Book of the Week, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Vanderbilt

Say hello to a non-fiction pick that is both a hardback and a book that I got for Christmas – and so hasn’t lingered on the pile at all. Now that may be because it was a book that I specifically asked for, or it may just be a fluke but, hey lets celebrate small wins when we get them.

You’ll know Anderson Cooper as a news anchor on CNN, but he’s also part of the Vanderbilt family and this book, written with Katherine Howe, as the subtitle suggests is a look at the rise and fall of the dynasty. It is not a complete and comprehensive examination of every member of the family, but more a look at the key figures and key moments in the family’s fortunes from making their money, through breaking into New York society, to the various court battles and all the way to Cooper’s own childhood as the son of Gloria Vanderbilt. It takes you from seventeenth century New Amsterdam through to the present day, but with its main focus from the mid-ninteenth century onwards.

I knew bits and bobs about some of the Vanderbilts, but not a whole lot so this was really interesting to me – even before the personal aspect that Cooper’s own connection to the story adds. I’ve read a lot of books at various points about the British nobility in the nineteenth century, and portions of this story are the American equivalent to that – and they interface at some points too, for example when Consuelo Vanderbilt is married off to the Duke of Marlborough. If you’ve got an interest in this sort of history, it’s definitely worth a look – even if it’s not the most comprehensive account and may well leave you wanting to read more about some of the characters you meet. But that’s never a bad thing really is it? We’ve all already got to-read piles bigger than we should have, so what difference do a couple more books make…

My copy of Vanderbilt was a Christmas gift from my parents (thanks mum and dad!) but you can get it now in hardback, Kindle and Kobo. It’s also on audiobook read by Anderson Cooper himself, which sounds delightful from the sample. I still haven’t been into a bookshop this year, but I suspect it’ll be a case of ordering it in – I’ve put a Waterstones link as I know that’s where mum got it from so I know it will actually work.

Happy Reading!

Authors I love, books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: January 10 – January 16

Can confirm: a couple of things got in the way of the reading last week. Firstly, the figure skating was on – and you can’t read and pay attention to the skating – and secondly it was my birthday. On top of all the usual stuff, that means the list is shorter this week. Also Ashes of London is really long.

Read:

Vanderbilt by Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe

Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L Sayers

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R King

The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters

Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston

Anthropology by Dan Rhodes

Started:

Death Goes on Skis by Nancy Spain

Spies in St Petersburg by Katherine Woodfine

Still reading:

Forever Young by Hayley Mills

The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor*

A Fatal Crossing by Tom Hindle*

I may have bought myself a couple of books as birthday gifts. But I was quite restrained really.

Bonus photo: In years past, the photo would have been of a trip for my birthday, but the omicron wave means this was my second birthday in a row at home (after almost a decade of going away for it!) so here I am on the sofa with some champagne and a book. And this very laptop in the background on the other sofa because I wasn’t paying proper attention to my backgrounds. I’ll never be an influencer will I?!

A copy of Death of Skis rests on a tartan rug while a hand holds a glass of champagne

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

Book of the Week: The Christie Affair

In a frankly shocking move to anyone who knows me, this week’s pick is a book that I mentioned in my upcoming books post, and that I’ve managed to read ahead of it’s release. I am however breaking one of my rules – because I’m writing about it nine days ahead of its publication date, and I usually try and wait for books to be published before I recommend them. But as the other books that I really liked last week were Christmas-themed books, and here we are in nearly mid-January. But I have a plan for dealing with that. I promise. Anyway, to the review.

Cover of The Christie Affair

If you’ve read anything about Agatha Christie’s life, you’ll probably have come across the mysterious incident in 1926 when she disappeared for 11 days after her husband asked her for a divorce because he had fallen in love with another woman. It sparked a massive hunt for her across the UK until she was found staying at a hotel in Harrogate. The newspapers reported that she was suffering from memory loss and Christie herself doesn’t even mention the incident in her autobiography. Nina De Gramont’s debut novel reimagines what happened, told from the perspective of the fictional Nan O’Dea. Nan is the woman who Christie’s husband is leaving her for – the Goodreads blurb describes her as “a fictional character but based on someone real, which is to say there was a woman who Archie Christie was leaving Agatha for – but that is about as far as the resemblance goes. The novel jumps backwards and forwards through time – showing the reader Nan’s tough upbringing in London and her escape to Ireland during the Great War alongside the hunt for Agatha and the events at the hotel that she’s staying at in Harrogate. Why has Nan infiltrated the Christie’s world and what is it she wants?

