Anne here, hosting this month's What We're Reading post. As always there's a lovely range of books for all tastes. And just a reminder — these are not promo posts; they're genuinely what we've read and enjoyed in the last month.
We'll start with Pat, who says: I'm on a hunt for light-hearted, humorous, feel-good books these days, so I'm over the moon when I find one.
180 SECONDS by Jessica Park qualifies, even though I suspect it's probably called a New Adult romance since the protagonists are in college. But this isn’t about the normal trials and tribulations of overworked, under-loved students. The protagonist Allison has been in foster care all her life, until she was adopted by a gay dad when she was sixteen. She’s closed off, shut down, prepared to peel out of the life of anyone who gets close. She does her best to avoid people entirely. She wants to love her adopted dad, who is a real gem, but she can’t even open his care packages. And then in one freakish moment when she’s forced herself to go into town, she’s caught up in an internet video where she has to stare at a boy for 180 seconds. That scene alone is worth reading the book. Esben, the hero of this story, is almost too good to be true, but he has his major hidden flaws as well. The romance is a rollicking ride of self-discovery and interconnectedness of the internet and how it drives the lives of these kids. So, it’s almost fantasy, but it’s fun fantasy. For a feel good read, try this one.
Mary Jo read and recommends David Rosenfelt's Andy Carpenter Series & Dogtripping
David Rosenfelt is a humorous mystery/legal thriller writer who really, really loves dogs. (He has also has a thriller series that looks a little dark for my tastes.) The Andy Carpenter stories have a very specific template: Andy is a New Jersey defense attorney who inherited a lot of money so he doesn't have to work, which is good because he is dead lazy and really hates working. He loves sports, his golden retriever Tara, and Laurie Collins, the love of his life, an ex-cop/private investigator who is way more dangerous than Andy.
As I mentioned, he hates work, but every now and then he takes on a case, invariably because of some kind of personal connection to the accused. Against almost impossible odds, Andy wins the case and celebrates with his teams in his favorite sports bar. <G> The stories are fast moving and fun, if you don't mind very efficient hit men killing off fairly anonymous characters before they can become witnesses for Andy's case.
But the most fun book of all is Dogtripping, Rosenfelt's non fiction account of how he and his wife Debbie moved from California to Maine. They are both dog fanatics and they ran a rescue organization in Southern California, particularly oriented to golden retrievers. They placed many dogs in good homes, and when dogs were unadoptable because of age or infirmity–they took those dogs home with them.
Which is how they ended up with 25 personal dogs that had to be transported to their new home in Maine. Most were old, some were ill, some were blind or otherwise unlikely to be adopted by anyone else. What all the dogs had in common were that they were large. (One of them, Wanda, was an English mastiff the size of a Shetland pony.
Dogtripping is part Rosenfelt trying to figure out how to get All Those Dogs to Maine, interspersed with short chapters on how individual dogs came into their lives. For example, Tessie was tied in front of a shelter with a note that said she was 14 and a great dog, but the owners were going on vacation and didn't want to pay to board her. You can imagine how Rosenfelt reacted to that! He and his wife adopted Tessie and she lived four more happy years. There are lots of lovely little stories like that.
The book's tagline is "25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on our Canine Cross-Country Adventure," which is about how their odyssey played out. Maine was chosen for their new home because no one else was within barking distance. <G> All the dogs made it safely, the volunteers had a wonderful time and thanked David and Debbie for the opportunity to have such fun–and David was a total nervous wreck. <G> But he and his wife and his rescue dogs are now living happily ever after in Maine.
Nicola says: A couple of weeks holiday this month gave me the opportunity to catch up on lots of different sorts of reading. I had a definite yen for psychological thrillers so picked up The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, which was a twisty page-turner with an unreliable heroine. I followed this up with JD Robb Apprentice in Death which I found compelling but very stark.
One of my favourite reads was Less by Andrew Sean Greer. It’s a bittersweet love story about Arthur Less, whose younger male partner has walked out on him to marry someone closer in age. Arthur’s adventures, as he tries to run away from his midlife crisis, are funny and sweet and I derived a lot of entertainment from the fact that Arthur is also a less-than-successful literary novelist. I really enjoyed this one.
I’ve also been re-organising my bookshelves and re-reading some of my keepers. I came across The Return of Rafe MacKade by Nora Roberts and thought it had stood the test of time pretty well (it was written in the mid-1990s). I’d forgotten it had some spooky overtones as well, which made it perfect for a Halloween time of year. I loved the renovation of the haunted house and learning about the Battle of Antietam – as well as the hot romance!
Andrea says: I’ve been combining mystery with romance in my reading this month, and was delighted to glom up the latest books by two of my “auto-read” authors!
