As many of you may have noticed, we recently added a new “feature” here. Our readers ask the Wenches such interesting questions that we decided to devote one blog a month to answering them. Anne hosted the first “Ask A Wench” and this month is my turn. Nothing could be simpler, right? Just pick a question from the lengthy list, send it to the other Wenches asking that they write a short response. And that’s it—the blog is done.
I chose a query submitted by Jennifer Yates, who asked: “I would love to know more about some of the authors' favorite books. Or maybe what was the first romance they remember reading?” Out it went via e-mail . . . and it took about ten seconds for the ether to start crackling!
OUR FAVORITE BOOKS? In 200 words or less? Are you DEMENTED?
“Okay, okay,” I mumbled, ducking for cover under my desk. “Maybe we could, er, refine the question.” That engendered another flurry of e-mails as the Wenches debated among themselves on what was a manageable question. Should we make it just romance books? No, way too limiting, chimed everyone. Should we say our top five favorites? Another collective moan. Well, suffice it to say, the discussion raged for several days before we settled on a final version: “What are some favorite books that you have read recently?”
So thank you Jennifer for sparking such heated debate. I hope you enjoy the answers! (Be assured the second part of your question will be answered in a future blog.) As so, without further ado, here are some of the books that have tickled the Wenchly fancy of late:
Susan Fraser King:
I read a fair amount of nonfiction to sort of clear the palette when I'm writing historical fiction. Currently I'm reading EAT, PRAY, LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert. While not a historical by any stretch, it has its moments. Gilbert's memoir of her travels to three countries over the course of one soul-searching year touches here and there on the history of the places she visits–for example, how fascinating to learn that the beautiful Italian language was basically defined in Dante's Divine Comedy, written in vernacular Florentine. EAT, PRAY, LOVE is beautifully written, entertaining and thought-provoking. For all its depth and substance, it's surprisingly fun read. I'm loving it.
And last week, I zoomed through Mary Stewart's THE MOON-SPINNERS for the umpteenth time–I was home with a respiratory flu, lounging about, really not up to doing much. Any Mary Stewart novel, for me, is the ultimate comfort read. I'm much better now, so it must have worked!
What I’m reading and loving—Pratchett, Pratchett! Sir Terry’s new book UNSEEN ACADEMICALS just came out and I pounced upon it with great joy and relish (a smidgeon of bacon grease and a soupcon of mustard….). It’s so wonderful to dive into this deliciously bizarre world where soccer becomes a true street sport involving riots and murder and wizards in pointy hats! Lovely wordplay, social commentary, and fantasy all wrapped up in one lovely bundle, it just doesn’t get much better than that. (I love the Brit cover with the orangutan…)
Obviously, I’m on a fantasy streak because now I’m reading ON THE EDGE, the first book in Ilona Andrew’s new The Edge series. I adore her characterization, and she’s really outdone herself this time. The heroine is trying to scrape by in her magical dimension at the end of a rural Georgia road, raising two younger brothers—one of whom is a young lynx and the other a necromancer keeping their Grandfather alive in the shed—and trying to keep them fed and out of trouble when Prince Charming arrives and tells her she’s going home with him. And she resists! Can you imagine? And he’s one hunky nobleman…
Being on the move since July, and settling in since the beginning of October, I haven't read all that much. It wasn't just the move but the amount of writing I had to do at the same time. I toted around a handful of novels I wanted to settle to, but somehow couldn't, in part because for a lot of the time, when not writing, we either traveled long days and collapsed or were staying with friends and being sociable. Add to that, British papers can be so interesting that I spend a fair amount of times on them!
But I have been dipping into one excellent non-fiction book. ECLIPSE, by Nicholas Clee (Bantam 2009) is "The story of the rogue, the madam, and the horse that changed racing," and it mostly takes place in the 1760s, the period of my Malloren books. It's very readable and full of period details, especially, of course, about horse racing. I began it thinking I might bring horse racing into a future book, but the treatment of the horses was quite harsh so I don't think it's going to happen. Still, a fascinating and enjoyable book.
