Books I read in April (and some I abandoned)

I have no idea why these pretty spring flowers are called dead nettles. Because they don’t sting? Anyway, they’re currently all over the garden and the bees seem to like them.

The ones I read:

Excellent fiction:

Once upon a river by Diane Setterfield***** A haunting story of disappearing children in a river community in Victorian middle England. Gripping, satisfying and beautifully written.

Restored (and the prequel short Seasons Pass)***** The Bequest all by Joanna Chambers***** A delightful end to the story of David and Murdo, and a chance to find out about a couple of people who were mere minor vharacters in the first Enlightenment series. I can thoroughly recommend the series but if you haven’t read it, these later stories might be hard to follow.

Requiem Moon by CT Rwizi***** I just hope there’s another in the series… As good as the first (Scarlet Odyssey). High fantasy set in a world that uses African history and mythology as a starting point. This South African writer is brilliant.

Back in Black by Rhys Ford***** Another case of being hard to follow if you haven’t read the earlier books. This is purportedly a new series (McGinnis Investigations 1) but the various family members need their back stories. I love all of them and the mix of different cultures and attitudes in the books is superb.

The Well by Marie Sexton***** Ghosts, murder and mm romance. Dinner was late because I couldn’t stop reading.

Excellent non-fiction:

Tribes by David Lammy***** Excellent account of growing up with a foot in the ethnic minority south London community and another in the English public school. Really interesting and well written and gives a lot of thought provoking suggestions for political change.

Jew(ish) by Matt Greene***** This was a fascinating read in the light of Tribes! Matt is a non-observant Jew growing up in London, and he makes some hard hitting observations about how Jews are treated in UK as well as some enlightening commentary on anti-semitism in the Labour party.

Also The Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community by Stephen Bush who is one of my favourite New Statesman journalists. I learnt from this that he is a member of the Jewish community as well as being ‘black British’.

And The State of Hate 2021 – Hope Not Hate. A really good reference work to accompany the other books just mentioned about race in UK.

I’m not sure whether you can get those last two if you don’t subscribe to the relevant organisations but they’re well worth reading.

Good Fiction.

The Seattle Stories by Con Riley**** After Ben; Saving Sean; Aiden’s Luck. The constant use of the same theme (loss, comfort, etc.) began to irritate me but the series is interesting, dealing with the stories of a group of friends, and is well written.

Code Name: Liberty by Marshall Thornton**** Who is, and who is not a spy? And why? Lighthearted romance with thriller overtones.

Smailholm by C.L.Williams**** A story written as a kind of fairy tale set on the Scottish border during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots. The book is not only interesting and well written; it comes beautifully presented with a lovely cover and bookmarks though I don’t know if that was just because I took advantage of a special introductory offer. Wynn is an interesting heroine.

Tenacious by Blake Allwood.**** The main couple have to deal with a stalker from a previous relationship. Well written and quite gripping. The fact that each chapter repeats some of the events from different points of view makes the story feel ‘padded’ so that I thought of it as a novella rather than a novel but as it was free I didn’t feel cheated.

The artist and his billionaire by CJ Turner**** Lovely detail at the start, with the main character as both a florist and an artist. Then the story peters out and the ending, although satisfactory, feels rushed. Definitely a novella, not a novel.

Acceptable fiction:

Red Heir by Lisa Henry*** Amusing rescue of a prince – but which redhead is the royal heit? A great concept but a lot of the characters could have done with much more detailed exploration.

Secret Admirer by DJ Jamison*** Nicely written but very predictable mm college romance.

Adore by JD Ellis *** Cooper gets a summer job as nanny for Ellis’ grandaughter.- the story is full of tired tropes but is nicely written

The Cipher by Isabella Maldonado*** The author is ex FBI and this is a competent thriller. It just isn’t wildly exciting.

Little Boy Dead by Marshall Thornton*** Another competent PI story in the Boystown series but again, ultimately boring, because I didn’t really develop any concern about the main character. Maybe you have to read the series, though I’ve read one other which struck me the same way. The author’s Pinx Video series catapults the reader into the lives of the amateur detectives and is much more satisfying.

And poor fiction, which I don’t recommend:

The Planter’s Wife by Ann Bennett** Take an unlikely plot and add an irritating structure. The narrative switches from 1st person to 3rd and swings between different times. It felt a bit like being on a see saw… I also found it hard to sympathise with the heroine whose life choices were strange.

Murderous Profession by DJ Small** Another unlikely plot pairing a female detective with a male sex worker. The villain was predictable and two dimensional.

Also, the ones I abandoned:

The Leadminer’s Daughter by Margaret Manchester. I thought this story set in the Yorkshire Dales would be interesting with its combination of historical romance and mystery in a familiar location but I got bored quite quickly.

The Complete Kate Hamblyn Detective Mysteries by David Hodges. There are 7 books in the box set. I gave up the first after just a few chapters. So much happened to the heroine from all sides (villains, family, colleagues) before we even really knew her, that I suspended all belief in the plot, plus she was clearly going to survive for another seven tales…

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. A novel about transgender experience. It sounded interesting but was very American with almost impenetrable family, school and social norms. I’d like to read the same thing set in UK. Probably good for American readers.

Without Magic by Tye Tivillus. A boring account that began with a teen sold into slavery. I gathered he would later learn he could be a magician but it was taking its time…

The Wide Night Sky by Matt Dean. A novel about a dysfunctional family. I didn’t much like any of them so stopped caring.

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls by Katie Cross. I suppose I should have expected this to be a bit HP derivative but it was also very boring. I didn’t really care what Bianca was up to.

4 thoughts on “Books I read in April (and some I abandoned)

  1. Dead nettles look very much like live nettles (which I’ve always thought of as having beautiful flowers) – so I’d go with the lack of sting..

    Tribes by David Lammy – I think David Lammy is shaping up to be one of the 21st century’s more interesting politicians – one of the few credible ‘grown ups’ in the room.

    Tenacious by Blake Allwood – ‘The main couple have to deal with a stalker from a previous relationship’ – I is inspired and tucking that away as a fic plot…

    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – I’m forever banging on about not assuming homogenous cultural norms across the anglophone world in fan-fic – it spoils some fic set in the UK when characters are imbued with thought processes which are not very UK.

    I don’t mind words – I’ve never been precious about UK characters using sidewalks and elevators – but just assuming, for instance, that abortion is contentious without setting it up in the plot feels really alien.


  2. I agree about Lammy. I don’t always agree with the solutions he proposes but they are well thought out and his prose is excellent!

    I sometimes get totally lost in American fiction. I have never really understood either their school system or their strange medical system/lack thereof. So if the story has too much focus on either I am totally thrown! I cope nicely with things like color, dove, and gas. It’s the everyday life details I want explained!! Middlesex was further complicated by the family being Greek-American.

    I shall look out for your stolen inspiration if you write it in a fandom I read!

  3. I loved The Well too! Middlesex took me 2 or 3 goes to get into; I enjoyed the first few pages and then it threw me by switching back a couple of generations. There is a good reason, though, and it’s worth sticking with if you can – I didn’t have too much difficulty with Americanisms and the story is riveting. 🙂

  4. I might give Middlesex another try, then. I thought it would be good, but was so put off by the American education system etc. that I gave up. It’s not the American English that bothers me, but the cultural differences, which tend to distance me from the story even when they don’t bewilder me!

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