What We’re Reading

The gentleman rogueNicola here, introducing this month's What We're Reading blog. As ever, the Wenches have been reading some very interesting books and we're keen to hear what you think and what your recommendations are too!

This month I’ve been catching up with some of the books that were shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards.  The Gentleman Rogue by Margaret McPhee was a finalist in the short romance section and is a powerfully emotional Regency historical that had me gripped. There was amazing chemistry between the heroine, Emma, and Ned, who was one of the most attractive heroes I've read in a long time.

Another fabulous read was Struck, by Joss Stirling, a YA romance with a great crime mystery thrown in as well. It takes place in an exclusive English boarding school where scandal and corruption lurk behind the ivy-clad walls. The author mentioned that she had modelled the hero, Kieren Storm, on a young version of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock. Raven Stone, the heroine, is a gutsy American girl you can really root for. It’s a great read!

Finally the reburial of King Richard III prompted me to reach yet again for The Daughter of Time by

Daughter of Time Josephine Tey, the book that first piqued my interest in Richard' and his reign. I love all of Josephine Tey's books so can see myself reading through my entire collection again now.

Now over to the other Wenches!

Pat writes:

I like to explore new-to-me authors, but I’ve been having a bad reading month and haven’t found anyone exciting lately. So I’ve fallen back on favorites. I finally read Patricia Brigg’s Night Broken, one of her Mercy Thompson novels. I love her urban fantasies because they’re so human! The book is as much about Mercy dealing with her husband’s charming but manipulative ex-wife as it is about finding the vengeful ancient-god stalker who followed the stupid ex straight to Mercy’s home.

Southern spiritsAnd then I picked up Angie Fox’s newest series starter—Southern Spirits. If you’ve ever read Angie, you’ll recognize her voice, although this time she’s writing a mystery about ghosts instead of chasing demons. Small southern town seeped in legends and history, a bootlegger ghost to help the heroine out, and a hunky cop to get her into trouble—can’t ask for more!

 

Jo Beverley:

This month I read a book recommended a little while ago here — Imperfect Chemistry by Mary Frame. It was as enjoyable as said, with a geeky prodigy deciding to become more "normal" by going after her sexy neighbor. I think this is what's called New Adult fiction, about people in their early twenties who are very much of today's world.

I also read Fledgling, by Sharon Lee and Stever Miller, a Liaden novel I'd missed. It has some similarities Fledgling to Imperfect Chemistry, though the protagonist is younger. Theo too is a clever misfit, but this is really an Ugly Duckling story. The Liaden books are space opera, with multiple worlds lived on by humans — and some others — all with different social structures. In Fledgling, having to move to a different world leads to Theo's transformation, both on the journey and when there. It's a good read, and the e-book is still free.

 

Cara/Andrea:

 

SherlockMystery! Well, that is, it’s probably no mystery by now that I love the genre, and this month I’ve been really immersing myself in in both new and classic reads. A friend got me watching the BBC series Sherlock (hard not to like Benedict Cumberbatch) , which I enjoyed very much—but it suddenly occurred to be that I had never read the original Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes books. (How did that happen???) So off I hurried to the library, and I have been enjoying the tales very much.  I enjoy the writing style, and the development of Holmes and Watson, who’ve inspired so many subsequent detective pairing. And while the plots may not be as complex, dark  and twisty as modern novels, they really are great fun.

 I’ve also been enjoying a modern take on historical mystery. I’m a big fan of the Who buries the deadRegency-set Sebastian St. Cyr books by C. S. Harris, and the latest release, Who Buries The Dead, is a wonderful addition to the series. Gritty and layered with well-rendered psychological portraits of Sebastian, Hero and all the people who make up their world, the books use the crime of murder to delve into far deeper questions about society, power and influence in Regency London. The stories are taut with suspense, and really make for a riveting read.

  

Mary Jo:

Like Pat, I'm going to talk about a Patricia Briggs book.  Pat's choice, Night Broken, is part of the Mercedes Thompson series.  I read the book when it came out, and l loved it.  The heroine, Mercy, is a coyote shifter in a world of werewolves, vampires, fae, and much more, and there's a great romance.

 Briggs has another series set in the same world.  Alpha and Omega features a pair of mated werewolves: Charles, a half native American enforcer is the Alpha, and Anna, an Omega whose presence soothes other werewolves, and who is immune to Alpha control. 

