This is exactly what the title says – I’m running out of ideas for streaming shows and stuff to record – so give me your ideas – you know what I like to read so based on that, what should I be watching?!
Month: April 2023
Books in the Wild: New Releases in the real world
I had a slight quest around the central London bookshops this week looking for something specific and although I didn’t find it, I did find several books that I’ve written about here – which I can now attest are actually gettable in stores!
Firstly let’s start with this week’s BotW, Happy Place, proudly in hardback and in a nice prominent spot in Waterstones the day after release day.
Next up, this table display in Foyles where I have read – or have waiting to read really quite a lot. After writing about Aunty Lee yesterday, I really need to read Vera Wong… to see if it gives me the same older lady charm I got from that. Then there is Killers of a Certain Age, getting its second mention of the week, the latest SJ Bennet, Magpie Murders which as I mentioned the other day is on TV at the moment, The Three Dahlias which is one of my favourites so far this year and came out in paperback this week and finally A Fatal Crossing which I wrote about last year.
And finally the romance offer table where I valiantly tried to find two books to buy. When I’m doing buy one get one half price I like to do it as one book I know I’ll like (or at least by an author I have liked previously) and then take a chance on something or someone new with the other one. But I’ve already read the Susanna Hoffs and I have the Megan Clawson and the Alexis Daria on the kindle. I’m about three Marian Keyes behind at this point so I can’t buy more before I’ve caught up and everything I’ve read about Colleen Hoover suggests that she is Not For Me so I couldn’t really justify anything – this time at least!
Happy Saturday everyone!
Series I Love: Aunty Lee
Having mentioned the Singaporean super rich in last week’s Recommendsday, today I’m returning to the city for a mystery series and Ovidia Yu’s Aunty Lee books.
Rosie Lee is a widowed lady of a certain age, who runs a home cooking restaurant. She doesn’t need to work – her husband left her plenty of money – she does it keep her busy and because it helps her keep her finger on exactly what’s going on in the city. In the first book, two women are found dead and as she knows both of them – one has eaten at her restaurants, the other had been due to be a guest at a dinner party – she starts to investigate. This sets up both the way Aunty Lee straddles different parts of Singaporean society but also how she meets the police officer who appears through the series.
The mysteries aren’t always the most complicated – I’ve figured out the culprit fairly early more than once – but Aunty Lee’s and her world is a delightful space to spend time that it doesn’t actually matter. If you liked the world of Crazy Rich Asians, this is the cozy crime version of that except that I need to issue a warning: these books will make you hungry. The presence of food in a cozy crime series is nothing new – I mean lots of series have recipes included after all – but very few of them make your mouth water the way that Ovidia Yu’s do – even if you’re like me and you know that your chili tolerance is not enough to be able to cope with some of it! I have written about a couple of these before – there’s more about Aunty Lee in the posts about Deadly Specials and Meddling and Murder (which doesn’t seem to be attached to the series on any of the online vendors, even though it is and Aunty Lee book as you can see from the cover).
These are all available on Kindle and Kobo – and yes it really annoys me that the covers don’t match as a set – and I’ve occasionally spotted them in shops, I own one in paperback because of that!
Out this week: new T J Klune
I’ve already written about one book out this week, but actually it’s a busy week for it. And among them is a new one from T J Klune who wrote The House in the Cerulean Sea which I loved a few years back. This one is called In the Lives of Puppets and is a Pinocchio retelling. I’ve read a fair few fairytale and folktale retelling a over the years but I’m not sure I’ve ever done Pinocchio – or at least I can’t remember that I have so this is definitely intriguing!
Recommendsday: Feel good novels
After having such a good time reading Nora Goes Off Script, it sent me off on a quest for other books that will just leave you with a happy smile on your face and the urge to force all your friends to read it. And it took me a while to bring you this week’s Recommendsday – because although I did some targeted reading for new options for this some of them were so good that they ended up as BotW posts too – more on that later!
Anyway, my starting place for this sort of post is often Goodreads’s the “other readers also liked” section for the book in question, to see what avenues that takes me down. But frustratingly, as is often the case for relatively new releases (Nora… came out in summer 2022) it seems to be dominated by other recent releases and I don’t think that Lessons in Chemistry (on page sexual assault), Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow (death), Something Wilder(death again) and Killers of a Certain Age (even more death) for all that they are excellent (and obviously right in my reading wheel house because I’ve recommended all of them!) are not quite the same low stakes and low stress experience that Annabel Monaghan is giving you with Nora.
Of the linked recommendations, Thank You for Listening was probably the closet to this of the list – and I couldn’t put that down when I read it last year – but it’s only a six months since it was a BotW, see also Better than Fiction which was mentioned even more recently so I had to come up with something fresh…
And now we get to stuff I read with this post in mind and which ended up as Books of the Week themselves – there’s The Soulmate Equation and Funny You Should Ask and you could probably also include The Roughest Draft. I think Romantic Comedy was always destined to be a BotW, but it does also make you feel good so lets throw that in there too.
