Book of the Week: Welcome to Temptation

A slightly shorter post than usual this week, but the decision of what to pick was easy. This week’s BotW is Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation. I’ve been meaning to read some Crusie for a while as Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books has mentioned her several times on her podcast.  She often recommends Bet me, but as I’ve got such a backlog, I’ve held back on buying any. Then I spotted this in a charity shop for £1 and buy one book, get one free and just couldn’t resist. Good decision.

  
Sophie is in Temptation to help her sister make a film. But curtains are twitching and trouble is coming.  And the town’s mayor is a bit of a complication too… I don’t usually like contemporary romances (I often find them sickly sweet) but this is smart and funny and not all hearts and flowers.  The back hints at a body count, but I was beginning to think I’d misinterpreted it as the body doesn’t turn up until two thirds of the way through!  As always I would’ve liked a little more of the HEA at the end, but hey, I can’t have everything!

Now all I need to do is lay my hands on a copy of Bet Me!

Book of the Week: Double trouble special

Oh gosh.  I had such trouble picking this.  It came down to two choices – the latest Dandy Gilver book, which I devoured Sunday-into-Monday last week or  Jojo Moyes Me Before You, which I was *sure* I had read, and then realised that I hadn’t and really ought to get in there quick before the sequel arrives on Thursday.  But, if I make Me Before You this week’s BotW, then what happens if After You is amazing.  But then what happens if After You isn’t awesome – and I haven’t said my piece on Me Before You.  Basically, this boils down to a lesson in why I shouldn’t get behind with books.  Which is what this whole blog is about.  And you know I’ve written this whole opening paragraph without actually having decided – the post title just says Book of the Week and I’m still dithering.

Dandy

Jojo

Dandy

Jojo

Dang it. Double-header special it is.

So, lets start with Me Before You.  I’m sure you’ve all read it already (as I said, I was convinced that I had too), but in case you’ve missed it, it tells the story of Lou, who loses her job at a cafe and finds a new one, working for Will Traynor – whose life was changed forever in a motorbike accident.  If you haven’t read it and think I should say more about the plot, I’m sorry, but I don’t want to give too much away.  But it’s funny and romantic and it had me surreptitiously crying in public.  It could have been a very depressing book – there are some really serious issues in here and I was seriously worried that the ending was going to make me really miserable – but it’s not.  A lot of research has clearly been done and it wears it very lightly.  Will is clearly one individual, in a specific situation, who is making a certain choice – but there will be people out there who don’t like the way that this unfolds.*

On to Dandy Gilver and the Unpleasantness in the Ballroom, which is the 10th in the interwar-set detective agency series and finds Dandy in the ballrooms of Glasgow investigating threats made against a dancer.  I’ve read just over half of this series and this is as good as any of them.  I love the dynamic between Alec and Dandy (although as I’ve not read a couple of the early books so I think I’ve missed some bits there) and the dance hall world of Glasgow is compelling.  And despite the pretty covers, the plots are often quite dark and there’s a (relatively) high body count.  They’re smart and different and don’t rely on murder mystery cliches, but without going for lots of sexual violence.

So there you go – two books of the week this week, a lot of dithering and another lesson in why a big book backlog isn’t good!

* And I wish there could have been a magic fix ending, but that’s not how real life works.

The Week In Books: September 13 – September 20

A mixed week – some stuff I really liked in there, but also a run of average to not great stuff too.  This week’s Book of the Week Post has been tricky to pick too.

Read:

Dandy Gilver and the Unpleasantness in the Ballroom by Catriona McPherson

Bold Seduction by Karyn Gerrard

A Beeline to Murder by Meera Lester

Thoreau in Phantom Bog by BB Oak

The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Scrapbook of the Dead by Mollie Bryan Cox

 

Started:

Stirred with Love by Marcie Steele

A Place of Confinement by Anna Dean

Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie

 

Still reading:

Appleby Farm by Cathy Bramley

I had a bit of a pre-ordering spree this week – but only bought one thing that I could read Right Now – so not too bad in the grand scheme of things.  For me anyway.

 

Audiobooks

Hello, my name is Verity and I am bad with silence.  I am not good at being left alone with my own thoughts.  No idea why, but the fact remains that I need something to listen to when I’m walking somewhere, or trying to go to sleep, or taking a shower.  As a teenager, I listened to hours of news and sport radio as I did my homework.  When I did my year in France as a student, it took two months for my brain to get good enough at French that I could go to sleep listening to French talk radio.* These days, now I work in news, I tend to want to listen to something that’s not to do with the job when I’m on my way home or trying to go to sleep. So audiobooks have become my friend – I’ve had an Audible subscription since I first started doing the mega train commute, and now my one book a month subscription has evolved into a big old library.

But as I looked at my collection the other day, I realised that it’s mostly made up of books that I’ve already read, and that I listen to the same books over and over again.  And I got to thinking about why that might be.

