Book of the Week, books, LGTBQIA+, new releases, Young Adult

Book of the Week: Fake Dates and Mooncakes

It was a bit of a week of rhyming titles last week – one in YA and one in cozy crime, so it’s probably fitting that I chose one of them for the Book of the Week today. And in the end I’ve gone for the Young Adult romance – partly because the cozy crime isn’t out until next month and also because the cozy is the tenth in a series and I can’t break those rules two weeks in a row. But mostly because Sher Lee’s novel came out last week, it was a lot of fun and it made me really hungry!

Cover of Fake Dates and Mooncakes by Sher Lee

To the plot: Dylan spends his spare time helping in his aunt’s Singaporean Chinese takeout, Theo lives in a mansion and drives a Ferrari. Their first meeting is less than optimal but when Theo turns up at the restaurant sparks fly. And soon Dylan is pretending to be Theo’s boyfriend at a family wedding. But Theo’s family is nothing like Dylan’s and neither is the life he leads. Dylan isn’t sure whether he can fit in in Theo’s wealthy, gala-attending life – or if it’s even worth trying.

This is a sweet YA romance with two heroes with completely different lives. The blurb describes it as Heartstopper meets Crazy Rich Asians and I think that’s not a bad one as far as it goes but it’s not quite as exact as that might sound. Yes Theo is Rich and Dylan is not – so that’s Crazy Rich Asians-esque, but you actually spend a lot of the time in Dylan’s world rather than Theo’s – which is not very CRA. As far as Heartsopper goes, yes it has got two young queer protagonists, but it isn’t mostly set in or around school and there’s not really any story line around coming out here the way that there is in Heartstopper. So basically, stop smashing vaguely similar books together as comparators please publishing.

We all know that I love a fake dating story – so that was great and I loved Dylan’s tight knit family too. It’s got some Insta Love going on here – and your mileage may vary with that. I’m not entirely sure that Theo ever really stands up for himself against his family properly and the solutions to the problems the duo face are a little easy in the end – but then it’s a YA and that’s how it goes. But the romance is lovely and all the food that is written about sounds delicious and it all made me hungry. It’s a really nice way to spend a few hours, and if you’re anything like me, it’ll have you off googling the various bits of the food you’ve never tried before.

My copy of Fake Dates and Mooncakes came from NetGalley, but it’s out now in Kindle and Kobo, and Amazon say they have the paperback in stock too, but I’m not sure how much I believe them given my recent late arriving pre-orders. I’ll take a look for it in a big bookstore YA department next time I go into one – which may or may not be this week!

Happy Reading everyone.

Book of the Week, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Reach for the Stars

A non-fiction pick today, just to make a change…

I was very much buying pop music through a lot of this era, so it was fascinating to read the story behind the music, as told by (most of) the people who were there. The majority of this book takes the form of quotes from the people involved – with comments and context from the author inserted where necessary. Michael Cragg is a music writer, who works (or has worked) for a lot of major UK publications – so if he hasn’t interviewed the people specifically for this book, he has interviews that he’s done with them in the past that he can draw on. So you have four of the five Spice Girls (you can guess which one isn’t in this) and members from pretty much every band that is mentioned.

As someone who was a young person at the time that a lot of this was happening, I found it really interesting to read about what was going on behind the scenes and the press coverage and see how that affected my perception of the various bands and band members involved. And of course the other thing that’s really fascinating is how the spotlight of fame affected the people in the bands. Many of them were very young when they joined the bands – and you get to see an array of different ways that fame – or being in a band can mess your life up. But in the early stages of this period, a lot of it was going on behind closed doors – as the book hurtles towards the mid 00s, you see the arrival of TV talent shows and people learning how to be in a band whilst on camera and making their mistakes in public.

