books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: July 27 – August 2

I’m going to go on the record and say that I was really glad to see the back of July. Here’s hoping that August is better. I worked over the weekend, which I usually do for the British Grand Prix weekend – but that’s usually because I’m trying to avoid the floods of fans coming in to my home town and the surrounding villages. Obviously that wasn’t a problem this year – and the race is in August (not July) and there’s another one at Silverstone next weekend, but it did at least make life feel a little bit more normal. Anyway the usual end of month/start of month posts are underway – if you missed it on Saturday here are the stats. Tomorrow is BotW as usual and then Wednesday will be the mini reviews.

Read:

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London*

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes by Trisha Ashley*

The Night They Killed Joss Varan by George Bellairs

Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P Djèlí Clark

The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff*

Started:

Daring and the Duke by Sarah MacLean

Still reading:

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward*

Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things by Robin Muir

A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro

Still not counting what I’m buying and determinedly so, but on top of the impulse buying a couple of preorders dropped onto my kindle this week as nice gifts from PastVerity so that was cheering too.

Bonus photo: there were a couple of beautiful days last week – I was in the office over the weekend so didn’t get to take advantage of all of them, but this was from Thursday when I went for a walk near home and headed down to the stream.

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

books, stats

July Stats

New books read this month: 31*

Books from the to-read pile: 1

Ebooks read: 15

NetGalley books read: 5

Library books: 10 (all ebooks)

Non-fiction books: 4

Favourite book this month: Here for It or Chiffon Trenches

Most read author: George Bellairs with a total binge – 7 books, all Inspector Littlejohn

Books bought: still not counting

Books read in 2020: 222

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf (I don’t have copies of all of these!): 579

I’m glad to see the back of July. I mean really, it’s not been great. I’ve struggled with reading and thank goodness for Kindle Unlimited enabling the Littlejohn binge which has helped get me through. May August be better. Please. Pretty please.

Bonus picture: Sunny July days were about the best bits of the month tbh, so that’s what I’ve gone for for the bonus picture. I’m aware this is quite mundane, but it’s not like I’ve been anywhere exciting or glamourous this month…

Sunny day in the park

Includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels (4 this month)

 

Book of the Week, memoirs, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Here for It

As I mentioned yesterday, last week I mostly binged on George Bellairs and I’ve talked about him relatively recently. But luckily I also read R Eric Thomas’s book of essays, so I get to tell you about that today!

Cover of Here for It

I think I first came across him as a podcast guest, but in case you haven’t come across him before, R Eric Thomas writes the “Eric Reads the News” column for Elle.com and is Very Funny. This an essay collection but as a whole it also forms a memoir about growing up different and how he found his way and place in life. He was one of the few black pupils at his high school and his Ivy League college. He was brought up attending a conservative black church but he is gay. And it took him a while to figure out what he wanted to do with his life, a period which included going viral on the early internet and not in a good way.

This is basically a funny and joyful journey to self-acceptance. Some of the essays really, really work. Thomas is also a playwright and coupled with his storyteller ability means that he has a knack for picking out themes that run through his life and finding just the right experience to use to tell you about it. And it means the stories build and develop and go somewhere (which is somehow rarer than you expect it to be in essay collections) and make you think.

It made me laugh and it made me think and it was a really great book to read in these strange quarantimes we are living in. I think it’s a special order in the UK – Amazon only has the hardback and no kindle edition right now – so I don’t think you’ll be able to pick it up off a shelf in the bookstore. If you want a taste of R Eric before you buy, here is one of my favourite of his recent columns but he also has a newsletter that you could sign up for and see if you’re interested.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: July 20 – July 26

A slightly better week, but to be honest we’re grading on a curve. You may be able to tell that I mostly cheered myself up by bingeing on Inspector Littlejohn books. It worked. Didn’t help me make any progress on the still reading list though…

Read:

The Crime at Halfpenny Bridge by George Bellairs

Here for It by R Eric Thomas

The Case of the Headless Jesuit by George Bellairs

The Cursing Stones Murder by George Bellairs

My Beijing by Nie Jun

A Scarf for Keiko by Ann Malaspina

Death in Dark Glasses by George Bellairs

Say Yes to the Duke by Eloisa James

Started:

A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro

Still reading:

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward*

Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things by Robin Muir

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London*

Still not counting and determinedly so.

Bonus photo: I didn’t go anywhere interesting last week. So my glass of rose is the most interesting photo of the week. Says. It. All.

Glass of Rose

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 of the Week, memoirs

Book of the Week: The Chiffon Trenches

So as I said yesterday, it was an awful week. But at least I have a good book to tell you about today. Sometimes it’s the small things isn’t it.

