Ok so I haven’t finished this yet, but I wanted to give a mention to Dr Janina Ramirez’s new book, Femina, which is out today. She’s one of my favourite historians at the moment – I’ve enjoyed her TV shows and podcasts that she’s presented and been a guest on and I’m really enjoying her examination of the Middle Ages, looking at the women history has forgotten (or ignored). The Middle Ages are not one of the areas that I studied in much depth at university (I tended to stick to post 1485) but she has a very readable style and I’m learning a lot!
As you probably guessed from the fact that I’ve already started reading it, My copy came via NetGalley, but you should be able to buy Femina from all the usual places – Kindle, Kobo etc – and I’m hoping it will be in the bookshops too, like Foyles, even if I can’t see any click and collect copies at the moment.. Oh and Janina reads the audiobook herself.
I have once again been through the monthly Kindle offers to try and find the best books on offer – I would say it is to help you with your holiday reading but we all know that I’m just a dirty big enabler.
We’re very close to the release date for Taylor Jenkins Reid’s new book – and hard on the heels of me spotting it in paperback at the airport last month – her last book Malibu Rising – which is linked to the new one – is on offer for 99p. I loved it last summer and as you know I can’t wait for Carrie Soto to come out. A couple of her older books have been reduced for odd days here and there – I’ve picked up One True Loves and Maybe in Another Life for 99p already this month, so if you like her, it’s worth keeping an eye out.
I went to the launch of Lizzy Dent’s new book last month, but her debut novel The Summer Job is 99p at the moment. I wrote a whole post about Philippa Gregory last month – and this month White Princess is 99p, it’s the fifth in the series if you run both the series together, although written later than some of the books after it (you’ll understand if you read the post) and comes before Constant Princess which is not a magic book, but I don’t know if this one is or not (again, it’ll make sense if you read the post!)
If you’re building a Terry Pratchett collection, this months’ 99p books are The Last Continent and A Hat Full of Sky, while Jingo is £2.99. Also in fantasy, two of the three books in Andrew Caldecott’s Rotherweird series are 99p but irritatingly it’s the first one and the third one. Book two is £2.99. I suspect the offers are because Caldecott has a new book that has come out fairly recently. In other fantasy series, I read the first in Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library series back in 2020 – I have several more on the Kindle waiting for met to get around to them – now including the sixth book in the series The Secret Chapter.
In books I read years ago there is One Day by David Nicholls – warning, it made me cry. I read Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto during my year in France (I remember vividly reading it in my incredibly hot hall of residence, which sort of matches the stifling atmosphere of a book about a hostage situation). I haven’t read Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks since even longer ago – when I was doing that War Literature module at A Level – and it wasn’t my favourite then, but it is one of those books you’re meant to have read, so I include it here in case… they’re all also 99p too
So a slightly cheaty pick this week, as it’s not a book I haven’t read before, but as I finished the Phryne reread last week, I’m going to let myself break the rules!
Murder and Mendelssohn is the twentieth book in Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series and has a lot of the key threads in the series running through it. Inspector Jack Robinson asks Phryne for help investigating the murder of an unpopular conductor. Jack thinks the killer may come from among the choir he has been rehearsing so Phryne decides to infiltrate the choir and find out. But at the same time, one of her old friends from World War One is in town and needs her help keeping a mathematical genius alive.
My favourite Phrynes are the ones with a large cast of suspects, a love interest and a historical connection – and this has all of that. The full Fisher menage is here – with the exception of Lin Chung, and it has has Greenwood’s take on Sherlock Holmes in Rupert Sheffield, former codebreaker and current irritant to all around him except John Wilson.
I wouldn’t suggest you start the series here, because you’ll miss all the fun of getting to this point, but if you do make this your first taste of Miss Fisher, then it will give you a pretty good flavour of what everything is all about. One last thing – a warning: if you’ve watched the TV show, don’t expect this to be the same. I’ve enjoyed the series, but it’s a teatime drama and they have adapted the series to fit that – which means they’ve done a few things to Phryne’s love life, added some running plot strands that don’t exist in the book and reduced the size of the Fisher household somewhat. So treat them as separate entities if you can.
You can get Murder and Mendelssohn in all the usual ebook formats – Kindle, Kobo and the rest – and that’s probably the easiest way to get hold of them.
So a shorter list this week. Partly because I finished the Phryne Fisher re-read rather than read new stuff, partly because of an overnight in London where I went out, but mostly because of a nightshift on Friday, that made my brain tired and not great at concentrating, and also meant I slept through part of the weekend. What I will write about tomorrow I do not know. And we’ve got a mega heatwave continuing this week, so that may also fry my brain!
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin*
Three actual books bought and two ebooks
Bonus photo: hostel life! Before the nightshift at the end of the week, there was a night away in London at the start of the week. And things are starting to get back to normal at the hostels – this was my first time back at my second favourite/choice one since October 2021 before the Omicron wave hit.
