86 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, the Late Edition

  1. Just started MelJean Brook’s Iron Seas series. Steampunk romance and the first book had fantastic world-building and a suitably competent heroine. And it’s steamy….

    Reading the prequel novella, “Here There Be Monsters” now.

    Other recent five star reads were:
    The Sweet Life in Paris, David Lebowitz
    A Duke in Shining Armor, Loretta Chase
    Neogenesis, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
    Beginner’s Luck, Kate Clayborn (1st novel)


      Sorry, I am just so excited to find someone else who knows about her. I really, really love pretty much everything she has ever written. I love that she writes plots that still surprise me, and integrity to her craft.

      She also has a short story published under the name Milla Vane, with a new book to come out shortly.

      I hope you enjoy her books as much as I do.

      1. The Iron Duke was the first thing I’d ever read by her. I didn’t just like it. I went to Amazon after I finished and bought the rest of the series and two novellas. I’m slowly rationing them out and trying read slowly. She’s a talent. Glad to see a fellow fan too!

    2. I would love to be reading Neogenesis, but my library has not got it yet. (I do not buy hardbacks.)
      Thank you for the news of the prequel novella. I thought I had read everything MelJean Brooks, and am happy to be wrong.

    3. I really enjoyed MelJean Brook’s books – except, if I remember rightly, the first one which was a bit rapey. Luckily that’s not the one I started with, and all the others were fine.

  2. Just finished a reread of SEP’s Heroes are My Weakness. It had been just long enough that I didn’t remember how it ended, and I’m so glad about that. The resolution to the mystery is so satisfying. All along you’re going “it’s so obvious it’s [secondary character]”, but of course that’s a misdirection. When you find out who it really is and why they did it and every tiny clue she peppered throughout the book comes together… I really can’t think of any other word than satisfying.

    It’s such a good feeling when a smart author assumes her readers are just as smart as she is.

  3. MAGPIE MURDERS, by Anthony Horowitz. It’s an homage to Golden Age mysteries, and a book within a book. (A writer is murdered, and his editor realizes there are clues in his latest manuscript.)Very satisfying.

  4. Just finished reading The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. It was a lovely read, felt like I was having a cup of tea and a stale biscuit with an elderly aunt — comforting somehow. The pace is calming and thought provoking.

  5. Just finished rereading some old favorites: Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (and its two sequels, The Grand Tour and the Mislaid Magician). YA Regency Fantasy that started as a Letter Game between the two authors, cousins Kate and Cecy write to each other of their adventures with Society, wizardry, and the trials of dealing with their Aunt Charlotte. XD I’ve loved their humor, magic, and dash of romance for years. (And while double-checking the titles just now, I discovered there’s a 4th book by Caroline Stevermer: Magic Below Stairs, taking the series into the Victorian era. Definitely going to hunt that down now!)

    1. Those are great books! I didn’t know there was a fourth book either. I wish Caroline Steverner wrote faster. I’m a big fan of her College of Magics books too.

    2. I enjoyed these very much! I didn’t know about Magic Below Stairs, though (-:. I should add this to my wishlist.

  6. A Lady’s Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran. Historical romance take on marriage of convenience with amnesiac groom. I loved the character arc for Crispin and Ellie. Some funny moments too.

  7. Tales from a Tail’s End: Adventures of a Vet by Emma Milne.
    Good humor, good writing and animals. Also some interesting bits about being on a reality TV show for the BBC.

  8. I’m reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. It’s about being a death penalty lawyer in Alabama so it is very important, but not always cheerful. So when it got a bit discouraging I switched to A Perfect Proposal by Katie Fforde for a change of pace.
    As somebody mentioned here 2 or 3 weeks ago, her stuff is like taking a brief rom-com vacation.

  9. I am reading Man Card by Sarina Bowen. I really enjoyed the first of this series, Man Hands, about a food blogger and a home-fixer-upper on tv guy. It was fun and sweet. But I am really very much enjoying this second installment enormously. Braht is so sweet. And Ash is very kick-ass. It’s fun. I recommend it for anyone with a case of the winter blahs.

  10. To get me through a persistent head cold, I took up Agnes and the Hitman for a third read. Loved it for the third time. “Competence porn” is a phrase I’ve read recently, and turns out said competence is enormously comforting and satisfying.

    1. Agnes and the Hitman is one of my main go-to rereads. I don’t have my copy on hand to quote directly, but Agnes’ inner dialogue makes me laugh out loud. I (almost but not really) want to tattoo her line about how men would stop lying if we killed them when they did it somewhere on my person.

