54 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday 7-6-2017

  1. I’m on a YA kick and after dropping several that were disappointingly thin on characterization, I’ve got one to recommend.

    “The Upside of Unrequited” by Becky Albertalli. This was about a girl with some body image and self esteem issues and she gets caught up in kind of a love triangle (b/c of course she does) and deals with her slightly eccentric family, including her moms who are finally getting married after being together for years.
    Okay, there were a few parts of this where I did get so frustrated with the heroine I wanted to shake her, but only because she was acting like an insecure teenage girl. And it was a while before people sat down and talked things out for some issues, so that frustrates you, don’t read this. It will annoy you. I give YA more leeway for stuff like this.
    But the good of it was, every character was wholly developed and “real.” The family characters (she has a complicated relationship with her fraternal twin) and the family relationships mean a lot to the story. Both love interests were real people and the writer resolved it without anyone being “a bad guy.” And it definitely gave me that young love “butterflies in the stomach” feeling. Without all the acne and anxiety that comes from being an actual young person in love.
    I’ve been reading lots of YA where the love interests are these stock character.
    They feel so flat and the love triangles (I curse the love triangle! I spit on it!) are so obviously a plot complication to take up pages. This was a breath of fresh air. What I also loved is the story is set not too far away from where I live, in a hippie-ish community in MD called Takoma Park and the author got it so right. It felt so delicious to read it and sigh over every little detail.
    It gave me a similar feel to the Lara Jean trilogy by Jenny Han, so if you like that, try this.

    I’m also listening to “Dante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Aliere Saenz and really enjoying it, but it’s about two young gay Mexican -American men in 1987 El Paso and I have to admit I’m a little anxious about how it’s going to end. Fingers crossed for a happy ending b/c I’m really enjoying it.

    1. Oh man, I tried “Dante and Aristotle” but I gave up a little way in because it just wasn’t grabbing me (I quit a lot of books these days, possibly because I have to read a ton for work or perhaps because my toddler has shortened my attention span…). I hope it does end happily, though!

    2. I haven’t read a lot of YA, Jill, but loved Tricia Cerrone’s series. I think the first was Glimmer, the second (I’m reading it now) is Glisten! It has won quite a few awards. Lots of intrigue and well- paced.

    3. Loved Upside. Haven’t read Aristotle & Dante but did read the new one by him but found it dry and kind of…chaste? Like all the gay characters felt neutered. It was weird.

  2. I’ve been re-reading The Duff and A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger. I didn’t think so much of Shut Out and Lying Out Loud (same author) but those two are turning into YA romance staples for me. The main characters make some heavy-duty mistakes, but they’re likeable in a snarky kind of way, they’re dealing with some heavy-duty complications in their lives, and there’s satisfying resolution pay-off. And the sex is character, not gratuitous.

    1. Ooh, The Duff has been on my TBR shelf for a couple of years now (yikes, my backlog is embarrassing). Did you ever see the movie version of it? It looked fairly different from the novel.

      1. The movie is very, very different to the book. Almost the only things that they kept are the names of the characters. The book, in my opinion, was much better. There was more depth, and more solid motivation, and less of the “But you know what? We’re all individuals!” prom speech stuff that seems to be the defining feature of teen movies at the moment.

        1. I concur that the book was better (mostly because the book made it clear this was a FWB relationship with lots of sex and lord knows you probably can’t do that in a teen movie), but the movie wasn’t too bad.

  3. This past weekend I read Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate a fiction based on fact story about a poor family living on a homemade river boat in Tennessee in 1939. With 5 children and another on the way the father takes the mother to the hospital because the midwife cannot deliver the twins due to complications. The oldest is 12 and she is left in charge but is no match for the police who come and take them away to an orphanage where they are told their parents will come and get them, not true. The orphanage is a cruel place and one by one starting with the youngest a two year old boy is adopted. The story goes back and forward between the past and the present. While visiting a nursing home with her campaigning father, Avery the daughter comes across an elderly woman who mistakes her for another by calling her Fern the old woman’s sister. In the confusion Avery loses her dragonfly bracelet and is contacted by the nursing home who has retrieved it from the old woman. When Avery goes back to get her bracelet she goes to the woman’s room and sees a picture on her dresser and notes to herself that one of the women looks like her grandmother and herself taken many years ago. Avery is a lawyer and so starts the mystery. I had no idea that lifestyle existed and looked up Lisa Wingate’s Blog Post, she has one titled Kingdom of Arcadia with pictures of the floating homes people lived on during the depression including a picture of what looks like an outhouse attached to the home.

