book round-ups

Recommendsday: Books to read while the football is on

The World Cup is well underway and although I do like football, I know that there are a lot of people out there for whom two or three matches a day is far too many and will be heartily fed up of the tv schedules being disrupted for 22 men running around after a ball.  And so to help out I’ve got a selection of books for you to read while you’re avoiding the football (or sat on the couch with it on in the background).

I’m going to start off with a sports romance because just because you don’t like football doesn’t mean you don’t like all sports and sometimes you need a sporty hero or heroine can really hit the spot.  I read a lot of winter-sport themed romances in the run up to the Winter Olympics in the hope of writing a post about them, but there weren’t enough that I liked enough to recommend and so it’s the other type of football that I’m going for here.  You may remember that I went on a Susan Elizabeth Philips kick last year and her Chicago Stars series, about an American Football franchise are a lot of fun.  Depending on what your romance genre favourites are, the best fit in the series will be different, but I think mine is Natural Born Charmer which starts with a feisty artist encountering a star quarterback while she’s dressed in a beaver costume.  It’s fun, sparky and flirty.  And if that doesn’t sound like your sort of thing, try Match Me If You Can, which was a BotW last summer.

Hardback edition of The Gender Games

Fed up with laddy banter and jocks?  Try reading Juno Dawson’s The Gender Games to get some facts in your arsenal about toxic masculinity and how everyone – not just transgender people – are having a number done on them by gender.  You might remember that her latest novel Clean was a BotW a few weeks back, but this is nonfiction – part memoir of her own journey to realising who she is and part examination of our society today and its attitude towards gender and gender roles.  I learnt a lot from it and I know I’m going to be lending it and recommending it to people who want to expand the voices and viewpoints they’re hearing – but while the World Cup is on, it’ll also provide you with some handy ammunition next time someone on twitter moans about women commentators or pundits having no place at the tournament…

Cover of Murder in the Telephone Exchange

Want to get completely away from sports?  I can do that for you too. Perhaps some old-school crime fiction might be the thing.  I read June Wright’s Murder in the Telephone Exchange a few weeks back and was absolutely swept up in the world the phone operators in late 1940s Australia.  When Maggie finds one of her unpopular colleagues with her head smashed in, she finds herself drawn into the mystery – not just because she was the person who found the body, but because she’s not sure that the police are on the right track. But soon the danger is increasing and someone else turns up dead.  If you like Phryne Fisher, then this might scratch that itch while you wait for a new book (and we’ve been waiting a while now) or the much promised feature film.  This was a best seller in Australia when it first came out in 1948 and I can totally see why.  I was astonished – and annoyed – that it hadn’t come my way sooner.

The cover of Richardsons First Case

Or you could pick a new series to glom on.  I’m currently working my way through Colin Watson’s Flaxborough series – which are the sort of gentle murder mystery books that these days would be called cozies.  They were written from the late 1950s through to the 1970s, have been a bit forgotten and are in the process of being republished.  The first one – Coffin, Scarcely Used – is only 99p on Kindle at the moment, so that’s got to be worth a punt.  Or I read the first in the Inspector Richardson series a couple of weeks back.  Published in the 1930s, their author, Basil Thomson, was the head of CID at New Scotland Yard for eight years, so the insight into police life may be assumed to be fairly accurate!  The first one – the imaginatively named Richardson’s First Case is also 99p on Kindle at the moment – and so are the rest of the series.  I have book two cued up and ready to go.

The cover of The Wedding Date

How about a non-sports romance? How does a fake relationship that might actually turn into the real thing sound?  In Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date, Drew and Alexa meet when they’re trapped in a lift together during a power cut.  He needs a date for his ex’s wedding and she agrees to do it.  But when that actually turns out to be a fun weekend they wonder if they should carry on seeing each other.  The only trouble is, his job is in LA and her job is in Berkley.  Alexa is a feisty heroine with a great career, that she’s passionate about and Drew is a caring hero, who is also passionate about his job. AND they get to find romance without compromising who they are in themselves. I liked this so much I’ve already got Guillory’s next book preordered.  This one is £1.99 on Kindle and Kobo at the moment.

