What We’re Reading!

Christina here and it’s time for our monthly roundup of what we’ve been reading! As always, we have a very varied selection and hope you will find something you like the sound of. And please add to our must-have lists in the comments below by letting us know what you have enjoyed as well. We’ve got our credit cards at the ready!

We’re starting off with Patricia:-

Space JunkSPACE JUNK: HOUSTON, WE HAVE A HOTTIE by Sara L. Hudson. I wasn’t going to report on this one because it’s half hot sex, so I skimmed a whole lot. The sex scenes were fine. I’m just not interested. But the book’s premise and some of the scenes stuck with me, so I thought maybe there are others out there who might be as amused as I was. Jackie is a genius PhD working for NASA. She was always too young for the people around her and the only time she got into the dating scene, she got burned. So she wears her geek glasses and Chucks and pays no attention to where she lives or what she drives. Until she meets Flynn. He’s a college graduate millionaire who decided to be a mechanic, and her geekiness completely turns him on. She doesn’t know who he is and doesn’t care, but she loves that he teaches her to hot wire cars. She loves his mid-century modern house and his cool muscle cars. What is really fascinating is the detail the book goes into about NASA and astronauts—in a romcom! The characterization is entertaining, and there is obviously room for lots more books in the series. Excellent writing, good humor, hot sex … if that’s your bag, go for it!

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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’ve Read in November

Anne here, and this month we have a bumper crop of recommended reads for you, from YA to timeslip, to Christmas treats, romance, literary fiction, crime and more.

The Christmas Escape

We'll start with Christina: This month I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of books recommended by fellow Wenches. First and foremost, The Christmas Escape by Sarah Morgan which was exactly as wonderful as I had hoped. The fact that it is set in snowy Lapland in the north of Sweden was just the icing on the cake! I now long to go there to take sleigh rides through the forests and see the aurora borealis in all its glory.

Then there was Boyfriend by Sarina Bowen, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was very happy to find that it was the first in a series penned by different authors, all connected through the fictional US college Moo U in Vermont. The second book in the series, Blindsided by Victoria Denault, was just brilliant! As well as keeping up with hockey practice and his studies, hockey star Tate Adler is trying to save his family’s farm by doing an illicit side job. Their neighbours the Todds have their own problems. They are sworn enemies so when fellow student Maggie Todd finds out what Tate is doing, she doesn’t hesitate to blackmail him. But whenever they meet, sparks fly and their chemistry is off the charts. Can they risk a relationship or will the feud remain forever? This love story was just explosive and I loved every minute of it. I’m now reading my way through the rest of the series.

Pretty Reckless

A friend also recommended a brilliant YA series by L.J. Shen, starting with Pretty Reckless. It’s raw and angsty with a lot of misunderstandings, but I’m thoroughly enjoying these stories too. Penn Scully is from the wrong end of town with a drug addict mother and a deadbeat step-father, while Daria Followhill is a rich and spoiled princess. He believes she took away the only thing he ever loved and is out for revenge. When Penn’s mother dies, Daria’s parents decide to take him in as a foster son and he can set his plans in motion. As for Daria, she’s tired of always coming second in her mother’s eyes and wants to lash out at everyone and everything. But things don’t go to plan for either of them …

Next comes Pat, who says: If you’re in a literary mood, Anne Tyler is always a good bet.

Redheadbysideofroad

In REDHEAD BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD, Micah Mortimer, is a 40-something computer tech. He’s the youngest of a large, messy family, and in consequence, he’s a tad obsessive about keeping his personal life contained, so contained that he has a bad habit of shutting doors on the world. The story follows Micah through a series of events that opens his eyes to what he’s been missing all his life. There’s no violence, no sex, just a lovely journey of discovery told by a fabulously talented writer. It’s wonderful to settle in for the evening in safe hands—I didn’t skim a single page!  

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What We’re Reading in November!

by Mary Jo

The holiday season is a busy time, but the Wenches never stop reading!  Here are some books we've enjoyed recently.  

BollywoodFrom Pat Rice:  

For over-the-top emotion and a well-written circus that would make a perfect Bollywood film, try A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR by Sonali Dev. Strictly speaking, this is women’s fiction, but it’s also Bollywood, so you know among the tragedy and unrequited love is a happy ending.

We have the intrepid young woman from India, married at the age of five but never having met her husband after the wedding day, who fights all odds to gain a short grant to an American university in hopes that will impress and bring home her man. She’s been obedient, grateful, and hard-working as she’s been taught in her backwoods town. She probably would have remained so had she not met her husband’s brother—a rakehell Bollywood screenwriter and producer. He brings out the best and worst in her in a star-crossed romance if there ever was one. You’ll need a strong cup of coffee to go with the sugar, but it’s fun and entertaining and I’d love to see the scenes depicted.