As you may remember – I went to an event for this book where Michael Cragg interviewed Nicola Roberts from Girls Aloud – and it was absolutely fascinating (and sort of horrifying) to hear her talking about her own experiences, now she has the benefit of distance (and I suspect some counselling/therapy) to analyse what was going on and how it affected her. She also talked about how the era of the adverts in the stage, open auditions and TV talent shows provided a gateway for people without connections in the industry to get their big breaks – even if they didn’t have the advice and support that they needed to navigate the world that they found themselves in – and that the pendulum has now swung the other way and that music is the poorer for it.

This is really good – but it’s a big old book – so it took me a while to read just because you can’t heft a 500 page hardback around with you. It is however broken up into nice chapters so you can pick it up and put it down as you need to. But if you have an e-reader, it might be worth considering buying it on that for ease of reading! It is available on Kindle and Kobo although the prices reflect the fact that it’s currently a hardback release – the paperback is due out in October, in time for Christmas.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, books, cozy crime, new releases

Book of the Week: Grave Expectations

Another murder mystery pick this week – but after a forgotten classic last week, this week it’s a new release – and a debut at that.

Grave Expectations’s “detective” is Claire Hendricks – thirty something, a true crime fan and a medium. Yes really, a medium. She can see ghosts and one ghost in particular who follows her around – her best friend Sophie who has been haunting her since she was murdered when they were teenagers. Claire’s been booked as the entertainment at a family birthday party for one of her uni friends’ grandmothers. Except that at the party they find an unquiet ghost and set out to discover what happened with the two least unbearable members of the family to help them (neither of them are Claire’s uni mate) despite some scepticism.

I have written before about how I can never quite put my finger on what makes something with paranormal or supernatural elements work for for me and what doesn’t, but from the fact that I’ve picked this you’ve probably worked out that this one worked! I had a couple of issues with it, but they were minor ones. But basically this is a fun and funny cozy crime novel with a clever set up and a heroine with issues, and who I wished was a little bit less messy. But if this is the start of a series (and I hope it is) they’re minor quibbles that can be ironed out in the sequel.

This is Alice Bell’s debut and it’s already been picked by the Radio 2 book club, so hopefully it’ll be easy to get hold of – it’s a bargainous 99p on on Kindle as I write this, although it’s a bit more expensive on Kobo. My copy came from NetGalley – and I finished it just ahead of its release last week so I’ll be looking for it in the shops in the coming weeks.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, books, detective

Book of the Week: Murder of a Lady

This week I’m back with a murder mystery – and another British Library Crime Classic – after a run of more than a month without one! This time it’s an impossible murder in the a Highlands by Anthony Wynne.

The murdered lady of the title is Mary Gregor, the sister of the laird of Duchlan, who is found stabbed to death locked in her bedroom of the family castle. Our amateur sleuth is Dr Eustace Hailey, who is in the grand tradition of the Golden Age mystery, and who happens to be staying nearby when the body is discovered. Despite being told that the victim was a kind and charitable woman, he soon uncovers evidence that suggests the reverse and that the situation at the castle was not a happy one. In fact even after her death, Mary Gregor still seems to loom over the building – and then more deaths happen.

This is definitely one of the more fantastical of the BLCC’s I’ve read, with a strong vein of highland superstition and mysticism. In fact there was a while when I was wondering is the solution was going to involve the supernatural so impossible did it seem for anyone to have carried out the crime. But it does stick to the rules of the detective club – although the solution is quite something, it is just about plausible.

I bought my copy at the Book Conference second hand sale, but this is also available on Kindle and Kobo and is actually pretty bargainous at £1.99 as I write this, although it should be noted that the ebook edition isn’t a BLCC one (there are some of these where the paperback and ebook rights appear to have got separated) so I can’t vouch for the quality of the ebook version. And if you want more impossible/locked room mysteries, I have a post for that too.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, books, new releases

Book of the Week: Happy Place

It’s the last week of April and I’m bang on time with a review for once – because Happy Place is actually out today. Astonishing work from me for once!