Paperback copy of Children of Blood and Bone

If you really want a change of scene, how about Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone.  This is the first in a YA trilogy (I think) and the film is already in development by the people who brought you Twilight and Maze Runner.  Set in a west-African inspired world where magic seems to have been destroyed, it follows a teenage girl who has the chance to bring it back and the crown prince who is determined to stop her.  It’s fast, furious and so, so filled with terror that I found it really hard to read.  This is not my genre and I had to take a lot of breaks because it’s so filled with peril.  But if you want to get swept away to another world, this lives up to all the hype.  But – be warned – if you love it, you’re going to have to wait until next year for the sequel – and until 2020 for the conclusion…

And finally if you do want something football-y but not quite – you could join me as I reread Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals.  I don’t think I’ve read this since it came out, so I’m planning to borrow the copy from dad so I can revisit the world of the Ankh-Morpork football.  I may even treat myself to the audiobook so that I can listen to Stephen Briggs do all the voices as I trot around the park.  Luckily the hardback version of this with the lovely illustrated cloth covers doesn’t seem to be out yet, because I am valiantly resisting starting buying them as we all know that once I get one, I’ll end up with the lot…

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, crime

Book of the Week: Angelina’s Choice

I thought that this is going to be quite a quick BotW post this week – because there’s not a lot that I can say about my pick without giving too much away.  And that’s because Angelina’s Choice is the fifth in the Hobson and Choi series – and I have rules about giving away too much about running series because it Spoils Things For Everyone.  But actually it turns out that I have a lot to say.  Who knew.

Cover of Angelinas Choice

And before I get to the plot – let’s just address the elephant in the room – yes that’s a blurb from me on the cover of this. It’s from my review of the second book when that was a BotW last year.  Nick Bryan asked me if he could use it on the new book and I was delighted to say yes.  And that hasn’t influenced my choice of it for this week – I bought my own copy of Angelina’s Choice and it genuinely was the thing I enjoyed the most of the books that I finished last week.  And so, to the review.

Angelina’s still on work experience at Hobson’s detective agency and having spent the whole summer helping solve other people’s mysteries, now she wants the answers to the mystery that brought her to the agency in the first place: who are her real parents.  But Hobson seems to be mostly too busy with other cases and so she’s doing a lot of the investigating herself.  But will she likes what she finds out – and will knowing actually do more harm than good.  Hobson meanwhile is investigating a trendy online taxi service and finds himself in dark waters. Again.

I love the way that Hobson and Angelina interact with each other.  She may be the teenager, but in some ways she can be the more emotionally intelligent one.  In this book we do see the limits to her maturity again – and despite the fact that she’s already investigated a couple of very serious crimes, I think it’s this book where she realises the real gravity of what she’s been doing and what she’s involved in.  And Hobson’s doing his best to keep the messy grownup things in his life away from her – and shield her from things he thinks that she might regret knowing later.

You will definitely get the most out of this if you’ve read the books that precede it.  The through lines have been building since the start, but at this point it really does feel like it’s hurtling towards something irrevocable.  There are familiar characters popping back up – and at least one of the solutions to the previous books is going to be spoilt for you if you read this one first.  Consider yourself warned.  And considering how this one ends, I really hope that the next book comes soon and we don’t have to wait two years to find out what happens next.

You should be able to get hold of this from all the usual sources, but this is one of those occasions when I want to give another big plug to Big Green Bookshop.  I wouldn’t be reading this series if it wasn’t for that shop – I came across them actually in store when I pootled up there after work one day mostly to buy one of their tote bags.  And because it’s nearly impossible for me to go into a bookshop and not buy a book (or two) I bought myself the first Vinyl Dectective book – which I’d had on my list for a while and happened across these on the shelf nearby.  And so it was a very successful trip all around.  Big Green will take orders over twitter and post books out for you and they run a fab Buy a Stranger a Book twitter thing on Wednesdays.  But if you want an ebook version, you can get them on Kindle and Kobo – but definitely start from the beginning of the series with The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf which is free on both of those platforms just to make it a total no-brainer.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: June 11 – June 17

A bit more finished this week compared to last week – but the list is still looking a bit thin.  But actually more progress made than this suggests.  Onwards and upwards!

Read:

Angelina’s Choice by Nick Bryan

Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Secrets, Lies and Crawfish Pies by Abby L Vandiver

L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton

Frost in May by Antonia White

Started:

A Presumption of Death by Jill Paton Walsh and Dorothy L Sayers

Slay in your Lane by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené

M is for Malice by Sue Grafton

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

Still reading:

The Glitter and the Gold by Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan

The Templars by Dan Jones

Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe

A Lady’s Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran

Gender Games by Juno Dawson

One book bought.  Progress again!

book round-ups, holiday reading

Summer Holiday Reads 2018

It’s that time of year again – where I pick out some books that I think would make great holiday reads.  And because I’ve already been on holiday, some of these are actually books I read on my holidays* so I can vouch for their sunlounger-worthiness!

