This Is a Good Book Thursday, December 13, 2018

I read a good YA, Mostly Straight, this week and a strangely unsettling NYT bestseller.  Still not sure why the bestseller so unsettled me.  That’s the only word I can think of to describe the feeling of “something’s off here.”  Not giving the title of the book because it may just be my reading biases since the book was well-written.  I went back and reread Heyer’s False Colours as brain bleach, and ended up skimming large chunks of it, possibly because I’ve read it at least half a dozen times already.  I think once you get past six readings on a book, you’re basically doing the good parts version anyway.  

So what did you read this week?

(And in an unrelated note, big thank you to everybody who’s giving me feedback on Act One.  Never apologize for beta reading, I need honest criticism and you’re all giving it to me.   Absolutely nothing to apologize for because I’m grateful for all of it.)

67 thoughts on “This Is a Good Book Thursday, December 13, 2018

  1. I read a romance that I had a hard time with. The main characters had some traits that were off-putting, and the situation was a little bizarre. By the end, you find out that there wasn’t one antagonist, but rather a group, and they weren’t causing the biggest issues – it was the main characters themselves. Finally, I think there were about three or four chapters in the book where the POV shifted from the female to the male. Had it been set up that way at the beginning, I don’t think I’d have noticed, but it felt like a way to show the “realization” that resolved the last hurdle for the two to get together. I really don’t know why I didn’t stop reading. It is definitely not in the re-read pile.

    So, I’m going to start Exit Strategy, the 4th Murderbot novella as a palate cleanser.

    7+
  2. I discovered Meljean Brook’s The Iron Duke, and I intend to continue with the series, but that book does have problems. I think I would have liked it better had I read it ten years ago. Most annoying aspects:

    1. The Perils of Mina went on and on, blowing the Perils of Penelope out of the water

    2. The sexual encounters, which I skimmed over like a swallow in flight, were of the ‘I will now French kiss you and you will like it’ variety

    Are the other books in the series any different?

    3+
    1. I found the series inconsistent, but the worldbuilding is just gorgeous and fascinating. I stayed with the series because of the world building which sounds kind of insane to me now, but – yeah. The two I remember most enjoying were Heart of Steel (competent, tough and resourceful heroine) and the Kraken King, which kind of meandered and was sold as a subscription and was infuriating to read that way. It took Seanan McGuire’s Indexing to get me to even consider trying that model again.

      3+
    2. I love them all dearly, so probably not the best person to ask, but it seems like a good number of people have trouble with the first one. Riveted is much less dark, with a very compassionate hero.

      3+
      1. I had problems with The Iron King too, mainly because it was borderline rapey at times, and if that was the first one I’d read, I’m not sure I would have gone on with the other ones. But it wasn’t the first one I read, for which I am very grateful, because I really enjoy the others.

        4+
  3. I read S K Dunstall’s Stars Uncharted which was space opera competence porn. I liked it but felt they were setting up for a sequel which now I have to wait for.

    I also read the most excellent graphic novel Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol about her time at summer camp as a child. Couldn’t put it down. It’s based on her own life as a Russian immigrant going to Russian camp. Her accent is great but her language skills are those of a five year old. Camp is more rustic than she expected. And she has a hard time making friends.

    4+
  4. I read the sequel to Openly Straight (Honestly Ben) and really liked it. Keep meaning to go back but it’s not on the list…What IS on the list is Blanca & Roja, a Latine retelling of Snow-White & Rose-Red. So lush, so good.

    4+
  5. I can’t say I have any good books to sure fire recommend this week. I am, however, reading something called “The Vampire Knitting Club.” Slow start to it and I’m not sure if I am going to say it’s recommended or not since I’m not all that far through, but the subject matter alone, you know? Mostly you’re just all, “I bought a book that said “vampire knitting club, let’s get to the vampires knitting,” which doesn’t kick in until around chapter 7 or so. Which has now happened, so we’ll see how it goes.

