Book of the Week, book round-ups

Book of the Week… or not

So. I said in yesterday’s post I didn’t know what I was going to write about today. And I didn’t. And I sat and stared at the list of things I read last week for a while and I still didn’t. And then I ended up writing this.

My favourite thing I read last week was probably The Game, but that’s the sixth in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series and I have a rule about books in series and you really will get the most out of that if you’re reading them in order. Also it’s not that long since I wrote about The Beekeeper’s Apprentice – and I suspect the next stop on this journey is going to be a post about the series. So that rules that out. Side note: It’s one of those annoying ebooks where you can’t see a proper cover for it at the start of the book. Why do publishers do this to me?

I finished Theatre for Dreamers last week, but I hated almost everyone in it and I couldn’t work up the energy to write about them all. I originally bought it as a gift for mum and then when it arrived I read the start and realised that it wasn’t going to be for her. I was right. Good decision not to give it to her past Verity. But if you want to read about the writers’ and artists’ colony on Hydra in the early 1960s, go for it – it’s well written and it’s got Leonard Cohen in it, but it’s about as cheerful as one of his songs. Maybe by the time I have enough books for another Fictionalised Real People post, I’ll have mellowed on it a bit. At the moment I’m just annoyed at them all.

I went into A Few Right Thinking Men thinking (hoping?) it might fill the Phryne Fisher-shaped hole in my reading. And it is set in Australia, at a similar sort of time and with a hero with a monied background but more colourful and less conservative leanings, but whilst it does have a murder to solve, also gets very deep into the societal factions of conservatives and communists and to me felt like it tended more towards the thriller end of the spectrum and less towards the historical cozy one. It’s also less witty and fun than Phryne is and I’m not sure how much I liked any one in it. I might read some more, but I’ll need to be in the right mood.

The Larks of Jubilee Flats was a fun Career novel from the Girl’s Own era that I love, but it’s slight, and niche, and probably only of interest to a very small subset of people – many of whom were at the Bristol Conference with me a couple of years back. If you want to read a book doing a bit of not very subtle encouraging of young teen girls to have a bit of ambition (but only before they get married) and to Do The Right Thing, then it’s sweet but it’s also going to cost you at least £5 plus shipping for a book that took me less than an hour to read. Also, Covid scuppered the next edition of book conference both last summer and the rearranged date this year, so I have to wait another whole year before I get to go and play with the book people and spend all my money on obscure titles again.

And after that there was nothing else in the list that was nearly finished enough for me to kid myself I could get it read and count it on a technicality. So instead you get a couple of little summaries from me and a sheepish apology for having had a busy week and on top of that a sort of social life for the first time in a year. I’ll try and do better next week.

Happy Reading!

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

The Week in Books: June 14 – June 20

Massively busy week and then at the weekend we Went Somewhere and Did Something, and rather than reading books I was drinking wine and catching up with people. What I’m going to write about tomorrow, I do not know.

Read:

A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson

The Game by Laurie R King

The Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon

Still Knife Painting by Cheryl Hollon

The Larks of Jubilee Flats by Marjorie A Sindall

A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

Started:

The Last Party by Anthony Haden-Guest

Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake by Alexis Hall

This is not a F**king Romance by Evie Snow

Still reading:

Mrs England by Stacey Halls*

Yours Cheerfully by A J Pearce*

Bonus photo: Slightly cheating because this is from late last week, but as we had a scorcher for most of the week (and then a muggy weekend) here’s a rare (for the blog) sighting of me in my garden hammock enjoying some sunshine.

Me in a hammock

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

American imports, Book of the Week, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Second First Impressions

After yesterday’s little essay at the start of my Week in Books I feel a little bit like I’ve already talked way too much this week. But I’ve got plans in my head for a summer reading post and a couple of last weeks books are likely to feature in that. So this weeks BotW is a fun and frothy romance, perfect for reading any time of year, not just in a sunny garden in summer.

