Yeah, remember the busy week last week? Well I shouldn’t have cheated and used Husband Material last week because I’m in an even worse situation this week. So I’m just going to post pictures of the Commonwealth Games athletics instead and promise to do better next week!
Yes I finished this on Monday – but it’s out today so it’s actually time appropriate. Check me out with the ever so slightly forward planning.
Husband Material is the sequel to Boyfriend Material which was a Book of the Week back when I read it in early 2021. We rejoin our erstwhile heroes two years into their actual relationship (as opposed to the fake one, see Boyfriend Material) and its all going well for Luc and Oliver. They’re making their relationship work – Luc’s trying not to bring the chaos and Oliver’s getting therapy and it’s all lovely. Except that suddenly everyone is getting married and Luc thinks maybe they’re meant to too, because that’s what you’re meant to do when you love each other, right? Right?
I have strongly mixed feelings on sequels usually. I know I’m always saying that I want more of the happily ever after at the end of my romance novels, but I appreciate that an actual novel needs tension and conflict. Most sequels do this by breaking the couple up and getting them back together (or variations thereof) and that often drives me mad. Particularly when the breakup is because of something you could solve by having a conversation. This does not do that. There is conflict, but I was not really ever worried that Luc and Oliver going to end up together – just how were they going to work it all out. And I can’t really explain any more than that without massive plot spoilers.
All the supporting cast are back too – Luc’s friends, his crazy mum, thankfully not too much of his awful dad. And there’s lots of banter and pop culture references. And if I didn’t quite love it as much as the first one, it was a pretty high bar to hit and it was lovely being back with some old friends for a few hours. This is apparently a universe now – so there’s a third book coming, but about a different couple, one of whom briefly featured in this book. So that’s fun too.
My copy of Husband Material came from NetGalley (thank you bookish gods) but it’s out today in Kindle, Kobo and delicious paperback, including from Words and Kisses where they have signed ones. You definitely need to have read Boyfriend Material to get the most out of this though.
Making a change from the run of BotW picks recently, this week I’ve gone for something (pretty much) new and also that’s not a romance or a mystery. You can thank me later.
Sam and Sadie first met when they were children. Then they didn’t see each other for years – until one day Sam sees Sadie on the subway platform. This chance meeting starts them on the road to success as video game designers. You follow Sam and Sadie over thirty years – as they play games, design games and grow up, always linked together but sometimes pulling in different directions.
You all know that I’ve been reading mostly stuff with happy endings or resolutions for the last *checks calendar* two years or so and this took me a little while to read because I wasn’t sure I was going to like how it all worked it. But I’m so glad I stuck with it because it is just wonderful – even if there was some crying involved, thankfully not on a train though. You watch Sam and Sadie grow and develop and try to help each other through life’s challenges. I can’t really say too much more than that because it’s going to give to much away.
I was a PC gamer when I was younger – mostly simulators like Sim City, the Sims and Transport Tycoon, but also Commander Keen and some of the other shareware games of that era, so I’ve played some of the games that Sam and Sadie played when they are kids and I understood the sort of games they were trying to create even if they weren’t my sort of games. But I don’t think you have to be a gamer to get this novel, don’t worry. It’s two people navigating friendship while working together. And it’s 400ish pages, so if you need a book for the beach this could be it!
I haven’t read any of Gabrielle Zevin’s books before, although I’ve had The Storied Life of A J Fikry on the list of books I would like to read at some point for years. But if her other books are anything like this one, I need to get to them sooner rather than later, just as soon as I’m in a more resilient state of mind, because this broke me at various points.
My copy of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow came via NetGalley but it’s out now in Kindle and Kobo and in hardback. And you should be able to get hold of it fairly easily because it’s had window displays in some bookshops which always a good sign – and Foyles have click and collect copies too.
So a slightly cheaty pick this week, as it’s not a book I haven’t read before, but as I finished the Phryne reread last week, I’m going to let myself break the rules!
Murder and Mendelssohn is the twentieth book in Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series and has a lot of the key threads in the series running through it. Inspector Jack Robinson asks Phryne for help investigating the murder of an unpopular conductor. Jack thinks the killer may come from among the choir he has been rehearsing so Phryne decides to infiltrate the choir and find out. But at the same time, one of her old friends from World War One is in town and needs her help keeping a mathematical genius alive.
My favourite Phrynes are the ones with a large cast of suspects, a love interest and a historical connection – and this has all of that. The full Fisher menage is here – with the exception of Lin Chung, and it has has Greenwood’s take on Sherlock Holmes in Rupert Sheffield, former codebreaker and current irritant to all around him except John Wilson.
I wouldn’t suggest you start the series here, because you’ll miss all the fun of getting to this point, but if you do make this your first taste of Miss Fisher, then it will give you a pretty good flavour of what everything is all about. One last thing – a warning: if you’ve watched the TV show, don’t expect this to be the same. I’ve enjoyed the series, but it’s a teatime drama and they have adapted the series to fit that – which means they’ve done a few things to Phryne’s love life, added some running plot strands that don’t exist in the book and reduced the size of the Fisher household somewhat. So treat them as separate entities if you can.
