Elizabeth: What Have You Been Reading

CarpeLibrumIt’s a real challenge to combine being a writer and a news-junkie these days, and it’s especially difficult to carve out time for pleasure reading.  However, as we’ve all heard time and again, reading and writing go together like peanut butter and jelly (though fortunately not as sticky), so making the time to read is a priority.

Anyway, after attending a book signing a few weeks ago and adding a few more volumes to the TBR pile, I was motivated to get reading before the pile turned into an avalanche.  Fortunately, the current cold, rainy, cuddle-up-with-a-blanket-on-the-couch weather has been perfect for reading.  Cupcakes and napping too, but mostly reading.

So, here’s what I’ve read lately:

A “just released” book

Courtesy of the aforementioned book signing, I picked up a copy of Kristan Higgins’ latest book On Second Thought. It’s women’s fiction, rather than straight romance, but there are definitely romantic relationships and happily-ever-afters.  The book is about two sisters, Ainsley and Kate, each dealing with an unexpected life change (no spoilers, so I won’t be any more specific than that).  There’s a hot fire-fighter an aging grandma, a cranky boss, some siblings, some friends, and a few walk-ons by characters from the previous book set in the same town, If You Only Knew.

As seems to be a feature of Higgins’ books, the story is about community as much as it is about the main characters.  At 470 pages it went on a little longer than I might have liked, and the cast included some minor characters/sub-plots that I wouldn’t have missed if they’d been edited out, but it is definitely going on the keeper shelf.  I liked the way the relationships developed, how believable the story felt (with a few minor exceptions), and that it didn’t feel predictable.

After I finished On Second Thought, I dug around in the TBR pile and found I had the first two books from Higgins’ Blue Heron series just waiting to be read:  The Best Man and The Perfect Match.  The books feature the Blue Heron Winery and the Holland family that has owned it for generations.  The Best Man is about younger daughter Faith Holland’s return to town after having been jilted at the altar and The Perfect Match is Honor Holland’s story.  Honor, Faith’s older sister is dealing with a ticking biological clock and the rejection by her life-long crush.

Both books are big on community and family.  There is beautiful scenery and humor, along with a few rather embarrassing situations.  There are also prologues, epilogues, and flashbacks – all things we have been taught to avoid like the plague.  The popularity of the series would indicate that those rules, like many others, were meant to be broken.  Maybe.  I liked Faith and Levi from The Best Man, but I never really warmed up to Honor and Tom in The Perfect Match.  I’m not completely convinced about their happily-ever-after and felt Tom ran a little hot, then cold.  The books were each over 400 pages and I’m afraid my attention wandered a bit from time to time.  I enjoyed the stories, but not quite enough to continue on with the series or to add these to the keeper shelf.  If you like stories with a slow build I’d say give them a try, but if you want a quicker pace, then these may not be the books for you.

An Anthology

After several contemporary stories I was in the mood for a little Regency romance.  Fortunately, Four Weddings and a Sixpence, an anthology by Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, and Stefanie Sloan was next-up in the TBR pile.  The anthology opened and closed with stories by Quinn and I wish her sections had been longer.  Her heroine Beatrice Heywood was fun and intelligent and someone I would like to know and she found her match in an equally intelligent and interesting hero.

I had never read anything by the other three authors before.  Their short stories were okay but they each featured sex scenes that felt out of place in the stories / time period.  It was especially jarring in Sloane’s Something New, where the hero and heroine went from never having kissed to sex-up-against-the-wall (before the proposal) at the end of the story.    The three stories felt like contemporaries playing dress-up in Regency clothing, which was unfortunate because the “lucky sixpence” theme of the book had real potential.

The latest book in a series

The most recent book I read was A Likely Story, a cozy-mystery by Jenn McKinlay (book 6 in her “Library Lover’s” mystery series).    I had wandered away from the series a few books ago because the main character was doing things in pursuit of solving-the-mystery that just seemed foolish, but I was in the mood for a quick, light-hearted read, and I did kind of wonder how the long relationship arc in the series was progressing, so I decided to give it a try.   At 261 pages, the story was definitely a quick read.  It was also fast paced and fun.  I especially liked that the main character worried about getting in trouble with the Chief of Police for interfering in the investigation.  The long relationship arc was not resolved in this book, but there were clear indications about the direction it was heading (fingers crossed I’m right on that).   I may have to see if the next book in the series is out, just to be sure.

Next up for me is Jodi Taylor’s Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s), which has been recommended to me, several times.

What have you been reading (or trying to read) recently?  Any recommendations to add to my overflowing queue (or suggestions to skip)?

4 thoughts on “Elizabeth: What Have You Been Reading

  1. I’m glad you’re giving “Just One Damned Thing After Another” a try. I’ve read the first three so far, and they’re still going strong. (And those 3 make up a distressingly high percentage of what I’ve read in the last two months. I fell into some good TV, which cut into my reading time.) I’ll admit it, the most recent entrant reminded me more than a little of the heart-wrenching moments of Doctor Who.

    My two “Latest in the series” entries are “Echoes in Death” (Eve/Roarke series by JD Robb) and “Romancing the Inventor”, from Gail Carriger. I can really recommend the Carriger books to you, despite the plot threads of supernaturals.

    The re-read of the moment is “Watership Down”, which is turning out to be even better than I remembered it being. The El-ahrairah stories, in particular, are captivating.

    • Just One Damned Thing After Another was recommended to me by three different people, so I considered a sign that I should get reading. I may add Watership Down to the list next – it has been so long since I read it, I don’t remember anything about it at all (other than the cover).

      I’m guessing my TBR pile is in no danger of disappearing anytime soon.

  2. I’ve been under the weather lately, and today, I was finally knocked out. After a good three-hour nap, I was ready (finally!) to read, and I finished up the Hamilton book (about the play) that I’d been working on. Cried and cried during the part where they were describing the making and consequences of the unimaginable song, about the death of Phillip Hamilton. I could hear the music in my head (and I have to say, the first two times I listened to the album, I was bawling my eyes out then, too).

    Sigh. That’s good stuff. I don’t generally like dark and death in my fiction, but I’m gradually coming around to the viewpoint that it makes the happy parts even happier.

    Also, for some reason, I was reading about George III’s children. George IV (aka Prinny, the Prince Regent) was a fascinating character, and there are all sorts of rumors about his illegitimate (?) offspring (he married a Fitzhubert, which was unlawful in Britain, but not unlawful in the eyes of the Catholic Church, so some of the rumored offspring may not have been so illegitimate after all). Somewhere, there were rumors that his sister Sophia wound up giving birth — she was another one who had a secret, private marriage, so I don’t know if the baby (if there was a baby) was born during the marriage (if there was a marriage). I didn’t have time to dive into any real research, so it might be all internet BS. Still, from a story aspect, it was interesting.

    • Michaeline – glad to hear you sound to be on the mend. As for George IV, he was certainly a character. He did a lot for architecture and the arts, but had more than his share of controversy in life and died a very unpopular person. From a story aspect – an unlawful wife, illegitimate offspring, an actual wife he apparently hated, questions about his family members, and the death of his only legitimate child – all would things that would lend themselves to interesting plots.

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