Book of the Week

Book of the Week: Next Year in Havana

It’s definitely starting to feel distinctly wintery here, and I’m being drawn to books about sunnier climes to counter act the gloom of the days shortening and the lack of sunlight.  So this week’s BotW pick is one that took me away from the damp of a British late-autumn and to the warmth of Cuba – but don’t worry, this isn’t a sunny beach read.

Cover of Next Year in Havana

Marisol Ferrera is on her way to Cuba for the first time.  She’s grown up on stories of the land her grandmother was forced to flee. Now with the easing of travel restrictions for Americans, she’s on her way to the country she’s heard so much about ostensibly to write an article for tourists, but with her grandmother’s ashes hidden in her luggage to fulfil her dying wish to return home.  But Cuba has changed a lot in the 60 years that have passed, and there are family secrets waiting to be uncovered. Back in 1958 Elisa Perez was a debutante, the daughter of a sugar baron and sheltered from the unrest sweeping the nation.  But that all changes when she starts an affair with a revolutionary who is fighting alongside Fidel Castro.

I liked both women and I was swept away by Cuba – in both time lines.  I do love a bit of last-days-before-it-all-comes-crashing-down society sometimes – all that doomed glamour and obliviousness; but actually modern day Cuba was just as intriguing – a country held in stasis, where you had to know the right people and say the right things to get on or else survive by your own ingenuity and cunning.  Which ever way there’s a lot of personal risk involved.  I will admit that I was a little worried that there was no way for there to be a satisfactory resolution to Marisol’s story, but actually it really pulled it off. I finished the book really wanting to visit to Cuba – but even more conflicted about doing that than I had been previously.

We all know that I love a dual timeline novel and I’ve had a fancy to read this since I first first heard about it, which I think (like it often is) was when Chanel Cleeton was a guest on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books podcast back on episode 284 in early 2018.  And yes, it’s taken me this long to get around to getting hold of a copy and reading it.  In between it’s become a Reese Witherspoon book club pick and was a Goodreads choice award nominee for historical fiction last year. And actually it pretty much lived up to the hype, which isn’t always the case with books like this and as my Goodreads reviews will attest.  It was a period of history I don’t really know a huge amount about – beyond having studies the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis during GSCE history and it was nice to be swept up into a different era and a different culture – I’ve read a lot of European-set dual timeline novels (particularly recently) and it’s not often that I venture as close to the present day as the 1950s for novels like this so it was a refreshing change all around.

My copy of Next Year in Havana came from the library, but you can get hold of a copy on Kindle, Kobo or in paperback from somewhere like Book Depository.  I’m not sure how easy it will be to find in stores, Amazon say they can despatch it really quickly but Foyles say they can order it but it will take about a week, which makes me wonder if it’s an American import.  I’ve already got Cleeton’s next novel on hold at the library.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: October 7 -October 13

A real mix of reading this week – with everything from graphic novels aimed at middle graders to prize winning translated fiction with romance and Hollywood history in between.

Read:

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

The Castle on Sunset by Shaun Levy

Lumberjanes Vol 10 by Shannon Waters et al

Backstagers Vol 1 by James Tynion IV et al

The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer

The Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

Started:

The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams

Still reading:

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

Four books bought, no ebooks.  And one of the books was a book that had been recommended to me earlier in the week and that I then spotted in the charity shop serendipitously, so I can hardly be blamed for that right?

Bonus photo: my first attempt at flower arranging. I need help. Is there a book for that?

badly arranged flowers in a vase...

 

American imports, Book of the Week, memoirs, non-fiction, Uncategorized

Book of the Week: Southern Lady Code

I had a really lovely week of reading again last week. And there were difficult choices for book of the week this week, but actually I haven’t picked a book of essays in a while and this one was just delicious.

Cover of Southern Lady Code

I wrote about American Housewife back in 2016 and I’ve been waiting for more from her ever since.  American Housewife was a short story collection though, and this a bit different. Across more than twenty essays, Ellis examines what it means to her to be a Southern Lady – and in particular what it’s like to be a Southern Lady living in Manhattan.  Her mantra is “If you don’t have something nice to say, say something not-so-nice in a nice way” and there are a lot of laughs to be had because of this, but there are also ghosts, retro buffets, cleaning as a method of keeping the spark in a marriage and how to shop for a formal event.  It’s funny, clever and true – or at least mostly true. Probably.  But basically Helen Ellis makes me laugh.  I’m not a Southern lady, and I’m a bit younger than Ellis, but there was so much here that amused me and spoke to me.

If you like wry sideways takes on American life, this would make a great addition to your autumn reading list. It was definitely worth waiting two months in the hold queue for it.

As you might guess from that, my copy of Southern Lady Code came from the library, but I’ll be buying myself a copy when it’s out in paperback here. It’s available in hardback, kindle and kobo.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: September 30 – October 6

I’m really trying hard to ration myself and read Wayward Son nice and slowly.  Really slowly.  Make it last.  This was derailed this week by the arrival of my signed, special edition hardback, which has caused me no end of problems and worries – because I ordered it so long ago it was going to the old house, and Waterstones don’t let you change delivery addresses.  Nightmare.  Luckily our old house and our new one are so close together that we have the same postman and he is a Good Guy.  Phew.

