Thursday, June 9, 2011

So...What Are You Reading These Days?

-- Beth Groundwater

Writers, good writers at least, must first of all be readers. Of course, we need to read widely in our genre, to see what kinds of voices, plots, characters, and settings are selling these days, and to see where our own work fits within the genre. We read to study the craft, to understand better what works--and what doesn't work. But, we also read for pure pleasure, and that reading may or may not occur within our own writing genre.

I write mystery novels, so of course I read a lot of mystery novels. In fact, of the 360 books that are on my Goodreads shelves right now, half (180) are mysteries. But the other half range across a variety of genres. For instance, I've recently read two romances by two heavy-weight bestselling authors, Moon Over Water by Debbie Macomber and The Burning Point by Mary Jo Putney. Both are the type of romance I prefer, concentrating on the relationship between the hero and heroine and the forces that conspire to keep them apart versus what I call "plumbing details." I often include a romantic subplot in my mysteries, and it's good for me to learn from masters of the craft like these two.

I'm in a book club that reads and discusses literary, mainstream, women's fiction, memoir, and nonfiction books monthly. I'm in this group precisely because it pushes me to read books I otherwise might never have selected. Our book this month is Room by Emma Donoghue. I describe it as a cross between The Lovely Bones and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, both books that blew me away. For the same reason, I was enthralled by Room--the voice of the narrating character. Room is well worth the read. The book we read last month was Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home by Laura and Lisa Ling. Another fascinating read, primarily because of the complex machinations of all the behind-the-scenes international politics.

I also stepped out of my comfort zone in the mystery genre into the gritter thriller genre to finally read the Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, which I received as a Christmas gift. The violence wasn't as graphic as I was dreading it would be, and all three books were fascinating reads, though I enjoyed the second one the most. Back in my comfort zone, I'm starting to read the books by other Midnight Ink authors that I acquired at this year's Malice Domestic conference. The first one I finished, Bingo Barge Murder by Jessie Chandler was a fun, comedic caper and a delightful read. I've learned to trust acquisition editor Terri Bischoff's judgment in picking Midnight Ink's stable of quality authors and books, so I'm sure I'll enjoy the other MI books on my TBR (to be read) pile.

In fact, now is YOUR chance to plunge into the Midnight Ink catalogue for a minimal investment and read some of my fellow MI authors' books. For the month of June, Midnight Ink is discounting or giving away the first book in some of their authors' series in ebook form. June Bug by Jess Lourey is free. Death of a Cozy Writer by G. M. Malliet and Murder on the Rocks by Karen MacInerney are $1.99 each. And Paper, Scissors, Death by Joanna Campbell Slan is only 99 cents.

I've read most of these books, and I can tell you that you won't be disappointed! Give them all a try. For the price of a fancy coffee drink, you'll have five great mysteries on your e-reader. Hopefully one or more of these mysteries will hook you enough that you'll read the rest of the series--and check out the rest of Midnight Ink's catalog, including my own Deadly Currents. :)

Okay, enough about me and what I've been reading. Let's go back to the title of this post. So, what are YOU reading these days? Got any great suggestions for me or our blog readers?


Keith Raffel said...

Hey, Beth. Am reading Bloodmoney by David Ignatius, just about the best spy thriller guy going. You're right about the quality of Midnight Ink books.

Kristi said...

I briefly met Jessie Chandler at our local SinC meeting. Nice woman! I must read her book soon!
I am finishing up Cody McFadyen's The Darker Side and hoping to get Joelle Charbonneau's Skating Around the Law in the mail today to start that.

Patty said...

For mysteries - Craig Johnson's newest "Hell is Empty". For non mysteries I have to agree with you about "Room". What a great story. I read it on my Android using the Kindle app, need to make sure to go and review it on Goodreads!

Beth Groundwater said...

I'm a Craig Johnson, fan, too, Patty, so Hell is Empty is definitely on my TBR list. And yes, we authors really appreciate those Goodreads reviews, as I blogged about on my own blog Tuesday at:

Keith and Kristi,
Thanks for your suggestions, too. I'm going to look them up on Amazon & Goodreads to see if I want to add them to my list.

Of course, given the quality of Midnight Ink books, I could just work my way through the catalog!

Alex MacKenzie said...