  11. I enjoyed Loretta Chase’s ‘Captives of the Night’ more than on previous reads. Then tried Eloisa James’s latest from the library, but once again found her unreadable. She started promisingly, years ago, apart from rather poor English, and I keep hoping she’ll come good. Consoled myself with ‘Lord of Scoundrels’, which I’ve just finished – and which is always fun. Was going to go on to ‘The Last Hellion’, but realized it’s not long enough since I last read it; so will go back to Mary Stewart. I need something reliable to see me through the aftermath of the First World War and a depressingly familiar inhuman social system (a.k.a. ‘Mrs Dalloway’, which I’m proof-reading).

    1. Lord of Scoundrels is one of my favorite books. The characters are wonderful. She is capable and beautiful. He is powerful and wicked. She manages him perfectly. LOVE this book!

  12. I’m listening to A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn. It’s a fun series.

    I am sometimes confused about the quality of a read because a good narrator can make a poor story quite good, and a bad one can ruin a good story for me. It’s a very different experience from reading.

  13. I’m reading the news and feeling excited for equality. Our newly-elected (last October) Prime Minister has just announced she’s pregnant with her first child and her partner (male, they’re not married) will be primary caregiver.

    I won’t be reading commentary from the outraged, because I don’t want to.

    1. There’s been suprisingly little outraged commentary and Jenny Shipley, Helen Clark have chimed in to offer congratulations.

      Having two former female prime ministers congratulating a current one on her pregnancy…there’s something profoundly new about that!

      Also of note, the NZ herald tweeted in Maori to announce the pregnancy…the world is shifting 🙂

  14. I read Wrong to Need You and Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai recently and really enjoyed them.

  15. I am reading A Passage to India — a story about an man named Aziz who is charged with molesting a single woman. The timing on this one . . . wow. There aren’t a lot of parallels to what’s going on in the news (which reassures me somewhat).

    The book is set in pre-WWI India, and there are a lot of fascinating tidbits dropped in about how all the different people interacted. But I think it’s transferrable to a reader’s local relationships, too. Even if we are supposedly of the same culture, it can be very common for people to make assumptions about other people’s motives. Sometimes those assumptions grease the wheels of society, and sometimes they knock the car right off the track.

    I’m about 2/3rds done, and I hope I can finish it up tonight.

    1. I remember really not liking that one in high school. My teacher made a point about how it was one of the first modern western novels to have pretty much entirely well rounded yet not particularly good or likeable characters. I got that that was important, but it didn’t mean I liked it. Maybe I’d get more out of it as an adult.

      1. Not if you’re like me. I read Passage to India well into adulthood, after being wowed by Forster’s brilliant lit-crit of books I love, and I’ve read more of his fiction, trying to find the wow. All I can say is, he can talk the talk, but he can’t walk the walk. Not for me, anyway.

        1. It’s worth a shot, though, Cate M. I read P&P in high school and found it “meh” — but went nuts for it later in life. I sympathize very very deeply with people who are trying to do the right thing, but wind up making stupid assumptions and messing it all up. I have about fifty more pages left to read, and so far, only one person’s dead, so it’s not like Hamlet where all the people who make mistakes (stupid or otherwise) wind up dead. Somehow, the older I get, the more reassured I feel. There are a couple of lines in there that are absolute beauties, IMO.

          You may feel like MaryAnne. (-: I haven’t been spoiled by the superior lit-crit. (Dororthy Parker was a fun-to-read critic; her fiction is very much in a different vein, so I understand being startled by the change-of-lanes.) It’s all cups of tea, isn’t it? In general, I don’t like stories that go, “We’re all stupid humans who hurt each other, and it’s never going to change.” But, for me, Forster makes it worth the ride. I dunno. Maybe I am so arrogant that I think *I* can do better than these poor characters, at least when the tally the score at the end of my life. LOL.

          Anyway, about 15 pages ought to be enough to tell you if you want to invest time in A Passage to India or not. It pretty much goes on as it starts.

          1. Micki, I haven’t read A Passage to India, but I really enjoyed A Room with a View, and I found Howard’s End a good, if not cheerful, book. Hope you find your investment in Forster worthwhile.

          2. (-: Thanks, Elizabeth. I remember enjoying A Room with a View; definitely on my “books I want to read at least one more time” list. Forster must have been busier with the critiques and reviews side of things. He wasn’t terribly prolific, but . . . (-: he wrote more than me. The foreword to my edition of A Passage to India made me cheer up about my slow writing habits. 1913 to 1921.

