64 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday 4-27-17

  1. A favorite series that I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen recommended here, the Medicus series by Ruth Downie.
    They’re a mystery series set in ancient Britain with Ruso, a grumpy Roman doctor, trying to solve mysteries and understand native culture. There is a romance that builds over the series as well.

    I picked up the first one because it was recommended by the wonderful historical writer Carla Kelly on her blog. It took me a while to adjust to the tone, but I ended up really loving the series. If you like Carla Kelly’s romances about “just plain folks” trying to figure out what the right thing in a confusing world, try these. They’re also funny and the author usually gets some sly digs in about human nature.

    I just had alllll my digital library loans (ebook and audio) come in at once, so I’m swamped with potential good books, so fingers crossed for something really good
    and new! by next week.

    1. Oh, I hate when they all come in at once! You go through and look for something you want, only to put it on hold and a few others, and the line in front of you for each one is different, but sure as shooting, you end up with four things all due back in two weeks! It panics my methodical heart.

  2. My Librarian suggested I read “Agnes and the Hit Man” and I enjoyed it immensely. I am a loyal reader of adventure, espionage and legal novels written by authors such as Grisham, Koontz, Clancy, Baldacci, W>E>B Griffin, JC Rosenberg et al. But since she recommended it I read it and then I got “Long Way Down” and enjoyed it very much. I did not know if it was the collaboration of you and another writer that made the books so good so I am now reading “Bet Me” and I am stunned at how emotionally this book has made me feel. I allow myself two and a half hours a day to read and I usually read two books at a time, one on one day and the other on another day. However, I cannot put this book down and I am reading it everyday. I am at the part where “Love Me Tender” is sung by Cal to Min and then Min leaves. I worried about that all night long. I guess what I am trying to say is that your Novels really hit the emotions of the reader and that is not an easy thing to do. I am hooked on your books and I plan to read all of them. Thank you for being the great writer you are and sharing your tallent with everyone.

    1. Thank you so much for crossing genres for Bet Me and your kind words. And thank your librarian, too, please.

    2. Welcome to the fan club! I recommend, as a librarian and Crusie fan, that you read “Welcome to Temptation” next, followed by “Faking It”.

  3. Here’s the last seven days for me: Quentin Durwood, by Sir Walter Scott (DB17432). This is a high middle ages romance involving lots of chivalry, political intrigue, and a decent amount of the kind of combat you’d expect for the 1400s. Next up was Marjorie B Garber’s Vested interests_ cross-dressing & cultural anxiety. (DB37666) It was a scholarly work about crossdressing as a social institution dating back a *very* long way. Since these two were huge books I only had time for one more, Philip Pullman’s The ruby in the smoke. (DB27311) This was a fun little mystery with some nice romantic overtones set in Victorian England. It has the Dickensian negative portrayal of most older adults, but it was a fun read, and it’s the first in a series of at least four books. This is far less fantastical than Pullman’s more famous works.
    As for an author recommendation, I can’t recommend Neal Stephenson enough. I have a real problem with telegraphing, where the writer gives away the outcome long before you reach the end, (this spoiled a lot of Jane Eyre for me when I read it) and Stephenson doesn’t do that, as his twists and turns make perfect logical sense and yet surprise the reader. I think his book, Anathem, is on sale for $1.99 right now, and though that one has a large whisky tango foxtrot factor in the early parts, it starts to make far more sense as the strange words are defined later on. (It’s very medieval in that way) And it’s got one of the most subtle things I’ve ever read in it, too.

    1. I loved the Pullman Golden Compass series, though. (I will be checking out this one, though, thanks so much!) He was in town signing books when the last one was released; a friend and I were the only adults in his signing line. “And you’re a teacher?” “No.” “Have kids?” “No.” “???” “We love these books, and you’re wonderful.” He just melted. We were so charmed.

  4. At the risk of inappropriate self-promotion, I have so far been thrilled to death with the new audio adaptations of my Esther Diamond series by Graphic Audio. The books are humorous urban fantasies, and Graphic Audio does full-cast recordings of them, complete with sound effects and background music. Different actors read the different dialogue roles, and where the narrative might say something like “there was an explosion and people panicked” or “the door slammed and locked behind me” you hear the explosion and people running around shouting in panic, or you hear the lock slam and the lock turning, etc.

    Any adaptation of a book can go wrong or be disappointing, so I was braced for mediocrity or disappointment when these started getting produced–but, in fact, I think they’re wonderful and I’ve been delighted.