Anne Gracie has struck chocolate!: Chocolate_touch_web-388x600

I've had a bit of a glom on Laura Florand's "Love & Chocolate" books. Set in modern day Paris,  each hero is a French chocolatier — a maker of exquisite boutique chocolate, and most of the heroines are American girls. I was particularly recommended the second book in the series, THE CHOCOLATE KISS, but I decided to start with the first one and work through the series. I found books 2, 3 and 4 especially yummy. Each book can be read independently, though there is some connection between SomeoneToLovethem.

I also read Liane Moriaty's BIG LITTLE LIES, which I thought was wonderful — clever and engaging — it's a mystery of sorts, and the reader has to work out what's happening. And without spoilers, I have to say it ends well — and with a romance.

Finally I read Mary Balogh's latest, SOMEONE TO LOVE which I devoured in one sitting. The heroine is a teacher in the orphanage where she was raised and, like all orphans, she dreams of discovering her origins and finding a family. But when her dream comes true, it comes at a terrible cost. It's the first in a new series, and I can't wait for the next.

From Andrea/Cara

This has been a mystery month for me, as my favorite historical mystery writer had a new recent release. I’m a huge fan of Charles Finch and his Charles Lenox series, set in  Victorian England. THE INHERITANCE is no exception. An old school friend has learned he’s been left a fortune by a mysterious benefactor, but someone seems intent on killing him before the legalities are worked out. He appeals to Lenox for help, and then the plots twists which begin are worthy of a Wilkie Collins classic!  I find Lenox such an appealing hero. By all outward signs, he's a paragon of propriety. He’s done all the right things in life that an aristocratic younger son should do—Harrow, Oxford, a place in Parliament. He’s thoughtful, sensitive, and the very soul of honor, a man well-liked and well-respected by all his friends.

His only quirk is that he loves solving crimes. It bemuses him at times, as he considers himself a very orthodox fellow. And yet, he has a passion for it, and a very-unordinary talent for sussing out the truth. Finch writes in a very quiet, graceful style, yet his observations on human nature are so spot on. And the lovely cast of characters that have developed over the series are so engaging. If you’re looking to curl up on a winter evening with a ripping good yarn, beautiful writing and appealing characters, I highly recommend a Finch book. (The first in the series is A Beautiful Blue Death,)

AmmieComeHomeNicola here.

Whilst away in Wales for a week I have been catching up on some previous WWR recommendations. First up was Ammie Come Home by Barbara Michaels which had been mentioned as part of our Halloween reads in October. Whilst I found some of it "of its time," I appreciate that it was written in the 1960s and it is still a seriously spooky story. Reading it by candlelight in a cottage in Wales (the power had gone off in a storm!) was extremely atmospheric. I loved the characterisation and also the historical story behind the ghost story.

I also read Unmasking Miss Appleby by Emily Larkin, who was Anne's guest on the blog a few weeks ago. I adored this book and found it really hard to put down. I loved the way that Emily mixed the historical and paranormal details so easily and convincingly, plus it was a wonderful love story.

From Mary Jo:

I've loved Sharon Shinn's Elemental Blessings series, and the recently released fourth, Unquiet GroundUNQUIET LAND is no exception. Shinn's world building is wonderful and her kingdom of Welce is rich and fascinating.  All Welchins are attuned to one of five elements: water, fire, air, earth, and wood, and in the hours after their birth, three blessings are drawn for them by strangers.  These blessing resonate through their lives, though people also pull blessings for daily guidance.  Each of the elements has a prime who has great power over his or her element, and each book has a strong romance.  

In Unquiet Land, the heroine is Leah Frothen, who was an important secondary character in the previous book, Jeweled Fire.  A disastrous love affair drove her from Welce, leaving her baby daughter to be raised by relatives. Leah becomes a spy for her country and thinks she'll never return home, but at the end of Jeweled Fire, she was sailing back to Welce and hoping desperately that she can connect with the daughter she has always loved. 

Life back in Welce becomes complicated as she is recruited to spy on foreign visitors while she attempts to build a relationship with her daughter.  Most important of all, Leah must come to terms with the pain and errors of her past–and with falling in love. A great read.

For something completely different, try the Caught Dead in Wyoming mystery series by my friend Patricia McLinn/.  Pat and I were both long term members of the Washington Romance Writers so I've known her for years.  She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern and has had a long and successful career as a journalist, including many years at the Washington Post. 

