Book of the Week, books, LGTBQIA+, new releases, Young Adult

Book of the Week: Fake Dates and Mooncakes

It was a bit of a week of rhyming titles last week – one in YA and one in cozy crime, so it’s probably fitting that I chose one of them for the Book of the Week today. And in the end I’ve gone for the Young Adult romance – partly because the cozy crime isn’t out until next month and also because the cozy is the tenth in a series and I can’t break those rules two weeks in a row. But mostly because Sher Lee’s novel came out last week, it was a lot of fun and it made me really hungry!

Cover of Fake Dates and Mooncakes by Sher Lee

To the plot: Dylan spends his spare time helping in his aunt’s Singaporean Chinese takeout, Theo lives in a mansion and drives a Ferrari. Their first meeting is less than optimal but when Theo turns up at the restaurant sparks fly. And soon Dylan is pretending to be Theo’s boyfriend at a family wedding. But Theo’s family is nothing like Dylan’s and neither is the life he leads. Dylan isn’t sure whether he can fit in in Theo’s wealthy, gala-attending life – or if it’s even worth trying.

This is a sweet YA romance with two heroes with completely different lives. The blurb describes it as Heartstopper meets Crazy Rich Asians and I think that’s not a bad one as far as it goes but it’s not quite as exact as that might sound. Yes Theo is Rich and Dylan is not – so that’s Crazy Rich Asians-esque, but you actually spend a lot of the time in Dylan’s world rather than Theo’s – which is not very CRA. As far as Heartsopper goes, yes it has got two young queer protagonists, but it isn’t mostly set in or around school and there’s not really any story line around coming out here the way that there is in Heartstopper. So basically, stop smashing vaguely similar books together as comparators please publishing.

We all know that I love a fake dating story – so that was great and I loved Dylan’s tight knit family too. It’s got some Insta Love going on here – and your mileage may vary with that. I’m not entirely sure that Theo ever really stands up for himself against his family properly and the solutions to the problems the duo face are a little easy in the end – but then it’s a YA and that’s how it goes. But the romance is lovely and all the food that is written about sounds delicious and it all made me hungry. It’s a really nice way to spend a few hours, and if you’re anything like me, it’ll have you off googling the various bits of the food you’ve never tried before.

My copy of Fake Dates and Mooncakes came from NetGalley, but it’s out now in Kindle and Kobo, and Amazon say they have the paperback in stock too, but I’m not sure how much I believe them given my recent late arriving pre-orders. I’ll take a look for it in a big bookstore YA department next time I go into one – which may or may not be this week!

Happy Reading everyone.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: May 22 – May 28

Hello from the end of an incredibly busy week. It’s just been wild. And I’ve already written about one of the books from last week in my series post about Emmy Lake – which given that the list is a little shorter than usual this week (because of all that busy) means I’m still not a hundred percent sure what the BotW pick tomorrow is going to be. Watch this space. Anyway, we’re nearly at the end of May – which is also wild – so all the usual stuff coming up after the end of the month, probably in a slightly tweaked order, for reasons that will become apparent. Anway, have a great week everyone.


Poppy Harmon and the Shooting Star by Lee Hollis*

Fake Dates and Mooncakes by Sher Lee*

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers

Mrs Porter Calling by A J Pearce*

Death Knells and Wedding Bells by Eva Gates*

A Vicarage Family by Noel Streatfeild


Best Men by Sidney Karger*

Buried for Pleasure by Edmund Crispin

Still reading:

The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes by Kate Strasdin*

The Empire by Michael Ball*

Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd

One book bought…

Bonus photo: It’s peony season. So I have peonies in the house now as well as in the garden. It makes me very happy.

*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: Tina Turner

It’s Monaco today and the Indy 500, so there is some motorsport in my plans, but I wanted to spend a bit of time today talking about Tina Turner, who died this week at the age of 83.

Obviously she was a musical legend and had a back catalogue where everyone knows at least three songs, probably half a dozen. But she was almost possibly the most famous domestic abuse survivor in the world after she spoke out about the abuse she suffered at the hands of Ike Turner when they were married. There have been movies and documentaries about what went on – I first stumbled across What’s Love Got to Do With It on late night TV when I was in secondary school – but a couple of years ago Tina herself took part in a documentary so if you’re only going to watch one thing make it that. It’s been back on Sky’s documentary channels already this week – so it should be findable in their on demand system in this country, it’s in HBO’s catalogue in the US. Here’s the trailer:

I’m going to leave you with a link to the first ever Tina Turner song that I heard, which is maybe still my favourite. I mean I love Proud Mary, but River Deep Mountain high is something else. If you’re talking about problematic men, this song has a pair of them – not only is it from the Ike and Tina era, but it’s written and produced by Phil Spector. I love the Wall of Sound sound, but it was hard to listen to for a while. But she still performed it – including at her concerts as well as when she was inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the first time – she was inducted twice once for Ike and Tina and once for her solo work. And Spector died in 2021 (while still serving his sentence for murder) and Ike died in 2007 so that’s made a difference for me too.

