books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: April 5 – April 11

As I’m sure you can imagine, it was a really quite unusual week in my day job, and the reading list reflects the fact that work has taken up quite a lot of my time.  I did however attend a bunch of sessions from Hist Fest 2021 on Saturday and Sunday evenings, which has given me some books I want to buy – and reminded me of some things I wanted to write about here!

Read:

Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi-Jones*

Arabella by Georgette Heyer

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Soloman

Enjoy the View by Sarah Morgenthaler

After the Flood by Alexis Hall

The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan*

Started:

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

The Roommate by Rosie Danan

The Moor by Laurie R King

Still reading:

Love is a Rogue by Leonora Bell

A couple of books bought – ebooks rather than actual books – but as mentioned above, there’s a wish list off the back of Hist Fest now that I need to take a look at…

Bonus photo: snow in the park on Tuesday. British weather everyone.

Snowy grass and play equipment under a heavy grey sky

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 round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: March 2021 Mini Reviews

So we made it to the end of a year of the quarantimes. And despite the fact being back in March meant it felt like we’d never left March at all and the world had ground to a halt in 2020 and given us endless March, itwas actually quite a good month in my reading life. Here are a few books I enjoyed that I haven’t told you about yet.

Women vs Hollywood by Helen O’Hara

Hardback copy of Women vs Hollywood

Empire Magazine’s Helen O’Hara’s new book is an examination of pioneering women through Hollywood history and the ways in which they’ve been left out of the history of the silver screen. It also examines what could be done to help redress the balance and for films to tell some different stories from some different points of view. It’s impeccably researched and well argued and will left me wanting to go out and spend some money at the cinema on female-centric films. As the cinemas are still closed, I contented myself by watching Lady Bird and Emma. and a couple of Katherine Hepburn films.

 

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear

Cover of the Consequences of Fear

I’ve written about the Maisie Dobbs series here before. And this is another engrossing and twisty instalment in the series. With long running series it’s always a challenge writing a review that doesn’t give away too much of the plot – or spoil earlier books in the series. But what I can say is that now the books have reached World War Two, Jacqueline Winspear is consistently finding interesting aspects of the conflict to entangle Maisie in, and if a few liberties are taken with the timeline, they are minor and you forgive them because it’s so page-turning and engrossing. This also sees some really interesting developments in Maisie’s personal life too – so all around this is a really good read.

You’re History

Cover of You're History

What’s not to love about a book with a cover as gorgeous as this and I did enjoy it, but that comes with a few caveats. I think I was missing some of the background on some of the songs to get the most out of it. Although the names listed in the blurb are all people you will have heard of – Kate Bush, Nikki Minaj,  Janet Jackson, Taylor Swift and TLC – in quite a lot of cases it’s actually taking quite a deep, in depth dive into their musical back catalogues. Really I think it needs to come with a playlist so you can listen to the songs that are being talked about as you read the book, because unless you’re really, really into music you may get lost here unless you’ve done some prep work. I used to work at radio stations as well as watching a fair few music documentaries both general and artist specific, so I consider myself fairly well across music, and I still had to do a fair bit of googling. I have a goal to try and read more books about music and musicians – because when I do I invariably enjoy that – and this fits in to that but it’s not my favourite of the genre.

Happy Singles Day by Ann Marie Walker

Cover of Happy Singles Day

This is a sweet, fluffy holiday (by which I mean vacation not Christmas!) romance set on an island off North Carolina, with a widowed hero with a B&B he can’t face running since the death of his wife and the professional organiser who visits for an out of season holiday. Lucas is focussed on raising his daughter and ignoring the bills that are coming due – so his sister relists the B7B without telling him – until Paige is booked and on the way. When Paige arrives, she finds that her accomodation doesn’t quite match the online brochure and decides to return home. But bad weather means the ferry isn’t running and she’s stuck on the island… Nothing revelatory or surprising, but a nice fun weekend read featuring a grumpy hero, a sunny heroine, a bit of forced proximity, a cute kid and some puppies.

Flake by Matthew Dooley

Hardback copy of Flake

So this is a really genuinely charming graphic novel about an ice cream seller and his van and the rivalries and challenges he faces. Low key but remarkably emotional. It had been sat on my shelf for a few months – my friendly local comic book shop had managed to get me a copy just before her last lockdown started again and I had been saving it for a treat. And I was right that it was a treat because it was really, really good.

In case you missed any of them, the Books of the Week posts in March were Wild Rain, Act Your Age, Eve Brown, Mrs Tim of the Regiment and Heroes are my Weakness. And here are the links to the mini reviews from January and February.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Billion Dollar Loser

I was so spoilt for chose this week that I dithered over my choice for Book of the Week for quite some time before settling on Billion Dollar Loser. But it’s hard to resist a book about a spectacular business failure – you may remember how much I enjoyed Bad Blood last year and I was hoping this would do the same sort of thing.

