Cara/Andrea here, Each month we try to respond to questions about . . . well, whatever strikes the fancy of our readers! However, one of the most frequent questions we're asked is what books the Wenches are enjoying. And as we are all as passionate about reading as we are about writing, we are always delighted to share what's on our current list. So withour further ado . . .
I've not had a great amount of time to read lately, I'm very sorry to say. I have two books sitting beside my TV chair that I'm reading out of professional interest. I have a mystery thriller on my NordicTrak that is collecting dust because I'm just now getting back to exercising after the little wrist incident, and I have several books I'm reading on my Nook while I sit in waiting rooms or just before bed when and if I've finished all my work. Those are books by favorite authors, and the one I finally had time to finish this week is our own Jo's The Scandalous Countess. (I read Anne's Bride By Mistake and Joanna's The Black Hawk last month, which shows how far behind I am! And Nicola's Desired still languishes unread) I adore how smoothly Jo slips in fascinating tidbits of history, then hits us with one of the hottest, most original sex scenes I've read in a long time. And her scarred hero is utterly perfect in all ways, even if he wins the lady in a horse race!
I seem to be going through a Young Adult patch in my reading right now. I don't know why. I've just finished War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. It’s Urban Fantasy and very good. Readalikes are Peter S. Beagle's Folk of the Air, Robin McKinley's Sunshine, and Mercedes Lackey's Spirits White As Lightning . Recently finished The Iron Duke by Meljean Brooks, a dystopian bit of fiction I'd like to call Young Adult Romantic Fantasy. Is that hitting all the bases? Beautiful work, and at the heart of the story is an examination of living with racial prejudice. I finished off with C.S. Harris' Why Mermaids Sing. Her Sebastian St. Cyr books are mystery, love story, and adventure set in the Regency/ French Revolutionary / Napoleonic War era. They have spies. Does this sound a bit familiar?
Susan Fraser King:
My eyes are bigger than my bookshelf -- so I accumulate quickly and just as quickly fall behind, but lately I'm diligently working my way through an eclectic assortment of fiction and nonfiction. I've just finished A History of Everyday Life in Medieval Scotland, 1000-1600, edited by Edward J. Cowan and Liz Henderson -- read it because I was asked to review it for an academic journal, and kept reading it because it's an excellent assortment of scholarly investigations into ordinary life concerns. Fiction-wise, I recently read I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, the fourth book in Alan Bradley's simply brilliant and totally charming mystery series about 11-year-old British sleuth Flavia de Luce (a series I adore, can you tell?). Right now, I'm deep into Keith Donohue's The Stolen Child, a fascinating story about the lives of a fairy changeling and the fairy-captured boy he replaces. Magical circumstances as every day occurrences, straightforward yet poetic writing, subtle characterization -- I'm loving it.
Mary Jo Putney
I just finished the delicious sixth Corinna Chapman mystery by Kerry Greenwood, Cooking the Books. I discovered the series after Anne Gracie interviewed Kerry on the Word Wenches.
The stories are set in contemporary Melbourne and feature Corinna, former accountant and now a master baker, along with an extremely colorful cast of cats and other secondary characters. The series is long on wit and charm and short on gore, which suits me.
In this just released book, Corinna has closed the bakery for a month after Christmas so she can rest, and finds herself ill-suited to holidays. Bored, she lets an old school chum twist her arm into baking for the cast of a TV pilot. She finds actors both horrifying and fascinating, and is soon up to her ears in baking, bearer bonds, and assorted other mayhem. (There’s a tiger who loves anchovies, among other things. <G>)
I love Corinna, a happy and unashamed size 20, and it’s always fun when people are startled by the gorgeousness of her kind and clever Israeli P.I. lover. Even more, I love Corrina’s world. Having scarfed down all six in the series, I am impatiently waiting for new entries.
I'm reading Beyond The Night, an apocalyptic romance by Joss Ware, who also writes vampire Regency as Colleen Gleason. Generally I'm not into any sort of apocalypse, and I gave up SF for a while way back when that seemed to be all there was, but somehow Joss Ware makes her dark, ruined world fascinating. Plus, the characters and relationships are complex and very well done.
