This Is a Good Book Thursday, December 20, 2018

This week I’ve mostly been reading the news which, if you’re an American, is like an advent calendar: Every day we open a door and get a new investigation for our President.  We’re up to seventeen now.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.  I also re-read a lot of Heyer for comfort, but that involved skimming.  I love her romances, but she does tend to over-explain and in some cases spend too much time with characters I don’t care about.  Which I believe was also some of the feedback I got on Act One, so I’m in glass houses territory now and I’ll shut up.

What have you been reading?

71 thoughts on “This Is a Good Book Thursday, December 20, 2018

  1. Am reading Defectors by Joseph Kanon: great page turner about brothers – one who was a Soviet agent and summons his brother to Moscow on pretext of writing his memoirs. We are watching The Americans so this works well with that vibe.

    I love Heyer precisely for the over-explaining: if I find a narrative voice I like, I am very happy for them to explain away to me. Don’t be afraid of it: think of Dorothy Dunnett, Dickens, Eliot, all over-explainers. But also utterly immersive writers who carry you into their world and keep you enthralled.

    11+
      1. Yes! Exactly that! They are amazing and also those books just take me flat out. I re-read the mysteries at least once a year, and although I am delighted to have them as ebooks, I miss the really gorgeous covers of the paperbacks.

        3+
  2. I haven’t been able to take much American news (even though I’m American) but I have been reading about Brexit on twitter with a mixture of fascination and horror. I think it’s easier to read about because I’m one step removed and because Brits are so good at being dryly funny even in the worst of times.

    If someone from the UK is reading Trump/American news for similar reasons, I completely understand! 🙂 I hope this all is the beginning of the end, but I’m trying not to get too excited too soon.

    I’ve also been listening to the audiobook “The Ugly Duchess” by Eloisa James. Because apparently historically improbable pirates is my unintentional reading theme lately (see the latest Julia Quinn) and because I love Susan Duerden’s narration.

    I enjoyed this one overall, although I felt the hero crept a little close to “Old-Skool romance hero” for my taste at times. I didn’t feel there was ever any suggestion he would force the heroine sexually or hit her, but there was a lot of talk about him “having a temper” and the heroine seemed to love he would get angry and lose control and shout and rage about things.

    It kind of gets worked out between the two of them (I think the writer could have spelled that out better), but it’s almost to level of a kink for them, so if that is a big turn off, I would stay away.

    So, I’m recommending it with that caveat. Susan Duerden does all voices so well, she especially does male voices well, which not every narrator can pull off.

    5+
  3. I’m rereading Jo Beverley’s Mallorens series; finished ‘My Lady Notorious’ last night, and have just started ‘Tempting Fortune’. She’s so brilliant at weaving in the historical background, including real people as minor characters. And the stories are a lot of fun. Unfortunately, her later Georgian novels were much weaker, but the original five plus a couple of sequels she wrote later are excellent. A couple of them feature Georgian Christmases, which will also be fun.

    6+
      1. Our President is the focus seventeen different investigations and intends to shut down the government over a wall. Because walls worked so well for China and Berlin. We feel your pain.

        16+
        1. I’m avoiding our (UK) news. All the people saying “There was no way of knowing it would turn out like this” make me feel homicidal. People, *I* predicted it would turn out like this. At the start. And it’s not as if I’m any sort of expert.

          I *didn’t* expect the “We can’t let the people vote again, because we’re worried that they might have changed their minds. So we’ll argue that asking them a second time would be undemocratic, and they must go with their first choice. No matter that it was made on the basis of (now freely admitted) lies.” Really? Undemocratic to have a vote? I can’t even.

          The only bright side I can see re Trump is the guarantee that he is out after a maximum of 8 years. Though bluntly I’m staggered he’s lasted this long.

          My current reading is both escapist and seasonal: Nigel Slater’s “The Christmas Chronicles”. I love his writing.

          3+
          1. Yay for someone next-door in Wales. Ditto re Brexit. And thank you for reminding me – I was given ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ last year, and saved them to read this Christmas. Completely forgot.

            0
  4. I’ve been reading Act one of Nita, all 8 parts, and in ready to read the rest of it!

