Chaos continues. I mean honestly. I have words for my own incompetence in setting my Week in Books as ready to publish without adding my Sunday reading. I’m surprised I’m allowed out alone. Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed your Bank Holiday Monday if you had one. Anyway, on to another (quite brief) BotW.
Doreen Green is off to college. Her first task is to keep her secret identity as Squirrel Girl under wraps. But that’s easier said than done when you have a tail, your squirrel sidekick has followed you to campus and the world is under threat from all manner of bad guys.
I loved Doreen. She’s feisty, smart and a little bit nutty and she’s going to save the world. I don’t read a lot of super hero comics, but I picked this up as my Super Hero Comic with a Female Lead for the Read Harder Challenge. I’d heard a lot about it and it totally lived up to the hype. Doreen is the hero (or heroine) we need: she’s Unbeatable because she’s got a solution to everything and it’s often not to beat her enemy to a bloody pulp, but something smart and clever. Considering that I’d had a stressful week, this really hit the spot for me.
I love stories with strong, smart women at their centre and this ticks all those boxes. My only problem with this – as it is with all graphic novels – is that I read them too fast, and they’re expensive. But they’re also art, and labour intensive and so I give them a bit of a pass, especially as I really enjoy going into my local comic book store. I think I’ll be passing my copy on to my older niece (she’s 9) because I think she’d love this too.
You can get Unbeatable Squirrel Girl from all the usual places that sell comics, and at time of writing, the Kindle version for a very bargainous £3. I’m not a reader of comics on tablet, but Volume 2 was also super competitively priced, so I’ve got bought it and I’m going to give it a go. I’ll keep you posted. But visit a comic book store.
Oh the chaos. The first phase of plastering is done. And as I went to the MotoGP on Saturday and Sunday (it was amazing) I didn’t get caught up on my reading at the weekend either. But I don’t care! Or at least I’m trying not to. Decorating starts next weekend, so expect more of the same next week. Hey ho.
Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Philips
Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett
Holiday in the Hamptons by Sarah Morgan
Calling You Home by Daniela Sacerdoti
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North et al
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
The Greedy Queen by Annie Gray
Wise Children by Angela Carter
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott
No books bought though – although one preorder did turn up. But that’s already been accounted for in the list, so it doesn’t count this week!
So, in exciting news, I’m going to be one of the judging panel for a short story competition for Fahrenheit Press. I know. Exciting times. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of what Fahrenheit Press are doing – I’ve hosted interviews with several of their authors (like Duncan MacMaster and Derek Farrell) and reviewed a hell of a lot more of their books (I started making a list, but I got embarrassed about how much of a fangirl it made me look. But there’s a tag. You can search for it and point and laugh). I’m in my second year of having an annual subscription to their stuff (a great gift for the crime reader in your life – as I said at Christmas!), and it’s meant I’ve read new authors, new to me authors and tried stuff that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise. So I was thrilled to be asked, if a little nervous about it all.
The rest of the panel are: Jo Perry – author of the Charlie and Rose series (as reviewed here a few weeks back), and book bloggers Kate Moloney (of Bibliophile Book Club), Gordon McGhie (of Grab This Book) and Janet Emson (of From First To Last Page). I know. I’m super punching above my weight. I’m going to be on my best behaviour and I’ve already got a spreadsheet planned to make sure I do this right.*
Details on how to enter are here if you’re so inclined. Closing date for entries is the end of September. And if you’re not entering yourself, I’ll be checking back in afterwards to let you know how it all went and (hopefully) rave about the amazing talent we’ve discovered.
*I did a recruitment selection course the other week and it scared me stupid.
I’ve got renovations and building work on the mind at the moment – I wonder why – and so this week’s #Recommendsday post is about books featuring renovations or building projects. Let’s start with some murder mysteries.
