Anne here, bringing you the latest reading recommendations from the wenches. There's a fair bit of crime — some cozy, some police procedural, some medieval mysteries, there's time slip and WW2, there's a delightful word exploration book, and there's even some romance!
Pat recommends THIEF OF SOULS by Brian Klingborg She says: I enjoy the occasional police procedural if the writing is strong and there’s a good hook. The author kept me reading, and the setting was an unusual hook—a small town in northern China. The protagonist, Lu Fei, is a middle-aged (although they keep calling him young, he’s forty) inspector on the police force, never married, who drinks too much, and is good at martial arts. Okay, raise your hand if you’ve read that before. <G> But it all works. Young women are being murdered, their organs removed, then sewed up again. The author takes us through the workings of the police department, all the petty government hang-ups, the interdepartmental fighting, all the things we normally see in the usual Brit and American police stories, only with a Chinese twist. I had to look up the author to see how he knew these details, and he’s apparently lived in China but isn’t Chinese. Still, it felt authentic.
Inspector Lu has never married because he wants to marry for love. He quotes Confucius but he’s an independent thinker and an honest cop. You really have to like him because he tries so hard. And better yet, the author manages to keep the killer a secret almost to the point that Lu works it out. So we get to feel smart and not too annoyed with our hero when it takes him a few pages more. If you enjoy a good police procedural and reading about China, you might want to check this out.
Andrea says: this month I seemed to be a WWII state mind, as I read two books set in the era. They were very different in style but I loved both them.
I’m a huge fan of Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network and The Huntress, and her latest novel, The Rose Code, is equally mesmerizing. It’s a heart-thumping dual timeline story set at Bletchley Park, the famous top secret British codebreaking enclave during the war, and several years after as the three heroines are forced to crack one last code . . .
It features three young women from completely different backgrounds and temperaments who find themselves thrown together as roommates after their skills at solving puzzles bring them to be part of the British efforts to crack the enemy codes—an effort that is keeping the country from defeat. Quinn gives readers a fascinating look inside Bletchley Park as she weaves a compelling tale of friendship, heartache, secrets and betrayals as each of the women struggle to define her dreams and deal with her own weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
A shocking betrayal breaks their friendships apart at the end of the war, only to have a coded message several years later force them to reluctantly come together again to catch a traitor. I couldn’t put it down!
Basil’s War by Stephen Hunter is also about codebreaking. A derring-do British agent is dropped behind enemy lines in France to retrieve an old manuscript which holds the key to deciphering a code that will help identify a traitor. But Hunter writes it with an elegantly clever, tongue-in-cheek tone. (It’s as if Dorothy Parker and the Round Table put their heads together and had fun concocting their own take on James Bond.)
I was laughing aloud at the situations and dialogue as Basil plays cat and mouse with the German Abwahr agents who are on his tail. The plot is so well concocted, with unexpected twists right to the end, and the dry humor make it a light and really enjoyable read.
Christina is next. She says: This month I’ve been obsessively reading Sarah J Maas’s series beginning with A Court of Thorns and Roses.
I’d been meaning to pick this up for a while but only started recently and when I did, I was completely hooked. It is a YA fantasy series (although probably more suitable for adults) and I was drawn into this world of mortals and high fae and simply didn’t want to leave. Yes, the books are violent, gory and graphic, with a fair amount of sex scenes (some might say too many), but the love stories are epic, the heroes to die for and the tension insane. The world-building was so subtly done, the reader is eased into it at the same time as the heroine. Every aspect was beautifully described and I felt as though I was actually there.
I now totally understand all the hype about this series and it’s not finished yet. At least I hope not – there are several unfinished love stories left to tell and hopefully the author will be doing that very soon. When I had to leave this world at the end of the latest instalment, A Court of Silver Flames, I felt truly bereft and the characters are still in my mind, a week later.
Mary Jo here, and I'm continuing to reread old favorites. This time, I'm talking about Anne George's Southern Sisters cozy mystery series.
