What We’re Reading in January!

The vanishingNicola here, introducing this month’s What We’re Reading. As usual we’ve got an interesting mix, and we’re really looking forward to hearing about your latest reads as well. Looking at my Kindle, all the most recent books on there are recommendations I’ve picked up from the other Wenches and these posts.

Having read every single one of the Jayne Castle Harmony and Rainshadow series, with attendant dust bunnies, I turned to the Arcane series and now to the Fogg Lake series, which is a contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal elements. There’s a Midwich Cuckoos vibe going on here. Years ago, the small town of Fogg Lake experienced something called The Incident, a mysterious explosion in the cave system beneath the town. The residents were knocked unconscious and when they recovered, they found they had new psychic powers.

Book 1 in the series is The Vanishing,written under her Jayne Ann Krentz name. Catalina Lark and her friend Olivia St Clair witness a murder when they are teens but no one believes them as it took place in the caves of their hometown Fogg Lake, and people think they were hallucinating. Years later, Olivia disappears and it becomes clear that someone is hunting the witnesses to the murder. Catalina sets out to find her friend with the help of Slater Arganbright, a mysterious operative from a shadowy law enforcement agency called The Foundation.

There are lots of parallels with the futuristic books in terms of the special powers that the protagonists possess, the strong heroines and the very hot heroes and even hotter romance. But – no dust bunnies!

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WWR — What we read in October

Anne here, hosting our monthly "what we're reading" post, and have we got some great recommendations for you, from contemporary magic realism, to English women's fiction/rom com, medieval historical romance, rock romance, crime fiction of various sorts, and fantasy romance. Read on — and then add your own recommendations in the comment stream.

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We begin with Pat: For fans of magical realism and Barbara Samuel—MIDNIGHT AT THE BLACK BIRD CAFÉ by Heather Webber is a lovely, heartwarming, “wrap up in a cozy blanket and dream pleasant dreams” story. There is enormous heartbreak and death, but the book is not just about learning to cope, but to overcome and become stronger through forgiveness and love.

For tragic reasons, Anna Kay has never lived in the town her mother called home, until her grandmother dies and leaves her a café. Anna has no intention of staying. She’s on her way to medical school. But the will requires that she stay and run the café for two months before she can sell it, and she desperately needs the funds. Over those months, she learns about the rare blackbirds inhabiting her backyard, the mulberries that bring magical dreams, and about the father she never knew. And while Anna is changing, the whole town is changing with her. Every character shines like a polished gem, and I wanted to root for all of them to have their happy endings. Definitely a feel good story for a dreary evening!

CountryEscapeChristina says: Jane Lovering writes the quirkiest rom coms I’ve ever read – and I mean that in the best possible way! – so when I noticed that she had a new book out, I downloaded it immediately. In The Country Escape, heroine Katie has moved herself and her teenage daughter to a ramshackle cottage in deepest Dorset following her recent divorce because it’s all she can afford. Her ex-husband was French, rich and selfish, so the change in circumstances is particularly noticeable. With jobs harder to come by than she’d thought (she is a French teacher), their prospects for the coming winter look bleak until a couple of chance encounters. One with a pony, who turns up in her orchard one morning (together with an abandoned gypsy caravan), and the other with a man called Gabriel. Jane Lovering’s heroes are always unusual and unique, and Gabriel is no exception. Despite being very handsome, he’s not your average alpha hero, and he has been scarred by things that happened when he was young. But although Katie tries to resist, she can’t help but be drawn to him. Quietly witty and resourceful, as well as self-deprecating, Katie is the kind of heroine you can’t help but root for, and she is hiding some secrets of her own.

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What We’re Reading in February

Joanna here, and it's What We're Reading time. 
What are the Wenches enthusiastic about this month?

Looks like mystery, suspense, and magic abound.

Www kings confressNow me, I'm reading CS Harris' Why Kings Confess, the latest in the Sebastian St. Cyr historical murder mysteries. (The first in the series is What Angels Fear. That's where I'd start.)

These mysteries are so perfect for me. They're gritty, exciting stories, full of intrigue, and set in my favorite historical period. This latest book — set in London — winds in and out of the downfall of the French Monarchy and the politics of Napoleonic France.

All these books are full of intricate, intricate plots and indirections. Complex characters. Sneaky stuff. Love stories.

I'm also enjoying Lilith's Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural by Howard Schwartz.  What we got here is a collection of traditional folk stories of magic and mystery. Old stories, told with a little humor, of marriage with demons, wandering spirits, werewolves, and the occasional possession by dybbuks. Nice stuff to read at bedtime.

Cara/Andrea says,
 
I’m a big fan of historical mysteries, and there are several series I particularly enjoy, and Tasha Www counterfeit heiressAlexander’s Lady Emily series is one of them. So it was with great pleasure that I finally had the time to pick up her latest, The Counterfeit Heiress, and dive in.

Set in late Victorian England, the books beautifully capture the ambiance of upper crust society—and yet the protagonist, Lady Emily and her dashingly attractive husband Colin, are anything but conventional aristocrats.

Colin investigates sensitive situations for the government, many of which involve murder. Lady Emily, a classics scholar, is also very good at sleuthing, and together they form a formidable team.

