Chick lit, cozy crime, crime, historical, holiday reading, romance

Summer Reading Recommendations 2016

So you’ve read my Comfort Reading Picks post, now you want the Beach Reads don’t you?  Well, here we go…

Eligible

Curtis Sittenfeld’s retelling/reworking of Pride and Prejudice is my top pick for the beach. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of this before it came out here in May and had to restrain myself from raving about it straight away.  It’s part of the Austen Project and it’s so clever.  Sittenfeld has taken P&P and rather than translating it direct to the current day, she’s thought about what the modern equivalent of the books situations might be.  So we have Lizzy the magazine writer brought home by her dad’s health scare,  Jane the Yoga Instructor, Bingley the Reality TV star (and doctor) and Darcy the neurosurgeon.  Kitty and Lydia are crossfit obsessed Paleo fans and Mrs B is a kleptomaniac desperate to marry off her nearly 40 year old oldest daughter. I thought it was brilliant – funny and smart and spot on.  I lent it straight to my mother – I wasn’t sure if she’d buy into the changes the way I did, but she loved it too.  Perfect beach reading – it’s a hardback, but I’m hoping there’ll be airport paperback copies too if you’re buying en route.  If not: Amazon, Waterstones, FoylesKindle, Kobo.

Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins

If you’ve been watching the ITV series, you may already have read James Runcie’s books about Grantchester’s vicar.  I prefer them to the TV version and I particularly like their episodic nature – each book has several mysteries, some (most) involving deaths and some which don’t.  As you work your way through the series you see Sidney grow and mature.  He’s 32 in the first one – which is set in the 1950s, and by the fourth one we’re into the 1960s.  I haven’t read book five yet – because it’s only out in paperback, but if you’re looking for a series to read while sitting in the garden enjoying the British summer, a visit to Grantchester might be an ideal option for you.  I think it would work best if you start at the beginning of the series, but the latest paperback (Forgiveness of Sins) should be fairly easy to find in the shops at the moment. Forgiveness of Sins: Amazon, Kindle, Foyles, Waterstones, Kobo.  Shadow of Death: Amazon, Kindle, Foyles, Waterstones, Kobo.

Fahrenheit Press

Ok, so this is a second crime recommendation – and a much broader one.  Go have a look at Fahrenheit Press’s catalogue.  There will definitely be something that you’ll like.  I’ve already picked Black Rubber Dress, Murder Quadrille and Death of a Nobody as Books of the Week, and I could have added others to that list.  I have their subscription – and I have several books waiting for me to read on my Kindle – including more Sam Jones which I’m saving for a holiday binge.  There’s thrillers, more cozies, historical and pretty much every other type of crime there, all with a slightly different perspective.  I defy you not to find a beach read there – and more are being added at a rate of knots.  They’ve only just started bringing out actual physical books – so the best way to find them is to search for Fahrenheit Press on Amazon – or check out their website.

The Highlander

This is about as close to an Old School Historical Romance novel as you get in new books these days – and does all the best bits of those late 80s and early 90s books, but without the rape and rapey bits I find so problematic.  This is not subtle.  It’s big, it’s melodramatic, it’s very Scottish.  I recommended The Highwayman last year – and this isn’t quite as good as that, but it is very good.  It has governesses and secret identities – which I like – but also an asylum (which I didn’t like and might be triggering for some) and a subplot with a brother which I didn’t like.  I know that sounds a bit less than enthusiastic from me – but it’s not – I kept turning the pages and I was engrossed.  Worth a look if you like your romances Gothic with brooding damaged Scottish heroes.  Amazon and Kindle are probably your best bet for this, as although Waterstones lists the two earlier titles in this series, it doesn’t have this one there yet.

So there you go.  My Summer reading suggestions.  Slightly later than planned (sorry) but hopefully still in time for the summer.  And if you’re still at a loss – I’ve stuck to books I haven’t recommended before, so don’t forget The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts, Sunset in Central Park, The Tumbling Turner Sisters and Jane Steele which would all be great to read on the beach.

books, Gift suggestions

Buy Me a book for Christmas: Gift Ideas

So, after gifts for him, her and children, for Part Four of my Christmas book recommendations, I’ve come to books I want for Christmas.  As you know I read a lot of books and have a big backlog anyway, but this is my wishlist.  Perhaps it’ll give you some more ideas for gifts – or maybe it’ll give you some ideas about what to ask other people to get you!

