Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Books to reread

It’s getting pretty wintery, and when the weather is like this, it often makes me feel like rereading something that’s going to make me feel cozy and warm inside. Please note, that that last sentence was going to be about liking nothing more than to curl up on the sofa with a blanket and a book to reread. But we all know that that’s not just a winter thing. Give me a comfy seat, a blanket and a good book and you won’t see me again for a few hours. Anyway, this week, have some suggestions for books that hold up to more than one reading.

Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield

So this was one of my picks for escapist books for difficult times back in the early pandemic and I stand by it as being one of the best comfort reads. It is what the title suggests – a provincial lady in the 1930s struggling to keep control of her household. I sometimes describe it as being a bit like the Bridget Jones of its time, but I think that’s underselling it. It’s very low stress, very low stakes and it’s charming and witty. If you liked Miss Buncle and haven’t read this, then why not?

Gone with the Windsors by Laurie Graham

It will surprise you not at all if you’ve been here a while that Gone with the Windsors features on this list. Because I read it so often I own multiple copies and I keep them scattered around the house. If you don’t already know, it’s the story of the Abdication Crisis as seen through the eyes of a school friend of Wallis Simpson, who comes to England to visit her sister. It’s brilliant for just dipping into, or for reading the whole thing. And it still makes me chuckle eleventy billion reads later.

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

Again, not a surprised that I’d have a Georgette Heyer on this list either, but maybe a surprise that it’s Sylvester. A year or two ago, it would probably have been Regency Buck or Devil’s Cub, but I’ve listened to the audiobook of this at least three times this year and that’s before we talk about the times I’ve picked up the boo, so I’m going to put it here because I do grab it more often than most of them. This has two people who definitely don’t want to marry each other, but then get thrown together a lot – there is the Regency equivalent of a road trip as well as a trapped at an inn situation, an adorable nephew (“Uncle Vester will grind your bones”) and it’s just delightful.

There were a lot of things that I could have included in this, but a lot of them that I’ve already written about relatively recently, so just want to throw in here that I do regular rereads of Soulless, the Rivers of London series and the Peter and Harriet end of the Wimsey series.

Happy Wednesday everyone.

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Locked Room mysteries

Til Death Do Us Part was a BotW back in late September and it got me thinking about other locked room mysteries, so if you liked that, here is a selection of other similar mysteries for you to read after that. And yes, I’m being a bit cheaty because some of these have been Books of the Week – but over a year ago, so I’m claiming statue of limitations.

Seven Dead by J Jefferson Farjeon

An amateur thief on his first job stumbles on seven bodies in a locked room while robbing an isolated house by the sea. This is a clever locked room mystery that then evolves into a mad chase. I really enjoyed it and hadn’t worked out the solution until very late on, but the ending is rather far fetched – but there’s quite a lot of that about in books from this era!

The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen Wilkinson

Yes, this has been a BotW before but it’s nearly three years ago so I’m going to mention it again now, because I did read it in basically one sitting, and the setting in the Palace of Westminster makes it something a bit different even if it is quite traditional in other ways – amateur detective, friendly police officer, handy tame reporter etc. And Wilkinson knew what she was talking about when it came to the Parliamentary estate – she was an MP from the 1920s until her death in 1947 and served in Winston Churchill’s wartime cabinet.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Ok so it’s a locked compartment in train carriage, but it still counts and this is the granddaddy of the genre in many ways. I’ve read it, listened to the audiobook and watched the Albert Finney film so many times now I don’t think I’m even capable of writing about it rationally, but it’s a classic of the genre for a reason, and if you haven’t read it you should.

And that’s your lot for today – Happy Wednesday everyone.

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: World War-set novels

It was Remembrance Day last week, and Remembrance Sunday at the weekend, which got me thinking about my favourite novels set during one or other of the two world wars. And so here we are with a recommendsday featuring some of them.

The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker

I’ve mentioned before that I did a war literature module as part of my A Levels and read the entire reading list, because I got got so sucked into it all, and the first novel in this trilogy, regeneration, was one of those – and I went on to read the other two as well. This centres on a doctor at a hospital treating shellshocked soldiers near Edinburgh and how he tried to help the soldiers come to terms with what they have endured and his conflicted feelings about getting them fit enough to be sent back to the front.

I could write a whole post based on that A Level reading list about the First World War. but I’m going to restrain myself and move on…

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

Ok, I’ve only moved on as far as stuff I first read when I was at university, but this is also really good. And it’s a modern classic that I’ve actually read and enjoyed and kept hold of. Yossarian is part of a bomber group stationed in Italy, where the number of missions you need to fly to complete your service keeps going up. The catch 22 of the title is the rule that dictates that anyone who continues to fly combat missions is insane – but as soon as he makes a formal request to be removed from duty it proves he is sane.

