73 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018

  1. I read John Sandford’s new Virgil Flowers book, Holy Ghost. This one is an investigation of sniper shootings (three shootings, one death) in a small town that has recently attracted a lot of pilgrims due to an apparition of the Virgin Mary in the local Catholic church.

    One of the things I enjoy about the Flowers books is that the cases are usually in rural and small town Minnesota as opposed to the larger cities like most mysteries and thrillers I read. It alters the way the investigations work when everyone in town knows everyone’s business. Virgil is staying in the mother-in-law apartment of a couple in town; the front of the house is a salon; the woman he’s renting from runs a blog about town news when she’s not cutting hair, and she’s one of his primary sources of information. Most law enforcement meetings about the case between the state investigators and the sheriff and deputies take place in the storeroom/break room of the mayor’s souvenir shop with the mayor and his 17-year-old business partner either sitting in or eavesdropping from the other side of a curtain. This is a place where Virgil can call the sheriff and say “I’ll be going out to visit the Nazis” and everyone knows who he means and where they live. The Nazis, incidentally, are idiots with no clear understanding of any political ideology who listen seriously when Virgil says they would have been better off picking Communism, at least in Minnesota. Sandford had a Facebook post recently where he said he saw a T-shirt that said “fart loading” with a picture of a software progress bar, and that the kind of person who would buy that shirt thinking it is attractive is the kind of character you will find in a Flowers book. That’s a pretty good description. The stupid can be really entertaining.

    I will be starting a re-read of the Ilona Andrews Hidden Legacy trilogy next because the new novella comes out next week and I CAN’T WAIT.

  2. Since I’m constantly talking about baking cookies (and the actual book reading is going so slowly), I thought I’d mention one of the best cookie cookbooks I’ve seen recently. “The Perfect Cookie” by America’s Test Kitchen. It might be a bit overkill for most people (no cakes, no real pastries or pies), but for someone who makes a batch of cookies a week, it’s great. Their checkerboard cookies are my favorite.
    Maybe check it out from the library if you’re intrigued but are worried it’s overkill.
    The websites Smitten Kitchen and Sally’s Baking Addiction also have great cookie recipes.

  3. I’m taking holiday book reading one book at a time. It has started out with a story by Heatherly Bell with an amusing title Crazy for You. It’s part of the Starlight Hill series and is about Fallon a beautician in LA and Jack a burnt out homicide detective also LA. They meet when he brings down a burglar trying to break into her apartment and she needs a date to her ex husbands wedding. He obliges because he is on his way to visit family in Oregon for Christmas and also to think of what he wants to do with the rest of his life. What got me into the book is the road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway. I love a road trip story. I may just start this series with the beginning, there are eight books so far and all have good ratings. Maybe in one of them there will be an older couple.

  4. I got Exit Strategy from the library last night and finished it before I went to sleep. Ahhhh. Very satisfying, but now, as always, I want more Murderbot! Perhaps I should reread everything else Martha Wells has written while I wait.

    1. I adore her Raksura series and the Fall of Ill Rien. She’s really good at twitchy damaged main characters and the people who love them.

  5. I finished Worm! Which was no small feat, the thing is longer than the entire Harry Potter series put together plus another half series, by word count.
    Ultimately, I’m glad I read it. The character and relationship work remained strong, though there was a bit of action-detail bloat, but I learned to recognize those sections and skim through. Trying to hold off on starting the sequel.

    1. Who is the author? I decided to take a look at it and got all kinds of books on the subject of worms and am not sure which book you mean. (I almost said “you are referencing” then told myself to get a grip and pretend I never used to wrote business memos)

  6. I finally listened to the audio book of Howl’s Moving Castle. I may have been overly influenced by the movie, but I had a hard time liking it. Although it did explain some things for the movie!

    1. I was the other way round. Much as I love Miyazaki, I struggle with the movie because it’s not the book. There are just enough points of contact between the book and the movie that I can’t divorce them and enjoy the movie for its own sake, but it’s not close enough to the book that I adore.

