Lost for Words – Stephanie Butland

The best books (and films, tv, songs, whatever) are often the ones you can connect with. The ones where you understand what the characters are going through because you’ve been there. I mean, maybe not quite in the same way – I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice but I don’t live in Regency England and I’ve never been proposed to by Mr Darcy: but I have experienced the cut and thrust of family life and none of us are immune to judging people based on first impressions. I do enjoy books which seem to be totally beyond my own world but, in the middle of the dystopias and post-apocalypses I love, the part of the story I really want to read is human experience – the reaction of people like me to situations totally unlike anything I’ve ever been through.

519GIZDH5EL._SY346_The main character in Lost for Words, Loveday Cardew, is nothing like me. She’s tattooed, uncomfortable in social situations, writes poetry and spent most of her childhood in care but she is very much like me because she is a bookseller. A real bookseller. Not just someone who works in a bookshop – she’s the real thing. It is a bit self-indulgent but I absolutely loved the parts of this book where the bookshop, its customers and Loveday’s feeling for books are described. I may even have done the odd little fist-pump and shouted out ‘yesssss!’ with a sense of total understanding. However, I would imagine that you don’t need to be a bookseller to sympathise with Loveday’s position.  She is trying her hardest to live a quiet life: she works in a second-hand bookshop in York (where I lived for 3 years in my student days), has a reasonably good relationship with her eccentric boss and tries to avoid much contact with almost everyone else. She feels she is not worth other people’s effort, unless they are looking for an obscure or hard to find book, and she certainly is not looking for love.

This was an unusual bit of chick-lit. Yes, it was about a young woman and her relationships but it was about quite a lot more. It looks at Loveday’s difficult past and her gradual acceptance of her future: she is a central character in a chick-lit novel that we could all find something in common with if we are honest – awkward, often grumpy and unreasonable. I really liked her. If you like something more than just romance in your chick-lit then maybe Loveday’s story is one for you.

Jane

Death at the Seaside – Frances Brody

After enjoying my first foray into the world of Frances Brody and her 1920 sleuth Kate Shackleton I was very much looking forward to this next adventure. I was not at all disappointed either – and I do love finding another reliably good writer, adding another one to my personal collection (so I can pick and chose between golden age crime, science-fiction or romance depending on my mood). The fact that this particular writer sets her books in my adopted home of Yorkshire is an added bonus.

seasideAfter various stories set around a number of Yorkshire Dales villages our heroine decides to travel east to visit Whitby. She plans to see an old school friend, Alma, and her daughter Felicity, to enjoy the peace and quiet of a seaside town and to make the most of the fact that crimes tend to be thin on the ground in the sleepy month of August. Of course things don’t go strictly to plan – Felicity has disappeared and a local jeweller, Jack Phillips, is found dead. Alma considered Jack to be her ‘special gentleman friend’ but although she want’s Kate to investigate his death the local police would rather she minded her own business.

 

Once again the story is beautifully plotted – although I could see some twists ahead of time there were still plenty of surprises – and I enjoyed the various characters, both recurring ones and those specific to this story. Kate’s usual helpers, Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden, are fortunately also holidaying in the area (and both seem to find that sleuthing is more rewarding than trying to relax!) so we get see them at work once more. The Whitby characters are an odd mixture of businessmen, artists and fortune-tellers and they all seem to have secrets for Kate to uncover. The period detail is well researched and, because everything fits so well into that period, this does mean that this book is one I can happily recommend to those who prefer their murder mysteries without graphic sex scenes or lots of swearing.

Of course my only problem now is that I still need to find time to go back and read the first six books in the series. I could definitely do with a time machine of some sort…

Jane