Susan here, with our newest What We’re Reading post, and we have a bumper crop to share with you! Without further ado, and because I’m dealing with a broken arm so typing is not my favoritest activity at the moment, here are some of the books this past month that have thrilled us, intrigued us, surprised us, captivated us, and of course are sending us in search of yet more wonderful books . . .
Mary Jo says –
I've spent much of the last weeks reading about Lady Trent and her dragon studies, but since I'll be interviewing the author, Marie Brennan, on June 23rd here at the Word Wenches, I'll say no more now.
Moving on, Jayne Ann Krentz has written a lot of contemporary romantic suspense under her own name. She also writes historical romantic suspense as Amanda Quick, and futuristic romantic suspense as Jayne Castle. (She's had a few other pseudonyms, but no need to go into those. <G>)
Amanda Quick made her bow writing Regency set historicals, and later moved into the Victorian period. But her newest book, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, is a jump into the 1930s, a period that is now old enough to be considered historical, but with cars, telephones–and Hollywood movies.
The heroine, Anna Harris, finds her generous employer has been murdered and left a message for Anna to run. Being no fool, Anna does that, ditching her car and her identity and leaving no tracks as she travels from New York to California along the iconic Route 66. Under a new name, she becomes a reporter for a Hollywood gossip newspaper and ends up drawn into a murder mystery in an upscale resort town north of Los Angeles. There is murder, a movie star, a Guy, and it all works out very nicely. I really enjoyed the 1930s setting and it looked like this might be the first of a trilogy. Fun!
This month I’ve been glomming my way through a fabulous Elizabethan mystery series by Rory Clements. I had read about the first book, Martyr, several years ago and made a note of it, but somehow it got buried in the TBR pile. Then I happened to stumble upon the e-book version, which is very reasonably priced ($1.99!), and . . . click. And then click again and again. Oh, joy—there are 8 books so far in the series! It’s wonderfully written, with fabulous history—a plus for me, as I’m not that familiar with the era. The protagonist is John Shakespeare, Will’s older brother, who is an intelligence agent for Walsingham in the first book, then for Lord Cecil after Walsingham’s death. Will makes a few cameo appearances, but the real meat of the stories is the political and religious iintrigue, which Clements makes come alive. It’s gritty—bad things happen to people, (though not in graphic detail.) It also has an interesting cast of secondary characters, and weaves in real life personages of the times. (Martyr is all about a Spanish plot to assassinate Sir Francis Drake in prelude to launching the Armada.) Have just finished book three and highly recommend the series.
I also read Love Song, which was mentioned by Nicola in a past WWR blog and loved it! I have Sophia Bennett’s other books added to the Must Read pile.
This month most of my reading has been a big reread of Robin Hobbs "Assassin" series in preparation for reading the latest (and last) in the series, Assassin's Fate, which came out this month. I first started reading this series some years ago, reading a book, then waiting for the next to come out, so it was wonderful to read them all in one long feast. If you like fantasy, and haven't read Robin Hobb's "Assassin" series, start with Assassin's Apprentice, in which we meet Fitz, a young child, a royal bastard whose very existence has toppled the King-in-Waiting into a kind of exile. It's a dangerous life.
As well, I've read several contemporaries — Sophie Kinsella's My Not So Perfect Life — which I loved! So many good chuckles — and Julie Anne Long's two contemporaries, Hot in Hellcat Canyon, and Wild at Whiskey Creek — which I also thoroughly enjoyed. And after following up on Nicola's recommendation of Sophia Bennett's Young Adult novels, I've glommed all her books I could get.
This has been a big reading month for me as I was one of the judges of the Romantic Novelists' Association debut writers’ award. There were eleven contenders and the books were all cracking good reads. Even more wonderful, they covered almost every aspect of the romantic fiction genre so there was something for every taste. The winning book, The Magic of Ramblings, by Kate Field, is a beautiful contemporary novel about love, friendship and re-discovery. It’s warm, poignant and has some profound things to say about human nature. There is also a fabulous hero and a delicious slowburn love story. All the judges adored its romantic and nostalgic feel.
Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t a difficult choice as there were some outstanding books on the list. If you like romantic suspense then you may well enjoy House of Secrets by Lynda Stacey, a book that is a wonderful combination of romance, thriller, mystery and history. In the same genre there is The Girl on the Beach by Morton S Gray, which is a very taut and suspenseful romantic thriller.