First, a classic: Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie. New Zealander Gwenda and her husband have just moved into her new house, but as she starts to modernise it, all she does is uncover the house’s history. As far as she knows, she’s never been to England before, so why does she have a creeping dread every time she uses the stairs – and why are all the things that she wants to do to the house, features that the house used to have? It’s creepier than many of the Miss Marple books – and although it’s very good, it’s not my favourite of the Miss Marple stories, but I think that might be partly because the copy that we had at home when I was little had a cover with a pair of knitting needles stuck in someone’s head.
The fourth book in the Aurora Teagarden series, The Julius House, has a big renovation project in it when Roe’s husband to be buys her a notorious house where a family disappeared from some years previously. Roe is an amateur sleuth, fascinated by real life murders she can’t resist trying to figure out what happened to them. Houses feature a a few of the books in this series: in book two, A Bone to Pick, Roe inherits a house from a friend, and in book 3, Three Bedrooms, One Corpse, she has a go at selling real estate and keeps stumbling over corpses.
Not quite a renovation, but Karen Rose Smith’s Caprice de Luce series features a house stager who solves crime. I’ve only read one of them – but as house stagers are something we really don’t have in the UK, I found her job fascinating, even though I had a couple of quibbles with the mystery. I have more in the series on my Amazon watch list though, so I liked it enough to want more.
Now, on to romance…
I’ve mentioned Jill Shalvis a few times recently, but the first book in her Lucky Harbor series – Simply Irresistible – features a heroine who is trying to renovate and relauch her late mother’s guest house. It’s a romance – and her contractor is her love interest and it’s fun and romantic and everything that you would expect from a Jill Shalvis novel.
Among Katie Fforde’s novels, there are a couple that have renovation projects – including Practically Perfect, where the heroine is an interior designer who is doing up a tiny cottage to showcase her skills and slightly tangentially one of my all time favourites of hers, Stately Pursuits – where house sitting turns into an attempt to save the house from redevelopment by getting it into a state where it can pay its own way as a historic home (and venue) open to the public.
And a couple more to finish:
I read Nick Spalding’s Bricking It a couple of years ago and laughed consistently the whole way through. It features two siblings trying to renovate a house they’ve inherited from their grandmother, with the added complication of taking part in a reality TV show. It’s got a cast of hilarious secondary characters and I loved the live TV scene – even though my inner broadcasting nerd (hello day job!) wasn’t sure if it would actually have been able to go down the way it did. Writing this has made me wonder why I haven’t read more of Nick Spalding’s stuff since.
And down here and not with the cozies because I’ve mentioned this series recently already, but the sixth Meg Langslow mystery, Owls Well That Ends Well, sees Meg start the renovations to the big old Victorian house that is such a centre piece for the rest of the series.
If after all that you want more buildings in books, I wrote a #Recommendsday about books with amazing houses back at the end of May.
Send me your suggestions for more renovation books in the comments or on Twitter – I’m @WildeV.
It’s renovation chaos here: half of the contents of our house is in storage and we’re camped out in one room. So this week’s BotW is going to be short and sweet I’m afraid.
Death around the Bend is the third in the Lady Hardcastle cozy crime murder mystery series by T E Kinsey. I read the first one a few weeks back and picked up the third on a Kindle deal, and read it on the commute last week. The set up for the series is that Lady Emily Hardcastle is a widow with a somewhat more exciting past than is usual in the Edwardian era. She and her trusty maid Florence have moved to the English countryside for a bit of peace and quiet and relaxation but don’t seem to be getting much of it.
In book three, Emily and Florence have been invited to a friend’s estate for a weekend of racing – but it’s car racing, not horses. Lord Ribblethorpe has gone mad for motor cars and has set up his own racing team, complete with a track in the grounds of his estate. When a driver is killed during a race, the police think it’s an accident but Emily and Florence aren’t convinced and can’t help but try and solve the crime. With Emily asking questions above stairs, Florence is sleuthing below stairs. Then another body is found.