Cover of Billion Dollar Loser

Reeves Wiedeman’s book examines the rise and fall of Adam Neumann and his company WeWork. Many people probably only heard of WeWork when its first attempt to float on the stock market imploded in spectacular style. Neumann grew up in Israel and the US, completed his compulsory military service and then moved to the US for college, determined to make his fortune. After a false start with a baby clothing company, he got into the co-working business – leasing empty office space from landlord and then renting it out to freelancers, small businesses, tech startups and the like. It wasn’t a new idea, but WeWork attracted billions of dollars from investors as it grew at breakneck speed and expanded around the world with a vision of “elevating the world’s consciousness”.

So this isn’t quite Bad Blood, and WeWork isn’t quite Theranos, but Billion Dollar Loser is an incredibly readable account of the rise and fall of a tech unicorn – a business that investors poured money into through years of losses in the hope that it would eventually make money and then be the next big thing when it finally floated in the stock exchange and they could cash out. Caught up in it all are the staff – many of whom stayed in jobs that didn’t pay very well because of the stock options they were promised and because they believed in Neumann’s vision. Like Theranos’s Elizabeth Holmes, Neumann is a charismatic figure – who brought in spiritualism and created an almost cult like atmosphere inside the company. And his wife is Gwyneth Paltrow’s cousin so there’s an added Goop-y layer to all of this that Theranos didn’t have.

Wiedemann has written a fast-paced page turner, that exposes the fundamental problems with WeWork’s business plan – including (but not limited to) the costs involved in real estate and the need for actual physical infrastructure in your offices and to keep your tenants happy! Like Bad Blood, it leaves you with a fair few questions, but the story of WeWork isn’t done yet – their valuation for their stock market floatation was published at the end of March (spoiler: it’s a lot less than it was the first time around) and Neumann is also reported to be planning a new venture. A Hulu documentary about WeWork came it last week and Cosmo have just published a profile of Rebekah Paltrow Neumann so this probably isn’t the last we’ve heard of WeWork – but as a starting point this is a really good one!

My copy of Billion Dollar Loser came from the library, but it’s available now from all the usual sources – like Kindle and Kobo and should be available to order from your bookshop of choice or bookshop.org.uk . It’s been so long now since bookshops were open for in person browsing that I have no idea if you’ll be able to pick it up in store without ordering!

Happy reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: March 29 – April 4

Belated Happy Easter to those of you who are celebrating. I’ve had a long weekend, where the weather has swung between cold and sunny, colder and less sunny and hail and snow. Current status: Cold, clear and sunny.  If you missed the April stats, you can find them here. Coming up this week as well as Book of the Week, there will be mini reviews on Wednesday too.

Read:

Me and Carlos by Tom Perrotta

Women vs Hollywood by Helen O’Hara

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

Billion Dollar Loser by Reeves Wiedeman

Black Light by Jo Perry

Holy Disorders by Edmund Crispin

The Second Marriage by Gill Paul*

Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer

Death of a Sinner by Derek Farrell

Started:

Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi-Jones*

Love is a Rogue by Leonora Bell

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Soloman

Still reading:

n/a

I’m quite pleased with my progress this week – I finished the longer runners, and the books I started last week and read some other interesting books too. The observant among you may have noticed that there’s a strong vein of Georgette Heyer rereading (and relistening) coming through at the moment – I’ve been revisiting some of my old favourites. I don’t know what it is about my mood at the moment that necessitates Heyer’s most alpha-y heroes, but I do know that when I finished Sylvester this week, I then went back and relistened to the final few chapters another three times. There is just something about Phoebe, Edmund, Sir Nugent and the button – and Sylvester messing up proposing that did exactly what I wanted this week.

Bonus photo: this month’s flower delivery turned out to be a wreath for me to make. I was quite pleased with how it turned out, so it’s this week’s picture so I can show off a little!

Spring flower wreath

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

March Stats

Books read this month: 34*

New books: 31

Re-reads: 3

Books from the to-read pile: 6

NetGalley books read: 3

Kindle Unlimited read: 10

Ebooks: 1

Library books: 11 (all ebooks)

Audiobooks: 3

Non-fiction books: 1

Favourite book this month: Act Your Age, Eve Brown

Most read author: Probably Georgette Heyer – as two of the audiobooks were rereads of her and I think they’re longer than the two Nisha Sharma books I read

Books bought: 9 I think

Books read in 2020: 100

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf (I don’t have copies of all of these!): 601

I’m not even sure I have anything witty or interesting to say this month – all I’ve done is read, run around the park and work… and that’s been the story of the last year!

