Pat here, rounding up the word wenches list of what we've been reading lately. I've been reading an Advanced Reading Copy of Katharine Kimbriel's Night Calls, a newly edited version of her highly acclaimed Alfreda books that will be out on 9/17 at Book View Cafe. The protagonist in this volume is a precocious but likable 11 year old, just discovering both the natural and supernatural worlds in an alternate America where George Washington is king and werewolves are diseased. I don't generally read YA but like Harry Potter, this book has enough to keep an adult interested. I can't wait for the next volume!
From Mary Jo:
I’m madly hammering away as I race to finish my current book, which means that to the extent I’m reading, it’s mostly rereading old favorites since my brain doesn’t have a lot of space available for anything challenging. But I did stumble over a fun new author: Lian Dolan , a writer/speaker/broadcaster and all around communicator who has written two women’s fiction novels set in her hometown of Pasadena, California.
Elizabeth Lancaster, an English professor at Pasadena City College, finds her perfectly dull but perfectly orchestrated life upended one summer by three men: her movie-star ex-husband, a charming political operative, and William Shakespeare. Until now, she’d been content living in the shadow of her high-profile and highly accomplished family. Then her college boyfriend and one-time husband of seventeen months, A-list action star FX Fahey, shows up with a job offer that she can’t resist, and Elizabeth’s life suddenly gets a whole lot more interesting. She’s off to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for the summer to make sure FX doesn’t humiliate himself in an avant-garde production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
There’s lots of smart humor and riffs on Shakespeare as Elizabeth deals with her loving but rather overpowering family, and finds a new life and love. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately bought Dolan’s first book, Helen of Pasadena, which is somewhat more traditional women’s fiction—comfortable suburban housewife loses everything and has to build a new life for herself and her son fast—but it was still a lot of fun as Helen discovers her old archeological passions and a new life. If you like smart, fresh, funny women’s fiction, Lian Dolan is an author to try—and I hope she writes more novels!
At the Romantic Novelists' Association conference last month I picked up a couple of books that looked intriguing. One of them was The Untied Kingdom by Kate Johnson, an author who describes herself as "living behind a keyboard in Essex and belonging to a small pride of cats." In the Untied Kingdon Eve Carpenter, a former pop star, is taking part in a reality TV show when she has an accident and lands in the River Thames. She emerges into a very different London from the one she is used to, a world where there are no televisions and very few computers, England is involved in a civil war and everyone thinks Eve is a spy. She's sent to Yorkshire in the company of Major Harker to capture a computer, which Harker imagines is something running wild in the countryside. Eve is a great character, sharp and funny, but it is Harker who totally steals the show. He is a seriously sexy hero, a modern day Richard Sharpe. The book was shortlisted for the RNA's Best Contemporary Novel of the Year award and it's a funny and fabulous read.
from Sherrie: I just finished Anne Gracie’s The Autumn Bride, and thoroughly enjoyed it from the first page to the last. The plot was delightfully fresh, with a would-be cat burglar for a heroine. In the prologue, a youthful hero inherits not only a title, but a staggering debt. He sets sail to make his fortune, returning a wealthy man years later, only to find his beloved aunt being cared for by said cat burglar, her younger sister, a friend, a mouthy cockney maid . . . and a litter of kittens. You just know these secondary characters are destined for their own books in this series, and I can’t wait!
P.S. And thanks once again to dear Anne, who sent me the audiobook! <g>
P.P.S. Any typos are Sparky Tabasco’s fault. She keeps attacking the keyboard and the curser on the monitor
I’m currently reading Crocodile on the Sandbank in homage to Elizabeth Peters, one of my very favorite authors, who passed away recently. Though I’ve read it a zillion times (and have memorized some the classic lines) I still laugh aloud at Amelia and Emerson, and the beginning of the delightfully intertwined family and friends that give such pleasure as they develop and multiply throughout the series. It’s such fun to see her develop the personalities and quirks of everyone. I shall miss having more adventures of the clan, but all of the Amelia books are go-to comfort reads for me whenever I need a pick-me up.
