Book of the Week, Children's books

Book of the Week: The Good Thieves

As mentioned yesterday, monthly stats are coming on Thursday, so I can keep to my regular schedule of Book of the Week on Tuesdays and mini reviews on the first Wednesday of each month. And this week, for the first time in a long time, my pick is a middle grade book – Katherine Rundell’s The Good Thieves.

Hardback copy of The Good Thieves

Vita and her mother got the first boat to New York when the letter from Vita’s grandfather arrived. He’s been cheated out of his ancestral home by mobster Victor Sorrotore. Vita’s mum wants to move him to London, but Vita can’t bear to see her grandfather sad and broken and is determined to get Hudson Hall back for him. But Sorrotore is a powerful mobster – how on earth can she beat him? Well the answer involves a pickpockets, animal tamers and a trapeze artist and a thrilling heist caper through Prohibition New York. I love a strong female heroine and Vita is great – she’s fierce and brave and believes that she can do anything – she’s not letting her age or her dodgy foot (affected by polio) stop her. And if his means that she sometimes makes some stupid decisions (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you get there), they are totally in keeping with who she is. This is fast-paced, there’s loads of suspense and both the characters and the setting are so brilliantly drawn you just can’t put it down. And on top of that, the writing absolutely sparkles – the descriptions of Vita and her friends and of New York are brilliantly evocative – you can really see them and the menagerie of animals in their little corner of the city by Carnegie Hall.

My love for heist-y adventure-y books is well known, as is my fondness for middle grade fiction (despite the fact that I have not been a middle grader since the 1990s) and along with the interwar setting, maybe it’s not surprising that ticked a lot of my boxes. This would be great for children who’ve read the Enid Blyton …of Adventure series or the Famous Five, or more modern series like Robin Steven’s Wells and Wong books and Katherine Woodfine’s Sinclair mysteries. I loved tales of derring do when I was at the top end of primary school – and read the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew voraciously as well as series like the Three Investigators, most of which I either wouldn’t recommend for modern kids or aren’t in print any more, and this would fill that gap for kids with similar interests today.

My copy of The Good Thieves is a delightful signed hardback that I bought from Foyles – who made it their children’s book of the year last year – but it’s also out in paperback on June 10th according to Foyles. And of course you can get it in Kindle and Kobo as well.

Happy reading

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: May 25 – May 31

Lovely weather last week meant time to lay in the hammock and read. And there was some really good stuff in there. I’ll certainly be talking about a few of them. Slight rearrangment to the posts this week because of the start of the month falling on a Monday – I’ve decided to do things as usual with a Book of the Week tomorrow and #Recommendsday mini reviews on Wednesday – and so you won’t be getting May stats until Thursday. I think that makes most sense.

Read:

Owl be Home for Christmas by Donna Andrews

Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stevenson*

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell

Taking Up Space by Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi*

The Birds: Short stories by Daphne Du Maurier

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood*

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai

She-Merchants, Buchaneers and Gentlewomen by Katie Hickman

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

Started:

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

He’d Rather be Dead by George Bellairs*

Hello World by Hannah Fry

Still reading:

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

Still not counting…

Bonus photo: I treated myself to some flowers to cheer me up – and it worked. Lovely peonies.

Some peonies

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley.

Book of the Week, non-fiction

Book of the Week: First in Line

I didn’t read many books last week, but I did read a lot of pages of various non-fiction books and this was my favourite of them.

Cover of First in Line

First in Line is Kate Andersen Brower’s book about the American vice presidents of the modern era. Part group biography, part examination of the shifting nature of the role, it also takes a look at the early days of the Trump White House and the role of Mike Pence in the administration.  Looking at 13 vice-presidents as well as the responsibilities of the job and how a presidential running mate is selected, Brower has spoken to all six of the living vice presidents – and the insight this gives the book is great. Brower’s writing style is breezy and accessible and the book is peppered with anecdotes and personal stories.

