Archive for the ‘Weekly Reading Round-Up’ Category

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?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Do you ever get to the end of the week and find yourself completely incapable of remembering what you read– or did– earlier that week? That’s me right now.

Somewhere in the mix was Bill Bryson’s essay collection, I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away, about returning to America after decades in England, which I still find snort and chortle out loud funny, even after multiple re-reads. (Note: not the best thing to read while holding a sleeping baby. And by sleeping baby, I mean formerly sleeping baby, now awake and irate baby, due to sudden, abrupt movement of sleeping surface. See snort and chortle, above.)

I have some rather tempting ARCs waiting for me, but my brain needed a break, which meant… familiar re-reads. Since it’s finally starting to feel like fall (almost, ish), I moved on to one of my favorite autumn re-reads, Barbara Michaels’s classic ghost story, Ammie, Come Home, set in an old house in Georgetown. With Barbara Michaels, once I pop, I can’t stop, so, of course, then it was on to the sequel, Shattered Silk, which is, rather cleverly, not a ghost story, or in any way paranormal, but a murder mystery revolving around vintage clothing.

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

There are some weeks when you just need a Georgette Heyer novel. This was one of them. So I pulled out my battered old copy of one of my top ten Heyers, The Talisman Ring, which contains some of my absolute favorite comic moments (such as the hero’s absolute refusal to ride ventre a terre), involving smugglers, a missing ring, a man framed for murder, and, of course, plenty of comic side characters.

From Heyer, it was an easy jump to the antics of the third book in the Invisible Library series: The Burning Page. If you haven’t encountered these yet, they’re a little Jasper Fforde and a little The Librarians.

Now I have a big decision ahead of me: reread the first of Laurie King’s Russell and Holmes mysteries, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (which I haven’t read since it came out lo these many, many years ago), or dig into some British chick lit with a new (to me) Veronica Henry?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

It’s always a joy discovering a new series. Instant reading material! This week, I moved on to book two in the Invisible Library series, The Masked City. These books remind me so much of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books. Anyone else remember and love those?

After that, I zigzagged back to Scotland and women’s fiction with an old favorite: Alexandra Raife’s Wild Highland Home, about a woman who tries to come to terms with her life by pulling up stakes and moving to a remote cottage in the Scottish Highlands– and, of course, finds a sense of community she’d never dreamed of.

Next up, I am finally, finally starting Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses, which has been recommended on this page more times than I can count. (Well, I could count it, but it would be too labor intensive).

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, September 8th, 2017

So many thanks to Alison for recommending Frederica! This is, indeed, an excellent Heyer, with all the best Heyer features: a lofty hero rendered human by an unlikely heroine, comic side characters, and an enforced stay in an inn (Heyer does excellent comic relief with enforced stays at inns: see also Sprig Muslin and The Talisman Ring).

From Regency England, I moved ahead to present day, with Veronica Henry’s How to Find Love in a Bookshop. Okay, okay, so I picked it up for the title– but I stayed for the gentle satire and lovely portraits of people finding themselves in a picturesque English town. It reminded me a great deal of Trisha Ashley’s Sticklepond books. So, of course, I ordered another one set in the same village right away.

Right now, I’m re-reading Hilary Beckles’s Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Women in Barbados, preparatory to getting my somewhat fuzzy head back into the current Work-in-Progress, aka the Barbados Book, while debating whether to indulge in a Trisha Ashley or Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling next. Or maybe the first Tana French Dublin Squad mystery, In the Woods. Decisions, decisions….

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, September 1st, 2017

How is it September already?

I saw out the summer with winter in Scotland: Alexandra Raife’s Until the Spring, in which a pregnant woman seeks refuge with her lover’s family in a remote Scottish manor house after being tossed out by her adoptive parents. This Alexandra Raife book in particular is oh so very Britain in the 90s– when I read it, I can picture the sorts of outfits (and attitudes) from Britcoms like As Time Goes By and Waiting for God, shoulder pads and heavy blush for the city dwellers, baggy skirts and padded vests for the country folk.

I left Scotland for a London that never was, via the The Invisible Library, in which a Librarian must go undercover in an alternate realm to recover a dangerous book, encountering dragons, detectives, and afternoon tea along the way. Think a little The Librarians and a little Parasol Protectorate. And it’s the first in a series!

But I found I needed more Scotland, so I went back to my Alexandra Raife collection for Drumveyn, which is basically Monarch of the Glen under another name: a young laird named Archie, who has been living in London with an emotionally detached Englishwoman with a trendy haircut, who returns to the ancestral estate to help put things in order. And did I mention there’s a feisty cook? (Not named Lexy.) The big difference is that a lot of the emotional focus of the story is Archie’s mother, who, unlike Monarch of the Glen, is less a comic side character and more of a protagonist, coming into her own after her controlling husband’s death.

(Until the Spring and Drumveyn are my Raifes Less Read, because I find them both a little uneven. For those who have never read Raife before, my two favorites are Wild Highland Home and Belonging.)

Right now, I’m about to launch the Labor Day weekend by treating myself to Georgette Heyer’s Frederica, which, somehow, I had managed to not read all these years. (Thanks, Alison Doherty, for bringing it to my attention!) Such joy to find an unread book by a favorite author!

What have you been reading this week?

Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, August 25th, 2017

Nobody does comic relief quite as elegantly as Georgette Heyer, the woman who invented the Regency romance. So, this week, in honor of Heyer’s birthday, I read two Heyer novels I had somehow missed out on over the years: Cotillion and Venetia.

If there are any Mischief of the Mistletoe fans out there, then hie yourself off to read Cotillion. There aren’t any Christmas puddings, but there is a hero who is quite definitely a close cousin to Turnip Fitzhugh (although Freddy would never be caught in a carnation embroidered waistcoat). The hero of Venetia is much more of the Lord Vaughn mode: mad, bad, and dangerous to know. Or, at least, everyone except the heroine thinks he is.

Right now, I’ve moved away from Regency London to the Scottish Highlands in the 1950s with A.D. Scott’s A Small Death in the Great Glen, the first in a mystery series recommended to me by the wonderful Barbara Peters of The Poisoned Pen, who came to the rescue with a long reading list once she learned I was going to be spending a lot of time pinned under an infant.* A Small Death in the Great Glen paints a richly textured picture of Highland life in the aftermath of World War II– and is making me want to go re-read my collection of Alexandra Raife novels (1990s Scottish women’s fiction), because Highlands.

What have you been reading this week?

*Side note: If you can’t make it to the Poisoned Pen in person, I highly recommend signing up for the Poisoned Pen newsletter or joining one of their book clubs. I’ve found so many good books that way.

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?