This is fun and fast moving (and not just because of the cars). I like the dynamic between Emily and Florence – and particularly that the story is told by Florence. I picked up the first one as part of my ongoing quest to find other series that scratch my Phryne Fisher and Daisy Dalrymple itch and it does this quite nicely – although it’s set earlier than either of those two series. Unfortunately there are only three books in the series (at the moment at least) so I only have one left to read, but hey ho, you can’t win them all.
All three Lady Hardcastle mysteries are on Kindle Unlimited if you’re a member (I’m not) but the two I’ve read have come around on discount deals at various points too (that’s how I got them!). You can find them all here.
Hello! It’s already been a busy week here on the blog – don’t forget to check out my interview with Derek Farrell and my review of his latest book if you haven’t already. Anyway, today I wanted to use my #Recommendsday post not to talk about a book, but to extoll the virtues of having a book clear out every now and then.
As you may have seen in yesterday’s Week in Books, we’re about to have some work done in the house and this means we’re packing up half the house basically (our big downstairs living area and the spare bedroom) to put it into storage while the work is done. It’s not major building work, just plastering and associated stuff that all goes better if there’s no furniture in the way. And where are the main places in our house where my books live? The living room and the spare bedroom of course. So I’ve taken this opportunity to have what my mum calls a “rationalisation” of the bookshelves and I wanted to share my methodology (if it can be called that) with all of you. Some things I know I’m keeping, no question – basically the Children’s book collection, the Georgette Heyers and the Peter Wimseys – but for most of the rest of the books, these are the questions I ask myself during a clear out.
So the first and most important questions has to be: will I ever read it again? Now if a book has made it to one of my keeper shelves, it has done so because I thought when I finished it that I would want to read it again. But have I? And do I still think that? If the answer is no, then the book can probably go. If it’s been 3 years and I haven’t read it again do I really need to keep it? My downstairs bookshelf tend to be where the frequent rereads are, so if I haven’t read something on that for a while, it’s time to relegate it to upstairs and see if I miss it. If I don’t miss it, it can probably go next time.
Next up: Am I sentimentally attached to it? This is the reason why I still have copies of most of my A Level and GCSE texts – they’re filled with my notes and scribbles and they remind me of English classes (and history classes) and how much I enjoyed them. It’s why I found it so hard to get rid of a book about the Congress of Vienna that I’ve never managed to get past page 50 (of 600) in – because I bought it in a fit of misty nostalgia about my writing my A Level coursework about the Congress just after I finished University. It’s been unread for a decade – and I’ve only just now put it in the bag for the charity shop and deleted it from my to-read list on Goodreads.
The next question is am I keeping it for completeness or because it’s part of a set? Do I really need to? I’ve got rid of a few books this time that are by authors that I used to buy everything from but now… less so. I’ve kept my favourites of theirs – the ones that I do re-read – but I’ve jettisoned the rest. This is all made easier for me if the author has changed publisher and the books no longer match – because we know how much I like matching sets of books!
And finally, if I changed my mind, how hard would it be to replace this? Most of the time the answer is that it would be fairly easy. Occasionally, I’ve already got an ebook copy so that solves the problem. But if it’s out of print or not available in ebook (or very expensive in ebook) then I might hold on to stuff for a little bit longer. But there comes a point where you have to let go.
And I’ve let quite a lot go. I’ve even weeded the to-read pile and got rid of stuff that I know in my heart I’m never going to get around to reading because there’ll always be something “more important”. I’ve got rid of books by authors that I’ve gone off and don’t buy any more, stuff that I kept to make my bookshelves look cool and least favourite books/series by some authors that I do still like. My mum’s WI will have a a very well stocked book stall this month, and I’ve still got a bag or two for the charity shop.
The key thing now, is to resist the temptation to keep buying physical books while the to-read pile is away in storage. I love m kindle, but sometimes I just want a proper book to read. I’m hoping to solve/mitigate this urge by keeping a small stack from the to-read pile by my bed for when I feel the urge to read actual words printed on a piece of paper…