I've been reading a few debut books, recently. The first is Cecilia Grant's A Lady Awakened, which is an unusual historical romance with quite a risky premise, especially for a first book. I found it an engrossing read. The writing is very assured, and I'll certainly read her next book.
The other debut book is Deanna Raybourne's first book, Silent in the Grave, the first in a historical mystery series. I've come to her late and I'm glad of it because there are already more in the series, and though I'm only into chapter five, I suspect I'll be ordering the rest.
Next on my list is Lindsey Davis's Alexandria (and yes, I know I'm running behind, that there is a new book out now.) If you haven't discovered Lindsey Davis's Falco series of Roman-era mysteries, get thee to a bookstore immediately, because they're wonderful. Funny, clever, wry, beautifully researched and with a cast of delightful characters — and there's a lovely on-going romance as well. And if you're in doubt of whether you'll like her work, try her website with its delightful rants page. http://www.lindseydavis.co.uk/rants.htm
I’m having something of a rummage through my keeper shelves at the moment and enjoying some of my favourites over again. I’ve just finished Ordinary Girl in a Tiara, a fabulous girl-meets-her-Prince story by Jessica Hart who is one of my favourite Mills & Boon contemporary authors. I’m a total sucker for stories like this – last year I fell in love with Sophie Page’s wonderful romance To Marry a Prince. Both Ordinary Girl in a Tiara and the sequel The Secret Princess are wonderful warm romantic stories.
I’ve also been re-reading The Belle Dames Club by Melinda Hammond, a traditional Regency that is a lot of fun. It’s all about the wicked antics of a secret club for ladies! Also on the historical side, but historical crime this time, I’ve just finished The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey. It’s a Georgian murder mystery with a delicious romance and a wonderful sleuthing heroine in Ottilia Draycott. The second book in the series, The Deathly Portent, is out next month and I can’t wait! Next on my pile is The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley and I'm really looking forward to that!
Cara Elliott/Andrea Penrose
My recent reading choices have been two very, very different types of books—yet both were really enjoyable. Mysteries are one of my favorite genres, and I happened to spot an interesting title on the “New Releases” shelf at my local library by a new-to-me author and so decided to give it a try. Death and the Maiden, by Gerald Elias is set within the world of classical music, and the plot centers around a (fictional) world -renowned string quartet—they are about to perform Schubert’s famous work by that same name at Carnegie Hall—who are in the midst of internal feuding and a potentially crippling lawsuit by a disgruntled former member. When the first violinist goes missing, the curmudgeonly former concert violinist and teacher, Daniel Jacobus is convinced by his protege to do some investigating. “Jake” is a fascinating protagonist—to begin with, he’s elderly and he’s blind. And he’s got a sardonic view of the world. It’s very well-written, with pithy dialogue and twisty plot turns. I learned a lot about the inner world of music, which I know little about, so it was a fun read. I’ll be looking for the two earlier books in the series.
And at the moment, I’m halfway through Catherine the Great by Robert Massie. I’ve been a big fan of Massie’s books for years. (Peter the Great and Nicholas and Alexandra are particular favorites.) I love how he makes his subjects so human, and how he weaves in the history of the times, so a reader really understands the personality in context to the world in which he or she lived. (I was lucky enough to hear Massie speak last week in New York, and he’s equally wonderful in person. His passion for his subjects is very evident as he reads excerpts from their letters and tells some of the amusing anecdotes that he has uncovered in his research.)
It would be hard NOT to make Catherine the Great a riveting read. Her story, from a loveless childhood as an obscure German princess to a bizarre marriage with the half-crazy Peter III to becoming one of the most powerful rulers of her age, is absolutely fascinating. She is truly one of the most remarkable women in history, so I really recommend it!
So, that's what we've been enjoying. How about you? See any of your favorites on the list? And now it's your turn—please share what books you've been reading that made you heart sing.