What We’re Reading in October

Some of it was realNicola here, introducing the ever-popular Wenches monthly round up of what we've been reading. As always, our virtual shelves are groaning beneath the weight of recommendations and we hope you will share your reads with us – and add to the TBR pile! – as well as enjoy some of the books we're talking about. October is the perfect time to curl up with a good book, so without further ado, let's dive in!

Anne here. The standout read for me in October was Some of it Was Real, by Nan Fischer. It’s a contemporary, and though there’s a relationship, it’s not really a romance. Sylvie Young is a psychic-medium, a rising star on the verge of having her own TV show. Thomas Holmes is a journalist looking to resurrect his failing career by writing a story exposing her as a fraud. Thomas doesn’t believe in Sylvie’s “powers” and calls people like her “grief vampires” who prey on people’s distress.

Mysteries surround Sylvie’s early childhood. Adopted at the age of six, she has no memories of the time before that — and what little she does remember is fractured, comes in dreams, or sparks panic attacks. Sylvie decides to take Thomas on a journey with her to discover what they can about her past. She hopes he will learn to accept and believe in her powers — even though she’s not entirely confident of them, and augments them with research about her audience — which she calls “forming bridges”. It’s a complicated situation. And Thomas is determined to prove her a fraud.

The story is told in alternate chapters by first Sylvie, then Thomas. They’re effectively enemies, but it’s not so clear cut, and I found myself empathizing with both. I found Some of it Was Real compulsive reading and devoured it in a day.

Otherwise, I’ve been rereading a lot of old favorites — Mary Stewart, Jayne Ann Krentz and others, and several of the wenches have beaten me to recommendations, like Mary Jo’s report of Rebecca Yarros’s Fourth Wing, and Pat Rice’s recommendation of Connie Willis’s Cross Talk, so that’s all from me for this month.

Susan writes:

When reading for research dovetails with reading for pleasure, that's just the best. And with most of my reading time lately going to research for my books, Hawk it was a joy to discover The Hawk's Way by Sy Montgomery while researching falconry info for my medieval-in-progress. A journalist, naturalist, and author of several books studying a variety of wildlife from cats to octopi and more, Montgomery writes in Hawk's Way not just about hawks, but the art and obsession of falconry. She writes with detail, insight, and love about her personal experience over years of working with hawks in particular, though she touches on other raptors and birds of prey as well. Montgomery is one of those gifted nonfiction writers whose words flow expressively and beautifully, with spare wisdom that gets right to the heart of the matter–these magnificent creatures are fascinating, charismatic, and challenging. They could care less about you, and yet can bring out the best in you all the same. A joy to read, whether you're researching falconry for a novel or just want to know what it's like to fly, admire, love, and pragmatically understand these birds. I've done a lot of research on hawks and falconry over the years for my books, and I've spent some amazing hours with hawks and falconers to try it out for myself. Montgomery's book made me see them in a new way.   

The burnout_kinsella (002)While doing a lot of driving lately, I've been listening to the audiobook of Sophie Kinsella's newest release, The Burnout. Sasha is so overwhelmed at work that she has a meltdown, and a long vacation is in order. Thinking a childhood holiday spot will stir happy memories and be restorative, she goes to a beach hotel–but a British beach hotel in February, especially one that's ramshackle and all but deserted twenty years later, is not exactly restful. And the only other person vacationing there is Finn, a grouchy, unapproachable guy who is recovering from his own work meltdown. Avoiding each other, Sasha and Finn are soon confronted with shared childhood memories and a growing mystery on the beach that has them forging a reluctant friendship. I am a big fan of Kinsella, who writes with warmth and humor and spirit, and I loved this one. The audiobook is narrated by Bessie Carter, who skillfully captures character and nuance, and adds a great dimension to the story. 

