August has been a busy month for the Word Wenches! We did manage to get a bit of reading done while traveling and enjoying other summer getaways and activities – and we found some real gems that we are delighted to share. Here's what we've been reading . . . .
Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, Christina Lauren (release date September 4, available pre-order)
This book was an ARC I requested simply because I liked the set-up of a woman with no filter having an uptight male best friend. I was totally prepared to hate the female protagonist because she’s someone who gets drunk too often and says things even she knows she shouldn’t even when she’s not drunk. But I wanted to see how the author pulled it off. And she really does make it work, I think because she portrays a protagonist who has a huge heart and is completely herself and unwilling to let anyone change who she is. I’m so tired of reading women’s fiction about women who spend their lives counting calories, buying high heel shoes, and trying to please friends, family, and employers that Hazel is an entire hurricane of fresh air.
Hazel Bradford has known Josh Im since college, where she thought him a total hottie, then threw up on his shoes. His patience and understanding impressed her, even though there wasn’t any other connection. Some years later, they meet again through Hazel’s best friend, who turns out to be Josh’s sister. So Josh is pressed into service when Hazel needs help, and when Josh’s girlfriend turns out to be a real loser, Hazel decides to help him as a return favor. Because she has a heart as big as her mouth, Hazel refuses to let Josh hurt over someone who never deserved him, so she goads him into double-dating, with each of them picking dates for each other.
The results are often funny, poignant, and the relationship builds beautifully. Josh’s sensitivity is almost too much to believe, except he’s from a family that expects the oldest son to take care of those he loves and has trained him to look after others. It may be a little over the top, but I enjoyed every moment that they tortured each other, then pulled together against the world. A keeper!
Mary Jo here:
But my favorite read was Jo Beverley's Lady Beware. When I looked at the wiki for her Rogue series, which her husband has recently expanded and uploaded to her website, I randomly clicked on Lady Beware and immediately thought, "I have to read this again!"
So I pulled out my copy and started reading. The book is set in Jo's Rogue World after she'd written the stories of her dozen Rogues, who had forged an alliance as schoolboys at Harrow as a defense against bullying. But her world was so well developed and interesting that stories just kept coming.
The seed of Lady Beware was formed at the end of her last regular Rogue book, To Rescue a Rogue, when an angry officer and schoolmate from Harrow shows up at a ball in honor of Lord Dare Debenham, and offers information that will make Dare's life a good deal easier.
The idea caught at Jo's imagination. Why was Lord Darien angry? What if he'd been a troubled boy who didn't love the Rogues because they all seemed so smug and entitled? And yet he did the honorable thing and came forward with vital information to help a man he despised. Interesting fellow!
So Lady Beware begins with what had happened just before Darien came forward, which was to run into Dare's devoted younger sister, Lady Thea. He promptly blackmails her into helping him improve his family's horrible reputation. Darien doesn't much care about society himself, but his family is considered so horrifying that his younger brother is refused the hand of the girl he loves. So Darien sets out to fix that, and Thea is going to help him whether she wants to or not. <G>
The story is Jo at her best, with complicated characters and an impeccable sense of time and place, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. If you haven't read Lady Beware, maybe it's time you did!
I've been reading mysteries and fantasy lately, particularly the Kate Carlisle "bibliophile" mysteries. The titles are delightful — a play on words, all about books. The protagonist is Brooklyn Wainwright, a skilled SanFrancisco bookbinder and restorer of old and rare books, and each of the mysteries are linked to the bookbinding world to some degree. They're fun reads with a cast of delightfully varied characters and an ongoing romance between Brooklyn and the tall, handsome enigmatic British former secret agent, Derek Stone. Highly recommended. The first book in the series is Homicide in Hardcover.
Click here for the "cast of varied characters."
The fantasy series I really enjoyed is by Kristin Cashore, the Graceling series. There are only three books in the series but I wish there were more. Start with Graceling, the first book. She's an unconventional heroine, not all that sympathetic at first — she's been trained to hurt and maim since childhood — but she grows wonderfully.
I've also read and enjoyed An Accidental Goddess, by Linnea Sinclair (sff) and the first three of the Flavia Albia books by Lindsey Davis (crime set in ancient Rome.)
murder scene while robbing the mansion of an art gallery dealer, and realizes that the video camera recording the menage a trois sex has caught a glimpse of her, she steals it. On discovering it has recorded the actual murder (though with only a piece of the shooter’s arm) she’s conflicted about taking evidence that might help the police solve the crime. She and her best friend debate what to do—and the stakes become higher when it seems the plainclothes police are on her trail anyway—though she has no idea how. She takes shelter at her friend’s apartment for a few days, only to return and find her executed. Determined to have justice for her friend, she determines to find out just what’s going on. And so begins a cchilling but riveting cat and mouse game. Elle is a highly skilled computer hacker, as well as clever and resourceful with high tech gadgets. She also deiscovers she has a conscience, and surpsing sense of right and wrong. The art world setting, with all its rich patrons and museum boards added really interesting color, and I really found myself cheering for Elle as she unraveled a very complex and twisty crime to bring the villains to justice. (And I loved the ending!) It comes out in January and is available for preorder.
and rich emotion—you’re missing something special if you don’t glom the whole wonderful series . . and there’s also a novella, The Wedding Gift, coming out in September!
A similar story was Letters For a Spy, set in Sussex in 1808. I liked that Elizabeth Thorne, the heroine, was an independent woman who had inherited a manor house and was determined to live there on her own even though the whole place was rather Gothic! Again, there was a great spy plot and the hero was a similarly attractive man of action and integrity. If you are in the mood for a traditional Regency you may well like these books which have stood the test of time pretty well since they were written in the 1960s. They also have lovely new covers and are available in the UK and US.