Book of the Week, non-fiction

Book of the Week: The Great Successor

So I did manage to do some reading last week in between packing boxes, moving boxes and unpacking boxes, and in between all the comfort reading to try and calm me down, I finished this fascinating non-fiction read.  But as it’s still all go here, please forgive me if this post is a little shorter than usual!

Cover of The Great Successor

Anna Fifield is currently the Beijing bureau chief for the Washington Post, but her previous beat was the Koreas and Japan.  She’s also worked for the Financial Times in Seoul.  The Great Successor is her look at Kim Jong Un – his childhood, his rise to power and what he’s done since he became ruler of North Korea.  She’s knowledgable and her sources are people with real experience of the regime.  But it’s also incredibly readable – if a little bit terrifying.

Along with pretty much every journalist on the planet, I’ve done a lot of watching of North Korea – particularly since Donald Trump came to power.  And this is the best insight I’ve yet found into what might be going through the mind of Kim Jong Un – who is pretty much the same age as me and who might have the power to change the world as we know it if he so chooses.   Try not to panic.  This is definitely worth trying to get your hands on if you’re interested in international affairs – and if you’ve read some of the books looking at the inside of the Trump White House, this would make an interesting addition to your to-read pile.  Equally, this isn’t the first book about the Korean Peninsular that I’ve read – and it would make a great trio with The Birth of South Korean Cool and A Kim Jong Un Production.

British cover of The Greaet Successor

My copy of The Great Successor came from the Library, but I think it should be available fairly easily – it’s certainly out in Kindle and Kobo and the hardback is out now and available from Book Depository – all though you’ll note the difference in subtitles between the US and British editions!

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: July 22 – July 28

So we moved house.  I’m exhausted and still surrounded by boxes, despite my best efforts.  And this week I’m away three nights for work, so it’s only going to get worse right?  Anyway, the house got packed up on Tuesday, so most of this weeks reading were ebooks – because the actual books were Unavailable!

Read:

Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy

T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton

U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton

The Great Successor by Anna Fifield

A Kiss in the Snow by Susan Mallery

Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Started:

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Muraka

Say No to the Duke by Eloisa James

Still reading:

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

The Girls by Emma Cline

No books bought.  Hurrah.

Bonus photo: the bookshelves in the process of being reassembled.  NB: The car magazines belong to Him Indoors.

Bookshelves part filled

The pile

Moving House

So what I haven’t been talking about on the blog is that alongside all the work and the reading, we’ve also been in the process of buying a new house and selling our current one. It’s all been a bit stressful and not just because I’ve been trying to rationalise the books that are going with me. I can see the most stressful weeks in my reading – lots of romances and mysteries where a resolution is guaranteed and I don’t have to concentrate too hard.

By the time this publishes, we will have the keys to the new place and will be in the midst of trying to unpack the multitude of boxes and reassemble everything.  In the run up to the move I’ve done another rationalisation of the to-read bookshelf – that’s what the 50 pages and out rounds were about – and so my local charity shops have been the beneficiaries of a good stack of books.

And what have I learned through this?  Well firstly I need to think hard about saving books by my favourite authors.  Because my tastes change – and saving books doesn’t always work out for me.  A few of the books that got the boot were books by authors who I have previously loved and that now just didn’t grab me.  Some of them had been sitting on the shelves for a while, waiting for me to decide that I needed to treat myself to a good book.  If I’d read them at the time, I might have enjoyed them and now… not so much.

And I need to be better at knowing what I’m going to read.  There was a lot of literary fiction on that shelf that I’d picked up from the magic shelf at work because it sounded appealing – but that I’d never read because there was always something more amusing – or at the least lighter – to read. and so they just sit their on the shelves waiting for me to get around to it.  And it seems that that day probably isn’t going to happen – I’m going to continue to acquire more books – and books that I’d rather read ahead of the worthy literary fiction.  Why kid myself.

The good thing is that the new house has more space for bookshelves – but it’s also a chance for new resolutions – to be realistic about what I’m going to read and try not to hoard accordingly.  Wish me luck!

Book of the Week

Book of the Week: The Money in the Morgue

This week’s pick is the Inspector Alleyn continuation that I mentioned in my Alleyn series post. It’s a bit a of cheat because I finished it on Monday, but it was my favourite of the books I read last week that I hadn’t already written about!

Cover of the Money in the Morgue

World War Two is raging in Europe and Roderick Alleyn is in New Zealand undercover, staying at a hospital as the threat from Japan moves closer. On a dark and stormy night, the official bringing the wages to the hospitals on the plains gets stuck there for the night when his car breaks down. Also at the hospital are stir crazy soldiers, employees trapped in a love triangle and a dying elderly man and his grandson. Then the money goes missing from the safe and the body count goes up and Alleyn has to reveal himself (at least partially) to try and solve the crime.

