Book of the Week, detective

Book of the Week: Murder by Matchlight

The world keeps changing – and as the uncertain times continue, I’m still all about resolutions. And as I mentioned briefly last week; along with romances, murder mysteries give you resolutions and at the moment I really need it to turn out alright in the end. Murder by Matchlight was my second E R C Lorac in about a week and I liked it as much as I liked the first – and I nearly wrote about Murder in the Mill Race last week, but I was trying to mix it up a little bit from the stream of mysteries, so today you get two reviews in one.  A quick note: I started writing this ahead of time, and we’ve now moved into a lockdown situation in the UK – where bookshops are shut and people should not be going outside unless absolutely necessary. I’m making an adjustment to how I link out to books – I’m providing ebook links where available, and telling you what the likelihood that your local indie would be able to source it if they’re still open. Please support small booksellers where you can.

Copy of Murder by Matchlight

Murder by Matchlight is set in 1945, when Bruce Mallaig witnesses a murder while walking after the blackout in Regents Park. He is sitting on a bench when he sees two men acting suspiciously on a footbridge – and then one of them is murdered. His only glimpse of the killer as a flash of a ghastly face by matchlight just before the crime. CID detective Inspector MacDonald is called in to investigate and needs to try and work out how the murderer managed to appear and disappear in silence.

It is not often in a murder mystery when there is actually a witness to the killing who sees the murderer – Agatha Christie’s The 4.50 from Paddington is one and beyond that I’m struggling. There are more where there are witnesses to the actual death – but not many who see the murderer. This is clever and atmospheric, with a really interesting cast of characters and suspects. I was reading this early last week though and the wartime setting – including air raids and it was ever so nearly tense for me – even though we were pre-lockdown at that point.  It was still the best thing I read last week – but the tension is worth bearing in mind if you’re feeling anxious at the moment.

But if you are feeling anxious, I can thoroughly recommend Murder in the Mill-Race – also by Lorac, which I read the previous week and got beaten to Book of the Week by Love Hard, in part because of my recent reliance on British Library Crime Classics. This also features MacDonald – now a chief inspector – but is set in Devon. Raymond Ferrens and his wife have moved to a picturesque hilltop village where he is taking over as the local doctor. At first it seems perfect – but as is often the case they soon find out that there are currents and tensions below the surface. Most of them an be traced  back to the influence of Sister Monica, who runs the local children’s home. Although almost no-one will say a word against her, a few months after their arrival, she’s found dead in the mill-race. MacDonald is called in to try and find out what happens – but finds a wall of silence from the close knit villagers. This has all the best bits of Murder by Matchlight – but seems less applicable to current life so may be more enjoyable for the anxious. I certainly really liked it.

It seems there are a lot of books featuring Inspector MacDonald, these two are numbers 26 and 37 in the series. There are a few of them available – but it’s a bit of a lottery – they’re across several different publishers and some have been retitled – Goodreads tells me that Murder in the Mill-Race was originally Speak Justly of the Dead. I will be looking for more. Murder by Matchlight is available on Kindle for £2.99 and also in paperback. The same applies to Murder in the Mill-Race – which is currently £2.99 on Kindle, but this one is included in Kindle Unlimited if that’s something you’re a a part of. They don’t seem to be available on Kobo. British Library Crime Classics are stocked by a lot of booksellers and this one seems to be still in print – Heffers had lots of Murder by when I bought this – so if your local indie is taking phone orders, then they may be able to help you. I’ve also just picked up Death Came Softly from the series for 99p – I’ll try and keep you posted on what I think.

Keep reading – and please stay safe.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: March 16 – March 22

So the week started ok, and then everything in the world changed. Again. I’m exhausted and a bit anxious and I’m sure you all are too.  I’m still working on that bonus content that I mentioned last week, but my reading mojo is quite hard to find at the moment (you’ll notice I’ve started a lot and not finished much of it because I can’t keep my focus) and I’ve already talked about a lot of the stuff I really love – and at some length. Please stay safe everyone, follow your government’s advice for where ever you are and remember that it’s not just about you, it’s about the other people that you could make ill too.

Read:

In Prior’s Wood by G M Malliet

Secrets on the Shore by Katherine Woodfine

Murder by Matchlight by E C R Lorac

Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis

Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams*

Started:

Legendary Children by Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez

Unflappable by Susie Gilbert*

Open Book by Jessica Simpson

She-Merchants, Buchaneers and Gentlewomen by Katie Hickman

Still reading:

Anna K by Jenny Lee*

The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healy*

I bought a bunch of books and I’m not sorry about it. And a preorder or two showed up as well. In fact at these difficult times I’m not sure I’m even going to keep count.

Bonus photo: I class as a key worker (I was as surprised as you are) and I was working this weekend, so I had my hostel room booked as usual because the Sunday trains are unreliable and don’t start very early. I was a bit apprehensive about still staying because it’s usually shared rooms. Not any more – YHA has moved to one booking one room – so I had a choice of six beds, and it really brought home to me how everything is changing – I’ve been using various YHA hostels around London for at least 9 years and I’ve never had a dorm to myself. My brain could just not compute.

