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

The Week in Books: January 24 – January 30

This is a week of mostly audiobooks. Can’t quite figure out why, except that the Paustovsky book is really long and I’ve been trying to prioritise reading it, and I’ve done a lot of cooking and wandering around this week and that’s when I tend to listen to audiobooks. I wish I had more exciting things to say today, but really this has been a busy week and my brain is frazzled!


Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham

Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L Sayers

Too Much Blood by Simon Brett

Artists in Crime by Ngaio Marsh

Capital Crimes ed Martin Edwards

Beware False Profits by Emilie Richards


The Missing Page by Cat Sebastian

Home Work by Julie Andrews

Worn by Sofi Thanhauser*

Still reading:

Death Goes on Skis by Nancy Spain

The Story of a Life by Konstantin Paustovsky*

Several preorders dropped onto the kindle, and as mentioned in the post, I bought the next Cupcake Bakery book in the series…

Bonus photo: did I go to Ikea after work on Tuesday and buy more houseplants? Why yes I did!

Houseplants in an ikea trolley

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 adjacent, not a book

Not a Book: Murder Among the Mormons

I’m on a bit of a documentary jag on my TV viewing at the moment – and no I’m not counting Selling Sunset and Selling Tampa as documentaries – they’re definitely “constructed reality” or whatever they’re calling it now. Anyway this week I watched all three episodes of Murder Among the Mormons across two nights and it was really good.

Murder Among the Mormons looks at three bombings that took place in Salt Lake City in Utah in 1985. It soon becomes apparent that the bombings are linked to the trade in historical documents – and particularly to a series of documents related to the history of the Latter Day Saint movement. It’s got interviews with most of the key figures in the story and looks at the run up to the bombings, the bombings themselves and then the investigation looking to find the perpetrators.

Regular readers of the blog will know that the weirder corners of American religion and religious history and this fitted right into that niche for me. It’s not actually even a new release – it came out almost a year ago but despite all the murder mysteries I read, I’m not usually a big true crime murder mystery person because there’s no guarantee you’re going to get a resolution the way you are in a book that’s sticking to genre conventions. So I probably wouldn’t have watched this if it wasn’t for this tweet from Julie Cohen:

I mean how can you resist trying to find out about the magic salamander. And there actually not a lot more I want to say about the actual contents of the documentary. Because if you go into this not knowing any more than I’ve told you at the top: car bombs linked to the trade in historical documents then this will be a really wild ride. I can’t speak to how it works for you if you already know the story – but the makers of the documentary have put this together incredibly cleverly. So, it’s only three hours of your life – go, go, go.

And if this is your first toe in the corner of the various of Mormonism, then do go have a look at my posts about Under the Banner of Heaven, the season of Unfinished about Short Creek and also relatively recent BotW Educated.

Have a great Sunday!

not a book

Bookshelfie: Romance and cozy crime

In the last Bookshelfie post we were in the front of the house, with books in my fanciest set of shelves. Today, we’re at the back of the house and a much more crammed full shelf, where you will spot some old friends of mine – including a stack you may recognise from yesterday’s Series I Love post! And you can also see a couple of problems I have here too. Last time out, I mentioned my shelving issues with the Viragos, well here we have the shelving issue with the Gail Carriger. No, I don’t know why my Heartless is a different size to the rest of the set. Yes, I do know why the Custard Protocol changed size – the publishing deal changed and they have a different cover model to the US version as well as the difference in sizes.

Then there is the historical romance collection. And the eagle eyed will spot that I have a UK edition of Brazen and the Beast and a US one. The UK one is because I wanted Sarah MacLean to sign it when I went to her tea party. The US one is because I couldn’t bear the non matching set. Behind the front row of Sarah Macleans are the Eloisa James’s – mostly in US mass markets, but a few in UK paperback. Also hiding in the back row are my Julia Quinn books – which are a mix of my favourite Bridgertons and then a selection from the Bevelstoke and Smythe-Smith series.

