57 thoughts on “This is a Good Book for the Last Thursday in July

  1. Last week I read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I didn’t enjoy it, but it did make me think, and want to talk about it with others. Characters depressingly human (part of the point of the story), more than a little dystopic, so if that’s your cup of tea then this one is for you.

    Then I read The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer. Oh, the relief. Happy place.

    On ‘worthy’ books, vs ‘books we like’ – there’s an excellent 1 min video in this column – about two-thirds down the page – I’d share the original but I don’t know what it’s from. And this is quite a good read anyway. https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/26-07-2017/what-we-love-matters-a-unifying-cultural-theory-to-fix-techs-diversity-problem/.

    1. I like the short video and yes!, a good pithy argument, but even more loved the whole 3o minute video plus accompanying article. What a find and mind-blowing (for me). Wow!

      1. I know, it was great! Among other things, it made me think I shouldn’t be so strict on my kids’ screen time.

    2. Same same. I found Never Let Me Go disappointing. Emotionless characters that did nothing. Sci-fi for people that like worthy literature. The Black Moth by contrast is EXCELLENT.

      I recently read All Quiet on the Western Front (Remarque) and if you can cope with the obvious depression of being in the midst of a war, I found it to be a bit of a page-turner and genuinely enlightening. Plus fairly short.

  2. I know there are a lot of audio book fans here and I’m listening to “The Parfit Knight” by Stella Riley, narrated by Alex Wyndham, and really enjoying it.
    It’s a Georgian (!) about a rake who gets snowed in with a young blind woman in the countryside. He treats her like a full person and of course, they fall in love.
    It’s got some convenient plot twists, but I really love the narrative voice. It’s very “comfortably historical.” I hesitate to call it “authentic” (since I wasn’t alive then ;-)), but it’s more in the vein of Heyer, or Patrick O’Brian, or Dorothy Dunnett, than a lot of recent historical romance.
    It’s also more sweet than sexy, but it’s very romantic in parts.

  3. I’m reading a lot of political websites so I went for comfort with Agatha Christie last night – Mystery on the Blue Train. Which I’d never read before.

    1. I am addicted to the news. I start every day with Axios and end every night with Rachel. In between, there’s WaPo and Politico and CNN. I can’t wait for the news to be boring again.

      1. I start the day with Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers so I can have a laugh before I get to see what we’re facing that day. And Samantha Bee and John Oliver are back this week.

      2. You might want to intersperse The Atlantic in there. Because then there’s some not politics.

        1. I’m spending too much time obsessing over current stuff as it is. I need to cut back, one of the many reasons I love Axios. It’s like snack news, short and to the point and very up to the minute. Then WaPo for in depth and Rachel to explain it all to me.

          I have to admit, I’m just stunned by this admin, and I’ve always been a cynical bitch, so it takes a lot to stun me. First he pissed off the judiciary by referring to judges as “so-called,” then he took on the intelligence services by implying they were political and firing Comey, then he enraged the Senate by torturing Sessions, and now he’s taking on the military with the insane announcement about trans troops which he said the generals wanted and which they did not. So let’s see, the judiciary, the intelligence depts, Congress, and the military . . . anybody he hasn’t stuck his thumb into? And all the while this is happening his admin is a shark tank. I’m grateful he’s so bad a this, but still amazed. It’s like a slow motion car wreck which would be fascinating if the car wasn’t my country.

          1. What’s really scary is the people out there who insist he is doing a great job.

            On the plus side I am paying far more attention to politics than I ever did before, plus the late night hosts have more material than they can possibly use.

            Georgette Heyer has been my reading stress release in recent weeks. I’ve powered through her mysteries and loved them. I liked No Wind of Blame So much I read it twice.

  4. I’ve just read Trust by Kylie Scott (YA though her other books are adult/NA) and Wildfire by Ilona Andrews (last book in a trilogy though more would be good too). Both great.

