68 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday 5-4-17

  1. I have been reading Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series – books one and two. Good book – yes. Really good book? That’s a high bar. But I would recommend them if you want paranormal romance. You know, since we keep reading paranormal maybe-romance that stops before the end 🙂

    I did really like her Psy-Changeling series, but there are a lot of them and they are not all created equal.

    I have the Goblin Emperor on reserve at my library, very much looking forward to it after the positive comments here.

    1. I really liked her Psy-Changeling series, but could never get into the Guild Hunter one. You’re right that the P-C are up and down, but overall they were a pretty enjoyable and consistent read.

    2. I love the Guild Hunter series. Usually I lose interest after a couple has reached emotional commitment and find that the plots of later books get a little stale, but not in this case. I really enjoyed the latest book as well as the off-shoots. Plus I think the imagination and research in her world-building makes a big difference. Yes, she rights about vampires, shape-shifters and angels, but they are not your typical paranormal tropes. I also get very drawn into the minutia and interlocking relationships she builds. I like the slow build 🙂

  2. I feel like I keep recommending mysteries, so I’m going to shift genres into romance this time. I ran across Laura Florand recently. She has a couple of series, and her stuff is set in France. The Chocolate Kiss is a good one to start with. It’s part of her chocolate series, which focuses on chocolatiers and pastry chefs in Paris. You WILL crave chocolate reading it. But that’s just a normal state for most people right? That one has some charming semi-magical elements. I’ve found Florand’s characters really enjoyable and I’ve laughed out loud reading her stuff. Also had to Google translate French profanity. So they’re educational too…

  3. I got nothing. I’m reading a lot of “filler” right now.
    I had a lot of DNFs in the last few weeks and then I fell into a fanfiction hole, some for shows I’ve only watched a few episodes of (I like tropes, what can I say?). I’m even writing a little bit. Which feels good.
    One thing –
    I got a P.D. James Dagleish audio book from the library and they are always well done, so that’s something.
    I hope I see some good recs here!

    1. I have a lot of fun reading fanfic for fandoms I know almost nothing about (like, say, hockey). If they’re good enough, it’s just like reading an original story. 😀

    2. Have you read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl? It’s YA about a fanfic writer and I really liked it, almost as much as her earlier Eleanor and Park, which I loved loved loved – was my favourite book of the year when it was released (which I can’t remember, maybe about 5 years ago?)

  4. Apricot Kisses, by Claudia Winter, is a delightful romance. A culinary journalist gives a famous Tuscan restaurant a terrible review, and is threatened with a lawsuit when the owner has a heart attack after reading it. Her boss pressures her to go back, apologise, and re-review the place, but when she gets there things inevitably go awry. It’s quite funny, and very sweet.

    As a side note, the translation is excellent – I read it in English and didn’t realise that the author is German until I went looking for more books on her website. Her second book (available in English at least) is out now too, but I haven’t read it yet because I stepped on my e-reader. *Sigh*

    1. These are great, I really enjoyed them – and yes, great distinct characters.

  5. Winter Tide. Lovecraft-inspired post-WWII…something? Still figuring it out. The style is Lovecraft, so it’s a slow read in a good way, but not racist, yay. The people of Innsmouth are rounded up and put in a camp by the government and basically die out over the next sixteen years till there are two left and the camp is filled up with Japanese-Americans during the war. The two remaining people, who are human but not like us, are dealing with the experience in different ways: Miss Marsh goes with a Japanese-American family back to San Francisco and works in a bookstore and reluctantly aids an FBI agent on matters of her heritage when necessary, and her brother, who is bitter and angry, is trying to reclaim what’s left of their family’s books and documents at Miskatonic University. Then the FBI agent recruits her to help figure out if the Russians are using forbidden, dangerous magic and the search starts at the University. That’s where I am now. It’s too slow to be a thriller. It doesn’t feel like a mystery, nor a horror. But it’s really good so far, so, um.

  6. I’m currently re-reading “Bet Me” so I’ve got nothing. Only reason I’m posting is because as much as this book is one of my favorites, the catering scene always bothered me. You don’t go from not knowing how to cook to catering for fourteen three weeks later. It’s just a real stretch. Everything else about the book, I completely identify with.

