This is a Good Book Thursday

I’ve been on a Rex Stout/Dick Francis reading jag lately.  Must get some estrogen into my fictional life.  Or I could, you know, write a book with a female protagonist.  That would do it.

62 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday

  1. I’m listening to “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. She doesn’t say anything earth shatteringly new, but it’s exactly what I need right now.
    I just started “Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” by Mackenzi Lee and it seems promising so far. Two young libertines carouse around 18th century Europe and the one young man is in love with the other and trying to figure how to express it. It’s clever and witty and different. Let me put it this way, I feel like if they made it into a movie in the early 70s, David Bowie would play one of the main roles.

    4+

  2. I’ve been reading and enjoying the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch because all the recommendations here reminded me those have been on my TBR pile for a long time.

    The books themselves remind me a bit of Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series, which I love and highly recommend, but fair warning, they are a bit darker than the PG series. They are set in a London that has been overrun by supernatural elements. Felix isn’t a cop, but he gets called in to help the police solve murders because of his special ability to communicate with the dead. And there are demons, including Lilith. I love a good Lilith cameo.

    I don’t read much literary fiction these days, but recently I did read The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. It’s set in the Victorian era and, while not a romance, has an interesting romantic element. The language is dense at times but beautifully evocative. The kind of thing I read a lot 20 years ago. (I was on a big Virginia Woolf kick around that time. This is not that abstruse :-).)

    2+

  3. I reread Bet Me because I couldn’t figure out how to work a lighter, which meant I couldn’t light the stove in the new apartment after I’d bought all the nice, healthy groceries and I was feeling very overwhelmed and in need of comfort.

    Can we talk about what a great comfort read Bet Me is? All your books are comfort reads for me, but there really is something about that one that makes me feel it’ll all be ok for days after the re-read.

    And now I have matches, so I can go make scrambled eggs, on the reeeeaaaaally old gas stove. Happy Thursday everyone!

    9+

    1. My guess is that it’s because the antagonist is Fate, and Fate wins. I wanted the sense underneath everything that no matter what happened, they couldn’t screw the relationship up, that they’d always find their way back to each other. There used to be a lot more magic realism in there, but Jen asked me to scale it back. I think the Fate bit is still in there pretty clearly, though.

      7+

      1. My favorite comfort read (followed closely by Bet Me, Agnes, etc…) is The Cinderella Deal, wherein Fate also plays a huge role.

        3+

      2. Something struck me just now. There’s so much lit out there where the antagonist wins, and people just seem to love it, although it’s often a miserable place to be. But in Bet Me, it’s a happy, smiling fate, and I love that fate has its willful way with all the characters.

        I wonder though if Liza is one of those people who plots her own destiny. There’s such a magical quality about her — a fixer who doesn’t stick around long to enjoy the results of being fixed. She’s a force of fate on her own — and maybe defies fate? Or has a different kind of fate?

        Anyway, totally agree with Cate M. Bet Me is my favorite comfort read.

        4+

        1. I always read Bet Me as a modern fairytale in which Liza plays the role of the fairy godmother to individuals/businesses.

          5+

  4. I have been enjoying Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. books in the past year even though ghost/horror stories are really not my cup of tea. The premise is interesting and the fifth and final book promises to reveal the reason for the problem.

    To Say Nothing of The Dog by Connie Willis is a favourite which I have read several times.

    4+

    1. I adore the Lockwood books, and I’m on countdown for the fifth. It’s just a perfect blend of interesting premise and action that moves things along, snarky humour, and characters that I love and deeply care for.

      1+

  5. I’m re-reading Sue Grafton in anticipation of the August 22 release of Y is for Yesterday.

    While everyone is reading their favorite books, you might want to celebrate today – National S’Mores Day.

    6+

    1. I just finished re-reading the Midnight TX trilogy by Charlaine Harris since NBC has just started with the TV show. Enjoyed the books all over again but the TV show is straying so far from the books that I have just about quit watching.

