What We’re Reading in July

Woman readingNicola here, introducing the July What We're Reading. We all love this feature as we get so many wonderful book recommendations as a result. We hope you enjoy it too. If, like me, you're going away in a few weeks time and are looking for the next read to take with you, or if you have already been indulging in some holiday reading, this is the place to share!

Joanna:

Only one book to recommend this month. It's been a busy time altogether. The RWA National Conference was a mad, lovely, exciting week. The rest of July was spent madly writing.

Still, I did get to read Robin McKinley's, The Hero Hero and crown
 and the Crown
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 It's a YA that won the Newberry Medal a few years back. A princess despised and distrusted by her people steps outside their expectations and becomes a strong and magical warrior who saves the kingdom. The book is about choices and strength and what these cost.

McKinley has been a favorite of mine since I read Sunshine, her YA-vampire-not-quite-a-romance. A lovely book.

Pat:

I’ve been cruising the high seas and spending more time in the moment than reading, apparently. And I watched movies on the plane! But here’s a couple of books I can recall.

Axeman’s Jazz, Julie Smith—a mystery rich with gritty New Orleans atmosphere. The heroine is a very good, very determined cop which gives a nice spin on the usual types of humor found in hapless female detective stories. The story includes lovely layers of satire on New Orleans society— the killer is picking off attendants of 12-step programs, which to the detective’s dismay means that half the city is a potential victim.

1395707162001-Fool-Me-TwiceMeredith Duran, Fool Me Twice—I went into this thinking “yawn, another book about a tortured, privileged duke.”  I have a real hard time being sympathetic to dukes who have everything and still manage to whine. But Duran pulls out ALL the stops. She beats this once-decent guy into a puling lump, then torments her innocent heroine beyond reason. Even though I was fully prepared to laugh at the preposterous setup, Duran made me root for both of them. Her emotional and descriptive writing twists the heart and keeps the pages turning.

Off the Reservation, Glen Merzer—if you want a novel that literally goes off the deep end on satirizing politics, try this one. The protag is a Congressman who grabs attention by saying just what he pleases and turns his lunacy into a campaign platform, while claiming over-population is the root of all problems and that there are no solutions. The way to bring honesty back to politics!

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What We’re Reading in June

Knowledge wins by dan smith circa 1914 to 1918Joanna here, talking about the books we're reading this month.

It's been a humid, rainy June up in my mountains.  I am overwhelmed by the beauty of it, with mist everywhere and deer coming out of the woods to eat the grass I just had mowed.  They like all that juicy, tender, new growth. 

On the free time front, I was harassed by deadlines and by all the little ills the flesh is heir to.  I learned, for instance, that it takes a team of men and a huge, noisy, orange machine three days to fix a well pump.  Who knew?  Also, if your car gets old enough, the repairs cost more than the car is worth.  

Did I mention I haz deadlines?
So I didn't get any particular amount of reading done, but instead watched my To Be Read pile grow like summer weeds.

I am rich in books, but I have no time to read them.  I am an object lesson in book misering and literary greed.
So what did I read?Lady maggie

From Grace Burrowes, who writes such warm, appealing characters, Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal. This is another of her infallible cheer-me-up books.  Right up there with Julia Quinn.  Beautiful and funny.

I also indulged myself in Ilona Andrews' Fate's Edge, Book Three in 'The Edge' Series.  Just to be contrary, I'll say that if Andrews is a new-to-you writer, I suggest starting with her Magic Bites
When I read that series I'm always saying to myself, "Like cats much?"

The-Bargain-Putney-Mary-Jo-9781420117264I also returned to an old favorite, Mary Jo Putney's The Bargain.  David Lancaster is one of my favorite heroes — brave, warm-hearted, straightforward.

What can I say?  I think my character Grey has some of David Lancaster in him. 

 

Mary Jo herself picks a couple winners.  She says:

I’m currently reading Letters from Backstage: The Adventures of a Touring Stage Actor  by Michael Kostroff. 

Michael Kostroff was a reasonably successful TV actor in Los Angeles, but his long held dream was to appear in a big, splashy Broadway show, so when the opportunity arrived to join the first national tour of The Producers, he leaped on it gladly.  Kostroff is also a freelance writer, so his e-mails from the road to his friends were so much fun Mad earl that they urged him to put them together into a book.  This is that book.  Besides being delightful to read, it does something I love in a book: it takes me in a new world in a compelling and believable way.  I have zero interest in touring with a theater company (not to mention zero talent <G>), but it was fascinating to read about.

In the fiction category, I was happy to see that The Mad Earl’s Bride,, a longish novella by Loretta Chase, is now available in an e-edition.  

