books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: March 8 – March 14

Such a strange week of weather, coupled with a reoccurrence of an old injury and an interesting new rash on my hands that means that I look like a plague victim at the moment, means that I made some interesting reading choices last week – a bit of YA, a graphic novel, an old favourite in crime fiction. And I also put some time in on Saturday night to reading some kindle samples and either buying the book or adding them to my price-watch list if I liked them or jettisoning them if I didn’t. So actually sort of productive too.

Read:

Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Philips

The Legal Affair by Nisha Sharma

Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman

Flake by Matthew Dooley

Artists in Crime by Ngaio Marsh

Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D E Stevenson

The Girl Next Door by Chelsea M Cameron

Started:

Women vs Hollywood by Helen O’Hara

Act Your Age Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert*

The Second Marriage by Gill Paul*

Still reading:

A Letter of Mary by Laurie R King

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: It’s been a while since I put an actual book as the bonus photo for this week, so here is my pretty hardback copy of Women vs Hollywood – with signed bookplate – which arrived this week.

Hardback copy of Women vs Hollywood

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: Heroes Are My Weakness

Yes this week’s pick is technically cheating because I finished this on Monday. Do I care? No. I make the rules, so I get to twist them a little when I want. Anyway, I’m back in contemporary romance this week with Susan Elizabeth Philips’s Heroes Are My Weakness which turned out to be really quite particularly up my street.

Cover of Heroes Are My Weakness

Annie Hewitt has arrived on a Maine Island in the middle of winter. She’s out of money and places to live, and she’s moving back to her mum’s old holiday home, Moonraker Cottage. Unfortunately the island is also the scene of one of the worst events of her teenage years, and the person behind it – Theo – is in residence at Harp House nearby. Now she’s trapped on Peregrine Island with a lonely widow, a mute little girl and nosy townspeople with only her trusty puppets for company. 

I’ve read quite a lot of Susan Elizabeth Philips – especially her Chicago Stars series* – but this has quite a different feel to it and wasn’t quite what I expected but it was exactly what I needed this weekend (and Monday evening!). It starts off super Gothicky but actually ends up being much sweeter than you expect and also very romantic. There is some death around in the backstories (but not on page) with issues of domestic violence and suicide as well, so if that’s something you’re trying to avoid, please do be aware of that. Ok at the start you’ll have to deal with/get used to some dialogue, well actually inner monologue, from puppets, but don’t let that put you off. It actually reminded me a lot of the feel of some of the earlier Trisha Ashley novels that I enjoyed so much, but without magic – instead it has the puppets. I can’t remember which is the one with the Winged Muse in it, but that one crossed with A Winters Tale. The romance is intriguing, Annie’s journey is good and the winter island community is very believable. It’s also got a bit (quite a lot?) of mystery in there, but it’s not too thrillery or scary. 

My copy came from the library but you can get on Kindle and Kobo – where it’s £2.49 at time of writing. I’m not sure if it’ll be in the bookshops because it’s American, but who can predict what it will be like when things are open again at this point!

Happy Reading!

*there’s a new instalment later this year and I’m really quite excited about it!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: March 1 – March 7

A really busy week last week – but lots of reading done in the end.

Read:

If We Were Us by K L Walther*

Finding Joy by Adriana Herrera

The Tomorrow Box by Curtis Sittenfeld

Pansies by Alexis Hall

The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer

The Legal Affair by Nisha Sharma

A Deception at Thornecrest by Ashley Weaver

You’re History by Leslie Chow*

Started:

Heroes are my Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Philips

Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman

A Letter of Mary by Laurie R King

Still reading:

Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D E Stevenson

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: Some very cheerful tulips that I treated myself to.

Bunch of Tulips

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

books, stats

February Stats

Books read this month: 33*

New books: 29

Re-reads: 4

Books from the to-read pile: 2

NetGalley books read: 6

Kindle Unlimited read: 5

Ebooks: 12

Library books: 6 (all ebooks )

Audiobooks: 2

Non-fiction books: 5

Favourite book this month: Boyfriend Material!

Most read author: Laurie R King

Books bought: About 16 including pre-orders. But I deserved them!

