book round-ups

Recommendsday: January 2021 mini reviews

In putting this post together, I realised that amidst the flood of end of year posts, I didn’t do a mini reviews for December. To be fair though, I think I had already written about pretty much everything I enjoyed. As previously discussed ad nauseam in the middle of January I had a severe case of loss of reading mojo that saw me retreat to the safety of old favourites. But before that there were a couple of books I read and wanted to mention to you.

The Hatmakers by Tamzin Merchant*

Cover of The Hatmakers

This is a delightful middle grade story about an alternative version of Britain where there are magical families of makers who each make one thing. Our heroine, Cordelia, is a hatmaker. But after her father goes missing at sea, she finds it hard to concentrate on the hat her family are meant to be making for the king. But soon she’s swept up in trying to foil a plot against her family – and the makers. I really enjoyed this. I think it would appeal to a lot of children – it’s a fast paced adventure with enough peril, but not too scary and a magical world with consistent rules that are easy to make sense off. NetGalley told me it was out in January – but Amazon tells me it’s actually out mid-February. Either way, I will buy for the middle graders in my life.

If the Boot Fits by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Cover of If the Boot Fits

I don’t know how I missed that this was meant to be a Cinderella retelling until after I had finished and I was looking at other reviews. I can only chalk that up to the fact that I just automatically put holds on Weatherspoon’s new books without even looking at the plots – she’s just that reliable at turning out great romances! Anyway this features an aspiring screenwriter, who is trapped as the PA/dogsbody to an obnoxious second generation Hollywood starlet, who hooks up with the newest Oscar-winning actor at a post-Oscars party and then accidentally takes his statuette home with her. Amanda then runs into Sam again at his family ranch, where a friend is getting married. There’s a lot of dancing around whether they want to have a relationship or just a fling, and it’s all very romantic. The denouement is fun – although I wanted a little more comeuppance for our baddie. This came out in October and should be fairly easy to get hold of on Kindle, I don’t know about the paperback.

The House on Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams*

Cover of The House on Coco Beach

This is a twisty, historical romantic suspense novel about Virginia who travels to Florida in search of answers after the death of her husband. Virginia and Simon were estranged at the time of his death and as she tries to unravel what led up to his death, the reader discovers the story of their relationship. The narrative is split between 1917 when they met while she was working as an ambulance driver in France and their subsequent romance and 1922 as the story of their romance unravels. I got more and more anxious for Virginia as the story went on and the twists kept coming, but I was pleased/happy with the resolution. I’ve written about Beatriz Williams on here before and although I didn’t like it as much as I liked Her Last Flight, it is a lot of fun. In the US this is titled just Cocoa Beach, and it’s also connected to Williams’s earlier novel A Certain Age (Virginia is the sister of one of the characters in A Certain Age) but you don’t need to have read the previous book for this to make sense (I had in fact forgotten what happened in A Certain Age and it didn’t cause me any problems). If we were going to the beach right now, it would be a great beach read. This came out a couple of years back (when I got a copy from NetGalley and promptly forgot about it) and is available on Kindle and in paperback – in the BeforeTimes I used to find physical copies of Williams’s books in the bookshops and the libraries.

Other things…

Beyond those two, there was a new Stockwell Park Orchestra book which sees the gang on tour in Germany and Belgium, I read another Inspector Littlejohn (which wasn’t my favourite but was still good), And I finally finished the San Andreas Shifters series – which is Gail Carriger writing as G L Carriger and follows a gay werewolf pack and their friends/hangers on in modern day (but with supernatural creatures) California. I’d been saving the last full length novel for a time of need and was reminded that I had it waiting when Miss Gail’s author newsletter flagged that there was a new short story in the series out. So I read them both.

If you missed the Book of the Week posts from January, they were You Should See Me in a Crown, How Nell Scored, The House in the Cerulean Sea and Bag Man. I also wrote about Amelia Peabody, some tv picks and my favourite books of last year.

Book of the Week, historical, historical

Book of the Week: Her Last Flight

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, it was somewhat of a strange week last week for me, reading wise. Still don’t quite know why, but I do know that I really, really enjoyed Beatriz Wiliams’ latest book at the start of the week, so it made for a really easy pick for Book of the Week. Which is good, because decision making is not my strongest suit at the moment.

Cover of Her Last Flight

It’s 1947 and former war correspondent Janey Everett is researching a planned biography of a forgotten aviation pioneer. Sam Mallory was a Great War fighter pilot who went on to take part in flying races and barnstorming displays before going missing while flying planes in the Spanish Civil War. Her quest for the truth takes her to the Hawaiian island of Kauai, to talk to Irene Lindquist, owner of an island hopping airline, who she thinks might actually be Irene Foster, Sam’s former student whose mysterious disappearance during a round the world flight in 1937 remains an unsolved mystery. At first Irene won’t engage with Janey, but when she finds out that Janey has found the wreck of Mallory’s airplane in a Spanish desert, she starts to reconsider. And that’s as much as I’m going to tell you about the plot.