Bonus picture: some blossom in the park in the early morning sunshine on the 31st

Blossoms on a tree and sky

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels (9 this month)

Book of the Week, historical, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: Wild Rain

More romance this week – but this time historical. I’ve also recommended Beverly Jenkins before – but for her contemporary Blessings series. This is also pretty new – it came out February so I’m fairly up to date for the second week in a row!

Cover of Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins

And so the plot: self-sufficient and self-contained female rancher Spring finds Garrett injured in the snow, and takes him back to her cabin to escape the storm. Garrett has travelled to Wyoming from Washington DC to write an article about Spring’s doctor brother. But soon he’s finding Spring much more interesting. Spring, however, is not interested in men or relationships – after a traumatic incident in her past she just wants to be left alone to raise her horses in peace. But as the attraction between the two of them grows, will they be able to overcome their differences and find a happy ending?

Well it’s a romance so you know they will, but it’s a really interesting journey to get there and I really liked that it was Garrett who did most of the adapting. All too often it’s the woman in a romance – particularly in a historical romance who has to do all the changing to fit the man’s circumstances. Garrett may fall for the community he finds in Wyoming, but he has to do some thinking about what he wants from life as well. I don’t read many western-set romances – mostly because there’s a lot about the American West that makes me uncomfortable- but if someone was going to tempt me, of course it would be Beverly Jenkins. She creates such interesting characters and worlds and I love her writing style. This did everything I wanted it to do – The peril with the villain ends up wrapping up a little quickly, but then the romance is what you’re there for so, actually it was fine by me.

My copy of Wild Rain came from the library, but it’s available now on Kindle and Kobo and if you’re in the US it should be able to buy fairly easily in paperback. I suspect in the UK it will be harder but several stores seem to have it available to order – although it’s a bit confusing as Book Depository say they can send it to you now, but Waterstones and Bookshop.org.uk have it as a preorder.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: March 22 – March 28

So this week has mostly been reading library books that we’re coming up for due and reading some physical books because we’re nearly a quarter of the way through the year and I am not a quarter of the way through my best the TBR shelf spread in my journal yet!

Read:

Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins

Crewelwork by Justin Torres

If You Are Lonely and You Know it by Yiyun Li

The Summer House by Cristina Henriquez

Glitterland by Alexis Hall

Happy Singles Day by Anne Marie Walker

The Twenty-Third Man by Gladys Mitchell

Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer

What Abigail Did That Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

Started:

Billion Dollar Loser by Reeves Wiedeman

Still reading:

Women vs Hollywood by Helen O’Hara

The Second Marriage by Gill Paul*

Bonus photo: this week’s book post – the new Duncan MacMaster book from my old friends at Fahrenheit Press.

Copy of Drop the Mikes by Duncan MacMaster

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, new releases, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Act Your Age, Eve Brown

After a slight diversion with Mrs Tim of the Regiment, a return to some familiar themes for my BotW post today: guaranteed resolutions,  romance and an author I’ve recommended before – but for once it’s a new release as this came out on the 9th so I actually read it pretty much on time for once – even if my review is this week. Just quickly, before we talk about the new Talia Hibbert – another of the books I read last week is out today – the new Maisie Dobbs book from Jacqueline Winspear. I’ve written a series I love post about Maisie – but I suspect this one will feature in my end of month mini reviews – I really enjoyed it, but as The Consequences of Fear is the 16th in the series, it’s really hard to talk at length about without giving loads of spoilers for previous books!

Cover of Act Your Age, Eve Brown

Eve Brown’s parents think she’s flighty. To be fair the string of half finished courses and short-lived careers might give that impression – but that’s just because she hasn’t found her passion yet. But when her parents give her an ultimatum after she “ruins” a wedding by releasing some doves too early (to be fair I would probably have liberated them too), she high tails it out of town to prove them wrong. Jacob is looking for a new chef for his B&B, but Eve is definitely not it. But then she accidentally hits hit with her car and he winds up with a broken arm and when he emerges from the fug of his concussion, she’s filing in for him trying to help. He’s a grump, she’s a purple haired Ray of sunshine in a slogan t-shirt. They should be each other’s worst nightmares but the more time they spend together, the more sparks fly.

So this is the third and final book in Talia Hibbert’s series about the Brown sisters and they’ve all been a delight – in fact I recommended the second book, Take a Hint, Dani Brown in June last year when that was a new released. If you’ve read the other two books in the series, you’ve caught glimpses of Eve, but I think whatever the opinions are you’ve formed of her, you’re probably wrong. It was a fascinating surprise getting to know her and watch her journey. And Jacob is a great hero – as the book unfolds you realise that he’s autistic but that’s not the most important thing about him – and nor should it be – but it’s still quite rare to see autistic characters getting their own love stories, so that feels unusual. This is a slow burn, dislike at first sight, enemies to lovers forced proximity romance – all tropes which I love.

