American imports, Book of the Week, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Second First Impressions

After yesterday’s little essay at the start of my Week in Books I feel a little bit like I’ve already talked way too much this week. But I’ve got plans in my head for a summer reading post and a couple of last weeks books are likely to feature in that. So this weeks BotW is a fun and frothy romance, perfect for reading any time of year, not just in a sunny garden in summer.

Ruthie has been working at Providence Retirement Villas for six years. That’s her whole adult life – and she’s turned the job into her entire life. She’s shrunk her world so that it revolves around the residents (human and turtles) and maintaining the place. She is nervous, risk averse, acts way older than her age and her latest fear is what the property developer who has just bought the site might do to up end her life. It turns out that the first thing he’s going to do is land Providence with his son. Teddy has run out of places to stay and needs to raise money for his share of the tattoo parlour he wants to open. He’s tall, dark and handsome – and dangerous for Ruthie’s self control. So she sets him up with the one job no one has ever lasted at: personal assistant to two rich, 90 year old trouble making ladies – who get most of their enjoyment from setting their assistants fiendish tasks. But Teddy looks set to be the one who stays the course – but is his charm for real or is is all just an act?

That’s quite a long plot summary and makes this sound way more complicated than it is. It’s a charming opposites attract romance with a sweet but wary heroine and a charming people pleaser hero who have to do a lot of figuring out about what they both want in life. The retirement village provides an excellent cast of supporting characters to make you laugh as you watch Ruthie and Teddy do some cautious getting to know each other. It does suffer a little bit from the end wrapping up too quickly (oh a common theme returns to my reviews) but I sort of forgive it because it was just so charming for the rest of the book. I’ve been hearing good things about Sally Thorne for a while, but this is the first time I’ve managed to get around to reading one of her books – even though I think I may own the Hating Game. I am annoyed that it’s taken me so long. But again: what is new there. In summary: charming escapist reading.

My copy of Second First Impressions came from the library but it’s out now on Kindle and Kobo and in (very expensive) hardback. No paperback (in the UK at least) until next year.

Happy Reading!

Authors I love, books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: June 7 – June 13

It’s strange how my reading can sometimes fall into patterns – and not just library books coming due and NetGalley release dates (when I’m paying attention to them properly). This week is probably one of the best examples of that I have recently had. Firstly, I’m going through a huge audiobook phase – rather than listening to my regular diet of podcasts. And not just any audiobooks, audio books of old favourites. So this week on the list you can see that I finished a new (to me) audiobook of Have His Carcase – one of my favourite Wimseys, but that I’ve previously only had on audio as a radio play. I’ve also been listening to Heyer’s Devil’s Cub in a new version (still not right, but better now than the previous one) and Venetia (again). We’ve finished another in the Amelia Peabody re-listen. But there are more patterns than just that. Frieda and Theatre for dreamers both deal with writers (and artists) and their muses. I’ve been taking my time over The Game because I needed to finish Alexandria which also deals with British machinations in Afghanistan and India (although a century apart). There is fodder for posts here, if only I can find third (or fourth) books to continue the themes. The question is, do I want to?

Read:

Have His Carcase by Dorothy L Sayers

Sunrise by the Sea by Jenny Colgan*

Tiny House, Big Love by Olivia Dade

The Summer Seekeers by Sarah Morgan*

Frieda by Annabel Abbs

Deeds of the Disturber by Elizabeth Peters

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne

Alexandria by Edmund Richardson*

Started:

A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

Yours Cheerfully by A J Pearce*

Still reading:

A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson

The Game by Laurie R King

Mrs England by Stacey Halls*

A couple of books bought, but all bargains. Honest!

Bonus photo: British summer time in the park on Saturday evening. Blue skies, mid 20s, not too awfully humid.

