Series Love: Maisie Dobbs

covers for Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear

The Basics

The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear is one I frequently recommend to historical mystery fans, or to those who might become historical mystery fans with the slightest nudge. Maisie is a private investigator who has started her own agency in 1929 London.

As the series continues, she sometimes finds herself assisting the police, and developing a working relationship with other governmental agencies.

Why I Love Maisie

Maisie’s background is unusual – she was a nurse in the war, then studied psychology before being mentored by a well-regarded investigator. While she began life in service, she has connections in high places, and it all combines to allow for varying plot lines that provide a more interesting reading experience.

As you get to know Maisie, you also know the people in her life – family, friends, colleagues. Many of these secondary characters end up becoming significant figures in the books, and because of how the books continue through time you can really follow along with their lives.

The post-World War I setting is appealing, and I appreciate how Winspear allows time to pass throughout the series – from the first book to the most recent has spanned a decade. I found it fascinating to get a taste for how the mood of the country changed, and how life changed for so many of the characters.

Why They Might Not Be For You

The mysteries are the weakest element, and they’re almost all entirely forgettable. If you want mysteries where the focus is on clever plotting and matching wits with a detective (or criminal), these aren’t the ones for you.

There’s a slight mystical storyline running through several of the books (especially the earlier ones) that led to coincidences playing too large a role in solving the mystery. Maisie seems to rely on intuition an awful lot, and her descriptions of it were a bit eye-rolling.

Maisie is almost too perfect of a character. She’s smart and kind and sensitive and has men seemingly falling for her all the time. Her biggest flaw is even that she cares too much for others and tries to arrange their lives.

Reading Them All

Because of the emphasis on characterization, these are books you’ll want to read in order. So much time passes, and so many significant events happen to various characters that you’ll really miss out if you read later books first. Don’t do it!

If you like listening to your books, they’re all available via Audible, but there is a different narrator for each of the first two books. Beginning with book three, it’s the same narrator, so you can get used to a familiar voice telling the story. I enjoyed her narration and especially appreciated being able to hear the variation in accents that Winspear sometimes describes, but I could never really understand until hearing the books.

Find the Books:
  1. Maisie Dobbs Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  2. Birds of a Feather Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  3. Pardonable Lies Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  4. Messenger of Truth Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  5. An Incomplete Revenge Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  6. Among the Mad Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  7. The Mapping of Love and Death Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  8. A Lesson in Secrets Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  9. Elegy for Eddie Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  10. Leaving Everything Most Loved Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  11. A Dangerous Place Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  12. Journey to Munich Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  13. In This Grave Hour Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Read all the posts in the “Series Love” series. Because sometimes it makes more sense to talk about the entirety of a book series, instead of doing a post about each individual title.


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Cover Love: The Diamond Age

The “Cover Love” series is inspired by the “Judging Books by Their Covers” series previously run at Quirky Bookworm.

Six cover options for The Diamond Age, and I don’t like any of them. Seems appropriate, since I don’t like the book. Not one would inspire me to pick it up and give it try (it was the high Goodreads rating that did that).

What do you think of the covers? Do you have a preference for one of them in particular Or do you have any ideas for how they could have designed the cover to make it fit the book, and be appealing? ‘Cause I’ve got nothing.

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Introducing August’s Book Club Selection: The Diamond Age

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

the-diamond-age

What’s It About?

(Description from Goodreads)

The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer is a postcyberpunk novel by Neal Stephenson. It is to some extent a science fiction coming-of-age story, focused on a young girl named Nell, and set in a future world in which nanotechnology affects all aspects of life. The novel deals with themes of education, social class, ethnicity, and the nature of artificial intelligence.

Why Was This Title Selected

It was intended as the science fiction title for the year (Dark Matter was supposed to be a thriller; I hadn’t realized how much sci-fi it included.) It’s won multiple awards and received rave reviews, so I trusted it would be a good choice for discussion.

Anything Else to Know About It?

The discussion will begin soon in the Facebook group, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

It’s available in Print, for Kindle or Nook, or via Audible (for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first).

What’s Coming Up Next?

plainsongPlainsong by Kent Haruf

What’s it about? The interwoven lives of a community in Colorado.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

New on Your Stack (volume 26)

Some highlights from the books from last month’s linkup:


Stacie (Sincerely Stacie) has a small stack this month, but it features one I immediately went searching for at my library: Surgeon’s Story. I *love* medical memoirs, so I was disappointed to find my library doesn’t have it. I’ll keep an eye out for it in the future though!