Ruthie has been working at Providence Retirement Villas for six years. That’s her whole adult life – and she’s turned the job into her entire life. She’s shrunk her world so that it revolves around the residents (human and turtles) and maintaining the place. She is nervous, risk averse, acts way older than her age and her latest fear is what the property developer who has just bought the site might do to up end her life. It turns out that the first thing he’s going to do is land Providence with his son. Teddy has run out of places to stay and needs to raise money for his share of the tattoo parlour he wants to open. He’s tall, dark and handsome – and dangerous for Ruthie’s self control. So she sets him up with the one job no one has ever lasted at: personal assistant to two rich, 90 year old trouble making ladies – who get most of their enjoyment from setting their assistants fiendish tasks. But Teddy looks set to be the one who stays the course – but is his charm for real or is is all just an act?

That’s quite a long plot summary and makes this sound way more complicated than it is. It’s a charming opposites attract romance with a sweet but wary heroine and a charming people pleaser hero who have to do a lot of figuring out about what they both want in life. The retirement village provides an excellent cast of supporting characters to make you laugh as you watch Ruthie and Teddy do some cautious getting to know each other. It does suffer a little bit from the end wrapping up too quickly (oh a common theme returns to my reviews) but I sort of forgive it because it was just so charming for the rest of the book. I’ve been hearing good things about Sally Thorne for a while, but this is the first time I’ve managed to get around to reading one of her books – even though I think I may own the Hating Game. I am annoyed that it’s taken me so long. But again: what is new there. In summary: charming escapist reading.

My copy of Second First Impressions came from the library but it’s out now on Kindle and Kobo and in (very expensive) hardback. No paperback (in the UK at least) until next year.

Happy Reading!

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

The Week in Books: June 7 – June 13

It’s strange how my reading can sometimes fall into patterns – and not just library books coming due and NetGalley release dates (when I’m paying attention to them properly). This week is probably one of the best examples of that I have recently had. Firstly, I’m going through a huge audiobook phase – rather than listening to my regular diet of podcasts. And not just any audiobooks, audio books of old favourites. So this week on the list you can see that I finished a new (to me) audiobook of Have His Carcase – one of my favourite Wimseys, but that I’ve previously only had on audio as a radio play. I’ve also been listening to Heyer’s Devil’s Cub in a new version (still not right, but better now than the previous one) and Venetia (again). We’ve finished another in the Amelia Peabody re-listen. But there are more patterns than just that. Frieda and Theatre for dreamers both deal with writers (and artists) and their muses. I’ve been taking my time over The Game because I needed to finish Alexandria which also deals with British machinations in Afghanistan and India (although a century apart). There is fodder for posts here, if only I can find third (or fourth) books to continue the themes. The question is, do I want to?

Read:

Have His Carcase by Dorothy L Sayers

Sunrise by the Sea by Jenny Colgan*

Tiny House, Big Love by Olivia Dade

The Summer Seekeers by Sarah Morgan*

Frieda by Annabel Abbs

Deeds of the Disturber by Elizabeth Peters

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne

Alexandria by Edmund Richardson*

Started:

A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

Yours Cheerfully by A J Pearce*

Still reading:

A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson

The Game by Laurie R King

Mrs England by Stacey Halls*

A couple of books bought, but all bargains. Honest!

Bonus photo: British summer time in the park on Saturday evening. Blue skies, mid 20s, not too awfully humid.

A sunny park in the evening

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, Forgotten books, literary fiction, new releases, Thriller, women's fiction

Book of the Week: The Feast

Well it was actually a proper contest for BotW this week between this and the new Taylor Jenkins Reid book, Malibu Rising, but The Feast really impressed me and is definitely lower on the radar than the TJR. But I’m sure I’ll find a way to talk about that too – after all summer holidays are coming – theoretically at least, so perhaps there’s a sunlounger (in your garden if no where more exotic) reading post in my future!

