Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: Sweet Talkin’ Lover

Another Tuesday, another book of the week post.  I read a few books I really liked last week, and it was a close decision on what to pick, but I think Tracey Livesay’s new book was my favourite last week.

Cover of Sweet Talkin' Lover

Caila Harris is ambitious and driven. She’s given up her social life and is working all the hours she can to get her next promotion as she climbs the ladder in the beauty industry.  But when her beloved grandfather dies, she makes some bad decisions – and suddenly her chances of promotion are on the line.  The assignment she’s given to turn it around: go to a small southern town, and write the report that justifies shutting a factory down.  But when she gets to Bradleton, she runs into more trouble than she expected in the form of the town’s mayor, Wyatt Bradley. He’s determined to do whatever it takes to keep the plant open.  Soon sparks are flying between Caila and Mayor McHottie as the town calls him – but will their relationship survive if she finds out the sneaky tactics he’s using to try and keep her in town and when he finds out that the closure decision has already been made.

This is smart, fun and has a hero and heroine with great chemistry.  I like enemies/rivals to lovers as a trope and Sweet Talkin’ Lover does that really well. I also loved Caila’s relationship with her group of friends.  Livesay has said that the group is based on her own friendship group – and the holiday they’re on at the start is what they do every year. I love a ride-or-die friendship group in a story and these ladies really are that – and I’m looking forward to reading the books about the others, because this is the first in a series.

My only quibble with the book was from right at the end.  I didn’t quite believe that Wyatt’s family issues – either with his career or the way they treated Caila – were really all sorted out.  I believed that Wyatt and Caila wanted to make it work between them and that some of the roadblocks were removed, but I wasn’t quite confident that it was really all resolved enough to be confident that the happy ending was really going to be all ok if that makes sense. But that’s quite a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things.

Sweet Talkin’ Lover is Livesay’s print debut and came out in the middle of all the RWA problems.  She was also one of the resignations from the RWA board on Boxing Day (because of the way the Ethics Committee handled the complaint against Courtney Milan), so I think it’s fair to say that RWA messed up her Christmas and a big moment in her writing career.  And this book did not deserve to get swamped by RWA being a trashfire.

My copy of Sweet Talkin’ Lover came from the library, but its availalble now in Kindle, Kobo and as an audibook, but the paperback isn’t out in the UK until February 20.  I’ll try and remember to remind you.

Happy reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: January 6 – January 12

A steady week in reading – but not much progress on the NetGalley target…

Read:

When A Duchess Says I Do by Grace Burrows

When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Two for Sorrow by Nichola Upson

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

The Other Side of the Coin by Angela Kelly

Sweet Talkin’ Lover by Tracey Livesay

Vanilla Beaned by Jenn McKinlay

Started:

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane*

Still reading:

The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths

The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

Bonus photo: I went to Eurofest at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on Friday night and because my friend Tom is a super fan, he staked out the front row. So here’s my picture of Tamara Todevska – who represented North Macedonia last year!

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley.

Children's books, Recommendsday, Series I love

Recommendsday: The Vanderbeeker series

Another week, another Recommendsday post to start off the new year.  Long term readers will know that I love middle grade stories – I’ve written before about my love of the Wells and Wong series as well as older books that I read when I was the “right” age. I discovered Karina Yan Glaser’s series at the end of last year – but ran into Christmas posts before I could write about it.

Cover of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

So the Vanderbeekers live in part of a brownstone in Brooklyn. There’s five children and it’s maybe not quite big enough but they’ve always lived there, their dad is the building superintendent and the building is like part of the family. All three books in the series so far are basically a modern take on the classic “children go on a quest” trope. In the first book their landlord is trying to evict them and they have to try and stop it. In the second, they’re trying to start a secret garden and in the third they’re trying to save their mother’s business after accidentally putting it at risk.

Cover of The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden

I really, really loved these books. The characters are great, the relationships between the family are just wonderful and they’re quirky and fun without being annoying. There’s all the classic characters in the gang – the dreamy one, the adventurous one, the problem solver – but they’re also people you recognise and would like to be friends with. There are inventions, there are pets, there’s special food – just like in the Enid Blyton stories you remember but the plots deal with issues like gentrification and the gig economy – which are very twenty-first century but also, when you think about it probably the modern successors of the Enid Blyton quest stories of old.

They’re also more diverse. The family is biracial, the neighbourhood is multicultural and so you can give it to children when you want them to get all the feels you got from your childhood favourite adventures but without everyone being white and a bit posh or the risks of language that can be out of date at best and racist at worse.

I’ve already bought the first one for the nieces (as a Christmas book) – that’s how much I liked them. My copies came from the library, but they’re available in Kindle and Kobo editions as well as in paperback and hardback from all the usual sources – although they’re probably a special order job (Foyles have two of the three available to order at the moment)

Happy Reading!

Award nominated, Book of the Week, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Furious Hours

Starting off the New Year with a book from that NetGalley backlog I said that I was trying to deal with.  I try to only have one non-fiction book on the go at once, and this one is one I kept meaning to get around to – and in fact even started a while back and then got distracted by the arrival of a bunch of non-fiction library book holds and I forgot about it.  But it made the final of the non-fiction category of the Goodreads awards* which jogged my memory and gave me the push I needed to come back to it.