      1+

      1. I had low expectations after the tv version of True Blood, when I couldn’t make it through the first episode. I thought Midnight might be better, because the books felt more like character sketches to me than plots (Harris creates GREAT characters), so they should have been the perfect foundation for a tv show that would then provide the plots. But the tv show lost the depth of the characters, and the plots are …. let’s just say mediocre. I watched the third episode, but only because I was desperate for distraction. Like Dnelle, that was the final straw though, and I won’t be watching any more.

        2+

        1. I haven’t read the Midnight books, so I’m enjoying the tv show. But I loathed True Bood because of how much I liked the Sookie novels, so I sympathize.

          0

  6. I just read Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. It was a great YA book. I couldn’t put the book down and finished it in one day. The story was relatable. The characters had depth. It was full of diversity. This book just hit it out of the ballpark for me.

    5+

  7. I have just finished reading Hidden Figures, I found it extremely interesting,it really made me think hard about how it was then and I hope it is easier for black women now. I am going to read The Painted Queen now just got it out of the library reading that will cheer me up.

    5+

    1. My partner and I watched the movie of this on a plane recently. Days later, we were were walking along and he bursts out with ‘I hate discrimination’. Waaah? The movie had stuck with him and was still making him angry. He’s so lovely.

      The Power which I read and recommended last week is sticking with me and making me feel a bit angry and sad too. Looking here today for a light hearted the-world-is-all-right read. Maybe I should go re-read Bet Me too. Will that cancel out fire and fury?

      6+

  8. I just preordered the last Jackaby novel by William Ritter. The protagonist is a very intelligent, capable young woman who assists a detective of the supernatural. It should arrive in two weeks!! Not sure what I’ll read in the meantime.

    0

  9. I have just read Assassin’s Fate, the last book in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy. Robin Hobb is an excellent writer and her world building is amazing.

    I did not remember book 1 and skipped book 2 somehow. I thought Assassin’s Fate was the next one for me to read and only realized once I was into it that a lot had happened that I did not know about. It was really good and worked just fine as a stand alone. This is the first time in a long time that I read something that brought tears to my eyes, not once but twice. But despite this the ending was not a downer and was perfect.

    1+

  10. Just completed a duology by David Walton, Superposition and its sequel Supersymmetry. The first is a tight murder mystery thriller, albeit with a guy protagonist, but the sequel is all about the ladies getting things done.

    0

  11. After three disappointing library books, I bought K. J. Charles’ ‘The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal’, and am really enjoying it. I’d skipped it because it sounded more like horror, but it’s lighter than that. She’s such a great storyteller.

    2+

  12. I juat finished a re-read of Seanan McGuire’s novel Sparrow Hill Road. The protagonist is a hitchhiking ghost and it’s a weird and wonderful book. McGuire plays around a lot with structure and convention in this one, giving us a story (or a series of stories) that is emotionally liner yet not entirely chronological.

    Regardless, the mythology she builds is deep and fascinating and steeped in Americana, and some of the twists and turns still sock me in the gut, even when I know they’re coming. Recommended if you want something literally and figuratively off the beaten path!

    3+

    1. She is my new author crush- I read all 10 October Daye books, and the Indexing series. She just won a Hugo. Now I’ll have to go find this book too, alas is me!

      0

  13. Whoever recommended “The Blue Castle” – thank you! It was such a lovely read.
    I then went on to “Not Your Average Nurse”. Written by Maggie Groff.
    It is an autobiography of her nursing life, starting with the nursing training in 1970 London, very interesting, very entertaining.
    I have read, and re-read her 2 novels before as well: “Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerilla Knitters Institute” because of the awkward, interesting title, very unputdownable, finished it in one go. Scout Davis is an investigative journalist onto an intriguing story, which gets her into danger (of course), as well as helping out her sister Harper with a problem. Plus a gorgeous cop. And yarnbombing activities.
    The stand alone sequel to that one, “Good News, Bad News” is of the same quality. Love them both, and am fervently hoping for more Scout Davis yarns!

