book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: October 2021 Mini Reviews

Here we go again – another selection of books I have read and want to talk about or recommend. This month it is a particularly varied selection – with literature in translation, history, historical crime and short stories and essays about relationships. Something for everyone really.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold and Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Cafe*

There always seems to be a busy Japanese novel around and Before the Coffee Gets Cold was The One a couple of years back. The follow up came out last year and of course I’m super behind with things as always and then read them both back to back. You need to read them in order though as they tell a series of stories about a cafe where you can travel back in time, if you are sat in the right seat and only for the duration of time a cup of coffee is warm for. Across the two novels you meet a range of people who wish to make the journey, but also learn about the people who work at the cafe. I had to stop reading it on the train because it made me cry, but they were both absolutely wonderful. I recommend.

Stealing the Crown by T P Fielden

T P Fielden is the author of the Miss Dimont mysteries, that I’ve written about here before, but the author is also a biographer and royal commentator and this uses his knowledge about the royals during the Second World War as part of a murder mystery that sees a painter who has ended up with a job at Buckingham Palace investigating the death of another staff member. It’s a pacey and enjoyable read and in one of those serendipitous moments you some times find, mentioned Camp Siegfried in it, just a couple of weeks after I’d been to see a play set at the camp – which was for American-German Nazis (or at least nazi sympathisers). There’s a second book in the series which I will keep an eye out for.

 

Index, History of the by Dennis Duncan*

 So, this sort of does what it says on the tin: it’s a history of the humble index. They’re in every reference book, but if you’re my age or younger, you’ve had the safety net of the computer search since you were old enough to be starting on serious research. But before Google and before the computer library catalogue, the index was the key to research and learning. Dennis Duncan’s book examines how the index came into being, how it has evolved through history and how it’s use has evolved too. I’m not sure I’d ever given much thought to how indexes started, or even what people did about an index before the printing press, but now I know all the answers! And it’s fascinating to see that the same sort of arguments that are made about computer search diminishing people’s knowledge were made about the index when it first appeared – if you don’t have to read the whole book, how can you possibly be getting the full benefit of the book? This would make a great gift for the book worm or history fan in your life this Christmas as well.

The One series from Amazon

 I read the kindle versions of this collection rather than the audio versions, but I really quite enjoyed the range of stories within The One. From Jacqueline Woodson writing about how she found her partner, through a dog with more than one family, how a young widow deals with bereavement to a friendship that moves in cycles of closeness and separation, the stories take on the different paths people can take to find The One in their lives. They’re bite sized but often thought provoking and were perfect for those moments when I wanted to read something but didn’t have the time or concentration to commit to a full length book. And they are free if you’re in Kindle Unlimited. What is not to like.

This is Your Time by Ruby Bridges

This was one of my impulse purchases on during my weekend in London in the middle of the month. I studied the desegregation of US schools as part of my history GCSE and it sort of boggles my mind that 14 year old me didn’t twig that the students involved were my parents age. It is that recently that a little girl needed an escort from the national guard to attend a school – and that her father lost his job because of the fact that his daughter was desegregating the city’s schools. This is aimed at middle grade students and sees Ruby Bridges explaining what she did and what the response was and how she sees that fitting in to civil rights protests in America today. This would make a valuable resource for primary school libraries and educators.

And in case you missed any of them, the Book of the Week posts in October were Ambush or Adore, Body on the Beach, The Man Who Died Twice and All The Feels. And here are the rest of the year’s mini reviews: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August and September.

Happy Reading!

 

Book of the Week, detective, mystery, new releases

Book of the Week: The Man Who Died Twice

Why, hello. I bet you weren’t expecting this were you? What do you mean you were? Am I that predictable? Yes. I am. We all know I am. It’s why you love me. I know you love me really. Deep down. Definitely. Probably. Maybe. Sometimes. Perhaps.

This is the sequel to The Thursday Murder Club, which you can’t possibly have missed over the course of the last year – even despite the pandemic. Written by Richard Osman of Pointless and House of Games fame; the first book sold loads, it’s been everywhere that sells books and some places that don’t usually sell them. And it was a Book of the Week here too.

The Man Who Died Twice finds our gang of pensioners with a fresh set of troubles. A figure from Elizabeth’s past has reappeared and it’s going to be a real headache. Joyce and Ron are eager to help out, but Ibrahim has some issues of his own to resolve. There are diamonds, mobsters, spies, drugs and a collection of bodies that threatens to grow at speed. It’s all really quite dangerous. Will the foursome manage to solve the find the diamond, solve the murder and take their revenge?

