Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Books set in Devon and Cornwall

Did I go on holiday last week? Yes. Did it inspire this post? Absolutely yes. You are very welcome.

Let’s start with the obvious: Daphne du Maurier. There are a whole host to pick from – but I’m going to go for Jamaica Inn because we drove past the turn for it and gosh blimey is the moorland there desolate and creepy – I don’t think I would be brave enough to read the book while staying anywhere near there!

Next up, previous BotW pick 1949’s The Feast – which I think is due for a rementiok because it’s so good. This isn’t creepy like the Du Maurier, but it is thrilling in a different way. Ignore any introduction your edition might have until after you have read it and meet the guests at the Pendizack Hotel in the run up to a fatal cliff collapse (and that’s not a spoiler because it opens after the collapse and then jumps back in time.

Still in Cornwall but written more recently we have Carola Dunn’s Cornish mysteries. As well as writing the Daisy Dalrymple series, Dunn also wrote four books featuring Eleanor Trewynn, a widow running a charity shop in a fictional coastal village in the 1960s. I’ve read three of the four and really enjoyed them. And this has reminded me to try and get hold of the final one!

Crossing the border into Devon, yesterday I wrote about a murder mystery tied to a fictional Golden Age crime series so I would be remiss not to include an actual Golden Age Crime novel as Agatha Christie set a lot of her novels in the county – as she lived there for many years (and her house is on my list of places to visit at some point). I’ve picked Sleeping Murder, because the theme of today is creepy and I’m still traumatised by the cover of the edition of Sleeping Murder my mum had when I was little which features a woman with a knitting needles stuck in her eye. You’re welcome.

I’ve only read a three of Ian Sansom’s County Guides novels but one of them is Death in Devon (book 2 of five) which sees the prolific author and professional know it all Stanton Morley and his assistant on a trip to the county where they end up solving a murder at a boys school. And finally I started with a creepy atmospheric book with moors and I’m going to finish with a book set on a different moor – Lorna Doone. Full disclosure: I’ve only ever read abridged children’s versions of this – and as it’s 800 pages long I’m not planning on changing that, but if you want a classic may be think about trying this story of star crossed lovers on as moor in the late 19th century.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Even More British Library Crime Classics

Continuing on from the cozy crime BotW pick yesterday, lets have some more murder mysteries today. After all, it’s been whole month since I recommended a British Library Crime Classic, so it must be time for some more – Happy Wednesday everyone!

Seat of the Scornful by John Dickson Carr

A very dislikeable judge is found holding a gun by the body of a murder victim. He says he didn’t kill his daughter’s fiancée but all the evidence seems to suggest that he did. Gideon Fell investigates a crime that turns into a game of cat and mouse. This is really strong on creating a set of characters that you feel that you’d understand and although the denouement feels very of its time, I did enjoy it.

Death on the Riviera by John Bude

This is another in the Inspector Meredith series and deals with an investigation into a currency racket on the French Riviera. Side note: I feel like the French Riviera gets more than its fair share of murder mysteries from this era – there are a lot of them in the Inspector Littlejohn series, as well as a few Agatha Christies and that’s just the stuff I can think of off the top of my head. If only Peter Wimsey had investigated down there we could have the full set. Anyway, this has an eccentric English woman with a house full of bohemian guests and quite a lot of the requisite glamour from the setting, but the solution is… a lot to deal with and I wasn’t sure if it all quite worked over all. Still if you like John Bude, definitely worth checking out, as it’s been out of print for yonks.

Mystery in the Channel by Freeman Willis Crofts

This is a little bit different – a seemingly impossible murder on a boat that turns into a financial mystery. The story opens with a ferry between Newhaven and Dieppe spotting a seemingly deserted yacht – and then spots what looks like a body on deck. When the crew investigates, they find not one but two bodies on board – but no sign of the murder weapon. Once the investigation gets underway, the victims are identified as two key figures in one of the largest financial houses in the country. Inspector French of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate and after a bit more digging it emerges that the firm is in trouble – on the brink of collapse. A huge sum of money is missing – and so is one of the other partners in the business. Were the dead men fleeing the country? And if they were, where is the money and who killed them? I really enjoyed this – and the denouement is really clever and fast paced. I’m not normally a boat person (save Swallows and Amazons) but this explains everything in simple enough terms for a non sailor like me to understand and yet is really quite complex. Definitely worth a look.