It’s an incredibly readable story with two fascinating women at the heart of it. Structurally, it is split between Janey’s first person account and extracts from a book about Irene – so a time-slip novel with a bit of a twist. It works really, really well. I have a slightly patchy history with Beatriz William’s books – but when she works for me, it really works and this might be my favourite so far. It’s a complete page turner – it’s tense and emotional at times and it’s got plenty of twists (only one of which I predicted). I would say this is a perfect beach read, but it feels like beaches are back to being a long way off again, even if the weather has been lovely for the last week.

I’ve read a few books around aviatrixes – fiction and non fiction – if you read this and like it try Deanna Raybourn’s City of Jasmine for another fictional aviatrix or for a fictionalised account of a real aviatrix, try Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun about Beryl Markham. If you just want time-slip novels in general – try Lauren Willig or Chanel Cleeton. My copy of Her Last Flight came from the library, but it’s just come out in paperback. I still haven’t been in to a bookshop so I can’t speak for how easy it will be to get hold of, but as ever, give your local indie a call and I’m sure they’ll be able to order it in if they don’t have it in stock. It’s also available on Kindle and Kobo and as an audiobook.

Happy Reading!

 

books, children's books, fiction, holiday reading, women's fiction

Easter Reading Suggestions

Easter is upon us again – early this year – and so I thought I’d throw some suggestions out there for books for reading over the bank holiday weekend, or the Easter holidays if you’re lucky enough to have them.

The Night That Changed Everything by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice

Copy of The Night that Changed Everything
I love the cover of this book – can’t explain why, but it just speaks to me

Rebecca and Ben are perfect for each other – blissfully happy, they’re made for each other.  But when a secret from the past is accidentally revealed, their love story is rewritten.  Can they recover?  Is it possible to forgive and forget? This came out yesterday (Thursday), but I was lucky to have an advance copy which I finished on the train home from work just after midnight on Thursday morning.  I really, really, enjoyed Rebecca and Ben’s story – which, as you can probably tell from my synopsis, is not your traditional romantic comedy.  It nearly had me crying on the train – which doesn’t happen very often (in part because I try not to read books that will make me cry on the train!) and I had trouble putting it down.  I didn’t even notice I’d arrived at Euston on the way to work on Wednesday I was so engrossed – if it wasn’t the end of the line I would have missed my stop!  On top of everything else going for it, I had no idea where it was going.  I suspect this is going to be on a lot of beach reading lists this year – get there ahead of the game and read it now.  I’m hoping this will be in the supermarkets and all over the place – but here are the traditional links: Amazon, Kindle, Waterstones, Foyles, Kobo.

Death of a Diva by Derek Farrell

Danny Bird has lost his job, his boyfriend and his home.  So of course the logical solution to this is to take over a dive of a pub owned  by a gangster and try and transform it into a fabulous nightspot.  But then his big act for the opening night turns up dead in the dressing room surrounded by a cloud of powder that’s definitely not talc and he’s the prime suspect in a murder inquiry.  This is funny and clever – I was laughing out loud as I tried to figure out who was responsible.  Danny is a fabulous character – and is surrounded by a great supporting cast.  There’s lots of potential here – this is another winner from Fahrenheit Press – who you may have noticed have been providing a lot of my favourite crime reads recently.  Get your copy on Kindle and badger Fahrenheit on Twitter to get it on other platforms.  I got my copy free when it was on promotion a couple of weekends ago (it came out before the Fahrenheit subscription) – this weekend their free book for Easter is Fidelis Morgan’s Unnatural Fire – which is high on my to-read pile – as I loved The Murder Quadrille as you may remember.

The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan

Harriet and her granddaughter Grace are governesses at the same house, nearly 50 years apart.  Grace has been raised on stories of Fenix House – but once she’s arrived it’s clear that her grandmother may be a less than reliable narrator.  I reviewed this for Novelicious (check out my full review here) and basically this is the book that is going to fill the Victorian-time-slip-upstairs-downstairs gap in your life.  Secrets, lies, families, relationships -they’re all there in this twisty and intriguing book – which had me poleaxed at the end. If you liked Letters to the Lost, or the Mysterious Affair at Castaway House, or any of Lauren Willig’s stand-alone novels like The Ashford Affair then this is for you.

Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens

Hazel and Daisy are back on the detection trail after Deepdean’s new head girl is found dead during a fireworks display.  I haven’t finished the latest Wells and Wong mystery yet (it’s another that came out on Thursday – I started it as soon as my pre-order dropped on to my kindle) but if it’s half as good as the other three it’ll be a delight.  One for the 8 to 12 year old in your house – and your inner child as well.

What am I going to be reading this Easter weekend? Well, I’m hoping to finish Hazel and Daisy’s adventures on my Good Friday commutes, then I think I might try to fill the Night Circus-shaped void in my life with Ben Aaronovitch’s Broken Homes or my urge for more time-slip books with the rest of Beatriz Williams’ latest or Lucinda Riley’s The Seven Sisters.   Any other recommendations gratefully received in the comments – although I’m meant to be on a book-buying ban!