Book of the Week, Children's books, new releases

Book of the Week: Top Marks for Murder

Another old friend for this week’s BotW: the eighth in Robin Stevens’s middle grade Murder Most Unladylike series. It was between this and the new Tessa Dare for this week’s pick and although the Dare is a lot of fun, I have a lot of thoughts about this book, this series and the importance of Hazel and Daisy.

Cover of Top Marks for Murder

We rejoin the detective society as they return to Deepdean after their extended break visiting Hazel’s family in Hong Kong and then their appearance in a play in London. And they’re back at school just in time for the anniversary weekend, which proves to be a rather more dangerous time for the girls than you would hope, after one of the gang sees what she thinks is a murder from their dormitory window.

The girls are back on the trail and are happy to be distracted from the things that have changed at school while they’ve been away. But this isn’t the first time that there’s been a murder at Deepdean, and Daisy and Hazel are older now and are seeing more of the consequences of what’s going on as well. After all how many parents want to leave their children at a school where murders happen. So the girls may not need to just solve the case, they might need to save the school as well.

What I’ve always loved about this series is the way that it takes familiar tropes from the school stories that I loved when I was little and update them so that they will work for kids today. I’ve spoken before about revisiting old favourites and realising they’re now problematic (to say the least in some cases). I’m lucky with the Chalet School – LH Johnson recently wrote a lovely piece about the Chalet School Peace League and Elinor M Brent Dyer quietly advocating peace and cooperation – but I’ve bought and read a couple of Shirley Flight books over the last few weeks and although they’re mostly fun adventures, there are some horrible attitudes towards non-Brits and especially non-Westerners. One of them is downright racist to a point where I now wouldn’t want to lend any of them out to a modern child of the age I was when I read the first book in the series. But if you want to give the next generation the sort of warm feels you had from Girls Own books but without the nasty undercurrents, this series will do that for you.

And that’s not to say that these are populated by perfect exemplars of modern day life sticking out like sore thumbs in the olden days. They’re not like that. You see the nastier side of 1930s boarding school life because because you’re looking at it from Hazel’s point of view and nothing she can do will change the way some people look at her just because she’s Chinese. Daisy definitely isn’t perfect – she doesn’t handle the fact that while she’s been gone a fascinating new girl has taken her place very well at all. And she’s still dealing with the fallout for her family after the events at her house in book 2. This is full of realistic characters learning real life lessons as well as solving a tricky mystery. As a grown up, I really appreciate and enjoy what Robin Stevens is doing – but it does works for its actual target market too, as my niece as well as several of the ten year olds my sister taught last year (who lent her copies of books in the series) prove. And when my niece is a bit older, I’ll lend her the Golden Age mystery stories these are influenced by and she can read the grown up versions of some of these plots (this one is very Sayers inspired). But with a few caveats about old fashioned attitudes.

Now, I’m going to be very careful how I phrase this section because: spoilers, but in the last book we learned an important piece of information about one of the main characters. A piece of information that both is and isn’t a big deal. Inside the last book it was treated exactly right by the character who learned it and in this book nothing has changed about that piece of information but it is absolutely not an issue or a Big Deal. And that is exactly as it should be. If you’ve read Death in the Spotlight you’ll know exactly what I’m talking abut and if you haven’t, then I’m sorry for that impenetrable paragraph, but go and read it and you’ll understand.

I had First Class Murder pre-ordered (and had to remember to change the delivery address to the new house!) but you should be able to get hold of it easily from any shop with a children’s section. It’s also available online – from places like Book Depository – as well as on Kindle and Kobo.  And you can read some of my previous posts about the series here and here.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: August 12 – August 18

So a few books still haven’t turned up after the move – I think you can work out which ones  – which is annoying and means I’m going to have to do some more unpacking and tidying on my days off this week.  Sigh.  And a bit of a weird week in reading too – I’m really enjoying Empty Mansions – but it’s loooooong.  And why the list is a little bit shorter than usual this week.

Read:

Top Marks for Murder by Robin Stevens

Spice and Smoke by Suleika Snyder

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare

Shirley Flight: Air Hostess in Desert Adventure by Judith Dale

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Started:

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn

Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

Still reading:

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

The Girls by Emma Cline

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr

Two more Shirley Flight books bought (oops) and an ebook.

Bonus photo: A shelf of old school children’s books I somehow managed to resist at the vintage store…

Old books

Book of the Week, new releases

Book of the Week: Brazen and the Beast

Back to fiction and back to an old favourite for this week’s BotW.  If you’ve been around here any length of time you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Sarah MacLean – who writes fun, feminist and sexy historical romances.  And – full disclosure – I’m in her internet book club and members of the UK branch met up last week (in Covent Garden) for lunch and chatter with the lady herself.  I got so many book recommendations and it’s going to be so expensive.  But this was my favourite book I finished last week, so it’s only fair it gets a write up here really, even if it isn’t that long since I reviewed Day of the Duchess.  Sorry, not sorry.

Uk edition of Brazen and the Beast

Brazen and the Beast is the second in the Bareknuckle Bastards series.  Your heroine is Hattie, the daughter of a shippng magnate who has decided that this is going to be her year – in which she takes control of the family business, earns her own fortune and basically live life the way that she wants to.  This means she needs to render herself unmarriagable first.  But her plans for the Year of Hattie are nearly derailed before they’ve even got started when she finds an unconscious man tied up in her carriage. The man in question is Whit – Beast – who along with his brother is one of the ruling powers in Covent Garden.  He wants revenge on the people who attacked him and soon they’re rivals.  Is there any way of reconciling their plans to give them a satisfactory solution?

