by Mary Jo
These is an older blog topic request, but timeless. From Mary K. Kennedy:
"Could the Wenches do a periodic joint blog about recent books that they really enjoyed? The blog comments have given me some great recommendations for books I would've otherwise panned."
So—just in time to cheer us up at tax season, here are some recent reads by Word Wenches:
I'm currently reading A Royal Affair, which sounds like a racy novel but is actually a non-fiction book by Stella Tillyard, author of Aristocrats, about King George III and the complex and sometimes dark relationships he had with his siblings. It's fascinating stuff and thanks to a fast pace and Stella Tillyard's beautiful writing it grabbed me right from the first. The murky world of Mid-Georgian London is beautifully drawn and the family relationships are engrossing.
From Anne Gracie:
In the last few months I've glommed a couple of new-to-me authors, collecting as much of their backlist as has been available. Thanks to wench Nicola who put me onto Susanna Kearsley, I've devoured her books. They're basically contemporary romances with an element of mystery and a strong historical connection; there's often a kind of time-slip or reincarnation theme going. Lovely.
My other big glom author is Trisha Ashley, and I started with Twelve Days of Christmas (also called Twelfth Night in some places) which is still my fave and a keeper I've already reread. Trisha Ashley's books are contemporary romances, a little in the Katie Fforde vein, but laced with gorgeous pithy humor that often surprises a chuckle out of me.
Finally, because Susan Wiggs is coming to the RWAustralia conference in August, I started a "Wiggsathon" with some friends, where we've been reading a pile of her books — in my case, her Lakeshore Chronicles series, which I'd never read any of. Thoroughly enjoyed them, too. Before that I think I'd only read her historicals, of which The Lightkeeper was my standout favorite.
As usual, I’m reading several books at a time and the chance of my finishing any soon may rest on how much reading time I have. But I did just finish Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Call Me Irresistible and loved it. I can’t think of another author who can create a conflict out of one character being perfect and the other totally imperfect. The clash is just too funny.
I’m also reading Pati Nagle’s The Immortal, an ebook contemporary fantasy available at bookviewcafe.com and elsewhere. Think Legolas visits your local library and persuades the librarian to help him fight one of his own who is vampirically diseased and threatening humans. Great New Mexico scenery thrown in.
From Cara Elliott/Andrea Penrose:
I've been reading historical mystery lately, and just discovered a very interesting new-to-me series by a writer named Imogen Robertson set in Georgian England. Instruments of Darkness features an intriguing cast of characters (a naval captain's wife who is managing a small estate, along with her two young children and teenage sister, and a reclusive anatomist who turn into a sleuthing team) several puzzling murders, and a dark mystery involving the local lord of the manor, a wounded veteran of the British raid on Concord. The writing style is beautiful-very descriptive, with great characterization. I'm definitely going to be looking for the second book.
I've also belatedly started the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. I don't why it took me so long. I love the era-WWI England for the first book (with flashback to Edwardian times) and 1920s for the next ones. Maisie is a very unusual heroine, and her sleuthing deals with complex issues, creating the texture and nuances which appeal to me.
Lately I've been reading lots of nonfiction and a few mysteries, and the book that currently tops the basket beside my reading chair (which is spilling over with research books and wanna-reads) is Alan Bradley's A Red Herring Without Mustard. This is the third in a series that begins with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Ever since discovering the detective expertise of Flavia De Luce, an 11-year-old amateur chemist and a determined and brilliant little sleuth, I have been hooked. The delightful Flavia – a mix between Marie Curie, Sherlock Holmes and Pippi Longstocking – along with the charming setting (the English countryside in 1950), and some very clever mystery goings-on are keeping me well occupied and more than a little addicted.
I recently read Naomi Novik's Victory of Eagles. This is the fourth book in the series about a dragon air force in the Napoleonic Wars, starring Temeraire, a mighty dragon. I did enjoy it, especially Temeraire, who is brilliantly portrayed, but I find the long suffering stoicism of Lawrence, Temeraire's human partner, a bit of a downer.
I've also been revisiting Dr Johnson's London: Everyday Life in London in the Mid 18th Century, which is full of interesting details that might come in useful in A Scandalous Countess, my MIP.
This gives me a chance to talk about several books! Dorothy Sayers created the marvelous sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, and since her death three more books have written by Jill Paton Walsh. I’ve read and enjoyed all the Lord Peter mysteries, but romance writer to the core, I particularly like the ones about his courtship and marriage to Harriet Vane, the accused murderess he lost his heart to.
Hence, I’m really enjoying the continuation books because they take place after Lord Peter marries Harriet. A Presumption of Death takes up their lives in 1940 while Lord Peter is missing and possibly dead on a secret mission in Nazi Europe while Harriet is home keeping things together with their two children as well as the three children of Peter’s sister. Naturally, a murder occurs and Harriet is drawn into solving it. I liked this so much that I’ve bought the earlier continuation, Thrones, Dominations (that one was started by Sayers and completed by Paton Walsh). and I want to read the third, The Attenbury Emeralds, entirely written by Jill Paton Walsh, as well. Wonderful characters, writing, and stories.
I also just finished Michael Caine’s second memoir, The Elephant to Hollywood. As he says cheerfully, he thought his career was about over when he wrote his first memoir 18 years ago, but that didn’t prove to be the case. He’s great company—warm and good natured, with terrific self-deprecating stories, including how he found his adored wife, Shakira, in a Maxwell House coffee commercial. There’s also the subtext of how a poor East End boy who had rickets as a child made the amazing journey to international stardom.
Last but hardly least is Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper. Homer is the blind kitten Gwen adopted when no one else wanted him. Instead of growing up to be a fearful invalid, he turned into an intrepid blind wonder cat, capable of leaping five feet straight into the air to catch flies, and gathering legions of adoring fans. He also became a role model for Gwen making changes in her own life. Excellent writing, and a wonderful tale for cat lovers and others.
We Wenches are considering following Mary's suggestion of occasionally posting other "What We've Been Reading" blogs. What do you think? Would you like to see more such posts?
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