This Is A Good Book Thursday: Can We Find Happiness?

My current rant is for book blurbs that end in questions: Can he save the woman he loves?  (No, she dies in the end.)  Will she learn to love again? (No, she becomes embittered and vindictive and a house falls on her.)  Is it possible for her to face her problems? (No, she’ll give up and go home to the town she swore she’d never return to and open a bakery-restaurant-B&B where she will become bitter and vindictive because there was a reason she swore she’d never go back, and she’ll die in the end.)   It strikes me there’s a reason there’s no blurb that asks, “Will Gregor Samsa find happiness as a cockroach?”  and also why I’m not asking “Can Argh People find good books to read?” Of course he can’t, and of course we can.  What did you read this week?

95 thoughts on “This Is A Good Book Thursday: Can We Find Happiness?

  1. Just started the latest in Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles Of St Mary’s which are always fun. Before that I finally got to Patricia Brigg’s Silence Fallen. Mercy is still one of my fave UF heroines 😀

    7+

  2. I scalloped through the four book series which starts with The Dressage Chronicles. By Karen McGoldrick (I think). She really knows her horsey stuff.

    2+

    1. Oohhhh: Dressage!

      I tell people that the blank in this question— “Is there a romance about _________?” —can be filled in with almost anything and there is probably already a book out there about that. I rest my case.

      I learned a bit a dressage, back in the day. I was extremely mediocre, but the learning was lovely anyway.

      6+

  3. I got an ARC of Starless by Jacqueline Carey. It is very, very good. It’s not the Kushiel series but is kind of in the same style in some areas. Very cool. Buy it come June.

    6+

  4. I’ve just started reading Poisonous by Allison Brennan. It’s the 3rd or 4th in the series, depending on whether you count a novella. @Strop–Thanks for the scallop/gallop 🙂 Karen Goldrick recommendation. My great-nieces are horse-mad and a good read while learning some terminology sounds great.

    3+

  5. I’m looking for recommendations: I want to read something set in Florida. Or the Bahamas or the Caribbean. I want islands and sunsets and tropical drinks. Any good books/authors I should be looking at?

    3+

    1. Skinny Dip by Carl Hiassen. Funny as hell, about a woman whose husband thinks he murdered her; she gets revenge with the help of the guy who fishes her out of the ocean. I should read that again. Great supporting cast, too.

      13+

        1. I just reread it and loved it again, but it’s not a sweet love story. It’s full of good people and horrible people and it’s very sharp, not cosy at all. But it’s very much about Florida and the Everglades.

          1+

          1. Thank you for the warning! I’ll read it when I’m in the right space. (Like not this weekend, I need less horrible people and a little more funny/cozy!)

            0

    2. I like Elizabeth Lowell’s gemstone series. Jade Island, Amber Beach, Pearl Cove and Ruby Bayou. They take place in exotic locals, but are more action-y than glamorous. Or Nalini Singh’s Hard series are mostly set in New Zealand, I believe.

      2+

    3. Does it have to be fiction? Jimmy Buffet (at least the two books I’ve read) has been a very easy-going and humorous writer. I can’t remember exactly what he wrote, but it left a good impression so that if I stumble upon more, I’ll get it.

      How Stella Got Her Groove Back is a very fun . . . well, it’s really a wish-fulfillment fantasy. I can’t even remember if the romance part had a happy ending or not. It ended satisfyingly. Lots of shopping, and an appreciative partner.

      3+

    4. Janet Evanovitch wrote a stand alone called Metro Girl which I’m pretty sure was set in Florida. It’s not deep but it’s a lot of fun.

