This Is A Good Book Thursday, June 7th

I had forgotten how funny P. G. Wodehouse is, but I had never noticed what a great plotter he was.  I’m reading Leave It To Psmith for the first time, and that plot is like a Chinese puzzle box.  You just don’t notice it at first because you’re laughing so hard.  I just had to put down the iPad because the noxious Baxter, stalking our heroine in the dark to find out where she hid the necklace she didn’t steal, trod on the golf ball that FreddyThreepwood had left in the hall and fell down the stairs: 

“. . . he took the entire staircase in one majestic, volplaning sweep.  There were eleven stairs in all separating his landing from the landing below, and the only ones he hit were the third and the tenth.  He came to rest with a squattering thud on the lower landing, and for a moment or two the fever of the chase left him.”

It helps if you know what a tick Baxter is and what a sweetheart Eve is, but still, writing visual slapstick is really difficult.   I don’t know what’s so damn funny about “the third and the tenth” but it is.   But still what I most marveled at is the plot, which is based on stealing a necklace and then replacing it, and because the people who want the necklace stolen (for good purposes) are so benignly inept, a cast of thousands ends up trying to steal the damn thing and then playing Keep Away with it.  So. Much. Fun.

I also read a terrific YA, Withering by the Sea, full of beautiful drawings and bizarre events and a dastardly villain and singing cats and a girl heroine beset by three Awful Aunts.  It was so good I bought the sequel, which is equally charming.

What did you read this week?



62 thoughts on “This Is A Good Book Thursday, June 7th

  1. You have done much better than I have this week. In the last two weeks, I’ve read three books that have been very disappointing.

    Thanks to your blog, at least I know why.

    The first was very good until the end, when the author solved the conflict by magic, which is just irritating.

    The second was flat because there was no real conflict and the main character had a negative goal.

    The third is by an author who I had dropped several years ago because she stopped a book right in the middle. It is a series, so I’m guessing she picked it back up in the next book, but I don’t know because I was so mad that I stopped reading her books. I’m not sure now why I’m reading one again. It’s irritating me that I started it because I know better. I normally read a book in an evening or two, but I’ve been dragging this out because it is tedious and annoying with a vast array of characters that I can’t keep track of and a mystery which isn’t really a mystery. I’m also mad at myself for not just putting it down and moving on.

    On the plus side, I’ve been getting a lot of chores done. 🙂 I apologize for all of the complaining.

    On a somewhat related note, I let the first season of Legends of Tomorrow play while I was cleaning and organizing over Memorial Day weekend, so I’ve picked up the background that I need to start Season 2.

    I’m really looking forward to all of your great suggestions!

  2. I just finished my eleventh Early Crusie in four weeks (“What the Lady Wants,” for those of you keeping score at home,) but I don’t have a problem…

    On a serious note, while I’ve been binge-reading and largely ignoring Facebook, I completely missed the news that my best friend from high school lost her husband to cancer a month ago. I feel terrible, of course, and I’m wondering if there’s a book I could send her that might be appropriate literary “comfort food” at this point in her grieving. Any recommendations?

    1. Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen was helpful to me in a similar situation. The author wrote it after she was diagnosed with cancer, but it’s about loss, specifically loss of a husband and father and the growing through the grieving process. I found it to be a gentle, beautiful book, but some fun subplots.

      If that is too much a nail on the head, I tend to reread the Secret Garden regularly. It’s YA, but also with the theme of a family healing after loss.

    2. Perhaps P.s. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern? It’s also about the loss of a husband through cancer, and the way back afterwards. I think it’s a beautifully written story about healing and coping with the new reality. It exceeded my expectations by lightyears.

  3. Jenny, you need to stop* recommending so many good books, my TBR stack (and my wallet) can’t take it.

    *(never stop) 😉

    Life’s been kinda crazy with wrapping things up at work and preparing for grad school, so I’ve been skipping around between several books the past couple of weeks: I picked up the first Flaxborough mystery after Jenny’s rec the other week (I was hooked as soon as I read that the victim was “electrocuted with a mouth full of marshmallows), and I started Agatha Christie’s first Tommy and Tuppence novel (already delighted with those two). I’ve also been wanting to read more poetry, so I picked up a bilingual volume of Rainer Maria Rilke (I remember just enough German to appreciate the wordplay and rhythm and so on, and the translations help clarify what I’ve forgotten).

    If anyone asks, though, I’m totally finishing everything I need to do on my last day at work, and not just reading. 😉

    1. The latest Flaxborough was just re-released, something about Naked Nuns (I think it’s the eighth), and it’s not as good. I’ll read all of them because there are only twelve, but he phoned that one in. High hopes for the last books, though.