          3. On slow writing, Micki, and Forster. And me. Wasn’t it a relief to read Jenny’s note that she’s been working for two years on Nita? I’m not trying to make Jenny more miserable (??frustrated??realistic??) by mentioning it. But I feel much better knowing that there a wonderful and slow writers out there.

          4. I actually started Tell Me Lies during my divorce in ’83. I wasn’t serious about writing then, and I had no idea how to handle the trickier themes in there, but I started it in there. I think that one took twelve years.

          5. (whispers to Elizabeth) (You don’t know what a sense of relief washed over me when I heard Jenny’s 12 years story. *Bet Me* also took a long time, IIRC.

            (I mean, I do finish stuff. Not most things, but some things. And I think it’s good to feel some guilt about a neglected story — SOME, not ALL THE GUILT. But a lot of my writing process decisions do factor in a sort of “Well, Jenny does this/does not do this, and she’s doing all right.” It gives me the courage to abandon things that aren’t ready to be written, and the motivation to try new stuff that might be just right for my writing now.)

          6. LOL, you’re beating Forster, aren’t you? And he’s dead, so there’s no chance he’s going to catch up with you around the corner.

  16. I finished The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee a few days ago. It was good overall, but I don’t know that I’m interested in the sequel.
    I do appreciate that the narrator is a doink.

    1. I read that one! I think it was pretty good, and I appreciate it for what it is – we’re seeing more and more books coming through mainstream publication that feature diverse characters without being just about the whatever-makes-them-diverse. Not that there isn’t room for contemporary YA about gay teens dealing with coming out or black teens dealing with prejudice, and so on, but it’s important to have a variety of stories featuring diverse characters, too.

      And I wasn’t aware of the sequel so now I’m going to go look it up. 🙂 Thanks!

  17. I finally read Push by Sapphire and The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham. They were both beautifully written, confronting and uplifting by turns, and I will probably re-read them both again soon because I can’t stop thinking about them. Seriously good writing.

    I also re-read Wild Ride, because in the middle of a heatwave you just need to fantasize about ice-cream. And demons.

  18. Just read The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman. In some ways, it reminds me of a mix between The Hanged Man by P. N. Elrod (which I would love to have a sequel) and Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s series. But with a less engaging narrator.
    I liked it well enough, but I’m not sure how vigorously I need to pursue the sequel.

    1. I’m glad someone else feels that way about the Cogman books. I want to love them, I really, really do but I just don’t.

  19. On the advice of many here, I took The Goblin Emperor along this week on a trip to Johannesburg – two twelve hour flights means lots of knitting and reading. I loved it so much I kept shutting the book to try and make it last longer. I found myself wondering whether Maia’s sea captain aunt (who gets only a brief mention in the book) would not make a great protagonist for a future novel (maybe she can inherit the Goblin crown)? -Kelly

    1. I read The Goblin Emperor after seeing it recommended by several people on Good Book Thursday and now I’ve been telling every to read it. My daughter-in-law asked me what I would suggest she read, and when I said The Goblin Emperor, she said I’ve told her that twice now! I said, “Because you need to read it!” People should listen to me.

      1. I went to buy it and it wasn’t cheap ($12.99) so I passed it by (I’m cheap), but people keep telling me how good it is, so I’ll probably have to bite the bullet and go for it. It’s big drawbacks are a male hero and the price, but I’ll spend more than that on Thor Ragnarok when it hits digital, so what the hell.

        1. (Libraries! says the former librarian.)
          I’m about to buy it in mass market because that’s what I can afford. Is that the ebook price? I don’t buy ebooks much because DRM, and also I have more than enough stuff to backup already, and I read on a screen too much as it is, in spite of not working on one at work, because I clean kennels and bathe dogs, but.

          1. I’ve been here five years and I’ve never been to the library. And I love libraries. I’m just so happy at home, that going out is pretty much just to get supplies so I can come back to paradise. I love where I live. But I really should check out the library.

          2. Your library probably has ebooks nowadays, even if it’s really small. You don’t have to go out to check out those…which is how I managed to read four books Friday when I should have been doing a lot of other things.

          3. I live on my libraries e-books. There is nothing like discovering at 8:30 pm that I have nothing I want to read, getting on my laptop and going to Libraries to Go at my library, hitting the genre I want, then Available Now and finding several books I can read right then.

          4. Libraries — I’m with Jenny on this one. In the many different apartments and houses I’ve had, the local library (or university library when I was a student) has been my second home. It was, in fact, a major component in whether I enjoyed living somewhere.

