American imports, Book of the Week, cozy crime

Book of the Week: Death by Dumpling

As mentioned yesterday, picking BotWs is being made harder by the fact that I currently seem to be working my way through two series at a rate of knots and it’s creating a lot of repetition in the WiB list – and could make these posts very boring.  Luckily, I also read the first in a new to me (and actually fairly new) cozy mystery series last week and it was a lot of fun and showed some great potential. Job done.

Copy of Death by Dumpling

Death by Dumpling is the first in the Noodle Shop Mystery series – and was also Vivien Chien’s debut novel.  Our wannabe detective is Lana Lee, 27 years old and back working at her family’s noodle house after walking out on her job and a brutal break-up.  But when the property manager of the plaza where the restaurant is is found dead, she and her family’s business are in the firing line.  Because Mr Feng died of an allergic reaction – to shellfish in dumplings from the Ho-Lee Noodle House.  But Lana knows everyone there knew about his allergy – so how did this happen?  Soon she’s investigating what happened while fending off dinner invites from the new guy at the plaza and hoping to get to know the detective investigating the case better…

I enjoyed this a lot and raced through it in practically one sitting – I moved from the sofa to bed 100 pages from the end but that was the extent of the movement!  The characters are fun and it’s really nice to see a different type of setting for a cozy.  Lana is a nice lead character – she’s got a nice balance of quirks and insecurities to self-confidence and skills.  The setting is good and the side characters are engaging too.  As the book is mostly setting up Lana and the series, you don’t get a lot of the other characters, but I’m hoping that changes as the series continues.   There were a few elements felt a little clunky at times, but as this is a debut as well as the start of the series, I didn’t mind too much because I think this series has a lot of potential.  I’m fed up with cupcake bakers and crafters – I’m so ready for an Asian-American detective working in the family noodle house and this delivers most of the time.

I picked my copy of Death by Dumpling up on a Barnes and Noble trip during my American Odyssey and brought it home with me.  I have no regrets about bringing it back across the Atlantic – because it meant I read a load of library books before I came home – although I do wish that I’d brought the second book in the series as well because they were cheaper to buy in the US than they are here!  But you can get hold of Death by Dumpling on Kindle and Kobo (the Kindle price is much better than the Kobo one atow)  and in paperback from Amazon – but I suspect it’s actually a special order US-Import type deal there, so I’m not sure what your luck is going to be in proper bookshops in the UK.

Happy Reading!

American imports, Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: The Cinderella Deal

We’re into the final countdown to Christmas – if you missed them over the weekend, my annual Christmas book suggestion post is up as is my annual begging post of which books I’d like for me.  On to this week’s Book of the Week and yes, I know, it’s probably too soon to pick another Jennifer Crusie book, but sue me, I can’t help it – this was my favourite read last week.

The cover of The Cinderella Deal

In The Cinderella Deal we meet Daisy and Linc.  The only thing they have in common is the fact that they live in the same building.  Daisy is free spirited, artistic and can’t help but gather waifs and strays.  Linc is buttoned up, serious and a total workaholic.  But when Linc goes for an interview for his dream job, he realises that the thing that’s going to stop him from getting the post is the fact that he’s single.  So he invents a fiancée.  But when he and his fictional other half are invited to visit the college for a final interview, he needs to find someone to pretend to be about to marry him.  And Daisy owes him a favour.  But it all gets a lot more complicated than either of them expected.

I enjoyed this so much.  I think that fake relationships/engagements of convenience are one of my favourite romance tropes, but it is one of the hardest to pull off in contemporary romance.  However when it works, it really works and this really, really worked for me.  Daisy and Linc are a perfect opposites attract couple and she softens some of his hard edges while he gives her the skills to get tough and step up her work to the next level.  I was interested (ad slightly worried) to see how the fundamental differences between their outlooks on life were going to get resolved without Daisy changing herself and her personality to conform to Linc was wanted, but I really shouldn’t have been because Crusie pulls it out of the bag.

This is quite an early Crusie, so the plot maybe isn’t quite as developed as in her later books, but the secondary characters are a lot of fun and there is a lot more secondary plotline than I expected considering that it was originally a Loveswept book.  It’s obviously not a Christmas-themed book, but if you’re looking for a fun flirty romance to take your mind off your Christmas preparations, then this might be it.

