Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: Love Hard

Back with a romance pick this week – and a book that was new last week to boot. I’m coping with the current world situation by reading a lot of romance and mystery (because it all turns out alright in the end) and this really did what I needed a book to do last week.

Cover of Love Hard

Love Hard is the third Singh’s Hard Play series – about a set of brothers in New Zealand’s professional rugby world. Rugby star Jacob Essera is known for his calm on the field and his ability to read the game like it’s chess. Off the pitch he’s a devoted single dad to his six year old daughter Esme, who’s mum – his childhood sweetheart Callie – died when Esme was a baby.  Juliet and Callie were friends at school. Jacob and Callie, not so much – she was just his girlfriend’s bad girl friend and he was her friend’s boring boyfriend. These days she’s all grown up and is building a sucessful business career. her only problem is her ex-husband – a pro-cricketer and tabloid magnet who seems determined to keep her name in the gossip columns.  When the two of them end up working together on an ad campaign, an uneasy truce turns into friendship and sparks start flying. But will they be able to find their way to a happy ending?

Well, duh, of course they will, because this is a romance. I loved the characters, I loved the world and I loved the way that Jake takes care of his daughter. I loved the way that Jake and Callie’s relationship built and the way Callie approached being part of their family.  I’m all about strong families in books – be they blood families or found families and this really delivered on that. On the sport front, I’m a casual rugby watcher -when-its-on-and-a-big-match rather than a proper fan, and I had to do a bit of googling because some of the positions have different names in NZ, but it’s not a big issue.  If not familiar with rugby at all, you’ll either be a googler or you won’t mind and will just go with the flow (a bit like I do with hockey or basketball romances!).  If you’re a fan, you’ll know what the positions are obviously, but I’m not knowledgeable enough to tell you how good the passages about action are – but they’re not a big part of the plot anyway – it’s more about knowing what Jacob’s status is in the sports and celebrity world.

Nalini Singh is fairly prolific in romance terms, but this was my first of hers – mostly because I don’t really read a lot of paranormal or urban fantasy romance and that is where she primarily writes – but I do like sports romances (as I have discovered recently). I’ll be keeping my eye out for the previous two books in the series – and watching out for the final brother’s book.  My copy came from NetGalley, but Love Hard is available now in Kindle and Kobo, as well as in paperback although I suspect that won’t be in the shops in the UK at least.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases

Book of the Week: Miss Austen

So a bit of a strange week in reading.  I really enjoyed Alexa Martin’s Blitzed – but I gave a rave to Intercepted in May last year, so it’s inside my statute of limitations for repeats really.  There were a few things that I really didn’t like and a few more that I was a bit ho-hum about. But I also finished Miss Austen – which I wrote about in my 2020 preview post, so I thought I ought to revisit it now I have some thoughts.

Miss Austen: Spotted in the wild in Heffers at the end of January

So, the plot: in 1840 Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra goes to stay with the family of her long dead fiancé, in a quest to find a cache of letters sent by her sister.  It’s 20 years since Jane died, and Cassandra sees herself as the guardian of her sister’s legacy and image.  What is in those letters – and what damage could they do to the picture that Cassandra has carefully nurtured of her sister?  The story jumps backwards and forwards between the present day – where Cassandra is an unexpected (and not altogether welcome) visitor in a household in turmoil and Cassandra’s past with Jane, where her future looked to be going down a different path.

As I said in my 2020 preview, I will always take a second look at an Austen-related book.  Some of them work better for me than others – I loved Death Comes to Pemberley and still regularly recommend Eligible, but couldn’t stand Pemberley and didn’t even finish Longbourne. This is billed as the untold story of the most important person in Jane’s life and that was the hook that drew me in.  I finished it nearly a week ago and I’m still trying to decide what I thought of it. I liked the writing style and it has some really witty moments – both in the Jane and Cassandra timeline and in the Cassandra and the Fowle’s timeline. I’m not enough of an Austen scholar to be able to pick holes in the accuracy – which is probably a good thing for my enjoyment. But I’m still not sure what it was trying to do – things happened, but I think it petered out a bit at the end.  Several people have asked me about it and I’ve struggled to articulate what exactly the problem was. Thinking about it now, I think that it maybe that the plot is sold as being about the hunt for the letters, but actually when you’re reading it that isn’t as central to the action as you expect. But I did enjoy it – Cassandra’s time as an old, meddling house guest is fun – as is her sparring with the maid. Cassandra and Jane’s relationship with their sister-in-law Mary is fun – as Mary insists that her husband was the better writer, and the sisters wonder if she will spot herself in Jane’s work.  There are some other interesting characters though and Jane and Cassandra feel very real and true.