      3+

    5. This ain’t Thursday, sorry ! But I have only just got into this particular conversation streambefore heading off to bed ( it is 10.28 pm here in England). I can give you a really good author, in Dorothy Dunnett who (initially under her maiden name of Dorothy Halliday) wrote about 8 books featuring a famous artist who is also a counter-intelligence agent and each is mostly set in an exotic location: Morocco, The Bahamas, Madeira, Trinidad, Rome, Croatia, Ibiza, the Hebrides. The early books all had “Dolly” in the titles which were changed on reprinting to “Ibiza Suprise”, “Roman Nights” etc. Each book has a different young woman as narrator; each being given a very different personality. Unusual, almost cinematic style, cutting from scene to scene – crediting the reader with the intelligence to join the dots; and often alternating scenes of sudden terror with others of high humour. Give her a try ?

      2+

  6. Currently reading The Baker’s Secret by Stephen Kiernan and A Christmas Bride by Hope Ramsay. Also listening in the car to Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson. Gibson can be dangerous — it’s not that good to laugh hysterically while doing 80 mph on the Interstate.

    2+

  7. I FINALLY(!) finished This Charming Man by Marian Keyes. The book certainly had some good parts, and at least one positive result of reading it is that I feel like writing again…but I wouldn’t reread it. Once was some hours too many spent on it. I think I should give up on Keyes, she’s probably not meant for me. I haven’t yet decided what to read next.

    Jenny, I recently discovered the existence of The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes. Has there ever been, or do you think there might someday possibly be, an audiobook version of that book? I have googled myself dizzy trying to find it but found nothing.

    4+

  8. Just started the 3rd book in Alisha Rai’s “Forbidden Hearts” series, Hurts to love you. I loved the first 2 and love the angst she writes about. I don’t know how I’d get out of bed if my life were as angst-y as her characters suffer through, but I love to read about it!

    2+

  9. I started “Underground Airlines” by Ben H Winters with my book club but didn’t finish it (I’m the running joke of the book club–my house is central so I host, but I almost never finish the book). I often just DNF because they pick crummy books (occasionally they let me pick good things, like “Bet Me”, which was a big hit) but this month it was just lack of time. I may finish anyway despite having heard some spoilers at the meeting, but it’s enjoyable-not-gripping and I’m drowning in work getting ready for maternity leave, so it may have to wait until I’m reading in short bursts while nursing! 😜

    Anyway, interesting/horrible premise: the civil war never happened and slavery is still legal in parts of the modern US, and the unreliable narrator is a black man blackmailed into helping catch escaped slaves before they get to Canada. I’m not sure I have the emotional energy for something so dark right now, tbh.

    5+

    1. I eventually gave up on my book club. My suggestions were never lucky enough to be drawn from the hat, and I just didn’t have the energy to keep reading intellectual-type books filled with rape, human trafficking, alcoholism, extramarital affairs… those things are depressing enough in the news.

      I am thankful to the club for giving me exposure to two amazing books, though: “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple, and “Brain on Fire – My Month of Madness” by Susannah Cahalan. The first is an excellent mother/daughter adventure, and the second is Ms. Cahalan’s nonfiction account of her struggle with a health condition that caused psychosis. I HIGHLY recommend them! They are both unputdowneable.

      7+

      1. I don’t want to be in a book club for stuff just like this. I don’t want to read books I can’t stand any more, I’m not in school and I don’t have to.

        As a DNF, I decided I could not drag myself through “As Husbands Go” today. She announces on the third page that her husband died with a hooker, then takes till page 81 to actually get to that point, and it seems like she’s either avoiding/killing time or trying to build suspense about how poor husband is missing, except we KNOW WHERE HE IS ‘CAUSE YOU TOLD US, so what is the point?

        5+

        1. I washed my hands of book club after “The Guest Room,” by Chris Bohjalian. It’s about human trafficking and the modern sex slave trade. It starts with adultery and moves on to rape (of a young girl) and murder. It was one of the most disturbing, depressing books I have ever read. And obviously, it does not end well.

          3+

          1. My mom is always trying to get me to read these dark, depressing “real life” books and I just can’t seem to do it. Give me a romance or a white-trash zombie (seriously, those are fantastic books by Diana Rowland) or a good sf/fantasy and I’m happy. Real life is depressing, I want a happy ending!

