Susan here -- introducing a new feature on Word Wenches: What We’re Reading!
We Wenches are reading all the time – fiction, nonfiction, genre, classics, research, cereal boxes, catalogs, coffee mugs, and our own books as they evolve on the computer screen or page. And we thought it might be nice now and then, as the mood strikes and the books pile up, to mention some of the titles and authors we’re currently reading. These are not intended as reviews -- it's simply our pleasure to share some of the books we're reading and enjoying lately. We hope you all will share what you’re now reading as well. So -- on to the first edition of What We’re Reading . . .
I’m currently reading Terry Pratchett's Dodger, a Victorian fantasy in which Charles Dickens and many other historical persons are featured, along with a wonderfully gallant sewer rat hero and a much abused princess. I’m also reading Third Grave Ahead by Darynda Jones, a hilarious series in which the P.I. heroine is the grim reaper who can talk to the departed souls of murder victims and who is insanely attracted to Satan's son, who is currently locked behind bars. Love the humor and appreciate that the violence is kept to a minimum.
Mary Jo Putney
January is the month when Jayne Ann Krentz’s romantic suspense novels are published, and I polished off her latest entry, Dream Eyes, in no time. She writes a swift, sleek story, and I like the paranormal aspect of the books: humans with powerful psychic abilities rather than vampires and shapeshifters and the like. Her characters are adults, which is always pleasant, and in Dream Eyes they work together to solve a mystery with roots in the past. The heroine, Gwen, sees ghosts, and they tend to be rude to her. <G> The hero, Judson, is a member of the rich Coppersmith family, who have made fortunes in mining rare earths. And there’s even a cat! This is the second of the Dark Legacy series, with the hero the brother of the first book’s hero, and if I had to guess, I’d say their sister will be the heroine of the next book, and I have a darned good idea of who the hero will be. <G> Looking forward to it.
The other book that I just read and loved is a no brainer: Wench Anne Gracie’s February book, The Autumn Bride, the first book in her Chance Sisters Series. I got to read it early because I’m interviewing her about the story on February. So tune in then to learn more! It’s delightful.
Another fun book I just finished was a "novel in three parts" called The Lady Most Willing by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway. Set in 1819, it features a wild, widowed Highland laird who swoops down onto a nobleman's ball with his loyal retainers to scoop up some heiresses to give to his two nephews and heirs so the irritating fellows will marry and beget more heirs. Loyal retainers end up with three heiresses, a Scottishlass who is well enough but no fortune, and one VERY irritated duke. Whereupon they're all snowed into the laird's castle together and much fun ensues.
On the non-fiction end, I've been reading A Pig in Provence, a memoir by food writer Georgeanne Brennan. It tells of her life in Provence from the time she moved there in 1970 for a simpler life and a chance to make traditional goat cheese, and how her life and family and career all grew and flourished. I bought it because I just liked her writing (the first scene has her and her husband trying to choose goats for their new herd), and it's a delightful visit to another world.
Joanna here. Right now I'm reading one fiction and one nonfiction. Big contrast between them. My non-fiction is The Letters of Jane Austen. I have a sturdy, palm-sized, hardcover version -- it may be ex-library -- that I can put in my rucksack. I love it. It's a sort of Regency yellow. You know how the Austen novels are marvelous -- biting, sharp, clear, clever. She wrote the same way when she wrote to her family. The letters are wonderful little stories of life in Regency England with a side of insight into the author's mind.
Then, I go to the opposite end of the writing spectrum -- from letters discussing the delicate nuances of an ordered society to dystopian chaos. With shape shifters. My fiction read is Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews. This is part of a Paranormal Romance series. A vigorous adventure and a fine love story.
I've been glomming Juliet Marillier's back list for the last few months, rationing them to prolong the pleasure. This month I've read the trilogy that starts with The Well of Shades. Juliet Marillier writes historical fantasy set usually in ancient Ireland and Scotland and the stories are beautifully written, gripping and though the books aren't romances, they each have a wonderful love story at their heart AND they end happily. I've been recommending them to all my friends.
I've also been rereading some of my old favorites — Mary Balogh, Carla Kelly, Lisa Kleypas. As far as new romances are concerned, I've recently read Eloisa James's When Beauty Tamed the Beast. If you ever watched "House" on TV, this is her historical version of him. I think it's my favorite of her books.
