What We’re Reading (WWR) – November Edition

We’ve been busy these past few weeks, but there’s always time for reading!
For this month’s WWR, we have a great array of reads and recommendations to further topple your TBR pile. Browse through our picks, and please let us know what you’ve read and enjoyed recently.
Mary Jo:
The big reading news for November was the release of Sharon Shinn’s Whispering Wood,  fifth in her Elemental Blessings fantasy series. Sharon is a master of worldbuilding and characterization and those qualities are fully on display.  The people of her fictional country of Welce all have affinities for one of the five elements: Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Wood.  Each book concentrated on a protagonist with an affinity for one of the elements, starting with Book I, Troubled Waters. Whispering Wood is centered on hunti, the fifth element which is affiliated with wood. The heroine Valentina Serlast is a dedicated hunti introvert who wants to be left alone on the country estate.  But her older brother, Darien, is about to be crowned king of Welce, so she’s forced to come to the capital city for the coronation.  She starts out hating pretty much everyone <G>, but during her enforced stay she starts making friends, expanding her world, and reconnecting with Sebastian, the red headed rogue who has been her best friend since childhood.  By the end of the story, she demonstrates the strength and tenacity that is the essence of her hunti heritage. Though the book stands alone pretty well, it’s best to start with Troubled Waters, the first in the series so you can watch the characters grow and change.  It’s a rich, rich world!
For something completely different, I loved Emilie Richards’ women’s fiction bookWhen We Were Sisters.  The story rotates between three points of view:  Cecilia and Robin bonded as sisters when both were in foster care.  They fought to stay together and helped each other survive and have stayed the closest of friends even as Cecilia becomes a pop star so famous she’s known by her first name.  Robin gives up a promising career as a photojournalist to marry and have children.  The third character is Robin’s husband Kris, a workaholic lawyer who was raised in poverty and is determined that his family will never have to struggle as he did. When Cecilia teams with a well respected documentary maker to produce a series about foster care, she asks Robin to be the still photographer for the production.  When Robin accepts, her husband Kris has to figure out how to run a household and raise his two kids.  The filming takes Cecilia and Robin through the challenges of the past and darkest secrets of that time. All three of the characters grow and change in a story I found compelling and positive.  Emilie Richards is a terrific writer, and When We Were Sisters is one of the best women’s fiction novels I’ve ever read.
Pat:
THE WHISPERED WORD (Secret, Book, and Scone Society Series #2), Ellery Adams
I’m a wee bit bored with all the cozy mysteries about bookshops, but this one is slightly different. The owner of the store, Nora, is an ex-librarian badly scarred from an incident that she caused herself. She provides what she calls bibliotherapy to her friends and customers. The town of Miracle Springs is a hot springs and health spa tourist area, so she sees many people who need help. The book starts off slow, but a malnourished, mistreated runaway held my interest until all the various action wheels began to turn. The characterization is a bit superficial because there are so many characters, but each one is easily defined after the first few chapters. The story itself is a humdinger, involving book lovers and long-lost secrets and con artists. By the end, the wicked are served justice and Nora and the runaway are in a much better place. And yes, there’s a quite romance as well. If you’re looking for something really cozy and quiet, give this one a try.
TEA AND EMPATHY: Tales of Rydding Village #1, Shanna Swendson
The queen of romantic fantasy is back! Shanna Swendson has a new series. In this first book, a runaway healer discovers a nearly abandoned village and hopes to hide by becoming the owner of a tea shop. But it’s impossible to hide her abilities, and when she finds a knight who obviously isn’t a knight in her garden, she knows the world will intrude too soon. But her knight in broken armor has no memory of who he is, and she hopes to stay a while longer in the community that needs her. I can’t tell more without giving away the story. Just know that this is lovely fantasy, with an interesting community of characters, and justice prevails. The romance isn’t complete. It’s a series, after all, and there’s this abandoned castle on the hill… So I expect many more delightful tales to come. Hurry, please!

Nicola:
This month has mostly been crime season for me. I read The Last Remains, by Elly Griffiths, the final book in her Ruth Galloway mystery series. As always, an intriguing crime story was mixed in with fascinating archaeology and that touch of the supernatural which always adds an extra layer to the mix. But as with all good books, it’s the relationships that make it so fascinating and this was a very satisfying ending to the series and to the relationship between Ruth and Nelson that has underpinned all the books. Still on a crime theme, I also enjoyed The Twist of a Knife by Antony Horowitz, an excellent “locked room” mystery in classic Agatha-Christie type style. Now I’m reading my way through all the LJ Ross DCI Ryan books in order…

Moving from crime to romantic suspense, I thoroughly enjoyed Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz. When Madeline inherits her grandmother’s hotel business, she also inherits a secret that has been hidden for twenty years. It soon becomes apparent that others know what happened that terrible night and are prepared to kill as a result. In desperate need of help, Madeline calls on Jack Rayner, her security chief, to help her track down the killers. Along for the journey are Madeline’s childhood friend Daphne and Jack’s computer nerd brother Abe and the four of them make a great team and are fun characters to hang out with. Naturally there are a couple of romances as well – Maddie and Jack strikes sparks off one another whilst Abe and Daphne’s quieter relationship is a good contrast. The plot was complicated and satisfying and I really enjoyed this page turner.