Enjoy the rest of the week everyone!

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Recommendsday: January Kindle Offers

A new year and a new batch of Kindle offers for your delectation today. And it’s quite a good one so if you weren’t as lucky as me and Santa didn’t bring you what you told people you wanted, you might be able to pick some fresh reading material up in the offers.

One of my all time favourites is back on sale for 99p – Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. I’d love to get something new from her in 2023, but as it’s only three years since The Starless Sea came out and it was nearly triple that between The Night Circus and that, I’m trying not to get my hopes up! And Bridget Jones’s Diary is also 99p – it’s been years since I read it (rather than watched the film!) but it was such a huge part of my reading back in the day – even if I haven’t read either of the two most recent sequels! Another book that I read ages ago and loved is on offer too – Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility. I didn’t love his follow up A Gentleman in Moscow, but I have the latest one, The Lincoln Highway, on the Kindle TBR and I must try and get to it soon.

This month’s 99p Georgette Heyer is The Quiet Gentleman – which is from the more mysterious end of her romance books and features Actual Peril at times. On the contemporary romance front, if you read and enjoyed the O’Neil Brothers books after I wrote about them before Christmas, Holiday in the Hamptons from Sarah Morgan’s From Manhattan with Love series is 99p. I bought myself the new Mary Balogh while writing this – Remember Love is the first in a new series for her and I’ve had a good history with her historical romances – right back to my Essex days. There’s also one of the recent Lisa Kleypas’s – Devil’s Daughter – which is the next generation sequel to her fan-favourite Devil in Winter.

If you’ve been reading Philippa Gregory’s Tudor novels after I wrote about them last summer, The Taming of the Queen (about Katherine Parr) is the one on offer at the moment. It’s not a great month on the crime/mystery offer front though. Or at least not if you read the sort of mysteries that I do – all the books on offer are the sort with dark and brooding covers with ominous shadows on them or bare branches, which is an indicator that they’re too psychological or gruesome for my tastes! A Spoonful of Murder is on offer though, which is one of the crop of if you like Richard Osman… that are now appearing and which I’ve got on the physical to-read pile but haven’t got around to yet!

Happy Wednesday!

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Recommendsday: Not New Books of the Year

So yesterday we had new fiction books of the year, tomorrow I have new non-fiction for you, but today we have my favourite not new books of the year.

Ask a historian cover

Lets start with the newest – and it’s Greg Jenner’s Ask a Historian, which is out now in paperback and answers all sorts of questions that he’s been asked over his years as a public historian. He also has a new book for kids this year called You Are History, which I haven’t read yet but sounds like it’s a middle grade cross between Ask a Historian and his A Million Years in a Day. Anyway, Greg’s writing style is as much fun as he is in his podcasts, and Ask a Historian is a great book for reading in little bits when you get a chance, if you’re trying to get more reading done for example, because the question and answer format makes it easy to pick up and put down.

Moving on to some fiction, and I found it really hard to pick my favourite of the Persephone books I read as part of my gift subscription last Christmas, so I’ve ended up including a few of them here. Jocelyn Playfair’s A House in the Country was written during the war and deals with wartime life at a big country house. If you like books like The Cazalet Chronicles or Dorothy Whipple, then this maybe one for you to read. Then there’s The Young Pretenders by Henrietta Fowler about two young children who move to live with their aunt and uncle while they wait for their parents to return from India. I feel like if you’re the sort of person who liked Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes when you were younger, then this might be a book for you.

I’ve read a lot of classic crime this year – as all the British Library Crime Classics posts I’ve done demonstrate – but it’s been hard to pick favourites. So I’ve gone with a couple that were Books of the Week – Green for Danger by Christianna Brand, the creepy war time murder mystery in a hospital; Fire in the Thatch by E C R Lorac, about an arson attack; John Dickson Carr’s Til Death Do Us Part, with an impossible locked room mystery and Lois Austen-Leigh’s The Incredible Crime about a a murder and a drug gang in Cambridge.