Happily for my TBR list, Kate (Opinionated Book Lover) added nothing to my “want to read” list this month. Don’t be that impressed with my self-control though: it’s only because I’m intentionally avoiding beginning the Charlotte Holmes series by Brittany Cavallaro, until the last in the trilogy is published (next year hopefully). So despite her praise for book #1, A Study in Charlotte, and for tempting me this month with book #2, The Last of August, I’m resisting.


Arwen (The Tech Chef) mentioned getting Queen of Extinction for joining the author’s email list. Just like Arwen, the teaser describing the book for those who like “fairytale retellings, magic, steampunk, and romance” got my attention. Ok, I’m not so much into romance, but 3 out of 4 work. The author’s website no longer offers this title, but I did sign up for her email list and instead received Rebel’s Honor, the first in a Steampunk Fantasy series.


Jill (Days at Home) showcased a new-to-me title and series: The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett. I love the cover, and I love the idea of the 1927 National Park setting. I’ve got it on hold from my library, and my fingers crossed that it lives up to the cover. 🙂


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Introducing July’s Book Club Selection: True Grit

true-grit

True Grit by Charles Portis

What’s It About?

(Description from Goodreads)

Mattie Ross, 14, from Dardanelle, Arkansas, narrates half a century later, her trip in the winter of 1870s, to avenge the murder of her father. She convinces one-eyed “Rooster” Cogburn, the meanest available U.S. Marshall, to tag along, while she outdickers and outmaneuvers the hard-bitten types in her path.

Why Was This Title Selected

I’ve never read a western, so I thought it’d be fun to try one. This one appears on a lot of “best of” lists, and if we’re only going to read one, I want it to be a good one.

Anything Else to Know About It?

The discussion will begin soon in the Facebook group, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

It’s available in Print, for Kindle or Nook, or via Audible.

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.

What’s Coming Up Next?

the-diamond-ageThe Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

What’s it about? A young girl named Nell grows up in a future world in which nanotechnology affects all aspects of life.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Series Love: Peter Grant / Rivers of London

Peter Grant by Ben Aaronovitch series covers

A new series all about … book series! Because sometimes it makes more sense to talk about the entirety of a book series, instead of doing a post about each individual title.

First up, is my beloved Peter Grant / Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. If you’ve been reading here for awhile, you may remember my post about the first entry in the series, Midnight Riot. You may also have seen the other titles in the series appear in my New on the Stack posts, so don’t be surprised if the author’s name is familiar.

This series is a ton of fun – it’s a delightful conglomeration of mystery and urban fantasy. Things get weird in it, so if you don’t like oddball books these probably won’t appeal to you, but I love them. Peter, Leslie, Nightingale, Beverly, The Folly – the personalities involved and the setting all make me so happy.

Why They Might Not Be Your Cup of Tea

The series is very British and sometimes I have to guess on some of the slang or Google it if I can’t figure it out by the context. I’m sure I’m still missing some nuances, but I love how British it is. It makes me wish I knew London better, as I’m sure I’d appreciate some of the events more if I wasn’t so clueless as to where things take place in relation to each other (I know, I could get out a map, but I don’t care that much).

There are a few sex scenes, but nothing is too graphic. It’s enough that my grandmother wouldn’t have been willing to continue reading the books, so if you’re a very conservative reader you may want to pass (or know that you may have a few pages to skip over).

If you’re a sensitive reader, you may be bothered by some of the more disturbing scenes. There are some icky things mentioned; not usually super detailed, but it’s in there. I am not a sensitive reader so I could usually just think “ew” and move on. Know your own reading tolerance for this sort of thing.

While I love the series as a whole, the books themselves are sometimes uneven. Book #4 ends on a major cliffhanger, so you’ll want to have #5 ready to go. Book #5 mostly takes place outside of London, and I prefer Peter in a more urban environment. The ending for book #5 is fairly weak as well – it just kind of ends, and many loose threads are left dangling. If all I’d ever read was that one, I’d be wondering what on earth all the fuss was about the series – this isn’t a series that works well enough as potential stand-alone titles.

Reading Them All

If you find you love the series, there are some graphic novels, short stories, and novellas that are intermixed with the main novels. None of them are essential for following the storyline from the novels (although there are some comments in a few of the later novels that refer back to events from the graphic novels).

Numbered titles in bold are the novels, that need to be read to follow the overall plot, and should be read in order to avoid spoilers. Other titles are optional, but fun if you’re a series fanatic. Be aware that the visual nature of the graphic novels makes them a poor choice for Kindle copies, and don’t be like me and let your kids peek over your shoulder as you read them. A couple of the illustrations caught me off guard and I quickly moved to close the book before my kids could notice.

