61 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday 6-22-2017

  1. Nothing I’m currently reading is really rec worthy, so I will pick an older book, “The Towers of Trebizond” by Rose Macaulay. If you like eccentric English women traveling abroad, this is for you.
    It has a lot to do with the Anglican church and adultery, which makes it sound heavy, but read this opening sentence. —

    “Take my camel, dear”, said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

    If you’re in the mood for something strange and memorable, you can’t go wrong with this. Some of the spiritual analogies went over my head (since I’m a heathen), but it’s interesting and at times, hysterical.

  2. I’ve just finished Waking Gods, the sequel to Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel and it was fantastic. The format is not for everyone, it’s told in interviews, letters, and conversations. It’s an alien first contact story with a twist.

    I also, at, I believe, the recommendation of someone here read The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery and loved it.

    A few weeks ago I read Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley, the sequel to Rook, and loved it. It’s about agents of a super secret British agency charged with dealing with people with mutant/magical-type powers. One day I’d love to read a book with the Chequey (O’Malley), the Folly (Aaronovitch), the Laundry (Stross), and Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s characters just to see how they all interacted.

    1. I’ve never heard of O’Malley. Sounds good, though, so I just ordered it from the library. Thanks! I needed something to hold me over until the Aaronovitch novella coming out next week, June 30th (weird release date, since they’re usually a Tuesday, not a Friday).

      1. You have to read The Rook first! I *LOVE* the Chequay books. And I already got the new Aaronovitch…I’m halfway through it. Probably going to finish it tonight.

        1. So jealous of your having the Aaronovitch. What I’m really looking forward to, though, is the audioversion (I’ll get both), which isn’t coming out until the end of September, I think. I’m madly in love with Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. And I did order both the Rook and the sequel from the library, so I’m all set there.

    2. Soul of an Octopus is such a great story. I believe I recommended it and I recommend it again.

      1. I’m a huge cephalopod fan at the best of times and I loved The Good Good Pig. Thanks for the recommendation.

    3. Ooh, I was about to recommend Sleeping Giants! I just finished it a few days ago. I didn’t realize the sequel was already out. Woot!

  3. I’ve given up on so many books this week! Disclaimer: I’m reading for a committee, so the books have to hit certain criteria.

    The two that stand out are Octavia Butler’s short story collection Bloodchild and a YA book called 10 Things I Can See from Here. The latter is about a girl with a terrible anxiety disorder who has to stay with her father for six months while her mother is in Haiti. Content warning: the anxiety presents as morbid worst-case scenarios, buuuut it’s also not just some terrible, dark work. It also deals with addiction in a very realistic way: the adults in the book treat the father’s relapse as something he can and will deal with. (Like Leverage always seemed not to use Nate’s alcoholism as a point of drama, but a facet of his personality. I liked that.)

  4. I’m currently binging on Golden Age mysteries, not just Christie and Sayers but Georgette Heyer and some other authors I have never read before. Not all of the books work for me, so dated that I cannot relate to the stories, but just this week I read two that I absolutely loved: Heyer’s ENVIOUS CASCA, which I like even better than BEHOLD, HERE’S POISON, and the absolutely gripping GREEN FOR DANGER, by Christianne Brand. What was funny about the second book was that I thought I knew who done it, because I vaguely remember seeing a movie on late-night TV back when I was a kid. But as I read, I gradually realized that the movie had apparently stopped with what turns out to be a red herring in the book, while the novel takes the story to a completely different conclusion. And quite apart from the mystery, I was fascinated by the setting of the story, which takes place in a British military hospital during the Blitz. Highly recommended!

  5. Jana Deleon has a new book out in her Miss Fortune series. Hook, Line and Blinker is the 10th in the series. The books take place in Sinful, LA so there is a Sinful Ladies Society that is hysterical. Fortune Redding is a CIA agent hiding out in Sinful because there is a price on her head. She solves local mysteries with the help of 2 elderly women, Ida Belle and Gertie.
    The books are light, humorous and fun.