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley.

Blog tours

Blog Tour: The Five-Year Plan

A bonus post today, as I’m on the blog tour for The Five-Year Plan by Carla Burgess, which is out later this week.

Our heroine is Orla, a trainee reporter on a local paper and she has a plan. A five-year plan in fact, to get to a job on a national newspaper. She definitely doesn’t want a boyfriend – he’d only get in the way. But then she’s sent out on assignment to interview wildlife photographer Aiden. He’s dedicated to his career too and spends his life travelling the world and sleeping in a tent. He only has casual relationships, because he doesn’t want to be tied down. As they get to know each other, they do everything they can to make sure they don’t fall for each other – but it doesn’t seem to be working. But they follow the plan and go their separate ways. Then five years later they meet again…

I really, really wanted to like this more than I did – partly because it has such a promising start. The opening when Orla and Aiden meet again at his exhibition really grabbed me and hooked me in. But then it jumped back five years to their first meeting and stayed there for an awful lot longer than I was expecting. I wasn’t so interested in what happened back then, I wanted to know what happened next and it took a long time to get back to that. And while we were in the past section, I found that I didn’t like either of the characters as much as I had at the start.

When we finally got back to the present, Orla was a bit more passive than I was hoping that she would be and I felt like I never really got a sense of who she is – even though the story is told from her point of view. Thinking back at the end, I couldn’t name a hobby, or an interest or a band she liked. I’m not even sure what it is about journalism that she liked – her plan is just explained as being to get a job at a national paper. And because you’re in Orla’s head, you never really get to know Aiden except through her eyes – and even through her eyes he has a tendency to seem self-centred and manipulative. I never really understood why they got on together so well or why she’d been so hung up on him for so long or what it was about her that Aiden liked so much, other than her ability to sit in a tent with him and watch otters.

I love a second chance romance, and I thought this had a lot of potential to recapture some of the things I loved about late 90s-early 00s “chick lit” – and which are seem to be so hard to find at the moment. But in the end it didn’t quite do what I wanted it to do – and I’m not sure it’s entirely because I was hoping for it to be something it wasn’t.

The Five-Year Plan may not have been entirely for me, but it may well scratch an itch for some of you out there. And in these difficult times (you know what I’m talking about), it has the advantage of not having any peril, or illness in it (beyond a sprained ankle) and that’s definitely a plus. My copy of The Five-Year Plan came from the publisher, but it is out on Friday on Kindle and Kobo.

Happy Reading!

*but in fairness, it’s not in the running other women down way.

Five Year Plan blog tour banner

Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: Love Hard

Back with a romance pick this week – and a book that was new last week to boot. I’m coping with the current world situation by reading a lot of romance and mystery (because it all turns out alright in the end) and this really did what I needed a book to do last week.

Cover of Love Hard

Love Hard is the third Singh’s Hard Play series – about a set of brothers in New Zealand’s professional rugby world. Rugby star Jacob Essera is known for his calm on the field and his ability to read the game like it’s chess. Off the pitch he’s a devoted single dad to his six year old daughter Esme, who’s mum – his childhood sweetheart Callie – died when Esme was a baby.  Juliet and Callie were friends at school. Jacob and Callie, not so much – she was just his girlfriend’s bad girl friend and he was her friend’s boring boyfriend. These days she’s all grown up and is building a sucessful business career. her only problem is her ex-husband – a pro-cricketer and tabloid magnet who seems determined to keep her name in the gossip columns.  When the two of them end up working together on an ad campaign, an uneasy truce turns into friendship and sparks start flying. But will they be able to find their way to a happy ending?

Well, duh, of course they will, because this is a romance. I loved the characters, I loved the world and I loved the way that Jake takes care of his daughter. I loved the way that Jake and Callie’s relationship built and the way Callie approached being part of their family.  I’m all about strong families in books – be they blood families or found families and this really delivered on that. On the sport front, I’m a casual rugby watcher -when-its-on-and-a-big-match rather than a proper fan, and I had to do a bit of googling because some of the positions have different names in NZ, but it’s not a big issue.  If not familiar with rugby at all, you’ll either be a googler or you won’t mind and will just go with the flow (a bit like I do with hockey or basketball romances!).  If you’re a fan, you’ll know what the positions are obviously, but I’m not knowledgeable enough to tell you how good the passages about action are – but they’re not a big part of the plot anyway – it’s more about knowing what Jacob’s status is in the sports and celebrity world.

Nalini Singh is fairly prolific in romance terms, but this was my first of hers – mostly because I don’t really read a lot of paranormal or urban fantasy romance and that is where she primarily writes – but I do like sports romances (as I have discovered recently). I’ll be keeping my eye out for the previous two books in the series – and watching out for the final brother’s book.  My copy came from NetGalley, but Love Hard is available now in Kindle and Kobo, as well as in paperback although I suspect that won’t be in the shops in the UK at least.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: March 9 – March 15

A slightly better week in general. I mean it’s still very stressful and anxiety inducing, but I’m operating more as normal. Not quite the normal list, but better than last week and some really good stuff here. I’m plotting some bonus posts too so watch out for some extra content coming soon.