This is already a long list, but two more before I go – for kids, Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais about three girls’ cross country cycle trip in France, and a romance: Jackie Lau’s Donut Fall In Love which features a Hollywood movie star and a baker falling in love and taking part in a baking show. Not necessarily in that order!

Happy Reading!

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Recommendsday: New Christmas Books 2022


It’s the final few days before Christmas, so here I am with a round up of some of the Christmassy romances that have come out this season.

There’s Something about Merry by Codi Hall*

This is a Christmas romance with a You’ve Got Mail-ish twist as the new foreman of a Christmas tree farm in Idaho falls for the boss’s daughter – except he doesn’t know that’s who he’s talking to. Merry’s spent the year working on herself and is ready for romance, but Clark definitely isn’t – he’s a single dad and he’s focussing on his son. The writing to each other stage of this was over faster than I expected, but the characters are nice, the setting is charming, and it’s got a very weird speciality knitted product to make you laugh. Fun.

Snowed in for Christmas by Sarah Morgan*

This is Sarah Morgan’s Christmas novel for this year – I’ve already mentioned that it’s a Kindle Deal this month, and obviously written about my love of her O’Neill brothers series. I don’t love this as much – it’s just got too many plot strands and a Very Definite Resolution for something that takes place over a couple of days, but the Snowy rural Scottish setting is delightful and I do love the way she creates her families. I could just have read a whole book each about two of the main plot strands so I wished there was more of each of them. I do think in years gone by she might have done this as a pair of novels set across the same period. But hey, the times they are a changing.

The Holiday Trap by Roan Parish*

Greta’s family don’t really understand how hard it is to be the only Lesbian in their tiny community in Maine. Truman’s had his heartbroken again and needs somewhere to escape to. A mutual friend organises a house swap between the two which sees Greta head to New Orleans, and Truman to Maine, where unexpected things happen to them both. Now, I should say that this didn’t work for me, because the characters rubbed me up the wrong way and the quirkiness levels were off the charts* BUT I know that it’s going to be someone else’s cup of tea because I’ve seen other people raving about this author. But if you want a swapping lives type romance – and some Jewish representation this Hanukkah week, you could do worse than try this.

And that’s your lot for today – but if you want some more Christmas recommendations- I have a lot of previous posts – so go check them out!

*I’ve had a lot of problems with Too Much Quirk recently. It’s getting tiring.

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: November Quick Reviews

We’re into December now and I have lots more Christmassy books to tell you about, but today I’m sticking with the quick reviews – because after all, everyone needs a break from Christmas at some point in December!

Better than Fiction by Alexa Martin

As previously mentioned, Alexa Martin wrote some of my favourite American Football romances, and this is her second standalone rom-com. Drew has inherited her beloved Grandmother’s book store in Colorado, and feels way over her head as a self-proclaimed non-reader. Jasper is an author who comes to the store to do a reading and event and who decides to try and change her mind about books in return for her help with his settings for his new novel. I’m not usually a fan of people tryng to turn others into readers – or telling them that they just haven’t found the right things to read yet, but this actually manages to make it work. Drew and Jasper are engaging characters and the gang of old ladies are a delight. Plus Martin makes hiking in Colorado sound so beautiful that even I started thinking that it might be fun – and I *hate* hiking

Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra*

Cover of Mercury Pictures Presents

This tells the story of Maria Lagana, an Italian in Los Angeles in the 1940s. I really like stories about the movie industry, and stuff set in World War Two and this is both of those – split between Mussolini’s Italy and California, it looks at the immigrant experience in America in war time and the risks that people will take to survive and the sacrifices people will make for the people they love. If you’ve read non-fiction (or fiction) about the studio system or the Hollywood blacklist, this might well be of interest to you.

