Authors I love, Chick lit, cozy crime, crime, Fantasy, Series I love

Pick Me Up Books

It’s a funny old time at the moment isn’t it?  There’s so much news about – and lots of it is depressing for various reasons, that working in news for my day (and this week night) job* is getting a bit tough.  I’ve retreated into the world of Happy Endings.  Dystopian fiction is firmly off the menu, as is anything that might end on death, destruction or a down note.  This means I’ve been revisiting some old favourites again as well as reading loads of romance and cozy crime.  You’ll get some posts soon on the best of the new stuff – but I thought I’d also share some of my favourite old friends and Not New books.

Angela Thirkell

Angela Thirkell books from Virago
Aren’t they gorgeous? And there are more coming later in the year too.

Witty interwar comedies, mostly of manners, set in Barsetshire.  They’re a bit Mapp and Lucia (but with more sympathetic characters) and they remind me of the Diary of a Provincial Lady as well.  If you like the world of Golden Age crime, but don’t want the murders, then come take a look for a bit of wry social satire.  Virago are re-releasing them at the moment – and they’re gorgeous – but you should also be able to get them from a good second hand shop too.  You may remember I had Northbridge Rectory as a BotW a few weeks back, but as well as that one, if you liked Provincial Lady… start at the beginning of the series with High Rising, but if you loved boarding school stories, start with Summer Half and if you liked Downton, start with Pomfret Towers.

Charlaine Harris


Charlaine Harris books
The Charlaine Harris shelf, several series, mostly matching but with a few size issues!

Sookie Stackhouse, Harper Connelly, Lily Bard, Aurora Teagarden (a new book coming soon!) or Midnight, Texas, it doesn’t matter.  Yes they all have a body count, and you might lose a character you like from time to time.  But as escapist reading they’re pretty much all you could want.  Soapy melodrama with vampires (sometimes), small towns and kick-ass women (although Rue can be a bit wet at times).  Perfect for binge reading to take your mind off the real world.  After all there aren’t any vampires, werewolves or witches in the real world.

The Cazalet Chronicles

I had four matching copies. Then the fifth book arrived. And I got the hardback.

Retreat into the world of Home Place, the Brig and the Duchy, their children and grandchildren.  You meet them in 1937 and you can follow them through the Second World War and beyond across five books – until the grandchildren are grown up with families of their own.  There are so many characters and so many different stories that you can read 400 pages without out noticing.  Everyone has a favourite or two – mine are Rupert (from the children) and Polly and Clary (from the grandchildren).  I think my mum’s copies are so well thumbed that they fall open to my favourite sections about each of them – especially in Casting Off.  Glom on them on the beach if you’re on holiday, as I resist the temptation to rebuy a new matching set – you can get all 5 books for £6.99 from the Book People as I write this.

Vicky Bliss and Amelia Peabody

My kindle go-to at times like these is Elizabeth Peters’ Vicky Bliss and Amelia Peabody serieses.  I tried to pick one, but I couldn’t.  I mentioned both in passing in my Nightshift books post back in this blog’s early days and Amelia got a shout out in my Summer Reading post two years ago, but I was shocked I hadn’t given either a post of their own.  Amelia is a female Egyptologist in the late nineteenth century.  Vicky is an art historian in sort-of fairly recent times.  Both end up in thrilling adventures.  Amelia picks up a crew of regular side-kicks along the way including, but not limited to a husband, a son, a faithful site foreman and an arch-nemesis and Vicky just keeps running into this gentleman thief-con artist type.  Both remind me in some ways of a female Indiana Jones, but funnier.

And on top of all that, there’s Georgette Heyer, Janet Evanovich, Peter Wimsey and a few of my recent BotW picks that would serve the same purpose and cheer you up too – check out Little Shop of Lonely Hearts, The Rogue Not Taken, Sunset in Central Park and Fangirl.  Also, if in doubt, read Georgette Heyer – start with Venetia or Regency Buck. Coming soon: Summer Holiday reading recommendations…

*In case you missed it I’m a journalist in real life.


