books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: February 20 – February 26

Nightshifts are finally over and I’m busy trying to get myself back onto normal person time – which is proving harder than usual after two weeks on nights.  The reading is still of the light and happy variety, but there’ve been some gems in there.


Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James

Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

Hack by Duncan MacMaster

Here We Go Round by Mabel Esther Allen

Judy the Guide by Elinor M Brent Dyer

A Secret Garden by Katie Fforde

Rivers of London: Black Mould Vol 1 by Ben Aaronovitch et al

Rivers of London: Black Mould Vol 2 by Ben Aaronovitch et al


A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams

Still reading:

First Women by Kate Andersen Brower

Shock and Awe by Simon Reynolds

I didn’t buy any books.  None. Despite the nightshifts.  I’m so proud of myself.  It’s the simple things.

Book of the Week

Book of the Week: The Ballad of Sean and Wilko

I’m on my second week of nights, so I’m hoping that when this publishes, I’ll be asleep. Or if not asleep, just waking up well rested and raring to go. Fat chance Fingers crossed.  Anyway, this week’s BotW returns to a familiar face to regular readers – yup, it’s another Fahrenheit Press book.  In fact I had to go back through the archives to make sure I hadn’t already talked about Christy Kennedy,  aside from the brief mention in last week’s Half-Term Reading* because The Ballad of Sean and Wilko is the fourth in the 10-book series.

Cover of The Ballad of Sean and Wilko
The covers are all quite dark and brooding – and Camden

In the Ballad of Sean and Wilko we rejoin Christy Kennedy as he investigates the murder of the frontman of a 70s band who is found dead in his locked dressing room mid-show.  Kennedy has to pick his way through a tangle of complicated relationships – professional and personal – to try and figure out what happened.  Then another body turns up, in another locked room.

Christy Kennedy is a Northern Irish detective with a fondness for the Beatles and a soft spot for a local journalist called ann rea (no capital letters – like kd lang). He has a methodical approach to solving mysteries and you know as much as he knows (most of the time).  There’s a collection of supporting characters who are interesting in their own right and who never feel like fillers.  And late 1990s Camden is a character in itself, painted with love and affection

Paul Charles started writing the Christy Kennedy series nearly 20 years ago and they have aged well.  The music may be on CD or vinyl and there may not be many mobile phones, or much talk of the internet but because it was written at the time it all feels perfectly natural.  Charles has worked in the music industry and boy does it show.  I’ve learned so much about the mechanics of the industry from these books – particularly this one – but it’s all worn very lightly so you only realise later how many facts are packed in there.

Anyway, to summarise: good murder, great setting, excellent detective.  What more could you want.  The Ballad of Sean and Wilko is available on Kindle for the bargain price of £1.99.  I got my copy as part of my Fahrenheit Book Club subscription which I have banged on about enough already.

Now I’m off back to bed.  I can only hope this post makes sense.  My brain is not a very coherant place right now.

Happy reading.

*Which I’m obviously now regretting because it’s making me sound repetitive and I hate that.  But I did like it best out of last week’s books so sod it, and let it be a lesson to me to plan better in future.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: February 13 – February 19

Nightshifts all this week.  Nightshifts all next week.  Take a guess at what I’ve been reading.  Yup. No literary fiction in sight!  There are some very good books among them and I’ve managed to get away from the cozy crime a little too!


The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti

The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal

Shunned No More by Christina McKnight

The Ballad of Sean and Wilko by Paul Charles

Headgirl at Vivians by Patricia K Cauldwell

Kennelmaid Nan by Elinor M Brent-Dyer


Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James

Still reading:

First Women by Kate Andersen Brower

Shock and Awe by Simon Reynolds

No books bought.  I’m actually quite proud of myself for resisting the urge to order a tonne of Kindle books in the early hours.

historical, non-fiction

On the Keeper Shelf: History Books

Another half-term bonus post.  As I was dusting my bookshelves the other day, I was looking at my collection of history books.  I’m a history graduate and have read a lot of history writing over the years.  In fact for portions of my university career I hardly read any fiction because I was so burned out on reading from doing my coursework.  These days my reading is mainly fiction, but a lot of it is historical fiction and when I do read non-fiction, a lot of it is historical biography or about history.  And although I don’t tend to reread nonfiction, there are a few books that I have kept hold of – and not because I worry that people will judge me based on my bookshelves*.  So what have I kept and why?