Oh I can’t resist it. Have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance too. It has Stevie Wonder playing back up in the band. And she sounds amazing.

Thanks for all the music Ms Turner, you’ll live on through it.


Books in the Wild: Sainsbury’s

It’s been a while since I’ve done a supermarket, so I’ve had a wander to see what they have to chose from at the moment. This is my local Sainsbury’s – and I should say that I went to the local Big Tesco first, but they have done another rearrange of everything and have massively shrunk the book section down from nearly a whole aisle on both sides (including children’s books and colouring books etc) to a couple of carcasses for everything. A Paddington stare to you Tesco. Very disappointing. Anyway, this is Sainsbury’s and it’s a bit chaotic in organisational terms, but it is at least bigger and better stocked than their competition…

So the headline hardbacks on this one are the latest crop – the Queen Charlotte tie-in novel, Happy Place, the final book in the Seven Sisters series – which I did try back when the first one came out but wasn’t really my thing but I know they’ve been hugely popular – and the new Tom Hanks novel which was the preorder that arrived chez moi last week! If you look carefully you can also see the new Mhairi McFarlane in the middle of the paperbacks as well. The Maid is in there too – which seems to be having a really long tail and hanging around a while, but I did see an advert on the tube this week for a sequel so that may well explain it.

Another couple of new hardbacks at the top here – I keep seeing the Steve Jones around and obviously I’ve written about how much I enjoyed Pineapple Street and it’s suitability as a summer read. The paperback of Lessons in Chemistry is there too – which is another great summer read if you didn’t read it last year and prefer a paperback.

Having had the new Emily Henry in hardback, this one has got last year’s – Book Lovers – twice (!) as well as two of the Richard Osman series – including the latest one which is now in paperback – as well as Malibu Rising and the books from supermarket shelf regulars Jenny Colgan and Marian Keyes. You can also spot my purchase on this one – The Darkest Sin. I also keep seeing Icebreaker around and debating reading it, but I’m not sure I dare – it’s about a figure skater and an ice hockey player who team up and just the idea that a hockey player can transfer over easily makes me nervous and that’s without my recent poor track record in enjoying sports romances that turn out to be too angsty for my tastes.

And finally we have this one – with some (more) repeats from earlier as well as Daisy Jones and the new Philippa Gregory (which is a magicky one). And I guess this is the point where I muse about the balance between mysteries and thrillers and women’s fiction and how that seems to have changed over the last few years. It used to be fairly rare that I would go into a supermarket and come west without having bought a couple of women’s fiction books in whatever the current Two for… deal was and I would have had a hard time narrowing down which two that was going to be. But now there are a lot less options – and they come from a smaller group of authors. You can also see that in the colours of the covers – we’ve got a lot more of the dark covers – blues, greens, greys, blacks – of the thriller and mystery genre and fewer in the brighter hues. And some of that is also that the women’s fiction novels have gone for darker colours – and turned a bit darker. Basically what I’m saying is that it’s hard to discover new romance-focused novels at the supermarket now, and that makes me sad.

Still at least I did buy something, and if I was a casual consumer (aka not someone who reads 300 plus books a year) there are plenty of good options here for you to read – it’s just I’d like to see more variety of authors.

Happy Saturday and go and buy a book

historical, series

Series I love: Emmy Lake

This week’s series post was an easy choice because the third Emmy Lake Book came out in the UK yesterday (it’s not out in the US until August) and I’ve read it and it’s good. It’s also a long time since I’ve written about a historical series that’s *not* a murder mystery one so it’s also a nice dash of variety for you all!

When we meet Emmy Lake at the start of the series, it is 1940 and she is applying for a job at the London Evening Chronicle and dreaming of being a Lady War Reporter. But what she actually gets is a job working for a women’s magazine, as secretary to their Agony Aunt. Mrs Bird doesn’t want any “Unpleasantness” included in the column, But as Emmy reads the letters coming in, she realises that some people need actual help with real problems, and takes matters into her own hands. The sequel, Yours Cheerfully, was a BotW when it came out back in 2021, and now we have a third. I’ve puzzled about how much of the plots of each of the sequels to talk about – because obviously there are spoilers a plenty here. I said you didn’t need to have read Dear Mrs Bird to enjoy Yours Cheerfully, and the same is true of Mrs Porter Calling, but as this is a Series I Love post, I’m encouraging you to read all of them and I don’t want to give too much away.