Of course there is.  But it’s one hell of a ride.  Sarah MacLean has always written strong female characters, but Hattie is the strongest yet – she knows exactly what she wants from her life, she’s got a plan for how she’s going to get it – and she doesn’t want it it if she’s only getting it as a gift from someone else.  Basically it’s all about female agency and empowerment, but set in Covent Garden in  – and may have you wanting to punch the air at times.  The hero is the biggest, toughest and fiercest man – except when it comes to the people that he cares about.  And it’s very, very satisfying to see them sparring together. The dialogue is zippy and witty and snarky where it needs to be.

I’ve been disappointed by some old favourite authors recently, but this didn’t let me down, even though it had the weight of expectation behind it.  The only downside is that I had to buy the UK edition – so that I had it in time for Sarah to sign it – and now it doesn’t match the rest of my set.  And the UK cover just isn’t quite as fun as the American one – even if it does have the same colour accent.

My copy came from Amazon, but you should be able to order it fairly easily where ever you get your new books from.  And it’s on Kindle and Kobo too.  I’m off to figure out if I can justify getting the American edition as well.  You can find previous reviews of MacLean books here, here, and here.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: August 5 – August 11

A mix of earlies and late shifts this week and a lot of train journeys.  Some interesting reading  and some that was kind disappointing.  But that’s fairly par for the course really isn’t it!

Read:

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

Shirley Flight Air Hostess in Storm Warning by Judith Dale

Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Love and Death Among the Cheetahs by Rhys Bowen

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby

Dig Here by Charlaine Harris and Andrew Gross

A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian

Started:

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr

Top Marks for Murder by Robin Stevens

Still reading:

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

The Girls by Emma Cline

No books bought – but two pre-orders arrived – one book and one ebook!

Bonus photo: Another week, another Shirley Flight book – this one was a house warming present from a friend and hoo boy it was a wild ride!

Book of the Week, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud

As I said in yesterday’s Week in Books, it turns out that the week after the move is also super busy.  And I have so little brain space going on for anything that it’s not funny. Anyway, another non-fiction pick this week.  What can I say, all my library holds for non fiction books are coming in and I’m trying hard to read them as soon as I get them so I don’t run out of time on the loans!  And this is one that I’ve heard a lot about – including some great interviews with the author Anne Helen Peterson.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud’s subtitle is The Rise and Reign of Unruly Women and examines a series of women and what it is about them that the media and society finds so difficult to deal with.   Each woman is picked for one specific trait that makes her unrulyy – Serena Williams is too strong, Kim Kardashian is too pregnant, Hillary Clinton too shrill.  And in examining these women it sheds light on to how society views women and challenges assumptions that you may have made yourself.  Anne Helen Peterson is a senior culture writer at Buzzfeed and this is incredibly readable, as well as packed with what was clearly a lot of research.

Even if you don’t like all of the women here – and there are definitely some that I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of – but I found that there was something in every chapter that made me think, or reconsider some of my preconceptions.  And as someone who used to be a radio newsreader, I’ve had a lot of comments about my voice over the years, so there was definitely some stuff in the too shrill chapter that I had a lot of feelings about.  But I think most (every?) woman reading this will recognise something that’s been said about her or too her in this.

I know this review is shorter than the usual – but that’s mostly my brainfade talking.  This is a really, really good and interesting read – I raced through it – and fits in really well with some of the other writing about women and society that I’ve read recently.  Peterson is currently writing a book about burnout – if you haven’t read her essay about how Millennials became the burnout generation, you really should – and I’m very excited to see what she has to say about it.

My copy of Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud came from the library, but you should be able to get hold of it fairly easily – there are Kindle and Kobo editions as well as paperbacks and hardbacks that you can get from places like Book Depository.  I’m not sure how easy it’ll be to get in an actual bookshop – because I still haven’t worked out if these are UK editions or imports.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: July 29 – August 4

So.  Turns out the week after the move is just as busy (maybe worse?) than the week before the move, especially when you’re away from home for 4 nights of it. Hey ho. We’ll get there.  And the bookshelves are mostly unpacked now, so the new house is starting to look really good!  And on Saturday I met up with part of the UK contingent of Sarah MacLean’s Romance book club as well as Sarah herself for lunch – so it’s been a pretty bookish week all things considered!

Read:

Say No to the Duke by Eloisa James

The Hairy Hand by Robin Bennett

Shirley Flight, Air Hostess in Canadian Capers by Judith Dale

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Muraka

Dim Sum of All Fears by Vivien Chen

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Peterson

Started:

Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

Still reading:

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

The Girls by Emma Cline

Two actual books bought – the Shirley Flight (see photo) on a cheeky lunchtime trip to The Second Shelf and the new Sarah MacLean.  Also pre-ordered a couple – one in ebook, one actual book.  August, already the month of book buying.

Bonus photo:

Copy of Shirley Flight Air Hostess in Canadian Capers in a pink and white striped paper bag.

books, stats

July Stats

New books read this month: 35*

Books from the to-read pile: 7 (not including the stack of 50 page and out ones!)

Ebooks read: 10

NetGalley books read: 2

Library books: 16 (all ebooks)

Non-fiction books: 2

Most read author: Susan Mallery

Books read in 2019:  238

Books bought: 0 !!!!! (although a preorder did arrive!)

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf: 535 (I don’t have copies of all of these!)

I’ve had a good weed of the physical to-read shelf this month – so the goodreads to-read shelf is also smaller.  It may yet reduce further as the boxes continue to be unpacked…

Bonus picture: a whole box of Armada Chalet School paperbacks and Sadlers Wells books!  Very on brand

paper back Chalet School books

 

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels (2 this month)