Book of the Week, books

Book of the Week: The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras

I nearly picked the Diane Mott Davison today, even though I finished it on the train on Monday morning, but you never know what’s going to happen in a week, and I did really enjoy the Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, so I’m going for that today, but I suspect this isn’t the last time I’ll mention Diane Mott Davison.

Hubert Schuze runs a shop selling Native American pottery in New Mexico. Officially that is. Unofficially he’s also an illegal pot hunter – after all that’s what got him kicked out of university – so perhaps it’s not a surprise when a mysterious man offers him $25,000 to steal a pot. Except that this pot isn’t on a reserve, it’s in a museum – so it’s proper stealing. But the money is tempting, so he goes to scope out the museum, but when he returns to his shop he finds an agent accusing him of stealing a different ancient pot. And then he’s accused of murder. It’s all getting a little bit out of hand – will Hubie manage to escape jail and make sure that the culprit doesn’t?

This fits into the not-quite-the-right-side-of-the-law adventure caper genre, if such a thing exists. Think Ranger from Steph Plum – but before he started his security company and with pottery. Or a Karl Hiassen novel – but with a lot less death and destruction. Like a cozy crime that’s gone a bit rogue. Think John Smythe from Vicky Bliss if he owned a shop in New Mexico and specialised accordingly, and his friends call him Hubie. You get the picture. And it does exactly what you want it to – there’s a very tight spot for Hubert to try and get out of – hopefully in one piece and preferably coming out with a profit of some sort. Or at least something to try to sell. It is a lot of fun – and it’s the first in a series so I will try and remember to report back on whether it manages to keep the momentum going!

This is easiest to get hold of in ebook – and it’s actually cheaper on Kobo than Kindle at the moment although in terms of my target prices for ebooks both prices are a bit high at time of writing for what is a cozy crime adventure caper. It is also available in paperback form, but the prices are (even more) eye-watering for that!

Happy reading.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: February 20 – February 26

How is it nearly the end of February already? I know that it’s the shortest month, and January always feels like it goes on forever, but this year it seems to have gone even quicker. Anyway, what have I done in the last week? Ummmmm. Well. Lots of work? And quite a bit of reading? Oh. I know. We watched seven episodes of Drive To Survive after it came out on Friday. That would explain it. Anyway, there are another couple of books nearly finished, so we’ll see how that goes this week, when I have another couple of nights away in London and an event or two I’m planning to go to. All the usual stuff coming up this week by the way including the Stats and Quick Reviews.


Movie Star by Jessica Simpson

The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer

Murder Served Neat by Michelle Hillen Klump*

The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras by J Michael Orenduff

Death in the Stars by Frances Brody

I Want to Die But I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Se-hee


Gone But Not for Garden by Kate Collins*

The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes by Kate Strasdin*

Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davison

Shadows of London by Andrew Taylor*

Still reading:

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

The Empire by Michael Ball*

Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd

Rogues by Patrick Radden Keefe

Two books bought in Foyles because I just can’t help myself and another two books in the post plus two Kindle books. Whoops.

Bonus photo: The park again as that’s the prettiest photo I have from the week. It’s starting to look more green and less muddy and the hope that spring is coming is rising.

*next to a book 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: Drive to Survive redux

It’s that time of year again – the new series of Drive to Survive has dropped on Netflix. Almost a year ago, on last season’s release weekend, I wrote about the “documentary” about Formula One and the accusations of Netflixification of my favourite sport. Well, I didn’t watch the end of last year’s season – because I couldn’t bear to watch the controversial ending to the season again, but I’m back watching the new season, once again to see what storylines they’ve picked – and which they haven’t and to see who it deals with the various controversies that hit the sport last year, including but not limited to all the headlines that FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem caused with his various decisions and statements before he decided to take a step back from being directly involved in the sport.

