books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: November 20 – November 26

In case you missed it over the weekend – here are my first two Christmas book suggestion posts: Books for Him and Books for Her.  The post with books that I want for Christmas is coming this week.  Meanwhile it’s been a murderous week of reading!

Read:

Gone Gull by Donna Andrews

And Death Goes To… by Laura Bradford

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

Hollywood Hang Ten by Eve Goldberg

Rivers of London: Cry Fox 1 by Ben Aaronovitch et al

New Romancer 3 by Peter Milligan and Brett Parson

Historically Dead by Greta McKennan

Started:

The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson

The One that Got Away by Melissa Pimentel

Still reading:

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

China Court by Rumer Godden

Marling Hall by Angela Thirkell

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

I bought quite a few books this week – but they were all presents, so they don’t count!

Gift suggestions

Buy Him a Book for Christmas: 2017 Edition

I’ll admit I’m struggling slightly for Man Books this year.  And by Man Books, I mean books that the men in my life would like.  As you know, every year I buy books for Him Indoors, my Dad and my little sister’s partner and, although my dad reads a lot of my mum’s books when she’s done with them, I do try and get him something he wouldn’t be able to pick up off my mum’s pile.  For years his book was the latest Terry Pratchett, but as that option is no longer available to me, I’ve had to me more creative. Him Indoors likes Bill Bryson and I’ve had success with Guy Martin’s books previously, but some of the other autobiographies he’s been given have sat unread on the shelves, and that makes me sad.  Little Sister’s partner is a fascinating enigma and I have to pick her brains for ideas every year.  But between the three of them it usually gives a good cross section of stuff that I wouldn’t be buying for other people (or myself).  But this year is tricky.  Very tricky.

Cover of How to Build a Car

So the obvious choice for the Formula One fan in my life would be Jenson Button’s autobiography Life to the Limit, but there are a couple more behind the scenes-y books out this year too – Adrian Newey (legendary car designer) has one out – How to Build a Car – which looks like it’s full of designs and technical details and there’s also Mechanic: The Secret Life of the Pit Lane by former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestly.  I’m going to have to go to Foyles and have a flick through them before I can decide which it’ll be.

In other nonfiction terms, Timothy West and Prunella Scales have written a book to accompany their TV series: Our Great Canal Journeys which might make a nice coffee table book for older relatives.  There’s a book accompanying Blue Planet II which looks lovely as well and of course there’s David Attenborough’s own memoir Adventures of a Young Naturalist.  There are also two space-related books out this Christmas – the patriotic choice is obviously Tim Peake’s Ask an Astronaut, but I’m actually more interested in Scott Kelly’s Endurance – although he didn’t come across as the chattiest of people during his media round promoting this, the reviews I’ve seen have been excellent and  I’ve been fascinated by his story for ages.  In case you didn’t know, he’s the American astronaut who spent a year in space – his identical twin brother is also an astronaut (now retired, he’s married to former US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords) and one of the things the year in space was able to do was compare the differences between the the two men and see what space was doing to him compared to earth.

The cover of the word is murder

I found the fiction picks this year really hard, but eventually I’ve come up with a few.  I read Anthony Horowitz’s The Word is Murder the other week and I think it would make a great Christmas read – it’s a modern day Sherlock type story, but very, very meta.  Perfect for reading in front of the fire on Boxing Day.  Although (as previously mentioned) there are no new Pratchetts anymore, there are lovely new hardback editions of his books coming out, if you’ve got someone who hasn’t got them all – the one of Good Omens, which he wrote with Neil Gaiman, is particularly nice – and there’s a TV adaptation coming soon, starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant, so now is the time to read it if you haven’t already.  Talking of Neil Gaiman, his Norse Mythology would probably be a good choice – I know I want to read it!

So there you go, a stack of book suggestions that veer towards the sciences, technology, sci fi and mystery.  If you’re still short of ideas, here’s last year’s post for more ideas – I’ve read Mary Roach’s Grunt since I wrote the post and can now endorse her fully, ditto Ready Player One which has a movie out soon too.  And if you’re looking for books about history, cooking and a stack of fiction picks, try my Books for Her post.

Gift suggestions

Buy Her a Book for Christmas: 2017 Edition

Here we go again, it’s the Christmas gift suggestion post marathon. I’m starting with books for her, then there’ll be books for him, books for kids and what *I* want for Christmas.  And this is separate from books set at Christmas – newly published and not so new – I have recommendations for that coming soon too.  And I’ve even got myself in gear this year, so this first batch are coming to you earlier than usual – and at a point when Foyles are doing 20 percent off everything for Black Friday, which is really useful for the stuff that’s not on a big release (and thus not discounted by Amazon.

Rarely a Christmas goes by without me buying someone a cook book.  This year, my pick is The Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer, which bought for my sister for her birthday after seeing some of the recipes on a weekly cooking email that I get.  I’ve cooked a recipe from it* (and want a copy myself) and Little Sister has given it a glowing review too based on the recipes she’s tried.

