Catch-Up Quickies 41

First a quick explanation!

Due to some severe health issues over the last few years, and a lingering chronic condition, my planned review schedule went right out of the window and I have been scrabbling ever since to get it back on track.

In my latest attempt to try to regain some lost ground, I have been scrunching some of my (overdue) NetGalley reviews together into one or two posts each week: shorter reviews, but still covering all of the points I intended to.

That’s the plan anyway, so let’s spring (groan!) into that TBR…

Title:  A Murder of Crows
Author:  Sarah Yarwood-Lovett
Publisher:  Embla Books

Blurb:  Dr Nell Ward is an ecologist, not a detective. But when she’s the prime suspect in a murder, only her unique set of skills could help to clear her name…

In the sleepy village of Cookingdean, Dr Nell Ward is busy working in the grounds of a local manor house. Whilst inspecting an old tunnel, the last thing she expects to overhear is a murder. As the only person with any clues as to what happened, Nell soon finds herself in the middle of the investigation.

Desperate to clear her name Nell, along with her colleague Adam, set out solving the murder using their skills as ecologists to uncover details no one else would notice. But it soon becomes clear that playing Agatha Christie is much harder than it might, at first appear…

The start of an exciting new cosy crime series – perfect for fans of Richard Osman, Faith Martin and Joy Ellis.

Review: This series starter is part police procedural and part amateur investigation, as Dr Nell Ward pulls on her hiking boots and sets out to find out who murdered Sarah Crows (great title pun there!), with the help of her colleague, Adam, and the handsome DS James Clark.

As well as a well-plotted mystery, along traditional lines but with an ecological twist, this features a side plot with one of the few love triangle I’ve read that actually works and feels believable/natural. I could definitely see a long series in the future for these characters.

With regards to the murder mystery, all of the clues were there and there was a small suspect pool to choose from, yet still the author managed to keep me guessing right up to the reveal – I do love it when an author can play fair and still surprise me!

On top of everything else, there is plenty of information here about ecology, particularly about bats, which I found utterly fascinating. I particularly enjoy a bit of education alongside my entertainment and this book delivers on both fronts.

Book 2 in this series, A Cast of Falcons has flown right to the top of my TBR mountain now and I can’t wait to bring you my review of it soon!

Purchase Link: A Murder of Crows on Amazon

Title:  Infamous
Author:  Lex Croucher
Publisher:  Bonnier Books UK, Zaffre

Blurb:  22-year-old aspiring writer Edith ‘Eddie’ Miller and her best friend Rose have always done everything together-climbing trees, throwing grapes at boys, sneaking bottles of wine, practising kissing . . .

Now that they’re out in society, Rose is suddenly talking about marriage, and Eddie is horrified.

When Eddie meets charming, renowned poet and rival to Lord Byron, Nash Nicholson, he invites her to his crumbling Gothic estate in the countryside. The entourage of eccentric artists indulging in pure hedonism is exactly what Eddie needs in order to finish her novel and make a name for herself.

But Eddie might discover that trying to keep up with her literary heroes isn’t all poems and pleasure . . .

Review: This is a fun friends-to-lovers, Sapphic-style romance which has Regency style but modern sensibilities.

Main character Eddie reminded me very much of Louisa May Alcott’s Jo March in her manner, literary aspirations and determined ignorance of her best friend’s feelings towards her. Rose, on the other hand, was perfect in every way with no flaws at all – beautiful, wise, kind, understanding, patient, accepting, and so on and so on.

I love the banter between the two best friends throughout the story and would happily have continued reading long after the book ended just to read more of their ‘ordinary’ interactions.

The sex is more implied than explicit, with lots of kissing, nibbling and mooning, so nothing to offend delicate readers, although I imagine actual Regency readers might have turned a hair or two!

The tone starts of somewhat Jane Austen-ish at first – I could picture Nash and Albert as Bingley and Wickham! – but that old-fashioned air soon clears as the characters decamp to the lake house for some bohemian debauchery.

A really fun read, with a diverse bunch of characters, this book is almost guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

Purchase Link: Infamous on Amazon

Title: How To Read Now
Author:  Elaine Castillo
Publisher:  Atlantic Books

Blurb:  An exploration and manifesto investigating the power of reading – and our potential to become radically better readers in the world.

How many times have we heard that reading builds empathy? That we can travel through books? How often have we were heard about the importance of diversifying our bookshelves? Or claimed that books saved our life? Of course, these beautiful words are sometimes true. But reading is-and can be-more powerful, more relevant, and more vital than we currently let it be.

What do the cliches and good intentions we rely on to talk about the warm fuzzy feeling of reading gloss over or sell short when it comes to the critical skills reading fosters, and the range of emotions reading allows us to explore? Castillo illuminates-and insists upon-our potential to become better readers, readers who will wield the power of reading ruthlessly, effectively, and to startling result to enact equity, kindle authentic connection, and clear space for voices to be heard.

As Castillo interrogates and reflects on the stale questions and uncritical proclamations that so often sub in for vital discussion, she takes readers on deep dives through everything from anime to the overlooked novels of Peter Handke to the art of the mix tape, all while mapping the paths toward more lively, more urgent, more inclusive reading. By widening the lens of reading to include the ways we digest all media, Elaine Castillo brings fresh philosophical and moral clout to our discussions of the power of reading.