Fiction

I’m hoping to find some Deanna Raybourn in my stocking.  I’ve really enjoyed her Lady Julia Grey series, and I’m hoping that Santa will bring me some of her standalone books – which are more expensive over here as they’re US Imports – like Night of a Thousand Stars, City of Jasmine or A Spear of Summer Grass (which after months of being c£7 for Kindle has dropped to £2.99 at time of writing, but I now can’t buy because I might be getting it for Christmas!) or the first book in her new series A Curious Beginning.

Another American import on my Christmas list is The Lure of the Moonflower – the final book in Lauren Willig‘s Pink Carnation series.  I’m desperate to know what happens – I have the second last book sitting on my shelf ready to read, but I don’t dare start it because I know as soon as I read it I’ll want to read the last one *now* and then i’ll end up buying it before Christmas comes!

I’ve seen glowing reviews, but heard mixed word of mouth on Elena Ferrante‘s Neapolitan trilogy, so I’m curious to read them but can’t justify buying them myself with the to-read pile in its current state. So if anyone fancies buying me My Brilliant Friend, I’d really appreciate it!  I’m also after the last in the Tales of the City series – The Days of Anna Madrigal.

Regular readers will know of my love of detective stories and cozy crime, so I’d be delighted if the latest Grantchester novel from James Runcie turned up on Christmas Day – Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins is in a rather expensive US paperback edition or hardback (which would match the ones I already own better) at the moment.  I’d also be happy to find the next book (that I don’t own) in the Tasha Alexander‘s Lady Emily series (Dangerous to Know), or one of Catriona McPherson‘s Dandy Gilvers that I haven’t read (like …and the Reek of Herrings),

Non Fiction

I don’t tend to buy myself a lot of non fiction, what with the pile being so big and so much of it coming out in hardback first, so Christmas is a a really good opportunity for me to get a few things that I can’t justify buying with the to-read pile in its current state!

I mentioned in my Gifts for Her post that I’m not big on Roman history, but I do quite fancy Mary Beard‘s latest SPQR, but hardbacks do tend to linger on my shelf somewhat, so perhaps her Confronting the Classics might be a better choice and likewise fill in some gaps in my education.  Also on the history front, I really want to read Anita Anand’s Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, especially after seeing the documentary based on it on BBC One a few weeks back – which is still on iPlayer for a few more days.  I’m a big fan of Helen Rappaport‘s books (she’s a great speaker too) and I’d quite like her Four Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses, even though I usually find the Russian Revolution too unbearably depressing!

From this year’s crop of celebrity autobiographies and memoirs, my picks would be Sue PerkinsSpectacles and Drew Barrymore‘s Wildflowers or maybe Grace Jones‘s I’ll Never Write My Memoirs which is about an era which I’m fascinated by and was hoping that The Boy would ask for, but he hasn’t! She’s not a celebrity in the traditional sense, but I’m an occasional reader of The Bloggess and Jenny Lawson‘s second book Furiously Happy is on my want list – I’ve read the kindle preview and am really interested by it.  It’s only in hardback at the moment, but as I still haven’t got her first book, Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, I would be happy to receive that instead/as well!

Those who know me in real-life know that I don’t wear a lot of make-up. But despite this, I do watch a lot of YouTube make-up videos. And Lisa Eldridge is one of my favourites.  Consequently I’d really like her history of make-up Face Paint, but can’t justify buying it for myself. Hint. Hint.  At the quirky end of the book spectrum, I’ve got a fancy for How to Climb Mount Blanc in a Skirt, and either of Shaun Usher‘s Letters of Note books – the new one sounds fabulous

On the aspirational home front, I’d really like Marie Kondo‘s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying because I am a bit of a hoarder – even when it’s not books!  I’m sure The Boy would be delighted if I could find away of jettisoning some of my stuff happily, although obviously he’d be even happier if I could stop acquiring the clutter in the first place!

Miscellaneous

I know my reading habit can intimidate people and scare them off buying me books (in case I already have it or have read it) but I’m always delighted to get a book voucher – be it a National Book Token or a Kindle voucher and I try to spend them on something I consider a treat – like a nice hardback or an ebook that’s over my usual price limit.  After chortling over their Bad Sex Awards for years, I’ve been eyeing up a subscription to Literary Review but can’t really justify buying myself it!

