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SusanJ's 12 in 12 challenge

The 12 in 12 Category Challenge

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Edited: Jul 1, 2012, 10:54am Top

Hello, this is my first time doing this challenge, but I've seen some of the 75-ers mention it, and I was intrigued to see whether I could make myself read other than entirely randomly, which I seem to do at the moment.

I'm going to aim for six books in each category, because of the Dickens novels which are huge. Then I'll see how I go.


1. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens


1. Lemon Sherbet and Dolly Blue by Lynn Knight
2. The Gentry: Stories of the English by Adam Nicolson
3. Can Any Mother Help Me? by Jenna Bailey
4. Cocktail Hour Under The Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller


1. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
2. Alys, Always by Harriet Lane
3. I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
4. Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton


1. Blade of Fortriu by Juliet Marillier
2. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
3. The Well of Shades by Juliet Marillier


1. Across a Moonlit Sea by Marsha Canham


1. Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley
2. Double Dare by Rhonda Nelson
3. The UnTied Kingdom by Kate Johnson
4. The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
5. The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
6. Naked in Death by J D Robb
7. A Marriage of Convenience by Doreen Ownes Malek
8. The Sultan's Choice by Abby Green


1. Virals by Kathy Reichs
2. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
3. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
4. Song to Wake to by J D Field
5. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
6. Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen
7. Divergent by Veronica Roth
8. What I Saw And How I Lied by Judy Blundell


1. 1022 Evergreen Place by Debbie Macomber
2. Seizure by Kathy Reichs
3. The Sudbury School Murders by Ashley Gardner
4. Midwinter of the Spirit by Phil Rickman
5. Rock Anthem by J D Field
6. The Likeness by Tana French
7. Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
8. Antiques Maul by Barbara Allan
9. 1105 Yakima Street by Debbie Macomber
10. 1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie Macomber
11. One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
12. A Crown of Lights by Phil Rickman


1. The Expats by Chris Pavone
2. The Soldier's Wife by Joanna Trollope
3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
4. Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry
5. The Forbidden Ferrara by Sarah Morgan
6. The Library Book by various authors
7. Already Home by Vicki Lewis Thompson and Slow Summer Kisses by Shannon Stacey (two novellas, word count combined)
8. The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
9. Defying the Prince by Sarah Morgan
10. Capital by John Lanchester


1. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
2. My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young
3. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
4. The Wine of Angels by Phil Rickman
5. The Submission by Amy Waldman
6. The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
7. Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook
8. The Necropolis Railway by Andrew Martin
9. Hot Island Nights by Sarah Mayberry
10.Silent in the Grave by Deanne Raybourn


1. Martyr by Rory Clements
2. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
3. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
4. In The Woods by Tana French
5. Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
6. Still Life by Louise Penny
7. The High Crusade by Poul Anderson
8. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson


1. The Sergeant's Lady by Susanna Fraser
2. A Dog Named Slugger by Leigh Brill
3. Rescue by Anita Shreve
4. Wanted! by Vicki Lewis Thompson
5. Ambushed! by Vicki Lewis Thompson
6. Claimed! by Vicki Lewis Thompson
7. The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber
8. Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins
9. Should've Been A Cowboy by Vicki Lewis Thompson
10.Cowboy Up by Vicki Lewis Thompson
11.Cowboys Like Us by Vicki Lewis Thompson

Jan 1, 2012, 7:59am Top

Yay! My attempt at bold worked! Next up: Pictures. In about June...

Jan 1, 2012, 11:54am Top

Welcome to the challenge! Nice range of categories and I hope you have fun with your challenge~!

Jan 1, 2012, 2:45pm Top

Hope you find some good reads for 2012.

Jan 1, 2012, 4:09pm Top

Welcome to the group. I'll be interested to see how these categories get filled up. Enjoy your challenge.

Jan 1, 2012, 4:24pm Top

Welcome to the challenge.

Jan 2, 2012, 7:42am Top

Thanks everyone! I've just filled in my first book:

Title: Blade of Fortriu by Juliet Marillier.
Category: Fantasy novels

This is the second in a trilogy called the Bridei Chronicles, which is set in Scotland in the 500s, and I read the first one just before Christmas. I'm keen to get the third as there are a lot of characters to keep straight. I haven't read a lot of fantasy, so if anyone has suggestions for more to try, I'd love to hear them. This read like a historical novel with fantasy elements to me (a bit like the Outlander series is historical romance with a tiny bit of time travel :-). I think there is fantasy set in entirely different worlds, which doesn't really appeal to me, but then again never say never.

I'm going to read a romance next, by an author new to me, from Mount TBR. So many categories it could fit...

Jan 2, 2012, 2:06pm Top

This sounds like a possible bridge to George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series starting with Game of Thrones. There are lots of characters but the books focus on select individuals so it's not so hard to keep track of them. Be warned, though. They are brutal.

Jan 2, 2012, 2:15pm Top

Here is my second book:

Title: The Sergeant's Lady by Susanna Fraser
Category: Mount TBR challenge. This could also go under romance, but - ahem - I suspect I am going to read quite a bit of romance despite trying to diversify. The author is also new to me, but I have to put it somewhere and I get a sense of achievement from Mount TBR :-)

I loved this novel, set during the Peninsular War, and wish I'd got to it earlier. That's the trouble with the Mount - too much adding, not enough reading!

Jan 2, 2012, 2:17pm Top

#8: Thanks Mamzel. I have read the first two of the Song of Ice and Fire series (and agree about the brutality!). But then I realised it was going to be years until the series was finished, so I decided to wait until it was, and read them all then.

Jan 2, 2012, 3:42pm Top

Yay! Two books down. You have intrigued me with the Bridei Chronicles and have mentally shelved that information for my next rainy day visit to the library.

Jan 2, 2012, 5:18pm Top

I am a big fan of Juliet Marillier. I am working my way through her Sevenwaters series, which is excellent. It's good to know that her Bridei Chronicles are worth a visit as well.

Jan 2, 2012, 5:32pm Top

Welcome, Susan! You've got some great categories. I'm particularly curious to see what you'll read for your "The Way They Lived Then" and "Waterloo Sunset" categories.

Jan 2, 2012, 10:41pm Top

Oh man, I was totally going to suggest a tandem read of The Blade of Fortriu (since I am also planning to read it this year), and then I saw that you've already read it! :) If you enjoyed it, I would definitely recommend any of Marillier's other novels; I've read Daughter of the Forest (her first Sevenwaters book), Heart's Blood, and Wildwood Dancing and Cybele's Secret -- all great!

Jan 3, 2012, 12:15pm Top

Hi everyone!

#11: Lori, I'm not sure how I became aware of Juliet Marillier, but I'm glad I found her, so I hope you like the books if you find them.

#12: Judy, I've read the first three of the Sevenwaters books (back when it was just a trilogy). I think there's a new one coming out later this year which makes it five in total (?) so I'm going to wait till then, and reread the old ones and add the new.

#13: Carrie, I've got a number of social history books in my TBR pile, and I've nearly finished Austerity Britain, which will be followed by Family Britain, but the London section is a bit of a mystery to me too! I'm thinking about Pigeon English as a possible start, as it got lots of press here last year. Sebastian Faulk's A Week in December would have fitted in nicely, but I read that when it came out a year or so ago.

#14: Christina, I'll look out for those others. I read Wolfskin but not Foxmask, so I also have that one.

