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!

Book of the Week: Our Own Private Universe

I had trouble picking my Book of the Week this week for various reasons, and I’m sorry that this post is a bit short.  Anyway, this week’s BotW is Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley.  I read this last week, and while bits of it didn’t work for me (of which more below) it’s a story that I haven’t read before (maybe I haven’t been looking in the right places!) and that needs to be represented more in fiction – particularly YA fiction.

I  like the UK cover but the US hardcover one is possibly braver.
15-year-old Aki is bi-sexual, but so far she’s only told her best friend Lori.  She’s off to Mexico for the summer with her church youth group and the pair have a plan to start getting out there and living an interesting life.  At the camp, Aki meets Christa and the two have a connection.  But it’s not easy trying to navigate your first relationship with everyone watching you – especially if you’re trying to keep it quiet.  And how do you know if it’s love anyway?

There was a lot about this that I liked.  It’s a diverse (in every way) queer coming of age story that (spoiler alert) doesn’t end in deaths and disownment.  But that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of angst, because there is.  In fact that was my main gripe with the book – that at times Aki just went too far over my whining teenager limit and there was a lot of petty drama that I could have done without.  But I have a low tolerance for that sort of thing – so it may work much better for the target market of angsty teenagers than it does for me!

But although it’s not perfect, stories like this need to be told and need to be out there.  And the world needs more happy YA love stories (or at least I do!)- whether they’re F/F, M/M or M/F.

My copy came from NetGalley, but Our Our Private Universe is available in paperback from Amazon, Waterstones and Foyles and on Kindle and Kobo. 

Relaxation Reading

Why hello dear Reader.  I now have finished my (partly self-inflicted) double dose of nightshift hell I feel like sharing some of the things that I’ve read and enjoyed during my two weeks of sleep deprivation and brain fade.  I’ve written about the effects of nights on my reading habits before and I can confirm that I’m still irrational, prone to tears and incapable of making decisions while I’m staying awake all night.  This set of nights I’ve been ever so restrained, and haven’t bought any books – which is a minor miracle as my nights the week before Christmas saw a mini ebook spree and the ones before that saw nearly a dozen books turning up the following week!

Romance

In many ways romances are perfect nightshift reading for me – you know what you’re getting.  The hero and heroine will get a Happily Ever After (or at least a Happily For Now) and if you know which tropes you like and which keywords to look out for you can pick books which should tick your boxes.  I know I don’t do well with angst and trauma when I’m on nights, so I’ve been picking out Enemies to Lovers stories like Lucy Parker’s Pretty Face (this week’s BotW) and a couple of new releases from favourite authors.  In fact I saved (waiting two weeks to read it counts as saved in my book) Eloisa James’s latest book Seven Minutes in Heaven especially for nightshifts.

Detective

I’ve already mentioned The Ballad of Sean and Wilko and I was luck enough to get an advance copy of Duncan MacMaster’s new book Hack which was fabulously entertaining – if you haven’t read A Mint Condition Corpse yet, I highly recommend it. Henery Press are one of my regular suppliers/purveyors of cozy crime and I read the first Zoe Chambers book Circle of Influence as well, which is a little darker than their usual crime, but very good – I’ll be keeping an eye out for more in the series.

Children’s Books

Fortuitously for me, an order of Girl’s Own books arrived just before I started nights.  This – combined with a couple of Middle Grade novels from NetGalley meant that I had plenty of school girl antics to read about.  Although not all of them were school girls.  I now know more than I ever thought I needed to about pedigree Cocker Spaniel care in the 1950s (Elinor M Brent Dyer’s Kennelmaid Nan) and a lot more about the trials of being a nursery teacher in a deprived area just after the war.

Hate reading

I wrote about hate reads only a few weeks ago.  My tendency to irrationality when on nights and shortness of sleep means I have a habit of losing my temper with Him Indoors at these sort of times.  So to avoid that, I channel my anger and rage in a good (you know what I mean) hate read.  I’m not naming names here* because this is a positive space but I’ve hate read (or ended up hate reading) at least one book each week of nights.

So there you have it – a bit more detail on What I Read On Nightshifts.  Hopefully it’s amused you to see how my brain regresses when I haven’t had enough sleep and may be there’s a few there that might appeal to you, I’m happy to be enabling your book purchasing decisions this weekend.

Happy reading!

*But if you follow me on Goodreads or Litsy you’ll know (or be able to work out) exactly which books I’m talking about!

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: Christmas Ever After

What else could I pick for a Christmas book this week except for a book set at Christmas-time? Exactly. It has to be a Christmas book in Christmas week. And I’ve read a lot of Christmas books this year – don’t believe me? Check out my Christmas books post.

Cover of Christmas Ever After

I think this might be the last Christmas book cover of the year. Maybe.


