74 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, So Read the Blurb

  1. I’ve just finished the first draft of a novel I’ve been working on for four years (omg, it’s done!) and have kind of been avoiding fiction, so I’ve been revisiting Joan Didion’s essays after watching the Netflix documentary about her and that’s been just what I needed. Her descriptions of people and places are often incredible and somehow refreshing.

    Also, if you’re looking for a neat non-fiction book, How to Read Water by Tristan Gooley is fantastic! Part how-to, part survival manual, part history book, it’s fun and a great read and it’s all about water. From the ocean to puddles.

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  2. I’m in “cozy mode” so I read “Malice at the Palace” by Rhys Bowen. It’s one of her recent “Lady Georgiana” books and I felt like it was a big improvement on the last one I read set in Hollywood. The books are not so much about the mystery for me (I spotted the murderer right away) as the 1930s setting and the characters.

    The other book I read was “Winter Solstice” by Rosalind Pilcher. I tried one of her books before and couldn’t get into it, but this one was perfect as a “purse book.” Something I can pick up and read for 15 minutes and put down again. There was a young girl dying (off page) early on, but other than that it was a remarkably soothing book. There were lots of cups of tea and scones and walks in snowy fields. Just the escape from reality I needed.

    Like I said, cozy.

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    1. MALICE AT THE PALACE is my favorite of all the Georgie books. The most recent one, ON HER MAJESTY’S FRIGHTFULLY SECRET SERVICE, is a good followup.

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        1. Yesterday on Facebook Rhys Bowen posted a picture of the cover for the next Georgie book, which is due sometime next year. Georgie is wearing a wedding dress, so hopefully those two will finally get married.

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  3. I’ve been reading Squirrel Girl and I Hate Fairyland as my break reads from committee work. They’re so good. Squirrel Girl makes me laugh aloud so many times, especially the fake Twitter pages.

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  4. I fell in love with “The War That Saved My Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley this week. It’s marketed as YA, I think, which is reasonable, but it was so good.

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  5. I just finished A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell. It’s set in Berlin, 1931, and the only reason I got it was because a reviewer said she couldn’t put it down. So I tried it, and I couldn’t put it down. Finished it in two days and bought book two, A Night of Long Knives.

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  6. I didn’t realize how entrenched I am in women’s fiction-alpha males-RomComs-HEA’s, always with an HEA, book lover I am until changing it up to a criminal legal thriller this past week. Talk about loosing a comfort zone. I read John Ellsworth’s The Lawyer, while not a great book it dragged me in so much that when after finishing it I thought I would naturally go back to my easy going reads but 4 chapters in I dropped that book and went back to book 2 of the series. Michael Gresham is a 55 year old criminal defense attorney impossibly naïve but caring of the people in his circle including his older brother also an attorney but with complications of Biopolar Disorder who stops taking his meds and unwittingly causes Michael to become involved in his case. That’s one of the stories. there are also nasty prosecuting attorneys and nastier detectives. By the second book I’m also thinking he maybe book smart but not street smart. Yet I can’t stop reading them. I’m going to try to get back to comfort reads in between. After all with the Holidays creeping up there’s bound to a cutesy Christmas story or two.
    Yesterday I was bouncing around to different authors and noticed Kristan Higgins has a book I tried to read earlier this year, If Only You Knew, for $1.99 so I bought it and will try again. You know there are authors that will surprise readers every once in a while with a price change. Thank You

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    1. I’ve read that book, Mary. There were some rough patches, but the story was intriguing. I really enjoyed the legal parts, which was surprising to me.

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  7. Found a new-to-me mystery writer, Suzanne Chazin, and picked up the fourth in the series (not sure why the fourth) A Place in the Wind. Upstate New York, engaging characters, undocumented immigrants and children of immigrants, and a plot that, while it was already written this time last year, is chillingly prescient about What Happened Next.

    So there went much of yesterday, on the couch with a book. Now for the first three….

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  8. I picked up Expecting Someone Taller because it was mentioned here in the discussion of intriguing titles. The top cover quote from Publishers Weekly declares: “Recalls both Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Twain’s Connecticut Yankee . . . An Entertaining Romp!” The blurb on the back is much more accurate in stating that Malcolm inherits the Ring of the Nibelungs from a dying badger. It concludes, “Malcolm is about to learn that some are born to greatness. And some are, well, badgered into it.” That blurb is specific to the plot and correctly characterizes the protagonist and picks up the tone.

    All that said, I’m not totally sure that I’ll finish it, but not because I wasn’t given fair warning. It was published in 1987, and I live in a post Pratchett library. I’m spoiled for comic fantasy.