So now we look at stuff I read longer ago that is also feel good. So there’s Kate Spencer’s In A New York Minute, which I mentioned in the autumn. But going back even further there’s The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling which is a second-chance romance with witches, and which is less dramatic/high stakes than the blurb would lead you to believe. Then there’s Kate Claybourn’s Love Lettering, which was a BotW three years ago (!) which is a slow burn romance with people who become unexpetedly friends and then… more. Also Sally Thorne’s Second First Impressions, which was a slightly more recent (two years ago) BotW which is a charming and frothy romance which does have some stakes, but it’s not peril. I liked it so much that I’ve actually bought myself a kindle copy now (I borrowed it from the library when I read it initially).
Finally as I mentioned in the Nora post, the Goodreads blubs compares it to Evvie Drake Starts Over so if you haven’t read that, you should totally should. It’s definitely reminded me that I have Linda Holmes’s second novel Flying Solo on the ebook tbr. And it wouldn’t be a feel good book post without me mentioning my beloved Gone With the Windsors which is not a romance (and the rest of these are) but also Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, which is itself a retelling of Pride and Prejudice – so is romance to round it all off.
Book of the Week: Happy Place
It’s the last week of April and I’m bang on time with a review for once – because Happy Place is actually out today. Astonishing work from me for once!
Emily Henry’s new novel is about Harriet and Wyn, who are on a weeklong summer holiday with their group of friends who don’t know that they broke up five months earlier. They’ve all been going to Sabrina’s dad’s cottage in Maine since they were students but now he’s decided to sell it they’re there for a last hurrah and neither Harry or Wyn can bring themselves to spoil it by telling everyone that they’ve broken up – especially as the others all call them the perfect couple. But as the days pass it’s clearer and clearer that they’re not over each other and pretending they’re still a couple is not helping any of it at all…
This is definitely at the women’s fiction end of the romance genre – yes, it follows the rules but it’s actually a lot about Harriet herself and her own personal growth as well as about her relationship with Wyn. It also made me cry more than once, so there’s that – Him Indoors got quite worried about me sniffling away at the end of the sofa – but by the end of the book it was worth it, even if I had a couple of minor quibbles along the way that mean I didn’t like it quite as much as I liked Book Lovers, but that was a high bar to reach!
You’re going to be able to get this everywhere – and it’s even got a nice coordinating/matching cover to the other three Emily Henry Romances. You can get it on Kindle or Kobo here and I’m expected the physical copy to be on the tables in all the bookshops, the airports and probably the supermarket too.
The Week in Books: April 17 – April 23
It’s starting to feel very spring-like. Of course now I’ve said that the weather will probably teach me a lesson, but this week I’ve been wandering around at times without a coat and thinking about getting some of the more summery outfits out. In book terms, I was away for a couple of nights last week so haven’t managed to read much more of the Michael Cragg, so the ongoing list has grown again, but apart from that it was a good week of reading.
Singing in the Shrouds by Ngaio Marsh
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L Sayers
Killer Pancake by Diane Mott Davidson
The Hollow Crown by Dan Jones
Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers
The Cheat Sheet by Sarah Adams
Premeditated Mortar by Kate Carlisle
Happy Place by Emily Henry
Games and Rituals by Katherine Heiny
The Frangipani Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu
The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes by Kate Strasdin*
Shadows of London by Andrew Taylor*
The Empire by Michael Ball*
Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd
Reach for the Stars by Michael Cragg
One new arrival – but it was a gift not a purchase and it was also the reason I managed to resist in Daunt – I needed the space for it in my suitcase! But that was it last week. Go me.
Bonus photo: a lamb frolicking. I said it was starting to feel like spring!
*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: Keep Sweet
I only got two thirds of the way through the first episode of Keep Sweet the first time I tried to watch it – despite thinking I was prepared for how grim that would be given that I’ve read Under The Banner of Heaven and Educated and listened to the whole series of Unfinished: Short Creek. It took nearly nine months for me to come back to it – because if there’s one thing that the second half of 2022 and the start of 2023 has been for me it is a test of my resilience. But I did come back to it, and now I have some thoughts to share.
So Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey is a documentary series about the Fundamentalist Mormon Church, focusing on the rise (and fall) of their leader Warren Jeffs. Now given that I’ve already mentioned several other things based around this group, it may seem odd to describe them as secretive. But they are – and the only reason we know what we do is because of people who have started to speak out after leaving the religion and the court records around the trial of Warren Jeffs.
