This Is a Good Book Thursday: Slow Down a Little

February is almost gone, American politics are moving at warp speed, and I’m getting older by the second, which are coming at me a lot faster than they did when I was twenty.  Time to slow down with a good book.  What did you read this week?

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87 thoughts on “This Is a Good Book Thursday: Slow Down a Little

  1. I just finished the new Tamora Pierce, which is excellent. I’m now re-reading Maybe This Time, which is also excellent in an entirely different way.

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    1. I just started the new Tamora Pierce. I am so glad you enjoyed it. It received mixed reviews and I was worried.

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  2. I’m reading Diana Gabaldon’s I Give YouMy Body: How to Write Sex Scenes. She uses passages from her Outlander books as examples. I’m enjoying it.

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  3. I raced through Alexis Hall’s ‘How to Bang a Millionaire’ and ‘How to Blow it with a Billionaire’, both great fun, if you ignore the prefaces, especially to the first book. But it’s annoying when trilogies like this are really one story, spun out to make more money, and you have to wait for the ending. So, highly recommended, but best after the final part is published in August. And I think it would have been even better cut down a bit and made into one novel.

    Thanks for the recommendation; and there are more books of his to try, which is great.

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    1. I had a weird structure experience, too. I picked up Binchy’s “The Lilac Bus” and was loving it, until she suddenly switched characters on me. Then she did it again. Then she did it again. I was so annoyed I went back to the Amazon reviews to find out what other people thought. Turned out it was a novella and short stories. I kept thinking it was a Lone Star kind of construction and she’d pull them all together in the end. Now I can’t even evaluate it because it’s stuck in my head as a novel. I really wanted that novella to keep going. Lovely writing.

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      1. Have you read Becky Chambers’ THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET? I was reading it and getting pretty fed up with the lack of plot (and also my inability to identify a protagonist OR antagonist) until I read a review that suggested the way to look at it was as a series of short stories laid out in chronological order. I don’t think that’s what the author intended, but once I thought of the book that way, I could appreciate it. Still would have preferred a plot, but at least it made sense that way.

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        1. I loved Angry Planet. I care little for plot as long as the characters are doing interesting things. The next one, A Closed and Common Orbit, has a more integrated plot. I loved it, too. More! More!

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          1. I loved it too! I must be the same way about plot and characters. I didn’t even realize there wasn’t a plot, I was so invested in the crew.

            My library has both on audio through Hoopla, I think I’m going to listen to the first one since it’s been a while since I read it.

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        2. I have tried to read this (The long way to a small angry planet) and DNFed it. I keep thinking I should give it another chance. Especially since the sequel is getting good buzz.

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      2. It’s so disconcerting when you think a book is something and it turns out to be something else. I read Robin McKinley’s ‘Pegasus’ a while back, and was getting a bit concerned towards the end as there was so much to be resolved and not many pages to do it in. Then the story just – stopped. At a major MAJOR cliffhanger. I pored over every scrap of the cover and the inside of the back, but there was nothing at all to suggest that it was part of a series. So I went to the internet and discovered it was the first book of at least two and perhaps three. If I’d known that from the start I’d have read it differently.

        This was probably a publisher mistake rather than McKinley herself, but it put me off terribly, even though she’s always been one of my favourite authors.

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          1. She’s a bit hit and miss, for me. When she’s good, she’s very very good. But every now and again she writes something that just doesn’t work for me.

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          1. Did you read All Clear as well? Black Out read to me like a weird collection of fragments that weren’t connected. All Clear connected them.

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          2. I read both Black Out and All Clear, and felt as if I wanted to take an editing pen to them. There was one really good book in there, but it was dragged out over two. So the first book was really repetitive and frustrating, and there was nothing to keep me reading except the fact that I have loved Connie Willis books in the past and kept desperately hoping that this one would improve.

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          3. I think Connie Willis books are all like that to some extent. They need editing drastically. I enjoy the ideas, but even the best ones meander.