Jan 7, 2012, 2:16pm Top

Title: Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
Category: Modern fiction set in London

I loved this novel about an 11-year-old boy living in an iffy part of London, and trying to get used to life in England after coming over from Ghana. There were many funny bits in it as he misunderstood things in the way that kids everywhere do - you mis-hear something when you're a child and go along merrily on your way until the truth dawns months or years later :-) but as the main subject of the book was the extreme violence that affects so many young people here, overall it was very sad. There were some good secondary characters, my favourite being Takeaway Terry with his dog, Asbo (for non-UK readers, an ASBO is an anti-social behaviour order, handed down by the courts to try and keep people in line) but the other family members were also well-drawn.

Jan 7, 2012, 2:35pm Top

9> Did you find Sergeant's Lady in print somewhere, or did you read this as an e-book?

I would love to read it, but not unless I can at least find a print-on-demand version somewhere. I am not and will not ever be an e-book reader. The format holds even less appeal for me than audiobooks.

Thanks, Renee

Jan 7, 2012, 2:42pm Top

Renee, it's e format only (at the moment, anyway). I just checked the Carina Press website (they're the digital-first imprint of Harlequin).

Jan 8, 2012, 2:20pm Top

Title: Virals by Kathy Reichs
Category: YA fiction. This could also go into the category for books recommended by other LT members, but somehow I don't think I'm going to be short of entries for that category...

This is a real change from the books I normally read, and I really enjoyed it. My library has the second one on order, so I'm going to get onto the list for it.

Title: Lemon Sherbet and Dolly Blue by Lynn Knight
Category: Social history. It could also be an author new to me, or an impulsively-borrowed new and shiny library book, but I don't seem to have a category for that.

This is a memoir of family life in Derbyshire from the 1900s to the 1950s and a lovely book. The author explores how and why people from three generations of her family were adopted into it, and it is a reminder that there are many different types of families out there. I'm very pleased that I found it.

Jan 11, 2012, 4:03pm Top

Title: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
Category: Author new to me. It could also be a LT recommendation. And a bright new shiny thing, except I don't have a category for that. Next year!

This is one of those story-within-a-story plots, about a modern novelist writing a historical novel about the Jacobite uprising of 1708, and finding herself writing all sorts of things that she then learns are actually historical fact. But how has this happened, and what will happen next to her heroine, Sophia? Sophia's story runs alongside the novelist's own romantic story, and I liked the fact that both sets of characters were convincing and, frankly, lovely. I read a couple of novels last year that used a similar plot device and found that, while the historical story worked well, the modern characters were just irritating. But this time everything worked together, and I raced through this novel in a couple of evenings (and a bus ride) because I just couldn't put it down. Now I just have to stop myself from gobbling up this author's entire back-catalogue in the next month.

Jan 11, 2012, 5:04pm Top

The Winter Sea does sound lovely. And such a beautiful cover as well. I have been planning on reading Susanna Kearsley for awhile, perhaps I will be able to fit her in this year.

Jan 11, 2012, 10:13pm Top

@ 20 -- I'm so excited you liked The Winter Sea! I bought it last year after reading a couple very positive reviews, and now it's sitting on my shelves begging me to read it. I'm hoping to get to it this month!

Jan 12, 2012, 6:44pm Top

I'm pretty sure that one is already on my wish list. I'll have to double-check to make sure.

Jan 14, 2012, 2:58pm Top

Title: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Category: YA. Also an author new to me, and a LT recommendation (thanks Eris!)

I loved this story of a 16-year-old girl living 300 years in the future, when everyone got turned "pretty" just after their birthday, and led a charmed life. Tally's best friend has already had the operation and lives in New Pretty Town, where there is lots of partying and glamour, while Tally waits in Uglyville for her own birthday. Then she learns about a place called "The Smoke", inhabited by people who have run away, and opted to stay "ugly" forever... The world created by the author in this book is extraordinary, and drew me in right from the beginning. I did take a *tiny* exception to people being known as "Crumblies" once they reached their late 40s, but I suppose that would seem entirely reasonable to a teen reader :-) I'm looking forward to the sequel.

Edited: Jan 19, 2012, 7:25pm Top

Definitely putting Pigeon English on my wishlist - thanks for bringing it to my attention!

"I did take a *tiny* exception to people being known as "Crumblies" once they reached their late 40s" LOL - I'm not quite there yet, but it's not far enough away not to agree with you!

Jan 15, 2012, 7:00am Top

Title: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Category: YA. Also an author new to me, and an LT recommendation.

This was a fun read, and I can see why the series is so popular. I borrowed the library ebook, and amazingly they have all the others, so I will continue with them at some point.

Jan 15, 2012, 2:56pm Top

Title: Song to Wake to by J D Field
Category: YA. Also an author new to me, and a total impulse purchase after reading about it in the comments under a UK newspaper article, except I don't have a category for that.

This is the first in a trilogy featuring Madeleine Bride, a teenager who has to move from London to Glastonbury, and who is worried about all the usual things, including changing schools. But nothing is quite what it seems in her new life, and it turns out that she has rather more to concern herself with than schoolwork and her place on the swimming team. I'm not going to say any more as it would all be spoilers, and there's fun to be had in trying to guess what's going to happen, but I enjoyed it a lot, and I'm looking forward to to the next two parts.

Jan 19, 2012, 9:56am Top

Title: My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young
Category: Authors new to me. This is a bit of a squeeze as I used to love Louisa Young's articles when she wrote for Marie Claire magazine, but a novel is different :-)

The title of this book is the first few words of a postcard that soldiers wounded in WWI could send to their loved ones as they were being transferred to hospital, and before their families received an official telegram. The story is about the lives of five characters during the war, one of whom is wounded, another of whom ends up looking after him, and what happens afterwards. It's beautifully written, and partly set at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, where Harold Gillies, the NZ-born surgeon, pioneered many plastic surgery techniques to help injured soldiers. The reviews here on LT seem to be a bit indifferent, but I would recommend this for anyone interested in the period, or who had a family member in the war. My grandfather fought in it, and I have often wondered where, and for how long. He survived uninjured, but as one of the other characters in this story demonstrates, physical injuries were just one of the ways in which the war damaged people. It's a very thought-provoking book.

Jan 21, 2012, 11:24am Top

...And onto the TBR list goes My Dear I Wanted to Tell You! Sounds like a fascinating book.

Jan 21, 2012, 11:52am Top

#29: I hope you enjoy it, Christina! It was different to what I was expecting, but in a good way.

Title: A Dog Named Slugger by Leigh Brill
Category: Mount TBR. I found this on my Kindle on Thursday when I needed something easy to read.

This is the story of the author's first service dog, Slugger, a yellow Labrador, and how they were paired up and worked together. I've always been impressed by these dogs, and how well-behaved they are when they're on duty, but it comes after a lot of training, and there was a funny episode in here about a stray meatball on the floor of a pizza restaurant, which proved quite a test :-) As dogs don't live as long as people, there was inevitably a sad bit, but it ended on a positive note.

Jan 22, 2012, 12:03pm Top

Title: 1022 Evergreen Place by Debbie Macomber
Category: Series reads

This is the tenth book in the Cedar Cove series, which I was making my way through last year. I'm addicted to these novels, which follow the lives of people in the small town of Cedar Cove, an eighty-minute drive from Seattle. I only have two more to go, but there are new plotlines being introduced all the time. They are gentle reads, perfect for a weekend afternoon, and I like the small-town setting with all the characters' lives being connected.

Edited: Jan 25, 2012, 1:13pm Top

Title: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Category: Authors new to me.

I loved this story, which is a series of chapters written by different narrators, but who all connect across time. The skipping backwards and forwards in time makes following it a bit of a challenge, but it was well worth paying attention.

