This is a Good Book Thursday, January 24, 2019

This week I read a lot of old drafts. Why I have forty-six version of the first two scenes of You Again, I have no idea, but I’m skimming through all of them trying to figure out what I was thinking. Mostly, I’m thinking I wasn’t thinking. I may need to step away from the drafts and read a good book.

Any recommendations?

(I know that image isn’t technically about reading, but it sums up my current state pretty well.)

0

122 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, January 24, 2019

  1. I just finished My Mrs Brown. The prose and characters seems a bit simplistic but it was surprisingly compelling and has stayed with me. Light and fun with hidden power.

    4+
  2. I don’t think this would help you, Jenny (maybe it would), but I feel like it would be remiss of me not to mention how much the six year old is enjoying The Penderwick series by Jeanne Birdsell. My husband and I weren’t sold on them at first. The best way I can describe the tone is she’s trying to imitate more old-fashioned authors like Noel Streatfield, Beverly Cleary, Eleanor Estes, even Louisa May Alcott and L.M. Montgomery. Four sisters and their absent minded professor get in gentle little scrapes and adventures together. No one says “gosh” or “gee wilikers” but you feel like they could at any moment 😉

    For the first book, I spent a lot of them wishing she’d set it in 1950s or early ’60s. There were some things that just didn’t gel with the modern world, like a 12 year old girl being almost wholly responsible for 3 younger siblings (including a 4 year old!). The evil villain is a rich divorced woman (gasp!) who belongs to a garden club and wants to win the gardening prize. I thought evil divorced women were supposed to get lots of plastic surgery and a boy toy, but I may not be up on my tropes 😉

    But we kept on going. I think my son likes that they feel “safe” and nothing too scary happens. And I’m just glad he doesn’t have some prejudice about “girl books.” We’re now on the third book and my husband and I both agreed although they still have their issues, they’ve grown us.

    5+
    1. Taken aback that there’s an author with a name so similar to mine; although it turns out she’s Jeanne Birdsall (which is the usual spelling; I’m Jane Birdsell). Plus, if I ever get round to it, I’ll be writing for adults rather than children.

      5+
    2. You may want to try Elizabeth Enright with your son. The Melody Family books (4 or 5) are set in the 1940s.

      Gone Away Lake and Return to Gone Away Lake are set in the 70s, I think.

      I’m always impressed with the chores the kids have to deal with. I’m a child of the 70s and I didn’t do that much!

      My son and I are still working through Gone Away Lake. We’ll be pausing this weekend for him to read his John Cena book to me. Not my cup of tea but I want to encourage him in reading anything.

      6+
        1. Huh. I always thought they were later than that, due to the space love that the younger brother and his friend have.

          Thanks!

          3+
      1. Another vote of love for Elizabeth Enright, both the Melendy series and the Gone Away Lake duo. We read all of them aloud to our kids.

        3+
    3. I loved that series! It reminded me of The Boxcar Children, too, not the later books in the series, but the first one. Independent kids living independent lives in a world that’s not about television and video games. I think they were my favorite books last year.

      3+
    4. While I liked the Penderwicks well enough, I am utterly and completely smitten by Hilary McKay’s books, both about the Casson family – artists and their children, four sisters and a brother, Saffy’s Angel is the first, and about four sisters who call themselves The Exiles, and their lives, the first of their books is The Exiles. My younger daughter reminds me of the delights to be found in Dog Friday by the same author.

      3+
  3. I don’t think anything I’ve read will help at all, but – Amateur, by Thomas Page McBee nonfiction/memoir about a transgender fellow who takes up boxing and just excellent; The Blue Sapphire, which is palpably early DE Stevenson and so less structured and streamlined than some (most) of her later work and therefore less predictable; The Gentlemen Go By, another Elizabeth Cadell reread (I am surprised by how well these held up, really – both over time and to the rereading) and The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal, about which I am surprised to have such mixed feelings – I enjoy her writing voice, she doesn’t cliffhanger, the story itself is interesting (entirely plausible alternative history about the space program post-ww2) but something about it left me kind of itchy.

    4+
  4. I’ve not found any stories that cheered my up after finishing my Loretta Chase binge. I gave up on four library books, and have just finished the latest Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz 1930s and Nora Roberts thriller, neither of which were really involving or fun. (I’m not in a good space for any story that doesn’t pull me in 100%.)

