Authors I love, books, cozy crime, historical, Series I love

My Big Obsessions of 2015: Revisited

As we all know, I am the bingiest of binge readers, so before I post my 2016 obsessions post, I thought it might be fun to revisit my obsessions from last year to see if I’m fickle and flighty, or true to my obsessions before you point and laugh at all the ways I’ve been derailing my efforts to shrink the to-read pile this year!  NB links to series are to Goodreads and links to individual titles are to Amazon as I’ll be here all week if I link to all the different sellers and Goodreads will give you links through to retailers via the individual book pages that way.

Janet Evanovich

So after binging on Evanovich last year, the pace has slowed somewhat in 2016.  From 30 books last year, to 6 this year.  And that’s not because I’ve gone off her – just that I’m running out of books to read.  I’m up to date in the Lizzie and Diesel and Fox and O’Hare series, I’ve read another of her backlist romances and the first book in the new series (didn’t like it sadly, but it’s the first real big failure I’ve had from her).  I’ve only read one more Stephanie Plum, although I have book 20 waiting on the pile, so I’m still a few behind in that, but that’s because I’m waiting for the prices to drop/paperbacks to appear.

Deanna Raybourn

I’ve been very good at rationing myself with Deanna Raybourn this year.  She doesn’t turn out as many books as Janet Evanovich (who does?!) so I’m very aware that if I’m not careful I’ll find myself with a long wait to read more from her.  I’ve now read all of the Lady Julia books and novellas, but I still have a couple of  her standalone books waiting for me to read.  I loved the first Veronica Speedwell (A Curious Beginning) – and have managed to get the second one, A Perilous Undertaking, from NetGalley – it’s out in January so I’ve just started reading it in the last week as a post-Christmas treat to myself for being back at work.  Now you may remember that this time last year I did a bit of bulk Raybourn purchasing because the prices had dropped – and I’m delighted to report that at time of writing the same things seems to have happened again – and you can pick up the first Lady Julia, Silent in the Grave, for 99p and none of the others cost more than £2.99. A Spear of Summer Grass has also dropped in price – making it cheaper than when I bought it last year gnash – and most of the others are cheaper too.  Tell you what, I’ll just leave the link to her Amazon kindle title list here.

Historical Romance

So, after spending 2015 searching out new historical romance authors, this year I have tended to stick with authors I’ve already read, with a few exceptions.  I also think that although I’ve read about the same amount of romances over the year, I’ve read more contemporary romances and less historicals, partly because of all the bingeing on historicals meaning that I’ve run out of cheap backlist titles and unless I can get them through NetGalley the new releases are more expensive on Kindle than I’m prepared to pay for a book that is only going to take me a few hours to read, so I wait until they go on offer/second hand prices sort themselves out.  I also think I’ve got pickier about the tropes that I’m prepared to read.  So unless it’s an author that I know I usually like, I tend to avoid Highland romances, pirates, amnesia, accidental pregnancies, secret babies, tortured heroes and heroines and to a lesser extent reunited romances (it depends what it was that split them up first time around) in historicals – and in contemporaries too, although you don’t get a lot of pirate or highland contemporaries – and going straight for my catnip: disguises, enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, marriages of convenience, rakes, guardians/wards (a la Regency Buck, not creepy old men and young girls obviously) and fake engagements.

Cozy Crime

I said last year that I felt more cozy crime reading coming on in 2016 and I was right.  I have read *so* much cozy crime this year.  So much.  I’ve worked my way through various of Henery Press’s offerings on NetGalley, carried on with Jenn McKinlay‘s series (when prices allowed), tried various crafting-based cozies and quite a few with journalists as main characters (some successful, some less so), some with vicars, a few with police as main characters (more unusual in the genre than you’d think), wondered how many bodies need to turn up outside a cafe/bakery to make the business unviable and even dipped my toe into paranormal/ghostly cozy crimes.  I still have the rule about how much I’ll spend on them (which is pretty much the same as with historical romances) so I’ve read a lot of first in series (which tend to be cheap/free) and then added the rest to my ever-growing Amazon list to wait for the prices to drop on the sequels.  I’m still working out which sort of plots work best for me, but I reckon by the end of 2017 I should have got it sussed.