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      3. I really liked the Lilac Bus. The first half with The Lilac Bus was my favorite and it did somewhat pull together.
        I didn’t enjoy Dublin 4 which was the four stories at the end of it.

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      4. I’m probably going to wind up writing a book that’s really a collection of short stories. And probably self-publishing. So . . . how does one signal: “Hey! Four stories here!”?

        I’ve seen it done two ways. First, emblazoned on the front of the book was “A Collection of Short Stories”. Second (and to tell the truth, it was a novel with connecting stories and I think the main character was consistent), putting a blank page or two, then on the right-hand side Book I (or Book II or whatever), with another blank page, and start the story on the right-hand side again.

        These are for paper-books, though. For an e-book, the thumbnail is precious space, and my Kindle often starts me on the first page of the story (if I want to see dedications or explanations, I have to page-back to see them). I think the blank page thing might work, though. Maybe with some old-fashioned summary of the story in italics? “*Wherein Jack Shows Up on Olivia’s Doorstep*” IDK.

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        1. I think you have to put “Anthology” or something on the cover. I felt betrayed even though it was my own carelessness.

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    2. I am so glad you liked the books. I agree with you about the prefaces, because I didn’t understand that the first one was from Nicholas’s perspective and not Arden’s. The second one added tension to the story for me because I kept wondering what the villain was doing behind the scenes.

      Spoiler!!

      I wonder if he had Arden’s friend hit by the car…

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    3. Is it August for the Alexis Hall third book? Darn, I thought it was April. Alas, more months.

      I felt they were good and complete (and I’m not sure because I haven’t read the Fifty Shades sequels, but possibly echoing the structure of Fifty Shades). They were just so darn good that I wanted the next one NOW. Very binge-able.

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  4. I’m currently reading Enchanted (The Woodcutter Sisters Book 1) by Althea Kontis. I quite like it though there are a LOT of links to existing fairy tales or faerie lore, if you will. I get caught thinking, “Oh, it’s this story redone,” but then find, “well, not quite.”

    Looking forward to finishing. Hope it’s not acliffhanger-ish ending that leads to the other sisters’ stories.

    In other cool news https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/21/the-drugs-do-work-antidepressants-are-effective-study-shows. Having started a mild dosage anti-depressant for a problem I couldn’t see as being clinical but two different doctors at two different practises said, “you need this.” Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I can’t BELIEVE how different I feel. Good different.

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    1. That’s on my ‘saved for later’ list; must read it. Really glad they’re working for you; a friend of mine’s been on and off them, as needed, and they seem to help her, too.

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    2. I also take a very low dose of anti-depressants and the same thing happened to me. I remembered how to be me, again. And it’s not that the medicine makes me impervious to situation-appropriate emotion. My divorce was final at the beginning of the year and even though the marriage has been mostly dead for a long time, I’m still experiencing waves of sorrow now and again.

      It’s the crushing weight of causeless despair, the daily struggle just to keep going, that the pills relieve.

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      1. It can be the mental equivalent of strapping a sprained ankle – it supports you for long enough to break the cycle of pain and find your balance and strength again. At least, that’s how it felt to me.

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    3. I think the biggest surprise is that thought, “is this how other people feel.” Then I start thinking about when I last felt this way.

      I hadn’t danced to music on the radio in years. I’d hardly put the radio on at home. Had it on frequently recently. Danced madly and *happily* twice.

      In the meantime I’m trying to read philosophy daily and do daily activities designed to teach my brain good emotional habits. That way, when I go off them in a year, (Doc’s plan) I’ll have skills to cope better.

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      1. If it’s not too late and its over, do tell her that I *just* finished it and while it did defeat my expectations I did enjoy how she managed to pull disparate threads together. Her characterisation is on point. So easy to make them flat and just about their talent but she made them sympathetic. Good stuff.

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  5. I’m more than halfway through Andy Weir’s Artemis and enjoying it just as much as The Martian if not more. I am indeed reading it slowly, both to make it last and because I cannot read it at bedtime (my main reading time) and hope to make myself stop and get enough sleep.