What don’t I want?  No cookery books please (unless it’s a Mary Berry I don’t already have) as I still haven’t worked my way through everything I want to cook from the ones that I already have and the cookery book shelf is getting full.  Don’t buy me the Booker shortlist – I’ve got so much to read already, I’ll never get around to them – as my attempts to try and improve my award-nominated book hit rate show!

And finally, if you really want me to love you forever, you could pre-order me a copy of The Rogue Less Taken from Sarah MacLean – one of my favourite purveyors of smart, funny and sexy historical romance – and do it from her local Indie bookshop Word in Brooklyn, because I really want the US version (the UK one doesn’t match my collection, but I’ll link you to it anyway in case you want it for you), and Word will send it to me signed and with bonus goodies.  But even nightshift brain can’t really justify spending $22 shipping a $7.99 book to the UK.  Even if I did do it for Never Judge a Lady by her Cover last year – which is also not as nice in its UK edition, which is something I never though I’d say about an American edition of a romance book.  But if you do, let me know, because I may yet weaken and buy it anyway, and it would be stupid for two of us to do it….

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover
Finally something I can take a photo of! And US romance authors don’t really do UK signings!

So there you go, Books for Him, Books for Her, Books for Kids and Books for Me.  And still to come from me before the big day will be a round-up of Christmas-themed reading.  I know. I’m spoiling you.

Book of the Week, Chick lit, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: A Christmas Cracker

It will be absolutely no surprise to you regular readers that this week’s BotW is Trisha Ashley’s latest – A Christmas Cracker. You can see my previous musings on her work herehere and briefly here. I’m not usually a Christmas book in October kind of person (although I seem to have read a few of them already this year) but I’m always read to make an exception for Trisha.  Her books are totally my catnip.  Warm and humourous, with heroines on journeys and a variety of different types of heros.  Her heroines have usually made had problems in their love lives before – whether through picking Bad Men or through mistakes and misunderstandings.  I always think of them as second chance romances (as in slightly older people, and not their first love affair), but I know that the “proper” definition of that trope is the “we met when we were young but it didn’t work out, but now we’re trying again” type of story, although Trisha has written a couple of those and they’re really very good.

Why can I never get a good photo of a book with foil lettering on the cover?
The heroine of A Christmas Cracker is Tabby.  She’s ended up doing prison time for a crime she didn’t commit, her fiance has dumped her and given her cat away, one of her friends lied about her in court and her life is generally in tatters.  Then she gets a second chance from Mercy.  She’s been working in Africa for years, but has retired and come back to try and rescue the family cracker business, which is floundering.  She thinks that Tabby could be the breath of fresh air that it needs to save it from the chop.  But Mercy’s nephew Randall think’s Tabby is a con-woman and out for what she can get – he’s got his own plans for Marwood’s Christmas Crackers and he’s watching her like a hawk…

I’m hoping that you’ve read that and thought – “Gosh that sounds generally delightful and festive too” – and it really is (if you didn’t, I’m sorry – I haven’t done it justice).  Tabby is a wonderful and relatable heroine.  I was initially sceptical about a lead character who starts off the book in the clink, but I shouldn’t have doubted Trisha – it’s a masterstroke.  Trisha Ashley’s books have a long history of giving us quirky/fun older/elderly lady characters too (Great Aunt’s Hebe and Ottie in A Winter’s Tale, Mad Aunt Debo in Creature Comforts, I could go on) and Mercy is another great addition to the list – she’s a bundle of energy in light-up trainers who sees the best in everyone and will give hospitality to anyone.

Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about A Christmas Cracker – I got an e-copy via NetGalley – but I went out at the weekend to buy myself an actual copy as well.  And not just because I have all her other books in paperback (and most of them in ebook as well) and I have a thing about sets and completion, but because I wanted to read it again, in a proper book, so I can pick out my favourite scenes so I know where they are in the book so I can go back and read them again.

If you only read one Christmas book this year (or before December at any rate) make this it.  It should be everywhere – Tesco were selling it for a very special price of £2 at the weekend (so cheap that I almost wanted to go and buy it somewhere else in case it meant the author royalties would be smaller) and I’d expect it to be all over the place in the other supermarkets and bookshops.  If I’ve sold it to you as being so good that you can’t wait to go to a shop (and you wouldn’t be wrong), the Kindle and Kobo editions are £2.99 at time of writing. Prices aren’t quite as special for the paperback at the online retailers, but here are the Amazon, Waterstones and Foyles links just in case.