            5+

          2. Hmm…this looks interesting. I just wet on Amazon and read the sample. How was he with the shifting third to first person POV?

            It’s not a favourite technique I enjoy reading, unless by someone very skilled. Same with a lot of first person these days, where the author tends to mistake the ‘intimacy’ of first as good, skilled writing.

            I don’t mind depressing.

            I really thought Smoke in the Room was an excellent, but depressing read by Australian author, Emily Maguire. No one was particularly likeable in that one, but it stays with you.

            Her Taming the Beast is highly disturbing and not for the faint-hearted.

            But I’m reading non-fiction at the moment. Paper (about the history of paper), ad Alpha and Omega (about the beginning and end of the universe).

            1+

          3. Hmm…this looks interesting. I just went on Amazon and read the sample. How was he with the shifting third to first person POV?

            It’s not a favourite technique I enjoy reading, unless by someone very skilled. Same with a lot of first person these days, where the author tends to mistake the ‘intimacy’ of first as good, skilled writing.

            I don’t mind depressing.

            I really thought Smoke in the Room was an excellent, but depressing read by Australian author, Emily Maguire. No one was particularly likeable in that one, but it stays with you.

            Her Taming the Beast is highly disturbing and not for the faint-hearted.

            But I’m reading non-fiction at the moment. Paper (about the history of paper), and Alpha and Omega (about the beginning and end of the universe).

            *curse my spilling soda water on my computer. The B and N are still a bit uncooperative.

            1+

          4. I run a Book Group for the local University of the Third Age, with which I determined from the start that there would not be a “set book”. After each monthly meeting, one of us picks a genre, or subject, or historical period and the next meeting each of us offers their choice of book or poem. All of us are sometimes out of our comfort zone (“But I never read scifi, westerns……”) but then we can always pick a book to offer which we ARE comfortable with and can enthuse about. Four years now and still going strong. I also belong to another Crime Book Group which does have a set book (it is organised by our County Library Service) but if we don’t like it, we ignore it and fall back on our alternatives – we each bring along a book from our own shelves featuring an author from the past whom we think still worth reading. This month my choice was one of Robert van Gulik’s “Judge Dee” series and I have Anthony Price lined up for next month. Members can borrow a choice if they are interested enough and return it next time.

            0

      2. You might like to keep an eye out for Elizabeth Moon’s SciFi novel “Hunting Party”. Space ships AND equestrianism !

        0

    1. I did that once. It was the most emotionally cold book I ever wrote because I had such limited time in everybody’s head.

      2+

        1. There were strong emotional moments in there, I grant you, but it’s still farce, I think. Completely over the top characters that we look down on (albeit with affection) because they’re so . . . dumb. It’s kind of Airplane set in a fairy tale kingdom with a lot of great music. And so much of the music is parody. “Off With His Shirt” is pretty much a bar version of “It’s Raining Men.” I can’t think of some of the other parallels (well, that great Les Miz rip-off), but they’re recognizable. I love that freaking show, but realistic it’s not. (Okay, the Gareth/Madalena romance breaks my heart, but they’re the VILLAINS, for heaven’s sake. I have no investment in the other two romances at all, although I enjoy watching them. Oh, and the Chef and Gwynne, poor serfs.

          0

    2. I read a Charles de Lint, who I usually love, that had about six characters perspectives. And he did label the chapter with which character you were getting. This made it easier for me to skip whole chapters. But it was not a particularly satisfying book to read. Probably because I skipped about a third of the book. But I am good for two main characters and a small amount of secondary characters. Six were beyond me to stay engaged in the story.

      1+

      1. I feel you! I really love his books but they definitely take a chunk of energy and awhile to get into them. I always start them at the beginning of the weekend and make myself wade through the first 80 pages or so and then I’ve usually engaged enough to finish.

        1+

  10. For people who love The Unknown Ajax over on the Heyer post–it’s a kindle daily deal today. $2.99.

    I’ve been escaping from the “too much news right now” with a reread of Patricia McKillip’s The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. I can never just read one chapter but have to read straight through. Up too late at night, but I felt better the next morning 🙂

    The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory was a fun twist on the fake dating trope with some diversity in the characters.