    Other than that, I’ve been reading email.

    4+
  5. I read Jarrett Krosoczka’s graphic novel memoir about growing up with his grandparents because his mother was a heroin addict. I was previously only familiar with his graphic novel series for young readers about super hero lunch ladies which I recommend. Hey Kiddo is much darker and more realistic. I couldn’t put it down.

    4+
    1. Oh wow I can’t wait to read that. I loved reading the lunch ladies with my grandkids. Isn’t it amazing how such funny stuff can come from people with a traumatic upbringing.

      2+
  6. The Christmas Czar for this year (a rotating position within the family) is the younger child (now 20) and she proclaimed “nothing but stockings, and a family book club, the book is Robin McKinley’s Shadows, be prepared to discuss it Christmas morning” so I am reading Robin McKinley again, after a decade apart, and I had forgotten how distinctive her narrative voice is. I love it, and I am aggravated by it in equal measure, but mostly it reminds me of some of my favorite reading ever, so generally lovely, thank you.

    9+
    1. I’m reading Shadows at the moment, and am equally loving it and aggravated. Her stories sneak up on me – they tend to start off slow, but after a while I find myself enchanted.

      3+
    2. Oh yes. Christmas Czar. Wish we could manage that in my crew. I’m afraid that once my eldest got hold of that title she’d never relinquish it again.

      Not reading this week, except old familiar books at bedtime to put me to sleep. I’ve been sewing presents, wrapping and bowing – a separate job in my family.

      1+
  7. I read Barbara Delinski’s book Sweet Salt Air. It was really good. I started on her other books. Some I enjoyed. The very early ones read a lot like the old Harlequin romances my mom read in the 60’s. I used to steal them and read them secretly but I grew out of them by 13 or so. I finished one but I just couldn’t finish another. Sticking to her newer books from now on.

    5+
    1. I think my keepers of hers are ‘For My Daughters’ and ‘Coast Road’; post her Mills & Boon days, but from the nineties, I think.

      4+
  8. I’ve been rationing the Murderbot books, saving them for when I really need a lift, so I’m reading the next-to-last one (of the current group; I read that there’s another one or more in the works). Also listening to the audiobook version of Hogfather.

    I got my 12 yo niece the Tiffany Aching series (Terry Pratchett for anyone who doesn’t recognize it) for Christmas, and am hoping she enjoys them. Never too soon to get ’em addicted to Pratchett.

    8+
    1. I started my oldest granddaughter on the Aching books for her birthday one year, and my daughter called to thank me. She said, “Do you have any idea how wonderful it is to hear your kid laughing while she reads?” Best book review ever.

      17+
      1. Is this the “Grandma Jenny, we have enough books” granddaughter or is that the younger one?

        3+
          1. In her defense, she wanted dolls because at the time she was having long conversations with them, so basically writing her own stories.

            10+
        1. LOL, this is the oldest. Emmylou, the middle kid, was the “we have enough books” but she’s a couple of years older now and is reading like crazy, so all is well.

          11+
          1. He got his grandmother’s maiden name, so it’s pretty staid. But his middle name is Trouble. Not kidding, it’s on the birth certificate.

            9+
          2. Eldest granddaughter is seven, loves reading. What age should I give get the Aching books? I had better read them too. Read only one of his stories. Don’t show me the door. I stopped reading for many years.

            1+
          3. I don’t think we have doors.
            I think seven is a good age for Tiffany. Plus they’re very re-readable, so even if she misses some of the jokes, she’ll keep reading them again and again as she grows.

            3+
  9. This week I have been listening to Educated by Tara Westover. It is phenomenal. She is not just sharing events which are interesting and alien to most of us, but she has organized her memories in such a way that she repeatedly breaks your heart. I often cry while reading many of the books that I read, but it’s been a long time since I have been this emotionally affected.

    I have also been reading through The Brother’s Sinister series by Courtney Milan and have enjoyed them very much. Thanks for the recommendation!

    8+
    1. I enjoyed Educated very much, though it was hard reading at times. I can imagine the audiobook is even more affecting!