What I’ve decided that I can say is that the first book shows Emmy finding her feet in the world of magazines, the second shows her getting involved in the war effort, and the third has a threat to the future of the magazine that she loves. And then there is Emmy’s private life, which runs through all three books – her best friend Bunty, some romance, and then obviously living in London during the Second World War. Emmy has a can-do attitude and is very cheerful, which makes her a fun character to follow around – at the start of the series she’s quite sheltered – or at least not very worldly, but obviously that’s evolved as she’s seen more of life. As you know, I’m a Girl’s Own reader – and I’d say she’s a bit like one of the school girls from those series grown up and let lose on the world. It is a book set in the war, so it is inevitable that sad and bad things happen in this – but if you’ve read a few books set in London in the Second World War you can see what’s going to happen in the first book coming* so you’re slightly forewarned.

By the end of the new book, we’ve reached the start of 1944 so I’m hoping that means we have another book to come, because there are still some questions unanswered, but as it’s taken at least two years between books so far, I’m resigning myself to not getting any answers until 2025 at the earliest! My copy of Mrs Porter Calling came from NetGalley, but I think you should be able to find it fairly easily in the bookstores – I’ve seen Yours Cheerfully on the shelves in the last few weeks ahead of this one coming out too – and of course they’re all also in Kindle and Kobo. And if you’re a Kindle Unlimited member, the first book is in KU at the moment as well.

Have a great weekend everyone!

*Slight spoilers: This book may have been the origin of my unofficial Cafe de Paris rule. If you know, you know. I’ve tried to write a post about it the idea, but it would be full of spoilers. So full of spoilers…

Book previews, books, new releases

Out this week: Poppy Harmon and the Shooting Star

A bonus review today – that’s breaking some of my rules because this is the fifth in a series. But it doesn’t actually matree because this is the first in Lee Hollis’s Desert Flowers Mystery series that I’ve read. Interestingly I’ve read a couple of novellas by this author and one novel in a different series previously and wasn’t keen, but this really worked for me.

The set up is this: Poppy Harmon is a former actress who has been forced out of retired life to become a private investigator and runs a detective agency with two friends. In this instalment, one of Poppy’s former acting rivals has reappeared in her life. Serena has asked the agency to do an urgent background check on her husband to be. It seems easily done – but then Serena is found standing over a dead body holding a smoking gun and the team find themselves caught up in the investigation.

This has plenty of action, lots of twists and is really easy and fun to read. I thought I had the solution figured out – but I wasn’t entirely right and I liked that too. My copy came from NetGalley – and I even managed to read it in a timely manner! Even better, some of the earlier books in the series are in Kindle Unlimited at the moment (although not the first one) so I can go and read some more. I love it when that happens.


books, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Non Fiction round up

Rogues by Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is best known (at the moment anyway) for his Empire of Pain, about the opioid epidemic in the US, but this brings together some of his best investigative essays for the New Yorker – covering gangsters, drug barons, terrorism and more including his essay on the late Anthony Bourdain. I sped through some of them (Bourdain, fake wine, Mark Burnett) but found others harder going but that was probably more about my interests and state of mind at the time than anything else. Worth a look if you want some narrative non fiction but not an entire book on the same subject.

The Plantagenets by Dan Jones

I listened to this on audiobook and although it’s long it’s a really well written and understandable look at the Plantagenets – their rise, influence and power. This is an era of English history that doesn’t really get taught at school (there’s often not a lot taught between the Norman conquest and the Tudors) but the Plantagenet dynasty also held extensive lands in France for long periods so even if you do know the basics of the English end of things there is plenty on that here too. I enjoyed it so much I went straight on to Jones’s book on the Wars of the Roses, which picks up where this leaves off.

The Mountbattens by Andrew Lownie

So I read this because as you may remember I read and really enjoyed reading Lownie’s Traitor King a couple of years ago – and it has the same readable writing style, but this is ultimately a less satisfying read. The characters are fascinating – and you’re probably not going to like them much for quite a lot of the time – and their relationship unconventional to say the least. But although this sets out all the controversies and the debates around Mountbatten’s public life and actions – although it drops one major revelation in *very* late – it doesn’t really come to any conclusions, which makes it ultimately more than a bit frustrating. But it is in Kindle Unlimited at the moment – so if you’re interested it’s much more affordable than books like this often are.