    1. I just started reading Just One Damn Thing After Another: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s by Jodi Taylor. It was in the fantasy section of my library and it’s about historians who “don’t do time travel, they investigate major historical events in contemporary time.” I’m only about 2 chapters in but I like the writing.

  6. If you’re looking for steamy foreplay (IE my husband LOVES it when I read these), Kit Rocha’s Beyond series has never failed to disappoint.

  7. I just picked up A Matter of Magic by Patricia C. Wrede. It is a compilation of Mairelon the Magician and it’s sequel, the Magician’s Ward. I read the first on ages ago and loved it, except for the open ending. Now I find out that there is more! Happy day!!!

  8. So I’ve been sampling books from Book Bub (and here) even though I’m really hard to please–if somebody is still explaining something to me two pages in, I leave–and I just tried one that had this sentence in it:

    “I never felt guilty about taking her biscuits, feeling, in fact, that I was doing her a favour: losing a little weight would not hurt her.”

    I cannot tell you how much I hated the narrator at that point. He was upset, a kindly co-worker made him tea and offered him some of her cookies, and he slangs at her about her weight. I kept reading, hoping that something would happen and he’d realize what a jerk he was, but nope, he evidently felt that was a perfectly fine thing to say.


    1. I have had a wide range of experiences via Book Bub. Every once in a while I get something I really like, a lot of mediocre, and also a lot of bad. I still manage to download the free ones regularly. Someday I will learn…

      I have the best luck with the lgbt+ books. I guess the market hasn’t had time to get flooded with crap yet?

    2. I visit Reddit for their ukulele subreddit, and sometimes I stray into random areas. It seems there are a LOT of people on reddit (and presumably real life) who are anti-fat crusaders. They think it’s their job to judge fat people. I’m overweight myself, so I can reverse-judge them without bias. It’s true that they don’t know me. It’s also true that overweight people like me use more resources and can become a burden on socialized health care. (BUT — my bias has to explode for a moment — how about all those weekend runners who are going to the hospital with joint pain and sprained ankles and stuff? And they eat a lot, too, although I do admit, they probably have better gas mileage in their cars all things being equal.)

      Anyway, there are people like that. There’s probably a niche of readers like that who have no problem with that kind of sentence. Or attitude. So very, very much Not My Cup of Tea, though. I love to share my biscuits and cookies, but if I thought someone was “throwing themselves on that pavlova to save me” in a non-ironic sense, they’d never see another cookie from me ever. I don’t need a food hero.

      It would be very fun to write that kind of person as a side-character though.

      1. Ugh, I should proof-read when I’m emotional. I apparently miss important keystrokes like “not” — I can’t judge those people without my own biases and shame playing a role.

        But hey, I don’t feel guilty about judging the judgey-judgey people — it’s what they’d want to improve themselves, right? (LOL, of course it’s not. They want consequence free judging privileges, just like me. And I do feel guilty about hypocrisy, even as I indulge in it.)

      2. The problem is the definition of “fat.” I came of age in the seventies when Twiggy was everywhere. I was five nine and 135 pounds, and I thought I was fat. I had a doctor tell me I was fat at that weight. If I’d been living in the age of Rubens, people would have been constantly trying to feed me.

        And then the people who make fun of “fat” people, yell “eat a sandwich” at thin people. You know, there are different body types. People’s weights fluctuate depending on where they are in life. Having children does a number on stomachs. Illness and medication can cause weight gain and loss. Somebody’s weight is nobody’s business but their own. (All those “correct weight” people who smoke, drink, do drugs, drive too fast, drive drunk or stoned, they’re a strain on the medical system, too.)

        Also anybody on reddit making fun of people is definitely living in a glass house.

        1. I agree.

          But it’s a super-difficult issue. There’s a lot of fat-shaming in Japan — and there are a lot of people who are the proper weight or below. As I said, I’m overweight (I’m very overweight), but I have to think that the culture here (and the seats with arms at the movie theaters) have kept me from ballooning like some of my aunts did when they were my age. (A lot of my aunts have slimmed down, too, for their health, and in very healthy ways, as far as I can see.) Nurture AND Nature, not an either/or situation. Soooo complicated.