  4. I’m almost finished with Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. It’s a story about going back home to heal when your life falls apart emotionally and physically. It is smart, introspective, and laugh-out-loud funny, and just the book I needed this week. Funny, how they find you sometimes. (I’ve gotten loads off Good Book Thursday.)

    1. Read the sequel! (Mennonite Meets Mr. Right) I didn’t know there was one until I was wandering the library shelves and stumbled on it. It is even better. (Deals with some serious things in her typical funny but deep way.)

  5. I love Wodehouse’s dry, understated humor. “for a moment or two the fever of the chase left him.”

  6. Leave it to PSmith and Withering by Sea sound good and I could use something funny or charming this morning. Thanks!

    I read Frogkisser by Garth Nix this week. It was recommended by someone on the Good Book Thursday two weeks ago, so whoever that was, thank you. I enjoyed it and it held my attention from beginning to end, although I must admit I prefer not to be hit over the head by a message, no matter how appropriate it is to our times. Kids are perfectly capable of appreciating subtlety; just because it’s YA doesn’t mean it needs to be so blatant. Still, it was engaging enough I will probably try the sequel, if there is one.

    1. You’re welcome 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m hoping for a sequel, too.

  7. I’m re-reading Charlotte MacLeod’s Grub and Stakers series. I’m not sure if I’m reading them for comfort or what but I am enjoying them.

  8. I’m currently reading the latest Ruth Galloway (Elly Griffiths) mystery, The Dark Angel. They’re written third-person, present-tense, which somehow really works for these particular books. I think it’s partly because of a wry, offhand quality to the writing. “This, Nelson remembers, is what he has always disliked about evangelicals. The way they talk about God as if he’s God Smith who lives next door. At least Catholics have a bit of awe and respect.” (Nelson is A) kind of a cranky guy; and B) someone raised Catholic, though he doesn’t practice any more and may well be an atheist.) She’s very good at capturing the everyday irritations, insecurities and uncertainties of daily life; she’s good about being in the moment.

  9. There’s a Read-A-Long for Mary Stewart’s “Airs Above The Ground” which I finished and is now causing to me to buy and re-read all the Mary Stewarts. Right now, I’m o “Touch Not the Cat” and finding it lovelier than I remembered.

    I’m also re-reading all the Walter Farley horse books. Right now, I’m on “Island Stallion” and finding it, well, people seem to fear wild stallions a lot more than I remeber.

    And, “Object of Desire” by Dal MacLean so far is fantastic.

    1. When my daughter was in Junior High school, she read and bought EVERY Walter Farley horse book. She went on to own 3 horses and became a veterinarian. Every one should fear stallions-when she was in college, a stallion picked her up by her shoulder with his teeth and flung her across the arena. He then attacked the male student who came to her rescue. She still has the teeth scars but they have faded to silver now and she still has all of the Farley books.

      1. I’ve just moved out of my house, and gotten rid of many books, but “The Black Stallion” is still on my shelves.

  10. The word “tsundoku” made the rounds on Twitter recently. It describes buying a book but leaving it unread, with a pile of unread books.

    Here’s a link to other useful words:

    I tend to not have a tsundoku of novels, but I do of comics and non-fiction. Hoping to be strong and actually get onto the research proposal, leaving my recent purchases unread and thereby create a tsundoku of e-novels.

    1. My life is tsundoku — I own at least 3k books, many, many of them unread. So many that I’m likely to die before I get to them, especially given my proclivity for re-reading. (I can’t read The Cinderella Deal anymore, because I’ve more or less memorized it…)

      1. I too have over 3k books, most of which I’ve not read. Thank you Sure Thing for the word – tsundoku!

  11. Just finished rereading Mary Balogh’s ‘Slightly Dangerous’, which is a wonderful story and the best of the series. Don’t want to overdose, but am going to risk it by segueing straight into ‘Simply Love’ and its two sequels (the first of that series isn’t as good, so will skip it this time). Though it’s part of a different series, it features many of the same characters, and takes place immediately after ‘Slightly Dangerous’.

    For the day job, I’ve just started work on a 700 page biography of Thomas Cromwell, so I daresay will be relying on comfort reads more than ever.

    1. I love her books. She does a growing emotional connection between characters so well. Slightly Dangerous stands out in the flood of “Duke” books because she actually understands what a duke *was*. Plus such a good Pride and Prejudice homage.