I really enjoyed reading this – but it’s so hard to explain why without revealing too much. In fact, I’ve tried three times just to write that plot summary without giving too much away. I think it’s fair to say that this departs a long way away from the actual facts of the Christie divorce fairly quickly. But the story sucks you in so completely that you end up googling to check which bits are real and which aren’t. It’s clever and enthralling and twistier than I expected it to be. There’s also a murder mystery plot in there that’s neatly reminiscent of something Christie herself wrote. I’ve written whole posts about fictionalised real lives, and if you like that sort of thing you should try this – although bear in mind those notes above about it not being what actually happened. It’s a thriller, it’s a mystery and it’s a romance. It’s also very easy to read and evocative. I read it on the sofa snuggled under a blanket wishing I was in front of a roaring fire, but I think it would also make a great read for the commute or a sun lounger. And it wouldn’t make a bad book club pick either. Well worth a look.

My copy of The Christie Affair came from NetGalley, but you can pre-order a signed copy from Waterstones, or the usual Kindle or Kobo editions. It is a hardback release, so the Kindle prices do match that, but if you’ve still got some Christmas book money to spend…

Happy Reading!

Authors I love, books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: January 3 – January 9

Just when I thought I was finished with the Christmas reading, I read two more Christmas books. What am I like?! Keen eyed readers will notice that I’ve already finished one of my anticipated books and have started a second. And I’ve read one and started another from that pesky NetGalley backlog.  A couple of Wimsey’s are on here – as audiobooks – as I continue to relisten to them all as I putter around the place. I’m making good progress on Vanderbilt – which is a hardback so not quite as portable as some of the other options, otherwise I think it would be finished already! The end of year/start of year posting frenzy is coming to an end I think, but I do have some ideas for posts coming up to try and keep a bit of the momentum going, even if it’s not quite as much as it has been for the last three-ish weeks!

Read:

The Twelve Jays of Christmas by Donna Andrews

Death in the Wasteland by George Bellairs

Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers

Recipe for Redemption by Anna J Stewart*

Rare Danger by Beverly Jenkins

God Rest Ye Royal, Gentlemen by Rhys Bowen

Have His Carcase by Dorothy L Sayers

Stolen Focus by Johann Hari*

The Christie Affair by Nina de Grammont*

Started

The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor*

A Fatal Crossing by Tom Hindle*

Still reading:

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R King

Vanderbilt by Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe

Forever Young by Hayley Mills

Two books bought – one physical, one ebook.

Bonus photo: This week, as the only place I’ve been that isn’t my house is the park, the corner shop and Aldi, I thought I’d give you a change. Here’s an attempt to be creative – with some flower arranging…

An attempt at flower arranging

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, non-fiction, reviews

Book of the Week: The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym

After a string of Christmas-themed recommendations for BotW, I’m starting the new year with a non-fiction pick, and it’s a title that you may be rather familiar with as it’s been on the ongoing list for quite some time – but don’t hold that against it. Why then has it taken me so long to read? Well firstly because it is long (500+ pages!) and secondly because non-fiction requires proper concentration and for me to be in the right mindset – which has been difficult recently but in 2021 in general – as previously discussed.

Anyway, Paula Byrne’s latest book is a biography of the author Barbara Pym. Pym wrote a series of novels about everyday women in the middle of the twentieth century, was briefly acclaimed, then forgotten and then rediscovered in the years immediately before her death in 1980. If you haven’t read any of them, then you really should – she’s been compared to Jane Austen. She was nominated for the Booker Prize in 1977 for Quartet in Autumn, but I’ve mostly read her earlier books – my favourite of hers Excellent Women, which I have in a rather delightful Virago Designer Hardback edition.

