Gift suggestions

Buy Me a Book for Christmas: 2017 edition

I always love writing this post.  It’s the easiest of the Christmas book posts for me to write, because I always have a big old list of books that I want but can’t justify buying.  And given that I’ve been being really disciplined about not buying books as I try and shrink the to-read bookshelf down, this year the list is bigger than ever.

After my trip to the cinema to see Death of Stalin, I’ve got a yen to read more about Soviet Russia and I saw someone reading Frances Spufford’s Red Plenty on the train the other week and I would love to find that in my stocking, but Stalin and the Scientists by Simon Ings also looks like it might scratch that itch.

Copy of The Book of Forgotten Author
I may have gone to Foyles just to take pictures for this post

I’ve also been staring enviously at The House of Fiction by Phyllis Richardson which looks – as you might expect – at houses in fiction and how authors’ life experiences influenced the houses they created in their novels.  Also on the bookish front, I would be happy to find The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler under the tree.  And, although it might make me blush when I unwrap it, I really want to read Fern Riddell’s Victorian Guide to Sex. We all know that I read a lot of historical romance novels, and I would love to read some actual historical research into what people were really up to in the Nineteenth Century.

I’ve been lucky with managing to get my hands on a lot of the current-affairs-y nonfiction that I’ve been looking for this year, but I still haven’t managed to get a copy of Anne Helen Peterson’s Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise of the Unruly Woman

There aren’t a lot of memoirs on my list this year, but if you’ve been reading a while, you’ll know that I loved the Tales of the City series, so it’s probably not a surprise that Armistead Maupin’s memoir Logical Family is one of them.  As far as biographies go, I keep staring at Tatiana de Rosenay’s Manderley Forever about Daphne Du Maurier, but I’m not sure I’m enough of a Du Maurier fan to get the most out of it.

Copies of Logical Family and Manderley Forever
These two were even on display right next to each other – I didn’t set this up!

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Short Stories by Lucia Berlin, which sounds like it might be right up my street.  In terms of authors I love who have new books out that I haven’t been able to justify buying, I really want the new Sarah MacLean, Day of the Duchess, but only in the cheesy US mass market paperback edition or it won’t match the others in the series!

We’re (slowly) working our way through a complete rewatch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I heard The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A Lee Martinez described as being a book with a Buffy-ish feel, so that went straight on my Christmas list!

If you want to buy me something pretty for my bookshelf, I’m still lusting over a couple of the Virago Designer Modern Classics –  the Daphne Du Maurier short story collections (which would go nicely with the de Rosenay wouldn’t they, wink wink) The Birds and Don’t Look Now, and Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train. I can’t justify buying them for myself just to add to a pretty bookshelf, but they would look nice.  And if Virago did any more of these lovely clothbound babies, I would be first in line to buy!

Virago Designer Hardback editions of Daphne Du Maurier short stories.
I did pull these out form the shelf for the photo though…

I’m coming up a bit short on other bookish ideas – I’m well stocked for notebooks and pens – and I think if I get given any more book bags Him Indoors will throw a fit.  As with last year, I still have a Literary Review subscription* and Vanity Fair and a bunch of newspaper subscriptions and I don’t have a lot of other ideas, unless someone wants to buy me Private Eye for a year or pay for another year of Fahrenheit Press (if they do a subscription again in 2018).

Anyway, that’s what I’m hoping to see in my stocking this year – and I’ll keep you posted on whether any of my wishlist actually appears!  And in case you missed them, here are my Books for Him and Books for Her posts for ideas for what to buy your nearest and dearest this year!

Happy Shopping!

*It’s very good, the nonfiction reviews help me work out what I want to buy and the fiction reviews mean I can sound knowledgable about the latest literary fiction without having to read it thus giving me more time to devote to reading romance and cozy crime!

Authors I love, Book of the Week, cozy crime

Book of the Week: Gone Gull

A quickie and a bit of a cheat for this week’s BotW – I’ve been busy writing the Christmas gift posts and reading the books to put in them.  I’ve written about Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series before, although it’s the first time I’ve made one Book of the Week – mostly because the point when I was glomming on the early series was before I started writing BotW posts the way that I do now.

Cover of Gone Gull by Donna Andrews

Anyway, Gone Gull is the 21st book in the series and sees Meg and her family spending the summer at her grandmother’s newly established craft centre.  Meg is teaching blacksmithing, her husband is teaching acting and helping look after the children, her grandfather is teaching ornithology and her dad is on hand two.  But it looks like someone may be trying to sabotage the centre and then one of the teachers is found dead.  Soon Meg is investigating and trying to work out who has it in for Biscuit Mountain.