The Lido by Libby Page

This is the story of Kate, an anxious 26-year-old cub reporter at a local paper in Brixton, and Rosemary, an 86-year-old widow fighting to save the local Lido that she’s been swimming at practically all her life.  When Kate finds a leaflet about the plight of the Lido she’s soon not only reporting on the story, but leading the fight to save the swimming pool.  The Lido got a lot of buzz ahead of it’s release as one of the feel-good books of the summer.  Now as this had me in tears by the pool multiple times, I suggest that you don’t read it on a plane because Altitude Associated Lachrimosity Syndrome** will only make that worse.  I was charmed by the setting, loved watching Kate’s journey and wanted to find a friend like Rosemary.  If you like books by people like Lucy Dillon and Anna McPartlin, this could be the holiday book for you.

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

Another young wannabe journalist is at the heart of Dear Mrs Bird, but 70 years earlier in the middle of World War II.  Emmeline Lake is desperate to be a Lady War Correspondent, so when she sees a job advert at one of the big newspaper publishers she spots her chance.  But instead of working at a newspaper, she finds herself at a women’s magazine where her job is to sort through the letters sent to the agony aunt.  But Mrs Bird has very definite ideas about the sort of letters that she’s going to answer – and anything involving Unpleasantness is definitely out.  When Emmy starts answering some of the letters secretly it all spirals out of control very quickly.  This only came out a couple of weeks ago too – but bookish twitter was alive with chatter about it just before Christmas.  I saved it to read on my holiday and was really glad that I did.  There was one twist in the plot that I could see coming a mile off – and I suspect anyone who has read more than a couple of books set in WW2 will see it too – but I still loved spending time with Emmy and her best friend Birdie and all their friends and neighbours doing their bit for the war effort in 1940s London.  There are sad moments in it, but it’s got a cheeky point of view that means that when the realities of war break through it really hits home. If you like Laurie Graham, Angela Thirkell or the Diary of a Provincial Lady, try this on your sunlounger.

Making Up by Lucy Parker

This summer’s contemporary romance pick is Lucy Parker’s third novel in her London Celebrities series.  Trix is thrust into the spotlight when he has to take over the leading role in the show that she’s performing in after the star is knocked out injured.  But her confidence is shattered because of the mind games her ex-boyfriend played on her.  Leo is a make-up artist who’s taken a job on the show after a professional setback (not his fault) dented his reputation.  The two of them have been sniping at each other since secondary school, and neither of them really wants to be working with the other.  If you like your romances with a large helping of witty banter and snark this is the book for you.  I found myself posting quotes from this on Litsy – and I hardly ever use the quote function.  My favourite (I think) was:

Quote image that says "Somewhere, even the sith Empereor was looking at this guy's management style and thinking "bit harsh"."

although

Quote image that says "I think we're debauching the hedgie," she muttered.

runs it a close second. You’ll get the most out of this if you’ve read the other two books in the series – particularly the second book, Pretty Face, because a lot of the background to Trix’s issues was laid there. All three of the books in this series are enemies to lovers books set in and around the theatreworld of London’s West End and they’re all packed with wise-cracking heroines and dry, sardonic heroes.  I love them – and I just wish Parker had written more of them already!

Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean

My historical romance pick is coming out until June 19th – and I’m totally using that release date as the reason why it’s taken me so long to get this post out and not the fact that I had a big list of books that I wanted to read for potential inclusion that I still haven’t got to the bottom of. Ahem.  Anyway, Wicked and the Wallflower is the first book in MacLean’s new Bareknuckle Bastards series and tells the story of Felicity and Devil.  She’s an aging (for the time!) wallflower whose family is desperate to see her married off, he’s the bastard son of a duke out for revenge.  When he offers to help her land a duke, she doesn’t know that his plan doesn’t really have a happy ending for her.  But as they get to know each other sparks fly and he may have to chose between revenge and love.  I know that sounds like a pretty conventional plot for a romance novel, but what you don’t get from that is the spirit and independence of the heroine and the underworldly but businessey world that Devil has built for himself.  I really enjoyed it – and I’m looking forward to seeing Devil’s siblings get their turn at romance in the sequels.

