Susanna here, forced to admit that I haven’t been doing much reading these past few months. My new book is due to my editors in a few weeks so I haven’t had much time for anything else. But I did get to spent a few days with my nephews and brother-in-law at our cottage—an annual family tradition and one of those times I look forward to every year—and when I let the boys pick out a movie to watch, they chose Stardust. I love, love this film and the book it’s adapted from, so though I technically watched it instead of re-reading it, I thought I’d sneak it in anyway here. It’s a magical story—romantic and funny and poignant and wise—and if you’re ever feeling the need for a grown-up fairy tale, I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Nicola here. This month I’ve been reading some great fiction and non-fiction. On the fiction side of things there’s How To Stop Time by Matt Haig. Previously I’d only read non-fiction by Matt Haig – he has written a very thoughtful and thought-provoking book called Reasons to Stay Alive which is about living with depression and How To Stop Time is equally insightful. It deals with big ideas such as love and loss, history, time and belonging, all wrapped up in a story about Tom Hazard, born in the Tudor period and still alive and still trying to work out life’s big issues. Tom isn’t immortal; he belongs to a group of people with a medical condition that means they age more slowly than others. Tom’s struggle to work out his purpose in a life when he has already seen and done so much forms the backdrop to his search for his lost daughter Marion. There is so much packed into the story and so much to think about. The reader is given fascinating little peeks into Tom’s life down the centuries and these are beautifully and vividly drawn. It’s a gorgeous book and it really made me think.
My non-fiction read was The Husband-Hunters by Anne De Courcy. The ladies of the title are those American heiresses who came over to Britain during the nineteenth century to find themselves a lord to marry. I’ve read quite a few books about these “dollar princesses” before and this is a great addition to the subject. It reads like fiction and is full of gossip and anecdote about the girls and their lives, in particular the ambitions of the mothers who so often pushed their daughters to find titled husbands, rather like the matchmaking mamas of the Regency period before them. It’s a fascinating book, poignant as well as entertaining, and it feels really intimate in the way it takes the reader right into their lives. I spoke to Anne de Courcy when she was writing it as one of her subjects is Cornelia, Countess of Craven and she included one of my favourite stories about Cornelia which was that she complained that the Craven ancestral seat at Coombe Abbey was so cold that she had to wear her furs all the time apart from when she was in bed!
Andrea here. Where has August gone?!? Somehow the month has whizzed by with me reading a little less than usual. (Part of that has to do with the fact that my nephew convinced me to started watching Game of Thrones, which up until now I had never tried . . . and I’ve found it gruesomely fascinating, so have been tuning in the early seasons during some of my normal reading time.) That said, I did read an excellent book—though it, too, fits the description of gruesomely fascinating. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by The New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert, won the Pulitzer prize for science writing a while back. It looks at the six cataclysmic events in the Earth’s history that wiped out Life as existed at the time—and gives us all a very sobering message about what’s going on right now. Mixing the history of science and ecology with her travels around the globe to visit research scientists working to understand the past, the present and the future threats to the planet, she paints a meticulous picture of the rapid changes mankind is making on the water, the temperature and the atmosphere, which in turn are profoundly impacting the flora and fauna in every part of the world. It’s frightening, but it should be required reading for everyone—starting with every member of government in every country on the planet!
Pat here, still reading mysteries with romance more than plain romance. I picked up Murder at Honeychurch Hall, by Hannah Dennison because, c'mon, it's about houses and a small Brit town and kids. What's not to like?
I wouldn’t exactly call this a cozy mystery, but it’s a fun start to a new mystery series. Kat, the protagonist is prickly and involved in an adulterous affair-–all parties involved are TV reality show people so the affair is very public. But tired of the spotlight, Kat has quit her job to start an antique store with her newly widowed mother, who has mysteriously disappeared into the country. To Kat’s horror, Mom has just bought a collapsing carriage house on an aristocratic estate. And to Kat’s amazement, her mother bought the property with proceeds from her romance writing career—one she’s been keeping secret from everyone.
Everyone in the book has secrets. There is a fascinating assemblage of characters from the antique stuffed mice to the former Boxing Emporium’s strongest man in the world. There are lovers’ quarrels all over the place, and an adorable little boy who plays at being a WWII pilot. The plot veers wildly around valuable antiques, a gorgeous rotting old estate, a town where everyone is related, and a murderous blackmailer who has over two hundred pairs of designer shoes neatly labeled and tucked in her closet.
As I said, it’s not the usual sort of cozy, but it’s all about the people and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I’m off to look for the next book in the series.
Mary Jo here. Since I'm in deadline craziness, mostly I'm rereading old favorites that I enjoy but don't suck me in too far. But a new book that I read recently was Jill Mansell's Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay. Mansell is British and considered chicklit, and she certainly has a light touch and happy endings. But she also touches on real emotional complexities. Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay is set in a Cornish resort town and there are lots of mix ups ups and sorting outs romantically. But it's also a story of two very different stepsisters who have always had a somewhat challenging relationship, and how they come to terms with the complexities of that. And it's also about meeting the right man at the wrong time…
Joanna here. The world just seems filled with turmoil these days, doesn't it? In the face of that, I went back to an old favorite series of mine, another of JD Robb's clever and well-written mysteries, Immortal in Death.
Immortal is an early entry in Roarke and Dallas' adventures that I somehow missed when it came out. Dallas is getting married and Mavis' beloved is suspected of murder. For Dallas, murder is no problem. Marriage — a bit more difficult.
The other comfort read this month is Eva Ibbotson's A Countess Below Stairs. It's placed just after World War II in an English country house. The heroine is a Russian refugee, once wealthy beyond dreams of avarice, now unsinkable and ever optimistic, scrubbing floors. Ibbotson gives us an immensely appealing character, robust, cheerful, and strong.
What have YOU all been reading this month? We love recommendations!