An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley. ** indicates it was an advance copy from a source other than NetGalley
Well you may remember that I read Bad Blood last year. And a few months back I watched the documentary about Elizabeth Holmes when it came around on Sky Documentaries. And then when I went to visit a friend for the weekend the other month, we watched the first seven episodes of The Dropout back to back – and would have finished it if that final episode had been available. And I currently have a Disney plus subscription so I’ve finally been able to finish it. And now I have thoughts!
In case you’ve forgotten, Elizabeth Holmes was the person behind Theranos, the medical start-up unicorn that claimed it was going to revolutionise diagnostic blood tests with its technology that could test for pretty much anything and everything using just a tiny finger prick sample of blood. Except as the John Carryrou book reveals, the technology never really existed the way they said it did, and the tech they had made didn’t work either. But Theranos still managed to raise billions of money from investors before it all came crashing down. Spoiler alert: Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani will be sentenced in the autumn, after they were convicted (in separate trials) of deceiving investors.
The Dropout is the dramatised version of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes – from her days at university through to the implosion of Theranos. As you can probably tell by the fact we binged it in one night, I really enjoyed it! Obviously we will never know what the actual conversations were between Holmes and her then partner Sunny Balwani, but the writers of this have had a very good go at it – it’s like the most gripping and bonkers docudrama you’ve ever seen.
As you see from the trailer, Amanda Seyfried plays Elizabeth, which is a tricky task given the prominence Holmes had when the company was riding high and the personality quirks that she had like the strangely deep voice and her Steve Jobs wardrobe. But she’s really, really good. And she’s got the Emmy nomination this week to show for it. Naveen Andrews plays Sunny, and makes him a really intriguing character – more so than you might expect if you were told it was an older man in a relationship with the much younger woman whose company he is helping to run.
And we really enjoyed dissecting how they portrayed the leading characters. If this were a Reddit Am I The Asshole question, the answer is pretty much ESH – everybody sucks here – with the exception of a couple of the scientists and lab workers. Just a warning though, there are obviously real life impacts of the Theranos saga – the people who got the wrong results from their tests, but also the workers who tried to speak out and stop what was going on. And if you haven’t read the book, I suspect one particular even will make you really sad. I knew it was coming and it was still bad.
So, if you need something to binge watch and you currently have Disney +, then this might be a good way to pass a weekend. I really want to watch it again already.
Oh dear. Everything has gone a little bit bonkers hasn’t it. Whoopsie daisy. I could hardly get them all in the same photo. What you see here is the result of two different charity shops, two Persephone books arriving close together, the airport bookshop (and I’ve just realised that I’ve missed Great Circle out of the photo because it’s beside my bed and not on the new book pile on the bureau), a happy visit to the comic book store, a wander through WH Smith’s, a preorder arriving and a purchase to assist with the 50 states challenge. Just imagine what might have happened if I’d made it into Foyles during any of my trips to London!
Will I manage to be more restrained this month? Tune in in August to find out!
Hot off the heels of the vicar mystery recommendsday post, here is another historical mystery series featuring a vicar, written by someone with a clerical connection. James Runcie’s father was the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time when Richard Coles’ novel is set!
The Grantchester of the series title is the village just outside Cambridge where Sidney Chambers is vicar. The books start in 1953 and move through towards the changes of the 1960s. Sidney is a bachelor in his early thirties and Grantchester is his first parish of his own. His best friend in the village is the detective Geordie Keating and the two of them solve mysteries together. The books usually feature a series of smaller mysteries alongside Sidney’s attempts to balance his calling and his previous life. There is also a romantic thread to the series – there are several women who Sidney is interested in at various points, although of course their relationships have to follow the rules because: vicar in the 1950s. In fact the fact that he is ordained is one of the major obstacles to his romantic life. The other major characters in the series are his housekeeper and then a few years in, his curate.
The books have been made into a TV series, which is now onto its third or fourth vicar of Grantchester, still solving crimes with Geordie after they ran out of the plot from the books with Sidney…
I did a post at the start of the year with my most Anticipated Books of 2022 so I thought I would revisit and update for the midway point – when we have more details about the releases in the later bit of the year.
As you can see from the photo, I’ve actually read quite a lot of the anticipated stuff that I have copies of from the first half of the year (stuff with a blue line through it means I’ve read it!) and the whole list is quite first half of the year heavy still.
So, what’s on the preorder list at the moment? Well the third (and final?) Vera Kelly book – Vera Kelly: Lost and Found which is out in September. I’ve really enjoyed the first two books in the series which has seen Vera junketing around Argentina and also a children’s home in upstate New York. This one sees Vera heading off to Los Angeles and sees her trying to track down her missing girlfriend. The Kindle is actually already available apparently, but I have the others in this series in paperback and I want them to match…
The next in Olivia Dade’s Spoiler Alert series is out in November – Shipwrecked is about actors who had a one night stand years ago and are now co-stars in an epic to series. And somehow linked in my head, but for reasons I can’t understand is Jen DeLuca’s Ren faire series – I did mention Well Travelled in the first post but it has slipped back further in the year and is now out in December and features the Duelling Kilts band that we’ve met in earlierbooks.