Also hidden in the back row are a couple of old favourites – there are three Melissa Nathan novels (how is it fifteen years since she died?) and my favourite Sarah Mason Playing James (I hope she’s still writing somewhere out there under a different name that I don’t know about), an aged Carole Matthews, Welcome to the Real World which is both the first book of hers I read and still my enduring favourite – it’s about an aspiring singer who gets her big break on a tv singing competition the same week she lands a job as PA to an opera singer who, unbeknown to her is the newest judge on the very talent show she’s about to be a contestant on. To the far sides of the front we have crime – historical crime on the left with Frances Brody and cozy crime on the right with Jenn McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery series (as discussed yesterday). Further back are some of her library lovers books as well as some odds and ends of other cozy crime series. And finally, there’s also the baseball I caught at Nationals Park when I was in D.C. – although I still deny that I elbowed anyone out of the way to get to it though and credit my success to catching practice with my dad back in primary school cricket days!

It’s not the most obvious of stuff to put on a shelf together at first glance, but I promise there is reason there: it’s favourite authors and books at my eyeline in fairly logical order. They’re all books that I might want to lay my hands on in a hurry for a reread. Case in point I took the photo for this post after I’d already written half of the post and wrote the whole thing on the sofa, only going to the shelf right at the end to check that it was the Nathan, Matthews and Mason in the back row – the only book I had forgotten was there was Bridget Jones! I definitely can’t claim the same level of familiarity with the other shelves in this bookcase. But that’s a story for another day…

cozy crime, detective, Series I love

Series I Love: Cupcake Bakery Mysteries

Happy Friday everyone! It’s the end of another week and I am back with another series I love post. Yesterday I was talking about my search for a new historical cozy crime series, so today I’m doing one of my reliable favourite contemporary cozy mystery series.

So Jenn McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery series follows Mel Cooper and her friend Angie DeLaura as they run the Fairytale Cupcake Bakery. Along with their friend Tate, they’ve been stumbling across bodies for thirteen books now, with a fourteenth due this year. I’ve read eleven of them as you can see from the photo, which is – unusually for me – somewhat out of order*. Over the course of the series the cast of secondary regular characters and getting the bakers out and about so that you’re not constantly wondering how a cupcake bakery can stay in business if a bodies keep turning there!

You mostly see the action from Mel’s perspective, but because you have the trio of main characters, you’re able to get personal life developments for each of them – which also helps the series avoid falling into the pitfalls of an endless love triangle for the heroine (see Steph Plum) or an endless on off relationship for the heroine (see Agatha Raisin) or marrying the heroine off very quickly and landing her with kids the author doesn’t know what to do with! The complexity of the murders can vary a little – depending on how much running plot stuff is going on – but they pretty much always manage to avoid the Too Stupid To Live pitfall, although Mel and or Angie do find themselves one on one with the murderer at the denouement with alarming regularity!

But as a calming way to pass a few hours, they are fairly hard to beat. I keep meaning to try out one of the cupcake recipes at the end, but the combination of having to turn the measurements into British (how much *is* a stick of butter in metric?) and the fact there are only two of us in our household and cupcakes need eating quickly means that I’ve never got around to it. They do always sound like they should taste good though – which isn’t a given for cozy crime recipes.

When I started buying these, they were only available in the American mass market paperback editions that you see in the photo. But the good news (for you, not me because now I’ve started in physical copies you know I’ll carry on**) is that you can now get most of them in Kindle!

Happy Reading!

* and yes it does bug me that the spines changed mid series and so they don’t all match.

** yes, I did indeed buy book 12 while I was writing this post!

The pile

On my wishlist: Historical Cozy Mystery series

I am rapidly coming towards the end of the Mary Russell series – I’m about to start book 15 of 17 – so I’ve started looking out for a replacement series. I originally called this post historical mysteries and then realised that this week’s Book of the Week was a historical mystery, but that’s not what I’m looking for. I want the historical equivalent of a cozy crime and I probably want it set in the twentieth century. I tried twentieth century mystery in the title but that would also cover books that are a bit more violent than I want. I’m after a series I can binge while I wait for the next Phryne Fisher, Royal Spyness and Maisie Dobbs and to help fill the gap now Carola Dunn has retired and there are no more Daisy Dalrymples coming. I want Golden Age mystery level gore and clever solutions and if it can have a bit of a sense of humour about, so much the better.