A sunny park in the evening

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

Book of the Week, Forgotten books, literary fiction, new releases, Thriller, women's fiction

Book of the Week: The Feast

Well it was actually a proper contest for BotW this week between this and the new Taylor Jenkins Reid book, Malibu Rising, but The Feast really impressed me and is definitely lower on the radar than the TJR. But I’m sure I’ll find a way to talk about that too – after all summer holidays are coming – theoretically at least, so perhaps there’s a sunlounger (in your garden if no where more exotic) reading post in my future!

Cover of The Feast

This one is really hard to summarise without giving too much away, and that would really ruin some of the enjoyment, but here goes: At the start of The Feast we hear about the Pendizak Manor Hotel, now buried under a collapsed cliff, with seven guests dead. The rest of the book is set in the week running up to that cliff collapse, which happened in the middle of summer 1947. You spend the book getting to know all the people who live and work at the hotel and the ins and outs of their lives. I went through the book wondering whether it was going to turn out to be a thriller, or a tragedy or something else – it’s a complete page-turner. And the characters, oh the characters. Of all of the adults, there’s really only Nancy who is sensible. The hotel is owned by a formerly genteel family fallen on hard times and who have turned the family home into a boarding house to try and make ends meet, and their guests tend to be people Mrs Siddal thinks are the “right sort” – although as you learn about them, you realise that “the right sort” may not be nice people at all…

The Feast was first published in 1949 and this is a new edition with an introduction from Cathy Rentzenbrink. Now I’ve been had by spoilers in introductions before so I deliberately skipped it before I read it so it wouldn’t ruin anything for me and I recommend you do the same because it really repaid me – both in reading the book the first time through and then when I read the introduction in giving me more layers and levels to think about. I read Margaret Kennedy’s more famous book, The Constant Nymph, a couple of years back and could see why it was influential, but didn’t love it – mostly because the characters were annoying but not in a so annoying you want to see them get their comeuppance sort of way – but with this lot, the ones that are annoying are really annoying, and you have the added suspense of whether they’re going to end up under the cliff or not! And on top of everything, the cover for this new edition is gorgeous too. I’m seriously tempted to get myself a physical copy.

Anyway, my copy of The Feast came from NetGalley, but this new edition is out now in paperback – Foyles appear to have copies at Charing Cross Road (and a couple of other London stores) and Bristol judging by their click and collect, so I’m hoping it’ll be fairly findable in the larger book stores. And of course it’s on Kindle and Kobo. Audible also appear to have a fresh version of it too – which is a bit tempting I have to say. The blurb describes this as “rediscovered” which suggests that it may not be that easy to find secondhand – the cheapest that aren’t this new edition all appear to be in the US (with the associated postage costs) so it might have to be an actual antiquarian/second hand bookshop rather than the charity shop if you want something older, but the introduction in this edition is a really nice touch – provided of course you don’t read it first!

Happy Reading!

Authors I love, books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: May 31 – June 6

Well blimey Love in the Blitz is long. And it took a lot of my reading time up this week because I was determined to finish it! Some really good stuff on this week’s list though – it’s going to be hard to chose what to write about tomorrow!

Read:

Desire and the Deep Blue Sea by Olivia Dade

Feast by Margaret Kennedy*

Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham

Deadly Decor by Karen Rose Smith

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid*

Love in the Blitz by Eileen Alexander*

Creativity by John Cleese

Started:

Mrs England by Stacey Halls*

Sunrise by the Sea by Jenny Colgan*

Still reading:

Frieda by Annabel Abbs

A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson

Alexandria by Edmund Richardson*

The Game by Laurie R King

I had to buy some books as gifts this week, so of course I bought myself one as well, because it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it? And apart from that I don’t think there were any more purchases, but I haven’t exactly investigated too closely!

Bonus photo: summer time in the UK. A couple of sunny hours earlier this week, where everything looked beautiful.

A small river and its surroundings, looking very green and pretty in the sunshine.