    1. I thought the guys did that. Cal was a good cook. And everything they had was really simple as I remember. Chicken Marsala is really easy to make.
      But it’s been years since I read that.

      1. Yeah, basically all .Min does is the chicken marsala, which she has been practicing on through the whole book, so that’s believable. The guys had worked in Emilio’s family’s restaurant in college, so Roger knew how to decorate and plate the salads, Cal put together the Krispy Kreme cake and i forget what Tony did, but they were all used to slinging plates like pros.

        Hint: Bet Me is one of my favorites too!

        1. Tony did water glasses. Min also did the green beans, though it’s not clear who came up with the idea to tie them in bundles. As Min was also the checker of the list, I assumed she was Chef.

          Again, though, cooking for four with one pan v fourteen with multiple pans is not THAT easy. And, to make sure that all foods are done and at the correct temperatures when they need to be served?

          I have a lot of experience in cooking for groups about this size and it’s not the same as cooking for four or six for dinner. And it takes a lot more work and planning.

          I don’t know. My assumption that Min is chef seems to be wrong (though usually there is at least one person calling the shots), and maybe she’s more of a logistical genius than I give her credit for. ?

          1. Remember, Min was a goddess ?

            Of course she could do everything!

            (I am now on my second copy of that book because my first one disintegrated from overuse!)

          2. I think it was more rescue mode. At that point, any food would have worked because everything else was such a disaster.
            And if you’re not a pro, cooking for fourteen isn’t that much different than cooking for four because you just make more of everything and sling it out there. If you’re a chef, you care. If you’re trying to paper over the disaster that is your sister’s wedding rehearsal dinner, you just want people with food in front of them.

  7. Martha Wells. ALL SYSTEMS RED. It’s science fiction (of the operatic branch, not hard science), and makes me think of sort of a cross between Bujold’s Vorkosigan series and Anne Leckie’s Ancillary series. More humor (wry, self-deprecatory) than Leckie, but using an asexual AI protagonist/narrator. Really, really liked it. It’s supposed to be the first of a series of novellas. I’d have loved something longer, but it’s long enough (approximately 150 pages) to feel like a complete story with a solid character arc.

    1. I’ve been seeing that one pop up a lot lately, going to have to put it on my list.

    2. I LOVE MARTHA WELLS!!!! I am SO glad she is getting talked about now! She has a trilogy, called The Fall if Ile Rein, that starts with The Wizard Hunters, and another series about …I do not even know how to describe the Raksura…shape shifting communal lizardy beings? that a friend of mine is NUTS about. And yeah, Murderbot is pretty excellent too!

  8. I’ve been finishing up the Philip Pullman quadrogy set in Victorian Europe and going through some non-fiction about Sadda’s debriefing and Aaron Copeland’s thoughts on music and imagination, along with a lackluster Rolling Stone issue. But for you Science Fiction fans, I’ve been meaning for a while to mention my all time favorite writer, Eric Frank Russell. His book Wasp is more on the mark today than it was when he wrote it, and his other works, especially his short fiction, can make you want to laugh at one moment and then hold your breath at the amazing emotional intensity the next. And for anyone who lives with dogs, “Into Your Tent I’ll Creep” will give you a new perspective on our best friends. Other standouts are “Top Secret”, “Tieline”, “Dear Devil”, and “Allamagoosa” and if you like watching arrogant aliens getting what’s coming to them then “Plus X” and “nuisance Value” are well worth the read.

      1. Yeah, and I also hated how corrupt it makes the Victorians. I’m going to avoid anything set in England for a while, as I don’t find it to be romantic or enticing at all in any of its time periods, and this has made far less interested in going there or reading about it.

        1. Hey, we’re not all bad! Don’t believe all you read. Historically, I think what’s often overlooked is the relatively early rise of literacy (so Shakespeare, a glove-maker’s son, went to school) and non-conformist religions. So democracy and the middle classes were expanding from the sixteenth century, alongside the rise of capitalism.