It feels strange to pick it as a BotW in a way, because this isn’t a whole-hearted thumbs up – and I can’t even explain some of my thoughts about the book very well.  But I have kept thinking about it since I finished it last week and so that makes it worthy of a bit more attention than just a shrug and move on.  It’s also had a lot of buzz – and it’s not often that I’ve read a literary fiction book like this early doors! I see a TV adaptation is in the works, and I will definitely watch that to see how it all translates.

My copy of Miss Austen came from NetGalley, but it is out now in hardback – and should be available in any decently stocked bookshop – as my photo from Heffers proves. It’s also available on Kindle and Kobo.

Happy Reading!

Recommendsday, reviews

Recommendsday: Mini reviews from January

I feel like I covered a lot of ground in January already, but there were a couple more books I wanted to talk about quickly before I forgot.

 

Copy of Maigret and the Killer on a bookshelf

First lets start with another one of my airport purchases from the holiday: Maigret and the Killer was another of my airport purchases.  I keep meaning to read more of Georges Simenon’s classic French detective – especially after the recent TV adaptations with Rowan Atkinson and this was an interesting change.  It’s clever and intriguing and more psychological thriller than typical procedural murder mystery.

Cover of Applied Electromagnetism

Over in romances – Applied Electromagnetism by Suzannah Nix. This is a forced proximity contemporary, where the heroine gets sent on a business trip with the office hottie.  She thinks he’s overconfident and rude and he can’t stand her either. But as the trip goes from bad to worse when a storm rolls in, things start to change. I had a few quibbles with the way this was set up to start with, but the longer the book went on the less it bothered me! And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve led what this was trying to do. This is part of a series of standalone romances with heroines working in STEM and we definitely need more of those. I’m going to be looking out for more of them.

Cover of Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?

There’s one kids book that I wanted to give a mention – Caitlin Doughty’s Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? I’ve read her first book for adults, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, about her work as a mortician and in a crematorium which was matter of fact and fascinating, and I have her second book, about death rituals in different cultures, on my wishlist.  This one may be aimed at kids, but it’s still fun and informative for adults too. Probably not one for the recently bereaved, but I enjoyed it, although I think if I’d read it at the “right” age, it might have scared me a little bit – but then I was very afraid of death as a child! Very good and suitably gross, which we all know most kids love!

Cover of Naturally Tan

And finally a memoir – Tan France’s Naturally Tan. I’m not a big viewer of Queer Eye, but this is an interesting memoir of growing up gay and south Asian in northern England and then finding career success and happiness in his personal life too. I didn’t love the writing style always – but I think it would work really well as an audiobook because of the chatty style. Lots of exclamation marks! Lots of talking directly to the reader! And if you’re a big fan of the program, obviously it’s probably a must read and even better it’s 99p on Kindle and Kobo at the moment!

Voila, four more books that I liked in January and all in keeping with the general themes of my reading – romance, mystery, kids and nonfiction!

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Headliners

As you can tell from yesterday’s post, a lot of reading happened on the holiday. It was glorious. Sun, sea, sand and a nice mix of stuff from the digital TBR pile and upcoming books. And this week’s pick for Book of the Week even came out yesterday so that’s some actual good timing from me for once!

Cover of Headliners

Sabrina Carlton and Nick Davenport do not get along.  They’re professional rivals and have been sniping at each other across the airwaves for years.  But now the feuding TV presenters are being forced to work together on morning television – and if it doesn’t work, it could finish both of their careers.  The ratings are in the toilet and they’ve got the month leading up to Christmas to turn it around. As long as they don’t kill each other first.  But when mishaps start happening on set, it seems that they may have a common enemy.  And then there’s the fact that the general public seem to be developing a misapprehension that these two are secretly lusting after each other.  Which they’re totally not, right?

This is the fifth book in the London Celebrities series, and if you’ve read the previous installments, you’ve come across our leads before – Sabrina is the sister of Freddy, the heroine of the previous book, and we saw Sabrina’s combative professional relationship with Nick come to a head at the end of The Austen Playbook.  Now while you don’t have to have read the rest of the series to enjoy this, it will completely spoil the plot of The Austen Playbook if you haven’t read that one first.  Lucy Parker seems to specialise in enemies-to-lovers tropes and this is another really good one.  What I particularly liked about it is that once they’ve got over their issues with each other, they move on as a team and the rest of the plot is not about people constantly trying to sow doubt in each of their minds about the other or silly misunderstandings between them that could be solved with a conversation.