And while I’m not yet reading it, I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of Footsteps by Richard Holmes, author of The Age of Wonder, which I love. A good friend raved over it and it sounds like just the sort of history book I will love—here is part of the publisher’s blurb: “In 1985, Richard Holmes published a small book of essays called 'Footsteps' and the writing of biography was changed forever. A daring mix of travel, biographical sleuthing and personal memoir, it broke all the conventions of the genre and remains one of the most intoxicating, magical works of modern literary exploration ever published. Sleeping rough, he retraces Robert Louis Stevenson's famous journey through the Cevennes. Caught up in the Parisian riots of the 1960s, he dives back in time to the terrors of Wordsworth and of Mary Wollstonecraft marooned in Revolutionary Paris. Wandering through Italy, he stalks Shelley and his band of Romantic idealists to Casa Magni on the Gulf of Spezia . . .” Can’t wait!
From Jo Beverley:
August 2013. Do you ever have a reading month like this? Went north to visit three sets of friends. Took Kindle, but didn't have much reading time. Did Finish Lee Child's Without Fail, a Jack Reacher novel, but it had taken a while as it's not the best. Reacher is coming up with ways to kill the US vice-president so his bodyguard can be one step ahead. It's clever, but I didn't find the usual emotional involvement and tension.
I had downloaded for Kindle a bunch of historical romance samples from new-to-me but successful authors, hoping to hit gold. Alas, not to be. Perhaps it's just me, or perhaps my random picks, but while one was slow and stately in a way that didn't work for me, the others seemed to be trying too hard to be zany from page one. I have nothing against zany…. Well, perhaps I have. I like humor, but I like it a little more subtle and with a bit more build up. What about you?
I did enjoy reading magazines in our friends' houses, and even the Radio Times (which over here covers TV as well.) I don't get anything like that and was amazed at the range of TV programmes I'd never even heard of. I do watch TV, but not much, and mostly I have enough recorded, so I don't suppose I'll subscribe. Tempting, though. Do you read any sort of TV guide? Does that count as reading?
This past week we had friends staying here. They bought the Sunday Times, so I read that, which took me a couple of days. (We don't get a newspaper.) All kinds of interesting stuff.
In between, I mostly finished a read through of the e-page proofs for Dangerous Joy, the last of the Company of Rogues backlist I'll be publishing, and dealt with all the stuff to do with the release of Seduction in Silk on August 6th.
Oh, and a minor matter — I worked on A Shocking Delight under a looming deadline. So that was the month that was!
Rushed off my feet and have no time for reading, unfortunately. When I have the odd moment to sit down and open a book, I'm working my way through Nita Abrams The Spy's Bride. I'm not sure whether this is straight Historical Fiction or Historical Romance, but it's well done and I'm enjoying it.
Over a few super busy weeks, I've managed to continue some reading, including Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talkingby Susan Cain, which closely examines the truths, myths and advantages of the introverted personality. As a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, I'm loving this enlightening, supportive and reassuring study of the way I know I've always been. How good to know there are so very many of us in this extrovert-dominant world.
Also topping my stack this week is The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling — I'm really enjoying this story. Excellent writing, classic mystery elements, strong, fascinating characters and a brisk pace that keeps me turning pages (tapping screens – this one's on my Kindle) — it's definitely a solid read.
My favorite current read is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. This Newbery Award winner is written from the POV of Ivan, a sideshow gorilla. It's whimsical, poignant, funny, thought-provoking and fascinating. A little heartbreaking, too – I've teared up more than once. Ivan is a wise soul, a perceptive, objective and innocent observer of life on his side of the cage bars as well as of our human side. He's a true philosopher, accepting of his reality and yet still quick to hope. I'm quoting Ivan around the house these days. "Chimps. There's no excuse for them."
On the recommendation of a friend, I bought A Gentle Rain, a contemporary romance set in northern Florida, by Deborah Smith and thoroughly enjoyed it. I've ordered some more of her books.
Next, having read and loved Jennifer Ashley's historical series about the McKenzie brothers — if you haven't read them, start with The Madness of Lord Ian McKenzie — I decided to try her paranormal (shapeshifter) series, starting with the first in the series, Primal Bonds. I'm now up to the fourth in the series, and loving them, too. I think if you enjoy an author's voice in one subgenre, it carries over into others.
I've also been pulling some of my old favorites from the shelves and can't think why I didn't include Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick in our June comfort reads post. I've been rereading JAK's Trust Me, and also AQ's Scandal.
Anne and I have similar tastes in reading, but I've just added a few more new books to my TBR list! So, now tell us what you've been reading!