First of all it’s lovely to be back in the Thursday Murder Club world. I was a bit worried about whether this sequel would be able to live up to the first, but actually it’s a joy. The characters continue to be a delight – and the more we find out about them the more I like them. And because the central foursome are already established we also get to see some more of their non-retirement complex friends and see some more potential plot strands develop. And of course we learn more about Elizabeth, Joyce, Rob and Ibrahim. I really, really enjoyed it – and for once I managed to pace myself and make it last a bit as well!

My copy of The Man Who Died Twice came via NetGalley but it’s out now in hardback as well as Kindle and Kobo and will be available absolutely everywhere. Foyles have even got some signed copies. And I suspect it’s going to be an awful lot of people’s go to book gift this year. As I write this, it sits at the top of the best seller list, while its predecessor is on top of the paperback chart. Domination indeed.

Happy Reading!

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

The Week in Books: October 18 – October 24

Am I reading the Fetherings series at a pace that looks like it could be a classic Verity Binge? Why yes. Should I be reading other stuff? Almost certainly. Do I care? Well, slightly, but not enough to exert any will power! Another busy week as well – with two more trips to the theatre (!) and a bit of socialising too. How did I use to fit all this in?!

Read:

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman*

The Torso in the Town by Simon Brett

One More Christmas at the Castle by Trisha Ashley*

Murder in the Museum by Simon Brett

Peggy of the Chalet School by Elinor M Brent Dyer

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Marilyn Monroe by FX Feeney

Started:

The Hanging in the Hotel by Simon Brett

Stealing the Crown by T P Fielden

Still reading:

Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan*

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne*

Pirate King by Laurie R King

I mean I was going to say that I bought less books than last week, but that might be a lie, as I put in two more preorders, the Chalet School on the list was a preorder that I ended up reading straight away and another preoreder arrived to. And on top of that it was a good week for cheap kindle books…

Bonus photo: This is from &Juliet on Monday night, which was truly the most astounding musical I have seen in a long time. I have a lot of thoughts, upper most of which is that I need to go again because David Bedella was off when we saw it!

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 of the Week… or not

So remember that bit where I said yesterday that I had been out and about and not reading? Well the trouble with that is that it’s left me in a bit of a bind here. Because I didn’t finish that much last week. And one of the ones I did finish was another Fethering book – and I wrote about that last week. And I don’t think I have enough to say about any of the rest of the books I read. Which is a bit tricky. I have finished the new Richard Osman now – but it’s Tuesday and that’s a bit cheaty even for me and you never know, at this rate I might yet need it for next week! So instead, here’s an apology and picture of the British Crime Classics section in the British Library shop.

And as I know you’d rather I was honest and not write about something if I couldn’t work up a bit of enthusiasm for it (or at least I hope that’s what you’d rather!) have a picture from the theatre, the last performance of The Last Five Years on Sunday. It was wonderful. Sorry, not sorry.

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

The Week in Books: October 11 – October 17

Did I finish all the books I had on the go from last week? No. Did I make progress on them? Yes. Did I spent a weekend in London doing activities rather than on my sofa reading? Absolutely. I regret nothing. I’ve absolutely had a blast.

Read:

A Time to Die by Hilda Lawrence*

Death on the Downs by Simon Brett

Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson

The Visit by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is Your Time by Ruby Bridges

Started:

The Torso in the Town by Simon Brett

Still reading:

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman*

Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan*

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne*

Pirate King by Laurie R King

One More Christmas at the Castle by Trisha Ashley*

Four actual books because I went into many bookshops and ended up buying stuff in the British Library shop, Skoob books and Foyles. And a few ebooks as well earlier in the week. What can I say. I just can’t help myself.

Bonus photo: one of the real life things I did was the Paddington exhibition at the British Library which I thoroughly thoroughly recommend. And the theatre was good too.

A model Paddington sitting outside the door to Windsor gardens

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, cozy crime, detective

Book of the Week: The Body on the Beach

Despite all the books I really ought to be finishing, I started a new series last week and it was fun so that made my choice today easier – because the other option was V for Vengeance and not only have I written about Kinsey Milhone before, I’m nearing the end of the series and I feel a series I love post on that in my future!

Carole Sedden is sensible. She makes sensible decisions about what to do with her sensible retirement from her sensible house in the desirable but slightly insular village of Fethering on the south coast. She doesn’t want to get drawn into the petty rivalries of her neighbours or draw too much attention to herself. Her new neighbour Jude is clearly not a sensible person. She wears clothes that waft and encourages visits to the pub and day drinking. Carole isn’t going to encourage her. Except that Carole found a body on the beach while she took her dog on it’s morning walk, the police can’t find the body and don’t believe her and a woman has turned up at her house and waved a gun at her. She’s not quite sure why she told Jude about it, but soon the two of them are investigating the (potential) murder and Carole is doing some very un-sensible things indeed!