Finally, following the recommendation of a friend, I read the first of a crime series by Elly Griffiths — The Crossing Places. I really liked the main characters, Dr. Ruth Galloway, an archaeologist who specializes in bones, and the police detective, Harry Nelson. I've ordered the rest of the series.
I'm currently reading a mix of fiction and non-fiction. On my desk are several research books for my new Scottish series. The first, Women of the Highlands by Katharine Stewart, examines women's roles in creating the culture of the Scottish Highlands from the role women played in the Jacobite Rebellions to marriage customs and witchcraft. It's completely engrossing. I'm also reading a fabulous book about the history of tartan, by Hugh Cheape.
Fictionwise I have Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke, a children's paranormal story about a boy who calls on the help of the ghost of medieval knight William Longespee. It's brilliant and the character of Longespee is very attractive for someone who has been dead for hundreds of years! I've also just started When You Give A Duke A Diamond by HWW Shana Galen. I always enjoy her books!
I'm traveling at the moment and apart from my Kindle content I'm picking up what's around, which doesn't include any romance or historical fiction, as it happens.
Dick Francis. I've read one or two in the past, but in this spell I have read three and enjoyed them. Good plotting and characters. I don't find the racing world particularly interesting, however, so they'll not be a mainstay. Lee Child. Action/thrillers aren't huge for me because often they're not only violent but revel in it. "Real men have a short fuse and hurt anyone who blinks twice at them." I find Lee's Jack Reacher character fascinatingly different. Big, almost unbeatable man (probably every male reader's fantasy -- and Tom Cruise? Such a stupid move) who's slow to stir and really wants to get along with everyone but can't stand by if others are being hurt. They are well plotted, and rather complex plots, which I enjoy.
MC Beaton's Hamish Macbeth mysteries. This is a surprise pleasure for me. Beaton also wrote Regencies as Marion Chesney and I very much enjoyed her Six Sister's books, but then I found that the sharp-edged wit became a bit too sharp at times, and that the tone was often sour, so I stopped reading her. I tried one of her Agatha Raisin mysteries and found the same rather bitter tone in Agatha. But I thought I'd give Hamish a try, and I found I really like his character. There's the same edge in the descriptions of some of the suspects, but that's more acceptable to me so I'll keep reading them, and I might even try and pick up the TV series.
Cara Elliott/Andrea Penrose
I always have a couple of books going, usually a nonfiction and fiction so I can jump back and forth depending on my mood. And with winter bringing short days and long nights (very conducive to curling up with a book and a cup of tea) I recently began The Birth of the Modern by Paul Johnson, which several friends had highly recommended. It’s been on my shelf for a while, and I am so glad I finally made the commitment to start—it’s very long but absolutely fascinating, especially to a history nerd like me who find all the little esoteric stories and facts absolutely fascinating. For me, Johnson does a brilliant job at not only telling wonderful anecdotes to illustrate his various themes, but also of giving a lucid and well-written overview of a myriad of very complex issues and events. For anyone who loves the Regency era and it’s transition into the industrial age, I would say this is must reading.
But as it’s the coldest part of the winter, I’ve also chosen to escape to the exotic heat of the Middle East . . . we Wenches were recently discussing Mary Stewart’s book among ourselves and how they were great influences on us when we were early teenagers. So of course I was inspired to dig out one of my old editions and start re-reading. I chose The Gabriel Hounds, and am greatly enjoying revisiting a favorite writer. It’s a fun read and reminds me of how magical Stewart's books were to me as a young reader.
At the moment I’m making my way through several books, among them Eon by Alison Goodman, and I’m enjoying the fantasy spin on martial arts and Asian themes. I’m nearly through The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss –- a rich, dark, compelling fantasy novel that moves at a brisk pace (and kept me reading even while I was flattened by the flu). Usually when I’m down with flu, my comfort read is a Mary Stewart, and so I read My Brother Michael again--and loved it once again. I also recently finished Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrandt. It’s a tough subject but the author kept me going--Hillenbrandt drives her uncompromising nonfiction using the best elements of fiction. And a good, fast and fascinating recent read was Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander—a doctor’s perspective on his own NDE. Loved it. Now to finish these and move on to more books!
Now that we've shared what we're reading -- have you read some of these titles too? What are YOU reading just now?