Susan here, presenting our February choices for WWR—What We’re Reading—and more. Over these last wintry weeks all around the globe (in cold, balmy, rainy or hot weather!), some of us have been watching more than reading lately, from movies to TV detectives to puppies. Scroll down for our favorite picks, and let us know what you’ve been reading and/or watching lately too. And happy Leap Year today, February 29 -- especially to any Leap Year birthdays out there!
Anne here, doing a bit of a catch-up of my reading. We ended up talking about "comfort reads" for our WWR in November, and so I never mentioned my new read of Carla Kelly's Doing No Harm, which I really enjoyed. As well this month, I've continued my glom of Robin Hobb books and have now read my way through most of her backlist. Can't wait for Assassin's Fate, which will be out in 2017.
I've also finished the five Sharon Shinn "angel" series book that started with Archangel — well worth reading.
I've also been catching up on Louise Penny and have read How The Light Gets In and The Long Way Home, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. It might look as though I've read no romance this month, but actually I've been reading books for the Romance Writers of America RITA competition. But I can't talk about them, so that's all folks from me for now.
I’ve recently enjoyed a warm-hearted cozy mystery, Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues by Blaize Clement. On Siesta Key everybody’s favorite pet sitter, (and former sheriff’s deputy,) Dixie Hemingway, gets involved in a bizarre murder.
I’ll admit I was less interested in who killed whom than in the beleaguered iguana who witnessed it all. Dixie’s passionate defense of all that yowls and scratches and sheds feathers warmed my heart. Way to go, Dixie.
My other book this month is Deanna Raybourn’s A Curious Beginning. In Victorian England, Veronica Speedwell, an intrepid and liberated lepidopterist, meets Stoker, enigmatic, bad-tempered naturalist. Murder, attempted kidnapping, taxidermy, and life in a travelling circus enliven the pair’s flight through the English countryside.
Who is the criminal mastermind chasing them and what does he want? When do Veronica and Stoker make love?
Is elephant taxidermy even possible under these circumstances?
This is Book One in the series. We’ll find out ...
This month I seem to have spent a disproportionate time watching Ethel, the new Guide Dog puppy. Ethel is 12 weeks old now and very quick to learn. She has already started her guide dog training. At home, though, she is just like any other puppy and loves play and cuddles. It’s extraordinary how much time I can spend simply watching her enjoying discovering things like her reflection, or wrestling with her toys.
In between Ethel, writing and other stuff I have also managed to watch The Night Manager, the new adaptation of the book by John Le Carré that is on the BBC at the moment. It’s superb, but then I could watch Tom Hiddleston in almost anything. I have to confess that I have never read Le Carré but I have enjoyed the TV and film adaptations I’ve seen. Although I enjoy thrillers I don't tend to read spy stories yet I always enjoy watching them. In The Night Manager the plotting is tight and suspenseful, the characterisation is clear and compelling and I have fun trying to stay ahead of the twists!
I’m in another reading slump, with nothing but Jo’s fabulous The Viscount Takes A Wife to keep me going. But I have actually been watching some television. We don’t get any of the fancy channels—we have to hunt HBO shows on Netflix—so most of my TV watching is on the main networks. I’ve loved Elementary since its inception but there are two new shows that we’re following—Lucifer, and You, Me, and the Apocalypse.
Lucifer, on Fox, is based on a line from Neil Gaiman about the devil taking a vacation—a fascinating concept in itself. The show opens with Lucifer Morningstar running an exclusive bar and dance club. He has his hellish protector tending bar and an angel trying to persuade him back where he belongs because all hell is well…going to hell. Then someone gets murdered, and he wants justice—or to throw the guy in hell, that’s not real clear. And that’s the main problem with the show—the storyline doesn’t seem to be absolutely certain if the devil is evil or not. He flashes evil when he catches his victims but most of the time, he smirks and is charming enough to want to slap him. Watch a few episodes and let me know what you think.
