This Is A Good Book Thursday, September 6, 2018

I’m getting burned out on mysteries, so of course that’s when the NYT publishes an anonymous op ed explaining why the USA is going down the tubes.  The big mystery is who wrote it?  I don’t care.  If you’re going to hide under a bush shouting bad things, you have no credibility, and this opinion is from somebody who believes everything in the op ed.   Anonymous accusations: I hate ’em.  So I re-read Pratchett’s The Truth and felt better when William defeated his treacherous old father, the narcissistic and arrogant traitor.  Good does triumph over evil, I’m sure of it.  I just wish Good wasn’t taking the long route.  And then I wrote some more of Nita’s story, and let’s face it, I’m brilliant.  (This conviction comes and goes, so I’m enjoying it while it’s here.  Stay tuned for “I Suck At Writing and Should Eat Worms and Die.”)

So what did you read this week?  (Something you wrote counts.)

100 thoughts on “This Is A Good Book Thursday, September 6, 2018

  1. I read the entire Anne of Green Gables series. They did not stand the test of time well, unfortunately. The first one is still brilliant and charming, but the later ones are much harder going. I did find Rilla of Ingleside fascinating, though, for its portrayal of a war where everyone at home was obsessed and living in daily fear. It was a different era, that’s for sure. I’m starting Artemis by Andy Weir and it’s quite a change! It’s looking good so far.

    1. I didn’t really ever love the first book but got more into them as time went on, particularly books 3 and 5. And I do like Rilla for the reasons you mentioned, and Rainbow Valley for the “we have to bring ourselves up” issues those poor kids have.

      1. I loved Rainbow Valley as a child. Reading it as a parent, I was appalled by the level of neglect and how casually acceptable it was. A father who prioritizes the emotional needs of an adult over the physical needs of his children doesn’t deserve to keep them. And the community’s tolerance just… yeah. Loved that book as a kid. As a parent, not so much.

        1. Seven Little Australians is a bit like that. I loved it as a kid, but as an adult all I could see was the brutality of the father and the way he treated his children as if they were his soldiers.

  2. I’ve had a frustrating week reading samples on my Kindle and deleting most of them. The two I bought turned out to be no fun; had to skim the second one. But have just started a sample that looks more promising (‘The War of the Oaks’). Fantasy’s not truly my thing, though I do love some, so fingers crossed. Hoping for lots of character, not too much plot, great world-building, and a fundamentally optimistic story.

    And after that, I’m retreating back to rereading for a bit. Especially since my day-job read is tedious and rather snobbish.

    1. War for the Oaks was one of the first real urban fantasy books available in the 80s. It never became a series but it’s a big influence on some later urban fantasy series. I hope you like it. I still have my paperback from 1987.

    2. I love that description, lots of character, not too much plot, great world-building, fundamentally optimistic story. It is what I look for too in books, but hadn’t put into words. Thanks!

      1. Even though I loved it to pieces, I haven’t read it in a long time. But the taste in my memory is a happy one — I so wanted to play in a band in a magical Minneapolis when I finished it. (Never mind that I was living outside Boston with no way to get to Minneapolis, I didn’t play any instruments and I was too afraid of my voice to sing…)

  3. Liz and I went on a writing retreat a couple of weeks ago and stopped by the Gene Stratton-Porter memorial in Rome City, IN. It was amazing! Mom read all of her books to us when we were children and I’ve read them all myself at least twice since then. The Harvester, David Langston, was my very first introduction to romantic heroes. They’re free on Kindle as classics, so I’ve just finished rereading A Girl of the Limberlost and once again got lost in the words… man, she’s amazing. I’m going to read The Harvester again next because I need the peace and loveliness of her writing in my life right now. Go discover her if you haven’t read any of her books. You’ll be delighted.

    1. I’ve never read Gene Stratton-Porter, but my late mother-in-law was a huge fan who remembered the books lovingly from her own childhood. In her later years I made her very happy when I was able to track down some on the Internet for her. I don’t know whether she was even aware that there was a memorial somewhere, but I know she would have enjoyed seeing it.

      On the advice of others here I have purchased Karin Slaughter’s TRIPTYCH, but I haven’t started it yet because I am currently reading CRAZY RICH ASIANS. I haven’t seen the movie so I honestly don’t know exactly how the book is going to turn out, but I find myself really disliking the hero for being so willfully naive/clueless/self-absorbed and not giving any thought to what he is doing to the woman he claims to love by throwing her blindly into such a milieu.

      1. I saw the film of Crazy Rich Asians and really enjoyed it, so I decided to listen to the audiobook after. I couldn’t finish it. There’s what you said about the hero, but the book also hops from character to character wrt POV (maybe 8-10 of them). Too many heads to be in, for my taste. What finally made me stop listening, even with an excellent narrator, was the interminable descriptions of ostentatious wealth. I swear, every third paragraph is description of designer clothing or furnishings or accoutrements. All I needed was enough to set the scene; I’m not shopping for the items myself.

