Weekly Reading Round-Up

I’m having the hardest time remembering what I’ve read this week, since it’s been all over the map. But here’s a selection:

— Barbara Michaels, Witch.

This used to be one of my favorite Barbara Michaels novels when I was a teenager. Somehow, between college and real life, my ancient copy was misplaced. It only just belatedly occurred to me that I could order a new one. Surprisingly, on a re-read, it’s no longer one of my favorites. On the flip side, Shattered Silk, which was towards the bottom of the list when I was a teenager, has now moved up towards the top.

— Elspeth Huxley, The Flame Trees of Thika.

I’d seen the movie, but never read the book. I’m so glad I finally did. The writer I’m reminded of is L.M. Montgomery. Huxley has the same gentle mockery, the same keen eye for human foibles. And it turns out that she wrote mystery novels, too!

— Antonia Fraser, The Wild Island.

While I was in Wales last week (which was the reason for my partial internet disappearance), I stopped into Hay-on-Wye, the used book capital of the world. While there, I visited Murder & Mayhem, stocking up on some of my favorite British crime writers. This was, indeed, a very satisfactory installment in the Jemima Shore series.

— Josephine Tey, The Man in the Queue.

I was originally introduced to Tey via The Daughter of Time, unaware that there was a whole series featuring Inspector Grant. Also a Hay-on-Wye find, this is another of Tey’s Inspector Grant books. I only wish I’d found more!

— Wendy Holden, Marrying Up.

I did some airport book shopping on the way back at Heathrow, adding to my British chick lit collection. (I also bought the new Harriet Evans, Love Always, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.) Marrying Up featured the usual Holden collection of schemers and socialites. Much fun.

What have you been reading?


  1. Am7 on September 2, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    A Little Bit Wild by Victoria Dahl
    I really respected the author for trying to avoid of a lot of the tropes in British historical romance. I enjoyed the way the story defied convention. I also thought she probably had a point. I will be reading the next one soon.
    Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn
    Her writing seemed really immature. This book did entirely work for me. She had two anachronisms (one being a reference to a marriage that had not taken place yet and the other was possibly anesthesia. yes it may have been invented but it seemed weird when the reference came up) Also I didn’t like the heroine’s brother who thankfully did not get a lot of air time. Honoria and Marcus however were good people and I thought they deserved to be together.

  2. Pam on September 2, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    A fairly prolific reading week for me (thanks, hurricane).

    I finished Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le CarrĂ© and ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I did when I was first reading it. He takes a long time to get the plot “moving,” and uses terms of art (“shoemakers” are document forgers, for instance) that can make things a bit complicated and ponderous for the post-cold war reader. But overall I thought the characters and the story were really well drawn. It’s a very subtle and deft novel; it helps if you consider it literary fiction and not a mystery.

    Then I read A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott. Did you know that the authoress of Little Women also penned a sensational/gothic romance? YES SHE DID. Obsession, murder, cholera, priests, convents, lunatic asylums, and florid prose, this has it all. Think of it as a less accomplished and less intellectual version of Richardson’s Pamela. Trashy but really fun!

    Rounded out the week with The Country Life by Rachel Cusk, which was a pretty strange novel. The blurbs compare it to Cold Comfort Farm but I don’t see it. Yes, both novels are pastoral and involve a city-girl transplant, but this wasn’t a true farce and the heroine was just too bizarre. I liked bits but overall I don’t think I cared for it.

    Starting Two L tonight!

  3. Lauren on September 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Pam, I just discovered that some of Stella Gibbons’ other books have come back into print! “Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm” isn’t out yet, but I have “Nightingale Wood” to read this weekend.

  4. Ashley on September 2, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks to the hurricane, I had plenty of time to read.

    I started with a nice English house mystery courtesy of Georgette Heyer called Footsteps in the Dark.

    Given the thunder and lightning, I was in the mood for some magical fantasy so I decided to try Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. Maybe I have no taste, but I still prefer Harry Potter over this novel.

    Then I decided I needed some chick lit so I read The Wedding Writer by Susan Schneider. It was a nice look at the wedding magazine industry and lives of editors.

    Finally, I started on Sarah Bower’s Sins of the House of Borgia!