The other show, NBC's You, Me, and the Apocalypse, is just simply brilliant—the writing, the acting, the concept… I’m totally loving it. The concept is that a meteor is about to strike the earth in 30 days and everyone is going to die. But our main hero has just discovered he has a twin brother who has made off with his wife five years ago, and he’s more interested in finding her than any comet. Then we have the innocent nun and the sardonic priest (Rob Lowe) who are searching for the savior, hoping for the second coming. If that’s not enough, we have the loving mother who has gone to jail for her hacker son, and broken out along with a crazed killer during a riot. She’s trying to reach her son, who might have the key to the whole crisis—while his uncle is busy stockpiling a bunker for the chosen few. Aw c’mon, you want to see it, don’t you? It’s high class lunacy!
I’ll endorse You, Me, and the Apocalypse. Zany, and mostly very British. I can add that I'm enjoying a new series of Vera, a police show set in Northumberland, with a frumpy, middle-aged woman as the police chief, and she's a great, strong character. It's always nice to see something set in the far North.
A while back I mostly enjoyed The Last Kingdom, based on Bernard Cornwell's books about the early years of King Alfred's reign. It's quite violent, and Uhtred, the protagonist, is often very macho-man stupid, which I think is the point. Cornwell does no-nonsense warrior heroes very well. They don't angst over war; they get on with it and mostly enjoy it.
Andrea Pickens/Cara Elliott:
I’m not much of a television watcher, but recently a friend was needling me about missing great dialogue and plotting by not being a couch potato—and then went on to recommend a show that’s in its eighth season as something I might like, as it involves a handsome and charming bestselling crime author shadowing a very attractive female police homicide detective for “research.” I promptly went to the library to check out the first season, and now have been binge watching ABC's Castle, which I find quite fun. The dialogue is sharp and witty, and the cast of characters quite interesting. The initial banter has slowly deepened to more nuanced relationship, and the way the backstories unfold is very well done. I’m hooked.
And then there is The West Wing. Yup, never watched that either, though I had always heard good things about it (she says, ducking rotten tomatoes being lobbed at her head). So have been dabbling in that too, and greatly enjoying the ensemble acting, and the weaving of relationships. It’s fascinating to watch how screenwriters develop ideas—and I really have learned a lot about craft, as well as simply an entertaining story!
Mary Jo Putney:
Hey, no fair that Cara/Andrea got to Castle first! I don't watch actual television, but if there's a series I like, I buy the DVDs and we watch them in blessed commercial-free comfort on the weekends. We tend to watch science fiction series and mysteries with humor, but we've been on a real Castle kick lately--not the most recent episodes, but starting over from the beginning of the series just because we were running out of current episodes.
I love the fact that the eponymous Richard Castle is a bestselling mystery writer, with all the mixed arrogance and insecurity of his breed. His outside of the box thinking and ability to assemble clues into a narrative help him solve murders. I love his very smart teenage daughter and his flamboyant actress mother, who humanize him.
And I love Detective Kate Beckett, who is as intelligent as she is gorgeous and who is a perfect contrast to Castle, and an eventual love interest. There is sometimes darkness, but also a lot of wit and warmth, and very twisty plotting with masses of red herrings. Plus, there are often elements of a happy ending, which isn't true of all mystery series. There's a lovely cast of secondary characters, including Kate's team members, detectives Esposito and Ryan. All are well developed and they grow over time. Fun, even the second time around!
With not much reading time lately, I’ve had lots of busy family time and also some copyediting to do—which I sometimes do in front of the TV if it’s small stuff so I can hang out with The Guys in the house—so I’ve done more watching than reading in February. Like Pat, I’ve enjoyed Lucifer for its charm and wry humor, sometimes with an intriguing dark twist. Another we discovered on Hulu was Daredevil—about the comic book hero who is a blind and dedicated lawyer for the underdog by day and a tough, clever vigilante by night. I loved it, loved the character development and story twists and especially love the fascinating hero of this series. We’ll tune in for the next season!
We also watched the first season of The Expanse on Syfy—an intelligent, complex, gritty and fascinating series set in the far future when Earth, Mars and all in between has been settled as active and competitive territories. Based on the book series by James S.A. Corey, an author duo, the smart writing, layered characters and high production values make this a worthy new sci fi series with real staying power, and it’s just been greenlighted for another ten episodes. The TV fans in my house are very pleased.
What have you been reading and/or watching lately? We're always happy to add more titles to our to-be-read stacks and to-be-watched lists, too!