After growing up in Shropshire, Barbara Pym went up to Oxford in the early 1930s. There she threw herself into student life – and into love. She travelled to Germany in the 1930s, was a Wren during the war and then worked for years as an assistant editor for a journal of anthropology. Her novels often feature anthropologists, as well as vicars – whether she’s writing about London’s bedsit land or English country life. In later life, she was friends with Philip Larkin – which in part led to her rediscovery in the late 1970s

Using Pym’s own diaries and papers, Byrne has written a comprehensive re-examination of Pym’s life piecing together her relationships, friendships and love affairs as well as her career in publishing. It’s a fascinating insight into the life behind the writer – and how her personal life bled into her novels. Considering that she never married and that her books focus on unmarried or in some way frustrated women, you may be surprised by what you discover about her. Two of Byrnes other books – Kick (about Kathleen Kennedy) and Mad World (about Evelyn Waugh) are on my keeper shelf of history books already and this would join them, if it wasn’t an ebook! And if I haven’t already won you over with my thoughts, it was on the Times’ list of best books of 2021 too.

As an added bonus for me, given my current Wimsey phase, Pym was an undergraduate at St Hilda’s just a couple of years before Gaudy Night is set. Through her experiences you can get a glimpse of what the students of Shrewsbury College might have been getting up to out of sight of the dons.

My copy of The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym came via NetGalley, but you should be able to get hold of the hardback fairly easily – Foyles have it available as click and collect at a lot of their stores and will even knock a couple of quid off the cover price if you order it via their website. If the hardback price is a bit rich for you, then I’m so behind hand with my NetGalley list that it’s actually out in paperback in April, so you could hang fire for that. Or of course it’s available in Kindle and Kobo and as an audiobook.

Happy Reading!

Authors I love, books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: December 27 – January 2

Well I do hope you have been enjoying the positive orgy of posts over the last two weeks – and we’re not done yet! Obviously there’s a book of the week post tomorrow, but there’s also the Mini-reviews on Wednesday as usual too. But on top of that I’ve been thinking about my Kindle Unlimited reading in 2021 and my anticipated books of 2022. As for this post, because I finished the 50 States challenge just before Christmas, my goal for the week between Christmas and New Year was to try and finish off all the books that have been hanging around on the Still Reading list for weeks. And as I managed that, I threw in a last a last bit of Christmas Reading as well. I’ve also made a start on a couple of my Christmas Books, as well as what seems like my annual attempt to improve my life in some way with some self help/productivity type books. I didn’t manage finish everything I started though, so the Still Reading list may be empty for one week only! And as we were not really going out because we were close contacts of a Covid case, there was plenty of time for reading so this week’s list is a long one – and as we’re in a new calendar year, the re-read count is reset, hence the appearance of Death in a White Tie again – which was my audiobook for most of the week. 

Read:

The Christmas Card Crime and other stories by Martin Edwards

Release the Beast by Bimini Bon Boulash

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne*

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson

The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess

Theroux The Keyhole by Louis Theroux

Yule Log Murder by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis and Barbara Ross

Blood at the Bookies by Simon Brett

Death in a White Tie by Ngaio Marsh

Started

The Twelve Jays of Christmas by Donna Andrews

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R King

Vanderbilt by Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe

Stolen Focus by Johann Hari*

Forever Young by Hayley Mills

The Christie Affair by Nina de Grammont*

Still reading:

n/a

I bought myself the Hayley Mills, and laid in the next Mary Russell after the one I started this week, but that was it I think. I’m kinda pleased with me!

Bonus photo: Some gorgeous colours at sunset (well nearly sunset) on Sunday after my very wet and cold trot around 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

 

Book of the Week, Christmas books, cozy crime, detective

Book of the Week: The Christmas Card Crime

Cheating again this week because I finished this on Monday, but really there is only so long you can recommend Christmas-themed books for and the first week of January is past that limit, but also seems a little early to be starting putting together the Christmas-themed books post for 2022, although to be fair, I have started it in the spring before!

The Christmas Card Crime is another of those charming British Library Crime Classics collections that I mentioned in my Christmas books post last week. So yes, it’s also slightly cheating to be picking this for BotW so soon after that post – although in fairness I did read the other one in November so it seems less recent to me! This has less of the names that the casual crime fan will have heard of and but many of them are regulars in the BLCC stable – like E C R Lorac and John Bude – and some of them are more towards the thriller/chiller end of the mystery spectrum. Most are good, a couple didn’t suit me but overall it was a nice way to spend a post-Christmas afternoon hiding from the rain. It should be noted that there is one story in here that overlaps with A Surprise for Christmas – and it’s one of the really good ones, so I was glad I had borrowed them both from Kindle Unlimited rather than bought them outright.