The chemistry and banter between Eve and Jacob is great and the sex scenes are really, really steamy – if I had been reading on a train (as I likely would have been in the beforetimes!) I would have been blushing. I also loved the way that you see the two of them working out and navigating their relationship and its parameters. And there is also no stupid drama for the sake of it here. The conflict is well-thought out and really works – and if something could be sorted out with a conversation then it probably will be, which is also a really positive at this point in time. There’s no coronavirus in this books, but it very much is exactly the sort of book I want – no need – to read after a year of Covid-19 life. And on top of that you get some more of Gigi, the girl’s fabulous grandmother and appearances from the other sisters and their partners. Just lovely. I’m looking forward to whatever Hibbert writes next – but I’m really hoping that the next thing is about Jacob’s best friend…

My copy of Act Your Age, Eve Brown came from NetGalley, but it’s out now and should be nice and easy to get hold of in all formats. Words and Kisses – my current favourite purveyor of romance in the UK is out of stock at time of writing, but they’ll get it back – and I suspect this will be in the supermarkets and on the tables in bookshops (when that’s a thing again) and of course it’s on Kindle and Kobo and audio too.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: March 15 – March 21

A very busy week – which involved a really interesting author event on Tuesday for the launch of the new Rivers of London novella. Lots of short stories on this weeks list – but also some cracking new releases too. Lots of stuff which I’m sure you will be hearing more about, because I have a lot of thoughts about things!

Read:

Currency by Emma Cline

Simplexity by Kiley Reid

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear

I Would Be Doing This Anyway by Jia Tolentino

A Letter of Mary by Laurie R King

Fatality in F by Alexia Gordon

Act Your Age Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert*

Final Curtain by Ngaio Marsh

Started:

What Abigail Did That Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

The Twenty-Third Man by Gladys Mitchell

Still reading:

Women vs Hollywood by Helen O’Hara

The Second Marriage by Gill Paul*

Still not really counting, still don’t care – but new arrivals this week included signed copies of What Abigail Did That Summer and Namina Forna’s The Gilded Ones (after that virtual book launch event I mentioned at the top), both of which are really very attractive looking books.

Bonus photo: it’s finally started to feel a bit spring-like this week, so here are some blossoms from my walk around the neighbourhood midweek

blossoms on trees and hedges

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, Forgotten books, women's fiction

Book of the Week: Mrs Tim of the Regiment

We’re midway through March and it’s been a while since I picked something from my list of slightly quirky out of the way authors. So here we are, with Mrs Tim of the Regiment, which firmly fits into the gentle English life subset of my reading.

Paperback copy of Mrs Tim of the Regiment

As the title suggests, Mrs Tim – Hester Christie – is the wife of an army officer, in the 1930s. Told in the form of a diary, we see her navigate regimental life, including moving across the country when Tim gets promoted, and trying to make friends and raise a family. The first half of the book is more about the day to day, the second follows a holiday that Hester takes to Scotland with her young daughter to visit a friend and the complications ensue.

I’ve written a lot about the fact that I’ve been sticking to genres where I know that things will turn out ok in the end, and at first glance this might seem like a bit of a turn away from that, but this is actually very low stakes and relaxing to read. Hester is a wonderful narrator – she’s witty and observant of others, but also a little bit dense when it comes to herself. She is utterly oblivious to the fact that Major Morley is mad about her – and that he and her friend’s son are fighting over her when she’s on holiday in Scotland. This is a tricky tightrope for the author to tread, because Tim isn’t always around much and by its nature, domestic life of a married couple is less glamorous and exciting than holiday-ing in Scotland and dashing around the countryside. But I thought that Hester’s obliviousness – and her devotion to Tim (earlier in the book she worries about what to do if he is sent to India and whether they could afford to send their daughter to boarding school so she can go too because she doesn’t want to be apart from him again) means that this section is amusing and charming rather than feeling like you’re working up to Hester leaving Tim or being left at home unhappy. 

I’ve read D E Stevenson before – she’s the author of the wonderful Miss Buncle’s Book and Anna and her Daughters which I have written about before – and this has a lot of the things I liked about both of those, but also seemed to me to fit in along with books like Diary of a Provincial Lady and Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire books. It’s essentially a slice of life story from the interwar period, in the voice of a smart woman who is running a household (because that’s what you did when you got married in those days). There are three more books in the series, and I suspect I’ll be reading them at some point in the near future.

My copy of Mrs Tim of the Regiment was a birthday present (thanks mum and dad!) and you should be able to get hold of the charming paperback edition I have from any sensible bookshop (like Foyles), but it’s also available on Kindle and Kobo.

Happy Reading!