Cover of The Feast

This one is really hard to summarise without giving too much away, and that would really ruin some of the enjoyment, but here goes: At the start of The Feast we hear about the Pendizak Manor Hotel, now buried under a collapsed cliff, with seven guests dead. The rest of the book is set in the week running up to that cliff collapse, which happened in the middle of summer 1947. You spend the book getting to know all the people who live and work at the hotel and the ins and outs of their lives. I went through the book wondering whether it was going to turn out to be a thriller, or a tragedy or something else – it’s a complete page-turner. And the characters, oh the characters. Of all of the adults, there’s really only Nancy who is sensible. The hotel is owned by a formerly genteel family fallen on hard times and who have turned the family home into a boarding house to try and make ends meet, and their guests tend to be people Mrs Siddal thinks are the “right sort” – although as you learn about them, you realise that “the right sort” may not be nice people at all…

The Feast was first published in 1949 and this is a new edition with an introduction from Cathy Rentzenbrink. Now I’ve been had by spoilers in introductions before so I deliberately skipped it before I read it so it wouldn’t ruin anything for me and I recommend you do the same because it really repaid me – both in reading the book the first time through and then when I read the introduction in giving me more layers and levels to think about. I read Margaret Kennedy’s more famous book, The Constant Nymph, a couple of years back and could see why it was influential, but didn’t love it – mostly because the characters were annoying but not in a so annoying you want to see them get their comeuppance sort of way – but with this lot, the ones that are annoying are really annoying, and you have the added suspense of whether they’re going to end up under the cliff or not! And on top of everything, the cover for this new edition is gorgeous too. I’m seriously tempted to get myself a physical copy.

Anyway, my copy of The Feast came from NetGalley, but this new edition is out now in paperback – Foyles appear to have copies at Charing Cross Road (and a couple of other London stores) and Bristol judging by their click and collect, so I’m hoping it’ll be fairly findable in the larger book stores. And of course it’s on Kindle and Kobo. Audible also appear to have a fresh version of it too – which is a bit tempting I have to say. The blurb describes this as “rediscovered” which suggests that it may not be that easy to find secondhand – the cheapest that aren’t this new edition all appear to be in the US (with the associated postage costs) so it might have to be an actual antiquarian/second hand bookshop rather than the charity shop if you want something older, but the introduction in this edition is a really nice touch – provided of course you don’t read it first!

Happy Reading!

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

The Week in Books: May 31 – June 6

Well blimey Love in the Blitz is long. And it took a lot of my reading time up this week because I was determined to finish it! Some really good stuff on this week’s list though – it’s going to be hard to chose what to write about tomorrow!

Read:

Desire and the Deep Blue Sea by Olivia Dade

Feast by Margaret Kennedy*

Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham

Deadly Decor by Karen Rose Smith

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid*

Love in the Blitz by Eileen Alexander*

Creativity by John Cleese

Started:

Mrs England by Stacey Halls*

Sunrise by the Sea by Jenny Colgan*

Still reading:

Frieda by Annabel Abbs

A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson

Alexandria by Edmund Richardson*

The Game by Laurie R King

I had to buy some books as gifts this week, so of course I bought myself one as well, because it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it? And apart from that I don’t think there were any more purchases, but I haven’t exactly investigated too closely!

Bonus photo: summer time in the UK. A couple of sunny hours earlier this week, where everything looked beautiful.

A small river and its surroundings, looking very green and pretty in the sunshine.

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, historical, new releases

Book of the Week: Circus of Wonders

So as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m still not really in the headspace for books where I don’t know how they’re going to end. This of course is the main reason why I’ve mostly been reading romance and mystery for the duration of the pandemic – in the midst of all the global uncertainty, I need to know that it’s going to be ok at the end. This doesn’t seem to have got through to the part of my brain clicking request on NetGalley though, which is a bit of an issue to be honest. But I did manage to read this – and enjoy it – so here’s a change from the recent fiction picks and a bit of historical fiction.