      5+
  10. I’ve just finished the latest Bryant & May novel, Hall of Mirrors. Am currently skimming a book on rescue dogs to see if there’s anything I’m missing with our Lady Phryne, but so far it’s nothing I didn’t know.

    5+
    1. I’m currently reading his Hall of Mirrors and laughing my way through it. Definitely a blast from the past with the late 60’s setting.

      Fowler, who has an excellent writer’s blog by the way, says his next Bryant and May (Lonely Hour, I believe) will be darker than this somewhat lighthearted Hall of Mirrors one. I’m a big fan of Bryant and May but keep my eyes closed while reading the darkest bits.

      Fowler skewers those worthy of skewering and does so with style and precision, and humor. I still laugh at the memory of Bryant saying “I see your lips moving, but all I hear is rubbish,” which could be said about (and to!) a lot of our politicians. Fowler makes a lot of the “rubbish” bearable.

      0
  11. I’ve mostly been reading PCT blogs, something I do periodically for escapist reasons. Daydreaming about running away from home, basically (also daydreaming about it being summer, I think).

    My daytime reading is Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. It’s well-written, but I’m only a short way in. At night, when I take my mug of tea and tuck myself into bed, I’m continuing my Pratchett kick with Unseen Academicals.

    3+
  12. I am still working on Meljean Brook for comfort and joy, and recently started two nonfiction books, Girl, Wash your face by Rachel Hollis and 12 Rules for Life: an antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson. So far both are very good, and surprisingly similar in message, though worlds apart in style.

    Oh, oh, oh!!!!! And Why Art by Eleanor Davis. It’s short. I read it through in about 40 minutes, but it blew my mind. I am going to read it again after it settles a bit and see if the amazingness holds true. It is not at all what I was expecting. I am not even sure what genre it is…

    3+
    1. I’m slowly working my way through the Jordan Peterson book, and finding it a valuable way of looking at life. But I was a bit dismayed to see a video clip of him the other day claiming that there’s no such thing as western patriarchal society, because men suffer just as much if not more than women (most of the suicides, most of the incarceration, most of the violence etc), and it’s just a few rich powerful men in charge. An odd blind spot for such an otherwise intelligent and wise man.

      3+
  13. Beth Byers’ The Violet Carlyle Mysteries popped up on my Kindle Unlimited account and I’ve been binging. She’s a twin, she’s the daughter of an Earl and is enjoying the Roaring 20s. I’m so glad I found them. The author has more books out but I’m not ready to leave the 20s. 🙂

    3+
  14. I’m reading Murderbot 4 aka Exit Strategy. I finished 3, Rogue Protocol, the other day and then the next morning I had an email from the library saying 4 was in. I want to be Murderbot when I grow up.

    6+
    1. I want to be the women Murderbot admires, like Mensah or Don Abene. Older, intelligent, brace and very protective of their teams.

      2+
  15. Thanks to whoever recommended Simone St James. I’ve read two of hers now, and I love that mix of romance, ghosts and crime/thriller. Just finished The Broken Girls, which was terrific.

    I also read Tamora Pierce’s In the Hand of the Goddess, which is the second in her Alanna series. Still good – moving onto the third.

    I finished Wolf Hall and loved it, though it slowed down a bit towards the end. It gives such a good understanding of that era. I gather there’s another one already published, and the third one due next year, so will hunt them up. Except I made the mistake of looking up Thomas Cromwell’s biog, so I know it ends badly …

    3+
  16. I listened to “Men at Arms” while driving around shopping. Always fun, and I haven’t read in a while, so I could enjoy the details like a friend I haven’t seen in a while.

    5+
    1. I love that book for so many reasons, not the least of which is Carrot’s evolution. That “a good man will just kill you” sticks with me.

      4+
      1. Although I love Tiffany Aching, and Rincewind, and Carrot, and Granny Weatherwax… And a bunch of others… Sam has to hover near number one. Vimes’s observation about sex and cooking would hang on my wall if I knew how to make samplers.

        7+
        1. Try using Adobe Spark Post to create a great poster. Then print, frame, and hang the poster in the kitchen. Much faster than making a sampler of it.