          Still, fat-shaming done badly really makes me want to eat a doughnut. Fat-shaming such as feeling pinched in an airline seat makes me want to eat better and do leglifts. And the fat-shamers never really know what’s going to work, and what’s going to explode in their faces, because not all fat people are alike. Besides, people who have no shame in shaming others deserve all the shame they get in return. Do unto others and all that jazz. (OTOH, escalation.)

          Oh my, I do get myself into a tizzy quite easily. I’m a classic fence-sitter who can see both sides of the argument, and it really is a pain in the butt sometimes. I need a nice cushion for my fence, and I need to start looking at the stars instead of the squabbles.

  9. A couple Thursdays back, someone mentioned Kristen Painter and her Nocturne Falls series here. I tried the first book in the series. Loved it. Bought the second. Loved it. They are light and fluffy and fun. I’m going to buy and read all of them. Thank you, whoever you are. I’m sorry I don’t remember your name.

    1. Just saw that the first book in this series, The Vampire’s Mail Order Bride, is free on Kindle.

  10. Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor (and the 7 sequels & 8 short stories), funny, touching, action packed, and loaded with history.

  11. I just finished “Maximum Moxie” by M. Ruth Myers and enjoyed it like the others in the series. My next up is “Daddy Long Legs” by Jean Webster, which I have read a zillion times, but we’ve been squeeing about it over at Smart Bitches Trashy Books and I feel the need to re-read.

  12. Has anyone read Dorothy Dunnett? Her books have been recommended to me by people I don’t know well and I have tried to get into both the Lymond Chronicles and The House of Niccolo series; the activation energy seems quite high. I’d love to know if it’s worth the time and effort. I don’t have the patience I once did.

    1. Oh, it’s worth the time and effort. First book of Niccolo reversed the book’s entire narration at the end, so much that I reread to see my expectations led me astray. Same thing with Lymond series. Dunnett does play fair, the real story is all there if you look for it. Excellent site on the interwebz where readers decode the stories, sometimes sentence by sentence.
      If you’re interested, Dunnett also wrote the Dolly Bird series, in which the protag sails about in his yacht being what I consider Albert Campion morphed a bit into James Bond. Fun.
      I vote you go for it with Dunnett.

    2. I haven’t read the Historical books, but the Dolly books are very enjoyable. She wrote them under the name Halliday. I think they have been reprinted under the Dunnet name.

    3. I read them all one summer, and it is hard to describe them.

      I find the intensity of the books very very draining, but the plotting is dense and interesting and the characters are freaking amazing. There is zero (zero) plot armor, and particularly for Lymond the worst possible thing always happens to him. And then the next worst things happens too, because, well, soldiers, war, nasty brutish and short, epic bad karma… who knows.

      (Jenny – avert your eyes for this, it is counter to your writing process!) If you have the time and they appeal within the first chapter or three, then you’ll probably get increasingly tied into them as you progress. If you are still dubious more than halfway through the first one, you can stop with honor satisfied, you’ve tried hard enough!

      I had a LOT of issues around relations between the sexes. Part of it was being set a long time ago. Part of it was being written a long time ago. Women exist, and have agency and emotions, but they also have hideous (and probably historically correct) consequences which were had to cope with.

      If you can’t get into Lymond or Niccolo, Dunnet also wrote a handful of mysteries, titles in the form of “Dolly and the __ bird” that have some of the same intensity, but are set in more nearly modern times, with characters I feel like I know better and understand better. I can read and reread them, in ways that I can’t with Lymond or Niccolo. I am glad to have read them, but I cannot possibly put myself through either of them again.

      1. I debated bringing up Dunnett’s Dolly’s books because they aren’t really available in my local library and I thought it would be a terrible tease to gush about them (coming up in a sec) when no one could read them. But maybe they ARE around–it’s worth the hunt. And though the Lymond and Niccolo series are dense and rich and maybe hard to get into they are totally worth it too. And those are available.

