Book of the Week, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Acting Up

Plenty of options to chose from this week, and I’ve gone with a romance novel to make a nice change for the summer heat. Or what I hope is going to be a summery week!

Cath and Paul have been friends since college – and Cath’s been hiding a crush on Paul all these years. Now he’s a theatre director, and she’s a stage manager and they do their best work together. As friends. Just friends. Nothing more. And that’s fine with Cath, because she doesn’t want to risk losing the friendship she has with him. This summer, they’re working on a production of a new play at a regional theatre in Connecticut. If it goes well, it could go to Broadway – but will it go well if Paul insists on hiring Cath’s college nemesis to play the leading role? When rehearsals start, Paul realises that his leading lady is making Cath’s life miserable. And also that the leading man is showing an interest in Cath. Paul realises that what he wants is Cath – but can he persuade her that it’s worth taking a chance on?

Regular readers will remember how much I enjoy Lucy Parker’s theatre-set romances and that I always say I want more books like them. Well, here is more like them. This is friends-to-lovers rather than enemies-to-lovers and it’s in American regional theatre rather than the West End, but it’s got great characters, cracking banter – they quote plays at each other everyone, including some Busman’s Honeymoon, what more could I want – and the supporting characters are also amazing. Plus more backstage theatre details than you can shake a stick at, but not in an info dump sort of way. I read it in two sittings – it would have been one sitting, but it was 2am and I had to go to bed. Then I bought the next one so that I can read it on the train to work this week when I have finished the other things I am meant to be reading.

I bought this as part of my read the samples of books on offer spree (as mentioned yesterday) and it is 81p at the moment on Kindle everyone. EIGHTY ONE. And 99 cents in the US. Run don’t walk everyone, because I suspect this offer is going to finish at the end of June. It’s also available on Kobo (for 99p) and in paperback. You’re welcome. I’m off to see what else Adele Buck has written and buy it add it to my wishlist.

Happy reading!

Book of the Week, Forgotten books, mystery

Book of the Week: Death of a Bookseller

I know it’s only a few weeks since I did a while recommendsday about British Library Crime Classics, and there was another one in the May Quick Reviews, but I’m back again with another one…

When Sergeant Wigan stops to help a drunken man at the end of a late shift, he makes a new friend and discovers the world of book collecting. Soon he is beginning his own collection, following the advice of Michael Fisk, who makes his living scouring book shops and sales for valuable books. When Fisk is found dead, Wigan is seconded to CID to help investigate and use his newly acquired knowledge of the second hand and antiquarian book trade to track down a killer.

This a great pick for the 100th BLCC book. And not just because it’s about a bookseller and the book trade. The mystery is really good but it also has a side of the murder mystery you don’t usually see – the convicted man and what happens to him. In my beloved Strong Poison you see Harriet Vane in prison on remand, but she is innocent and eventually freed*. But what happens to the man who is convicted? It adds a darker edge and a sense of urgency to the book, and an aspect that is easy to forget now that capital punishment is no longer a thing in the UK.

My copy came via my Kindle Unlimited subscription but you should be able to get hold of this through all the usual sources for British Library Crime Classics – including the British Library Bookshop.

Happy Reading!

* Technically, yes this is a spoiler, but a) Strong Poison was published in 1930 b) Peter is trying to clear Harriet from the start of the book, to the point where it’s in the blurb and c) I refuse to believe that anyone who has been hanging around here for any length of time has missed my whole Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane situation.

Book of the Week, Children's books, children's books

Book of the Week: The Unforgettable Guinevere St Clair

Last week it was a graphic novel, this week it’s a middle grade novel, I’ve got mystery book posts planned and all sorts for June. I really am giving you the full range this month aren’t it!

Amy Makechnie’s The Unforgettable Guinevere St Clair is about a ten-year-old girl who moves to Iowa to try and help her mother’s recovery from a brain injury that has left her unable to remember anything past the age of 13. Crow is where her parents grew up and Jed is desperately hoping that coming back will jog Vienna’s memories. Gwyn and her little sister Bitty are used to the bright lights of New York, so small town life comes as a bit of a shock to them, especially their new neighbour Gaysie Cutter. They soon make friends with Gaysie’s son Micah and his friend Jimmy, but they also discover that Gaysie was friends with their parents when they were at school. When Gaysie’s only friend, farmer Wilbur Truesdale, goes missing Gwyn is determined to solve the mystery but she may also find out more than she wants to know about her parents’ past.

