Book previews

Books I’m looking forward to in 2019

Happy New Year everyone.  I hope you had a good night last night and are able to relax and unwind today.  I’m working this New Years Day, so think of me if you’re cozy at home and if you’re also working, you have all my sympathy!  The final stats post of 2018 is coming tomorrow, but instead of a Book of the Week post today, I’ve got a look ahead at some of the upcoming books that I can’t wait to read in 2019.

I’m a sucker for a novel based on real events and real people when they’re done well (see my love of Gone with the Windsors) and I’ve heard a lot of good things about A Well-Behaved Woman by Theresa Anne Fowler.  It follows Alva Smith – better known as Alva Vanderbilt as she navigates her way through Gilded Age society.  The Kindle edition is out now in the UK with the paperback coming at the end of January and I have an advance copy sitting on my kindle waiting for a quiet afternoon in front of the fire…

Another one sitting on the Kindle waiting for me is the Sidney Chambers prequel The Road to Grantchester which comes out in March.  I was sad when the series proper ended (the books, not the TV series – I gave up on that during the 3rd season), so the idea of a look at how Sidney came to be in Grantchester really appeals to me.

Also in March is Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  About the events leading up to the unexplained break-up of a hugely successful band in 1979, it’s already been optioned by Reese Witherspoon’s production company.  I have a mixed record with stories about bands – but enough of them have ended up being Books of the Week that I’m optimistic about this one.

Even further into 2019 is The Doll Factory by Elizabeth MacNeal, which is being billed as being a historical novel about art, obsession and possession – when an aspiring artist become the model for a pre-Raphaelite artist.  It’s out at the start of May and is getting a lot of buzz – so I’m looking forward to reading it, but I’m a little worried it might be too dark and scary for me!

I loved Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient in 2018, so I’m very excited for the follow-up The Bride Test which is also due in May and looks like a twist on the marriage of convenience/mail order bride trope with another neurodiverse leading player.  I can’t wait!

And halfway through the year, in June, is Montauk by Nicola Harrison, which tells the story of a summer by the Long Island seaside in 1938.  We all know that I love a rich people problems historical novel, and this looks like it could be spot on for me.  According to the blurb, Beatrice is hoping that the summer at the beach will help her revitalise her marriage.  But instead she’s stuck in a huge hotel with people she’s never fit in with while her husband is back in the city.  Instead she’s drawn to the year-round community and a man who is very unlike her husband.

And finally, this is not quite a next year book – as it cames out here on December 27th – and I don’t really do business improvement/self-help books but after hearing about it in an email Karen Wickre’s Taking the Work Out of Networking Connections: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count sounds like something I could really use.  I am not a naturally outgoing person – I’m very bad at networking and making connections and use social media as a crutch to get over the fact that I just can’t bring myself to call people I haven’t spoken to in ages just for a chat and a catch up.  Perhaps 2019 is the year to change that?

Let me know what you’re looking forward to reading in 2019 in the comments!

book round-ups, reviews

My 2018 Obsessions

Every year I write a post about my obsessions of the year, which usually boils down to which authors did I discover years late and then binge my way through.  This year is no exception.  Yesterday I looked at how last years obsessions have fared, and discovered that crime series and romance series continue to be the staples of my reading diet along with a strong strain of non-fiction.  So, here are the authors whose work I have been obsessed with this year…

The Kinsey Milhone series by Sue Grafton

I only discovered Sue Grafton after seeing the obituaries and tributes after her death.  And this year I’ve read 19 of the 25 books in the series – the only reason I haven’t read all of them is that I’m trying to slow down and pace myself so that it’s not over too quickly.  Kinsey is a great heroine, a private detective who is very aware of her own strengths and weaknesses, and the mystery plots are clever and twisty.  What more could you want in a mystery series.  It’s such a shame she didn’t live long enough to write the last book in the alphabet.