Historical Crime

As with 2015 I’m still searching for those elusive books that will scratch my Daisy Dalrymple/Phryne Fisher itch.  We haven’t had a new Phryne for 3 years now and I’m starting to wonder if we’ll ever get any more (the TV series is Not The Same) which fills my heart with dread, so I’ve read pretty much all of Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman books this year (I read one in 2015 when I happened up it at the library) to try and cheer myself up but as they’re set in modern day Melbourne they are really quite different.  I’m pretty much up to date with Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series now thanks to a string of them popping up at The Works, and the latest Sidney Chambers appeared on the shelf of books at work too although I find that they’re a bit out of my favourite time period now they’ve hit the 1960s.  I’ve filled in pretty much all the gaps in Flavia de Luce and Dandy Gilver now so I’ve had to cast my net further.  The results have been somewhat mixed.  I like Ashley Weaver’s Amory Ames series, but the third book has only just come out, so there aren’t enough of them and Frances Brody’s Kate Shackleton series has grown on me.  I’m still searching for another good 1920s or 1930s-set murder mystery series now I’ve exhausted all the obvious options.  I’ve read one of Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series and have another on the pile so it’s too early to tell if I like them, but if I do, Bowen’s Molly Murphy series might be my next stop.  Luckily, I was sent some of Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion series that I hadn’t already read to read and review (on Amazon) so I’ve filled my historical crime gap with some actual genuine Golden Age crime instead.

So there you have it – a look back at last year’s obsessions and an insight into what happens after you’ve binged on an author and can’t get your fix.  Any suggestions for historical romance, cozy crime or historical crime books or series that I might like are gratefully received.

Coming tomorrow: My 2016 obsessions…

 

Authors I love, books, cozy crime, historical, Series I love

My Big Obsessions of 2015

As you may have noticed, I am a total binge reader when I discover an author I like and promptly buy up their back catalogue (or borrow it from the library) to fulfill my desperate craving for another fix.  This does not help the state of the to-read pile or my bank balance and can make me look a little unhinged.  So here – for your amusement – are my big obsessions of 2015 and a few examples of the ridiculous lengths I’ve gone to…

Janet Evanovich

Can it really be true that I only read my first Janet Evanovich novel in April?  Goodreads assures me that it is so and thus it must be.  Since my first taste (Wicked Business), I’ve read 18 Stephanie Plums – and all four between the numbers fill-ins, the other two Wicked books, two Full books, two Fox and O’Hares and a standalone romance. So that’s 30 Janet Evanovich novels in less than nine months.  This is why people think I’ve got a bit of a book problem.

Janet Evanovich books
I’ve read so much Janet Evanovich this year, I’ve a whole shelf of her books – non-matching of course!

Deanna Raybourn

I read Silent in the Grave back in January – and since then I’ve read three more of the Lady Julia series – with a fourth waiting for me on the shelf.  And the only reason that that has been waiting is because the price of the next one has been so expensive.  And ditto her standalone novels.  But in a piece of glorious serendipity, they’re all on offer on Amazon Kindle at the moment – so last night I spent just under £20 on 8 (!) books and novellas – buying up the rest of Lady Julia, the first Veronica Speedwell and two standalones and their prequel novellas.  Now that is what I call obsession…

Deanna Raybourn books
Only four of my Deanna Raybourn’s are here – Silent in the Grave is on loan to Little Sis!

 

 

Historical Romance

My love of historical romance has continued this year.  In fact it’s turned into more of a quest – to find more authors who write my favourite sort of smart, witty, sexy romance novels.  Because this is the problem with being a binge reader.  You find someone that you like, you binge on their back catalogue and then you have to start following their publishing schedule like everyone else does – so you might have to wait a year before you can get another fix from them.  So you need another author to read. In 2015 I’ve read some really good, some really bad and a lot of in between. Among the good were Sabrina Jeffries, Kerrigan Byrne, Johanna Shupe and Courtney Milan.  I’m not going to mention the bad!  There’s loads more I want to read – listening to the DBSA podcast each week will do that to you – but the prices of those sort of American-published romances are often really quite high over here – and fall into the same buying rules as the cozy crimes. So often I play roulette with NetGalley – requesting new releases there and hoping I like them.  Sometimes it pays off – the aforementioned Byrne and Shupe for example – and sometimes it doesn’t…