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

This was one of my favourite books of the year in 2018, although it didn’t get a full review at the time – just the mention in the end of year post.  This is a sequel to the Five Children and It – although obviously by a different author. The five are now mostly grown up five and their younger sister has only ever heard of the Psammead in stories, until he reappears for one last adventure with the youngest two siblings that will change them. This is a middle grade novel and Kate Saunders has done a wonderful job of creating a world that feels like it is the likely successor to the Edwardian Idyll of the original books and showing the realities of the Great War to a younger audience and a new generation.

And then let’s move on to the stuff I have already recommended. The Skylark’s War like Five Children on the Western Front will break your heart. On the Second World War sid, there is The House on Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams, Dear Mrs Bird by S J Pearce (and its sequel Yours Cheerfully), Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey,Lissa Evans’ Crooked Heart and V for Victory are in World War Two Two, as To Bed With Grand Music and A House in the Country which were written during the War itself. The Maisie Dobbs series hits World War Two in book 13, but several of the earlier books in the series deal with the Great War and Maisie’s experiences in it. Equally some of my favourite books in the Amelia Peabody series are set in the Great War and some of the most exciting developments in the series happen in them – Ramses I’m looking at you!

Happy Wednesday!

books on offer, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: November Kindle deals

It’s that time again: Kindle deal recommendsday! And once again I’ve spent money while putting this post together. Quelle surprise I hear you say. Anyway: to the books.

As we get closer to Christmas, we have a selection of Christmas books hitting the offers – and all of these are 99p. Let’s start with Jenny Colgan’s The Christmas Bookshop, which I haven’t read, but her Christmas books are usually fairly reliable. Also in the haven’t read but like their other stuff is Merrily Ever After by Cathy Bramley. I have however read Susan Mallery’s The Christmas Wedding Guestit was her Christmas book last year. Much older a Trisha Ashley’s Wish Upon a Star which I read way before I started this blog! And if you want a historical romance, the Christmas Desperate Duchesses novel is on offer too: An Affair before Christmas by Eloisa James. And then in not Christmas, but sort of Christmas-y covers we have Walking Back to Happiness by Lucy Dillon – another book that I read looooong before the blog started.

Next up we have previous BotWs (or release day reviewed) books that are on offer: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood, Book Lovers by Emily Henry, The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan, The Family You Make by Jill Shalvis and the much older The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley. There’s also Murder in the Basement by Antony Berkeley (which is in Kindle Unlimited at the moment as well). It’s more expensive (£1.99) but The Feast is also on offer – I really, really enjoyed Margaret Kennedy’s mystery which you can’t say a lot about without giving it too much away!

I’ve recommended a bunch of Christina Lauren books – most recently Something Wilder – but The Soulmate Equation is on offer at the moment – I actually have a paperback copy on the stack by my end of the sofa. This month’s 99p Georgette Heyer is Friday’s Child, which I think is one of my mum’s favourites and the Peter Wimsey is Whose Body. The …In Death is Abandoned In Death (number 54) All of the Lady Hardcastles are on offer for 99p this month (although the whole series is in KU if you’re a member) the first one is A Quiet Life in the Country .

And finally, I haven’t written about it (yet) but I did enjoy The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood when I read it earlier this year – there’s a second book in the series out early next year.

Happy Wednesday everyone.

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: October Quick Reviews

As promised yesterday, here is this month’s batch of quick reviews – and stay til the end for the links to the other bits and bobs from this month.

The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Croft

The first of two British Library Crime Classics novels this month, this features a really intriguing series of disappearances. The Hog’s back of the title is a ridge in the North Downs near where Dr James Earl and his wife live. When the doctor disappears from his home, initially it seems like a domestic affair – with a husband giving up on an unhappy marriage, but then other people disappear mysteriously – including one of his house guests. Yesterday I mentioned that the suspense element of When Stars Collide doesn’t follow the rules of mysteries – well this not only follows the rules, at the end when Inspector French is talking you through his solution, it gives you the page numbers for the clues!

Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton

The second BLCC is a variation on the locked room mystery – with the victim in a compartment on a moving train when he is shot. At first it seems like Sir Wilfred Saxonby has shot him self, but there’s no motive and soon inconsistencies appear and a murder investigation is underway. I had the solution- or most of the solution worked out before the end of this but it was still a good read, although if you’re only going to read one of these, maybe make it Hogs Back because that’s a totally baffling one for a long time.