          3+
          1. Especially because it’s long:

            “He’d noticed that sex bore some resemblance to cookery: it fascinated people, they sometimes bought books full of complicated recipes and interesting pictures, and sometimes when they were really hungry they created vast banquets in their imagination – but at the end of the day they’d settle quite happily for egg and chips. If it was well done and maybe had a slice of tomato.”

            12+
  17. Because it is the season I ordered Under The Mistletoe by Mary Balogh from the library ebooks where I’m #3 on one list and next in line at a second library. The book is a series of five novellas and should be fun.

    I try not to think of Trump too much anymore it screws with my head. But I just had a thought that if he is indicted for anything under the tax codes does that mean that Melania is also culpable? It would be just like him to throw her under the bus, too. Although she does resemble the Imelda Marcos of coats.

    8+
    1. I was being sarcastic about the coats but it is a good thing I went back and reread the blog because I saw a series of books about the twenties by Beth Byers and I’m going to give her a try. Thanks Non Writer Beth

      6+
  18. So I finished the last of Tanya Huff’s Peacekeper trilogy and then went back and reread the Valor series and Peacekeeper to see if I could figure out why I liked them so much but do not think of them for rereading in general and I have not figured it out. And then I read Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting In Real Life, which I just enjoy her voice so much.

    5+
  19. I’ve been rereading the first “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard”-book, “The Sword of Summer”. That’s it. Due to having had visitor last weekend and not time enough to read, that’s all I’ve managed.

    Oh, no I lied. Fiancé and I continued on “The Brethren” by John Grisham. We’re 51% into the book now (slow reading, this…) but at least it doesn’t feel insufferable anymore. It’s so dry I’m surprised the books doesn’t fall apart when the narrator breathes on it… 😉 But it is quite fun because of that. Dry, snarky comments about everything, most characters are ugly as all hell and…it’s a weird book.

    4+
  20. Like Gin above, I have been reading and enjoying Murderbot by Martha Wells. I read the first one months ago, but this week, I finished #2, Artificial Condition, and #3, Rogue Protocol. Truly lovely, especially #3. There is this juxtaposition between dangerous, often brutal adventures and Murderbot’s hilarious observations about humanity and himself that wouldn’t allow me to close the book until it’s over. Good thing they are so short.

    5+
  21. I’m reading a new translation of The Master and Margarita, a free-wheeling, fun Russian novel that is also about the Devil, so it’s interesting to read alongside Jenny’s work 🙂

    3+
  22. I couldn’t find anything that appealed to me among me TBR books so picked up a coupe od Diana Wynne Jones books to re-read. I finished The Pinhoe Egg last night and am currently reading Enchanted Glass.

    5+
  23. Reread the second book in my Baba Yaga series (research for the next one) and am now completely depressed about my writing being better a few years ago than it is now. Moving on to a reread of a Trisha Ashley (British) Christmas story, Twelve Days of Christmas, so I don’t have to think about it.

    6+
    1. After your first post mentioning your first Baba Yaga book I picked it up and really enjoyed it. Looking forward to reading the second after it is delivered (it’s already ordered)

      1+
  24. With Love,Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall. A story based on her parents letters to each other during the WWII. Her father told her to go get over 600 letters her parents had written which were stored in an old army trunk before he passed away. Really enjoyed the story.

    Read another historical, not as good as usual from a favourite author. Oh well. Heading to Mt Baker over Christmas, lots of reading, walking, etc time. I’m reading the slush pile of short stories. Read two lovely stories. Taking games and a gingerbread house village to assembly with granddaughters. No skiing, bum knee.

    2+
  25. I am sure Trump will try to throw everyone under the bus. I’m not sure how much throwing he can do though. They can all testify against him, and there seems to be a lot of paper (stuff like all the contents of Michael Cohen’s office). I think he is running for re-election because its the only way he can stay out of jail. (And I’m not sure he can stay out of NY state jails even so.)

    1+
  26. Great books, both. Pinhoe Egg is just amazing — how could there be a better kid’s book? But Enchanted Glass is just sweet. There is so much joy in it.

    1+
  27. I’m listening to the 2nd book (again) of Krissie’s in the House of Russell trilogy. Love those books.

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