Ask A Wench: Treasures Old and New

TreasureNicola here, introducing this month’s Ask A Wench where we are talking about old and new treasures on the bookshelf, which is a riff on the “if you like this author, you’ll enjoy this one” idea. Amazon in particular makes a point of recommending authors on the basis of the books you order from them. Sometimes their recommendations are spot on and you discover another great author in the same genre. Other times, their idea of similar authors is a bit wayward. I cherish the occasion I ordered a copy of Jo Beverley’s St Raven and Amazon recommended I also buy “Crows and Jays of the World.”

My keeper shelf has some treasures that are so old they are falling to pieces: Daphne Du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek, Georgette Mist over pendleHeyer’s Devil’s Cub and Robert Neill’s Mist over Pendle to name but a few. These books are special, as much for the memories we associate with them – when we first read them, what was happening in our lives at the time and so on. It’s difficult to find other, more recent, authors who match. Occasionally though a new treasure comes along to take it’s place beside the old books on the keeper shelf. Perhaps the author’s voice has echoes of an old favourite or their writing reminds us of a long-ago treasure. Below the Wenches give an insight into their thoughts on treasures old and new.


Topping my old book treasures list is always Mary Stewart–her books, for me, are still fresh and beautiful,her voice unique and incomparable. I still learn from reading her books. Other older, special stories and voices filling my bookshelves include Anya Seton, Daphne du Maurier, Victoria Holt, Rosemary Hawley Jarman, Elizabeth Peters, Ellis Peters, Dorothy Sayers and more … They dazzle among the older treasures, because each one opened up reading directions that inspired me to explore genres, subjects, writing craft. I'm still in awe of some old nonfiction treasures too, such as Antonia Fraser’s Mary, Queen of Scots, Vita Sackville-West’s Joan of Arc, and Thomas Costain’s history of the Plantagenets. I cherished and reread them all, and learned and absorbed a lot about reading as well as writing good fiction and nonfiction.

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What We’re Reading in January

CardNicola here, introducing this month's "What We're Reading" feature. We've had a bumper reading month on Word Wenches as a result of the holiday season and we hope you have lots of recommendations for us too, if you've had chance to read in between all the demands of the New Year! So without further ado let's turn to our reading choices.

Anne writes:

I have a fondness for Christmas stories and over Christmas I read and reread a number of Christmas novellas, including some Louise Penny
collections by Mary Balogh and Mary Jo Putney that contained stories I'd never read. Then I embarked on a fantasy glom, Robin Hobb — starting with ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE and reading them in order up to FOOL'S QUEST. And now I have to wait for the next book to come out. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed them and have no hesitation in recommending them.

Then for a change of pace I read Kristan Higgins's ANYTHING FOR YOU, followed by a reread of some Loretta Chase reissues and a couple of Lisa Kleypas historicals, which I always enjoy.

Lastly I've just finished Louise Penny's THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY. I've enjoyed all of Louise Penny's crime novels, and realized when I read this, that I've fallen behind and there are three more new ones I haven't read. A treat in store.

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How Do You Read?

Printing blockNicola here. Today I’m musing not on what we read but how we read. I first started thinking about this last month when we did the Word Wench “What We’re Reading,” when one commenter, Sue M, was talking about her reading choices that month. She explained how she had burned through a couple of new books because that was how she read. First she wanted to get to grips with the plot, but after the first reading she would go back through the books in order fully to appreciate the writing and the character development. I found this fascinating because I had never really thought about the way in which I read and whether we all do it in different ways. It really got me thinking.

For avid readers (and I am assuming that is most of us here) reading is a bit like breathing in the sense that it often feels as though it happens automatically. I sit down, I pick up a book or e-book and I read. But there’s a lot more to it than that, of course. For a start, reading isn’t like that for a lot of people who may struggle with it in the technical sense or who may not find it a very interesting occupation. Not everyone is in agreement with Jane Austen: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything but a book!”

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