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

May Stats

Books read this month: 35*

New books: 29

Re-reads: 6 (all audiobooks)

Books from the to-read pile: 8

NetGalley books read: 5

Kindle Unlimited read: 4

Ebooks: 4

Library books: 8 (all ebooks)

Audiobooks: 6

Non-fiction books: 4

Favourite book this month: Early Morning Riser or Love at First

Most read author: Fairly tight between Laurie R King (Two full length novels and a novella finished and a third novel started), Georgette Heyer (three audiobooks) and Elizabeth Peters (two audiobooks, but they’re longer than the Heyers are!)

Books bought: 16, I think, but really I’m still not really counting. I’m just being nice to myself.

Books read in 2020: 169

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf (I don’t have copies of all of these!): 604

The Georgette Heyer audiobook quest continues, and the Amelia Peabody fixation continues. As mentioned several times this week already, I’m still not good with books that aren’t in a genre where I know it’s going to work out in the end, so rereading old favourites makes total sense. And I only count the ones I’ve reread from cover to cover, not the ones where I just pick them up and dip into my favourite bits.

Bonus picture: Some flowers from my garden, in a border that definitely needs weeding…

Purple and pink flowers in a messy border that needs weeding.

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels (6 this month)

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: May 2021 Mini Reviews

Another month is over, so here we are with some more reviews of books that I’ve read this month, want to talk about but haven’t had the chance yet. And unlike last month, I actually read them all this month. By rights Early Morning Riser and Wicked Enchantment from last month’s post also belong here, but I broke all my own rules at the start of May. But that’s what rules are there for right?

Drop the Mikes by Duncan MacMaster

Paperback copy of Drop the Mikes

Anyone fancy a murder mystery inspired by the Fyre festival debacle? Yes? Well this is it. A buzzy tech start up is organising a music festival on an island to promote a new product. It’s already shaping up for a disaster – with no luxury villas for the guests and no musical acts because all the cheques bounced. But when the Boss’s right hand man is found dead, things take a turn for the even more serious. Kirby Baxter happens to be holidaying across the bay from the festival and is soon called in to consult. Long term readers will remember that I interviewed Duncan MacMaster a couple of years back, when Hack (the first Jake Mooney book) came out. This is the third Kirby Baxter, and although you don’t have to have read the previous ones if you have – and also if you have read the Jake Mooney books – there is extra fun to be had here. But even if you’re just reading it as a standalone, it’s still a funny and twisty murder mystery, based on a great idea.

Elizabeth and Monty by Charles Castillo*

Cover of Elizabeth and Monty

My love of books about Golden Age Hollywood is well known, so this was an obvious choice for me to request on NetGalley. But it’s a bit of a weird one. I’m not sure I learned that much new about Elizabeth Taylor – but it’s not that long since I read Furious Love about her and Richard Burton and she has also come up in a lot of the other books I’ve read, so perhaps that’s the reason why. I did however learn a lot more about Montgomery Clift, who often only features in things as a bit of a side note in the Elizabeth Taylor story. But there are frustratingly few conclusions here about the whys and wherefore as of his self-destructive behaviour – which began even before the car crash that damaged his matinee idol looks. If you like old Hollywood, go for it, it’s readable but imperfect.

The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting by K J Charles

Cover of The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting

KJ Charle’s latest sees Robin Loxleigh and his sister Marianne (oh yes, the clue is there in the name) descend on London in the search of a fortune each. But the sucess of their venture comes under threat from Sir John Hartlebury, the uncle of the heiress Robin is courting. Will Robin be unmasked or is there Another Way to resolve this? This is a lot of fun. It mostly delivered what I was hoping it would – which was/is a queer Masqueraders sort of vibe (NB to audiobook producers, could you hurry up and record Masqueraders and put it on Audible, please and thank you) but with less Jacobites and the Old Gentleman and more snark. I was a bit dubious about The Arrangement between Robin and Hart, but Charles handles the potential pitfalls of a Pretty Women kind of situation very neatly. And that’s a close as I can get to explaining things without using proper spoilers.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Cover of The Wife Upstairs

