Book of the Week, fiction, historical, new releases

Book of the Week: Yours Cheerfully

As I said yesterday, plenty that I want to write about from last week’s reading, so it was hard to pick what to write about today. But in the end I went with Yours Cheerfully by A J Pearce because it made me smile and it’s been a while since I wrote about some historical fiction. On top of that it came out last week so I’m being timely *and*’my paperback copy of V for Victory turned up the other day – just to remind me how much I like books like this when they are done well. And this one is done well and has a pretty cover. What’s not to like.

Yours Cheerfully is the sequel to Dear Mrs Bird, which I reviewed in a summer reading round up a couple of years back – after reading it on a sun lounger in Gran Canaria. Those were the days. You don’t need to have read the first book to enjoy Yours Cheerfully, but if you have you will get a little more out of it, purely because you know the characters better, not because you’re missing chunks of plot or backstory. We rejoin Emmy as she is finding her feet as the new advice columnist at Women’s Friend. The war is in full swing and the magazine is soon asked to take part in a ministry of information campaign to recruit more women workers for the war effort. Emmy is excited to step up and help, but soon she is finding out that there are a lot of challenges for war workers – and she wants to try and help her new friends.

Where Dear Mrs Bird focused very much on Emmy’s own problems at work to create the drama and tension, swapping that for Emmy’s dilemma about helping the women in the munitions factory works well – if you’ve read the first book you can see Emmy’s growing confidence in her role at the magazine and her journalistic ambitions. A more obvious option would have been to focus on Emmy’s relationship and whether her sweetheart would be sent abroad to fight but even aside from my dislike of splitting couples up in sequels purely for the drama, this works much better – and the knowledge of the worries of the women at the factory heightens your sense of the stakes for Emmy as well as providing context for the wider peril of the war – because it could all have been a little cozy and felt a bit low stakes – despite the war. That’s not to say this is a gritty depressing read – because it’s not -it’s charming and the magazine world is lovely – but it’s not saccharine or unbearably rose tinted. Like the first book this ends a bit unexpectedly and in a bit of a rush but I really enjoyed spending time with Emmy and Bunty and Charles and seeing what was happening at the magazine. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a third to come. I’m certainly hoping there is!

My copy of Yours Cheerfully came via NetGalley, but as I mentioned to the top it’s out now in Kindle and Kobo as well as in hardback. I saw Dear Mrs Bird in quite a lot of shops when that came out, so I’m hoping this will be the same. Judging by the fact that Foyles have it in stock for click and collect at a bunch of their locations, I’m optimistic on that front.

Happy Reading!

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

The Week in Books: June 21 – June 27

Well well well. June is nearly over, it’s proper summer and we’ve had the longest day etc. My week was marked by sunshine, rain, wind and some very muggy weather. My reading was an eclectic mix of historical fiction, cozy crime, women’s fiction, boarding schools in various guises and some non fiction to boot. Quite a lot of fun to be honest and lots that I want to write about. Expect to hear more etc!

Read:

This is not a F**king Romance by Evie Snow

Yours Cheerfully by A J Pearce*

The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery*

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P Manansala

The Last Party by Anthony Haden-Guest

Fence Vol 4 by C S Pacat and Johanna the Mad

Tommy Cabot was Here by Cat Sebastian

Started:

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le*

Still reading:

Mrs England by Stacey Halls*

Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake by Alexis Hall

I may have added another Shirley Flight to my collection, as well as a couple of ebooks and a crime preorder or two. Positively restrained – but I haven’t been into a bookshop since the reopening so it can only be a matter of time.

Bonus photo: I could have posted another picture of the park to mark the 10 k I slogged around it on Sunday, but you’ve seen a lot of the park over the last year because it’s the only outings I’ve had. So instead have some of my cooking. This is the oven paella from The Roasting Tin Around the World.

Casserole full of paella

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, book round-ups

Book of the Week… or not

So. I said in yesterday’s post I didn’t know what I was going to write about today. And I didn’t. And I sat and stared at the list of things I read last week for a while and I still didn’t. And then I ended up writing this.

My favourite thing I read last week was probably The Game, but that’s the sixth in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series and I have a rule about books in series and you really will get the most out of that if you’re reading them in order. Also it’s not that long since I wrote about The Beekeeper’s Apprentice – and I suspect the next stop on this journey is going to be a post about the series. So that rules that out. Side note: It’s one of those annoying ebooks where you can’t see a proper cover for it at the start of the book. Why do publishers do this to me?

I finished Theatre for Dreamers last week, but I hated almost everyone in it and I couldn’t work up the energy to write about them all. I originally bought it as a gift for mum and then when it arrived I read the start and realised that it wasn’t going to be for her. I was right. Good decision not to give it to her past Verity. But if you want to read about the writers’ and artists’ colony on Hydra in the early 1960s, go for it – it’s well written and it’s got Leonard Cohen in it, but it’s about as cheerful as one of his songs. Maybe by the time I have enough books for another Fictionalised Real People post, I’ll have mellowed on it a bit. At the moment I’m just annoyed at them all.

I went into A Few Right Thinking Men thinking (hoping?) it might fill the Phryne Fisher-shaped hole in my reading. And it is set in Australia, at a similar sort of time and with a hero with a monied background but more colourful and less conservative leanings, but whilst it does have a murder to solve, also gets very deep into the societal factions of conservatives and communists and to me felt like it tended more towards the thriller end of the spectrum and less towards the historical cozy one. It’s also less witty and fun than Phryne is and I’m not sure how much I liked any one in it. I might read some more, but I’ll need to be in the right mood.

The Larks of Jubilee Flats was a fun Career novel from the Girl’s Own era that I love, but it’s slight, and niche, and probably only of interest to a very small subset of people – many of whom were at the Bristol Conference with me a couple of years back. If you want to read a book doing a bit of not very subtle encouraging of young teen girls to have a bit of ambition (but only before they get married) and to Do The Right Thing, then it’s sweet but it’s also going to cost you at least £5 plus shipping for a book that took me less than an hour to read. Also, Covid scuppered the next edition of book conference both last summer and the rearranged date this year, so I have to wait another whole year before I get to go and play with the book people and spend all my money on obscure titles again.

And after that there was nothing else in the list that was nearly finished enough for me to kid myself I could get it read and count it on a technicality. So instead you get a couple of little summaries from me and a sheepish apology for having had a busy week and on top of that a sort of social life for the first time in a year. I’ll try and do better next week.

Happy Reading!

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

The Week in Books: June 14 – June 20

Massively busy week and then at the weekend we Went Somewhere and Did Something, and rather than reading books I was drinking wine and catching up with people. What I’m going to write about tomorrow, I do not know.

Read:

A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson

The Game by Laurie R King

The Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon

Still Knife Painting by Cheryl Hollon

The Larks of Jubilee Flats by Marjorie A Sindall

A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

Started:

The Last Party by Anthony Haden-Guest

Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake by Alexis Hall

This is not a F**king Romance by Evie Snow

Still reading:

Mrs England by Stacey Halls*

Yours Cheerfully by A J Pearce*

Bonus photo: Slightly cheating because this is from late last week, but as we had a scorcher for most of the week (and then a muggy weekend) here’s a rare (for the blog) sighting of me in my garden hammock enjoying some sunshine.

Me in a hammock

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

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!