Book of the Week, Children's books, children's books, new releases

Book of the Week: Mistletoe and Murder

I know, you all looked at my list of books I read last week and just knew that this was going to be my pick for BotW didn’t you?  So sue me.  Today feels momentous and a little terrifying with what is going on in the world, and what better way to take your mind off what may or may not be about to occur than a charming children’s novel about school girls solving mysteries.

Mistletoe and Murder
A Christmas book in early November? Bite me.

Long standing readers will be familiar with my love of Robin Stevens’ Wells and Wong series (see here, here, here and here) and Mistletoe and Murder (which incidentally shares its name with a Daisy Dalrymple mystery which is also very good) is the fifth installment in the series and sees the girls spending their Christmas holidays at Cambridge visiting Daisy’s brother.  But of course the girls can’t help but run into an investigation – this time in competition with their rivals at the Junior Pinkertons.  But soon suspicious accidents have turned deadly and the girls are in a race against time to figure out who did it and why.

I’ve said before that these books are the perfect blend of Agatha Christie and St Clares stories and I stand by that – they’re brilliant and inventive and I wish they’d been around when I was the “right” age.  I practically gobbled this up in one sitting, which was a mistake  because I’d already read the Halloween short story and now I have to wait months and months and months for the next one.  This would make the perfect Christmas book for the young reader in your family – or the big kid if you’re like me.  It’s the perfect escape from the trials and tribulations of the grown-up world.


But if you’re not into middle grade fiction (more fool you) and still want some escapism, I can also heartily recommend Gail Carriger’s latest novella – Romancing the Inventor – in which we see one of the most beloved side characters in her steampunk world, Madame Lefounx, finally get over the pesky Angelique and find love again.  It probably works best if you’ve read the Parasol Protectorate series, will work even better if you’ve also read the Finishing School series.  I loved it – it’s a great, fun love story with some guest appearances from old favourites.  What more could you want?

Robin Stevens’ Wells and Wong books should be available where ever children’s books are sold (if they’re not, ask them why), but here are links to Mistletoe and Murder on Amazon, Kindle, Waterstones, Foyles and Kobo.

Romancing the Inventor is one of Gail Carriger’s self published works – so it’s not quite as available in the shops, but you can get it on Kindle and on Kobo or special order it in paperback from AmazonWaterstones and Foyles.

Happy reading!

books, reviews

February Half Term Picks

Happy Half term everyone.  Well if you have a half term.  I’ve got two overtime shifts coming my way and the most I can hope for is slightly emptier commuter trains as parents stay home to look after their children.  But if you do have some free time – maybe you’re even headed away for a few days – here are a few recommendations from me, that I think might make your break even better.

The Little Shop of Happily Ever After by Jenny Colgan

Yes! There’s a new Jenny Colgan book just in time for half-term.  I read it at the start of the week (thank you NetGalley) and fell in love. But then it’s a book about a book-a-holic librarian who starts her own mobile bookshop after getting made redundant. I’m not sure a book could tick more of my boxes if it tried. Maybe if the heroine had a thing for both Angel and Spike from Buffy, or a passion for watching figure skating and motorsport. But that withstanding this is so much fun.  Nina’s adventures as she makes the move from Birmingham to the Scottish Highlands and learns about herself are perfect holiday reading.  This will be everywhere – I’ve already seen it in the supermarket, but here are the traditional links just in case. Amazon, Kindle, Foyles, Waterstones, Kobo.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

Escape to New York High Society in the 1950s as Truman Capote takes the world by storm and gathers a group of women for his inner circle.  Follow the trials and tribulations of his life and those of his “swans” over the next 20 years.  The narrative flips between the two time periods and unless you know more about Truman Capote’s later writing than I do, you’ll be trying to work out what it is that he’s done that they’re so annoyed about.  If you liked the glamour of Mad Men and like novels of scheming and intrigue this could keep you intrigued all week. The book paperback comes out on the 24th, but there is a hardback at the moment but the Kindle price was quite good (under £5 at time of writing) – Amazon hardback, Amazon paperback (in case you want to pre-order), Kindle, Waterstones, Kobo.

