new releases, Thriller

Book of the Week: Dial A for Aunties

As I said yesterday, lots of reading done last week to finish of April. Mini-Reviews coming up tomorrow, but today’s Book of the Week is quite hard to define by genre, but it’s one of the most fun books I’ve read so far this year. And bonus: it was new last week so I’m on time with my review again!

Cover of Dial A for Aunties

Meddelin Chan has always thought that her family are a pain. Her mum and her three aunts are always messing in her life, and not just because they all work together in the family wedding business. But when Meddelin accidentally kills her blind date, the aunts swing into action to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately it’s also the night before their biggest job yet: a swanky billionaire’s wedding at an island resort. An already tricky situations – trying to find a way to get rid of the body and make the wedding perfect – gets even worse when it turns out that Meddelin’s The One That Got Away is on the island too. Can the Chan’s pull it all off: disposing of a corpse, the perfect wedding and getting Meddy’s ex back into her life?

This is just the funniest and also weirdest book I have read in ages. It’s a farcical comedy thriller caper with a romantic subplot and yes that’s a lot of genres but it’s just wonderful. Meddelin is a charming character – she’s trying to figure out how to live her own life and achieve her dreams but without disappointing her family. But when the date goes wrong it turns out that her family have got her back no matter what. The aunts and their bickering is hilarious. But they’re all also very good at their day jobs – which is why the body disposal is so much fun. And yes, as a premise it’s a bit dark, but just go with it and the dark humour all gets balanced out by the fun and frothy wedding antics. And I loved the details about Meddy’s Chinese and Indonesian heritage.

I hope this is absolutely massive – I hope like my future is full of people asking for recommendations for books like this – even though there isn’t really anything like it that I can think off. Think Steph Plum crossed with Aunty Lee, with a dash of Crazy Rich Asians and you’re sort of getting there. the afterword says it’s already been optioned by Netflix and I can’t wait to watch what they do with it.

My copy of Dial A for Aunties came from NetGalley, but it’s out now in Kindle and Kobo as well as paperback. I still haven’t made it into a bookshop, so I don’t know whether they’ll have it in stock, but Foyles are showing copies available to order with a short delivery time, so I’m hopeful it’ll make it to the tables in the end.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: He’s Not My Boyfriend

I said yesterday that I was having trouble picking and I did. There were a few options for today. But the Deanna Raybourn is the sixth in a series – and I’ve written about Veronica before. The Grand Sophy was a reread via audiobook and that book is the very definition of a problematic favourite. I’ve written about several Lumberjanes before (including the novelisations) as well. And when I came to write up my reading list I realised that although I’ve read eight of Jackie Lau’s books and novellas over the last year, I haven’t made one of them a BotW yet. So that made my mind up for me.

Cover of He's Not My Boyfriend

Iris Chin likes her independence. She’s a successful structural engineer and a bit of a party girl and life would be pretty much perfect if her family didn’t keep setting up up with men to try and get her married off. But her job and her home life collide when she discovers that Alex Kwong, the one night-stand she snuck out on the next morning, is the man she’s going to have to work with on a new project for work. On top of that she’s moved in with her nosy, meddling grandma and you’ve got a recipe for a disaster…

This makes for a really fun read. Alex and Iris are both convinced that they don’t want to be in relationships – Iris, because she thinks her parents and grandparents relationships weren’t successful, and Alex because his mum has died and left his family broken hearted and he doesn’t want to go through that pain again. But they have great chemistry together, and Iris introduces Alex to her family to help him with some of the female family he’s missing without his mum. Watch them work out their relationship is really good, but Iris’s grandmother nearly steels the show. She’s a 90-something ball of energy – who has learnt English since her husband died, taken a string of cookery courses to fill time and has started reading Harlequin romance novels. She’s brilliant, and I would read a whole series of her setting up her hapless relatives on blind dates!