Books read in 2020: 65

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf (I don’t have copies of all of these!): 597

There was so much going on behind the scenes in February. I can’t even explain how much. But the key point is that at least February is short and I made it out the otherside and into March… hmmmm

Bonus picture:

*Includes some short stories/novellas/comics/graphic novels (2 this month)

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: February 2021 Mini Reviews

A bit of a strange month all in, because although I read a lot of stuff, there were a lot of series, and there weren’t a lot of books that I really liked that I haven’t already told you about. Still there are a few, so here we go again…

We Are Bellingcat by Elliot Higgins*

Cover of We Are Bellingcat

If you’re a casual news consumer you’ll probably have come across Bellingcat as a result of their investigation into the 2018 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. But the open source investigation team has its roots further back – in the Arab Spring and the dawning of citizen journalism via social media. It’s an absolutely fascinating read, but a warning: if you worked in a newsroom in the period 2011-2015 (roughly) approach this book with care. I wanted to read this book because I was interested in their verification techniques, mission statement and how they work – after all my day job is in a newsroom. But reading it brought back some memories that I’d rather not think about. It’s not that the book is overly graphic – or even excessively so. But if you watched the sort of pictures they’re talking about first time around – most of which didn’t make the tv news because they were so graphic, you’ll find it coming back to you. I started at the BBC fulltime almost exactly ten years ago – and my first job was in picture intake. That first year – through the Arab Spring, Japanese Tsunami, Utoya Island, the assassination of Mummar Gaddafi – I saw so much really grim footage that I invented the Panda scale of how many times did I have to watch my video of baby pandas playing to cheer myself up. And I didn’t even get the worst of it. This brought back some of the images from that time that I thought I had forgotten. But if you’re interested in open source investigation and in how the masses of UGC (user generated content) from the conflicts of the last decade are being preserved and the hopes for how it might be used in the future- this is the book for you.

Teach Me by Olivia Dade

Cover of Teach Me

Not my first time writing about Olivia Dade – and I’ve read this series out of order – but this is a lovely romance between a newly divorced Dad and the teacher whose world history class he’s unwittingly stolen. What I really like about this whole series is that there is no stupid drama. Rose has reasons why she doesn’t trust people and why she won’t let people in. Martin has issues around his self worth. But there’s no big misunderstanding that could (should?) be resolved by a simple conversation, it’s all about two people working out if they are right for each other beyond just chemistry, and then starting to negotiate life together. And it’s very, very romantic despite – Dade is proving you don’t necessarily need high stakes drama to make a satisfying romance. And I don’t need any more angst at the moment, so this was perfect!

These two reviews have turned out to be not quite so mini as I intended, so a quick rattle through a couple of other things: I listened to the audiobook of Strong Poison for the umpteenth time – I still find the mystery incredibly satisfying and Sayers portrayal of “bohemian” writers life, the interwar craze for Spiritualism and surplus women all make for something a little out of the ordinary run of murder mysteries of the time. And that’s before you get to the fact that it is the start of Peter and Harriet. I read The Sugared Game, the second part of the Will Darling Adventures by K J Charles and it was really good and I’m annoyed that there’s no date for the final part yet – although I do have Charles’s new book (in a different series) so that is something. And I also ended up listening to The Unknown Ajax again after I found out that her next series is about smugglers! Apart from that, I read some more romances – historical and contemporary- that I had too many quibbles with to fully recommend, and I carried on with the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series.

In case you missed any of them, the Books of the Week posts in February were: Beekeepers Apprentice, Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, Boyfriend Material and The Holdout. And January’s mini reviews are here.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, Thriller

Book of the Week: The Holdout

Mini reviews coming up tomorrow, but this week’s BotW is The Holdout by Graham Moore. Regular readers will know that I’ve been keen on books with resolutions recently and have been sticking resolutely to romance and cozy crime where I know that it will all turn out ok in the end – the couple will end up together, the murderer will be found. And yet here I am today recommending a thriller – a genre where such things are not guaranteed. But this was such a page turned I couldn’t help myself!

UK cover of The Holdout

So ten years ago, Maya was part of the jury on a murder trial that saw a young black man acquitted of killing a wealthy white teenage girl. The experience in the courtroom inspired her to become a defence lawyer herself. When a true crime documentary decides to make an episode about her case, Maya finds herself back in the middle of all the controversy again. And then one of the other jurors is found dead in Maya’s room and now she has to prove her own innocence. But what are the secrets that the others have been hiding and which lead to murder?