    2+

  14. Joanna Bourne’s Beauty Like The Night and KJ Charles’ Spectred Isle. Which were both excellent. But now I’m having trouble settling to something to follow them.

    2+

  15. I’m currently reading a kids’ book called The City of Secret Rivers, and it’s one of those books I keep laughing over and driving my husband crazy by reading bits of them out loud. The protagonist is a young girl who has just moved to London with her mother, and she unwittingly lets loose a magical drop of water that escapes into the sewers and threatens to destroy London. Fortunately, her aunts have prepared her with plumbing skills.

    ‘ “Oh, no need for shame. Why would the nation that discovered evolution, produced the works of Shakespeare, and conquered the entire globe be able to master basic bathroom plumbing? Who would imagine that we’d have a very good reason for keeping the hot water separate from the cold?” ‘

    1+

    1. I read all the Ben Aaronovitch books in quick succession–could not put them down.

      Thank you for the recommendation!

      Now I am waiting for the next book from 2 authors! 🙂

      1+

  16. I love Dick Francis. My grandmother read him and got my mom hooked, and then my mom got me hooked. I own them all (including the ones his son wrote after he died) and they are one of my comfort rereads.

    Speaking of magic realism, I’m reading a book recommended to me by a friend (I don’t *think* it was here) called The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell. If you like Sarah Addison Allen, you’ll love this. I don’t want the book to end.

    4+

    1. I love Francis, too, and got it from MY mom. In my house, though, I seem to be breeding Nero Wolfe fans. We have listened to all the Michael Pritchard audio versions on road trips, and now my 18 YO son listens to them (in between doses of Scandinavian death metal, argh) when he lifts weights or does yard work. I’ve tried to get him and his sister interested in Francis, but they’re just not having it.

      2+

    2. I am a serious Dick Francis fangirl. Started reading him when I was about ten. Eventually collected everything in paperback. Then started upgrading to hardcover. Then to first editions (signed if I could get them). Went to signing events and met him a couple of times. Wrote him a fan letter – and got a personal reply that is one of my little treasures.

      I have read a few of Felix’s books but his voice is very different, and I don’t think they’ll become comfort re-reads for me.

      1+

      1. I think Francis is a prime example of competence porn. He was the Queen’s jockey for a zillion years, so he knows racing, and it comes through in every book he wrote, but he also really researched everything. He did one about a jockey/photographer (Reflex) that was fascinating (I had a photography minor as an undergrad) and used darkroom knowledge as an integral part of the mystery.

        The two things I don’t like about him are that his women tend to be love interests who reward the hero with sex (off the page or abbreviated, which is fine by me since these are first person narrators) and my god does he physically torture his heroes. I know jockeys are used to pain, but I think every one of his heroes is tortured at the climactic battle. The photographer protagonist gets the crap kicked out of him multiple times.

        But I still love the books. My fave is probably Hot Money, but there’s an early one about a toy designer (High Stakes) that was excellent (and not on Kindle), and the one about the artist (In the Frame, also not on Kindle, damn it) is great.

        3+

        1. I avoided his books for YEARS because I thought they were about horses. Then last year I picked one up and found out that the horses might be there, but the stories were just fantastic, well-written mysteries. I read almost nothing BUT Dick Francis until I’d read them all. I haven’t read Felix yet, though.

          0

  17. I am now in the midst of the Kelley Armstrong Cainsville re-read I was planning last Good Book Thursday. Just started the third book, Deceptions, last night. I’ve decided to be obsessive about it and read the two novellas set between books 4 and 5 as well, so that will probably run through most of the long weekend coming up. Reading them one after the other has been good so far since there’s no time jump between the books yet. That comes with the beginning of the fourth book, but the novellas will bridge the gap there.

