As I mentioned in yesterday’s Week in Books post, I said I wasn’t sure if I was going to have a BotW to recommend today, and I don’t. I just didn’t read enough last week to have something to recommend that’s not a repeat or clashing with a post I’ve already got planned. I was totally wiped out after a busy week at work and that trip to Texas. I fell asleep on the sofa one night at 9.30. And the last time that happened was back when I worked breakfast shifts!
Anyway, you did get a bonus post last week for Halloween reads, so go back and read that if you haven’t already, and I’ll attempt to resume normal service next week. Although my sister and her boyfriend are here this week, so I’m going to be busy again…
I feel like I spent the first half of the week recovering from Texas and the second half preparing for my little sister and her boyfriend to arrive. And that’s before all the news that happened this week. Which was a lot. So not as much reading done as I wanted, and I have no idea if there’ll be a Book of the Week post tomorrow. Sorry.
Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen
Sorrow on Sunday by Ann Purser
A Picture of Murder by TE Kinsey
Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris
Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen
The Forgotten Room by Lauren Willig, Karen White and Beatriz Williams
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
Fear by Bob Woodward
A Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab
No books bought, but a big stack borrowed from the library…
Bonus picture: my favorite specimen at the Botanic Gardens. It’s like a muppet and a plant had a baby.
It’s nearly Halloween and since I’m in the US where it is such a massive thing that it’s blowing my mind, I thought a round up of some spooky/halloween-themed reading might be in order. I was aiming for it to be recent Halloween-y reading – but you know how these things go – you get a stack of likely books together, you read them – and then you don’t like some of them enough to recommend them. And I’m always honest. Which is why I’m telling you up front that there’s no horror here – because I’m too scared to read horror. My brain is good enough at coming up with things to scare me without ready scary books. Thrillers are about as much as I can deal with. And some times I can’t even deal with that. So expect my usual mix of mystery, romance and fantasy with a dash of classic thriller thrown in.
The One with the sweet tooth
I read The Candy Corn Murder right after it came out three years ago and it sees a local reporter covering a Halloween Festival. But when her husband becomes the prime suspect in a murder, she steps in to investigate. This is the 22nd(!) in Leslie Meier’s Lucy Stone series – and there are other Halloween-themed installments among the other 24 (!!) books in the series if you like Lucy’s world and want to spend more time there. I’ve read one, maybe two others and have my eye on a couple from the library to see how there series has evolved.
The one that’s a creepy classic
I’m slowly working my way through Daphne DuMaurier’s works – and there are several of hers that would be good for giving you chills on a dark night. The obvious one is Rebecca, but Jamaica Inn and My Cousin Rachel are also properly atmospheric and creepy. Those two also have recent tv or film versions should you want to be a person who likes to watch the movie of the book and complain compare. I also have a massive softspot (if you can call it that for something so creepy) for the Charles Dance and Emily Fox TV version of Rebecca from the late 1990s.
The One with a creepy doll
Barbara Early’s new book, Death of a Russian Doll is mostly about the murder of the local police chief’s wife, but it’s also got a matroshyka doll that’s moving on its own to up the creep factor. Your amateur sleuth is Liz, the owner of the vintage toy shop next door to the murder scene and the sort-of ex-girlfriend of the police chief (he didn’t tell her about his estranged wife) who’s retired cop father is called in to investigate the crime. This came out this month and is the third book in the series, but it’s the first of them that I’ve read and I liked it enough that I’ll be keeping an eye out for more by this author.
The One with the Embarassing First Date
This is slightly tangentially Halloween-y because Carter and Evie, the hero and heroine of Christina Lauren’s Dating You, Hating You meet at a Halloween party being held by mutal friends. From that awkward beginning, a promising relationship starts until their companies merge and the two of them find themselves in competiton for the same job. I really liked Evie, but I had a few issues with Carter and I felt their prank war was just a little bit unprofessional. However the dialogue is sparky and the chemistry is there so I’m still mentioning it here because I know that I can be a bit of a curmudgeon sometimes and I know a lot of people who really loved it and didn’t have the same issues!
The One with that’s spoofing a Vampire Craze
I couldn’t help but include this. Lauren Willig’s the Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla sees Sally Fitzhugh investigating whether the Duke of Belliston is an actual vampire after a rumour takes hold in London in 1806. He’s not of course, but he doesn’t mind the reputation that he’s got, that is until a woman is found with the blood drained from her throat and it looks like he’s going to get the blame. This is the eleventh in the Pink Carnation series, which I would say to read in order to get the full force of the present-day story line (which runs through the whole series) but the nineteen century one is really the star here, so I think you could make an exception for Halloween. And it’s got a stoat. What more could you want?