 

Mary Jo here: 

I just finished reading Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros, which is currently a huge bestseller, including weeks as #1 on the NY Times list.  This is somewhat FourthWing (002) surprising because it's basically a young adult fantasy novel which follows the traditional journey of a young person attending a specialized and quite possibly dangerous school to learn dangerous skills. Think Harry Potter with a female lead and dragons. <G>

The narrator is Violet Sorrengail, born with a number of congenital problems so that she's small, not strong, and she breaks easily.  In the constantly-at-war kingdom of Navarre, she'd been raised to be a scribe like her father.  But her father has died, and her mother is the brass-knuckled general of the war academy who insists that Sorrengails are dragon riders so that Violet has no choice but to enter the academy where there is danger at every hand.  But she'd tough and never backs down from doing the right thing, plus she's really smart!  There's non-stop action, lots of dragons, a military amount of four letter words, and a steamy enemies to lovers romance.  If this is the kind of book you like, you will really like this!

Fourth Wing is book one of The Empyrean series, and book two, Iron Flame, will be released on November 7th.  My guess is that this will be a trilogy because a very large story has emerged in book 1.  We'll see!

Pat:

CROSSTALK, Connie Willis

Crosstalk bookConnie Willis writes utterly brilliant sf/f. CROSSTALK is set in the reality of the contemporary tech communication world. The fantasy part starts with  the invention of a brain implant that allows couples to emotionally bond. The heroine, Briddey Flannagan, works in gossip central at iPhone’s competition. She has an interfering family that’s even worse than hearing phones ringing all day. The constant communication is so maddening that I can’t imagine why she wants even more contact with her boyfriend. The pacing is so frantic that I had to limit myself to reading it for only an hour a day, but the book is so fabulous that I risked racing-brain syndrome to keep reading. And all the insanity reaches great peaks before it all comes together and makes sense. Sort of. There’s even a romance! If you want fast-paced intelligence and a good story, find this one.

And another shout out for SOME OF IT WAS REAL by Nan Fischer:

How can I resist a story about a psychic? Sylvie Young, once an orphan with no hope or home, is on the brink of a brilliant career as a psychic/medium at the young age of 23—until a journalist comes along and says he’s proved she’s a fraud, and he means to expose her. Since the death of his brother, who intended to be a journalist, Thomas has been working toward a Pulitzer-prize winning story, and it’s in his reach. He KNOWS Sylvie is a fraud, like all the fake psychics his mother has consulted over the years.

What follows is essentially a story of death of the past and resurrection of the future as Sylvie and Thomas trace her real origin story, not the one she’s been told. He also learns painful truths. The story is gripping, well-told, believable characters, and the conflict is strong but not enough to stress me out. I have only one tiny quibble about a clue they never followed until the dramatic ending. But one tiny quibble does not break the story. Well worth trying!

Christina here with three recommendations this month:

THE FORGOTTEN SHORE by Sarah Maine is an utterly gripping dual time story about secrets, mistakes, redemption and possible forgiveness. It features a The forgotten shore mysteriously missing heir, a girl who’s always been a bit of an outsider, and an unlikely but forbidden friendship. The book covers the horrors of war, Highland clearances, forced removal of people living in remote coastal villages in Newfoundland and various environmental issues that engage the reader. It all blends into a fabulous tapestry that will keep you spellbound until the very last page – I absolutely loved it and couldn’t put it down.

Merton libraryMURDER AT THE MERTON LIBRARY by Andrea Penrose. Diving into a new book in this series is like visiting old friends – exciting and comfortable at the same time. In this Regency mystery, Lord and Lady Wrexford are yet again embroiled in the quest to catch a murderer, but this time it’s personal because the same man might have caused the death of Wrex’s younger brother. At the same time, there is a suspicious consortium involved in the race to find a viable way of propelling ships across oceans using steam power. They appear to be sabotaging the efforts of everyone else, and are using ruthless methods. It’s up to Wrex and his close-knit ‘family’ to stop them, and to uncover the murderer before it’s too late. As always, I was in awe of how the author intertwines the scientific discoveries of the Regency era with a murder mystery. It’s wonderful to learn more about the thinking of that time. Simultaneously, the reader is emotionally invested in all the characters – a group not connected by blood necessarily, but by love and care for each other – and I loved their various emotional journeys in the background. I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ve seen of these protagonists, and very much look forward to the next book in the series!

THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING HEIRESS by Patricia Rice is another wonderful installment in this Regency mystery romance series. We Missing heiress meet the characters from the previous book again, but there are new ones added and I absolutely loved the couple in this one – earl's daughter turned cook Elsa and her childhood friend Jack. She has fled from a bullying step-brother and would-be fiancé, both ruthless men who will stop at nothing to secure her substantial dowry for themselves. Burying herself among the pots and pans of the kitchen is her way of coping, until her hiding place is discovered and her pursuers catch up with her. They haven't reckoned with her new-found friends and relatives, however, and I was cheering them on as they prepared to give the villains the comeuppance they deserved. The ongoing search for an old treasure that's needed to save the ramshackle manor the characters all live in adds a fun element. And I really like how all these disparate people band together to form a family by choice, if not totally by blood. I can’t wait for the next book in this series as well!

Andrea:

Book coverI loved S. J. Bennett’s first two mysteries featuring Queen Elizabeth II and her very sharp Nigerian-born Assistant Private Secretary, Rozie Oshod as the sleuthing team that solves some very delicate crimes that might have created trouble for the palace. I feared that with the death of the queen, Bennett might feel compelled to give up the series. But to my delight I saw that a new one, Murder Most Royal—a Christmas mystery!— has just been released and immediately grabbed it.

And I’m so glad I did! From the very beginning of the series, Bennett has portrayed the queen as a very careful observer with a very caustic sense of humor. Her observations of various government officials when they “mansplain" things to her are hilarious, but one also senses that Bennett is very careful to portray Her Majesty as accurately as possible—and makes her engagingly human.

In this book, the royal family has gone to Sandringham for Christmas, but when a severed hand washes up by the estate’s beach, the Queen finds herself drawn into the investigation (completely off the record, of course) because she recognizes the signet ring on one of the fingers as belonging to an old family friend when Rozie shows her the police photo . At a family dinner the following night, everyone is gossiping about the hand and Prince Philip announces that most murders are committed by family . . . And yet that doesn’t prevent the queen from pressing Rozie to get involved and follow the evidence, no matter where it might lead.

The mystery is very well done, but what makes the book so special is the queen watching her various children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as they interact throughout the holiday and thinking pithy thoughts about all the people we know so well from the tabloids. She also muses on getting old. All in all, it's is an absolute delight, and I think Bennett saw the book as her personal tribute to a lady whose quiet grace and lack of “flash” hid an inner strength, fierce intelligence and sharp sense of humor.

So there you have it – a number of great books to snap up! And now it's over to you. What have you been reading during October?

 

15 thoughts on “What We’re Reading in October”

  1. Since last time ~
    — For my distant book group, The Mothers: A Novel by Brit Bennett. As you might surmise, much of it is about mother/child relationships, but it’s also about friendship, dating, relationships, infidelity, suicide, church, gossip, and more. The Mothers are a group of elderly women who are much involved at a church; the main character is a girl/teen/woman whose family attends that church.
    — enjoyed the contemporary m/m romance Unguarded by Jay Hogan. This featured a young man, now homeless, who has just left an unfaithful partner and a vet (a single parent after being widowed) in dire need of office help.
    — reread with pleasure Blonde Date by Sarina Bowen; this is perhaps my favorite new adult romance novella.
    — enjoyed a reread of a favorite urban fantasy novella, Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs.
    — read the science fiction romance Capture the Sun by Jessie Mihalik. This was the third book in a trilogy, and I enjoyed it (but it’s not a book or series I’m likely to reread).
    — reread Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs which I enjoyed once again. This book is a lengthy collection of stories which take place in the author’s Mercyverse.
    — read several stories that were in a recent giveaway of male/male romances. I enjoyed A Bad Case by Hollis Shiloh; The Marvelous Mr. Strike by Will Forrest was pleasant; and The Sacrifice by Saga Nansen I found ho-hum.
    — reread a favorite science fiction romance, Dark Horse by Michelle Diener. I enjoyed it once again.
    — continued with my reread of Michelle Diener’s Class 5 science fiction romance series and happily revisited:
    Dark Deeds (Class 5 Series Book 2)
    Dark Minds (Class 5 Series Book 3)
    Dark Matters (Class 5 Series Book 4)
    Dark Class (Class 5 Series Book 5)
    Dark Ambitions: A Class 5 Novella
    and Dark Class: Bonus Epilogue
    — For my local book group, the memoir Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile. This was an intriguing read especially since I had no idea who Brandi Carlile was when I started the book. I borrowed several CDs from the library to get a taste of her music.
    — I’m planning on making a bookmark for a friend and ended up getting sucked into rereading the book it will be based on ~ Naked in Death by J.D. Robb. This is a book I have probably reread about twenty-five times. I read it upon publication in 1995, and I would reread the entire series each time a new book or two was released. I stopped reading the series (now at fifty-seven) in 2011 at book 32, Treachery in Death. I still collect the books and have great plans of returning to the series. We shall see!
    — The Daily Zoo: Keeping the Doctor at Bay with a Drawing a Day by Chris Ayers. This was a drawing journal with an animal picture each day that the author/artist started, in recovery, one year after his leukemia diagnosis. It was a quick and enjoyable read/view.
    — reread The Marann (Tales of Tolari Space Book 1) by Christie Meierz, a book that I initially read in (let me check) 2017. I barely remembered any details, but I enjoyed it. I’d describe it as science fiction romance.
    — then read with pleasure:
    * Daughters of Suralia (Tales of Tolari Space Book 2) (a reread)
    * The Fall (Tales of Tolari Space Book 3) (a new read)
    * Farryn’s War (Tales of Tolari Space Book 4) (a new read)
    * Rembrandt’s Station (Tales of Tolari Space Book 5) (a new read)
    * Food Fight (Tales of Tolari Space) (this is a free short story)
    * Into Tolari Space (Two short stories, a reread)
    These are all set in the same fictional world; I recommend starting with The Marann. All the novels have a m/f romance save for Rembrandt’s Station which has a m/m romance.