The first six chapters cover the broad strokes of the role – the vetting process, where the VP lives, what the VP does and the basics of the various different types of relationships that there can be between the President and his second in command. The final seven chapters then take a more in depth look at the different partnerships in the second half of the twentieth century – from Eisenhower and Nixon onwards. I don’t think you need much background knowledge going into this – if you know the vague outlines of what happened in America post World War 2 you should be fine.

I found this fascinating. I knew the vague outlines of the process by which the vice president is selected and what the role of the job is, but I hadn’t really realised that the VP’s official residence was such a recent development – or how widely the relationships between the Commander in Chief and his deputy had varied. All the relationships are interesting, but I found the contrast between Nixon and Bush really fascinating – both were Republican vice presidents who became presidents but they had very different experiences.

 

Brower is somewhat of a specialist in writing about the occupants of the White House – her first book (which I haven’t read yet), The Residence, is about the house itself, her second (which I have) was about the modern First Ladies, and her latest book – which came out as an ebook last week and will be out in hardback next month – is called The Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the age of Trump, and looks at what it is like to be one of the living former presidents at the moment. She’s spoken to President Trump as part of the process – she’s written a teaser article in the current edition of Vanity Fair – if you want a taste you can read it here.

And finally – you know how sometimes you read a bit in a book and it really resonates with your experience? Well at the bottom of page 288, Brower says:

Unlike [Dick] Cheney, who had no interest in the presidency, when he was vice president, when Pence goes to the Hill to “touch gloves’ as he says, on a weekly basis, he insists on walking through the Capitol Rotunda so that tourists can get their photos taken with him.

And here is my photo of Mike Pence doing exactly that on the day that I toured the Capitol right at the end of my posting in Washington a couple of years ago.
Vice President Mike PenceIf you want to read First in Line it’s available as an ebook on Kindle or Kobo as well as in hardback. I suspect you might have to order it in though rather than find it in stock when you call your local indie. I’d also recommend First Ladies and having read both (albeit some time apart) I don’t think there was a lot of repetition.

 

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: May 18 – May 24

So lots of nonfiction reading this week, but also lots of problems with concentrating. And it’s been super busy – including my turn to work the weekend. So a short list. But I’m hoping for some quality bank holiday Monday reading time in the hammock.

Read:

Crossed Skis by Carol Carnac

The Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt

First in Line by Kate Andersen Brower

Terns of Endearment by Donna Andrews

Started:

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Owl be Home for Christmas by Donna Andrews

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

Still reading:

She-Merchants, Buchaneers and Gentlewomen by Katie Hickman

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stevenson*

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood*

Still not counting.

Bonus photo: unexpected peonies in my garden! We haven’t been here quite a year yet, so this is the first time we’ve seen them. And yes. I know there are weeds in the pavers. It’s on the list…

Three pink peony flowers on a plant in a garden

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley.

Book of the Week, LGTBQIA+, new releases

Book of the Week: Slippery Creatures

I said yesterday that I had a harder week concentrating last week so retreated to favourite authors, and this came out last week so it was perfectly timed. It’s the first part of a trilogy, and I can’t for the life of me find a pre-order link for part two and it is driving me mad. Anyway, to the book.

Cover of Slippery Creatures

Will Darling made it through the Great War. After signing up at the start, he made it back to Britain with a lot of medals and a lot more mental scarring. But it turned out that the country he’d been fighting for didn’t really have much use for him. Sometime just before getting rock bottom he writes to a great uncle he’s never met and gets invited to help out at his book shop. But when the great uncle dies he finds himself caught between the War Office and some very unsavoury characters who want a secret he doesn’t possess. Enter Kim Secretan, attractive and helpful but with a murky past. And maybe present. But Will is trapped in a game of cat and mouse over a deadly secret – and Kim might be the only person who can save him.