        So I’m looking forward to the next film, but won’t bother with the books anymore.

        1. I enjoyed the first book, despite all the descriptions of clothing and furniture. But I really struggled with the second book for that very reason. It was kind of a shopping list, and it didn’t appeal to me.

  4. Hi! I am now reading all the Crusie “early years” books (and enjoying them) and Exact Thinking in Demented Times (non fiction).

    Now that I contributed to the subject of this post, I hope you will forgive me for asking something “off post”.

    After reading the raves here about Crazy Rich Asians, I went to see it, expecting to be blown away. I wasn’t. I kept waiting for the rom and the com, especially the com in the form of dialogue instead of sight gags like the “slut walk” bag in the trunk.

    I have spent more time than I should looking for articles on elements of rom com. Oh, I should mention that my husband and I are actually arguing about this.

    I would appreciate thoughts about how this movie is a rom com. It just doesn’t jibe with the highly intellectual concept of rom com that I have come to learn on this blog.

    To me it is missing almost everything. I wanted to like it, but I didn’t. I was hoping to know why everyone but me thinks it is a rom com.

    Thank you!

    1. Can’t help with the film, but I gave up on the book. I find many modern romcoms have no real heart – they’re clever, but uninvolving. Years ago, when part of my junior-worm job was dealing with the fiction slush pile, I remember most of the romance submissions were by authors who obviously thought it was an easy genre to make money at: write a neat story for those foolish readers. (Of course, anyone submitting romance to the publisher I worked for was pretty dim in the first place.)

      1. Crazy Rich Asians did not work for me either. I read it but didn’t get why it was such a big hit. It’s like rich + good looking = hero. He wasn’t supportive of his girlfriend until the very end and then he threw his mother and grandmother under the bus. If he really wanted the relationship to work, he should have been dealing with his mother and grandmother all along and making them see this relationship was important to him and they were going to have to get on board. It was clever but the humor was all situational, pie-in-the-face as far as I could see.

        OT: Is the cliche “as far as I could see” or “as near as I could see”? And does it really make any difference to how the sentence reads?

        1. I think it’s “As far as I can see” because that makes the stipulation that you can’t see everything about this situation and you’re basing your judgment only what is in front of you. “As near as I can see” doesn’t parse for me at all.

        2. If you’re southern, it’s “as near as I could tell,” and if you can hear that in your head, you’ll know it comes with a southern accent. The twangy kind of southern accent, not the coastal kind.

    2. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t respond specifically, but in general “rom com” is a movie (or book) where the main story is the romance and it’s funny. How you define “romance” and “funny” is up to you, which is why most rom coms leave me ranting. But there are outstanding ones out there. Over on Popcorn Dialogues, Lani and I spent months analyzing what made the good works and the bad ones fail, and it was clear that it’s a really difficult genre to do right. One of the best ones was the first one we did, It Happened One Night, which is over eighty years old, but they nailed the basics and it’s brilliant, even given the social shifts of acceptability (her father, a good guy, slaps her at one point, which isn’t supposed to be a bad thing, and is needed for motivation, but bleah).

      The list of romcoms we talked about is here:

      I have to get in there and clean up that site, the links are wonky in places, but I think the podcasts are all on iTunes.

        1. At the time, we’d do a chat as we played the movie and people would chime in. It was fun. But then we’d do the podasts after the movie, so the stuff in the lists is just Lani and I analyzing what we saw. It’s been years since I’ve listened to any of them, we may be totally useless, but I learned a lot at the time.

          1. No, they’re wonderful.

            I did watch some of the movies but not all. Just listening to you two parse things was really useful.

            Later episodes have Lani and her (now) ex, and he’s a putz, so they’re less worthwhile.

            But overall, honestly wonderful.

          2. I listened to them a couple of years ago and liked them. Although I admit there were a few I skipped if it looked like a movie I really loved didn’t work for you because I didn’t want it to stop working for me.

          3. There were some of them that didn’t work as romantic comedies that were still good movies. Why anybody thought The Apartment was a romantic comedy is beyond me.

          4. I just re-watched ‘The Maltese Falcon’ after listening to your podcast and laughed almost the whole time.

      1. Thank you.

        Your books resonated with me from the beginning, and I soaked up your theoretical rants over the years because they made absolute sense to me. Until I started to argue with my husband over the theory of rom com and this awful (imo) movie, however, I never had to articulate it–it was still a jumble of thoughts in my head.

        I will wander over to the popcorn site–seems like the kind of homework I need to do!

      2. Popcorn Dialogues and the paragraph of The Great Depression and fantastic heroines the first thing that came to mind is the movie The Women with Moira Shearer, Rosalind Russell etc. An all woman cast you didn’t even notice that there were no men in the movie. It was great. It was rebooted again with Meg Ryan as the lead but I never finished watching it. It was Blah. So I don’t know if she took her husband back at the end as in the Thirties version because I just didn’t care. I also think that in the thirties infidelity and affairs were not broadcast as they are today.