Happy Wednesday everyone

Book of the Week, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Reach for the Stars

A non-fiction pick today, just to make a change…

I was very much buying pop music through a lot of this era, so it was fascinating to read the story behind the music, as told by (most of) the people who were there. The majority of this book takes the form of quotes from the people involved – with comments and context from the author inserted where necessary. Michael Cragg is a music writer, who works (or has worked) for a lot of major UK publications – so if he hasn’t interviewed the people specifically for this book, he has interviews that he’s done with them in the past that he can draw on. So you have four of the five Spice Girls (you can guess which one isn’t in this) and members from pretty much every band that is mentioned.

As someone who was a young person at the time that a lot of this was happening, I found it really interesting to read about what was going on behind the scenes and the press coverage and see how that affected my perception of the various bands and band members involved. And of course the other thing that’s really fascinating is how the spotlight of fame affected the people in the bands. Many of them were very young when they joined the bands – and you get to see an array of different ways that fame – or being in a band can mess your life up. But in the early stages of this period, a lot of it was going on behind closed doors – as the book hurtles towards the mid 00s, you see the arrival of TV talent shows and people learning how to be in a band whilst on camera and making their mistakes in public.

As you may remember – I went to an event for this book where Michael Cragg interviewed Nicola Roberts from Girls Aloud – and it was absolutely fascinating (and sort of horrifying) to hear her talking about her own experiences, now she has the benefit of distance (and I suspect some counselling/therapy) to analyse what was going on and how it affected her. She also talked about how the era of the adverts in the stage, open auditions and TV talent shows provided a gateway for people without connections in the industry to get their big breaks – even if they didn’t have the advice and support that they needed to navigate the world that they found themselves in – and that the pendulum has now swung the other way and that music is the poorer for it.

This is really good – but it’s a big old book – so it took me a while to read just because you can’t heft a 500 page hardback around with you. It is however broken up into nice chapters so you can pick it up and put it down as you need to. But if you have an e-reader, it might be worth considering buying it on that for ease of reading! It is available on Kindle and Kobo although the prices reflect the fact that it’s currently a hardback release – the paperback is due out in October, in time for Christmas.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, week in books, The pile

The Week in Books: May 15 – May 21

After the excitement of Eurovision, normal service has been resumed. I think I may have finished the Alleyn re-read/listen as we’ve reached the tail end of the series which I didn’t enjoy as much and I’m running out of audible credits! We’re now hurtling towards the end of May and the sun is starting to be more reliable (I line dried two loads of washing this week!) so I think we may nearly at the point where I can put the hammock up and get some reading time in the garden. Fingers crossed…


Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L Sayers

Proper English by K J Charles

A Clutch of Constables by Ngaio Marsh

A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey

Summer Reading by Jenn McKinlay*

Diamond Girl by Julie Mulhern

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers

Wild Dances by William Lee Adams**

Reach for the Stars by Michael Cragg

Sticks and Stones by Diane Mott Davidson


Poppy Harmon and the Shooting Star by Lee Hollis*

Mrs Porter Calling by A J Pearce*

Still reading:

The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes by Kate Strasdin*

The Empire by Michael Ball*

Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd

One preorder arrived and I bought two ebooks and preordered two more, but that was it.

Bonus photo: I have six whole peonies in my garden! I think this is a new record. I love peonies and I was thrilled when I discovered we had them in the garden when we moved here.

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

book adjacent, books

Book related: The Three Musketeers

Let’s start by saying I have a soft spot for adaptations of Alexander Dumas’s band of sword fighting soldiers. I think it probably started with Dogtanian and the Muskerhounds – the original, not the film a couple of years ago and possessor of a deeply catchy theme tune (I’ve put it right at the bottom of the post, press play if you dare) but there have been many others since, including when my favourite skater at the time did a routine to the music from The Man in the Iron Mask to win his Olympic gold! Anyway today we’re talking about the new French movie – the first of a duo.

So they’ve done some… adjustments to the plot of the book, but if you’ve read the book D’Artagnan takes you to roughly the halfway point of the novel in a very easy to enjoy two hour romp. There are sword fights galore along with chivalry and banter and some great stunt work – including a man jumping from one horse to another, which I always love to see.

It’s got a top notch French cast – including Vincent Cassel and Romain Duris among the musketeers and Eva Green as Milady – who spends a lot of time in a huge hat smoking a long stemmed pipe. Iconic stuff. Him Indoors came with me to see it and he described it as “nonsense – but very enjoyable nonsense” and then started to speculate on how the French film industry manages to make such impressive looking movies on such a consistent basis!

If you’re a purist and want something that follows the book completely, this may not work for you – one man left out screening sucking his teeth and telling the usher it wasn’t very accurate – but if you enjoyed the BBC series Musketeers, then I think you’ll like this. We’re definitely going back for part two, which is called Milady, when that arrives here at the end of the year.

Have a great Sunday everyone.