Jan 28, 2012, 11:01am Top

Title: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
Category: Here Be Dragons - Fantasy novels

This could also be in the "Recommended by LT category", although I'm sorry to say that I didn't like it at all. There was too much brutality and too many horrible deaths, which was all very off-putting, and not what I want to read for fun (or indeed at all). I tried to ignore it and concentrate on the other elements in the story, but when I got to the end it hadn't worked.

Jan 28, 2012, 8:43pm Top

I've only ever heard great words about Tigana as well and it is indeed on my wishlist due to LTers' recommendations. Always interesting to hear differing words on a book before one reads it!

Jan 28, 2012, 10:40pm Top

Haven't made into GGK's works yet.... and might not venture there now that you have been able to provide a negative review to counter the glowing positives I have seen. Thanks!

Jan 29, 2012, 12:16pm Top

#34, #35: I'm definitely in the minority in respect of Tigana, and possibly just because I'm squeamish. Other people rave about it!

Today I read something that is much more "me":

Title: Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley
Category: Romancelandia. That's possibly a bit of a stretch, category-wise, but I don't have a category for new authors I have discovered and now want to read everything they've written. I must make a note of that for next year. Maybe with a snappier title.

Like The Winter Sea, this story also goes back and forth in time, although not to the same extent. The historical part of it is just a few pages, set in the 1920s, telling the story of a young English actress and the Italian writer who fell in love with her. The modern part of the story is about a young English actress about to star in a play written by the writer for his lover, but which was never performed due to her mysterious disappearance. It was a great read for a chilly weekend day, tucked up on the sofa.

Jan 30, 2012, 8:13pm Top

@ 36 -- I'm reading The Winter Sea right now! I'm enjoying it, but I haven't been truly sucked into the book yet...probably because I haven't had much time to read lately. It's certainly very well written, though, and I definitely think I'll be reading more Kearsley.

Feb 4, 2012, 7:22am Top

#37: Christina, I hope it lives up to my favourable review!

Title: Martyr by Rory Clements
Category: Led Astray - Recommendations from LT

This was another gruesome read, and unnecessarily so, in my opinion. Yes, life was brutal in Elizabethan times, and there was all the torturing going on, but I see no need to spell it all out. This was a story about John Shakespeare, the fictional brother of William, who worked for Sir Frances Walsingham, and who had to investigate the (gory, naturally) murder of a young woman from a Catholic family. There was lots of blood and guts and gore, and the writing wasn't brilliant, although the plot worked well. Not recommended for the squeamish. I wouldn't mind seeing what happens in the next one, which has something to do with the Roanoke colony, but there are so many other things out there clamouring for attention that I'm doubtful I'll get to it.

Feb 4, 2012, 4:16pm Top

Title: Seizure by Kathy Reichs
Category: Series reads

This is the second book in the Virals series, which I started last month, and was another good read. I haven't really read YA for years, and most of what I see on the shelves seems to be vampire-y, so it was good to find something that isn't.

Feb 5, 2012, 1:08pm Top

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
Category: Led Astray - Recommendations from LT

I was hoping to like this, but it wasn't for me.

Feb 6, 2012, 3:05pm Top

Title: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Category: Led Astray - Recommendations from LT

I loved this novel,about what happens to the population of a small island when suddenly they're forbidden from using certain letters of the alphabet in order to communicate. Gradually, as more and more letters become outlawed, and islanders are deported for repeat infringements, those left behind have to be more and more inventive in the words they use. Highly recommended.

Feb 7, 2012, 7:51am Top

I've heard good things about Ella Minnow Pea, thanks for the reminder!

Feb 8, 2012, 6:12am Top

#42: It's definitely worth a read - I'm recommending it to lots of people.

Title: The Sudbury School Murders by Ashley Gardner
Category: Series reads

This is the fourth book in the Captain Lacey mysteries series, set in early 1800s London. I wouldn't really agree with the tag "cozy" that I see on the book's page here on LT, but there are some good characters, and interesting set-ups. I have book 5 all ready to go when the library books are finished.

Feb 11, 2012, 10:34am Top

Title: The Wine of Angels by Phil Rickman
Category: New to Me - Authors I haven't Read Before

I saw this crime series recommended on Diana Gabaldon's blog, which meant I had to try it, and this was a really good first book in the series, which sets it up for seven or eight further novels, I think. I am about to look up the library catalogue to see if the second one is in stock somewhere convenient. I don't generally read crime, but fortunately this one wasn't too gory, and the heroine was a female vicar, which is a change from the embittered police officer heroes of many of these books (well, from what I understand, anyway).

Feb 12, 2012, 12:12pm Top

Title: Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
Category: The Dickens Bicentenary

This is the first book in my attempt to read some Dickens this year. And the "challenge" part of the 12 in 12 Challenge lived up to its name. This was sooooo long. And pretty tedious. I kept putting it aside to read other things, which might have been my mistake, but at least it's finished now.

Feb 12, 2012, 5:05pm Top

You can now scratch that one off your list.

Feb 14, 2012, 5:25am Top

Yes, and I'm pretty relieved! I think I need to concentrate more on the next one, and not get distracted.

Title: Double Dare by Rhonda Nelson
Category: Romancelandia

This was a novella by Rhonda Nelson, who is a Harlequin Blaze author. She says on her website that it was one of her first books, and it's pretty different in style to a Blaze, but very sweet. And with a happy ending :-) I almost feel like I'm cheating, to finish a book so quickly, but I'm counting it anyway.

Feb 20, 2012, 4:09am Top

Title: In The Woods by Tana French
Category: Led Astray - Recommendations from LT

I'm not usually a crime reader, but really enjoyed this novel, set in Ireland, about a police officer in the Dublin murder squad who finds himself investigating the death of a young girl in the area where he used to live, and where two of his friends went missing when they were children. He has no memory of the afternoon the three of them went into the woods to play and the others disappeared forever. The writing is excellent and the characters really well done. I'm looking forward to book 2.

Feb 20, 2012, 9:03pm Top

@ 48 -- In the Woods has been on my shelves for a while. I'm hoping to get to it this year, so I'm glad to see you enjoyed it!

Feb 23, 2012, 5:47am Top

#49: Yes, it was excellent. I've just got the second one.

Title: Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
Category: Led Astray - Recommendations from LT

This is the first of a crime quartet set in the Shetland Islands. I liked it well enough, but the whodunnit was very rushed and even now I can't see any clues to it in the earlier part of the story. It's an interesting setting, though, and the Shetland Islands are bigger than I thought they were (I may be confusing them with the Faroe Islands) with a number of towns and quite a few people. I'll have to get out a map. I was thinking that I wouldn't rush to reserve the next one, but it appears to be on the shelf in the library near me right now, so I'll probably get it.

Feb 23, 2012, 11:53am Top

When I worked on ships we went into a port in the Shetland Islands to load North Sea crude. Very windswept (nothing taller than a bush) but the people were very friendly and the sweaters were beautiful! I would return for a longer visit tomorrow.

Edited: Feb 25, 2012, 9:11am Top

I look up the Shetland Islands in the atlas, and they aren't quite where I thought...but then I looked up their website, and there are 22,000 people there, so they're much bigger than I thought. They say they're planting more trees!

Title: Midwinter of the Spirit by Phil Rickman
Category: Series reads. This is book 2 in the Merrily Watkins series, about a female vicar, who in this book has become the Diocesan Exorcist. Or "Deliverance Consultant", to adopt the name given to the post by the right-on Bishop.