I have a mixed track record with continuations of classic series in general and detective stories in particular. I like a couple of the Wimsey ones but have serious reservations about the later ones, the first Sophie Hannah Poirot is quite good and I’ve got a few Campion ones yet to read. And this is definitely on the positive end of the spectrum – hence why it’s a BotW pick – although I didn’t think it always read entirely like the rest of the series.  I think it helps that this is based around opening chapters written by Marsh herself. The best Wimsey continuation is the first one – based on a Sayers plot outline – and they go downhill from there.

But in the case of The Money in the Morgue, the mystery is good, the New Zealand setting is atmospheric and in that response fits in with previous New Zealand installments in the series. And it’s also nice to be back in a period that really suits Alleyn. I read the series in strict order and in the last ones it’s just not quite the same as it was in the early half of the series – he should be too old to be doing what he’s doing and it’s just too much.  The ones I revist are pretty much always the earlier ones in the series.  I did miss the regular side kicks like Inspector Fox, but on the whole the new secondary characters mostly made up for it.

The Money in the Morgue is out now in paperback, and I’d hope you’d be able to find it fairly easily in bookshops – it’s certainly available on Book Depository. It’s also on Kindle and Kobo.

Happy Reading!

 

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: July 15 – July 21

As an addendum to last week’s post about historical mysteries, you’ll now note that I’m completely up to date with Her Royal Spyness and am going to have to wait for the next book to come out before I can find out what happens next.  This is a real trial to me.

Read:

The Burning Issue of the Day by T E Kinsey

On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen

Needled to Death by Maggie Sefton

So Disdained by Nevil Shute

A Deadly Yarn by Maggie Sefton

Gallows Court by Martin Edwards

Sharp by Michelle Dean

Started:

Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy

The Girls by Emma Cline

Still reading:

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby

The Great Successor by Anna Fifield

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

No books bought. Hurrah for me!

Bonus photo: a wooden knight at an old abbey where we went for a walk on Sunday afternoon

book round-ups, crime, detective

Recommendsday: Historical Mysteries

After the latest batch of cozy crime recommendations, I wanted to flag up a few series set in the past as well – Historical mysteries is the closest I could get for a theme, but it’s not quite right – to me historical feels like they’re written now, but set pre-20th century and these are a mix of books written now and set in a previous period, or books in a contemporary setting for the time that they were written in.  And they’re also all set post 1900. And so, in chronological order…

The Lady Hardcastle series by TE Kinsey

Cover of The Burning Issue of the Day

Set in the Edwardian era, this follows Emily, Lady Hardcastle, a widow in her 40s and her maid Florence as they embark on life in the English countryside after returning from a spell abroad on diplomatic business curtailed by Lord H’s death.  Emily didn’t spend her time abroad sitting around and having afternoon tea – and Florence has some special skills of her own from her time with the circus.  They can’t help but stumble over murders and mysteries – and when they do they can’t resist trying to find the culprits.  These are fun and frothy and a nice way of passing a couple of hours if you want something to bridge part of the gap between Veronica Speedwell  and Phryne Fisher or Daisy Dalrymple.  There are five novels in the series (I’ve read all five – with one as a BotW) with a sixth due in the autumn, as well as a Christmas-themed short story.  Definitely worth a look – especially as there’s usually at least one or two of them in the lower end of the ebook price bracket.

Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen

Cover of Her Royal Spyness

Set in the later years of George V’s reign, the heroine is Lady Georgina Rannock, 30-somethingth in line to the throne, single, pretty much penniless and trying to establish a life for herself which doesn’t involve marrying an obscure European minor princeling. I’ve mentioned these here before – Royal Pain was a BotW back in 2016 and got a (very brief) mention in my 2017 obsessions post.  And I still have to not think too hard about the premise (because I know far too much about Queen Victoria’s family tree) but they dash along so fast that most of the time I don’t even have time to remember that.  Georgie is endearing and really quite self-aware, her sister-in-law is amusingly awful and the pen portraits of the bits of the Royal Family she comes into contact with are amusing and fact based enough to work for me.  There are twelve books in the series with a thirteenth to come next month – and I’ve read eleven of them.  I’m getting to a point where I want a bit of development in the running plot of Georgie’s love life, but I’m prepared to give it a couple more books to sort it out.

