Archive for the ‘Weekly Reading Round-Up’ Category

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, August 18th, 2017

On tap for this week have been:

— Eva Chase’s Black Rabbit Hall, a dark Gothic (think echoes of The Thirteenth Tale), with a surprisingly upbeat ending, set in a moldering manor house in Cornwall;

— Barbara Michaels’s Wait for What Will Come, because once you read one Gothic set in a moldering Cornish manor house, it generally leads to another (Wait for What Will Come is the archetypal “house” book: American heroine unexpectedly inherits ancestral home in England complete with attic full of antiques, quirky family retainers, and, of course, a family curse);

— Francine Matthews’s Death on Nantucket, the fifth and most recent in her Merry Folger mystery series (which means that I now have to find a new mystery series to binge read…);

— Barbara Michaels’s Here I Stay, because once I start re-reading Barbara Michaels, it’s hard to stay away. My favorite parts of this novel have always been the bits about the heroine’s ups and downs turning an old house into an inn, rather than the ghost story plot.

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, August 11th, 2017

The first half of this post was originally meant to go up last week– but the arrival of a small person intervened. So let’s call this fortnightly round-up instead of weekly round-up today? (Also because I just love the word “fortnight”.)

I started last week old school, with a murder mystery from the early 80s: Isabelle Holland’s Flight of the Archangel. Many of the Holland books tend to be in the Elsie Lee mode– first person narratives in which the 1970s career women heroines find themselves taking on international conspiracies, drug cartels, and the like– but this was not one of my favorites, for various reasons. For vintage Isabelle Holland, I much prefer the somewhat spookier Tower Abbey, which has less distressing gender politics.

Needing something a little less grim, I moved on to Jenny Colgan’s The Cafe by the Sea, in which a London paralegal finds herself heading back to the remote Scottish island she’s avoided since her mother’s death– and finds, unexpectedly, that you can come home after all. The Colgan books have become my happy place (who doesn’t want to move to Scotland… or Cornwall… or wherever else?)– so lots of thanks to whoever it was over here who first recommended them!

Then it was back to Francine Matthews’s Nantucket mystery series for Book Four, Death in a Cold Hard Light. There’s only one more left in the series now, so I’m going to have to pace myself– in the hopes she’ll write more!

And since I have a great deal of reading time right now at odd hours of the night, I decided to revisit some old favorites, starting with Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion— which is one of those books that never stales however many times I read it. It’s like a more upbeat Game of Thrones, or, possibly, Game of Thrones with a moral center, and less violence, where you can trust that good will eventually triumph. Court intrigue, curses… what’s not to love?

Moving from pseudo-medieval court intrigue to Parliamentary scheming, I picked up another fat old mass market paperback: Jeffrey Archer’s First Among Equals, the story of four men as each vies for the ultimate place in British government. I’d read and loved it back when I was in college. What struck me about it now is what a period piece it is, set primarily in the 60’s and 70’s, with the fictional politicians woven into the real political issues of those days. (You can just picture the hair and clothes of the day as you read it.) Definitely a read for people who have been enjoying House of Cards or who have chortled over Yes, Minister re-runs.

And that’s it for me for the moment! What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, July 28th, 2017

I’ve been having such a good run of new books recently. On tap for this week was:

— Francine Matthews’s Death in Rough Water, the second of her Nantucket-set Merry Folger mysteries. The more I read this series, the more I love it– particularly the developing relationship between the detective and another character, which reminds me so much (in the best possible way) of Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey;

— Lynda Cohen Loigman’s The Two-Family House, a book that kept me up reading long, long after I’d meant to go to sleep, set in 1950s and 60s Brooklyn, about the way one decision made on one snowy night shapes the fate of two families for a generation to come (and don’t you love those books where you can absolutely understand and sympathize with why characters do something or other, but also the unexpected repercussions that fan out from it?);

— and did I mention that I’m a little obsessed with the Merry Folger books right now? I’d meant to do some work reading after my Two-Family House book binge, but instead couldn’t resist moving on to Book III, Death in a Mood Indigo.

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, July 21st, 2017

I had a stack of books I was saving for slightly later in the summer, but couldn’t resist digging into them now. So, this week, I treated myself to:

— Amy Poeppel’s Small Admissions (which just came out in paperback), a smart and snarky combination of social satire and coming of age story, in which, in the wake of having both her romantic and grad school expectations crushed, a twenty-something takes a job in the admissions department of a Manhattan private school and learns about herself in the process– while dodging crazy parents;

— Susan Meissner’s As Bright as Heaven (coming spring 2018), a riveting and wrenching historical novel about a family in Philadelphia during the 1918 flu pandemic, struggling to survive in the midst of a world turned abruptly upside down, as death stalked the streets, schools and churches were closed, bodies piled up too fast to bury, and a person you waved to today might be gone tomorrow.

