Book of the Week, cozy crime, detective

Book of the Week: Merit Badge Murder

As I said yesterday, last week was a much better week all around. And as today is a week to go before Election day in the United States, I’m conceding defeat – I’ve read as many electiob books as I’m going to and it’s soon going to be too late, so there is a Recommendsday post coming up tomorrow. Meanwhile, as far as today’s post goes, I started a couple of new mystery series last week, and as I read two from the Merry Wrath series, I thought I ought to pick it for my Book of the Week this week, as I clearly like them and we all know I have rules (albeit flexible ones) about book series, reading orders and spoilers as the affect recommendations…

Cover of Merit Badge Murder by Leslie Langtry

Former CIA agent Merry Wrath is used to being undercover, but after her identity was unmasked and she was forced into (very) early retirement, she has to reinvent herself as a normal person with a fresh identity in a small town in Iowa. And while she is figuring out what she wants to do next, she’s helping run a Girl Scout group. But when dead enemy agents start turning up on her doorstep (literally), she has to try and figure out who is trying to frame her, all while preserving her cover. Add into the mix her ex-handler who the CIA send to help her, and her new neighbour across the street who happens to be the investigating police officer and suddenly Merry’s new life is getting really, really complicated.

I love a cozy mystery and I love a Steph Plum-style comedy thriller and this is pretty much in the Venn diagram of those. Merry is a fun heroine – massively clueless about normal life and how to be a regular person and you’re rooting for her as she hides behind her Dora explorer sheets-cum-curtains to see what is going on in her neighbourhood. The Girl Scout troop is a really nice touch – adding an extra level of complications to everything – and there are plenty of twists and turns in the plot. I raced through it and then went straight on to the net one – which is always a sign that I’ve enjoyed myself. It’s quite a long running series – so there are plenty more for me to read, just as soon as I get the rest of the TBR-pile down a bit!

You can buy Merit Badge Murder on Kindle and Kobo. Physical copies are listed on Amazon, but it looks like it’s an Amazon inhouse publisher, so you won’t be able to get hold of it in stores.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: October 19 – October 25

A much better week in reading and in life. And check me out for reducing the number of books on the still reading list. But Sweet Dreams by Dylan is nearly 500 pages long so that might be on the list for a while!

Read:

Merit Badge Murder by Leslie Langtry

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Jeeves and the Leap of Faith by Ben Schott*

Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody by Barbara Ross

Mint Cookie Murder by Leslie Langtry

The Killing at Kingfisher Hill by Sophie Hannah

Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

Started:

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

The Body on the Train by Frances Brody

Still reading:

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

This Green and Pleasant Land by Ayisha Malik*

Sweet Dreams by Dylan Jones*

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: An autumnal photograph from the park on Sunday.

A tree with the sun shining through it's remaining yellow leaves, with loads more on the ground around it

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

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Manhunting

Back with a romance book this week – a contemporary romance at the time it was written, but given that that was the early 90s, not quite contemporary now! I’ve written about Jennifer Crusie’s books a few times before and as I read two of them last week it feels like they’re turning into a regular comfort read for me. And I needed some comfort reading. Anyway, to the book.

Kate Svenson is a successful businesswoman, but she’s unlucky in love. She’s been engaged a few times – but found out just in time that the men were only after her (father’s) money. But she’s fed up of being alone and wants someone to spend her life with. So she comes up with a plan: a two week holiday at a Kentucky resort. The Cabins is full of eligible bachelors – surely one of them must be the guy for her? But everytime she goes on a date, something happens to the guy. Jake Templeton’s brother owns the resort and he works there. He’d sworn off women even before he picked one of Kate’s rejects out of the swimming pool. He’s not interested in her, and she’s not interested in him – so why are they spending more time together than Kate is with anyone else?

This is a fun, frothy romantic comedy. You know exactly where it’s going to end up, but there are enough complications to keep it interesting, and the various situations that Kate finds herself in with the prospective boyfriends are a hoot. Obviously life – and technology – have changed a bit since 1993 when it was written, but I don’t think there’s anything here that’s dated in a bad way – which isn’t always the case! It’s just the sort of book I love reading – the stakes are fairly low, it’s funny but the humour isn’t nasty or based on humiliation and you come away with a nice warm feeling inside.

The bad news is that this doesn’t seem to be available on Kindle or Kobo at the moment, but Amazon have a bunch of paperback copies for a couple of quid.

Happy Reading

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: October 12 – October 18

So it’s been a bad week in my Real Life. I’m not going to bore you with all the details, but I’m fine. I’m hoping that next week will be better, but given the way 2020 has gone so far, I’m not holding my breath. Still I ticked another two states off my 50 states challenge list, I’m nearly halfway through my NetGalley list for the month and I’ve got a couple of Bonus posts nearly finished. So lets count them as small wins. Onwards and upwards.