The problem – as you can tell – is that I’ve already read a lot of series in this area, which makes it hard to find more. There are a lot of books on kindle that look like they might fit the brief but it can be hard to tell from the sample if they’re actually what your after – or all to easy to tell that it’s not. So if you have suggestions – do hit me up in the comments.

Before you do though, I have got a couple of books laid in to try. Now not all of these are series, but these are what I’ve picked up from the Works recently in the hope of finding a lead somewhere in there. Martin Edwards is the editor of all of those British Library Crime Classic anthologies and this is a sequel to a book of his I’ve read already. I’ve read one of the Sulari Gentil books already – and have another one on the pile too. Edward Marston had loads of series and this is just the one that appealed to me the most from the options. And Victoria Walters is a romantic fiction writer who has made the shift across so I think it might be in a style that appeals. So, suggest away!

Fantasy, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Magical worlds

Goodness me I started this post ages ago and then ran out of steam because I thought I didn’t have enough books to talk about and got distracted before I read any more. But hey I’ve got here at last…

Shades of Magic by VE Schwab

Cover of A Darker Shade of Magic

This is a trilogy set in three parallel Londons in the Regency era.  Kell is from Red London and is one of the rare people who can travel between the worlds and he does so as an ambassador for the Red King, but also as a smuggler, moving articles between one world and another.  White London is violent and enchanted, with frequent bloody regime changes, but its magic is disappearing. Grey London has Mad King George and no magic at all, and that’s where Kell escapes to early in the first book of the series (A Darker Shade of Magic), when one of his transactions goes awry, and where he meets Delilah after she picks his pocket.  I made the final book in the trilogy a BotW, so if you want to follow the madcap duo escaping mortal peril, rocketing through the three different worlds facing enemies and discovering the secrets of magic and trying to work out what happened to Black London.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgernstern

Cover of the Night Circus

There’s only one book in this world, but what a world it is.  This is another former BotW (but that was years ago, so it’s over the statue of limitations for repeats!), so I don’t need to write too much about it here because you can read more of my thoughts there. The Night Circus has been so successful, it already has a Vintage Classics Edition – as you can see.  For a slightly more spoiler-y summary than I was prepared to give back in the day, I’ll tell you that Le Cirque de Reves appears and disappears in towns without warning.  Inside is a wonderful world of marvels – but only at night.  Behind the scenes two magicians, Celia and Marco, are competing against each other in a duel, but what they don’t know is that it is a duel to the death.  When they meet, they fall in love but once a duel is started, it has to play out. Morgernstern’s second book The Starless Sea, also features a magical world – with a main character who finds an authorless book which seems to be telling a story from his own past and starts a trail that leads him to an ancient library.

The Discworld by Terry Pratchett

If you’ve been here a while, you’ll be aware of my love of Terry Pratchett, but new readers may have missed out because because I’ve already read pretty much all of his writing, I haven’t had an opportunity to talk about him recently.  I adore the Discworld.  I listen to at least one of the books set there on audio book pretty much every month, but because I’m a bit picky about my narrators (once you’ve heard Stephen Briggs you can’t go back) then they’re all from the later end of the saga.  I think my favourite book is Going Postal, but it’s tough to chose – especially as there are so many that are so good.  Unusually for me, I never tell people to start at the beginning of the series – but to go for either Mort, Wyrd Sisters or Guards, Guards as a starting point.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Rincewind and I want a Luggage of my own, but they’re not the most accessible of the series.  But what’s not to love about Death’s Apprentice (Mort), Granny Weatherwax and her Coven (Wyrd Sisters) or Vimes and the Watch (Guards, Guards) and they give you a starting point into some of the series’ big themes as well as the running threads.  And if you’ve got middle grade children, the Tiffany Aching books are perfect too.

The Last Dragon Slayer by Jasper Fforde

This is the most “Normal” of all of Jasper Fforde’s books, but don’t let the TV tie-in edition cover fool you, his middle grade series is just as mad and freewheeling as his adult stuff – just for kids. The Last Dragonslayer is set in a world where magic is disappearing. Jennifer Strange runs an employment agency for magicians, but then the visions start and they predict the death of the last dragon in the world and that it will be killed by an unknown dragonslayer. And well, you’ll have to read it. There are four in the series, and the last only came out in 2021. I’ve only read the first one, but I want to read the others – I just haven’t got to it yet, because, well you’ve seen the star of my to-read pile. Anyway, if you want a magical book for young readers that doesn’t involve a school, then take a look.