I borrowed my copy from the library, but you can’t get it that way then you should be able to get hold of a copy on Kindle or Kobo, in paperback from Amazon or pick up a second hand edition from somewhere like Abebooks.

Happy Reading!

 

American imports, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Bad Feminist

Another week gone and we’re nearly at Christmas and the end of the year. I’m way behind on Christmas this year: on present shopping, on decorating, on festive reading. I feel like I’ve dropped a few baubles this year. Hey ho. One thing I can do is a pick my favourite book of last week – Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist – although I can’t promise that this will be the longest post ever!

Cover of Bad Feminist

Bad Feminist is a series of essays that sets out Ms Gay’s views on gender and race and why it’s ok to have messy, complicated views on issues. It is broad ranging in topics – which include the way that women’s bodies are viewed through to 50 Shades of Grey via competitive Scrabble tournaments. First published in 2014, a few things have changed since Bad Feminist came out – it is pre #MeTop, from before Donald Trump was elected president and before Bill Cosby was jailed. But that’s ok because there’s a lot here for you to think about and even the bits that feel a bit dated* give you pause for thought. It can make you hoot with laughter and it will make you cry.

I had heard a lot about this book, and indeed it’s been on my list of books to read for a long time, but due to the size of the pile and my attempts not to spend too much money on books, it’s taken a while to get to this. I read Ms Gay’s short story collection first in fact, because a review copy came my way. I follow her on twitter and I knew going in that I don’t always agree with her, but that she always has something worth listening to and considering whether you need to adjust your opinions. And as expected, I didn’t agree with everything, but it gave me a lot of things to consider and insight on life experiences that are different from my own and that is always worth having.

My copy of Bad Feminist came from the library but it’s also available fairly easily from the shops and as an ebook in Kindle and Kobo.

Happy Reading!

* I know, how can something only four years old feel out of date? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the American political news cycle. I have recently had first hand experience of it and can testify that it’s really something and can chew a story up and spit it out in a remarkably rapid period.

American imports, Book of the Week, mystery, Young Adult

Book of the Week: A Study in Charlotte

And I just can’t help myself.  For the second time in three weeks, my BotW is a Sherlock Holmes-related novel: Brittany Cavalaro’s A Study in Charlotte.  But this time it’s Modern Sherlock descendants at a New England Boarding School so it is Completely Different from Sherry Thomas’s A Study in Scarlet Women. Even if the titles would lead you to think otherwise.  Honestly.  It really is.  Let me prove it to you…

Jamie Watson has won a rugby scholarship to a prep school in Connecticut.  He isn’t happy about it – not only doesn’t he want to leave London, he doesn’t really like rugby and the last thing he wants is to be closer to his dad and his step-family.  The only bright spot in this whole situation is that Charlotte Holmes also attends the school.  The Holmeses and the Watsons have been intertwined for generations – every since Sherlock solved mysteries and Watson wrote them down.  But Charlotte seems like more trouble than Jamie can (or should) handle:  she arrived at the school in mysterious circumstances, she runs a poker game at weekends and is rumoured to have a drug problem.  But the thing is, the two of them seem drawn to each other nonetheless.  Then a student is killed.  And not just any student – one who Watson had a very public fight with after he hassled Charlotte. And Holmes and Watson are being framed for the crime.  Charlotte may be the only person who can solve the case – but by investigating it may put them in the wrong place at the wrong time and make things even worse for them.

This is exactly my sort of YA.  There’s drama and peril and some angst here, but it’s not end-of-the-world or dystopian or bleak.  There’s school stuff and a mystery, but the issues are slightly more adult (drug addiction, sexual assault, stalkers) than you get in middle grade school stories and mysteries.  Jamie and Charlotte are incredibly engaging characters – and once again I had fun watching and seeing how Cavallaro had woven in the Sherlock-lore into her modern day characters.