Authors I love, Book of the Week, Chick lit

Book of the Week: A Very Big House in the Country

As promised last week, here’s a link to my review of The Spider in the Corner of the Room on Novelicious.  I’ve read some more stuff for Novelicious this week – and you’ll see links to them in future BotW posts.  Now to business.  This week’s BotW is Claire Sandy’s latest A Very Big House in the Country.  I was so excited when this appeared in the post* – after all I raved about What Would Mary Berry Do? last summer.  You may have noticed that this was on the reading list for a couple of weeks – and that is because I forced myself not to gobble this up in one sitting.**

The Herreras, the Littles and the Browns are sharing a massive Devon mansion for two long hot weeks of the summer holidays.  There are secrets. There are romances. There’s something lurking in the bushes – and it may not just be the Herrera’s dog on the pull.  There’s step-sons, trophy wives, a glamourous (and possibly slutty) nanny and an outdoor pool.  And gallons of wine.  Tongues will loosen, inhibitions will fall away and people may get a little too honest.  When everyone packs up and heads out at the end of the summer will they all still be friends? And will everyone be going home in the same car they arrived in?

Ok.  I know, there’s not a lot of plot in that little summary, but I think it gives you a flavour of the book.  It’s warm, touching and funny, with a bit of a sarcastic edge.  The house may be luxurious, but the book is very down to earth. You’ll probably recognise things from your own families and group holidays in this.  Summer may be ending, but grab hold of its coattails and recapture the hot weather after a particularly wet bank holiday weekend with one last sun-lounger read.

  
This one is all up in the supermarkets – so you shouldn’t have any problems getting hold of it next time you happen to accidentally on purpose walk through the book aisle as you arrive in TescAsdWaitburys.  But in case you can’t wait, here’s an Amazon link and a Kindle one and a Foyles one.

 

* My copy was sent to me by the author – but as per usual, my reviews are honest and BotW goes to my favourite book I read the previous week and this. was. it.

** I’m currently doing the same thing with The Shepherd’s Crown, because once it’s gone there Is No More New Pratchett and I don’t want it to be over yet.

Book of the Week, books, reviews

Book of the Week: The Piano Man Project

I had a really hard time deciding what to pick for BotW this week.  Like really hard.  I read an awesome thriller – but it was for Novelicious so I can’t pick that, although I’ll try and remember to post a link here when that review goes up. I read some nice cozy crime and a bit of romance.  And then three really fun women’s fiction books which it was hard to chose between.  But I’ve gone for Kat French’s The Piano Man Project because sometimes you need a moody, troubled, Alpha hero – and Hal is a really good one.

  
Honeysuckle has a problem – and it’s not that her name is Honeysuckle.  She needs a man to fix a… problem that she’s encountering.  He needs to be good with his hands *wink wink*n- and so her friends decide a pianist may be the answer and start trying to set her up. But then there’s Honey’s new neighbour Hal – he’s anti-social, grumpy and troubled, but Honey keeps coming back to try and help.  On top of all this the old people’s home where Honey works is under threat and she’s got to do something to try and save it.

This is touching and funny and has a darker edge perhaps than my summary above might suggest (I’m not going into why because it would be too much of a spoiler).  It’s also a bit sexier than some of the other books you’ll find alongside it on the shelves.  Author Kat French has an alter-ego who writes erotica and she’s brought some of that to the table in this.  It’s not in 50 Shades territory, but it is a notch above what I’ve usually found in romantic comedies.

Honey does have a strong streak of trying to fix things/people which I guess might rub some readers up the wrong way, but I found her charming and caring and not a doormat.  And there are problems in this book that aren’t fixable no matter how hard she tries – and I liked that.  I found Hal a compelling hero – even though he’s hard work and demanding and doesn’t really appreciate Honey’s efforts on his behalf for a lot of the book.

The Piano Man Project was well in evidence in my local enormous supermarket this week – as you can see from the picture above – so it should be nice and easy to get hold of, but it’s also just 99p on Kindle at the moment so it’s a real bargain (Amazon have the paperback for £3.85 too which isn’t to shabby either).