    4+
  6. I have been in a ferociously grumpy mood all week, for various not-very-proportionate reasons. Times like this are made for Pratchett. So I’ve been re-reading various latter-stage Vimes books during these long, dark December evenings; last night’s was Thud!. Agree that at this point it’s mostly the Good Parts Version, but there are so many Good Parts in Pratchett that my attention tends to stick around for entire swathes.

    Also read Brittany Cooper’s Eloquent Rage last week, which I think I saw recommended here. Great collection of essays, with a few real standouts. Thanks to whoever mentioned it!

    5+
    1. That reminds me — time for the annual re-reading of the good parts of Hogfather. Love the early scene with Susan and the poker, and all of the mall Hogfather scenes.

      6+
    2. I have been slowly rereading Pratchett over the last few weeks. It really pays not to skim just to get to the “good” parts. The number of throw-away lines that I don’t remember from previous readings is astounding. He was so observant, so witty and astute.

      7+
      1. I think this is exactly why I re-read Pratchett for comfort. The writing itself is just so enjoyable, because it’s fun and clever (and full of tossed-off puns that I don’t necessarily notice each time I read). So I start off thinking I’ll just read a bit, but then get sucked in by the casual wordplay.

        6+
      2. I think I was on the 5th re-reading of … is it Hogfather? or another one at Unseen U? … when I finally got the “anthill inside” = Intel Inside. That takes real genius, to make the pun work as part of the story even if you don’t notice the pun!

        5+
        1. I still remember when I learned that ‘selachii’ is the family name for sharks, while ‘venturi’ relates to a fluid dynamic process involving water being squeezed through a pipe. As in, Ankh-Morpork’s longest-running family feud — two families alike in dignity etc. etc. — is between the Sharks and the Jets.

          18+
  7. I have had a bad week so I re-read Greenglass House and the Ghosts of Greenglass House and Black Hearts in Battersea and Wolves of Willoughby Chase and then I am a nerd so I took refuge in science – A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, which was fantastic – well written and lucid and interesting, and so now I am way over my head reading about Hox genes and their expression.

    8+
  8. I’ve been saying for a while that I want to write a caper along the lines of the Ocean’s series or Leverage. Except books work differently from movies, so I need to study book capers for structure and tropes. Started with a bestseller from some years ago, and it was DREADFUL. Competently written, but about three chapters (out of 20+) of plot, and the rest was food/wine porn. You know how they say never to have scenes with a bunch of people sitting around a table eating? Yeah, that was 90 percent of the book.

    Next up is Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder series, which I’ve read at least one of in the past, so I have higher hopes for that.

    I also have a theory that not only are book capers different from movie capers, but women-focused capers may be different from men-focused capers. There’s an overlap obviously, since the Ocean series and Leverage both appealed to women as well as men, but I wonder if that was part of the problem with the caper book I hated — that it was clearly focused on a male readership. (Don’t get me started on the casual racism or misogyny in the characterization of a book that was released only 9 years ago.)

    5+
    1. I’m not sure that book and movie capers are that different, but it depends on which demographic. YA heist books are VERY much like reading a movie/TV episode. Juvenile fiction heists also have mostly real-time prose, but limit the twists and the perspective changes (but not always, as per the Artemis Fowl series). Adult fiction heists are more often than not partial noirs, lots of backstory swirling in the mix.

      There may also be a cultural aspect to consider. Korean’s acclaimed heist films might lend themselves to a book adaptation a lot more, as they emphasize the character relationships and a whole lotta backstabbing driven by said relationships. Check some of them out!

      But the heist genre is more and more popular in YA. Half of the new breed of Sci-fi YA dystopia books use heists for their climactic sequence. One I’ve quite enjoyed recently is the Mirador series, by Dan Wells.

      3+
      1. Thanks. That’s really useful. I was thinking they were different because with both Ocean and Leverage, to make the story work, a lot has to be hidden from the viewer. Can’t do that as easily in a book without the reader feeling cheated. But maybe I’m wrong. Ergo the research!

        3+
    2. Oh, I love Dortmunder! I remember one where someone buried the goods after a heist, and then went to prison. Got out many years later to find that a damn had been built and the burial site was at the bottom of a reservoir. The plot of the book was the very funny attempts to recapture the buried loot from under the lake! An increasingly ridiculous array of failed plots followed. So funny!

