books, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: World War Two-set novels

After having such a lovely time reading Mrs Porter Calling last week, this week’s Recommendsday features some more World War Two-set books that will give you a similar feel. And I had to think long and hard about it – because so many books that sprang to mind at first were Great War books – and that’s a whole other post!

I’m going to start with Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet series, even though I’ve already written a Series I Love post about them. They start in the 1930s, so if you just want the war period you could just start at book two – The Light Years. I mean I don’t recommend it because you won’t get the full impact of it all but you could if you want to. The Emmy Lake books are first person and just follow Emmy and these have a much wider group they follow, but in terms of the mixture of warmth and tears, they are right up there.

Next up: Mary Wesley’s The Camomile Lawn. It has more sex than Emmy Lake, but if you want the Home Front, it has that – people trying to carry on in the most dangerous and uncertain times. It has that sense of normal rules being suspended because the world might be about to end and people doing things that they wouldn’t normally have done.

It’s set in 1946, but Jojo Moyes Ship of Brides is all about the wartime brides heading over to their unknown futures with the soldiers they have married. There are no massive surprises (or at least I don’t remember any big twists, but it’s been a decade!) but you really get to know the women on the boat and care about what happens to them.

If you want mysteries set in this period, may I please nudge you again at Maisie Dobbs. There are lots of bad series set inWW2 (no I won’t name them here) but once this series actually gets to the Second World War (at Book 13 – In This Grave Hour) it is one of the best.

It’s much older and the first section is much grimmer, but I want to give an extra mention to Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice. I’ve mentioned it before but you follow Jean from her life as an English woman living in Malaysia, through her capture by the Japanese and the death march she was put on to her post war new beginning thanks to an inheritance. I like the Alice section best because it is a strong woman paying something forward, but I know that that may be unusual. It is a little of its time, but I’ve loved it for so long I find it hard to be rational about it.

Happy Wednesday!

Book of the Week, books, LGTBQIA+, new releases, Young Adult

Book of the Week: Fake Dates and Mooncakes

It was a bit of a week of rhyming titles last week – one in YA and one in cozy crime, so it’s probably fitting that I chose one of them for the Book of the Week today. And in the end I’ve gone for the Young Adult romance – partly because the cozy crime isn’t out until next month and also because the cozy is the tenth in a series and I can’t break those rules two weeks in a row. But mostly because Sher Lee’s novel came out last week, it was a lot of fun and it made me really hungry!

Cover of Fake Dates and Mooncakes by Sher Lee

To the plot: Dylan spends his spare time helping in his aunt’s Singaporean Chinese takeout, Theo lives in a mansion and drives a Ferrari. Their first meeting is less than optimal but when Theo turns up at the restaurant sparks fly. And soon Dylan is pretending to be Theo’s boyfriend at a family wedding. But Theo’s family is nothing like Dylan’s and neither is the life he leads. Dylan isn’t sure whether he can fit in in Theo’s wealthy, gala-attending life – or if it’s even worth trying.

This is a sweet YA romance with two heroes with completely different lives. The blurb describes it as Heartstopper meets Crazy Rich Asians and I think that’s not a bad one as far as it goes but it’s not quite as exact as that might sound. Yes Theo is Rich and Dylan is not – so that’s Crazy Rich Asians-esque, but you actually spend a lot of the time in Dylan’s world rather than Theo’s – which is not very CRA. As far as Heartsopper goes, yes it has got two young queer protagonists, but it isn’t mostly set in or around school and there’s not really any story line around coming out here the way that there is in Heartstopper. So basically, stop smashing vaguely similar books together as comparators please publishing.

We all know that I love a fake dating story – so that was great and I loved Dylan’s tight knit family too. It’s got some Insta Love going on here – and your mileage may vary with that. I’m not entirely sure that Theo ever really stands up for himself against his family properly and the solutions to the problems the duo face are a little easy in the end – but then it’s a YA and that’s how it goes. But the romance is lovely and all the food that is written about sounds delicious and it all made me hungry. It’s a really nice way to spend a few hours, and if you’re anything like me, it’ll have you off googling the various bits of the food you’ve never tried before.