Firstly I think it’s because I listen for comfort.  Some of my audiobooks are like old friends.  Novels that I love that I can re-read by listening to them at times when I can’t be physically reading a book.  If I’m going to sleep, I don’t want to be surprised, or scared – and I don’t want to lose my place if I fall asleep before the off timer runs out.  So I’ve probably listened to Dorothy L Sayer’s Busman’s Honeymoon (the third audiobook I got from Audible) 100 times in the four years that I’ve had it.  I’m not exaggerating.  When I was little, I had this story tape of Paddington Goes To Town (I can’t believe it’s on YouTube – it’s made me all nostalgic) – and my mum used to joke that if you set her going and then turned the tape off, she would be able to keep going until the end.  I think I’ve got to the same stage with Busman’s Honeymoon.  I’ve listened to the various Peter Wimsey mysteries so many times, that when I read the book now I hear Ian Carmichael’s voice in my head.  I have one (Murder Must Advertise) that isn’t read by him and I’ve listened to it maybe three times – because the voice isn’t right.  Instead I listen to the BBC radio adaptation of it, which is shorter, but has Carmichael in the cast playing Wimsey.

The second reason is because some of the time, I’m not giving my audiobook my full attention.  If I’m listening on the train, I’m probably reading a proper book at the same time.  I’m listening to the book with half an ear – but when I get to where I’m going I’ll stop reading and listen to it properly – and if I already know the book’s plot I won’t be confused because I’ve missed a major plot point.  If I’ve got an audiobook I haven’t already read, I’ll make sure that the first time I listen to it I do it when I can give it my full attention – like when I’m washing up, or doing the housework – or walking somewhere.  Once I’ve listened the whole way through, if I liked it, it’ll go into rotation.

Of course this preference for things I’ve already read brings with it its own problems.  My sister and I hated the first couple of Harry Potter films – because the actors were all wrong for the visions we had in our head and that happens to me a lot with book adaptations on TV and on film.  Audiobooks are slightly better, because I can keep the picture in my head of what the characters look like – it’s just the voice that’s got to be right.  So my Miss Marple audiobooks are read by Joan Hickson (who’s not as good on audiobook as she is on TV, but she’s still better than any of the alternatives) and my Murder on the Orient Express is read by David Suchet (it’s actually the same version that we used to listen to on tape in the car on the way to Bournemouth/Devon for our holidays all those years ago).  But sometimes the voices are Wrong.  In the early days of my audible membership I got a lot of Georgette Heyers – read by various people – and had issues with a few (notably These Old Shades) because the readers were just somehow inexplicably Not Right.

But for all those occasions there are some narrators that are just Right – take Stephen Briggs’ Discworld narrations.  He’s perfect.  He makes the Discworld sound even better on audiobook than it does when you read it on the page.  He gets it right.  Dwarves are always Welsh in my head now.  There was a slight slip in the audiobook of Raising Steam, where Adorabelle Dearheart’s accent has changed slightly from the previous two books she features in – but you’d only notice that if you’re like me and listen to one of the Moist books at least once a month!  I have one of the Nigel Planer Discworlds – and apart from the fact that it’s a really poor cassette to digital transfer (I complained) – it’s just not the same.

I’ve been experimenting recently – with a couple of the Miss Fisher Audiobooks (I get a special rate because I already own the kindle copies) and some of the abridged Inspector Alleyn books.  The jury is still out on the Phryne ones – I’m yet to listen to one with a lot of men in it  – and I’ve discovered that although I prefer Benedict Cumberbatch’s Alleyn narration, the other options are ok too – partly because the series covers so much time and has so may different characters.  I’m debating whether to try the Daisy Dalrymple audiobooks and the Gail Carriger ones too, but haven’t plucked up the courage yet.

I also have a collection of non-fiction books that are helpful when we go on holiday – The Boy is also bad with silence, and on those occasions he’ll demand something to listen to to go to sleep to.  I have a selection of non fiction for that purpose – and some Agatha Christies that he likes.  It’s also become a tradition that if we’re driving on holiday we have to listen to some of the brilliant Cabin Pressure  – which in case you’ve never encountered it is a radio comedy about a charter airline starring Benedict Cumberbatch (again) – on the way. I dare you to resist this level of genius

or this in fact

Anyway.  Back to the audiobooks.  I’m open to recommendations – what else should I be listening to?  Is there anything I should be avoiding?  And does anyone else have a problem with being left alone with their own thoughts?!

Background noise to the composition of this post has been provided by the Overture to Gypsy, Murder on the Orient Express Suite by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, a medley of the incidental music from the James Bond films, Patti LuPone singing Anything Goes and this beautiful version of Ol’ Man River from last year’s Last Night of the Proms:

*Music doesn’t help me go to sleep.  My brain needs something to think about to stop me from overthinking things.  I can’t explain it better than that.

Book of the Week: I Feel Bad About My Neck

Tough choice for Book of the Week this week.  An honourable mention goes to Trisha Ashley’s new novella A Vintage Christmas, but it’s quite short, and she has a new book out in October, so in the interests of keeping my powder dry, I’ll just leave you a Kindle link to it. Subtle right?  There was another close contender, but I’ve reviewed that for Novelicious, so in the interests of not stealing their thunder, I won’t tell you what it is. Yet.