And there you are.  I wanted to optimistically call this Summer Holiday Reads 2018 Part 1, but we all know how terrible I am about timely posting and I do like to deliver on my promises, so I’ve been restrained.  I hope there’s something here for you – all of the books here definitely gave me happy hours of reading – so I hope you have a lovely time on a sunlounger with a book at some point this summer.

Happy Reading!

* Yes that’s how long I’ve been working on this post. I know. I’m sorry.

** Hello to Jason Isaacs

Book of the Week, historical, new releases, reviews, women's fiction

Book of the Week: Old Baggage

This week’s Book of the Week is Lissa Evans’s new novel – which is appropriate because it comes out on Thursday! You may remember that one of her previous books, Crooked Heart, was a Book of the Week just under 18 months ago so I was thrilled to spot this one on NetGalley and be able to pick it up.  You don’t need to have read Crooked Heart to read this – but if you have I think it will add an extra layer to your enjoyment.

The cover of Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

Old Baggage is the story of Matilda.  Before the war, she was a suffragette and her life revolved around the quest to get women the vote.  Now it’s 1928 and women are about to get parity – the vote on the same terms as men.  Mattie is pleased but she doesn’t think the battle is over.  Unfortunately no-one else seems to agree with her and she’s rather at sea trying to figure out what she should do next.  The book follows Mattie as she searches for a new mission – with her loyal friend Florrie Lee (known as The Flea) supporting her and trying to be a calming influence.  Along the way she encounters old friends who’ve faced a similar dilemma and is stung by a criticism from one of them, who is trying to recruit Mattie to help with her facist youth group, that she is just a dabbler.  And so she sets up a rival group – to try and educate young women about why they take an interest and get involved in causes that they believe in – or that Mattie thinks that they should believe in.

I really liked Mattie as a character – she’d be a nightmare to be friends with because you’d never get a word in edgeways and she would always tell you if she disagreed with you and go into details about why – but she’s fascinating to read about.  For all her talk of being sensible and levelheaded, she has some very real blindspots.  She’s definitely on the right side of history but she’s not always going about it in the right way.  And when she picks the wrong person to try and take under her wing, it puts everything that she’s worked for at risk.  On top of this, Mattie’s history with the suffragettes – her confrontations with police, her time in prison etc – often means that there are people who aren’t prepared to listen to her or take her seriously.  It almost goes without saying, but the title of this book is so clever and well chosen – Mattie has a lot of baggage from her suffragette days but a lot of people see her as an old baggage – a nuisance of an old woman, out of touch and past her prime.

I also really liked the Flea – for all Mattie’s talk and noble aims, it’s Florrie who is out there in the real world trying to do something to make a difference on a day to day basis.  She’s the sensible counterpoint to Mattie’s idealist and shows that you need the quiet organisers behind the scenes to get things done as well as the people on the frontline.  And Ida, one of the young women who is drawn into Mattie and Florrie’s orbit, is an interesting character in her own right and not just a plot device for showing the strengths and weaknesses of Mattie and Florrie.

It’s 100 years this year since some women in Britain got the vote and a lot has been written about the Suffrage and Suffragette movements.  There’s a stack of new books out this year – and I’ve got many of them on my to-buy list – many of them non-fiction.  But sometimes the situation calls for some fiction too and Old Baggage reminds us – in a very readable and compelling way – that the fight didn’t end in 1918 and takes a very plausible (in my view) look at what might have happened next to some of the women whose lives had revolved around trying to get the vote before the start of World War One.  Evans has used a very light hand when it comes to the flashbacks of the realities of Mattie’s life as a suffragette – I could have read pages more about it. 

I may not have read much last week in the grand scheme of things, but I think this would probably have been my BotW pick even if I’d read a dozen books.  It’s not onle massively readable – I raced through it and wished that I could have been disciplined enough to make it last longer – but it makes you think and gives you things to chew over long after you’ve finished reading it.  As I mentioned at the top, my copy was an e-galley – so it’s also going on my to-buy list because I know that my mum and my sister will really enjoy this.