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      1. I tore through that a couple of weeks ago. I enjoyed it, but didn’t see the end at all! It will probably be a different read if I do it a second time.

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  6. Chaotic Good, a YA about a cosplayer who is being doxxed online while trying to figure out how to make new friends in her new town. She ends up dressing like a boy to fit in/avoid conflict/make a point, and Things Happen.

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    1. Added to my “Want to Read” list! I love good geeky fiction. Have you read “Geekerella” by Ashley Poston? I really liked it, and the whole fandom angst over casting choices thing was very true to life LOL.

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  7. I have just the ticket to get us through the last gloomy days of winter, 70* weather in the NE area of USA not withstanding. It’s a book titled The Ticket by Heather Grace Stewart about a divorcee who is selected to go on a trip with a single man, a newscaster, who has just split with his girlfriend and cannot return her ticket. He interviews women that have the same name and chooses Allie a lawyer whose firm has put her on a forced vacation. All the characters fill there own special niche and there are characters. Allie’s ex-husband her two teenage daughters, her mom (what a hoot) her friend Mel who actually entered her name, Pete’s boss, his friends in England and everyone in between. The reviews are really sketchy they’re either five star or a few one star it all depends on how you feel on a given day. I chose the five star.

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    1. Is this based on the Canadian guy who offered his ex-girlfriend’s round the world trip ticket when she dumped him? It went viral.

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      1. It seems you’re right. I just read her bio on Amazon and it says she took that premise and ran with it for a book. Good for her!

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  8. I’ve been sick all week with the flu, and very out of sorts. I just finished Hunted by Meagan Spooner, a Beauty and the Beast re-telling. It is very well done. Next up: I am debating Tinker by Wen Spencer or Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair. Probably both. They are comfort reads.

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  9. I just finished reading a volume of Agatha Christie’s collected Hercule Poirot short stories—over fifty of them. I’m not sure I had read any of them before, and on the whole I prefer the novels. I do think I’m ready to read something contemporary for a change.

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  10. I took Sure Thing’s recommendation of Unmasking Miss Appleby, by Emily Larkin, and ran with it. I tore through the first book, then the next three (two are novellas), in the space of a week. Highly recommended.

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  11. Read two back-in-the-day cookbooks: Peter Wimsey, and Antoine’s. They are both from the era in which I was learning to cook, so both books my style. Wimsey I had a lot of fun with because also the era I read Sayers (and Allingham and Gilbert and Heyer) for the first time, and I could remember the feeling of the novels. Inspired to next read: Whose Body. I’ve eaten at Antoine’s a few times, great meals and good times. I found the recipes dated, even though they’re classic. Contemporary times must have hit my cooking more than I credited.

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  12. I have just read I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai. A friend sent it to my 10 year old for her birthday and I wanted to assess the appropriateness before I let her loose on it – I also wanted to read it myself and I’m pleased it did, it was very good. It is written for a teenage audience, and is real and thoughtful and honest and inspiring.

    Malala is the Pakistani girl who stood up for girls’ rights to education in Pakistan, against the Taliban, and was shot in the head for her troubles. She survived to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Malala and her family are religious, and as a family who is not, my girl skims that layer, but she is learning from it. I asked her about the book and what she would think of not being able to go to school. She said ‘they don’t let girls go to school because they think they are weak, but going to school makes girls strong. I think they (the men) are afraid’. My little feminist, I was so proud.

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    1. PS I read the version for the teen audience, there is also a more adult audience edition that came first, I think.

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  13. I stayed up far too late last night listening to The Passenger by Lisa Lutz. I liked her Spellman Series but this was a tad darker (okay, more than a tad,). I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m not sure I believe the ending.

    Shoot I can’t explain it without spoilers so I won’t. But I’d love to rant about it to someone who has read it. Only I can’t really recommend it, although it kept me up half the night so it must have some redeeming value.

    I’ve talked myself into a box.