    I’ve also just started Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo and The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.

    5+

  11. I listened to a rather charming cozy paranormal mystery called Doom and Broom by Annabel Chase. It was a great book for traveling as it was light and easy to listen to. I’ve downloaded the second book and we’ll see how that goes.

    1+

  12. This week I am mostly finishing books. I finally finished The Woman Left Behind (2.5 stars). I finished Untamed by Anna Cowan (5 stars), and I am almost finished with The Bewitching Hour by Anne Stuart, which is just so much fun thus far. Oh, and I am partway through a Sarina Bowen book, which is also always a feelgood read.

    1+

  13. This week I am reading Boy with the Topknot, a memoir written by a British Sikh journalist, Sathnam Sanghera. It is really brilliant about growing up in the 1970s as a British kid with parents who didn’t speak English and about the secrets that families keep and the secrets we keep from our families. It is poignant, funny and very moving.

    Also working through Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which has been described as Gosford Park meets Quantum Leap. Am not feeling it so far. It all feels a bit earnest and humourless. Especially after loving Death in the Stocks which was my insomnia book last week. My insomnia book is the book I read on my iphone in the middle of the night when I do not want to disturb DH.

    A book I would also highly recommend which I finished this week was After the Fire by Will Hill, who is a YA writer who has written a whole load of vampire books. ATF is totally different. It is a ‘what if’ based on exploring the impact of surviving a situation based loosely on the Waco Texas siege. It is very sensitive and I found it absolutely gripping after a slowish start.

    1+

    1. I’ve been waiting to get my hands on Seven Deaths from the library – it caught my attention, but not enough to risk actually buying it. I’d be interested to know how you go with it.

      I’ve been reading Meddling Kids, and thank you to whoever recommended it some weeks/months ago. It’s batshit crazy, and a weird jumble of writing, but it does some interesting things with the teenage-detectives tropes and I was a huge fan of all of those books – Enid Blyton’s adventures, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, Scooby Doo – when I was a kid. I’ve still got a soft spot for them, and I loved the references all the way through.

      2+

  14. I recently finished Tessa Dare’s “Duchess Deal” – somebody around here mentioned it positively – and I’m still wondering … It looks like she was under varying influences while she was writing it. As long as she read Loretta Chase, I liked how the story got along. Then she watched “Beauty and the Beast” and it became kind of cartoonish with the butler and other servants butting in. In between, she obviously had a “Batman and Robin” episode when the hero became the Monster of Mayfair, returned to Loretta Chase again, then was inspired by something Courtney-Milan-style that made her introduce a weird quartet of unmarried women to the story …

    As I said, I’m still wondering. Is it just me or is it the book?

    3+

    1. I gave up on her the first book I tried. One problem was her shallow, amoral characters – your idea that she’s being influenced by different writers could explain this. Maybe she only ever writes a very fast first draft?

      1+

      1. I don’t know if ‘instable writing’ is a legitimate term, but that’s how it seemed to me. It’s only a theory but it seems that – probably without realizing it – she tends to fall into the style of other writers she likes. Now I know again why I don’t read other novels while I’m writing my own. If I don’t like them, it’s a waste of time; if I do, I’m in danger of copying something that isn’t mine.

        That’s also the reason why I have so little to contribute to Good Book Thursday ;o)

        2+

  15. I finally had time to read Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs. It was really good, and it was nice to finally spend a whole book in Aspen Creek since Anna and Charles are usually on the road or isolated from the rest of the werewolf pack in some way. This book made me really curious about Leah, a character I previously just disliked most of the time, so hopefully there will be more with her at some point. This much exposure to the Aspen Creek pack made me more uncomfortable with Charles’ father, Bran, though. He’s kind of a bastard sometimes, especially with his wife. The book opens up the possibilities for more potential stories and adds to the world, which was one of the best things about it (being vague to avoid spoilers).