        1. Norma Shearer.

          I only found out last year that she made several movies Pre Code where she was not the good wife – and indeed started having affairs in one after her husband cheated, and then had a HEA anyway.

          I only knew her for a few movies – most like The Women – so I’m looking forward to catching up on the pre Code ones once I get back to watching movies.

    3. Jenny’s definition is what I would lead with, since humor and romance are so personal that the various combinations will strike each person differently.

      I really enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians. My personality is not romantic but can be sentimental. I prefer snarky, dry, to dark comedy.

      I think CRA fits in the subgenre of romance where the couple is together and encounters an obstacle to how things were, and then the story is about staying together in a different relationship. The movies Shall We Dance? and Something to Talk About fit in this subgenre.

      1. I should clarify that I meant I like things all along the spectrum from dry to dark comedy. In Bruges was very enjoyable. Death At a Funeral is an easy rewatch, to give you an idea.

      2. Would agree. I haven’t read CRA but I did see the movie, and would see again just on the basis of 1) I laughed a lot 2) I have added Awkwafina to Michelle Yeoh on my list of girl crushes 3) that guy playing the hero was catnip x 100 4) there were numerous important supportive female-female relationships that did not exist solely for the purpose of making the guys interesting. Also hello beautiful people in a beautiful setting which is the opposite of my real life most days.

        The structure of the film was very formulaic (up to and including the climax which is lifted straight from The Wedding Singer), but that doesn’t bother me much.

        When a fictional character behaves in a way that I think is stupid, I try to account for context. CRA has a hero who doesn’t have A.Single.Clue how to be himself in the context of his family, so for me, his hard fail on integrating the woman he loves with said family had a believable basis. The heroine on the other hand was stellar (and wonderfully played).

        1. I’m seeing the movie today but have read all the books. I view them more like a version of the 80’s glitz novels sort of a cross between your Judith Krafts/Jackie Collins/Barbara Taylor Bradford but funnier rather than romances. There are romance subplots but it’s the drama and family politics and peeking into that world that we’re the main appeal. I’m not sure I’d read them again but I enjoyed them.

  5. I read Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone. I’m not sure how I feel about it over all.
    It was engaging and well written, but I think it just left me kind of sad.

    I also read Two Kinds of Truth, a Harry Bosch story by Michael Connelly, which I enjoyed.

    I’ve just ordered To Say Nothing of the Dog, which will be my first Connie Willis book.

    Also – you ARE brilliant, Jenny! I hope the conviction stays with you for a while.

    1. I love that Willis book so hard. It is all the things I love most in a book, and it also manages to channel the kind of slapstick, madcap energy of a movie. I gave both kids a copy of the short story “Even the Queen” before they started menarche, because it is such a great, wide ranging and hilarious discussion of the things women say about their period.

    2. Me too, loved “To Say Nothing of the Dog.” It led me to read “Three Men in a Boat,” which is darn funny.

    3. I loved Jane Doe…just to see a female character so unapologetic about everything was fascinating. but I can see why it could make you sad too.

    4. I really enjoyed the beginning of Jane Doe, and like you ended up somewhat let down by the end. I think that part of my problem is that I feel bad for for the bad guys. Vengeance just isn’t my thing I guess.

    5. I have just read Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog on Good Book Thursday recommendations, and I loved them, and the latter more than the former. Hope you enjoy them too!

  6. I don’t know where I read the recommendation for this book (maybe here?) , but I loved “The 57 Bus” by Dashka Slater. It is hard to describe, but it’s a nonfiction story about two teenagers, both from Oakland, California, but really from two worlds so different it’s like they come from different planets. For 8 minutes every school day, their lives overlap on the 57 bus. And then a reckless prank changes both their lives forever.

    This was a well-written book and a fast read, but I did not always find it an easy read. There were times I thought about putting it down b/c it felt too emotionally intense, but I kept going. I thought the author wrote about the teenagers and their families and loved ones with a lot of empathy and care. I came away moved and impressed.

  7. In keeping with September’s goal of “new books to me” I read and enjoyed The Demon Always Wins by Jeanne Oates Estridge. It was a fun read with just enough seriousness about the idea of redemption, GOD vs. the Devil that it kept the stakes feeling real.

    Then I am reading 2 books at once and like both but can’t read either straight through.

    Need to take breaks from the darkness of- but very interesting- The Historian by Elizabeth Kostov. A line of historians research Vlad the Impaler and the Dracula myth. Learned a few facts that unfortunately I can’t un-know but still feel the need to finish the book. When I need a break I move over to The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. A YA book that has its roots in fairy-tales.

