book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: March 2021 Mini Reviews

So we made it to the end of a year of the quarantimes. And despite the fact being back in March meant it felt like we’d never left March at all and the world had ground to a halt in 2020 and given us endless March, itwas actually quite a good month in my reading life. Here are a few books I enjoyed that I haven’t told you about yet.

Women vs Hollywood by Helen O’Hara

Hardback copy of Women vs Hollywood

Empire Magazine’s Helen O’Hara’s new book is an examination of pioneering women through Hollywood history and the ways in which they’ve been left out of the history of the silver screen. It also examines what could be done to help redress the balance and for films to tell some different stories from some different points of view. It’s impeccably researched and well argued and will left me wanting to go out and spend some money at the cinema on female-centric films. As the cinemas are still closed, I contented myself by watching Lady Bird and Emma. and a couple of Katherine Hepburn films.

 

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear

Cover of the Consequences of Fear

I’ve written about the Maisie Dobbs series here before. And this is another engrossing and twisty instalment in the series. With long running series it’s always a challenge writing a review that doesn’t give away too much of the plot – or spoil earlier books in the series. But what I can say is that now the books have reached World War Two, Jacqueline Winspear is consistently finding interesting aspects of the conflict to entangle Maisie in, and if a few liberties are taken with the timeline, they are minor and you forgive them because it’s so page-turning and engrossing. This also sees some really interesting developments in Maisie’s personal life too – so all around this is a really good read.

You’re History

Cover of You're History

What’s not to love about a book with a cover as gorgeous as this and I did enjoy it, but that comes with a few caveats. I think I was missing some of the background on some of the songs to get the most out of it. Although the names listed in the blurb are all people you will have heard of – Kate Bush, Nikki Minaj,  Janet Jackson, Taylor Swift and TLC – in quite a lot of cases it’s actually taking quite a deep, in depth dive into their musical back catalogues. Really I think it needs to come with a playlist so you can listen to the songs that are being talked about as you read the book, because unless you’re really, really into music you may get lost here unless you’ve done some prep work. I used to work at radio stations as well as watching a fair few music documentaries both general and artist specific, so I consider myself fairly well across music, and I still had to do a fair bit of googling. I have a goal to try and read more books about music and musicians – because when I do I invariably enjoy that – and this fits in to that but it’s not my favourite of the genre.

Happy Singles Day by Ann Marie Walker

Cover of Happy Singles Day

This is a sweet, fluffy holiday (by which I mean vacation not Christmas!) romance set on an island off North Carolina, with a widowed hero with a B&B he can’t face running since the death of his wife and the professional organiser who visits for an out of season holiday. Lucas is focussed on raising his daughter and ignoring the bills that are coming due – so his sister relists the B7B without telling him – until Paige is booked and on the way. When Paige arrives, she finds that her accomodation doesn’t quite match the online brochure and decides to return home. But bad weather means the ferry isn’t running and she’s stuck on the island… Nothing revelatory or surprising, but a nice fun weekend read featuring a grumpy hero, a sunny heroine, a bit of forced proximity, a cute kid and some puppies.

Flake by Matthew Dooley

Hardback copy of Flake

So this is a really genuinely charming graphic novel about an ice cream seller and his van and the rivalries and challenges he faces. Low key but remarkably emotional. It had been sat on my shelf for a few months – my friendly local comic book shop had managed to get me a copy just before her last lockdown started again and I had been saving it for a treat. And I was right that it was a treat because it was really, really good.

In case you missed any of them, the Books of the Week posts in March were Wild Rain, Act Your Age, Eve Brown, Mrs Tim of the Regiment and Heroes are my Weakness. And here are the links to the mini reviews from January and February.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Billion Dollar Loser

I was so spoilt for chose this week that I dithered over my choice for Book of the Week for quite some time before settling on Billion Dollar Loser. But it’s hard to resist a book about a spectacular business failure – you may remember how much I enjoyed Bad Blood last year and I was hoping this would do the same sort of thing.

Cover of Billion Dollar Loser

Reeves Wiedeman’s book examines the rise and fall of Adam Neumann and his company WeWork. Many people probably only heard of WeWork when its first attempt to float on the stock market imploded in spectacular style. Neumann grew up in Israel and the US, completed his compulsory military service and then moved to the US for college, determined to make his fortune. After a false start with a baby clothing company, he got into the co-working business – leasing empty office space from landlord and then renting it out to freelancers, small businesses, tech startups and the like. It wasn’t a new idea, but WeWork attracted billions of dollars from investors as it grew at breakneck speed and expanded around the world with a vision of “elevating the world’s consciousness”.