Finally for all the Regency fans out there, have you discovered Jane Dunn yet? I liked her first book The Marriage Season very much but loved her second one, An Unsuitable Heiress, even more. Corinna Ormesby is on a mission to discover her true father. Donning male disguise and travelling to London, she falls in with a group of dashing Regency gentlemen who provide her with the entrée into the masculine side of Regency England, so different from the sheltered life she has previously lived. Corinna is an endearing heroine and Alick a totally gorgeous hero; there is real depth to characters and they develop and grow delightfully during the story. What I enjoyed the most, though was Jane’s beautiful writing and her ability to show the depth of emotion and tenderness in the love story. These are “closed-door” Regencies but don’t lack passion – far from it. Highly-recommended.

Christina:
THE CHRISTMAS LOVE LETTERS – Sue Moorcroft is the absolute queen of fabulous Christmas stories and this one is utterly perfect! It has everything you want in a seasonal tale and I found it emotional, moving and totally satisfying. Really didn’t want it to end! Maddy Cracey lives in a tiny village on the Norfolk coast and her life should be idyllic, but seven years ago her husband walked out on her after a massive row and never returned, disappearing without a trace. She’s lived in limbo ever since, raising the daughter he didn’t know was on the way, and caring for her elderly great-aunt Ruthie. When handsome stranger Raff’s visit reveals deep secrets from Ruthie’s past, Maddy’s life is turned upside down, but will it be for good or bad? I very much enjoyed finding out!

THE CHRISTMAS BOOK CLUB (THE BOOK CLUB HOTEL in the US) – Sarah Morgan. I always look forward to Ms Morgan’s books and this one did not disappoint. It was perhaps not quite as romantic as some of her other stories, but still a very satisfying read. There are plenty of emotional punches and you are left with a smile on your face as you turn the last page. I loved it! The story follows three college friends who have now reached the milestone of turning 40. They get together once a year on the pretext of holding a book club meeting, but really it’s an excuse to catch up and relax away from their normal lives. There’s fiercely independent Erica, super-organised, running her own company and travelling all over the world, but refusing to let anyone get close to her emotionally. There’s Anna, the complete opposite, a stay-at-home mother who lives for her family and is only happy when looking after her husband and teenage twins. And there’s talented chef Claudia, who’s just lost her job and whose partner of 10 years walked out on her without warning. Their lives are vastly different, and each envies the others, yet their bonds of friendship are rock solid. When Erica books them into a historic inn in snowy Vermont, the other two don’t suspect a thing, but Erica has a specific reason for choosing the place, and as soon as they arrive, secrets begin to be revealed. The inn’s owner is young single mother and widow Hattie, who is struggling after the death of her husband two years previously. She’s trying to keep things running the way he would have wanted to, but it’s almost brought her to breaking point and something has to give. And although she wants to let gorgeous neighbour Noah into her life, she feels guilty about moving on and making changes. Enter the three friends, and lots of things start to happen! Watching this story unfold was an absolute delight and I highly recommend it!

Anne:
Mary Jo beat me to the recommendation of Sharon Shinn’s latest book, Whispering Wood, but I thoroughly concur with her recommendation. Impatient for it to be released, I reread (for the umpteenth time) the earlier books in her Elemental Blessings series, starting with Troubled Waters, and as soon as Whispering Wood was published I dived into it. I have enjoyed all of Sharon Shinn’s books (except for the ones that I can’t buy because amazon blocks them to Australians) but the Elemental Blessings series is my favorite.

 

Another book I enjoyed was The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, by Sangu Mandanna. Talented witch, orphaned Mika Moon was taught from a young age that witches must live isolated from each other, and hide their abilities from the world. Consequently, she grew up more or less alone, with an ever-changing staff of nannies and governesses, who were moved on as soon as they noticed her difference and their memories wiped by her guardian. So Mika grew up lonely and isolated. The only time she sees other witches is in a secret meeting held several times a year. Then (to quote from the cover blurb): But when an unexpected invitation arrives to teach three young witches at the mysterious Nowhere House, Mika jumps at the chance for a different life. As she comes to care for its quirky inhabitants – and Jamie, the handsome but prickly librarian – finally belonging somewhere feels like a real possibility. I romped through The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, and would happily recommend it.