Flaxborough Chronicles by Colin Watson

Cover of Coffin, Scarcely Used

These got a bit of a mention in last year’s anti-World Cup post, but they deserve a wider airing.  There are twelve books in the series, set in the late 1950s and 1960s in a fictional market town based on Boston in Lincolnshire and apparently informed by the author’s experiences as a journalist in Lincolnshire.  They’re clever and wry and have a couple of very funny reoccurring characters.  They’re not as straight down the line as most of the Golden Age mysteries, but they’re not exactly comic murder mysteries either.  If you like series like George Gently or Charles Paris, these may well work for you.  They were all re-issued last year as paperbacks and ebooks – so it should be fairly easy to get hold of them, although I don’t know if bookshops are holding them in stock.

The Country Club Murders series by Julie Mulhern

Cover of The Deep End

I’ve read four of this series (there are nine currently) about a society wife – and soon widow – in 1970s Kansas City.  Ellison gets sucked into investigating murders when she becomes the prime suspect in the murder of her philandering husband’s mistress, but as the series continues bodies just keep turning up in her orbit – much to the distress of her mother.  I like these because it’s a really different setting – 1970s and middle America.  Ellison is an interesting central character too – she’s a lady of leisure, because that’s what was expected of her as the wife of a banker,  but it doesn’t really suit her independent streak and this makes for some really good cranky and antagonistic family dynamics.  And the Country Club set provide for some laughs too.

So there you are.  There’s a few other series that I’ve written about before that fit into this category – I’ve already mentioned Phryne Fisher and Daisy Dalrymple, but you could also add Dandy Gilver, Maisie Dobbs and Sidney Chambers series.  I would add the Charles Paris series to that list – but setting is a bit slippy slidey – they are contemporary to when they were written, but Charles isn’t aging properly, meaning if you read them one after the other you’ll notice that they start off in the 1970s, but are very definitely set in the now in the latest ones – and Charles is not 40 years older…

You should be able to get hold of all of these nice and easily, ideal for binge reading on your holidays. And don’t forget, if you want your mysteries more contemporary, there’s last week’s post full of cozy crime recommendations.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases

Book of the Week: Evvie Drake Starts Over

Such an easy choice for this week.  I had to be dragged away from this one and it totally lifted me out of what had been a bit of a reading slump as I rationalised the to-read shelf and discovered that there was a fair number of books on it that I didn’t like when I started reading them.

Cover of Evvie Drake Starts Over

Evvie Drake has the car packed. She’s leaving her husband. But just as she’s about to about to go when the phone rings: Tim has been in a car accident, she needs to get to the hospital, fast.  We rejoin Evvie nearly a year later – when everyone in town thinks it’s grief that’s keeping her at home and she hasn’t done anything to correct them.  To help out a friend – and to help pay the bills, she lets the apartment at the back of her house to Dean Tenney, former Major League Baseball pitcher and now a byword for blowing it after a major case of the yips saw him lose his aim.  The two of them make a deal – she won’t ask about his baseball career and he won’t ask about her late husband.  But as the months go by the two of them grow closer and a friendship looks like it could develop into something more.  But those demons are going to need addressing before they can really move forward.

This is just what I hoped it would be.  It’s warm and has a great slow burn romance and two people trying to figure out whether they are right for each other – and whether they’re actually ok themselves.  Evvie (rhymes with Chevy) is a wonderful heroine – smart and funny but also a little bit broken and trying to figure out who she really is and if she can get her life back on track.  And Dean is such an appealing hero – he’s lost the ability to do the thing that defined who he was and has to figure out who he is if he’s not a baseball player.  The supporting characters are wonderfully drawn too and Evvie’s complicated relationship with the town feels very realistic.  I had a few minor quibbles here and there – but nothing that took me out of the story or disturbed my warm and cozy feeling at the way that it was all unfolding.

I had been a little worried that this wouldn’t live up to my expectations for it: I had been looking forward to reading this ever since I heard about it.  Linda Holmes is the presenter of the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast from NPR and mentioned more than a year ago (as part of their things that are making them happy this week section) that she had written a novel and that it was going to be published.  On top of that, it’s got great reviews, been picked for a big TV book club in the US and the UK version has blurbs from Rainbow Rowell, Helen Hoang and Taylor Jenkins Reid.  How could it ever live up to all that?  But it did, it really did.  I’m often moaning about not being able to find the sort of romantic novels that I like, the sort of thing that I used to be able to buy really easily 10 years ago – with smart heroines and humour and where people fix themselves and get romance as a bonus – and this did everything that I wanted it to do.  When I got to the end and read the list of thank yous from the author, it was a list of people who I listen to on podcasts or read on my favourite websites and I realised that I should have had more faith and been less worried.

British cover of Evvie Drake Starts Over

My copy of Evvie Drake Starts Over came from the library – and I got there before a huuuuuuge queue developed behind me – I only had to wait a couple of weeks after release for my hold to come in.  But its available now in Kindle, Kobo and hardback (with a paperback coming out in March 2020).  It would make a perfect read on your sunlounger this summer.

Happy Reading!