You can get Murder and Mendelssohn in all the usual ebook formats – Kindle, Kobo and the rest – and that’s probably the easiest way to get hold of them.
As mentioned yesterday, not a lot of options this week for Book of the Week, but luckily I read a really interesting British Library Crime Classics book so all’s serene, even if slightly later in the day than recently!
Prudence Pinsent is the unmarried daughter of the Master of a (fictional) Cambridge college. On her way to visit her cousin in Suffolk, she meets an old friend who is investigating a drug smuggling gang and has connected it with both Prudence’s cousin’s estate and the colleges of Cambridge itself. Prudence is sure her cousin can’t be involved, so she decides she must investigate and find out who is.
I’ve written (at length!) about my love of Gaudy Night which is also set in a fictional college (at Oxford though, not Cambridge) and so the premise of this appealed to me a lot. And it’s funny and entertaining – and the mystery is good as well. Suffolk makes such an atmospheric setting for mysteries – like Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham – with eerie flats, fogs, water ways etc and then you have college life and academic personalities.
Lois Austen-Leigh is a relative of Jane Austen (several greats niece) and it is very tempting to say that the witty style must be a family trait. I haven’t read anything of hers before – as well as telling me about her famous relative, the forward said they have been very very rare until the British Library Crime Classics got hold of this, so I hope they publish some of the others too.
My copy came as part of my Kindle Unlimited subscription, which means it’s only available as an ebook on Kindle at the moment, but you can buy the paperback direct from the British Library shop should you so wish.
So, I had a really hard time picking today’s choice, because I loved Lessons in Chemistry *and* The Unsinkable Greta James and I could only pick one. But as Lessons in Chemistry is all over the place – including in paperback at the airport – I thought I’d write about Great today because you might not already have heard of it.
Greta James is an indie music star. She’s had magazine covers and sold out gigs and a few hit songs. So why is she on a cruise around Alaska with her dad weeks before she’s due to be launching the always tricky second album? Her parents were meant to be taking the trip together for their fortieth wedding anniversary, but her mum died suddenly three months before the cruise. And at her first gig after her mother’s death, Greta had an onstage meltdown that went viral. So she’s on the trip with her dad, attempting to ignore what’s going on with her career and trying to improve her relationship with her dad. Because her mum was the supportive one – who encouraged her to follow her dreams and her dad was… not. Will this trip bring them closer together or drive them further apart than ever? Also on board the ship is author Ben Wilder – who is there to deliver a lecture about his book about Jack London’s Call of the Wild, but is struggling with writing his follow up…
I really enjoyed this. I do like a book about a musician (see Daisy Jones and the Six) and I love stories about family relationships (see Guinevere St Clair and Young Pretenders most recently) and it’s only a couple of weeks since I wrote a post about mysteries set on ships, so we know that I like them too. And this does everything that I was hoping it would do. Greta is passionate about her music and determined to succeed and her fractious relationship with her dad, her blossoming relationship with Ben and her grief and anxiety about the death of her mum add up to a fascinating leading character. And it’s a minor thing, but I really liked how explicit the book was about the work and the practice that had gone into Greta’s success – she plays her guitar, you hear about the hours she puts in to playing and composing. I feel like you don’t always get to hear about that in books about people in the arts – it’s portrayed like a magical thing that comes easily to people. And maybe to some people it does, but I think to a lot of musicians and other artists of various kinds it actually comes after thousands of hours of work and the first song you write (or painting you make, or book you write) isn’t the one that’s the big success – it’s the 5th or sixth or tenth or thirtieth.
I hate the term women’s fiction, but that’s the best I have got for this. It has a romantic plot strand but it’s not primarily a romance. And it’s much easier to read than literary fiction (another label I hate) tends to be. I read it across two evenings once the actual physical copy arrived chez moi after I bought this as part of my sample reading spree the other week. I’m not sure where I saw it recommended. I thought it was from Goodreads, maybe in their Anticipated Summer reads article, but no. So it could have been twitter or the algorithm because I can’t find it in any of my book-ish emails. Anyway this is the first Jennifer E Smith book that I’ve read and I shall keep my eyes out for more because it was a really delight.
I bought mine in hardback because after reading the sample I thought it might be one I would want to lend (and I think the prices for the physical copy vs the ebook were not that far apart on the day I bought it) and I have already sent it out on loan! I can’t see that it’s in stock in any of the Foyles stores so it may be one that you do have to order rather than pickup in a store, but it’s also available in Kindle and Kobo. The paperback is out early next year….
Happy reading everyone
Plenty of options to chose from this week, and I’ve gone with a romance novel to make a nice change for the summer heat. Or what I hope is going to be a summery week!
Cath and Paul have been friends since college – and Cath’s been hiding a crush on Paul all these years. Now he’s a theatre director, and she’s a stage manager and they do their best work together. As friends. Just friends. Nothing more. And that’s fine with Cath, because she doesn’t want to risk losing the friendship she has with him. This summer, they’re working on a production of a new play at a regional theatre in Connecticut. If it goes well, it could go to Broadway – but will it go well if Paul insists on hiring Cath’s college nemesis to play the leading role? When rehearsals start, Paul realises that his leading lady is making Cath’s life miserable. And also that the leading man is showing an interest in Cath. Paul realises that what he wants is Cath – but can he persuade her that it’s worth taking a chance on?