    I am a nut for reading book and movie synopses — many more books than I’ll ever read and I very seldom watch a movie. What matters most in selecting a book is when a friend or someone on this blog recommends it. (I realize I’m responding to several blogs all at once.)

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    1. A follow up — I finished Expecting Someone Taller and am quite glad I did. Relaxing. Fun. Good read to take along on a trip.

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      1. I love Tom Holt. I was absolutely gobsmacked when I found out he was also KJ Parker. The difference in writing styles is just amazing.

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  9. I just reread Behold, Here’s Poison by Heyer, since I sped thru it the first time. It was fun seeing how Heyer played fair with Randall’s feelings from the very first time we hear him speak to Stella.

    Lonely Planet’s Kyoto travel guide is making for fun aspirational reading. It’s one of the travel books available with Amazon Prime that are giving me ideas.

    Due to reading library copies, I had never seen what was under the jacket of Agnes and the Hitman, till I decided to reread my new used copy before the election. It’s a fantastic design!

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      1. Randall is my favorite male character in Heyer’s mysteries so far. In real life I hope I’d run the minute I met him, but in fiction, he’s so fun.

        Ermyntrude Carter is my favorite female character ftr.

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        1. I love the hero in the No Wind of Blame. He’s so solid, so sure, and then he meets Vicki and appreciates her. I loved his sense of humor, but the best part was when he realized what she was doing to the Russian for Ermyntrude and just took a step back and let her go, no stuffy insistance on truth and letting him handle it. That’s going to be an excellent marriage. Extra points for his mother’s reaction when she realizes what’s going on; that’s a beautiful way of using a minor character’s reaction to an event to reinforce what’s happening in a way that makes it even more positive. And then there’s the end where he distracts her by offering to role play . . . .

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          1. “Not even a fusty lawyer can just carelessly fling orders at me,” said Vicky, as one imparting valuable information.

            “That’s all right, ducky, you can play at being the child-wife married to a drunken bully,” suggested Hugh.

            “Yes, or a Roman slave.”

            “Or a Roman slave,” agreed Hugh.

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  10. I’m having a wonderful time rereading Mary Stewart. I started with ‘Nine Coaches Waiting’, which was a favourite when I was a teenager. I’m now deep in ‘Thunder on the Right’, and enjoying it more than expected – it left me rather cold when I picked it up again a few years ago.

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    1. I liked “Thunder on the Right” but I felt like there was a lot of hand wringing about Catholics and their spooky Gothic ways.
      Maybe I’m not remembering it correctly? I was raised by very lapsed Catholics, so I found it amusing and not offensive.

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      1. Well, there is a spooky Catholic wannabe nun, but there are also some spiritual and endearing nuns and a priest. I think it doesn’t work as well as some of hers for me because the romance isn’t as central. And the religious setting does put a bit of a damper on things, I suppose.

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        1. Have you read Mary Stewart’s writing about her books? She seems to point out the problems she encountered with different books, as if she wasn’t quite satisfied with the results. She wrote that Thunder on the Right cured her of writing from other than the first person narrative. First person just turned out to be the way she conceived of characters and situations best. She also sounded like a writer who experimented with different approaches.

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          1. That explains a lot. Why I don’t feel nearly as close to the heroine, for a start; she’s rather doll-like in comparison to Linda in ‘Nine Coaches Waiting’. Where did you find her observations on her novels?

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          2. Yes, but the interesting thing is I’ve read readers of hers complain that they miss the first person narration and that’s why they don’t like it as much.

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          3. I’ve found that it’s really tough trying a different voice; the one that you gravitated toward naturally in the beginning is probably your best choice. I did try to put the Liz stuff in third person once, and it won’t go, but I may try again when I get back to that. First person is just not my thing.

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    2. I’ve been both rereading and discovering the Mary Stewart books as well. Nine Coaches and Touch Not the Cat were still as good as I remembered. The Gabriel Hounds was new to me and while I enjoyed the sense of place and time, the mystery and romance was pretty lukewarm. Madam, Will you Talk? is next.

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      1. Madam Will You Talk is one of my all time comfort reads. It was her first published novel, and some people say that it is too dated or too predictable, but I love it.

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  11. I get this publication called “The Week” that has a section for books recommended by authors. I noticed that male authors usually recommended book by other male authors and female authors tended to have more mixed male/female author recommendations. Has anyone else noticed this?