Andrea:
Being dubbed the new John le Carré piles a lot of expectations on a writer’s shoulders. But Mick Herron carries the weight lightly, not only crafting intricate plots where moral ambiguity is woven into the fabric of the people and challenges, but doing so with laugh-aloud sardonic humor. In a recent interview I read, Herron said he is most interested in the failures and screw-ups of this world rather than the traditional heroes—because he relates to them. Anyone who has watched the Apple television series “Slow Horses” will have gotten a taste of his dark humor and characters. Herron’s latest book, The Secret Hours, is a stand-alone novel, and focuses on a power squabble between a fictional British prime minister (with delightful hints of Boris Johnson’s pandemic travails) and the Head of MI5. The government had opened a hearing on MI5 misdeeds in order to put more controls on their independence, but the head of MI5 has made sure to see that two lackluster bureaucrats are assigned to run it in order to ensure that it fails miserably . . . and then the fun begins. The writing is just wonderful, the characters and plot twists hilarious. Herron has a more comic approach than le Carré, but still delves into the murky world of espionage, and its complex effect on the morality of those involved. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and highly recommend it.

There’s our list for November (partial–we’re always reading)!
What books have you discovered in the past month? Let us know!

20 thoughts on “What We’re Reading (WWR) – November Edition”

  1. What a fantastic set of reviews, I was left wanting to read every one of your November Reads! But mostly I wanted to thank Word Wenches for such an insightful and wonderful review of my second novel, An Unsuitable Heiress. It is a great lift to the spirits to connect with sensitive, responsive readers, alive to what one’s trying to do – and here to find one who then passes on her enthusiasm is fabulous. This is particularly appreciated while I try and finish book no 4 to a deadline. Your November Reads are going to have to wait a little longer on my TBR pile! But thank you all X

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    • Thank you so much for dropping in to the blog, Jane. It’s lovely to see you here. Our WWR feature is very popular with readers and we love spreading the word about good books!

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  2. I just read Wolf Moon by Patricia Rosemoor. You don’t often get to read about a wolf who gets bitten by a werewolf and turns into werehuman.

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  3. A great stash of books there!! I’ll be looking into them. I haven’t read Jane Dunn’s one yet but loved her first one!

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  4. Over the past month ~

    — an enjoyable novella, Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher. It’s a sleeping beauty tale but told from a unique perspective.
    — Miss Lockharte’s Letters by Barbara Metzger was a regency era romance. The heroine, believing she is about to die, writes a half dozen letters (of thanks, blame, regrets) which precipitate all manner of events. I could quibble at part of the ending, but overall I liked it very much.
    — Ripples by Jasmine O’Hea is a newly released young adult fantasy. This story, with travel/character switching between two near identical towns, required a healthy suspension of disbelief, but it clearly had something appealing as I read it to the end (says the person who often gives up on books on pages one, ten, or fifty).
    — enjoyed the picture book, Ten-Word Tiny Tales: To Inspire and Unsettle by Joseph Coelho. This took all of about ten minutes to read, but it was fun to read the short stories and see the illustrations by 21 artists.

    — For my book group, I read The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway. My childhood years in Australia were very different from the author’s, but it was neat to see some commonalities. The book covers the author’s life into her twenties. She went on to become the first female president of Smith College.
    — read with pleasure Lavender House (Evander Mills Book 1) by Lev AC Rosen. This noir-ish mystery set in 1950s San Francisco features a recently fired detective (found in a raid on a gay bar) who is hired to find the killer of a wealthy woman. The titular Lavender House is the home of a small enclave of mostly gay people. (Trigger warning for violence.) I will happily read more in this series.
    — enjoyed the historical romance, Sauce for the Gander (The Marstone Series Book 1) by Jayne Davis, in which the hero and heroine are forced into marriage by their fathers. I would happily read more by this author.
    — reread the science fiction novel Ascending (The Vardeshi Saga Book 1) by Meg Pechenick. This deals with a second (rather than first) contact between an alien culture and earth; it focuses on a young woman who is selected to travel to the aliens’ homeworld.
    — reread the sequel to the book I mentioned above, Bright Shards by Meg Pechenick, and quite enjoyed it. The first book, Ascending, was published in 2018 and this second book was published in 2019; sadly, the promised third book has yet to materialize.

    — For my book group, Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. I’d read this last April so decided that a reread was in order. Repeating what I said then, “I very much enjoyed it (well, except for the parts that made me sad). I received my PhD in Chemistry in the latter eighties, and the book reminded me of how grateful I need to be for women of earlier decades who fought battles that I did not.”
    — Last Ship Home by Erica Rue was a quick read about a soldier left behind on an alien world. It’s currently free for US Kindle readers.
    — Ignition Point by Jami Gray is a prequel work to her Arcane Transporter urban fantasy series and can be found in the collection, Arcane Transporter Box Set I by Jami Gray. Be aware that it has a lot of deaths.
    — Bump in the Night (Medium at Large Book 1) by Meredith Spies. This was a contemporary paranormal m/m romance featuring a medium plus an out of work professor who is hired to serve as a skeptic on a television show about a haunted house. It was a pleasant read, but I don’t see it as a book I’ll reread.