Regular readers will remember how much I enjoy Lucy Parker’s theatre-set romances and that I always say I want more books like them. Well, here is more like them. This is friends-to-lovers rather than enemies-to-lovers and it’s in American regional theatre rather than the West End, but it’s got great characters, cracking banter – they quote plays at each other everyone, including some Busman’s Honeymoon, what more could I want – and the supporting characters are also amazing. Plus more backstage theatre details than you can shake a stick at, but not in an info dump sort of way. I read it in two sittings – it would have been one sitting, but it was 2am and I had to go to bed. Then I bought the next one so that I can read it
on the train to work this week when I have finished the other things I am meant to be reading.
I bought this as part of my read the samples of books on offer spree (as mentioned yesterday) and it is 81p at the moment on Kindle everyone. EIGHTY ONE. And 99 cents in the US. Run don’t walk everyone, because I suspect this offer is going to finish at the end of June. It’s also available on Kobo (for 99p) and in paperback. You’re welcome. I’m off to see what else Adele Buck has written and
buy it add it to my wishlist.
When Sergeant Wigan stops to help a drunken man at the end of a late shift, he makes a new friend and discovers the world of book collecting. Soon he is beginning his own collection, following the advice of Michael Fisk, who makes his living scouring book shops and sales for valuable books. When Fisk is found dead, Wigan is seconded to CID to help investigate and use his newly acquired knowledge of the second hand and antiquarian book trade to track down a killer.
This a great pick for the 100th BLCC book. And not just because it’s about a bookseller and the book trade. The mystery is really good but it also has a side of the murder mystery you don’t usually see – the convicted man and what happens to him. In my beloved Strong Poison you see Harriet Vane in prison on remand, but she is innocent and eventually freed*. But what happens to the man who is convicted? It adds a darker edge and a sense of urgency to the book, and an aspect that is easy to forget now that capital punishment is no longer a thing in the UK.
My copy came via my Kindle Unlimited subscription but you should be able to get hold of this through all the usual sources for British Library Crime Classics – including the British Library Bookshop.
* Technically, yes this is a spoiler, but a) Strong Poison was published in 1930 b) Peter is trying to clear Harriet from the start of the book, to the point where it’s in the blurb and c) I refuse to believe that anyone who has been hanging around here for any length of time has missed my whole Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane situation.
It was a really fun week of reading last week – and I had a few options for this today. But I decided to pick a graphic novel for the first time in a long time this week and it’s a really fun one.
Bloodlust and Bonnets is a pastiche of romantic literature, where a trio of misfits go chasing after vampires for Reasons. Lucy is an innocent and highly suggestible debutant. Shram is a mysterious bounty Hunter. Lord Byron is, well Lord Byron. There is a psychic eagle and a talking castle and lies, flirting and manipulation. And lots of gory slapstick stuff. It’s a lot of fun and very clever.
With my poor record of having read the classics, I think I’ve read more books about Romantic literature or pastiching romantic literature than I’ve actually read of actual classic novels this is based on, but I still got most of the jokes – especially about Byron after I read The House of Byron last year. And I really love Emily McGovern’s art – I have one of her Life as a Background Slytherin prints on my kitchen wall – and this is just as delightful. She does so much with not many lines and it’s so clever. As you can see from the cover, the faces are basically eyebrows and dots and yet they convey so much. It’s a delightful way to spend a few hours. This was McGovern’s first graphic novel – her second, Twelve Percent Dread, is out in July and I already have it on order at the comic book store.
My copy of Bloodlust and Bonnets came from my local comic store, and you should try yours first for it too – if they don’t have it they can order it in for you. Otherwise, you should be able to order it from the usual sources.
Yes yes I know, so many rules broken here – I finished this on Monday AND I wrote about the series on Friday, so this is a short post today.
The latest book in the series sees our intrepid crew making a trip to Sweden so the Vinyl Detective can assess and acquire a rare audiophile copy of a controversial death metal record. There’s no hunting involved – they know where the record is and the owner is prepared to sell it to them, so this should be a nice easy trip, with plenty of time to scour the local charity shops for records, designer clothes and crime fiction novels, right? Wrong. Soon bodies are turning up in various gruesome ways – and it looks like the killer is taking his inspiration not from the Scandi Noir but from the death metal.
The mystery is good, the gang is fun, the residents of the town add to that, the writing is witty and the references to crime novels are great. I’m assuming there are some death metal references in there too, but I know even less about that genre than I did about folk music! The only downside of having read this in week of release is that now I have to wait until the next one comes. Still at least my dad can borrow it now – I hadn’t finished it when he came over at the weekend and so he has to go home empty handed!
As I said on Friday, you should be able to get these from any good bookshop, but I do suggest reading the series in order.
NB – Rules broken today:
- Finished on a Monday
- Not the first in the series
- Repeating an author too soon
- Repeating a series too soon
I reckon you could probably count it as two – because three of them are around repeats of different types right?!