    They’re releasing one a month for the first 7 books in the series (after which, we’ll see–I need to finish writing #8 and more books after that!). The downloads are $13.99 apiece, I think.

    Free 5-minute samples available for the first 5 books. Book 6 currently in production.


    1. I am glad you did recommend your books. I am pretty much stuck on Audible; it’s easier to have everything in one place and I really hate books that are over-dramatized or where the reader intrudes too much into the story. That said, I bought your first book based on the sample and got the new app and I agree with you; it’s really funny and well-done and I don’t mind all of the sound effects and different voices. I guess there are many ways to do audio and not all of them are equally applicable to any one book.

      I still miss reading for myself, though. I never hate the voices in my own head or the pictures I make there.

      1. Glad you like it! It is chancy having multiple actors and sound effects involved–sometimes it probably just doesn’t work, or portions of it don’t work, etc. But I think they handled it well with this series. I give a lot of credit to the director, Colleen Delany, who is also the first-person narrator (i.e. she plays Esther Diamond).

  5. I’m re-reading a lot of Michael Gilbert books. He’s mid-20th century (for the most part) mystery novelist, so you’ll need to adjust for that, but he’s a writer I keep in print copies which is something I don’t do much of any more. Some of his are on Kindle, most are available in print for pennies. Long Journey Home may be my favorite although The Body of a Girl, The Quiet House, The Killing of Katie Steelstock, The Black Seraphim, Anything for the Quiet Life (link short stories) and anything with Calder and Behrens (retired spies) are all excellent. And then there’s Smallbone Deceased which is considered a classic of Golden Age mystery writing. He’s not a cosy, and he doesn’t shy away from violence, but violence always has consequences. The End Game is excellent, although you have to pay attention as all the threads come together, and The Night of the Twelfth is very good, but it is about the murder of children, so if that’s a trigger for you, stay away. Definitely one of my keeper authors.

    1. Ok, never heard of him, but loves mysteries so requested ‘Long Journey Home’ from library.

      1. I love that book. It’s about a very smart, very successful businessman who gets off a plane on an impulse and then tangles with the Italian mob. It’s pretty brutal in places, but it’s an archtypal smart-good-guy-against-very-bad-antagonists as he makes his way back to England. I’m usually not big on spy stories with violence, but this guy is just so calmly good as he works his way through levels of evil that it’s really competence porn, set in the fifties (I think).

        The Body of a Girl is another competence porn read, told in distant third about this new police chief who comes to town, and nobody knows quite what to make of him including the reader (except Gilbert is a very moral writer, so even his anti-heroes are on the side of the angels) as he follows an investigation nobody really wants him to undertake; again, competence porn.

        The End Game is really interesting if you’re a writer because the protagonist appears to be an absolute sexist bastard, although a fascinating one, until it becomes clear that everything he does is for a very specific purpose. Somebody in the book compares it to Snakes and Ladders as he and his ex-girlfriend move down and up the social ladder respectively; once the patterns start to emerge it’s mesmerizing. These are people who think about twelve steps ahead at all times. Again, competence porn.

        Really, pretty much everything I’ve read by Gilbert is competence porn. Another one I love (The Empty House) is about a mild-mannered insurance investigator who goes to the coast to investigate a death and ends up embroiled with terrorists from two different countries and the English secret service, and he still comes out on top simply because he’s very smart and always does the right/moral thing.

        Two things to watch: There are two Michael Gilberts (you want the earlier one) and there are a lot of books called “The Empty House.”

        and then Smallbone Deceased, which is a classic, CLASSIC golden age murder mystery. The hero is a guy who’s just joined a small law firm where a body is discovered (I love that phrase, it’s so Agatha Christie) and he has to work through the case with the police because he’s the only one in the firm who wasn’t there at the time of the murder. His name is Henry Bohun, and he has a medical condition that keeps him from sleeping, and that’s interesting, too.

        Calder and Behrens are two retired spies in their sixties who aren’t that retired; there are two collections of short stories–Game Without Rules and Mr. Calder and Mr. Behrens, and they’re both very good.

        The Night of the Twelfth is excellent with a murderer I absolutely did not see coming, but it involves the death of schoolboys, so I always hesitate to recommend that. Gilbert doesn’t linger on the details, but a dead kid is a dead kid.

        1. Your description of this author’s books brings Dick Francis to mind. I loved everything he wrote, and competence porn is a perfect description of his books.

        2. I love that phrase: competence porn. I think I’m also very attracted to that subgenre, whereever it pops up. Sherlock would be all about the competence porn, right?