The story this time moves beyond Ledwardine and into Hereford itself, and the cathedral, where there are various odd goings-on, and something strange happening with the former exorcist. The set-up from the first book means that this one has a faster pace, and presumably the church-related information is accurate, but I know so little about how it all works that I can't be sure. This only took me a couple of days to read, as it's pretty unputdownable once you start, and I'm looking forward to book 3. As with the first book, there are some great "guest" characters who I don't think will recur, as well as the central cast.

Feb 26, 2012, 8:09am Top

Title: The UnTied Kingdom by Kate Johnson
Category: Romancelandia

This book is on the shortlist for the Romantic Novelists' Association awards for this year, in the Contemporary Romantic Novel category, and I liked the sound of the concept. The first sentence reads: "Eve Carpenter was having a bad enough day, even before she fell through the hole in the world", and that sets it up nicely.

Eve, a former member of a band called Grrl Power, has fallen from grace after a run-in with the tax department, and has been reduced to taking part in awful reality TV programmes in order to earn money. Hang-gliding along the Thames one day, she falls into the river and into a parallel universe in which Britian is not (and never has been) a world super-power, France rules most of the globe and much modern technology is unheard of. She is rescued by a pretty lovely army Major, and imprisoned as a spy before he takes her on a mission to obtain a computer held by the other side in the civil war being fought by the English at the time. Then it gets all romancey (which is not a criticism, as anyone familiar with my threads will know) and the end is very well done indeed. What didn't work for me was the parallel universe, as there seemed to be no reason why certain products were available and other things not, and why certain cultural references were understood and others not. But it was a clever idea and I'll be interested in what this author writes next.

Feb 26, 2012, 9:19am Top

I've seen another review of Untied Kingdom recently too, and their criticism was similar to yours. The alternate world should be a real rich and interesting one, and I would read it for that alone, but alas...

Edited: Feb 29, 2012, 4:48am Top

Hi Katie, and thanks for visiting! I'd never heard of the book until about a week ago, so I was surprised to see that quite a few people had it and had read it.

I don't have a cover for my next read, but here it is:

Title: Rock Anthem by J D Field
Category: Series Reads

This is the second book in the "Levels" series, which I started above. It is so new that it doesn't even have a cover on LT, so I can't put in a picture, and the touchstone brackets link to something else entirely. I seem to be the only person who has it. This is a self-published YA series, and apart from the proof-reading falling completely apart about 80% into this book, it was a good follow-on from the first book. Once again, I'm not going to give away what the series is about, because half the fun of the first one is not knowing, and discovering the truth at the same time as the main character. There is a lot of running around in this one, and international travel, and great danger, and obsessing about boys...

Mar 11, 2012, 8:50am Top

Title: The Likeness by Tana French
Category: Series Reads

This is book 2 in the Dublin Murder Squad series and another really good read. I love the author's writing style. This book is about Cassie Maddox, one of the characters in the first book, who is pulled back into doing undercover work when a young woman is murdered.

Title: The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
Category: Romancelandia

This was my first foray into steampunk, and the author did an amazing job with the alternative world - startlingly imaginative and consistent. I did think, when I started it, that I had accidentally got the second book in the series, because it jumped right in to a whole lot of terminology that wasn't explained, but I looked up the author's website to reassure myself, and I stuck with it. One of the things I liked was that it was partly set near where I live, and it was fun seeing the area described in such a different time. The hero (who was suitably hot, and a former pirate to boot) had a big estate on the Isle of Dogs, and there was another scene in Narrow Street, which is mostly all old warehouses (converted into flats) even now, so I liked that. It's definitely a romance, and I see one LT review complaining about all the, um, canoodling, but that's just what it is. There is perhaps a little too much canoodling, but I read a lot of romance so I didn't think it was that excessive on the romance scale :-)

Mar 11, 2012, 12:48pm Top

Glad to see another positive review for The Likeness. It is on my TBR bookcase but I have to get around to reading Into the Woods first!

Congrats on your first foray into steampunk! I think it is a fascinating genre/sub-genre with the mix of elements I usually like in a story. I agree, The Iron Duke fits the romance category compared to other steampunk books I have read, but it was still a good piece of fluff read.

Edited: Mar 11, 2012, 1:35pm Top

I'd like to read some more steampunk, but I'm not going to be able to continue with this series because the next book isn't available at the library, or from amazon in hard copy OR Kindle. Note to authors: That is no way to make money!! I'll have to try something else, when I get through the giant stack of everything I have waiting.

I've really enjoyed the Tana French novels. I think I pigeonholed crime writing as gory and a bit formulaic and was never that interested, but I've read a few recently that have been really well written. I started Louise Penny's Still Life this afternoon, and that is also very good so far.

Mar 17, 2012, 2:03pm Top

Title: Still Life by Louise Penny
Category: Led Astray - Recommendations from LT

I thought this was good at the start, and that I would get into the small-town feeling and enjoy the series, but it never really grew on me, and I didn't warm to the characters. It's a shame, because I know so many people love this series but it just didn't grab me. My library reserve list is probably sighing with relief :-)

Mar 17, 2012, 4:08pm Top

Title: The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
Category: Romancelandia

This is a time-travelling romance, and very well done. The heroine, Eva, goes to visit Cornwall, where she had happy holidays as a child, and finds herself slipping back in time to 1715, where she falls in love with the (then) owner of the house she is staying in. Unlike Outlander, (which I do tend to see as the gold standard of time travelling romance), Eva travels back and forth frequently, but, while time passes in 1715 while she's gone, it doesn't in modern times. The characters were lovely, and there is a great twist at the end.

Mar 17, 2012, 8:05pm Top

Nice to see another good review for a Kearsley novel.... in fact I am pretty sure you are the one that brought the author to my attention..... now I just need to find the time to pick up one of her books! ;-)

Mar 18, 2012, 4:42pm Top

#61: Hi Lori - yes, it might have been me as this is the third one of hers that I have read so far this year.

Title: Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
Category: Series Reads

I really liked the first one in this series, and this sequel moves the story along, but there isn't quite the sense of clever world-building that worked so well in the first one. Tally is a sympathetic character, though, and there is a lot of menace in the Special Circumstances agents, from whom she is always trying to escape. I think the next one will be making an appearance in my list at some point in the next few months.

Mar 24, 2012, 11:37am Top

Title: Naked in Death by J D Robb
Category: Romancelandia

This is a futuristic romance set in 2058, featuring a young police officer, Eve Dallas, and a squillionaire, Roarke. I know he's a major romancelandia hottie, but he annoyed me by just having one name. Who is the guy, Madonna? It was also fairly gruesome, and there was too much canoodling, too soon. I suppose they had to get together to fulfil the romance part of it, but there are something like 35 books in the series now, and I have to wonder what's left for them. I might read book 2 to see how things develop, but I can't see myself becoming a big fan.

Mar 25, 2012, 4:37am Top

Title: Alys, Always by Harriet Lane
Category: Waterloo Sunset - Modern Fiction set in London

The main character in this novel is Frances Thorpe, who works in the books section of a Sunday newspaper, and who appears, to the people around her, to be a rather drab drone of a person. But driving home from visiting her parents one Sunday, she comes across a car that has run off the road, and hears the last words of the driver, the "Alys" in the title. Alys is the wife of a famous novelist, who lives in a gorgeous house in Highgate and has a country house in Suffolk. The family want to meet Frances, to hear about Alys's last moments, and when Frances goes to see them she realises that perhaps they could be of use to her...