And finally, a couple of other books that feature magical worlds but that are still within the statute of limitations for me writing about them, there is The House in the Cerulean Sea, and although not strictly magical but because of the feeling that it creates while you read it The Circus of Wonders.

Now you’ll notice that all these books are set in the past – there are a few magical books that I love that are set in the present – but mostly you’d’ve got me wittering on about Peter Grant and how much I love the Rivers of London series – and I’ve already done that plenty!

Book of the Week, historical, historical, mystery

Book of the Week: Ashes of London

This week’s fiction book is a historical mystery that has been sitting on my Kindle waiting for me to read it for literally years. And as is so often the case, something I’ve been meaning to read for years turns out to be very good. So I’m owning up and writing about it!

So as The Ashes of London opens, the city is on fire. It’s 1666 and as the cover illustration suggests, the heart of the capital has gone up in flames. Among those watching St Paul’s cathedral going up in flames is James Marwood, who has been forced into a position as a government informer because of the actions of his printer father. In the aftermath of the fire he is drawn in to the investigation into a corpse found with his thumbs tied in a tomb that should have been empty. The investigation takes him back into circles that he would rather not be in but also brings him into contact with Cat Lovett. Cat is searching for her father but is also trying to escape from the people who are looking after her. But the secrets she is hiding are tied up with the answers that James needs.

Firstly an important warning: if you don’t read books with sexual violence in them, then avoid this. Spoiler alert, but in the interest of not letting people in for stuff they don’t want: there is an on page rape in this, which is over quickly but which forms part of Cat’s motivation going forward. I get why Andrew Taylor did it, but I wish he’d come up with another way of achieving the same thing. I’m going to read the second book in the series and I’ll update you if you can jump straight to that without missing too much background.

Now I’ve got that out of the way, I really liked the Restoration setting of this book and the slow drip, drip reveal of all the characters’ backstories. I don’t even think you need to know that much about the period to get the most out of it – as long as you know that Charles I was executed (in 1643) and that for nearly 20 years England was a republican commonwealth ruled by a Lord Protector. In 1660 the monarchy was restored and Charles II (son of the executed Charles) becomes king. And now I’ve told you do you do, and toh can get stuck into the intrigue and suspicion of the Restoration court, and in fact country. I liked the mystery, and the suspense and although ther is some violence and gore, it isn’t too graphic. If you’ve been a fan of the Tudor-set mysteries, and fancy a new scene then try this and if you do like it there are now four more books in the series. As I said at the top, I will read book two and take it from there.

As mentioned this has been on my kindle for ages and was actually part of the NetGalley backlog. But it’s on Kindle and Kobo for £2.99 as I write this and it should also be fairly easy to get hold of in paperback – Foyles have click and collect copies which is always a good sign!

Happy Reading!

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

The Week in Books: January 17 – January 23

A good week in reading. I’ve already written about two of the new books on the list, and you’ll see that Gaudy Night is making it’s 2022 appearance on the list as the Wimsey re-listen continues (again). I’ve also managed to get through most of the books that I’d started but not finished, and I have a bunch of ideas percolating for posts because of them. In a very brave move, I’ve started reading some Russian Literature. Konstantin Paustovsky’s The Story of a Life has just been published in a new translation and I got a copy via NetGalley. It is very long and very dense, so it may well scupper my goal of finishing all the January NetGalley books in January, but I’m going to keep going at it, as much as I can manage in a day before my brain gets frazzled. I’ll keep you all posted…


The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor*

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers

A Fatal Crossing by Tom Hindle*

The Maid by Nita Prose*

The Wedding Setup by Charlotte Greene*

Spies in St Petersburg by Katherine Woodfine

Forever Young by Hayley Mills


The Story of a Life by Konstantin Paustovsky*

Beware False Profits by Emilie Richards

Capital Crimes ed Martin Edwards

Still reading:

Death Goes on Skis by Nancy Spain

As you’ll have seen in the Books Incoming post, a few things got added to the pile – four of them from my trip to the works at the start of last week and another bought while I was writing Recommendsday. Then there was one e-book purchase too. So not my most restrained week!