The One with the Actual Vampires
If you haven’t read Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampires series (aka True Blood), Halloween might be a good chance to start. And now the series has been finished for a while if you like them you can glom your way through all thirteen of Sookie Stackhouse’s adventures. Just remember not to get too invested in any one outcome for Sookie in particular – because there was a lot of upset when the last book came out about which of her beaux she ended up with. I won’t give anything away, but I think the clues were sort of there about what was going to happen – or at least I didn’t think the ending ruined the whole series for me (which a lot of people did!). And if you like that world, there’s plenty of other Charlaine Harris novels, most of which are set in (what turns out to be) the same world of vampires, werewolves and other supernatural creatures.
The One with the Haunted House.
You all know how much I love Meg Langslow because I keepwritingabouther, but Lord of the Wings, the 19th book in Donna Andrews’ long running series, is a Halloween one and I really liked it. There’s a massive Halloween festival going on in Caerphilly when first the Haunted House burns down and then a body is discovered in the wreckage. The usual Langslowian mayhem ensues – including Meg’s Grandad running a special exhibit at his Zoo – and then there’s the Goblin Patrol. Probably best appreciated if you’ve read some of the others in the series, but this is still worth a look.
If you’ve got any Halloween recommendations for me – and remember that I don’t do horror because I’m a scaredy cat – then put them in the comments!
Not a lot of reading done last week – I started the week in New York and ended it on a plane back to Washington from Dallas and there wasn’t a lot of reading time other than the travelling. But luckily, I had an easy choice for my BotW pick thanks to my new local library and Carl Hiaasen’s Skin Tight.
After a Mick Stranahan stabs his unexpected guest (who came armed) using a taxidermied fish, he starts to try to figure out who it is who wants him dead. Unfortunately the intruder died so quickly he couldn’t answer any questions. And there are plenty of suspects. As an investigator at the State Attorney’s Office there were plenty of people who had a grudge against him even before he nailed a crooked judge and got fired. But then the list just keeps growing and soon it becomes clear that if Stranahan wants to enjoy his retirement, he’s going to have to figure out what’s going on before he ends up dead.
If that sounds a bit mad, that’s because it is. It’s a dark and satirical screwball comedy where every character has at least one serious character flaw, but very few of them realise it. I’ve spoken a lot about my search for more books to scratch my Steph Plum-esque itch and this definitely did that. Stranahan is much less likeable than Steph and a lot further from the straight and narrow than she is, but this is the same sort of madcap adventure you get with her.
My only real problem with Skin Tight is that it was published nearly 30 years ago and that’s making it hard to get more books by Hiaasen, although not impossible as my to-read pile will already show. It does mean though that the bad news is that Skin Tight isn’t available on Kindle or Kobo at the moment – and it may well be out of print in the US as well as the UK. It is available on audiobook from Kobo, but if you want an actual book you’re going to have to buy it secondhand (Amazon and Abebooks have plenty of copies at various price points) or do what I did and get it from your library.
A tricky choice this week – I didn’t finish a lot, and there’s a lot of repeat authors here. And I’ve been super busy, so that means I don’t have a lot of time to write. But as I’ve read three Lucky Harbor books in as many weeks, this seemed like a good option. Anyway, to the book…
Grace never thought she’d end up in a town like Lucky Harbor. Her super successful parents had plans and ideas for how they wanted her life to turn out and she’s never wanted to make them feel disappointed in the little girl they adopted. But when the job she moved across country for turned out to have some sexual strings attached, she knew it wasn’t the job for her. But that left her without a job and a long way from home and she doesn’t know how she’s going to sort this out before her parents find out. Then she ends up dog sitting and then baby sitting for local doctor Josh. Josh has got far too much on his plate. His son is only communicating in barks since his sister brought home Tank the puppy. And his sister has got a serious case of rebellion going on, after the accident that killed their parents and left her in a wheelchair. Soon he and grace are getting on really well and the sparks are flying, but they both know that this can only be a temporary thing – after all she isn’t staying in town and he’s been burnt before and doesn’t want to upset what balance he does have in his life. Right?
So Lucky Harbor books come in threes, and this is the third of its groups, so if you’re reading in order you’ve already seen Grace’s arrival in town and the friendship that she’s built with Amy and Mallory, the heroines of the previous two books in the series, as well asserting glimpses of Josh as he interacted with his friends in town. This makes this book extra satisfying because you’re already engaged with the characters and invested in a happy ending for them. Jill Shalvis is so good at these small town romances. Her characters are three dimensional and their backstories feel very realistic. And the writing is so witty – you get to laugh as well as getting a happy ending. What more could you want?