One of the joys of this series is the crazy extended family and almost all the regular characters in the series are here – there’s not much of Meg’s mum or brother, but that’s fine because it’s nice to get to know Meg’s Grandmother Cordelia better.  The problem for a lot of long running murder series is that often it seems like the detecting character is the harbinger of doom (aka don’t be friends with Jessica Fletcher or you’ll end up dead) but one of my favourite things about this series is the way that Andrews manages to find different locations to take her characters so that it doesn’t feel quite so dangerous in Meg’s home town! It was also really nice to see Meg back at her anvil – her blacksmith business was prominent in the early books in the series, but had faded into the background somewhat while the twins were little.

These books fall at the humorous end of the cozy crime spectrum – they’re not laugh a minute, but as the pun-based titles suggest there’s plenty of fun in these – with eccentric characters and strange set ups.  I’m nearly up to date with the series now – I thought I was bang up to date, but the Christmas book (How the Finch stole Christmas) came out at the end of October, although I suspect it’ll take a while before I can justify buying it.

As always with posts about series, I think you’re best starting at the beginning – a Murder with Peacocks is the first one and although it’s out of print new, there are secondhand copies on Amazon and it’s under £4 on Kindle as I write this. But actually, these are stand alone – the thing you miss by not going back to the start is the building of the cast of characters and Meg’s relationship.  As well as meeting her ever expanding extended family over the course of the books, Meg doesn’t hurry into marriage – or into having children – which makes for a really fun journey for her and for the reader.  I think a reader could have fun wherever they start the series – so what ever you decide:

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: November 20 – November 26

In case you missed it over the weekend – here are my first two Christmas book suggestion posts: Books for Him and Books for Her.  The post with books that I want for Christmas is coming this week.  Meanwhile it’s been a murderous week of reading!

Read:

Gone Gull by Donna Andrews

And Death Goes To… by Laura Bradford

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

Hollywood Hang Ten by Eve Goldberg

Rivers of London: Cry Fox 1 by Ben Aaronovitch et al

New Romancer 3 by Peter Milligan and Brett Parson

Historically Dead by Greta McKennan

Started:

The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson

The One that Got Away by Melissa Pimentel

Still reading:

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

China Court by Rumer Godden

Marling Hall by Angela Thirkell

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

I bought quite a few books this week – but they were all presents, so they don’t count!

Gift suggestions

Buy Him a Book for Christmas: 2017 Edition

I’ll admit I’m struggling slightly for Man Books this year.  And by Man Books, I mean books that the men in my life would like.  As you know, every year I buy books for Him Indoors, my Dad and my little sister’s partner and, although my dad reads a lot of my mum’s books when she’s done with them, I do try and get him something he wouldn’t be able to pick up off my mum’s pile.  For years his book was the latest Terry Pratchett, but as that option is no longer available to me, I’ve had to me more creative. Him Indoors likes Bill Bryson and I’ve had success with Guy Martin’s books previously, but some of the other autobiographies he’s been given have sat unread on the shelves, and that makes me sad.  Little Sister’s partner is a fascinating enigma and I have to pick her brains for ideas every year.  But between the three of them it usually gives a good cross section of stuff that I wouldn’t be buying for other people (or myself).  But this year is tricky.  Very tricky.

Cover of How to Build a Car

So the obvious choice for the Formula One fan in my life would be Jenson Button’s autobiography Life to the Limit, but there are a couple more behind the scenes-y books out this year too – Adrian Newey (legendary car designer) has one out – How to Build a Car – which looks like it’s full of designs and technical details and there’s also Mechanic: The Secret Life of the Pit Lane by former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestly.  I’m going to have to go to Foyles and have a flick through them before I can decide which it’ll be.

In other nonfiction terms, Timothy West and Prunella Scales have written a book to accompany their TV series: Our Great Canal Journeys which might make a nice coffee table book for older relatives.  There’s a book accompanying Blue Planet II which looks lovely as well and of course there’s David Attenborough’s own memoir Adventures of a Young Naturalist.  There are also two space-related books out this Christmas – the patriotic choice is obviously Tim Peake’s Ask an Astronaut, but I’m actually more interested in Scott Kelly’s Endurance – although he didn’t come across as the chattiest of people during his media round promoting this, the reviews I’ve seen have been excellent and  I’ve been fascinated by his story for ages.  In case you didn’t know, he’s the American astronaut who spent a year in space – his identical twin brother is also an astronaut (now retired, he’s married to former US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords) and one of the things the year in space was able to do was compare the differences between the the two men and see what space was doing to him compared to earth.