Book of the Week, Fantasy, new releases, reviews

Book of the Week: Day Shift

This week’s BotW is Charlaine Harris’ Day Shift – the second book in the Midnight, Texas series – which I think is going to be a trilogy (or that’s how it looks at the moment anyway).  And yes, I know Midnight Crossroad was Botw 2 months ago.  But this was the best thing I read last week excepting Janet Evanovich, and we’ve already had that discussion…

We pick up where we left off (almost) in Midnight – the same characters that are left at the end of the last book are still in situ, but there’s a strange (even for Midnight) boy who is staying with the Rev and a mysterious company has started renovating the abandoned hotel. This book is faster paced than it’s predecessor and works the better for it. Some of the characters in book one were hard to warm to because they were just *so* mysterious.  Well a lot of that is cleared up in book two – although there’s still a lot of unresolved plot strands at the end of the book.  And of course Day Shift has a mystery-of-the-week too – which is neat and intriguing – and works well alongside the Bigger Picture puzzle as well.

But what I really loved was the crossovers.  Oh the crossovers.  I mentioned in my review of Midnight Crossroad that there were some familiar faces from previous series, but in this one the guest appearances are brilliant.  I can’t say anymore (as per usual) or I’ll spoil it, but I was thrilled to see some more old friends reappear – I’m the sort of reader who doesn’t like to say goodbye to characters* and so crossovers like this, and side characters from previous books reappearing in bigger roles really makes me happy. I’ve got my fingers crossed for more in the last book!

And that’s pretty much all I can say without spoiling the plot and the excitement for you.  I honestly don’t know how well these would work for you if you were coming entirely new to Charlaine Harris’ worlds, but for me, I passed several happy hours reading this.

Day Shift is only in hardback and e-book at the moment, but you can get your copy from all the usual sources – here’s Day Shift at Amazon, Foyles, Waterstones and on Kindle. And if harback prices are too eye-watering for you, then Midnight Crossroad is available in paperback from Amazon, Foyles, Waterstones and Kindle.

* I’m always hoping for a sequel to rom coms to see the happily ever afters, but get really annoyed when sequels turn up where the couple break up and make up to create a plot.  Yes I know.  A book full of happy people wouldn’t be very interesting. What can I say. I’m a difficult audience.

Book of the Week, fiction, new releases, reviews, Uncategorized

Book of the Week: Midnight Crossroad

I really struggled to pick a favourite book from last week.  Not because I didn’t like anything, but there wasn’t one book I really wanted to shout about – except my book club book – and that’s not out til next month, so I’ll tell you about that when you can actually buy it!

In the end, I have settled on Charlaine Harris’s Midnight Crossroad – which I got through NetGalley*.  It’s the first book in her new series (I think it’s pegged at three books) – and her first post-Sookie creation.  I’ve now read all of the Southern Vampire series, all of the Harper Connelly series, all of the Lily Bard series – and three of the Aurora Teagardens** so I guess you could say that I’m a fan.  I find her books really easy to read, her world building ticks my boxes and although each series clearly does have a formula, they are original enough that they don’t seem like the same book with new names if you know what I mean.

So Midnight Crossing is the convergence of the supernatural world of Sookie – and the worlds that we’ve seen in her other series – and to me it seems to try to root them all firmly in the same universe – which is something I’ve always wondered about.  There are some familiar faces from the previous series – and I’ve had trouble writing this without giving you spoilers.

The residents of Midnight might look normal (mostly), but they’re all hiding something.  Manfred has just moved to town and is about to discover that still waters really do run deep.  Ummmm.  And that’s about all I can say without giving too much away.  The story has multiple points of view, which can be a bit confusing at first, but it does work to establish the different characters and set up the town from the inside out as well as Manfred looking in.  But that’s not to say that by the end of the book you’ll know all the answers.

It’s not perfect, it’s not the best thing I’ve ever read – but it really is a nice way of passing an afternoon, especially if you’ve read the previous series.  It’s not the same genre really as the True Blood books – but it’s closer to them than any of her other series are.

As I said, my copy came from NetGalley – in advance of the UK paperback release on April 9 – you can pre-order that from Amazon or Foyles.  I can hear you pointing out the contradiction in not having my Book Club book as BotW because it’s not out yet – and then reviewing this which isn’t out for another week, and to that I offer you the Kindle link (and for the US readers, the link because the paperback is already out there!) – although I’m sure the price will drop once the paperback comes out.  But you can get a sample now to see if you like it, while you can’t even get a sneak peak of my Book Club novel yet – it’s not out for three and a half weeks (or indeed the end of May in the US).  And it’s cruel to recommend something and make people wait that long!

* Having been reading the Dear Author palarva over the weekend, I’ve resolved to make sure I’m even more upfront about where my books come from – I already say on Goodreads if my copy was from NetGalley or similar, and I try to here, but I’m redoubling my efforts.  Transparency is key…

** I’ve bought book four after reading Midnight Crossing.  I suspect the second Omnibus is in my future…