I’ve actually had this on my reading wishlist for a while – Goodreads tells me I shelved this in November 2016 – but it’s not available in Kindle in the UK and it hadn’t come my way at the library or in the bookshops.  Or at least not at a point when I remembered to look for it anyway.  Luckily I found it in the library near my flat in the US and it was part of my marathon library book binge last week.  There are two more books in the series that have already come out and a fourth installment due in 2019.  I’m going to be be making proper efforts to get hold of them.  I might add the next one to my Christmas list…

You can get a copy of A Study in Charlotte in hardback or paperback from Amazon, but I’ve had trouble finding it for sale on any other UK-based vendors.  Which is a real shame because it is really very good.  But if you’re heading to the US anytime soon, put it on your to-buy list!

Happy Reading!

American imports, romance

Book of the Week: Anyone But You

In case you didn’t notice, I read a lot last week.  I’m quite pleased with me.  Whether I remain pleased with me entirely depends on how far down the library book pile I get before I leave for the UK on Friday.  But despite the multitude of choices,  it was still hard to pick a BotW – not because there wasn’t anything good in the pile, but because there’s a few things on there that I want to write about elsewhere.  Luckily Jennifer Crusie’s Anyone But You was there to help me out – a standalone romance, with no series implications.  But hopefully you’ll be seeing a couple of other posts from the fruits of last week’s reading too.  Anyway, to the review.

Cover of Anyone But You

Nina Askew has just escaped her marriage.  She’s celebrating having freedom to do what she wants and not to try and be the perfect wife supporting her husband’s career any more by getting a rescue dog from the pound.  So what if she’s 40 and her family (and her ex) keep telling her that the divorce is a mistake.  She knows it’s the right thing to do, so she settles down in her new flat with her new dog.  Fred’s not exactly the dog she was expecting to get – he’s old, smelly and looks depressed – but he’s also the reason she meets her downstairs neighbour, Alex.  He’s a hotshot ER doctor, from a family of doctors who think he’s wasting his skills in the Emergency Room.  He’s also funny, smart and sexy and soon the sparks are flying between then.  But Nina can’t get past the fact that he’s ten years younger than she is – and he can’t get past the fact that he can’t give her the life he thinks she’s used to.  Can they sort out their differences for a happily ever after?

You know where this is going, it’s a romance, so obviously they can sort things out.  But this is funny, and sexy and has a great cast of supporting characters – from Nina’s unlucky in love best friend who’s writing a book about her failed relationships, to the septagenarian fitness lover on the top floor and her boyfriend.  Older woman/younger man is not usually a trope that I read, but somehow Jennifer Crusie made this one of my favourite romances that I’ve read recently.  The will-they-won’t-they in this is just so perfectly done – it never feels overplayed or dragged out, so you end up rooting for them all the more.  Some of their misunderstanding could be sorted out by serious discussion – but Crusie keeps it so that they’re not at a point where they can have that discussion – they’re just friends who watch movies together who don’t realise that they’re both feeling the same way.  And although it’s not specifically an autumn or winter-set book, some how with all the movie watching and the dog, it just felt like the perfect book to curl up on the sofa with at this time of year.

I got my copy from the library – it’s quite an old book so it looks like second hand is the way forward if you want a physical copy, but the ebook is quite reasonably priced on Kindle and Kobo.

Happy Reading!

American imports, Book of the Week, mystery

Book of the Week: A Study in Scarlet Women

It’s nearly the end of my American Adventure, so my reading at the moment, as I mentioned yesterday, is mostly books I’ve borrowed from the library here.  I’m prioritising the pile too – because when I was borrowing books I was targetting books that I find it harder/more expensive to get hold of in the UK, so I’ll be gutted if I have to take some of them back unread.  And it also means that for the first time in a few weeks, I had lots of books to choose from for BotW this week, but it was a fairly easy choice – I raced through Sherry Thomas’s A Study in Scarlet Women on Saturday night – and it’s the first in a series.  Ideal.

Cover of A Study in Scarlet Women

So, A Study in Scarlet Women kicks off the Lady Sherlock series – which as you might guess is a gender-flipped Sherlock Holmes retelling.  Charlotte Holmes has never really felt happy with the life expected of a woman in upper class London in the late Victorian era.  And when her father reneges on a deal he made with her about her future, she takes matters into her own hands.  Unfortunately, that means making herself an outcast – and life as an outcast is harder than she thought.  And then there’s a series of deaths that are casting suspicion over the family she has left behind.  Soon Charlotte is investigating – under the assumed name of Sherlock Holmes – with the help of a few new friends, and one very old friend who has loved her forever.