  12. I was in labor with my first child for 28 hours. My husband read P G Wodehouse to me during those very long hours. I remember laughing to Jeeves and Wooster while the nursing staff changed shifts 3 times; they would stick their heads in and say “Are you two still here?” Things got a little crazy, it wasn’t an easy delivery, but when I think back, I always remember Doug reading Wodehouse. This is one of the things I love about books – they become a part of our histories and trigger all sorts of memories.

  13. I am listening to the Kraken King by Meljean Brook and it is so wonderful that I get chills. And the bookstore had a used copy of the first book in her Iron Seas series. I bought it for a friend who I will now force to read it, as it is my life’s mission to increase readership for this author 🙂

    1. I really like her books – but not the first one in the series which I found really problematic and more than a little rapey. If I’d started with that one I’d never have gone on to read the others.

      1. I am glad you like the rest. She is always clear on consent, but it does have a darker feel than the later books. Mileage may vary.

      2. Yeah, he arcs, but it is problematic, especially since the rest of her stuff is so good.

  14. I haven’t read Wodehouse in eons. Must do…

    Right now I’m reading Marriage Can Be Murder by Emma Jameson. Murder mystery in wartime Cornwall. It’s charming and hard to put down. In fact it’s a sacrifice to put it down long enough to comment here, lol. I read a couple of novellas in the same series (about Dr. Bones) — also fun.

    I finished the fifth book in Emma Jameson’s series about Lord and Lady Hetheridge — contemporary police procedurals. They’re excellent, and the last one was so suspenseful that I stayed up half the night to finish it.

    1. The first one in the Hetheridge series is free on Kindle right now. I just downloaded it, so thanks for the rec.

  15. The best books I read this week (both YA) are “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say” and “Past Perfect,” both by Leila Sales.

    “Past Perfect” is a fun book about working at a colonial village and how they are perpetually having a prank war with the Civil War reenactment camp across the street. I am really enjoying it.

    “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say” is written from the POV of a girl who pissed off the entire world on Twitter and lost her title and college admission because of it. She goes to a social media ish rehab clinic to try to rehabilitate herself and her image. I thought it was really great and something we need to talk about in this shitty day and age where the slighest mistake ruins your life for life.

    1. And now it’s ironic that I noticed a typo in that just when it was too late to fix it.

  16. What’s funny about “the third and the tenth” is the ellipsis. Our minds fill in the very large bounces that had to take place to make that happen. (Working hypothesis)

    I’ve always wanted to try my hand at writing slapstick. When I get to gluttony (I’m working my way through the 7 deadly sins) I’m going to set it against one of those televised competitive cooking shows. And there’s going to be a food fight.

    Now I just need to figure out why.

    1. (-: As you know, I love a good fictional food fight! Perfect for those times when you can’t shoot someone, but a simple “Drat” doesn’t satisfy. Lob a spoonful of white and sticky. Comedy gold.

  17. Oh lordy, Leave it to Psmith. My absolute all time favourite Wodehouse, and that IS saying something.

    Love every line of it. Love with Psmith is trying to make time with Eve, unaware that the man whom he is impersonating (Ralston McTodd, the Singer of Saskatoon) is a married man; furthermore, married to Eve’s old school friend Cynthia.

    It does not go well for Psmith.

    Across the pale parabola of joy, anyone?

    1. My very favorite Wodehouse as well. I love the cheery way he adopts new friends and immediately starts calling them “comrade.” And his explanation of how and like what other words the “P” in his name is silent.

    2. Everything goes well for Psmith because he never stops knowing that he is on top of things.
      I love Psmith.

  18. I read All Systems Red, by Martha Wells last weekend. I love Murderbot. Dr. Manseh is a well done character too.

    Now I’m rereading Persuasion by Jane Austen. I felt like a classic.

    All the Wodehouse talk led me to check out Something New aka Something Fresh, since I like the Blandings tv series from a couple years ago.

  19. I am listening to Douglas Adam’s The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul. In a weird way he reminds me of P.G. Wodehouse.

  20. I’m currently reading two junior novels for reviewing. They’re not light, easy reading, and they’re in a choose-your-own-adventure format, which I usually hate, but in the context it’s a brilliant choice. They’re from a series of books set in different times of history and different situations, but all about seeking freedom. The format really makes the point about what would you/the reader choose to do in desperate circumstances in order to stay alive and keep your loved ones safe. And it frequently ends badly.

    So I’m counter-balancing that by re-reading Louisa Alcott’s books (and feeling guilty about every unwholesome thought I’ve ever had).

  21. Having started my downward re-reading slope with the first of Sharon Shinn’s Twelve Houses series, I am well into book #2 of 4 – The Thirteenth House. Interesting that she handles the series by focusing on a different member of the original traveling companion group. And a nice balance of feeling with some competence porn, some politics, and quite a bit of paranormal plot twists. A nice re-read.