          You’d think, from most fiction, that society was still feudal until the First World War, but really not. (Not saying there weren’t loads of things wrong with it; just that it’s easily oversimplified and demonized.)

  9. Michelle Cooper. A Brief History of Montmorey. This is probably YA and there are two more. It is England (well it starts on the FitzOzbornes island of Montmoray) at the start of WWII. The whole trilogy takes you through England in WWII was a good read.

  10. I’m working on Shadow’s Seduction by Kresley Cole. A friend recommended it and I am very much enjoying it thus far. It’s paranormal romance, but with the twist of having two male protagonists, one of whom insists he is straight. So far, it is lots of fun.

  11. My thanks to whoever it was who suggested A Bachelor Establishment by Isabella…. something – I forget – AKA Jodi Taylor. I even tried to find the original comment to properly thank you, but couldn’t find it. You know who you are.

    1. Barclay. Which is the most confusing and hilarious pen name if you’ve read the Chronicles of St. Mary’s.

  12. I’m working on two non-fiction books. The Brother Gardners. It’s about how England became famous for their gardens. The second is The living Garden by George Ordish. He traces the 400 year history and changes of a formal garden at a house called Barton’so End. There is a related book where he traces the history and changes of the house.

  13. I had a great time earlier this week, rereading ‘The Magpie Lord’ by K. J. Charles. I think the way she handles world-building and backstory in this is brilliant: you’re plunged right into the story, and there’s no info dumping at all, despite the fact it’s fantasy history. Great characters.

    I enjoyed the rest of the trilogy, too, plus the free bonus extra short stories; but it’s the first book that works best for me.

  14. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – a brand new book with an interesting protagonist who struggles but learns to live her life with the help of a friend. Very good story and very well-written!

  15. Hi Jenny,
    I have been digging into the past rereading Neville Shute, my favourites the Trustee in the tool room, Pied Piper, in fact all of them, also Conyth Little is another favorite. I have also read a new author Renee Patrick Design for Dying and a new one Dangerous to Know, 1930 Hollywood very interesting. I also like Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris steam punk books. I am enjoying reading hints from you all. Thanks

    1. You beat me to it! I came here tonight to recommend Trustee from the Toolroom which is one of my favorite books ever – although I also love A Town Like Alice, The Checquerboard & Ruined City by him.

      Trustee is such a wonderful book because it is about a lot of really nice people trying to do small nice things and how it all ends up to something pretty big.

      I’m thinking of sending Trustee to my uncle – but his eyes aren’t great at the moment so I’m trying to remember shorter westerns. Ruined City – which I had great trouble finding in paperbook is on Gutenberg Canada.

    2. Don’t forget Shute’s nailbiting “No Highway” and the “Ruined City” (aka “Kindling,” which may be the US rather then the UK title?). Shute is a master of the quiet but can’t put down novel, with likable, kind, gentle, smart people who stand their ground.

      Heyer has a similar ability/style, but with more humor – and, er, mayhem. Tastes differ (a good thing!) but the Talisman Ring and Sophie are the funniest of her books, though I really shouldn’t leave out Venetia, Sylvester and Ajax (exact titles escape me at the moment), all supremely hilarious.

      Of course Jenny’s funniest book in my humble opinion is “What the Lady Wants,” not that I don’t crack up throughout the others, but I laugh out loud over WTLWs every time I read it.

      1. The full titles on Heyer are The Unknown Ajax – which I adore – & Sylvester or The Wicked Uncle.

        Laura, have you read Beyond the Black Stump by Shute? Because with a very few exceptions, I always find a Nevil Shute book just wonderful.

        1. Ooh. I will add it to my Shute list. Thank you! I’m clearing out my house and if it turns out I actually have a copy will make sure it doesn’t go into the Free Box 🙂

          This also gives me a chance to recommend Katie Fforde, whose early novels (Wild Designs, Living Dangerously, etc.) are her best in my opinion, not that the later ones aren’t delightful – but the writing, or her heroines, is just not interesting. Her occasional use of passive voice in those early novels is very effective, especially in Wild Designs, making her heroine funny and real and, um, relate-able. Her recent novels are sometimes harder to find in the US than her earlier ones, but there’s an excuse for a UK book buying binge or a vacation in the British Isles. Hmmm. Must schedule a vacation!

