Book of the Week: Queen Lucia

This week’s BotW is the first in the Mapp and Lucia series by E F Benson – which doesn’t actually feature Miss Mapp – just Lucia!  I’ve read Mapp and Lucia – which is the the fourth boo in the series and have come back to the start.  I have Miss Mapp waiting on the Kindle in the interests of fairness!

  

 In Queen Lucia, we meet the residents of Riseholme and their snobbish leader.  Emmeline Lucas – Lucia – always wants to have the upper hand, and employs all sorts of underhand methods to dominate the neighbourhood.  She and her husband drop snippets of Italian into conversation to make people think they’re fluent (they’re not), and she practices her piano duets in secret so she can “sight-read” them when Georgie comes over.  Georgie is her best friend (if she can be said to have one when life is a constant competition for superiority), balding and greying and desperate to hide it, he has his faults, but in this book at least is a slightly more sympathetic character than Lucia.

But for all that Lucia is awful, this is such a fun book.  The townspeople’s snobbery leads them into trouble at every turn.  If you watched the 2014 TV adaptation you’ll recognise some of the plots here.  Snigger as the Riseholmians embrace yoga. Chuckle as they compete to be best friends with the visiting opera singer. Cringe as Lucia’s (lack of) proficiency in Italian comes under scrutiny.  And then thank goodness that your group of friends are nothing like this.  And if your group of friends are like this, then maybe consider finding some new ones – constantly trying to one-up everyone else must be exhausting!

Queen Lucia is available for free on Kindle and although it’s not free on Kobo it is available in a variety of file formats for free from Project Gutenberg.  There’s also a variety of omnibuses (omnibii?) at differing price points (depending on if you want the cover that ties in with the TV series) and DVD releases of both the most recent and the 1980s TV series.  Enjoy!

The Week In Books: January 18 – January 24

A fit of indecision and some standing only train journeys are to blame for the somewhat shorter than usual list. I’ve started a few good books though and adopted a short stories by the bed policy. I’ll keep you posted! 

Read:

London Rain by Nicola Upson

Death with an Ocean View by Nora Charles

Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury

Queen Lucia by E F Benson

Started:

Sisters on Bread Street by Frances Brody

The Marble Collector by Cecilia Ahern

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

My American Duchess by Eloisa James

Still reading:

Freeze my Margarita by Lauren Henderson

The Edge of the Fall by Kate Williams

I don’t think I bought any books this week – but I did get a book token as a belated gift, so a spree may be imminent!

Book of the Week: Black Rubber Dress

This week’s BotW is Black Rubber Dress by Lauren Henderson.  These days she’s better known as Rebecca Chance, best-selling author of glamourous, sexy thrillers, but back in the 90s she wrote the Sam Jones series of mysteries about a sculptor in Camden.  They’re currently being republished by Fahrenheit Press (more on that later) and have come into my orbit.  Black Rubber Dress is the first of them to reappear.

Sam’s just made a big piece for a London bank.  But soon after the unveiling a body is found underneath it.  Determined to prove that it wasn’t her fault, she gets caught up in a web of intrigue, blackmail and Banking.  There’s stockbrokers, anorexic rich girls, trust funds, fraud and much, much more. Sam is smart, wise-cracking and no holds barred.  She knows what she wants, and she’s going to get it.  Her life is nothing like mine and if put in some of the situations she’s in I would curl up and cry, but reading the book I really wanted to be her.  I already have the second book underway.

It’s also quite fun to read and realise that a book written and set in the 90s is now a period piece – Sam has an answering machine not a mobile, there’s no talk of the internet and Camden is much seedier than than it is now.  It’s also a little traumatic – because I can remember life being like that too!

Start your Sam Jones obsession with Black Rubber Dress – it’s currently yoyoing between 99p and £1.99 on Kindle.  And when you get hooked, you might want to consider Fahrenheit Press’s Book Club – until the end of January for £36/$60/€50 you can get every book they publish this year.  I treated myself as a birthday present to myself (yes, another one) and the first to pop into my inbox was Freeze My Margarita – the next Sam Jones book…

The Week In Books: January 11 – January 17

So, it was my birthday last week and we went to Barcelona to celebrate for a few days.  Thus there was reading time on flights, in departure lounges, late at night etc.  So a fun week’s reading.

Read:

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

The Girl from the Opera House by Nancy Carson

Geek Drama by Holly Smale

Far in the Wilds by Deanna Raybourn

Black Rubber Dress by Lauren Henderson

The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells by Virginia MacGregor

Charlotte Bronte’s Secret Lover by Jolien Janzing

Stars over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina

Started:

Death with an Ocean View by Nora Charles

Freeze my Margarita by Lauren Henderson

Still reading:

Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury

The Edge of the Fall by Kate Williams

Queen Lucia by E F Benson

I did have a bit of a spending spree on books though (twice) but it’s my birthday so I’m allowed – right?!