In romantic comedy I loved Who Does He Think He Is by Emily Kerr. The heroine, Aurelia, might have a title and a stately home but she is also lumbered with a pile of debts and a father who behaves like an irresponsible teenager. The fact that the book also includes a film star and some Regency dressing up made it even more fun!
I also laughed out loud at Sitting Pretty by April Hardy, about a pet sitter who moves into someone’s house when she loses her job and her home. You can imagine what happens when the owner of the house returns unexpectedly…
In contemporary romance there was Castell’s Passion by Arabella Sheen, which had more than a hint of sensual passion, an exotic setting and a very satisfying happy ever after.
The Cottage at Firefly Lake by Jen Gilroy is an emotional and absorbing read about a second chance of love. It’s the first in a new series and if you enjoy reading about recurring characters in a community setting it’s the perfect choice!
A different sort of contemporary romance was How to Win Back Your Husband which starts at the heroine’s divorce party when she realises she doesn’t want her marriage to be over. This was a funny, sweet and romantic book.
Touched by Abbey MacMunn was the sole paranormal finalist and this is a sexy, fast-paced, and exciting read I really enjoyed.
Last but not least, there were two great historical romances on the list. Perception by Terri Fleming is a beautifully-written sequel to Pride and Prejudice, telling the story of the unmarried Bennet sisters. It totally captures the elegance of the Regency period. The Thief’s Daughter by Victoria Cornwall is a contrast; an evocative and well-researched historical novel that depicts all the rugged beauty and dangerous reality of life in 18th century Cornwall. Tense and suspenseful this is a wonderfully romantic page-turner and I loved it.
So there you have my bumper list and eleven wonderful reads!
Pat says –
A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness–This first in the All Souls Trilogy is apparently a bestseller, and for a change, I can see why. I picked it up because the heroine is a historian and a witch. There is a love story, but this is an adventure story about magic and unworldly creatures. Think of Anne Rice, Harry Potter, and Charlaine Harris all stirred together. There are a couple of violent scenes, but I skimmed them. Mostly, everyone acts very sensibly and rationally and there’s lots of delicious history and quotes from old books to sink into. The vampires don’t sparkle or sleep in coffins, the demons are creative and often mad, and the witches. . . are powerful. So if this is your cuppa, give it a try.
Joanna says –
Moon Over Soho is delighting me as I slog doggedly toward the end of the month. An oasis of competence in a desert of ‘meh’ books. (One already-iffy popular science book I’d been grazing through at bedtime finally got wallbanged on page 80 with the phrase “so-called mitochondrial DNA”.)
Moon Over Soho is what I’d call Magical-Realism-Police-Procedural. Yes – I’m using “Magical Realism” exactly as I want to and directly at odds with the way any Serious Critic of Literature™ would tell me it should be used.
London Police Constable and Apprentice Magician Peter Grant pursues a stone-cold villain in a gritty (but magical) modern day London. Colorful characters. Beautiful language. Visits to the fascinating patchwork of ethnic Urban. Excitement and adventure. Great fun.
I am not usually a fan of First Person Viewpoint. Aaronovitch makes me see why authors do this. He practices such subtle and exemplary technique. Picture me as a gentle brown spaniel following along behind him, sniffing at his plotting and characterization, wagging my tail enthusiastically.
You'd think that being sidelined with a broken arm would give me lots of reading time, and it did, though not as much as I would want! I too read Sophia Bennett's Love Song, and just adored it–this tale of a girl working for a dreamy rock band is a wish-fulfiller if there ever was one, and so delightful that I went in search of her other books, and have started reading The Look, which yes, looks to be excellent as well, a timely story of sisters, one handed a modeling career and the other falling ill – an exploration of loyalty and love. Bennett is skilled with a light yet meaningful voice.
I picked up an old favorite last week, Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier's riveting masterpiece. I was drawn in once again, falling in love with Maxim de Winter and his nameless bride, pulled along by the mysteries and passions surrounding Rebecca . . . even when I know what's coming, it's fascinating. Her writing is always magic, just timeless and beautiful.
I'm also reading Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers, which I've been dipping into now and then, and finally had time to return to this complete immersion in ancient Judea. This story of four women whose various paths lead them to the tragedy at Masada is deeply powerful. Storytelling and writing of this caliber is rare, and the novel is compelling. On every page, I am walking ancient deserts alongside these passionate, intense women. Simply stunning.
And this afternoon I got my copy of Jo Beverley's latest and final book, Merely a Marriage . . . I've just now read the first chapter. It is beyond wonderful.
Please let us know your favorite recent reads too—your picks always lead us to great reading discoveries!