      4+
    3. Caper books:
      Patrick Weeke’s Rogues of the Republic series (the Palace job etc) are good fantasy caper books and the group leader is a woman of colour.

      Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg’s Fox and O’Hare series are nice fluffy popcorn heists.

      Ally Carter’s YA Heist society series might be worth a read.

      3+
  9. I finished the new Louise Penny Kingdom of the Blind and really liked it. I was caught off guard by some of it and some of it I saw coming, but that’s par for any book.

    I’m also just about finished Competence by Gail Carriger and enjoying it.

    2+
    1. I’ve been reading Louise Penny too. I finished A Rule Against Murder, which I loved, and then A Bitter Telling, which I found . . . disquieting. I’m off to the library in the morning to pick up the next in the series though, because I’m well and truly caught.

      2+
      1. I think that’s one of the things I like about her books. She seduces you with the lovely descriptions and the sedate pace and then all of a sudden you realize that something truly horrible has happened and it’s almost like you missed it. That book, and the next one, are particularly unsettling.

        1+
  10. Stuck in an airport a couple weeks ago, I splurged on a hardcover NYT best-seller by an author I’ve enjoyed. Now I want my money back.

    After pages and pages of admittedly gorgeous writing, I trusted the author to tie things together. Nope. I Googled to make sure I’m not being dense; reviewers suggest taking notes to follow the story.

    Sorry, but for pleasure reading I don’t do homework.

    8+
  11. Finished “To Kill a Kingdom,” by Alexandra Christo. I have a fictional romance couple type, apparently, and it’s the murder couple, a pair where both parties are a little savage, and love that about each other. (Think Spike-Dru, or Root-Shaw)

    Also finished “Steeplejack,” by A.J. Hartley. Strong start to a series, reminded me of Kate Elliott in a very good way.

    Currently reading “Genius” by Leopoldo Gout, speaking of YA sci-fi heist books. I’ve been disappointed by one of its aesthetic gimmicks, of including diagrams of tech, because they don’t make sense for the ways they’re supposed to demonstrate the intelligence of the protagonists.

    4+
  12. I did it. I finished Tamora Pierce’s Tempest and Slaughter. It didn’t leave as big an impression as her other books did. And I only started reading her books as an adult. So there’s no childhood filters in what I’m remembering.

    The ending was better than Mastiff. But then, so was Terrier, the first in the Beka series. I like how well she shows the different intrigues that play on Arram, Varice, and Orzone. Well written and worth the read.

    3+
  13. I’m listening to Rebecca Mead’s “My Life in Middlemarch,” read by the wonderful Kate Read, and loving it to pieces, even though I’ve only read Middlemarch once.

    Middlemarch is a book Mead loves and loves, a book she’s read many, many times. The book she wrote is about her love of the story, about George Eliot’s life, about the book itself. It all makes sense as you read it.

    The introduction to the book includes a passage that means so much to me:

    “Reading is sometimes thought of as a form of escapism, and it’s a common turn of phrase to speak of getting lost in a book. But a book can also be where one finds oneself; and when a reader is grasped and held by a book, reading does not feel like an escape from life so much as it feels like an urgent, crucial dimension of life itself. There are books that seem to comprehend us just as much as we understand them, or even more. There are books that grow with the reader as the reader grows, like a graft to a tree.

    “This kind of book becomes part of our own experience, and our own endurance. It might lead us back to the library in midlife, looking for something that eluded us before.”

    I’m also comfort-reading Mary Jo Putney. Because that’s how I roll 🙂

    10+
  14. I decided to re-read Lord of Scoundrels (Loretta Chase). After which I’ll probably re-read The Mad Earl’s Bride. And The Last Hellion. Because sometimes you just want to visit old book friends.

    8+
    1. Lord of Scoundrels is wonderful-the characters that the author created are perfect. She is tiny, beautiful and wickedly smart. He is big, ugly and needing to be loved. I recommend this book to any friends who want a historical romance.

