Mary Jo here, and as always, the Word Wenches are reading diverse and wonderful things!
First up is Nicola Cornick:
This month I’ve been reading The Silent Fountain by Victoria Fox. It’s dual time frame novel set in the present day and in the 1970s (which seems almost contemporary to someone my age!) and spans London, Tuscany and Hollywood. Victoria Fox is better known for her blockbusters in the style of Jackie Collins and this is something completely different from her. It’s being described as a gothic suspense novel like Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and it certainly has some dark overtones, but I loved it for the atmospheric descriptions and the beautiful writing. Victoria really does write with such elegance and style; it’s a joy to read.
The Silent Fountain is a big, deep novel about secrets and relationships. There is love and romance, of course – a book usually needs to have those elements to hook me – but also mystery, drama, suspense… A fabulous read if you like books that entwine two complex and fascinating story threads. At the moment The Silent Fountain is only available in the UK but it is published in the US by MIRA in October.
The Romantic Novelists’ Association awards is also a great opportunity to find new books. There is a link to all the winners here. This year the overall prize went to Sophia Bennett with a Young Adult book called Love Song. I must admit when I first picked this up I wondered how she could make the “ordinary teenage girl falls for pop star” trope work in a new, fresh and interesting way.
Well, she did it brilliantly. The book is so funny and so insightful and I couldn’t put it down. It also made me cry because it was so emotionally engaging and true (and I don’t cry often at books!) Nina, the heroine, and her family were very realistically drawn and the boys in The Point as well as being the hottest band in the world were revealed as real people. It was such a fun read and I’m recommending it to everyone. Sophia’s latest book, Following Ophelia, is set in the Pre-Raphaelite era and I have that on my TBR for my holiday!
My reading this month has all been non-fiction—though the two books both read like novels! First up is The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf. I’ve waxed (or gushed) enthusiastic on it in great detail on the Word Wench blog, but to summarize it here, it’s a fascinating account of an extraordinary man—scientist, explorer, educator, artist, mentor—who literally changed the way we look at the world. Now recognized as the father of ecology, Humboldt studied biology, zoology, geology. and was the first to see how they all interconnected in one great web of life.
Just as important as his meticulous recording of data and facts, he also brought a sense of joy and wonder to the beauties of the world. His writings inspired countless scientists, poets, and writers—including Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman. Wulf not only captures the essence of the man, but does a marvelous job of placing him within the context of his era. I found it to be history writing at its best.
A friend recently sent me a vignette from The New Yorker magazine by the legendary spy novelist John le Carre, in which he reminisced on his experience of working with Richard Burton on the filming The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. I found it so entertaining and wonderfully written that I promptly ordered his anthology, The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life.
The essays are absolutely delightful. He writes with a quintessentially British self-effacing humor, combining sly wit and keen powers of observation to capture the absurdities and foibles of mankind—himself included! And as he’s led such a fabulously interesting life, you get to jet-set to all sorts of chic and exotic locations around the world. Each essay is fairly short, so they can be enjoyed like fine chocolate—a richly nuanced bite at a time!
Anne Gracie has had a busy month of reading!
I have quite a few recommendations from my reading in the last month. First up is Pretty Face by Lucy Parker. Set in the British acting world, Pretty Face is as engaging and entertaining as the first in the series, Act Like It, which has featured on previous Wenchly recommendations.
Next up is Sophie Kinsella's My Not So Perfect Life, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There's a wonderful unexpected twist which I think will surprise and delight readers as much it did me.
I've also read Someone to Hold, the second in Mary Balogh's latest series, which explores the impact of illegitimacy and legitimacy in the Regency era. Wonderful series. I'm really enjoying it. If you haven't yet read it, grab Someone to Love -- the first book, which sets everything up.
Mary Jo has mentioned Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion, before and when I was away recently I realized I had it on my kindle, unread, so I started reading it on a plane. I've now read the second book in the series and am moving on to the third.
Lastly I read Lisa Kleypas's new book, Devil in Spring, which follows the Wallflower series into the next generation, and found it very enjoyable, too.
Not a lot of reading time this past month, but I did indulge in a new historical mystery, A Quiet Life in the Country by T. E. Kinsey, and quite enjoyed it. In England around 1900, Lady Hardcastle and her lady's maid, Florence, take a house in the countryside for a little relaxation. They have a comfortable friendship and independent turn of mind, and when a murder occurs in the local village, that bond, and their natural curiosity, wit and intelligence helps them sort through some intriguing clues. An interesting turn on this start to a promising series is that Flo narrates in first person, and is as much a detective at work as Lady Hardcastle, and the hints at some curious backgrounds--the lady has had some escapades in the past, and her maid was raised by circus performers, so one naturally wonders what future mysteries will bring out in these two!
I've just picked up The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman, and I'm liking it very much so far. The premise is the existence of an extensive, one might say infinite, library and the need for covert operatives who find lost books and steal them back for the library--one such is Irene, a young woman who is spy, sleuth and magician, now and then, in order to capture the books, risking dangers from monsters and dark magic in this complex and fascinating alternate world. The pace is quick, the characters and writing good and clever, and the story very entertaining. I'm not done yet, but already eyeing the next book in the series.
I have not read a thing! Not anything. Nada, Nil, Zilch! Well, except Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel in bed as I'm settling down and I haven't got very far in that. GG&S replaces Plagues and People as my cheerful bedtime reading.
Mary Jo here!
I knew I wouldn't have to mention Lucy Parker's delightful Pretty Face because Anne would. <G> I loved this witty West End theatrical romance just as much Parker's first, Act Like It.
A big event in my reading year is always the annual Patricia Briggs urban fantasy, and I devoured Silence Fallen as soon as it hit my mailbox. The book is in 10th in her wonderful Mercedes Thompson series, in which Mercy is half Native American, a coyote shifter, and a Volkswagen mechanic in the Tri-Cities area of the Washington State.
In a world populated by werewolves, vampires, the fae, and others, she sees herself as inconsequential since her only superpower is being able to shift into a 30 pound coyote. But she is very good at loyalty, building alliances with others, and survival. There's also a great romance running through the books as Mercy falls in love and marries Adam, the Alpha werewolf of the area and her next door neighbor.
In Silence Fallen, Mercy is yanked away from her familiar world and friends when she is kidnapped and wakes up in a strange and dangerous place in Italy and she can no longer feel her mating bond with Adam. Naked and alone, she needs to escape and find her way to safety and find new allies while Adam gathers a posse of her friends and frenemies and heads to Europe to find her.
There's lots of action, explanation of events past, and Briggs' trademark humor. (A member of the posse is Larry the Goblin King. As he says, what were his parents thinking? <G>) It's best to read the series from the beginning, but if you're a fan of Mercy and Adam, this is a must read. Because as Mercy decides toward the end, as Coyote's daughter, her real superpower is chaos. <G>
So lots of good suggestions this month! What have you been reading and enjoying? Please tell us!
Mary Jo, who has already bought several of the books recommended above.