  5. I’ve read Shrill; Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West. I had read essays by her so I knew it could be a good read but it is actually excellent. She deals with a lot of issues – both women specific and not. She writes very well about fat-shaming (something on my mind since the recent conversations here.) She is very funny and also very straight about who she is now and what she thinks about many things; she speaks of her abortion and about rape jokes. (I think these are more just in case trigger warnings rather than spoilers since this book is not a mystery or a thriller.) My 30 year old daughter read it and loved it and is sharing it with friends and our male family members. She reads the audio book herself and it is very well done.

    I’ve also just finished listening to The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess. I was braced for clinkers but there were only a few moments of wincing (for me) and it did feel part of the whole Amelia Peabody series. Chronologically it is not the last book of the series even though it is the last written. There are 3 prefaces/introductions/??? that talk about how the book came to be; Joan Hess was a good friend of Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Mertz; she was asked by Barbara’s daughter and friends to complete the manuscript from what was already written and from notes. She received a lot of input from Egyptologists who are fans of the Amelia Peabody series. And it is based on real history, just slightly warped to make room for the plot.

    Even without all of that, I enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed Ramses and David. I plan to re-listen to it to pick up what I missed the first time through. It is still read by Barbara Rosenblat which is great because it keeps up the continuity but sadly Barbara’s voice has aged somewhat; it mostly worked for me with just a few jarring moments.

    I’ve never been able to binge read the Amelia Peabody series, I think because her humor stays pretty much the same from book to book, and also I think that Amelia doesn’t really change very much over the course of the books. (Please argue with me if you disagree, I’m so new to thinking about arcing consciously.) I do plan to go back over these next few years and read in chronological order this time.

    1. I just got my copy of THE PAINTED QUEEN– actually I got two copies, because apparently I pre-ordered it twice from Amazon; one will go back– and I’m looking forward to reading it, but it will be a while because I’m still in the midst of my Golden Age mysteries, particularly those of Georgette Heyer. It’s funny how back in the 80s I never really got into Heyer’s Regencies, even when I was writing my own, but I love these mysteries. Different strokes, I suppose, because I seem to remember my agent telling me that she thought the mysteries weren’t very good. As for audiobooks, I understand what you are saying about the narrator’s voice aging. I’m not particularly thinking about Barbara Rosenblatt, who was always one of the very best, but the woman who has been performing a series by another favorite author now sounds so much older than she did years ago that I find the voice unpleasantly distracting. It no seems right for the first person narrator of the book. Honestly I’ve wondered if she’s a smoker, although I can’t imagine an actress risking her instrument that way. Anyway, I have quit buying the new audiobooks for the series, even though I still enjoy the older ones.

    2. Oops on this review; Lindy doesn’t make rape jokes, she confronts male comedians about making them. She is a very funny, brave, kind and caring person.

  6. A good book I know we’re all looking forward to is Nita’s… and I went ahead and built a Spotify playlist out of Jenny’s tentative soundtrack (from this post, in case anybody else would like to listen to it:

    Nita’s Soundtrack

    (Imogen Heap’s “Spooky” is not available, apparently, so I substituted Dusty Springfield.)

    I just finished reading THE VACATIONERS, by Emma Straub, which I thought was OK (book club selection). Currently reading AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, by Sabaa Tahir, which… is also OK so far. And I’m in the middle of a Tom Stoppard play I’m considering inflicting on my AP class this fall (Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth). Loved Dogg’s Hamlet, enjoying Cahoot’s Macbeth so far!

    1. I bought a Laura Florand novella – “A Rose in Winter” and devoured it. Which was interesting because I was just thinking that while I still like them, the last few of hers I read weren’t quite doing it for me, and I was considering shifting her from auto-buy to auto-put on hold at the library.

      But I loved this one. Christmas in southern France, light Little Red Riding Hood motif, a guarded grumbly tough guy hero who does his great aunt’s laundry, and a straight-forward heroine who had normal and realistic qualms about the relationship, but that still felt unique to who that character was. Also a great aunt who is not above match making across continents via chocolate chip cookies.