I’ve been eagerly awaiting Robert Galbraith’s newest Cormoran Strike mystery novel. It’s been a long time coming (J.K. Rowling was busy with screenplays—pout, pout!) However Lethal White proved well worth the wait. I love how she writes such richly complex characters, full of vulnerabilities but also elemental strengths that they don’t always recognize themselves. The twisty plot weaves together questions about family, love, betrayal, memory, and to what lengths one is willing to go to protect one’s public persona. Both Strike and his partner Robin Ellicott, are dealing with troubles in their personal relationships, as well as the challenges of their expanded PI agency. They take on a case for a very high profile politician and then, well, things get complicated. What I particularly liked was the way she developed the bonds of friendship between Strike and Robin, who has a lot of self-confidence issues. It’s lovely, and the resolution of the layers-within-layers mystery is really gripping. It’s a “softer" books than the others in the series—at heart I think Rowlings is a real romantic . . . and this shines through. Plus the resolution of what the title means is a wonderful end twist! I highly recommend it (but it’s best if you’ve read the others in the series to appreciate the character development.)
I also raced through Susanna’s new book Bellewether! I always love her settings and the way she weaves in the dual time stories, but this one was particulaly fascinating as it’s set in my neck of the woods. (I live right on Long Island Sound so look across at Long Island on my daily walks.) The French and Indian Wars, which is the time slip era, is also really interesting. I’ve always wondered why Colonial America isn’t more of a popular era—it has so much rich history and challenges for characters. The modern part features a museum and the heroine is a curator, so I was doubly hooked! This, too, is a book about families . . . and how they deal with loss, and with the complexities of love. It’s a wonderful read, weaving together history and fun inside look at the workings of a small museum. And as always with Susanna’s books, there’s unexpected twist at the end!
Susan says: A little old, a little new this month in my reading pile, starting with Rhys Bowen's Twelve Clues of Christmas, the sixth installment in her Royal Spyness mystery series featuring Lady Georgianna, a delightfully curious and gently impoverished member of the royal family in 1930s Britain. This time, Georgie is part of a house party at Christmas time as murders start to pile up in the village with an eerie holiday theme. I'm a big fan of this clever series, with its wonderfully evocative atmosphere of England in the '30s, and in this one, the Christmasy detail and solid characters, along with the growing romance between Georgie and a yummy Irish lord, make for a jolly read indeed. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the late Katherine Kellgren. Just wonderful.
I'm as likely to pick up an older read as a newer one sometimes, particularly when life gets very distracting and there's little time to focus on reading. Recently I returned to Elizabeth Peters' Crocodile on the Sandbank–my ultimate plan being to read the first couple of these again for a jump start to reading the later books in the series that I still haven't gotten to yet. The brilliant and straight-backed Amelia Peabody and big, blustery, equally brilliant Emerson are some of the best characters in historical mystery, and I find details of 19th c. Egyptian archaeology, and ancient Egypt, endlessly fascinating. Reacquainting myself with this series is not just pure enjoyment, it also rates as a comfort read just when needed!
Like Andrea, I'm reading Robert Galbraith's Lethal White, but have only just started it I'm a big fan of this extremely intelligent and beautifully crafted series (Rowling is amazing!). I'm an equally huge fan of the BBC production, C.B. Strike, of the same books. Well worth it, if you feel inclined.
Joanna here: I'm always on the lookout for cozy mysteries that carry me away from the worry and turmoil of the real world. I have found a series that's warm and light and clever. I'm so happy. Best of all, this new-to-me author has a splendid backlist that will keep me curled up happy in my chair for who knows how long.
Donna Andrews writes almost local to me. Her mysteries are set in various spots in southern Virginia. I keep recognizing places. The amateur-detective protagonist, Meg Longslow, is an iron worker. A blacksmith. A wielder of hammer and tongs. We are treated to her small-town-and-most-of-these-weirdos-are-related-to-me life.
Probably a lot of you already read Andrews. If not, why not start with Murder with Peacocks, which seems to be the first in the series. Meg copes with three weddings, peacocks, and a murder. What's not to like?
And lastly it's me, Anne. I've been reading Christina Lauren, a new-to-me author duo who writes fun contemporary romances set in the USA. So far I've read Josh & Hazel's Guide to Not Dating, and Roomies.
In Josh & Hazel's Guide to Not Dating, Hazel has been smitten with her best friend's brother for years. She's an outspoken chaotic klutz, he's incredibly smooth, so she knows it will never work. Hazel's answer is to keep Josh very firmly in "friend" territory.
Roomies is a green card/marriage of convenience story. The heroine has a crush on a brilliant busker. When her uncle needs a new musician for his smash hit Broadway show, she takes him to hear the busker. But he's an Irishman whose green card has expired.
I've also been rereading some of my comfort reads, in this case Eva Ibbotson — Magic Flutes, A Countess Below Stairs (sold as A Secret Countess in some places) and The Morning Gift. These books never get old. Their new covers have been designed to appeal to young people, but believe me, these are books for adult, and lovely ones too.
So, over to you, O wenchly readers — what books have you read and enjoyed in the last month?
And, also . . . HAPPY HALLOWE'EN.