Because of Jed’s absence and the age of Gwyn’s grandmother, the children are able to spend a lot of time running around outside without a lot of adult supervision. This gives the story an almost out of time feel – except for the references to current pop culture. The neighbourhood is full of interesting characters for Gwyn to met and things for her to try and work out. Gwyn has decided that she wants to be a lawyer and she is obsessed with finding out people’s stories, but often jumps to the worst possible conclusions (which is understandable given what has happened to her family) but also isn’t actually very good at asking the right questions or showing empathy to people. She wants to solve problems because there is one big problem that can never be solved – Vienna:

Gwyn calls her mum Vienna – because she’s not a mum to her because of her injury. Her dad is obsessed with trying to find a cure for her but as you go through the book you realise that what is initially described as memory loss is actually not amnesia, but massive and irreversible brain damage. Gwyn knows this. Gwyn’s grandmother knows this, everyone in town knows this – even if they’re not saying it – but Jed thinks a miracle is possible, because Vienna has survived this far. This all means that Gwyn is older than her years in someways, but she has her own trauma from what happened to her mum. She’s taken on the role of her sister’s protector, but she can’t see when she is hurting other people’s feelings – most notably when she is throwing herself into what she has decided is a murder investigation- heedless of Micah and Jimmy’s feelings.

Looking through the reviews and blurbs for this, I can see comparisons to To Kill A Mockingbird and I can sort of understand that – small town, weird neighbours, gang of roaming children – but there are a lot of differences too. Lots of things about Gaysie Cutter do remain unexplained, but she is a much more visible character than Boo Radley is, and you can often see glimpses of what is going on and understand her a little bit, even if Gwyn can’t.

It’s a really interesting read – and I’ve just realised that I’ve got this far without even mentioning that Gwyn has a pet cow, or the Big Peril at the end. It even made me get a bit teary eyed. And I’m still thinking about it, a couple of days on from finishing it, which is a recommendation in itself.

Anyway I read this in paperback (as you can see from the photo!) but it’s also available in Kindle and Kobo. I bought my copy online a so I’m not sure how easy it will be to find in stores – but I suspect it will be tricky as I can’t find it at all on Foyles website… But if you do happen across a copy it’s worth it.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, graphic novels

Book of the Week: Bloodlust and Bonnets

It was a really fun week of reading last week – and I had a few options for this today. But I decided to pick a graphic novel for the first time in a long time this week and it’s a really fun one.

Bloodlust and Bonnets is a pastiche of romantic literature, where a trio of misfits go chasing after vampires for Reasons. Lucy is an innocent and highly suggestible debutant. Shram is a mysterious bounty Hunter. Lord Byron is, well Lord Byron. There is a psychic eagle and a talking castle and lies, flirting and manipulation. And lots of gory slapstick stuff. It’s a lot of fun and very clever.

With my poor record of having read the classics, I think I’ve read more books about Romantic literature or pastiching romantic literature than I’ve actually read of actual classic novels this is based on, but I still got most of the jokes – especially about Byron after I read The House of Byron last year. And I really love Emily McGovern’s art – I have one of her Life as a Background Slytherin prints on my kitchen wall – and this is just as delightful. She does so much with not many lines and it’s so clever. As you can see from the cover, the faces are basically eyebrows and dots and yet they convey so much. It’s a delightful way to spend a few hours. This was McGovern’s first graphic novel – her second, Twelve Percent Dread, is out in July and I already have it on order at the comic book store.

My copy of Bloodlust and Bonnets came from my local comic store, and you should try yours first for it too – if they don’t have it they can order it in for you. Otherwise, you should be able to order it from the usual sources.

Happy reading!

Book of the Week, Forgotten books

Book of the Week: The Young Pretenders

I said yesterday that I thought I was going to set a new record for the number of authors I’d already featured in the list, but today’s BotW pick is one of the exceptions. But it was also last months book from my Persephone subscription which is turning out to be one of the best gifts I have recently been given. Thoroughly recommend.

Set in the mid 1890s, The Young Pretenders is the story of two children, Teddy and his younger sister Babs. At the start of the book they are told that their grandma has died and find out that they’re going to move to London to live with their aunt and uncle while they wait for their parents to return from India. Having done pretty much as they wanted in the countryside – including basically running wild in the garden – the adjustment to city is not an easy one, especially for five year old Babs, our heroine. She is described as a grubby sturdy little girl, and not the cherubic blonde Angel that her aunt Eleanor was hoping for. And as if that wasn’t enough, Babs has an unerring knack of saying exactly the wrong thing to her aunt. For Babs has no idea how to fit in in the artificial world of London – and no idea what she is expected to do or say. So she just does what she thinks or says what she has heard the adults say and it lands her in trouble.