The cover of the word is murder

I found the fiction picks this year really hard, but eventually I’ve come up with a few.  I read Anthony Horowitz’s The Word is Murder the other week and I think it would make a great Christmas read – it’s a modern day Sherlock type story, but very, very meta.  Perfect for reading in front of the fire on Boxing Day.  Although (as previously mentioned) there are no new Pratchetts anymore, there are lovely new hardback editions of his books coming out, if you’ve got someone who hasn’t got them all – the one of Good Omens, which he wrote with Neil Gaiman, is particularly nice – and there’s a TV adaptation coming soon, starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant, so now is the time to read it if you haven’t already.  Talking of Neil Gaiman, his Norse Mythology would probably be a good choice – I know I want to read it!

So there you go, a stack of book suggestions that veer towards the sciences, technology, sci fi and mystery.  If you’re still short of ideas, here’s last year’s post for more ideas – I’ve read Mary Roach’s Grunt since I wrote the post and can now endorse her fully, ditto Ready Player One which has a movie out soon too.  And if you’re looking for books about history, cooking and a stack of fiction picks, try my Books for Her post.

Gift suggestions

Buy Her a Book for Christmas: 2017 Edition

Here we go again, it’s the Christmas gift suggestion post marathon. I’m starting with books for her, then there’ll be books for him, books for kids and what *I* want for Christmas.  And this is separate from books set at Christmas – newly published and not so new – I have recommendations for that coming soon too.  And I’ve even got myself in gear this year, so this first batch are coming to you earlier than usual – and at a point when Foyles are doing 20 percent off everything for Black Friday, which is really useful for the stuff that’s not on a big release (and thus not discounted by Amazon.

Rarely a Christmas goes by without me buying someone a cook book.  This year, my pick is The Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer, which bought for my sister for her birthday after seeing some of the recipes on a weekly cooking email that I get.  I’ve cooked a recipe from it* (and want a copy myself) and Little Sister has given it a glowing review too based on the recipes she’s tried.

I pretty much always buy my mum a big old biography of a historical figure for Christmas – she tends to prefer stuff  from the Georgians onward – tending towards women, royalty and society figures.  In that vein this year I’ve been eying up Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking  by Deborah Cadbury (which I actually have an e-proof of still waiting be be read as part of the Noirville backlog) and Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown, but if you’re buying for someone who likes Tudor history, Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys by Nicola Tallis also looks quite good and although I need to have a look at it in a shop before I’ll buy it for anyone, Lettice is someone who has popped up in Philippa Gregory novels so that could make a nice choice if you have a Gregory reader to buy for.

If you want to do current affairs, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened seems like a bit of an obvious choice, so how about White House photographer Pete Souza’s Obama: An Intimate Portrait which would look great on a coffee table.  Depending on how woke the person is that you’re buying for, you might also want to consider Ta-Nehisi Coates’s We Were Eight Years In Power, which is waiting for me on my bookshelf at the moment after I read Between the World and me earlier in the year.

Yes, mine is a proof copy from the magic shelf at work. The hardback will look smarter.

To lighter things now, and Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively looks like it would make a lovely pick for the gardner in your life – it’s billed as a memoir of her life in gardens as well as a look at gardens in literature.  Both of my parents are gardners, but I’ve put this in here because I know that my mum likes Lively’s adult books (I’ve read some of her children’s novels but none of her adult stuff).  I read Sweetpea Slight’s Get Me the Urgent Biscuits a few weeks back, and whilst it’s not quite as satisfying as I wanted it to be, if you have a theatre geek in your life, the story of life as an assistant to a theatrical impresario in the 1980s and 90s is still fascinating.  There’s also The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983 – 1992 telling the story of Tina Brown’s time as the editor of the legendary magazine (I wouldn’t mind this myself to be honest, but I’ve got so many things on my own list I decided to be generous and include this here!).

In fiction, I’ve added Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler to my list of books to give based on what I’ve read so far.  I always worked in retail when I was younger, not hospitality or catering, but having read this I feel like I may have missed out.  Although as I’m terribly clumsy I would have been a terrible waitress!  You may remember be going mad over Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers earlier this year – and as I love Rich People Problems books I think that would make a great gift, as would The Wangs vs The World by Jade Chang (although I didn’t love it as much as some others have). There’s also a second book out now in the Dandie Dinmont murder mystery series – I enjoyed the first one earlier this year and if it’s anything like the first one Resort to Murder would make a great stocking stuffer: a lady journalist in 1950s Devon solves mysteries that she comes across during the course of her reporting duties.

And it was a BotW a few weeks ago, but To Bed With Grand Music would make a great Christmas book for anyone who needs to sit and spend a few hours with a fascinatingly awful woman in wartime Britain to take them away from whatever chaos they’re living with.

