books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: September 2 – September 8

So it’s been a bit of a week.  In case you missed it, British politics has been crazy busy and that means that my working life has been too.  So busy in fact that one night last week I didn’t even make it home from work.  And this week may well be similarly busy.  Wish me luck.  So the reading list is somewhat short and sweet this week – my brain has been fried and having trouble settling on anything.

Read:

The Girls by Emma Cline

A Case of Murder in Mayfair by Clara Benson

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Asterix and the Roman Agent by Goscinny and Uderzo

Asterix and the Great Crossing by Goscinny and Uderzo

Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kroeger and Melanie R Anderson

Started:

Chanel’s Riviera by Anne De Courcy

How to Have Meaningful Conversations by Sarah Rozenthuler

Magnolia Buildings by Elizabeth Stuckey

Still reading:

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr

The Queen Con by Meghan Scott Molin

City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn

Out of Africa by Isak Dineson

And there was a fair bit of book purchasing that went on too – not only two new release hardbacks during the week but also a bit of a second hand spree on Sunday at Cannons Ashby’s secondhand bookshop. Thank you National Trust!

Bonus photo: a bit of historic home library porn from the aforementioned Cannons Ashby. The gardening stuff is in the cupboards because the owner of the time it’s set up as was a keen gardener and that’s where he kept it!

library shelves full of books with an open cupboard filled with gardening tools.

Book of the Week

Book of the Week: Meddling and Murder

I really enjoyed a couple of books last week and had but of a debate with myself about what to pick. Alisha Rai’s The Right Swipe is new out and very good – and other book which looks at American Football and head trauma – but it’s only a few months since I picked a novel from her. It’s also not long since I picked Anne Helen Petersen, but Scandals of Hollywood was also very good. I have picked Ovidia Yu and the aunty Lee series before, but it was a year ago, it’s been a while since I picked a mystery and this is really very good.

Cover of Meddling and Murder

To catch you up on the series set up: Rosie Lee is the widow of an rich older husband. She’s getting on a bit herself now but she isn’t planning on slowing down. She fills her day cooking Perenaken food in her restaurant in a not as posh as her daughter in law would like area, and keeping up with the gossip and scandal in her community. And she also seems to find crimes and mysteries to solve. This is the fourth book in the series and she’s also started to build a friendly relationship with one of the local policemen, although she’s not above using her late husbands contacts to get her way.

In Meddling and Murder, one of her school friends has died leaving a handsome, younger Chinese husband and a sister who are setting up a nursery school in the house they have inherited. Their maid has gone missing and they ask to borrow Aunty Lee’s beloved Nina, who has some issues of her own going on that means that Aunty Lee thinks some time away might be a good idea. But as time goes on Aunty Lee grows more and more worried about what exactly happened to Beth Kwan’s maid and what Jonny Ho is really up to.

You’re pretty much guaranteed to come away from this feeling hungry – even if, like me you don’t know anything about Singaporean food! This has a lot of the features of a cozy crime – food, amateur sleuth – but a really different setting that makes it feel fresh and different. That’s true of both of the other books in the series that I’ve read so far, but this also has a slightly darker underside (which I like) subtly looking at some social issues – like the treatment of foreign domestic workers and of how unscrupulous people can try to badger/confuse/inveigle old people into giving their money away. But it’s all done so matter of factly and in passing that you do a double take – and it also doesn’t feel at all preachy or crusadey.

As previously mentioned, this isn’t the first in ther series, but I don’t think you need to read these in order necessarily, so feel free to dive in. These can sometimes be a little expensive to get hold of in the UK, but it’s on a deal on ebook at the moment. Meddling and Murder is available on Kindle and Kobo – it’s £1.49 on both at time of writing – and as a paperback – although that may be harder to find.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: August 26 – September 1

Another really busy week.  And really quite hot too. A shame I was at work for most of it!  Hey ho.  There was some really interesting reading this week – a lot of it on the train – and I’m still not sure what I’m going to pick for BotW tomorrow, which is unusual.

Read:

Schoolgirl Reporter by Constance M White

A Study in Scandal by Caroline Linden

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

The Painted Garden by Noel Streatfeild

Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen

Meddling and Murder by Ovidia Yu

Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski

Started:

City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn

Out of Africa by Isak Dineson

Still reading:

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

The Girls by Emma Cline

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr

The Queen Con by Meghan Scott Molin

One book bought in the charity shop and one ebook.

Bonus photo: The nice cupboard with my “fancy” (aka hardback) Girl’s Own books…

Shelf of hardback children's books

books, stats

August Stats

New books read this month: 30*

Books from the to-read pile: 12

Ebooks read: 9

NetGalley books read: 2

Library books: 7 (all ebooks)

Non-fiction books: 3

Most read author: Judith Dale – four Shirley Flight books!

Books read in 2019:  268

Books bought: 7 ebooks, 4 books.  Some backsliding….

Books on the Goodreads to-read shelf: 528 (I don’t have copies of all of these!)

Bonus picture: A Freddie Mercury LP at the vintage store that I managed to resist buying…

LP of Mr Bad Guy

 

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

 

Book of the Week, cozy crime, mystery

Book of the Week: The Frame-Up

Hello hello hello! Fresh from a bank holiday Monday off work and a Drag Race marathon, this week’s book of the week is The Frame-Up – which has nerd culture, comic books and drag queens.  Perfect.

Cover of The Frame-Up

MG (that’s short for Michael-Grace, but she won’t thank me for telling you) is a writer at a comic book company with a side line in costume designing. She’s in the queue for her morning latte when she recognises a panel from a comic in a crime scene photo in the newspaper. Soon a handsome police officer is asking for her help in untangling the clues to the crime – but his colleagues are suspicious of her. Can MG solve the mystery and win the big costume competition?

