Another super busy week – I’m beginning to think that’s the only sort of weeks that I have these days. Anyway, some interesting reading, one off the long running list and progress made on some of the others. It’s nearly December too, so as well as the usual end of month posts, I’ve been working on all the Christmas content. My Buy me a book for Christmas post is the first of them, but there is much more to come!
Well, there were a few books bought – because as as I said in Buy Me a Book, I did buy a fair few things while putting it together.
Bonus photo: the houseplantobsession continues – one of my friends brought me some cuttings, which I carefully nurtured on my desk for three days before Icould take them home.Hopefully they survived the journey…
An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley. ** indicates it was an advance copy from a source other than NetGalley.
As long time readers of this blog will probably be aware, one of my non-fiction areas of interest is business scandals or frauds of various kinds. I’ve written about Bad Blood – and the TV series The Dropout based on it – as well as We Work and Empire of Pain. And over the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading about the collapse of the FTX crypto exchange, which is absolutely going to be the next big book and TV series on the subject – not the least of which is because the guy who wrote The Big Short was been embedded there for several months ahead of the collapse (which should probably have been a warning sign.
Anyway, I’m a big podcast listener, and on my way back from Essex in mid-October, there was an episode of Vox’s Today Explained called Nikola (not Tesla) about the conviction for fraud of the founder of an electric truck start up. It was fascinating and the main interviewee mentioned that he had his own podcast coming out about the case – and so off I went. And that’s what today’s Not a Book post is about – the latest series of the Wall Street Journal’s podcast Bad Bets, which is about Trevor Milton and the rise and fall of Nikola.
The basic outline is this: in mid October, a federal jury found 40-year-old Trevor Milton guilty of defrauding investors over statements he made about his company Nikola. Prosecutors said that he had lied about the techical achievements of the company to make it sound like their hydrogen powered lorries (or trucks if you are American) were closer to being production ready than they really were.
In Bad Bets, reporter Ben Foldy takes you through Milton’s life and career and unravels the story behind that conviction. And oh boy is it fascinating. I’m trying not to give too much away about any of it, but this is the intersection of my interest in big buiness failures and stuff about religion in America and particularly the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints aka the Mormons. I’ve posted a fair bit about the latter before – whether it’s books like Educated or series like Murder Among the Mormons and Lularich – and this fits into that oevre quite neatly. If you like any of them or any of the books above (or both) then this might well be the six part series you need to binge while you’re doing whatever it is you do while listening to podcasts.
Hi mum! I know you’re reading this. And that’s the very reason I’ve posted this in November – so you have *plenty* of time to chose what you’d like to get me. You’re welcome and also thank you. Anyway, this is the gift guide for what I’d like to find under the tree – so if you know a reader who likes my sort of books, hopfeully this will help you with them too. It’s a little bit longer on the nonfiction options – but that’s because the fiction side of things tends to go on offer more than the other – or at least in the bits of history and similar that I read!
I’ve written about novels set around Truman Capote a few times and there are a couple of non fiction books about his set that I have my eye on – Capote’s Women by Laurence Leamer about Capote and his Swans or Deliberate Cruelty by Roseanne Montillo about the Capote’s inclusion of Anne Woodward’s marriage to Billy Woodward – and his death when she accidentally shot him – in his fiction.
I also have a regular thing for Hollywood History and Shawn Levy (who wrote Castle on Sunset that I read last year) has a new book out – In On The Joke, about the early female pioneers in standup comedy. In non Hollywood history, there is Noble Ambitions by Adrian Tinniswood, about British country houses after the Second World War. And I keep thinking about buying Nazi Billionaires by David de Jong – which I think might fit into my historical interests, but also could be way too dark.
I do love a non fiction book about something you’ve never really considered before and The Address book by Deirdre Mask – about what you can learn from street addresses and how street names came about really interested me when I saw it recommended a few weeks back. Also in this niche would be Butts – A Backstory by Heather Radke.
