Jilly: Reading Week

I’m scouting for book recommendations.

I got back from New York last Sunday. Usually seven days would be plenty long enough to recharge my batteries, but not this time. I’m still sleeping 12 hours a night, and when I am awake I’m mostly lolling on the sofa, gulping coffee.

RWA was fun. It was wonderful to catch up with fellow 8 Ladies Jeanne, Elizabeth, Justine, and Nancy, and exciting to meet the Omegas (my fellow Golden Heart finalists). The schedule was exhausting though. In addition to the usual workshops and keynotes there was a half day retreat for the Golden Network RWA chapter, a get-to-know-you dinner for the Omegas, a rehearsal for the Golden Heart ceremony, a finalists’ cocktail party with agents and editors, a certificate ceremony, the Golden Heart lunch itself (I didn’t win a shiny necklace, but that’s ok), a set of new author headshots, some informal author photos, and a breakfast for the Omegas to share self-publishing plans and schedules.

I’d been building up to the conference for a whole year. Ever since RWA announced that 2019 would be the last ever Golden Heart contest, and I decided to give it my very best shot, I’ve been hurtling from one deadline to another. Now it’s all over. No wonder I feel as though I’ve been hit by a truck.

I’m about to embrace a new challenge. If I want to get The Seeds of Power published this year (I do!), then the next four months will be another intense, deadline-filled marathon.

I’m thinking the best way to prepare myself is to take a staycation for another week, maybe two. I’ll enjoy the long summer days, do a little editing, watch cricket, drink wine, mull over my plans, but most of all, refill my creative well by catching up on the reading I haven’t had time for lately.

On my list right now:

Just One Damned Thing After Another: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s, Book One (Jodi Taylor)
The first of a series of very British time travel adventure comedies set around the St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research. The heroine is a smart-mouthed historian academic. Madeleine “Max” Maxwell and her colleagues take a hands-on approach to their research by revisiting the past. They resolve unanswered questions and get themselves in and out of scrapes while exchanging much snarky dialogue. I’m halfway through this book, and so far I’m really enjoying it.

Kiss of the Red Scorpion (Short Story Anthology)
Six short stories tracing the effect of a beautiful but cursed scorpion necklace across time, from ancient Ireland to near-future New York. Authors include Suzan Tisdale, T.M. Cromer, Genevieve Jack, and my fellow Golden Heart finalist Sara Whitney. The premise is very much my cup of tea, and I’m guessing/hoping True Love saves the world. Looking forward to finding out!

Tamiko and the Two Janitors (Forthright)
The third book in the Amaranthine Saga. I loved the first book in this series, Tsumiko and the Enslaved Fox. This series is very different from anything else I read—distinctly Japanese flavored, with shapeshifters, ancient legends, complex world-building, lots of characters, gentle pacing, only loosely structured and not particularly conflict-driven, but beautiful and full of hope. The first two books were as soothing and delicious as a pot of jasmine tea. I have high hopes for this one.

The Bride Test (Helen Hoang)
The follow-up to Helen Hoang’s bestselling debut The Kiss Quotient. I read that recently (I’ve been saving it) and thought it was the best romance I’ve read in ages. I could find some craft elements to quibble about, but the characters were so engaging and the emotion so powerful that none of my nit-pick criticisms matter. The Bride Test has an autistic hero. He avoids relationships, so his mother takes the initiative and returns home to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride. I’m expecting sympathetic characters, lots of emotion, some steamy interludes, and an uplifting ending. Fingers crossed.

Safe From Harm (RJ Bailey)
I don’t normally read thrillers, but this is the first book in a series featuring a female close protection officer (bodyguard). It was recommended to me by a friend who teaches martial arts for a living and kindly helps me to choreograph my heroine Alexis’s fights. I’m told that Sam Wylde, the heroine of Safe From Harm, is well-researched and her story is cleverly structured. I think a few hundred pages of credible kick-ass heroine could be just what I need 😉

Control (Hugh Montgomery)
A few months ago I found myself unexpectedly in my local intensive care unit, which is where I encountered Hugh Montgomery. His debut novel is described as a “dark and compulsive medical thriller.” His author bio alone is worth five stars:

Hugh Montgomery is a professor and the director of the UCL Institute for Human Health and Performance at University College London. A distinguished physician, he is known for his pioneering genetic research. Outside the field of medicine, he was a founding member of the UK Climate and Health Council and is an endurance expert, who has run three ultra-marathons, scaled the world’s sixth highest mountain, jumped naked from a plane at 14,000ft and holds the world record for underwater piano playing.

