What the Writers are Reading

Today we’re sharing some of the books we are reading this summer–for fun, for research, for cooking, for keeping up with fellow/sister authors. Here are the books we are reading and we would love it if you would chime in with the books you are reading as well.

Kate Flora: I just finished Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Roada thought-Screen Shot 2020-07-20 at 10.17.58 AMprovoking little bonbon about relationships and self-awareness. Because I haven’t read my fellow contributors stories in The Faking of the President and Heartbreaks and Half-truths, the two anthologies I have stories in, those will be next. My kindle is full and my TBR pile is huge, and I am looking forward to lolling around on the porch of the cottage, devouring more fiction. I’ve heard that I have a new cookbook coming for my birthday, so as soon as it arrives, I’ll share that with you. I visited a friend recently and she was making amazing food from it. Then, strange as it may seem to reread one’s own books, I plan to review the first nine Thea Kozak mysteries before digging in to writing number eleven.

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett: I’m on a real escapist kick right now, almost exclusively reading in the paranormal genre. This is John Clark’s fault. One of his recent posts reminded me of Kim Harrison’s “The Hollows” series, in which witches, vampires, weres, pixies, elves, and all the other supernatural species have come out of the closet after “the Turn”—a global disaster caused by eating genetically engineered tomatoes. This gives a whole new meaning to “killer tomatoes” but it happened 40 years before the first book in the series, so the plague has passed and humans are more or less peacefully coexisting with other species. Anyway, there are more than a dozen books in the series and I already owned them all. I thought, I’ll just reread the first one, for a change of pace. Hah! Now I’m hooked, and well into #7. There are some mysteries coming out next week that I’ve been waiting for (by Sherry Harris, Lindsey Davis, Dianne Freeman) but they may have to wait till I get to the end of Harrison’s series. Then, too, I just downloaded the first new Harry Dresden novel in years (a wizard operating as a private detective in Chicago), so that might just have to be read first. Mysteries are wonderful, but they’re set in the “real” world. Fantasy/paranormal/SF novels have the advantage of whisking me completely away from less-than pleasant everyday realities.

John Clark: Two authors that have helped me stay sane this summer are Diane Burton and Jennifer Alsever. I just bought the three of Diane’s books I haven’t read, so next week is looking good. She writes science fiction with humor and a dash of sexy sizzle, as well as a series of equally funny detective stories. I have yet to find a book of hers that wasn’t extremely satisfying.

Jennifer has four books out. Extraordinary Lies is a YA thriller about two girls with scary psychic powers that is set in 1971. I liked it so much, I bought her earlier trilogy, Ember Burning, Oshun Rising and Venus Shining. They remind me of Jen Blood’s Erin Solomon series. They’re the type of series you want to have all three on hand because as soon as you finish one, you MUST read the next one. They’re set il Colorado and are a blend of dystopia and romance. While written three years ago, the plot is scarily relevant to what we’re dealing with right now.

Dick Cass: I blew through a long ton of crime fiction this month: here’s just a sampling (ignore the Bill Buford, though it was an excellent tale):

Lately, I’ve found enough attention span to start reading nonfiction again. I’m rereading Robert Grudin’s Time and the Art of Living. Grudin is a professor at the University of Oregon and an interesting thinker. The book feels very apt at the moment, since time had become such a strange accompaniment to everything else going on.

Also reading Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, the much-touted story of the author’s “obsessive search for the Golden State Killer, a predator who wreaked scores of sexual assaults and sadistic murders in California. McNamara was a journalist who became consumed with discovering the perpetrator. Ultimately, her work resulted in his arrest.

How to Listen to Jazz by Ted Gioia is keeping me in touch with the jazz world in a thoughtful and jargon-free way, and my midsummer garden doldrums are being propped up by Spirit of Place–the making of a new England Garden, by Bill Noble. In his own way, Noble is another obsessive, chronicling a two-decades evolution of the gardens on the property of his farmhouse in Vermont. Much beautiful, uh, garden-porn and interesting insights into his decisions around form, structure, native plants, and so on. I’m already looking at my own back yard with a jaundiced eye . . .

