books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: April 22 – April 28

After a busy week at work, I spent the weekend working, then watching Maggie Smith do an absolute tour de force in A German Life and then chasing round London supporting my little sister who was running the marathon.  So not as much reading done as some weeks.  But I had a lot of fun – and most of all my sister did it!  She finished the marathon!

Read:

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

The Grave’s A Fine And Private Place by Alan Bradley

Running the Risk by Christina Jones

Stepping to a New Day by Beverly Jenkins

Chasing Down a Dream by Beverly Jenkins

Web of Love by Mary Balogh

Started:

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujaya Massey

A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian

Still reading:

Lies, Damned Lies and History by Jodi Taylor

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Trainwreck by Sady Doyle

Three books bought – but they don’t count because they’re kindle copies of some the Cazalet Chronicles to complete the set so that I can re-read Clary and Polly and Rupert and everyone any time I want!

Bonus picture: Timothy West and Hayward Morse talking to Dr Emma Parker at an event at the British Library on Tuesday night about Joe Orton and What the Butler Saw.

Emma Parker, Timothy West and Hayward Morse

Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: The Austen Playbook

I know. I know.  You’re not even surprised by this choice because I pretty much signposted it last Tuesday.  And yet somehow I’m not sorry and I don’t care.  There’s a new Lucy Parker book – it came out yesterday (aka Monday) and I’m going to write about it.

Cover of the Austen Playbook

This is the fourth in the London Celebrities series and this features another fun enemies (or sort of enemies) to lovers type relationship, still in the acting world but this time away from the West End.  Freddie comes from an acting dynasty – she’s successful in her field and knows what she wants to do.  The trouble is it’s not what her dad – who is also her manager – wants her to do.  He wants her to follow in the family footsteps and be a Great Dramatic Actress – preferably by taking the key role in the legendary play her grandmother wrote.  She wants to do the comedies and musicals that she loves.  While her dad is out of the country she accepts a role in a new Jane Austen-based TV show – against his wishes – to try and buy a bit of time to think and plan and just enjoy working.

Griff is a man with a problem – an empty bank account and a giant family house to save-type problem.  His parents get through money like it’s water, as they lurch from one obsession to another, and his little brother keeps coming up with harebrained schemes to save the family fortunes.  The latest is that same Austen-based TV spectacular – which is going to be broadcast live from the theatre in the grounds.  A theatre in fact that was built by his grandfather during a torrid affair with Freddie’s grandmother.  So having her on site won’t be at all awkward. Oh no not at all.  And did I mention that he’s a theatre critic who gave  less than favourable notices to Freddie’s last role? Yeah, that too.

As well as the enemies to lovers, this has forced proximity, a family feud, some terrible parents and an opposites attracts couple that works really well.  Freddie is sunny and optimistic and Griff is a bit of an Eeyore.  She balances out his pessimism but without losing any of her positivity or changing herself and becoming in some way less..  And he turns out to be really great at supporting her, so that she can do what she wants and stand up for herself a little bit better.  And the family feud subplot is really, really fun.  It is a little bit insta-love between the two of them once they get to the country house, but it didn’t bother me – because you were already aware that there was some chemistry going on from the opening scene.  In some of the previous books in the series, I’ve occasionally had issues with some of the language choices from Parker (who is from New Zealand) as not actually things that Brits would say* – but I don’t remember having any in this book.  I would happily read just as many books in this world as Lucy Parker can come up with.  Also, please can Freddy’s sister be the heroine of the next book – there seemed like some definite set up going on there for her and A N Other member of the supporting cast. Pretty please. Thank you.

Anyway, my copy came from NetGalley, but you should be able to get hold of The Austen Playbook from all the usual ebook retailers – Kindle and Kobo are £5.49 at time of writing this post.  And if you haven’t already read the others in this series, Act Like it (the first book) is £2.80 on Kindle and Kobo too. So – go forth and read some delightful romance.

Happy Reading!

*There was a big rant here about the use of “on the West End” rather than “in the West End” – which is one of my total pet hates but that’s not just a Lucy Parker thing – it’s rapidly spreading because of “on Broadway”. I won’t bore you with my ravings though. Or at least bore you more than this

 

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: April 15 – April 21

So it turns out that rather than use my week off to finish the books I had already started, I mostly used it to go on a Beverly Jenkins binge.  What can I say, my reading brain wants what it wants – and the library was able to oblige. But given that it was Easter week and they’re Christian inspirationals, maybe it was actually quite apt.