    1. I loved the Historian. Enough that I bought the book and have reread it a couple of times.

  8. I actually read some new books.

    “Good Luck With That” by Kristen Higgins: painful in spots, but wow. There are romance elements, but I wouldn’t call it a romance. (Which is also true of her best books. The only one I didn’t finish was a straight up – a rather middle school mentality romance.) This one shows an (I believe) accurate representation of how much of the world responds to overweight women. And how we are trained to think of ourselves as defined by our bodies. Satisfying ending, and nice touches of previous heroines as bit characters. Also recently read Kristen’s “Now That You Mention It” which was good. “If You Only Knew” is my favorite, but “Good Luck With That” is one of those books you think about, and talk about and recommend. I would be fascinated to hear from other Argh people who have read this one.

    Also reading “The World, The Flesh and the Bishop” by Elizabeth Auston. My sister is very fond of this author. This is the second book in this series. I read the first one thinking “why am I reading this?” but I did like some of the characters, and I found the end pleasing. So I am reading the second one. Pleasantly British, undemanding and sometimes funny. Would I buy them? Probably not, but given that my sister and I share Kindle accounts, I am sure I will work my way through them. Start with “Children of Chance” which is not nearly as gothic as Amazon makes it sound. Less Mary Stewart, more Anthony Trollope.

    And I never manage to post on Thursdays – I cheated and wrote it Sunday and emailed it to myself so I could play too for once.

    1. LOL. I always return books on my kindle to the internet library as soon as I read them then I don’t remember them for Thursday and am too lazy to look them up in my reading history.

  9. The Husband Hunters by Anne de Courcy. Not as engaging as The Curzon Sisters, but that may be because I read them so close together. Also all the Vanderbilt women and the Astors and the Jones and their whole social group and the noblemen they married seem to have the same mind set as the Trumps (Spend. Flaunt. It’s all about ME.) and I found their behavior basically obscene.

    1. OT: I almost agree with you on anonymous accusations. Only almost in this case because I love that it is driving that moron crazy. It is like NYT kicked over an ant hill and everyone is running around in a state of paranoia and panic. Serves them right.

      I almost believe the NYT made it up for entertainment value.

      1. It’s been confirmed too many other places.

        The thing is, if he really is that bad, then they should be reporting to Congress, to the press, to the Justice Dept. They should be pushing for the 25th amendment. Instead, they’re staging a coup because he’s doing things they want–immigration, tariffs, tax breaks for the rich–so they can have their cake and keep their jobs, too. The smarm in that piece is just hideous: “Yes, we’re usurping the power of an elected leader, but it’s okay because we’re HEROES.” No, you’re not. And you will not be remembered as heroes when this all goes sideways, either.

        I’m betting it’s Pence. He’s got the most to gain, and that his sanctimony dripping from every word.

        1. I have been thinking about this most of the afternoon.

          I worked for a government contractor and had an “L” clearance (I was cleared for Classified documents but not Top Secret), my husband when I met him he was a nuclear engineer for the Navy with Top Secret clearance.

          It is now years later and we have the internet. BUT. Paperwork is tracked. It is tracked exhaustively in the government. Everything that goes into senior officials office is tracked in and out. Particularly if it is classified (Either “Classified” or “Top Secret” and “Classified” can be released to non-cleared people who have a need to know). But everything is tracked. It is time stamped. Some one is following every piece of paper in a well-regulated office.

          So what the heck is going on that the White House staff cannot say “This is not true. We can document where every piece of paper came from. We can document where it is right now”. And they clearly cannot say that or the response would not be so hysterical and so extreme.

          This makes the furor about Hilary’s server sound like kindergarten stuff. This is a major security issue. These guys are mishandling paperwork at the top. John Kelly was suppose to bring accountability to the White House. It clearly has not happened. And Trump has clearly allowed his “people” to circumvent the safeguards or it would not have happened.

      2. I think it’s far more likely that someone wrote it to distract from the Kavanaugh hearings. As long as this is sucking up media, reporters who might be slogging through the 42k pages of documents the Republicans dumped on Tuesday are instead looking for a needle in a haystack.

        Let’s keep our eye on the ball and discover whether or not Kavanaugh truly believes that only Democratic presidents can be indicted, and Roe v Wade is the law of the land until it’s not.

        If this unnamed person is really so frightened of what Trump might do, then they have a duty – a duty they swore an oath to – to uphold the Constitution and inform the Congress of the problem.

        Anonymous letters which just rile up his base about secret cabals in the government are not useful.

    2. The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton is a book I reread frequently. Even though it was completed by a Wharton scholar, it’s a classic on the divide between the Americans and Europeans. The mini-series with Mira Sorvino, Greg Wise, and Carla Gugino is fantastic too (but watch the uncut version).

      1. Cassandra, The Husband Hunters references The Buccaneers a bunch and also talks about Edith Jones Wharton’s broken engagement and identifies some of the characters as to who they really were. You might really like THH.

  10. What I’ve read recently:
    * Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews–pretty good finish to the main series but not where you’d want to start with it
    * The Book of Essie–features a teenage girl trapped in her religious family’s reality show and how when the worst happens to her, she starts engineering her revenge. Very well done.
    * West Winging It–another “I worked for Obama” memoir except the guy is forever making himself the butt of jokes, I laughed.
    * Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire–again, don’t start this one for the series because it’s book 12, but I really enjoyed the big revelation that went down in it and one big change for a character.