In this book, someone posing as a famously eccentric female explorer and world traveler crashes the Duke of Devonshire’s costume ball, only to be recognized by one of Lady Emily’s friends as an imposter. She manages to flee the party but when she’s found murdered, it’s up to Lady Emily and Colin to delve into the mystery and untangle the twisted threads . . . well-written, with great characters and great descriptions of London and Paris, it’s a fun read.

 

Www napoleon I also love quirky historical non-fiction books, and Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed World History by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson is a delightfully offbeat journey through chemistry (don’t shriek—it’s done in a very fun way) showing how 17 basic molecules have shaped civilization. (think glucose, as in sugar, and piperine as in pepper and the spice trade) It’s a fascinating perspective on how expected forces have shaped our world, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

 
 
Nicola here. This month was all about thriller/suspense novels for me.
 
Ever since I read Gone, Girl a while ago I have had a taste for what’s being called domestic thrillers, books about relationships, with an element of psychological drama. I don’t find them comfortable reads. There are almost always aspects of the stories that disturb me but I do enjoy studying how the authors construct the suspense element and I like being kept on the edge of my seat.

This month I read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. As I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I’ll Www The Girl on the Trainjust quote the blurb from Amazon:

“Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.”

 

This was a pretty tense book and I did enjoy it but I guessed fairly early on who the villain of theWww touch of passion piece was going to be. I also felt the book was a bit long-winded and repetitious but as it’s a number 1 bestseller and has loads of rave reviews I’m probably in a minority! I far preferred the other thriller I read, Sister by Rosamund Lupton. This was a fabulous read about the lengths a woman would go to find her missing sister and it was clever and beautifully written.

In my crimefest I didn’t totally forget historical romance, though. I was lucky enough to be given an advance copy of Bronwen Evans’ next book in her Disgraced Lords series, A Touch of Passion, and it is a fast-paced, sexy and romantic adventure I enjoyed a lot. 

Anne here.

After being in a bit of a reading slump for a while, where nothing seemed to catch my interest, I picked up the first book in a fantasy series (that I think someone here had recommended) and ended up eagerly glomming the whole series (5 books), finding myself so impatient for the next book and the next that I bought them on instant download. Www tieran soul lotfl_190X3001

It's the Tairen Soul series, by C.L. Wilson. It's fantasy and romance and adventure and a battle between good and evil — with the lines often deliciously blurred. The heroine is  wonderful — Ellie, the woodcarver's adopted daughter — who finds she is the "truemate" of the beautiful, tortured, magnificent faerie king, Rain Tairen Soul — a man who can change into a Tairen – sort of a cat/dragon.

He's used to commanding worlds, but Ellie makes up her own mind about things and has a lovely stubborn streak that often frustrates Rain. I won't describe the plot, but as well as a wonderful love story, there is a page-turning adventure plot and a truly evil villain — actually, several villains of different magnitude, as well as a wonderful cast of minor characters.

 

Pat Rice says:

Www MakingMagic72webWhile gearing up the courage to scan some of my earliest books into the computer, I’ve been taking time to just read. If I can find enough good material, maybe I’ll give up the foolish idea of editing thirty-year-old books!

One of my favorite new series by an author I’ve just discovered is Books of the Kindling by Donna June Cooper. I just finished Making Magic, and this third in the series is still as strong as the first book. Of course, she’s writing about people with otherworldly gifts and a magic mountain, while embracing environmental responsibility, so she’s pretty well nailed my interests! Www HIW-Web-non-ebook1-275x370

 

And ever since I picked up a few of their books at RT, I’ve sought out contemporary romances from UK publisher Choc Lit. So far, I haven’t read a bad one. My most recent encounter was Jane Lovering’s How I Wonder What You Are.  Again, I was enticed by the hint of UFOs and mysteries of the universe, but this really is a book about love and overcoming fears and insecurities, which also appeals to my need for great characters. If you like contemporary Brit romance, poke around on www.choc-lit.com and see if you don’t see a few things you’ll enjoy.

 

And Mary Jo, just back from vacation, joins us with:

Www Imperfect ChemistryI've mostly been reading research books and RITA entries, but Pat Rice said that she enjoyed the contemporary romance Imperfect Chemistry by Mary Frame, so I decided to give it a try.  I'm glad I did. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Lucy London, a 20 year old prodigy who has a PhD in microbiology but is totally clueless at reading people or understanding emotions.   However, she jolly well has to learn those things if she is to write a proposal so she can secure a grant and her place at the university.  Working as a campus peer counselor isn't helping since her advice tends to send students fleeing from the room in order to register complaints about her. 

Ever logical, Lucy decides to ask her hottie next door neighbor, Jensen, if she can study him and his social life to help her develop her grant proposal.  The idea rather freaks him out, but eventually she wears him down, and her study develops in–unexpected ways.  I found the story smart, fun, and original.  There's a second book now available in her Imperfect series, and it's already downloaded into my e-reader.  <G>

 

And Jo Beverley says:

BookreadingcatThis month I've been reading for an award. It's always interesting to have my reading chosen for me, including books I might not have picked up otherwise.

It's been stimulating. I remember once deciding to read from my public library starting with the first book in general fiction beginning with A. I didn't stick with it for long, but it was interesting. I'm wondering if any Wench readers go out of their way to find a random read.

So, what are you reading this month that has you pleased and excited, or intrigued and enlightened?  What are your favorite books of the month?