You can get The Christmas Card Crime as an actual paperback from the British Library shop or you can get it on Kindle – it will reappear on other platforms once it has rotated out of the KU selection.

Happy Reading!

Authors I love, books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: December 20 – December 26

Hands up anyone else whose Christmas didn’t quite work out as planned? Yes, quite a lot of us really isn’t there. Still in our case it could have been worse – there was only one positive test, and the rest of the family are still clear. For now. Anyway, it came at the end of a very, very busy week and consequently this week’s list is mostly the tail end of the 50 states challenge (I finished!) and then Christmas (or at least festive) themed novellas. But that was what I fancied reading, so it’s allowed! Onwards to the last few days of the year. Coming up this week we have the end of year extravaganzas – as long as I manage to write them all…

Read:

Buzz Off by Deb Baker

Movie Night Murder by Leslie Langtry

A Very Beery New Year by Jackie Lau

Dreaming Spies by Laurie R King

The Ordeal of the Haunted Room by Jodi Taylor

Toast of Time by Jodi Taylor

Oh. What. Fun. by Chandler Baker

Started:

The Christmas Card Crime and other stories by Martin Edwards

Release the Beast by Bimini Bon Boulash

Still reading:

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne*

Theroux The Keyhole by Louis Theroux

Blood at the Bookies by Simon Brett

A couple of books received for Christmas, a couple more bought on the Kindle. Positively restrained.

Bonus photo: a scene of Christmas Eve chaos – as the present wrapping gets done even later than ever before…

Wrapping paper, gift tags and other gift wrapping acoutrements!

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, cozy crime

Book of the Week: Christmas in Paradise

A short post this week, but a festive -themed one. I read a whole bunch of books last week for my 50 states (and D.C.) challenge but there wasn’t a lot I wanted to write about – except this one which is not the first in a series and is a series I’ve written about before. But hey ho, rules are made to be broken at Christmas aren’t they?

Christmas in Paradise is the fourth book in Kathi Daley’s Tj Jensen series. The series is set at a resort on a lake in a town called Serenity. As you might suspect from the title, this one is set at Christmas and Tj is planning a big celebration but also waiting for the arrival of the man who says he is the real father of one of her sisters. Tj’s mother is dead – and she’s the guardian of her two younger sisters and is worried about what this might mean for their little family unit. When the new boyfriend of one of her neighbours is found dead in the grounds of the resort, Tj can’t help but try and find out who did it – to clear her friends’s husband of suspicion.

This is another Henery Press cozy crime from the period where they were really on good form. This isn’t too gory or thrillers – it’s a good mystery that runs nicely alongside the ongoing story strands for the main characters. I’ve read these wildly out of order, but this is the seventh in the series that I’ve read and they’re a very easy way to pass a few hours. And of course this has the added bonus of being set at Christmastime – and we’re just days away now.

Christmas in Paradise and the rest of the series are in Kindle Unlimited, which means they’re off the other digital platforms at the moment – unless you want the audiobook. But if you’re a KU member, it’s an ideal time to binge!

Happy Reading!

Authors I love, books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: December 13 – December 19

Six more states ticked off! I’m so nearly there now that it’s tempting to add more targets for the end of the year, but I shall valiantly resist the urge. It was a busy week last week and this one is going to be another one as I try to get everything done before the big day on Saturday. Wish me luck!

Read:

In the Dead of Winter by Nancy Mehl

Dakota Home by Debbie Macomber

Nearly Departed in Deadwood by Ann Charles

My Dear Friend Janet by Keke Palmer with Jasmine Guillory

The Laughing Corpse by Laurel K Hamilton

Christmas in Paradise by Kathi Daley

Ghostly Paws by Leighann Dobbs

Started:

Buzz Off by Deb Baker

Still reading:

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne*

Theroux The Keyhole by Louis Theroux

Blood at the Bookies by Simon Brett

I preordered a couple for me and ordered the last of the Christmas gift books, but they don’t count right?!

Bonus photo: not my sticker – I haven’t got a single one – but I got my booster jab last week!

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