Read:

The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

Something Old, Something New by Beverly Jenkins

A Wish and a Prayer by Beverly Jenkins

Heart of Gold by Beverly Jenkins

For Your Love by Beverly Jenkins

Due Dilligence by Anna Zabo

Bronzed Betrayals by Ritter Ames

From Duke Til Dawn by Eva Leigh

Started:

The Grave’s A Fine And Private Place by Alan Bradley

Stepping to a New Day by Beverly Jenkins

Still reading:

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

Lies, Damned Lies and History by Jodi Taylor

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Trainwreck by Sady Doyle

On the upside: No books bought.  So that’s where all my willpower went!

Bonus Picture: Bank Holiday weekend sunshine.

a park on a sunny day

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: He’s So Fine

If you’re in any way family with my reading habits you’ll have seen a lot of familiar names on yesterday’s Week in Books post.  This made picking a BotW tricky, because I liked a lot of books – but not a lot of the ones by people who I haven’t reviewed before. Or at least not enough to be able to pick the without feeling like I was bigging them up more than I actually liked them.  The Alyssa Cole that I finished on Monday was already last week’s pick – so I couldn’t chose A Hope Divided (even though I liked it a lot) because even though I do repeat authors, three of her books in less than a month would be too much even for me! The Beverly Jenkins was good too – but she was my BotW pick two weeks ago.  I have finished the Lucy Parker now – but in the early hours of Tuesday so it would be cheating and that’s not out until next week anyway. I loved the Mary McCartney photographs of Twelfth Night – but that’s because that production was the best thing that I’ve ever seen on stage and it brought back wonderful memories and anyway there aren’t enough words in that for it to count as a Book of the Week.  And so that leads us to Jill Shalvis.  Who of course has featured before – but not this calendar year so that’s something.  And I did love this latest trio of Lucky Harbor books that I’ve read (one afer the other practically in less than seven days) so it’s hardly a hardship.  So which to pick?

Paperback copy of Its In His Kiss

He’s So Fine’s heroine is prickly Olivia, who owns a vintage shop and lives next door to the heroine of the previous book, and who was an intriguing and enigmatic presence in that.  And when we get to know her, we discover that she’s got a big secret that she’s protecting – who she really really is.  In keeping with my spoiler free policy, I’m not going to tell you the details of Olivia’s backstory – but believe me, it’s good.  This trilogy has the owners of a charter boat company for the heroes – this is Cole the boat captain, the first one was Sam the boat builder, and the next one (One In A Million) is Tanner, the deep sea diver.And Cole is a great character – he’s dashing and handsome and caring, but he also sees life in very black and white terms.  On top of that, his last relationship ended badly a couple of years ago and he hasn’t really recovered or moved on – except to decide that love isn’t really worth it.  Olivia doesn’t exactly have a great track record with relationships, so their mutually beneficial relationship seems ideal, to start with at least.

I liked this a lot but I had two quibbles. The first was that I wanted Olivia to come clean to Cole earlier, but that’s fairly usual with me and romances – I want people to sort out misunderstandings as soon as possible and not lie to each other.  But that’s because I don’t like conflict and secrets in real life – I know that without the conflict there’d be no book a lot of the time!  The other was that I wanted a bit more resolution.  And I know I say that a lot too – but this one is more than just me wanting to see a bit more of their happily ever after, because the book comes to a big screeching, grinding halt and there are still somethings that I thought needed resolving or at least talking through.  And having read the next book now too, I know that you don’t get any more of Cole and Olivia in that either.  But this is minor stuff.  The romance is swoonworthy, the characters well matched and Lucky Harbor is a great place to spend time.  And when read as part of the trilogy, its all very satisfying indeed. And after a run of secret baby/child stories, this is refreshingly pregnancy aggro free – if that’s a thing you look for in romance (I do).

My copy of He’s So Fine came from The Works – where they had all three and all in their 3 for £5 offer.  It was a little while ago now, but they still had a few Shalvises (Shalvii?) last time I was in there the other week.  It’s also available on Kindle and Kobo (£3.99 atow) or in an omnibus edition on  Kindle and Kobo with the other two in the set for £6.99.  And if you haven’t read any Lucky Harbor before, the first three book omnibus is £3.99 at the moment on Kindle and Kobo – which is definitely worth a look.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: April 8 – April 14

Another busy week at work and another goodly pile of books read.  And I didn’t do too badly at working my  way down that ongoing reading pile.  I’m not at work this week, so my aim is to do soe more work on the NetGalley backlog as well as on the actual TBR pile.  Wish me luck.