Jane is a dog walker in a wealthy community in Birmingham, Alabama. She’s also on the run from her past and in need of some protection in case it catches up with her. When she meets widower Eddie Rochester, he seems like the solution to her prayers – although the recently deceased wife is a bit of a disadvantage. But as Jane falls for Eddie, so the mystery of what happened to Bea and her best friend the night the disappeared at the lake looms larger and larger. Will Jane get her happy ending? As mentioned several times this week already, it turns out I’m still not ready for suspense/thrillers – even when they’re based on a known property like Jane Eyre! But despite my squeamishness and need to space out reading it, this is really good. It’s twisty and inventive enough that you’re never quite sure that it is going to do what you think it’s going to do. And this “Jane” is a more complicated heroine than the original ever was! And I liked the ending.

So there you have it, another month finished and another batch of mini-reviews. And in case you missed any of them, the Books of the Week posts in May were Wilde Child, Fabulosa! Love at First and Dial A for Aunties (even though I technically finished that on the last day of April, because it’s book of the *week* and weeks don’t end neatly for the end of the month… which means I could also count yesterday’s Circus of Wonders post as I finished that in May, but posted it in June. Even the rules I make myself are too complicated. And finally, just to complete the link-fest, here are the links to the mini reviews from January, February, March and April.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, historical, new releases

Book of the Week: Circus of Wonders

So as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m still not really in the headspace for books where I don’t know how they’re going to end. This of course is the main reason why I’ve mostly been reading romance and mystery for the duration of the pandemic – in the midst of all the global uncertainty, I need to know that it’s going to be ok at the end. This doesn’t seem to have got through to the part of my brain clicking request on NetGalley though, which is a bit of an issue to be honest. But I did manage to read this – and enjoy it – so here’s a change from the recent fiction picks and a bit of historical fiction.

Cover of Circus of Wonders

In Circus of Wonders we meet Nell. She’s always been different, because of the birthmarks that cover her skin. When Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders comes to her coastal village, she is kidnapped after her father sells her. Ripped away from her beloved brother and the seaside, at first Nell tries to escape. But soon she discovers the community of performers and meets Jasper’s younger brother Toby. Toby and Jasper were in Crimea together and the show is what they have always planned together, even before they were on the battlefield. But when the show gets to London, Nell is its star, but can Jasper cope with his “leopard girl” eclipsing him?

This is a really atmospheric book – mixing the world of Victorian circus performers and the horror of war, as well as looking at identity, difference and fame. I worry that this makes Circus of Wonders sound very worthy, but it’s actually a real page Turner as well as being very clever. And give the renewed interest in the period and the circus after The Greatest Showman it is perhaps and opportune time for something like this. Really very readable. I read Elizabeth Macneal’s first book, The Doll Factory on my birthday holiday at the start of last year* and I found it creepy and atmospheric but only really liked one strand of the story and wanted a more definite resolution. This one, I like Toby and Nell’s story and it does have a very definite ending so that’s a definite win here. If you’re after for something to read in the sun, this would be a good choice.

My copy of Circus of Wonders came from NetGalley, but it’s out now in hardback as well as Kindle and Kobo. I would expect the physical copies to be front and centre in the book shops – because it’s in the hardback top 10 at the moment. Side note: I had read two books in each of the fiction top tens in the Sunday Times this week – unfortunately this was slightly undermined by the fact that one of the books in each list was the same book – The Thursday Murder Club – which is in both hardback and paperback lists! For the completists, the other book that I had read in the paperback list is the wonderful The Vanishing Half. But at any rate, if you haven’t read the either the Richard Osman or the Brit Bennett (which are doing very different things), they’re now in paperback – ideal for your sunlounger.

Happy Reading!

*It seems like a lifetime ago, but that trip which seemed so extravagant at the time- to pay for sunshine in January – now seems like the smartest idea we ever have, as it was our only proper holiday last year and it was a proper sunshiney one.