Review: I love books about reading/books, whether fiction or non-fiction, but this wasn’t quite what I had hoped for from the title and blurb.

This collection of essays isn’t really about reading books or fiction, but is more about reading NOW – as in this time and place that we are living in, the real life context.

There are essays about race, colonialism, J.K. Rowling, Handke and various intersectionalities of identity and culture, and it is all very worthy, very ‘woke’, very well-argued. The prose is dense with scholarly analysis of modern issues in representation, diversity and inclusion.

In other words, this is not light reading.

These essays need to be read more than once, studied. You need to take notes as you read and grapple with the contents rather than simply devouring it. Which, funnily enough, is one of the main things Castillo is advocating throughout – reading with serious scholarly attention rather than for simply for entertainment. So form and function neatly unite in that respect!

Come to this book with notepad, pen and highlighters, ready to engage intellectually and morally with the many current issues explored. Expect to read this book critically, not casually or compulsively.

Purchase Link: How To Read Now on Amazon

Title: High Times in the Low Parliament
Author:  Kelly Robson
Publisher:  Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tordotcom

Blurb:  Award-winning author Kelly Robson returns with High Times in the Low Parliament, a lighthearted romp through an 18th-century London featuring flirtatious scribes, irritable fairies, and the dangers of Parliament.

Lana Baker is Aldgate’s finest scribe, with a sharp pen and an even sharper wit. Gregarious, charming, and ever so eager to please, she agrees to deliver a message for another lovely scribe in exchange for kisses and ends up getting sent to Low Parliament by a temperamental fairy as a result.

As Lana transcribes the endless circular arguments of Parliament, the debates grow tenser and more desperate. Due to long-standing tradition, a hung vote will cause Parliament to flood and a return to endless war. Lana must rely on an unlikely pair of comrades—Bugbite, the curmudgeonly fairy, and Eloquentia, the bewitching human deputy—to save humanity (and maybe even woo one or two lucky ladies), come hell or high water.

Review: Based on the cover and blurb, I thought this would be right up my street: a comedic romp that satirises political bureaucracy with fae folk and feminism? Sign me up now!

Sadly, this just didn’t work for me. There is barely any plot at all, just Lana and her new fairy and human friends wandering around doing endless ‘hits’ of yeast or mushroom scales, snoozing, flirting and chatting casually about their impending doom by drowning.

Everything feels so hopeless and incomprehensible that it actually did resemble real-world politics in action, but with lower stakes (if none of them are too worried about the threat looming over them, then why should I be?) and less attempted humour. Even when Lana eventually came up with a plan, I can’t say I really understood it or why it would solve anything.

The best bit of the book, for me, was Lana and Bugbite, who were great fun in a female-Clerks kind of way. The other characters felt rather two-dimensional in comparison, with no real personality or development between them. Like the satire and the humour, they just fell flat for me… and yes, I did get them, I just didn’t enjoy them.

And that sentiment really applied to the book as a whole: I like the concept, the world and the two main characters but the vague and meandering execution left the whole book feeling like a wearisome slog through some obscure and technical historical political transcripts, while stoned. I see what the author was going for there, but it didn’t make for a great reading experience.

Purchase Link: High Times in the Low Parliament on Amazon

Title: Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone
Author:  Benjamin Stevenson
Publisher:  Michael Joseph, Penguin Random House

Blurb:  Everyone in my family is a killer. Everyone in my family is a suspect. But which of them is a murderer?


I was dreading the Cunningham family reunion even before the first murder. Before the storm stranded us at the mountain resort.

The thing is, us Cunninghams don’t really get along.

We’ve only got one thing in common: we’ve all killed someone.

My brother, my step-sister, my wife, my father, my mother, my sister-in-law, my uncle, my step-father, my aunt. Even me.

When they find the first body in the snow, it’s clear that only a Cunningham could have committed the crime – and it’s up to me to prove it.

There are plenty of killers in my family. But only one murderer . . .

Review: This crime thriller has such a unique hook and style!

When I first began reading it, I wasn’t keen on the first-person, fourth-barrier-breaking narrative style but it grew on me as I became more familiar with the characters. And the way the author managed to stick to the ‘golden rules’ of classic murder mysteries, and yet still managed to FAIRLY dupe and misdirect me, won me right over.

On the downside, none of the characters are particularly engaging or endearing, including the main character and narrative voice, so I wasn’t as emotionally invested as I could have been in their survival. Although Ernest did eventually grow on me too. This seems to be a running theme in this book!

There is a complex back story beneath the main mystery plot here, involving heists, gangs and all sorts of different deaths. The construction is incredibly clever and that made it an enjoyable read, despite the characters leaving me a little cold.

This one is definitely worth a read for dark mystery fans looking for something a little different. Goodreads has this listed as ‘Book 1’ and I am already invested in the question of how the author can turn such a meta novel with a one-off concept hook into something more long-running… watch this space for more news on that one!

Purchase Link: Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone on Amazon

I love all five of these book cover so much – clear, bold, bright, symbolic – and what is inside them all isn’t bad either!

Whether you’re in the mood for eco mystery, critical essays, political fantasy, faux-Regency romance or meta mystery, I’ve got you covered here.

Let me know what you choose and how you get on with it! Happy reading and keep shining 🙂


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