        The Dolly books are a perfect, fun, funny, can’t-put-it-down summer read. They feature bifocaled, yacht-(the Dolly of the titles)-cruising portrait painter Johnson Johnson [sic] who secretly is a British agent (is that redundant?) My favorite is Dolly and Doctor Bird, about a very repressed Scottish doctor who is as tightly-wound as her racist, trigger-tempered father is outrageous. Things change as the novel progresses and our heroine Beltanno’s transformation is hilarious and life-reaffirming even.

        It’s also very interesting to me that these two favorite writers of mine–Dunnett and Crusie–have a strong art background. They both started out in art before picking up writing I think? What’s up with that?

        1. Visual art, music, and writing are very, very similar, they just manifest differently.

          Somewhere on here, I have the draft of a post explaining how I used to introduce the basics of art to my junior high students (I was an art teacher at Ferguson Junior High in Beavercreek, OH), and how they apply absolutely to writing (and possibly to music; I must learn more about music). I think I walked away from the draft because I looked at it and thought, “Everybody who reads Argh is going to look at this and say, ‘DUH. We knew that.'” Because it really is the basics.

          You know, I was a damn good art teacher. I wonder if I have those handouts anywhere.

          1. I have spent a LOVELY afternoon reading Argh results from a search on art teacher. (No draft on art basics, but no worries–the big discovery is that I can search on fruit fly here and find tons of great, engrossing reads. Thank you Arghers!)

            http://arghink.com/2011/02/how-to-make-a-wedding-cake/ (this might be a bittersweet look back?)
            http://arghink.com/2012/01/the-three-goddesses-chat-book-collages/ (this explains a lot about the art-writing link)

          2. Completely off topic, but I listen to a podcast called Side Hustle School which tells stories about successful side jobs and sources of passive income that people create for themselves, and a couple of weeks ago the host mentioned a platform called Teachers Pay Teachers. As I understand it, the idea is that teachers can upload learning resources and curriculum items that teachers around the world can buy, download, and use in their own classrooms.

            When I heard about it I remembered you telling the story of the high-school jock who took your basics of essay writing notes to college and passed it around to his entire dorm. This has reminded me of it again. It’s not like you need more on your plate, but it sounds like a fairly easy to use platform if you’re interested in sharing/ selling your old handouts. Because, as you said, you’re a damn good teacher.

          3. That sounds really interesting, except I have no idea where that stuff is or if I even have it any more. I had tons of stuff from when I was teaching, including monthly newsletters full of elementary school art projects that probably covered three years.

            I lose a lot of stuff when I change computers, especially when I change them because I’ve spilled coke into them.

          4. I would love to see the handouts. Sometimes back-to-basics is just what a body needs.

        2. I think this is it:

          It’s listed as “Operation Nassau (Johnson Johnson Book 3)” but this is the blurb:

          Dr. B. McRannoch is in the Bahamas with her father who has moved there from Scotland because of asthma. She is a savvy and tough young lady who shows much independence of mind and spirit. However, when Sir Bart Edgecombe, a British agent who has been poisoned with arsenic falls ill on his way back from New York, she becomes involved in a series of events beyond her wildest imagination.

          1. And I bought it. I read the first chapter, and I’m not sure I’d have stuck with it because she’s SO repressed, but you promised me she’d change (I LOVE heroines who evolve) and the writing was great, so I’m in.

  13. I’m recommending an old favourite this week. Splashdance Silver, by Tansy Rayner Roberts. It’s a completely batshit Pratchett-esque fantasy world with quite a bit of “Because why not?” plot handwaving, but the heroine is an ex-pirate, not-quite-witch, tavern dancer affectionately known as The Dread Redhead, and the hero(?) is the former Imperial Champion who tells her upfront that he will betray her at every turn. I love it for many reasons, but the romance is probably my favourite part. Suspend all logic and it’s both hysterically funny and incredibly comforting.

    In keeping with all the Heyer conversations, I’m re-reading the mysteries too. I just finished A Blunt Instrument, which was excellent although the murderer stuck out a mile.

  14. Read another fun reasonably light British romance. This one had been sitting on my TBR shelf for a few years, and now I am going to have to get more books by the author. The Country Escape by Fiona Walker. She has quite a few books out, so if anyone else has read her and can recommend a favorite, that would be great.

