Book of the Week, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Jim Henson

So many good books on holiday last week. And if all goes to plan, you’re going to be hearing a about a lot of them. Just as soon as I have time to read a few more books and write the posts. But I’ve got it all planned out in my head. Trust me. Ahem.  Anyway, this week’s pick is Jim Henson: The Biography, Brian Jay Jones’s look at the life of the innovative puppeteer, animator and filmmaker.

Cover of Jim Henson: The Biography

If you don’t know who Jim Henson is, I think you must have been living under a rock, or just not paying attention. Henson was the creator of the Muppets and the puppet characters on Sesame Street. Exactly. I think everyone has grown up with Bert and Ernie, Elmo, Big Bird and of course Kermit and Miss Piggy. This is a big, in-depth look at the man behind the puppets and what drove him.

Going in to reading this, I knew about the Muppets, and I knew he died in the early 90s – there’s a dedication to him at the end of the Muppet Christmas Carol, which is of course one of the all-time great children’s Christmas films – but that was about it. It turns out that he (and his creations) were a TV sensation in his local area before he was out of his teens, he was hugely affected by the early death of his younger brother which lead to a breakneck work ethic, but who also was devoted to being a good dad to his five kids. It’s really a remarkable life.

This book came out in 2013* and Brian Jay Jones had the cooperation of the Henson family, access to all the archives and interviewed all the key players. It was the first full length biography of Henson and Frank Oz (aka Miss Piggy aka Yoda) said that it captured Henson’s genius and his flaws. And I found that very true – it’s not a hagiography. You get a real sense of the amazing mind and vision that Henson had, but also that he must have been a difficult man to live with at times – and definitely a difficult person to manage!

It’s a fascinating read not just because it’s about a great subject but because it’s really well written. Jones has since written biographies of George Lucas and Dr Seuss and even though I’m not hugely interested in either of those men, I enjoyed this so much I would probably still borrow them from the library or buy them in a kindle daily deal just because this was so well researched, thoughtful and readable.

My copy of Jim Henson came from the library but it’s available on Kindle, Kobo and Audible and in paperback and hardback – although mostly via secondhand sellers and coming in from the US.

Happy Reading!

*and I’ve had it on my to-read list since seeing Brian Jay Jones interviewed on the Daily Show soon after it came out, which tells you a lot about how long it’s taken me to get around to getting hold of a copy – thank you library!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: September 16 – September 22

I am back in the UK after a very relaxing week’s holiday in Greece – and the book list is accordingly longer than usual – and it would have been even longer except that I’ve been in a nonfiction mood and those books are looooooong.  And yes, there’s a bunch of stuff started as well because holiday moods are like that! Some really good reads in there – and I’m back, refreshed and with lots of ideas for new posts – so watch out!

Read:

This Town by Mark Liebovich

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

The Queen Con by Meghan Scott Molin

City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn

A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Trumbo by Bruce Cook

Kiss and Cry by Mina V Esguerra

Jim Henson by Brian Jay Jones

Magnolia Buildings by Elizabeth Stuckey

Rose Petal Summer by Katie Fforde

Started

American Royals by Katherine McGee

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

Who Is Vera Kelly by Rosalie Knecht

Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood

Agatha Oddly by Lena Jones

Still reading:

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Chanel’s Riviera by Anne De Courcy

Bonus photo: a picture of the very blue sea and sky from the top of the Acopolis at Lindos last week.

Sea, rocks, blue sky - the Greek coast at Lindos

 

American imports, Book of the Week

Book of the Week: You Think It, I’ll Say It

This is going to be late and short. I’m sorry. I’m also sorry for the lack of witty commentary on yesterday’s Week in Books [ed: the commentary is meant to be witty? Try harder], any how, to business.

