book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: June Kindle offers

I’m trying a new thing this month, and doing a round up of good books that are on offer on Kindle in the UK at the moment. Now this will only work if there are books that I’ve read on offer, so who knows if it’ll be a regular thing!

Cover montage

First up is recent release Book Lovers, which I did a post about the day it came out, and which is now 99p. Perfect for reading on a sun lounger. And if you’re into Bridgerton and have already read the whole series, Just Like Heaven, the first book in Julia Quinn’s Smythe Smith series is 99p. I bought the paperback back when it first came out – in my pre-Kindle let along pre-blog days. The series is is about a group of young ladies who play in a string quartet – most of whom are oblivious to the fact that the music they play sounds terrible. Honoria is the exception – she knows they’re awful and she’s determined to get married so she doesn’t have to play any more. The hero is her brother’s best friend who is meant to be looking out for her and keeping her out of trouble…

I wrote about Paula Byrne’s biography of Barbara Pym a few months back and now the first Barbara Pym novel I read is on offer – ok the Kindle edition of Excellent Women isn’t as pretty as my designer hardback, but for 99p you don’t expect it to be. In other books I’ve mentioned recently, the first Nicola Upson Josephine Tey novel An Expert in Murder is 99p as well as Dear Little Corpses, the latest.

In other books I have recently mentioned, Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep, which came up in my books set in schools post, is also 99p, as is Three Sisters, Three Queens which one of the later Philippa Gregory Tudor books that I haven’t read yet! You’ll probably have noticed Sarah Morgan’s Beach House Summer on my in progress list – but it’s 99p at the moment as well if you want to try and finish it before me!

In past books of the week that are on offer, T J Klune The House in the Cerulean Sea was one last year, Lyssa Kay Adams’s The Bromance Book Club was one in 2019. In Authors who I like, but who I haven’t read *this* one of – there’s Ian Mortimer’s A Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval Britain – I’ve listened to the Elizabethan and Restoration ones of these on audiobook and they’re lovely, but I’ve never read (or listened to) this one.

There’s almost always a Terry Pratchett book on offer – that’s how I’ve picked up my Kindle copies to supplement my hard copies. This month it’s Eric (which I haven’t read in ages) and the very first one, the Colour of Magic, which as I explain in Where to start with Terry Pratchett isn’t actually where I tell people to start usually! Sadly the deal on Wee Free Men was a one day one, but it will come around again I’m sure.

In books I own but haven’t read yet, there is The Strawberry Thief, the fourth in Joanne Harris’s Chocolate series. Charlie Homberg’s The Paper Magician – which is the first in the series is 99p, books 2 and 3 are £1 each and only book 4 is not on offer (and the whole series is in Kindle Unlimited ). Rose Tremain’s The Gustav Sonata, is one of two of hers sitting on the tbr shelf I think! Harriet Evans’ latest The Beloved Girls is 99p again too – I bought it last time it was on offer! There’s also Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, which I really need to read as I have a hard copy I borrowed from a friend about a year ago sitting on my bureau…

I read Umberto Eco’s In the Name of the Rose as part of my history degree, and I think £1.99 is a bit of a bargain for it, plus the latest cover is gorgeous. It was adapted for TV the other year, which was an interesting watch as it was much more violent than I remembered!

And finally, because this post has got super long, in books I mention because other people liked them but I didn’t, (and really didn’t in this case) there is Claire Lombardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had, which was even long listed for the Women’s Prize, which just goes to prove everything I’ve ever said about me and award nominated (or winning) novels!

Enjoy – I hope I haven’t cost you all too much money

book round-ups, historical

Platinum Jubilee: Royal-related books…

As I said yesterday, it’s the Platinum Jubilee holidays here this (long) weekend, so today I thought I’d do a recap of the various royal related books I’ve talked about here over the years. I’m going to try and work my way back in time rather than split this into fiction and non-fiction. We’ll see how that goes…

I took this on Wednesday in my favourite Italian deli when I was buying lunch. It just tickled me!

To start with, I did a post about books featuring the Queen back on the actual anniversary of her accession. Then from the pre Elizabeth II half of the twentieth century we have in non-fiction: Andrew Lownie’s Traitor King about Edward VIII after his abdication, Mary S Lovell’s The Riviera Set which also features the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the background. In fiction there is TP Fielden’s Stealing the Crown mystery set in Buckingham Palace during World War II, the Royal Spyness series of mystery books and Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell books have more than one royal connection across the series so far. Oh and don’t forget my beloved Gone With The Windsors by Laurie Graham – what would Maybell say if I didn’t mention her experiences with Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII?