The Charles Paris series by Simon Brett

This was a late on in the year discovery – I read my first one of these while I was in Washington and I’ve now read nearly half of the 20 book series.  Charles Paris is a probably-alcoholic jobbing actor who seems to stumble on murders on every job he takes.  The series started in 1975 and the most recent installment came out this year.  There have also been two different radio adaptations over the years  – the most recent one which stars Bill Nighy as Charles (and has been somewhat modernised) is a lot of fun and available on Audible.

Cat Sebastian

One of the joys of being in the US was being able to read some of the authors that I’ve heard a lot about but who are harder/more expensive to get hold of in the UK.  Cat Sebastian is one of these.  She writes mainly Male/male historical romances – which is part of the genre that I haven’t really read a lot of before and I haven’t really been able to try because it is really quite expensive to buy over in the UK.  I had been able to pick one up on offer on Kindle and luckily my local library had a whole stack of them.  I think there’s a limit to the number of different tropes available to male/male historicals, so it takes a bit of creativity to come up with scenarios with a potential for happy endings, but Sebastian has a knack for it.  I also really liked Unmasked by the Marquess, which features a non-binary heroine, where the conflict isn’t about the heroine’s presentation, rather it’s about her deception and the obstacles in the way of a happy ending for the hero and heroine.  Sebastian’s first male/female romance is out in 2019 and I’m really looking forward to it.

 

Authors I love, book round-ups, The pile

Revisiting My Big Obsessions of 2017

 

Contemporary Romances

After glomming on Jill Shalvis, Susan Elizabeth Philips and Kristen Higgins in 2017, I’ve continued to expand my contemporary romance horizons in 2018.  I’ve read even more Shalvis, Morgan and Crusie and added Alyssa Cole, Jasmine Guillory and Talia Hibbert to the list.  There no-go tropes are still there – billionaires, biker gangs, secret babies – but there’s plenty that I do like and they make a great way to relax and get away from the stresses of the newsroom after a long day of breaking news.

Crime series

As you’ll see from the 2018 obsessions post tomorrow, I’ve read a whole stack of new crime series this year.   The new Hobson and Choi was a Book of the Week and it’s a bit of a spoiler for my Books of the Year post to tell you how much I liked the new Vinyl Detective book. I’ve also continued to work my way through the Royal Spyness series – which I love, despite the title and the fact that I have to not think too hard about the premise – but some of the other series that I discovered last year have faded a little this year as they’ve got longer and deeper.  I’m not naming names though.

Non fiction

I’ve probably read more non-fiction books this year than any year before.  And yes, a lot of that was preparing for my Washington posting, but I’d already read a fair bit of non-fiction by that point. There was more Mary Roach but also more celebrity memoirs than previously.  I’m continuing to try and expand my world-view and the perspectives that I get on the world through my non-fiction reading and it’s been a lot of fun.  However, I haven’t read a lot of straight up history this year, so I’m hoping to change that a little bit in 2019.

I said in this post last year, that my obsessions tend to be quite consistent – and that I was hoping for something new and random in 2018.  I think I’m still working on similar themes to previous years, but the breadth and variety of my non-fiction reading is helping me from becoming boring in my old age!

 

Authors I love, Best of..., book round-ups

Best books of 2018

It’s nearly the end of the year and I promised you some extra posts looking back at the year didn’t I?  Well, here’s my look at five of my favourite books of the year.  Looking back on my Goodreads stats to write this, I realise that I’ve been very stingy with the 5 stars this year – which has made this very tricky to write because there are a lot of 4 star ratings and I’ve had to workout which ones were my real favourites.  And because of the way this blog works, you’ve heard about most of these before – either as Books of the Week or in other roundup posts – because when I like stuff this much, I tell you about it!

A Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

Copy of Another Day in the Death of America

This was part of my pre-Washington reading and although I read a lot of good books in that particular reading jag, this one has really stuck with me.  A snapshot of all the children and teens killed by guns on just one day in America, it is meticulously researched and will break your heart.  If you are in any doubt about the scale of gun deaths in the US, this will put it all into perspective -this is just a normal day – no mass shootings, just ten dead young people ranging in age from 9 to 19.