Emily Henry’s new novel is about Harriet and Wyn, who are on a weeklong summer holiday with their group of friends who don’t know that they broke up five months earlier. They’ve all been going to Sabrina’s dad’s cottage in Maine since they were students but now he’s decided to sell it they’re there for a last hurrah and neither Harry or Wyn can bring themselves to spoil it by telling everyone that they’ve broken up – especially as the others all call them the perfect couple. But as the days pass it’s clearer and clearer that they’re not over each other and pretending they’re still a couple is not helping any of it at all…

This is definitely at the women’s fiction end of the romance genre – yes, it follows the rules but it’s actually a lot about Harriet herself and her own personal growth as well as about her relationship with Wyn. It also made me cry more than once, so there’s that – Him Indoors got quite worried about me sniffling away at the end of the sofa – but by the end of the book it was worth it, even if I had a couple of minor quibbles along the way that mean I didn’t like it quite as much as I liked Book Lovers, but that was a high bar to reach!

You’re going to be able to get this everywhere – and it’s even got a nice coordinating/matching cover to the other three Emily Henry Romances. You can get it on Kindle or Kobo here and I’m expected the physical copy to be on the tables in all the bookshops, the airports and probably the supermarket too.

Happy Reading!

new releases, Recommendsday

Book of the Week: Pineapple Street

Well as I mentioned yesterday, picking a book for today was a bit of a problem of my own making. I mean I try not to do release day posts and then make them my books of the week, but I did it with Romantic Comedy and I’m doing it again today. Romantic Comedy perhaps not a surprise because: Curtis Sittenfeld, but this – well, I had other stuff on the go last week that I thought was going to be an option for today, but it turns out, nope. So here we are. Anyway, I really enjoyed reading Pineapple Street and it deserves not to just a mention in Quick Reviews at the end of the month.

The Pineapple Street of the title is the road in Brooklyn Heights where the Stockton family own a house. It’s not their only house, but it is the house where Cord, Darley and Georgiana grew up. Their parents have just moved out to allow Cord and his new wife Sasha to move in and the sisters have added this to the list of black marks against their new sister-in-law, which also includes being middle class, being from New England (but not in a good way) and basically not being The Right Sort. To Sasha the family seem weirdly close, full of rituals and traditions designed to exclude her and make her feel like she’ll never understand them. The sisters have other problems too – Darley is struggling to figure out who she is now she’s a stay at home mum with two kids instead of a high powered worker at an investment bank and Georgiana has fallen in love for the first time – but it’s with the wrong person.

As I said last week – sound the Rich People Problems klaxon! I love a novel about people with the sort of lives most of us can’t even conceive and this is a really good one. I read this in 24 hours – and if I hadn’t had to go to work it would have been less. As well as making you want to just keep turning the pages to find out what happens next, it’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you roll your eyes and by the end you’ll have a lot more sympathy than you were expecting for both Georgiana and Darley – and of course you’re rooting for Sasha from the start. I could happily have spent even longer with them all – but actually the epilogue is a glorious touch and a great way to send them all off. We’re starting to reach the time of year where people start to go on beachy (or at least hot weather) holidays and this would make perfect sun lounger reading.

My copy came from NetGalley, but it’s looking fairly easy to get hold of – as I mentioned last week I saw it in a store before it was even released, but I saw it in both Foyles and Waterstones in Gower Street last week and so I suspect the physical copies will be easy to get hold of – hopefully even in airport edition. And of course it’s in Kindle and Kobo too.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, books, new releases

Book of the Week: Romantic Comedy

Yup, I’m going there. I can’t help it. I was trying to pace myself, but I had it finished before the end of release day so it had to be my pick this week.

So as previously mentioned the plot of this is: Sally is a long time writer at a late night comedy sketch show called The Night Owls – known as TNO and definitely not SNL. She’s single but has watched the show’s actors fall in and out of love with guest stars on the show, but when her friend Danny starts dating a glamorous actress who was a guest host on the show she writes a sketch about average looking – or dorky – guys who get involved with beautiful women and how you never see the reverse and calls it the Danny Horst Rule. That week’s guest host is Noah Brewster – a music star whose romantic history (according to the gossip magazines) includes a lot of models. Noah and Sally hit it off as they work on sketches together but would someone like him ever date someone like her?