This is a fabulously well-written book, and it's the author's first novel as well, which is extraordinary. In addition to Alys's family, there are some scenes with Frances's own parents, which one amazon reviewer describes as "like Larkin in prose", which I think captures it perfectly. Those are some of my favourite parts of the book, but it is all totally captivating, and I stayed up late last night reading it until I got to the end, which is rare for me. Usually I have no trouble in putting a book down, but the author really pulled me into the story. Very highly recommended.

Mar 25, 2012, 2:17pm Top

Title: The High Crusade by Poul Anderson
Category: Led Astray - Recommendations from LT

This is a short sci-fi novel about an alien spaceship that lands in England in 1345, and what happens when a village full of English people kill all but one of the crew, and get on the ship to set off for France, en route to the Crusades. There was a bit too much battling for me, but parts of it were very funny, and the narrator, a monk called Brother Parvus, was very droll. This was part of my horizon-broadening exercise for the year, to try new genres.

Mar 25, 2012, 3:05pm Top

I'm glad that, even though there were a few aspects you didn't like, your overall reaction to The High Crusade was positive!

Mar 25, 2012, 3:11pm Top

Christina, yes, I enjoyed it. I wondered whether it was supposed to be an extreme version of the way the English liked to conquer everything on earth (just extended into space!) - the English names they gave to the new places in space were funny. I read about it on your thread and meant to visit and tell you I'd read it.

Mar 30, 2012, 1:27am Top

Ah, a lot of countries liked to conquer everything on earth. Just the thought of sending a spaceship on the Crusades is hysterical.

Edited: Apr 7, 2012, 11:46am Top

Katie, it was certainly an imaginative premise!

Title: Antiques Maul by Barbara Allan
Category: Series Reads

This is the second in the Trash'n'Treasures series, which doesn't seem to fare that well on LT, but which I like. I mostly read it on a plane, and it was a good airplane read, being quite short and without lots of characters to keep track of.

Title: The Expats by Chris Pavone
Category: New for 2012

This was my first book published in 2012, which is a sign that the year is cracking along. It was a very good thriller, set mostly in Luxembourg, about an American woman who finds herself an expat when her husband takes a job there. The LT page gives too much away, and I'm not going to make the same mistake. I thought it was great, and I'm looking forward to whatever this author writes next.

Title: The Soldier's Wife by Joanna Trollope
Category: New for 2012

Another brand new, sparkling clean library book read :-) I've read all of Joanna Trollope's books. I think I agree with the reviews that say the later ones aren't quite as strong as the earlier books, but this was still a good read.

Apr 7, 2012, 11:56am Top

The Expats is high on my TBR list since it will fill in Luxembourg for my Europe Endless Challenge. Thanks for the warning about the LT page. I'll avoid it until after I've finished the book!

Apr 7, 2012, 12:51pm Top

I hope you enjoy it! I read an interview with the author and thought it sounded good from that.

Apr 8, 2012, 11:32am Top

Title: A Marriage of Convenience by Doreen Owens Malek
Caterogy: Romancelandia

There is a romance thread on the mobileread.com forums, where people post all the day's amazon (and other) freebies. It's a dangerous place! This one was first published in 1989, and it's a reunion story, about a heroine who has to marry her stepbrother in order to inherit half of the ranch that their parents owned together. The stepbrother will inherit the other half. And, as her lawyer tells her, in a (rare) nod to reality in romancelandia, while that sort of clause in a will wouldn't stand up in court, court proceedings will take a long time and cost a lot of money. Far better just to marry the guy, get the will into probate and then get divorced. But of course it doesn't quite work out like that :-) Although 1989 really doesn't seem like that long ago (or perhaps I'm just kidding myself) it is interesting to see how things have changed in romance. This hero smokes! And he has a terrible temper, which doesn't mean he hits the heroine, but he sweeps her papers off a table and hits other people, which is Not A Good Sign these days. And the heroine, suspecting she might be expecting a happy event, buys a bottle of wine to celebrate. But I enjoyed it, and I'll look out for more by this author.

Edited: Apr 9, 2012, 9:41am Top

Title: The Sultan's Choice by Abby Green
Category: Romancelandia

Abby Green is one of my favourite Mills & Boon authors, but I have fallen behind with her recent releases. More particularly, I can't believe it's April and I've only just read my first Sheikh book of the year :-) These are quick reads, and this was a marriage of convenience story, with the Sultan hero pleased to have found a well-behaved, unscandalous wife who was no great beauty and who wouldn't make him feel anything in the way of love or other pesky emotions. Or so he thought...

Apr 27, 2012, 12:02pm Top

Title: The Submission by Amy Waldman
Category: New to me

This is an Orange long-list title and the library copy was new and clean, which is always a plus for me :-) But I didn't like it that much. It is set in 2003, and the story is about a competition to design a memorial for the 9/11 victims, which is won by a Muslim architect with a design for a garden. Immediately the fighting starts among the members of the committee choosing the design (entrants were anonymous in the early stages), and fanning out into the community. None of the characters was that sympathetic to me, although I'm sure my experience wasn't helped by reading it in little bits. It might have worked better if I had read it over a couple of afternoons.

Title: 1105 Yakima Street by Debbie Macomber
Category: Series reads

This is the next one in the Cedar Cove series, which I have been reading for a while now. There are so many characters in this series now that unfortunately most of this book was an info-dump of backstory, and very little new action to progress things. I do like catching up with the previous stories, but it's getting a bit unwieldy, I think. Maybe that's why there's only one more book in the series before it's brought to a close.

Apr 28, 2012, 3:48pm Top

Title: 1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie Macomber
Category: Series reads

This is the final novel in the Cedar Cove series, and it was better than 1105 Yakima Street, which I finished a couple of days ago. That one was a bit of a disappointment, but this shorter novel had a good new story in it, plus more about the characters who have featured in the previous novels, and a sweet Christmas feel, involving a basket of abandoned Labrador puppies which all found loving new homes. As always, the food in these novels intrigues me. One of the characters made a Christmas cake that included green tomato mince, and another family had a breakfast casserole on Christmas morning. I've never heard of a breakfast casserole, but I've just looked up some recipes and they seem to be a pretty popular American thing.

Apr 29, 2012, 10:29am Top

Title: The Well of Shades by Juliet Marillier
Category: Here Be Dragons - Fantasy novels

I've really enjoyed this series about a sixth-century Pictish king. This final book centred around one of his bodyguards who had a journey of his own to make, and what happened on his return to the court. I like the familiar recurring characters and the just-enough-magic to make this a fantasy novel without going overboard on the dragons (in fact, there are are no dragons). I would recommend the series to anyone interested in historical fiction with a fantasy element.

May 5, 2012, 4:03pm Top

I didn't think Marillier went in for dragons. ;) I love her writing, but haven't read many of her books. I'll have to pick up one of her books again!

May 5, 2012, 4:52pm Top

@ 76 -- Marillier is great! I've read the first book in this series, The Dark Mirror...you've reminded me that I really need to continue with it!

May 6, 2012, 11:18am Top

#77: I want to reread the Sevenwaters trilogy now that there are five books in it!

#78: I'm going to try her other series (duo?) that I haven't read yet.

Title: Across a Moonlit Sea by Marsha Canham
Category: Ahoy Me Hearties - Pirate Themed Books

Last year I read a few books about actual pirates, but I'll be honest and confess to adding this category so that my old-skool pirate bodice-ripper collection wouldn't fill up my Romancelandia category.