The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatio Sancho by Paterson Joseph*

This was the very last book I finished in October and definitely deserves its mention here. This fits into the fictionalised real lives genre – in this case the life of a black writer and composer who lived in Regency London. As you might expect there are significant challenges facing him – and they are presented in this in the guise of a diary designed for his son to read when he is older (and it is suggested that Sancho will not be around to tell him them himself). Sancho was born on a slave ship and was given as a gift to three sisters who brought him up to be their servant before he escaped from them. I won’t say much more than that because it gives too much away – maybe I have already. The author is the actor Paterson Joseph who has spent two decades researching the life of his main character which he turned into a play before he wrote this novel.

And there’s a stack of other books I’ve written about – including older lady killers and other adventure stories, plenty of Halloween options if you still want spooky reading but also a really moving memoir and four series to get into

Happy Humpday!

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Halloween-y reading

Pumpkins and skeletons are everywhere now, and even the Great British Bake-off has done a Halloween episode (even if it was a week early) so the time is clearly right for some Halloween-y reading recommendations. And by Halloween-y I mean featuring witches, magic, ghosts or the supernatural in some way, set around Halloween or just creepy. But I don’t read a lot of creepy as you know.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

If you haven’t read this already, you should. And not just because it’s been turned into a TV series (with a second season coming!). This is Pratchett and Gaiman’s take on the end of the world – as prophesied by Agnes Nutter (witch), complete with a fussy angel and a reckless demon and a missing antichrist. It’s bonkers and funny and a nice way into both authors if you haven’t read any of them and don’t know where to go. And did I mention the TV series?

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Katie Racculia

Cover of Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts

I was delighted to realise that this is out of the statute of limitations and I can talk about this again. This is the story of an Edgar Allen Poe inspired treasure hunt, set by an eccentric billionaire. The Tuesday of the title is trying to solve the mystery, along with her self-appointed best friends, but there’s also more than a little mystery in Tuesday and her friends’ backstories too. It’s a gothic adventure caper -and it’s lots of fun. Also: writing this has made me realise that there isn’t another book from Katie Racculia yet – I hope she’s got one in the works, because Bellweather Rhapsody was really good too. NB: this is called Tuesday Mooney Wore Black in the UK.

Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale

This is a really readable non-fiction story about a ghost hunter who investigates the case of a woman who says she is being haunted by a poltergeist. It’s the late 1930s, the tail end of an era where there was a craze for spiritualism and mediums (as frequently seen in murder mysteries of the era) and this follows Nandor Fodor as he tries to work out what exactly is going on with Alma. Because it’s non fiction, it’s not tidy, but it is fascinating.

And finally, there are a few things I’ve already recommended within the last year that would work for Halloween too: recent book of the the week The Dead Romantics, The Ex Hex and bingeable series Sookie Stackhouse.

Happy Wednesday everyone

Adventure, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Adventure capers

Continuing the adventure caper theme of the last ten days or so, for this week’s recommendsday I’ve got some books for you if you want some excitement that’s not necessarily murder mystery – although to be fair there are some deaths involved in most of these. And I’ve stuck fairly strictly to stuff sent in contemporary times – and without any fantasy or paranormal elements.

Something Wilder by Christina Lauren

This technically a romance but it’s also an adventure story so it totally belongs in this post. Lily’s father was a famous treasure hunter – always looking for a big find. But when he died he left her with nothing but debts and his own hand drawn treasure maps. She’s turned those maps into a business – taking tourists on fake treasure hunts through canyons in Utah as she tries to raise enough money to buy her family ranch back. Then one tour the man who broke her heart and his friends turn up and the tour goes horribly wrong and Lily starts to wonder if the treasure her dad was searching for was real after all. Lily and Leo will have to work together if they’re going to fix the wrongs of the past. I really enjoyed this – it’s quite different from Christina Lauren’s usual romances as it has Actual Life or Death Peril, and in some ways I was more interested in the treasure hunt side of it than the romance!

Skin Tight by Carl Hiaasen

Hiaasen writes darkly humorous adventure romps – I’ve read a few and every time I read one I think I should read more of them. Skinny Dip is the first in a series, and sees a former State investigator trying to work out who is trying to kill him after an intruder breaks into his house with a gun. His former career means he has a long list of enemies to narrow down as he tries to stay alive to enjoy his retirement. If you want to get a flavour of the sort of black comedy we’re dealing with: he kills the burglar using a stuffed fish. I saw someone describe his work as “if Florida man was a book” which is sort of fair, but sort of not. This was actually a Book of the Week back in 2018 – so i’m allowed to recommend it again now – and another of Hiaasen’s books, Basket Case, was a BotW last year too.