    The protagonist of this series, really all the characters, aren’t particularly nice and cuddly. They form very close, very strong bonds to a few people and would do anything for that small group of people they care about, but they don’t feel any need to be good and kind to everyone. Since I just read a book with a nice-to-everyone heroine who bordered on being a pushover, this is very refreshing.

    2+

  18. I finished Death in the Stocks and am halfway through Behold, Here’s Poison by Heyer. I am becoming very fond of Superintendent Hannasyde. Someone needs to do some TV adaptations.

    I ended up having a nice chat with one of my dad’s cousins about Heyer. She’s been a fan for several years.

    2+

  19. I’ve been listening to the D.C. Smith series by Peter Grainger. I’m waiting for the final one to come out in audiobook form. I can barely sit still to read an actual book anymore… While I wait, I’m listening to the Adventure of English. The narrator is excellent. I prefer print to audio for nonfiction audiobooks because I so often need to go back and reread passages, but listening to this has been a delight.

    0

  20. I’m waiting anxiously for Ride the Storm, the latest Karen Chance book to arrive. I’ve love her series (paranormal/time travel with romance, only Karen insists that it’s not a romance). Some readers complain that there is insufficient character development; however since the eight books (so far) only cover about four months, that’s perfectly reasonable!

    Other than that, Kiersten White’s second book in her series about the fictional Lada Dracul – Now I Rise – is next in my reading queue. No magic, and no vampires – but some of the best world-building and characters I’ve ever read. Lada is possibly the most terrifying princess ever written.

    If you like your set-in-the-past novels to be accurate, both authors have done a lot of research, without the results on the page ending up like a dry history lesson.

    1+

  21. Pssst. There’s a new Bujold novella out: “Penric’s Fox”. It takes place after “Penric and the Shaman”, and well before “Penric’s Mission”. Really good!

    2+

  22. I’ve been rereading the Peter Shandy series by Charlotte McLeod. It’s been so long since I read them that it’s like reading new books. They’re cozy mysteries set in a college town and full of funny characters.

    5+

    1. I love these too. My favorite is the time traveling one, set in Wales.

      I also enjoy the Madoc Rhys myseteries and the Grub and Stakers ones of these.

      0

  23. Just finished Ted Chiang’s collection of short stories, including The Story of Your Life basis of the movie Arrival – a wonderful collection of stories, and am currently totally immersed and amazed by My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, just a wondrous piece of writing.

    0

  24. Finished the first book in Jacqueline Winspear’s mystery series, Maisie Dobbs. I belong to a mystery book club that meets at my local library, so I’ve been exposed to a number of authors I wouldn’t normally seek out. I guess my taste in mystery fiction would be considered “tame” as I normally gravitate to contemporary cozies. The Maisie Dobbs books are not contemporary, this first being set in England during the decade after The Great War (WWI), with a number of flashbacks of Maisie’s life during and prior to The War. I was enthralled with the character of Maisie, her intelligence, determination, and kindness. I’m looking forward to continuing with the rest of the books in the series. The sense of place and the so very real persons found in this book makes me want to plunge face-first into this time-period so well known to my grandparents and absorb the history, society and the shifting of class positions that is taking place within Ms. Winspear’s world.

    1+

  25. Love Francis, think I’ll reread. Inherited a slew of Rex Stout hardbacks which are just hanging about. Intention: start the read to discover whether they are worth the shelves. Hey, I have a lot of cook and garden and art photography books.

    0

    1. Hi Thea, Rex Stout is very very collectible, especially in hardcover. I have most of his book but unfortunately in paperback. He is one of my rereadables,I am sure you will enjoy them.

      0

    1. I believe that Neil Gaiman was supposed to be the one writing it, but it doesn’t say in the article. I’m not going to get my hopes too high up, because it’s really painful when they crash down.

      0

      1. I think he is, which I’m not sure is a good idea because I think Pratchett was a better writer than Gaiman, and I’d rather have somebody from outside that can balance the two voices in the story.
        But the adaptation of American Gods is supposed to be superb, so I have high hopes.

        0

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