Cover of Furious Hours

So Furious Hours is Casey Cep’s first book and it tells the story of an Alabama serial killer whose trial caught the eye of Harper Lee.  The first part of the book tells you about the frankly astounding story of Reverend Willie Maxwell, who was suspected of killing members of his family – and who was then killed at the funeral of one of his alleged victims.  And just to add to what is already an eye-popping story, the killer was defended at the murder trial by the same lawyer who had previously defended Reverend Maxwell when he was accused of murder.  The second part of the book is about Harper Lee – the author of To Kill a Mockingbird – who took attended the trial with a view to writing her own true crime book about it, in the same way that her friend Truman Capote wrote the story of the Clutter family murders in In Cold Blood.  Now as you probably know, until the (somewhat controversial) publication of Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee famously had only one published book – so you know a bit about how that went for her, but that’s only really part of the story, and Cep takes you through Lee’s life that lead her to that point and beyond.

Both of the stories told here are absolutely fascinating, and if I have a complaint about the book it’s that they feel like two separate stories for a long time.  When I first picked up the book I had picked up on the Harper Lee element of the story and was surprised when the start of the book didn’t mention her at all.  But having now read the whole thing, I understand why it was structured like that and that you need to know one story fully to understand the other and I’m not sure I could have come up with a way of integrating the two that wouldn’t have been just far too confusing.  So it requires you to read the blurb properly (bad Verity) to understand what you’re about to read – and then to go with it because it will all make sense in the end.

As well as the Goodreads awards, this was a nominee for the Baillie Gifford prize (which was won by another former BotW The Five) and made a lot of end of year lists – including Barack Obama’s – so it’s well worth a look if you like true crime or books about authors and that sort of thing.  As previously mentioned, my copy came from NetGalley, but Furious Hours is out in hardback at the moment – with the paperback due in April in the UK.  You should be able to get hold of a copy from any bookshop with a reasonable non-fiction section.  It’s also available on Kindle and Kobo and as an audiobook from Kobo and Audible.

Happy Reading!

*Alongside previous BotW Catch and Kill – in fact there were a lot of books on that shortlist that I fancy reading – but they were all beaten by Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis, which given my experience with Girl, Wash Your Face I don’t think I’ll be reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: December 30 – January 5

It’s strange – because this post covers the very end of last year as well as the first five days of 2020 and yet the end of 2019 books feel like I read them eons ago already.  Strange.  Anyway, here we are in 2020 – if you missed it, I wrote a post last week about the books that I’m looking forward to this year.  A couple of house keeping updates: firstly I’ve been trialing adding links to these posts for a couple of weeks, back to posts where I’ve written about those authors before and I’m going to try and make a habit this year.  Secondly, I’ve got a huge NetGalley backlog going on at the moment – and have had for a year, so my big reading resolution (yes I know I said I hate them, but this is the only one I’ve made) this year is to get that down, so I’m trialling marking them here with an asterix, and hopefully the end of month stats posts this year will show an uptick in NetGalley reading. We can but hope.

Read:

Dancing Star by Gladys Malvern

The Chicken Chronicles by Alice Walker

100 Nasty Women of History by Hannah Jewell

Rules by Jenny Colgan (writing as Jane Beaton)

The Angel with Two Faces by Nicola Upson

Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis*

The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo*

Furious Hours by Casey Cep*

Weird War Two by Richard Denham*

Started:

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

When A Duchess Says I Do by Grace Burrows

Still reading:

The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths

The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro

Four books from Nick Hern ordered as I was writing last week’s BotW post and a book and a cook book from Amazon. So not exactly a great start to the year in terms of not buying stuff, even if technically the Nick Hern order was in 2019…

Bonus photo: A follow up from the picture in the December Stats post – here’s this year’s Beat the To-Read Shelf bookcase drawing ready to go…

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley.

book round-ups, non-fiction

New Year, New You

A Friday bonus post for you.  Back in the autumn I started thinking about what I might write for New Year this year and realised that I hate New Year’s Resolutions posts because they never feel natural and they add an extra level of guilt and obligation to my reading that I just don’t need. So instead of a resolutions post, but still in the spirit of new beginnings, I thought I’d write about some self-help/self-improvement books that I have read.  Which meant I had to read some. And so I embarked on some reading.