I’ve also got my eye on Vacationland by Meg Mitchell Matthews, which looks like it could be quality Rich People Problems stuff – with a wife in Maine for the summer with the kids and her husband in Brooklyn looking for funding for his start up. That’s out in August, but it’s a £20 hard back so I’m hanging fire on a preorder at the moment because that’s a lot for a new to me author.
On the non fiction front, I have my eye on Sarah Churchwell’s The Wrath to Come exploring modern America through the myth of Gone with the Wind. I haven’t preordered it yet because the pile is so big and I read hardback none fiction so slowly, but it looks really good.
And finally then there is Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde, which retells and reimagines the story of Marilyn Monroe and is not new at all – it’s about to be a movie for goodness sake but appears to be out of print in English so I’ve bunged a preorder in for the rerelease in September in case I don’t find a second hand copy sooner!
This would have been a couple of weeks ago – if it wasn’t for the pesky end of the month, because it was inspired by the first book I’m going to talk about and then spun me off into a series I love post for a series I’d forgotten all about! You wouldn’t think that a vicar solving mysteries would be a thing, and then you remember Father Brown and realise that you’re being a bit stupid! Vicars or vicar’s spouses are in a perfect position to try and solve murders – they have an excuse for being nosy and getting involved in the aftermath of a sudden death.
Murder before Evensong by the Reverend Richard Coles
Former Communard turned Vicar and Strictly contestant, Reverend Richard Coles’ debut crime novel is features a body in a church in the aftermath of a proposal to install a toilet in the church. It’s not entirely clear at the start when the story is set, which made for a bit of confusion for me when references popped up to Tenko and To the Manor Born and was finally cleared up (for me at least) as being 1988 because of a reference to Celine Dion winning Eurovision! It’s an enjoyable read with a lot of fun village characters and a good mystery. I think it would appeal to people who enjoyed Richard Osman’s novels – but if you’ve ever been involved in church life or a PCC then this will have an extra level of enjoyment for you too.
The Max Tudor series by G M Maliet
I’ve mentioned the Max Tudor series here before, but it has been a while. Max is a former MI5 agent who has become a vicar and across the seven book series solves murders in his parish and then in the surrounding area, helping out the local police. There’s a running romantic plot strand and a cast of regular characters in the village too. I’ve read all seven, mostly in a paperback editions via the library or The Works, so I’m not sure how easy they are to find in bookshops at the moment – but they’re easy to get hold of on kindle.
The Ministry is Murder series by Emilie Richards
Now these are likely to be the hardest to get hold of in the UK – because they’re older, not on kindle and as far as I can tell only come in US mass market paperback format, but I like them a lot so I’m including them. oh and they’re a bit of a cheat because Aggie Sloan Wilcox is the vicar’s wife, but hey, all the action in the ones I’ve read revolves around the church and it’s congregation. Aggie’s husband made church is in a small town in Ohio and she gets involved in solving her first murder because he’s a suspect. Aggie – real name Agate – has an eccentric mother amongst the supporting cast as well as the parishioners. I’ve read three of the five – and the series has provided my Ohio book in the 50 States challenge the last few years!
Francis Oughterard by Suzette A Hill
Now these are tricky to write about without spoilers. So what I’m going to say echos the blurb – Francis is a vicar in the 1950s and all he wants is a quiet life. But somehow he keeps getting entangled in murders. These are more suspense than mystery, but they are laugh out loud funny and more than a touch surreal. There are five books featuring Francis – which I’ve read – and two featuring his niece – which I haven’t. My library used to hold copies of most of these – but I actually read them on kindle, which seems like the only place to get the final two books.
In other books, there’s also Umberto Eco’s In the Name of the Rose, which as I said in the June Book Deals post, I first read as part of my history degree and features a monk solving some gruesome crimes. And obviously the other famous crime solving monk is Cadfael, but I haven’t read any of them – yes, yes I’ll get to it at some point.
As mentioned yesterday, not a lot of options this week for Book of the Week, but luckily I read a really interesting British Library Crime Classics book so all’s serene, even if slightly later in the day than recently!
Prudence Pinsent is the unmarried daughter of the Master of a (fictional) Cambridge college. On her way to visit her cousin in Suffolk, she meets an old friend who is investigating a drug smuggling gang and has connected it with both Prudence’s cousin’s estate and the colleges of Cambridge itself. Prudence is sure her cousin can’t be involved, so she decides she must investigate and find out who is.
I’ve written (at length!) about my love of Gaudy Night which is also set in a fictional college (at Oxford though, not Cambridge) and so the premise of this appealed to me a lot. And it’s funny and entertaining – and the mystery is good as well. Suffolk makes such an atmospheric setting for mysteries – like Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham – with eerie flats, fogs, water ways etc and then you have college life and academic personalities.
Lois Austen-Leigh is a relative of Jane Austen (several greats niece) and it is very tempting to say that the witty style must be a family trait. I haven’t read anything of hers before – as well as telling me about her famous relative, the forward said they have been very very rare until the British Library Crime Classics got hold of this, so I hope they publish some of the others too.
My copy came as part of my Kindle Unlimited subscription, which means it’s only available as an ebook on Kindle at the moment, but you can buy the paperback direct from the British Library shop should you so wish.