I read this in almost one sitting** and it is so good.  Charlotte is a brilliant heroine.  The analytical mind that serves Sherlock so well creates as whole load of problems for a woman – who isn’t expected to speak up, or demand a life that doesn’t revolve around marriage.  Her deductions are clever, the mystery is great – and she’s much more sympathetic than Proper Sherlock is – she’s motivated by helping her family and her friends in a lot of what she does, not just the mystery solving.  Just a note though I’ve seen this categorized as a romance – which I think isn’t quite right.  I first head about it on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books podcast and Sherry Thomas does also write romances, but for me this is definitely Historical Mystery with a side order of unresolved romance and sexual tension.  Don’t go expecting a resolution/Happy Ever After here.

Side note, I was listening to that edition of Smart Bitches after a night shift on the way back to where I was staying, and the combination of lack of sleep, going to a different station to where I was used to heading to from Waterloo station and being engrossed in this saw me in autopilot mode and getting on the wrong train and ending up in Richmond and not in Barnes.  I have a vivid memory of sitting on the platform at Richmond, freezing cold, watching it get light, waiting for a train back the other way and listening to Sherry Thomas talking about learning English as a second language through the medium of 70s and 80s historical romance novels!

Anyway, back to the book, if you like series like Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell or Lady Julia Grey, Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily – or even some of the interwar-set detective series like Daisy Dalrymple, Phryne Fisher, Dandy Gilver or Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness – then definitely give this a try, even if you’re not usually into Sherlock retellings.  And if you are a Sherlock fan, then definitely take a look at this.

My copy came from the library*, but you should be able to get your hands on this fairly easy.  It’s available in Kindle and Kobo as well as in paperback from all the usual suspects.  You might need to order it in though.  I already have the second book on loan from the library, and I’ve ordered the third to take home with me even though I have limited space in my luggage home.

Happy Reading

*Although I’ve since found it on my Kindle where I picked it up on offer for £1.49 last summer and then it got lost in the shuffle of books.  Insert comment about the state of my tbr pile here.

**I moved from the sofa to bed about halfway through, but ended up staying up late to finish it.

 

Adventure, American imports, Book of the Week, Thriller

Book of the Week: Skin Tight

Not a lot of reading done last week – I started the week in New York and ended it on a plane back to Washington from Dallas and there wasn’t a lot of reading time other than the travelling. But luckily, I had an easy choice for my BotW pick thanks to my new local library and Carl Hiaasen’s Skin Tight.

One well-loved library copy of Skin Tight

After a Mick Stranahan stabs his unexpected guest (who came armed) using a taxidermied fish, he starts to try to figure out who it is who wants him dead. Unfortunately the intruder died so quickly he couldn’t answer any questions. And there are plenty of suspects. As an investigator at the State Attorney’s Office there were plenty of people who had a grudge against him even before he nailed a crooked judge and got fired. But then the list just keeps growing and soon it becomes clear that if Stranahan wants to enjoy his retirement, he’s going to have to figure out what’s going on before he ends up dead.

If that sounds a bit mad, that’s because it is. It’s a dark and satirical screwball comedy where every character has at least one serious character flaw, but very few of them realise it. I’ve spoken a lot about my search for more books to scratch my Steph Plum-esque itch and this definitely did that. Stranahan is much less likeable than Steph and a lot further from the straight and narrow than she is, but this is the same sort of madcap adventure you get with her.

My only real problem with Skin Tight is that it was published nearly 30 years ago and that’s making it hard to get more books by Hiaasen, although not impossible as my to-read pile will already show. It does mean though that the bad news is that Skin Tight isn’t available on Kindle or Kobo at the moment – and it may well be out of print in the US as well as the UK.  It is available on audiobook from Kobo, but if you want an actual book you’re going to have to buy it secondhand (Amazon and Abebooks have plenty of copies at various price points) or do what I did and get it from your library.

Happy Reading!