      1+
  15. I am listening to Sarah Addison Allen’s The Sugar Queen, which I always loved, but I had forgotten some of the heavier themes. It’s still wonderful, but maybe a little sad for me at this present time. I am also listening to Anne Stuart’s Ritual Sins and am really enjoying it.

    4+
  16. I read The Reformer by Jaima Fixsen. Well-written romance with lots of history/social commentary. She has become an auto-buy for me.

    Now I’m reading To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. It’s a sequel to Doomsday Book and fun so far.

    7+
  17. I read a terrific Irish middle grade fantasy, ‘The Storm Keeper’s Island’, by Catherine Doyle. It’s the first of at least two books. Also ‘Not Your Sidekick’ by CB Lee, which someone here recommended. It took me a while to get into it, because it’s written in the present tense which I always struggle with, but then the story took hold of me and I really enjoyed it.

    And now, for a complete change of pace, I’m reading Wolf Hall, which has been sitting in my bookcase almost since it was published. I bought it because the writing on the first page was so beautiful, and then never quite got around to reading it. Watched a bit of the television series, which was good. And I’m loving the book.

    3+
  18. False Colours Spoiler:

    The scene where Lady Denville wheedles her way into a marriage proposal makes me laugh every time. As does Bonamy’s response afterwards. Hilarious.

    9+
    1. I love the scene where the brother’s mistress’s mother comes to blackmail the hero thinking he’s his brother, and Cressy comes in and sympathizes with her and removes any chance of blackmail while Kit tries not to laugh. I love H&Hs working together.

      8+
  19. I’m *always* reading *something*. Thanks to audiobooks, that’d be true even if I went blind.

    I was doing beta reading. Yours and a friends in a Google Group. Someone else in that group asked if there were any good references for writing sex scenes, so naturally I shared Sailor Jim’s “On Writing Penises.” Then I cited you and Lois Bujold, examples from your blogs and excerpts from books.

    The excerpts from Bujold were the beginning of Book 2 of the Sharing Knife series, where Dag and Fawn have sex for the first time, and Bujold not once uses words like boobs or penis or their more vulgar euphemisms, and still the action is clear (and a bit humorous.) I had to dodge back to Book 1 where Fawn Learns About Foreplay.

    No actual excerpts from your books – I described you as Crusie the Romance Rule Breaker, who put the sex at the start, long before the commitment occurs. I used Charlie All Night and Welcome to Temptation for examples.

    In the course of, er, research, I ended up listening to all of Manhunting and Sizzle, and I’m in the early middle of Sharing Knife Book 4.

    All this put me behind with regard to books about my favorite wizard named Harry. I’ll get back to him, eventually. There are plenty of Dresden files I haven’t heard, yet.

    7+
    1. Gary, I’ve been thinking about your post from last week about the kind of killing — fewer good guys die — and the clear good and bad identities in military sci-fi. You included Lois Bujold.

      I recently had a brief back and forth on Goodreads with a friend who is a huge Bujold fan. She has avoided reading Red Adam’s Lady by Grace Ingram — an English medieval adventure story / romance — because reviews refer to near rapes. In fact, the first rape doesn’t occur in Red Adam’s Lady because the heroine slams a chair onto the guy’s head so he passes out for the night. In contrast, in Shards of Honor Cordelia is saved from rape by Bothari. In the series, she outthinks men instead of (or, more often than) whacking them.

      1+
  20. As long as there are a few YA readers here, I thought I’d ask — has anybody else ever read a book by Daniel Pinkwater called “Lizard Music”? One of my favorites.

    5+
    1. My favorite YA books are Robert A. Heinlein’s “juveniles” and Patricia C. Wrede’s Frontier Magic Trilogy. Also Rudyard Kipling, but it’s been a long, long time for those. I’m old enough to remember Tom Swift and Tom Swift Junior, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew (although I wasn’t supposed to admit reading Nancy Drew when I did.)