This was written for children, but is absolutely a book that adults will adore. I mean I did, but also adults who don’t usually read children’s books. For children Babs’s missteps will be nothing but funny. For adults you see her stumbling through her new life and assess the mistakes and weaknesses of the adults around her. It’s hard to explain what I mean without given massive spoilers, so you’ll have to trust me on this. I enjoyed it so much I read it in one evening, it would have been one sitting, but I started in the sofa and then carried on reading it when I went to bed and consequently got less sleep than I should have done.

As I said, my copy was part of my Persephone subscription picks from and you can get it direct from them but you can get Persephone Books from good book shops too – like Foyles.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, mystery, new releases

Book of the Week: Attack and Decay

Yes yes I know, so many rules broken here – I finished this on Monday AND I wrote about the series on Friday, so this is a short post today.

The latest book in the series sees our intrepid crew making a trip to Sweden so the Vinyl Detective can assess and acquire a rare audiophile copy of a controversial death metal record. There’s no hunting involved – they know where the record is and the owner is prepared to sell it to them, so this should be a nice easy trip, with plenty of time to scour the local charity shops for records, designer clothes and crime fiction novels, right? Wrong. Soon bodies are turning up in various gruesome ways – and it looks like the killer is taking his inspiration not from the Scandi Noir but from the death metal.

The mystery is good, the gang is fun, the residents of the town add to that, the writing is witty and the references to crime novels are great. I’m assuming there are some death metal references in there too, but I know even less about that genre than I did about folk music! The only downside of having read this in week of release is that now I have to wait until the next one comes. Still at least my dad can borrow it now – I hadn’t finished it when he came over at the weekend and so he has to go home empty handed!

As I said on Friday, you should be able to get these from any good bookshop, but I do suggest reading the series in order.

NB – Rules broken today:

  • Finished on a Monday
  • Not the first in the series
  • Repeating an author too soon
  • Repeating a series too soon

I reckon you could probably count it as two – because three of them are around repeats of different types right?!

Book of the Week, historical, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Ask a Historian

I offer you a non fiction book this week – and after a few weeks where I’ve been recommending new (or newish) releases, here’s one that’s not quite as new a release because it came out in October…

Anyway, Greg Jenner’s latest book does exactly what it says on the tin – it answers fifty questions from history that are the sort of thing that most people actually want to know – as opposed to the sort of history people thing they ought to know. So you can find out how women dealt with their periods in the past – but also how historical periods got their names, where history starts and pre-history ends and why people are so obsessed with the Tudors (see also the question about how many nipples Anne Boleyn had) and then more horrible histories type stuff like how much horse manure was created each day in London or what the Flintstones got right. And because it’s fifty questions it makes for great bite sized reading – I read a couple of questions a night before bed.

As I’ve mentioned before, Greg and I overlapped at the same university and we did student radio at the same time although in different departments (I was news and he was speech) so we didn’t really hang out together although we were in the Langwith bar at the same time a few times after the weekly meeting. I really like the niche he’s carved himself as a public historian – he is incredibly knowledgable but wears it very lightly and his writing style is fun and accessible. And he’s the sort of history writer who wants to appear like he knows it all right off the top of his head – he’s not afraid to show his working and tell you which historians or other experts he spoke to in the main text and not hidden in the footnotes. And if there’s something you’re particularly interested in, there’s always a further reading list at the back – complete with notes about which are the more academic books as opposed to the more lay person friendly ones. As well as working for the grownups, I think this is also the sort of book that would appeal to a kid who read horrible histories and is now looking for something else fun and historical. It’s got a few swear words in it, but I think that teens and tweens will love that (and parents: they’ve heard all the words already at school, that ship has sailed)

My copy (complete with signed book plate) came from Big Green Books, but it should be fairly easy to get hold of from any reasonably sized book shop as well as on Kindle and Kobo. And if you read it and like it, then try Greg’s other books Dead Famous (definitely more for the adults) and A Millions Years in a Day. And as a bonus Greg reads his own audiobooks, which is always delightful – if you listen to his podcast You’re Dead to Me you know what he sounds like and it would be weird for it not to be him narrating!

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, Book previews, historical, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: A Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting

There were lots of options for this post today. I like a week like that. I’ve gone for a historical romance because it’s been a few weeks and this was a lot of fun and I needed something fun and frothy and if I hadn’t written it already, another entry for the marries the person you’re trying to save someone from post.

