What We’re Reading Now

This month’s installment of our regular blog feature!  An interesting mix of history and fiction, it’s definitely inspired me to seek out some of these titles!

Susan Hill Long— I’m reading the delightful, funny, action-packed HOOK’S REVENGE, by Heidi Schulz. Captain Hook’s 13-year-old daughter runs away from finishing school and sets out to avenge her famous father’s death. This book is so much fun!!


Jessica Spotswood— I’m reading Tiffany Schmidt’s HOLD ME LIKE A BREATH, which comes out next May from Bloomsbury. It’s about the daughter of a crime family that deals in black-market organs. Penny has a blood disorder that results in her bruising very easily, so she’s been raised as a delicate princess – but that all changes when tragedy strikes and she’s forced to fend for herself for the first time. As with all of Tiffany’s books, the characterization is brilliant; Penny’s journey toward independence is so compelling.

J. Anderson Coats— I’m reading DEATH BY TOILET PAPER, a charming middle-grade contemporary by Donna Gephart about a boy trying to save himself and his mother from eviction by winning contests – particularly a toilet-paper jingle contest. I’m also reading CUSTOMS IN COMMON by E.P. Thompson, about traditions and rituals occurring in the English countryside before the Industrial Revolution.


Cat Winters— I’m reading Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun–one of the big-buzz books of YA this fall. It’s the story of two twins, a brother and a sister, who have a falling out in their early teens because of circumstances that become clearer as the book progresses. Both twins narrate the novel in alternating sections, and I’m especially enjoying the chapters narrated by Noah, a character who bursts straight out of the pages in a kaleidoscope of colors. The novel also involves ghosts, which was a pleasant surprise for me.

Sharon Biggs Waller— I’m in the throes of researching the Victorian era for my work-in-progreess, and so I’m reading THE INVISIBLE WOMAN by Claire Tomalin.  It’s about Charles Dickens ad his 13-year love affair with an actress named Nelly Ternan.  It’s fascinating to read about how Victorian dalliances could ruin people, and the steps Dickens went to cover his up.  I saw the film based on the book in the spring and really loved it.


Katherine Longshore–I’m reading Donna Tartt’s THE GOLDFINCH.  It’s fascinating to read a book intended for adults, but so far (I’m about a third of the way through) written from the perspective of a teenager.  It’s beautifully written with startling images and evocative prose.

What are you reading?


Why Read Historical Fiction?


I read two kinds of historical fiction, and I’m thinking you do, too. There’s …

Old-Timey Historicals

These novels are historical because they were written way back in, well, history. Those would include Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen writing about 1800s England) and Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe writing about 1860s America). And then there’s …

Researched Historicals

That’s where our blog writers come in: The writer researches some period in the past and sets her story there.

So why bother reading about times gone by when there’s so much going on right here and now? Here are my Top Three reasons:

Reason #3 They’re (Ugh) Educational

It sounds like a tedious, teachery reason, but actually, it isn’t. I read to be transported to somewhere completely different from my own experience. What could be more different than another time? I can never go to medieval England. The only way to capture that past is through someone else’s eyes. When I read about a character’s life, I taste the eel pasty, I feel the corset’s pinch, I smell the musket’s powder. It’s visceral. Suddenly I’m there, somewhere I would otherwise never get to go.

Reason #2 They Add Depth to My Experience

I live in the suburbs of Kansas City, a medium-size city in the American Midwest. Ho-hum. During my growing-up years, my home seemed so generic and vanilla that I escaped to New York City when I was twenty-two just to get a little more life into my life.

But a funny thing happened. While I was there, I read Pam Conrad’s novel Prairie Songs. Her descriptions of the quiet beauty of the prairie made me homesick. This place has history! My house sits on what was once a grassland prairie. One of the streets I drive down every day was part of the Santa Fe Trail. I’m spitting distance from a Civil War battlefield. Kansas City was once the home to gangsters and jazz greats. Reading about those people, or even characters who could’ve lived next door to them, makes me appreciate my roots. It’s the same reason that people named O’Malley who were born in New Jersey go to Ireland and kiss the Blarney Stone. Roots matter.

Reason #1 They’re Fantastic Stories

The past is a treasure trove for writers, and we readers reap the benefits. Imagine having a front-row seat to the Salem witch trials or being a chamber maid in the court of Henry VIII or eavesdropping as Elvis records “That’s All Right.” Every situation, every character, is so heavy with possibility because we know that what they do, what they did, created the world we live in today. That’s irresistible fiction.




Claire M. Caterer is the author of The Key & the Flame, a fantasy set in an alternate version of medieval England. Look for it in April 2013 from Margaret K. McElderry Books / Simon & Schuster. Connect with Claire on her blog, Twitter, or Facebook page.