This was a fun read, and in fact no bodices were harmed in the telling of this story, as the heroine, Isabeau Spence, was the helmsman of her father's ship, so dressed in a shirt and breeches. Set in the late 1500s, it was the story of Simon Dante, Comte de Tourville, left for dead in the middle of the ocean by a baddie, and whose ship was rescued by the heroine's father, throwing the Comte and heroine together. There was a lot of swashbuckling, Spanish treasure and an encounter with Sir Francis Drake. And it all ended happily :-) There are two more in the series, so I must get them.

May 12, 2012, 10:46am Top

Title: I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
Category: Waterloo Sunset - Modern Fiction set in London

I found this at the library this morning, sitting there all new and unexpected on the New Books shelf. I love Sophie Kinsella's books, and I'd been wanting to get this one since I saw it had been published.

This is one of my favourite reads of the year so far. Poppy Wyatt can't imagine anything much worse than losing the family heirloom engagement ring given to her by fiance Magnus, but then has her mobile phone stolen, and has no way of contacting the people who are looking for it. Then she spots a mobile phone in the rubbish bin at a hotel, and decides to borrow it for a while, so she has a new number to hand out. But the phone belonged to the PA of a businessman, Sam Roxton, and he wants it back...

This story is very cleverly done, and neatly captures the modern obsession with text messages and emails, as well as Poppy's discomfort at having to share her phone with Sam's emails. Unable to resist opening them up and having a read before she forwards them on, she quickly learns far too much about his life, and sets about making him a kinder, more communicative boss, much to his horror. But there's more to the story than that, and it races along right to the end. Parts were giggle-out-loud funny, and it definitely cheered up my day.

May 12, 2012, 3:09pm Top

The first book of the Sevenwaters trilogy was one of the most effectively romantic books I've read. I was disappointed when I found that the next book moved on to the kids so haven't read more of them. I'm sure they're good too, but I was pouting.

LOL on Across the Midnight Sea & have to comment, I've heard clothing was expensive and the male pirates weren't very picky about what they wore. I was thinking we could rip some bodices off the men, and be historically accurate. (Not that hard to imagine Captain Jack in a bodice.)

May 13, 2012, 10:30am Top

#81: I do remember loving the first Sevenwaters book, but the others are also good!

Title: The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
Category: New To Me - Authors I Haven't Read Before

I’ve never heard of this author before, but now want to read everything she’s written because this was just so good. It’s set in Dublin, and is about an affair between two married people, neither of whom are particularly sympathetic as characters, but the writing is really excellent, and I didn’t want to put it down. Fortunately it’s fairly short, so I didn’t have to. It's on the Orange prize long list (maybe even the shortlist now - I must check!) so I mostly got it because of that.

Title: The Gentry: Stories of the English by Adam Nicolson
Category: The Way They Lived Then

The book looks at a number of “gentry” families in England over the ages, and at what connects them in terms of way of life, social obligations and so on, and I finished it today after reading it for a couple of weeks. The gentry is a shrinking class, according to the author, who tries to work out why. I enjoyed the various stories of the families, but I don’t think he succeeded in showing how they were the same, because really they weren’t, and they only made it into the book because a lot of written history of them had survived in the way of letters, account books and court papers. That seems to be about all they had in common. It was well written, and I loved some of the anecdotes, like the one about the man who was so stingy that his family had to pay for bed and board whenever they went to stay with him. Well, I suppose you don’t make money by wasting it on freeloading relatives :-)

There was an interesting section at the end of the book which said that, although the gentry as a class is getting smaller, there has been a return to the gentry in UK government, with the coalition government mostly led by the Tories, whose “Big Society” idea of devolving responsibility down to the community level is an attempt at a return to the gentry type of model, when rich landowners were responsible for the poorer people around them. The author doesn’t think that the “Big Society” idea will work because it overlooks the fact that the old system wasn’t the sort of warm-hearted philanthropic thing envisaged today, but arose from a struggle for power which went on through the generations, and rewarded the people who fought the hardest to advance themselves.

Title: Can Any Mother Help Me? by Jenna Bailey
Category: The Way They Lived Then

At some point I saw a newspaper review of this, and then noticed the amazingly good reviews on the amazon page when it was their UK daily deal a little while ago. On its face, this doesn’t look like my sort of thing at all, but it’s a fascinating read that I couldn’t put down, and I’m so glad to have found it. If anyone else is sitting on this on their Kindle, read it now!

The book is about the Co-Operative Correspondence Club, a private magazine started when a lonely housewife wrote to a magazine for suggestions about what she could do with her spare time. Someone suggested that she might like penfriends, and a group of women started writing to one another by means of a bi-monthly magazine, which was posted around the group, and for which everyone had to write an article about what was going on in their life at that time. The magazine started in the 1930s and lasted until 1990, so it covers a huge period period of time, and all sorts of experiences of the women, who had differing degrees of education and circumstances. The only thing they had in common was that they all had children, as they voted to exclude anyone without them. But the extracts republished in this book are about far more than their children. Members could comment on the articles as the magazine was circulated, and the comments have also been reproduced. The magazines were donated by one of the last surviving members to a university archive, which is where the author found them and set about tracking down the surviving members, or their children.

One of the most interesting things for me was that the women were born from about the 1890s to the 1910s, making them the same age as my grandmothers. Both of my grandmothers were quite old by the time I was born, so I never knew them as the young women who went through all the things that the women in this book experienced. By the time I talked to them about life in the 40s/50s/whenever, they knew what had happened and how it had all turned out, whereas the letters in this book showed how uncertain things were at various stages, particularly during the war.

Now that everything is on the internet, we will lose treasures like this archive, and, while there are similar sorts of resources online now (in the UK the main site for advice for mothers is Mumsnet, which is either feted or vilified depending on your point of view) there are, I suspect, fewer long, considered pieces like the letters these women wrote, because no-one has time to read them, or maybe the time to write them. Everything seems to be a couple of sentences of txt spk, followed by a big argument.

I would recommend this for anyone interested in social history, whether they have children or not. There are good footnotes for readers who are not familiar with British terms or history.

May 13, 2012, 7:01pm Top

I have been reading good things about Enright's most recent book - The Forgotten Waltz. I was so out of sorts with her Booker winner The Gathering that I have had difficulty thinking I would want to pick up another one of her books.... I may need to bit the bullet and try this one to see if it was just that particular book I didn't like.

Edited: May 26, 2012, 10:28am Top

Title: Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook
Category: New to Me - Authors I haven't Read Before

This was a freebie Kindle download. I decided to actually read one, instead of just collecting them.

I loved this book, which apparently was also a film, although I never saw that. I particularly liked the author's voice, and the cast of characters in the book, ranging from the main character's mad family, through her pre-school class, to the various men that she reluctantly tried to date after her divorce. And there was a Saint Bernard puppy called Mother Teresa, who was also written really well.

Title: Rescue by Anita Shreve
Category: The Neverending Mount TBR Challenge

This was definitely better than A Change in Altitude but for me it wasn't as good as Anita Shreve's earlier books. Set in Vermont, it is the story of a single father and why his wife left, what it means for their daughter as she gets older, and what happens when a crisis strikes.

I really like this author's style of writing, and I'll continue reading everything she writes, but I can still remember some of the earlier books whereas I don't think this one will stick with me.

