Book of the Week: Southern Fried

It was actually a really tough choice picking this weeks BotW partly because I didn’t read as much last week and partly because none of what I read was an absolute stand out for me.  So in the end, I’ve settled on Tonya Kappes’ Southern Fried – a cozy crime mystery that comes out today, which has its issues, but overall was the book I had the most to say about of last week’s reading!

The cover of Southern Fried

I like the cover – simple but actually relevant to the story.

This is the second in the Kenni Lowry series – about the sheriff of small town in Kentucky who is assisted on the job by the ghost of her grandfather (no, don’t walk away, it’s not quite as nutty as it seems) who was also the town’s sheriff.  Kenni loves her job, but her mother isn’t best pleased about her daughter’s vocation – and neither are some of the townspeople as the local crime rate starts to rise.  In Southern Fried, Kenni is investigating the death of a man found dead in the greenhouse of his former (as it turns out) employer in the run up to a cook off that they were both taking part in.   In working out what happened, Kenni gets tangled up in family feuds and local intrigue just as election season is starting to get underway.  As the danger mounts, Kenni, her dog Duke and her new (and handsome) deputy Finn must work out what’s going on before the rising death toll scuttles Kenni’s chances at holding on to her dream job before the voting even starts.

There’s a lot that I liked about this – I love the southern setting, the mystery is fast-paced and twisty with a potential slow burn romance running alongside.  However as a Brit, I struggle to get my head around the idea of elected sheriffs and the hyper-local police forces and at times Kenni doesn’t help with this.  In the first book in the series I found her spacey and not entirely convincing on police procedure (especially for a police academy graduate) but she seems much more competent in this one, which helped me cope with the fact that she’s taking advice from a ghost!  Regular readers will know that I have a strange releationship with the supernatural and parnormal in books*, but in the main this works for me.  There were still a couple of points where I raised my eyebrows at Kenni’s actions – an amateur detective can get away with a lot more than a sheriff can – but the book moves quick enough that you only notice this when you stop to think!

This book also made me muse on the role of the knowledgeable background character in cozy crimes.  Kenni being the sheriff is a double-edged sword – it means that she has the right to be investigating crimes (and indeed is likely to come across them) in a way that many of the sleuths in cozies don’t, but it also rules out an important source of information and means that at times the sleuth can come across as not being very good at her job.  there’s a couple of points in this where Finn the deputy seems like he knows what he’s doing more than Kenni does.  But this is only book two in the series and is a big step on from book one so there is lots of potential for development and improvement as the series goes on.

My copy came from NetGalley, but you can buy Southern Fried on Kindle or in paperback from Amazon from today.

Happy Reading.

* As in sometimes it works for me and sometimes it doesn’t but I can never work out in advance what I’m going to like and what I’m going to hate!

Book of the Week: Bet Me

This week’s BotW is another entry in the list of books that Verity really should have read sooner: Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. I have heard this book recommended so many times by so many people – not just as being a great book, but as being a great entry way into romance.  And they’re all right.

Bet Me is the story of Min and Cal. Min is an actuary with a nightmare mother, and who looks at life through a veil of statistics. Cal has a reputation as a love ’em and leave ’em type and has his own parental problems.  Min gets dumped by her boyfriend, 3 weeks before her sister’s wedding and then hears Cal accept a bet to try and pull her. She needs a date, but isn’t going to put up with any of Cal’s smooth-talking ways. Cal thinks she’s the most uptight, closed-off woman he’s ever met. But when they’re together sparks fly no matter how much they try and ignore it.  And then there’s the matter of that bet…

This is the book version of one of those great 1990s romantic comedies, except without any double standards, etc. Min is fun and feisty and not prepared to put up with people being mean to her or acting like idiots towards her. She knows what she wants and she’s out looking for it, albeit not in the right places or the right way. Cal is realistic about what he’s prepared to offer a relationship, even if he doesn’t realise the reality of what he’s doing. The two of them together are a snarky, bantery duo that you’re rooting for from the start. There are a couple of great subplots in here to help with the drama and tension and it’s all such great fun.  And to put the icing on the cake, both Min and Cal have great friends, who are on their side and in their corner no matter what, which is particularly great in Min’s case, because in so many books the heroine’s friends have ulterior motives or are just window dressing. Min’s gang are properly fleshed out, real people who are looking out for their friend.  It’s just brilliant.

