Best of..., book round-ups

Books of the Year: New Fiction

We’re hurtling towards the end of the year, and so it’s time for my annual lookback at what I read this year and for me to try and pick my favourite things. Today we’re looking at the new release fiction that I’ve loved this year. And trust me when I say it’s been tough! And it doesn’t happen often, but for once some of the books that I loved have made it onto a bunch of best books of the year lists. Oh and I should add that this only looks at standalone books and not later instalments in series.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin*

Cover of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

I’ve already recommended Gabrielle Zevin’s novel to a bunch of people – and it’s been named Amazon’s Book of the Year, as well as being voted Fiction book of the year in Goodreads Choice Awards as well as Book of the Month’s favourite of the year in their vote and it’s on The Atlantic’s Most Thought-Provoking Books of the Year too. It’s a hard one to describe – even Zevins says she struggles! – although I did give it a go in my BotW review but it’s a story about friendships and opportunities missed and love all set in the world of computer games development. I think there’s something here for most people, even if they’re not expecting it. It’s being turned into a movie – so read it now and be ahead of the game!

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Cover of Lessons in Chemistry

And another of my favourites that other people are picking too is Bonnie Garmus’ novel about Elizabeth Zott. It also won a prize at the Goodreads Choice awards – this time best debut, but it’s also on the Good Housekeeping list, and she’s also Waterstones’ Author of the Year. Elizabeth is a chemist turned TV chef who uses her platform to try and improve women’s lives, all while bringing up her daughter alone. I read this the same week that I read The Unsinkable Greta James (see below) – so this ended up in Quick Reviews rather than as a BotW – but it was in my best books of the first half of the year – and I’ve kept recommending it since, but do please bear in mind the warning for sexual violence and death early in the book. This one is also getting an adaptation this time into a series – Brie Larson is starring in it and it’s going to be on Apple TV+ next year apparently.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry*

Cover of Book Lovers

I’ve actually done quite well in the Goodreads Choice awards this year – because Book Lovers won Best Romance – beating out TikTok favourite Colleen Hoover, even if you add her two nominated books together! This is big city literary agent in a small town for the summer where she discovers a professional enemy is also in residence. It’s a delight – I love enemies to lovers romances as you know and add a twist on the small town trope and it’s just a delight.

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E Smith

Unsinkable Greta James

Now this got a whole lot less attention than the picks above, which is a shame because I adored it. I picked it as a BotW over Lessons in Chemistry partly because it was lesser known, and it really annoys me that more people haven’t heard about it. Greta is an indie popstar with a problem – she has writers block after her mother’s death and a meltdown on stage. She finds herself accompanying her father on the Alaskan Cruise that he was meant to be taking with her mum and things happen. It’s wonderful if sad at times, but the ending is perfect.

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn

Killers of a Certain Age

Now this was nominated for Best Crime and Thriller in the Goodreads Choice, but lost out to Nita Prose’ The Maid, which I read at the start of the year and enjoyed, but I think this is more fun. It’s about a group of women who have spent their lives working for an elite agency of assassins, but upon retiring find that they are now the targets. If you like Raybourn’s historical mystery series, you’ll like this. And if you’ve read the Richard Osman Thursday Murder Club books and are looking for something sort-of similar (The Bullet that Missed was also nominated in the same category) this might well scratch that itch.

That’s my five fiction picks. Honourable mentions should go to Carrie Soto is Back – which won the Historical fiction prize in Goodreaders choice (beating Lessons in Chemistry) – Thank You for Listening, Mad About You and Something Wilder.

detective, new releases

Out today: New Rivers of London!

And I’ve already got my copy of Amongst Our Weapons in my grubby little hands as you can seee! I told you that I’d got a signed copy pre-ordered from Big Green Books – and they appear to have some of them left if you’re in the market. As it’s the ninth book in the series, it’d be breaking all my rules if it ends up being a Book of the Week – but I’m not ruling it out, although if previous books are anything to go by, you really need to have read at least some of the others to get the most out of. So instead, I’m going to remind you that I have a Series I Love post about them from two years ago from not long after the False Value came out.