Back into the nineteenth century now and I have a whole post about books related to Queen Victoria’s Dynasty and there’s more on Hannah Pakula’s An Uncommon Woman about Princess Victoria, Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter and wife of Kaiser here as well. There’s also Greedy Queen about the food that Queen Victoria ate. Daisy Goodwin’s The Fortune Hunter features Empress Sisi of Austria and a cameo from Queen Victoria and John Brown. Pre Queen Victoria there’s a royal connection in Georgette Heyer’s Regency Buck. Honorable mention to the Pink Carnation series, which features Royalist plots, the Napoleonic Empire and Sultans at various points so could rightly be considered Royal Related. In fantasy novels, both Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown and V E Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy are set in alternate universe Regency Londons as is a lot of Gail Carriger’s Parasolverse.

Pre-nineteenth century I’ve written about a lot less royals – here at least, although there are reviews of more over on my Goodreads profile if you can find them. But there’s still Simon Sebag Montefiore’s The Romanovs (I’m still not past the Napoleonic era), David Starkey’s Elizabeth about Elizabeth I, yesterday’s post about Philippa Gregory’s Tudor novels and some of Shakespeare’s various Kings get a mention in my post about Sir Antony Sher. I really should try and write some more here about of it. After all I was a history student at university and I’ve read a lot on the French Revolution, the French monarchy, and the Stuarts – even if not all of it is royal related. I must pull my socks up and do better in future. I think I’ve got at least half a dozen bits on the to read shelves virtual and physical at the moment that could fit in this post- including more than one about Charles II and about the Bourbon Kings.

I also did a whole post of Royal Romances – which covers a whole bunch of different time periods so I’m putting it on the end, but there’s also Talia Hibbert’s The Princess Trap which is a contemporary romance. I also wanted to mention Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone set in a West Africa inspired magical world which has a heroine fighting the monarchy to return magic to the people.

And if this doesn’t break WordPress’s little brain with all the links back to my own blog, I don’t know what will. Have a great weekend everyone!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Lost Heirs part 2

Here is the second part of my Recommendsday selections featuring lost heirs – inspired by An Impossible Imposter! Today we’re looking at romance novels!

So we have two basic types of Lost Heirs in romance – potentially fake to steal something away and ones the family didn’t know about or tried to get rid of. The latter tend to be the heroes of the story, the former the baddies. As is often the case, let’s start with Georgette Heyer. She has a lot of tropes – but in this case only really the hero type of lost heir. Hugo in The Unknown Ajax is an heir that the rest of the family didn’t know about – his grandfather had ignored his existence until the deaths of the people between Hugo and the title. This is one of my favourites – because Hugo has hidden depths, the secondary characters are delightful and there are smugglers.

Julia Quinn has a pair of books dealing with both sides of a lost heir problem – The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr Cavendish, I Presume. The first is the story of a highway man who discovers he may be the long lost heir to a dukedom. The second is the story of the man who thought he was the heir but discovers that he may not be. I remember these as being not quite as steamy as her Bridgerton series but I may be misremembering because it has been a while!

The clue is in the title with KJ Charles’s An Unsuitable Heir – in which a private equity agent is sent to find the missing heir to a title and finds him in a circus. This is the third in a trilogy of longer than novellas but not really quite as long as a novels and has the conclusion to an overarching storyline so maybe if you’re going to read it do the lot. They’re all connected but with different couples and different LGTBQ identities and relationships in Victorian London. Definitely not closed door.

I’m honestly sure I’ve forgotten some – I feel like I’ve read loads over the years but I couldn’t think of any more. I even went back on a magical deep dive of goodreads to try and find them. If it comes to me, there will be a part three!

book round-ups, Uncategorized

Elections!

I’m not a politics person, but I love working on elections. I love listening to the experts telling me what might happen and what to watch for and what it might mean if it does happen. And then we see what happens when the votes come in. And that was my day on Friday. And I’m going to spend this weekend relaxing and recovering. I was going to recommend some political books today, but then I realised that there isn’t really anything much I haven’t already recommended at some point – and most of it is about American politics rather than the British scene. And then of course on the US side of things it’s been a momentous week as well, so maybe people don’t want politics books this week. Maybe escapist reading is what people are after this weekend? Anyway here are some links to options for both:

Escapist fiction for Difficult Times and even more Escapist Fiction, also have some Magical Worlds and last year’s summer reading post.

