Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Books of the Hiatus

With work and creative rehab taking priority for me this summer I didn't read a huge amount of books during July and August, but I did take time for at least one or two reads per week. My favorite book from the batch I read in July was Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, which I've taken to rereading whenever I feel really blue.

There is something about this novel that just drop-kicks whatever is bothering you to the curb. For writers I think it reminds you of the thrill of writing. Reading Garden Spells always makes me happy, and it's the book I still most often give other readers in real life (just last month I gave a copy to my favorite indy bookseller in town.) It's a beautiful story. If I believed in magic, I'd think there even might be anti-ugliness spells printed invisibly behind the test.

If you writers want an example of book with multiple genre appeal, this is one to study. It's literary, romance, and paranormal, all without being pretentious, maudlin or too far out there. It's also funny without becoming a caricature of itself. The realism is what I like best; the setting of Bascom, North Carolina reads like a real town with a lot of charming secrets. The characters are interesting, quirky, and deceptively simple. Nothing happens without a reason in a Sarah Addison Allen novel (she must have paid attention during that class on Tolstoy) but nothing seems artificial or arranged, either. That's very tough to do.

I first read Garden Spells back in 2011 (and wrote it up here), and to this day it still reads as fresh and fun and magical as it did then. If you want to treat yourself to a wonderful novel, this is the one to invest in, no question.

I got a real treat in August when I found a copy of Rebecca Flanders' Wolf in Waiting in a thrift store. This paranormal romance was one of my favorite reads of the 90's, and I was curious to see if it retained its delight after all these years. Which it did, so well that it ended up becoming my #1 read in August.

I loved the Silhouette Shadows line when it debuted, which in those days was kind of a bold move for a publisher to take (vampires had yet to be Hamiltoned or Meyered back then.) I'd never read the author, and somehow missed book one in the trilogy, but that actually was for the best. This was the strongest novel of the three, and offered a lovely, hip romance between a gorgeous royal werewolf and a delightful would-be were who can't shift. The world-building is magnificent for a Silhouette, which tend to be very light in that department. There's mystery and intrigue, and a dinner scene between the main characters and some snobby weres that to this day I remember when I need ammunition for a social confrontation in a story. The end twist is even better. The end twist is amazing.

Since this book is over 20 years old now you probably won't find a paperback copy unless you stumble on it at a thrift store, or have a really good romance UBS in your town, but it has been repackaged and released as a standalone e-book and part of a trilogy bundle. You can absolutely read it without investing in the other two books, as it's an excellent standalone, but for fuller appreciation of the world-building you probably should read the other two (which oddly didn't wow me half as much.)

So those are the two books of my hiatus. What were your two favorite reads of the summer? Let us know in comments.


  1. I didn't read much other than Christie this summer. I was busy with all those neglected flower beds that came with the house. I'm still working on them! So I've just started The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Not for the feint of heart, but different than I've been reading so we'll see how it goes.

  2. I really enjoy Sarah Addison Allen's books. First Frost is another favorite of hers.

  3. Agree about "Garden Spells". Lovely. Think Allen must've mixed some of her herbs into the ink...
    Re-read "The Smoke Thief" for the joy of lush prose. Now about to binge on mysteries; sex scenes are starting to seem old--a bad sign.

  4. I read Garden Spells on your recommendation back in 2011 and read it or Nora Robert's The Search every time I need a "comfort" read. I must have re-read both of them more than 6 times.

    Over the summer I discovered a "new to me" author and loved her books so much I practically inhaled them. I had downloaded "A Hidden Fire" by Elizabeth Hunter some time last year as it was a kindle freebie and I thought I'd give it a go. It sat in my TBR pile until I finally read it this summer. I loved it so much I went straight on to Amazon and grabbed the next 3 books in the Elemental Mysteries, the all the Elemental World books and finally all the Elemental Legacy as well. The only one I haven't read so far is a short novella and I'm not going to bother with that, as it comes with a novella by another author & its more expensive than the novels! I really enjoyed these for the different spin on vampires, the glorious history and magnificent twists that threw me. Even thought I'd read the blurb on the back, what I enjoyed most was that I had no idea where the books were taking me, and guessed completely wrongly. The 4 Elemental Mysteries are about one couple, and I like that it wasn't dragged out to book 14. There was a definite start, middle, end, but the characters feature in the Elemental World so aren't out of the picture all together and you learn more as you go. Sorry, I'm going on & on but ....

    I also really enjoyed B E Sanderson's Up Wish Creek, the 3rd book in her Djin series. I'm going to treat myself to a re-read all 3 before the next book comes out as I loved the world she created.

  5. Garden Spells sticks with you, doesn't it? My fave summer reads were The House of Ivy and Sorrow (witches!) and The Fireman, which is a very uncomfortable read but has a lot to say about group-think, prejudice, and the dangers thereof.

  6. Summer of nonfiction reading for me. On a soggy slog through the NYC Metropolitan Museum ( side note, if it's utterly torrential in NYC, it's because I'm there. I'm 2 for 2). Picked up "Maker and Muse, which is a history and gloriously photographed book on the rise of women in goldsmithing in the art nouveau/jugendstil age of jewelery.

    Also picked up "Stoned" about 6 different gems of note and how they influenced the course of history. ( in turn that inspired plot twists in the collab novel).

    And started, and faded off, Paolo Bacigalupi's Water Knife, because its a hard read but good. Reading a fellow Indie author's book in a book review exchange. I'm way behind. poor guy. Its a good one too.