Read:

The Allingham Minibus by Margery Allingham

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis

Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood

Asterix in Britain by Goscinny and Uderzo

Asterix and Caesar’s Gift by Goscinny and Uderzo

Lumberjanes Vol 9: On A Roll by Shannon Waters et al

Who Is Vera Kelly by Rosalie Knecht

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

Started:

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer

Still reading:

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

Bonus photo: my lovely copy of Wayward Son.  Isn’t it pretty…

collage of pictures of signed hardcover Wayward Son - with flowery edges, flowery cover under the dustjacket and lovely endbards

 

books, stats

September Stats

New books read this month: 33*

Books from the to-read pile: 7

Ebooks read: 8

NetGalley books read: 3

Library books: 12 (all ebooks)

Non-fiction books: 12

Most read author: Weird one this month because technically Isak Dineson (two quite short books) or Gosciny and Uderzo (two Asterix cartoons) but actually probably Brian Jay Jones because his Jim Henson biography is the longest book I’ve read this year (600+ pages)

Books read in 2019: 300

Books bought: 1 ebook,  5 books.  I blame the airport

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf: 531(I don’t have copies of all of these!)

A solid month of reading, really helped by having a week’s holiday in there.  This is probably the most non-fiction I’ve ever read in a month and it’s been really good – although I could have done without all my library holds coming in at once so I could space them out more.

Bonus picture: more Rhodes!

A view of the sea from high on a mountain on Rhodes

Bonus bonus picture: possibly the last Pimms of the summer on the South Bank ahead of a concert.

 

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels (2 this month)

 

American imports, Book of the Week, Young Adult

Book of the Week: Autoboyography

So, a mixed week of reading last week. Some stuff you’ll be hearing more of. Some you… won’t. But I did finally find my copy of Autoboyography, which had been MIA since the house move back at the end of July, and managed to get time to sit down and read it and i enjoyed it so much that it’s this week’s BotW.

Paperback copy of Autoboyography

Tanner Scott’s life was different when he lived in California. At his school there it was ok there to be bisexual and he was out and proud. But when he moved to Provo, Utah, drinking caffeine became controversial, let alone liking boys, so he’s temporarily back in the closet in his overwhelmingly Mormon new community. With one semester left of high school he signs up for The Seminar, an honor roll only class where the students aim to write a book in four months. How complicated can it be? It turns out, very because the first thing he notices in class is Sebastian Brother, bishop’s son and star student from the previous year’s Seminar: a prodigy with a book deal. Sebastian ends up as his critique partner – but what will happen when he finds out that Tanner’s novel is about falling in love with Sebastian?

This is a YA love story and journey of self discovery, you fall in love with both Tanner and Sebastian but there are very real reasons why their story may not get a happy ending and there is a lot at risk here. I’m not sure I got everything I wanted from the ending – but I always want more After, I want more reassurance that everything is going to be Alright – and I accept that you don’t always get that in YA, because it is unrealistic in stories about teenagers!

This got nominated for a whole bunch of awards when it came out back in 2017 and I can totally see why. Sebastian’s world view is so different from Tanner’s, but it’s so sensitively handled and you really believe in them. Regular readers may know that I have a semi fascination with Religion In America and this did a really good job of scratching that itch for me.

Christina Lauren is a writing duo better know for writing contemporary romance. I met them both back in February last year at Sarah MacLean’s London tea party* where they were charming and signed a copy of Dating You, Hating You for me and were very charming. In the afterword they say that this book was informed by their experience including Christina’s work as a guidance counsellor at schools in Utah, which adds an extra level to Sebastian once you know.

There is drama here and angst, but it worked out at pretty much the perfect level for me. I think I may actually have liked it more than Christina Lauren’s romance writing, where I can sometimes find the heroes a little obnoxious and don’t always like the humour.

My copy of Autoboyography came from the really lovely YA department in Foyles, but it’s also available from most online bookstores and in Kindle, Kobo and as an audiobook.

Happy Reading!

* Bonus photo of Sarah MacLean, Christina Hobbs, Lauren Billings and Tessa Dare (and the buffet!) at the tea party.

Sarah MacLean, Christina Lauren and Tessa Dare

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: September 23 – September 29

Back to work after the holiday – and a couple of nights away from home and working the weekend meant it was a very busy week.

Read:

Agatha Oddly by Lena Jones

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

Chanel’s Riviera by Anne De Courcy

American Royals by Katherine McGee

When Paris Sizzled by Mary McAuliffe

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Started:

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Still reading:

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

Who Is Vera Kelly by Rosalie Knecht

Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood

No books bought – mostly because I didn’t have any free time on my nights away to wander through Foyles. That may not be the case this week though…

Bonus photo: best post of the week – an advance copy of the new Trisha Ashley Christmas novel and some goodies.  The goodies are to make a bauble to hang on your tree – that’s a bag of fake snow, not as one of my friends suggested, half a kilo of cocaine…

Box with a book and goodies to make a christmas bauble