Book of the Week, Chick lit

Book of the Week: The Cake Shop in the Garden

This week’s BotW is Carole Matthew’s latest – The Cake Shop in the Garden.  Last week was a heavy detective fiction week, and as my highest rated book on Goodreads was the second Peter Grant book and it’s only a couple of weeks since the first was my BotW, I thought a fun summer read should be my Book of the Week.

Fay runs a cake shop from her garden, next to the canal near Milton Keynes.  Her mum is difficult and cantankerous and her sister is thousands of miles away in New York, getting up to antics her mum isn’t meant to know about.  Then Danny Wilde arrives at the bottom of the garden on his boat and she starts to question her decisions.  When tragedy strikes, it looks like everything is going to change.  Will Fay have the courage to make the decision that’s right for her?

This is a fun, romantic summer read which is set not far from where I live (which I’ll admit added to the attraction of the book for me).  I thought it was well set up and the plot worked really well – with a few twists that I wasn’t expecting.  The only downside for me is that I found myself wanting to give Fay a shake sometimes and tell her to man up and stand up for herself.  But I know that that’s easier said than done, particularly in the situation that she found herself in.  I was happy with the resolution – although I was worried for a while that I wasn’t going to get the ending that I wanted.

So, another week, another great book for your holiday*.  OK the Costa del Keynes (as Matthews calls it) isn’t quite as hot as a beach in the Med, but I think this might be the perfect for a staycation in the UK – I can see people reading this on canalboat holidays or on the beach in Devon.  It’s not my favourite of Matthews books – that title still belongs to Welcome to the Real World – but this is a good page-turner.

The Cake Shop in the Garden should be fairly easy to get hold of – the paperback came out in April** – but here are some links to Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, Kindle and Kobo incase you can’t wait to go to a real shop.

* I promise the summer reads post is coming. Soon.  Before August starts.  There’s just a couple more books I want to read first…

**My copy came from NetGalley to coincide with that, but as usual, I’m behind on the NetGalley list.  Also, insert usual honest review disclaimer here.

Authors I love, Book of the Week, Chick lit, reviews

Book of the Week: The Day We Disappeared

So this week’s BotW is Lucy Robinson’s latest – The Day We Disappeared.  And this is likely to be quite a short post because I’m terrified of saying too much about this.  You may remember Lucy Robinson from previous posts – about The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me which was one of my books of the year in 2014.

The Day We Disappeared tells the stories of Annie and Kate.  Annie has a secret and it’s caused her a lot of problems – but now there’s someone who wants to fix her.  Kate is running away and she’s not going to tell you why – because that would defeat the object the reinvention that she’s trying to pull off.  And there are undercurrents.  Lots of undercurrents – of different types – and there are complications.

And that’s all I dare say.  Which isn’t much more than the back of the book says.  But that’s because to tell you more would Give Too Much Away and Ruin It All.  And Lucy Robinson’s clearly worked really hard in writing this not to do that and I don’t want to spoil it.  Because this book blew me away – in a really good way.  As you can tell, I loved Unfinished Symphony, and I think I like this more – even if there isn’t a side-kick as funny as Barry.  This is a bit different though.  The last book had me in tears – of both types, whereas this one had me holding my breath and totally gripped.  I did laugh and I nearly cried, but there’s so much suspense and tension in this as well that wasn’t in the last one.

It did take me a while to read this – but that’s mostly because I was worried about ending up in tears in public again.  Crying on the train is so embarrassing. To be honest, my only problem with this book is that the cover does not match the rest of Lucy Robinson’s books – which is more about my issues with matching books than anything else.  And I read this on my e-reader. So it’s not really a problem at all until I buy a paperback version for completeness…

My copy came from NetGalley* (yes, I know, I’m behind again) but you can get yours from all over the place – like Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, Kindle (for a bargain £1.79 at time of writing), Kobo and hopefully the supermarkets too.  It’d be a great book to take on holiday,** as long as you don’t have any pressing plans to do anything other than reading it because you’ll be glued to your sun lounger!

*With the usual provisos – honest review, only write about stuff on here I do genuinely love etc.

** Yes I know, I promised a holiday reads post.  It is coming. It really is. I’ve even started working out what I’m going to include.  But there are a few more books that I need to read before I can be sure I’ve covered all bases.