I have a lot of cookery books already, but one of my favourite of the lesser spotted TV chefs has his first cookbook out this year: I’ve loved Jeremy Lee since I first saw him on the Great British Menu in one of the very early – if not the first – series. I’ve had a peek at the book in several bookshops and it looks like a delight to read.
I’ve already treated myself to one of the celebrity books I was looking forward to this autumn when I bought the Richard E Grant, but the other one is the Alan Rickman Diaries – even if I’m very conflicted about whether he would have wanted them published.
I rarely buy myself hardback fiction, but for the Christmas list, here are a few I wouldn’t mind not having to wait for the paperback of: Vacationland by Meg Mitchell More – about a summer at a family’s summer home in Maine which I’m hoping will scratch my Rich People Problems itch. Or maybe Let’s Not Do That Again by Grant Ginder about a woman running for senate but struggling with her grown up children.
I’ve read a lot of Lauren Willig and Beatriz Williams solo novels – but not as many of their collaborations along with Karen White. But the Lost Summers of Newport – a time slip novel about a historic house on Rhode Island – sounds right up my street. There is also a Williams novels I wouldn’t mind finding in my stocking like The Golden Hour – about a woman who gets sucked into the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s circle in Nassau – as well as Willig’s Band of Sisters.
I wrote a whole post about Adventure Capers recently, so a historical heist novel is right up my street – so how about The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope, which is set in a magical version of 1925 Washington DC where the heroine needs to steal a magical ring from a powerful woman to escape a curse. I’ve also been eyeing up Kosoko Jackson’s I’m So (Not) Over You – a second chance fake relationship romance that I keep seeing every time I go into Charing Cross Road Foyles. And of course I still haven’t read TJ Klune’sUnder The Whispering Door or
Lastly, a couple of wildcards. As this mentions grief in some of the blurbs, it may turn it to be too much for me, but On The Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton also jumped out at me when i saw it reviewed the other weeks. It’s about three women who form a girl group and their careers. Also in the night turn out to be too miserable but I’m very tempted list is The Circus Train by Amita Parikh, which is set in 1938 and follows a circus that travels around Europe by train.
Amusingly, this post took me a lot longer to write than I intended as several of the books that I was going to mention were on offer on Kindle while I was putting this together, so I just bought them! And mum – if you’re still reading pick something you would like to borrow after I’ve read it, and let me know if you want any of these for your Christmas book!
As I mentioned in the Kindle deals post – the series is on offer at the moment – and it turns out it’s because the new one is out on the 29th, so this Friday I’m taking the opportunity to remind you about the series as well as give you a quick review of the new one – as far as I’m able without spoilers!
You can get the full lowdown in my series post here from June, but the quick set up is that these are late Edwardian/early 1910s murder mystery novels featuring an eccentric widow (but not as old as you think when you see widow!) with a mysterious past and her maid who start solving mysteries after they move to the countryside and stumble upon a body. As the series goes on, extra strands get added and the core group of character widens, but they’re basically pre-World War One historical cozy crime stories.
In the new book, number nine in the series, we’ve reached 1911 and our intrepid duo are at the theatre celebrating Lady Hardcastle’s birthday when murder victim is discovered on stage at the start of the second half. Of course they’re soon investigating and trying to discover what’s going on behind the scenes of the theatre company that could have led to murder. I read it across about 24 hours and really enjoyed it – it was just the break from the day to day that I needed this week. I don’t think you need to have read the rest of the series to enjoy it, although if you have it will obviously work better for you. And as the rest of the series is on Kindle Unlimited at the moment, you can try the series in the next few days ahead of this coming out if you want to.
I got my copy from NetGalley – hence why I’m able to review it a few days before publication – but it looks like it’s going into KU when it comes out as well, so it may just be on Kindle to start with at least. And I’m never sure where this series lands in ease of getting hold of hard copy terms – there is a paperback listed of this new one, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of them in the flesh. I will try and remember to check Foyles next time I’m in there though! And if you want more books set in theatres, I have a whole post of those for you too!