Cover of Circus of Wonders

In Circus of Wonders we meet Nell. She’s always been different, because of the birthmarks that cover her skin. When Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders comes to her coastal village, she is kidnapped after her father sells her. Ripped away from her beloved brother and the seaside, at first Nell tries to escape. But soon she discovers the community of performers and meets Jasper’s younger brother Toby. Toby and Jasper were in Crimea together and the show is what they have always planned together, even before they were on the battlefield. But when the show gets to London, Nell is its star, but can Jasper cope with his “leopard girl” eclipsing him?

This is a really atmospheric book – mixing the world of Victorian circus performers and the horror of war, as well as looking at identity, difference and fame. I worry that this makes Circus of Wonders sound very worthy, but it’s actually a real page Turner as well as being very clever. And give the renewed interest in the period and the circus after The Greatest Showman it is perhaps and opportune time for something like this. Really very readable. I read Elizabeth Macneal’s first book, The Doll Factory on my birthday holiday at the start of last year* and I found it creepy and atmospheric but only really liked one strand of the story and wanted a more definite resolution. This one, I like Toby and Nell’s story and it does have a very definite ending so that’s a definite win here. If you’re after for something to read in the sun, this would be a good choice.

My copy of Circus of Wonders came from NetGalley, but it’s out now in hardback as well as Kindle and Kobo. I would expect the physical copies to be front and centre in the book shops – because it’s in the hardback top 10 at the moment. Side note: I had read two books in each of the fiction top tens in the Sunday Times this week – unfortunately this was slightly undermined by the fact that one of the books in each list was the same book – The Thursday Murder Club – which is in both hardback and paperback lists! For the completists, the other book that I had read in the paperback list is the wonderful The Vanishing Half. But at any rate, if you haven’t read the either the Richard Osman or the Brit Bennett (which are doing very different things), they’re now in paperback – ideal for your sunlounger.

Happy Reading!

*It seems like a lifetime ago, but that trip which seemed so extravagant at the time- to pay for sunshine in January – now seems like the smartest idea we ever have, as it was our only proper holiday last year and it was a proper sunshiney one.

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

The Week in Books: May 24 – May 30

A varied week in reading last week – partly because of my quest to finish some stuff off before the end of the month, but also because I wasn’t very well for part of last week so the reading list reflects the sort of thing that my brain could cope with. But more generally, I’m realising that my brain is still not in a place for books where I don’t know that there is going to be a positive resolution at the end. I will expand more on this tomorrow – I promise! It’s also the end of the month today, so there’s plenty coming up this week: as well as the Book of the Week tomorrow, there will be the Mini Reviews and the Stats. A veritable bonanza.

Read:

His Bride for the Taking by Tessa Dare

The Marriage of Mary Russell by Laurie R King

Literary Landscapes edited by John Sutherland

Justice Hall by Laurie R King

Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer

Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

The Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth MacNeal*

Started:

Alexandria by Edmund Richardson*

The Game by Laurie R King

Deadly Decor by Karen Rose Smith

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid*

Still reading:

Frieda by Annabel Abbs

Love in the Blitz by Eileen Alexander*

A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson

I’m still not counting, but I can confirm I did but a fair few books this week. It seemed like a bunch of books that appealed to me we’re on offer *and* I had got behind on my preordering. It was a real hardship… not!

Bonus photo: it’s peony season! And this is my vase full. Love them so much. So beautiful and they made me happy this week.

A vase full of Peonies in various shades of pink

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, historical, romance

Book of the Week: Wilde Child

As I said yesterday, a busy week in real life last week and a lot of reoccurring authors on the list. But for today’s BotW pick I’m back into my romance happy place, with the latest book from an old favourite author of mine – Eloisa James.