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    1. I’ve noticed at book fairs that female writers will talk to anybody and that male writers tend to congregate with each other until they get to the bar. Then they talk to women one-on-one. I’ve been patronized by some of the biggest names in pop fiction, so I may be a tad bitter. There are some absolutely lovely male writers who have treated me with respect (I love you, Terry Brooks), but a lot more arrogant asshats.

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  12. Chugging through Chesterton still, finding it quite mannered, but really looking forward to latest Frances Hardinge, A Skinful of Shadows. She’s an amazing writer. I discovered her a few years ago, she won a big prize with The Lie Tree and this one has had cracking reviews too.

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  13. Hi. I’m replying to Jane B, whose last entry regarding Mary Stewart didn’t offer the option of a reply.

    Techniques of Novel Writing, edited by A. S. Burack, published by The Writer, Inc., Boston, in 1973. ISBN 0-87116-000-5. Each chapter is by a different author, and Mary Stewart’s is called, “Teller of Tales.”

    Stewart’s exploration of her own approach to telling tales begins as the experience of rereading her first three books for an omnibus, and then develops further. I don’t know whether or not to quote sections. I can, if you’re interested. The entire chapter is fascinating.

    An easily accessed interview with Mary Stewart which is about her Arthur tales is at http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/interview-with-mary-stewart

    Does the lack of a reply button on the arghink blog mean that one isn’t supposed to carry that line of thought further? A blog topic from around a month ago seemed to indicate that I was going on too much. I’m still imagining all the incredible conversations the British were carrying on in their vernacular between 1066 and 1215 while the nobility were stuck with Norman French and Latin. Thanks for giving me that idea, Jane B.

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    1. So the thing with the reply button is, it vanishes once you’re about three nests down, so I just go back up until I find a reply button, hit that, and my reply will display below the others – i.e. It still works, you just have to have faith.

      I’d be really interested in qq from that chapter – it doesn’t sound as if I’m likely to find that book without a serious quest.