Read:

American Sweethearts by Adriana Herrera*

The Five-Year Plan by Carla Burgess*

Death Stops the Frolic by George Bellairs*

Unfrazzle by Stephanie Lam

Murder in the Mill Race by E C R Lorac

Love Hard by Nalini Singh*

Started:

The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healy*

In Prior’s Wood by G M Malliet

Still reading:

Anna K by Jenny Lee*

Two ebooks bought – but for my sister so they don’t count right? – and a preorder of Greg Jenner’s new book, which I am so excited to read.

Bonus photo: some of my ebook stockpiling in case of need…

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley.

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Mini Reviews from February

Yes, this was meant to go up last week. I did say the week got away from me a bit… anyway, it’s here now.  Only a couple this time because February was a short month, but I am trying to make this a regular thing this year, so I didn’t want to fall down on month two. If you missed January’s mini reviews, you can find them here.

World of Wolf Hall 

The Mirror and the Light is now in the shops but if you’ve forgotten what happened in the first two, this kindle freebie (which I’ve also saw in actual paperback in Foyles, but no idea how much it costs/how to qualify for one) recaps the events so far, the cast of characters, the world and some key themes and reader questions. It’s slight, but if it’s been a while since you’ve read the first two parts then it’s a nice reminder. I’m still conflicted about whether to buy this in hardcover (I love the cover, I prefer to read these on paper) or in ebook (so much lighter, but so much easier to ignore in favour of romances). I’ll keep you posted.

Meat Cute by Gail Carriger

This is definitely not the place to start the series, but this is the long wished for prequel that tells the story of the infamous hedgehog episode where Alexia Tarabotti (heroine of the Parasol Protectorate series) meets Conall Maccon. If you’re a fan of this does everything you’re hoping for, and a little bit more! If you’re not yet a fan, I have a lot of posts about my love for Gail Carriger’s steampunk world. My advice is start with Soulless and go from there.

Case of the Drowned Pearl by Robin Stevens

There’s still a few months to go before the final (sniff) full-length book in the series comes out, but there’s a Wells and Wong short for World Book Day. The Case of the Drowned Pearl sees the Detective Society and the Junior Pinkertons on a seaside holiday with Daisy’s Uncle Felix. Again, probably not the place to start the series, but it’s a lot of fun. The mystery is clever and Olympic-themed and I loved Hazel’s reaction to the British seaside. This has some Daisy PoV stuff too, which is always nice. Do start at the beginning with these too – and if you haven’t already bought them for the middle-grader in your life, why not?

So there you go, three slightly belated mini reviews for other stuff that I read in February. I bought all of my copies of these (except for the free one but you know what I mean) so you should be able to get all of them fairly easily – although you might want to rush if you want a physical copy of the Robin Stevens.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, memoirs

Book of the Week: You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams

I said yesterday that I wasn’t sure if there would be a BotW pick this week, but I had a think and had a write and this is what I came up with. It seemed a shame not to have a book of the week post for the week that included world book week – even if I didn’t have the greatest week and it had an impact on my reading. But You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams perked me up last week when I was feeling a bit blue and stressed so here we have it.

You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams is a coffee table book with a bit of extra. It’s a set of picture essays about moments in the actor and singer’s life. Depending on your age you’ll know Cumming from GoldenEye, the first batch of X-Men movies, The Good Wife or his work on stage – notably as the MC in the revival of Cabaret. If you’re a certain age and British, you may remember him from his sitcom about a minor Scottish airline, The High Life. His life has been eventful and this gives you snapshot glimpses of it all – from his difficult relationship with his dad, to his fragrance range (Including a body wash called Cumming all over) to meeting Liz Taylor and being friends with Liza Minnelli. Cumming has picked his stories carefully and it feels gossipy and revealing as you read it, but is actually very cleverly picking what it’s divulging. He has written a memoir about his relationship with his father which was painful and difficult and this is not that and I don’t think covers much of the same material at all – it’s more about the different facets of Cumming’s life and the pictures he’s taken of it.

I bought this when I saw Cumming in concert in London a few years ago*, which is why the book is signed and it had a fairly similar mix of stories to that gig – which was lovely and brought back the memories of that night in the theatre. I’m not ruling out reading Cumming’s memoir about discovering his real family history when he went on Who Do You Think You Are (even after hearing the story from the video below) but that wasn’t what I needed last week – and this was.

This one might be a little tougher to get hold of than some of my other picks because it is a couple of years old now, but Amazon tells me that it has hardcover copies in stock. It’s also available in Kindle and as an audiobook, but the photos are such an integral part of this that I can’t imagine that it would work anywhere near as well without them alongside at the least.

Happy Reading!

*I found the ticket for that concert tucked in this book and was shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover how long this has been on the to-read pile.