The FLDS are a polygamist group and there is a lot more to unpack about them than you can fit in one four part documentary series. If you already know a bit about them, you’ll notice that there are some bits missing from this, or that the reality isn’t quite as neat as the documentary makes it seem. But I liked that uses the women who were affected to tell the story and explain what it was like to grow up in a cult, why they believed what they did and how they escaped or broke free. As I mentioned at the start of the post, the first episode is quite grim, but if you can cope with that, it gets easier – or at least you know what you’re dealing with. If you are interested in religion in America, cults or the like, this is probably going to be at least slightly of interest to you if you haven’t already watched it.
That first weekend I started watching it was actually the weekend that it was released, so you you might now have to search for it on Netflix because as we know the algorithm prioritises the new. And there is always something new on Netflix – the latest being a documentary about the Waco Siege, which I will probably also watch at some point.
And before I go – if this is of interest to you as well as the posts I referenced at the top about Educated and Short Creek, I’ve also written about Murder Among the Mormons, The Eyes of Tammy Faye and slightly tangentially Bad Bets and The Cult of We.
Have a great Sunday everyone.
Books in the Wild: Daunt Books Cheapside
I have spent a lot of time in bookshops recently, but mostly ones I’ve already written about relatively recently. But this week I was staying near St Paul’s, so it gave me the chance to have a wander around a smaller (it’s relative – it’s still bigger than the Waterstones nearest to my house!) bookshop than the West End ones.
What I like about Daunt Books is that they show you different books on their big main displays – it’s not a best sellers chart or six new releases facing outwards, it’s a lot of books, some you’ll have heard of, some you might not have. So here on New Fiction we have Games and Rituals (and this was actually another case where it was out before it’s official release date) but most of the rest of the stuff that’s on here is stuff that I haven’t come across before – albeit some of it by authors that I have heard of.
I also spent a fair bit of time at the New Biography display – obviously I have the Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes, the Janette McCurdy and the Elizabeth Taylor, and I bought Dad the Terry Pratchett biography for Christmas so I can get my hands on that if/when I feel mentally prepared to read it, but The Empress of the Nile looked really interesting, as does the Jean Rhys, Mary and Mr Elliot, Shy and Mr B. Only the fact that I didn’t have enough space in my suitcase stopped me from buying several of them.
I own a few more from the next shelf across as well – I’ve read the Edward Enninful, the Lucy Worsley is waiting on the pile and I’ve borrowed the Anne Glenconner from mum. I do quite fancy the Noel Coward – especially after Private Lives the other week – but it was very, very chunky. I’m half tempted by Between Friends, because I do wonder if I’ve grown any and matured since my, shall we say, visceral dislike of Testament of Youth back when I read it at 17, so maybe the letters between Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby might be a way of dipping my toes back in that water, but a hard back is a lot to spend to see if I’ve changed my mind at all!
And finally, I spotted a new British Library Crime Classic in the wild – I’ve read a few John Dickson Carrs now and this is definitely going on the list, for just as soon as I’ve got the pile down a little. And because this Daunt shelves all fiction together (except for fantasy) it’s on a shelf a few books down from The Yonahlossee Riding School for Girls which I don’t think I’ve seen in the wild since I borrowed it from the library about 6 years ago!
Have a great Saturday everyone and go buy a book!
Romance series: Cowboys of California
Given my focus on Rich People Problems this week, I thought I’d do a rich people romance series this week, just because I could. It just felt like a nice piece of synergy – although it’s a shorter than usual post because I’ve already written about two of the three of the series at length!
So the three books in Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Cowboys of California series feature three brothers whose family own a luxury dude ranch in California. They’re also fairytale re-tellings: A Cowboy to Remember is Sleeping Beauty, If the Boot Fits is Cinderella and A Thorn in the Saddle is Beauty and the Beast. As I said at the top I’ve written a bit about all of these before – the first and the last were BotWs when they came out, and the middle book was in a Romance on Ranches post, so there’s more detail on all the plots here, but basically these are smart and fun – and so smart about the fairy tale retelling angle that I sort of didn’t realise they were doing it until I read the blurbs.
The reason I wanted to feature them today is because of those paralels with the rich people problems books – because they’re about people falling in love in a low-key, money is no object, no-one’s future is in peril sort of way. There is a little bit of suspense-y peril in the final book, but nowhere near the peril in Weatherspoon’s romantic suspense series.
If you’re in the UK, the easiest way of getting hold of these is going to be on ebook – this is the link to the Kindle series page, here is the Kobo equivalent. The ebook prices do go up and down – I read two from the library but bought the other on kindle for under £1, so if you’re in the market for them and not in a rush, add them to however you run your watch list for book prices. If you’re in the US, they were definitely in paperback there, but I don’t know what the situation is in terms of getting hold of them at the moment as they came out during the pandemic and I don’t know how long physical books are staying in print in the bookstores these days.
Have a great weekend everyone.