This is not a genre that I read a lot – I have a low tolerance for inspirational stuff, but I try and keep an open mind. And trying to grow and improve yourself is good, and so in the interests of you, dear Reader, I did it.  Here is what I discovered: I am really not a good candidate for self help books.  They make me really quite angry quite easily.  And it seems that as a person in a relationship but without children, a lot of them really don’t apply to me.  But here were are, I’ve done the reading so you don’t have to. Lets start with the bad…

Most Unintentionally Depressing: Fair Play by Eve Rodsky

Cover of Fair Play

My main takeaway from this was that finding a decent man in America must be a garbage fire. This book claims to be “a revolutionary, real-world solution to the problem of unpaid, invisible work that women have shouldered for too long.” What it actually is is a way to gamify domestic labour that you trick your other half into playing with you. I had high hopes for this because it was a Reese Witherspoon book club pick and her fiction picks have always been interesting, but hooo boy.  It’s definitely true that women have greater expectations placed on them by external and internal forces when it comes to running a household, but this feels like the marriage equivalent of a dating manual that advises you to trick your potential spouse.  And despite what the blurb would have you think, it also only really applies to hetero-normative relationships with kids.  And only then if you’re prepared to treat your partner like a child – which to be honest isn’t the relationship that I aspire to.  I prefer to share my life with someone I can talk to like an adult about problems and, if you believe the author, it seems most men in the US can’t have a sensible conversation about shared workload and need to be tricked and gamed into doing their share.

Most Irritating: Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Cover of Girl, Wash Your Face

I’m going to chalk this up to a lack of research on my part.  My library suggested this to me (I can’t remember why) and knowing I was going to write this post I read the blurb and thought it sounded worth a try and got myself on the hold list.  It came in just in time to read for this post more is the pity. Per the Goodreads entry “With wry wit and hard-earned wisdom, popular online personality and founder of TheChicSite.com founder Rachel Hollis helps readers break free from the lies keeping them from the joy-filled and exuberant life they are meant to have.” So far so good – but the bit I didn’t clock properly was at the end: “With unflinching faith and tenacity, Hollis spurs other women to live with passion and hustle and to awaken their slumbering goals.”  The key word there being faith.  There’s a lot of God and knowing that God has plans for your life and your journey in this, and that was not what I was looking for.  There’s also a lot of American therapy speak that always makes my skin itch and big sections of the book are about juggling a job and kids. To be fair though, her relationship does sound a bit better balanced than the ones in Fair Play – so maybe not all American men are awful.

And now for the good…

Most Reassuring: The Likeability Trap by Alicia Menendez

Cover of The Likeability Trap

Journalist Alicia Menendez examines the concept of likeability and why women either are perceived as cold but strong or warm but weak and why this is outdated and how to fight against it. I wasn’t sure what I was going to make of this, but it turned out to be useful, reassuring and quite practical. I’m not sure how many things I’ll be able to implement in my life, but it definitely felt like someone with similar experiences and feelings to me was giving me advice.  And as we go into a US Presidential election year, it’s really interesting to take a deep dive into the notion of female likeability so you know what you’re looking for in the commentary on the women in the running for the nomination and the presidency.

Most practical: The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo

Cover of Making of a Manager

Julie Zhuo was an early hire at Facebook and at 25 found herself managing a team of designers.  As the company grew, so did the number of people she was managing.  In The Making of a Manager she discusses the perils and pitfalls of becoming a manager and offers helpful advice for how to avoid them.  I actually found this the most useful of the lot.  Not everything she talks about applies to the job that I do, but enough did that I started making notes.  And although she works in tech and draws her examples from her own experience, it doesn’t feel like you’re being lectured by a Facebook zealot and it felt like she’d worked hard to make her advice applicable to most sorts of teams and workplaces and so I think almost anyone who manages people  could get something out of this.

So there you have it.  I think on balance I got enough from the good books to make up for the bad bits, but next time I do this (if there is a next time!) I’m going to pay better attention to the blurbs and try and decode things a bit better. Also maybe stop reading the stuff I don’t like before it makes me ragey.  Three of these came from the library (hello again themes of my 2019 obsessions) but The Making of a Manager came from NetGalley.

Until Monday – Happy Reading!

books, stats

December Stats

It’s the end of the year – so here it is, the bumper end of year stat post. I’m sure there’ll be some tweaks to the format at the end of January, but this is the 2019 format for the very last time:

New books read this month: 37*

Books from the to-read pile: 17

Ebooks read: 8

NetGalley books read: 3

Library books: (all ebooks): 9

Non-fiction books: 8

Most read author in December: Noel Coward – 2 plays read, which feels a bit wrong, but no other repeated authors

Books bought in December: 8 books, 3 books and a couple of preorders for 2020

Books read in 2019: 402!!!

This is my highest ever total, which is somewhat amazing and mind boggling. You can check out my year in books on Goodreads here.

Most read author in 2019: Susan Mallery – I’ve read the entire Fools Gold series this year basically, and all  but one of the Happily Inc series too and some standalones.  It’s been a proper glom.

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf (I don’t have copies of all of these!): 540

And if you’ve somehow missed them, here’s my look back at my favourite new books of the year, my 2019 reading obsessions (which maybe should have included Susan Mallery, but doesn’t!), how my 2018 obsessions fared last year, and my look ahead to exciting new releases in 2020.

Bonus picture: Here’s my completed Beat the To Read Shelf spread from my journal.  I started this in 2018 as a way of making me work my way through the books on the tbr pile.  I find that I hate not finishing something even more than I hate being “forced” to read something.  But the library ebooks meant I fell a little bit behind this year – and had to do almost an entire shelf in the last month and a half of the year, and half a shelf in the last ten days.  I’m dead proud of it now I’m done though!

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels (4 this month)