Mary Jo Putney:
Most recent reading fun? FLEDGLING by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, a couple who live in Maine with cats and computers. I love their Liaden books—think space adventure crossed with Regency romance, and you won’t be far off. <g>
Liad is a far-future planet with a culture of great formal complexity. The books feature Clan Korval,
60; a wealthy Liaden house that produced incredibly smart, capable mavericks. Almost all of the books feature a strong romance between well matched characters. Lee & Miller do great characters—strong, witty, and admirable—and also great cats. <g>
Fledgling is the most recent book in the series, the first in a duology whose second book, Saltation, will be out next March. Young Theo Waitley is a school girl who seems awkward and clumsy on the very safe, carefully monitored academic planet where she is raised. Theo’s unexpected Liaden heritage takes her to an equally unexpected future. The book works just fine as both YA and adult. Here’s a link for the Liaden FAQ, with suggested reading order: http://www.korval.com/faqliad.htm I enjoyed Fledgling so much that I'm going back and rereading the Agent of Change books. Wonderful comfort reads for an author on deadline!
I took the opportunity of my recent holiday in Scotland to sit down with a great big pile of books and really indulge my need to read. THE DIG by John Preston was a gem of a book. The setting is the archaeological excavation of the Sutton Hoo ship burial, which took place in 1939 against the backdrop of preparations for the 2nd World War. The story is told through the eyes of different characters involved in the dig. It’s a gentle story and there isn’t a lot of action but it is so well observed and the characterization is so sharp that I couldn’t put it down.
Another book I enjoyed very much was CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson. Kate made her name writing award-winning contemporary women’s fiction but her last three books have been what I would call literary crime fiction. This isn’t crime fiction in the police procedural sense, nor is it particularly gritty and violent. It’s all about the intricate family and personal relationships that lie behind a series of mysteries. The separate “case histories” of the titles are all intertwined and they are also profound, clever and moving. Oh, and the books have a very attractive hero in gorgeous rumpled Scots private detective Jackson Brodie!"
I've recently branched out a bit in my reading to embrace paranormal romance, and I don't mean romance with a bit of magic thrown in, but real fantasy-style stories, specifically Nalini Singh's shapeshifter series. The first one is called SLAVE TO SENSATION, and I glommed onto the whole series, the sixth of which is out now. She doesn't repeat herself, and the world-building just gets better and better.
CS Harris is also a relatively new favorite. She used to write historicals as Candice Proctor, but now, as C.S. Harris, she writes Regency era murder mysteries, with a continuing amateur detective, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin. Wonderful writing — you can really feel the atmosphere of Regency London — the seedy and the glamorous. Highly recommended.
Another author I've been reading (and rereading) recently is Terry Pratchett. His universe is a splendid and I've read most of his books. THE COLOUR OF MONEY, GOING POSTAL and REAPER MAN (when DEATH aka the Grim Reaper is given his notice to be replaced by a new modern system) are simply splendid, but the most recent books of his I'm reading are young adult. The WEE FREE MEN is laugh out loud funny.
I’ve been into historical mysteries lately, and have taken particular delight in re-reading the late Kate Ross’s Regency-set series featuring the debonair Julian Kestrel as an amateur sleuth. She creates very interesting, complex people who are very true to the era, and her depiction of London’s seamier side gives a good glimpse of life outside the gilded ballrooms of Mayfair. C. S Harris, who also writes wonderfully dark and gritty Regency-set mysteries, is another favorite author. WHAT REMAINS OF HEAVEN, the latest book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series, is a terrific read.
I've also recently discovered a series by Barbara Cleverly that I 've been thoroughly enjoying. It’s set in the 1920s and stars an independent-mined young female archeologist (I’m a huge fan of the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters) who turns amateur sleuth. The historical background of her dig locations in both THE TOMB OF ZEUS and BRIGHT HAIR ABOUT THE BONE is fascinating, and she weaves it in seamlessly with the main murder plots.
And on a completely different note, I just started Christopher Buckley's LOSING MUM AND PUP, a beautifully written account of the complex nature of love, death and family. He is poignant, funny, and deeply touching as he muses on losing both of his famous parents in the same year. I am finding it hard to put down.
So, that that you've read what we've been enjoying, are there any books, new or old, that have tickled your fancy recently? Please share!