  15. I’ve been reading Heyer mysteries and also Diana Wynn Jones, because after a day of federal health policy anything else is beyond me. But I’m planning to read John Lewis’ March as soon as I have the emotional energy.

  16. I enjoyed Ilona Andrews Clean Sweep. There’s an over-arching mystery and unresolved relationship bits that feel cliffhanger-ish but the stand-alone story is well resolved.

    Still recommending Wonder Woman. It’s the filming of her as physically powerful and not focusing on her as a sex object that makes me likely to go to cinema and rewatch.

  17. Not exactly a book recommendation, but discussion here led me to a lovely evocative experience touring Slovenia. From Alp ski slopes through gorgeous and green farmland to Mediterranean sea resorts, I perceived Wimsey and Bunter in an elegant road car steering alongside our bus. Subtext was between-the-wars intelligence gathering, a notion especially felt as we were held at the border before being allowed to cross into Croatia. Thank you Sayers and this blog with Thursday posts for catching me up into a dual encounter.

    In capital Ljubljana, I spotted in a bookstore window a lovely sky-blue leather volume with gilt lettering, the collected Jane Austen novels translated into Slovenian. Austen rules!

  18. This week I’ve been thinking about rereading Judith McNaught books which brought to mind Barbara Bretton and found one I had never read titled Sleeping Alone a mid 1990’s romance. Sure it’s dated think Filofax, O.J. and Princess Di among others. It’s part of her Jersey Shore series about an abused socialite who leaves her husband and finds a new home and life in New Jersey town along with the required characters, think an elderly man who sleepwalks in his pj’s at least he’s wearing pajamas. I also picked up Nora Roberts book Come Sundown, I’ve only read the prologue to it and of course the last few pages to see if I could handle it. Her last few books have left me drifting.
    On a lighter note last week I stopped by the library to check out the sale on paperbacks and bought my third copy (yes third) of Rachel Gibson’s I’m In No Mood For Love. I’ll return one, keep one and put one in the car for when my husband goes in Home Depot or Lowes and disappears for half an hour.

  19. I tore through Rose & Thunder by Lilith Saintcrow this week and absolutely adored it. It’s her retelling of Beauty & the Beast with one of her trademark wounded heroes, a complex heroine, and a dreamy quality that reminded me strongly of Sunshine by Robin McKinley.

    I love Saintcrow’s prose, action, and heroes, but I’ve often by frustrated by both her heroines and the sexual assault I found in some of her earlier books. This one had neither of those issues and I rolled around in it like catnip. Between the magical library (oh! the library!), the heroine’s arc, and the budding relationship at the center of the novel, I recommend the whole thing.

  20. After the Heyer post I’m re-reading Penhallow (slowly, because of the deluge of library reserves coming in) and enjoying it as much as ever, and I don’t understand how the people who find it grim and boring and unlike her other work can have missed things like (describing the vicar) “a gift for overlooking the obvious that amounted to genius.” I’m certainly grateful that the characters are safely trapped between the covers of a book and not part of my life, but I find something to make me laugh on every page.

    I think every single thing I’m reading right now is a result of something said on one of the Thursdays. Thank you all.

    1. (Oh, yes, last week I read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, thanks to a conversation with my goddaughter. Strange, but nice. I seldom read graphic novels because the fonts are so hard to read.)

  21. I’ve been on a SF kick lately.

    I found The Three-Body Problem quite by accident at the library. A Chinese SF novel winning prizes and topping lists in the U.S.? I had to try it. I can totally see why it got all the attention it did. I went on to read the second book right away and now am on the third.

    Station Eleven was wonderful.

    N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season was powerful and well deserved its Hugo. (Or was it the Nebula?)

    On a different note, if you have any interest at all in the inner workings of starred restaurants, Sous Chef is a fantastic memoir, 24 hours in the life of a sous chef.

    Want to say thank you for highlighting Terry Pratchett so often. It took me a while but I finally tried his books and love them. And also to the folks who recommended Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache books. I’ve now read all of them.

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