I pretty much always buy my mum a big old biography of a historical figure for Christmas – she tends to prefer stuff  from the Georgians onward – tending towards women, royalty and society figures.  In that vein this year I’ve been eying up Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking  by Deborah Cadbury (which I actually have an e-proof of still waiting be be read as part of the Noirville backlog) and Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown, but if you’re buying for someone who likes Tudor history, Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys by Nicola Tallis also looks quite good and although I need to have a look at it in a shop before I’ll buy it for anyone, Lettice is someone who has popped up in Philippa Gregory novels so that could make a nice choice if you have a Gregory reader to buy for.

If you want to do current affairs, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened seems like a bit of an obvious choice, so how about White House photographer Pete Souza’s Obama: An Intimate Portrait which would look great on a coffee table.  Depending on how woke the person is that you’re buying for, you might also want to consider Ta-Nehisi Coates’s We Were Eight Years In Power, which is waiting for me on my bookshelf at the moment after I read Between the World and me earlier in the year.

Yes, mine is a proof copy from the magic shelf at work. The hardback will look smarter.

To lighter things now, and Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively looks like it would make a lovely pick for the gardner in your life – it’s billed as a memoir of her life in gardens as well as a look at gardens in literature.  Both of my parents are gardners, but I’ve put this in here because I know that my mum likes Lively’s adult books (I’ve read some of her children’s novels but none of her adult stuff).  I read Sweetpea Slight’s Get Me the Urgent Biscuits a few weeks back, and whilst it’s not quite as satisfying as I wanted it to be, if you have a theatre geek in your life, the story of life as an assistant to a theatrical impresario in the 1980s and 90s is still fascinating.  There’s also The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983 – 1992 telling the story of Tina Brown’s time as the editor of the legendary magazine (I wouldn’t mind this myself to be honest, but I’ve got so many things on my own list I decided to be generous and include this here!).

In fiction, I’ve added Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler to my list of books to give based on what I’ve read so far.  I always worked in retail when I was younger, not hospitality or catering, but having read this I feel like I may have missed out.  Although as I’m terribly clumsy I would have been a terrible waitress!  You may remember be going mad over Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers earlier this year – and as I love Rich People Problems books I think that would make a great gift, as would The Wangs vs The World by Jade Chang (although I didn’t love it as much as some others have). There’s also a second book out now in the Dandie Dinmont murder mystery series – I enjoyed the first one earlier this year and if it’s anything like the first one Resort to Murder would make a great stocking stuffer: a lady journalist in 1950s Devon solves mysteries that she comes across during the course of her reporting duties.

And it was a BotW a few weeks ago, but To Bed With Grand Music would make a great Christmas book for anyone who needs to sit and spend a few hours with a fascinatingly awful woman in wartime Britain to take them away from whatever chaos they’re living with.

So, there you have it.  Part One of my Christmas book suggestions for this year.  Part Two will follow tomorrow, but in the meantime you can always check out last year’s post – as well as last year’s suggestions for books that I wanted to receive.

Happy shopping!

*The recipe we tried was this one – it was excellent, as were the leftovers.

Adventure, Authors I love, Book of the Week, historical, Series I love

Book of the Week: Imprudence

This may be one of the least surprising BotW picks ever, considering that the first book in the Custard Protocol series was a BotW,  as were several of Gail Carriger’s other books (Sumage Solution, Manners and Mutiny and Timeless) and she was one of my discoveries of the year back when this blog was but a child.  In fact, the only question you have may be: What took me so long to read Imprudence, given that it came out in July last year.  Fear not.  There are answers ahead.

The paperback of Imprudence on a shelf next to Prudence

Firstly though, the plot:  Rue and her crew are back in London after the events of Prudence, which have landed her in a whole heap of hot water with the powers that be.  On top of this, her best friend keeps getting engaged to unsuitable military types and there’s something going on at home.  Rue’s vampire father is angry, her werewolf father is not himself, and her mother is being even more difficult than usual.  What is going on?  Finding out will take the Spotted Custard and her crew to Egypt and beyond

Now, part of the reason this has taken so long for me to read is that it was all boxed up with the to-read pile at the back end of last year, but the reason it was still waiting to be read at that point was a line in the blurb: “her werewolf father is crazy”.  Having read Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, I had a fair idea what was going on there, and I was worried about how it was going to resolve itself.  I love and adore Rue’s Paw – Conall Maccon and although he has his stupid moments (to whit, his idiotic behaviour in Blameless) I was a bit worried about what might happen to him.  And I had a few rocky moments early on in the book, which involved near tears and sniffling.  But I got through it and I was ok.  And that’s as much as I can say without it all being a big old spoiler.  And while we’re talking about the Parasol Protectorate, I found myself wishing that I’d re-read Timeless before I read this, because a lot of the action is in Egypt and there’s a lot of references to the events of that book.  It did all come back to me, but I think I would have been cooing with delight sooner if I’d done a reread first.  And so of course now I need to go and do that reread to check if there were any references that I missed in Imprudence.  There are old friends here – and some who are less friendly.