  5. Tracie on September 2, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Ooooo, Wales! I’m jealous, Lauren!

    I read Heartless by Gail Carriger, the 4th in the Parasol Protectorate series. I LOVED this book! I think it’s the best of the series so far. Gail Carriger continues to delight, entertain, and surprise me. There were so many great plot twists and interesting character revelations in Heartless. The book was a real page-turner and I actually gasped when I read the ending!

    I finished Black Sheep for my Georgette Heyer book club. I really disliked the ending and got into quite a debate over it with several of my book club cohorts. Definitely not a Heyer that I will ever reread.

    And I breezed through A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen (the second in the Royal Spyness mystery series.) I find these books quite delightful and I really like the protagonist, Lady Georgiana. Despite being an aristocrat, she’s very relatable. She’s a bit awkward, has money problems, can’t seem to get her love life on the right track, and has a nasty habit of finding dead bodies, just the kind of heroine I enjoy spending time with!

  6. Elizabeth aka Miss Eliza on September 2, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I can’t wait for Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm, I’ve been wanting to read that for years and have never found a copy at any library (unlike Conferance at Cold Comfort Farm).

    This week I went into epic read mode after finishing the 2nd GRRM re-read.

    I finished the new Flavia De Luce book, Half Sick of Shadows, which comes out in November and is so awesome, Flavia is the best little poison obsessed girl out there.

    Continuing with the British theme, I finally read I Capture the Castle, which was wonderful, even if the Castle had poor living conditions, who wouldn’t want to live in one?

    Then of course I read Two L and highly enjoyed it!

    A Helene Hanff streak then seized me and I read Q’s Legacy (totally awesome, and more of an all round bio than her other books) and Apple of my Eye (basically her funny New York Travl Guide).

    I finished off the week a Charles Addams book, a Gail Carriger short story about Romans and bees and then continues the new Austen antology… Jane Austen Made Me Do It.

  7. Lauren on September 2, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Miss Eliza, I’m so jealous that you have JAMMDI! I’ve been dying to read the other stories in it.

  8. Lauren on September 2, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Tracie, I’m just reading “Royal Flush” (Lady Georgiana #3) right now. So far, thumbs up.

  9. Elizabeth aka Miss Eliza on September 2, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    The stories in JAMMDI have been really fun so far, esp. the one that is very much Ffordian, in the vein of Thursday Next.

  10. Diana on September 2, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Does ‘Click, Clack Moo Cows that Type’ count? 🙂

    This past week I have read Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion, Corinthian, and Faro’s Daughter. I had never read Georgette Heyer before, but after seeing your post on her and everyone’s comments, I had to check it out for myself. I really enjoy her books and will raid my library for some more.

    I also picked up The Princess of Nowhere by Prince Lorenzo Borghese (yes, from the Bachelor). The books is about Paulina Borghese, aka Pauline Bonaparte. We’ll see…

  11. SusanN on September 2, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks for your ideas/reccies. I haven’t read a Jemima Shore book in EONS!

    I seem to have hit a bad patch the last week or so, reading quite a few books that left me more than a bit underwhelmed, to be generous about it. In one case, a book was so execrable that I had to “break up” with an author I’d been reading for years. Things hadn’t been going well between us for awhile, and this was just the final straw. Sometimes you just have to walk away. 🙂

    I won’t mention the unfavorable books by name, except I do have to confess that I finally picked up Elizabeth Peters’s Legend in Green Velvet and . . . I loathed absolutely everything about it. Everything. I don’t understand it as I normally quite like EP. But, no. Also, not to get spoilery, but I saw the gimmick of the hero looking like someone famous coming a mile off. It was similar to something Mary Stewart (I believe) used and I kept getting a sense of déjà vu. This particular book just wasn’t my cup of tea, a one off. I’ll still keep reading, and enjoying, her other books and try to put this one behind me.

    Since I’m eagerly awaiting the next CS Harris installment, I decided to read one her older books, Beyond Sunrise, written under the Candice Proctor name. Pretty good. The heroine reminded me a bit of Hero Jarvis—maybe an early prototype. I capped things off by reading Keeper of the Dream by Penelope Williamson, Proctor’s sister. That was a (Welsh) medieval and made me want to pick up some Edith Pargeter.

    While waiting for Alan Bradley’s next Flavia de Luce mystery, I read Patricia Rice’s Evil Genius. There are a few similarities, but they are actually very different in tone, setting, etc. That said, I like both in their own right.