If you haven’t read the Da Vinci Code, that definitely counts as an adventure more than anything else I think – it feels very chase-y. I read the Da Vinci Code not long after it first came out and then read another non-Robert Langdon Dan Brown before reading Angels and Demons – and with Angels and Demons I was able to pick out the culprit straight away and I’m not sure I’ve finished another one since, although I have tried – so your mileage may vary but I do know people who have loved them all.

And of course there are a couple series that I’ve written about that fit into this too: Vicky Bliss (and Amelia Peabody although obviously that’s historical adventure and so doesn’t belong here!) and the Vinyl Detective probably counts too.

Happy Wednesday

books on offer, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: October Kindle Offers

It’s officially autumn according to Amazon – and they’ve got a bunch of Kindle offers to celebrate. So here we go again with another batch of Kindle offers to test your will power and tempt you into a bit of impulse purchasing!

Lets start with some recent releases: I read Set on You by Amy Lea back in May when it came out – as I said in the quick review post at the time: I had a couple of quibbles with the start where the heroine and hero are both being annoying to each other, but mostly it’s fun, flirty romance and definitely worth 99p! Even newer is last week’s Book of the Week, Ashley Poston’s The Dead Romantics, which (as I mentioned in that post) and even newer still is yesterday’s Book of the Week, Deanna Raybourn’s Killers of a Certain Age which are both 99p. Previous BotW Nina de Grammont’s The Christie Affair is still 99p – the paperback is out now so I think that’s why.

Cover of The Christie Affair

Other previously mentioned books that are 99p are Mrs England by Stacey Halls about a nanny who takes a job at a creepy house in Yorkshire – I wrote about this in Mini Reviews last June. Going further back, Libby Page’s The Lido was a summer holiday read four (!) years ago and is also a bargainous 99p. Even longer agin, Nick Spalding’s Bricking It was a BotW in 2015 and is £1 (or free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited member). One of Trisha Ashley’s Christmas books is on offer for 99p too – A Christmas Cracker was a BotW in 2015 as well. Going back even further, Lucy Dillon’s A Hundred Pieces of Me is 99p – I read it when it first came out in 2014 in the early days of the blog and before the BotW posts started and enjoyed it so much it made my favourite books of the year post.

In books that I probably should have written about before now, Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn is 99p – I have a lovely Virago hardback of this and it’s creepy and atmospheric and really good (and they still have that hardback on Amazon as well if you want a really pretty book). Three of the four Harper Connelly series are on offer this month – but annoyingly not the first one. I’ve written about other series and books by Charlaine Harris, but not this one (yet) – if you’ve read other Harris series, you’ll spot some crossovers. There’s a new edition of Christina Jones’s Going the Distance – which is one of her Milton St John series – I wrote an Authors I Love post about Jones back in 2016 and if you haven’t checked out her books you should – they’re exactly the sort of romantic comedies I wish there were more of (or at least were easier to identify) these days.

In books I haven’t read, but by authors I have read, there is Reputation by Lex Croucher – I’ve read Infamous (the sequel) and that has a queer Bridgerton vibe going on – the write ups for this one say it’s “Bridgerton meets Fleabag or Bad Education”. Then there is Casey McQuiston (of Red, White and Royal Blue)’s book One Last Stop which is a rom com about a subway crush – except that the girl that August has a crush on is displaced from the 1970s. The first in T J Klune’s YA series The Extraordinaries is 99p this month – which is a proper bargain considering what the rest of his books are. In non-fiction – because I can’t do a post without some non-fiction – Dan Jones’s Power and Thrones is 99p. It’s a history of the Middle Ages – I read his book about the Templars and it was really, really good. I have his book about King John on the pile – and he has a historical fiction book (his first novel) out now too.

This month’s 99p Terry Pratchetts are Only You Can Save the World – which is the first in the Johnny Maxwell series for kids and The Long War from the Long Earth series with Thief of Time from Discworld at £1.99. Also for the series collectors, this month’s J D Robb is Conspiracy in Death, number eight (of 56!) in the series. And Busman’s Honeymoon, the last Peter Wimsey novel (and the fourth of the Harriet and Peter ones) is 99p too. Which is excellent. Also in classic crime, Daughter of Time – aka the Josephine Tey about Richard III is 99p.

