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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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