            But now I’ve changed. My current house is in a tiny town whose library is a gorgeous piece of architecture but whose holdings are minuscule. I now have my own in-home room for study and the house is big enough so none of our 3 billion books is in a box hidden somewhere. I just don’t go to the library anymore.

  20. This morning I’m taking a stack of books back to the library that I couldn’t finish, in one case because no renewals to let me finish a long complex piece of non-fiction, in others because the novels were too “been there, read that” for me to slog through. I have not yet opened anything from the TBR stack, but I’m in the middle of Lee and Miller’s Dragon in Exile as a palate-cleanser.

  21. I wasn’t going to post about a book I only less than half read because it was so depressing, The Red Coat: A Novel of Boston. I had high expectations going in. The mother in the storyline was the backbone of the family. The father not so much. The only thing good I got out of it was the recipe for Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins which is on a par with Parker House rolls. That and the tidbits I had forgotten but didn’t know I knew came back to me. Boston Common at Christmas, Filene’s Basement (what did not sell upstairs was sold in the bargain basement and reduced until it was gone), May Processions and so on. With that said I went to the saving grace bookcase and pulled out the first book to catch my eye Every Breath You Take by Judith McNaught. So there!

    1. “saving grace bookcase” — I am scraping all my weekend plans and creating one of these immediately.

  22. Having read My Paris Kitchen by David Leibowitz and really enjoying it, I checked out L’Appart which had some great recipes but over all I wanted to slap him. He basically got taken for a ride by the seller and the relator he bought his apartment from, then followed up by letting his contractor, who was incompetent, rip him off. And I could have understood it – foreign country, didn’t speak the language well, if he hadn’t got an architect to inspect the apartment before he bought it and gave him good advice which he followed. So he knew enough to originally consult the experts but didn’t want to raise a fuss or spend the money later on. He thought he was being friendly and charming. Basically he was being dumb. Mostly I wanted this book to be finished. I certainly would not recommend this for anyone to read. Unless you are doing a remodel and want to know what you should not do.

  23. I’m reading Robert Crais’ new Elvis Cole book “The Wanted”. It’s a fast read–I just started it and I’m already halfway through it.

  24. Okay. Maybe this is the place to post this. (My husband and I have been going nuts with the internet history of underwear. This has reminded me of one of my favorite fusses.)

    Why do novels tend to give young (+/- 18 years old) heroines and heroes complex histories that would better fit romantic heroines and heroes who are in their thirties?

    One reason I love Jenny Cruisie heroines and heroes is that they are adults. They’ve been through a lot. They’ve acquired skills and have suffered hard knocks.

    Too many YA books I return to have attractive heroines and heroes because they’ve been through so much at so young an age. I wish the authors had given the heroines and heroes time to experience life.

    One thing I’ve come across is that while people in olden times had high mortality rates, it wasn’t that becoming old was unusual; it was that reaching, say, five years old was an indicator that a child might survive to adulthood. From then on, it was, like 60 is old. That’s not like nowadays, when lots of folks live until they’re 90, but it’s still a chunk of years. People didn’t die in sections, like every decade.

    Sorry, this is only because (1) I’m looking for something to read with a mature heroine and hero, and (2) my husband is now telling me about the history of panties.

    1. Isn’t that just a function of wanting young protagonists? I remember when it was remarkable because my heroines were in their thirties. I kept thinking, “Huh? Thirty IS young.”
      Out of curiosity, how did you get from panties to young heroines? Never mind, that might be TMI.

      1. There was a lot of wine (on my part) and whiskey (on my husband’s part) too. Can’t remember the details. . .

    2. It might be a function of the boomer demographics, and the fact that publishing takes awhile to catch up on trends. The boomer generation has to hit 30 and experience it, and the standard bearers who are writers have to write the book, then it has to catch on, and then you have a really long stream of 30-year-old heroines because “writing 30-year-olds sells!” Although, it didn’t really seem to happen with 30-year-old heroines much, did it? There might be hope for the 50-year-olds. At least in the movies. Helen Mirren in RED (Retired, extremely dangerous) was the first time I really noticed.

      There are always outliers. I read a rather funny series of short stories about middle-aged ladies a couple of years ago. I can never remember the name of it, but it was published in the 1910s, I think, and while it didn’t always sit well with my 21st century sensibilities, it had three realistic women of a certain age doing stuff like camping in the wilderness.

      I bet the stuff is out there, especially in this age of self-publishing. The trick is finding it . . . .

      1. Good point. Of course, Harriet Vane and some Georgette Heyer heroines are older. And, nowadays, besides Jenny’s heroines, there are Bujold’s many: Ista, Cordelia, and more.