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      1. Are “qq” quotes? Here goes. Mary Stewart, as published in 1973.
        “I have written ten full-length novels so far, and a long-short novella called The Wind Off the Small Isles, which is a kind of coda to the others, and a bridge to my historical novel, The Crystal Cave. . .
        “The first five novels, up to My Brother Michael, are exploratory novels, sharing a theme and little else. They bear obvious marks of a tyro experimenting with different forms. They vary a good deal in structure, and make some use of sharp differences in setting. Madam, Will You Talk?, the first, was a chase story written, concerto-fashion, on two levels. As I said, it is ostensibly a fast, episodic adventure tale embodying familiar thriller elements heightened by the setting and by deliberate use of coincidence. Above and dominating the thriller-plot run the love story and the main theme together. . .
        “The love story is that of a fate-driven love, self-contained, all-else-excluding, whose image is the enchanted bubble in which the lovers seem to move, while the violent world swirls around them, unable to touch them or destroy their faith in each other.
        “What I have called the main theme is the search for solid values in a shifting and corrupt world and the affirmation that “the rules don’t break themselves” and that “good does beget good.”
        “Wildfire at Midnight was an attempt at something different, the classic closed-room detective story with restricted action, a biggish cast, and a closely circular plot. It taught me technically a great deal, but mainly that the detective story, with its emphasis on plot rather than people, is not for me. What mattered to me was not the mystery, but the choice the heroine faces between personal and larger loyalties.
        “With Thunder on the Right, I tried a technical change of approach, from first person to third. I had dropped naturally, without calculation, into the first person . . . but now thought it right to experiment. Of course writing in the first person has certain drawbacks, especially in “danger” or “suspense” situations — certain elements of surprise are cut out, the viewpoint is limited, and direct action is also limited to scenes where the protagonist is present — but for me the advantages far outweigh the losses. The gain in vividness, personal involvement and identification is immense. I have always been interested in pinning sensation down into words, and first-person writing allows close exploration of physical reactions to the stimuli of fear, joy, pain, and so on. In my first book, especially, I was trying this out, analyzing in detail not only strong sensation, but sensation of every kind — being tired, being hungry and smelling food, going to sleep, coming out of an anesthetic — in fact, I suppose, what living itself feels like, not just how one thinks and acts.
        “In Thunder on the Right, with the third-person approach, I found I had more freedom of action and viewpoint, but in my next novel, Nine Coaches Waiting, I went back with a kind of relief to the first person, and have used it ever since.
        “Nine Coaches Waiting is yet again structurally different. This is the Cinderalla story, openly acknowledging its great model, treating that model with some astringence, but keeping and humanizing the strong line of the traditional love story. The theme superimposed on the romantic thriller plot is the classic dilemma of choice between love and duty.
        “My Brother Michael was the result of my first travels to Greece and the start of my love affair with that marvelous country. Technically I was now surer of myself; what one loses in wild freshness one gains in technical assurance. . . . My Brother Michael was the logical development of what I had been writing up till then; it rounded off something I had been quite deliberately trying to do through all my first five books.
        “Bizarre situations, real people
        “What these five books have in common — apart from the obvious superficial likenesses imposed by the cast of their author’s mind — is a deliberate attempt by a new writer to discard certain conventions which seemed to her to remove the novel of action so far from real life that it became a charade or a puzzle in which no reader could involve himself sufficiently really to care. I tried to take conventionally bizarre situations (the car chase, the closed-room murder, the wicked uncle tale) and send real people into them, normal everyday people with normal everyday reactions to violence and fear; people not “heroic” in the conventional sense, but averagely intelligent men and women who could be shocked or outraged into defending, if necessary with great physical bravery, what they held to be right. (In this context it is perhaps worth noticing that the heroines of Wildfire at Midnight and Nine Coaches Waiting, faced with a choice between love and duty, reject the traditional choice of romantic fiction, and — as so many women do — choose duty.)
        “Along with this went a theme that I tried to develop up to and into My Brother Michael, a hatred of violence and a fear of the growing tendency to regard it as a solution to any problem. Because of this, it seemed to me (even in the early 1950’s) time to discard the type of detective novel where pain and murder are taken for grated and used as a parlor game. In my first novels, too, I discarded and laughed at certain conventions of the plot, including the romantic hero, unthinkingly at home with violence, who was still mainstream when I started writing; and his equally romantic alternative, the social misfit who was just coming into fashion. I was tired of “tough” books where the girl “heroine” is regarded purely as a sexual object, and where her qualities of mind and heart (if any) are treated as irrelevant. I tried unobtrusively where I could to show admiration for liberal ideas, common sense, and the civilized good manners that are armour for the naked nerve.
        “To present and not to preach
        “You might say that when I emerged from the romance-lands — Provence, the Hebrides, the Pyrenees, High Savoy — and traveled to Greece, I came at last hard up against the fierce logic which informs that brilliant, realistic people. I went to Delphi and asked a question, and was left to interpret the Delphic answer, “the smile behind the smoke.” There comes a time when ferocity has to be met wtih ferocity, violence with violence. The bitter end of liberal logic is that if Athens remains true to herself, she falls to the barbarians of Sparta. I can find no answer to this. I suspect there is no answer, but a real writer’s job is to present, not to preach. Michael’s brother, in my book, resorts to violence and by it wins a respite for the good; he also learns another simple, age-old and cruel fact of life — that we are all members one of another; we are born involved, locked in the great chain of being. We need never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for us all.
        “After this, the branches grow rather differently from the tree. . . . The Ivy Tree made for me a complete change; this was totally different and was my nostalgia book for my home countryside and a very beautiful house I once knew, since pulled down. . . . That’s the story, but it also says that in spite of failure one can always rebuild, and better than before, provided one has kept faith with oneself. Then, after the light-hearted romp of The Moon-Spinners, came This Rough Magic, with its little cast of people who have failed, trying to escape the icy and terrifying world of their failure. They also learn about involvement. . . . And she [Lucy Waring] and her lover learn that the enchanted island to which they have escaped, full of sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not, is every bit as rough and bloody as their own gray northern country, and the latter is the one which owns them and which they have to serve. One cannot opt out. And one can build a second time, successfully, albeit a different structure and with different materials, but only if one has kept faith with oneself. . . . “

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        1. Oh boy. I *have* to get some Mary Stewart after reading that. I thought it was a good idea before, but nothing I needed to act on right away . . . but I have a feeling this is essential reading for me. Thank for posting it, Elizabeth!

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    2. No, it just means the replies won’t nest any farther. If you reply to the post Jane replied to, your reply will show up under hers.
      They don’t nest more than five (?) levels because we tend to go on an on and eventually break the blog. We carry lines of thought to the ends of the earth here.

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  14. Talk about misleading blurbs: I have Georgette Heyer’s “Powder and Patch” in the 1967 paperback, and the blurb on the cover says cheerfully “a gay romance”. But it isn’t!

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    1. That’s funny to me- because the book that someone recommended to about Weimar Germany keeps referring to homosexuals as gay men. It throws me out.

      I’m old enough to remember when gay meant light and cheerful and only meant homosexual in code.