Here are my politics related-y type stuff – there’s the recent JFK-adjacent and Vanderbilt-adjacent posts, and there’s a review of Red, White and Royal Blue in the Royal Romances post. There’s also my inauguration reading post from 2017, but that has a bit of repetition in it – after all it’s been five years…

Happy Saturday everyone

PS the photo is from last year – as there weren’t any elections in my area this time out

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: April Quick Reviews

Taking break from Lost Heirs today for the quick reviews from April. I’ve already written about quite a few things from last month and it was a bit of a binge-y one again, so it’s not a hugely long post…

Bad Luck by Linwood Barclay

Zack is called up to the lake where his dad lives after a man is savaged by a bear. It’s not his dad, but his dad is hurt so he stays in town to help him. He soon discovers there’s more going on in the idyllic town than he realised – and that some of it is very dangerous indeed. This is the third book in the series but the first I’ve read and actually 15 plus years old. But it doesn’t feel dated – in fact a lot of the themes in it feel really quite eerily prescient. I enjoyed reading it and would happily read some of the others in the series (there are four in total) if they were to come my way – but given the state of the pile, I probably shouldn’t been looking for them!

The Start of Something by Miranda Dickinson*

This is a romance between two people who live opposite each other and start talking using messages in their windows. Both Lachlan and Bethan have a lot going in with their lives and the messages provide an escape from their every day lives and then starts to turn into something more. This had a little bit more angst/peril in both lead characters’ backstories than I am currently able to deal with, but I did like it. The blurb did signpost a bit of the backstory trauma – but in no way all of it, especially as a lot of the peril/drama in the book comes from the backstory not the romance. Speaking of romance, it is very slow burn on that front – I loved the notes in the window section and the cautious meetings – I could see an incoming Big Misunderstanding coming but when it did it worked really surprisingly well. Overall a nice read, if you’re in a place where you can cope with traumatic backstories on the way to your happily ever afters.

That Cowboy of Mine by Caitlin Crews*

I seem to have read more cowboy books in the last few months that in all of last year. This is a romantic suspense novel centred on a young woman who has inherited a ranch that someone is determined not to let her have and a newly retired rodeo rider who wakes up on her land after getting pass out drunk. It had a bit too much insta love and a huge amount of suspicion. I had most of the plot figured out early doors and the end was incredibly melodramatic but it was a nice easy way to pass a few hours.

Happy hump day!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Time Travel-y books

After Friday’s Series I Love post about The Chronicles of St Marys, this week’s Recommendsday is on Time travel-y books – so called because it is a little bit more of a if you like x then try y post, as there are not a lot of directly similar books out there!

I’m going to start with time travel-y caper comedies and I have two for you. Firstly there’s To Say Nothing Of the Dog by Connie Willis. This was a book of the week five (!) years ago and back then I mentioned that you should read it if you like the Chronicles of St Marys – so I’m delighted to see that past me and present me are so consistent! This features a time traveller called Ned with a bad case of Time Lag (like jet lag but with time) who is sent to the nineteenth century to recover from the demands of an American Benefactor, but can’t remember what the job is that he was sent to do there. As an added bonus there’s stacks of Golden Age Crime references – my Goodreads review sums it up as: Time travel + history + humour + Peter Wimsey references galore = right up Verity’s street.

Then there’s the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. They’ve had a Series I love post before, but it was nearly two years ago, so it’s just about within the rules. Thursday’s not so much travelling through time as travelling through literature, but as she’s trying to stop people from changing literature, it’s a similar sort of feel to St Marys in a way. And it’s very, very funny. Although the fact that the Victorian-era Crimean War hasn’t ended in Thursday’s alternate reality 1986 feels a bit different in 2022 than it did when I first read then in 2013! Another one to start at the beginning – which is The Eyre Affair.

Moving on to less comedy, and less time travel-y but still moving through time is How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. Our hero in this, Tom, has lived for an insanely long amount of time – we see him at various points in history from Elizabethan era Britain to Jazz Age Paris to his currently life as a history teacher in modern day London. The most important thing is that he can’t fall in love. Except of course he does. I read this 5 years ago and really enjoyed it – writing this has made me think that I should go for a reread – or maybe read the other Matt Haig book I have sitting on the tbr shelf.

Now is the point where I should mention Terry Pratchett. You’re aware of my love for him, but actually Thief of Time is one of the Discworld books that it’s been ages since I read, which is nice because writing this post has started me on a reread. Or rather listen because I’ve gone for the audiobook this time. Anyway this one has Death, Death’s granddaughter Susan, the History Monks, an attempt to build the world’s most accurate clock which will actually cause the end of the world and more. Enjoy!

