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.

Read:

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

Started:

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!

books

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.

books, stats

January Stats

New books read this month: 25*

Books from the to-read pile: 9

Ebooks read: 14

Books from the Library book pile: 1

Non-fiction books: 1

#ReadHarder categories completed: 6

Most read author: None – I read books by 25 different authors this month!

Books read this year: 25

Books bought: 12(ish) books – all bar 2 on my birthday trip and 1 ebook

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf: 493 (I don’t have copies of all of these!)

New year, new stats post.  Not many tweaks this year – but one is more visible than the others – and it’s my lovely #ReadHarder Bingo card down the bottom here.  I’ll be crossing more books off every month – or hoping to.  I’ve also made a #ReadHarder shelf on my Goodreads profile if you want to see more details about which books are the ones that tick boxes for the challenge.  Some books count for more than one category, and some categories I have (already) read more than one book which counts (I have 5 which would fit the published betwen 1900-1950 category!), so I’m not filling out the form yet, I’ll save that for the end of the year and try and pick some (at least) books I haven’t already talked about!

Read Harder challenge January update
I’m actually quite surprised how many I’ve already ticked off.

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics (2 this month)