fair bit of our last one).  My pick (I think) is the Voyage – because I want the backlight but I’m also getting lazy in my old age and liked the page turning squeezing thing when I tried it at the airport.

So there you are, more books than you can shake a stick at that I want for Christmas, despite the piles I already have.  It’s like an addiction except that I learn things and it’s not illegal.