      1. I love Howl’s Moving Castle because it’s Sophie’s story. The movie made it Howl’s story.

        Since then I’ve wondered how many Diana Wynne Jones books I’d loved as women’s stories actually had male protagonists. A woman or girl starts the tale going, but a guy is revealed as the central figure. Besides Howl, I put Hexwood in this category. I’m fearful that if I reread Fire and Hemlock I’ll discover that Tom, not Polly, is the main character.

        1. That is a good observation about Howl’s Moving Castle, and puts a finger on a big part of what I struggle with with the movie.

          I studied The Secret Garden for one of my subjects in honours year Lit, and about halfway through writing up the seminar paper on it, I realised that every single female story in it, up to and including Mary’s, is all about healing Colin. For goodness sake, Mary’s supposed to be the main character, she’s the one who does everything in the book, finds the garden, makes stuff happen, and then it’s All About Colin. Even the last line of the book leaves her out completely and focuses on Colin running across the grass to his father.

          Interestingly, all of the recent movies, musicals, whatever that I’ve seen of Secret Garden rewrite that ending and have Mr Craven acknowledging that the garden is hers and closing with Mary back in the centre of the frame. So obviously it doesn’t sit right with people other than just me.

          1. I can see what you mean, but my take from the book was that both Colin and the garden are Mary’s creations. It was a female-centric book all along. The fact that males owned the garden, stood to inherit the garden, and so on was simply the cultural soil in which Mary unfortunately had to grow, but she was composting her world to beat the band, I think.

          2. I’ve never read The Secret Garden, but from your description I get the impression that Colin has the heroine’s role in this book, the person for whose benefit the hero performs his heroic actions, but who is passive herself. Surely that still turns things on their heads? Male characters do not need to be banned entirely from the book for a girl/woman to be the main protaganist?

          3. And there are strong female influences everywhere. The garden is Colin’s mother’s, who even though she died before the book opens, deeply influences the characters. Then you have Martha and Martha’s mother, strong females all. And Mary makes all of the things happen in the book. She is not passive. She makes life better for everyone and shows the silly males in her family that wallowing in your grief is not a good long term plan.

            It reminds me of Jane Eyre. Her actions all revolve around Rochester’s poor decisions. I guess it could be considered his story, but she is definitely the catalyst for change.

        2. Nope, Polly is totally the main character in Fire & Hemlock. (Still love it so much! My very favorite DWJ)

        3. Fear not, Polly is totally the main character of Fire & Hemlock! (I still love that book – my very favorite DWJ)

        4. To be perfectly honest, i disliked Sophie and Howl immensely in the book. I’ve read one other of DWJ’s books, but i don’t remember much. With this, I don’t know. I need to rewatch the movie for sure now, just gotta hook up the dvd player. It was very, very different, which I’m sure was as jarring to those who’d read the book first and then watched the movie. It could have been influenced by listening to it on audio, which rarely does sometimes hurt the story for me. But i hard a hard time seeing the character development. Must cogitate.

          1. Watching the dvd will only reinforce your opinion. Reading the book might make you understand DWJ’s story better.
            Sophie and Howl are both stubborn people who enjoy a good quarrel. And Diana Wynne Jones is not a smooth writer. She never spells things out. You have to follow along paying careful attention and she will take you on a wonderful journey.
            Neil Gaiman quotes her as saying: “Children are much more careful readers than adults,” she’d say. “You don’t have to repeat everything for children. You do with adults, because they aren’t paying full attention.”

          2. In reply to your reply to me, because the reply option has disappeared there:

            Sophie takes a long time realising her own magical abilities, but then, no one tells her, and she’s only a teenager. Protagonists not realising their own abilities is a bit of a trope with Diana Wynne Jones, but then she is writing for children and young adults.
            And I must admit, not recognising what’s right in front of my nose is a bit of a recurring event in my own life, even though I have left adolescence far, far behind.

