Anne here, hosting the June edition of What We've Read this month.
Pat's up first: Unlike other authors who say they can’t read what they’re writing, I tend to read a lot of what I’m writing because it puts my mind in the right groove. If I’m in a romance groove while reading a mystery, it can get messy. Heroes may die. So I’ve been in a mystery frame of mind lately.
I can’t remember if I mentioned Patrice Greenwood’s A FATAL TWIST OF LEMON that I finished a few weeks back. This is a very pleasant, laidback cozy set in an old house turned into a tea room in Santa Fe. There’s a small romance and bits of history and it’s just a lovely book for kicking back on a lazy day.
I just finished Donna Andrews’ A MURDER HATCHED, which is more of a riotous circus compared to Greenwood’s proper tea party manners. The heroine is maid of honor in three different weddings in a small town, so we have a three ring circus even before people start getting snuffed. Luckily, her love interest is running the local bridal shop for his mother. Unluckily, she thinks he’s gay, despite all evidence to the contrary. No real dark moments and lots of laughter, so another good summer read.
And I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve apparently missed some of the Dorothy Sayers’ Peter Wimsey stories. So I’m currently digging into THE UNPLEASANTNESS AT THE BELLONA CLUB. The story is driving me crazy, because I’m absolutely certain I know who did it, right up until the moment the story spins around and goes another direction. And Peter knows all without telling the reader, which makes him a fascinating character— and this is a mystery without any clues
Nicola says: This month has mostly been about trying to write through all the home renovations we are doing so most of my reading matter has been Homebuilding and Renovating Magazine with especial focus on how to instal a new bathroom. I have managed to keep going with my glom on Deborah Crombie's Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James crime series; this month's book was Water Like a Stone and was another fabulous crime mystery wrapped in a thought-provoking story about family relationships. I'm now moving on to Joanna Trollope's reworking of Sense and Sensibility.
Susan says: Seems like I'm always reading something new and something old, and this month I confess to digging way back into the TBRS (TBR Someday) pile returning to a book that I read halfway long ago and loved, but for various reasons not at all related to the book, I set aside with intentions to return.
I started at the beginning and I'm happily plowing through Laurie R. King's THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE, and I'm loving it and sorry I waited so long. What an intelligent, clever, well-paced read with a delightful premise, as Mary Russell takes on (and innocently enchants) the great sleuth Sherlock, brilliantly portrayed by King. What an achievement! I'm nearly done with TBA and ready to move on to the next one - and I will do that quickly this time!
From the new section of the TBR pile, I'm reading THE MAGICIANS by Lev Grossman - this on the very strong recommendations of the guys in my household, who are enthusiastically moving ahead in the series. It's a fascinating, beautifully written tale of ordinary life meeting a magical realm with a twist - Narnia and Harry Potter all grown up. I'm also reading, much more slowly, the first GAME OF THRONES -- this too on the urging of the Guys, who are all big readers. I like to keep up with the family conversations, and they make me curious to read the original, even though I'm watching the series (yes, I can take it, though now and then I have to look away, but the story power alone is worth it, I think). I was reluctant to read the first novel (and feeling a bit overwhelmed at the undertaking), but it's a fast read, far beyond the cable version, and powerfully written. I am in awe.
Mary Jo says: I just finished reading Anna Jacobs' five book Trader Series. Jacobs is a writer of British sagas, a form of historical women's fiction that often features working class women from Northern England who struggle to improve their lives. Her research is impeccable and she's known for her happy endings, so there tend to be a lot of nice romances in her broad cast of characters! I love her strong heroines. Jacobs was born in Lancashire, spent most of her adult life in Western Australia, and now has homes in both countries, so it's not surprising that a number of her books are about people emigrating to Australia in search of a better life. The popular Trader series is built around a clever Irish groom, Bram Deagan, who travels to the East as a servant and decides to stay and become a trader based in the Swan River Colony, which is now Western Australia.
At the suggestion of a wise Chinese merchant in Singapore, Bram marries the English Isabella Saunders, a match that grows from a marriage of convenience into a true and loving partnership. Finding success in his trading, he wants to bring over family members so they, too, can have more opportunities. This takes five books to accomplish <G>, and other interesting characters are met--and married off!--along the way.
Jacobs has the gift of creating engaging characters, and I loved visiting Bram's world. Partly that's because I love Australia, but also because the underlying dynamic of braving a long and frightening journey into the unknown in search of a better life resonates in my American soul since we are also a nation of immigrants. A good symbol for these stories is Ford Madox Brown's famous painting, The Last of England, as a young couple modeled on Brown and his wife look steadfastly ahead from a ship, their expressions a little sad but determined.
If you'd like to try Anna Jacobs' version of romantic historical women's fiction, a good place to start would be with The Trader's Wife, first in the Trader series. Though Anna Jacobs' books are to some extent available in the US, if you like print, the best way to get them is through The Book Depository in Britain. The company does free shipping around the world, and here a link for The Trader's Wife. All five books feature a woman looking out to her future.
Joanna here: I didn't get much reading done this month, I'm afraid. However, I did just finish Tony Hillerman's 'Listening Woman'. For those of you who haven't read Hillerman, he writes a series of mystery book based in the American western desert on AmerIndian tribal lands. Leaphorn, the Navaho policeman, solves murders using a combination of logical deduction and traditional wisdom. Great stories from Hillerman. Very fine writing.
Anne here. I've been continuing my glom of Maggie Osborne's western historicals, alternating them with Lisa Kleypas's contemporaries. I've always been a big fan of her historicals, but now I'm enjoying her contemporaries—especially the Travis family series set in Texas, just as much. Fabulous fun.
Courtney Milan is someone I read when she first came out, but not having had an e-reader until fairly recently, I wasn't up to date with her self-published e-books. She's a very fine writer who comes at historicals from a fresh and original angle. If you haven't read her books, she's well worth trying. To start you off, here's a free novella.
Lastly, on the advice of a friend, I'm reading Lee Child. I was in a bit of a reading slump where very little pleased me, and my friend suggested I should read some male writers of popular fiction because, she said, they write very differently. So I read Lee Child's first book Killing Floor, and found it very engaging and a real pageturner. I've since acquired several more Lee Child books.
So that's it from us. Now, over to you — what books have you read and enjoyed this month?