  11. I have started “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik, per recommendation here. So far a little tired of the main character. I hope she grows a spine soon.

    1. I just finished it. I was glad I’d read comments here about all the different points of view because every time it switches, it takes a couple sentences to figure out who it is. I thought all of the characters grew and changed in a satisfying way.

      1. Will do. Last night’s bit was better, as she showed some agency. I didn’t realize there would be different points of view, so I’ll be on the lookout for that.

  12. I did not mean to post that without finishing my reading list.

    The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. This was good. The romance was weak but the characters were strong. There are good reasons why this is a Newbery Medal winner.

    The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. This was extremely good and well written. I tried the first two pages and it did not grab me. I put it aside then had my foot act up again and had to spend three days with my foot up and wrapped in ice so I needed a lot of reading. By the third page or so I was hooked. I suppose you might call it urban fantasy. The romance turned out to be totally satisfying but not really sexy. My kind of book. This is a new to me author and I am not sure if it was recommended here or by the library site (based on my reading history) but I will be reading more of this author.

  13. I read “The Undomestic Goddess” by Sophie Kinsella this week. Entertaining, though a bit rushed. I wanted more of the romance and less of the law firm (I hate law firms with an ever-increasing fervor).

  14. I read Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube by Blair Braverman. And it wasn’t what I expected. She’s a musher, so I thought it would be more about dog sledding. NOPE. It was basically a love letter to Norway. Which, fine, but Norway isn’t even the Goddamn Ice Cube referenced in the title. It was OK. Not great.

    I also just finished Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher. Because I realized I had never read it, and that’s basically criminal.

  15. I read Loving Frank, because the author’s voice is so wonderful. I can’t say I liked either the story or the people within it, but there was deep pleasure in the reading nonetheless. I did a lot of eye-rolling, but was never seriously tempted to skip the middle and go to the end.

  16. As recommended I read Iron & Magic before Magic Triumphs, and yes it was absolutely necessary to read it first. Somehow I found Iron & Magic more satisfying that Magic Triumphs, despite not liking the protagonists anywhere near as well. I found how all of Kate’s friends deliberately and continually doing things behind her back, and leaving her absolutely blindsided repeatedly enormously distasteful.

    I also read three books by Jo Platt, one after another, Finding Felix, Reading Upside Down and It Was You. Nice contemporary rom-coms taking place in Bristol, England. Very enjoyable.

    I also just finished Putting the Fun in Funeral by Diana Pharaoh Francis. I’m just going to paste the blurb in here because it describes it better than I could:
    “Celebrating death never felt so good

    Beck Wyatt has always hated her mother—enough to kill her. As luck would have it, someone beats her to murdering Mommy Dearest and now Beck gets to plan the tackiest funeral the world has ever seen for the worst woman she’s ever known.
    But first, Beck has a few minor problems to deal with. First on the list? Avoid getting kidnapped. She also has to convince the police she didn’t kill her mother. And then there’s surviving a death curse ….
    With the help of her three best friends, cheesecake, and a little magic, Beck figures she can handle anything, even the mysterious and irritating Damon Matroviani, whose sexy good looks light her panties on fire.
    All too soon, her life is turned inside out, and just when things are looking like they can’t get any worse … everything hits the fan.”

    Beck Wyatt has always hated her mother—enough to kill her. As luck would have it, someone beats her to murdering Mommy Dearest and now Beck gets to plan the tackiest funeral the world has ever seen for the worst woman she’s ever known.

    But first, Beck has a few minor problems to deal with. First on the list? Avoid getting kidnapped. She also has to convince the police she didn’t kill her mother. And then there’s surviving a death curse ….

    With the help of her three best friends, cheesecake, and a little magic, Beck figures she can handle anything, even the mysterious and irritating Damon Matroviani, whose sexy good-looks light her panties on fire.

    All too soon, her life is turned inside out, and just when things are looking like they can’t get any worse … everything hits the fan.

  17. I read Magic Triumphs and am struggling to settle to the next book. Don’t think I want to admit that the Kate books are done as they’ve been one of my fave series for so long. But thought it was a good wrap up to the series.

  18. I recently binged on Sarah Wynde and enjoyed every minute of it. It started innocently enough: she published a new novel, A Gift if Grace, #4 in her Tassamara series. I read it and liked it, but I thought the first three books in the series were better. To refresh my memory, I decided to re-read book #1. And I didn’t stop until I finished all three.
    #1 – A Gift of Ghosts
    #2 – A Gift of Thought
    #3 – A Gift of Time
    I loved all three the second time around, maybe more than when I first read them. All the books are light and humorous paranormal romances. Very well written. Very charming. With ghosts. I highly recommend this author.