  4. Just read The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths which is the latest in her Ruth Galloway series. It’s in third present which is kind of weird but I like Ruth enough as a character to have stuck with it through all the books. And also just finished All Systems Red by Martha Wells aka the Murderbot book (thanks for the recs, Arghers, I am officially Team Murderbot). Audiobook wise I keep re-listening to The Goblin Emperor by Katharine Addison which is a book that is completely charming and brilliant fantasy about being good and kind basically and one of my fave fantasies of recent years (along with Uprooted) and the audio version is excellent. Katharine is also Sarah Monette who wrote another excellent fantasy series several years ago that sadly went out of print (that one is a lot (a LOT) darker and twistier but she is brilliant at world building). Now trying to figure out what I’m in the mood to read next.

    1. And yes, definitely chilly enough here in the Southern Hemisphere that we also want to stay inside with a good book.

    2. I don’t know if publication dates vary a lot, but Elly Griffiths’ book The Chalk Pit was released here in the U.S. I’m waiting for a copy from the library.

      1. Yes, that one is on the TBR list. Spacing them out as the next one isn’t until early next year.

    3. YASSS!! Murderbot!! If you liked that one you will most likely find any of the rest of Martha Wells’ book enjoyable as well. I love the Wizard Hunters most, but a friend really loves the Tales of the Raksura.

  5. I’m reading The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente.

    It’s the stories of superheroes’ girlfriends or wives or partners who are fridged to motivate the heroes. In their own voices, from Deadtown. Some of them are permanent residents and some bounce in and out.

    I’m finding it interesting – and, as a sometime HS theater director, some of the monologues would be great for auditions.

    A few caveats – dark subject matter, of course. It’s a very small book. If you’re unfamiliar with comics, it’s pretty tough. I know a little, but the characters all have their own names and invented heroes. They’re based on actual comic book women but I’m sure rights to those actual characters were not available. So, if you know comics, you will recognize them. If not, it’s less meaningful, I think. (I’ve had to do a bit of digging to figure a few out, but recognized Gwen Stacy and Harley Quinn myself.)

    It’s the anti-Wonder Woman in many ways, but is important too. Or explains why she’s SO needed.

  6. Eagerly anticipating Arundhati Roy’s new novel: ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’. This is her second novel. ‘The God of Small Things’ was amazing. Hoping this one will be too.
    She has written a lot of non fiction books and I read even those because I love her voice.

  7. Jenny, Thank you for the Rivers of London. I read Midnight Riot last night. I’ve saving the next few for vacation next week. I read enough of your post to avoid a bunch of the spoilers so I don’t want to go back there!

    I read The Care and Keeping of You this week. American Girl publishes it and this version is aimed at girls 8-12, roughly. The plan is to give it to my 9 year old to read over and we’ll talk after that.

    1. So not only is The Care and Keeping of You pretty full of correct information and concrete and useful advice, it is also subversive – in one school it was banned, and a girl wound up lending it to all of her friends, much like another kid with a locker full of banned books he was lending in a fairly organized way. (The latter was quoted here: http://boingboing.net/2009/05/24/kid-keeping-a-lendin.html )

      1. Yeah, the only issue I had with it was the constant “talk to your mom” I’d have preferred to see parent because not everyone lives with Mom. But that’s minor in the scheme of things.

  8. I just finished VALIANT by Sarah McGuire and I really enjoyed it! It reminded me a little bit of Tamora Pierce (this is a huge compliment coming from me, FYI) because of a round, tough heroine who won’t accept gendered limits and has an organic relationship that grows from partnership to romance. And of course some fantasy. 🙂 It’s a retelling of a fairy tale – an easy read, and I’m looking forward to her upcoming book, THE SWAN PRINCESS, which will be a retelling of The Six Swans.