    Now I need to get to the two most recent books in Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby mystery series because the fifth one is a library book, and it has to go back in a few days.

    5+

    1. I am interested in Bran and Leah too. I liked hating her, as she was pretty awful. I am almost sorry to see her redeemed, even though I would have sworn it couldn’t be done.

      4+

    2. I finished Burn Bright last week and really loved it. But yes, I’m not happy with the fact that Bran, who was originally such a positive character, seems to be getting chipped away at bit by bit.

      Briggs is fabulous, and I love this series.

      2+

      1. I think that Bran is reaching a point of crisis, much like Samuel did at the beginning of the Mercy Thompson series. I am okay with that. I want his life to be better. But I really could have done without the “I am also in love with Mercy” bit. It reminds me of how every male Sookie Stackhouse comes in contact with is instantly in love with her. That drives me up a wall. Surely some poor man is impervious to her charms…

        3+

        1. That conversation really bothered me, too. Bran gave her away at her wedding, did she really have to go there? It didn’t help that Charles then immediately brought up Samuel and Mercy’s relationship when she was a teenager, which is the thing in the series I have the most problems with.

          1+

  16. I’m almost done with Alex Bledsoe’s The Fairies of Sadieville, which makes me sad (not because it isn’t a great book–it’s fabulous, but because it is the last in the series). If you haven’t read Alex yet, you should check him out. The Tufa series is set in rural Tennessee, where nothing is what it seems. He writes fantasies, but his characters are more real than real.

    The first book in the series is called The Hum and the Shiver, and music is woven throughout the whole series. He even has a folk/rock group called Tuatha Dea who has done a couple of music videos based on his book, and a folk singer whose songs inspired his book titles. Very cool. I’m really sorry this series is over.

    4+

  17. I have the nasty habit of ending book blurbs I write in questions myself. In my defence, I’m usually writing them about science fiction or fantasy novels, which aren’t as corseted by genre structure as romance and thus more likely to have questions that are, well, actual questions.

    I’m not actually enjoying the book I’m reading right now all that much — it’s “Mind Readers” a Margery Allingham mystery where she apparently decided to dabble in science fiction and ended up with something not all that satisfying to fans of either, alas — so instead I’ll recommend a book I read on vacation and loved: Rod Duncan’s “The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter.”

    During the day, Elizabeth Barnabas keeps house (more accurately, houseboat) for her twin brother, who makes his living as a private detective on the gaslit streets of the Anglo-Scottish Republic by night. The secret that could destroy her: Elizabeth has no brother….

    (No question mark, only my other besetting sin, the trailing ellipsis. But honestly if I don’t have you with “cross-dressing steampunk adventure” I’m not sure what more to say.)

    1+

    1. Was it you who shares my love of Meljean Brook? If not, I highly recommend her for swashbuckling steampunk adventure.

      1+

  18. I just finished A Beautiful Blue Death, the first in the Charles Lenox series by Charles Finch. Enjoyed it very much and immediately bought the next one. The pace is quite leisurely.

    Interesting that the author and his protagonist have the same first name. It seems a strange thing to do, although I guess there’s no reason why not.

    2+

  19. One of my favorite authors tweeted about this yarn company. It’s not a novel, but there are take told in the names they picked for their different yarns. Made me laugh and snort water into my nose. The home page and catalog are amusing reading and the yarn so beautiful.

    https://despondentdyes.com/

    4+

  20. I’m particularly partial to “Liver-Spots51 on OKCupid” and “Mimosa – Hold the Orange Juice.”. If only these ladies would also name paint colors.

    2+

  21. Writing, writing, writing and only reading/listening to books I’ve already read. This prevents me from getting so involved I quit writing to read. I even wrote on the plane today.

    I’m feeling quite virtuous.

    6+

  22. I have been reluctant to start any YA series for a while – I just got burnt out on trilogies, and forgetting which dystopic world was which while waiting for the next one. However, the third book in The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff just came out, and I heard good things, so I picked up the first one, and I freaking loved it!