Elizabeth by David Starkey

This was the big history blockbuster when I was doing A-levels.  And as it happens, I was studying Tudor history.  This was one of the first really readable “proper” history books I had come across (it was much easier going that GR Elton’s Henry VII which I also had to read) and it and John Guy’s Tudor England formed the basis of a lot of my essays at the time.  This is full of research, but wears it lightly – if you want a readble way of fact-checking portrayals of Elizabeth in popular culture (like say the Cate Blanchett Elizabeth films) this will do that for you.  I’ve kept reading Starkey since – particularly on Henry VIII and his wives – and have a couple of others around the house, but it’s Elizabeth that I’m sentimentally attached to.

Bright Young People by DJ Taylor

I have an enduring fascination with the inter-war period.  I love novels – particularly detective novels – written in that period and set in that period and the actual history and reality of that era fascinates me too.  I have a little collection of books about the Roaring Twenties and this is possibly my favourite.  It’s the most Britain-centric – which means I can use it to get the background on some of the people who crop up in the novels and similar.  It’s also got a very thorough bibiliography and further reading list which I always appreciate and there’s a few books on that list that I still want to read.  Also on my shelves (still) are Flappers by Judith Makerell, Anything Goes by Lucy Moore (which is more America-centric), Mad World by Paula Byrne and Queen Bees by Sian Evans.  And I’ve got the new Evelyn Waugh biography on the to-read pile too.

An Uncommon Woman: The Empress Frederick by Hannah Pakula

Now bear with me on this one because it’s slightly odd.  As a child I was a little bit obsessed with Queen Victoria.  Well, quite a lot obsessed.  You know how some children are into dinosaurs or trains?  That was me and Queen Victoria. I could recite dates, I knew the middle names of all her children, I had it marked on my height chart how tall she was so I knew when I was taller than her and when we visited the Isle of Wight, all I wanted to do was visit Osborne.  As an adult this has left me with more knowledge than I care to admit about the genealogy of the royal family, although I did win money by correctly predicting Prince George’s name – and my pick if it had been a girl was Charlotte, so you know, it has some uses.  I was also big into pretend games when I was little – but I always pretended to be Princess Victoria, the Princess Royal, not Queen Victoria.  Yeah. I know.  I was a very strange child.  Still I turned out all right really.  Anyway, there aren’t many proper biographies of Princess Victoria – who was the mother of Kaiser Wilhelm II (him of World War One) and who died less than 8 months after her mother – but I picked this up secondhand at university to get my head around who she actually was – rather than the crazy ideas that 8-year-old Verity had – and although she actually had a sad and tragic life in the end, I keep it on the shelf as a reminder of the weirdly obsessed child that I was.  Also on the shelves as remnants of that childhood obsession are Julia Gelardi’s Born to Rule (about five of Queen Victoria’s Granddaughters), Princesses by Flora Fraser (about George III’s daughters) and Helen Rappaport’s Magnificent Obsession (about Victoria and Albert’s marriage).



*People are welcome to judge me on my bookshelves – if you look at the big downstairs bookshelf you’ll find Georgette Heyer, Dorothy L Sayers, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Laurie Graham, Maya Angelou, Barbara Pym and Ngaio Marsh amongst others.  I think that’s a pretty accurate picture of me.

books, holiday reading

Half-Term Reading

Bonus post ahoy!  Yes, I know we’re already well into half term (my bad) but here are some reading suggestions never the less.