So I was recommended this as a “if you like Richard Osman try this” series* and I would say that that’s not a bad call. They predate the Thursday Murder Club series by about twenty years and the protagonists are not quite as old, but this is a fun and clever mystery with two interesting central characters and a cast of eccentric secondary characters. I love Simon Brett’s Charles Paris series, and they have a similar sense of humour in the writing style, although Carole is nothing like the probably alcoholic, grass is always greener, not as successful as he would like Charles. But if you like Charles, definitely try these.

The Body on the Beach is in Kindle Unlimited at the moment and also available on Kobo. If you want a paperback, you’ll probably have to dig around a bit or go second hand (or both!

Happy Reading!

*yes I am aware of the irony of reading this start to finish whilst not having finished the new Richard Osman, but there are a lot of these in the series and I’ll have to wait another year for the next Osman.

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

The Week in Books: October 4 – October 10

Am I making progress at finishing the books I started on holiday? Well sort of, but not in anyway you can tell from this post. Is it stopping me starting other new stuff? Absolutely not. Is the list of books on the go getting out of hand? Just a touch. Did I also end up listening to sections of audiobooks I’ve listened to many times before? Yes absolutely (Gaudy Night, Crocodile on the Sandbank, Busman’s Honeymoon). Welcome to my (reading) life. 

Read:

V for Vengence by Sue Grafton

Death of a Tin God by George Bellairs*

The Littlest Guide by C R Mansell

The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett

Lila by Naima Coster

Started:

One More Christmas at the Castle by Trisha Ashley*

A Time to Die by Hilda Lawrence*

Still reading:

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman*

Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan*

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne*

Pirate King by Laurie R King

Bonus photo: I’m attempting to develop green fingers. I’m having mixed success, but have a picture of my downstairs window sill, where I’m attempting to sprout (is that the right word?) a baby spider plant from Cecil the Spider Plant, and an aloe vera that I’ve managed to keep alive for long enough that I’ve just ordered a fancy pot for it to live in – which is tempting fate to an extraordinary degree.

A baby spiderplant in water and a small aloe vera plant on a window sill.

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 round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: September 2021 Mini Reviews

Another month has come and gone, and so I’m back with some more mini reviews. And as promised yesterday, you don’t need to have already read 9 novels to get the most out of them. You’re welcome!

Misfits by Michaela Coel*

Cover of Misfits

First up is this book version of a speech that Coel made to an audience of creatives and media people at the Edinburgh TV festival a few years back. It looks at her experiences in the industry and what that tells you about how marginalised people are treated by the tv machine. I think Coel is amazing and I love what she’s doing in her writing and I could hear her voice reading this throughout. Whether it will work as well if you’re not as familiar with her, I don’t know. An uncomfortable read for the creative industry and for people from more dominant cultural backgrounds.

A Line to Kill by Antony Horowitz*

Cover of A Line to Kill

This is the third in the really quite meta Hawthorn series and sees the fictional version of Antony Horowitz on the island of Alderney for a literary festival with Nathanial Hawthorn, the detective he’s writing a series of books about. While they’re there a murder takes place and they find themselves involved in the investigation. The island setting means it has a clear set of suspects and on top of that, there are plenty of them because the victim is not a particularly likeable character. The solution is quite satisfying and I continue to enjoy the weirdness of the conceit of this series. Horowitz has two meta series on the go at the moment – and I don’t think I like them as much as I like the book-within-a-book Atticus Pünd series, this is still a really readable murder mystery with a strong sense of place

A Death in the Dales by Frances Brody

I’ve been working my way through this series when I can pick them up a a sensible price which means that I’ve read them slightly out of order, but it hasn’t impaired my enjoyment. In case you haven’t come across them before, Kate Shackleton lost her husband in the Great War and after the war was over started a business of a private investigator. Her father is an senior police officer so she has some connections and also a regular group of helpers. This book is skipping back in the series compared to where I’ve been and this fills in some gaps I had wondered about. Kate is on holiday with her goddaughter in a house whose former owner was convinced that the wrong person was convicted (and hanged) for a murder she witnessed. Kate feels called to investigate but also finds herself exploring a community that she could potentially be about to a part of and who really don’t want her investigating their secrets.