The stories are narrated by Patricia Anne Hollowell, a recently retired English teacher, happily married for forty years. She's petite and ladylike. Her sister Mary Alice is five years older, claims to be 5'12" tall and 250 pounds, and is brassy, generous, and a force of nature. She three times married much older men and gave each one a child. According to Patricia Ann, they all died happy because of Mary Alice, and each one left her lots of money.
In the first book of the series, Murder on a Girls' Night Out, Mary Alice, who is also referred to as "Sister," impulsively buys the Skoot 'n' Boot, a country western bar she is fond of. Then the murders begin…
I love the humor and eccentric characters as Patricia Anne is dragged along in Sister's wake, trying to correct Mary Alice's grammar and keep them both alive. There are eight books in the series and I'm enjoying them all over again.
Susan says: Words! That's one reason we read and write, isn't it – the love of words (and stories!). If you love words, I highly recommend Susie Dent, if you haven't discovered her yet – a British lexicographer whose clever knack of finding and defining odd and wonderful words has resulted in her TV and Twitter presence and a few wonderful books about words as well. I've been reading her Word Perfect: Curious Coinages and Etymological Entertainment for Every Day of the Year. Surely you've wondered about the origin, meaning, and use of words like "toff" (snob), "cakeism" (having it, and eating it), "snick-up" (17th c. term for a fit of sneezing), and "firkytoodling" (basically, foreplay). Follow along through the calendar, January 1 through December 31, or open the book anywhere – you're in for a treat!
Aside from reading lots of words, I've been on a historical mystery kick again, and have gone back to glomming my way through medieval mysteries. I'm a huge longtime fan of Cadfael (Ellis Peters), Owen Archer (Candace Robb), and others, and I've just discovered J. G. Lewis's series about Ela of Salisbury. Lady Ela Longespee was an actual woman who took over as Sheriff of Salisbury in 1226 after her husband's death (such offices sometimes went along family lines rather than appointment, but her son was too young to take over his father's post). In Cathedral of Bones, the first book in the series, newly widowed Lady Ela learns the ropes as sheriff, helps her young children cope with loss, and solves the mysterious death of a young pregnant woman found in the river. J. G. Lewis, a medieval historian, found a brilliant concept in the life of the real Ela of Salisbury. She creates a genuine medieval atmosphere with place and character, a fine mystery, and an excellent sleuth. I'll be reading more of Ela's adventures in sheriffing!
Anne here. I have one romance and a crime series to recommend this month.
This a fun little romantic fantasy — not an elves-and-fairies kind of fantasy, but a slightly far-fetched but very feel good romantic story. Nora Tucker is an admin assistant from a tiny English village. Nora's parents knew the moment they met that they were soulmates. Nora's not sure she believes in it for herself — until watching a movie, she sees the new American movie star Gary Montgomery, and click! She's convinced he's her soulmate. Crazy, right? But though Nora knows it's bonkers, she has to give it her best shot and go to America to meet him.
Lots of lighthearted fun with all the feels, some good laughs and of course, a happy ending. I really enjoyed it.
The crime series is the Nikki Galena series by Joy Ellis. Set in the English Fen country of Norfolk, the series is about police detective book Nikki Galena and Joseph Easter, the police partner she is given in book one who goes from being an imposition to a friend and valued colleague. The first book is CRIME ON THE FENS and the town is being terrorized by violent gangs all wearing identical hideous masks. At the same time, a talented young student goes missing on the marsh.
I read the entire series this month — and obviously I enjoyed them. Each book is stand alone, but the development of the various continuing characters means I recommend they be read in order.
Also if you're a kindle reader, note that though each book is sold separately, Books 1-5 are also sold as a bundle for around $3 — the same price as one book — a real bargain, as are books 7, 8 and 9, so it's worth checking.
So that's it for our reading in May. Now it's over to you, wenchly readers. Share the books you've read and enjoyed in the last month.