        3. Hm. As you describe Gilbert and his layers and turnings, the analysis reminds me of Dorothy Dunnett. Thinking of it, beside her historic puzzlers – on every level – she did write and I enjoyed the Dolly Bird mystery series involving Johnson Johnson (oh, she does action scenes well. Cinematic), who seemed a riff on Margaret Allingham’s creation Albert Campion.

          1. BIG Albert Campion fan. My daughter’s middle name is Amanda because it means “must be loved” and because of Amanda Campion. What a woman she was.

    2. Oh yes. Sad part is when I first read Gilbert he wasn’t in time so far away. Now he’s with the Ancients.

  6. I saw a tweet yesterday, something to the effect of “saw an audiobook I was interested in, then realized it wasn’t narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith [Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series] and was disappointed.”

    So, speaking of Aaronovitch and Holdbrook-Smith, although I haven’t listened to it yet, there’s a free short story available from Audible (don’t know how long it’ll be free) released today here: https://www.amazon.com/Rare-Book-Cunning-Device/dp/B07252SLDB/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1493311480&sr=1-7&keywords=ben+aaronovitch You can listen to a sample, but it might not make sense if you haven’t read at least the first book in the series.

    1. I’m a huge fan of Aaronovitch’s books but recently discovered the genius of Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. He adds a whole new level of meaning to the stories. Hope he gets more work (though he did have a bit part in Dr. Strange).

    2. I have to second your recommendation of Aaronovich and Holdbrook-Smith; original and humorous and I think I would listen to anything Kobna Holdbr00k-Smith narrated but he is really well-suited to the Rivers of London series.

  7. Lately I’ve been wanting to pull out and re-read “The Life and Loves of a She-Devil” by Fay Weldon. It’s probably been a decade or so since I last read it – and it was a bit dated in some ways then, so I’ll have to see how it stands up – but I mostly remember finding it funny and poignant, and that it’s the kind of ‘take-charge-of-your-life’ and ‘take-no-punishment-without-hitting-back-harder’ kind of story that I’m finding particularly relevant and inspiring these days.

    I may not always approve of this particular she-devil’s methods or motivations, but the idea of embracing the “nasty woman”/”she-devil” inside and “persisting” until you get the result you want – well, that is just the kind of butt-kicking (anti)heroine I want to spend time with and cheer on right now.

  8. Last week I read this’ good book’ list and decided to read The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. I do agree-it is a great book. Here are several I also enjoyed this past year: The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank, Learning To Swim by Sara Henry, The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson, Miss Buncle’s Book by D. E. Stevenson and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick.

    1. I “discovered” D.E. Stevenson about three years ago when I ran across Miss Buncle’s Book. She was very popular (and prolific) in her time, so I don’t see how I missed her when I was ravaging my home town library for something to read in my teens. I’m glad to see that a number of her titles have been reissued. I revel in how she makes the England of her time so real that I experience a bit of a shock when I resurface from the book to my current reality.

      1. She was one of the first adult authors I read, but she wasn’t one I went back to. For some reason, I thought of her the other day, and wondered how she’d strike me now. I think I found her cosy and comforting when I was twelve or thirteen.

  9. Although the only Bronte I have read ‘Jane Eyre’ for my book club, I was browsing biographies in Overdrive and came across ‘Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart’ by Claire Harman. Admittedly I had just seen the PBS movie so was curious enough to check out the book on a whim and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

    It covers what is know about her parents life journey as well as her sisters & brother. It places the stories of their lives in a historical context and was very readable.

    1. That was a great movie. I had to pull the books out again (hadn’t read Jane Eyre since I was a high schooler), and it made me want to try Wuthering Heights again (never got all the way through it before, and I’d had the book since my twenties). Emily’s poetry sounds amazing, and I am so not a poetry person. Thanks for this new suggestion.

      1. This book really fleshes out the behavior of the sisters, that kind of went over my head when I watched the movie.

  10. I just finished a fabulous fantasy book, Dawn Study, by Maria V. Snyer. Her writing is just stellar. If you haven’t read the series, the first one is Poison Study, and it was so good that when I was reading it, and the notes at the back said it was her first book, I wanted to weep (as a then-prospective author). The characters are deep and interesting and her world-building is superb.