Read:

Vanishing Act by Charlie Hodges*

Lumberjanes: Campfire Stories by Shannon Watters et al

Grave Secrets by Alice James*

Strawberry Shortcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie

Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie

Too Much and Never Enough by Mary Trump

Started:

Sweet Dreams by Dylan Jones*

Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas

Still reading:

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

This Green and Pleasant Land by Ayisha Malik*

Jeeves and the Leap of Faith by Ben Schott*

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: I spotted this postbox on my walk the other day – and it seemed like an apt photo for this week. Why I hear you ask? Well I’ve been sending a lot of post to people through the pandemic – including a whole bunch of cards to people last week, I’m in a research study about covid antibodies in the general population that involves me sending blood samples by post and one of the things that keeps coming up at work at the moment is postal voting in the US Election. This isn’t the flashiest or biggest postbox – but it is a King George one – which means that it’s at least 68 years old, but could be 100. A pillar of stability in a crazy world.

A red postbox in a wall

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

Book of the Week, new releases, non-fiction

Book of the Week: The Haunting of Alma Fielding

Lots of non-fiction reading last week. You’ll hear more about the Kate Andersen Brower anon (or you can find my previous writing about her here), but in the meantime, this week’s BotW is new release (well on October 1) non-fiction that feels really appropriate for the run up to Halloween!

Cover of the Haunting of Alma Fielding

Nandor Fodor is a Jewish-Hungarian refugee in 1930s London. He’s also a ghost hunter and he starts to investigate the case of Alma Fielding, a surburban housewife who says she’s being plagued by a poltergeist. As he starts to investigate as part of his work for the International Institute of Physical Research, the phenomena intensify and he discovers Alma’s complicated and traumatic past. And all this is happening against the backdrop of the rise of Fascim in Europe as well as the obsession/renaissance in spiritualism that happened in the post Great War period.

Now although reads like the plot of a novel, this is actually non-fiction. It’s sometimes hard to believe this while you read it though as Alma continues to manifest material affects after she’s been strip searched and put into a special costume provided by the Institute. But it is and its fascinating. Fodor is rational although he wants to believe, but as he develops doubts about Alma, he handles it in a much more sensitive way than I was expecting. I’ve almost said to much here, but it’s really hard to talk about non-fiction like it’s a novel, when so much of whether it works is about the research and the story and whether it feels satisfying. On that front, I wanted a little bit more closure about Alma and her haunting, but I appreciate that in a work of non-ficiton, you can only work with what the sources tell you.

The juxtaposition of Alma’s story and the wider context of the late 1930s also works really well. If you’ve read Dorothy L Sayers’ Strong Poison* you’ll have encountered the wave of spiritualists of the era – and seen some of their trickery exposed (to the reader at least) by Miss Climpson, but this really sets what Fodor was doing and the organisations that he worked for into the wider context. I was fascinated. If you’re looking for something to read for Halloween, and don’t want fiction, this is really worth a look.

Unlike most of the rest of the world (it seems) I haven’t read the Suspicions of Mr Whicher, but reading this has definitely made me more likely to. My copy of The Haunting of Alma Fielding came from NetGalley in return for an honest review, but it is out now in hardback and should be easily available in bookstores as well as on Kindle and Kobo.

Happy Reading!

*I love it when I get to mention Lord Peter Wimsey, and Strong Poison is one of my favourites, if I haven’t worn you down yet, go and read it.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: October 5 – October 11

Another week where I had a lot of trouble concentrating. But I did read a lot of non-fiction and that always takes more time and brainspace so can’t really complain.

Read:

Baby-Sitters Club: The Truth About Stacey by Anne M Martin and Raina Telgemaier

Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah

The True Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale*

Team of Five by Kate Andersen Brower

Growing Up by Angela Thirkell

The Memory of You by Jamie Beck

Started:

Too Much and Never Enough by Mary Trump

Jeeves and the Leap of Faith by Ben Schott*

Still reading:

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

Vanishing Act by Charlie Hodges*

This Green and Pleasant Land by Ayisha Malik*

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: My show posters (and the corner of the to-read bookshelf), newly back from the framers. The best thing that happened in my week last week, despite the cost!

Six show posters

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

Book of the Week, new releases, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Money

A lot of non-fiction reading last week all in all, so it’s probably not a surprise that this week’s pick is from the nonfiction list. Just a reminder that the mini-reviews are coming tomorrow – where among the picks is another non-fiction book from last week.

Cover of Money by Jacob Goldstein

So Jacob Goldstein’s Money is exactly what the subtitle says it is – The True Story of a Made-up Thing. It’s a an engaging and easy to understand history of money that goes right from when people stopped bartering and started developing money through to the present day with all the complications that the internet and computers have brought.

Goldstein is one of the hosts of NPR’s Planet Money podcast and has a really conversational style as well as having a knack for explaining complicated ideas in easy to understand language. In this he’s done possibly the best job I’ve found so far of explaining things like bitcoin, blockchain and what exactly happened with the 2008 crash. I mean I came away feeling like I finally understood them at any rate. Be warned though, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find the idea that there will be another big crash or breakdown in the way that we use money just a little bit terrifying and may lead to some googling to work out how safe the money in your bank is. It definitely made me think a lot about electronic banking and the cashless economy. Anyway, If you’re not a person who thinks of themselves as business or money minded, this would be a great primer/introduction for you, or if you’re starting to think about your Christmas present list, this would make a good choice for someone who likes authors like Mary Roach or Bill Bryson.