So this is a couple of years old and the second in a series – I haven’t read the first, but the couple from that do pop up in this. The running theme in the Jackie Lau books that I’ve read are delicious food, meddling families and heroines who know what they want from life and aren’t afraid to go out and get it. So if that is your thing – and you don’t mind feeling hungry while reading, then definitely check this out. Her first book with Berkeley is out at in November and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

I bought my copy of He’s Not My Boyfriend on Kindle but it’s also available on Kobo – and it’s 99p on both of those at the moment. It’s also showing as available to order in paperback, but I can’t work out how easy it actually will be to get hold of.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Act Your Age, Eve Brown

After a slight diversion with Mrs Tim of the Regiment, a return to some familiar themes for my BotW post today: guaranteed resolutions,  romance and an author I’ve recommended before – but for once it’s a new release as this came out on the 9th so I actually read it pretty much on time for once – even if my review is this week. Just quickly, before we talk about the new Talia Hibbert – another of the books I read last week is out today – the new Maisie Dobbs book from Jacqueline Winspear. I’ve written a series I love post about Maisie – but I suspect this one will feature in my end of month mini reviews – I really enjoyed it, but as The Consequences of Fear is the 16th in the series, it’s really hard to talk at length about without giving loads of spoilers for previous books!

Cover of Act Your Age, Eve Brown

Eve Brown’s parents think she’s flighty. To be fair the string of half finished courses and short-lived careers might give that impression – but that’s just because she hasn’t found her passion yet. But when her parents give her an ultimatum after she “ruins” a wedding by releasing some doves too early (to be fair I would probably have liberated them too), she high tails it out of town to prove them wrong. Jacob is looking for a new chef for his B&B, but Eve is definitely not it. But then she accidentally hits hit with her car and he winds up with a broken arm and when he emerges from the fug of his concussion, she’s filing in for him trying to help. He’s a grump, she’s a purple haired Ray of sunshine in a slogan t-shirt. They should be each other’s worst nightmares but the more time they spend together, the more sparks fly.

So this is the third and final book in Talia Hibbert’s series about the Brown sisters and they’ve all been a delight – in fact I recommended the second book, Take a Hint, Dani Brown in June last year when that was a new released. If you’ve read the other two books in the series, you’ve caught glimpses of Eve, but I think whatever the opinions are you’ve formed of her, you’re probably wrong. It was a fascinating surprise getting to know her and watch her journey. And Jacob is a great hero – as the book unfolds you realise that he’s autistic but that’s not the most important thing about him – and nor should it be – but it’s still quite rare to see autistic characters getting their own love stories, so that feels unusual. This is a slow burn, dislike at first sight, enemies to lovers forced proximity romance – all tropes which I love.

The chemistry and banter between Eve and Jacob is great and the sex scenes are really, really steamy – if I had been reading on a train (as I likely would have been in the beforetimes!) I would have been blushing. I also loved the way that you see the two of them working out and navigating their relationship and its parameters. And there is also no stupid drama for the sake of it here. The conflict is well-thought out and really works – and if something could be sorted out with a conversation then it probably will be, which is also a really positive at this point in time. There’s no coronavirus in this books, but it very much is exactly the sort of book I want – no need – to read after a year of Covid-19 life. And on top of that you get some more of Gigi, the girl’s fabulous grandmother and appearances from the other sisters and their partners. Just lovely. I’m looking forward to whatever Hibbert writes next – but I’m really hoping that the next thing is about Jacob’s best friend…

My copy of Act Your Age, Eve Brown came from NetGalley, but it’s out now and should be nice and easy to get hold of in all formats. Words and Kisses – my current favourite purveyor of romance in the UK is out of stock at time of writing, but they’ll get it back – and I suspect this will be in the supermarkets and on the tables in bookshops (when that’s a thing again) and of course it’s on Kindle and Kobo and audio too.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, Forgotten books, women's fiction

Book of the Week: Mrs Tim of the Regiment

We’re midway through March and it’s been a while since I picked something from my list of slightly quirky out of the way authors. So here we are, with Mrs Tim of the Regiment, which firmly fits into the gentle English life subset of my reading.