Titles: Wanted! Ambushed! and Claimed!, all by Vicki Lewis Thompson
Category: The Neverending Mount TBR Challenge (obviously these could also have gone into Romancelandia, but there is a lot of pressure for space in that category)

Yes, I fell off the romance wagon. I read this author's Three Cowboys and a Baby series last year and loved them, so I decided to try some more. A Harlequin coupon code arrived at just the right time, so I got this trilogy and the second set of three which I still have to read. Please excuse the shirtless cowboys if they're not your thing, but I do actually have these US editions, and the UK covers are now so awful that I can't bear to use them. This is a cute series about the three Chance brothers, who run the Last Chance ranch in Wyoming, breeding paint horses (I now know what those are), for cutting competitions (ditto). It's like a whole new world :-) I loved the setting, on a ranch outside of a small town called Shoshone, which I looked up to see if it was a real place, and discovered Shoshoni, which now seems to be almost a ghost town, so it seems that the author has picked somewhere nearly real, but not real enough to offend anyone living there. Blaze novels have a lot of canoodling, and all three of these had pretty rushed endings, but I still enjoyed them, and I'm not going to let the next three languish on Mount TBR for as long as these did. There is a third trilogy starting this summer, and the characters recur, which is always fun.

Title: The Necropolis Railway by Andrew Martin
Category: New to Me - Authors I haven't read before.

I was online reserving this author's newest book, Underground Overground, about the Tube (I am a true tube nerd), when I saw that he had written a series of mysteries set in the early 1900s and set on the railways.

I liked the main character in this novel, and all the facts about the railway and 1903 London, but the plot got a bit convoluted. Interestingly, it features a real railway company that ran a line from Waterloo station to a cemetery in Surrey until 1941, with the mourners getting on at Waterloo with the coffin, and then going down to the cemetery, which had several platforms for the various types of religions. I think I'll try the next one, as the author is an expert on trains, and used to write an excellent column for the Evening Standard which I always read. I'm really looking forward to Underground, Overground too.

Title: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Category: New for 2012

I found this one on the new books shelf at the library, after a friend from work recommended it on the basis that everyone SHE knew was raving about it. But there is virtually nothing I can say about this book without it being a spoiler. I have studied the cover copy for things I could possibly mention, but none of the salient points of the story appear there, although they do appear on the LT review page. I was quite glad I didn't know anything about it, because I think it would have taken away some of the impact of what happened. It's not an easy read (in terms of subject-matter), but it's very well-written, and highly topical (at least in the UK). I read it in a day, because it is unputdownable.

May 26, 2012, 3:58pm Top

Title: Hot Island Nights by Sarah Mayberry
Category: New to Me - Authors I Haven't Read Before

Title: Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry
Category: New for 2012

The Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Dear Author romance blogs both had great reviews of Her Best Worst Mistake, which is the companion story to Hot Island Nights so I decided I had to read both of them.

Hot Island Nights was published as a Harlequin Blaze novel, and they're not my favourite line. There is too much canoodling for the sake of it, and I thought the plot of this one was implausible. OK, they're all implausible, but in some cases it's easier to suspend your disbelief :-)

Her Best Worst Mistake takes place at the same time as the story in Hot Island Nights, but on the other side of the world. The heroine is the best friend of the Hot Island Nights heroine but, more interestingly, the hero is the jilted fiance from Hot Island Nights. It is a convention in Romancelandia that the discarded man is weak and unlovable compared to the hero who eventually gets the girl, so it was a bit unusual to see him get his own Happy Ever After in Her Best Worst Mistake. However, I liked this one a lot more than the first, as it sounded more authentic. I felt that the first one was trying to conform to the requirements of the Blaze line and the second one read more naturally. Also it was set in London, which I always like :-) There were a couple of niggles that a London-based proof-reader (or whatever they call someone who knows how the locals refer to things) would have straightened out, but I can see why the reviews were so positive.

May 29, 2012, 2:34am Top

Title: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Category: Led Astray - Recommendations from LT

I can see why everyone loves this series. Kate Atkinson's writing is wonderful, and I could remember, as I started this one, how much I'd enjoyed Behind the Scenes At The Museum when it came out years and years ago. I wish I'd seen the TV series now, to see how Jason Isaacs lived up to the Jackson Brodie I imagined when I read this. The second one is apparently on the shelf at my library so I will try and pick it up later in the week, and someone at work gave me the third one when they were clearing out their office so I have that too. I liked the interlocking stories and thought the ending was well done, but I'm interested to see how that leads into the later books.

May 30, 2012, 5:59pm Top

Please excuse the shirtless cowboys if they're not your thing

Please include more shirtless cowboys!

Jun 1, 2012, 2:12pm Top

Mamzel, I'll do my best! Meanwhile, here is a shirtless Sicilian squillionaire.

Title: The Forbidden Ferrara by Sarah Morgan
Category: New for 2012

I always interrupt what I'm reading for a new book by Sarah Morgan, and I started this one this morning at the bus stop. It's not often that I'm pleased to learn the bus is nine minutes away. This is a secret baby story - not usually one of my favourite tropes, but there was no lengthy hiding of the baby in this case, which is usually what winds me up. This book hasn't had brilliant reviews, but I can't agree with the criticisms. Reviewers seem to have focused on the hero's control-freakery, but that's the typical hero of this line. It bugs me when people compare one line with another, and say that stories like this aren't realistic, because they're not supposed to be. That's the whole point of the Modern/Presents line. I've heard it described as romantic fantasy, and that's exactly what it is - squillionaire heroes, exotic locations - of course it's not real. I've included the cheesy US cover above, because I like them so much more than the awful new UK covers, where the people look too real. I much prefer the "every-hero" and "every-heroine" look of the US covers, where it's clear that the book is a romance, but otherwise they all look much the same :-)

Jun 2, 2012, 8:48am Top

Title: Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Category: New to Me - Authors I Haven't Read Before

I got this as a freebie from the Harlequin website ages ago, and it was one of the many books that I meant to get around to. I saw the series listed on Mamie's thread when I was trying to decide what to read next, and decided to give it a try.

Set in 1886 London, this was a bit of a different sort of romance - not so much a romance in this book as a mystery novel, but I thought it worked well. I'll look out for the rest of the series, but I think I will have to reserve book 2 as neither of the libraries close to me has it in stock.

Jun 2, 2012, 1:48pm Top

I read Silent in the Grave two years and I agree with that it is not really a romance but I found it to be somewhat heavier on the romance side for a mystery novel, mainly because I wasn't expecting the romance angle. I will probably get around to reading more of the books in the series at some point, just haven't gotten around to it... I probably need to be in the mood for one of her books!

Edited: Jun 2, 2012, 2:25pm Top

Hi Lori, I was expecting more of a romance than a mystery! I suppose they get together in the end, but I'll wait until I've read a few more things before I get the next one. So many books, so little time...

Title: The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber
Category: The Neverending Mount TBR Challenge

I liked Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove series, and kept meaning to get to the Blossom Street series as I had this first one waiting for me on my laptop. I think it must have been free or cheap from Harlequin at some point. It's the story of a woman who opens a yarn shop, and the customers who come into her life. LT reviews seem to say it's twee and predictable, but I enjoyed it. As with the Cedar Cove books, there is lots of lovely food in it, and Coke with peanuts. I'm trying to remember now where I've read about Coke with peanuts (in the Coke, that is) - perhaps the Cedar Cove novels, but I wonder if that's a typical American thing. I don't think we put peanuts in Coke over here, although I don't drink Coke, so perhaps I'm missing something. I'll definitely read the rest of this series, but perhaps once I've made some more progress with Mount TBR. I'm down to 26 books on my laptop now, which is pretty good, especially as some of them are freebie romances from lines that I don't usually read and probably won't get to. Next up is Kristan Higgins' Too Good To Be True, I think. And then maybe some more shirtless cowboys :-)

Jun 3, 2012, 7:57am Top

Title: Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins
Category: The Neverending Mount TBR Challenge

This has to be the funniest book I have read in ages, and I loved it. It's a sweet contemporary romance with everything I love - the small town setting, the madcap extended family, a cute Westie called Angus, and so on. The heroine, Grace, is a history teacher who was dumped by her fiance, who fell in love with her sister instead. Wishing that her family would stop feeling sorry for her, Grace invents the perfect boyfriend...but then a mysterious new man moves in next door. I want to read everything else this author has written now, and she's going on my auto-buy list for the future. Highly recommended for the romance fan, or for anyone who needs cheering up.