          1. I think the two Katie Ffordes you’re mentioned, plus ‘The Rose Revived’ are by far her best, with ‘Living Dangerously’ being an all-time favourite – especially since I lived outside Stroud for a while, and thought of taking up pottery. But alas I find her recent books almost unreadable.

  16. C.S. Harris – What Angels Fear. It’s the first in the Sebastian St. Cyr series. I’m about half-way through, and so far, it’s pretty engrossing. A historical thriller/murder mystery set during regency in London. I never read this author before but I’m liking this book.

    1. I have read the entire Sebastian St. Cyr series-it is amazing and every book is good.

    2. I’ve read all but the one that only came out a few weeks ago, and just wanted to second/third the recommendation. The author started out writing romance, although these are emphatically NOT romance. But they have the characterization that’s a strength of romance novels.

  17. “In a single year, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage, and the second, when he took his own life.” That’s the opening of Do Not Say We Have Nothing, by Madeleine Thien. Very dense, but full of loveliness too: “Without the musician, all life would be loneliness.”

    “Even if the terrorists don’t win, they can make your life an icy hell.” That’s the opening for Human Remains, where Dr. Hope Sze retreats to a stem cell lab to rebuild her PTSD-ridden life, only to discover a dead man in the snow.

    It took me a long time to write this book, so I’m happy it finally made its debut on DNA Day (April 24th). I interviewed stem cell scientists; I encouraged people to make DNA origami; I asked book launchers to pretend to be dead (human remains) while my doctor friends and I mock-resuscitated them; I got high school students to act out the resuscitation scene. Now I have just one more launch, and I can relax…and start writing again. 😉

    Happy reading, everybody!

      1. I’ll just pretend you also wanted the Amazon.com link for Human Remains: http://amzn.to/2lRSDto

        🙂 In any case, I’m excited to get an instant response from Jenny! So I will offer more Madeline Thien lines:

        There are a thousand ways to live. Just how many do the two of us know? Zhang Wei, The Ancient Ship

        …the few memories I possessed, however fractional, however inaccurate, were all I had of him. I’ve never let them go.

        Sometimes, I think, you can look at a person and know they are full of words. Maybe the words are withheld due to pain or privacy, or maybe subterfuge. Maybe there are knife-edged words waiting to draw blood.

  18. I just listened to The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Very good, lots of fun, and she did a great job reading it. I like the whole idea of focusing on happiness. Makes me smile.

    Then I listened to Neil Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Walls, a kids’ story. I’ve read it before, but like anything he writes, it’s worth multiple readings.

    Now back to Welcome to Temptation. But I may make Chicken Marsala in the extra few days. You all reminded me how good it…and Bet Me…is (are?)

    1. Temptation..that is a wonderful book. All that mystery surrounded by sex-on the dock, on the car, in the car, in the shower, on the kitchen table and even in a bed. Such a good book! I loaned it to my younger sister [64] who called and said she started reading it and refused to fix supper for her husband. He said I was a bad influence-I said to blame Jennifer Crusie.

  19. My mind being what it is, I have to get this in before I forget the name of the book. Peaches For Monsiere Le Cure by Joann Harris. Not a brand new book but a sequal to Chocolat which I loved. I just got it and am so looking forward to reading it. Now to go up and scour the comments for new additions to my tbr tower (too big for a pile at this point).

  20. If you like fantasy with some truly beautiful writing, I recommend Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor (she wrote the equally gorgeous Daughter of Smoke and Bone).

  21. Love Walked In
    by Marisa de los Santos.

    This book surprised me. The love she finds is not the love I expected and it was all the more wonderful for it.

  22. Love Walked In – This book is a love story. Cornelia Brown is the manager of a Philadelphia coffee shop when she begins dating Martin Grace, a Cary Grant look-alike. However, their fairy tale romance doesn’t quite unfold the way one would expect.

    When 11-year-old Clare is dropped off on the side of the road by her demented mother, she begins a desperate search for her absent father.