Read:

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

He’s So Fine by Jill Shalvis

On the Road and off the Record with Leonard Bernstein by Charlie Harmon

The Binding by Bridget Collins

One in a Million by Jill Shalvis

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins

Twelfth Night: Mary McCartney by Mary McCartney

The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews

A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole

Started:

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Trainwreck by Sady Doyle

Still reading:

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

Lies, Damned Lies and History by Jodi Taylor

Two books bought:  the gorgeous Mary McCartney – which is very much a coffee table book, but as I read every word of it, it counts – and the new Cat Sebastian ebook.

Bonus picture: the theatre before Sir Ian McKellen’s one man birthday show on Sunday night!

Theatre programme with picture of Sir Ian McKellen with a stage in the background

Uncategorized

Book of the Week: An Extraordinary Union

So. Here’s the thing. I try not to repeat myself too much with these BotW reviews. In another week, The Confessions of Frannie Langton would have been my pick. But I already wrote about that. And yes, I finished An Extraordinary Union on the commute on Monday. And yes it’s only a couple of weeks since I recommended Alyssa Cole, but I loved this and I’m still annoyed about the racism in RWA and so there, I’m chosing it, it’s my blog, try and stop me.

Cover of An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

Elle Burns is fighting the Confederacy by returning to the south to spy for the Union as a slave in the household of a Confederate senator. As everyone in the house thinks she is mute, she’s perfectly placed to hear conversations filled with valuable information that she can then pass on to pass to the Loyal League. Malcolm McCall is a Pinkerton’s detective, undercover and trying to infiltrate a Rebel enclave. The two of them find themselves working together and fighting an undeniable attraction. But as the net of intrigue tightens around them, it seems impossible for anything good to come out of a relationship – of any kind – between a black woman and a white man in Virginia. Or can it?

I would say this is more historical romantic suspense than a a straight-up historical romance – there is very real peril here at every turn for both Elle and Malcolm. But don’t panic, this is a romance, so don’t worry too much, there is Happily Ever After for these two, but it takes a lot of twists and turns and danger to get there. Elle is a fantastic character – smart and resourceful and determined to do her bit to try to defeat slavery. She knows exactly what is at stake and the risks that she faces on all fronts .  There’s the reality of being an enslaved woman, then there’s being a spy and finally as a woman contemplating any kind of relationship with a white man – not just inside the Confederacy but in the north if they both manage make it out alive. I was a little uncertain about how the relationship in this would work out given that Malcolm has so much more power than Elle, any way you look at their relative situations. But Alyssa Cole has written this so cleverly. Malcolm saw the Highland Clearances as a child and knows about power imbalances and persecution and this informs how he interacts with Elle and his determination to do his bit to overthrow slavery and oppression.

I’ve already said a lot about how many different types of romances there should be, and how everyone should see themselves reflected in romance. And yet a lot of people seem sceptical that black characters can have Happily Ever Afters in Historical Romance. Well take a seat and let Alyssa Cole show you how wrong that idea is. She’s not sugar coating it, and yes it’s harder for Elle than it is for a wilting wallflower in Almacks. But that hard won happy ending is deeply, deeply satisfying.

I’ve already borrowed the second Loyal League book to read the story of Malcolm’s brother Ewan and I’m on the waiting list for the third book. That’s how much I liked it. My copy came from the library, but you can get hold of it on ebook on Kindle (a bargainous £2.37 at time of writing!) and Kobo. It’s slightly harder to get the paperback in this country – Amazon is showing me the French version in paperback and a large print hardback on the same page as the kindle edition – so I think it’s a special order job again. Or you can look and see if your library has it.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: April 1 – April 7

Not a bad week’s reading, considering it was a really busy week for various reasons.  But the Still Reading list is starting to look a little out of control, so I’m going to try and tackle that this week.  We’ll see how that goes!

Read:

Just One of the Guys by Kristen Higgins

Operation Atonement by Talia Hibbert

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

Not Quite Over You by Susan Mallery

It’s In His Kiss by Jill Shalvis

Takeover by Anna Zabo

The Return of Mr Campion by Margery Allingham

Started:

He’s So Fine by Jill Shalvis

The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

Lies, Damned Lies and History by Jodi Taylor

Still reading:

The Binding by Bridget Collins

On the Road and off the Record with Leonard Bernstein by Charlie Harmon

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins

No books bought!  Hurrah!

Bonus picture: Misty London on Monday morning. NB: for Maisie Dobbs fans, the square I’m about to walk into is Fitzroy Square where Maisie has her office!

View of the BT tower and Fitzroy Square