Chester House Wins Through by Irene Smith

And finally another from my Book Con haul and this makes it onto this list as it’s a massive curio really – a book about a girls school where there is rivalry between the day girls and the boarders. That’s not unusual in itself – but here, the day girls have their own house and are deeply unpopular with the rest of the school for not pulling their weight and for behaving badly in town. It’s also from the late 1960s so it has a side order of society changing and girls wanting to go out and do things in the evenings and not be so protected. So far, so interesting, except there’s a lot of talking about doing things, and not a lot of actual doing on the page. The day girls do turn it around, but it has to be said that there’s not a lot of likeable characters here. One for the Girls Own collectors really.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Books to reread

It’s getting pretty wintery, and when the weather is like this, it often makes me feel like rereading something that’s going to make me feel cozy and warm inside. Please note, that that last sentence was going to be about liking nothing more than to curl up on the sofa with a blanket and a book to reread. But we all know that that’s not just a winter thing. Give me a comfy seat, a blanket and a good book and you won’t see me again for a few hours. Anyway, this week, have some suggestions for books that hold up to more than one reading.

Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield

So this was one of my picks for escapist books for difficult times back in the early pandemic and I stand by it as being one of the best comfort reads. It is what the title suggests – a provincial lady in the 1930s struggling to keep control of her household. I sometimes describe it as being a bit like the Bridget Jones of its time, but I think that’s underselling it. It’s very low stress, very low stakes and it’s charming and witty. If you liked Miss Buncle and haven’t read this, then why not?

Gone with the Windsors by Laurie Graham

It will surprise you not at all if you’ve been here a while that Gone with the Windsors features on this list. Because I read it so often I own multiple copies and I keep them scattered around the house. If you don’t already know, it’s the story of the Abdication Crisis as seen through the eyes of a school friend of Wallis Simpson, who comes to England to visit her sister. It’s brilliant for just dipping into, or for reading the whole thing. And it still makes me chuckle eleventy billion reads later.

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

Again, not a surprised that I’d have a Georgette Heyer on this list either, but maybe a surprise that it’s Sylvester. A year or two ago, it would probably have been Regency Buck or Devil’s Cub, but I’ve listened to the audiobook of this at least three times this year and that’s before we talk about the times I’ve picked up the boo, so I’m going to put it here because I do grab it more often than most of them. This has two people who definitely don’t want to marry each other, but then get thrown together a lot – there is the Regency equivalent of a road trip as well as a trapped at an inn situation, an adorable nephew (“Uncle Vester will grind your bones”) and it’s just delightful.

There were a lot of things that I could have included in this, but a lot of them that I’ve already written about relatively recently, so just want to throw in here that I do regular rereads of Soulless, the Rivers of London series and the Peter and Harriet end of the Wimsey series.

Happy Wednesday everyone.

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Locked Room mysteries

Til Death Do Us Part was a BotW back in late September and it got me thinking about other locked room mysteries, so if you liked that, here is a selection of other similar mysteries for you to read after that. And yes, I’m being a bit cheaty because some of these have been Books of the Week – but over a year ago, so I’m claiming statue of limitations.

Seven Dead by J Jefferson Farjeon

An amateur thief on his first job stumbles on seven bodies in a locked room while robbing an isolated house by the sea. This is a clever locked room mystery that then evolves into a mad chase. I really enjoyed it and hadn’t worked out the solution until very late on, but the ending is rather far fetched – but there’s quite a lot of that about in books from this era!

The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen Wilkinson

Yes, this has been a BotW before but it’s nearly three years ago so I’m going to mention it again now, because I did read it in basically one sitting, and the setting in the Palace of Westminster makes it something a bit different even if it is quite traditional in other ways – amateur detective, friendly police officer, handy tame reporter etc. And Wilkinson knew what she was talking about when it came to the Parliamentary estate – she was an MP from the 1920s until her death in 1947 and served in Winston Churchill’s wartime cabinet.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Ok so it’s a locked compartment in train carriage, but it still counts and this is the granddaddy of the genre in many ways. I’ve read it, listened to the audiobook and watched the Albert Finney film so many times now I don’t think I’m even capable of writing about it rationally, but it’s a classic of the genre for a reason, and if you haven’t read it you should.

And that’s your lot for today – Happy Wednesday everyone.

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: World War-set novels

It was Remembrance Day last week, and Remembrance Sunday at the weekend, which got me thinking about my favourite novels set during one or other of the two world wars. And so here we are with a recommendsday featuring some of them.