A little bit of my historical romance reading origin story first: Eloisa James was one of the first current historical romance authors I read back when I discovered that there were modern authors doing takes on Georgette Heyer, back in my Southend days so circa 2009 – about a decade after I first read Georgette Heyer – I know. What took me so long? I don’t know – except I suppose that back when I was reading Georgette Heyer originally there wasn’t really a section of the UK market that was historical romance that wasn’t Mills and Boon – and that was what my granny read. Then – and I know exactly how it happened – I saw Julia Quinn’s What Happens in London in the window of Waterstones on Southend High Street and went to investigate. The Essex Library system was good – and I then requested and worked my way through every Julia Quinn they had and started to look for other similar authors. And it turned out there were a few authors who had made the jump across the Atlantic – and you just had to know what to look for in the cover art. My first Eloisa James was Duchess by Night – with a blindfolded lady in a corseted dress on the cover. And I ate up that series – or as much as it as was published in the UK. Which was not all of it – and at that point they weren’t available on Kindle – even if I had had one* so I started looking at the US editions, with their very, very different covers to the UK ones and started ordering them so I could get to Villiers’ story. And so what I’m saying here is that I have a long history with Eloisa James and I see her books as reliable comfort reads for me.

This is the sixth in the Wilde’s of Lindow Castle series, and the titular Wilde Child is Joan, who the Duke of Lindow has raised as his own despite the fact that her father is the Prussian count who his (now ex) wife had an affair with. This fact of her birth has made her some what scandalous – and she has done every thing in her power to scandalise the polite society who judge her for something she can’t help or change. Our hero is Viscount Greywick, who needs sensible scandal free wife but just can’t help trying to keep Joan out of trouble. The two of them strike a bargain – he’ll help her achieve her dream of acting on stage (incognito of course) and then she’ll settle down and marry a man of his choosing. We all know where this is going, without me even saying any more than that.

Now, this is not perfect. I like others of James’ books more. I think the relationship skips a stage – they go straight from antipathy to liking each other, without really properly explaining how. Yes, there are a lot of “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I can’t stop touching your hair” books out there – but there’s usually a big revelation moment where they work out that that it’s not actually hate, it’s repressed desire – and that doesn’t quite land here. I still think James’ earlier books are cleverer and funnier, but I read it this in under 24 hours and it made me smile – and having read all the other books in this series, I’m just a touch invested and I liked seeing the previous couples reappear. I am going to go on record that I have been holding out hope throughout the series that the at some point Horatius, the dead eldest son, is going to turn out not to be dead and reappear to close the series, not just because of The Drama but also because that would solve one of the ongoing problems of one of the couples – which makes a reappearance in this story (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve read North’s book). James has her first book out under her own name (Mary Bly) soon – which is a contemporary women’s fiction novel – so I’m hoping this isn’t it for Eloisa James – but it may well be.

My copy of Wilde Child came from the library, but it’s out now on Kindle and Kobo as well as in paperback – and these are often spotted in the supermarkets and book stores – at time of writing, Foyles have it in stock in six of their seven stores.

Happy Reading!

* I got my first Kindle in May 2012 before I went to Poland to work at EURO 2012 – because lord knows I wasn’t going to be able to take enough books to read with me for a month.

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

The Week in Books: May 17 – May 23

Every week is a busy week at the moment it seems, but even amidst all the busy and the stress, reading is a constant for me. Yes, this week is mostly old favourite authors who I’ve told you about before. No I don’t feel guilty about that – although I do feel guilty that I’m making slower progress than I’d hoped down the NetGalley list, but sometimes when you’re tired and stressed, you just want to pick up something that you know will make you happy and not have to concentrate too hard on something new.

Read:

The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer

O Jerusalem by Laurie R King

Wrapped by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Wilde Child by Eloisa James

Lumberjanes Vol 18 by Shannon Watters et al

Elizabeth and Monty by Charles Castillo*

Her Big City Neighbour by Jackie Lau

Started:

Justice Hall by Laurie R King

A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson

Still reading:

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth MacNeal*

Frieda by Annabel Abbs

Love in the Blitz by Eileen Alexander*

Bonus photo: It has unlocked even more here now – and so I had my first evening out with friends this year last week, for the second semi final of Eurovision. There was prosecco, there was schnitzel, there were some terrible songs and some even worse performances and I loved every minute. Thus, it is this week’s bonus photo.

A glass of prosecco in front of a large screen showing Eurovision Semi final 2

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