        5. It’s been some years since I last read it, but surely the story is very much about Sophie and her position in her own family as the eldest daughter who will never get to do anything interesting. We are told about her interactions with her sisters as well as with Howl and Calcifer.

          1. The book is very much Sophie’s book, absolutely. You never stray from that notion in the book.

            And also absolutely the book helped with story in the movie. Iremember wondering what was going on several times in the movie, and this helped immensely. And yeah, i was driving the whole audio book, so I guarantee my attention wasn’t all there. 😀 I think I just got extremely frustrated by both characters, a nd did not like their presentation at all. Sophie never seemed to learn certain things.

  7. I read Nan Reinhardt’s new book, A Small Town Christmas. It was sweet, sensual, about a wonderful family of four brothers, and a vineyard setting. Lovely details about wines and wine making but without overkill, and a great romance. What’s not to like?

  8. I finished the Sisters Grimm-series by Michael Buckley by reading book 8 and 9. The character name thingy I mentioned last week was back to “normal” again later on. Annoying. Except that, I really enjoyed the series and would definitely recommend it to those who are into YA fantasy/Middle grade (damm I don’t even know where to place this series) and doesn’t mind a difficult main character. Psychologically it’s more advanced than any childrens’ books I read as a kid. It’s dark at times and it deals with various themes of trust vs mistrust, love vs jealousy/hate, friendship vs enemies and the complexity of family, love and friendship. There is only one character that appears here and there that doesn’t really make sense in the story sometimes, but I can live with that. I also think the main character and her sister could easily have been a little bit older without problem, buuuut. Anyway. Read it, I’d say! 🙂

    While binge-reading Grimm-series I found out that the 5th book of the Magic 2.0-series by Scott Meyer, “Out of Spite, Out of Mind”, came out last June, so I jumped right into it when I was done grimming. It’s one of the weirdest series I’ve ever read, with a lot of time-traveling, pop culture-references, slapstick humour at times and general weirdness spread out through the entire…show. Yes, I could definitely see this one as a comedy show. Under all the silliness there is a lot of problem solving, feminism, discussions about free will and how you have to take responsibility of saving your own butt, and what happens when you’re dealing with things and powers you don’t fully understand. It makes me laugh so it’s a winner for me.

    Haven’t decided yet what to read next.

  9. I’m ploughing through the fourth (and latest) book in the Cormoran Strike series, by Robert Galbraith (aka Another Writer). I find them all absorbing and sometimes gut-wrenching (esp Career of Evil), though the biggest mystery is, of course, What Does Robin See in that Complete Waste of Skin, Matthew?

    All highly recommended.

    1. I really enjoyed Lethal White. Think it is my favourite of the series.
      Have you seen the tv adaptations? They are very well done.

  10. A little non-fiction: MENDING MATTERS by Katrina Rodabaugh. It’s about slow fashion and mending stuff (mostly denim, plus some linen) in creative ways.

    And I’ve gotten sucked into the rabbit hole of Instagram, looking at a lot of crafters’ work. Mostly woodworking and quilts and pottery. Amazing stuff. So, so many talented people. Highly recommend HedgeHogWoodStudio and Rough_Seas_Woodworks and Storyboards2016_ and Modhome.ceramics

  11. I am reading Harlan Ellison’s book about ‘City on the Edge of Forever,’ and wow can this guy vituperate, but it’s very instructional going through the versions of the teleplay.

    In other story analysis, my BFF and I went to see ‘First Man.’ I wanted, very strongly, to edit the script. Disappointing that a well-made and well-acted movie about such thrilling events could be so … non-thrilling.