The first part of the book covers the production week of the show and then we jump ahead two years to Covid times when Sally is staying with her stepdad in Kansas City and Noah is in LA and they reconnect. It’s playing with the ideas of romantic comedy movies whilst also being a romantic comedy and following a lot of the rules that you would expect but in subtle (well sort of) ways. What I always enjoy about Curtis Sittenfeld’s books are the heroines – they’re always smart often a little (or a lot) neurotic and have interesting and not perfect lives and back stories. It’s fun just to spend time with them – but even more so when Sittenfeld is playing with something that you love – which I think is why I loved her Eligible (modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice) so much. And this is a good one. If you follow celeb gossip in anyway you can probably work out who inspired the Danny Horst rule, but actually that’s just a device to set up everything else. I’ve read a bunch of books recently where one half of the couple is famous and the other isn’t and while a lot of them give their celebrities similar issues not all the books are good at it. And yes I realise that I’ve now recommended three of them in a very short time – but I’ve read more of them than that and haven’t told you about the rest!

I guess the main difference with this is that because it’s Curtis Sittenfeld it gets a hardback release and a photo cover (in the UK at least) rather than coming out in paperback with a cartoon/drawn cover like Nora Goes Off Script or Funny You Should Ask. But it’s actually much more similar to those in style and tone than it is to a lot of the other stuff that gets hardback releases. And that’s a good thing not a criticism. And it’s also a Reese Witherspoon pick. So that’s fun too.

Anyway, I have a physical copy of Romantic Comedy that is still on its way to me (it was a special edition for indie booksellers which has got held up in the bank holiday weekend post) but I also requested it from NetGalley before the preorder – not expecting to be approved but I was! Hence how I’ve managed to read it before my actual copy has arrived. It’s out now and available in all the stores – I saw it in Waterstones and Foyles at the weekend and it’s also in ebook on Kindle and Kobo and I’m audiobook. I suspect it’s the sort of thing that will also get an airport edition if you’re heading off on holiday and it would make a great sun lounger read.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, books

Book of the Week: The Roughest Draft

It may be a new month, but for the second week in a row I’m picking a contemporary romance with a then and now strand to it. Admittedly I did finish this in March, so maybe it’s not the start of a trend, but hey, it’s nice to imagine that there’s some rhyme or reason to my reading!

Katrina and Nathan used to be writing partners. But three years ago after they had finished their second book together, their partnership broke up for reasons neither has ever spoken about. Since then, they haven’t spoken and have moved on with their lives – including Nathan writing a novel on his own. But it didn’t sell as well as the books they wrote together – and now his publisher has passed on his next novel and says they want the third book on his contract with Katrina. And so the two of them end up in the same house they wrote the last book in, trying to write another best seller. But it’s hard to write a romantic novel when you hate the person you’re writing with and the two of them will have to try to work through their differences to get it done.

The book jumps backwards and forwards to show you what went wrong between Nathan and Katrina as well as them in the present day. So it’s sort of friends to enemies to lovers. The reasons for the break up are sort of what you expect they might be – or at least what I was expecting – and the pace of it all is quite slow. It’s very close focus on the two of them – but also manages not to give you much detail about either of their personalities beyond that they are writers. Emily Wibberley and Austin Sigemund-Broka are a married writing duo and have written a few YA romances – which perhaps explains some of the above. And I know that sounds like I didn’t like it, but I actually really did. I read it in less than 48 hours and bought the next book from them to see how they handle something that’s not writing about a couple writing! Given that this was their debut rom com and only came out in October, I was surprised they already have a second out but who knows the mysterious ways of publishing in the TikTok algorithm era.

If you are only going to read one of the picks from the last two weeks, I would probably go with Funny You Should Ask, but if you like YA or New Adult romances then this might be the one for you. I read this on Kindle, but it’s also on Kobo. I haven’t spotted it in a bookshop yet, but that doesn’t mean you won’t.