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  2. Anne, I’d previously read and enjoyed Some of it Was Real by Nan Fischer. I also read it one day! I went on to read The Book of Silver Linings by the same author.
    Mary Jo, I read Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros a while ago. I was surprised at the violence/how disposable the students were. I’m not sure that I’d classify it as young adult.

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  3. A fabulous list, as always, Kareni. I will look out for The Mothers, which sounds so good. Also Blonde Date and a number of the others. I haven’t read Fourth Wing yet – it’s sold amazingly well in the UK and had all sorts of plaudits but I’m not sure if it’s my sort of book…

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  4. I missed last month’s WWR, so I’ve got quite a long list!
    I gobbled down several more books by Mary Lancaster, she is really addictive for me. She has a quartet called “The Duel” and my favorite was the 3rd in the series “Deserted” but you really need to start with the first one to understand the background. Another quartet by her called the Pleasure Garden series is also very enjoyable.
    I loved Julie Anne Long’s latest book, “You Were Made To Be Mine”, classic romance, and she’s created a wonderful ongoing group of characters in the Palace of Rogues series.
    I read “Murder at the Merton Library”, and it was great to go back into that world. This time I noticed how cleverly Andrea uses the Weasels, not just to add humor and color, but as plot devices, since they always seem to come up with the clues to drive the mystery plot forward!
    I read “Whom The Gods Love” by Kate Ross. I read the first 2 books in this historical mystery series many years ago, but I had no trouble picking up on the characters once I started it. My only criticism is that it seems strangely unanchored in any era. With just a few minor changes, it could have easily been set during the Regency, Victorian era, or early 20th century. It wasn’t until a letter appeared in the story with a date on it, that I was sure what year it was!
    I’ve been on a bit of a binge of Christmas anthologies. The best was Under the Mistletoe, which had novellas by Marguerite Kaye and Bronwyn Scott, both heroines were nurses during the Crimean War. “Christmas Cinderella” by Elizabeth Rolls was another sweet novella with a hero who is a vicar, in a collection called A Sprinkling of Christmas Magic. I did some comfort rereads of more Elizabeth Rolls, “His Convenient Marchioness”(older H/h, one of my favorites) and “A Marriage of Equals”.
    Last but not least, I am reading the 4th Harriet Gordon mystery, “Terror in Topaz”, by A.M. Stuart(aka Alison Stuart). I’m so glad she decided to continue this series, the characters and the historical setting in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are so original and well done. I highly recommend the series if you haven’t tried it yet.