    Meanwhile, got an interesting-sounding nonfiction book from the library by the author of a biography of Rosa Parks, about the uses and misuses of civil rights history. Looking forward to it after reading a review.

    1. That series got better as she settled into the characters. I really enjoy it, and an occasional re-read.

  22. I loved Withering by Sea, and am about to read the follow up, Wormwood Mire. I’m also rereading Cotillion by Georgette Heyer because I’d forgotten Freddy and wanted to remake his acquaintance.

  23. On a recommendation, I just finished The Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede and was very impressed and am on to the second one. (YA is usually hit and miss with me. They are often either too drama-filled/angsty for me or too simplistic but sometimes they are just lovely and that one just grabbed me about 1/3 of the way in and kept me engaged.)

    I also re-read Crusie/Mayer’s Wild Ride. I didn’t love it the first time I read it years ago (didn’t dislike it but didn’t love it the way I loved Agnes & the Hitman) but decided to give it another shot because I needed a Crusie fix and recently reread all the others. I thoroughly enjoyed it this time. My tastes usually go in the opposite direction (wondering what the heck I was thinking liking THAT) so this was nice.

  24. Finished two Georgette Heyer mysteries this week that I hadn’t read before. Death in the Stocks was fun and will go on the re-read shelf. Penhallow was . . . something else. It was much darker than her other mysteries and the ending was just sad. Well written, but now I know why a friend suggested I skip it. I’m reading Cotillion now as a kind of palate cleanser.

  25. While painting the kitchen cabinets I listened to the cozy mystery, “Murder is Binding” by Lorna Barrett. It was nice. I didn’t love it but I liked it and would listen to the sequels.

  26. Wodehouse was about the only thing my father and I had in common – I love the novels and there is no better adaptation in my view than the Stephen Fry/Hugh Laurie version of the 1990s of Jeeves and Wooster.

    Withering by Sea looks delightful…now on Wishlist, but I have a TBR pile that is ridiculous and I have promised myself not to buy any more books until September. I’m also 17 books behind Goodreads target.

    Finally finished Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, billed as Downton Abbey meets Quantum Leap, and absolutely gripping, but I found it an incredible slog, and quite irritating in the end – obfuscation for the sake of it and a very opaque 1st person narrative. Give me a classic cosy from 1920s-1950s Golden Age any day.

    I have just started an absolutely charming book by E. Nesbit, more familiar as a children’s writer – The Wouldbegoods, The Railway Children, 5 Children and It etc. She was hugely prolific (married to a rather inept man and mother of 5, I think, so need for an income drove her) and did write adult novels. My sister-in-law gave me The Lark for my birthday and it is the perfect antidote to tricksy empty narrative stuff like 7 Deaths. Set just after WW1, it’s about female friendship and there is a meet-cute romance, a wise and humorous omniscient narrator and many a misunderstanding. Absolutely loving it.

  27. I have only ever read one Wodehouse, “The Cat-Nappers,” but it was good enough to land on my keeper shelf. One of these days I will get around to reading some more.

    Am presently reading a sort of historical memoir by Andrew Carroll called “Here is Where.” It’s a road trip through forgotten places of historical significance in the U.S. and I’m really enjoying it.

    Tried (again) to read “The Explorers Guild” by Jonathan Baird & Kevin Costner (yes, *that* Kevin Costner). It is probably exactly the right book for some people but I couldn’t get into it. It’s a well-conceived and beautifully produced book, and adventure/intrigue in a historical setting is usually my catnip, but the writing style is once-removed and a bit too midcentury Victorian – I guess I was hoping for something more along the lines of Arthur Conan Doyle. Ultimately, there wasn’t a protagonist I could connect with, so I’m passing this handsome volume on to someone else.

  28. Been bingeing on Eloisa James and Courtney Milan. Just what I needed to avoid doing what I should.

  29. I just finished listening to Jenny Colgan’s The Endless Beach. I first heard about her here and have enjoyed all of her books but this one was really something special, more heartfelt. Also love listening to the Scottish narrator.

  30. June 7 is my birthday, also the day we decided it was time to put our big old dog to sleep the next day. Having relied on Pratchett and Crusie throughout the selling of my house, I fell back on Elizabeth Peters, Houses of Stone. She’s my other let’s keep it together and take a break while we cope read.

  31. Thank you for this recommendation. I love P.G. Wodehouse and have been yearning for another hit. I will try the Withering book because you recommend it. Lately all my favorite writers seem to be running out of steam, and I need some new smartly funny stuff. What happened to Lucy March?

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