    Next up is METAMORPHOSIS (yes, by Kafka’s). I’m trying to put together a unit on transformation for my 10th graders next fall and I somehow made it through my own life so far without reading this classic. So far I’m finding it amusing but I’m not sure it’ll work for my kiddos – I might try another translation, though, because I know that makes a huge difference! (I’m working on the one that’s available for free in the public domain, because I’m cheap like that.)

    I’m also about halfway through Tom Stoppard’s DOGG’S HAMLET/KAHOOT’S MACBETH which I might use with the AP class. I’m enjoying it quite a bit, and I already do Shakespeare’s MACBETH with them – not sure how much they’ll like DOGG’S HAMLET without having read the original.

    1. I love Tamora (I actually got to be friends with her after she came to my local sf/f con a couple of years in a row…you know, after I finished fan-girling all over her). I will definitely check out Radiant!

  9. Am just finishing The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, which I’m not wholly convinced by. Characterisation and plotting are a bit too self conscious and I feel it is a bit over written.

  10. I just finished listening to Midnight Crossroads by Charlaine Harris. I adored it and I’m already working on the sequel, Day Shift.

    The book kind of defies categorization, except to say that it’s a quintessential Charlaine Harris book, with all of my favorite elements of her other works thrown into one. Chatty, sleepy, Southern small town? Check. Cozy-ish mystery that gets realistically heavy and grim sometimes? Check. Absolutely fascinating, vivid, well-grounded characters I forget aren’t real people? Check. A dash of the paranormal that still seems mundane? Check!

    It’s also firmly grounded in Harris’ extended universe, so if you’re familiar with her Lily Bard, Harper Connelley, or Sookie Stackhouse series there are a few elements that tie into her other novels in a really gratifying way. I don’t think, however, that it will be too difficult for people who’ve never read her stuff to get into.

    What elevated the whole thing for me, though, was the audio narration by Susan Bennett. Her delivery was excellent, her narrative voice perfect for the setting, her character voices divine. There’s one…er… tiny voice in particular that had me wheezing and turning purple with laughter on the train when it popped up near the end. I’m not sure I’ll ever physically read these books because the audio version is just that good.

    1. I have read all three of the series and loved them all. Did you know that (I believe) NBC is debuting a TV series based on them?

    2. I’ll confess, I’m a little bit worried about the tv show, ladies. One of the trailers I saw hinted at a “great evil” slinking toward the town, which could only be defeated by good people being led by a single man… and the way the trailer was cut? They panned to Manfred.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love Manfred. One of the reasons I love Manfred is that despite being a charming, remarkably honest huckster, he’s also a shy and awkward goober. But any world that sets Manfred Bernardo up as a suave Chosen One is one that makes me go O_o’.

      That said, I’m still super excited about the premiere on the 24th!

  11. First, I want to thank whoever recommended Courtney Milan’s Hold Me. It is absolutely fabulous. Unconventional and very developed main characters and a plot that veered away from almost all of the conventional tropes. I would think I saw one coming and then… nope! So thank you!

    I am now reading Goodbye Paradise by Sarina Bowen and I am loving that as well. Finally, after a long dry spell the universe is raining good books on me. This one is about two young men who grow up in a religious commune/ cult. They love each other, but both are hiding it and they escape to try to figure out life. Again, I highly recommend 🙂

    1. Sarina is great! Have read almost all her stuff (haven’t read this one but it’s on the list).

    2. May have been me. I loved, loved “Hold Me”! I read it in one night and wanted to re-read it immediately. I might be I the minority, but I liked it better than the first in the series, “Trade Me. “

    3. There were a couple of us who talked about it. I was so impressed by the casual diversity. As a Bay Area native who’s worked in Silicon Valley, it felt very realistic to me.

  12. I walked into the library about 20 minutes before closing and grabbed two likely hardcovers. They were both book ones of series.

    I read Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. Steam punk set in Japanese style culture but with significant magical elements including some fantastic beasts. While part of a series, it stands alone so well, I’m almost disinclined to get the next book. The epilogue/lead-in to book two is delightfully subtle, especially as I hate those partial cliffhangers with trails laid to entice. It’s also in a well written third person. Best bit? Strong female lead.

    There might be weak spots that a more thorough second read would show, but I’m pleasantly surprised – I tend to lean to Mercedes Lackey or Tamora Pierce style fantasy.