  19. I’m so glad you asked (because no one else ever does). I just finished re-reading “Hidden Away” by Yours Truly, now available at Amazon, now that my publisher folded. Wah wah wah… No, really, it’s okay; they did everything aboveboard and they were awesome people for giving me a chance. I know football is starting tonight (I live in Philly; it’s hard to miss) but I still have a soft spot in my heart for baseball, so I refreshed my memory with the hotness that was Scotty Gold in that book.

    I’m also reading 1776 by David McCullough while I’m at work, because I work around men and they’d give me endless sh*t if they saw me reading a romance on my lunch break. I’m a #HamilNerd anyway, so I’m wildly into this stuff.

  20. I read Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, by Winifred Watson. Written in 1938. I absolutely loved most of it–a middle-aged governess who is very bad at her job is trying to get work to save herself from the poorhouse, and ends up accidentally helping a nightclub singer. It’s funny and sweet–but every now and again you crash up against the unthinking racism of the time. ‘She was fairly sure he had a bit of Jew in him.’ So I’m in two minds about recommending it.

    It was made into a film a while ago, and from looking at the clips, it’s fairly different from the book.

    Now I’m reading The Automatic Detective by A Lee Martinez. A mix of science fiction and hard-boiled detective story, with the detective a robot designed for mass destruction. So far it’s terrific.

    1. As I remember the line in context, “She was fairly sure he had a bit of Jew in him’, protag was doing an inventory of personal traits and was by no means put off. My antenna is up for that time period – Allingham and Sayers and Stout and Wodehouse all have a passing remark that snags one to examine.

      I liked both book and movie.

  21. This may be off-topic but why are there no kitties in the graphic at the top of the post? I hope all is well!

  22. Thank you to whoever suggested Judith Flanders’s book A Murder of Magpies. Loved it. Full of little bits you want to read aloud to anyone who happens to be in the vicinity. My family’s used to me doing that, fortunately for me.

  23. I agree with Jenny that “anonymous” is not acceptable for a piece published in the New York Times which claims to be written by a member of the White House staff.

    Instead, I’m all for Cory Booker going public with “classified” info about Kavanaugh.

    This week I read a terrific biography: The Empress Matilda by Majorie Chibnall. It’s a well-written, easy to read book by a great historian at the top of her game. The subject is Matilda, daughter of King Henry I of England who was shipped off to Germany when she was 8 years old to marry the Holy Roman Emperor. Later, widowed, she was married to Geoffrey of Anjou. Her father made her heir to the English throne, but her cousin got there first. Ultimately, Matilda fought and negotiated the way for her son to inherit the throne as Henry II. Tough broad all the way. . . .

    Thinking of tough broads, this week I reread Strange Bedpersons. It helped me figure out my thoughts on Georgette Heyer’s Grand Sophy and Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm. I now realize that I’m not attracted to heroines who run other people’s lives and aren’t changed themselves.

    Tess Newheart is great because she’s passionately all heart — which is good, isn’t it? — yet she has to learn how to rein in some of her spontaneity. I think she mostly has to give other people some space before she steps in and fixes things. I really like her character development.

  24. Sooo, it took me approx 2,5 hours, but now I have finally caught up on everything you ladies have been up to since 8th of August…

    I’ve been reading a bit so I’ll try(!) to keep it short.

    After rereading “Making Money” by Pratchett, I read a book I found at the library: “A Witch in Winter” by Ruth Warburton, and after that its sequel “A Witch in Love”. They’re about a high-school girl that suddenly discovers she’s a witch and accidentally puts a love spell on the hot guy next to her in class… whoops. Sometimes eye-rolling occured, but the story isn’t at all bad so I kept on reading and enjoyed it, too. I only did not read the 3rd book in the trilogy because the (Swedish) library narrator was ugh. I don’t get it why the Swedish library got the first two books from the English one but decided to produce the last one themselves. I’m NOT a fan.

    Finished “Digital Fortress” by Dan Brown together with Fiancé and I really liked it. I liked “Deception point” more because the pace was much higher, but the male protagonist in this one is adorable and loveable and his parts are actually the most thrilling ones… anyway, I recommend it, despite sometimes a bit too lengthy computer-technical expoundings.

    Read “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” by J.K. Rowling, which is an anthology of “fairytales for wizard children” with commentary by the oh so loveable Albuus Dumbledore. I really liked it, don’t know why I haven’t picked it up before now when it’s 10 years since its release and I’m a huge Potter-fan…

    Read “The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince” by Robin Hobb. It’s a novella, a story that is much referred to in the books of the Farseer Trilogy. It’s quite good but not the best she’s written, in my opinion that is. But absolutely readable.

    Read a historical novel called “Falkens Döttrar” by Elvira-Birgitta Holm. It’s part 8 of a publisher’s series of historical fiction, following one family from the days of the Vikings to modern day Sweden. Every part is written by another author, all women. This one took place at the end of the 13th century and first half of the 14th, stopping just before the plague aka the Black Death reached Sweden. I like the way the authors do their best to stay true to the time and place, but still depict strong female protagonists that try to break free from the norms, rules and laws of their time.