My copy of Money came from NetGalley, but it’s out now (came out in the UK last week in fact) on Kindle and Kobo and as a hardback. As usual I have no idea whether it’ll be in bookshops, but they should be able to order it for you if they don’t have it in stock. Give them a call/drop in in a safe and responsible way.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: September 28 – October 4

We’re into October and it feels like this year has both flown by and been never ending. If you missed it last week, her are the September stats. Coming up on Wednesday are the Mini Reviews. As far as my week in reading goes, I’m trying a new tactic around my NetGalley reading – I’ll let you know how it goes at the end of the month!

Read:

A Medal for Murder by Frances Brody

Baby-Sitters Club: Kirsty’s Great Idea by Anne M Martin and Raina Telgemaier

Furious Love by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger

Money by Jacob Goldstein*

Loud Black Girls by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené*

Bear Markets and Beyond by Dhruti Shah and Dominic Bailey

Mistletoe and Mr Right by Sarah Morgenthaler*

Started:

This Green and Pleasant Land by Ayisha Malik*

The True Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale*

Still reading:

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

Vanishing Act by Charlie Hodges*

Team of Five by Kate Andersen Brower

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: My copy of Bear Markets and Beyond, written by my friend and colleague the wonderful Dhruti Shah.

Hardback cover of Bear Markets and Beyond

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

Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: The Duke Who Didn’t

After a few weeks of crime or somewhat mystery-y picks, I’m back with some romance for this week’s Book of the Week – and the new novel by Courtney Milan, which is also the first in a new series from her.

The cover of The Duke who Didn't

Chloe Fong is super organised. She lives by her lists, and hopes that one day she’ll have the perfect day and get everything done. And beyond the daily list, she has a big plan too and it’s helping her father launch his new business. Jeremy Wentworth has been visiting Chloe’s village since his early teens, but stopped a couple of years back after Chloe told him that for anything to happen between them he would have to get serious. It’s taken him some time, but he’s realised that he just can’t be serious – or at least not the sort of serious his family wants him to be. But he’s convinced he’s the right man for Chloe and he’s back to convince her – if she can just get past the fact that he’s never told her his real name, that he’s a duke and owns the whole village…

This is a historical small town romance, set across the course of a couple of days in 1899 that happen to be the busiest in the village’s entire year – and possibly of Chloe’s life. There is a big competition called the Wedgeford Trials and Chloe and her father are using the influx of visitors this year to launch their family’s new sauce. Prepare to feel really, really, hungry – because the food in this sounds delicious. And it’s also taking a subtly clever look at colonialism through food – which is interesting and very real: I was watching Nadyia’s latest TV show this very week and she was making a recipe with Tamarind paste in it and said that if you don’t have Tamarind paste, it’s in Brown Sauce – so just use that. If you’ve read the book, you’ll get even more from that story. I promise. So go read the book.

Courtney Milan is also doing a lot of fun things with tropes here too, because the plot summary (even in my version) sounds like the story is going to be really angsty, and it’s not. It’s a perfect read if you’re feeling stressed and uncertain about the world and want to escape into another reality – there are stakes, but it’s not going to stress you out; there are conflicts, but it’s not life or death. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything going on. There’s plenty of plot, and character development – and also the set up for the Wedgford Trials of the series name – which are delightfully incomprehensible in the way that many British traditions are – even for Brits like me. Eg – in normal times, my village has an egg rolling race in the run up to Easter (I want to say on Palm Sunday but I can’t remember for sure), where you use a newspaper to hit a hardboiled egg along the road. Why did it start? I don’t know. Is there areligious meaning behind it? Probably, but I’ve forgotten. Is it fun – yes. Bingo.

My copy of The Duke Who Didn’t came from the author in return for an honest review, but it’s out now and available on Kindle and Kobo – and apparently in paperback, albeit with a very long leadtime.

Happy Reading!

 

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: September 21 – September 27

I got my reading mojo back a bit this week – which is good. A couple of fun new releases, a buzzed about book or two and a glom on a series. The still reading list is still too long, but I’m working on it. And yes I know, I always say that, but I mean it every week!

Read:

Doing It Over by Catherine Bybee

Hoax by Brian Stelter

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

The Duke who Didn’t by Courtney Milan**

Naughty Brits by Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, Louisa Edwards, Tessa Gratton and Sierra Simone**

Staying for Good by Catherine Bybee

Lumberjanes Vol 15 by Shannon Waters et al

Making it Right by Catherine Bybee

Started:

Team of Five by Kate Andersen Brower

Baby-Sitters Club: Kirsty’s Great Idea by Anne M Martin and Raina Telgemaier

Still reading:

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

A Medal for Murder by Frances Brody

Vanishing Act by Charlie Hodges*

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: Sunny autumnal afternoon in the park.

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