Happy Reading.

books, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Women’s History month

Okay, this is an American thing, but there was also International Women’s Day this month. And yes, I know, I know. It’s nearly the end of March so this is super late but I’m sneaking this in under the wire because I can. And I’m going to work my way back in history, because for some reason that seems like the most logical thing to do!

Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

This is really really good. A fascinating insight into the “normal” women behind the development of the Atomic Bomb. It’s the story of a pop up city built around a project so secret that you weren’t told what you were doing, and didn’t ask what other people were doing either. A few of the chemists put two and two together, but they were a handful out of tens of thousands. Really worth reading.

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

There are a lot of books about Jane Austen, but this is a well researched look at Jane Austen’s home life, framing it in the wider world of expectations for women in Georgian England, the restrictions on their lives and how they subverted that. When Lucy Worsley is at her best, her books are very readable and accessible. At other times, she is very dense and scholarly and it’s hard work. This is much more the latter than the former, or at least it was for me. I had thought that the readability was an experience thing, because her first book was very scholarly, but the next one – Courtiers – was incredibly easy and yet informative. I still have her Agatha Christie biograohy on my shelf – I wonder which Worlsey we will get there!

She Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England before Elizabeth by Helen Castor

And finally, lets go back to the Middle Ages, for a group biography of four women who ruled England (or tried to) between the Twelfth and the Fifteenth Century. If you’ve never come across Matilda, the daughter of Henry I and granddaughter of William the Conqueror, then you have a treat instore – especially as the period she was trying to claim the crown in is known as The Anarchy. The other women are Eleanor of Aquitaine (wife of two kings, and ruler of Aquitaine in her own right), Isabella of France (daughter of a French King and married to an English one) and Margaret of Anjou (who ruled on behalf of her mad husband and key figure in the Wars of the Roses). It’s really, really interesting – and looks at some parts of history that don’t really get taught in schools in the UK.

This time last year I did a post about Interesting Women – do go and check that out for some more reviews, including Hidden Figures, but I also wanted to flag The Radium Girls which was in a Recommendsday post a couple of years back, and Janina Ramirez’s Femina which was in a Recommendsday last year

Happy Reading!


Book of the Week: Funny You Should Ask

It’s only a few weeks since I recommended Nora Goes Off Script, but I’m back with another romance that features a movie start – and I don’t care because it is so, so good. This is the book I was talking about yesterday when I talked about trying to cure a book hangover!

Ok, this plot is a little complicated – because the narrative is split between now and then. The then is the start of Chani Horowitz’s career. She’s graduated from her writing course, but instead of writing novels like her fiancé, she’s writing magazine articles. Then she’s asked to write a profile piece of Hollywood heartthrob Gabe Parker. He is her celebrity crush – and he’s just been cast as James Bond. The weekend she spends with him for the piece changes her life – it launches her career and also sets the tabloids buzzing. The now is ten years on. Chani is asked to revisit the subject of her most famous piece to do a second interview. After a decade being asked about that profile, and fresh from a divorce, Chani knows she should say no. But she has never forgotten that weekend – and it could be a chance to finally turn the page.

I loved this so much. So, so much. It’s got a long slow pine and so much yearning. And two people trying to figure out what is going on between them. There is a lot of drinking in the before part of the story – and the Gabe of the now section is fresh from rehab and newly sober. And unlike one of the books I read after this last week as I tried to get over my book hangover, you get to see that Gabe has grown and changed and is a different (and better) version of himself. And Chani is a great heroine. She’s smart and clever and fed up of her career being defined by one piece when she wants to do different things.

I bought this in my haul from Foyles earlier in the year – you can see it in the February Books Incoming – I started reading it in the shop and knew it was going to be good, which is why I’ve read it so soon (for me!). I finished it and immediately ordered Elissa Sussman’s next book which comes out later the year.

You should be able to get hold of this fairly easily – I’ve seen it all over the place since I bought it, and it’s in kindle and Kobo too. The only thing I couldn’t find was the audiobook on Audible but there does seem to be one on Goodreads so it may yet turn up.

Happy Reading!