In books I own, but haven’t read yet, Charlie Homberg’s Paper Magician series is all on offer – and in KU too. As regular readers will know, I’m in the process of reading Great Circle – but the ebook is £1.99 today if you want to try and finish it before me! And finally, in books I impulse bought while writing this post, we have Heidi Stephens’ Never Gonna Happen which is 99p. Heidi writes The Guardian’s live blogs for Strictly Come Dancing and Eurovision and I’m excited to read a rom com by her – this is her second book and there is a third coming out at the end of November.

And that’s probably about enough. There are a few books on offer that I have on the kindle but haven’t read yet, but as we’ve now at about two dozen books, I should probably stop.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: September Quick Reviews

As previously mentioned September was a very strange month, with a somewhat truncated reading list, so I don’t have a lot to talk about this month at all. After all I skipped a whole bunch of Books of the Weeks for various reasons. And so there are only two quick reviews for you today – sorry about that.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

When Bee gets her dream job working at NASA, her celebrations are cut short when she discovers that the co-lead on her project is Levi, her grad school arch-nemesis. When she arrives in Houston, her equipment is missing and the other staff are ignoring her, but maybe Levi might be on her side after all? I read this in The Week of Shingles and although I didn’t love it the way that I loved The Love Hypothesis, it was still exactly the book that I needed to read at the time. I’m a little fed up of Teeny Tiny heroines and Great Big Heroes – but that may be because I am 5’10” and no one is ever picking me up and carrying me around! I will never be tired of competency porn though, and Bee (and Levi) are very, very good at their jobs. I was expecting one strand of the plot to be A Bigger Thing in the resolution, but actually the whole of the end wrapped up very quickly – but it was very satisfying.

Bats in the Belfry by E C R Lorac

I’ve recommended a few E C R Lorac books now – and this is another good one. For some reason I don’t have a photo of the British Library Crime Classic edition that I read, so you’ll have to make do with this Crime Club cover that the kindle edition has. Anyway this is the story of the mysterious disappearance of Bruce Attleton. Bruce had a dazzling start to his literary career but has fizzled ever since. He’s been receiving threatening phone calls and then when he’s suddenly called away to Paris he seems to vanish completely – until his suitcase is discovered in an artists studio in Notting Hill. Inspector MacDonald is the man in charge of figuring out what has happened. It’s clever and intricate and worth sticking with – also it appears I’ve read three of these that are next to each other in the series – this comes immediately after These Names Make Clues, which comes after Post After Post Mortem.

That’s it. I said there were only two. I don’t even have a lot of links for the month either, so rather than depress myself further at how badly September went, let’s end it here.

Happy Wednesday everyone.

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Fake Relationships

For recommendsday this week, I have for you a selection of fake relationship romance novels. Which I’ll have you know was a bit of a challenge, because I love a fake relationship book when it works and that means they often end up being BotWs. More of those at the end…

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

I’m going to start with one of my lesser mentioned Georgette Heyers. Cotillion was actually one of the very first I read of hers and writing this has made me think that I need to go back and read it again. Kitty’s Uncle Matthew says he will leave his fortune to her – if she marries one of his great-nephews. Two of them promptly propose to her – but not Jack who is the one she likes best. So Kitty asks Freddy to pretend to be engaged to her for a month – partly to make Jack jealous. Of course complications ensue and it all goes from there. This is at the witty and comic end of the Heyer oevre (think Frederica or Arabella) rather than one of the big emotion romances.

Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

I mentioned this in the quick reviews back in February, but I’m going to give it another quick shout out here: the third in DeLuca’s Ren Faire series is about April who agrees to pretend to be her friend Mitch’s girlfriend at an event with his family which starts a chain of events that threatens to derail her long held plan for what she will do when her daughter leaves for college..

If I Never Met You by Mhairi MacFarlane

Another one I’ve mentioned before – but this time two years ago (I actually read this at the start of our last holiday before the pandemic when we had no idea what was about to happen!). Laurie’s boyfriend has just broken up with her but because she still has to work with him everyday it’s all the office can talk about, Jamie needs a girlfriend to impress his new boss. The two of them come up with a plan to pretend to be a couple to solve both of their problems. This comes with a slight warning that the heroine’s break up at the start is very bleak, but the fauxmance between Laurie and Jamie is really good and well done and the resolution works out really neatly.

And now, fake relationship books that have been Books of the Week (an inexhaustive list): Boyfriend Material, Roomies, the Love Hypothesis, Take a Hint, Dani Brown, Kiss Quotient, The Unhoneymooners,