I’m going to finish with some children’s stuff – because there’s loads of time travel or messing with time in kids books. Firstly Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, which features a little boy who hears the clock strike thirteen one night while he’s staying at his aunt and uncles. When he gets up to see what’s happening he discovers that the back door now leads to the garden as it was in the 1880s – and it all goes from there. Then there’s A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – which is is an adventure story about children looking for their parents that happens to involve other planets and alien-y beings – I liked it, but I know some people have issues with this in the same way that they have issues with the Narnia books if you know what I mean. And then not so much time travel as ghosts is the Green Knowe series by Lucy M Boston, which are about an old house that the same family has lived in for centuries and the different people who have lived there who appear to the present day children of the house as spirits. I’ve not explained that very well, but I loved the first one in the series particularly when I was a kid. I reread that first one a few years ago and it still held up – I have them all on the shelf downstairs, I really should get around to rereading them all…

Anyway, happy Wednesday everyone!

book round-ups, The pile

Books Incoming: April edition

So, if this post had been two days ago there would only have been two books in this photo – the Martha Wainwright and the Nancy Spain. But then I made a trip to Wilkos on Good Friday, and there is a The Works in the same shopping centre and: Voila. Book purchases ahoy. The Frances Brody is the first in a new series that I’m trying because I like her Kate Shackleton books, Christina Lauren I’ve written about before, Castle Shade is the latest Mary Russell and the other was just a whim which could go either way. We’ll see!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: March Quick reviews

Another month, another batch of mini reviews. I’ve already written about so many books this month, I was almost surprised that I had anything left to write about, and yet here are three more…

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomons

Ari is a weather presenter at a Seattle TV station. Russell is one of the station’s sport reporters. Both of them are being driven mad by their bosses. Ari wants Torrence – the station’s star meterologist – to give her more mentoring but Torrence is too distracted by fighting with her ex husband – the station’s news director Seth. Russell wants off the college sports beat and onto pro sports, but Seth is paying too much attention to his fight with his exwife to take him seriously. After a disastrous Christmas party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to try and get Torrence and Seth back together. But over the course of their plan, the two of them end up spending a lot of time together too… I liked this a lot more than I liked the first book in the series – for some reason the romance in this just clicked for me. Ari and Russell make a great couple and each of them have valid reasons for avoiding relationships, but they work through them like sensible people (for the most part) rather than having dramatic Big Misunderstandings all the time. I also loved the fact that it had a Jewish hero and heroine – which is something I’d like to read more of! Lots of fun – would probably have been BotW if I hadn’t read Better Luck Next Time the same week.

With Love from Rose Bend by Naima Simone*

Owen is a former football player in hiding from the world after the accident that caused him to call time on his career. Leo is hiding from adult relationships by being constantly busy running her family’s business. Leo wants Owen to judge a contest at a town festival – but when she turned up at his house to ask him, she realises he’s the man she has a steamy one night stand with a year ago. And it gets slightly more complicated than that as a fake relationship element is added to the mix too. I’ve mentioned before that I like a sports romance and I also like a competent heroine and this ticked my noses in that front. Lovey weekend afternoon reading!

Sex Cult Nun by Faith Jones

Now this is a weird one. I’ve included it here because I think some of you will have seen it on my lists and known exactly why I was reading it – my ongoing interest in weird religious stuff -and wondered why I haven’t written about it’s so now I am and here is your answer: it is brutal. It’s bleak. It’s filled with child abuse, child sexual abuse, sexual abuse, neglect. But it’s also not as well written as say Educated and I don’t think the author has really come to terms with what happened to her, so it doesn’t actually really get you anywhere or give you a takeaway at the end. So it ends up just being a lot of really grim abuse without as much breaking away from it as you want/expect/hope.

And that’s the lot – and I know that’s a bit of a downbeat note to end on, but I couldn’t make any other order of the reviews feel any better!

book round-ups, The pile

Quarter year end

The first three months of the year are coming to an end and I’ve been doing a bit of reflection on 2022 so far. Obviously my recent bought of Covid is right at the top of mind, but before that happened life was starting to feel a bit more normal – I was going to the theatre, meeting up with friends and making plans to go places and to fill the ticket box.

On the book front, I’ve read some really good stuff – and I’ve got some more interesting stuff preordered. We haven’t had a holiday yet this year, so I haven’t had a chance to do any lounging around in the sun reading a stack of books but that will come I’m sure. I’m not sure I’ve made massive progress down the physical to read pile, but I don’t think it’s for any bigger! Anyway here are some of my favourite books that I’ve read so far this year – that aren’t from part way through a long series or re-reads!

