The Week In Books: February 22 – February 28

Now that is what four nightshifts can do for the to-read pile – I actually finished my 7th book of the week on the way home from the last night shift on Friday morning.  You’ll notice that the two books that are still on the go are ones where I need to use my brain a bit – and my brain is frazzled so it was light reading only!  But I did finish all my February new releases from NetGalley before the end of the month (with 3 days to spare!) – which is unusual for me.  Now I just need to work on the slight backlog from the autumn when everything got a way from me a bit…

Read:

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

Nancy Parker’s Diary of Detection by Julia Lee

The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine

Murder on a Silver Platter by Shawn Reilly Simmons

A Summer at Sea by Katie Fforde

The Duke’s Accidental Wife by Erica Ridley

The Stylist by Rosie Nixon

Ghostwriters Anonymous by Doreen Wald

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone

Started:

The Winter Ground by Catriona McPherson

Still reading:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan

I was very, very virtuous and only impulse bought non books on the nightshift.  The pile is still massive though!

 

Book of the Week: Murder on the Half Shell

This is a strange BotW post for me to write – as there were two other books that nearly beat The Murder Quadrille last week, and nothing that I liked as much as them this week.  But I have a rule about not carrying over picks that weren’t used in a previous week.  So Shawn Reilly Simmons’s Murder on the Half Shell gets the nod – but I enjoyed it more this paragraph implies.  Trust me, keep reading!

Murder on the Half Shell is the second book in The Red Carpet Catering Mysteries. The plot: Penelope Sutherland runs a catering company that works on film sets, she’s on an island in Florida catering a movie – but it’s not all plain sailing.  The director is difficult, the leading lady has a seafood allergy and it is hot, really hot.  Then two of the waitresses she’s been using go missing after a crew party and Penelope’s former culinary school instructor turned celebrity chef is the prime suspect.  But she’s sure he didn’t do it and starts to look into it herself.

Food-related cozies are such a massive trend at the moment.  There’s a lot of cupcakes, bakers and coffee shops and so a catering company is a nice variant.  One of the problems I often have with cozy series is that there’s a lot of murder going on in a very small area.  I’m not sure how long a real cake shop/coffee shop/bakery would last if bodies kept turning up outside them and that does sometimes affect how I feel about a series as it goes on – depending obviously on how the author handles it.  But the location catering idea means that there’s potential for the series to move around a bit.  This of course makes it a little harder to maintain a large gang of supporting characters, but it does stop the Cabot Cove effect.  The flipside is that with location moving around does it does mean that the murders might start to seem to be following the lead character around – the Jessica Fletcher effect.  But there are ways and means of dealing with all of these issues – and we’ll see how Red Carpet Catering copes if the series continues.

Penelope is one of the more appealing heroines I’ve recently read in the genre too.  She’s not too stupid to live (or at least not often), she’s not too obviously encroaching on police territory in a way that would get her arrested and she still manages to spend enough time at her business (or have staff manning it) that you can see that she’d stay solvent.  I guess I’m trying to say that Murder on the Half Shell has a good premise, lead character and is solidly executed.  I did think that some of the set-up and diversionary tactics were a little heavy-handed at times – the “obvious suspect” evidence particularly – but it wasn’t enough to annoy me.  It’s not as humourous as my favourite books in the genre, but again, that’s not really a problem if the mystery is interesting – and this one is.

Murder on the Half Shell was a perfectly nice way to spend a couple of train journeys – my copy came from NetGalley and I liked it enough to go back and get the first book in the series from there too.  If you fancy dipping your toe in the world of cozy crime on location, you can pick it up on Kindle (for £1.99 at time of writing).

Happy crime reading!

 

The Week In Books: February 15 – February 21

Two longstanding books finished this week (with most of the reading of them done this week) and a few nights away from home and a bit of a social life means not as much read as I was hoping at the start of the week.  I also had a lot of stuff on the go and tried to prioritise getting some of them finished over starting new stuff that I could have read quicker.

Read:

Murder on the Half Shell by Shawn Reilly Simmonds

The Prince’s Boy by Paul Bailey

The Edge of the Fall by Kate Williams

The Feud in the Fifth Remove by Elinor M Brent Dyer

Villa America by Liza Klaussman

Started:

The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone

Nancy Parker’s Diary of Detection by Julia Lee

Still reading:

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Stylist by Rosie Nixon

A big old order of republished classic school stories arrived this week (hence the Feud in the Fifth Remove on the read list) and a couple of kindle books which were on a deal and recommended by the Smart Bitches crew.

 

Book of the Week: The Murder Quadrille

This week’s BotW is Fidelis Morgan’s The Murder Quadrille – which is another Fahrenheit Press crime novel (that subscription I purchased is turning out to be a good move so far).  Honorable mention goes to The Little Shop of Happily Ever After by Jenny Colgan – but that got a mini-review in my Half Term Reads post, so it’s not entirely left out!

This is really hard to summarise without giving the plot away, but I’m going to try.  The Murder Quadrille opens at a dinner party being given by a businessman to impress his bank manager.  His (really quite annoyed) wife is doing the food.  Also invited is their lawyer and his trophy girlfriend and an American crime writer.  Talk around the table turns to the dead body that’s turned up on the Common, but is that a good idea?