So this isn’t quite Bad Blood, and WeWork isn’t quite Theranos, but Billion Dollar Loser is an incredibly readable account of the rise and fall of a tech unicorn – a business that investors poured money into through years of losses in the hope that it would eventually make money and then be the next big thing when it finally floated in the stock exchange and they could cash out. Caught up in it all are the staff – many of whom stayed in jobs that didn’t pay very well because of the stock options they were promised and because they believed in Neumann’s vision. Like Theranos’s Elizabeth Holmes, Neumann is a charismatic figure – who brought in spiritualism and created an almost cult like atmosphere inside the company. And his wife is Gwyneth Paltrow’s cousin so there’s an added Goop-y layer to all of this that Theranos didn’t have.

Wiedemann has written a fast-paced page turner, that exposes the fundamental problems with WeWork’s business plan – including (but not limited to) the costs involved in real estate and the need for actual physical infrastructure in your offices and to keep your tenants happy! Like Bad Blood, it leaves you with a fair few questions, but the story of WeWork isn’t done yet – their valuation for their stock market floatation was published at the end of March (spoiler: it’s a lot less than it was the first time around) and Neumann is also reported to be planning a new venture. A Hulu documentary about WeWork came it last week and Cosmo have just published a profile of Rebekah Paltrow Neumann so this probably isn’t the last we’ve heard of WeWork – but as a starting point this is a really good one!

My copy of Billion Dollar Loser came from the library, but it’s available now from all the usual sources – like Kindle and Kobo and should be available to order from your bookshop of choice or bookshop.org.uk . It’s been so long now since bookshops were open for in person browsing that I have no idea if you’ll be able to pick it up in store without ordering!

Happy reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: March 29 – April 4

Belated Happy Easter to those of you who are celebrating. I’ve had a long weekend, where the weather has swung between cold and sunny, colder and less sunny and hail and snow. Current status: Cold, clear and sunny.  If you missed the April stats, you can find them here. Coming up this week as well as Book of the Week, there will be mini reviews on Wednesday too.

Read:

Me and Carlos by Tom Perrotta

Women vs Hollywood by Helen O’Hara

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

Billion Dollar Loser by Reeves Wiedeman

Black Light by Jo Perry

Holy Disorders by Edmund Crispin

The Second Marriage by Gill Paul*

Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer

Death of a Sinner by Derek Farrell

Started:

Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi-Jones*

Love is a Rogue by Leonora Bell

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Soloman

Still reading:

n/a

I’m quite pleased with my progress this week – I finished the longer runners, and the books I started last week and read some other interesting books too. The observant among you may have noticed that there’s a strong vein of Georgette Heyer rereading (and relistening) coming through at the moment – I’ve been revisiting some of my old favourites. I don’t know what it is about my mood at the moment that necessitates Heyer’s most alpha-y heroes, but I do know that when I finished Sylvester this week, I then went back and relistened to the final few chapters another three times. There is just something about Phoebe, Edmund, Sir Nugent and the button – and Sylvester messing up proposing that did exactly what I wanted this week.

Bonus photo: this month’s flower delivery turned out to be a wreath for me to make. I was quite pleased with how it turned out, so it’s this week’s picture so I can show off a little!

Spring flower wreath

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley. ** indicates it was an advance copy from a source other than NetGalley

books, stats

March Stats

Books read this month: 34*

New books: 31

Re-reads: 3

Books from the to-read pile: 6

NetGalley books read: 3

Kindle Unlimited read: 10

Ebooks: 1

Library books: 11 (all ebooks)

Audiobooks: 3

Non-fiction books: 1

Favourite book this month: Act Your Age, Eve Brown

Most read author: Probably Georgette Heyer – as two of the audiobooks were rereads of her and I think they’re longer than the two Nisha Sharma books I read

Books bought: 9 I think

Books read in 2020: 100

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf (I don’t have copies of all of these!): 601

I’m not even sure I have anything witty or interesting to say this month – all I’ve done is read, run around the park and work… and that’s been the story of the last year!

Bonus picture: some blossom in the park in the early morning sunshine on the 31st

Blossoms on a tree and sky

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels (9 this month)