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

Paperback copy of Five Children on the Western Front

Lets get all the sad books out of the way to start with.  This is a middle grade continuation/follow on to E Nesbit’s The Five Children and It book.  I think I read the 5 children (maybe even more than one of them) after the 1990s BBC TV series was shown and it had never occurred to me that these were the children who would be the young men and women of the Great War – and of course when Nesbit was writing the books, she had no idea what was in their future either.  This is really, really good, but also quietly devastating. There are a lot of Second World War middle grade books, but not so many (or at least not that I’ve come across) Great War ones – this is a very good addition to the genre.  It came out a couple of years ago, but reading it this year with the centenary of the Armistice, felt very timely.  It wasn’t my BotW at the time -I was in a historical crime groove back in at the start of the year, but I’ve recommended it a few times since and it’s quietly crept up my list of best reads of the year.

The Victory Disc by Andrew Cartmel

Copy of Victory Disc

The third in the Vinyl Dectective series is right up there as one of my favourite detective stories of the year.  This time our unnamed hero is on the hunt for records by a wartime swing band.  The Flarepath Orchestra were contemporaries of Glenn Miller, but their recordings are incredibly rare.  After one pops up unexpectedly, the Detective and his gang are asked to track down the rest.  But there are still secrets and lies at the heart of the band and soon a great deal of danger is threatening the gang.  This wasn’t a Book of the Week at the time – because it’s the third in the series and you’ll get the most from them by reading them in order.  The first in the series, Written in Dead Wax was a BotW last summer though – and I thoroughly recommend starting with that.  My Dad has read these and practically snaps my hand off to get the next one from me!  Good reads doesn’t have any details for a fourth yet, but I’m hoping that we’ll get more adventures in vinyl in 2019.

Anyone for Seconds by Laurie Graham

Regular readers know how much I love Laurie Graham (and if you don’t, here are the posts to prove it) but I remember saying to a friend before this came out that if she was going to write a sequel to one of her novels, this wasn’t the one that I would have picked.  How wrong I was, because this is my favourite of her contemporary novels in ages.  It snuck out a bit under the radar in August and I nearly missed it. We rejoin Lizzie Partridge, the heroine of Perfect Meringues, some twenty years after we last met her.  Lizzie was a TV-chef on the regional news, but after The Incident she has mostly worked in print.  But when her last paying gig is pulled, Lizzie decides to run away in the hope that it’ll get her some attention.  But no-one notices.  It does however, set in train a series of changes in Lizzie’s life.  It was a BotW and it’s still one of my favourites this year.

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

It was a long wait for a new book by Jasper Fforde – my big Fforde discovery and binge actually happpened before I started this blog, but Early Riser was worth it and it was a BotW.  Set in a world where humans hibernate for four months every winter, this follows the adventures of one man in his first year as a Winter Consul – one of the people who watch over the sleeping masses.  This is completely standalone from his other books, but if you’ve read other Fforde novels you’ll spot that this world has some elements in common with Thursday Nexts.  It’s fantasy and sci-fi but at the end of that spectrum that I like.

The Birth of South Korean Cool by Euny Hong

Copy of the Birth of Korean Cool

And another non-fiction book to round out this list.  Euny Hong’s family moved back to South Korea in the 1980s when she was at school so she is ideally placed to take a look at how South Korea turned itself into a big name on the world stage through the course of twenty years. This is a really, really interesting and readable guide to the Korean pop-culture phenomenon and the policy behind it. Although some of the section dealing with North Korea is now slightly dated that doesn’t detract from the overall impact of the book. I would happily have read another 100 pages.   It had been on my to-read list for ages – but I finally got around to getting hold of a copy after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics at the start of the year (although it took me another few months to get around to reading it!). I’ve recommended it a number of times – and used knowledge I learned from it to look smart when talking about K-pop with younger colleagues.  A winner all around!

Let me know what your favourite books of the year have been in the comments – and coming up over the next few days we’ve also got my reading obsessions of the year – and how 2017’s obsessions have lasted as well as the books that I’m looking forward to in 2019.So here you are, six of my favourite reads of 2018.  There were a few five star reads this year that aren’t on the list – but they are very much from favourite authors – new installments in the Wells and Wong series and from Gail Carriger and the Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang that I’ve already talked about so much already over the years that I’d be boring you to tell you about them again.