    The first book is called Illuminae, and it’s sci-fi presented in the form of a dossier detailing the aftermath of the invasion and destruction of an illegal mining community on a remote planet. So there are multiple narrators, chat logs, official notices, and things of that nature. It follows the two teenage main characters – who broke up about two hours before their home got invaded – and the other survivors as they try to escape and survive on the damaged rescue ship.

    0

  23. I read Dear Madam President by Jennifer Palmieri, HRC’s communications director in the 2016 campain. I actually bought if for my daughter, who is a millennial woman working in politics and really the target audience for the book. As an older Gen-Xer myself (like Palmieri), it captured a lot of feelings about how I hope the next generation of women coming into the workforce – in politics and elsewhere – will fare better than we did, and correct some of the honest mistakes we made. I recommend it, with one caveat. I like my non-fiction like my fiction, with depths of emotion, and while there’s some serious stuff going on in this book above and beyond the campaign, it’s surprisingly cold, IMO. Still, an interesting and very quick read.

    I also read another short book, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. It does a lot of jumping around with timelines, which is a hit or miss device with me; happily, it’s a hit in this case. It’s a really poignant picture of a family in crisis and all the secrets we hide, even from those closest to us.

    And now I’m onto a much longer book. Needing to add to my list of mystery writers because Louise Penny and Tana French don’t write as fast as I read :-), I picked up a Kate Morton book, The Lake House. It took a few chapters for my brain to slow down enough to appreciate the slower pace and oodles of description. It’s still a bit more description than I’d like, but I’m at the point in the book where all the disparate characters have been set up and now will start to converge on the decades-old mystery. So far, so good!

    1+

  24. I read three really good ones in a row this week:

    Martha Grimes’ latest installment in the Richard Jury series, “The Knowledge.” It has the usual cast of Long Piddleton characters and some bits harking back to former books/pubs.

    A new Jane Haddam, “Dead Letters,” which I think is only available for Kindle. It’s not a Gregor Demarkian book, but the pacing is similar. It suffers from bad editing, but I like the characters a lot.

    “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore,” by Robin Sloan. Yes, I’m probably the last person on the planet to read it. I like to wait until the hype dies down before I read a book so I can judge it fairly. This one holds up.

    1+

    1. I felt The Knowledge elegaic, might it be her last? A summing up quality haunted the ending. Took a few chapters, but she gives an inferred depth to story and characters that usually hooks me, and this one held true.

      0

  25. I read “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Other Lessons From the Crematory” by Caitlin Doughty this past week and highly recommend it. It’s funny and quirky and sad and SO interesting.

    I watched some of her videos after from “Ask a Mortician” and she’s pretty entertaining there too.

    1+

    1. Yes, an interesting and thought provoking read, as is her second book From Here to Eternity, about funeral preactices around the world. Been reading (in tranquillity)a fair bit about death and dying recently. Of particular note is surgeon Atal Awande’s Being Mortal; a description of the way in which, by default, aging and dying have become the responsibility of the medical profession, who are ill-equipped mentally to deal with it.

      0

      1. I’m glad you liked it too.

        I will look into Being Mortal. Caring for my mom when she was dying definitely changed the way I viewed it. And I was grateful for hospice for their care and the information they gave me but have realized how little I had experienced.

        0

  26. I’ve just read Sarah Winman’s Tin Man. Utterly utterly beautiful. The writing is exquisite and so is the storytelling. One of those books that makes me want to downgrade all my other five star books to four, so this one can stand alone.

    I also read The Girl of Ink and Stars, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Is it just me, or is the reading world awash with ‘The Girl of X and Y’ titles at the moment? It was a good story, but it didn’t blow me away.

    1+

    1. Pressure from publishers ? Mind you, there must be a heck of a lot of book titles starting with Man. I blame Edgar Wallace’s The man from Morocco and, yes, I am old enough to have read it, albeit c1944 ! So maybe it’s time women had their share.

      0

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