    1. I liked the first three books in the series and Poison Study was especially cool, but the Opal books after that (especially her love life, jeebus christ was horrible) kinda ruined the whole world for me. I don’t know if I can go back. Is there a lot of Opal in that book? Just wondering…

  11. I also read The Girl with the Ghost Eyes by M.H.Boroson a couple of months ago, and that was fun if you like fantasy and Asian myth. Plucky heroine, assorted antagonists with a solid Main Antagonist, good plot. One problem: The author is a white guy who sort of shoved a lot of different Asian myths together. It was a fun read, but I can see where people would object.

    1. Just went to find The Girl with the Ghost Eyes and found out that it is one of the bookoks you can buy for less by getting the Kindle ebook for $.99 (ninety-nine cents) and then you can buy the audible book for just $3.99. A deal!

  12. I am currently re-reading Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series. I love this series, the characters, the world-building. I recently re-read all of the Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter in anticipation of the new book coming in May. And I am currently reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Lots of great information about how habits are formed. Mr. Duhigg is a journalist, I believe, so it’s not a dry academic book.

    One of my favorite all-time authors is Ross Thomas. His books were all written between the mid-60s and the mid-90s. He writes crime/espionage witty thrillers chock full of great characters and double and triple crosses. Another great author from that era is Adam Hall. He wrote British espionage, also mid-60s to mid-90s. His main character, Quiller, works for a sort of black-ops MI6 and are very evocative of time and place.

    1. The Mercy books are great. I like the addition of Aiden in the last two books; it will be fun to watch him interact with the pack going forward.

      I burned through five or six of the Jane Yellowrock books really fast a while ago and then fell off for some reason. Jane’s love life was starting to annoy me, which didn’t help. But it may have just been that reading them all at once brought on a kind of OD. I think I’ll try to go back to them eventually. Maybe the romantic subplot issue gets better…

  13. I recently read, close together, “The Bookshop on the Corner” by Jenny Colgan and “Parnassus on Wheels” by Christopher Morley. Thoroughly enjoyed both.

  14. I spent the weekend with a friend and was reminded of Marsha Mehran’s beautiful debut novel, Pomegranate Soup. It’s about three sisters living in Ireland after fleeing the Iranian revolution in 1979. It’s occasionally confronting, but very beautiful magic realism. The follow up, Rosewater and Soda Bread, is also very good.

    Another that I re-read recently is All Fun And Games Until Somebody Loses An Eye, by Christopher Brookmyre. He’s a Scottish satirist who mostly sets his books in Glasgow, and creates an almost Pratchett-like level of insanity that somehow seems normal when you’re reading it. All Fun And Games is about Jane, an older woman whose son goes missing. Of course, she goes out to find him, and watching her rain hell down on everyone who gets in her way is enormously satisfying.

    Brookmyre’s series novels are also great – I particularly like the Jack Parlabane series and the Angelique de Xavia series.

  15. Recently finished “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple. I would highly recommend to anyone who likes unusual contemporaries.

    Bernadette is an agoraphobic mom and former MacArthur ‘genius’ grant winner who goes missing. Told mostly from the perspective of the 15-year-old daughter, but also through emails, letters and journal entries. Set in Seattle, the dad is a big shot at Microsoft. The house where this family lives is formerly a home for wayward girls but now has boarded off rooms and needs lots of work. There are also side jaunts to Antarctica. As I said, it’s unusual.

  16. I am thoroughly enjoying the Corrina Chapman mysteries by Kerry Greenwood. I read them the first time long enough ago that I don’t remember them and it’s like they are new.
    Kerry Greenwood wrote the books behind Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries.
    I love Phryne Fisher but I also love Corrina Chapman though she is opposite of Phyrne in many ways. She is a baker. She is overweight and does not care. Neither does her lover Daniel who is the only man in her life. She doesn’t care about clothes and wears birkenstocks or sturdy work shoes. There is a wonderful community full of loveable characters living in her apartment building.
    If food porn bothers you, these books aren’t for you, though. Recipes in the back.
    First book in the series is Earthly Delights.
    Funny how many authors I love are from Australia – Kerry Greenwood, my favorite Sarah-Kate Lynch and, of course, Robena Grant!

    1. One of the other Cherries and I love, Love, love Corrina Chapman and the Phryne Fisher books!

      1. Have just finished reading all the Phryne Fisher Mysteries, love them, Now off to watch the tv series.

        1. The productions are beautiful. The costume design alone is worth it.

          And also: yay Corinna!