    Today’s craziness re the house purchase has been the vendor’s conveyancer screaming abuse down the phone at my solicitor, after finally caving on supplying us with a copy of their version of the transfer deed to check. Which did mean there was nothing in the way of exchanging and completing today. Until, for their next trick, they flatly refused to exchange contracts until all the money was in their account: which is the exact opposite of the way the process is meant to work. So we refused, and they conceded.

    I hope they can’t think of any other bizarre ways to delay it. I’m waiting until I hear they’ve actually exchanged before I call my insurance company to set up insurance on the house.

    By the way, for anyone in the UK, the incompetent conveyancers are Conveyancing Expert (!!), attached to YourMove estate agents. Avoid like the plague.

    13+
    1. Surprises me the hoops you’ve had to jump to get this sale done. Dragging things out seems odd on a few counts, but also am surprised because around here all the professionals involved in the process always want things as speedy as possible because they only get paid on completion. I so hope this is the last delay for you:)

      6+
      1. There was no logic to their actions; it was pure incompetence. But my solicitors finally managed to exchange and complete this afternoon, so I’m picking up the keys tomorrow morning. Am too stressed out to really enjoy the end of this story yet, but should calm down and start having fun soon.

        Thanks, everyone, for all your support during this marathon.

        31+
        1. Absolutely thrilled for you Jane and if there is a customer comment section in the Conveyancing Expert website feel free to let them have it. But only after you’ve gotten the keys.

          6+
        2. At last. AT LAST. My friend cautioned me when we bought our house to cut myself some slack and not feel like I made a big mistake. She said the first day in her house she sat down in the middle of the floor and started crying and said “I don’t know why I thought this was a nice house”. It is a very nice house and she lived there the rest of her life and loved it. And take a chair with you so you have someplace to sit while you are planning.

          9+
        3. The day will come when this is just a good story to tell – The Saga of the Conveyancer – but it’s not fun while you’re in it. Does the vendor know how obstructive this conveyancer has been?

          4+
        4. Lovely news. I’ve never bought a house and must admit that your lengthy tale did not endear me to the idea. I’m glad it has ended well.

          4+
        1. Just read their response to reviews where they claim their negative reviews are from competitors or people who are not their clients.

          3+
          1. Yes: like me – people who are messed around by them but have no recourse because they’re not daft enough to have employed them!

            3+
        2. I’m so pleased to hear it’s settled at last. Congratulations, Jane! As for reading, have you tried Grace Burrowes? I’ve only just discovered her – read ‘A Rogue of her Own’ this week, and apart from the fairly awful title, it was terrific.

          Can you report these people to Consumer Protection or something similar, when you’ve had time to catch your breath?

          4+
          1. I don’t think there’s anything much I can do, since I didn’t employ them. I’m going to complain again to the estate agents tomorrow, though, and point out that this will make me warn people off using YourMove, although the agents themselves have been fine.

            3+
    2. Wow, you actually might complete the sale? Because this has been absolutely ridiculous.
      But then you’ll be in your forever house and you can nestle in and have a nice cuppa. So all will be well.

      7+
        1. Snowdrops are very delightful for communing with. Small compensation for all your trouble and waiting, I am sure, but at least the that part is finally over. I am so pleased and relieved for you!

          4+
        2. That’s so wonderful!
          We went through a period where we moved a LOT. The moves are awful but the rewards are great. My only suggestion which of course you didn’t ask for is to pack books into boxes by topic. It’s a lot easier to organize them later if you can see at a glance what you have. (And you would not have the theoretically helpful husband who unpacked all our books without grouping just to get the boxes out of the way. )

          2+
    3. When you buy a house in the States (or, specifically, Minnesota or Ohio, those states) there’s a stack of paperwork to sign a foot high, but it seems to be much more complicated in the U.K. Especially if you have a house to sell, too.

      3+
      1. Oh, yes. Imagine how long this saga would have been if there was a chain involved. But I have been unlucky with both this and my previous purchase, where the seller withdrew at the very last moment.

        2+
  5. Methinks you need to read what made you want to write You Again. Like how you needed to *fix* The Turn of The Screw.