The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker

I’ve mentioned before that I did a war literature module as part of my A Levels and read the entire reading list, because I got got so sucked into it all, and the first novel in this trilogy, regeneration, was one of those – and I went on to read the other two as well. This centres on a doctor at a hospital treating shellshocked soldiers near Edinburgh and how he tried to help the soldiers come to terms with what they have endured and his conflicted feelings about getting them fit enough to be sent back to the front.

I could write a whole post based on that A Level reading list about the First World War. but I’m going to restrain myself and move on…

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

Ok, I’ve only moved on as far as stuff I first read when I was at university, but this is also really good. And it’s a modern classic that I’ve actually read and enjoyed and kept hold of. Yossarian is part of a bomber group stationed in Italy, where the number of missions you need to fly to complete your service keeps going up. The catch 22 of the title is the rule that dictates that anyone who continues to fly combat missions is insane – but as soon as he makes a formal request to be removed from duty it proves he is sane.

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

This was one of my favourite books of the year in 2018, although it didn’t get a full review at the time – just the mention in the end of year post.  This is a sequel to the Five Children and It – although obviously by a different author. The five are now mostly grown up five and their younger sister has only ever heard of the Psammead in stories, until he reappears for one last adventure with the youngest two siblings that will change them. This is a middle grade novel and Kate Saunders has done a wonderful job of creating a world that feels like it is the likely successor to the Edwardian Idyll of the original books and showing the realities of the Great War to a younger audience and a new generation.

And then let’s move on to the stuff I have already recommended. The Skylark’s War like Five Children on the Western Front will break your heart. On the Second World War sid, there is The House on Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams, Dear Mrs Bird by S J Pearce (and its sequel Yours Cheerfully), Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey,Lissa Evans’ Crooked Heart and V for Victory are in World War Two Two, as To Bed With Grand Music and A House in the Country which were written during the War itself. The Maisie Dobbs series hits World War Two in book 13, but several of the earlier books in the series deal with the Great War and Maisie’s experiences in it. Equally some of my favourite books in the Amelia Peabody series are set in the Great War and some of the most exciting developments in the series happen in them – Ramses I’m looking at you!

Happy Wednesday!

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Recommendsday: November Kindle deals

It’s that time again: Kindle deal recommendsday! And once again I’ve spent money while putting this post together. Quelle surprise I hear you say. Anyway: to the books.

As we get closer to Christmas, we have a selection of Christmas books hitting the offers – and all of these are 99p. Let’s start with Jenny Colgan’s The Christmas Bookshop, which I haven’t read, but her Christmas books are usually fairly reliable. Also in the haven’t read but like their other stuff is Merrily Ever After by Cathy Bramley. I have however read Susan Mallery’s The Christmas Wedding Guestit was her Christmas book last year. Much older a Trisha Ashley’s Wish Upon a Star which I read way before I started this blog! And if you want a historical romance, the Christmas Desperate Duchesses novel is on offer too: An Affair before Christmas by Eloisa James. And then in not Christmas, but sort of Christmas-y covers we have Walking Back to Happiness by Lucy Dillon – another book that I read looooong before the blog started.

Next up we have previous BotWs (or release day reviewed) books that are on offer: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood, Book Lovers by Emily Henry, The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan, The Family You Make by Jill Shalvis and the much older The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley. There’s also Murder in the Basement by Antony Berkeley (which is in Kindle Unlimited at the moment as well). It’s more expensive (£1.99) but The Feast is also on offer – I really, really enjoyed Margaret Kennedy’s mystery which you can’t say a lot about without giving it too much away!

I’ve recommended a bunch of Christina Lauren books – most recently Something Wilder – but The Soulmate Equation is on offer at the moment – I actually have a paperback copy on the stack by my end of the sofa. This month’s 99p Georgette Heyer is Friday’s Child, which I think is one of my mum’s favourites and the Peter Wimsey is Whose Body. The …In Death is Abandoned In Death (number 54) All of the Lady Hardcastles are on offer for 99p this month (although the whole series is in KU if you’re a member) the first one is A Quiet Life in the Country .

And finally, I haven’t written about it (yet) but I did enjoy The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood when I read it earlier this year – there’s a second book in the series out early next year.

Happy Wednesday everyone.