We’re two episodes in as I write this, and not going to lie, it’s tough to watch Lewis Hamilton in the aftermath of losing the 2021 championship and the struggle of the Mercedes team with their new car. However, Haas boss Guenther Steiner remains a delight – and his double act with Ferrari’s Mattea Binotto that opens the series is lovely, although a little bittersweet if you know how the season plays out. The release of the new series has coincided with the testing for the new season which starts next weekend in Bahrain so after a couple of weeks of motorsport deprivation, it’s all roaring back with a vengeance. Great news for petrolheads – but what does it mean for my reading list?! Stay tuned…

books, bookshelfies

Bookshelfie: Random Girl’s Own hardbacks

You know I think this might be the very last shelf you haven’t seen*! And given that I’ve been telling you that I’m planning a reorganisation, maybe means that this is my cue to actually pull my finger out and do it. Although I do need some more shelves to do this properly. Anyway, here you see a very random selection of hardback Girl’s Own or Gir’ls Own adjacent hardbacks. Some of them are truly terrible – I’m looking at you The Girls of Dancy Dene – some of them are by authors that I keep elsewhere, including my only two hardback Elinor M Brent-Dyers. Why only two? Well because I already own all the Chalet School books at least once, mostly twice and I can’t bring myself to get rid of either set, so the chances of me getting rid of any if I get a set of hardbacks is small, even if we don’t think about how much that would cost. Anyway, this is a little shelf in the bottom of one of my built ins – down the room from all the fancy hardbacks, Viragos and downstairs Pratchetts – but the shelves above it are glass and not wood and they are used for my bits of antique silver. Because that’s the sort of person I am.

*apart from the to-read bookshelf, which I’m not sure I’m brave enough to expose in full. I’ll think on it.


Series: Vera Kelly

Breaking away from the romance theme of the last few weeks for something different today. And this series is actually a trilogy, but it’s my blog and I’m not changing my title rules. Sorry, not sorry.

Anyway, to the books, which are about a female spy turned detective and have such great covers that how can you not want to pick them up? In Who is Vera Kelly, we meet our heroine in New York in 1962, where she is struggling to keep her head above water, working nightshifts at a radio station. But when she’s noticed by the CIA she suddenly finds herself in Argentina trying to infiltrate a group of student radicals and wire tap a politician. But after a coup she finds herself abandoned and has to find her own way home. In Vera Kelly is not a Mystery, she is rebuilding her life after the events of Argentina and in the final book, we’ve reached 1971 and she finds herself trying to solve her own girlfriend’s disappearance.

As you will all know by now I love mysteries, adventure capers and snarky heroines and this has all of that and an interesting setting to boot. If you like the Kinsey Milhone series, then you might want to try this. I wasn’t that familiar with the situation in Argentina in the 1960s, so that was interesting even beyond the spy caper and then the all of the detail of life for queer people in America in the 1960s and early 70s is also really interesting. And obviously it has clever mysteries for you to try and figure out. But mostly you’re there for Vera and to see how she manages to get herself out of the situations she finds herself in and how she manages to build a life for herself.

I originally heard about the first book when it came out in the US in 2018 and really wanted to read it, but it wasn’t easily available in the UK (imported only on amazon and not on Kindle at all) so I had to wait until I was in the US for the midterms – which is why my copy of Who is Vera Kelly is a different size to the copy of Lost and Found. And the situation was similar with the second one – until it won the Sue Grafton memorial award (see my comment above about being interesting to fans of the Kinsey Milhone series) at which point we suddenly got the second and third books in paperback and they all appeared on Kindle. As you can see I found the second two in Foyles the other week in the mystery department and this week I found the latest one on the romance shelves! And even better – the first one is in Kindle Unlimited at the moment in the UK if you are a subscriber and want to give it a try.

Happy Friday everyone.


Out Today: Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes

Out today is The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes by Dr Kate Strasdin which examines what we can learn about Victorian life through one woman’s textile scrapbook. I’m always fascinated by the clothes people are wearing in portraits and I love a costume museum/exhibition as well so this sounds like it’s going to be my sort of thing. Coincidentally I was following the author on Twitter before I’d even heard of the book because as well as interesting historical stuff she also posts pictures of gorgeous dresses from history. And I do like a look at history through the medium of something mundane/normal.

