I just finished Gail Carriger's second novel, and I loved it as much as the first. (Carriger was a Number One Novels find last year.) I love how she pokes fun at Victorian society, the humor that weaves through action-filled plots, and the sheer imagery of the setting, but most of all, I love how well werewolves and vampires are integrated into history in her crossover steampunk, fantasy, and regency romances.
Unexpectedly, I found my vocabulary improved while I was reading Changeless. I was more articulate, both in my writing and speaking (and even in my thoughts). I think that's pretty high praise for an author. Not only was I entertained, I was reminded of the breadth of our language. She'd probably be a good author to read if you were prepping for SATs.
I followed up Carriger's novel with Jayne Castle/Krentz's novel Obsidian Prey. I'm a huge Krentz fan. If I don't own everything she's written, it's only because I'm not keeping up with how fast she writes them. The rhythm of her stories is familiar and all the more enjoyable for it. Plus, she's so grammatically perfect. Krentz doesn't play around with the rules of grammar, and as interesting as that can be in some novels and in certain situations to convey pacing and tone, Obsidian Prey was simply relaxing for my mind to read. It was so clean and structured, I was never caught up on a sentence, puzzling over the way I would have written it differently for clarity. I can't express how enjoyable it was simply to relax into the story and turn off that critical editorial mind.
Relaxed as I was, and as familiar as I am with the pacing of Krentz's story, it allowed me to enjoy the story as a reader and as a writer. Since I'm trying to craft my own novel right now, and focusing on making sure every word counts and improves the story, I was looking for this in Krentz's novel. She's a master. I think classes could be taught from just her first page: the introduction of characters, the hook, the dilemma, and the tone is all right there before you turn the first page. Not a single word is wasted. Each sentence advances the plot, the setting, or the character, if not all three. Backstory is woven in (and it's amazing how little backstory any given story needs to hold up the story told in the novel).
I'm in awe of both these authors. They're such a pleasure to read and learn from.