So this had me on the edge of my seat. It’s dark and twisty and shows some of the workings of the legal system in a way that I haven’t seen a lot (or maybe I just haven’t read the right books!). The twists and turns keep coming at a pace that don’t allow you to think too hard about the bits where it’s getting a bit outlandish! I had an inkling of some of the reveals by the halfway point, but such is the nature of the book that you can’t ever really be sure that’s where it’s going. And Moore has picked out some of the flaws of the criminal justice system very neatly too.

If we were going to beaches at the moment, this would be a prime pick for reading on a sun lounger – at any rate somewhere nice and bright to counteract all the darkness in the book (darkness of subject matter not horror or creepy stuff though).

My copy came from NetGalley, but it’s a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, so it will be easy to get hold of from WH Smith and I suspect it will be in the supermarkets as well. It’s also 99p on Kindle and Kobo at the moment.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: February 22 – February 28

We’ve reached the end of another month and we’re about to be back in March – even though it sort of feels like we’ve never left last March! Anyway, coming up this week, Book of the Week tomorrow, some mini-reviews on Wednesday and the stats on Thursday. May this March be shorter than last one!

Read:

We are Bellingcat by Eliot Higgins*

Hare Sitting Up by Michael Innes*

Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers

The Sugared Game by K J Charles

A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R King

Biased by Jennifer L Eberhardt

The Holdout by Graham Moore*

Started:

A Deception at Thornecrest by Ashley Weaver

Finding Joy by Adriana Herrera

If We Were Us by K L Walther

Still reading:

Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D E Stevenson

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: My mum is a big snowdrop fan, so this one is for her – this is from my Sunday afternoon stroll.

Some snowdrops in a park near my house on Sunday

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, LGTBQIA+, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Boyfriend Material

Another week, another contemporary romance pick for BotW.  This time it’s Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material, which has been much buzzed about, to the point where it took months for my library hold to come in, but it was totally, totally worth it.

Cover of Boyfriend Material

Luc’s parents were rockstars – and back in the day they made some of their best music together. And then they made him. And it means that he’s sort of famous – even though his dad walked out of his life when he was small and his mum hasn’t made any new music in year. But now his dad is making a comeback – and that means more interest in Luc as well. After an unfortunate picture of him tripping up coming out of a club puts his job (fundraiser at a charity trying to save the dung beetle) at risk, Luc decides that the solution is to get himself a nice normal boyfriend. That’s where Oliver comes him. He’s as normal and sensible as it comes – a barrister, an ethical vegetarian and absolutely scandal averse. The only things that they have in common are the fact that they’re single, gay, and they both need a date for a big event. So they come up with a deal. They’ll be fake boyfriends until Luc’s job is safe and Oliver’s family party is over. Then they’ll never see each other again. Simple. Except this is a romance and we all know these sort of arrangements never go to plan!

I loved this so much. I’ve written a lot here about my quest to find more of the funny but romantic books that I love reading and which seemed to be everywhere in the early 2000s, but which seem to have vanished off the face of the planet these days, in favour of really angsty books where everyone has a miserable backstory or comedies where the comedy is based on humiliation or people being terrible at their jobs (and either not really caring they’re rubbish at their jobs or not realising they are) which is really not my thing. But this was just in that sweet spot. It’s witty, it’s fun, the characters are charming and good at their jobs and the secondary characters are hilarious. It’s just a joy to read. I could have read another 200 pages of Luc and Oliver trying to work out how to have a proper relationship. It really was exactly what I needed last week.

It’s had loads of buzz, been various bookclub and magazine picks and so clearly I’m not the only person who wants to read books like this, and fingers crossed it’s the start of a renaissance. If you’ve got any recommendations for books that do the same sort of thing, please drop them in the comments, because the Goodreads and Amazon suggestions aren’t helping me any! This was also my first Alexis Hall book, so I’m off to dig into the back catalogue, although having chatted to my romance reading friends, I think that the steam levels on some of the others is much higher than this – this is kissing and then pretty much closed door. I’ve already pre-ordered Hall’s next book – Rosaline Palmer Takes All the Cake, which is out in May because a romance set on a baking show is exactly what I didn’t realise that I need in front of my eyeballs!