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What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, July 14th, 2017

I’ve been on a mystery kick this week. I started with Carol Goodman’s The Seduction of Water, in which a writing professor goes back to the Catskills hotel where she grew up to solve the mystery of her mother’s death decades before, and then moved on to the first of Francine Matthews’s Merry Folger mysteries, Death in the Off-Season, in which the Nantucket police chief’s detective daughter must prove herself as a detective by solving the murder of the black sheep brother of a prominent local family.

I’d go right into the second Merry Folger mystery, Death in Rough Water, but I’m trying to pace myself and make the series last, so, instead, I’m switching genres entirely and moving on to Amy Poeppel’s satire of the New York private school process, Small Admissions.

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Happy July, all! I indulged myself over the holiday weekend with a mini-mystery binge: Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl and two of Elly Griffiths’s Ruth Galloway novels, A Dying Fall and The Outcast Dead.

Thanks to a recommendation over on my Facebook author page, I am currently immersed in The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life— which is hard to describe, but entirely absorbing. Set in the 1930s and ’40s, it’s part American historical novel, part mystery, part nineteenth century European swashbuckler, part paranormal (a ghost dog acting as spirit guide?), part goodness only knows. If, like me, you have a weakness for books that can’t quite be defined as one thing or another, then you might enjoy this one, too.

What have you been reading this week?

And speaking of reading… if you haven’t seen it yet, I’m holding my very first English Wife ARC give away! Just head over to the contest post for a chance to read The English Wife way before everyone else. The contest closes on Sunday.

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, June 30th, 2017

There’s nothing like rediscovering an old favorite. This week, I went back to my Renaissance roots with Judith Merkle Riley’s The Master of All Desires, in which a would-be poetess with a difficult family finds herself accidentally in possession of the Undying Head of Menander, a sinister wish-granter who delights in causing doom and chaos. With the help of Nostradamus, she manages to survive French politics, Menander, and the machinations of disappointed suitors who are after her dowry (or Menander). For other history nerds out there, the send-ups of Catherine de’ Medici, Diane de Poitiers, Henri II, and a very young Mary Queen of Scots are wickedly brilliant (and spot-on).

It’s hard to find anything comparable to Judith Merkle Riley’s novels. The closest comparison would probably be Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, which combines the same rich historical detail with quirky humor, although Merkly Riley’s books all also contain a touch of the supernatural. (They did like their alchemy and diabolism in the Renaissance!) Sadly, there are only six Judith Merkle Riley books in the world– A Vision of Light and two sequels (medieval), The Serpent Garden (Tudor), The Master of All Desires (French Renaissance), and Oracle Glass (court of Louis XIV), but they are all richly researched, brilliantly funny, and hold up to any number of re-reads.

Having got that out of my system, I now have a big pile of new books to read, including two Carol Goodmans, two Elly Griffiths, a Mary Kubica, and The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life (which someone recommended over on my Facebook author page).

What have you been reading this week? And what are you planning to read over the July 4th weekend?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

This week, I started with Carol Goodman’s River Road, a psychological thriller about a hit and run in an upstate New York university town, and all the secrets that come out in its wake.

River Road was an emotionally fraught read, so, after that, I moved on to something a bit less gut-wrenching: Josephine Tey’s Miss Pym Disposes, in which a visiting lecturer finds herself embroiled in the student politics at a phys ed college in England. There’s always something wonderful astringent about Tey’s prose.

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, June 16th, 2017

I’ve had an excellent run of new books this week, across a rather broad genre spectrum, from historical fiction, to women’s fiction, to ghost story/psychological thriller. Here’s this week’s haul:

— Jennifer Ryan’s The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, about a group of women in an English village during World War II, and the various dramas that beset their community as they all grow and find their own strengths and commonalities;

— Kristan Higgins’s On Second Thought, set in a small town in New York, in which a death in the family turns two sisters’ lives upside down, but ultimately brings them both closer together;

— Carol Goodman’s The Widow’s House, a chills down the spine “is it a ghost? is it gaslighting? is the protagonist going mad?” story in which old secrets and, possibly, ghosts begin to come out when two writers relocate from Brooklyn to a tumbledown mansion in upstate New York.

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Every now and then, it’s nice to revisit old books as a sort of literary palette cleanser, in this case, some of my less read books by favorite authors. This week, I dipped into Georgette Heyer’s The Unknown Ajax (which was so much better than I remembered it being!) and The Toll-Gate, and then stopped by 1920s London with Lord Peter Wimsey for a spot of Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club.

The real find this week, though, was an advance copy of a book coming out in September: The Way to London by Alix Rickloff, in which a spoiled twenty-something child of privilege finds herself on the run through blitzed Britain with a London street urchin and a strangely attractive mechanic. (Once I’m done with it, I’ll put it up for grabs here on the website, since it’s too good not to share.)

In the meantime, I know what I’m going to be reading tomorrow! The manuscript of the second Three W’s book, aka The Lusitania Book, aka Someday Our Title Will Come.

Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and I will be meeting up in our latest top secret bat cave to give the book a good going over– and plot the next one! We’ll be sharing important updates from our retreat (like what we’re drinking, and who brought the most luggage– cough cough, Karen, cough cough) on our Willig, White, and Williams Facebook page.

What have you been reading this week?