Firstly, there’s a new Sinclair’s Mystery out from Katherine Woodfine.  I’ve mentioned this middle-grade historical mystery series set in the Edwardian era before (in my Christmas books post), but they’ve never got a proper review for some reason.  Book Three is The Mystery of the Painted Dragon sees Sophie and Lil and the gang investigating the theft of a painting from an exhibition at Sinclair’s department store.  There are a lot of mystery books aimed at this age group – I’ve spoken at length about Robin Stevens’ Wells and Wong series (for example here, here, here and here) and obviously there’s lots of Enid Blyton mysteries, but this is unusual in that the teenage characters are neither at school nor on school holidays – they’re out at work.  This makes for different challenges and opportunities as well as for an exciting air of independence for the characters.  If you’ve got an upper primary school child who’s bored this holiday, this would entertain them for an hour or two.  And if you’re a big kid like me, it’ll do the same for you too.

Off to the beach?  Then try Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife.  I finished this last week and it’s a big old doorstop of a book telling the story of a fictional First Lady.  It’s very clearly based on Laura Bush – in fact when I went to read Mrs Bush’s biography after reading the book I was surprised how very close it was and it made me feel a little uneasy.  But then I read books that are fictionalised versions of historical people’s lives all the time and that doesn’t make me feel squicky, so it’s a bit of a double standard.  Anyway, Alice is a great character to spend time with – although I liked the two thirds to three quarters of the book where she’s not in the White House much more than I liked that final section.

If you want something historical, I’ve just finished Beatriz Williams’ latest The Wicked City.  This is a time slip novel involving a flapper in 1920s New York and a forensic accountant in the city in the late 1990s.  If you’ve read any of Williams’ other novels there are a few familiar faces popping up too.  It’s been a while since I read my last novel and I’ve missed a couple so I’m starting to lose track of which Schulyers are which – I think that means I need to do a re-read!

And if you fancy some crime, Fahrenheit have just pubished the fourth Christy Kennedy book, The Ballad of Sean and Wilko, I haven’t read it yet, it’s waiting for me on my kindle for one of my nightshift commutes, but I’ve really enjoyed the first three, and there are 10 altogether, so if you’re in the mood for a new series to binge read, this could be for you.

None of these appeal, well then go and have a look at some of my recent Book of the Week posts – Crooked Heart, Miss Treadway or Semester of our Discontent would work, or go back further into the archives for The Rest of Us Just Live Here, The Madwoman Upstairs or even last year’s February picks.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, Book previews, crime, mystery, new releases

Book of the Week: The Riviera Express

Nightshifts are well underway here, so hopefully I’ll be asleep when this publishes.  I say hopefully, if day one is anything to go by I’ll have been woken up half a dozen times by  assorted phone calls, tradesmen and delivery people.   Anyway, as I said last week, I’ve been looking for a new cozy crime series. And as you know, I’m always looking for new historical crime series.  So this week’s BotW is a new historical crime novel from the cozier end of the spectrum which I’m hoping is going to be the start of series.

Cover of The Riviera Express
Cover of The Riviera Express

The Riviera Express is the first book from TP Fielden* about Judy Dimont, a newspaper reporter in a south-coast seaside town in the 1950s.  Miss D has a nose for a scoop, an editor who doesn’t always appreciate her and a rivalry with the paper’s other lady reporter.  The Riveira Express is both the name of the paper and the name of the train which brings holiday-makers to the resort of Temple Regis and one of Miss Dimont’s regular jobs is meeting the train if it’s got a celebrity on board.  But when she and her photographer arrive to meet film star Gerald Hennessey, they find him dead in his first class compartment.  Called away from the scene to a second death, Judy becomes convinced that there is a link between the two – even though the police aren’t convinced that either is the result of foul play.  Soon she’s investigating the links between the film star and the seaside town as well as between the two men and dealing with a couple of highly strung actresses who are mourning the dead star.  Will Judy find out the truth – and if she does will her editor let her publish it?