I’ve written about Curtis Sittenfeld before – I spent a lot of time telling people how good Eligible was back when that first came out. I’ve read most of her books now, and I had the paperback of this on a preorder than Amazon mysteriously cancelled. So I was very happy when my library hold on this came through for me. You Think It, I’ll Say It is a collection of short stories which feels very applicable to modern day life. There’s the former shy girl who gets to meet her high school nemesis years later and see how it all turned out. A woman flirting with adultery with a man in her social circle. It’s tough to pick a favourite, but having spent a lot of time reading blogs, dissecting blogs and watching the rise of influence culture, the woman who takes an unhealthy interest in the career of an Instagram influence-cum-lifestyle guru she once knew might be mine.

Sittenfeld’s writing is sharp and has got the balance right (for me at least) in these stories of enough happening to make things interesting, but not so much that you don’t get to know the characters well enough to care about how it all turns out. I don’t read a lot of short story collections, but this is a very good one. And – as much as you can tell on a kindle – they are all short stories, this is not a few stories plus a novella situation. If you liked Helen Ellis’s American Housewife, this did some of the same stuff for me, but without the horror or supernatural elements. If you haven’t read Sittenfeld before, I might still start you with Eligible, but that’s because it’s tough to top a retelling of Pride and Prejudice where Kitty and Lydia are cross-fit fiends, Mrs Bennet is a kleptomaniac and Jane is the sort of yoga instructor who would spent all her spare cash on crystals from Goop. It’s a high bar.

You should be able to get hold of a copy of You Think It, I’ll Say It from a good bookstore – Amazon even have a paperback now, despite my struggles with them!

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: September 9 – September 15

 

Read:

How to Have Meaningful Conversations by Sarah Rozenthuler

A Question of Death by Kerry Greenwood

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr

Out of Africa by Isak Dineson

The Silver Gun by LA Chandler

Shadows on the Grass by Isak Dineson

Started

Rose Petal Summer by Katie Fforde

This Town by Mark Liebovich

Still reading:

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

The Queen Con by Meghan Scott Molin

City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn

Chanel’s Riviera by Anne De Courcy

Magnolia Buildings by Elizabeth Stuckey

Two books bought: one for me, one for Him Indoor for holidays so that doesn’t really count right?!

Bonus picture: a mews in London, backing on to Maisie Dobbs’ square

Bonus, bonus picture: the paperback edition of Franny Langton, still one of my favourite new books is the year- and thank you Penguin for a paperback copy too. All I need to do now is figure out what to do with it… answers on a postcard (or in the comments…) also, don’t my Shirley Flight books look super cool?!

Book of the Week, detective, Uncategorized

Book of the Week: A Case of Murder in Mayfair

Just a short BotW this week, because as I said yesterday it’s been A Week. And I don’t see this one being any less busy. Anyway, this second Freddy Pilkington-Soames mystery was what I needed on the late nights trains last week.

Cover of A Case of Murder in Mayfair

I read the first in this series back in February last year . And I said then in my review on Goodreads that the premise was basically a slightly less stupid Bertie Wooster accidentally solves crimes and I stand by that assessment. Freddy is a somewhat hapless reporter for a London newspaper, where he got the job because of his mum’s connections. In the first book he’s trying to solve the murder because he stumbled upon the corpse and is keen not to be the prime suspect. In this he’s off duty at a party with a friend when the actress-hostess falls to her death from the balcony of her hotel room. But was it an accident or was she pushed? And then there’s the small matter of a rival reporter snooping around while investigating the cocaine trade in London.

This mixes elements from not just PG Wodehouse, but also a bit of Death Bredon from Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise and a touch of nosy Nigel Bathgate from Inspector Alleyn. And it all works out rather nicely. There are not a lot of surprises here and it’s not doing anything groundbreaking or original but you’ll enjoy it while you’re reading it – just like you do with a contemporary-set cozy crime novel. I could nitpick but that would be mean and this series (or what I’ve read of it) is not mean.