    Reread “Unseen Academicals” and then “I Shall Wear Midnight” by Pratchett. Love.

    Reread a Swedish 8-book series of children’s/YA books about horses by Heddi Böckman that I loved when I was in my early teens. It’s lighthearted without getting too sugary, full of love of horses and respect towards animals and people. But, much to its credit, it also deals with themes like kids with alcoholic parents, eating disorders, jealousy, drugs, animal abuse and other less sunny subjects, but in a very good way. I loved revisiting my horse dreams of 2002-2003.

    Reread “Wild Horse Summer” by Hope Ryden, another YA horse-book I much enjoyed in my early teens. Why? Because the protagonist has to revalue herself and her opinions when she is forced to spend the summer out of town (she’s a real city-girl), in the mountains (she is afraid of heights) with her aunt and uncle whom owns a ranch (she’s afraid of horses) and her cousin, whom is BLIND but NOT a helpless vegetable. Character growth!

    And today I finished The House at the End of the World by Monica Dickens. It’s another horse-lovers book (other animals too actually), written in the 70s’ so perhaps it’s a bit outdated here and there but I quite liked it. Cosy.

    Also started reading “The Brethren” by John Grisham together with Fiancé, but I’m not convinced I want to read further. It hasn’t caught my attention at all, I keep drifting away while reading so I miss large chunks of plot. Not a good sign.

  25. I’m about a third of the way through my next book club selection, Temperance Creek by Pamela Royes, and I enjoy it so far. The author as a young woman dropped out of college, and moved to a remote area of Oregon to live a simpler life with a young man she met less than a week before. It’s about their life together in a very rural community. I like it so much that I am mad at myself for losing my Kindle on the airplane yesterday!

    And I finished the most recent installment of Lina Potter’s Medieval Tale books, The Royal Court (book 4). Very mixed feelings; I felt the situation remained WAY unresolved, and it was unrealistic in how much the (time-traveling, in a different body) heroine was changing the world around her. It’s fantasy, but I would like some sort of consistency and a resolution to the relationship(s). The main character and her traveling husband NEVER meet or have their relationship resolved. I feel cheated!

  26. I decided (you know — Book New to You thing) to dive into the Ilona Andrews series thing, and reserved the first two books from the library. #2 book came first, so I started with that one, but I’ve been hung up on the amazing amounts of Infodump still going on after 50-some pages. Is this typical? Are the many dead or dumped ex-boyfriends from #1 or from earlier, different books?

    If this continues, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to last through the series. Which would disappoint me, because obviously people love it.

    My question is this: does anybody know of a good, short way to summarize story characteristics so that they can warn others what to expect in a book or series?

    Genre seems to, in a vague way, but the boundaries creep. “If you liked X, you’ll like this” can be helpful, but only if the author of that blurb is experienced and insightful. What on earth would work to connect people with books they’ll really love?

    1. I could never get into Kate Daniels series. The built world didn’t work for me.

      I loved a lot of the other Illona Andrews books.

      I like the idea of a checklist with short descriptions, like this:
      Worldbuilding – …
      Point of view- Third person /First etc
      Ending – Cliffhanger/ Teaser/ Complete
      Series – Standalone/sequels/Same universe etc

    2. I don’t think it’s really possible to describe a book to others in a way that’ll ensure those who won’t like it will be warned off and those who will like it will know. There are many books people here absolutely love that I haven’t liked, and have even thought bad. I still download samples of those that sound promising, and of those a few will be great (for me).

      I think everyone loves particular storytellers for things that chime with them: underlying world-view, voice, world, characters, tone, etc. Literary criticism isn’t the same as finding stories that resonate with you.

      Sorry not to have a short cut!

      1. That’s so true. I’ve looked at the lists like that people have done for my books and I can see where they’re very helpful for avoiding things you DON’t like–graphic sex scenes, cruelty to children, gore, etc.–but I don’t think they’re much good for finding what you do like. One of the best websites for that sort of thing is Does the Dog Die? which tracks more than dogs, but it’s for movies. (Avoid the first John Wick; I still have flashbacks.)

    3. I was actually neutral on Kate Daniels — I’d read a few of them, but wasn’t invested enough to be following the series — but I fell in love with the Innkeeper Series and then the Hidden Legacy series. So then I went back and started Kate Daniels over again and was much more invested. They’ve got another series, too, the Edge, and those will never be re-reads for me. Mileage varies! But the Kate Daniels series is definitely not a series that can be read out of order. I think one of the things that Ilona Andrews does incredibly well is create side characters that matter and when you’re meeting characters in small paragraphs over the course of multiple books, you really need to know the history for it to work. Specifically to your question, though, about book 2, I think the answer is no. Kate is a character with a complex history when she steps on stage in book 1 and some of that history gets revealed as the series progresses, not as the series opens.