Audio book fan? The narrator for the series is excellent. You can get a good sample of his style on the free Audible short story linked below.

  1. Midnight Riot (published in the UK as Rivers of London) Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads
  2. Moon Over Soho Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  3. Whispers Under Ground Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  4. Broken Homes Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  5. Foxglove Summer Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  6. The Hanging Tree Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
The Graphic Novels
Extra Stories

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Reading The Hobbit for the First Time (Don’t Be Like Me)

At the end of last year, my Facebook book club read The Hobbit. I’d been looking forward to it for years, but was underwhelmed by it. If you too want to avoid overall disappointment when reading The Hobbit, I have some suggestions.

Read it when you’re younger

It’s a much simpler book than The Lord of the Rings and expecting that layering of depth in The Hobbit led me to wonder where the rest of it was. It’s much more straightforward and felt lacking. If I’d read it as a teen or even tween, I don’t think I’d have noticed anything.

Don’t listen to it the first time

There are some songs scattered throughout the text, and listening to the book makes it hard to skip over them. I wanted to skip over them, as they were tedious and seemed to take for.ev.er. to get through. I’m also much faster at reading than listening, so the book seemed endless for what all it didn’t cover, and if I’d been reading it I could have zipped along.

Read it before The Lord of the Rings

Knowing what happens afterward leads to a lot more of a “who cares” feeling throughout this book. Read it first so you don’t know who the characters are, and don’t have any inkling of things that might be important later.

Have the movie ready to watch afterward

Reward yourself for it.

Don’t overhype it to yourself

Too much build-up can lead to ultimate disappointment. That was probably my major problem with the book. 😉

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Introducing June’s Book Club Selection: Uprooted

UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik

What’s It About?

(Description from Goodreads)

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Why Was This Title Selected

The year’s fantasy option, chosen because Jessica raved over it. It was also surprisingly difficult to find a stand-alone fantasy novel – so many of the ones I was finding were series reads (or at least trilogies), and I didn’t want to choose one that wouldn’t be complete in one book.

Anything Else to Know About It?

The discussion will begin soon in the Facebook group, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

It’s available in Print, for Kindle or Nook, or via Audible.

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.

What’s Coming Up Next?

true-gritTrue Grit by Charles Portis

What’s it about? Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross recounts the time when she sought retribution for her father’s murder.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Introducing May’s Book Club Selection: Hannah Coulter

hannah-coulter

What’s It About?

(Description from Goodreads)

“Ignorant boys, killing each other,” is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife, friends, and family about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war and the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan’s wife, Hannah, has time now to tell of the years since the war. In Wendell Berry’s unforgettable prose, we learn of the Coulter’s children, of the Feltners and Branches, and how survivors “live right on.”

Why Was This Title Selected

Our literary fiction pick for the year, and because I’ve been wanting to get to one of Berry’s books.

Anything Else to Know About It?

The discussion will begin soon in the Facebook group, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

It’s available in Print, for Kindle or Nook, or via Audible.

What’s Coming Up Next?

UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik

What’s it about? Agnieszka’s native village of Dvernik is menaced by something in the surrounding woods, protected only by the local sorcerer. Every decade he chooses a village girl to serve him. Agnieszka is about to find out what happens to those girls during their years of service.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Black Coffee by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie's Black Coffee - a Hercule Poirot mysteryBlack Coffee by Agatha Christie, adapted as a novel by Charles Osborne

Miss Marple is my preferred Christie character – she amuses me in a way that Poirot does not. The additional bonus with Miss Marple is the lack of Hastings in the narrative – I’m not a big fan of his bumbling.

So, Black Coffee had some strikes against it already when it came to a Christie title – it’s Poirot, and Hastings is in it. Then when I borrowed the title I discovered that it was originally a play, written by Christie, but adapted into a novel by someone else.

Unfortunately, that adaptation shows. The action is very tightly located, and there felt like an excess of directions – someone enters the room, sits here, moves there, etc. I have no doubt it works better as a play, where the limitations that felt cramped in a novel are appropriate for a theatre setting.

I don’t regret reading it by any means, and for Poirot fans or anyone wanting to be sure to read all of Christie’s works it’s a must-read. For anyone else, it’s skippable.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:

Inventor Sir Claude Amory feels a bitter taste in the mouth, when the new formula for explosive material stolen by someone in the household.

In order to quickly remedy the situation, Sir Claude locks the door and turns off the light, giving the thief a chance to return the formula without being detected. But darkness brings death and Hercule Poirot has to untangle family strife, love and suspicious visitors tangle in order to clarify the murderer and prevent disaster.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!