Happy Reading!

Uncategorized

Book of the Week: Summer at Willow Lake

Happy Christmas everyone!  I hope you’re having (or have had depending on when you’re reading this!) a fabulous day and that Santa left you plenty of books in your stocking/pillowcase/under the tree.  A lot of my reading last week cropped up in my Christmas reading post, which ruled it out for here, and several of the other books onthe list would have been repeats, so you’ve ended up with a totally seasonally inappropriate book of the week – Summer at Willow Lake.  I’m only a little bit sorry about it though, because this was a lot of fun and I know there’ll be people out there with Christmas-overload at the moment.  But if you do want something more seasonally appropriate, check out my Christmas Day post from last year about Magnificent Meals.

Anyway, Summer at Willow Lake is the first in the Lakeshore Chronicles series, and I read it last week because I like to read series in order and the next book in the series looked wintry/Christmassy.  As I said, I was reading for the Christmas post last week.  And yes, I know, I was super behind, I need to be better organised and plan ahead more.  But in my defence, I plead the trip to Washington.  After all I’m not going to be able to use that as an excuse for very much longer so I might as well make the most of it while I can!

Olivia Bellamy is spending the summer renovating her family’s old summer camp.  Camp Kioga’s been closed for a decade, but her grandparents are determined to mark their Golden Wedding by renewing their vows at the spot they originally got married and as a “house fluffer” Olivia is the obvious choice to help make that happen.  Olivia is happy to have the excuse to get out of Manhattan, where the relationship that she thought was heading for the altar has unexpecctedly crumbled, although Kioga wouldn’t be her first choice.  She was very much the ugly duckling at school and her memories of camp are not the best.  Connor is the local contractor who is going to help make her vision a reality.  The trouble is, he’s also the boy that she had a huge crush on at camp.  From his point of view, he’s not keen on spending a summer renovating the camp where he spent his time as a scholarship camper as his alcoholic father was on the staff.  He doesn’t recognise Olivia at first, but soon the sparks are flying once again.  But can they put the past behind them?

That’s the main plot line, but there is a large cast of characters alongside Olivia and Connor who get quite meaty storylines of their own which (I hope/presume) set up the next books in the series.  It’s got a slightly saga-y feel if sagas were set in upstate New York.  There are big extended families with secrets and rivalries and dramas.  It’s all very enjoyable.  And if you grew up reading American middle grade novels about children being send off to summer camp, it’s a lot of fun to get a grown up summer camp novel!

As I said at the top, this is in no way seasonally appropriate, but I don’t care – especially as it’s only 99p on Kindle and Kobo at the moment which is a total bargain for nearly 400 pages of summer romance and angst.  Even if you don’t fancy reading it now, it might well be worth picking up for that moment at the end of spring when you just want to read about long hot summers. This is also the last Book of the Week post of 2018 – which means that my end of year roundup posts are on their way to you in the next week.  And the good news is, that I’m much more up to speed with them than I have been with my Christmas reading…

Happy Reading and Merry Christmas!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: December 17 – December 23

In case you missed it over the weekend, my festive reading post is up and some of the books on this weeks list feature here too.  I’m finished work for Christmas now, but I’ve still got quite a lot to do so who knows what this list will look like next week!  There’s the usual Book of the Week post tomorrow and I’ve got a few more extras scheduled over the Festive period, so I hope you enjoy them in between all the unwrapping and enormous meals!