Paperback copy of Mrs Tim of the Regiment

As the title suggests, Mrs Tim – Hester Christie – is the wife of an army officer, in the 1930s. Told in the form of a diary, we see her navigate regimental life, including moving across the country when Tim gets promoted, and trying to make friends and raise a family. The first half of the book is more about the day to day, the second follows a holiday that Hester takes to Scotland with her young daughter to visit a friend and the complications ensue.

I’ve written a lot about the fact that I’ve been sticking to genres where I know that things will turn out ok in the end, and at first glance this might seem like a bit of a turn away from that, but this is actually very low stakes and relaxing to read. Hester is a wonderful narrator – she’s witty and observant of others, but also a little bit dense when it comes to herself. She is utterly oblivious to the fact that Major Morley is mad about her – and that he and her friend’s son are fighting over her when she’s on holiday in Scotland. This is a tricky tightrope for the author to tread, because Tim isn’t always around much and by its nature, domestic life of a married couple is less glamorous and exciting than holiday-ing in Scotland and dashing around the countryside. But I thought that Hester’s obliviousness – and her devotion to Tim (earlier in the book she worries about what to do if he is sent to India and whether they could afford to send their daughter to boarding school so she can go too because she doesn’t want to be apart from him again) means that this section is amusing and charming rather than feeling like you’re working up to Hester leaving Tim or being left at home unhappy. 

I’ve read D E Stevenson before – she’s the author of the wonderful Miss Buncle’s Book and Anna and her Daughters which I have written about before – and this has a lot of the things I liked about both of those, but also seemed to me to fit in along with books like Diary of a Provincial Lady and Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire books. It’s essentially a slice of life story from the interwar period, in the voice of a smart woman who is running a household (because that’s what you did when you got married in those days). There are three more books in the series, and I suspect I’ll be reading them at some point in the near future.

My copy of Mrs Tim of the Regiment was a birthday present (thanks mum and dad!) and you should be able to get hold of the charming paperback edition I have from any sensible bookshop (like Foyles), but it’s also available on Kindle and Kobo.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, Thriller

Book of the Week: The Holdout

Mini reviews coming up tomorrow, but this week’s BotW is The Holdout by Graham Moore. Regular readers will know that I’ve been keen on books with resolutions recently and have been sticking resolutely to romance and cozy crime where I know that it will all turn out ok in the end – the couple will end up together, the murderer will be found. And yet here I am today recommending a thriller – a genre where such things are not guaranteed. But this was such a page turned I couldn’t help myself!

UK cover of The Holdout

So ten years ago, Maya was part of the jury on a murder trial that saw a young black man acquitted of killing a wealthy white teenage girl. The experience in the courtroom inspired her to become a defence lawyer herself. When a true crime documentary decides to make an episode about her case, Maya finds herself back in the middle of all the controversy again. And then one of the other jurors is found dead in Maya’s room and now she has to prove her own innocence. But what are the secrets that the others have been hiding and which lead to murder?

So this had me on the edge of my seat. It’s dark and twisty and shows some of the workings of the legal system in a way that I haven’t seen a lot (or maybe I just haven’t read the right books!). The twists and turns keep coming at a pace that don’t allow you to think too hard about the bits where it’s getting a bit outlandish! I had an inkling of some of the reveals by the halfway point, but such is the nature of the book that you can’t ever really be sure that’s where it’s going. And Moore has picked out some of the flaws of the criminal justice system very neatly too.

If we were going to beaches at the moment, this would be a prime pick for reading on a sun lounger – at any rate somewhere nice and bright to counteract all the darkness in the book (darkness of subject matter not horror or creepy stuff though).