Cover of The Chiffon Trenches

So The Chiffon Trenches is André Leon Talley’s new memoir about his life in the fashion industry. If you’re my age, you may have first seen him  as a judge on America’s Next Top Model around the time they started trying to update the series to make it more high fashion – the era of the Vogue Italia photospread prize, before they started getting people to vote on social media – but he left after the madness that was the All Stars season. Ahem. Anyway, serious fashion fans will actually know him as a long-standing and long-serving member of the Vogue editorial team, where among his roles he was Creative Director, Fashion News Editor and an Editor-at-Large.

This is not his first memoir (although I haven’t read the previous one) but this one deals with his early life, his rise to prominence, his relationship with Anna Wintour and his role in fighting for more diversity and representation in fashion. He is a striking figure – and it’s not just because he’s a 6’7 man who wears couture kaftans – this book will take you on a hell of a journey. He was born in North Carolina in the time of Jim Crow laws. He won a scholarship to Brown University where he did a Masters in French Literature and was intending to be a French teacher. His first mentor was Diana Vreeland. He worked for Andy Warhol at the Factory and at his magazine Interview. He was Anna Wintour’s righthand person through her rise to the top job at Vogue and beyond. And this is his attempt to make sure that his achievements are seen in their own right and his work and not as part of Anna Wintour’s.

It’s fascinating. He’s got all the stories about all the people. If you’ve read about fashion – or about the Studio 54 crowd – it’s all here. Dancing with Diana Ross. Weekend’s at Karl Lagerfelds. European princesses. There’s a best dressed list (male and female) at the back. I didn’t always love his writing style – but I did love the content. It’s a mind-blowing peek at the excesses of the world of high fashion and at the world of Vogue at a time when money was rolling in and anything went. And he’s very keen to set you straight about what the Devil Wears Prada got wrong. If you’ve read Tina Brown’s Vanity Fair Diaries (which I did a couple of years back) there is some neat crossover here. If you’re a serious fashion fan, I don’t know how much it will tell you that you don’t know – except what Talley’s view on everything is and how he wants to position himself. But it’s a lot of fun finding out.

You should be able to get hold of this fairly easily at your book store of choice. It’s a hardback at the moment and it only came out a couple of months back so I would expect it to be on one of the tables or in one of the displays fairly near the front rather than in hidden away in a specialist section. And it is also an audiobook (that he reads himself!) and on Kindle and Kobo.

Happy Reading

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: July 13 – July 19

It was not a good week for a variety of reasons, not least the tenth anniversary of the death of my darling grandpa. And the reading list reflects the awful, which really hit my concentration and my reading time. Hey ho. Surely 2020 can’t get any worse?!

Read:

The Chiffon Trenches by André Leon Talley

Not a Creature was Stirring by Christina Freeburn

The Turning Tide by Catriona McPherson*

Calamity at Harwood by George Bellairs

Murder Stalks a Mansion by Anne-Marie Sutton

The Case of the Seven Whistlers by George Bellairs

Started:

Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things by Robin Muir

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London*

Still reading:

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward*

Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

Still not counting, and feeling even less bad about book purchases than I was before.

Bonus photo: Oreo Cookie brownies from this weeks’ comfort baking.

A pan of chocolate brownies

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 of the Week, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Hello World

I read a lot of stuff last week – ticked a few more states off my 50 States Challenge and read a bunch of romances (with some favourite authors and some new ones), but I do like to mix things up a bit with my Book of the Week picks, so this week I have some popular science for you.

The cover of Hello World

Hello World is an examination of what algorithms are and how they work for (and against) us. Dr Hannah Fry is a mathmatician who specialises in looking at patterns and how they affect human behaviour. She’s also a broadcaster, podcaster and public speaker and her experience in communicating complicated theories over those mediums really shows in this. Now unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll know that algorithms are a thing. They dictate what you see in your social media feeds, what comes up in search results but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Hello World looks at the role of algorithms in data, healthcare, crime, art and more. If you’ve ever wondered how far off a fully autonomous car is, this will tell you and explain the challenges along the way – for the car and for the drivers. Could algorithms help with solving crime or predicting where crimes might happen. Do they have a role in sentencing or bail decisions fairer? How are they making decisions – and how do they say they’re making decisions?

As usually I’m a little bit behind the times – this came out in 2018 (and was nominated for some of the nonfiction writing prizes) so somethings have moved on a little from my copy (an advance copy for the hardback release that I got given by someone) but I found this absolutely fascinating – sometimes a little scary but also actually quite reassuring as well. I read a fair bit of non fiction but mostly history with occasional bits of science and medical non fiction and I find that books in this end of the spectrum are sometimes too technical or get too bogged down in the details but this absolutely does not do that. I don’t consider myself mathematically or scientifically minded, but this was clear and concise and easy to follow. And I think it’s a great book to read at the moment – we’re all trapped at home and more dependent on technology than ever before and this will give you an insight into some of that and although it might make you rethink some things it won’t but absolutely terrify you and make you want to disconnect everything!