    — a very pleasurable reread of The Book of Firsts PLUS Four Kings by Karan K Anders; this duet features young adults in a very exclusive high school and then in their first year of college. It’s a reverse harem story set in a fictional Greenland. The books are a comfort read.
    — LIGHT of the MAGOS: The Spark Within by T.A.C. Wilson. I won this book and felt compelled to finish it even though it was a bit of a slog; it’s a young adult fantasy novel featuring teens with magic whose families have been feuding for generations.

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    • Miss Lockharte’s Letters (Barbara Metzger) is an old favorite of mine. It just rollicks along, occasionally leaving logic far behind. I can’t remember another regency in which the heroine gets so battered and thrown around as this one, yet it maintains that comedic energy and we’re all happily along for the ride. However my review partner Yvonne disliked it for the same reasons that I liked it 🙂

      I read that Ms Metzger passed away earlier this year. I am sorry she is gone. We need more humor in the world.

      http://hibiscus-sinensis.com/regency/retroread05.htm#247

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      • Sorry to hear about Ms. Metzger’s passing. She had a unique talent. You are right Janice, you would have to suspend your logic at times, but to me it was well worth the laughter her writing provided. Humor is a great medicine.

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  5. Loretta Chase – A Duke in shining armour. If you have ever suffered from wedding nerves you will enjoy this one! Bride overcome with doubts, runs away from her wedding only to be chased by the best man who, while trying to get her back for the wedding, falls in love with her. All told with Chase’s characteristic humour …. she is now on my favourites list!

    I have also added some (free) audio books by Emilie Richards and Sue Moorcroft to my library to try … thanks.

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  6. Oh my..more books to look into!

    I ran across a really fascinating book at the library called Curries and Bugles: A Memoir and a Cookbook of the British Raj by Jennifer Brennan. It was written in 1990 so her memories of India were still fresh. For 3 generations her family were in the British Civil Service – her mother and Grandmother were born in India. Her father also came from a British Civil Service family.

    She talks about the memories of living there. The foods that were made. Going to the hills in the summer, What the British did, Rules and Rituals, etc etc. So much of what she writes about ties in with quite a few books I’ve read. There are tons of recipes as well which I will never attempt to make. But I enjoyed browsing through them.

    I was inspired to reread Mary Jo’s Veils of Silk and MM Kaye’s Death in Kashmir. Both of which I’ve read many times and enjoyed them each time. Two different time periods but both covered in the cookbook. With more background information I enjoyed them in a different way this time.

    At Thanksgiving I picked up two books from a Little Free library – In the Land of the Long White Cloud (Vol 1) and Call of the Kiwi (Vol 3) by Sarah Lark. They were part of a trilogy set in New Zealand. It starts in 1852 and ends in 1918. It was slow going at first but then it picked up a bit of speed. Convoluted but good as the Maori were in the an integral part of the story.

    I also reread The Clairvoyant Countess and Kaleidoscope by Dorothy Gilman which I hadn’t read in a long time. Madam Karitska is such an interesting character as are the friends she makes and the adventures she has. (These books aren’t part of the Mrs. Pollifax series.)

    All in all, it was a good reading month..

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  7. I am very late with this comment, because I’m no longer getting email notifications from the blog. Is there any way to sign up again?
    I read a very atmospheric Victorian mystery by Karen Odden, A Dangerous Duet. The heroine is a talented pianist, and she masquerades as a man while playing the piano at a seedy music hall, so she can earn the money for her music school tuition. I enjoyed it, but be prepared for violence and moral ambiguity!
    On a lighter note, I am reading the 3rd in an entertaining Edwardian era mystery series by Clare McKenna. This one is called Murder at Keyhaven Castle, so far they are all English country house mysteries, with lots of stuff about horses, which are the heroine’s main passion.
    I also reread some old favorites, to see if I needed to hold on to the paperbacks: Devil’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens, The Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh, My Lord Scandal by Emma Wildes, and Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas, All good books, but since I am trying to cut down on physical books, I decided to give them all away except for the Kleypas.
    Lastly, I read a novella, Vienna Wolfe, by Mary Lancaster, which is connected to her Imperial Season series. I loved those books, so it was enjoyable to get back into that world, if only for 100 pages!

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  8. And I forgot to mention I read Mary Jo’s new book, Silver Lady! I enjoyed it very much, loved the magical Tremayne family, and I look forward to more books about the other characters who were introduced.

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