      So yeah. Christmas novellas don’t normally end up on my keeper shelf, but now I’m adding one more.

      1. Whoops, sorry, didn’t mean to post that as a reply. But I will reply and ad thanks for the playlist!

    2. Thank you SO MUCH for the Spotify list!! I was sitting down to do it, and then other stuff happened, and now it is done and it wasn’t me! I am enjoying it a LOT!!

  7. I’m currently reading The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein. It started well and is a standalone but so good that I had to put it down to wait. I wanted to get the earlier books in the series (Steerswomen). I haven’t finished but hope that it doesn’t cliffhanger too badly. But so far, so good.

    1. I am so glad you are loving them! They are foundation texts in our house; both daughters are deeply impressed by them and the elder daughter made herself a Steerswoman ring. I’m pretty sure they are all available as ebooks, if you can’t find physical copies.

  8. Because of recent week’s comments, I searched out a Pratchett I hadn’t read — Eric — which was fun. Also, I read Summers at Castle Auburn which was fine. (It was pretty short on consistency of world-building — it intended to portray events in an age of knights, but included upholstered furniture and a diner checking the menu while a waitress wiped down his table.)

    Also, I highly recommend Laura Ashe’s Early Fiction in England from Geoffrey of Monmouth to Chaucer for all the medievalists here. Ashe explains with many examples how fiction came to be written in the 12th century for the first time since the Classical Era. (Yes, there were epics, lyric poems, and guys writing far-fetched histories. But the narrative that explores and individual and includes his or her feelings appears in the 1100s.)

    1. Does she mention the Icelandic sagas?

      Because the Icelandic sagas are wonderful.

      1. I love the Icelandic sagas too! Ashe doesn’t mention them because she’s showing how fiction came about in England (and France). She’s not talking about sources for the fiction. I also like the Irish and Welsh tales. And the troubador songs.

  9. Just finished “The Obsession” by Nora Roberts, which has a lot of familiar Nora elements and a not-very-mysterious mystery, but the prologue was (I thought) truly suspenseful, the romance is sound, and the story is wall-to-wall renovation porn. Really enjoyed it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And just started re-reading “Interred with their Bones” by Jennifer Lee Carrell, which I read a long time ago and loved and had substantially forgotten, but added to my Kindle recently when I reluctantly let go of my hardcover. (We are moving and I cannot keep All The Books.) So far it is thick with suspense, and with Shakespeariana.

    1. Isn’t ‘The Obsession’ the one where the heroine’s a photographer? I’m actually planning to buy that one, now the price of the ebook has dropped, and it’s not often her books are keepers for me now – I usually just borrow them from the library.

      1. Isn’t that the one with the Faberge eggs – or something collectible from the Russian czars? Or am I thinking of The Collector?

      2. I didn’t care for The Obsession. It felt disjointed to me. And I always struggle with the way Nora Roberts portrays artists. They tend to create these wide varieties of masterpieces in a fit of passion without any models, research or struggle. It is a pet peeve. I do enjoy her renovation porn however, and the book about the fire-jumpers and the one about the search and rescue dogs.

  10. If anyone’s feeling daunted by their garden, I recommend ‘My Garden Is a Car Park and Other Design Dilemmas’ by Kendra Wilson. Mainly for UK market, but she features several gardens in the US and continental Europe. Full of bright ideas, mostly for inexperienced gardeners, but there were things that sparked me, too.

  11. Not a book, but I’ve been relistening to the podcast The Black Tapes in anticipation of their Season 3 premiere and MY GOD is it good. It’s a fictional (or is it?) X-Files meets NPR type podcast that hits all my deepest, oldest buttons. Supernatural mystery? Check. UST between the leads so thick you can cut it with a knife? Check. Unwise to listen to after dark? Checkity check check!