My copy came from NetGalley, but it’s a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, so it will be easy to get hold of from WH Smith and I suspect it will be in the supermarkets as well. It’s also 99p on Kindle and Kobo at the moment.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, LGTBQIA+, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Boyfriend Material

Another week, another contemporary romance pick for BotW.  This time it’s Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material, which has been much buzzed about, to the point where it took months for my library hold to come in, but it was totally, totally worth it.

Cover of Boyfriend Material

Luc’s parents were rockstars – and back in the day they made some of their best music together. And then they made him. And it means that he’s sort of famous – even though his dad walked out of his life when he was small and his mum hasn’t made any new music in year. But now his dad is making a comeback – and that means more interest in Luc as well. After an unfortunate picture of him tripping up coming out of a club puts his job (fundraiser at a charity trying to save the dung beetle) at risk, Luc decides that the solution is to get himself a nice normal boyfriend. That’s where Oliver comes him. He’s as normal and sensible as it comes – a barrister, an ethical vegetarian and absolutely scandal averse. The only things that they have in common are the fact that they’re single, gay, and they both need a date for a big event. So they come up with a deal. They’ll be fake boyfriends until Luc’s job is safe and Oliver’s family party is over. Then they’ll never see each other again. Simple. Except this is a romance and we all know these sort of arrangements never go to plan!

I loved this so much. I’ve written a lot here about my quest to find more of the funny but romantic books that I love reading and which seemed to be everywhere in the early 2000s, but which seem to have vanished off the face of the planet these days, in favour of really angsty books where everyone has a miserable backstory or comedies where the comedy is based on humiliation or people being terrible at their jobs (and either not really caring they’re rubbish at their jobs or not realising they are) which is really not my thing. But this was just in that sweet spot. It’s witty, it’s fun, the characters are charming and good at their jobs and the secondary characters are hilarious. It’s just a joy to read. I could have read another 200 pages of Luc and Oliver trying to work out how to have a proper relationship. It really was exactly what I needed last week.

It’s had loads of buzz, been various bookclub and magazine picks and so clearly I’m not the only person who wants to read books like this, and fingers crossed it’s the start of a renaissance. If you’ve got any recommendations for books that do the same sort of thing, please drop them in the comments, because the Goodreads and Amazon suggestions aren’t helping me any! This was also my first Alexis Hall book, so I’m off to dig into the back catalogue, although having chatted to my romance reading friends, I think that the steam levels on some of the others is much higher than this – this is kissing and then pretty much closed door. I’ve already pre-ordered Hall’s next book – Rosaline Palmer Takes All the Cake, which is out in May because a romance set on a baking show is exactly what I didn’t realise that I need in front of my eyeballs!

My copy of Boyfriend Material came from the library, but it’s available on Kindle and Kobo and as an audiobook. It’s a paperback too, but the shops have been closed so long now I’ve lost all sense of what is going to get stocked where and so don’t know how easy it will be to get hold of if you’re trying to order from your indie, but Foyles have it available to order if that’s any indication.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, historical, mystery

Book of the Week: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

A long old reading list last week, and this is slightly cheating because I finished it on Monday, but I enjoyed it – despite it taking me a few weeks to read – and I Have Thoughts. It is also the first in the series so that’s nice too…

Cover of The Beekeeper's Apprentice

An aging Sherlock Holmes has retired to the Sussex Downs. There in his cottage, he is concentrating on his experiments and his bee hives, away from the bustle of London. One day on the downs, he meets the teenage Mary Russell, a young orphan, unhappy with the aunt that she lives with and searching for knowledge. In her, Holmes sees a mind similar to his own and essentially takes her on as his apprentice and involves her in his work. But of course danger comes calling again and a deadly foe threatens their lives and those of Mrs Hudson and Doctor Watson.

