Anne here, bringing you our monthly What We're Reading post from Andrea's house, where five of the wenches have been holding a writing retreat. And I'm running late because my new book, MARRY IN SECRET came out yesterday and I was all over the place trying to promote it.
From Mary Jo: I discovered Connie Schultz some years back while listening to NPR's Diane Rehm show. A journalist and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Connie was promoting her first book, …and His Lovely Wife, a memoir of how she met her second husband, Sherrod Brown (he sent a fan email to her at her newspaper comparing her writing to Barbara Kingsolver. Swoon! What female writer could resist that???)
At any rate, they married, combined families–and then Sherrod Brown, at the time an Ohio Congressman, decided to run for Senator. He was a real long shot, but like a good wife, Connie took a leave of absence from her newspaper and helped her husband on the campaign trail–and wherever they appeared, she was introduced as "…and his lovely wife." Connie saw the humor in that, and she was so warm and funny that I bought her memoir.
Later I bought a collection of her newspaper columns, Life Happens. It's described as about: kids, dogs, politics, men, women, and how it all works, except when it doesn't." <G> I enjoyed the book then, and I recently came across it on the bookshelf and am enjoying it all over again.
Her columns run about two pages each and they make delightful tidbits that can be wise, funny, heart warming, heart rending, and deeply insightful. A favorite of mine is called "The real gift of giving unto others," and it's about her mother, who married young, worked hard, never achieved her dream of becoming a nurse, but who was one of God's gifts to the world.
Connie said her mother's one cautionary note to her daughters about marriage was "Don't marry him until you see how he treats the waitress." She goes on to quote her mother as saying, "Everyone has a name. Everyone has someone one who loves them. Everyone deserves to feel that they matter."
Connie gives examples of how her mother lived her philosophy, and ends by saying, "She never held elective office, was never a company president or in charge of anyone other than her daughters. But, when she died, more than eight hundred people showed up for her calling hours." That woman had a life worth living, and this is a book worth reading.
Andrea says: This month has been a strange reading month. I finished a few books that were okay, but had some key flaws that kept me from really liking them. And then I picked up The Confessions of Frannie Langton, by debut author Sara Collins, which got a great write-up from my local library. It’s a historical murder mystery about a formerly enslaved woman from Jamaica who’s accused of murdering her husband and wife employers in Georgian London. Frannie can’t remember anything that night, but as she sits in Newgate, she writes down her memories of how life brought her to this moment . . .
The prose is incredibly inventive and powerful, and I was really was mezmerised by the author’s use of language and structure. The story itself is dark and disturbing in places—not usually my cup of tea. But it’s so well done that just carries you along. A light beach read, it’s not. However, I really appreciated how it challenged me. I found it a masterful example of creative storytelling.
And now for Joanna: I had not read Patricia Briggs. Yes, I know most folks of my acquaintance who like Adventure and Paranormal and Romance have read and recommended her. I have no excuse for dragging my feet. I think I harbored subconscious skepticism about werewolf books, having read a few disappointing ones.
Anyhow, round about the beginning of July I started on Moon Called, the first of her Mercy Thompson series. (Well. There may be some short stories that precede Moon Called chronologically, but it’s close enough to the first book that it serves the purpose just fine.) Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson is a Volkswagon mechanic and coyote shapeshifter raised by a pack of werewolves. Strong, tough heroine. Fine books. I sped through them and had a most enjoyable time. I will put them in my mental reread file.
Though I don’t think anyone ever actually says — “You have to excuse Mercy’s manners. She was raised by wolves.” — they would have been justified in doing so.
Susan says: July brought a lot of work-related reading, but even with research to do and an enormous pile of my own pages to edit (working on three manuscripts at once, crazy days), I took a break to read a few pages in a new book … and pretty much camped out until the story ended. Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald is love story, ghost story, time-slip, and beautifully rendered on all levels.
In the late 1930s, in New York City's Grand Central Terminal, Joe, a train leverman, meets Nora, who had taken a fateful train ride years earlier. She is lost, confused, charming, and Joe is a kind, strong soul who wants to help the girl who mysteriously vanishes, only to reappear later, and disappear again. Joe wants her to stay–even when he discovers that the young woman he is falling in love with may be a ghost–or is she? When circumstances allow Joe and Nora time together, they begin to puzzle out why she seems to exist in some magical gap in reality.
Grunwald seamlessly blends historical accuracy with supernatural elements for a stunning novel that breathes life into the world of Grand Central in the early 20th century. Joe and Nora are simply and beautifully evoked, along with their love and devotion and the obstacles that bind and challenge them. If I were taking a train out of Grand Central today, I would not be surprised to see Nora crossing the grand concourse.
Anne again. My reading this month has been mainly old book rereads, as I've been concentrating on my writing, and preparing to travel to the US for the RWAmerica conference. Of the few new-to-me books I've read this month the standouts were Lisa Kleypas's Devil's Daughter, which I've had for a while but was saving until I'd finished the book. But I caved and read it anyway.
It's the 5th book in her Ravanels series, and is about Phoebe, the widowed daughter of Evangeline Jenner and Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, the couple in my favorite book of the "Wallflower" series, (currently on special for under $2 if you haven't read it.) The hero is West Ravanel, once a schoolboy bully and later a loose-living rake. When an upright, idealistic lady meets a man trying to live down his tarnished past, there's instant and powerful attraction, and some issues to work through. I really enjoyed it.
The other one I read and enjoyed was Mary Balogh's Someone to Honor, book 6 in her series about the Westcott family who discovered on their father's death that they were a product of a bigamous (and therefore invalid) marriage, and that they were illegitimate. This series is about how each member of the family learns to cope with the shattering of their formerly rich and privileged lives — and it's fascinating.
Someone to Honor is about Abigail Westcott, who has come to terms with her illegitimacy, and is living the comfortable life of an independent lady. Her hero is Gilbert Bennington, an officer who was friends with her brother Harry who on learning of his illegitimacy had joined the army and gone to war. Harry was badly wounded and had Gil Bennington not found him might have died of his wounds. Gil comes home with Harry, and there Abigail meets him — shirtless and chopping wood. Naturally she takes him for a servant . . . And the fun begins. A lovely story in Mary Balogh's usual style.
And that's it for the wenches — now, wenchly readers, it's over to you. What have you been reading and enjoying this month?