Yes. I should have read this sooner. Yes, I’m way behind the curve. But it doesn’t matter, because this is a great book and mor people need to read it. So I’m happy to admit that I should have listened to Sarah from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and read it the first time she mentioned it on the podcast and not wait till I’ve heard it mentioned dozens of times – not just by her but by the Book Riot girls too and by bookish friends too.  I know. I say this every time. But don’t be stupid like me, go and read Bet Me now. And go and read it even if you’ve read his thinking “but I don’t read romance” because this isn’t what you’re thinking of.  It’s much, much more. 10 years ago, it would have been given a cartoon cover in bubble gum pink and called chick lit.  And I mean that in a good way, because I miss those days of funny, clever romances and I’m always looking for books that scratch that itch. 

You can get Bet Me on Kindle or iBooks

Happy Reading!

Recommendsday

Borrowing shamelessly from one of my favourite things on Litsy (I’m @Verity if you’re over there, do come and find me) I thought I’d start recommending books on Wednesdays.  Some times it might be a big long post about a book I haven’t talked about before, sometimes it might be a quick bump for one I’ve written about before, sometimes it might be a book that’s topical, you get the idea.  I’m going to try and be good and post one each week, but we’ll see how that goes.  Anyway, I’m kicking Recommendsday off with The Clancy’s of Queens which tells the story of Tara Clancy’s childhood and youth in Queens.

The Clancys of Queens

Such a classy looking book (she says in a terrible attempt at a Queens accent)

Tara’s parents divorced when she was small and she spent a lot of her childhood shuttling between her grandparents’ house in a geriatric neighbourhood, her father’s converted boathouse home and her mother’s boyfriend’s house in the Hamptons.  This, unsurprisingly left her with some issues as she switched between working class, middle class and upper class communities.   Tara talks about her experiences with humour and I haven’t seen many (any?) similar memoirs.  I’m convinced that I wouldn’t have made it through the school system in Queens in one piece, but it makes for a great read.

I mentioned this book in my personal Christmas book request post after hearing about it on a lot of podcasts – and I got given it for my birthday.  As it’s in hardback it’s taken me a few weeks to get around to reading it.  But I’m very glad I did. It’s an American import, but you can get a copy from Amazon (I do hope Him Indoors didn’t pay £20+ for it for me!) or preorder the (slightly cheaper, but still fairly eyewatering) paperback.  There is an audiobook version – but it’s not available on UK Audible.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week: Pretty Face

I know.  This is a day late.  What can I say – nightshifts really wiped me out.  I have spent so much time sleeping – and then a lot of life admin to do to try to catch up after two weeks of living nocturnally.  So this is a Recommendsday post instead – and you can wait until tomorrow for February stats.  Sorry.  Anyhow, this week’s BotW really brightened my nightshifts commutes up last week – Lucy Parker’s second book, Pretty Face.

Cover of Pretty face by Lucy Parker

You know its in London because of the bridge!

Lily Lamprey is an actress.  Unfortunately she’s handicapped by a sexy voice and curves that saw her cast as a man-stealing bitch in a popular period drama.  But now she’s leaving the show and she wants to do something different.  Respected theatre director Luc Savage has poured his heart and soul into restoring his family’s London theatre and now he’s casting the opening production.  Some of his partners think that Lily giving a role would be a great way to sell tickets.  But he’s not convinced she can pull it off.  When the two meet there are sparks – and instant attraction.  But Lily’s mum has a reputation for getting ahead through her relationships and Lily knows what people will say if she starts seeing Luc.  Luc’s long-term relationship has just finished and he’s older than Lily – he’s sure it’s just a mid-life crisis and he’s not willing to risk his career and reputation on it.

This is just what I like in a romance.  It’s an enemies to lovers story with witty banter, plenty of snark and a great set up.  Both characters have their issues and their reasons for avoiding a relationship with each other and the way things are worked out and worked through is fun to read about.  Parker’s depiction of the world of the theatre is great – full of well-rounded characters and personality.  If I have a problem with the book it’s that a few of the British references and British-isms jarred for me and didn’t ring entirely true.  But that’s little nitpicky details that most people probably aren’t going to spot/be annoyed by.