As you can tell, I got my copy from Barnes and Noble as part of an omnibus edition, but you should be able to get hold of these fairly easily as ebooks from all the usual sources although the paperbacks may be a little harder to find in the UK, but I have found them in the library on occasion too.
After a good week of reading last week I was spoilt for choice forBotW options, but in the end I went for a new to me author and series that I picked up in a secondhand shop during one of my lunchtime strolls through Washington DC.
Casey is a private eye. Or at least she would be if it wasn’t for a spell in jail that means that she can’t get a licence in her current home in North Carolina. What she actually is, is the person doing all the hard work for Bobby D, an overweight eating machine who doesn’t want to do anything that means he needs to leave the office. Casey’s current job is some security work for a local senatorial candidate. Mary Lee Masters decided she needed extra protection when she started getting threatening phone calls, so when she finds a dead body in her car it’s Casey she calls for help. Soon Casey is investigating some very seedy dealings and trying to keep the fact that she doesn’t have a licence under wraps from Detective Bill Butler.
Long-term readers may remember me tearing a streak through Janet Evanovich’s back catalogue, in particular the Stephanie Plum series, and that I’m always looking for books and series that scratch a similar itch. I think this might be one of them. Casey is a so much fun to read about. She’s smart and tough and knows what she’s good at – and she’s good at her job. Casey is no damsel in distress who needs rescuing. She’s running away from her past, but she knows she’s doing it and that she’ll have to face up to it some day. The mystery is well plotted and twisty and all the characters are well drawn. I also really liked Southern setting, which is so well described I can almost smell it. I’ll definitely be looking for the next book in the series.
Legwork first came out in 1997 – three years after Stephanie Plum, which makes it another older series which I’ve discovered years after the fact. Clearly I need to do some more research and digging to see if there are anymore unconventional female sleuth series from that era that I’m missing out on.
As I mentioned earlier, my copy was secondhand, but it’s still available in Kindle or in paperback if you want to take a look. In fact the whole series is available for free on Kindle Unlimited if you’re a member (which I’m not, we all know I’ve got enough access to books as it is and the to-read pile is already massive!)
This is more like it isn’t it? I’m back in the grove and have also discovered some of Washington’s bookshops, which may be dangerous! But I’ve also joined the library, so that may help reduce temptation! The first of my visitors from home arrives this week, so the reading run may not continue…
Aunty Lee’s Delights by Ovidia Yu
Frill Kill by Laura Childs
Legwork by Katy Munger
Death in the Spotlight by Robin Stevens
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
At Last by Jill Shalvis
Masked Ball at Broxley Manor by Rhys Bowen
Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen
Death of a Russian Doll by Barbara Early
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
Fear by Bob Woodward
To Obama by Jeanne Marie Laskas
Five books bought – two secondhand, three new. And two library books borrowed too.
Bonus picture: part of the cozy crime section in my local Barnes and Noble!
Another super quick BotW post – I’m sorry. It’s been so busy. And it’s a day late because of the end of the month Stats. Sorry again. Anyway, this week’s BotW gave me some happy hours reminiscing about some of my teenage reading last week, and I thought it was worth a mention here. If you’ve been hanging around here a while, you’ll know that I’ve written a fair bit about fiction for teenage girls and middle graders in the past – from my weekend at a book conference all about them, through my enduring love of classics like Drina and the Chalet School, through new books like the Wells and Wong series, the Sinclair Mysteries and everything in between, so you can probably tell from looking at the cover that Paperback Crush would be right up my street…
Paperback Crush’s subtitle is “The Totally Radical History of 80s and 90s Teen Fiction” and author Gabrielle Moss takes a fairly deep dive into the American books of those two decades. If you read the Babysitters Club, any of the Sweet Valley iterations or the revamped Nancy Drews, there’s something here for you. I was delighted to rediscover a couple of series’ I’d forgotten about – like the boarding school series which I read a few of in the school library and was never able to find again. This also covers some of the single titles and the notable authors – like Caroline B Cooney’s Face on the Milk Carton, and it’s sequels which I remember devouring as an early teen and then watching the TV movie of!
This is an exclusively American book though, so if like me, you were a reader in the UK, some of your favourites and the series that you remember most won’t be here – there’s no Trebizon for example, which was one of the few “new” boarding school stories I remember reading. It’s also exclusively about girls fiction – so there’s no three investigators, or Hardy Boys – but it does touch on career books a little.
My copy came via NetGalley, but Paperback Crush is out at the end of the month in the US and the UK – my suspicion is that you’ll need to order it in specially, rather than happen across it in the store. Here’s the link for Amazon paperback and Kindle pre-orders if you want to get your bids in early.