 I've always preferred the Mercy Thompson books, until now.  Dead Heat, the latest Alpha and Omega Dead Heat
book, is every bit as good as a Mercy story.  It begins when Charles and Anna take a holiday, leaving the werewolf home in Montana to visit an old friend of Charles' in Arizona, and also to buy Anna a horse since the old friend is a horse breeder.  Things Happen and there is much excitement.  There is also lots of information about Arabian horses since Briggs raises them herself and has clearly been pining for the opportunity to write about them. <G>

But the heart of the story lies deeper as Anna and Charles deal with a significant issue in their marriage.  There is also a theme of what it's like to be virtually immortal while those you love grow old and die.  It's all worked out in a wonderfully satisfactory way!

DaringOn the non-fiction front, I want to recommend journalist Gail Sheehy's memoir, Daring: My Passages.  Sheehy has been a groundbreaking journalist and feminist from the 1960s onward.  Her 1976 book Passages was a huge bestseller that changed the way people thought about growth and change throughout one's life.  Her 1993 book The Silent Passage was another game changer as it pulled menopause out of the closet into the light of day. 

And in Daring, she has written the story of her life and challenges.  The ups and downs, the struggles of a single mother to work while caring for her beloved daughter, a tempestuous affair that eventually became  a devoted marriage–she has lived a remarkable life, and she writes really, really well. 

Joanna here: 

I'm reading just about nothing since I'm absorbed by the Work in Progress. But I've indulged myself in Wenches burrowes
Grace Burrowes' The Traitor.  It's one of those 'Come for the Romance, Stay for the Sharp Character Analysis' books.

The hero, Sebastian, is half French, half English when France and England are locked in war. The book explores hard choices a man makes and how he lives with them.

Wench anne perryNext up, I go to a favorite author of mine, Anne Perry, and Callander Square — a Victorian-set mystery. Well-born Charlotte and her Police Inspector husband set about solving crime among the stuffy rich. I haven't read this series in order myself, but you might want to start with the first in the series, The Cater Street Hangman.


Susan: 

I too have been reading mysteries, including Alan Bradley's latest in the Flavia De Chimneysweepers bradley Luce series, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. Once again the intrepid, clever Flavia ferrets out secrets in a witty and brilliant way with a touch of vulnerability and sensitivity quite natural to an 11-yr-old, even if her chemistry genius is off the charts. This time, Flavia is packed off to a girls' school in Canada to face a whole new location and complete strangers, and though I thought that leaving her home of Buckshaw in the English countryside would eliminate a crucial setting character in the series, Bradley does a fantastic job of creating a new environment and drawing his reader in. Flavia is one of my favorite sleuths, a blend of whimsy and genius, Pippi and Sherlock. And Bradley's books are an exception for me–I always listen to them in audio. Jayne Entwistle's narration is flawless, whimsical, clear as a bell, and she creates the perfect evocation of Bradley's books. I highly recommend both the written and the audio — do check out Flavia!  

ThemoorI've also returned to the Laurie R. King series of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. In The Moor (and yes, I have a long way to go to catch up to King's newer Russell novels!), Russell and her husband, Holmes, are in misty, ominous Dartmoor investigating a death with some very creepy circumstances, a riveting return and intriguing take on The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Russell-Holmes books are so smart and beautifully written that I keep coming back. I should add that I've never been much of a series reader, more of a series grazer in every genre, but these two mystery series–King's Russell and Bradley's Flavia–totally capture my attention!     

 Anne here:

A friend recently gave me Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher, who is her favourite author, and I Solsticehave to say I’ve loved it. I haven’t quite finished Winter Solstice, but I’ve already bought Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers, Going Home and September. For some, the books might be a little slow-paced and perhaps even old-fashioned, but I’m really enjoying the slow reveals, the wonderfully detailed settings and her well rounded and appealing characters. I can’t put it down. And by the way, Winter Solstice seems to be very cheap on kindle at the moment.

On a completely different note, I’ll also add that I fully endorse Pat and Mary Jo’s recommendations of Patricia Briggs. They mentioned her books to me some time back and I ended up glomming the lot.

So there are a few of our reads for the month of March. Have you read any of these books? Thoughts? And do you have any recommendations for the Wenches?

 

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?