It occurs to me that it's been quite awhile since I posted on any of the reading challenges I've set for myself, not because I haven't been reading, but because I've been too busy and/or too laid up with carpal tunnel issues to blog about it. So, to catch up a bit...
For my research reading challenge in March, I read The Scottish Highlanders and Their Regiments, by Michael Brander, which sounds like it should be a dull list of facts and statistics, but in fact is anything but. It's a set of anecdotes about Highland soldiers in the British army of the 18th and 19th centuries, full of the details of daily life that help a novelist enliven a story.
Also on the research front, I read The Yellow on the Broom, by Betsy Whyte, a memoir of the childhood of a Highland Traveller. One of the characters in my historical fantasy WIP grew up with a band of Travellers. Thus far I haven't been able to find much documentation about 18th and 19th century Travellers (as opposed to the Roma, who are better-documented) beyond the fact that they existed, so I plan to read everything 20th century I can get my hands on and do my best to extrapolate backwards from there. It won't be perfect, but at least I'll have tried.
On the leisure reading side, I finished my April book for my 2011 buy-and-read challenge (wherein I buy and read at least one book a month, to keep things from gathering dust in my to-be-read pile forever), Julia Spencer-Fleming's One Was a Soldier. It's the seventh in a series, so you don't want to start here, but if you'd like a good character-driven mystery series with a strong sense of place, go get In the Bleak Midwinter and start reading. I rarely read contemporary fiction--I live here/now, why do I need to read about it?--but Spencer-Fleming's characters are so vivid and appealing, and their upstate New York community is a character in its own right, one different enough from my own everyday world to give me that "going on a journey" feeling I crave from my literary escapism.
I'm also revisiting some of the Sunfire YA historicals that introduced me to the romance genre back in the 80's. I was charmed by Amanda, the inaugural Sunfire, and I expected to feel the same way about Sabrina. It's by the same author, Candice Ransom, and I remember finding it swooningly romantic when I read it at 15.
Unfortunately, it didn't work as well for the adult me as Amanda did. It's a shorter book--around halfway through Sunfire's run, the page count got slashed by about a third--and the hero and heroine's relationship development suffers as a consequence. I didn't feel like they knew each other well enough to commit to a life together by the end. Oh, and the heroine looks exactly like I wished I looked when I was 15, and like the heroines I wrote into my unfinished teen manuscripts, complete with rarely-found-in-nature coloring--black hair that shone almost purple in the sun! aquamarine eyes!
I'll keep reading Sunfires, though. It's always fun to revisit one's youth.