My copy of Fake Dates and Mooncakes came from NetGalley, but it’s out now in Kindle and Kobo, and Amazon say they have the paperback in stock too, but I’m not sure how much I believe them given my recent late arriving pre-orders. I’ll take a look for it in a big bookstore YA department next time I go into one – which may or may not be this week!

Happy Reading everyone.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: May 22 – May 28

Hello from the end of an incredibly busy week. It’s just been wild. And I’ve already written about one of the books from last week in my series post about Emmy Lake – which given that the list is a little shorter than usual this week (because of all that busy) means I’m still not a hundred percent sure what the BotW pick tomorrow is going to be. Watch this space. Anyway, we’re nearly at the end of May – which is also wild – so all the usual stuff coming up after the end of the month, probably in a slightly tweaked order, for reasons that will become apparent. Anway, have a great week everyone.


Poppy Harmon and the Shooting Star by Lee Hollis*

Fake Dates and Mooncakes by Sher Lee*

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers

Mrs Porter Calling by A J Pearce*

Death Knells and Wedding Bells by Eva Gates*

A Vicarage Family by Noel Streatfeild


Best Men by Sidney Karger*

Buried for Pleasure by Edmund Crispin

Still reading:

The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes by Kate Strasdin*

The Empire by Michael Ball*

Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd

One book bought…

Bonus photo: It’s peony season. So I have peonies in the house now as well as in the garden. It makes me very happy.

*next to a book book title indicates that it came from NetGalley. ** indicates it was an advance copy from a source other than NetGalley.


Books in the Wild: Sainsbury’s

It’s been a while since I’ve done a supermarket, so I’ve had a wander to see what they have to chose from at the moment. This is my local Sainsbury’s – and I should say that I went to the local Big Tesco first, but they have done another rearrange of everything and have massively shrunk the book section down from nearly a whole aisle on both sides (including children’s books and colouring books etc) to a couple of carcasses for everything. A Paddington stare to you Tesco. Very disappointing. Anyway, this is Sainsbury’s and it’s a bit chaotic in organisational terms, but it is at least bigger and better stocked than their competition…

So the headline hardbacks on this one are the latest crop – the Queen Charlotte tie-in novel, Happy Place, the final book in the Seven Sisters series – which I did try back when the first one came out but wasn’t really my thing but I know they’ve been hugely popular – and the new Tom Hanks novel which was the preorder that arrived chez moi last week! If you look carefully you can also see the new Mhairi McFarlane in the middle of the paperbacks as well. The Maid is in there too – which seems to be having a really long tail and hanging around a while, but I did see an advert on the tube this week for a sequel so that may well explain it.

Another couple of new hardbacks at the top here – I keep seeing the Steve Jones around and obviously I’ve written about how much I enjoyed Pineapple Street and it’s suitability as a summer read. The paperback of Lessons in Chemistry is there too – which is another great summer read if you didn’t read it last year and prefer a paperback.

Having had the new Emily Henry in hardback, this one has got last year’s – Book Lovers – twice (!) as well as two of the Richard Osman series – including the latest one which is now in paperback – as well as Malibu Rising and the books from supermarket shelf regulars Jenny Colgan and Marian Keyes. You can also spot my purchase on this one – The Darkest Sin. I also keep seeing Icebreaker around and debating reading it, but I’m not sure I dare – it’s about a figure skater and an ice hockey player who team up and just the idea that a hockey player can transfer over easily makes me nervous and that’s without my recent poor track record in enjoying sports romances that turn out to be too angsty for my tastes.