Fiction : Well Matched, The Prize Racket, The Maid, The Two Mrs Abbotts, Playing for Love and The Family You Make.

Non fiction: Vanderbilt!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: JFK-adjacent books

Last month, I wrote a post of Vanderbilt-adjacent books after picking Vanderbilt as my Book of the Week. And while I was writing it, I realised that I’ve actually read quite a lot of books that could be described as JFK-adjacent at various points, so now I’ve finished The Editor, here is a look at the best of them – and believe me when I say I’ve read some bad ones too!

The graves of John F Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy and their children who died in infancy.

Lets start with the non-fiction. And I’m going to start by saying that whether some of these will work for you will depend on how much you already know about the Kennedy clan. There are loads of biographies of each of the various members of the family, many of them really quite long. If you want a straight up biography of the man himself, the one I have read is Robert Dalek’s An Unfinished Life: John F Kennedy, which is long, but it is only one volume and it does give you a sense of what drove him and what the family was like. His dad comes across as being a particular type of nightmare – with massive ambitions for his kids that they could never live up to and that coloured all their relationships with other people as well. Of the non-politics members of the family, Kathleen Kennedy is possibly the most interesting – she had the family charisma and charm which she used to great effect while living in London while her father was the Ambassador. She married the heir to the Duke of Devonshire – who was then killed in combat. And she herself was dead long before her older brother became President. Paula Byrne wrote a biography of her called Kick – I think Byrne perhaps liked her subject a bit too much to grapple with some of the later parts of her life in depth, but it’s really good on most of her life and for what it was like to be one of the “other” Kennedys. I enjoyed it enough that it’s still on my bookshelves five years after I read it. There’s also (obviously) details about Jack and Jackie in Kate Andersen Brower’s books about the White House and its residents – I mentioned First Women the other week, but The Residence has a lot of detail about Jackie’s alterations and redecoration of the White House if that sort of thing interests you. You probably only need to pick one of them though – at least if you’re only reading for the Kennedy bits or if you’re planning to read them back to back!

There are also plenty of group biographies of the family out there but they do tend a bit towards the superficial – because there are a lot of Kennedy kids and thus a lot of Kennedy spouses! I read The Kennedy Wives by Amber Hunt and David Batcher around eight years ago – and even at that point I felt like I knew quite a lot of the detail already. But it was good for what happened to them all in the aftermath of JFK’s death – which is often where a lot of books stop. You will likely come away with the idea that the Kennedy men were hell to live with but that it is possible that some of the wives at least knew a little bit about what they were letting themselves in for. J Randy Tamborelli has also written about Jackie, Ethel and Joan – the wives of the political Kennedys – but it’s much older and I’ve not managed to get hold of it (yet). I have however read his biography of Marilyn Monroe – The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe – which had new (at the time in 2009) information about her relationship with not just JFK, but with Robert Kennedy and Pat Kennedy Lawford (and her husband Peter Lawford)

Dealey Plaza in Dallas, site of the assassination of JFK

On the fiction side of things, I’ve read several novels which feature Jackie Kennedy’s post JFK life, none of which I feel able to recommend – except if you want to be really annoyed! Most of them focus on the triangle between Jackie, Aristotle Onassis and Maria Callas. I can however recommend Steven Rowley’s The Editor, which as I mentioned at the top I finished last week. His latest book The Guncle was a BotW last summer and I went looking for what else he had written and of the two options this jumped out at me. Set in the early 1990s, it’s about an aspiring writer whose first novel is bought by an editor at a major publisher – an editor who turns out to be Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The book follows him as he tries to works on his book with her help but also as she encourages him to work on his relationship with his own mother. She’s not the main character – and she’s a very enigmatic figure – so it’s not trying to see inside her head if that idea is something that worries you about novels about real people.

And finally there’s my favourite of the novels I’ve read about the Kennedys – The Importance of being Kennedy by Laurie Graham. Those of you who’ve been around a while will know how much I like Graham’s writing style and her books featuring real people. This was her next book after my beloved Gone With the Windsors and is another fictional person inserted into a real situation, in this case Nora Brennan, a nursery maid who takes a job with a family in Brookline Massachusetts that turns out to give her a ringside seat for history. She arrives when Joe jnr is a toddler and the book follows her through until Kathleen’s funeral. It’s sad when it needs to be, but it’s also witty and fun to read. If you’re only going to read one book from this post, maybe make it this one.

Happy Humpday!