Charlene D’Avanzo: I’m working my way through Tony Hillerman’s eighteen (!!) Leaphorn and Chee books. A gifted writer, Hillerman won an Edgar in 1974 and a half dozen more awards. He also headed up Mystery Writers of America for a few years.

Hillerman’s books are a stunning lesson in “sense of place”. His stories brilliantly immerse readers in the smell, colors, dust, heat, and landscape of the southwest. That, and his terrific characters – Leaphorn, Chee, and the rest – are why I can’t put his books down.

Susan Vaughan: I’m currently reading Tightrope by Amanda Quick (aka Jayne Ann Krentz), a romantic suspense bound up in an intricate mystery. The series is set in the mid 1930’s at a California resort town where murder and intrigue are just below the Hollywood glamour. I do love an historical mystery, and if there’s a romance, even better. In this one, Amalie, a former circus performer who barely escaped being murdered on her trapeze, has opened a bed and breakfast in the mansion where the “psychic to the stars” had either committed suicide or was murdered. When her first guest, an inventor and showman, is murdered onstage by his robot, Amalie Vaughn connects with Matthias Jones, who is searching for a groundbreaking cipher device (an Enigma machine) and who may or may not have links to “the mob.” If that doesn’t sound intricate enough, there’s more.

Quick is famous for her quirky characters, snappy dialogue, and carefully crafted plots. Tightrope is the third book in the Burning Cove series, and I’ve enjoyed the first two as much as I’m hooked on this one. Not deep, but fun and fast-paced summer reads. Each book stands alone, but you might want to start with The Girl Who Knew Too Much, and move on next to The Other Lady Vanishes. Book 4, Close Up, is next on my list.

P.S. My romantic suspense, Dark Vengeance, is free on Amazon until Friday.

Sandra Neily: I decided to dip into Kate Atkinson with Big Sky as so many of our bloggers here were anticipating it a while back. I find that if I read too much at once, my entire world started to feel jaded, and my own life started to sound that way, too! But Atkinson is clearly brilliant at forging a few lines about character that just get richer and richer each time we are fed a piece of them. And there’s stunning originality about a subject we might think we already know about: white slavers preying on young girls who are no match for their intent and organization. I will be seeking out her other works!

My husband says he wants to read again, but somehow …   has not. For a recent camping trip, I downloaded the audio version of Land of Wolves  by Craig Johnson and we both enjoyed that coming and going to Cobscook Bay State Park (also when we got stuck in the screen tent avoiding bugs when the wind died). Longmire is always Longmire even when he evolves. Quite a feat with so many books in the series.

I am dipping into authors who create mysteries set in powerful physical worlds (as I have been working on those worlds in my novels). Listening to Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was hypnotic. I am so glad I listened rather than read. The narrator savored each spoken word about the marsh. Next up on Kindle will be Shattered Justice by Susan Furlong. Newly reviewed, the NYTimes calls her forest “gorgeous” if we can get beyond the “armed militia camps,” and says the the heroine is “gritty.” Anyone who lives with a retired human remains detection dog has to be interesting. I will report.

ps: Speaking of audio that is riveting, Hearing Michelle Obama read Becoming, means we are more deeply inside her journey. And she’s an amazing reader. In her voice we can clearly hear trouble, disappointment, joy, exhilaration, fear, triumph, and pain. Not in obvious ways. Just real ways.

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3 Responses to What the Writers are Reading

  1. Anonymous says:

    Love listening to Becoming, though it made me so long for leadership. This whole post is so much fun!


  2. Julianne Spreng says:

    If you want totally entertaining, escapist stuff try Jennifer Crusie. Welcome to Temptation has some laugh out loud humor. And it’s set in Ohio where I’m from. Bite Me is another one I enjoy. The author suggestions are all authors I read and reread. The Hollows series weaves nonfiction and folklore into interesting fantasy. You might try Karen Marie Moning Fever series, too. Thanks for all the recommendations…oh, and you may wish to reread The Stand. Pretty apropos I think.

  3. Jean says:

    Thanks for the book recommendations. I enjoy finding out what some of my favorite authors are reading.

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