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you reading this who celebrate the occasion. Over here, I’m waiting for the avalanche of special offer deals to hit my inbox and wondering if I’ll be able to figure out which ones are genuine deals, and which ones are… not. Anyway, it’s all got me to thinking about Thanksgiving four years ago – which would also have been my Grandpa’s 95 birthday – when I was in the US with work and spent Thanksgiving wandering around the Air and Space Museum’s Annexe in Virginia. A truly excellent day and one I know Gramps would have really, really enjoyed. He would have been 99 earlier this week, and we’ve already started thinking about what we might do to mark his 100th next year. Have a wonderful day everyone – where ever you are – and I hope you have some time with your families coming soon.
I have far too many chins in all the photos of me from my day out, and I’m not going to spend hours airbrushing me into something I like more, so here’s the space shuttle. It was astonishing to see it in the flesh.
Til Death Do Us Part was a BotW back in late September and it got me thinking about other locked room mysteries, so if you liked that, here is a selection of other similar mysteries for you to read after that. And yes, I’m being a bit cheaty because some of these have been Books of the Week – but over a year ago, so I’m claiming statue of limitations.
Seven Dead by J Jefferson Farjeon
An amateur thief on his first job stumbles on seven bodies in a locked room while robbing an isolated house by the sea. This is a clever locked room mystery that then evolves into a mad chase. I really enjoyed it and hadn’t worked out the solution until very late on, but the ending is rather far fetched – but there’s quite a lot of that about in books from this era!
The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen Wilkinson
Yes, this has been a BotW before but it’s nearly three years ago so I’m going to mention it again now, because I did read it in basically one sitting, and the setting in the Palace of Westminster makes it something a bit different even if it is quite traditional in other ways – amateur detective, friendly police officer, handy tame reporter etc. And Wilkinson knew what she was talking about when it came to the Parliamentary estate – she was an MP from the 1920s until her death in 1947 and served in Winston Churchill’s wartime cabinet.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Ok so it’s a locked compartment in train carriage, but it still counts and this is the granddaddy of the genre in many ways. I’ve read it, listened to the audiobook and watched the Albert Finney film so many times now I don’t think I’m even capable of writing about it rationally, but it’s a classic of the genre for a reason, and if you haven’t read it you should.
And that’s your lot for today – Happy Wednesday everyone.
A bit of a different direction for this week’s pick. In fact I had plenty of options to chose from, so as there aren’t a lot of Terry Pratchett things I haven’t already read and even less of them in the Discworld, I’ve taken a rare opportunity.
This is a graphic novel about Cohen the Barbarian’s final quest – and the efforts of the wizards of Ankh Morpork to stop him before it leads to the end of the world. Cohen first appeared in The Light Fantastic and is leader of the Silver Hoarde – a band of elderly barbarian heroes. At the start of the Last Hero, Cohen and his friends are fed up of the infirmities that come with their advancing age so decide to climb to the top of the highest mountain on the Discworld and meet the gods that live there. Of course this isn’t all they want to do when they get there and therein lies the problem.
This isn’t long, but it is a lot of fun – partly because story features so many the side-ish regular characters that it’s always a delight to see again. It’s hard to say too much without giving the plot away, but obviously there is Vetinari, and also some of the key figures from the Unseen University, including Rincewind. And of course it is beautifully illustrated. I do love Paul Kidby’s Discworld art – I mean I have a print of his Errol the Dragon artwork on my wall at home – and there are some lovely extra touches here as well as the illustrations that tell the story. Basically it’s a lovely way to spend some time.
I bought my copy in paperback form, because that’s how I like to read stuff with illustrations, but it is available on Kindle and Kobo, although your experience with that may depend on what sort of reader you have to read it on.
Well that was an interesting week. Another few nights away from home off the back of my weekend at the skating and an evening at the theatre on top of all the usual stuff and the bits I already mentioned. Oh and the Cowboys won on Sunday. And as I think you can probably tell from the list, a good week in reading even if, once again, I failed to reduce the length of the still reading list. This week. I will do better this week.