A couple of years ago, I read The Button Box by Lynn Knight, which looked at the changing lives of women in the twentieth century by looking at the contents of a box of buttons that has been passed down through her family. I have a copy of The Dress Diary… so I intend to report back, but given how easily I get distracted by cozy crime or romance, I thought I probably ought to give it a mention today before I suddenly realise it’s three years later and I still haven’t read it. Which is basically what happened with The Button Box…

books, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Novels with food

So it was Pancake Day yesterday – aka Shrove Tuesday – and it’s Ash Wednesday today so it seemed like a good time to recommend some novels where food is a strong theme.

This post actually grew out of an idea to write a Recommendsday for books set in Lent, but I could only really come up with Joanne Harris’s Chocolat. If you’ve never read the book, it starts at the end of Carnival – just before the start of Lent – when Vianne and her daughter arrive in a small French town and open a chocolate shop, to the horror of the local priest, because Lent is the season for self denial. And it all goes from there. I’ve read it several times – and have the sequels too – and it would be a great read for this time of year. But that’s when I got stuck for books about Lent, so I picked up the food theme of the chocolate shop and ran with that instead!

Next up is an author I don’t think I have mentioned here before – Anthony Capella. And I think that’s probably because he hasn’t written anything under that name* for about a decade. But there are five really good mainly historical novels with food at the heart of them – one about ice cream, one about coffee and several set in Italy. If you’ve never come across him before, you should take a look – they’re all available in ebook, which is probably the easiest way to get hold of them.

If you want some slightly more recent fiction, there is Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. I really liked the start of this, but then our heroine starts making some stupid decisions and lost me. But it was one of those “book of the summer” type picks in the US a few years back – so it’s one of those literary fiction type picks that work for other people better than they work for me if that makes sense.

Now obviously there are a lot of cozy crime novels with food. So many of them and they often/usually have actual recipes in them too even if the quantities are all in American measurements (so imprecise when it comes to baking, how does anything ever rise?). I’ve written about the Cupcake Bakery and the Maine Clambake mysteries, but there’s also Joanne Fluke’s long running Hannah Swenson series about a baker who keeps stumbling across murders and Wendy Tyson’s Greenhouse Mysteries feature a farm that has a farm-to-table restaurant and comes with recipes. I’ve been trying out a couple of new to me cozy series over the last few weeks, so watch this space for more suggestions there too.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

*He’s currently writing thrillers under a different name.

Book of the Week, books

Book of the Week: The Soulmate Equation

Oh it’s another contemporary romance book pick. Two weeks in a row. It was Valentine’s Day, it’s allowed. The fact that it’s Christina Lauren again, just a few months after Something Wilder got a mention in a Recommendsday and not a year since Roomies was a BotW pick, is less allowed. But it’s my blog and I make the rules so I can break them too.

This is a sort of enemies to lovers but definitely fake relationship romance featuring single mum Jess. She doesn’t date because she’s too busy keeping all the balls in the air – being a single mom, her business doing data and statistics, keeping a roof over her family’s head and looking after her grandparents. Her best friend Fizzy buys her a kit for a new DNA-based matchmaking services for her birthday and in a moment of weakness she submits her spit sample. Which turns up the highest match the company has ever seen – the trouble is the person the algorithm says is her perfect match is the company’s cofounder, Dr River Peña, who she already knows she can’t stand. But soon the company is offering to to pay her to see if she’s wrong and she finds herself spending more and more time with River and starts to wonder if there is something in this matching thing after all…

This is a delightful treat of a romance. It’s told purely from Jess’s point of view, which I started off by finding frustrating but after about fifty pages I didn’t mind because it meant you really didn’t know what was going on with River and whether he was falling for Jess or just playing along for the sake of the company. Jess’s daughter Juno is just the right side of romance children (and it’s a difficult line to tread) and I loved the set up with the apartment building with Jess’s grandparents in the bungalow in the garden.

I’m not a numbers and figures person (I dropped all maths and science just as soon as I could because I wanted to do languages and history) so I can’t speak to the accuracy of the data and stuff, but it made sense to me without losing me in the technicalities and detail. This is another fake relationship Christina Lauren (like Roomies was) and has no pranks or any of the bits of their novels that sometimes don’t work for me, so if you’re not a humour from embarrassment person, I have good news for you, this is safe to read.