I hope that sounds like fun, because this book is a lovely romp through an English seaside town with pretensions of grandeur led by a charming character in Judy Dimont.  One of the toughest things to do in stories like this is create a leading character with an excuse to go poking about in murders and mysteries – and a reporter is an ideal one.  Judy has a perfect excuse to nose around and to get information from the police and the authorities.   It also means that she is going to keep coming across bodies in a more natural way than a private citizen would.  And it makes a change from private detectives of all shapes and sizes well.  The secondary characters are well drawn and there’s plenty of potential here for on-going plot strands without it feeling like there’s lots of set up being done.  I’m looking forward to finding out more about Miss D’s past in the next book.

Here’s the rub – The Riviera Express isn’t actually out for another 9 days yet – but you can pre-order the hardback from Amazon or Waterstones  and hope it turns up on the day or on Kindle or Kobo and it’ll download itself on the 23rd as a lovely treat.

Happy reading.

*I would love to know who TP Fielden is – this doesn’t feel like a first novel and there’s very little information that I can find on TP, but their Goodreads biography says that they are a “leading author, broadcaster and journalist” so it feels like a pen name – and I’d love to know who is behind it!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: February 6 – February 12

A busy week at work, with four and a half commutes means lots of reading done, which is nice. I finally finished American Wife – which took me a while because it was my bedtime book – and made some inroads to my NetGalley list (it’s so easy to find and request stuff on there).


Copy Cap Murder by Jenn McKinlay

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Waiting for an Earl Like You by Alexandra Hawkins

The Mystery of the Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine

The Riviera Express by TP Fielden

Verity Fair: Custard Creams and Pink Elephants by Terry Wiley

Circle of Influence by Annette Dashofy


The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti

Still reading:

First Women by Kate Andersen Brower

Shock and Awe by Simon Reynolds

I didn’t buy any books this week – although I did pick up a big stack of books that I ordered a few weeks ago for a bargain price.  Two steps forwards, one step back!

American imports, Book of the Week, cozy crime

Book of the Week: The Semester of Our Discontent

Last week was almost entirely taken up with cozy crimes, many of them the first in series as I’m on the hunt for another one to add to my lists.  It’s proving a harder quest than I had imagined.  Quite a few of the books that I read last week had a problem (or two).  But in the end I settled on the first book in Cynthia Kuhn’s Lila McLean series – mostly on the basis that I went out and requested the second book from NetGalley after I finished it – which is out later this month – and then read that too.

Cover of The Semester of Our Discontent
I like the simplicity of the cover – it looks classy to me.

So, in the Semester of Our Discontent we met Lila, newly appointed English professor at a small but prestigious university.  But no sooner has she arrived at Stonedale than she has more to worry about than whether she’s going to get enough published to get tenure when she finds one of her colleagues dead.  Her cousin (also on the staff and up for tenure) is one of the prince suspects, so Lila starts gathering evidence alongside teaching and settling in to her new job.

Now as a Brit, I had to google tenure the first time I can across it in a book a few years back, because it wasn’t something I had come across in the UK system, but this actually explains it really quite well and it made sense to me (or at least as much sense as it can make!) without slowing down the plot or doing an info dump.  There’s a large cast of characters in this, who don’t always get a chance to become more than just names* but the people you do get to know are engaging and three dimensional.  There’s definitely set up here for running threads for the series, but it’s done much less obviously than some of the other books I read last week.

There are a couple of moments that are a bit over the top (and I can’t tell you what) but Lila’s investigations are sensible enough and she never strays over the Too Stupid to Live or the Why the Monkeys Hasn’t She Been Arrested lines – which again was a problem in some of the other books that I read this week.