    Please don’t start something too new. I’m glad Nita exists but there are such great old ideas that need writing. 😉

    I’m reading RF Kuang’s The Poppy War and for the first time in ages, I keep putting the book down to just let what I read soak into my skin. I devour books. Usually in a few-hour overnight binge, that leaves me cloudy-headed and useless the next day. This book deserves savouring, even though this fantasy story is about an active female protagonist.

    Can’t wait to finish it. Don’t want to finish it. ARGH.

    4+
    1. I’m pretty sure after I finish the novella, it’ll be You Again. The inspiration there was Golden Age murder mysteries, lots of people trapped in an old house during a snow storm and then the murders begin. I was looking through the stuff I had and searching for the stuff I lost and kept picturing everybody in an Edward Gorey book, and I think that’s the vibe that’s going to stick.

      15+
      1. Speaking of Edward Gorey books and novels we’d recommend, it was his illustrations on the covers that led me to read Sarah Caudwell’s Hilary Tamar series. Hysterically funny murder mysteries set mainly in Britain that center around quirks in the law (the author was a barrister who wrote under a pseudonym). Thus Was Adonis Murdered, The Shortest Way to Hades, The Sirens Sang of Murder, and The Sibyl In Her Grave, all completely excellent.

        8+
        1. There was an article on Gorey in the New Yorker recently, the December 10, 2018 issue. He was an interesting guy. I had no idea he was so interested in the ballet.

          3+
          1. WaPo just did an article on fans of ballerinas, and there was a bit in there about Gorey making a stuffed lizard fro one of his favorite dancers, and then later designing a pendant for her. Can you imagine how wonderful that would be? (Big Gorey fan here.)

            4+
        1. “Ghost of a Chance.” It’s Southie’s love story with 14-yr-old Alice’s teacher. I did the first four scenes a couple of years ago, and since Alice is fifteen in You Again, and I liked those four scenes, I think I’m going to do that next. Plus novellas are short, in theory about 25,000 words. With the rate I’m going, it’ll be closer to 50,000 but what the hell, I’m writing.

          14+
          1. I loved that one! I remember you trying to mimic other voices as a writing exercise, so we got to read many versions of the first scene.

            1+
  6. I’m reading The Colors of all the Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith. It’s one of the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. The Narrator is fabulous. He uses the same one on all these books so I know they are a safe read. I get so frustrated when I don’t like the Narrator, but I can’t sit still long enough to actually read a book anymore. I need to be able to something with my hands.

    I love this series. It has yet to disappoint me.

    8+
  7. I’m deep (3rd & final volume) of N.k. Jemisin’s the Broken Earth trilogy.

    It’s not for everyone.

    1) science fiction isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (but totally mine) and

    2) while I hesitate to call it “really dark” it definitely isn’t light. If you read the first page (paperback editions) and want to read more, go for it.

    The first page is a good example of what to expect, for story and style. While I’m really not in a place where reading or watching dark subject matter is great for me, the focus on survival and a mother’s determination to save her daughter actually made me more curious.

    Also –
    Nothing goes as you might expect,
    Plot wise.

    Lastly, Jemisin is a master writer.

    Again, not for everyone.

    6+
    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I have not read any of her works before and it turns out she has had many Hugo and Nebula nominations and has won three times.

      My library has 250 holds on the first one in this series and I am 251. Hopefully, they are getting a lot of copies or I may be in my grave before it becomes available. Well, slight exaggeration but if they only had one copy and every body keeps it for the maximum 3 weeks, that would be a wait time of over 14 years. Sometimes for high demand books they get 40 copies so that would be a wait of about 18 weeks. No one hold their breath waiting for a my opinion.

      7+
  8. I’ve been reading so much this January. Part of this is because I decided evenings spent with a book are better for my brain than evenings spent vanishing down the internet rabbit hole, and partly because all my library holds came in at once (wheee!).

    Since I missed a couple of GB Thursdays, I can’t remember what I listed previously. But anyway, here are a handful of my favorites thus far:

    Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger was some excellent, contemporary feminist writing.

    For the romance-lovers, I really enjoyed Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shade of Milk and Honey. Very Austen, though with a fantasy twist, and a very happy reading experience for me. I also read her Lady Astronaut duology (The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky) and enjoyed both, but Shades of Milk and Honey is my favorite of hers thus far.