I got this off the pile last week because when I was reading up on the next Christina Lauren for last week’s upcoming books post I discovered that the heroine of that is the aforementioned Fizzy, Jess’s best friend who a romance writer and thought I ought to read Soulmate Equation before that came out. And I’m glad I did because it’s great but I’m also now even more excited about The True Love Experiment than I was before.

I got my copy of The Soulmate Equation from either the supermarket or the Works, I can’t remember which, but it’s all over the place – I saw it in Foyles the other week any everything. And of course it’s on Kindle and Kobo and all the usual ebook outlets too.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: February 13 – February 19

Another very busy week including a few nights away from home, but with a bit of excitement as well – like a panel about Eurovision and a trip to the Cotswolds. Oh and Valentine’s Day and even more romance reading because why not!


A Surfeit of Lampreys by Ngaio Marsh

In Farm’s Way by Amanda Flower*

A Lie for a Lie by Emilie Richards

Fudge Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

Peril in Paris by Rhys Bowen

Death and the Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh

The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren


Murder Served Neat by Michelle Hillen Klump*

The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras by J Michael Orenduff

Still reading:

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

The Empire by Michael Ball*

Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd

Rogues by Patrick Radden Keefe

One book pre-ordered, but that’s about it. I’m surprised at myself.

Bonus photo: Bourton-on-the-Water on Saturday. Beautiful but jam packed with people, although I think I’ve done quite a good job of disguising that in the picture!

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

not a book, theatre

Not a Book: Post Covid theatre

Writing about Noises Off last week got me thinking about the post-Covid theatre scene and what’s been going on for the last couple of years. I was a big theatre goer before the pandemic and it was one of the things I missed the most, so I was straight back in as soon as I could and I’ve been trying to see as much as I can, but there are definitely some changes – beyond the fact that I changed jobs during the pandemic and work shifts less now which has changed things a bit for me personally.

When the West End first started to reopen, it was mostly just the long runners but it is starting to perk up again now with new stuff coming in – even if it’s revivals or return engagements. I’ve revisited a few of my old favourites, but it’s been quite hard to get good ticket deals, because there weren’t as many shows going – which I’m hoping is because they’ve got lots of demand rather than the fact that the prices are so high now they can afford to not sell as many tickets. Because the prices have gone up, and my ticket budget hasn’t gone up by the same amount.

I saw Sylvia at the Old Vic the other week, which had a run as a work in progress there in 2018 but is now back as a full production – which I think shows you the effect on the time line of shows that the pandemic has had. New musicals often take a couple of years to make it to the West End (if they make it to the West End) because there is a process of workshopping and looking for backers that takes place as well as potentially trying it out out of town. And because everything has been closed, that hasn’t been going on at all. Hopefully we’ll start to get some properly new stuff soon – maybe some of the stuff that was workshopping when everything shut down in 2020 will make it’s way through. So far there have been plenty of plays (particularly plays with small casts) but not so many musicals. The good news is that transfer of the Tony winning Oklahoma revival started its West End transfer this week – after a Young Vic run last year. And it’s definitely encouraging that that Chichester Festival Theatre has announced a full programme for this year this week, including new plays, old plays and a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, which is one of his shows that I haven’t seen so I’m seriously hoping that it is good and gets a London transfer.

Outside the West End though it is still a little slow. I used to see a fair bit of cabaret and comedy in the off-West End scene, and that really hasn’t come back much yet. Whether it’s the fact that the margins are too small, or the venues have closed or even that there aren’t as many people around in London I don’t know, but it’s been a struggle to find stuff that I want to go to so far.

Regional theatre is running on a slower time table too. We used to see quite a bit at our local theatres, but most of what has been coming through so far has been touring productions of shows that we’ve already seen – either in the West end or on previous tours. Northampton’s Royal and Derngate used to be a reasonably big regional production house, but that hasn’t properly come back into gear yet, and the artistic director has announced that he’s leaving this spring, so that may also have put a crimp on things. Fingers crossed that the new artistic director brings as many good productions as the last few have and we’ll see some new shows in Northampton that eventually make their way into the West End or national tours the way they used to.

But there definitely seems to be light at the end of the tunnel at last – and if some more tourists come back to London, maybe we’ll be back to what used to be normal by the end of the summer.