Cozy Crime

I’ve always had a soft spot for the “lighter” end of the crime market, but I’ve really been rattling through various cozy murder mysteries this year.  I’m still reading Donna Andrews (three of them this year) – but now I’m closer to the end of the series the books have got more expensive to buy and I have rules about what I’ll spend on a book that will only take me a couple of hours to read.  So as a consequence my net has spread wider.  Jenn McKinlay’s become firm favourite and there’s a bunch of other series I’ve dipped into too (again thanks to NetGalley) – to varying success.  I feel more coming on in 2016.

Cozy crime books
All my Donna Andrews bar one are out on loan, but the McKinlay collection is growing!

 

Historical Crime

This is often the meeting of two of my other obsessions – Cozy crime and Historical romance.  The Daisy Dalrymple and Phryne Fisher series were two of my discoveries of 2014 – and now I’ve read all of them, I’ve been searching for more – and not just those set in the 1920s and 1930s.  That’s how I discovered Deanna Raybourn and started that obsession.  But as well as Lady Julia, there’s Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily and James Runcie’s Sidney Chambers. And then there’s the ones which are more crime-y and less romance – like Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver, Carola Dunn’s Eleanor Trewynn.  And no romance at all – like Flavia de Luce (because she’s a child!). So many good books.

Historical crime books
I thought the light shining behind them was a nice touch…

So there you are.  My five big obsessions of the year. Of course some would argue that books in general are my biggest obsession of them all. And they’d be right.  There’s nothing like sitting down with a book and being transported to another world to make life seem better.  You can live so many different lives and visit so many different places by reading a book.  And then there’s the friends that you can make – real people I mean – because of books and the book community.  The ones that you chat to on Twitter, the ones you meet at author events and who turn into proper friends and everything in between.  Long may my book obsession continue.

Happy 2016 everyone – and thank you for reading my bookish wafflings. I hope you’ve enjoyed them – and I’m sure that there’s more where they came from.

books, cozy crime, reviews

Cozy Crime Round-up

If you were to make a study of my reading material, you would find that one of the genres that crops up the most is so-called “Cozy Crime”.  I love me a murder mystery, but I don’t like too much gore, psychological stuff, horror etc.  Basically what I’m saying is that I’m a golden age detective story fan and that’s the level of violence that I’m happy with.  So here’s a few of my recent reads from cozy end of the genre.

Mrs Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death by Mark Reutlinger – I read this in the book marathon on holiday in October, but have waited until now to review it because it is out on the 18th (thank you NetGalley for my super-advance copy!).  Rose Kaplan is a resident at an old people’s home who suspected of a murder after a fellow resident chokes to death on a Matzoh ball made by Mrs K for the Passover seder.  Rose and her best friend Ida decide to investigate who really was responsible.  I loved this book when I read it on the beach.  It’s not challenging reading, it’s not reinventing the wheel, but it is a nice way to spend a few hours – it feels like an American cross between Agatha Raisin and Miss Marple.  Definitely worth a look.

Also out in the next couple of weeks is Death Comes to London by Catherine Lloyd.  Now this is the second in a series – but I don’t think it’s going to ruin your enjoyment if you haven’t read the first one.  In Death Comes to London, Miss Lucy Harrington and her sister Anna make a trip to London for The Season and their friend from the village Major Robert Kurland is also summoned to town.  When the grandmother of one of Robert’s friends drops dead in a ballroom, Lucy and Robert end up investigating what could have caused her deaths.  I really enjoyed this during some of my nightshift commutes – it reminded me of the better end of the M C Beaton/Marion Chesney Regency mysteries.  In fact I’ve already treated myself to the first in the series to help fill the gap before the next book arrives!

Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay – Having enjoyed McKinlay’s Death of a Mad Hatter earlier in the year (review) I ordered the first in her Library Lovers series to see if it was a flash in the pan.  Lindsay is the director of Briar Creek Public Library – and ends up trying to solve a murder after one of her employees is accused of killing her boyfriend.  I didn’t see all the twists coming and I liked the characters.  It felt a little bit like a younger Jessica Fletcher-who-runs-a-library-and-solves-murders.  And when you’ve wiled away as many afternoons to Murder, She Wrote repeats as I have, that can only be a good thing.

Breaking my usual rules about only reading series in order, on a trip to the library recently I picked up book 6 of Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver series – Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder.  I quite enjoyed the first in the series, but hadn’t read any more because of the huge to-read pile and because they broke my rules on how much I’ll spend on an ebook (I have them on my wish list so I check periodically if they’re on offer!).  I liked this book more than book 1 and although I’m fairly sure there are a few plot developments that I’ve missed it didn’t impair my enjoyment of the book.  I didn’t work out the solution – which I had to read several times to get straight in my head, although whether that is because the cast of characters was huge, because the solution was complicated or because I’d had a couple of glasses of wine, I’m not sure!

Not really cozy crime per se, but I read E C Bentley’s Trent’s Last Case – which popped up in my Goodreads recommendations as being the forerunner of Sayers et al.  It’s an Edwardian set murder mystery where an investigator working for a newspaper tries to work out who killed a wealthy financier.  Now I didn’t enjoy it as much as my normal Golden Age fare, but I did enjoy it mostly to see the parallels between the later books which I love so much.  One to read more because of its influence and its reputation rather than because it stands up brilliantly in my opinion.

 

American imports, cozy crime, new releases, reviews

Book Review: Death of a Mad Hatter

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway (I know! Two giveaway reviews in a week! This doesn’t usually happen – I’ve only won three giveaways ever!) but that doesn’t influence what I write.

Back on more familiar territory for me here, with a fun murder mystery story from American author Jenn McKinlay.   Death of a Mad Hatter is the second book in the Hat Shop Murder series (and is the first book I’ve read by this author) and centres around American Scarlett Parker and her cousin Vivian Tremont, who run a hat shop in London.  As usual I’m trying to avoid spoilers in my synopsis, and I can’t say too much about the set up without giving away the plot of the first book (or at least I think I can’t!), so here goes: In Death of a Mad Hatter, an unpleasant man dies at a themed party which the girls have provided the hats for.  When a trace of poison is found in the hat, the girls get involved in trying to track down who was really responsible.

Death of a Mad Hatter
I love it when you get some extras with a book!

This is a cozy murder mystery with a fun premise and an ingenious solution.  The plot is well worked out, the dialogue snappy, the humour works and the characters are engaging.  I was never bored and always wanted to know what was going to happen next.  In fact the book almost seemed to wrap up too soon – although that’s not to say that the denouement was in anyway rushed, I just couldn’t believe that the book was nearly over (which is always a good sign). I read the book in a day and enjoyed it.

For me it ticks similar boxes as Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series, although this series is obviously set in the UK.  And therein was my only problem with it – as a Brit there were a few things that jarred for me as being just not “right”.  Now I know that this book is written for the US market – and in fact I don’t think it has been picked up by a publisher over here – so for the vast majority of people reading it, this won’t be an issue.  Mainly the problems came with things that the British characters said that weren’t “right” – although as we have the NHS here the idea of a British family having a event to raise money to build a new wing at a hospital struck me as a bit odd – but hey, it could happen, after all Great Ormond Street Hospital’s charity is probably one of the most famous charities in the country!

Now this is me being really very nit-picking – because the “wrong” moments were my only problem with the whole book and it’s really a very minor issue in the grand scheme of things, because in the main the British characters and British bits were so well done that the bits that weren’t “right” bit surprised me!  And I’ll still be looking out for more from Jenn McKinlay – from the cards and bookmarks that came with my copy I think her other series may be right up my street too!

Death of a Mad Hatter is presumably available all good bookshops and book retailers who stock Mass Market paperbacks in the US and over here in the UK you can get it from Foyles and Amazon (and presumably anyone else who’ll order in from the US). Jenn McKinlay’s website is jennmckinlay.com, she can be found on twitter as @JennMcKinlay and on Facebook