Pretty Face was just what I needed last week – fun and romantic, with a bit of emotional peril and a satisfying conclusion.  And I liked it more than I liked her first book, Act Like It, too.  I just hope we don’t have to wait too long for another one.

My copy came via NetGalley, but you can get an ebook copy from Kindle or Kobo, who also have Act Like it as well (Kindle, Kobo).

Happy reading!

Book of the Week: The Semester of Our Discontent

Last week was almost entirely taken up with cozy crimes, many of them the first in series as I’m on the hunt for another one to add to my lists.  It’s proving a harder quest than I had imagined.  Quite a few of the books that I read last week had a problem (or two).  But in the end I settled on the first book in Cynthia Kuhn’s Lila McLean series – mostly on the basis that I went out and requested the second book from NetGalley after I finished it – which is out later this month – and then read that too.

Cover of The Semester of Our Discontent

I like the simplicity of the cover – it looks classy to me.

So, in the Semester of Our Discontent we met Lila, newly appointed English professor at a small but prestigious university.  But no sooner has she arrived at Stonedale than she has more to worry about than whether she’s going to get enough published to get tenure when she finds one of her colleagues dead.  Her cousin (also on the staff and up for tenure) is one of the prince suspects, so Lila starts gathering evidence alongside teaching and settling in to her new job.

Now as a Brit, I had to google tenure the first time I can across it in a book a few years back, because it wasn’t something I had come across in the UK system, but this actually explains it really quite well and it made sense to me (or at least as much sense as it can make!) without slowing down the plot or doing an info dump.  There’s a large cast of characters in this, who don’t always get a chance to become more than just names* but the people you do get to know are engaging and three dimensional.  There’s definitely set up here for running threads for the series, but it’s done much less obviously than some of the other books I read last week.

There are a couple of moments that are a bit over the top (and I can’t tell you what) but Lila’s investigations are sensible enough and she never strays over the Too Stupid to Live or the Why the Monkeys Hasn’t She Been Arrested lines – which again was a problem in some of the other books that I read this week.

The Semester of Our Discontent isn’t perfect, but it’s engaging and readable and the depiction of campus life feels like it has plenty of potential for plots that don’t neccesarily revolve around loads of bodies**.  And at time of writing its available for the bargain price of 99p on Kindle.  It’s also available, but more expensive (£2.04) on Kobo.  The second book, The Art of Vanishing, is available on the 28th – Kindle and Kobo are taking pre-orders now, and again at time of writing Kindle is the cheaper.  They’re both published by Henery Press, who were the source of a fair few of my cozies last week, and they have more links to outlets where you can buy on their websites as well as sign up to their newsletter, which sometimes has freebies.  Wink wink.

Happy reading!

*Although this is sorted out in book 2

**As demonstrated in book 2

Inauguration Reading?

As you may have noticed (I think it’s hard to have missed it) Donald Trump is about to be sworn in as President of the United States.  It always seems strange to me that it takes America so long to swap over after elections, but here we are, today is Inauguration Day.  And being a news person, that means this week I’m thinking politics and books about politics.  Regular readers will know that I’ve been reading Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife for sometime – it’s been my bedside book, although this week it’s had an upgrade – and I’m also reading First Women which I got for Christmas.  All of which means my reading this week has been fairly American politics heavy.  I’m at work getting ready to watch The Donald take charge (oh the joys of scheduled posting), but if you’re not watching – or if you’ve watched and want more politics, here are some reading suggestions for you.

First Women and American Wife

My current politics-themed reading choices

Primary Colors By Anon (Joe Klein)

Primary Colors tells the story of Jack Stanton, a southern governor making a presidential run.  One of the blurbs coyly says that some characters and events ressemble real-life figures – but it doesn’t take much knowledge to work out that the people in question are the Clintons and that this is a fictionalised version of Bill’s presidential campaign.  I read this on holiday last year, and although it’s incredibly readable, I really hope that the machinations in this are an exaggeration.  If half of them go on in real life, it’s a worry.  Worth reading if you haven’t already – you’ll probably end up down a Wikipedia hole as you try and work out which bits are true(r) and which are made up.