Oh yes. The sequel has just dropped on Disney plus so how could I resist talking about another Disney movie – and another opportunity for me to tell you how much I love a movie musical. Also this is a mad displacement exercise because this weekend is the start of a World Cup that I feel deeply conflicted about as well as the fact that this is Not The Right Time Of Year for a major football tournament and it is also the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix aka the last race of the F1 season, aka the first anniversary of the most controversial F1 race of all time and I really can’t deal with the stress of it all and also the fact that as the MotoGP season has already finished we’re about to enter the period of the year where there is no motorsport for me to watch. Anyway… Lets start with the original trailer for those of you who haven’t seen it…
Yes, Enchanted is a Disney princess movie and a very meta one. Unlike Mary Poppins or Bedknobs and Broomsticks where you start in the real world and have an interlude in animation, this one has the animated people visiting the real world and I love it so much. It subverts some of the princess tropes, reimagines others and it works for kids and adults. It’s also funny, the songs are great and the big production numbers are fabulous.
And that’s all before you get to the fact that that the cast is amazing. If you only know Amy Adams from her Oscar nominated stuff, it might be a shock to you, but this was her first big success as as leading lady. She had already got her Oscar nomination for Junebug at this point and my memory says that even then this seemed like a risky move. But she’s amazing in this – playing wide eye naiveite brilliantly without making you want to punch her for being so sunny and optimistic and irritating. Patrick Dempsey was pretty much at the peak of his McDreamy Greys Anatomy fame when he was cast as the real world leading man and he’s brilliant, as is James Marsden – who came off the back of playing Cyclops in three X Men films, to do two movie musials in 2007 – he’s also in Hairspray (which I also love). And of course before she was the voice of Elsa in Frozen, Idina Menzel was in this too. I’m a big West End/Broadway musical person (have I told you all that before?) and by the time this came out, Menzel was already a Big Deal on Broadway but hadn’t done a lot on screen so this felt like a big moment for her – especially because she didn’t sing in it. She was the original Maureen in Rent (she’s in the film of that too, but I can’t really recommend it unless you’re a mega Rent fan) and then originated Elphaba in Wicked, which she won a Tony for. I saw her play Elphie when she opened the West End production in 2006 and can confirm that it was epic.
If I haven’t convinced you to watch it yet, then I don’t know what will. I love the original so much, I hardly dare google the reviews, but I probably will to see if it’s going to be worth watching or if it’ll spoil my memories of the original. But all four of the two original couples are back and the trailer looks promising – even if the fact that it’s going straight to Disney + is a concern – although of course post covid, that doesn’t mean the same thing as it used to.
We’re getting to a point now where there aren’t a lot of nice neat and tidy shelves for me to show you before we get to what I think of as the Chaos Shelves. But then as I’ve been promising all year that I’m planning to reorganise some of the shelves and show you the results, then at least you’ll have seen the before and after when it happens. Anyway, I don’t imagine that this shelf will change much in any reorganisation. This is the bookshelf in the back spare bedroom. This has mostly been my office over the last nearly two years, but it’s also where any young people who might stay with us would sleep, so it made sense to use the shelves in there (left by the previous owners, who used it as their kids bedroom) for books suitable for any young people who might stay, and it also tends to be where the graphic novel end of my book collection ends up. And there are quite a few familiar books on here – recent BotW Piglettes, Bloodlust and Bonnet and The Unforgettable Guinevere St Clair and less recent BotWs The Good Thieves, Carry On and Pumpkinheads. There’s also various series that have come up at various points – like the Wells and Wong books that I own in paperback, the Lumberjanes and Fence graphic novels and the Tiffany Aching novels from the Discworld series. It’s starting to look a little full, but I’m not sure there’s anything here that I’m prepared to get rid of, so when it gets full it’s likely to be a case of moving stuff to other places rather than a rationalisation situation…