    2. Those books are an awesome comfort listen for me. I love the way she shows so many sides of Melbourne.

  17. I’ve just finished “A Test of Wills” by Charles Todd (pseudonym for mother-son writing team Caroline and Charles Todd, which I did not know until moments ago) and I am hooked, and thrilled that there are another 18 (!) books in the Inspector Rutledge series so far. Set in the aftermath of WWI, with a shell-shocked protagonist who is also a Scotland Yard detective, the book has layers upon layers, is well-plotted, and the writing is evocative. I’ve just started book 2, “Wings of Fire.” and it looks to be excellent as well.

    1. Liked those books up to a point, took a break, enjoyed the new entries even more. Plowing that field, in more doncha know way, the Joe Sandilands Scotland Yard mysteries, begun before WWI in Egypt, ends for me so far on cusp of WWII. Great evolution of character and country. Especially enjoyed her post WWI clean-up,”Tug of War.”

  18. Nonfiction! I just finished reading “In Defense of the Princess” by Jerramy Fine, which defends wanting to be a princess in the best kind of way. Loved it.

    Fine is obsessed with royalty and England and I also loved her previous memoir, “Someday My Prince Will Come,” about how she was born obsessed with English royals despite being born to Colorado hippies and the hard struggle she had getting herself to where she wanted to be. Some people may not like the bits of uh, psychic woo/past lives bits that are in it, but I kinda related even though I only somewhat like royalty and don’t feel especially obsessed with England.

  19. I decided to try steampunk, so I’ve been reading Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas series. Just finished the second one, where the heroine is the captain of a mercenary airship. They’re a lot of fun so far. The world is really interesting, too. Starts with The Iron Duke.

    1. This was going to be my recommendation this week! Love this series. Interesting world concept, lots of play on English slang, rollicking adventure/action scenes. My favorite is Riveted, which isn’t as high adventure as the others, but has an amazing protagonist.

      1. I just got Riveted from the library! Hopefully I’ll get to it this weekend after I read the Kelley Armstrong YA that just got released.

  20. For whatever reason, I am currently into zombie apocalypse books. Perhaps the Trump administration has me worried that the end is near. ? Anyway, Justin Cronin’s “The Passage” series is very good. The books are long and meander a bit, but I am enjoying the trilogy. His writing is beautiful–almost as if Pat Conroy is recounting the invasion. Cronin mashes vampires and zombies together to create an incredible story.

    1. Mira Grant’s Feed series might be worth a listen if you’re into zombie apocalypses…

  21. I’ve just recently listened to The Trade of Queens by Charles Stross. It is the 6th book in the Merchant Prince series which started in 2007 with The Family Trade. (Paul Krugman reviewed The Family Trade because he liked it so much.) It’s about world walkers interacting between parallel earths but living in somewhat different historical developments. No romance to speak of; it has political intrigue and court intrigue (on the 2nd world in the first book) and the ramifications of the interactions between the two. It has smart women and men and devious ones.

    It’s not YA at all, unlike some other world walking books that are out there now. (I do often like YA too.) The series doesn’t have cliff hangers; you could read the first one and never go on, but I’m very into the overall story line.

  22. Due to Re- reading one of my favorite go to for laughs authors ( I have about 5 or 6 including Jenny and in our trying times I am trying to bring laughter into my life) this being Christopher Moore, and I finally picked up Sacre Bleu by Mr. Moore, A little slow to start unlike a few of his other but highly satisfying once in and all the way to the end. I love all his books, and go to them for laughs and the audio by Fisher Stevens makes something great…more fantastic.

    1. Oh, I love Christopher Moore! I think the first one I ever read was Island of the Sequinned Love Nun. How could I possibly walk past a title like that?

        1. I loved Expecting Someone Taller. Also Lamb by Christopher Moore is one of my favorite books.

    2. Oooh, I love Christopher Moore, too. (-: His books don’t always live up to the titles, but that’s simply because the titles are so fantastic and trigger such amazing associations. He’s consistently high level between the covers.

  23. Two recent goodies: Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character by Kay Redfield Jamison; and The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn. The subtitle of the former pretty much sums up the book, which I thought was beautifully written, and the quotes from Lowell’s poetry prompted me to buy Selected Poems, to at least dip my toe in waters I haven’t explored.

    Road to Jonestown is also a good title, in that it’s not a bait and switch. 3/4 of the book is about Jones and Peoples Temple before 900 people even went to Guyana.

  24. Did we mention the Sir Robert Carey series by P. f. Chisholm? Historical fiction set in the last years of Elizabeth I’s reign, taking place mostly on the Scottish Border. Fun with excellent research.

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