Newsletter - What I'm Reading by Sian

Monday Oct 01 2012
by Sian

I prepared the August newsletter on a warm July evening, sitting on my parents’ porch in Winnipeg, probably enjoying a slurpee and confounded that it still wasn’t dark yet. What a difference two months makes. Now almost a month into my MBA, it is 1am, I just finished another set of co-op job applications, and I should probably do some economics reading when I’m done. But fear not, because with the MBA comes a significant commute, and I’ve been able to direct some of my train time to reading (thank goodness).

Before I tell you about what I’ve read recently, I want to make quick plug for a series that I’ve talked about before, even though there isn’t a brand new book. I spent the last seven years working at Simon & Schuster, but I was always very careful to try to keep those worlds separate. Now that I’m school, I can be as partisan as I like and tell you that if you haven’t read Lisa Lutz’s ‘Izzy Spellman’, than you’re missing one of the best reading experiences of your life. Yes, the first four books are only available in trade paperback. Yes, I know you’d maybe rather try it out in mass or in used. But I promise you that if you’ve ever liked anything I’ve recommended, you will love these books. I can’t offer you a money back guarantee, but I will promise to read whatever book you think is better than The Spellman Files, Curse of the Spellmans, Revenge of the Spellmans, The Spellmans Strike Again, or Trail of the Spellmans, should you be able to find one. I’ll be at the store over Thanksgiving and Christmas, so please do come in and tell me how right I am about this.

We don’t tend to get a lot of advanced copies for books that I read, so I can’t often offer an advanced review, but an advanced copy of Tasha Alexander’s Death in the Floating City (#7 in the Emily Ashton series) happened to find its way onto my pile during my summer residency. Alexander paints a vivid picture of Venice (fans of Donna Leon might like the historical take on the city), but I’ll admit I do prefer the books where Lady Emily is taking London by storm. That said, this is an excellent book and definitely seems to be moving towards some pretty major personal character development. The hardcover comes out October 16th and is available for preorder. And as an aside, did you know that Tasha Alexander is married to the thriller writer Andrew Grant, who is in turn Lee Child’s younger brother? Must make for some dramatic Christmas dinners.

I’ve always thought that Rhys Bowen’s ‘Royal Spyness’ series was a delightfully easy romp of a read, but Naughty in Nice may have been her best one yet. I loved the presence of Coco Chanel and the opportunity to get to know Georgie’s mother (who reminded me distinctly of ‘The Bolter’ in Nancy Mitford’s wonderful The Pursuit of Love). It’s still available in mass market with a Christmas hardcover, The Twelve Clues of Christmas, on sale November 6th. Book number seven, Heirs and Graces, is on sale in August 2013, so 2013 will offer a bumper crop of Bowen formats.

The benefit of the computer system at Whodunit is that we can tell you if you’ve already bought a particular book (you wouldn’t buy a mystery anywhere else, would you?). So when the computer said I had already bought Sarah Zettel’s Let Them Eat Stake (book two in her ‘Vampire Chef’ series), I believed it, even though I knew I hadn’t read it yet nor had any clue where it could be. Fortunately, I found it under the bed at an opportune moment, and enjoyed it just as much as the first. I think it’s a light and funny series, with a little bit of forbidden romance thrown in. Book one is A Taste of the Nightlife, and both are available in mass market. No book three on the horizon, but it seems to be set up to be a continuing series.

I’ve only been reading historical mysteries for the last few years, and I’ve certainly built up a stable of authors I keep returning to. But if you asked me today what my favorite historical series was, I’d have to say that Caro Peacock’s ‘Liberty Lane’ series would rank pretty high. These books are well researched, smart, and while Miss Lane has something of a flirtation with Benjamin Disraeli, her romantic life is not a feature of the series. The first four books are available in trade paperback, with the fifth in hardcover (When the Devil Drives) and a sixth (The Path of the Wicked) coming in hardcover in May. The author has moved to a smaller publisher, which certainly impacts the look of the books (and makes the release schedule a little less reliable), but these are really some of the smartest books I’ve read in a long time. Plus, the lack of romance (and other ‘content’) might make these an ideal recommendation for any young feminist history buffs in your life. I can’t have been the only one…

I’m running out of space with more to tell you about than I can fit in, but that means I’m back on my game and will have LOTS to choose from for my 2012 Holiday Pick (are you getting excited). A definite contender will have to be Deborah Harkness’s Shadow of Night. This is the second book in the ‘All Souls’ trilogy and the follow up to Discovery of Witches. It also falls into the “it’s my bookstore and I’ll stock what I want” category, as it’s not explicitly a mystery. Still, if you like a good historical, romantic, or intriguing novel, please give this series a try. Harkness is a genuine historian of early modern science, so she knows of what she writes, and she writes beautifully. I tore through the first book and only managed to savor the second because I was so busy with school. I was devastated to learn the third book hadn’t been written yet though, so for those of you who like to fly onto the next book, be warned.

As ever, you can find me on Goodreads under ‘mysterysian’ or email me at and tell me all about what you’re loving these days.

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