The Semester of Our Discontent isn’t perfect, but it’s engaging and readable and the depiction of campus life feels like it has plenty of potential for plots that don’t neccesarily revolve around loads of bodies**.  And at time of writing its available for the bargain price of 99p on Kindle.  It’s also available, but more expensive (£2.04) on Kobo.  The second book, The Art of Vanishing, is available on the 28th – Kindle and Kobo are taking pre-orders now, and again at time of writing Kindle is the cheaper.  They’re both published by Henery Press, who were the source of a fair few of my cozies last week, and they have more links to outlets where you can buy on their websites as well as sign up to their newsletter, which sometimes has freebies.  Wink wink.

Happy reading!

*Although this is sorted out in book 2

**As demonstrated in book 2

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: January 30 – February 5

So it turns out that I read almost nothing but cozy crime this week.  I realised this was happening on Friday and decided to roll with it and work my way through some advance copies I had waiting on the kindle.


A List of Cages by Robin Roe

Cropped to Death by Christina Freeburn

The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn

River City Dead by Nancy G West

The Art of Vanishing by Cynthia Kuhn

Tell Me No Lies by Lynn Chandler-Willis

Fatal Brushstroke by Sybill Johnson


Copy Cap Murder by Jenn McKinlay

Still reading:

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

First Women by Kate Andersen Brower

Shock and Awe by Simon Reynolds

Three ebooks bought this week – but no actual books, I’m not sure whether that’s progress or not!


Hate Reading

I hate writing bad reviews.  I have a tendency to grade books too generously on Goodreads (but I’m doing better at that).  My 50-page-and-out rule means that these days I don’t force myself to carry on with books that I’m not enjoying. One of the reasons that my regular review post is Book of the Week is because it’s a positive idea – I’m writing about books I’ve enjoyed reading, because that it is the point of reading for me a lot of the time – to enjoy something.  But in the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself writing reviews on Goodreads for a couple of stinkers.  And it got me to thinking about hate reading.

So if I don’t read books I’m not enjoying, what is hate reading I hear you ask?  Well, it’s when you hate a book – whether it’s for the characters, the plot, the bad writing etc – but keep going until the end either because you’re so boggled by what’s happening that you need to see what happens next or because you’re getting some sort of perverse pleasure from spotting the mistakes, contradictions and general craziness.*

If it’s the former, one book is usually enough.  You can strike that author off your to-read list, unless you’ve got compelling evidence that you’ve just picked the one stinker in a line of great books.  If it’s the latter, well.  I have an author who I read only because I find it so cathartic to get angry about their mistakes – some of which have been going on for several novels in a series now and most of which could have been fixed by a halfway decent editor or proof reader.

But then comes my dilemma – what do I write about them?  I can’t recommend them (well I can, but only to a very select audience) and it seems dishonest not to explain what my problem with them was.  So I don’t write about them here – because this is a positive bookish space – but over on Goodreads, I review everything I read, so usually they get a low star-rating and a Goodreads review with spoiler tags so that I can complain about the problems without spoiling the plot for anyone else.

Luckily there’s only been one occasion when I’ve been sent a book to read and review for Novelicious that has been truly dreadful, but it was a book which hadn’t been reviewed anywhere else at all, I was really concerned about the impact my review would have.  I explained the problem to my editor, who spoke to the publicist to give them the option for the review not to run.  I think it did go up in the end, but I felt less bad about the total pan I had given it, because they had had the warning.

I read a lot of books, and so many more of them good than bad, but when you’re having a run of stuff you don’t like – or in fact actively hate – like I have at recently, you just need to vent.  Thank you for reading it.  I’m off to find something good to read.

Happy Reading.

PS I haven’t named any names in this post (positive space remember), but if want to know what to avoid from my recent reading, you can visit my Goodreads profile, where you can see what I’ve been reading and the ratings I’ve given. I’m sure you’ll be able to work it out!

*Although none of the general craziness that I have come across has ever approached the general What the Feck-ery that you get in Smart Bitches, Trashy Books’s F+ review section.  I can understand if you just glom the whole section (I know I did when I first discovered it) but if you only want one as a sample, try their review of The Orca King II – but be aware, the language is… salty.