So, there you have it.  Part One of my Christmas book suggestions for this year.  Part Two will follow tomorrow, but in the meantime you can always check out last year’s post – as well as last year’s suggestions for books that I wanted to receive.

Happy shopping!

*The recipe we tried was this one – it was excellent, as were the leftovers.

Adventure, Authors I love, Book of the Week, historical, Series I love

Book of the Week: Imprudence

This may be one of the least surprising BotW picks ever, considering that the first book in the Custard Protocol series was a BotW,  as were several of Gail Carriger’s other books (Sumage Solution, Manners and Mutiny and Timeless) and she was one of my discoveries of the year back when this blog was but a child.  In fact, the only question you have may be: What took me so long to read Imprudence, given that it came out in July last year.  Fear not.  There are answers ahead.

The paperback of Imprudence on a shelf next to Prudence

Firstly though, the plot:  Rue and her crew are back in London after the events of Prudence, which have landed her in a whole heap of hot water with the powers that be.  On top of this, her best friend keeps getting engaged to unsuitable military types and there’s something going on at home.  Rue’s vampire father is angry, her werewolf father is not himself, and her mother is being even more difficult than usual.  What is going on?  Finding out will take the Spotted Custard and her crew to Egypt and beyond

Now, part of the reason this has taken so long for me to read is that it was all boxed up with the to-read pile at the back end of last year, but the reason it was still waiting to be read at that point was a line in the blurb: “her werewolf father is crazy”.  Having read Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, I had a fair idea what was going on there, and I was worried about how it was going to resolve itself.  I love and adore Rue’s Paw – Conall Maccon and although he has his stupid moments (to whit, his idiotic behaviour in Blameless) I was a bit worried about what might happen to him.  And I had a few rocky moments early on in the book, which involved near tears and sniffling.  But I got through it and I was ok.  And that’s as much as I can say without it all being a big old spoiler.  And while we’re talking about the Parasol Protectorate, I found myself wishing that I’d re-read Timeless before I read this, because a lot of the action is in Egypt and there’s a lot of references to the events of that book.  It did all come back to me, but I think I would have been cooing with delight sooner if I’d done a reread first.  And so of course now I need to go and do that reread to check if there were any references that I missed in Imprudence.  There are old friends here – and some who are less friendly.

If I have a quibble, it’s that everything is wrapped up very quickly in the end – the main romantic through line and the adventure-quest one.  I could have read another 50 pages of that resolving itself.  But maybe that’s just me.  And if you’re wondering what prompted me to read this now, it’s the fact that the latest novella that Carriger has written is set after this book, and I *really* want to read that and so needed to do things in order. Because I’m like that.  And we all know that I’ll be pre-ordering the next in this series, Competence, just as soon as there’s a paperback preorder link.  Because I’m like that too.

As always in posts like this, I’m going to remind you all that this is the second in this series, but really actually the seventh if you’re counting Parasol Protectorate (which as you may have guessed have a fair bit to do with this) and eleventh if you’re going chronologically and including the spin-off prequel Finishing School YA series.  So don’t start with this one.  If you’re impatience, go and read Prudence first, but really, what you want to do is start with Soulless and work your way through Alexia’s story before you come to Rue.  And then do the Finishing school, because that is so much more fun once you start to work out who everyone is and how it all fits together.  Just my two-penneth.  They’re all available in Kindle and Kobo and Audible* and you should be able to order the paperbacks from any good bookshop.  Like the Big Green Bookshop.

Happy Reading!

And for longtime readers: No, I still haven’t sorted out the size mismatch issue with my Parasol Protectorate books, I still don’t know the best way to shelve them, but at least I haven’t caved in and bought a second copy of Heartless! There’s still time…

*Although NB, the first audiobook pronounces Lord Akeldama’s name wrong.  It’s Ak-el-dama not A-keel-duhma or however she says it.  It’s fixed by book 2 and I can just about cope with it in book one, even if my brain does repeat it pronounced correctly after every time it’s used.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: November 13 – November 19

Still too many on the still-reading list, but I’m working on it.  I’m also still working on my #Noirville entries. And regular readers may already have an idea as to what tomorrow’s BotW might be…

Read:

Clouds in my Coffee by Julie Mulhern

Imprudence by Gail Carriger

My Name is Markham by Jodi Taylor

The Perfect Storm by Jodi Taylor

Mystery in White by J Jefferson Farjeon

A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilber

A Gentleman of Fortune by Anna Dean

Started:

Gone Gull by Donna Andrews

Still reading:

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

China Court by Rumer Godden

Marling Hall by Angela Thirkell

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Still no books bought. But I’m not getting ahead of myself and getting smug, no indeed, because that way lies complacency and book buying!