  12. I’m still listening to the third volume of Blanche Wiesen Cook’s biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, still wtf-ing at how much the late 30s resemble now. One of the many things I like about the biography is Cook’s nuanced view of ER and FDR’s marriage. As presented, it’s not something that lends itself to hard and fast rules — they were both complicated people, so their relationship had to be complicated. My sense is they cared deeply about each other, they admired each other, they were irritated and frustrated by each other. They were both great politicians and they had many of the same concerns and beliefs. (Calling them great politicians sounds like an insult, except Abraham Lincoln was a brilliant politician — political skill allied with honor, true honor, is a very good thing.) There were things Franklin could not do or say, because he could not move faster than the country (politics being the art of the possible). Eleanor, however, could and did do and say many of the things Franklin could not, and she did them with his tacit approval. You know he approved because there were times he asked her not to get into something just then, and she complied. She was his wind and he was her ballast.

    I’m also slowly, slowly reading the second Jane Austen mystery, Jane and the Man of the Cloth. It’s very enjoyable — my glacial pace owes everything to how little time I give myself to read and nothing to the book itself.

    In other news, between physical books and ebooks, I own over 4,000 books. Some are duplicates, but not that many. I’ve also read quite a few of them…but far from all of them. I’m thinking that even if I live to be 90, I have plenty of reading material…

  13. I’m reading Patricia C. Wrede’s Cecelia and Kate novels. I’m 2/3 through Sorcery and Cecelia, the first of the trilogy, and while I’m normally not fond of stories told by letters and responses, this one is working well. What literary English period is this? Wellington is alive (and a Wizard!), Lord Byron, I haven’t seen a mention of the King or Queen’s names.

    1. Wellington was born Arthur Wellesley May 1, 1769, the second son of Garret Wesley, Earl of Mornington. He was not created a Duke of Wellington until May 3, 1814. Byron died April 19, 1824 in Greece. Bryon left England for Europe April 1816. So if Wellington is a Duke and Bryon is still in England, the story is placed between 1814 and 1816. The Regency lasted from 1811 until 1820 when George III died and George IV officially became King.

    2. George III, I’d say, allowing for fantasy blurring of actual history. Book 3, some years on, is clearly set in the later 1820’s or just perhaps the earliest 1830’s.

  14. Still reading Scalzi’s Consuming Fire. It’s kind of difficult to keep track when you read in fits and starts as I do. I usually don’t mind swearing, but it seems like it’s every second word in this book. I mean I’m noticing it, which is unusual for me.

    I got my cabinets back on the wall today. It’s a good start toward getting things off the counters, the living room chairs, every flat or semi-flat surface in the house. And I’m having people over tomorrow so it would be good if they could sit.

    1. That’s because there’s one character (Kiva) who swears a *lot*, in The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire. I liked the books and I don’t usually mind profanity, but the way that character does it really throws me off.

      1. I really love Kiva, she occupies the playboy with a (very secret) heart role perfectly.

        Plus she’s entertaining to the point of almost breaking the fourth wall, her POV moments are great.

        Consuming fire really cemented this.

  15. I just finished N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate & have the final book in the thus-far-excellent trilogy awaiting pick-up at the library. It’s been a while since I read much fantasy, so somehow this also led me to a comfort re-read of Robin McKinley’s Chalice. I particularly needed comfort because when I got up around 3am last night, the puppy peed on my pillow. In the dark, I found out about this the hard way.

    I’m also reading Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in the Age of Extinction. Older book, good writing, interesting subject.

  16. I just finished No Kitten Around by R.J. Blain (A magical romantic comedy with a body count) as her books are subtitled. It was fun, who could not like a stray kitten named Kitten, Destroyer of Worlds. My favorites in this series are the first two. Hoofin’ It and Playing with Fire.

    Now on to Tasha Alexander’s latest Lady Emily mystery, Uneasy Lies the Crown. Oh my, there are thirteen of them now. Time flies when you’re having fun.

  17. I decided to take a break from mysteries and downloaded Jaima Fixsen’s historical romance, Fairchild. It’s the first in the series and is free on Amazon at the moment. It’s a fun, well-written story. I bought the second one because I want something entertaining to read tonight. (But I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel to her historical suspense, The Dark Before Dawn, which was fabulous.)