This book covers a considerable period of time – taking Mary from her mid-teens through to having nearly graduated from Oxford – and starts off as a series of small investigations and episodes before building to a bigger and more dangerous case in the second half. I quite liked Mary as a character – I’ve seen complaints that she’s a Mary Sue, but to be honest considering Sherlock’s own startling gifts, I didn’t think it was that implausible for a woman to be similarly clever and perceptive – and there’s also no point in creating a young Watson facsimile for a foil – because why would someone like that interest an ageing Holmes, who already has the original Watson?

I do have a few reservations about the huge age gap that’s going on here and where this is going* but the mystery is good and the whole thing swept me along nicely enough while I was reading it. Writing this has made me think about it a bit more closely and although I didn’t love it, love it, it’s still the book I have the most to say about from the last week.  I think you will probably like this more the less attached you are to the original series – I see a lot of people on Goodreads complaining about the treatment of Watson, most of them the same people who were complaining about Mary. I’ll admit I’m not a massive Sherlock Holmes reader, but I do like a Sherlock reinvention – as my love of Lady Sherlock shows – so this ticked some fun boxes for me.

This was originally published back in 2002 and is the first in what is now a long series. I’ve lined up the second one to see what happens next. If I change my mind about everything, I’ll try and be big enough to come back and let you know!

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice should be fairly easy to get hold of – I read it on Kindle (where it’s under £2 at time of writing), it’s also on Kobo (just over £2) and all the usual platforms and I’ve seen them in shops and library collections as well – including the discount bookshops like The Works and the charity shops when that was a thing.

Happy Reading!

* Spoiler: having got a later book in the series on the tbr shelf somehow I know they get married.

Book of the Week, Fantasy, LGTBQIA+

Book of the Week: The House in the Cerulean Sea

Along with 500+ pages of Amelia Peabody, I did read some new stuff last week – amongst it a book of Terry Pratchett essays that I had been saving because there’s only a limited amount of his writing that I haven’t already read, but also the rather charming The House in the Cerulean Sea by T J Klune.

Cover of The House in the Cerulean Sea

Linus Baker leads a quiet orderly life. He works for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth as a case worker overseeing the well-being of children in government sanctioned orphanages. He’s been doing the same job for years and never moved up the ladder – and is happy with that – so when he is summoned by Extremely Upper Management it’s already enough to send him into a panic. Then he’s sent on a highly classified mission to an orphanage on an island where six “highly dangerous” children live along with their guardian Arthur Parnassus. As Linus investigates the home on Marsyas Island and its residents, he (and his cat) get to know the children – a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, a green blob of an as yet unidentified species, a Pomeranian and (most worryingly) the Antichrist – and Arthur and start to discover some of the island’s secrets. But at the end of the end of his allotted four weeks, he will be faced with difficult choice.

This is a wonderful story about what family is and finding your place in the world. It’s beautifully written and incredibly descriptive – I could absolutely see the island and its residents in my head and was rooting for them all all the way. It reminded me (in a weird but good way) of Studio Ghibli movies and the magical alternative reality worlds that they create. Its enough to make me wish that Hayao Miyazaki would make another film after the one he’s currently out of retirement to make! I’m struggling to think of books to compare it to, because it’s a bit different – I’m not alone though because the Goodreads “readers also enjoyed” list seems to be struggling too and the the genre list o has it down as both Adult and Young Adult as well as romance, fantasy, LGTB and (weirdly) audiobook. It’s turning up a few romances like the Honey Don’t List and Girl Gone Viral, which are not similar at all, but do suggest that I’m not the only contemporary romance reader who has enjoyed this one.

Anyway, if you’re in need of some escapist reading at the moment (and again, who isn’t really), this would be a lovely choice. It’ll make you think, but it has a resolution and I think you’ll be happy with it when you get there.

My copy of the House in the Cerulean Sea came from the library, but it’s available in Kindle, Kobo and audiobook as well as paperback – although that might be slightly harder to get hold of.

Happy reading!

