Newsletter - What I?m Reading by Sian

Thursday Apr 05 2012
by Sian

It’s been an odd couple of reading months for me where I’ve had trouble getting excited about reading much of anything, but absolutely flown through things once I did finally start them. As a result, I’m happy to report that I’ve got several series to recommend.

I follow Deanna Raybourn and Tasha Alexander on Twitter, and they did a couple of group events with an author named Lauren Willig. I figured since Alexander and Raybourn are so alike in their current series (and it does tickle me that they are friends), Willig too must be along the same lines. And I wasn’t wrong, exactly. Lauren Willig’s ‘Pink Carnation’ series starts with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and is set both in present day England and Napoleonic France. A graduate student is doing her dissertation on British spies in the Napoleonic period and gets access to the papers of one Pink Carnation. It’s hard to say more without giving it away, but the story alternates between modern day Eloise, in search of the identity of the Pink Carnation, and 19th century Amy Balcourt, in search of another spy named the Purple Gentian. The writing is witty, lively, and well-researched, although the tone is decidedly lighter than either Deanna Raybourn’s ‘Lady Julia’ series or Tasha Alexander’s ‘Lady Emily’ books. Worth noting is that while Eloise’s storyline continues through the nine books in the series, each book has a different heroine and suitor, although they are decidedly within the same world. Thus far my favorites are The Seduction of the Crimson Rose and The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (set in India).

A quick update on those authors mentioned above. Tasha Alexander’s newest ‘Lady Emily’ book will be available in hardcover in October entitled Death in the Floating City (why yes I have preordered my copy already). Deanna Raybourn is changing gears slightly and her next novel will be set in WWI Africa, although she has a ‘Lady Julia’ Christmas novella coming for the holidays.

Now that I’m firmly enjoying historical mysteries with strong female characters and a bit of romance, Elizabeth Peters’ ‘Amelia Peabody’ series was an obvious next step. I flew through Amelia’s first adventure in Egypt, Crocodile on the Sandback, and enjoyed The Curse of the Pharaohs just as much. I can’t say it’s the archaeology itself that keeps me going, but Amelia is so delightfully outspoken and purposeful that I’d enjoy her antics even if she were painting a fence.  With nineteen books in total so far, I won’t even have to ration myself as carefully as I sometimes need too.

I talked last newsletter about Madeleine Robins’ ‘Sarah Tolerance’ series and we were thrilled to find she’s signed with a new small press and published The Sleeping Partner, the third book in the series. I’m happy to report that while the packaging isn’t as slick, the writing is as good as ever and I enjoyed it as much, if not more, than the previous two books. Digging around Robins’ website I was excited to discover that she’s got a book coming from Forge, under the pseudonym Neile Kidd, called The Salernitan Women, which if you read Ariana Franklin, you will recall is a reference to the medical school in Salerno where women were trained as doctors. Apparently it will be patterned on Rapunzel.

I must guiltily confess to hoarding a few books for fear of being done reading them too quickly, and this includes Ariana Franklin’s final ‘Mistress of the Art of Death’ book A Murderous Procession, Gail Carriger’s final ‘Parasol Protectorate’ book Timeless. Here’s the good news about Gail Carriger though: not only does she have a young adult series called ‘The Finishing School’, but she’s also signed an offshoot series called ‘The Parasol Protectorate Abroad’. First books from those series will be coming in February and Fall of 2013 respectively.

Not to drone on about upcoming books, but I’m also excited to report that there’s a new ‘Thursday Next’ book from Jasper Fforde coming in September called The Woman Who Died A Lot. Every word Fforde writes is a treat, and I’m thus far really enjoying The Last Dragonslayer, his young adult title.

And finally, I just want to draw your attention once more to the wonders of the internet. I track every book I read on Goodreads ( either through their website or the app on my phone (you can scan the barcodes with your camera!). Fantastic Fiction ( is a fabulous website if you need bibliographies for all your favourite authors and help to figure out which book is next in the series. But do remember that authors too are way more digital these days, and you can find information about upcoming books through their Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, and websites. I am, as ever, a vociferous supporter of the printed word, but this digital age can provide much in the way of enhanced content for even the most dedicated Luddites amongst us.

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