The blurb says that this is a m/m romance in the spirit of Golden Age pulp fiction and I think that’s pretty spot on. It reminded me of some of the thrillers I’ve read by authors like Molly Thynne and some of the more adventure-y Albert Campion stories. A warning for the romance readers thought: this is very much part one of the story – and everything is not tied up at the end. If you only want Happily Ever Afters, maybe wait until the whole series is out and then you can read right the way through to the end without having to wait. I could just about handle not having proper resolution because the story and the characters were so much fun. I’ve read about half a dozen of KJ Charles books before, but they were all Victorian set. I raced through it and if it has been possible I would have gone straight on to the next part. But it isn’t so I’m having to wait. I happen to like a 1920s setting more than a Victorian one, and I love an adventure story, so this ticked all my boxes really – and I love that authors are moving into this period a bit more. If you read and liked Hither, Page last year, then this would scratch that itch while you wait for another instalment there. Although obviously: more waiting!

Anyway, I bought my copy of Slippery Creatures on pre-order and it’s out now on Kindle and Kobo and in paperback via Amazon (in what looks possibly like print on demand because I can’t find it via Waterstones or Foyles).

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: May 11 – May 17

Another week where I found it really hard to concentrate on a book – although you may not thing that’s the case from the list! Mostly new (to me) books from old favourite authors this week, becaause that’s all my brain could cope with, although I am making progress on She-Merchants… but it requires proper concentration!

Read:

Yellow Thread Street by William Marshall

A Dangerous Relation by Deanna Raybourn

Slippery Creatures by K J Charles

A Merry Little Murder by Beth Byers

Christmas on 4th Street by Susan Mallery

Yours for Christmas by Susan Mallery

Writers as Readers by Various

Started:

Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stevenson*

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood*

Still reading:

She-Merchants, Buchaneers and Gentlewomen by Katie Hickman

The Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt

First in Line by Kate Andersen Brower

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Still not counting books incoming, although I think the number was slightly down last week. Maybe.

Bonus photo: current bedside table status…. basically it’s books and things to help my hands not look drier than a desert!

Bedside table from above, featuring hand cream, a copy of the Eyre Affair and a pile of books

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley.

Book of the Week, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Bad Blood

It was a busy week of reading last week, but one book really stood out – and stood out so much I couldn’t save it for a non-fiction round up post as was my original plan! I have got posts lined up featuring some of the other books I read last week – including a Series I love post about Gail Carriger’s Parasolverse. Anyway, back to this week’s BotW.

Cover of Bad Blood

Bad Blood tells the story of Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos. You’ve probably heard of them – probably because you heard about what happened. Anyway, if you haven’t, here’s the summary. In the mid 2010s Holmes had positioned herself as the female Steve Jobs – a visionary college dropout whose Silicon Valley startup was promising to revolutionise medicine with their new blood testing technique. She raised billions of dollars in venture capital, was on the cover of major magazines, won awards and was invited to events at the White House. And then it all came crashing down – the tech didn’t work and never had. This is the inside story of Theranos, written by the Wall Street Journal reporter who broke the story after digging into the web of secrecy and deceit and facing up to some very expensive lawyers!

As usual, I’m somewhat behind the curve here – as the book came out in 2018 and I’ve only just got to it, but it absolutely blew my mind last week. Like Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill this is an incredibly readable piece of non-fiction reporting that reads a bit like a thriller – and if it was fiction you would say that it is too far fetched and that maybe the author should have reined it in a bit. But no, it all happened. My only real problem with the book is that it doesn’t really answer the question of *why* Elizabeth Holmes did what she did. It shows you how it was done, and all the ins and outs of that, but it doesn’t offer any explanation about what her plan was – and how she thought it would all play out. Also it had never occurred to me that I could call my self an inventor if I just thought of an idea and then paid people to try and make it work!  I was always an arts person at school rather than a science one, so I can imagine how people like me might have been taken in by her spiel but I was surprised that she was able to get the idea past so many actual science and medical people.

The Theranos saga has also been made into a documentary by HBO, which I haven’t watched yet but really want to. It’s currently available to buy from some streaming services, but I’m hoping it will eventually turn up on a channel on my actual TV. I’ve put the trailer in the bottom for those of you who are interested. If you want to read Bad Blood, it’s available on Kindle and Kobo for £3.99 at the moment, as well as in paperback. The UK edition of the paperback looks to be with a big publisher, so I’d hope it would be easy to obtain from your Independent bookseller of choice.

Happy Reading!