      4+
      1. Loved the Frontier Magic Trilogy. I so wish she’d write a second trilogy in that world. I love the characters and so many unanswered questions about that world. The characters are so great that I sometimes find myself wondering what happened to those people as if I actually knew them.

        3+
  21. I loved Lizard Music, thanks for the reminder.

    This week I really enjoyed American Kingpin, non fiction, about the creation and success of web site Silk Road (which was devoted to drugs and illegal stuff). The author (Nick Bolton) does a good job balancing all the threads, alternating between the Silk Road creator, and the investigators in various agencies searching and tracking down the web site. I couldn’t stop reading it.

    3+
  22. I have been re-reading Daisy Dalrymple cozy mystery series by Carola Dunn. I don’t read them back-to back (there are over 20 books in the series by now). But after every two or three other books I read, I insert one of Daisy, to lift my mood, if nothing else.
    When I first discovered her a few years ago, I read the books in random order and loved them all. Daisy is very charming, one of my absolute favorites in the genre.
    Now, like a good girl, I started from book #1, Death at Wentwater Court, and am already at #4, Murder on the Flying Scotsman. And the books are still charming and fun.

    4+
  23. I read Venetia, because YODJ is challenging just now and I wanted some comfort. It’s one of the few Heyers I’ve only read once as how the hero and heroine meet coloured the whole thing for me on the first reading. However, this time, knowing that was coming it didn’t push me out of story, and I enjoyed the rest of it so much more.

    Much as I love comfort reading, don’t you sometimes wish you could read something for the first time again? I LOVE The Grand Sophy, but I’ve read it so often…sigh. I gave it to a friend this year who had never read Heyer. She liked it a lot – and her partner read the dialogue out loud with her. Best Boyfriend Ever moment for sure. (they’re both in their 40s).

    Anyways, I guess that’s a lesson to me to discover new books – because some of them will be re-read gems too.

    5+
  24. Finished rereading the last book of the “Heroes of Olympus”-series by Rick Riordan: “The Blood of Olympus”. You can say what you want about Riordan, but he’s excellent in including people of different cultures, races, sexual orientation, gender, religion etc and it’s all perfectly normal. No religion, sexual preference, gender or whatever gets the spotlight – it’s all just part of the story and it’s as normal that someone is male as female as gender fluid; hetrosexual as homosexual as bisexual; black, white, red, pink, blue, green, one-eyed or whatever; christian, muslim, heathen… That’s one of many things I love with his books.

    Then I reread “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman. Because I could. I only cried a bit. Like 500 times or so. But it’s OK because I had a cold so nobody noticed 😉 Love that book.

    After that I picked up “The Bookshop on the Corner” by Jenny Colgan. Cute book. Nothing like our Jenny Crusie, but cute. Concidering trying some of her other works.

    4+
  25. It’s not often that a book makes me laugh out loud, and more thsn once. “Hate Notes” by Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward succeeded in just that. I really didn’t know what to expect ftom this book and was pleasantly surprised throughout.

    3+
  26. By reading a book review this week, I made a great discovery — poet A E Stallings is a woman! I’ve wanted to post poems and books by women when argh asks for them. I’ll give you the poem now by Stallings that I’ve wanted to post during the Nita and Nick process:

    Triolet on a Line Apocryphally Attributed to Martin Luther

    Why should the Devil get all the good tunes,
    The booze and the neon and Saturday night,
    The swaying in darkness, the lovers like spoons?
    Why should the Devil get all the good tunes?
    Does he hum them to while away sad afternoons
    And the long, lonesome Sundays? Or sing them for spite?
    Why should the Devil get all the good tunes,
    The booze and the neon and Saturday night?

    6+
  27. I actually re-read “The Four Story Mistake,” by Elizabeth Enright. I have loved those books since I was a kid, and there happened to be a copy around, so I read it again. Still so darn good.

    2+
    1. One of the substantial joys of my recent life has been purchasing the books I loved for my nieces and reading them together. I am so very lucky that my brother and sister-in-law do not begrudge me the time it takes out of their lives and are meticulous about maintaining continuity and making sure the books come on every visit with the girls.

      3+

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