  18. I discovered Tamora Pierce’s books a year or so ago, and have been reading my way through them. This week I read Alanna, the First Adventure. Which I believe is where she started. It’s not quite as good as her later books, but you can see her themes and interests emerging, and I’ll keep going with this series.

    I also read Begone the Raggedy Witches, by Celine Kiernan, which has to be one of the year’s best titles. It’s Kiernan’s first middlegrade novel – her previous trilogy was YA – and her writing is GORGEOUS.

    Now I’m rereading Joanna Bourne, because it’s hard to get enough of her.

    1. Tamora is one author where you can definitely see the progress of writing technique as she goes on, and she is a master craftswoman. She also pulls less and less punches with her subject matter.

      1. On the other hand, the more recent doorstopper books have been less to my taste. The two Emelan quartets are super tightly written, excellent conservation of detail, not an ounce of fat on them. The Immortals quartet could be made into rollicking adventure films, each. Melting Stones was a relief to read after Battle Magic. But I just bounced hard off of the Beka Cooper books.

        Which isn’t to say that any of the books are bad. Pierce’s prose is always excellent. Even if “things happen for a few years” isn’t my preferred plot structure, the in-situ experience when reading even those types of books is delicious prose carrying you through the events like it’s easy.

        1. I loved the first two Beka books and felt positively betrayed by the third. When you get to Kel’s books, it’s really interesting to juxtapose against Alanna.

    2. I read Alanna when I was about 15, and loved it beyond belief. These days, I’d agree that the writing isn’t quite up to her later abilities, but as a young person who dreamed of transcending the limitations placed upon me, it was absolutely fabulous.

    3. If you like beautifully written YA, give Franny Billingsly a try. Chime is fabulous and the Folk Keeper is pretty great too.

  19. I’m currently demolishing Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton series. The first two books have seen me through a rough week of being sick, and I’ve located the third book in one of the local libraries to get me through the weekend of my husband being sick. One of the blurbs described it as being a “locked room mystery on steroids”, and I think that’s a pretty fair summary.

  20. I’m abandoning my current more serious novel Washington Black by Esi Edugyan. It is a novel about a slave assigned as manservant to his master’s brother (an eccentric naturalist). Part very tragic, part adventure. It is well written, but just too heavy for me to finish at this time.

    I am also exploring cookbooks. My friend from Nicaragua is visiting next week, and he is a vegetarian so I am exploring new vegetarian recipes that I might like to eat. And I bought an InstantPot so I am exploring three new InstantPot cookbooks (the Indian food one is most enticing). Tim (Nicaraguan friend) will probably get vegetable coconut curry, Thai red lentil curry soup, and a vegetable tangine (they sound most appetizing to me).

  21. I read Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver this week and loved it. Lots of East European folkloric influences, and the book is very absorbing. Also, the protagonist is a moneylender – a pretty original choice for a fantasy book.
    I also started re-reading Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple cozy mystery series. Have already finished and enjoyed the first two and going to order #3 from my library. It is my favorite of all the cozy mysteries I’ve ever read. A charming protagonist and the books are very well written.

  22. I am reading Dark Light -the sequel to White Silence by Jodi Taylor. I highly recommend them. She has also written a series of books called the St Mary’s chronicles – about researching historical events in contemporary time – ie time travel. The heroine is fiesty and flawed and the host of characters well rounded. Despite all the excitement my favourite parts are the snappy yet warm interchanges between the characters. Pure joy. Enjoy! I am jealous of anyone starting the series from scratch!

  23. I was seduced by a book cover in the library last week — it was a beautiful, color-saturated scene of an Edwardian-looking lady with parasol, staring off into a sort of Greek island landscape. Looked a bit like the illustrations in the classic British travel series of the 1930s. Title was “A Most Extraordinary Pursuit” by Juliana Gray (aka Beatriz Williams). I find it hard to describe, although I quite liked it — the heroine was very repressed, capable, and intelligent, but her introversion and strict moral code slowed the emotional pace of the book down quite a bit.