Kitty Talbot’s parents have died, leaving their daughters with debts and an uncertain future. Determined to secure her sisters’ future, she decides the solution is to marry well and heads to London with the last money they have to try to secure a rich husband. She’s never moved in this sort of society before, but with the help of her mother’s best friend she’s sure she can succeed. And indeed she soon attracts a suitor and is intent on reeling him in, until his older brother, Lord Radcliffe comes to town to put a stop to it. He knows she’s a fortune hunter and is determined to keep her out of his family, but somehow he finds himself helping her ingratiate herself with the ton…

As you might be able to tell from that summary – which doesn’t even cover half the book – this has got a lot of plot and a lot of twists. It rattles along so fast that you don’t have time to think about it, but when I was trying write that plot summary I realised how much had gone on beside the whole fortune hunter main idea. It pulled it off, but I do wonder whether there are any ideas left for Sophie Irwin’s next book! But I enjoyed this a lot so I’ll definitely be looking for it when it comes to see. It’s “not quite in the common way” of the historical romances I have read recently, not least because the steam level is basically smouldering glances for most of the book and never gets higher than kissing – so not so much enemies to Lovers as enemies to soon to be marrieds!

My copy came from NetGalley, but it’s coming out on Thursday in ebook and hardback and if you pre-order it today it’ll drop onto your Kindle or Kobo or your doormat on release day.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Count Your Lucky Stars

Did I finish this on Monday? Yes. Am I breaking my rules? Absolutely. Is this perfect? No, but it’s a lot of fun and the issues I have will the last quarter are not uncommon. So this weeks BotW is Alexandria Bellefleur’s Count Your Lucky Stars

This is the third in the Count Your Lucky Stars series – which I’ve read two of now and have the first one waiting to be read at some point in the Misty future when I remember about it. Anyway, this is a second chance romance between Olivia and Margot, who were best friends in high school that turned into something more for a week and then… wasn’t. Now a decade later they meet again because Olivia is planning Margot’s best friend’s wedding. And then Margot accidentally offers Olivia somewhere to stay after Olivia’s apartment is flooded and then it all gets complicated.

Now as I said at the top, for 75 percent of this I was all in. A lot of Margot and Olivia’s issues could be solved by a proper conversation and they had that and I was looking forward to the big finish and then… they had another big misunderstanding/problem that could have been fixed by having a conversation but the author decided to make that impossible. And I get it, I do. You need tension and a final resolution, except that it sort of already felt like a final resolution had happened and I was wondering if the book was going to have a preview of another book as the final ten percent because it felt like it was wrapping up. But it wasn’t. And it still left a plot thread sort of hanging in the resolution. And I realise that now I sound like I didn’t like this, but I actually did. There is witty dialogue and a fun group of friends and an amusing cat. I just wanted them to have a conversation to sort stuff out!

Anyway, I know that usually I’m complaining about romances wrapping up too quickly and here I am sort of grousing about one that doesn’t do that, but hey, I’m allowed to be inconsistent. This is a fun contemporary romance with a nice group of central characters and a cat. What’s not to enjoy.

My copy came from the library, but it’s out now on Kindle and Kobo and in paperback – Foyles even have it in stock in some stores.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Roomies

Back with contemporary romance this week, because it’s only been two months since Death Goes on Skis was BotW so I can’t do Nancy Spain again yet, but don’t worry I will find a way to talk about Poison for Teacher, and this Christina Lauren is a good one too!

The heroine of Roomies is Holland, a MFA graduate who finds herself somewhat adrift after her muse deserts her. Instead of writing she’s working for her uncle, who has written the latest Broadway smash, and has a huge crush on a guitarist she’s heard busking in the subway. When Holland helps Calvin to get his big break, it turns out that his student visa is long expired and his chance to shine may be out of reach after all. So Holland offers to marry him, and so begins their attempt to keep him in New York and fool The Powers That Be that theirs is a genuine relationship. But as they live together in Holland’s apartment and find out more about each other, who is actually fooling who and is this relationship turning real?

Marriages of convenience are one of my favourite historical romance tropes, but you don’t get a lot of them in contemporary romance, so when you find one it’s a real treat. This is a bit slow to get started – I think because Holland’s infatuation with Calvin before she knew him made me a little uncomfortable, but once it does click it’s a lot of fun. There is a good group of supporting characters – Holland’s uncles are lovely and her boss is awful – and watching Holland figure out who she is and what she wants is a good counterpart to the romance. Christina Lauren’s books can sometimes be too cringe or have leading character that are too unprofessional for me to deal with, but Roomies manages to stick on the right side of that – just. It all wraps up a little quickly, and I wanted a little bit more closure on a few things, but all in all it was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

My copy of Roomies came from the library, but it’s out now and you can get it on Kindle and Kobo and the paperback looks like it may be relatively easy to get hold of.

Happy Reading!