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  5. Kareni, I agree with you. The basic set up is very young adult, but the body count among the students was rather appalling. The story held my attention, but I don’t know if I’ll reread it.
    Totally agree on Sarina Bowen’s Blonde Date.

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  6. Kareni, I haven’t yet read The Book of Silver Linings, but I plan to.
    And I agree with you about the violence in Fourth Wing — I was also horrified by the disposability of the students and how outright murder was seen as “competition” and was without consequence.

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  7. My reading this month has been in fits and starts due to TOO much other stuff happening! All good stuff, but still, it cut into the reading time. Grin.
    Started off the month by reading Silver Lady by Mary Jo Putney since my library had a copy. Read it in one big gulp (grin) and very much enjoyed it. It has a lot of similar elements as The Marriage Spell and The Dark Mirror trilogy all of books I love. A very fun, romantical adventure. Will get my own copy when it is available in the stores.
    Next up, was Codename Charming by Lucy Parker. Anne Gracie had recommended it in August and I was glad she had reminded me of it. It did take 6 weeks for the hold to come in but was so worth it. I think this was one of the funniest ones Lucy Parker has written. So many amusing situations. So many laugh out loud moments. Pet and Matthias are such total opposites, so yin and yang but in a believable way.
    I’m currently re-reading The Christmas Invitation by Trisha Ashley as my night time “I can’t sleep” book. Every time I read it, it gets better.
    Currently I have 4 daytime books going so will have to wait to report on them next month! Fingers crossed for more reading time…
    I can’t wait for my holds for Murder most Royal and Terror in Topaz to come through! So jealous some of y’all have already read them.

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  8. Vicki, I’m so glad you enjoyed the Lucy Parker book. She’s very much an auto-buy author for me.
    The same goes for Trisha Ashley, in fact I just reread her Every Woman for Herself. I also like The Christmas Invitation — well, actually, I enjoy most of her books.

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  9. Hi Karin, and what a wonderful list of recommendations this month! So glad you enjoyed Wench Andrea’s latest, which I thought was brilliant, and living near Oxford I particularly liked the bits set in that city.
    I also love the Harriet Gordon mysteries!

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  10. For some reason, I’m no longer receiving the WW newsletter or blog posts, so just realized the always wonderful list of monthly reads would be up – thus my late response!
    Ditto all the remarks about Murder at the Merton Library (congratulations on another wonderful story, Andrea!), The Christmas Invitation (an annual re-read!), and Codename Charming! I’ve now read all Lucy Parker’s romances and waiting for another thanks, Anne! And began Mary Jo’s Silver Lady last night and stayed up way too late, and foresee doing that again tonight to finish it.
    Meanwhile, during the rest of the month, finished
    – Miss Daring, the latest in Grace Burrowes’s Mischief in Mayfair series – loved everything about it except the cover. Hecate Brompton is a terrific heroine, and the cover model is lovely, but NOT Hecate at all!
    – Knockout, Sarah MacLean’s latest Hell’s Belles installment, with her usual knack for creating quirky, endearing heroines who are still believable in very steamy scenes!
    – The Lord Next Door by Gayle Callen, a new author for me. I liked it enough to try another of her many stories, but it was one of those stories where I wanted to yell, “Just talk to each other!”
    – And just finished re-reading the great Joanna Bourne’s Spymaster series which I had not revisited for some time – such a pleasure! Intricate stories, compelling characters, and a true respect for the reader’s intelligence!
    And now that November is upon us, I can “let” myself indulge in all my favorite Christmas romances – it does help get one through the holiday prep, doesn’t it?

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  11. I’m sorry to hear you aren’t getting notifications, Constance. We are having a few technical issues. But thank you for calling in to share your reads! It is great that we can now read and re-read all the Christmas favourites as well as new discoveries!

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  12. Thank you so much, Karin! So glad you enjoyed the latest W&S.
    I adore Kate Ross’s Julian Kestrel mysteries, and was so sorry that she passed away at such a young age. And also really enjoy the Harriet Gordon series.

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  13. I recently stopped getting my notices too but I usually check the site every day or so. Also follow authors’ pages on FB & see posts about it.

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