Jun 4, 2012, 2:54pm Top

Titles: Should've Been a Cowboy, Cowboy Up and Cowboys Like Us, all by Vicki Lewis Thompson
Category: The Neverending Mount TBR Challenge.

These are the second trilogy in the Sons of Chance series, and they're part of my Bank Holiday weekend Mount TBR challenge, which is going pretty well. It would be going even better if the third ebook hadn't turned out to contain one of this author's early Blaze novels as a bonus book, meaning it has to stay on the shelf a while longer.

I still think that the Blaze line involves the characters getting together unrealistically fast, and deciding on their futures together within a couple of days. But that aside, I liked this continuation of the series, which also involved the couples from the previous books from time to time, and other people from the ranch. It seems that Shoshone, Wyoming, has an extraordinary number of charming young women and hot cowboys for an average town :-) As with the previous covers, these heroes are having trouble keeping their shirts buttoned. Maybe it's hot in Wyoming.

Jun 6, 2012, 2:29am Top

Title: The Library Book by various authors
Category: New for 2012

This is a collection of essays about the authors' experiences with libraries, and it was put together in support of The Reading Agency, which works to support libraries.

There were some really good essays in this book (plus a couple of fiction pieces from China Mieville and Kate Mosse) but I do think that the authors are hankering for the return of a golden age of libraries that no longer exists. There is a lot of nostalgia for inspirational librarians, and amazing collections of books, but my experience over the past few years in the borough where I live and work is of uninterested and often rude staff, patchy collections poorly shelved and every inch of flat empty space being taken over by computers. They've even renamed the libraries to remove the word "library" from most of them. Authors like Zadie Smith write about studying in their local libraries, but I don't think there are any tables for that in the two that I go to - or at least tables without computers on them. Nor is there any requirement for quiet any more, so I don't know how studying is supposed to work with noise all around - people on their phones, teenagers playing music, and nobody tells them to stop.

I no longer go to the branch nearest me because the staff are so awful, and will happily sit around shrieking at one another behind the desk while customers queue up for the self-service machines, because apparently the library staff aren't there to issue books any more. The shelves are a mess, and they avoid reshelving by endless displays of supposedly "new" and recently returned books.

I've started to go to a much smaller branch further away, which is still called a library and where the staff are either trained or at least interested in books, and it's a better experience, but still there are no tables for people to sit at if they're not on the computers. There is nowhere for children from overcrowded homes to sit quietly and study. Once your time on the computer is up, you're out.

I'm a lifelong library user, and grew up with excellent libraries in New Zealand, with great staff. I used to work part-time at the local library when I was a teenager and I can still remember the ladies there, who really were engaged and inspiring, so I was lucky. And I'm certainly not of the view that libraries should be closed down and the stock sold off. But I do wonder whether today's young people (well, people of all ages, really) are benefiting in the same way that I did, and in the same way that the authors in this book did. There is a lot of criticism that the politicians making the decisions to close libraries are posh and rich and have never been inside a public library, so they don't know what they're missing. I'm not sure that's right, but, even if it's true, I don't think they're missing what these authors seem to think they're missing.

Jun 6, 2012, 5:39am Top

Title: Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
Category: The Way They Lived Then - Social History (I'm not entirely sure it fits in this category, but it's close enough)

Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight was one of my top reads from recent years. It's a memoir of the author's childhood in (mostly) Rhodesia (as it was then). This book looks at the lives of the author's parents, and how they ended up in Africa, which is the sort of thing that interests me as one branch of my own family emigrated from the UK at about the same time as the author's great-grandparents, although to New Zealand in my case. I've always wondered what made people choose one place over another when there seemed to be opportunities all over the world at that time.

The book is certainly interesting in terms of the events going on at the time, and the reasons why the Fuller family travelled around Africa rather than settling in one place, but the author's mother comes across as one of those larger-than-life drama-queen characters who are pretty hard work in real life and I didn't warm to her, although her frequent references to the author's Awful Book were funny.

Jun 6, 2012, 4:18pm Top

I just checked and both Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight and Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness are available at my library, I am adding both to my wish list as I have quite an interest in both Africa and emmigration.

Jun 6, 2012, 5:10pm Top

I hope you enjoy them, Judy!

Title: One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
Category: Series Reads

The plot of this book was more convoluted than Case Histories, and I'm still thinking about the way it ended, but the characterisation was delicious, and there are some great lines in it. Set in Edinburgh during the annual Edinburgh arts festival, all sorts of coincidences bring the characters together, and are slowly explained. The third book in the series is sitting in my office, which is a bit annoying because this week I am *not* sitting in my office, so I'll have to wait a few days to get it.

Jun 7, 2012, 4:57pm Top

@ 92 -- I have a different Kristan Higgins book on my TBR shelf (Just One of the Guys), and now I'm very excited to read it after seeing your review! I do enjoy a good "madcap" story. :)

Also, in reference to your question @ 91, I am American and have never heard of peanuts in Coke! It must be a regional thing.

Jun 7, 2012, 5:44pm Top

An old coworker of mine put salty peanuts in her coke! She said it was a Southern thing (she was from Georgia or Alabama, I think). It looked weird, but sounds like it could taste OK - I just never tried. :)

Jun 7, 2012, 5:47pm Top

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs tonight sounds interesting. Good review.

Jun 10, 2012, 7:28am Top

#98: Christina, I'm sure you'll love the Kristan Higgins. I wish I'd read mine earlier, and had the fun of all the others sooner.

#99: Hi Eva - the character with the peanuts in the Coke was from Louisiana, so that would make sense. The character from Seattle seemed to think it was a bit of an odd thing to do.

#100: Katie, both of the books are good, but I think I prefer Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight.

I'm catching up on Clarissa today, which is taking hours. Usually I would sneak in a quick category romance but I am supposed to read ten non-romance books first, or my categories will just be full of romance, in various disguises. Tomorrow I'm picking up Veronica Roth's Divergent at the library, after seeing lots of recommendations on LT.

Jun 10, 2012, 7:45pm Top

I know i haven't mentioned this before now but I am watching your year long read of Clarissa..... still trying to decide if I want to tackle it next year.

Jun 16, 2012, 12:22pm Top

Lori, I'll be honest and say that I'm only sticking with it because the Pengin paperback copy cost me £15 and I'm determined to get a return on my investment! It's very slow going.

Title: The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
Category: New for 2012

I've read everything by Anne Tyler, and this is her newest book. I didn't even know there was a new one, but when I saw it sitting there at the library, all brand new, I had to snaffle it.

I loved this from the first line: "The strangest thing about my wife's return from the dead was how other people reacted." It's the story of Aaron Woolcott coming to terms with the freak death of his wife, Dorothy, and the reactions of the various people around him. It's classic Tyler, but quite a bit shorter than some of her other books. However, I thought it was perfect, and it's my new number 1 read of the year. A must-read for her fans.

Jun 16, 2012, 8:14pm Top

Your assessment of Clarissa is food for thought and good to know as I decide whether or not I decide to read it for 2013. Hope your weekend is seeing better weather than we are.... wet, cold and very fall-like.

Group: The 12 in 12 Category Challenge

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