And finally we have this one – with some (more) repeats from earlier as well as Daisy Jones and the new Philippa Gregory (which is a magicky one). And I guess this is the point where I muse about the balance between mysteries and thrillers and women’s fiction and how that seems to have changed over the last few years. It used to be fairly rare that I would go into a supermarket and come west without having bought a couple of women’s fiction books in whatever the current Two for… deal was and I would have had a hard time narrowing down which two that was going to be. But now there are a lot less options – and they come from a smaller group of authors. You can also see that in the colours of the covers – we’ve got a lot more of the dark covers – blues, greens, greys, blacks – of the thriller and mystery genre and fewer in the brighter hues. And some of that is also that the women’s fiction novels have gone for darker colours – and turned a bit darker. Basically what I’m saying is that it’s hard to discover new romance-focused novels at the supermarket now, and that makes me sad.

Still at least I did buy something, and if I was a casual consumer (aka not someone who reads 300 plus books a year) there are plenty of good options here for you to read – it’s just I’d like to see more variety of authors.

Happy Saturday and go and buy a book

Book previews, books, new releases

Out this week: Poppy Harmon and the Shooting Star

A bonus review today – that’s breaking some of my rules because this is the fifth in a series. But it doesn’t actually matree because this is the first in Lee Hollis’s Desert Flowers Mystery series that I’ve read. Interestingly I’ve read a couple of novellas by this author and one novel in a different series previously and wasn’t keen, but this really worked for me.

The set up is this: Poppy Harmon is a former actress who has been forced out of retired life to become a private investigator and runs a detective agency with two friends. In this instalment, one of Poppy’s former acting rivals has reappeared in her life. Serena has asked the agency to do an urgent background check on her husband to be. It seems easily done – but then Serena is found standing over a dead body holding a smoking gun and the team find themselves caught up in the investigation.

This has plenty of action, lots of twists and is really easy and fun to read. I thought I had the solution figured out – but I wasn’t entirely right and I liked that too. My copy came from NetGalley – and I even managed to read it in a timely manner! Even better, some of the earlier books in the series are in Kindle Unlimited at the moment (although not the first one) so I can go and read some more. I love it when that happens.


books, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Non Fiction round up

Rogues by Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is best known (at the moment anyway) for his Empire of Pain, about the opioid epidemic in the US, but this brings together some of his best investigative essays for the New Yorker – covering gangsters, drug barons, terrorism and more including his essay on the late Anthony Bourdain. I sped through some of them (Bourdain, fake wine, Mark Burnett) but found others harder going but that was probably more about my interests and state of mind at the time than anything else. Worth a look if you want some narrative non fiction but not an entire book on the same subject.

The Plantagenets by Dan Jones

I listened to this on audiobook and although it’s long it’s a really well written and understandable look at the Plantagenets – their rise, influence and power. This is an era of English history that doesn’t really get taught at school (there’s often not a lot taught between the Norman conquest and the Tudors) but the Plantagenet dynasty also held extensive lands in France for long periods so even if you do know the basics of the English end of things there is plenty on that here too. I enjoyed it so much I went straight on to Jones’s book on the Wars of the Roses, which picks up where this leaves off.

The Mountbattens by Andrew Lownie

So I read this because as you may remember I read and really enjoyed reading Lownie’s Traitor King a couple of years ago – and it has the same readable writing style, but this is ultimately a less satisfying read. The characters are fascinating – and you’re probably not going to like them much for quite a lot of the time – and their relationship unconventional to say the least. But although this sets out all the controversies and the debates around Mountbatten’s public life and actions – although it drops one major revelation in *very* late – it doesn’t really come to any conclusions, which makes it ultimately more than a bit frustrating. But it is in Kindle Unlimited at the moment – so if you’re interested it’s much more affordable than books like this often are.

Happy Wednesday everyone

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: May 15 – May 21

After the excitement of Eurovision, normal service has been resumed. I think I may have finished the Alleyn re-read/listen as we’ve reached the tail end of the series which I didn’t enjoy as much and I’m running out of audible credits! We’re now hurtling towards the end of May and the sun is starting to be more reliable (I line dried two loads of washing this week!) so I think we may nearly at the point where I can put the hammock up and get some reading time in the garden. Fingers crossed…


Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L Sayers

Proper English by K J Charles

A Clutch of Constables by Ngaio Marsh

A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey

Summer Reading by Jenn McKinlay*

Diamond Girl by Julie Mulhern

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers

Wild Dances by William Lee Adams**

Reach for the Stars by Michael Cragg

Sticks and Stones by Diane Mott Davidson


Poppy Harmon and the Shooting Star by Lee Hollis*

Mrs Porter Calling by A J Pearce*

Still reading:

The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes by Kate Strasdin*

The Empire by Michael Ball*

Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd

One preorder arrived and I bought two ebooks and preordered two more, but that was it.