All this, and fiction too. Where on earth did he find the time? His book sounds tense and scary, which isn’t my usual thing, and there isn’t a Look Inside sample. I don’t care. This book has to be read, right?

I read fast. Unless I decided to binge-read all the Chronicles of St. Mary’s (there are 10 books), I’m going to run out of reading material before I’m ready to get back to work.

Does anyone have recommendations I could add to my list?

21 thoughts on “Jilly: Reading Week

  1. I’ll have to get back to you on book recommendations; I’m distracted thinking up reasons why Hugh Montgomery jumped out of a plane at 14,000ft – naked. There has got to be a good story there.

    In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your staycation and wind up with fully charged batteries to get you through the months ahead.

    • I know! Not sure whether I was more distracted by naked skydiving or underwater piano playing. Though some very careful online research this morning reveals that naked skydiving is a Thing. It even has a special interest group (the Society for the Advancement of Naked Skydiving, or something like that). The strange and wonderful things I’ve learned about the human race since I embarked on this writing journey!

      • What if you hit a bug during free fall? (Well, maybe there aren’t any bugs up that high.) The underwater piano playing record was quite a thing, though. I wonder what the most odd thing I’ve done in my life is? I have a memory like a sieve, though.

        • I suspect it’s too high for bugs, but it’s going to be cold up there, right? Mountaineers get frostbite at that kind of altitude?!!

          Trying to think about odd things I’ve done in my life. So far I can’t think of anything remarkable enough to post. If inspiration strikes, I’ll add it to the comments.

  2. I read the Wraith Kings series by Grace Draven last month and really enjoyed it. The world building is very good and the story is heavy on the value of character and courage and what it truly means to love. There are currently two full novels in the series and three novellas, all of which were wonderful. The third full novel, The Ippos King, is due out sometime this year.

    • Snap! I love Grace Draven 🙂

      Radiance is one of my favorite re-reads, though I usually speed up and skim a bit towards the end. I prefer Radiance to Eidolon, because Radiance is such an uplifting, feelgood story. Eidolon is essentially an unhappy book with a happy ending. Even though it’s well written and the ending is satisfying, it leaves me with a kind of emotional sadness hangover that Radiance doesn’t. I’m really looking forward to the third full novel, though, thanks for that! Hadn’t realised it’s due out this year. I’ll be watching out for it.

      • Hmmm. You might also try Suzanne Johnson’s Sentinels of New Orleans series. It doesn’t have the sophistication of Grace Draven, but it is a humorous and surprisingly addictive series despite the silliness. I read all six books and the novella straight through in about three evenings, closing one cover and picking up the next book like turning a page.

        I’m assuming you’ve already read Sweep of the Blade, Maud’s story in Ilona Andrews Innkeeper Series that came out a couple of weeks ago.

        Whatever you read, enjoy your staycation!

        • Ooops. I just checked on Amazon, and Suzanne Johnson’s Sentinels series has gone up in price! I read the first couple free on Kindle Unlimited, then picked up paperbacks for the rest. Not sure these are enough up your alley to pay what they’re going for right now. Sorry about that. Although, good for Suzanne Johnson!

        • You’re correct–I read Sweep of the Blade the day it was published. I love Ilona Andrews, love Innkeeper, love Maud and Arland, but I didn’t love the beginning of the edited book. Because the story really started in the middle of the previous Innkeeper book (which was in Dina’s POV), they began with a long chunk of backstory/prologue. I understand why they did it, but I I did not enjoy it. The intro also ‘splained some details which had previously been dropped in to the online serial at the appropriate moment. Dumping that info into the prologue took away the excitement of discovery. I still love the world and the characters, though, and I’ll absolutely buy the next book, assuming we’re lucky enough to get one.

          I think I’m correct in saying that you don’t read along with the weekly installments? How did you find Sweep of the Blade?

        • Not forgetting that Ilona Andrews’ next Hidden Legacy book, Sapphire Flames, should be published later this month. Looking forward to that 🙂

          I’ll have to check out Suzanne Johnson’s Sentinels of New Orleans. If I like the Look Inside I’ll try the first one (a staycation treat), and then I’ll decide whether the price is worth continuing.