Time Travel Novels

I think I have a problem with time travel romances.  I love time-slip novels – like Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series – which have two parallel narratives set in different times.  I love straight historicals.  But I can’t think of a time travel romance – or even time travelling novel that I loved – unless you’re including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (a couple of hours on the Time turner doesn’t count in my book) or the Thursday Next Series (which is more dimension jumping than time travel).  And after reading a time-traveller the other week, I started to wonder why.

Fundamentally, I think that I find it very hard to believe there’ll be a happy outcome – and that’s what you want in romances – because one is either going to have to go back to their own time and be miserable, or one is going to have to stay where they are, and I never believe that that will continue to be happy past the last page.  After all, one member of the duo is living out of their time – either with a massive amount of knowledge about the future and the advances there are or with a massive gap in their knowledge of the modern world – and on top of that, everyone they ever knew/loved is either dead or not yet born and thus they’ll never see them again.  I text my sister daily, and speak to my mum at least twice a week – and can’t imagine voluntarily chosing to put myself out of contact with them permenantly – and leave them wondering what has happened to me.

And that’s before you get to the fact that I’ve watched a lot of Scifi and fantasy TV over the years – from Star Trek to Crime Traveller and most of the variants in between – and have had it drilled into me that when you’re messing around in the past it’s very easy to change the timeline of the future and destroy the world.  And most books just ignore The Implications and don’t mention it or skim over it somehow.

Am I over thinking this?  Probably.  But that’s the kind of person I am.  I once spent 20 minutes crying on my Grandma’s lap because I’d just realised that Kaiser Wilhelm was Queen Victoria’s grandson – and wouldn’t she have been so upset if she’d realised he’d started a war against his grandma’s country.  Yes.  I was a strange 8 year old.  But that gives you a clue as to how my mind works.

So in the spirit of the New Year, does anyone have any really good time travel recommendations for me?  Books that I won’t buy and then ignore in favour of everything else ever because I’m convinced I’m going to hate them?  Because I got a copy of the first Outlander 18 months ago because everyone else was raving about it – and I still haven’t read it.  I took it on holiday with us back in 2014 as one of my paperbacks – and The Boy started reading it instead of me (he never takes enough books with him, but that’s another story) and he didn’t finish it either.  It sat under our coffee table for another year after that.

Go on.  Change my life. I dare you.

Book of the Week: The Hourglass Factory

So, a difficult choice for BotW this week – I finished the latest Laurie Graham last week and really enjoyed it – but I also read Lucy Ribchester’s Hourglass Factory and enjoyed that too.  So in the end, I’ve picked The Hourglass Factory for BotW and decided to do an Authors I Love post on Laurie G instead, which’ll be coming up in a few weeks. So more for you to read. Bonus.

The Hourglass Factory

Some of my best photos are taken on the train. No idea why.

In The Hourglass Factory, tom-boy reporter Frankie George is trying to make waves in Fleet Street, but all she’s getting are the women’s interest stories an the gossip columns.  When she gets assigned to write a profile of trapeze-artist-turned-suffragette Ebony Diamond she gets short shrift.  But then Ebony disappears and Frankie finds herself drawn into a world of corsets, circuses, tricks and suffragettes.  Where has Ebony gone?  What is going on with the suffragettes? And will anyone listen to Frankie if she finds out?

This has been sitting on my shelf for aaaaaages (what’s new) and I kept meaning to read it.  Then I saw it recommended by another blogger (Agi’s onmybookshelf) as one of her books of the year of 2015 – alongside several other books that I had read and liked and it gave me the push that I needed.

I really enjoyed this.  I haven’t studied the women’s suffrage movement in Britain in much depth – apart from as part of my history GCSE – so I knew the basics, but I don’t think you’d have too much trouble if you knew even less.  Lucy Ribchester paints a vivid picture of 1912.  Post-Edwardian London springs to life – all dark corners, imminent peril, seedy clubs, variety acts, cuthroats, suffragettes and jails.  Some passages were tough going – early 20th century jails were not nice places to get stuck in – but it was totally worth it.  This is quite a long read (500 pages) but it is pacy, exciting and thrilling – you don’t notice the pages going by.  So good.  And another cautionary tale about letting books sit on the shelf.

Get your copy from Amazon, Waterstones or Foyles, from Audible, or on Kindleebook or Kobo.  You’re welcome.  And thank you Agi for giving me the kick to read it.

The Week In Books: January 4 – January 10

Not a huge list this week – but The Hourglass Factory is 500 pages long – and it’s worth it.  Busy week at work too and quick trains both ways several days (often on the way home in rush hour too) reducing the reading time.

Read:

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The Night in Question by Laurie Graham

The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester

The Chalet School and Rosalie by Elinor M Brent Dyer

The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

Started:

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

The Edge of the Fall by Kate Williams

Queen Lucia by E F Benson

Still reading:

Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury

One short story pre-ordered – but I don’t think I’ve actually bought a book so far this year (the Deanna Raybourn spree was before New Year).  I’m sure that will change though…