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    1. I’m not a mystery reader in general, but on a recommendation from a coworker I read “Heads You Lose” by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward and I enjoyed it. It’s framed as a book co-written by exes who are on sort of friendly terms, with notes in between each chapter, but they get less and less friendly as the project goes on, making for plot and character developments that are interesting, to put it mildly.

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    2. I liked The Passenger but it…was so different.

      I loved the Spellman series at first, but when I reread it I hated her family for their lack of boundaries so much it turned me off the series entirely.

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  14. I just finished Tamora Pierce’s ‘Mastiff’, which is the third book in her Beka Cooper trilogy. wonderful stuff, really enjoyed it, and many thanks to whoever recommended Tamora Pierce. Only it was so gripping that I forgot I had dinner in the oven, and burnt it to a crisp.

    I’ve also read Trevor Noah’s ‘Born a crime’, which was also wonderful. Nominally the story of one boy, it managed to also be the story of the last days of apartheid and what came after. Noah had a mind-boggling childhood and an extraordinary mother. Plus he’s a terrific writer.

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  15. I read Heroes Are My Weakness. It was mentioned here sometime and an e-copy was available from the library. I liked the concept and believed the chemistry but found the characters frustrating. I do want to read others by Phillips now.

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    1. She’s written some really good stories. My favourite is ‘Breathing Room’, which is a standalone set in Italy. Most of the others are a loose series, although they’re all self-contained. Her early stuff doesn’t work for me, and there’ve been some more recent misses, too. So don’t give up if you happen on a dud; they’re in the minority. Another favourite (part of the loose series) is ‘Natural Born Charmer’.

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      1. Natural Born Charmer is one of my all-time favorites. So well constructed. Funny, great characters, poignant. There’s a scene near the end that can makes me tear up every time I read it.

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      2. I too just reread Natural Born Charmer, one of my favorite SEPs. Must be something in the air. She and Ms. Crusie *generally* end or near-end with communal scenes, the community having coalesced during novel’s course. Always love me some communal scenes, commenting and pointing out like a demented Greek chorus.

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    2. This was my least favorite SEP in years, but I love almost everything else she wrote. Try again, she has lots of funny books.

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  16. I have the Tamora Pierce queued up for the weekend, and all the TP love makes me smile. I know a lot of people hated Mastiff, but I was fine with it – Beka is one of my favorite characters. I was introduced to TP by one of my fifth graders in my first year of teaching, which makes her even more special in my book.

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      1. That. The betrayal.

        Many people felt that it wasn’t within the character’s, well, character. I hated it and after much reflection I feel that it wasnt foreshadowed enough. Even with the natural order of the series’ descriptions of graft and the “bag”, TP never indicated that the character had *that* inside him. He was good, so to speak, but the end was so sharp as to feel [I]wrong[/I]. It was far too sudden.

        Crossing fingers that the italics don’t bust something up on here. I haven’t used them since the last one years ago.

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  17. I’m in the middle of two books. Ivanhoe (paperback) got A LOT better after I finally made it over the first three or four pages. It’s rolling along quite well.

    The other one just showed up on my Kindle. I have no recollection downloading it, which is weird, but seems to happen with my Kindle. (Recently, I read “It Takes Two to Tumble” which was another one I don’t remember downloading. I *think* what happened is that someone said it was free, so I must have impulse down-loaded it, and then it turned out to be really good. The sequel is out in April I believe, so I’ll be looking for it.)

    Anyway, it’s something about Hauntings, and is full of ghostly love. Not bad; four short stories (and not really well divided, but I understood from the foreword that it would be multiple short stories). It’s got a distinct 1870s feel to it. More hip than 1850, not quite as progressive as 1890. I’ll tell you more when I finish it.

    Kindle really is weird — I tried to bring it up quickly to find the title, but it refuses to show up, and I’ve got to go. (Oh, and now it shows up — BUT NO COVER! Where did this thing come from?????)