The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells by Virginia Macgregor

In pretty much any other week, this would have been my Book of the Week, but it had the mis-fortune for me to read it in the same week as Lauren Henderson’s The Black Rubber Dress.  Virginia McGregor’s second novel tells the story of what happens when Norah returns to the family she walked out on six years earlier.  But a lot has changed while she’s been away.  It’s got flawed adults, idealistic teenagers and the adorable Willa who was only a baby when her mum walked out. This is only in hardback at the moment – but I think it’s going to be THE bookclub book when it comes out in paperback, so get ahead of the game and read it now. Amazon, Kindle, Foyles, Waterstones, Kobo.

All Aboard (The Canal Boat Cafe 1) by Cressida McLaughlin

I loved Cressida’s Primrose Terrace series last year and her new serialisation The Canal Boat Cafe makes a really go start with All Aboard. Summer’s returned to the cafe that her mum used to run on a narrowboat.  There are secrets and conflicts and possible romances. And although you don’t have all the answers at the end of part one, it feels like it finishes at a natural break in the story. McLaughlin is confident enough in her story and her characters that she doesn’t end on a big old cliff-hanger out of no-where to make you buy part two because she knows you’ll be intrigued enough to come back for more. This is only in e-book – but it was a bargain 99p at time of writing on Kindle and Kobo,

The Case of the Blue Violet by Robin Stevens

This is one for you if you’ve got a pre-teen that you want to keep quiet for a little while.  Unless like me you’ve got a bit old boarding school story habit.  This is the first Wells and Wong short story and it’s a fun way mini-case that doesn’t involve a murder.  It’s also told from Daisy’s point of view instead of Hazel’s which makes it a bit different too.  And if you haven’t tried Stevens’s 1930s boarding school adventures yet the children that you buy books for haven’t got into Stevens’s 1930s boarding school adventures yet, this may be their gateway.  And you’ve got more three full-length adventures to read before book 4 comes out at the end of March. Another e-book only – Kindle and Kobo.

And finally…

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention last week’s BotW The Glittering Art of Falling Apart – which would make a great read if your on a sunlounger somewhere or enjoying the après-ski. Two women, one in 80s Soho, one in pretty much now trying to save a country house. But what do they have in common? Read the full review here and try not to get OMD’s Enola Gay stuck in your head!  And I mentioned The Black Rubber Dress earlier – it really is very, very good – if you like your murder mysteries smart, funny and 90s cool you’ll love it.

Happy holiday reading and spare a thought for me as I try and weave my way through the ambling and weaving half-term visitors to London on my walk from the station to work and back!

books, reviews

Christmas Books

Oh dear.  It’s two days from Christmas and I am no where near the bottom of my Christmas-themed book list – and I promised you a post about Christmas novels.  This is what comes of refusing to read Christmas-themed stuff until November.  Will I never learn?  On the brightside, I did actually manage to post about Christmas Short Stories back at the end of November.  So that’s a positive.

So what have I read since then that’s festive?*

Well I caught up on Jenny Colgan’s Christmas book from last year – Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop – which was fabulous.  I’ve only just managed to restrain myself from going out and buying this year’s dose of Rosie – The Christmas Surprise – by reminding myself a) I’m behind on the Christmas reading and b) I like actual copies of Jenny Colgan’s books – and it’s in hardback and thus Won’t Match.

I also enjoyed Katie Fforde’s Christmas offering – A Christmas Feast – which has a couple of novellas in it that I’ve read before (released at previous Christmases) but also a nice new novella and some other short stories.  The fact that some of the stories have been available as ebooks before may explain the bargain Kindle price (£1.19 at time of writing) and there’s definitely enough new stuff in it to pay that even if you’ve read a couple of the novellas before.  Christmassy but not cloying.

On the novella front, I’ve read and quite enjoyed Fiona Gibson’s How the In-Laws Wrecked Christmas (although I wanted more resolution – it just seemed to stop to me), Lyn Crain’s A Viennese Christmas (very straight up romance, not a lot of anything beyond the romance) and Manda Collins’ Once Upon A Christmas Kiss (a bit melodramatic and with a couple of abrupt character about faces but still readable) – and that’s about as far as I’ve got.

There are several Christmas books still waiting on the Kindle – so you may have to check my Goodreads reviews to see what I think of them – because I appreciate that there’s not a huge market for Christmas stories once the big day is over…

*Because this is so last minute, all my links are to kindle ebooks – so that you can actually get hold of any that take your fancy and get them in time!