          Which leads me to another question. Are you still in Kindle Unlimited? Do you find good reading material there? I joined for a while, but I never mastered the trick of finding stuff I wanted to read, so I cancelled my subscription. Maybe I should try again.

  3. I just read a shortish (180 pages) book by T Kingfisher called “Minor Mage,” which somebody on Jenny’s site recommended. I really enjoyed it, but I’m not up for much angst these days and there wasn’t a whole lot there, so it completely suited my mood. The author says that she and her editor argued about whether this was an adult novel or a children’s book, with the editor saying that it was an adult novel and the author saying otherwise. The protagonist is Oliver, a 12-year-old boy whose familiar is a snarky armadillo. Oliver can do three minor spells, one of which is to make him less allergic to armadillo dander. Of course, they have to go in a quest….

  4. Ice Cream Lover by Jackie Lau was really good, and also interesting from the writer perspective. She’s done a great job with diversity, and also some new-to-me sex scene techniques. Plus, ice cream.
    I can’t imagine a food-based historical romance. I don’t have a good grasp of what a syllabub is, let alone how to make it the center of a story. You need so much modern support to have a dessert-based business run by a heroine.

    Although, I suppose a pie-shop would be viable. As well as a coffeehouse. It sounds like SO MUCH WORK to keep all the details right, yet make it accessible to the modern reader.

    • I’ve been meaning to read this book–thanks for the reminder, Michaeline! I read a blurb for the next in this series and thought it looked good, too.

      I can’t think of a food-based historical, though there are a ton (pun intended) of books where the characters run a gaming hell. Mostly they focus on the gambling and degenerate behavior. My favorite, though is Georgette Heyer’s Faro’s Daughter, where the proprietor is the heroine’s aunt, an aristocrat fallen on hard times. She’s a hopeless businesswoman and is always elbow-deep in unpaid bills, bemoaning the cost of candles, and champagne, and green peas.

  5. Oh. I’m disappointed to hear that the edited Ilona Andrews SOTB is less than stellar. I did read the installments on their blog, I didn’t read them weekly, but rather in a few large chunks. I have a paper copy of the edited version on my tbr shelf that is up next, once the crush of summer visitors to Chicago tapers off. Not so excited about it now, though. Thanks for the heads up- I prefer to have my expectations in line with the reality.

    And yes! I’m also looking forward to Catalina’s first book. I like her better than Nevada and have high hopes for her story. I have Diamond Fire on my shelf already. I am so delighted that many authors’ novellas which were once only available in ebook are now coming out in little paperbacks, too. For forever keepers I like to have both versions.

    About Johnson’s Sentinels- it doesn’t start well. I don’t remember exactly, but I think it started out on a blog or fanfic type of thing, was popular, and then went on to be fleshed out. Thus the works as a whole improve dramatically as they go on. The series was recommended to me by a friend and if it hadn’t been free and she hadn’t been so adamant that it really did become quite compelling I would never have made it past the first two chapters. I could be wrong, but having a reasonable feel for your preferences I seriously doubt this is worth real money to you. To me, yes. I am just a wee bit silly.

    Kindle Unlimited. Well, my daughter reads tons of KU books and we share an account, so whatever books I pick up there are basically bonus. I just popped over to our KU account to see what I might have read there lately. I read SA Magnusson’s Medicine and Magic series. I don’t remember them so clearly, but I think they had decent world-building and storytelling, but the writing was rushed and not great quality. For free, they were great. I think. 🙂

    • I remembered where I’ve seen the Sentinels of New Orleans books before–Belle Chasse, and maybe another title in the series, are in my file of covers I really like. Given your comments, I’m thinking maybe I’ll wait until she does a box set, or they pop up on BookBub.

      Last night I read the T Kingfisher book, Minor Mage, recommended by Kay above. I loved it. I think you’d like it, and maybe your daughter would too. Seems T Kingfisher is an award-winning YA author called Ursula Vernon, so perhaps you’ve read her already.

      • Hah. A quick check of my purchased Kindle content shows me I already own Minor Mage. It’s good to share an Amazon account with someone who has good taste in books. I’ll check it out- thank you to both you and Kay! And my daughter, of course.

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