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    1. I think covers on Kindle is one of the settings. I just got a new paperwhite for Valentine’s Day because I had been saying my old one was almost dead and I MIGHT buy a new one but I was putting it off until I was sure it was really dying. And it came with covers and it took me forever to find out how to get rid of them and get things to list. It turns out the new Kindle was good timing. My old one is now superimposing pages on library overdrive books.

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  18. I read “The Dry” and “Force of Nature” by Jane Harper and if you want to read something that will absorb you and keep your mind off everything around you, I highly recommend ’em.

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  19. I just read “The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O” by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland. Time travel shenanigans with magic and shady government organizations and a lot of laugh out loud moments for me. One of my favorite lines, in the transcript of a budget hearing for one of the aforementioned shady government organizations, was “It wouldn’t be the first time taxpayer money was used to pay a prostitute, as you’re well aware.” (Or something to that affect. I no longer have the book so unfortunately can’t properly cite my quote.)

    It’s really long, and a lot of reviewers on Goodreads complain that it would be better if it were shorter, but I never felt like it was too long. I think it might go back to the plot versus character thing that was discussed somewhere up there – I love all the little info dumps and side trips and largely redacted government memos and stuff that other people see as the book not going anywhere for hundreds of pages.

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  20. Recent reads have been Stewart O’Nan’s “West of Hollywood,” a novel about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood in the period shortly before he died. It’s more a character study, a study of regret and self-destruction, but I really enjoyed it. I think it was exactly what I was in the mood for. I kind of flailed afterwards, picking things up and setting them aside because they didn’t grab me, and then I started “Incendiary,” which is about the Mad Bomber of New York (a guy who felt seriously wronged by Con Edison, so between 1940 and 1957 he hid dozens of pipe bombs all around New York City) and the hunt to identify and stop him, a hunt that included the first non-fictional criminal profile.

    And now I can’t seem to settle down to anything. I have “The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America,” so maybe I’ll start that and maybe that’ll be the thing I need…

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  21. Just finished Beverly Jenkins’ Tempest. I loved it. This is the third in the trilogy. Now I want to go back and read the first one again. I am on a waitlist for Tamora. I started Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strom. It’s a YA I got off book bub. Cute comedy.

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  22. I was flattened by the rhinovirus this week and the sinus pain/pressure was so bad that for TWO DAYS I DID NOT READ.

    It was, like, total withdrawal, man.

    Once my eyes uncrossed, I zipped through an Amelia Peabody mystery just to get back in the groove.

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  23. I’ve just finished two Deanna Rabourn, Veronica Speedwell books as recommended by a commenter last Thursday. I also finished a marathon of Elly Griffiths mysteries. I love both her archeological series – the Ruth Galloway series. I wish Ruth Galloway were my friend. Also love Griffiths Mystery Men series set in Brighton, UK in the 1950s, although that might be because of my personal ties to Brighton.

    Also finished the latest Alan Bradley / Flavia de Luce book which wasn’t as great as some of the others but was still wonderful and worth reading. I wait a year or more between books then read them in a few hours and have to wait again.

    Also read Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir which was odd but has stayed with me. And the latest in the Penric series by Lois McMaster Bujold. I’ve also been rereading – a Tony Hillerman and a Donna Leon and a Lillian Jackson Braun. Plus. I also reread a wonderful atmospheric Irish mystery by Erin Hart.

    Yes, that’s a lot of books. Don’t judge me. I read very fast and I have jet lag and the weather has been mostly rotten, so I’ve done nothing but read this week.

    Next on my list: I’m about to start The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden which come highly recommended by my Book Pimp, also known as my sister.

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    1. I don’t think anyone here is going to judge you for reading so many books. Envy you, maybe, but not judge.

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    2. I’m also a fast reader, Caro. It can be a mixed blessing; I can read a lot more books, but the ones I REALLY like are over too soon. I comfort myself with the fact I can wallow in the pleasure of re-reading. I’ve met some folks who never re-read books, or re-watch movies, even if they thoroughly enjoyed them. The mind boggles…

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      1. Once when we were in Paris when friends, I wanted to go to the Louve and my friend said “But you’ve already seen it!” And I said “Alan, do you only listen to a piece of music once? Because it is okay to look at a piece of art more than once”. The same is true of reading a book. It may take more than once to get all the nuances.