        I think part of the issue for writers is finding the one huge conflict in a woman’s life. Traditionally, it was a rite of passage in boy’s stories, proving that one had moved from boyhood to manhood. In girl’s stories it was getting a husband.

        Untraditionally, Jenny’s women discover who they are (and how they’ve been fighting against that truth) which is a more adult process than falling in love for the first time.

        Anyway, I’m probably talking through my hat.

        Thanks. I’ll keep looking. And some Thursday I’ll tell you that I’ve found one!

        1. I think that most books rest on the big turning point in a character’s life. The key is, there’s usually more than one turning point. So falling in love and getting married can be a big turning point in some characters’ lives, but it wasn’t for me. That was following the script my mother had written. My big turning points, where my world broke and I had to remake it, were the Kent State shootings, cancer, and deciding to quit a very good job to write fiction before I’d sold anything. Those three things changed my life completely.

          I agree that traditionally, it’s the falling in love and getting the husband or falling out of love and being ruined because of it (Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, The Scarlet Letter), but we’re changing that. I think romance is about falling in love for the same reason that mysteries are about murder, but I do think romance is opening up a lot. But publishing is driven by readers, and a lot of readers just don’t believe that an older woman can be sexually enticing; I remember one reader writing to say that she couldn’t like Anyone But You because she knew the hero would leave the heroine when she turned fifty. I found that incredibly sad.

          1. Yes, that is sad. In all fairness I had trouble reading each Isabelle Dalgleish novel by Alexander McCall Smith as it came out. I dreaded that she and her 15-years-younger lover would break up, and McCall Smith kept leaving their relationship up in the air.

            But I never questioned Alex’s commitment to Nina in Anyone But You.

  25. I just finished ‘The Rook’ by Sharon Cameron, a YA riff on The Scarlet Pimpernel, only set in a futuristic Paris and with a female protagonist. Hugely enjoyable, particularly for someone like me who had an unrequited passion for the Scarlet Pimpernel as a teenager. (The heroine’s pet fox is called St Juste.)

  26. I was skimming the Book Bub blurbs for today and came across “Tonya never expected to become a werewolf” and stopped right there because, who does? “I expect some day I’ll be a ballerina.” “A rocket scientist.” “An old lady.” But werewolf?

    I haven’t read the book, it could be fabulous, but that blurb . . . .

  27. I’m in the middle of a whole bunch of how-to-writing books (including the Art of Loving, thank you for the advice), but just finished a lovely little non-fiction called “Wine and War” – all about how the winemakers/sellers of France subtly fought back against the Nazis plundering millions of bottles of their wine. It was all based on life-story accounts and for a WWII, very uplifting.

    Speaking of, I just watched the movie “Loving Vincent” and not only is it one of the most incredibly beautiful visual movies I have ever seen, it was eclipsed by the plot and characters. I’m still thinking the stereotypes of Vincent and other artists it challenged. Fantastic!

    1. Loving Vincent mesmerized me. I hadn’t known that there was controversy over his death. Mostly, I loved the presentation in moving van Gogh art.

      1. I just ordered it because everybody here is a fan.
        Did you ever see the Van Gogh episode of Doctor Who? No matter how many times I’ve watched it, I weep at the end. It’s beautiful.

  28. I’m in the middle of one of those, “No, not that. Not that. Nope, not that either,” reading funks. I started to read the fifth book in the Others’ series, and just. could. not. go there, afraid of what characters I’d grown fond of were going to go through. I read the end, so I know it all comes out well, but I don’t want to go through the process.

    I’ve gone looking through all the books I own — hundreds and hundreds and hundreds — and nothing is speaking to me. I don’t want to re-read, I don’t want to read new, but I want something to read.

    Gah. I hate when this happens…

    1. I usually get like that when I have just finished something really good and my head is still in it, and what I really want to do is keep reading it. So nothing else seems right.

      1. I just did a Michael Gilbert binge and felt the same way. And most of his books are too old to be digital. I actually read an old hardcover of his, just because I wanted to keep reading. It’s been ages since I read a paper book.

      2. Yeah, I’ve been in a fuss about finding something to read. After several comments here, I finally read The Sherwood Ring. It was okay and I’m glad it’s no longer staring at me from the shelf, making me feel guilty for buying it then not reading it. I like The Perilous Gard very much. The whole Tam Lin story is one of my favorites because the heroine is active and determined.

        I ended up rereading Price and Prejudice, this time focusing on everything specific to Darcy. The reading revealed much more about both Darcy and Elizabeth to me, especially the various steps forward and bumps in each one’s feelings toward the other. Boy, Austen is good.

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