I'm a late discoverer of Mary Daheim's "Alpine" series and am avidly working my way through the 20+ mysteries featuring small-time newspaper owner Emma Lord. I also just finished Christopher Fowler's 8-books-so-far series featuring Bryant & May, the elderly detecting due in charge of London's Peculiar Crimes Unit.

I read widely outside the mystery genre, especially nonfiction (history, nature, travel). I'm also extremely fond of children's fiction (usually middle-grade) and can highly recommend the three books in Jeanne Birdsall's "Penderwick" series - charmingly old-fashioned yet still contemporary books about the four Penderwick sisters and their adventures.

Robin Allen said...

I belong to the Cozy Mystery group on Goodreads and have been reading our author of the month, M. C. Beaton. I've done one Agatha Raisin and two Hamish Macbeths. Beaton's writing style is so spare and abrupt, but I'm getting used to it. She's high on plot, but low on depth of character and motivations.

I'm also in the Clean Reads group, and we're reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, a YA book by my friend, Jackie Kelly. I read it when it came out a couple of years ago and am enjoying it even more the second time.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Just finished Julia Spencer Fleming's latest, One Was A Soldier. Excellent as always. My historical fiction book group finished M.P. Barker's A Difficult Boy, which was also excellent. So many books, so little time...

Darrell James said...

In the missdle of a Robert Crais, Sunset Express.

Terri Bischoff said...

First Beth, thank you for the wonderful compliment. I hope and pray that I am steering MI in the right direction.

Second, I wish I had time to read more. I buy books whenever I am in a bookstore and I have stacks to get through... We just started a book club here at Llewellyn so I will probably join that next month. :)

Alice Loweecey said...

My TBR pile is top-loaded with Inkers' books :D Alan, Beth, Lois, Jess, and Vicki. I also have non-mysteries on it. Really!

Elizabeth Loupas' The Second Duchess and Victoria Strauss' The Arm of the Stone. On my Kindle-for-PC awaits Me and my Ghoulfriends by Rose Pressey, and come July 5 I'll be reading A Shot in the Dark by KA Stewart.

Dru said...

I just finished Dire Threads by Janet Bolin and now I'm reading Ink Flamingos by Karen E. Olson

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Mizmak,
That Penderwick series sounds very interesting to me! When my kids were still home & in middle/high school, I read a lot of quality middle-grade and YA books before/after them, and I kind of miss that.

Hi Robin,
I, too, am in the Cozy Mysteries group on Goodreads, and it's a great one--very active with lots of reading suggestions. Since my TBR pile is so high, I haven't participated in the M. C. Beaton discussion.

Hi Kathleen,
A Difficult Boy sounds like another great middle-grade read!

Hi Darrell,
Robert Crais is such a great writer, isn't he?

Hi Terri,
What a great idea to start a book club at a publisher! After all, you all live & breathe books and you should sample some outside of those you're producing.

Hi Alice,
I enjoy historical fiction, especially Philippa Gregory's books, and The Second Duchess sounds right up my alley!

Hi Dru,
You amaze me with how many books you read! And you're a true cozy mystery expert. :)

Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions, and like Alice and me, I hope all of you Inkspot blog readers will choose a Midnight Ink book to put on your TBR pile.

Beth Groundwater said...

Here's some comments from Facebook and my blog:

"Cathy just read Erik Larson's "In the Garden of Beasts" and "Separate Lives" by Sylvia Pettem."

Buzzard Bone said:
"Beth, I had to laugh when I saw your question. I'm reading Deadly Currents! LOL! And really loving it. So far, quick action and kick-butt narrative style. Mandy is one likable (had to stop 'cause I thought I spelled "lickable") character. Really like her.

But . . . to answer your question (because I'm saving my stuff on Deadly Currents for my review), I just finished Steve Hamilton's The Lock Artist. It's a great read, and I heartily recommend it. I've just finished a review of the book, and I'd love comments from readers--or intended readers--of my review."

Jody said:
"I'm trying very hard to get & read all the books nominated for Anthony Awards. With what I've read so far, I see why they got nominated! I've finished The Lock Artist; Faithful Place; Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter; and I'm just getting a good start on The Sherlockian. Lots of good reading ahead of me."

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Beth. I'm reading three novels at the moment. One is an unpublished horror manuscript by a local author, one is Headwind by K.K. Breese (which I have on Kindle) and the last is Under the Dome by Stephen King (which I wish was on Kindle because it's over 1,000 pages and very, very heavy).