Andrea here, introducing the latest addition of our monthly What We Are Reading feature. March brings a selection of old and new titles (as usual, the Wenches are ranging far and wide through through a variety of genres.) We hope you'll enjoy seeing what been tickling our fancy! And please what you've been enjoying!
Mary Jo: The best book I've read this month is our Anne Gracie's Marry in Scandal, but I'll be interviewing her about the book on Monday, April 2nd, so no more on that for the moment. But a tremendously fun older book that is now available as an ebook was just as funny this time as when I read it many, many years ago: Don Quixote USA by Richard Powell.
Arthur Peabody Goodpasture is the oddball offspring of a distinguished Bostonian banking family, and he joins the Peace Corps to bring the cultivation of the Dwarf Cavendish banana to the poor Caribbean island nation of San Marco. He is earnest, idealistic, pathologically honest–and totally clueless. Arthur, or Arturo as the locals call him, barely avoids disaster time after time, and ends up in the middle of a revolutionary group in the mountains, where he teaches the rebels how to eat well and how to use his Eagle Scout camping skills. He is such a straight shooter that he continually baffles the devious San Marcanos–and for that reason, keeps coming out on top in the most improbable of situations.I won't tell you more–it's too much fun to discover it as you read along. But I will say that it has the funniest last sentence of any book I've ever read!
Pat: I have a fondness for cozy mysteries and even more of a fondness for paranormal cozies. But after a while, they all sound alike: vintage clothing, inherited Victorian house, old bookshop, ghosts, the best friend/aunt/lover suspected of murdering a hated old biddy. . . But I keep trying. And Kirsten Weiss came up with a lovely new twist in The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum (currently $.99) —the protagonist is thrust into the task of managing a museum of the paranormal in a small California town. Admittedly, since I’m currently writing a mystery series set in California with paranormal elements, curiosity made me pick up the book.
Our books have utterly nothing in common, thank goodness, but I quite enjoyed the trip through small town California, which resembles every small town I’ve ever lived in, only the eccentric activities differ. The heroine is lively, smart, has enjoyed an international career, and got fired for being honest. Since she can’t find a job after being fired, she accepts her best friend’s offer to run the museum. So she’s smart and organized and doesn’t bumble around like a clown, which I love. The paranormal element is slight. And we get two mysteries in one: along with the modern mystery there is a historical one to be solved. There is even a love interest, or maybe two. I’ll have to look for the next book to find out.
Anne: The House of Hopes and Dreams is a classic Trish Ashley story, about a woman, Angel Arrowsmith, who has suddenly lost her home and her partner, and must make a new life for herself. She's a skilled stained glass-worker, with an interest in female glass workers of the past.
Her dearest childhood friend, Carey Revel, is similarly in need of a new start, recuperating after a bad traffic accident, and at a loose end because of the consequent loss of his job. He's been left a historic mansion, and he and Angel come together to restore the house. There's a mystery, some nice information about glass work, a raft of quirky characters, and of course a love story. Most enjoyable.
I also read Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs, which continues the Alpha & Omega series with alpha werewolf Charles and his omega wife Anna. Someone is targeting the "wildlings," the were and fae creatures too damaged, fragile or crazy to live in "normal" society, and Charles and Anna must try to stop the predators — and discover the possible spy in their own pack.
I happily devoured this, as I devour all Patricia Briggs's books. And each time I do, I thank wenches Pat and Mary Jo for putting me onto Patricia Briggs in the first place.
Joanna: I'm talking about an old favorite author and one of her best books. Diana Wynne Jones always delights me and there is never a time one doesn’t want to be delighted. This book, Deep Secret, is a reread for me. It’s one I devoured when it first came out a couple decades ago. I read it with attention and tucked it into the back of my mind where archetypes are generated. I’ve carried it around ever since.
I came across Deep Secret in the YA section of the library where I was loitering with intent. I’m always a little nervous lest The Powers That Be haul me out of there for disobeying all the signs that clearly mark this as YA territory only. I checked it out rather furtively.
I wondered whether it would please me on re-reading. In fact, it was even better second time around. There’s lots going on here – steel-cold villains, the fall of kingdoms, centaurs, unpleasant goddess, novice magicians, big blue ducks, mythic underworld journeys, self sacrifice, irritable heroes, and a science fiction convention in a hotel that straddles the continua. Just a plethora of goodies. Enjoy.
Susan: Sometimes I'll rummage my way through a stack of TBReads, restlessly tossing books after a chapter or two, looking for something different. Recently I landed, as it were, on The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin. This isn't my usual sort of read, but the subject–two people stranded on a mountain in winter–had my attention, and kept it with a dire challenge wrapped in a tight plot and refreshingly spare writing.
Surgeon Ben Payne is returning from a conference when bad winter weather strands him in Salt Lake City. He charters a small plane and invites another stranded traveler, writer Ashley Knox, who needs to get home in time for her wedding, to come along. Despite a smart pilot, the plane crashes in the snowy mountains. Ben and Ashley must find a way down to civilization, complicated by her injury, and find food and shelter. And as strangers, they need to trust each other in extreme conditions and against the odds. Both characters are strong, no-nonsense sorts thrown into a desperate alliance. He's married, she's engaged, and romance is not the storyline here, but the arcs of developing trust and personal growth are well done. Maybe there are too many coincidences and the story is set up a bit too conveniently at first, but once the core dilemma gets going, it's a whopper of an adventure tale.
I wrote a mountain climbing historical romance (Kissing the Countess), which left me with a fascination for mountain climbing stories, which are often riveting. This is a good one. The novel was made into a movie with Kate Winslet, and though I haven't seen it, the book is a film-worthy tale, so I would definitely recommend the novel!
Andrea: I just finished The English Wife, Lauren Willig's latest women's fiction and just loved it. Set in turn of the century old money New York. The first chapter begins with the murder/suicide of the perfect society couple at their grand party to celebrate the opening of their dream house. It then features a dual narrative—one strand goes back five years and traces the couple's first meeting in London and the development of their marriage while the other features the aftermath of the murder as Janie, the husband's younger sister teams up with a newspaper reporter to try to uncover the truth, for she's sure her brother would never have murdered his wife.
Secrets tangle with secrets as glittering facade of wealth and privilege begins to crack, and no one is quite as they seem? Is the English wife really an aristocrat or the younger illegitimate half sister who's taken done away with her sister and taken over her life. As Janie delves deeper into the complex relationships of her own family, she forced to confront her own preconceptions on love and loyalty. Willig writes such beautifully elegant prose, rich with both melancholy and humor. I found myself re-reading paragraphs just to savor the language. The story itself had a very Daphne Du Maurier "Rebecca" mystery/suspense feel to it, and the ambiance of of New York Knickerbocker Society was a wonderful setting.
So what about you? What have you been reading this month? Please share!