You can get Hello World from all the usual sources. I’ve seen it on the popular science table in the chain bookstores and on the shelves at the supermarket. And of course it’s available in Kindle and Kobo and as an audiobook from your audiobook vendor of choice. And if you’ve read this and liked this and want more popular science, can I point you in the direction of Mary Roach and her books.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: July 6 – July 12

Having lost what felt like pounds of hair, I am feeling a lot lighter in spirit as well. A lot of genres in this week’s reading – romance, non-fiction, horror, Girls Own, Literary fiction, mystery – aka pretty much the whole spectrum of what I read. Still got a lot of ongoing stuff though, but I’m working on it.

Read:

Hope Flames by Jaci Burton

On the Rocks by Sawyer Bennett

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Hello World by Hannah Fry

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

The Chalet School and the Lintons by Elinor M Brent-Dyer

First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde*

Started:

Not a Creature was Stirring by Christina Freeburn

Still reading:

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward*

Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

The Chiffon Trenches by André Leon Talley

Still not counting…

Bonus photo: As the most important thing that happened last week was getting my hair cut, here is an in-progress picture. This is a lot of hair coming off (for me!!) after nearly 4 months without a cut!

Evidence of haircut!

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 of the Week, Young Adult

Book of the Week: Not Your Sidekick

June was a tough month, and July started off looking like it was going to be more of the same. But I’m feeling much better about things now, because the Formula 1 was back at the weekend, and so life felt a little bit more normal. And it’s very much first world problems, and people have problems that are a lot more serious, but I’m due to get a hair cut this week, which has been something to look forward to because when you have hair as short as mine and you haven’t been able to have it cut for 15 weeks it looks a right state. I’ve never regretted cutting my hair short before – but there’s a first time for everything. Anyway, to the reading. Back to YA this week for Not Your Sidekick by C B Lee, a superhero-adjacent (sort of) adventure story.

Cover of Not Your Sidekick

Jessica Tran’s parents are superheroes. Ok, so they’re only C-class, which means they mostly just save their town from the pranks played by the town’s villians, the Mischiefs. Jessica’s sister is in superhero training, but Jessica herself hasn’t got any powers yet, and it’s not looking like she’s about to develop any. So when she gets an internship at a fancy tech company, it’s the most exciting thing that has happened to her in ages – and she gets to work with Abby, the school volleyball star she’s had a crush on forever. Except it turns out that she’s working for the Mischiefs, and it looks like there might be a dark undercurrent in the world of heroes and villains that she’s used to.

This is a fun and exciting adventure caper, which reminded me a bit of the Incredibles, with the juxtaposition of superpowers, secret identities and ordinary lives. Jessica is a great lead character, but she’s got a great gang of friends too. It doesn’t info dump on you, it really just puts you down in the world and leaves you to work out what has happened to Earth, and how everything works, which I though really helped with the pacing as well as giving you a level of uncertainty about who were the good guys and the bad guys. I had part of the plot at the tech company figured out fairly early on, and I’m not sure I was meant to – but I’m not in the target age range, so it may have seemed less obvious to the younger audience. But it’s a lot of fun, the unravelling at the end is great – although there is somewhat of a cliffhanger situation going on here – and Jessica and Abby are great fun together. It’s a lovely twist on the high school story and on a one girl to save the world type story (see also Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here). And there are two more books in the series (even if the sequel looks difficult to get hold of in the UK) with a third on the way.

My copy came from the library, but Not Your Sidekick is available now in paperback, audiobook, Kindle, Kobo and all the usual formats. I suspect the paperback will probably be a special order in the UK.

Happy Reading

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: June 29 – July 5

A much better week in reading – mostly because I used my days off at the start of the week to chill out and read. My next target is to try and clear the still reading list.

Read:

The Ultimate Pi Day Party by Jackie Lau

The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch

Sisters by Raina Telgemaier

Welcome to Ballet School by Ashley Bouder*

Murder on a Mississippi Steamboat by Leighann Dobbs

The Margot Affair by Sanaë Lemoine*

Harbor by Rebekah Weatherspoon**

Guts by Raina Telgemaier

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Started:

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde*

Hope Flames by Jaci Burton

Still reading:

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Hello World by Hannah Fry

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward*

Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

The Chiffon Trenches by André Leon Talley

Still not counting. I ordered a few things this week, but I was much better behaved than I had been.

Bonus photo: Never have I regretted having short hair so much as since the hairdressers cut. I have an appointment booked for tomorrow and I cannot wait. It’s been 15 weeks since it was cut (instead of 5!) so it hasn’t been this long in probably a decade. People keep telling me that it looks fine (some even say it looks great!) but living with it is not so much fun – if a gust of wind catches it one way I have early 90s boyband curtains, another and I look like a budget Justin Bieber look alike.

Me in a facemask with out of control hair!

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