As with the other books in the series, the dialogue is great – there is so much witty banter, and not just between the leads – the supporting characters get their share too. And I loved the situations that Nick and Sabrina found themselves in on the TV show – they’re exactly the sort of thing a ratings-obsessed editor might come up with and they’re funny but not in a cringey hide-behind-your-hands way.  And if you have read the rest of the series, there are some nice callbacks for you.  Obviously Freddy is in it, because she’s Sabrina’s sister, but there are also appearances from previous leads – and antagonists.  It was a real treat – I even made myself slow down and go away and read something else to make it last longer at one point because it was that good.  And don’t be put off by the fact that this is set in the run up to Christmas and it’s January, because it’s not that Christmasy – the Christmas deadline is just that, it’s not really the centre of the plot.  I  mean I read it on a beach in Lanzarote – and thought it was really a perfect book beach read, but equally it would lighten the winter gloom if you’re not fortunate enough to be somewhere relaxing and sunny!

My copy came from NetGalley, but Headliners is available now in Kindle and Kobo and as an audiobook.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: Sweet Talkin’ Lover

Another Tuesday, another book of the week post.  I read a few books I really liked last week, and it was a close decision on what to pick, but I think Tracey Livesay’s new book was my favourite last week.

Cover of Sweet Talkin' Lover

Caila Harris is ambitious and driven. She’s given up her social life and is working all the hours she can to get her next promotion as she climbs the ladder in the beauty industry.  But when her beloved grandfather dies, she makes some bad decisions – and suddenly her chances of promotion are on the line.  The assignment she’s given to turn it around: go to a small southern town, and write the report that justifies shutting a factory down.  But when she gets to Bradleton, she runs into more trouble than she expected in the form of the town’s mayor, Wyatt Bradley. He’s determined to do whatever it takes to keep the plant open.  Soon sparks are flying between Caila and Mayor McHottie as the town calls him – but will their relationship survive if she finds out the sneaky tactics he’s using to try and keep her in town and when he finds out that the closure decision has already been made.

This is smart, fun and has a hero and heroine with great chemistry.  I like enemies/rivals to lovers as a trope and Sweet Talkin’ Lover does that really well. I also loved Caila’s relationship with her group of friends.  Livesay has said that the group is based on her own friendship group – and the holiday they’re on at the start is what they do every year. I love a ride-or-die friendship group in a story and these ladies really are that – and I’m looking forward to reading the books about the others, because this is the first in a series.

My only quibble with the book was from right at the end.  I didn’t quite believe that Wyatt’s family issues – either with his career or the way they treated Caila – were really all sorted out.  I believed that Wyatt and Caila wanted to make it work between them and that some of the roadblocks were removed, but I wasn’t quite confident that it was really all resolved enough to be confident that the happy ending was really going to be all ok if that makes sense. But that’s quite a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things.

Sweet Talkin’ Lover is Livesay’s print debut and came out in the middle of all the RWA problems.  She was also one of the resignations from the RWA board on Boxing Day (because of the way the Ethics Committee handled the complaint against Courtney Milan), so I think it’s fair to say that RWA messed up her Christmas and a big moment in her writing career.  And this book did not deserve to get swamped by RWA being a trashfire.

My copy of Sweet Talkin’ Lover came from the library, but its availalble now in Kindle, Kobo and as an audibook, but the paperback isn’t out in the UK until February 20.  I’ll try and remember to remind you.

Happy reading!

Book of the Week, memoirs, reviews

Book of the Week: Year of the Fat Knight

My final BotW of 2020 continues the Year of Non-fiction, except this is one from the to read bookshelf and not from the library. If you’ve missed my look back at my reading obsessions over the year, you can find them here, and also my best books of the year. Coming up tomorrow, instead of the stats, is my look ahead to some new books coming in 2020. The stats will follow later in the week. Because I’m that good to you. Anyway, to the review.

Year of the Fat Knight on a bookshelf

Ever wondered what it takes to be an actor? Or more particularly if you’ve got what it takes to be an actor? You sort of half think it might be an easy life right? Wrong. Over the course of this book you watch (in your mind’s eye at least) Antony Sher agonise over taking a part, preparing for the part and playing the part. And as you read, you realise all the hidden hard work that goes into crafting a performance, an interpretation of words on paper.

The Fat Knight of the title is Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s iconic creations. But not, as Sher muses, one that The Big Names often play. He muses that there are traditionally two tracks for Shakespearean actors – one leads to King Lear, via Macbeth and Hamlet, and the other to Falstaff (via parts like Bottom) and that never the twain shall meet. But here is Sher – who famously played Richard III as a young man (which Sher also wrote a book about) and who I saw play Macbeth just after the turn of the century* – considering an offer, from his partner (now husband) no less, to play Falstaff. Illustrated with Sher’s own drawings, it’s fascinating and eye opening and incredibly readable. Sher’s husband is Gregory Doran, a director who at the start of the book is just taking over the helm at the RSC so as well as the musings on Falstaff, you get a peek behind the curtain at the RSC and in the world of theatre generally. The two are named as a power couple in the media in a couple of lists during the book, which perplexes Sher but reminds the reader that there are fairly large stakes here professionally. The production – and Sher’s performance – were a success but that never feels anywhere near certain as you read it.