Book of the Week, Children's books, detective

Book of the Week: The London Eye Mystery

This week’s BotW is Siobhan Dowd’s The London Eye Mystery, which I devoured* last week.  This has been on my radar for a while – I read A Monster Calls (Dowd’s concept but written by Patrick Ness) last year before the movie came out and thought I’d like to read more of Dowd’s work and then one of my favourite middle-grade authors Robin Stevens (you’ve all seen how much I’ve written about Wells and Wong before) was announced as writing a sequel to The London Eye Mystery.  That came out last month, so of course I needed to read the first one before reading the second one.  You know me: read series in order, glom on stuff you like, read everything authors you like have ever written.

A copy of The London Eye Mystery
I love the cover of this – and The Guggenheim Mystery has a great one too

Anyway, to the plot: Ted and his big sister Kat take their cousin Salim to the London Eye when he comes to visit them.  They watch him get into the pod and then they watch the pod go around and wait for him to get off.  But he doesn’t get off when they expect him to.  Or from the next pod.  Or the next one.  He’s vanished.  But how does someone vanish from a closed pod on a giant rotating wheel?  The police start looking, but so do Ted and Kat, and it’s not long before they’re following a trail of clues across London to try and work out what happened to Salim.

This is a clever, well-written locked room mystery: all the clues are there for the reader to be able to work out what happened to Salim, if only they can spot them.  But spotting them is not as easy as you think because Ted’s his brain works differently.  Ted says he has a “syndrome” and although it’s never said what it is, it’s clearly a disorder on the autism spectrum, possibly Asperger’s.  Ted has developed his own operating system – with tips and tricks to navigate the difficulties his syndrome causes him.  And he is very adept at dealing with the challenges of social interactions and situations.  But this does still mean that the reader isn’t always getting the whole picture.  Ted notices somethings that other people don’t – but he also doesn’t see somethings that other people would and this adds to the experience for the reader.

I pretty much figured things out at the same time as Ted did – which is great as I read a lot of mysteries and this is a middle-grade mystery and I’m definitely not a middle grader.  In fact I’m old enough to have my own middle grader and not have been a teen mum.  So depressing.  Anyway, I digress.  I loved the London Eye Mystery, will probably be lending this to my niece-in-law and will definitely be bumping the sort-of-sequel The Guggenheim Mystery to the top of my to-buy list.  Although I might wait for the paperback.

You should be able to get hold of the London Eye Mystery from all good bookshops.  My favourite is The Big Green Bookshop who will order it for you and post it out to you because they’re nice like that.  Or you could get it on Kindle or Kobo.  And I’m sure this won’t be the last time that I mention the Guggenheim Mystery here…

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

*I started it the week before, but only really got a good run at it at the weekend and basically read it in one big gulp.

Book of the Week, cozy crime, detective

Book of the Week: Picture Miss Seeton

A shorter BotW post this week, because you’ve already had three great books from my reading last week in my Summer Reading post! But I finished Picture Miss Seeton on Sunday afternoon and wanted to give it a mention.

I do love a stylised cover. As long as you can get a matching set!

A retired art teacher, Miss Seeton witnesses a murder after leaving a performance of Carmen. Despite only getting a shadowy view of the killer, she manages to draw a picture that enables Scotland Yard to identify him. Soon she’s facing peril in the rural cottage she’s just inherited, where the villagers are also taking an interest in the new arrival.

This really scratched my itch for cozy crime with added humour. Miss Seeton is a wonderful send up of elderly lady detectives. She’s impossible to shock, utterly unflappable and practises yoga in her free time. She’s always one step ahead of the police and always manages to be in the right place at the right time to pick up the vital clue. I found the switching points of view occasionally a bit jarring or confusing, but I forgave it because I was having so much fun reading about Miss S’s adventures. It was a perfect book to read while recovering from nightshifts.

I’m fairly sure I’ve seen some Miss Seeton’s at the library (or maybe in the discount bookshop) so I suspect I may be reading more of her adventures in the near future. Picture Miss Seeton is available on Kindle and Kobo and should be available (probably to order) from all the usual sources.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, fiction, mystery

Book of the Week: Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars

I had such a tough job picking a book for BotW this week, because I really didn’t read anything that I whole-heartedly loved.  I started reading a lot of books and then gave up on them, and I finished a few – including a real stinker.  But in the end I plumped for Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson.