    Circumstances lead Clare to Cornelia’s coffee shop and the love story begins.

    1. One of my college roommates loaned me that book. It was really good, and of course I loved all the Philadelphia Story references. I know almost every line of that movie, so Cornelia’s love for it was something I could identify with.

    2. This is possibly one of my favorite books ever. The Precious One is also great.

  23. Due to the depressing political situation in recent months, I have been reading nothing but happy stuff — high quality “happily ever after” stuff, but still, nothing depressing, gray, or horror-related (the headlines are horrific enough, thank you very much).

    Anyway…because the bookstores here tend to import their English books from the UK rather than the US, the selection of books is skewed toward this side of the Atlantic.

    A few of my favorite authors:

    Freya North (http://freyanorth.com/) — I love all of her books and have re-read the ones I have numerous times. The first one I read was “Fen”…

    JoJo Moyes (who seems to have made it across the pond) with “You before Me” and “After You” — “Ship of Brides” is great, as is “Foreign Fruit” and “The One Plus One” — aw, heck, they’re all good.

    Hester Browne: Last night (after the latest horror headline) I went to the bookshelf to get something cheerful, and came back with her “The Little Lady Agency”. A cute story about an insatiably plucky upper-class British girl, who, after being made redundant (again!), stumbles into creating an agency to assist a series of P.G.Wodehouse-ian upper class twits with their out-of-control lives, while falling in love herself. I laugh myself silly every time.

    Looks like Hester has made it across the Atlantic because her site says she a NYT bestselling author (http://www.hesterbrowne.com/). I’ve only read the one book, but I have re-read it so often it is now in the process of disintegrating…

    I have a bunch more faves, but I will save them for another week!

  24. I see my last comment is lost in moderation…probably because I put in a couple of links….

  25. I want to recommend Elizabeth Cadell. Her books are being re-published on Kindle and Kobo. My particular favorites are “Mixed Marriage”, “he Corner Shop” and “Past Tense of Love”. They are English, some set in Portugal, novels but the heroines are snappy and take no prisoners (like Min). So until the new Cruise is finished I have to make due with these.

    I now have “Bet Me” on Kindle…The pages don’t drift all over the floor and did my last two paperbacks.

    1. I was thinking about Elizabeth Cadell the other day; someone else I enjoyed as a teenager. But I didn’t realize then that Portugal was a dictatorship; so might experience her stories rather differently now.

  26. I really enjoyed The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick. It’s about a man who finds a charm bracelet owned by his late wife and sets out to find out about the charms.

    I would also recommend the non-fiction books by Mary Roach. On the list are: Stiff, about dead bodies, Gulp, about your digestive tract, and Bonk, about sex. She is hilarious and irreverent but completely respectful when she needs to be. There’s also Packing for Mars and Grunt, which is about soldiers (not so much about war but equipping people for it and dealing with them when they come home).

    Catherynne Valente’s The Girl Who books are also wonderful. Fairy tales of a different stripe is how I would describe them.

  27. I just finished The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller. After setting fire to the dining room as well as a baked Alaska, a Boston pastry chef drives up to Vermont to visit a friend and hide out. Since her life in Boston was devoted to work and sleeping with the boss, the rhythm of small town life is a huge adjustment.

    I loved a lot of the characters and the descriptions of baking for a busy season for the restaurant/catering business and watching a loved one fade away seemed quite accurate.

  28. I just finished Stephen Blackmoore’s DEAD THINGS. Kirkus called it “L.A. noir with eye-bulging refinements.” It’d urban fantasy, very dark, which is why it has been on my to-be-read list for so long, because I tend not to like dark. But once I started it was unputdownable. (Hey, I’m an author. I say that’s a word.) It’s like a slightly grimmer Dresden Files. Really well done. I ordered the second book in the series two chapters from the end of this one.

    1. Ahem. I happen to be a personal friend of Stephen Blackmoore, although not as close as Kari. Kari? Tell the Prince that Deb loved his book, please.

  29. I live in the small town in England where Dusty Springfield is buried. Every time I pass the church I think of Welcome to Temptation. Unfortunately, they don’t have Dove Bars here.

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