      Of course, I’m also old enough to remember when the polite way to refer to African Americans was as Negros and not blacks.

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  15. I’m reading Susan Wiggs’ latest, MAP OF THE HEART, and it is stellar. Sucked me right into the story, I care about all the characters, and even like the major jump back in time to the 2nd WW, which is the kind of thing I normally don’t like. Highly recommended.

    Also, of you want something (or somethings) fun, I just finished a humorous mystery by Donna Andrews (always wonderful) called How the Finch Stole Christmas, and a hysterically funny SF by Jim C. Hines in his new “Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse” series, Terminal Alliance.

    God know we could all use more funny.

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  16. A few weeks ago, someone recommended the book Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. I can not thank you enough. It WAS a lot like Diana Wynn Jones, one of my favorite writers. I can’t wait for the sequels!

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  17. Thank you to whoever recommended Marie Harte and Sarina Bowen here. I’ve just finished one of each of their books and they were both a lot of fun. A little angsty in places (I’m not really the angsty type), but mostly light, funny, sexy, and just what I needed to soothe my brain after editing a primary maths textbook. Mathematicians are lousy at grammar.

    The titles were Good Boy (Sarina Bowen) and Roadside Assistance (Marie Harte).

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    1. My absolute favorite Bowen is “the year we fell down”. It’s set in college so I guess it’s considered new adult (or young adult, I get those confused). It’s charming and deeply moving and fun.

      On the other hand Good Boy made me like a shallow crude guy which I think is a technical triumph.

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      1. That was what I enjoyed most about it, I think. A character I would usually hate, who she managed to make relatable and admirable by the end, without fundamentally changing anything about him. It was impressive.

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  18. Just purchased two Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot novels and the short stories collection after seeing “Murder on the Orient Express” last night. Really enjoyed the movie, not sure some movie goers who love fast moving, full of special effects will enjoy it as much. A big movie and the scenery was beautiful. Kenneth Branagh has a moustache of epic proportions. Great cast too.

    Have listened to Hercule Poirot stories while sitting with my Mama who was in LT care, she was blind and reading was one of her favourite pastimes. Ah, miss my Mama and reading stories together. So…is weekend to read a classic Agatha Christie novel or two.

    Cheers!

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    1. I saw Murder on the Orient Express too, I think Kenneth Branagh is too attractive to be Poirot, but he got the voice down and the moustache was epic. Very enjoyable film. I love Agatha Christie

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  19. I just finished rereading Orchid by JAK, and I’m rereading WebMage by Kelly McCullough and have the Linesman series by SK Dunstall by my bed to reread next. I’m in a sci/fi fantasy reread mood. Since I deal with computers by day, WebMage totally tickled my fancy at the time I bought the series many many years ago. It has its issues, but the webgoblins and the mish-mash of greek gods into the techno-universe still make me smile. Linesman I found shortly after the first book in the series came out and I love love love it. It became my second favorite book after Agnes and the Hitman. It’s space opera at it’s finest. I love that the lead character is off beat, someone no one in his profession takes seriously, begins so unsure of himself and his work, and over the three books gains a voice and respect and has twists that I didn’t see coming but totally make sense looking back. Huh. I just realized that most of the books I like the best and stick with me enough that I want to reread them have a very off beat lead character. Crusie, Rich, JAK’s paranormal, Pratchett, Dunstall, Aaron, Bishop, Andrews, Chance. They all write books where the lead is off beat to the rest of his/her world. And I love that.

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  20. I quit on two books this week, one of them at 70%, the other pretty early on. The first book felt shallow, I didn’t buy into the romance working ultimately, and both h/h were still hung up on their relationship from when they were teenagers. The other book was told in 1st person, and I didn’t like the main character. I always feel a sense of guilt when I quit on a book, a bit of self-doubt.

    Now I’m reading Sherry Thomas’ A Conspiracy in Belgravia. This one is a keeper so far!

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  21. Tried and failed with a just-out regency by a favorite author. Cardboard characters with little dimension, wit or interest, no plot development I could discern, and I gave up. With early books, I enjoyed that dimension, wit, et cetera, but not here. Still, first sixty web pages of her future book show high promise.
    Guess I’m going for the Mary Stewart and Heyer mystery rereads this weekend. Maybe even the long-avoided Agatha Christie. And perhaps I’ll find solace with Rex Stout.

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    1. Don’t feel bad, I fell out of love with a favourite author of mine, with one book. She had a fun long running series, then suddenly there was no longer a recognisable plot, you didn’t know which characters spoke what dialogue and she kept parallel universes so whatever characters died, didn’t die.

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