Hi. Joanna here. It's a great line-up this month.
I’m a sucker for historical mysteries, especially ones that ihave arcane books involved in the plot. So when I happened to read a blurb on this, I couldn’t resist. But before I go on, I have a confession to make: I’ve been madly scrambling to finish a project, so haven’t had quite as much time for reading as usual. So I’m not all that far along in this book, but am liking it enough to recommend it.
The Burnable Book. Here’s the lead blurb on the cover flap: In Chaucer's London, betrayal, murder, royal intrigue, mystery, and dangerous politics swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England's kings.
Maybe you can see right away why I was hooked. The author, Bruce Holsinger, is a professor of Medieval History, and already the ambiance of London—from the court intrigues to the stews—is really well-done. The style is a little edgy, but I’m liking the main protagonist a lot. A friend of Geoffrey Chaucer, and fellow poet, John Gower has been asked to find a stolen book that may bring down the monarchy. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in London of Richard II, come join me in turning the pages!
When I'm deep into writing a new book, I often reread comfort books because I know I'll enjoy them and there isn't the stress of hunting down new books and maybe not finding something I like. So--currently rereading Jayne Ann Krentz romantic suspense novels. I love her Arcane series, where characters have paranormal, psychic type abilities that are both blessing and curse. WHITE LIES is a particular favorite, where the heroine can always tell if someone is lying. This is a decidedly mixed blessing. <G>
But my current reread is the Dark Legacy duo, COPPER BEACH and DREAM EYES. JAK seldom does families, but the heroes of these two books are brothers, which is fun. Sam Coppersmith, hero of Copper Beach, is the lab guy who is a genius at manipulating crystal energy. When paranormal book finder Abby Radwell needs help, she is sent to him and sparks fly. Quite literally. <G>
The second book features brother Judson Coppersmith, who is more the hands onm head-cracking sort. He's depressed because of a recent case that went disastrously wrong, so brother Sam sends him to help Gwen Frazier, a dream reader and Abby's close friend. Gwen's mentor and friend has been killed by paranormal means, and she and Judson start looking into it. There is also a large gray cat named Max that needs a home now that Gwen's friend is dead. A good cat always improves a story. <G>
I suspect that the original plan was to have a third book about Emma Coppersmith, the sister, and I even know who she'd be paired off with. (Think Romeo and Juliet.) JAK switched to books that didn't have paranormal elements and I'm sorry that Emma's story wasn't written, but the first two are good fun. JAK writes with a sleek economy of words that looks effortless, but surely isn't. I can return to her worlds over and over again. Luckily, she's written a lot of books to help me through my deadlines!
I, too, read JAK when I'm in a writing crunch. And reread. And go back in again.
For the last month or so I've been grazing along my bookshelves and baskets of books (I do love a nice big basket filled with books) -- reading a chapter or two of this, of that, not quite finding the thing to rivet my attention. Until I found Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart -- saw it on the table in Barnes & Noble and loved the cover design straight away.
Based on the real life story of the three Kopp sisters and their encounter with organized crime around 1915 in New Jersey, the novel's central character is Constance Kopp, a tall, protective spinster who accidentally (literally) stumbles upon a crime ring, stands up to it to protect her sisters and their rights, and learns to give rein to the strong woman within. The real Constance Kopp became deputy sheriff in her county, and the fictionalized version of her life--and that of her sisters--is fascinating. The story is warm, funny, fast-paced, historically accurate, with a quirky and authentic voice that beautifully evokes the early 1900s, and I loved the character of Constance--tough, loving, with secrets slowly and intriguingly revealed. Amy Stewart, a skilled nonfiction writer, applies that skill very nicely to fiction with Girl Waits With Gun. It's also perfectly set up for a sequel, which I will definitely look for!
I've always had a soft spot for western historicals, and recently I picked up Jo Goodman's THE DEVIL YOU KNOW on the recommendation of a friend. I really enjoyed it. The story starts when a young girl finds a man near to death, after having been dragged across country a good distance. Complex characters and a good, engaging story made me head out to glom Jo Goodman's backlist, starting with the book before this one, THIS GUN FOR HIRE.
Romance Writers of Australia has listed the finalists for their annual RuBY (Romantic Book of the Year) awards.
(P.S. -- Joanna breaking in to add that Anne's on that list. So cool.)
I'd read a number of these already —both Kelly Hunter books (What A Bachelor Needs and Pursued by the Rogue) because she's an autobuy for me. And Madeline Ash's YOU FOR CHRISTMAS, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Madeline has also been shortlisted for the RITA this year (her first time) so keep an eye out for her.
Elizabeth Wein -- CODE NAME VERITY. This isn't a romance, and is, I have to say, pretty grim in places, but also un-put-downable. WW2 from the point of view of two women, one who's dropped into occupied France as a spy, and the other, her friend who is a plane mechanic and pilot.
Pat brings us MIDNIGHT CROSSROAD by Charlaine Harris.
Pat says: I’ve just got around to reading the intriguing opening for Charlaine’s latest spooky series.
MIDNIGHT is about to be made into another TV series with a huge cast of characters, none of whom are exactly what they seem. They’ve seemingly gathered together by accident in a small Texas town, although knowing the author’s predilections, I doubt anything is by accident. But in this first book we learn a little about the witch who can sometimes cast spells if she’ll just focus, a psychic con artist who really is a bit psychic, a vampire who is more energy sucker than blood, and the list goes on.
What little violence occurs is very abrupt and brief and well-deserved, so even I could handle it. There are wee touches of romance, none of which really come to fruition—yet. There’s a murder mystery and various other incidents to keep the motor running, but mostly, it’s Charlaine’s downhome warmth and characterization that keeps the pages turning. Weird, huh?
This month I’ve been reading crime: The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah.
I’ve always been a fan of Agatha Christie’s novels and this is Sophie Hannah’s rebooting of Hercule Poirot, back to solve a fiendishly complicated and fascinating murder. It’s always hard to follow in the footsteps of a hugely successful and popular author and even more so to adopt their characters, but I really enjoyed this story.
It’s very faithful to Poirot’s character, it has plenty of humour and an interesting sidekick in Catchpool, the Scotland Yard Inspector who plays the foil to Poirot’s brilliance. I find plotting tricky and admire authors who can distract you with twists and turns and red herrings and then resolve it all cleverly at the end. A real page-turner for me and fun for fans of old-style crime fiction. I'm now reading more of Sophie Hannah's books.
Me -- I've finally taken my first Terry Pratchett science fiction book from the TBR pile. It happens to be Monstrous Regiment, the story of a small town barmaid who joins the army to find her soldier brother. You know the drill ... She cuts her hair off, takes the shilling, and marches away. If not with stars in her eyes, at least with no idea what the greater world is like.
What a wild ride. How beautifully written. Funny. Wise. Thank you Terry Pratchett. This is obviously the first of many of your books I'm going to grab. Why did it take so long?
What have you been reading lately that has brought you joy, surprised and delighted you, impressed you?
One commenter, chosen at random, gets one of my books -- your choice.