John F Kennedy: An Unfinished Life by Robert Dallek

This is a proper weighty tome.  It covers all of JFK’s life – but not much of the fallout (and conspiracies) after his assassination.  I came away with a much better understanding of what he stood for and what his background.  It’s not salacious – although the other women do get mentioned – but you do get a lot of detail about his family background and his medical history and how all of this influenced him.  I came away with a strong dislike of his family and strongly mixed feelings about him, but it’s definitely worth it.

The Importance of Being Kennedy by Laurie Graham

If you want a Kennedy fix, but don’t want a biography, (or if you’ve read the biography and still want more) try this.  Nora Brennan is newly arrived from Ireland when she gets a job as a nursery maid to a family in Brookline.  She ends up on the inside of American history as she looks after the Kennedy children and sees their parents try to build an empire.  It takes you through Joe’s time as Ambassador in the UK and WW2 and beyond.  Warning: you may not like many of them (detect a theme here with the Kennedys?) but it’s worth it for the wit and warmth.  The history is spot on as well which is what Laurie Graham does so well – if you like this, search out my favourite of hers Gone with the Windsors.

Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman

Slightly left field this I’ll admit – because it’s not about American politics but an English aristocrat in the Eighteenth century.  But Georgiana (pronounced George-ay-na in this case not George-ee-ana like Pride and Prejudice) was a political activist as well as a famed beauty and the queen of fashionable society, and this biography deals with that as well as with her (very) complicated love life.  She’s another person who I didn’t like very much, but I was fascinated by her story.  A film of the book was made a few years back featuring Keira Knightley which I keep meaning to get around to watching.

The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Sick of modern politics?  Need a reminder of how bad things used to be?  Read this. Turns out Imperial Russia was even worse that I thought – and I’m only just at the latter stages of the war against Napoleon.  So far there’s been patricide, filicide, plain old homicide, usurpers, wifes sent to convents, imprisoned deposed rulers and so many horrible murders and inventive torture methods.  So many. So gruesome.  Some involved spikes.  I’m listening to the audiobook and I can confirm that I run faster when listening to tales of horrible doings – probably because I don’t want any of them catching up with me!

What’s next on my list?  Well I have Paula Byrne’s book, Kick, about JFK’s sister sitting on the pile, so I might read that.  In all the Kennedy books I’ve read so far she’s probably come off as the nicest of them although she died young and had a bit of a tragicl life.  And as she married the eldest son of the Duke of Devonshire – so it sort of ties in nicely with Georgiana too!

Book of the Week: Daughters of the Bride

This was a tricky decision, but I had a Margery Allingham as BotW a couple of weeks back so I went for a romance option instead.  And it’s another contemporary romance as well! Daughters of the Bride is the latest from Susan Mallery – who has more books than I can count on Goodreads, even if this was the first of hers that I have read.

Courtney, Rachel and Sienna are preparing for a wedding  – their mother’s.   After their father died when they were young she’s found love again.  But each of the three sisters has a secret (at least) from the others.  Courtney is the misfit – she doesn’t feel as together as her sisters and she’s got a plan to prove to her family that she’s not the failure they think she is.  Sienna’s boyfriend just proposed in front of all her friends and family, but with two failed engagements behind her, has she picked the right man this time?  And Rachel has been divorced for a while now – but as her husband takes a more active role in her son’s life, she’s forced to reexamine the reasons for their break up and whether she’s ready to move on.

I really liked this book – all the sisters have strong stories and have been affected by the death of their father and the ramifications on their lives differently and it is a rollercoaster of emotions watching them work through their issues to get their happy endings.  I had a favourite (I think you always do!) but the other two behind were pretty level.  Their mum is a little harder to like at times – she’s tough and no nonsense and can be a bit self-centered, but as a reader you can understand why she behaved the way she did when her first husband died, even if you don’t understand her (seeming) inability to fully realise and acknowledge the effect it had on her children.

So there you have it – another contemporary romance book of the week and another book that would make a great beach read if you’re off to sunnier climes.  My copy came from NetGalley, but you can get it on Kindle or Kobo, although the hardback price on Amazon is ridiculous (£20.40 as I write this) so don’t do that – it’s not long enough to be twenty quids worth of book!

Happy reading