Bonus photo: I have six whole peonies in my garden! I think this is a new record. I love peonies and I was thrilled when I discovered we had them in the garden when we moved here.

*next to a book book title indicates that it came from NetGalley. ** indicates it was an advance copy from a source other than NetGalley.

book adjacent, books

Book related: The Three Musketeers

Let’s start by saying I have a soft spot for adaptations of Alexander Dumas’s band of sword fighting soldiers. I think it probably started with Dogtanian and the Muskerhounds – the original, not the film a couple of years ago and possessor of a deeply catchy theme tune (I’ve put it right at the bottom of the post, press play if you dare) but there have been many others since, including when my favourite skater at the time did a routine to the music from The Man in the Iron Mask to win his Olympic gold! Anyway today we’re talking about the new French movie – the first of a duo.

So they’ve done some… adjustments to the plot of the book, but if you’ve read the book D’Artagnan takes you to roughly the halfway point of the novel in a very easy to enjoy two hour romp. There are sword fights galore along with chivalry and banter and some great stunt work – including a man jumping from one horse to another, which I always love to see.

It’s got a top notch French cast – including Vincent Cassel and Romain Duris among the musketeers and Eva Green as Milady – who spends a lot of time in a huge hat smoking a long stemmed pipe. Iconic stuff. Him Indoors came with me to see it and he described it as “nonsense – but very enjoyable nonsense” and then started to speculate on how the French film industry manages to make such impressive looking movies on such a consistent basis!

If you’re a purist and want something that follows the book completely, this may not work for you – one man left out screening sucking his teeth and telling the usher it wasn’t very accurate – but if you enjoyed the BBC series Musketeers, then I think you’ll like this. We’re definitely going back for part two, which is called Milady, when that arrives here at the end of the year.

Have a great Sunday everyone.

books, The pile

Books Incoming: mid May edition

So technically two of these arrived last month – but were delivered to my parents so weren’t at home for last month’s post – I’ve already written about Romantic Comedy at length, but the actual book is very pretty – although I do like the US version too. The other late arrival is the beautiful hardback Virago edition of Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. Yes I already own a paperback copy AND the audiobook (read by Meryl Streep no less!), and no I don’t know whether I will manage to part with the paperback now I have this to add to my collection of Designer Classics.

Then we have a bunch of new releases and preorders. My copy of William Lee Adams’ Wild Dances came direct from the author, but The Tobacco Wives and Dressed to Drill were preorders – although they arrived later than I was expecting, especially the new Fixer-Upper which was nearly two day after release, but then it’s a US book so even though Amazon UK said they had it, they probably didn’t!

Then we have another Goldy Schultz as I continue to pick up second-hand copies of the ones that aren’t on Kindle, the next Cupcake Bakery that I haven’t read and a couple of impulse purchases: Beach Read which I bought after I finished Happy Place and The Golden Hour which I’ve had my eye on for ages. And then on Sunday I was in Sainsbury’s and couldn’t help myself when I saw a historical mystery series I hadn’t come across before. Poor impulse control.

And that’s your lot for this month!


Series redux: Josephine Tey

To Love and Be Wise this week was the first time I’ve read any of the actual Josephine Tey books since I read Nicola Upson’s series that features the author and as various of the Nicola Upsons have appeared in my Kindle daily deals email at reduced prices, I thought it was a good time to remind you of my post from this time last year about the series – read all about them here. And as far as I can see, there’s no news yet on whether there is going to be an eleventh.