    And it was sort of a romance/ mystery/ historical novel/ paranormal novel that was funny in parts. Reviews on Amazon are quite mixed, and I think it was because it didn’t seem like fish or fowl. After reading it, I went back to the library and got its sequel, set in Scotland, which took similar themes and characters and upended them completely. Very odd. Has anyone else read these?

    1. I have read them. A Most Extra Extraordinary Pursuit was wonderful. My wife loved it as well. I would recommend it to everyone here. The sequel got very strange. So much so that I still can’t decide if I liked it or not.

    2. I’ve read them and I agree that they were very difficult to characterize. The second book really threw me, but you have to admire an author who takes risks like that. I will read the third book just to see what she does next!

  24. I finished T.E. Kinsey’s A Picture of Murder and while I have loved all the other books I had trouble finishing this one. Too many charactors too many plot lines equaled tedium not interest. However Julie Mulhern’s Back Stabbers, her latest in the Country Club Murders set was a delight.

  25. I’ve just finished THE SPOTTED DOG, by Kerry Greenwood. It did not disappoint, though I could tell that their had been a longer-than-usual gap between books. Kerry warned readers on FaceBook that proofreading, though carefully done, had managed to skip over one of the ingredients in a recipe at the back of the book — onion bread — so that it says “1 tablespoon of baking powder” instead of “1 teaspoon of baking powder.” And Nox has a one-sentence gender issue, but I’m sure she’ll be back to her feminine self in no time.

    But I have missed Corinna and the crew at Insula, and was very glad to catch up with them.

  26. Fiction reading is very up and down at the moment – I gave up on an Australian novel not quite half-way through because I hated every single character and the structure and I have no idea why anyone ever thought it was any good, but they clearly did as it won prizes and stuff.

    Then I read Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker’s retelling of the Iliad from the PoV of Briseis, the girl given to Achilles as spoils of war who is then taken by Agamemnon sparking the quarrel that shapes the Iliad. It is beautifully written and interesting if you know Barker’s earlier writing about WW1.

    Am currently wading my way through a book I’m not enjoying at all – Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney about some self-indulgent arty-farty types in Dublin having triangular relationships. Again, rave reviews but it seems banal and the voice of the first person narrator is irritating.

  27. This morning I looked at the Voter’s Information booklet to prepare myself for next Tuesday’s midterm election. On the last page there is cheat sheet to fill out and take to the voting booth in case I haven’t, you know, made up my mind who I am going to vote for.

  28. We have vote by mail in Oregon so I fill out my ballot at home with all my reference stuff (voter’s pamphlet, Willamette Week, various opinion pieces I’ve saved, asking my husband questions on various pieces of legislation – sometimes I disagree on his take but he is usually very careful in his analysis) then I vote and send it in. As soon as it is registered, the political spam calls STOP.

    My vote was registered on Oct. 24 (I signed in on-line. My husband had a moment’s panic when he could not sign-in, called and discovered his birthday was entered into the State’s program wrong but his ballot had been accepted anyway). At first I was not happy with vote-by-mail because I liked going to the polls. But it is so much easier, I can have my references by me, we don’t have the worry of voting machines being tampered with and there is physical evidence with no hanging chads: the vote mark can clearly be read.

    I understand that a huge number of Democrats in Oregon have already voted. The Republican chair says he is not worried because his people usually vote later. But all ballots must be in by midnight on election day in Oregon so he better hope they are in the mail if his people are not planning on drop the ballots off in person.

    1. Oh wow, I’d have to vote weeks in advance – I can totally see my ballot just sitting there because I forgot to get it in the actual mail on time ( we live at the end of a private road, can’t just walk out the door to the end of the drive.

  29. Been rereading Nalini Singh’s PsyChangeling series, and bow howdy, there are a lot of books! But I’m not bored with them yet, which is saying a lot, really. I’m on book 16, without counting novellas and short stories.

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