I really, really enjoyed this. MG is a fabulous main character and only occasionally strays into territory where you think she’s too stupid to live. Most of the time you understand why she tends towards the headstrong and foolhardy: she’s a woman in a male dominated environment who is trying to get equal treatment at work and not getting listened to. Matteo the cop is a great foil for her- nice enough that you’re worried he’s going to stuff up his career over MG but mysterious enough that you don’t entirely trust him. There is a big cast of characters here – mainly guys – and I would like to see MG getting some female friends at some point in the future to stop her from verging into Not Like Other Girls territory* but I’m hopeful that the seeds of something were being set up for that in this.

This isn’t too violent and there’s no psychological suspense – it’s basically a cozy crime with a twist – nerd culture instead of crafting/cooking/baking. And that was pretty much just what I needed at the moment after a run of disappointing romances (don’t ask). In fact I liked this enough that I’ve gone straight on to book two to see if it’s a concept that can sustain itself. And if it is, this could be another (murder) mystery series to add to my list.

I got this as a Kindle First Reads pick at the back end of last year and have only just got around to reading it – but it’s also available as a paperback from Amazon.  Because it’s in Kindle Unlimited it may be harder to get elsewhere I’m afraid.

Happy Reading!

* I’m having trouble with an epidemic of Not Like Other Girls heroines in romances at the moment and it’s driving me mad

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: August 19 – August 25

Super busy week again – and lovely weather.  Of course I missed most of it at work.  Sigh.

Read:

Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

Shirley Flight: Air Hostess and the Flying Doctor by Judith Dale

Crimson Rust by C Bernard Rutley

Deliver Me by Farrah Rochon

The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn

Started:

The Queen Con by Meghan Scott Molin

Still reading:

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

The Girls by Emma Cline

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr

I may have bought a few books.  Ok, there’s no may about it, I did. One actual book and two ebooks.  Oopsies.

Bonus photo: Northampton in the sunshine… some things never change…

Book of the Week, Children's books, new releases

Book of the Week: Top Marks for Murder

Another old friend for this week’s BotW: the eighth in Robin Stevens’s middle grade Murder Most Unladylike series. It was between this and the new Tessa Dare for this week’s pick and although the Dare is a lot of fun, I have a lot of thoughts about this book, this series and the importance of Hazel and Daisy.

Cover of Top Marks for Murder

We rejoin the detective society as they return to Deepdean after their extended break visiting Hazel’s family in Hong Kong and then their appearance in a play in London. And they’re back at school just in time for the anniversary weekend, which proves to be a rather more dangerous time for the girls than you would hope, after one of the gang sees what she thinks is a murder from their dormitory window.

The girls are back on the trail and are happy to be distracted from the things that have changed at school while they’ve been away. But this isn’t the first time that there’s been a murder at Deepdean, and Daisy and Hazel are older now and are seeing more of the consequences of what’s going on as well. After all how many parents want to leave their children at a school where murders happen. So the girls may not need to just solve the case, they might need to save the school as well.

What I’ve always loved about this series is the way that it takes familiar tropes from the school stories that I loved when I was little and update them so that they will work for kids today. I’ve spoken before about revisiting old favourites and realising they’re now problematic (to say the least in some cases). I’m lucky with the Chalet School – LH Johnson recently wrote a lovely piece about the Chalet School Peace League and Elinor M Brent Dyer quietly advocating peace and cooperation – but I’ve bought and read a couple of Shirley Flight books over the last few weeks and although they’re mostly fun adventures, there are some horrible attitudes towards non-Brits and especially non-Westerners. One of them is downright racist to a point where I now wouldn’t want to lend any of them out to a modern child of the age I was when I read the first book in the series. But if you want to give the next generation the sort of warm feels you had from Girls Own books but without the nasty undercurrents, this series will do that for you.

And that’s not to say that these are populated by perfect exemplars of modern day life sticking out like sore thumbs in the olden days. They’re not like that. You see the nastier side of 1930s boarding school life because because you’re looking at it from Hazel’s point of view and nothing she can do will change the way some people look at her just because she’s Chinese. Daisy definitely isn’t perfect – she doesn’t handle the fact that while she’s been gone a fascinating new girl has taken her place very well at all. And she’s still dealing with the fallout for her family after the events at her house in book 2. This is full of realistic characters learning real life lessons as well as solving a tricky mystery. As a grown up, I really appreciate and enjoy what Robin Stevens is doing – but it does works for its actual target market too, as my niece as well as several of the ten year olds my sister taught last year (who lent her copies of books in the series) prove. And when my niece is a bit older, I’ll lend her the Golden Age mystery stories these are influenced by and she can read the grown up versions of some of these plots (this one is very Sayers inspired). But with a few caveats about old fashioned attitudes.

Now, I’m going to be very careful how I phrase this section because: spoilers, but in the last book we learned an important piece of information about one of the main characters. A piece of information that both is and isn’t a big deal. Inside the last book it was treated exactly right by the character who learned it and in this book nothing has changed about that piece of information but it is absolutely not an issue or a Big Deal. And that is exactly as it should be. If you’ve read Death in the Spotlight you’ll know exactly what I’m talking abut and if you haven’t, then I’m sorry for that impenetrable paragraph, but go and read it and you’ll understand.

I had First Class Murder pre-ordered (and had to remember to change the delivery address to the new house!) but you should be able to get hold of it easily from any shop with a children’s section. It’s also available online – from places like Book Depository – as well as on Kindle and Kobo.  And you can read some of my previous posts about the series here and here.

Happy Reading!