Archive for the ‘Weekly Reading Round-Up’ Category

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

As the countdown to Christmas continues, I’ve been on a Jenny Colgan Christmas book binge, reading the two sequels to Sweetshop of Dreams: Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop and The Christmas Surprise.

Now that I’m approaching the end of the last one, I feel quite at a loss for what to read next. I have a few Very Dark and Serious Books I’ve been meaning to read, but that might be too much shock to the system– rather like going from being bundled up with hot cocoa to jumping into an icy river.

So… does anyone have any recommendations for good Christmas-themed British chick lit? (Or mystery. I could move sideways to cozy mystery, as long as there’s a village involved. Preferably with thatch.)

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, December 15th, 2017

It’s the most reading-ful time of the year? If not that, it’s certainly a good time of year to brew a cup of tea and read over the head of a (hopefully) sleeping baby while the wind wuthers around the windows and the radiator creaks and groans.

On my list this past week? A Bed of Scorpions, the second mystery in the London-set Sam Clare series, about an editor turned accidental sleuth. This one involved a mysterious death in an art gallery, and, of course, plenty of snark about publishing.

I stayed in England, but moved from London to Cornwall and mystery to chick lit with Jenny Colgan’s Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery. It’s been my experience that sequels generally don’t work well in chick lit/women’s fiction, but this book was an exception for me. There was enough that the characters still had to resolve, really, seriously resolve, that it didn’t feel like a thin follow-up. Also, Christmas. And puffins. And baking. It was just the right book at the right time for me.

I meant to move on from there to Laurie King’s Justice Hall, or to Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, which I’ve been meaning to read forever (or at least since October), but once you’re in a certain sort of small village British chick lit sort of mood, nothing will do but more small village British chick lit (possibly with a side of Midsomer Murders and the odd episode of The Vicar of Dibley), so I am currently in the middle of Jenny Colgan’s Sweetshop of Dreams, which has the added bonus of not one, but two Christmas themed sequels waiting in the wings.

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, December 1st, 2017

Happy December!

There’s something about that post-Thanksgiving lull (and working on revisions) that just calls for comfort reading. For me, that means mysteries and British chick lit.

I dipped into Laurie King’s Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series with A Monstrous Regiment of Women and A Letter of Mary, in the latter of which one of my absolute favorite characters from another series (ahem, Lord Peter Wimsey, ahem) makes a surprise guest appearance.

Of course, I was so happy to see him there, that I hopped over to the Dorothy Sayers section of my shelves for a re-read of The Nine Tailors, which isn’t my favorite Wimsey (that would be the Harriet Vane ones, especially Gaudy Night), but has the benefit of having been re-read less recently.

Now I’m into my seasonal British chick lit reading, starting with Trisha Ashley’s The Magic of Christmas. My two favorites are A Winter’s Tale and The Twelve Days of Christmas, both of which will probably show up here later this month. Because ’tis the Season….

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, November 17th, 2017

There’s something about crisp fall weather and new (or new to me) books that just go together. This week, I’ve dipped into:

— Laurie King’s Pirate King. I leapt over several intervening books to get to this one, but how could any lifelong Pirates of Penzance fan resist the lure of Pirates AND Mary Russell? For context, the very first show I ever saw on Broadway was the Keven Klein Pirates of Penzance when I was four years old– after which I regularly embarrassed my parents by stripping to my frilly petticoat at parties, announcing I was Mabel, and warbling “Poor Wand’ring One”. Sadly, singing G&S songs at parties is not a habit that has entirely gone away with age. I do still have to go back and read the earlier books in the series, but this one can absolutely be read out of order, and is a great deal of tongue and cheek fun. Highly recommended for other fans of G&S and for Miss Gwen, who would have adored Mary Russell. (By a Miss Gwen definition of “adore”, i.e. grimly approve.)

— Louise Miller’s The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living, about a purple-haired pastry chef from Boston who relocates to a small inn in rural Vermont. They had me at the blurb that said, “Okay, it’s Gilmore Girls.”

And now I’m thinking about doubling back and reading Book 2 in Laurie King’s Mary Russell series…

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, November 10th, 2017

When the weather gets crisp and the sky begins to go gray at four, it makes me think– well, yes, of London, but also of the New York of twenty-odd years ago, the scarred dark woodwork and nubby blue chairs of my school’s library, and the books I read in those chairs: Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels, Dorothy Cannell, Elsie Lee. The combination of a certain type of weather and a certain type of book (ahem, Thornyhold, ahem) is like a time capsule, hurtling me right back to where I was when I first read them.

This week I took the time machine back with two Mary Stewart novels: Nine Coaches Waiting and The Moon-Spinners.

Nine Coaches Waiting is hard to categorize for me. In some ways, it’s the archetypal Gothic, with a governess heroine, first person narrator, and a chateau. But the chateau isn’t the least bit brooding, the Jane Eyre references are firmly tongue in cheek, and the narration is strongly common-sensical. It’s really more romantic suspense than pure Gothic, lacking most of the dark trappings. Either way, it’s one of my favorite books of all time and a constant re-read.