My copy of Boyfriend Material came from the library, but it’s available on Kindle and Kobo and as an audiobook. It’s a paperback too, but the shops have been closed so long now I’ve lost all sense of what is going to get stocked where and so don’t know how easy it will be to get hold of if you’re trying to order from your indie, but Foyles have it available to order if that’s any indication.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: February 15 – February 21

Well it’s been another rollercoaster week of 2021. But then I don’t know why I’m even surprised by that any more because it’s been nearly a year of it now. I’m hoping that the worst is behind us now, and that soon I’ll have more to do than just working, reading and running around the local park. But I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, because 2021 just keeps kicking. Anyway, a fun week of reading, including the latest Chalet School reissue – Jo Returns, in which Elinor M Brent Dyer, notorious for mixing characters up and changing people’s names (sometimes even in the same book) makes Jo confuse some characters in her first school story and tells us about the importance of making list. Truly, a gem.

Read:

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham

A Wedding in the Country by Katie Fforde*

You’ve Got Mail by Kate G Smith*

Jo Returns to the Chalet School by Elinor M Brent Dyer

Teach Me by Olivia Dade

Sanctuary by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Started:

We are Bellingcat by Eliot Higgins*

Hare Sitting Up by Michael Innes*

The Sugared Game by K J Charles

Still reading:

Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D E Stevenson

A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R King

Still not counting, still don’t care

Bonus photo: collected from the framers this week, the Theatres of London print I was given for my birthday. I miss the theatre so very much, any given day one of my Facebook memories will probably be about going to the theatre or buying tickets or thinking about a show. My last show in the West End was a year ago last week (the 18th) when I went to see Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, but after that before everything shut down I also did a fringe show about The Navy Lark, a talk at the National Theatre marking Michael Billington’s retirement as chief critic with readings from Simon Russell Beale, Oliver Ford Davis and Penelope Wilton, and some comedy. I miss sitting in a room with people watching other people perform. As the pandemic went on, shows have been bumped, cancelled or rearranged and my ticket box has been far far emptier than I would like. The next thing is due to be Hairspray at the Coliseum in early June (rearranged, twice, from last Easter) and I’m really hoping it will go ahead.

An illustrated map of London Theatres.

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: The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows

Well after last week’s (slightly cheating) pick of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, another book featuring bees gets the nod this week. And this wasn’t the only other book with a bee connection – because Rose Learner’s Taste of Honey was also on the list, and while that’s not really bee keeping in the way that the other two are, it’s got honey right there in the title!

 

Anyway, to the plot: since Agatha’s husband died, she’s had to run the family printing business, whilst reining in her son’s radical tendencies. Whilst visiting the company’s warehouse she finds the last thing she needs – a colony of bees has taken up residence in amongst the printing plates. Penelope Flood is the town’s go to person when it comes to moving hives, so she’s the person that Agatha is recommended to get help from to move the hive. The two become friends – but each is wondering if it could be something more. There are obstacles though – aside from being two women in a relationship in the nineteenth century. Agatha has her family and her business responsibilities in London, and Penelope has a complicated situation in Melliton – she’s not one of the gentry, but she’s not precisely one of the tradespeople either. And it doesn’t help that her husband is away for years at a time on his whaling ship, along with her brother. Agatha and Penelope are drawn to each other from the start, but everything is also complicated by the return of Queen Caroline from abroad and tensions start to boil over in the town.

This has two older female heroines, a slow-build friends to lovers relationship and a really interesting setting. I loved all the details about the bees and their hives and I really, really liked the setting within the unrest and societal disorder that found an outlet when George IV tried to divorce his wife – with people who wanted reform coalesing behind the queen and those trying to preserve the status quo behind the king. I’ve read a lot about this period while I was studying history and in my history reading since – but it’s not a series of events that I can remember seeing used in historical romance and after reading this I find myself wondering why because it works brilliantly here.

This is the second in Olivia Waite’s Feminine Pursuits series – the first, The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, was also great – with women looking to get their work recognised under their own names (rather than those of men from their families) and finding love along the way. The third book, The Hellion’s Waltz, is out in June and about all we know about it is that it’s a heist story – I have it preordered already.

You can get The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows from all the usual places – Kindle and Kobo and as an audio book. It’s a bit pricey as an ebook at the moment, but the good news is that The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics is only £1.99 on Kindle and Kobo at the moment and so you can just start the series! I don’t know how hard these are going to be in physical copies, but judging from the price of it on Amazon, it shouldn’t be too hard.

Happy Reading!