    Also read and enjoyed Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. It was a little bit on the nose for me (everyone explains all their thoughts/epiphanies/arcs, versus leaving things up to reader interpretation), but I can see why the author made that choice.

    Finally finished David Quammen’s Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction, which was superb. Now I have a book about dinosaurs to read, so I guess I am keeping up with the extinction theme for a bit.

    4+
  9. If you don’t mind some magic with your regency, Sorcery & Cecelia is delightful. Someone here suggested it. Otherwise, I am re-reading Nero Wolfe short stories.

    7+
    1. Oh, Sorcery and Cecelia is wonderful. And the two sequels are excellent as well. I highly recommend the entire series. Great reading for when you are having a bad day.

      2+
  10. I am reading a little bit of everything.; An Incomplete education by Judy Jones,William Wilson. A bit like wiki surfing. Some Jayne Ann Krentz, Jennifer Crusie, All Creatures Great and Small. People magazines. America’s Test Kitchen cookbkoks. Wikipedia,; I hate January in Minnesota. Travelbooks. Oh and gardening websites. Lot’s of stuff on how to build a rebarr trellis and topiaries. Maybe an alligator….. Maybe in March I will start book club level books.

    2+
  11. I’m about 2/3rds of the way done with the book “How to be an Imperfectionist” by Steven Guise. It’s interesting. He’s redefining perfectionism at least how I had defined it and has blamed a lot of things on perfectionism that aren’t normally laid at that door. While I don’t agree with all of his ideas, they are interesting and making me think. He also supplies “solutions” for each area where perfectionism is rearing its ugly head. In the past, I would always defend perfectionism because that is what the personality tests, like Myers-Briggs, categorize me as. So, when someone said perfectionism is bad, I heard them saying that I was bad, and I’d get defensive. I think it is a good read to potentially change a person’s perspective on perfectionism.

    7+
  12. I’ve been reading KJ Charles. Band Sinister was absolutely lovely and the Magpie Lord series which was awesome, so much fun, really great characters.

    They’ve been making me think about characterisation and power dynamics. For instance, could you take one of these stories and replace he/him with she/her, and I don’t think you could. I need to think on it more, but curious to know what others think.

    5+
  13. I was reading all the comments on what everyone is reading and wondered why they were posting this a day early and then the light bulb went off. Today IS Thursday; you’ll have to forgive me my error I hope, when I explain that we had a large snow storm with bitterly cold weather over the weekend, followed today with temps in the 40’s and heavy rainfall which is melting all the snow, plus the creek near my home is flooding the lower end of my neighborhood due to massive ice jams! I have the hos s out and the sump pumps ready to go just in case. I hate this time of the year!!!

    Besides all that, I picked up a couple of library books to try. The first one is North by Scott Jurek. He’s a marathon runner who decided to run the Appalachian Trail from South to North. I am not very far into it but it seems interesting. The other one is Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones. Set in the Regency period, it’s the story of a girl who makes clothing with a bit of magic in it who’s father may have been murdered. It looked interesting so I might be able to calm down and read it tonight.

    5+
  14. I have been taking books back to the library unfinished this week. Several that were nice enough in a mild way that I would have finished them if, as I told the books, I had nothing more compelling to read while I’m in the throes of moving. You know what happens when you take books off shelves and put them into boxes. You suddenly need to read them all.

    6+
  15. Starting to have that guilty feeling of having too many things on my TBR and too many things on my wishlist. If I weren’t sure I would regret it later, I would delete everything on the wishlist. (Am sure I would regret it though.)

    Probably need to assign myself one night a week when all I do is read. It’s good that my brain is producing so much, but I do need to feed it occasionally.

    3+
  16. Read Sarah’s Cici and the Curator! Read it! It’s fun!! Gogogogogogogogo!!! You will end the book giggling

    3+
        1. Thanks! I found it. The blurb made me laugh, so I have no doubt it’s a good one. Unfortunately it’s not on Audible. Bummer.
          At least I have it on my TBR now so I can check back now and then and see if they’ve come to their senses and added it. 🙂

          4+
          1. My first audiobook cost about $2000 to make, and when/if I ever earn that back, I will invest in a second one. It’ll probably take me a long time to get to Cici, though. I’d love to figure out a way to do it myself, but living in a van is not compatible with making good audio recordings. Well, living in a house in FL was also not compatible with good audio — I tried for a while once, but the guy from ACX finally told me that I was just going to have to turn the air-conditioning off to get decent sound quality and I wasn’t willing to suffer that much!