Old Baggage is out in hardback on the 14th – you’ve still got time to preorder it and have it get to you on the day of release if you’re quick.  I hope it gets a good push at the bookshops – I’d expect it to be in all the good bookshops, but I’m not sure about the supermarkets.  I’m sure Big Green Bookshop will be happy to get it in for you, but it’s also available in Kindle and Kobo if you want an ebook.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: June 4 – June 10

Ummmm.  Yeah.  So I thought I didn’t read much last week – and then this week I read even less.  Why?  Well it was a super busy week at work – and then I spent the weekend back at my old Uni celebrating 50 years of the student radio station that I spent so many hours* in over the course of my degree.  And just like back in my undergrad days – I spent so much time with my student radio friends that I didn’t really do anything else.  And you know what?  I’m not even sorry.  There’ll be other weeks and more time to read – but the chance to spend time with people you haven’t seen in a decade doesn’t come around every day.  In fact, this was the biggest gathering of  us all since a bunch of them graduated at the end of my second year, right before I went off to spend my year in France.  And it was amazing.

Read:

One Man’s Meat by Colin Watson

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

Murder in the Telephone Exchange by June Wright

Started:

Gender Games by Juno Dawson

Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Still reading:

The Glitter and the Gold by Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan

The Templars by Dan Jones

Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe

A Lady’s Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran

L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton

Angelina’s Choice by Nick Bryan

One book bought – and I was so busy catching up with my friends that I didn’t go into even one of the Oxfam bookshops in York, let alone both of them, so no books bought!

*Probably more hours than I spent on my actual degree if I’m honest.  But hey, I honestly believe that I wouldn’t be have the career I have in my day job without all those hours.

Book of the Week, Children's books, children's books, Forgotten books

Book of the Week: Strangers in Fleet Street

This week’s BotW returns to my old stomping ground of Girl’s Own fiction.  However it is slightly out of my usual wheel house in that it’s not a school story, but a career book. Compared to my reading of school stories, I haven’t read many career books, but one of my favourite books that my mum passed on from her childhood was Shirley Flight, Air Hostess so a book in a series called Sally Baxter, Girl Reporter definitely appealed to me.  I found it in the Oxfam Bookshop in York (on the same trip that I picked up two Oxenhams and Dorita Fairlie Bruce) and I bought it, because after all, I am a journalist after spending my childhood pretending to be one, so what could be more perfect?!But this is definitely a recommendation for people who are afficiados of the genre – because it has some… let’s call them issues.

Hardback copy of Strangers in Fleet Street

So, Strangers in Fleet Street is apparently the 15th book in the Sally Baxter series and it sees Sally, who is a teenager working as a reporter at a national newspaper, taking charge of a group of foreign readers of the Evening Cry (her paper) who won a competition to spend two weeks in London.  She’s their guide – but she’s also hoping to get some stories from their visit.  Sally soon makes friends with most of the visitors but a series of disappearances – of money, of earrings and of a person – lead to suspicion being thrown on her little group and Sally is determined to unmask the real culprit – not just for the scoop but to save her new friend’s reputations.

This ticked pretty much all of my boxes – it’s got a mystery and a bit of adventure.  It has a fun cast of characters and it has a lead character who is doing an interesting job, in a male-dominated profession.  OK Sally may be on human interest duty in this book, but she’s definitely doing the job and she’s not the only one – there’s a more senior woman reporter too.  Looking at the information about the other titles in the series that I found here, it seems that Sally seems to get a lot of the softer stories – as opposed to crime, trials or politics, but then court rooms and council meetings are hard to make sound exciting – but a lot of it involves globe-trotting.  Even without that list, Sally mentions trips to Hong Kong and North Africa – so it does sound like an exciting and appealing life, which has got to be one of the major aims of a career novel.  My quibbles with it are all around some of the rather old-fashioned (putting it nicely) attitudes.  Sally herself is very fair but the way the young North African boy is portrayed is definitely very stereotypical and of its time.  And the resolution to the mystery involved another trope that I’m not very keen on, but I can’t say more than that because it’s a huge spoiler.  So lets say that I won’t be lending this to my 10-year-old niece.  But if you are a fan of Girl’s Own fiction and know where its weaknesses and blind spots are, this is a very enjoyable way to spend a few hours.  And I’ve already been on the second hand book sites looking for more in the series.

As I mentioned, my book came from a charity bookshop, the secondhand dealers have lots of copies of various books in this series (please don’t beat me to them) but unless this is your secret niche book love, it’s probably not going to be one for you- and if it is, you already know how to source this sort of thing, so no links this week!

Happy Reading!