Cover of Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars.
As I mention below, Im not quite sure the cover for this is quite right.

Anna Treadway is a dresser, working in a London theatre and living above a Turkish cafe in Soho in 1965.  When the actress who she works with disappears, she sets out to try and find her as the trail grows cold and the newspapers lose interest.   As she hunts for the mysterious Iolanthe Green she finds herself in new world of jazz clubs, police cells and backstreet doctors.

Whilst this wasn’t perfect, it was an interesting idea and a great cast of diverse characters. It’s got an interesting mystery that’s well thought through and several different plot strands which tie together quite nicely.  Underneath the mystery of where Iolanthe has gone there are issues of prejudice and race and people struggling to be heard and believed. From the look of the (UK) cover and some of the write ups I was expecting it to be ultimately more uplifting, but perhaps given the issues that it’s dealing with, I was being unrealistic.

This is Miranda Emmerson’s first novel and it does a great job of creating the atmosphere of 1960s London and the grimier side of life.  In fact that was what I liked best about it – the mix of people thrown together, some times living side by side without ever intersecting.  I think I would have liked more of Anna’s backstory and I wanted a bit more of what happened next at the end, but I pretty much always want more of what happened next at the end!

My copy came via NetGalley, but you can get Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars from Amazon, Foyles and Waterstones or on Kindle and Kobo.  It only came out a couple of weeks back so it’s hardcover and the ebooks are priced accordingly too I’m afraid.  The paperback is out in July, so it may drop a little then, if you want to add it to your wishlist and wait it out.

Happy Reading.

Book of the Week, crime, new releases

Book of the Week: The White Cottage Mystery

We’re back in classic crime territory for the week’s BotW – although it’s a bit of a cheat as this is a reissue of whole book – Margery Allingham’s The White Cottage Mystery – but it is excellent and it gives me a great chance to talk about an author who I think is a bit neglected.

This is a tricksy and intriguing standalone mystery which sees a policeman and his son trying to solve the murder of a particularly nasty neighbour. Jerry happens upon the scene of the crime and soon has his Scotland Yard detective father involved.  This was originally a serialised book (just like some of Harriet Vane’s novels in my beloved Peter Wimsey) and you can really tell from the pacing and multiple cliffhangers. There is a clever drip feed of clues which method you turning the pages, and although I had suspicions about the culprit, it wasn’t until quite late on that I worked it all out.

This was my first non-Campion Allingham and it didn’t disappoint. I usually prefer my detective books to be part of a series (I prefer Miss Marple and Poirot to Christie’s other books) but this was a pleasant surprise. But then it’s not that different in style to the Campion series, you could almost swap the leads for Albert and his son and it would nearly work (except that Albert is not a cop) and that totally works for me! In case you haven’t met Allingham’s most famous creation,  Albert Campion is the younger scion of a noble family, who uses an assumed name and solves mysteries with the help of his faithful manservant and police officer friend. Sound familiar? Well that’s because it supposedly started as a Lord Peter Wimsey parody, but developed into much, much more (an BBC ran for much longer). Albert’s Bunter equivalent is a reformed (ish) criminal and Campion end up being much older than Peter.  They’re also more adventure stories than detective, most of the time you don’t have a chance of working out the solution to Campion’s cases but they’re such great fun you don’t care.

I discovered Margery Allingham when I was living in Essex – where she still had a large presence in their libraries as a local author, even though she’d been dead 40 years at that point. I devoured as many of them as I could lay my hands on, and although the series has its ups and downs, I defy you not to like them if you’re a fan of Wimsey, Marple and Poirot or even adventure stories like Amelia Peabody or Vicky Bliss. It’s not the first one, but start with Sweet Danger and I defy you not to get hooked.

My copy of The White Cottage Mystery can via NetGalley, but you can buy it in paperback from Amazon, Foyles and Waterstones  or on Kindle. You should also be able to find new or secondhand copies of Albert Campion too.   Don’t blame me for the spending spree that will ensue though…