Bonus photo: This was Tuesday morning last week in the park – which you’ll be very familiar with by now, but the frost and the sunlight was just so beautiful I couldn’t help myself.

Frosty early morning in the park

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


not a book

Not a Book: Some Like It Hot

A couple of years ago, when Doris Day died, I wrote a whole post about my love for the Hollywood icon. In it, I mentioned that my top five films of all time are Pillow Talk, Some Like It Hot, The Philadelphia Story, Mary Poppins and the Hayley Mills Parent Trap. I stand by that list, although I will say that leaving the Sound of Music out makes me anxious, so today, I thought I’d write about why I love Some Like It Hot.

If you’ve never seen the film, you can get a pretty good idea from the trailer, but basically, after two jobbing musicians witness a mob shooting in Prohibition Chicago they try to escape retribution from the gangsters by posing as women called Daphne and Geraldine and joining all-girl band. They promptly both fall in love with the band’s singer (and ukulele player) Sugar. High jinx ensue, especially when a millionaire falls in love with Daphne and the mob turn up for the “Friends of Italian Opera” meeting. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are Daphne and Geraldine, and Marilyn Monroe is Sugar. If I haven’t sold it to you by now, I should add that the director and writer is Billy Wilder, who was also behind Sunset Boulevard and the Apartment.

I honestly can’t remember when I first watched it, but I do know that I’ve had the DVD in my collection for about 20 years now, and I have it recorded on both the upstairs and downstairs TiVo – because you never know when you might be poorly and need to watch a film in bed to cheer you up. Especially in Covid times. It will reliably cheer me up and is also probably the only film with Al Capone-style mobsters that I will watch! It’s just funny and so fun that you manage to forget that two men pretending to be women and using the knowledge they gain in disguise to help them get a girl is a bit of a problem. But it seems in films it’s one of my favourite things – see also Pillow Talk and You’ve Got Mail, and also Lover Come Back and Sleepless in Seattle.

I know I said this is not a post about books, but there are a couple of books on my favourites list with cross dressing main characters – on the historical romance front there’s Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades and The Masqueraders, but there’s also Terry Pratchett’s A Monstrous Regiment. There’s a bunch more that I’ve read, but those three are the one’s I’ve come back to over and over. I think it’s easier to pull off in print because you don’t have to worry about needing to make the illusion convincing – the reason that Some Like It Hot is in black and white is because the amount of makeup needed for Lemmon and Curtis made their faces look green (Drag Race shows that beard/stubble coverage make up has moved on a long way in the last sixty years) and you can leave it all to the reader’s imagination – going the other way, I’ve never thought that Imogen Stubbs makes that convincing a boy in the film of Twelfth Night, for all that I love that movie (and not just because it has Toby Stevens in a bath at one point) and in fact the play.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a Sunday afternoon film to watch, why not watch this today – not only is it hilarious, but it’s also right up there on most of the greatest film lists, which given how serious a lot of the others on those lists are, surely makes it worth your time. And of course it has one of the greatest last lines ever. If you don’t know what it is, I’m not going to spoil it for you though!

The pile

Books Incoming: mid January

I suppose technically it’s late January now, but hey, I make the rules! Anyway, here is a quick look at the latest additions to the physical tbr pile!

So arriving this week are a couple of books I ordered for my birthday – The Tortoise and the Hare in a delightful Virago Hardback edition – to match the others as seen on the shelf last week. Or not quite match as the case may be but you know what I mean. The copy of Greg Jenner‘s Ask A Historian is a signed one that I ordered ages ago, but for reasons has only just appeared this week and the Anne de Courcy is the one I mentioned buying in the Vanderbilt-adjacent recommendsday post. The other four are the result of a trip to The Works on Monday, where I remain pathologically unable to resist their three for £5 offer and then added in the short history of Europe because it was super cheap (and not in the deal). My lack of willpower really should be legendary at this point shouldn’t it! Anyway, as always these will pop up on the week in books list sooner or later – Tortoise and the Hare potentially sooner because I read an email newsletter about it the other day that prompted me to buy a copy – and in fact this is the second copy that I have bought – because the first one (from Amazon) never made it to me – the delivery tracker tells me that it was damaged in transit and returned, which is quite something.