Originally published in 1995 in the Three Weddings and a Kiss anthology, it has long been a favorite story of mine, and downloading it to my Nook was easier than digging the anthology out of the basement.  <G>  The story is a spin-off from Loretta’s much loved Lord of Scoundrels, and for a description, it’s hard to beat the blurb:

Gwendolyn Adams is about to propose to an earl. On his deathbed.

Gwendolyn Adams isn't shocked at being asked to save a handsome earl's dying line, even when she learns the prospective bridegroom is seriously ill and possibly insane. She's quite a good nurse, after all, and her family is famous for producing healthy male children. Those stories about his riding the moors half-naked on a pale white horse? Extremely intriguing—especially after she gets her first look at the gorgeous lunatic.

The Earl of Rawnsley wants only to lose what's left of his mind in peace and privacy. But his busybody relatives have saddled him with a surprise bride and orders to sire an heir forthwith. (And they say he's mad?) But with Gwendolyn, his health is returning, and his resistance … crumbling. Is it possible that love is the finest madness of all?

 

 

ArabianNicola brings us one of those serendipitous discoveries.  I love it when this happens.  She says:

 

I was visiting family and spotted a book called Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger, which I promptly borrowed. Thesiger was a famous explorer who was born in Ethiopia and educated in England. He made his first expeditions in the 1930s so his books are not only a record of travels to exotic places but also a period of history that is now long gone. Arabian Sands is about a journey to the "empty quarter" of Arabia.
 
I first became fascinated with the "empty quarter" when I read The Singing Sands, one of the wonderful Inspector Grant series, by Josephine Tey. The hunt for the fabled lost city of Wabar seemed impossibly romantic and still inspires a frisson of excitement in me now. Unfortunately when I got Arabian Sands home my husband said: "That looks interesting" and promptly started to read it before me!
  You had me at hello
Fiction-wise, a fellow member of the Bath and Wiltshire Chapter of the RNA recommended You Had Me At Hello by Scots author Mhairi McFarlane. I'm waiting for my copy to arrive. The blurb says: "What happens when the one that got away comes back?" I'm looking forward to finding out!

 
And Joanna breaks in here to add another huzzah for Thesiger.  Just a fascinating book.  I read it when I was headed out for Saudi Arabia.  I'd also recommend Sir Richard Francis Burton's Arabian travel writing which you can find here at the wonderful University of Adelaide site. 
 
Cara/Andrea has this to say —
(She's recommending two of my reliably favorite authors, by the way)

A Spear of Summer Grass
 
 
 
I've been wrestling with starting a new book, and in the process of beginning to get to know the characters (and, um, figure out the plot) I tend to be reading a little less than usual. That said, I've been unable to put down A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn.
 
It's set in 1920s Kenya, and paints a beautifully evocative portrait of the era, and a quirky cast of restless souls exploring the boundaries of their own selves as they search for meaning in life. Africa—brutal and beautiful—is a metaphor for a world turned upside down by the Great War.
 
Many of you may know Deanna's Lady Julia series, which is also wonderful—the "heroine" here is equally compelling and the first person POV is so well done.
You have to love a book that begins:
  
MajaDon't believe the stories you have heard about me. I have never killed anyone, and I have never stolen another woman's husband. Oh, if I find one lying around unattended, I might climb on, but I never took one that didn't want taking. And I never meant to go to Africa. 
 
I highly recommend it.
 
I've also grabbed up Midnight At Marble Arch, Anne Perry's latest book in her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mystery series. I'm a big fan . . . but it's going to have to wait for a bit!

 

Moving right along . . .
Anne says:
I'm madlyTheProposal trying to finish a book, and though most people would imagine that reading would be set aside at such a time, for me, reading is a necessary part of unwinding and refreshing my brain.
 
I've been continuing my glom of Deborah Crombie's crime novels and I'm on #10 at the moment, In a Dark House. I'm reading them in order, because I like the ongoing development of the relationship between the two protagonists, Duncan Kinkaid and Gemma James.
 
Some romance writers don't read romance while they're writing, and I must confess I hesitated before picking up this next book, because Mary Balogh is so darned good her books can be depressing for someone in not-yet-finished-the-book mode. But I succumbed and thoroughly enjoyed her latest book, The Proposal. Sometimes it's good to be reminded why I fell in love with this genre in the first place.
I've also been browsing through A Writer's Book of Days, by Judy Reeves. She encourages people to meet daily (or regularly at least) and write for 15 minutes using random writing Writercatprompts. I don't do that, but it would be interesting, I think, to try.
 
I enjoy books about writing, and often find they stimulate me, as well as reminding me of things I know, but sometimes forget about. I'm taking a writing class that starts next month — four Sundays over four months — and I like to bring in a range of craft-of-writing books for the students to browse through.
 

 

So there you have it — That's what we were reading; what we liked; what made us think; what brought us joy.
 
What about you?  Did you read anything recently that lifted your heart or challenged your mind? 
Or, you know, just made you smile a little?