Book of the Week, detective

Book of the Week: The Division Bell Mystery

It was a bit of a post-holiday come down week in reading, in fact I only bought The Division Bell Mystery in Cambridgeon Sunday, but I read it on Sunday afternoon and evening and it was so good. And also, in case you missed it, it’s an important week for the British Parliament this week, so it seemed an apt pick.

Copy of The Division Bell Mystery

When a wealthy American businessman dies while having dinner inside Parliament, at first it looks like suicide, while he was alone in the room as voting was taking place but the evidence doesn’t add up.  Soon a young parliamentary private secretary plays amateur sleuth to try and work out what happened. This is a classic locked room myster, although I think you might need a bit of knowledge of how the House of Commons work for this to make sense. The Division Bell of the title is the bell that rings across the Palace of Westminster (and in some nearby drinking establishments) when MPs are called to  go and vote (which is called a division because they divide into two lobbies, the Ayes and the noes) but for the most part Ellen Wilkinson has explained everything you might need to know.  In fact Wilkinson, was one of the first female MPs and so the book is filled with insider details about what Westminster was like in the 1930s – and more than a few digs at the male-centric nature of it all.

I love a Golden Age crime novel as you know, and locked room mysteries are always fun. This is quite traditional/of its time in terms of structure – friendly cop, amateur detective with some skin in the game, tame reporter, but that’s probably to be expected! I basically read this in one sitting, which tells you a lot as well. Wilkinson is a fascinating person even before you add writing a Murder mystery into the mix (go google her) and on the basis of this, I wish she’d written more. The Division Bell Mystery is part of the British Library Crime Classics series – which is a fairly reliable source of forgotten mystery stories – I’ve featured several others as BotW before* – some are great, sometimes you can see why they might have been forgotten!  Heffers had a whole load of them on Sunday and they were on 3 for 2, so of course I got three.

If you’re not going to Heffers, then you should be able to find a copy from all of the usual sources as well as on Kindle (£2.99 at time of writing).  Most bookshops will have a selection of the British Library Crime Classics too if they don’t have this one.  I also recommend Murder Underground by Mavis Doriel Haye – which seems to be one of the more commonly stocked books in the line.

Happy Reading!

*Previous BotW’s from the series include: The Sussex Downs Mystery, Death of an Airman, and The Cornish Coast Murder – all of which you can see in the photo of the Heffers display and Silent Nights, which I don’t think you can!

Shelf of British Library Crime Classic books and other mysteries

 

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: January 20 – January 26

We got back from our holiday on Monday evening and then I had a couple of days before I went back to work, so the start of the week in reading went well – and then it got awfully busy when I went back to work – and we went away for the weekend and actually Went Outside!

Read:

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Gone Viking by Helen Russell*

The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro

Girl Squads by Sam Maggs*

Naturally Tan by Tan France*

Caramel Crush by Jenn McKinlay

The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen Wilkinson

Started:

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

The Mind Readers by Margery Allingham

Still reading:

Burnout by Emily Nagoski*

Miss Austen by Gill Hornby*

Bonus photo: we went to Cambridge for the world for a concert and of course that meant I got to go and play in Heffers for an hour or so. And I spotted this gorgeous display for The Doll Factory, which of course was one of the books I read on holiday. So it seemed a little serendipitous!

Display of copies of The Doll Factory

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

book round-ups, holiday reading

What I read on my holiday: January 2020 edition

As you’ll have seen from this week’s Week in Books I was on holiday last week and read a lot.  Now I’ve already written about Lucy Parker’s Headliners as Book of the Week, but I wanted to do some mini-reviews of some of the others as well.  There are some that I loved, and some that I could see were very good – but just not quite for me, so I wanted to give them a mention too.

If I never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane*

Cover of If I Never Met You

Mhairi McFarlane has been a BotW pick before (after my birthday holiday a year ago in fact!), and once again I really, really enjoyed this. Laurie’s longterm boyfriend breaks up with her out of the blue at the start of this book, leaving her life in turmoil – not only do they live together, but they work together and it’s all a bit unbearable.  After getting stuck in a broken down elevator with the office playboy he makes a proposal: he needs a serious girlfriend to convince the bosses that he’s serious about his job – she needs the rumour mill to find something else to talk about other than her break-up.  Soon they’re posting pictures of their new relationship on social media – much to the astonishment of their co-workers.  But what is the price they’re going to have to pay for their deception – and is Laurie getting a little bit too attached to a man who says he doesn’t believe in love?  I was a little worried at the start that it was going to be a bit gloomy, because Laurie’s breakup was really, really bleak – and being pretty near her age, I could really empathise with her. But once the fauxmance plot got underway, it was really, really great. I was worried that the resolution wouldn’t be satisfying enough, but actually this was really neat. And for those of you who like a heroine who is older than the hero, this has that for you too!

How to be a Footballer by Peter Crouch

How to be a Footballer on a sun lounger

This was Him Indoors’s top airport bookshop pick. I wasn’t expecting to read it, because even though I like football (I was the first female voiceover on UEFA.com don’t you know!) I don’t really read footballer memoirs.  But then he laughed so much at it and read me so many bits from it that I just had to read it too.  And it’s really good. Crouch has had a really interesting career, knows that he’s not a typical footballer (his build, his skills, his career trajectory) and is very funny.  It’s written with Tom Fordyce and I don’t know how that arrangement worked, but the end product sounds very Peter Crouch, and also not at all what you’d expect from a footballer’s book. One to add to the list of books to buy to give as gifts too.

Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Cover of Xeni

This is modern take on the marriage of convenience trope – which I love in historical romance but is hard to pull off often in contemporary. But never fear, Rebekah Weatherspoon has done it! Xeni Everly-Wilkins is in upstate New York to clear out her recently departed aunt’s massive house. But when Sable’s will is read, family secrets spill out and in order for Xeni to claim her inheritance, she has to marry. Her aunt has even picked out the man: Mason McInroy. Sable was a mentor to him, and had promised to leave him some money to pay off the debt that made him leave Scotland, but she didn’t tell Mason about the conditions. Xeni and Mason decide to marry for the money and then divorce as soon as they can. But when it turns into a friends with benefits type relationship, will they actually want to break up? The dialogue is great, the hero is plus-sized, they’re both bi-sexual and the relationship is steamy and a little bit kinky. This is probably the most explicit on the page romance I’ve recommended in a while – it will make you blush – a lot – if you read it in public. I raced through this and could have read another 100 pages with Xeni and Mason.

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth MacNeal*

Cover of The Doll Factory

Creepy, atmospheric and not entirely my sort of book but very well written. I found the juxtaposition between the two threads of the story annoying more than anything else and I was much more interested in one side of the story than the other and that influenced my reading experience.  I also wanted a more definite resolution but that’s fairly common with me – and if you’re a regular here, you’ve heard me complain about that sort of thing before.

The Butterfly Bride by Vanessa Riley*

Cover of the Butterfly Bride

I think Vanessa Riley may just be too melodramatic for me. I like the premise of this – illegitimate daughter of duke wants to be married off by Christmas so she can be independent – but I just don’t like it in the execution.  I’ve had the same experience with the previous books in the series, but the blurbs are always so intriguing and so I keep coming back again. I think I just like a bit more humour and a bit less angst in my romances. But if you do like the drama, this has all you could want to keep you turning the pages and is well written to boot.

So there you have it. Four books from my holiday reading selection for your consideration. They’re all out now and should be easily available from all the usual sources – although The Butterfly Bride is probably a special order situation in the UK if you want a physical copy. The paperback edition of The Doll Factory is out in March and should be preorderable.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Headliners

As you can tell from yesterday’s post, a lot of reading happened on the holiday. It was glorious. Sun, sea, sand and a nice mix of stuff from the digital TBR pile and upcoming books. And this week’s pick for Book of the Week even came out yesterday so that’s some actual good timing from me for once!

Cover of Headliners

Sabrina Carlton and Nick Davenport do not get along.  They’re professional rivals and have been sniping at each other across the airwaves for years.  But now the feuding TV presenters are being forced to work together on morning television – and if it doesn’t work, it could finish both of their careers.  The ratings are in the toilet and they’ve got the month leading up to Christmas to turn it around. As long as they don’t kill each other first.  But when mishaps start happening on set, it seems that they may have a common enemy.  And then there’s the fact that the general public seem to be developing a misapprehension that these two are secretly lusting after each other.  Which they’re totally not, right?

This is the fifth book in the London Celebrities series, and if you’ve read the previous installments, you’ve come across our leads before – Sabrina is the sister of Freddy, the heroine of the previous book, and we saw Sabrina’s combative professional relationship with Nick come to a head at the end of The Austen Playbook.  Now while you don’t have to have read the rest of the series to enjoy this, it will completely spoil the plot of The Austen Playbook if you haven’t read that one first.  Lucy Parker seems to specialise in enemies-to-lovers tropes and this is another really good one.  What I particularly liked about it is that once they’ve got over their issues with each other, they move on as a team and the rest of the plot is not about people constantly trying to sow doubt in each of their minds about the other or silly misunderstandings between them that could be solved with a conversation.

As with the other books in the series, the dialogue is great – there is so much witty banter, and not just between the leads – the supporting characters get their share too. And I loved the situations that Nick and Sabrina found themselves in on the TV show – they’re exactly the sort of thing a ratings-obsessed editor might come up with and they’re funny but not in a cringey hide-behind-your-hands way.  And if you have read the rest of the series, there are some nice callbacks for you.  Obviously Freddy is in it, because she’s Sabrina’s sister, but there are also appearances from previous leads – and antagonists.  It was a real treat – I even made myself slow down and go away and read something else to make it last longer at one point because it was that good.  And don’t be put off by the fact that this is set in the run up to Christmas and it’s January, because it’s not that Christmasy – the Christmas deadline is just that, it’s not really the centre of the plot.  I  mean I read it on a beach in Lanzarote – and thought it was really a perfect book beach read, but equally it would lighten the winter gloom if you’re not fortunate enough to be somewhere relaxing and sunny!

My copy came from NetGalley, but Headliners is available now in Kindle and Kobo and as an audiobook.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: January 13 – January 19

It was my birthday this week, so as is traditional we went away. But this time we went and got some winter sun so I had some quality reading time on the sun lounger.

Read:

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane*

Show Trial by Thomas Doherty*

Maigret and the Murderer by Georges Simonon

Headliners by Lucy Parker*

Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith*

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal*

How to be a Footballer by Peter Crouch

The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths

Black, Listed by Jeffrey Boakye*

Applied Electromagnetism by Susannah Nix

Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon

The Butterfly Bride by Vanessa Riley*

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs by Caitlin Doughty

Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

Started:

Burnout by Emily Nagoski*

Miss Austen by Gill Hornby*

Gone Viking by Helen Russell*

Still reading:

The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro

Bonus photo: can confirm, we have been on holiday. Bliss.

View across a very quiet beach

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

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.