        As an aside I reread “Maybe This Time” this week. When I first read it, the ghosts did not bother me (I don’t read horror stories, I get nightmares). The next few times, the ghosts were scary. This last time, I had to skip about half of the ghost scenes because I found them too disturbing. Anyone else have that response?

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        1. Your reaction to the ghosts in Maybe This Time fascinates me. Because I knew Turn of the Screw, the story which Jenny plays off of, I was captivated. The James’ story is stifling in its ambiguity: are the ghosts real or they in the governess’s mind? The original story really scares me (partly because it gets to me personally).

          As a result, I was pleased that Jenny treated the James story in a rational, Crusie way. I was surprised that the ghosts are real, and slightly disappointed that they continue past the end. Yet, they didn’t scare me. May was too much a fully rounded character to bother me in a horror story way. (I had to trust that Archer would rise to deserving Andi when May sets him the ultimate test.) The others were sketchier because they were, literally, only sketches left of people. Okay, I admit, they made me nervous.

          I’m really interested in what others have to day. I enjoy Maybe This Time more every time I read it.

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          1. Somewhere there’s a letter that James wrote where he says that the ghosts are real. I think the ambiguity comes from Freud, who came along after the story was published. If you know any Freud at all, it’s easy to see the governess projecting her sexual frustration on the house and children and imagining the ghosts.

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          2. Jenny, you’ve written before that James wasn’t influenced by Freud. I keep forgetting that. It’s wonderful news. I felt very threatened when I read the Turn of the Screw; perhaps that’s why I can’t let go of Freud bit even though now I know better.

            I just checked up on James and Freud. Freud himself said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

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          3. Turn of the Screw is an entirely different story if you read it through Freud.
            If it’s just a ghost story, the governess is a heroine.
            If it’s Freudian, she’s a perverted murderer.
            Sometimes a ghost story is just a ghost story.

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        2. Huh. I’d think it’d be the other way around. Once the mystery is solved, and you know everything is going to be all right (you’re reading a Crusie, everything’s going to be all right). . . . Maybe because you’re down a couple of layers by the fourth re-reading? You know the story, so you’re looking at the underpinnings?

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  24. Thinking of slowing down, I have been giving more time to reading and reflecting. This week I read Ford’s translation of The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales. I’ve been reflecting about how myths work for me. One thought is about women: women with either supernatural or (when they’re called witches) magical powers are often use their special abilities to show their intense feelings. I used to think that they were merely in stories as objects (men wrote down the stories). But now I imagine that male writers weren’t simplifying these women so much as acknowledging their incomprehensible complexity. For example, Rhiannon is not merely a goddess of horses (among other things): she is a wise advisor, a loyal friend, a cunning strategist, a woman who chooses her first husband and willingly consents to her second, and a tough survivor who accepts an undeserved punishment because she understands that her circumstances are working against her. She’s a lot like Jenny Crusie heroines.

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  25. Listened to Agnes & the Hitman before heading out to AZ, started All That Matters by Jan Goldstein. Re-reading Agnes & the Hitman when I wake up and can’t sleep. Not that it puts me to sleep. Har.

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  26. I’m in limbo waiting for Patricia Briggs’ new one coming out next week, so I’m re-reading some Mrs. Pollifax books. I love Mrs. Pollifax. I want to be her when I grow up. Also, I saw The Black Panther this weekend and it was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Very good storytelling, beautiful costumes, a plot that you can’t predict, ass-kicking women, and cute guys in very little clothing–what more can you ask for?

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  27. I was reading this blog at 2.00am (what else do you do when you can’t sleep!) and found the recommendation for Emily Larkin’s books. Thank you so much. I’ve read her first and started the second. They are delightful! I’m also waiting for the new Patricia Briggs and of course the next Jenny Crusie:-)

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