The Moon-Spinners belongs to what I think of as the Mary Stewart travelogue sub-category. Take heroine, place her in picturesque landscape (in this case, Crete), let skullduggery ensue. Of her Greece-set books, my favorite has always been My Brother Michael, so it’s been fun to rediscover The Moon-Spinners after a long gap.

What have you been reading this week? (And do you have a favorite Mary Stewart?)

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

My Halloween treat this year was re-reading Simone St. James’s The Broken Girls, which was, impossibly, even better on a second read. I never thought I’d love anything as much as Simone St. James’s 1920s ghost stories (Because, 1920s. And ghost stories. Enough said.), but this modern/1950s dual timeline story is even better. It comes out in March, so snatch it up when it appears!

I felt like I gave Halloween short shrift this year (usually I do more theme reading), so I followed that up with a suggestion from the comments here and read Donna Andrews’s Lord of the Wings, a Halloween entry in her Meg Langslow series set in murder-beset Caerphilly, VA. That place is beginning to rival Midsomer County or Cabot Cove for body count! I lost track of the series a while ago (if you haven’t read it yet, the first one, Murder with Peacocks, is excellent and still snort-out-loud funny), but Meg’s world is easy to hop in and out of, even when you’ve missed, oh, ten books or so along the way.

Right now, I’ve succumbed to one of my periodic Mary Stewart urges and am re-reading one of my all time favorite books, Nine Coaches Waiting, which is and will always be the perfect Gothic novel.

After that… something new, I think. But I’m not sure what yet.

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, October 27th, 2017

This week, my amazing college roommate sent a care package to me. There was Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible for my daughter (who gave it the bedtime reading two thumbs up) and Elsie Lee’s Wingarden for me.

One of the things I love about Lee’s books is what perfect time capsules they are: little snapshots of the 1960s and early 70s, like watching an Audrey Hepburn movie. Elsie Lee’s novels tend to be set in exotic places, but this one took place in Virginia, around the machinations of a white supremecist group and the heroine who unwittingly puts a spoke in their plans when she inherits her grandmother’s house. I remember reading this ten years ago and thinking how dated it felt. Sadly, it feels a little less dated right now– but still an excellent read.

I moved from the 1960s South to one of my favorite vacation spots, 1920s London, via Dorothy Sayers’s Unnatural Death, one of her earlier Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. I’d meant to move on from here to some Halloween reading, but there’s something terribly addictive about Lord Peter Wimsey. So it may be Whose Body? next, with The Haunting of Hill House pushed off until next week.

I’d love to find something Halloween-y I haven’t read yet, but, what with one thing and another, haven’t really had time to bob for books. So if you have any recommendations, I’m all ears!

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, October 20th, 2017

I should listen to my best friend more often. Back in the spring, she recommended Elly Griffiths’s Ruth Galloway mysteries, about an academic in Norfolk who stumbles upon crime– or has crime brought to her, in the form of bones to be dated. This time it was Judith Flanders’s Sam Clair series, about an editor turned accidental sleuth in modern London. I read the first one, A Murder of Magpies, this week and loved the smart, snarky voice (think Vicky Bliss, but British).

Right now, I’m continuing the mystery kick with Laurie King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, the first in her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series (which I last read when it came out back in nineteen-ninety-mumble), and so enjoying the feel of it, like being inside a Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes episode– but with a clever leading lady.

What have you been reading this week?

p.s. today is the last day to enter to win one of fifty advance copies of The English Wife on Goodreeads, so if you haven’t entered yet, now’s your chance!

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, October 13th, 2017

What with the recent heat wave, it’s hard to believe it’s almost the middle of October already! To get myself into the right mood, I started my annual Halloween reading with Simone St. James’s Lost Among the Living, a ghost story set in the aftermath of the first World War. If you haven’t read St. James’s wonderfully creepy 1920s ghost stories, I highly recommend them, especially The Haunting of Maddy Clare and Silence for the Dead.

Not very Halloween-y, but I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy of Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie’s My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, an old school, Jean Plaidy-esque first person account of the life of the wife of Alexander Hamilton. It’s been a long time since I’ve read this particular sub-genre of fictionalized biography, and I’m finding it fascinating getting a behind the scenes look at the much revered Hamilton (who may not have been quite so revered in his lifetime). I may have to also snap up Susan Holloway Scott’s I, Eliza Hamilton to see how different authors portray the same subject.

What have you been reading this week?

p.s. if you’d like something to read for the week after next… St. Martin’s Press is giving away fifty copies of The English Wife on Goodreads between now and October 20th! Just click through to the Goodreads contest page to enter.

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, October 6th, 2017

Mostly, I’ve been reading research books about 19th century Barbados this week, which, while absolutely fascinating, don’t really qualify as light reading. (But if you want to know about liminal groups in late 18th century plantation culture, I’m your gal!)

For fun, though, I finally picked up Maureen Sherry’s Opening Belle, an incisive satire about the indignities of being a woman on Wall Street and Upper East Side life in general. This is all familiar turf to me, so it’s been very enjoyable to read a book that gets it right.

After that… I’ve been thinking of picking up The Magpie Murders. Or maybe some Lord Peter Wimsey.

What have you been reading this week?