You can get A Case of Murder in Mayfair on Kindle – where it’s currently 99p – and Kobo or in paperback where it’s not 99p! Or you can start at the beginning of the series and read A Case of Blackmail in Belgravia – which is free on Kindle as I write this.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: September 2 – September 8

So it’s been a bit of a week.  In case you missed it, British politics has been crazy busy and that means that my working life has been too.  So busy in fact that one night last week I didn’t even make it home from work.  And this week may well be similarly busy.  Wish me luck.  So the reading list is somewhat short and sweet this week – my brain has been fried and having trouble settling on anything.

Read:

The Girls by Emma Cline

A Case of Murder in Mayfair by Clara Benson

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Asterix and the Roman Agent by Goscinny and Uderzo

Asterix and the Great Crossing by Goscinny and Uderzo

Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kroeger and Melanie R Anderson

Started:

Chanel’s Riviera by Anne De Courcy

How to Have Meaningful Conversations by Sarah Rozenthuler

Magnolia Buildings by Elizabeth Stuckey

Still reading:

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr

The Queen Con by Meghan Scott Molin

City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn

Out of Africa by Isak Dineson

And there was a fair bit of book purchasing that went on too – not only two new release hardbacks during the week but also a bit of a second hand spree on Sunday at Cannons Ashby’s secondhand bookshop. Thank you National Trust!

Bonus photo: a bit of historic home library porn from the aforementioned Cannons Ashby. The gardening stuff is in the cupboards because the owner of the time it’s set up as was a keen gardener and that’s where he kept it!

library shelves full of books with an open cupboard filled with gardening tools.

Book of the Week

Book of the Week: Meddling and Murder

I really enjoyed a couple of books last week and had but of a debate with myself about what to pick. Alisha Rai’s The Right Swipe is new out and very good – and other book which looks at American Football and head trauma – but it’s only a few months since I picked a novel from her. It’s also not long since I picked Anne Helen Petersen, but Scandals of Hollywood was also very good. I have picked Ovidia Yu and the aunty Lee series before, but it was a year ago, it’s been a while since I picked a mystery and this is really very good.

Cover of Meddling and Murder

To catch you up on the series set up: Rosie Lee is the widow of an rich older husband. She’s getting on a bit herself now but she isn’t planning on slowing down. She fills her day cooking Perenaken food in her restaurant in a not as posh as her daughter in law would like area, and keeping up with the gossip and scandal in her community. And she also seems to find crimes and mysteries to solve. This is the fourth book in the series and she’s also started to build a friendly relationship with one of the local policemen, although she’s not above using her late husbands contacts to get her way.

In Meddling and Murder, one of her school friends has died leaving a handsome, younger Chinese husband and a sister who are setting up a nursery school in the house they have inherited. Their maid has gone missing and they ask to borrow Aunty Lee’s beloved Nina, who has some issues of her own going on that means that Aunty Lee thinks some time away might be a good idea. But as time goes on Aunty Lee grows more and more worried about what exactly happened to Beth Kwan’s maid and what Jonny Ho is really up to.

You’re pretty much guaranteed to come away from this feeling hungry – even if, like me you don’t know anything about Singaporean food! This has a lot of the features of a cozy crime – food, amateur sleuth – but a really different setting that makes it feel fresh and different. That’s true of both of the other books in the series that I’ve read so far, but this also has a slightly darker underside (which I like) subtly looking at some social issues – like the treatment of foreign domestic workers and of how unscrupulous people can try to badger/confuse/inveigle old people into giving their money away. But it’s all done so matter of factly and in passing that you do a double take – and it also doesn’t feel at all preachy or crusadey.

As previously mentioned, this isn’t the first in ther series, but I don’t think you need to read these in order necessarily, so feel free to dive in. These can sometimes be a little expensive to get hold of in the UK, but it’s on a deal on ebook at the moment. Meddling and Murder is available on Kindle and Kobo – it’s £1.49 on both at time of writing – and as a paperback – although that may be harder to find.

Happy Reading!