I liked this so much.  It’s dark and funny and clever and you never quite know what’s happening.  The narrative moves around from dinner guest to dinner guest – often jumping at just the point when you think you’ve worked out what’s happened, only to reveal another twist that you didn’t see coming.  Brilliant.

This is so difficult to categorise – it’s not a detective story, but if you like cozy crime it’s not really very bloody or graphic – although it is blooming creepy – and really quite thrilling.  I can’t really think of anything that’s really similar, although in the initial stages Suzette A Hill’s Francis Oughterard series came to mind – but it got much more complicated than that very quickly!

Get your copy of The Murder Quadrille from Amazon Kindle or investigate the possibility of a Fahrenheit Books Subscription here.  I’ve had three books through the subscription (which I bought for myself, on the recommendation of a friend) and read two of them so far and really enjoyed both.  The price has gone up since I purchased – but so has the number of books they’re publishing this year, so it’s still a saving.

The Week In Books: February 8 – February 14

Late night train journies really help with the book reading, but I need to sort out this habit of mine of starting big thick books that are too chunky to take in my handbag to work!  I also read a couple of single issue comics, but they don’t have Goodreads entries, which I guess means I can’t count them!

Read:

Sisters on Bread Street by Frances Brody

The Little Shop of Happily Ever After by Jenny Colgan

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

The Murder Quadrille by Fidelis Morgan

Lumberjanes Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

Started:

The Stylist by Rosie Nixon

The Prince’s Boy by Paul Bailey

Still reading:

The Edge of the Fall by Kate Williams

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Villa America by Liza Klaussman

My headphones broke midweek and in ordering new ones, I may have bought 5 second hand books to get me free delivery on them.  I would have been buying then at some point anyway…

Valentine’s Day bonus post

I know – two posts in two days.  I’m spoiling you.  But I couldn’t let Valentines Day go past without mentioning some of my favourite romantic books.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I don’t care about all the posts about how you wouldn’t actually want to be with Mr Darcy in real life because I love this book.  I started reading my mum’s copy of the book as soon as I’d finished watching the first part of the 1995 BBC adaptation of it and I adored it. I was in the tail-end of primary school and just flat-out loved Lizzy.  My TV tie-in copy is much loved and I read it a lot.  Read it and fall in love with Lizzy as much as you do with Darcy.  And he grows as a person people.  Everyone’s allowed to make a mistake and compared to some of the stuff romance novel heros have in their past, being a bit stuck up and arrogant is not the biggest problem ever!

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

And a prime example of how Darcy could be so much worse is the Duke of Avon.  Justin’s nickname is Satanas.  You’re told he’s lost a fortune at the gaming tables and then won back someone elses – someone who then killed themselves.  He kidnapped a woman to try to force her to marry him.  But I defy you not to be rooting for him as he turns Leon the page into Leonie the lady and restores her to her place in eighteenth century French High Society.  And the way he achieves it isn’t exactly all hearts and flowers (although it is totally deserved).  One of my favourite romance tropes is I’m not good enough for him/her and this is just the perfect example of that.  And then when you’re done falling in love with Big Bad Justin, read Devil’s Cub and meet his son Dominic – mad, bad and dangerous to know and watch prim and proper Mary win his heart.  He doesn’t think he’s good enough either.  Swoon.

Stately Pursuits by Katie Fforde

Still my favourite Fforde novel (see my love letter to Fforde here), and you may start to detect a theme in my heros here.  Connor is tall, dark, brooding and moody.  Hetty’s mum’s sent her to look after Great Uncle Samuel’s stately home.  Hetty wants to save it, Connor thinks selling it is the best solution.  Cue fireworks of two different types.  If you like your heros a little bit more beta, try Fforde’s Flora’s Lot and Charles the auctioneer.  He’s engaged and thinks Flora is pushy. She thinks he’s uptight and change resistant.  Another of my favourite tropes – I hate you, I hate you, I can’t stop thinking about your hair as Sarah McLean of Smart Bitches would say.

Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L Sayers

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  This is the most romantic detective story ever.  After 3 books of angst and tension, Peter and Harriet are finally married.  But a body turns up at their honeymoon dream house and unless they can figure out who did it Harriet is worried that Peter will be haunted by it forever.  You’ll appreciate it most if you’ve read the other three books first, but once you have you’ll come back to it again and again.  I’ve listened to it once this week on audiobook already.  If you need more convincing I wrote a whole post about the wonders of Peter in general and Peter and Harriet in particular.

And Finally…

And if this still isn’t quite enough romance for you, try Eloisa James Duchess by Night featuring another of my favourite tropes – girls dressed as boys (see also the aforementioned These Old Shades) or Sarah MacLean’s Nine Rules to Break when Romancing a Rake (I would suggest Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover but that’s the end of a series and a big spoiler for the earlier books) which is another great trope (heroine needs to learn about love, asks rakish man to teach her) or a bit of Julia Quinn.  Try not to get hooked.  American-import romance can be an expensive habit.

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!