            6+
          2. I wonder if Sarah Paynter (hope I’ve spelled her right) might have some helpful suggestions? She comments here, and has an excellent podcast called The Worried Writer – so must have got to grips with some audio technology. Though she’s in Scotland, where aircon’s not a feature.

            2+
    1. Thanks! I’m so glad you liked it. I commented on another blog that my new author goal was to have more people write “still giggling” about something I wrote. 🙂 Not a grand goal but I very much like knowing that I have increased the amount of giggling in the world!

      9+
  17. Still working my way through Elizabeth Hoyt. I have become a much slower reader of late and I think that it is effecting my enjoyment because it screws up the pacing of the story for me. Still, it’s that or not read. And I do enjoy the book. The heroine sword fights 🙂

    2+
    1. Not the Duke’s Darling. I read it and liked it too. Began reading with trepidation because I found her last few flawed, but Duke’s Darling is lovely. Scenes with women together talking, analyzing and planning are sweet because the usual antagonism and competition are absent. Just a straightforward good read.

      1+
  18. I’m reading RITA entries.

    BTW–RWA is desperate for Golden Heart judges. Apparently this last round attracted a lot more entrants than they anticipated.

    3+
  19. I’ve been reading and rereading a bit since the new year… Harry Potter is back because my head is too full of snot to read anything else, and before that I also read a couple of horse-book-series-things I discovered the Swedish library had recorded. I read them when I was 12 or so and it was fun to read again, although I expect more of the MCs nowadays…

    Last week I read the newest book from the Rick Riordan Presents imprints: “Dragon Pearl” by Yoon Ha Lee. It’s sci-fi/fantasy based on Korean Mythology about a teenage fox-spirit that goes out in space to save her lost brother and gets mixed up in aaall sorts of troubles with space pirates, ghosts and sneaky gambling-hostesses… I really liked it. 🙂

    I’ve read some other books as well but nothing that comes to mind right now… Snot overload.

    4+
    1. Yoon Ha Lee’s machineries of empire series is worth a read (adult themes and it’s military sci fi so there is some ugliness but I found it compulsive reading)

      3+
  20. My last week was unusually full of good books.
    Loretta Chase’s Silk is for Seduction was a nice historical romance. Not much historical accuracy, but the story was engrossing, the characters interesting, and the writing professional. It was my first book by this author, but it won’t be my last. I liked it. I got the name of this writer from this forum, so thank you, ladies.
    Kelly Jones’s Murder, Magic and What we Wore was a YA romp with spies, clothes, magic, and humor. I smiled the entire time I read it. A charming book. I also first heard about it here, so again, thank you.
    T. Kingfisher just released a new fantasy novel, Swordheart. As always, her writing is superb, and her imagination unbelievable. At times, the book was hysterically funny. Other times, it was serious, even grim. And I have to stress out that every character in the book was not young. All of them were middle age, which doesn’t happen often in fantasy.
    All in all, a good reading week.

    6+
    1. I disagree on Loretta Chase’s historical accuracy. She’s pretty obsessive in her research, and I find the detail convincing, apart from the occasional Americanism (there was one romantic scene where the hero was teasing the heroine with prices, but he kept saying ‘Ten shillings sixpence’, etc., rather than ‘Ten shillings and sixpence’; or ‘two hundred sixty’ when in Empnglish it’s always ‘two hundred and sixty’).

      Of course, her stories are fun romances rather than gritty histories.

      Glad you’ve found her, anyway.

      7+
      1. Oh, come on! A dressmaker and a duke? It never happened. It couldn’t have happened. 🙂 But I liked the story anyway. I don’t care about historical accuracy, so it wasn’t a slur. I read fantasy after all. All I care about is a good read.

        2+
        1. She was trade so very unlikely.

          Though the Gunning sisters apparently went on the stage, before their family managed to launch them in society and they married Earls

          Lady Hamilton was her husband’s nephew’s former mistress, though people remember her more for being Lord Nelson’s mistress

          2+
          1. One of the local aristos, Lord Berwick (a baron), married Harriette Wison’s younger sister. Harriette was a famous courtesan who wrote her memoirs, a great Regency scandal. The National Trust have done up Attingham Park, near Shrewsbury, as Lord Berwick (in his forties) and his 17-year-old bride had it – bespoke swirling puce carpets and all. They got into such deep debt they had to flee to the continent after ten years or so.