She's now a full time writer and has branched out beyond romance, but her journalistic past is what makes this mystery series so convincing. I'll use her description of the premise: 

Elizabeth “E.M.” Danniher has been among TV journalism’s elite. Until she discovers divorcing her network exec husband ends not only her marriage but her career. She’s been banished to tiny KWMT-TV in Sherman, Wyoming, to finish out her contract as the underemployed consumer affairs reporter.

Now she’s trying to figure out what comes next – in her career, her life, and her relationships with family, friends, and those who’d like to be more than friends. 

Sign OffAnd since this is a mystery series, dead bodies keep turning up.  <G>

I love the absolutely authentic feel of the newsroom and the journalists, plus Elizabeth's recognition that she's not in Kansas anymore. <G> The first book in the series, SIGN OFF is free, and that did its job because I bought book 2, Left Hanging, as soon as I finished book 1.  I'm looking forward to more books as Elizabeth searches for her new life, befriends a wary "ranch collie," and learns way more than she wanted to know about rope. <G>  I'd classify the series as "Western cozy," and they're great fun.

So–what have YOU been reading?

Mary Jo

More Thanksgiving What We’re Reading

Joanna, back again with more What Wenches are Reading for November.

Who was it who said, "I hold the buying of more books than one can peradventure read, as nothing less than the soul's reaching towards infinity; which is the only thing that raises us above the beasts that perish?" Whoever it was, I agree with him.  

A. Edward Newton

 

Anne here.Wench kearsley

I've had three stand-out reads this month — Susanna Kearsley's The Firebird, Deborah Smith's Crossroads Cafe, and a new-to-me Irish writer called Ciara Geraghty, of which more to come.

Susanna Kearsley's stories weave the past and present together in a magical, intriguing way that I always enjoy and admire. The Firebird was a wonderful read, about a young woman with a gift she's been taught to keep hidden, and a man who shares her abilities. It starts in England, with a small Russian firebird, and the journey takes us to St Petersburg, past and present. It's romantic, but it's also an adventure. Highly recommended.

Deborah Smith is a writer I've mentioned here before — I discovered her books this year and have been slowly reading my way Lifesaving-for-beginnersthrough her backlist — slowly because I want to savor the treat. The Crossroads Cafe is another excellent story, set mainly in a small Appalachian village. The tale of an actress who has everything, then loses it—or so she thinks. A story full of heart and pain, rediscovery and joy.

I read Ciara Geraghty on the recommendation of a friend, starting with Becoming Scarlett, which I really enjoyed. Then I read Lifesaving for Beginners and was blown away.  Told from the point of view of two characters, one a ten-year-old boy, one a woman hiding from her own history, it's funny, dark, romantic and honest. Fabulous book. I'm so pleased to have discovered a new, wonderful writer. I've ordered the rest of her backlist.

 

And Mary Jo brings us:

Wench shinn mystic riderI began November reading Sharon Shinn's new book, Royal Airs, second in her Elemental Blessings fantasy series.  As always, I loved her voice so much that I had to read more.  So I reread the first book in that series, Troubled Waters.

Then I started in on a great wallowing re-read of Shinn's wonderful earlier series, The Twelve Houses.  Sharon is a terrific world-builder, and great storyteller, and she does very romantic romances.  Her country of Gillengaria has "mystics"–people with different magical abilities, like controlling fire or shapeshifting or healing.  The bad guy forces of greed and hate are whipping up lethal animosity toward mystics so they can grab power for themselves, and the first four books of the series are set against that arc of action.

Wench shinn royal airsBut each book is a strong story in its own right, with a powerful romance at the core.  In the first, Mystic and Rider, six people are sent by the benevolent king to learn how much danger there is to the kingdom, and we follow the group through the four books.  Each of the main characters falls in love with the most improbable, impossible person imaginable.  It's great fun. <G>  Wenches lucky dog

 I've finish rereading Mystic and Rider, The Thirteenth House, and I'm halfway through the third book, Dark Moon DefenderThe fourth book, Reader and Raelynx, is my very favorite of the series, and there's a fifth book, Fortune and Fate, which is set in the aftermath of the war.  Sigh.  Then I'll have to wait a while before I can reread them. 

I've also been enjoying light, humorous women's fiction, including Beth Kendrick's The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service and Trisha Ashley's Magic of Christmas.  I'll probably reread her Twelve Days of Christmas as well.  Ashley's books are English chicklit set in villages in Lancashire, and they feature slightly frazzled heroines who are food writers, or gardeners or wedding cake makers or some such.  They are surrounded by charming eccentrics, and in the course of the books, they fall in love.  Works for me. <G>

 

Several Futuristic and Paranormal reads this month.  Is this something you enjoy?  Who are you reading in this field?