  27. I just finished “Voyage of the Dogs” by Greg van Eekout. It’s a science fiction story about how dogs who were abandoned in a space ship managed to survive. It’s a middle school age story so a little simplistic, but, still pretty heart-warming.

  28. NOTHING. Because I have a PROBLEM. And if I’m engaged in a book, I don’t get anything else done and I have LISTS that must be done. 😆

  29. I read two scripts for a theatre I’m doing some volunteer marketing for — Hurl by Charlie O’Neil — about a group of immigrants & refugees in Ireland who decide to form a hurling team, coached by an alcoholic ex-priest. It’s hilarious, and heartwarming, and scathingly angry in its depiction of the bigotry the team faces. And then the ending managed to be both triumphant and heart-breaking. It was fabulous and I loved it and I can’t wait to see it onstage.

    I also read How to Keep an Alien, a memoir play by Sonya Kelly about her experience trying to get her Australian girlfriend the immigrant papers she needs to stay in Ireland after they realize “Ooops, it turns out you’re The One, and now one of us is in Australia.” It’s got some incredibly hilarious lines – you can tell it was written by a stand-up comic – and a happy ending. In some ways it reminded me of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Because it’s based on one woman’s story about her life, it doesn’t have that clean story arc I normally look for. But it’s also funny and romantic and zany. It’s going to be a perfect play for spring, which is when they’re doing it.

  30. Don’t miss the “translation” of the op-ed at dearcoquette dot com (Sept. 5, “On the resistance inside the Trump administration.” One of my favorite bits: “To be clear, we’re still a bunch of craven assholes. We want nothing more than the rich to get richer, and we’re totally cool with ripping babies from the arms of mothers if it means racist old white people will keep voting for us.”

    On the reading front, I enjoyed Kate Morton’s “The Lake House.” Atmospheric mystery centered on a deserted country house; past and present storylines; description that delights until it drags (I often had to force myself not to skim). Ending knocks it down a grade – every thread is neatly tied, with the characters desperately trying to convince us the coincidences are okay. Still, I liked it enough to recommend it here.

  31. @MJ, I have such a fondness for everything dovetailing at the end, I don’t even care how preposterous the events to get you there are. Sometimes I don’t even notice :).

    Right now, I’m re-reading Sherry Thomas’ A Study in Scarlet Women, the first of her Charlotte Holmes books. I just finished A Conspiracy in Belgravia, which references things that happened in the first book. I didn’t remember that one clearly enough to fully understand the references, and that got me curious enough to go back. Also, I really love Charlotte.

    I’m also listening to Woodward and Bernstein’s The Final Days — it’s finally the beginning of August, 1974, when the handwriting the wall in 7′ neon letters. Hearing about the Nixon White House, especially in 1974, resonates with the current state of affairs, while the current state of affairs makes me think, “Yeah, Nixon did all these bad things, but at least he didn’t X, Y and Z,” unlike the chuckleheaded ‘vulgar talking yam’ we have now. (VTY is courtesy of Charlie Pierce, who writes on politics for Esquire — in a column today, he shared his wife’s belief — which he’s come ’round to — that Kellyanne Conway wrote the op-ed.)

    1. I also liked the “Final Days.” Still riveting even though a decades old story. Woodward’s more recent the “Last of the President’s Men” was also excellent. Also about Watergate, specifically the tapes.

      I love your Kellyanne Conway as suspect idea! I was thinking a literate staff member of Rick Perry’s, mostly because he’s enough of an idiot to think what he did (if he wrote and did it 🙂 would be a good thing. But she’s just as much an idiot about government, the Constitution, and her own self worth to be just as likely a suspect in this drama as Perry. Although I’d think her husband might have known better … but then again … he might have wanted to see the charade play out, knowing full well the implications of someone inside sabotaging an “elected” President’s agenda, but who thinks s/he is doing everyone a favor. Yeesh.

      1. Yes, I’m intrigued by Conway as a possible, too. I don’t think she’s a Trump loyalist, I think she’s in it for the attention and the money. I remember Joe Scarborough saying she’d get off camera after defending Trump and say, “Ych, I need a shower.” And it would be just like her to say, “I’m really a hero.”

  32. I’m not sure how I missed the pleasure of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (by Kerry Greenwood), but I finally saw, read, and listened to them. Joy! Lively, funny, suspenseful, not a dull moment.

    I’ve seen season 1 so far and am listening to one of the books. I love the series with Essie Davis, who plays Miss Fisher as a cross between an Australian 1920’s Emma Peal and the Grand Sophy (Heyer). Her (!) detective inspector is adorable and their flirtation divine.

    The audio book is holding up, too – very well done. (Narrators can kill an audio book.)

    I’m so happy I still have at least 2 seasons to view ahead of me, maybe 3 by the time I’m done with those.

    1. They’re making a movie of Phryne – it went to crowd funding and did really well, and I believe they’re starting filming very soon, if it hasn’t begun already. I’m doing the Happy Dance about it.

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