Peril in Paris by Katherine Woodfine

Cover of Peril in Paris

I really enjoyed the Sinclair Mystery series and this is the first book in the follow up series. Sophie and Lil have set up their Private Investigation agency and are also doing a little government work on the side. This is definitely more of an espionage story than a mystery and sees our heroines gallivanting in Paris and beyond in a story that has plucky royal children, dastardly deeds and aeroplanes. Oh and for the older people like me, there are some lovely nods to Girls Own stories of years gone by, including a shout out to the Chalet Schools own Belsornia.

Murder Most Fowl by Donna Andrews

Cover of Murder Most Fowl

And lastly this month, I wanted to give a shout out to the latest Meg Langslow mystery. I’ve written about how much I love this series before, but I’m so impressed that Donna Andrews manages to keep coming up with more scenarios for Meg and the gang. This time it’s troupe of actors rehearsing Macbeth, complete with historical reenactors camping nearby and the ongoing inter-departmental feud at the college. The mystery is good and it’s funny too. Roll on this year’s Christmas book!

And in case you missed any of them, the Book of the Week posts in September were Traitor King, The Cult of We, Death in High Eldersham and The Chelsea Girls. And here are the rest of the year’s mini reviews: January, February, March, April, May, June and July.

Happy Reading!

reviews, new releases, Book of the Week

Book of the Week: Ambush or Adore

I’m going to start this review with an apology: Ambush or Adore is a fan service piece from Gail Carriger, so really it will only work for you if you’ve already read a lot of Gail Carriger’s works. But it was also the only book I read last week that made me cry and it was the book I enjoyed the most. So sorry to the rest of you – but you have mini reviews coming up tomorrow to help ease your pain and if reading this makes you want to read some of the Carrigerverse I will provide pointers on that at the end.

Agatha Woosnoss is the greatest intelligence gatherer of her generation, but you wouldn’t know it to look at her. In fact, so skilled is she that you probably wouldn’t be able to find her in the room to look at her, even if you knew she was there. Pillover Plumleigh-Teignmott is a professor of ancient languages at Oxford. He’s also probably the only person who has always seen Agatha, even if she doesn’t realise it. Ambush or Adore spans more than forty years and follows these two from school through Middle Age, so you can see what happened to them after Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Academy crashed.

If you don’t know what Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Academy was (or how it was able to crash) this book probably isn’t going to be for you. Yes it’s a slightly star crossed friends to lovers story across the decades but really this is for the fans. It starts with the flight home at the end of Reticence, skips back to the end of Manners and Mutiny and fills in the gaps of what happened to two members of the Finishing School posse across the course of the entire Parasol Protectorate and Custard Protocol Series. There are guest appearances from everyone’s favourite vampire* and some of the other finishing school crew. There are references to the ones you don’t see. There are nods to the events of the series. It has pretty much everything I wanted and I loved it. As I said at the top, it made me cry with all the heartache and yearning but it’s also incredibly tender and there is such a satisfying resolution to it all.

I had my copy of Ambush and Adore preordered but you can buy direct from Gail Carriger as well as from Kindle and Kobo and the audiobook will arrive some time in the near future.. There is no physical edition at the moment, but it will be included in a hardcover omnibus of the Delightfully Deadly series that it’s a part of early next year. If you have not read any Gail Carriger before and now fancy reading about a steampunk Victorian Britain with vampires, werewolves and a society of lady intelligencers, you have two options: chronological order or publication order. I’ve written a whole post about the series, but in short chronological order puts the Young Adult Finishing School series first, publication see you start with Soulless and the Parasol Protectorate series, then go backwards to Finishing School and then forwards again to Prudence, which is set a decade or so after the end of the Parasol Protectorate. I prefer chronological because you get some delightful reveals, but that may also be because that’s the order I read them in. How can I really tell because things are only a surprise once! Whatever you try it’ll be fun.

Happy Reading!

* Lord Akeldama of course. Who else could possibly be.

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

The Week in Books: September 27 – October 3

Another busy week in reading and “real” life too. Some interesting stuff read here – and less progress on some of the books that I started on holiday than maybe there should have been. That can be a goal for this week. In case you missed it, the September stats are here and Mini Reviews are coming up on Wednesday.

Read:

Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L Sayers

The Blitz Detective by Mike Hollow*

The Visitor by Dodai Stewart

Say You’ll Stay by Susan Mallery

Hacked by Duncan MacMaster

Ambush or Adore by Gail Carriger

Speed Grieving by Allison Ellis

Started:

V for Vengence by Sue Grafton

Pirate King by Laurie R King

Still reading:

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman*

Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan*

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne*

Bonus photo: After last week’s photos from our holiday, today I’m going for some autumnal Britain – this is somewhere you’ve seen before here – as the leaves start to change and with a slightly stormy sky.

A small river/large stream and surrounding trees and fields

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