    Season 2 had some… issues, but was still largely enjoyable. Season 1, though? Alllll the happy noises.

    If you haven’t dipped a toe into podcasts yet, the good news is they’re free. Most of them are talkshows, but if you’re an audio book or audio drama fan, there’s a strong and growing fiction segment that’s doing really amazing work right now.

      1. You know there’s a ton of UST when the majority of the fics on A03 address the demand of “Would you two please just bone already?!?!”

  12. After a string of mediocre novels, I went for a re-read of one of my favorites: First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. So good! I’m enjoying every word.

  13. Just finished a pair of older books by Nora Roberts, both of which were entertaining. The two books each stand alone, but for maximum enjoyment I suggest reading them in order.

    The two heroes are police detectives in Washington DC. Ben meets psychologist Tess when she is brought in to profile a serial killer in “Sacred Sins.” In “Brazen Virtue”, Ben’s partner Ed meets best-selling mystery novelist Grace when Grace’s sister (and Ed’s next door neighbor) is killed in the first of several similar murders.

    In “Sacred Sins” the serial killer is known as “The Priest” because he always leaves an amice and note saying the victim’s sins have been forgiven. In “Brazen Virtue” we know who the murderer is from near the beginning, but it’s interesting that the victims are linked by working as phone sex operators.

    I particularly liked Ed. He is very laid back in some ways, but he is constantly trying to help Ben and Grace lead healthier lives. He’s fixing up a house he bought in fairly derelict condition, so Nora gets to throw in some renovation porn.

    Since Grace is a best-selling mystery author, I found myself wondering how much of Nora’s own experience was in that character.

    All the smoking that was going on was surprising. Both Ben and Grace are smokers who think nothing of lighting up, even in the police captain’s office. Despite being on a never-ending health kick, Ed has no problem pulling out an ashtray when Grace visits. To be fair, these were written in the late 1980s and attitudes toward smoking have changed since then. But when Ben tossed his cigarette butt out the car window, I just wanted to smack him! Or at least tell him that toxic piece of debris would probably end up in the Potomac River.

    I believe these were among Nora’s first non-category romances. Having read most of what she’s written, it’s interesting to see how these form a bridge between her category romances and the books she writes today.

      1. I heard her on “Wait Wait Don’t tell Me” and thought she must. She gave a great interview, and I think won the quiz round.

  14. I read River of Teeth and enjoyed it but the thought it was too short and rushed. I’ve had a ton of appointments so not much reading.

  15. I’m re-reading Sue Grafton’s X in anticipation of Y coming out next month. And waiting for Tuesday when I will get the new Donna Andrews AND the new P.J. Tracy. Yay!

    1. ( OK, I don’t understand how that little emoji “like” button works. I tapped it to indicate that I like the fact that the new Donna Andrews is about to come out, but somehow I ended up with a broken heart. Is that a bad thing?) I’m also looking forward to Tuesday when I will get Donna Andrews’ latest–GONE GULL; I’d buy it for that title even if I wasn’t already a longtime fan– and Rhys Bowen’s latest Lady Georgie book is also being released. I think it’s called ON HER MAJESTY’S FRIGHTFULLY SECRET SERVICE. These authors clearly have a way with titles.

      1. The broken heart means you liked that post. You’re the only one who sees that its broken, just as signal to you that you hit it. On the website, it’s just a heart with numbers beside it.

  16. Really enjoying, nodding my head in recognition, and guffawing often, “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

  17. This week I read J. Courtney Sullivan’s “Saints for all Occasions” a novel about two sisters who immigrate to Boston from Ireland in the late fifties. What drew me in was the setting of the book that I’m familiar with. It goes back and forth between decades so when I was done I had to read a RomCom and chose “Getting Rid of Bradley”. I don’t remember reading it before so it is all good. I feel like I’m in a George Burns and Gracie Allen sketch it is that funny. Thanks Jen.

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