  
I Feel Bad About My Neck got the nod because, although it’s aimed at a slightly more mature lady than me, this collection of essays and general thoughts on life made me really laugh.  In this, Ms Ephron takes a witty look at ageing, through the eyes of a baby boomer.  I think my favourite is the one about maintenance – and how long women spend on upkeep!

Nora Ephron wrote the screen plays for two of my favourite films when I was a teenager – When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail and I laughed my way through her novel Heartburn a few years back.  Heartburn is a fictionalised version of the break-up of her second marriage – and some of the themes from that reoccur here.  This isn’t a long read, but it is a very fun one.

My enjoyment of this book was tinged with sadness – as Nora Ephron was already suffering with leukemia at the time that she wrote this, although almost no-one knew that she was ill right up until she died in 2012. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more of her other writing and it’s a shame there won’t be any more.

Get yourself a copy from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles or on Kindle or Kobo.

The Week In Books: September 7 – September 13

A really good week – some lovely books, with nothing left over from last week, although I’ve still got a couple of things on the go.

Read:

Death of a Policeman by MC Beaton

Rembrandt’s Mirror by Kim Deveraux

Finger Lickin’ Fifteen by Janet Evanovich

The Girl of My Dreams by Peter Davis

A Vintage Christmas by Trisha Ashley

The Z Murders by J Jefferson Farjeon

Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

Started:

Appleby Farm by Cathy Bramley

A Beeline to Murder by Meera Lester

Dandy Gilver and the Unpleasantness in the Ballroom by Catriona McPherson

Still reading:

n/a (!)

Two e-books bought – and a pre-order arrived.  No real books purchased though.  In other housekeeping news – over on Novelicious, we’ve been doing a Nostalgic Summer Reread of our childhood favourites – you can check out my post on Swallows and Amazons here if you’re interested in whether summer boating holidays in the Lake District lived up to my memories!

 

Book of the Week: The Shepherd’s Crown

Crivens! This week’s BotW will come as no surprise – it’s the final Terry Pratchett novel, the 41st Discworld book and the fifth to feature Tiffany Aching.  I managed to force myself to read it slowly (for me anyway) and made it last a week. I’m already listening to the audiobook on my walks to work.

 

As you can see I have the others in the series in paperback, but I wasn't prepared to wait this time.

As you can see I have the others in the series in paperback, but I wasn’t prepared to wait this time.

In the Chalk, something is brewing.  Tiffany can feel it coming, the Kelda can feel it coming. An old enemy is gathering strength.  To quote the back of the book, Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.  And there will be a reckoning.

And to be honest, that’s about all that I can say about the plot of The Shepherd’s Crown without giving too much away. I encountered a massive spoiler in the Audible sample a week before the book came out – and my sister ran into the Guardian review which reveals the same Major Event – and I’ve become really concious of the fact that I  don’t want to ruin the story for anyone reading this the way that plot twist was spoilt for me.

What I can say about the book is that it made my cry, repeatedly.  But it’s not a sad book.  As the back cover says, it is a time of endings and beginnings, and they’re handled beautifully.  It is a Young Adult book and there are Serious Issues in there, but it deals with them very well, with Sir Terry’s trademark wit and warmth.  I laughed and smiled and really enjoyed Tiffany’s adventure.

I wish there were going to be more. But as I said earlier this year (in this post), we knew that the end was coming sooner than anyone could have wished for.  I still want the Moist the Tax Collector book.  I am greedy for more from the Discworld.  And the afterword in Shepherd’s Crown drops tantalising hints about what could have been.  But I absolutely respect (and agree with) Rhianna Pratchett’s decision that if her father is not here to write them, there will be no more new Discworld books.

And if the end had to come, The Shepherd’s Crown is a very good place to finish.  There are plenty of old favourite characters and there are some new favourites too.  Of all the Discworld regulars, Mistress Tiffany has more life ahead of her than the others (unless you count Young Sam Vimes) and so it seems fitting that she is the centre of the last book.

The Shepherd’s Crown doesn’t feel like a goodbye, like a world is coming to an end – it feels like the Great A’Tuin is still out there, swimming through space with the elephants and the Disc on his back, it’s just that we won’t get to hear about the goings on there anymore.  And maybe that’s Sir Terry’s greatest achievement – he’s created a fantasy world so real that we can’t believe that it could stop.

The spines of the 5 Tiffany books

It’s not as if I had a matching set to start with, so I’ll cope with the non-matchingness.

I’m planning to re-read the whole series.  If you haven’t discovered Tiffany yet, start with The Wee Free Men and enjoy her whole journey.  If you are a Discworld fan, who’s been hesitant about reading this, don’t worry.  I don’t think this will be a disappointment to you.  It is safe to read it.  It feels right.  You should be able to get hold of a copy of The Shepherd’s Crown anywhere which sells good books – but just in case: Amazon, Kindle, Foyles (sadly no discount), Waterstones.

Enjoy it. Make it last. Raise a glass to it’s creator. And mind how you go.