If I have a quibble, it’s that everything is wrapped up very quickly in the end – the main romantic through line and the adventure-quest one.  I could have read another 50 pages of that resolving itself.  But maybe that’s just me.  And if you’re wondering what prompted me to read this now, it’s the fact that the latest novella that Carriger has written is set after this book, and I *really* want to read that and so needed to do things in order. Because I’m like that.  And we all know that I’ll be pre-ordering the next in this series, Competence, just as soon as there’s a paperback preorder link.  Because I’m like that too.

As always in posts like this, I’m going to remind you all that this is the second in this series, but really actually the seventh if you’re counting Parasol Protectorate (which as you may have guessed have a fair bit to do with this) and eleventh if you’re going chronologically and including the spin-off prequel Finishing School YA series.  So don’t start with this one.  If you’re impatience, go and read Prudence first, but really, what you want to do is start with Soulless and work your way through Alexia’s story before you come to Rue.  And then do the Finishing school, because that is so much more fun once you start to work out who everyone is and how it all fits together.  Just my two-penneth.  They’re all available in Kindle and Kobo and Audible* and you should be able to order the paperbacks from any good bookshop.  Like the Big Green Bookshop.

Happy Reading!

And for longtime readers: No, I still haven’t sorted out the size mismatch issue with my Parasol Protectorate books, I still don’t know the best way to shelve them, but at least I haven’t caved in and bought a second copy of Heartless! There’s still time…

*Although NB, the first audiobook pronounces Lord Akeldama’s name wrong.  It’s Ak-el-dama not A-keel-duhma or however she says it.  It’s fixed by book 2 and I can just about cope with it in book one, even if my brain does repeat it pronounced correctly after every time it’s used.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: November 13 – November 19

Still too many on the still-reading list, but I’m working on it.  I’m also still working on my #Noirville entries. And regular readers may already have an idea as to what tomorrow’s BotW might be…

Read:

Clouds in my Coffee by Julie Mulhern

Imprudence by Gail Carriger

My Name is Markham by Jodi Taylor

The Perfect Storm by Jodi Taylor

Mystery in White by J Jefferson Farjeon

A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilber

A Gentleman of Fortune by Anna Dean

Started:

Gone Gull by Donna Andrews

Still reading:

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

China Court by Rumer Godden

Marling Hall by Angela Thirkell

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Still no books bought. But I’m not getting ahead of myself and getting smug, no indeed, because that way lies complacency and book buying!

Adventure, Young Adult

Book of the Week: A Spy in the House

This is quite a short post this week, because I’ve been busy with those #Noirville entries, but what could be more up my street than a Victorian-set adventure mystery with a feisty teen girl as a heroine? Not a lot, and that’s why Y S Lee’s A Spy in the House is this week’s BotW pick!

Paperback copy of the Agency

Mary Quinn is rescued from the gallows by a school for girls that’s actually cover for a female spy agency.  At 17 she gets her chance to prove herself when she’s sent to help with an investigation by taking a job as a paid companion to the daughter of a shipping magnate. Once she’s in the house though she ends up getting more involved than she’s meant to and soon she may be in over her head. On top of all this, there are secrets in Mary’s past which seem like they may be linked to the mystery.

Mary is an interesting and feisty heroine and the story is fast-paced and exciting. I think this is aimed at a YA audience and it would make a great next step for teens who’ve outgrown (or want the next step) from the Wells and Wong series or the Sinclair mysteries and who aren’t quite  ready for full on-adult mysteries yet. This has a developing love interest, but nothing too full on or adult-contenty if you know what I mean.

This is the first in a series and I’ll definitely be looking out for the others.  You should be able to get hold of a copy from all the usual sources (like Big Green Bookshop)- and it’s available on Kindle and Kobo too.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: November 5 – November 12

I officially have too many books on the go at once.  Admittedly some of them are hardbacks and I’ve been staying away from home a lot, but some of them are books I’ve started and not got into and ended up leaving in favour of something else.  So this week I’m going to try and do something about that – either finish some of them or give up and cull them.   And I’ve still got more #Noirville entries to read too…

Read:

Holiday Wishes by Jill Shalvis

Altered to Death by Christina Freeburn

A Spy in the House by Y S Lee

The Deep End by Julie Mulhern

Paper Girls Vol 3 by Brian K Vaughan et al

The Very First Damned Thing by Jodi Taylor

The Great St Mary’s Day out by Jodi Taylor

Started:

Imprudence by Gail Carriger

Clouds in my Coffee by Julie Mulhern

Still reading:

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

China Court by Rumer Godden

Mystery in White by J Jefferson Farjeon

Marling Hall by Angela Thirkell

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

No  books bought at all – although 2 pre-orders did arrive on my Kindle.