    Also read Loretta Chase’s Captives of the Night. For some reason, I thought I had already read this awhile ago, but realized I hadn’t when I was “thumbing” thru my e-book. Glad I picked it up as I really enjoyed it and it perked me up after some of those other bad experiences.

    SA Hunter’s Scary Mary was a short, but fun, YA read.

    Looking forward to a better week.

  12. SusanN on September 2, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    BTW, speaking of Josephine Tey, I have on my wish list Nicola Upson’s books featuring a fictional Tey as her detective. (Similar to Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen series?) Would love to know if anyone’s read them already and what they think of them.

  13. HJ on September 2, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Josephine Tey is one of my all-time favorite authors. Sadly, she didn’t write many books. All the Inspector Grant books are very good (especially The Singing Sands), but two of her other books which don’t feature him are also excellent. The Franchise Affair is wonderful at evoking an English country town in the 1940s while a mystery is slowly unravelled. But my absolute favorite is Brat Farrar – please read that next!

    I have been reading more books by Elsie Lee, and loving them (Dark Moon, Lost Lady; Wingarden; Clouds Over Velanti; and Barrow Sinister.

  14. jeffrey on September 3, 2011 at 6:24 am

    I’m reading Persuade Me by Juliette Archer in preparation to write a book review of it on another website. It is a contemporary parallel of Jane Austen’s timeless love story Persuasion. I’m at about page 91 of 340+ pages and dear readers, it is a DANDY!

  15. Joann on September 3, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Just read the first three books in Emily March’s Eternity Springs Series (Angel’s Rest, Hummingbird Lake and Heartache Falls). Highly recommend these contemporary romance novels.

  16. Farin on September 4, 2011 at 9:53 am

    SusanN: I’ve read Nicola Upson’s mysteries featuring Josephine Tey–I actually just finished the newest, Two For Sorrow. I wasn’t a huge fan of this one because it veered away from the mystery a little too much for my taste, which was unfortunate because the twists were so good that they had me reacting out loud. Of the three, I liked Angel With Two Faces best. The series might not be what you expect–I think it’s quite a bit rougher than Stephanie Barron and might not fit with the picture you have of Josephine Tey. But they’re worth a read.

    I, too, breezed through some reading during the hurricane. I read The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss in about ten hours. A-ma-zing! So fascinating. And I’ve had a hard time reading Liss before, so the fact that I loved this book so much says a lot.

    I just started A Bitter Truth, the new Bess Crawford mystery from Charles Todd, and I’m already hooked!

    The new Lady Georgie comes out on Tuesday. Can’t wait!

  17. Joanne M. on September 4, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Crime Through Time: Original Tales of Historical Mystery (Monfredo & Newman, Eds.) — I wanted this collection as it contained the short story The Lullaby Cheat by Kate Ross. Love her Julian Kestrel novels! Also includes stories by Anne Perry, Laurie King, etc…

    The Rebecca Notebook & Other Memories by Daphne du Maurier — not quite as revealing about her writing process for Rebecca as I had hoped, but still interesting to see how the novel was tweaked before publication.

  18. Chartreuse on September 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Recently reread an oldie: Sheila Simonson’s “Lady Elizabeth’s Comet”. Even better the second time through. A DIK on AAR when reviewed earlier this year.

  19. Leslie on September 4, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I really enjoyed reading
    “Lady Elizabeth’s Comet”.

    Because of the high surf warnings and a house full of dare devils I have had little time to read the stack of books on my desk. Looking forward to Tasha Alexander’s series and two books by Brit author Gil McNeil.

    Though I did manage to enjoy a funny romp by Robyn Carr.”Runaway Mistress”

  20. CĂ©line on September 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    I read More than a Mistress by Mary Balough and it was sooooooo good! It was my first encounter with Ms Balogh and I’m totally hooked. The heroine reminede me of Jane Eyre and her hero was so interesting! I can’t recommand it enough!
    Then, I finally got to read Ivy and Intrigue (loooved it, miss Richard and Amy) and Two L (soo great !). I am now in the middle of Heartless and I do agree, it IS really one of the best! And I haven’t read the most interesting parts yet!!!!

  21. SusanN on September 12, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    Farin: I just saw your note (I was away for a week) about the Upson books. I may cautiously test out the first one to get a feel for them–or maybe just get a Kindle sample. Thanks so much for your input. S

Leave a Comment