            5+
        2. Oh, agreed about the dressmakers marrying dukes – and there being so many attractive available aristocrats. But pretty much all historical romance is fantasy in that way.

          6+
  21. I re-read Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie on my days off this week. Marple helps a couple investigate an 18 year old murder when a woman remembers seeing a dead body as a child after moving into the house she lived in at the time. It’s been a long time since I read anything by Christie except short stories, though, and honestly I forgot just how much casual racism and xenophobia there would be with Christie. I think this one was just especially bad in that respect. Mentions of a family of missionaries are always accompanied by the word “heathen,” references to a Swiss nurse always come with something like, “But she wouldn’t have understood anything because she was a foreigner,” and when the amateur detective couple is interviewing an 80=year-old man for information, he uses the n-word. I stared at my Kindle for a while processing that the word was actually in the book. So I don’t expect I’ll be going back to this one and I can’t really recommend it; I just needed to vent a little.

    Christie could plot, and the mystery in this book was actually good, but the rest of the stuff that comes with it kept throwing me out. There’s a pile of used Christie novels I haven’t read yet, and I’m kind of dreading them now. I think 4:50 from Paddington would hold up OK, so at least there’s one Marple novel I know I can go back to.

    3+
      1. Actually, watching the TV episode again is what made me go back to the book. They changed a lot of things about the mystery that I felt made it kind of far-fetched and over-complicated compared to the book. In terms of the murder plot and the solution, the book is better, although I like that episode of Marple. But yes, the TV show didn’t have all the other crap that made it hard to focus.

        1+
    1. I read some Christie soon after I got squished and I was really aghast at the open racism and xenophobia, and since I had a lot of spare time I went back through and re-read a lot of the mysteries I grew up on – Margery Allingham, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh – and Ngaio Marsh is the only one where I didn’t have a jaw-dropped moment or five or six or more.

      4+
      1. Even Ngaio Marsh has some issues. A couple of the ones set in New Zealand had some very cringe-y moments for me. Still good stories, but…

        1+
  22. I read the third book in Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series, ‘The Hollow of Fear’, and it was the best one yet. This is such an enjoyable series, full of humour, with a wildly intelligent heroine who loves cakes and isn’t very good at dealing with humans. In this particular book, absolutely nothing was what it seemed.

    HIGHLY recommended.

    4+
    1. Sherry Thomas’ romances were hit or miss for me, but Lady Sherlock has been a wonderful series, and she’s really done the series (thus far) in a way that is great for readers – the characters develop in an authentic manner, there are not ridiculous cliffhangers, the voice is consistent. I really enjoy it.

      2+
  23. Wonder if anyone remembers who wrote the book with a earl/viscount/? who marries a woman with money . The estate house was added onto over the years and one part of it is badly built. Decide to tear it down. Both the hero/heroine go out to the wall left standing and smash at the bricks when things are tough. I believe it is part of a series and it is not a new series. Think it takes place late 1800s. Anyone?

    1+
    1. Oh! I know this one! It’s more Sherry Thomas (and the first book of hers I read, I only found her thanks to DA) – the second of the Fitzhugh trilogy, called Ravishing the Heiress.

      3+
      1. Thank you, that’s it. You know how some scenes stay with you after reading a book, I thought I would revisit the book…going to re-read the book.

        2+
  24. Jenny, I think the thing that makes it easier to pick up a really satisfying book that someone else recommends is to have the recommender briefly state their own reading preferences, then give several reasons for their recommendation. It’s just not always enough to say “this is a great book” or “this is well-written,” because those are way too general descriptions, and the assessment way too subjective.

    I like novels that establish an unusual world in which good, decent characters find ways to do what is right, and in doing so find kindred spirits. Even though I loved fantasy novels as a kid (Narnia, anyone?), I didn’t picture myself as a fantasy lover, but I’ve found I am, even if fantasy is just an element in the story that lets the characters discover their own strengths.

    Through these Thursdays, I’ve found a number of books I really liked, and two series I really loved, and I think you would like them if you haven’t tried them yet. One is the Vorkosigan Saga, which I’ve gone on and on about ad nauseam, and the second is The Others series, which quite a few people here have read and liked. I think you’d like the banter, and the animals, and the way the heroine finds her way around as an innocent.