Book of the Week, crime, detective

Book of the Week: Sick as a Parrot

A big of week in reading last week, with some Christmas stuff you’ll hear about anon. Or at least I hope you will. Anyway, back to some old school crime this week for my BotW pick.

Copy of Sick as a Parrot on the Crime bookshelf

Sick as a Parrot is the fifth book in Liz Evans’s series featuring somewhat unconventional private investigator and ex-cop Grace Smith. Grace’s latest client is Hannah Conti, a young woman who has recently discovers that she is adopted and that her natural mother was convicted of murder. Hannah wants Grace to clear her mother’s name. And so Grace is drawn into the very messy murder of a school teacher two decades ago that no one wants re-examining. Meanwhile Grace is also pet-sitting a neurotic parrot and despite all her best efforts she also has an incredibly unreconstructed former colleague sleeping in her spare room.

This is the second book in this series that I’ve read (the other one being Who Killed Marilyn Monroe, the first in the series) and they’re both on the edge of gritty with an enjoyable side of black humour. They were written in the mid 2000s and that gives them an enjoyably low tech and low fi edge. Grace is a fun heroine – enjoyably flawed and smart in someways – but not in others. There are some common threads in this book from the first one too which have clearly been developing nicely in the interim which I’d like to go back for. And there’s an interesting romantic thread in this that means I really want to read the sixth and final book in the series.

So this is where it gets tricky. This is an older book which I picked it up secondhand, I think at a National Trust book stall. So you’ll have to hunt for it. But you never know, you might find one of the other books in the series while you’re at it. Some of the series have been republished on Kindle with new titles – you can find the box set of the first three here and some of them are even in Kindle Unlimited, if that’s a thing you have. Who Killed Marilyn Monroe is available on Kobo, but it’s the only one I could find there sadly.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, Fantasy

Book of the Week: Guilty Pleasures

As I mentioned yesterday I read a bunch of books last week for my missing states for my Read Across America challenge and today’s Book of the Week was one of them.

Cover of Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures is the first in Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series. In a world where vampires have been legalised, Anita is an animator in St Louis, where she raises the dead and she helps kill members of the undead who have gone too far. Then the head of the city’s vampires asks her to solve a series of killings and she’s unable to say no. Soon she’s drawn into a new part of the world of the supernatural.

So, as previously mentioned, I have a mixed record with supernatural stories. I love the first 3 series of Buffy, like the next two and then lose patience with everything except Once More With Feeling and Tabula Rasa after the end of season five*. I raced through the Sookie Stackhouse series (and as I was reading it around the time the final book came out, I didn’t have years to get attached to one particular outcome and so was a rare person who wasn’t angry at the ending) but have struggled to find supernatural series I like outside of Charlaine Harris and Darynda Jones. I think my issues are usually when the series are too dark and angsty and too close to horror. But I do come through with every now and again and try. Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was too horror for me. Alice James’s Grave Secrets had a good set up but didn’t do it for me in the execution. But this one was just about in the sweet spot. It was nearly a bit too violent, and didn’t quite have enough relationships/romance but I raced through it and enjoyed it. It doesn’t waste time with any explanations though – it really just does dump you into the world and leave you to work it out. Which is a choice, and obviously massive info dumps are bad, but when I stopped to think about it I wasn’t always quite sure how everything worked. But while I was reading, I didn’t mind!

For all that I’m only reading it now, this is actually 16 years old (just a couple of years younger than the True Blood series) and is still going, with the 28th book in the series due out in early 2021. This seemed like it was definitely setting up a love interest, so I shall probably read at least one or two more to see where it goes, but I’m not sure that I’m ready to commit to another mega long series at the moment.

My copy of Guilty Pleasures came from the library, but you can get hold of it in Kindle and on Kobo, as well as in paperback – bookshop.org.uk seem to have stock, but I don’t know if you’ll find it in stores.

Happy Reading!

*we’ve recently done a rewatch so I can confirm the accuracy of this.