I raced through this and although I didn’t see the productions of Henry IV Sher is writing about, I have seen a couple of the others that are mentioned in it and have seen some of the other actors in other things which made for an added bonus as a theatre nerd.  I don’t know that you need to be a theatre nerd to enjoy this though – I think you just need to be someone who is interested in process and creation.  If you’ve ever wondered how a production of Shakespeare is put together, whether the actors really understand what they’re saying and how they create a character, this would certainly interest to you.  But if you’re a creator of something else, I think this would be worth a look as well – and you can compare your process in your field to this.  I’m sure you’d get something out of it.

I had this on the shelf – I think it came from a work book sale a year or so ago (it came out in , but you should be able to get hold of a copy fairly easily from a bookshop with a theatre section.  Mine is a hardback, but there is also a paperback edition now. If you want to buy online, may I suggest you go direct to Nick Hern Books, the publisher, where the price is within pennies of that of Amazon as I write this and will undoubtedly benefit them more direct.  They’ve got 20% off everything at the moment – so in one of life’s more predictable moments, I ordered myself Sher’s other two books on acting – the aforementioned Year of the King and his latest, Year of the Mad King about King Lear – when I went to check this out.

Happy Reading and Happy New Year!

*Gosh that makes me feel old saying that, but although the turn of the century automatically makes me think of the start of the 20th century, we’re far enough into the 21st now that I probably should get used to it.  I saw Macbeth with Sher and Harriet Walter at the Swan in Stratford sometime around 2000 – I still have the poster somewhere, but I’m not getting it out to check!

book round-ups, reviews

My 2018 Obsessions – Revisited

Welcome to my annual revisit of last year’s obsessions to see what has endured – or not. You can find last year’s obsessions post here – and last year’s revisited post here.  Coming tomorrow is a look at this year’s newly acquired obsessions.

The Kinsey Milhone series by Sue Grafton

I still haven’t finished this series.  I love them – and I don’t want them to be over.  I’m slowly reading V for Vendetta – but trying to make it last because this really is a case where when it’s done, it’s done.  And I still haven’t found another series that does anything similar for me – I don’t like Katy Munger’s Casey Jones books anywhere near as much and I find it hard to work out what to search for when looking for similar books – Goodreads gives me Janet Evanovich (been there, read all those!), Dick Francis, a weird selection of older cozy crimes (mostly really quite hard to get even if they did appeal) and then books that have covers that look way too dark and violent for me.  Suggestions in the comments please – help a girl out.

The Charles Paris series by Simon Brett

I’ve finished this series off now and listened to all the radio dramatisations too.  I find Charles such an engagingly flawed hero.  He never really learns or changes and you know he’s going to drink too much and mess it up with his (estranged) wife again, but he’s just so charming while he does it – especially when voiced by Bill Nighy.  I’ve started on another of Brett’s series now – Mrs Pargitter, but I don’t like them quite as much so I’m reading them a little bit slower than I did these.  And again – this is another case where I struggle to find anything similar, because I don’t know what I’m searching for.  The Flaxborough series are a similar vintage, but not similarly funny (and I’ve read them all anyway) and they’re cozy crime, but they’re comedy cozy crime. Again – suggestions in the comments, I need some more light relief!

Cat Sebastian

Well.  Having glommed on Cat Sebastian last year, all I could really do was read her new books – and I’ve done that.  I mentioned last year that her first “traditional” m/f romance was due out in 2019 but A Duke in Disguise was more than that – yes it’s the first book that she’s done with a “traditional” male/female pairing, but to reduce this book to that is to underplay what Sebastian is trying to do. This is a clever subversive romance which doesn’t focus on the world of the ton (although they do appear and the nobility plays a role) with feisty, smart, sexually experienced heroine and a neurodiverse, virgin hero. Total catnip right? I hope it’ll tempt readers who haven’t yet read Sebastian because they “don’t do” LGTBQI+ romances to try Sebastian’s work and see what they’re missing out on.  It made it into my favourites of the year so far in June – you’ll have to wait and see if it’s made the end of year list – but it really was a cracker.  I’ve tried to expand my romance reading into more authors writing LGTBQI+ stories this year because I liked her novels so much and it’s been great.