    That’s my two cents, anyway.

    5+
    1. Both of these are favourites for me. With the Vorkosigan saga, the sheer unstoppability of Miles makes him a wonderful character. But he’s also very trustworthy. I like characters I can trust – who I know won’t suddenly rip someone off or do something horribly immoral just to serve their own ends. It’s one of the reasons I love Louise Penny’s series – Armande Gamache is so honourable.

      3+
      1. What kept me going through Kingdom of the Blind was the solid belief that Armand was Up To Something in regard to a certain character. If I didn’t trust him implicitly and know there was something going on I couldn’t see I would have chucked the book because of his cruelty.

        3+
  25. I read two great books this week: The Lady‘s Tutor by Robin Schone (wonderful story, could have done w/o the homophobia) and The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas who writes characters who just break your heart every. Single. Time.

    2+
    1. I physically threw out the Lady’s Tutor because the homophobia and stereotyping were so appalling to me. I won’t read anything else by her—I don’t want any more such images in my head.

      1+
  26. Jenny I think you would enjoy Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. Fast, easy fun read. Give it a try! First in the series is All Conditions Red.

    2+
    1. So this is a little peculiar but can anyone suggest a good English grammar book (more reference than lessons, not a style manual) for a poorly educated voraciously reading native English speaker? She’s reached that level of higher ed where all the humanities exams are essay; grammar, word usage and spelling count, and she’s waitlisted for “skilled resources” at the academic support center. From previous experience I know that if she’s provided with materials she will use them, but this is way outside my area. Any ideas?

      2+
      1. One of the Grammar Girl books, maybe? She’s an entertaining writer and she has several books, not sure which one would be most useful, but you could check out The Ultimate Writing Guide for Students to start?

        3+
      2. I just bought Sin and Syntax on Amazon for $1.99. I have no idea if it’s any good, but the reviews are stellar.

        3+
      3. Thank y’all so much. She’s one of my aides and a really impressive human being. She’s a funny mix of pride and humility – I know I can give her books and she’ll just use the heck out of them where she won’t take advantage of in-person resources, but I am a science nerd, and so my suggestions in this area are limited to what I read for fun and I’m not a really great explainer of why something works for me or doesn’t.

        2+
        1. Strunk and White, Elements of Style, a thin book which tells a wobbly writer in no uncertain terms what not to write, using precise rules to build a writing backbone. e.g. “Omit useless words.” E B White revised his own college English teacher’s chapbook for late 20 century use at the suggestion of his NY publisher (Charlotte’s Web), and a revised, illustrated edition is still required in college syllabi.
          Of course, a writer must ‘freewrite’ a minimum of one page a day, nonstop and unexamined or corrected, disregarding content, concurrent with studying Rules. Counterintuitive, I know, but it literally changes the mind, waking up and strengthening neurons seldom exercised, so that the creative can function equally to flow brightly through the current of form.
          PS My go to feel goods are Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls, middle aged throw away people who become crucial by being trustworthy and responsible. Bujold’s sterling prose, whether read or listened to, engages through character and event, and her universes have become part of my family.

          3+
  27. I just finished reading Afterwar by Lilith Saintcrow. It was dark but also a reasonable ending. While I usually can’t handle violent situations, this kept me engaged. For those who like military fantasy in a dystopian world, I recommend it.

    1+
  28. I’ve read a lot in the past two weeks, but not much of it has been memorable. The ongoing heatwave is making my brain mushy, so I’ve been losing interest in things partway through. I’m currently halfway through four or five.

    I’ve only finished two: Mr Hotshot CEO, by Jackie Lau, which was very respectful of the heroine’s mental health issues, and Dangerously Driven, by Deborah Blake. It’s short (it’s meant to be) but it wrapped up a collective character arc and set the stage for the next novel, so it’s also very satisfying in terms of closure.

    2+
  29. If it’s any help, I’m rereading Tanya Huff’s Valour series spin off Peacekeeper (there are three books). It will probably end up with me rereading all her books! Everything from her fantasy to the vampires to the science fiction are excellent. Torin has such a great voice in both Valour and Peacekeeper.

    2+

Comments are closed.