Read:

Situation Tragedy by Simon Brett

Murder Unprompted by Simon Brett

A Very Country Christmas by Zara Stoneley

An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles

Christmas with the Sheriff by Victoria James

Campion at Christmas by Margery Allingham

Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs

Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear

Antidote to Venom by Freeman Willis Crofts

Started:

Hot Winter Nights by Jill Shalvis

The Winter Lodge by Susan Wiggs

Still reading:

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

Fear by Bob Woodward

One Christmas ebook bought for me and a couple of books as presents for other people – but they don’t count!

book round-ups, Christmas books

Christmas-themed reading 2018

I’ll admit I haven’t managed to read as many Christmas-set books this year as I usually do.  This is mostly because the period in November when I usually start doing my Christmas-reading coincided with my last few weeks in Washington and my mad dash to read all the books that I’d got hold of there that I hadn’t been able to get hold of in the UK.  But I’ve still got some Christmas recommendations for you.

Campion at Christmas by Margery Allingham

Cover of Campion at Christmas

I realised when I was writing item that I haven’t really talked my about Albert Campion love nearly enough here.  If you’re looking at Golden Age Detective series, Albert is probably number five after Miss Marple, PoirotLord Peter Wimsey and Roderick Alleyn.  I started reading them when I lived in Essex – because Margery Allingham was from the county and the library system there had a huge stock of her books.  This is four short stories with a Christmas theme – two of which feature Albert at various points in his life.  It’s not a massively long read – but it’s new this Christmas and only £1.99 on Amazon or free if you have Kindle Unlimited (my copy came from NetGalley).

Lark! The Herald Angels Sing by Donna Andrew

Cover of Lark! The Herald Angels Sing

I feel like I’ve writen a lot about the Meg Langslow series this year (there’s been a BotW post as well as mentions in other roundup posts) but Donna Andrew consistently writes excellent festive installments to this series.  At the start of this Christmas’s book, Meg discovers a mystery baby has been abandoned in the manger midway through a rehearsal for the town nativity play.  The note left with the baby implies that Meg’s brother Rob is the father and when she attempts to track down the baby’s mother, it soon becomes apparent that this may be part of a bigger mystery.  And as well as all this, it seems like there may be a war brewing between Meg’s beloved Caerphilly county and their arch-nemeses in neighbouring Clay County.  What is so clever about this, is that although this is the 24th book in the series, Andrew has managed to keep mixing up her settings and mysteries enough that it doesn’t seem like Meg is a murder magnet.   And this is no exception to that.  It’s not cheap though – it’s brand new – and just under a tenner on Kindle, which is a lot I’ll admit and even more on Kobo.  But the good news is that the most of previous years’ Christmas Langslows are cheaper – at £3.85 on Kindle at time of writing.

Christmas with the Sheriff by Victoria James

Cover of Christmas with the Sheriff

Moving away from crime to romance – this is a novella featuring a bereaved heroine who returns to her home town for Christmas several years after the death of her husband and son and finds the man who helped her through her loss is still there waiting for her.  Chase is the town Sheriff and he’s had a thing for Julia ever since he first met her, but his best friend got there first.  He’s hoping that she might now be ready for a second chance at love.  I was worried this was going to be a bit too miserable, but it wasn’t – and I liked Julia and Chase’s developing relationship.  And Chase’s little girl is cute.  Free on Kindle and Kobo at the moment for everyone

Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis

Cover of Chasing Christmas Eve

And it wouldn’t be a Christmas book list without one by Jill Shalvis.  This is last year’s one from her – in her Heartbreaker Bay series.  It follows tech genius Spence and Colbie who is a best selling author under her writing pseudonym.  Spence doesn’t think that he can have a long term relationship with anything except his work – he’s failed at it before.  Colbie is running away from the pressure of fame, of her publishing career and of her emotionally dependent family.  In the run up to Christmas in San Francisco the two of them stumble towards a discovery.  It’s flirty, it’s fun and Colbie and Spence are perfect for each other.  And it’s 99p on Kindle and Kobo at the moment – which makes it a bargain

What else am I reading this Christmas?  I’ve got another Jill Shalvis on the pile – this year’s Heartbreaker Bay Christmas novel, Hot Winter Nights, as well as Sarah Morgan’s The Christmas Sisters and I’m fairly sure there’s going to be at least one Christmas book I’ve forgotten about sitting on the bookshelf or the kindle.

Let me know what you’re reading this December in the comments!

Happy Reading and Merry Christmas!