So my Christmas book of choice this week is the third in Sarah Morgan’s Puffin Island series, Christmas Ever after, which has Christmas twice – once in the UK and once on the island – and an enemies to lovers sort of plot where artistic Skylar’s politician boyfriend hijacks her big exhibition and then runs out on her, leaving unwilling acquaintance Alec to come to her rescue.  She ends up meeting his family – who think she’s his first girlfriend since his disastrous marriage, and well, it goes from there. There’s lots of sparky dialogue, sexy times, snow, sexy times, discussions about how relationships would bring out the best in you and not stifle you and romantic times.

This was so much fun. I like fractious relationships with romantic undertones – or ‘I hate you, I hate you, I can’t stop touching your hair’ as Sarah Wendell at Smart Bitches puts it –  so this is right up my street and it was the perfect book for me to read on Christmas Eve. It was warm and festive and if my new fireplace had actually been installed (don’t ask) I would have read it tucked up in front of a roaring fire and it would have been perfect. I’ve read the Puffin Island series slightly out of order, but I don’t think it’s been a problem at all – because for me the fun of a romance isn’t who people are going to end up with, but how they get there so I don’t mind knowing in advance who is going to end up with whom because I haven’t read the books in order.

So, in short, lovely Christmas romance, perfect for reading in front of the fire on your Christmas days off (like today if you have a bank holiday too) or on New Year’s Eve if you’re not all Christmassed out by then (or by now!) – or just put it on your list for next December.

Get your copy from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles or on Kindle (a bargain £1.99 at time of writing) or Kobo.

Happy reading!

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

Book of the Week: Sunset in Central Park

This week’s BotW is Sarah Morgan’s latest book – Sunset in Central Park.  This is the second book in her new series – about three young women who leave Puffin Island (the location of her previous series) for the bright lights of New York and a career in events management.

This is Frankie’s story – and Frankie is extremely wary of relationships after watching the fallout from her parents’ divorce when she was a teenager.  She avoids emotional attachments to anyone except her two closest friends – who she works with – and garden designer Matt, one of her friend’s brothers and the owner of the brownstone where they all have flats in Brooklyn.  She’s determined to keep their relationship strictly platonic, even though he makes her insides feel a bit odd, because all relationships end and she wants to keep him in her life.  But what she doesn’t know is that Matt’s been crazy about her forever, but has kept quiet because he knows how fragile she is.  But as he finds out more about her hidden depths as they work together on a project, the sparks fly.  Will he be able to convince her to take a chance on what they have?

This is romantic, fun and satisfying.  You know where it’s going, but it’s so much fun watching the characters work through all their issues to come to a happy conclusion.  Sarah Morgan has created a great group of strong competent women and is busy pairing them up with the men they deserve – equally strong and competent, and who compliment the girls – who definitely don’t need a man to complete them or fix their lives.  They can fix their own lives and problems, but the men will support and help them as they do it.  I did want to give Frankie a bit of a slap at times, but I always understood why she was behaving the way that she did.  I think I preferred the first book in the series slightly* – but that’s because I’m more of a Paige than I am a Frankie.

Copies of two Sarah Morgan books

I don’t have a paperback copy of Sunset in Central Park, but I do have other Sarah Morgans!

If you asked me, I would probably tell you that I don’t like contemporary romances, but that’s because when people say contemporary romance I think of billionaires and secretaries, doctors and nurses, nannies and lonely widowers, secret dukes and princes, secret babies and accidental pregnancies – none of which float my boat. I like smart heroines getting a happy ending – and if the books have a touch of humour, so much the better.   Thinking about it – and looking at the downstairs keepers bookshelf – there’s a lot of contemporary romance there – the sort of books that 10 years ago would have been called chick lit.  I don’t like chick lit as a term – but women’s fiction is too broad a description – so they probably would fall under the contemporary romance banner.

I only started reading Sarah Morgan because I met her at Sarah MacLean’s London tea-party and got given a free copy of one of the Puffin Island books (although I then went out and bought the first in this series and read that first after hearing Sarah Morgan talk about it on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books at the end of May) but it turns out that her latest books are exactly what floats my boat.  There was a sampler for Eva’s book at the end of this one and it left me desperate to read a Christmas-themed book – in July.  And you know my feelings on starting to read about Christmas too early.

My copy of Sunset in Central Park came from NetGalley – but you can get a copy from Amazon and Kindle (actually cheaper in book form at the time of writing) and I suspect possibly in supermarkets and other bookstores.  Don’t be put off by the Harlequin logo on the spine – if you are, you’ll be missing out.  I’m off to mine more of Sarah Morgan’s back catalogue – although I’ll never get through all of it and some of them are medical romances…

Happy reading!

*I read Sleepless in Manhattan the same week that I read The Rogue Not Taken or it would probably have been BotW that week.