  13. If you’re looking for something light that’s also suitable for kids, I adored The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis. Our heroine is a dragon turned into a girl who discovers her craving is for chocolate, not gold or gems. There’s a touch of Dickens and Vienna and it’s wonderful for adults, too.

  14. I’m having fun rereading several of Loretta Chase’s post-Regency romances at the moment. I’m going for the ends of series, since I haven’t read those as often as the earlier ones, but if you’re new to her I’d begin with ‘Miss Wonderful’ or ‘Lord of Scoundrels’. Highly recommended – funny, great characters, well-researched, and almost flawless English (she proves that Americans can write English historical romance).

    1. My favorite was Mr. Impossible, with the Lord Perfect/Last Night’s Scandal books right behind. I wasn’t too into the one with Darius, unfortunately, who comes off as a bit of a Vulcan.

      I loved Rupert sooooooooo much. Nerd romance FTW.

      1. Mr. Impossible is my favorite, too! Rupert is hilarious, and Daphne is awesome. I really must make time to read The Lion’s Daughter, though. I hear good things, and I really enjoyed Captives of the Night, but for some reason I still haven’t gotten around to reading Lion’s Daughter.

        1. I read ‘The Lion’s Daughter’ first, and have never gone back to it. It isn’t as light as her later books. The Albanian setting is interesting, but the world dominated the story rather, I thought.

          1. Also the heroine is really young and I recall being disturbed by parts of the hero and heroine’s relationship.

            But it’s probably worth reading for true Chase addicts because she clearly identifies strongly as Albanian and is depicting her heritage.

            And it’s a turning point between her older books and everything that comes after.

            I’m a big fan of Strangers in the Night, where the hero is the former villain from Lions Daughter. But I seem to be in a minority.

  15. Ian Rankin’s Rather Be The Devil,” latest of the John Rebus police procedurals. What he shows through dialog and reaction is well-crafted and insightful of character. Moves right along too, with so many shades of gray. Read the first and – decades later? – I’m sticking with the series.

    1. My husband is a huge fan of Ian Rankin’s Rebus series, did you know that there is a Rebus dvd series that you can get from Amazon or from your library. It features Ken Stott as Rebus. We’ve seen 3 and apparently there is a fourth, I’m going to check that one out.

  16. Hm, my reading this week is based off of the Big Strong Yes podcast–I already own Big Magic, so I got The Year of Yes and dang, Shonda is sassy and strutting. I also read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly because I originally got the wrong book, but I just went out for Rising Strong, so that’s up next.

    I also read Little Vampire Women, which at least finally got me through reading Little Women, which I have never been able to do before because Louisa May Alcott doesn’t tend to have much plot but has a whole lotta preach.

    1. Little Women is my least favorite LMA by far. I much prefer Little Men, and Eight Cousins/Rose in Bloom. But yeah, she’s preachy for sure. Part of the times. Read Heidi to my kids and I had forgotten how godly that was, too. Still enjoyed it, even if I did have to explain a lot to my secular children.

  17. I’ve also been on a YA kick recently, and just finished Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. It was entirely adorable, and reminded me a little of Kody Keplinger in that the author didn’t shy away from difficult issues or talk down to a YA audience, although it was very different in terms of tone.

    I really appreciated the author’s understanding of mental illness and the effects it can have not just on an individual but their family (pretty sure she’s a psychologist). My dad has Asperger’s (not a mental illness, but neurodivergent all the same), and it’s really affected how my siblings and I relate to the world and other people.

      1. Gah, no, you’re right! I’m mixing her up with Becky Albertalli! Please ignore that part, although she is still pretty spot on with the mental illness bits.

  18. I read The ABCs of LGBT+ and thought it was really well done. It’s a non-fiction about identity, sexuality, attraction, etc.

  19. I’ve been comfort-reading Sarah Addison Allen recently. Southern magical realism. Her writing is so evocative I can taste it on my tongue, and I love her characters — so many of them are strong and broken at the same time.

  20. I’ve been reading Bec McMaster’s London-based steampunk series, and the latest one just came out. I got the placeholder instead of the book, aaarrrggh! I have to contact her website to try and get it fixed, and that little detail is going to confound my ADD brain for who knows how long.
    So I’m grateful for the suggestions here.

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