This Is A Good Book Thursday, March 28, 2019

This week I reorganized my kitchen with the help of Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook, Katy Butler’s The Art of Dying Well, Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out (an old fave).

Well, I started to anyway. Mostly I read.

What did you read this week?

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73 thoughts on “This Is A Good Book Thursday, March 28, 2019

  1. This one’s easy. I read Brenda Margriet’s Allegro Court.

    It was a really good read. I’m hardly a fan of “returns home” romances but these characters made it worth my while. Fleshed out secondary characters included.

    Third-person narration, part one of a series, no cliffhanger.

    I also read The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley and EVERYONE should read it. It discusses issues that we all need a wider understanding of, and it does it in very easy-to-follow language. That it’s not overly academic is what makes it such a good read.

    5+
    1. Me, too, Brenda Margriet’s Allegro Court. Still in progress and loving it.

      Also re-reading book 6 of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, Honor Among Enemies. It’s still early enough in the series that his Info-Dump-Itis hasn’t taken over (though it is present.) He’s famous for it. There’s a parody post titled How David Weber Orders a Pizza that runs to over a thousand words. I think Tom Clancy has the same disease. https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=635193

      5+
      1. Some years back, David had an accident which damaged both arms (I THINK he may have fallen in his yard on an icy day). Since then, he’s had to rely on voice software, which is okay for first drafts, but you really need your hands to edit.

        2+
  2. The Huntress by Kate Quinn. Set mostly in 1950. British war correspondent turned Nazi hunter, his American partner, and a female Soviet bomber pilot search for the mistress of an SS officer to bring her to trial for war crimes. Their target’s stepdaughter is also a POV character; she’s suspicious of her too. There’s lots of scenes during World War II from the POV of the pilot, and the detail about the all female Air Force regiments was really fascinating. Only the night bombers stayed all women. They cut the engines right before they dropped bombs so the sound wouldn’t alert their targets, and the Nazis thought it sounded like witches on broomsticks, so they called them the Night Witches. There are also solid romantic subplots, which made me happy.

    6+
    1. I just finished The Calculating Stars (the heroine was a WASP — Women Airforce Service Pilot — and it’s an alt-history in roughly the same period) so I’ll have to look this up. The Night Witches were mentioned briefly and they sounded really cool.

      3+
  3. I read The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton. I wasn’t as into it as I was the first book, but the worldbuilding is certainly interesting.

    4+
  4. I did reread Dogs and Goddesses to confirm that the secret word used was not Buttigieg. But I’m still going to giggle over this from time to time. 🙂

    I bought and read the Rick Riordan ebooks where the Egyptian gods and Greek gods meet. I think he’s working up to a big Infinity War type event – he’s got links between the 4 different sets of gods so far – Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Norse. And his Canadian Chinese character could link into Chinese mythology, of which I know very little about.

    I think my daughter and I are going to start on Magnus Chase, then move on to Trials of Apollo. I’m sort of stalling on Trials as I know book 4 is coming out in Fall.

    I’ll also be looking at cookbooks. My daughter’s class is fund raising and having a bake sale on Tuesday, election day. The school is a polling place so they do a table. We’ll be supplying gluten free and dairy free treats, with an ingredients list that includes brands so people can feel safer about eating them.

    6+
    1. Magnus Chase is great 🙂 However I was disapointed when I realized there would only be three books. I’d gotten so used to the 5-book-series that it felt weird to only get 3. Oh well.

      Trials of Apollo – I wanted to strangle Apollo until I’d read about 4/5 of the first book, then he finally grew on me and I really started to like that series too. Also, the haikus. <3 Riordan's Apollo and the author Kevin Hearne have totally haikufied me.

      Hope you'll enjoy the series – I sure did! 🙂

      2+
  5. I really enjoyed Elizabeth Bear’s newest, the title of which escapes me at the moment. (Update – it’s called Ancestral Night – I got the recommendation from Scalzi but I know someone else here mentioned it as well). It’s a fun chase through space. Her universe and that of Becky Chambers seem like they’re closely akin. Crossover potential? 🙂 In any case, I’m sufficiently intrigued by Bear’s writing that I’ll be looking for more of her books. And speaking of looking for more books, hoping for a new book by Chambers – anyone know anything?

    Have been reading Ngaio Marsh for the first time (on my second novel now). I know everyone seems to love her books. While the writing is definitely good and I am enjoying them, for some reason I just don’t enjoy them as much as I did the Christie and Sayers books. Not sure why. Not sure if that’s how other people feel? Maybe it’s just because I’m not engaging with Alleyne the way I engaged with Poirot and Marple and Harriet and Peter. Maybe I’m starting them at the wrong time culturally? Or at the wrong stage of my life?

    Picked up Jordanna Max Brodsky’s new book The Wolf in the Whale. Looking forward to it. She has a good fantasy trilogy about the Romans gods called Olympus Bound, if anyone is looking for a more adult versions of the Rick Riordan books.

    6+
    1. For me, Alleyn was so cool/cold in personality that I never connected, but the writing was solid and so were they mysteries. Allingham is my first choice of the Golden Agers and then Christie’s Marples, but there were a lot of good mystery writers back then. Christiana Brand did some good stuff, and Edmund Crispin was fun. And of course, Georgette Heyer.

      9+
    2. Someone (either here or at Smart Bitches) recommended A Surfeit of Lampreys – it’s the tenth book in the Alleyn series and I thought it was very good (I went back and read the ones before it and it’s one of better ones). As far as I can remember it was fine to read it out of order.

      6+
      1. It might have been me. A Surfeit of Lampreys is one of my favourites, as is Death in a White Tie, and Swing Brother Swing. They’re the ones where there’s a bit more of an emotional connection involved.

        7+
        1. Thanks everyone for the validation! And the specific title reccs -will try those next and see if that makes a difference!

          1+
    3. I validate you feelings. Felt a definite distance with Marsh both in narrative and characters, although I was interested all the way. I wonder if the distance comes because the author is from NZ writing about Brits.

      3+
    4. I think it’s in Artists in Crime that you see more of Alleyn’s feelings about Troy, and maybe one that follows it?? Their courtship takes place over a couple of books, but I don’t recall which ones. He is rather cool, but I think that’s part of the British persona–some of Heyer’s heroes are like that, too. They’re not demonstrative (and tortured) like so many of today’s heroes.

      4+
      1. Artists in Crime is where they meet, and then Death in a White Tie is where the courtship develops.

        4+
    1. That was fabulous. I wonder how many times the writer had to stop because he was cracking himself up. Thanks!

      4+
  6. I just finished A Pocket Full of Stars by Margaret Ball. Nerdy mathematics grad students discover abilities to manipulate space while researching applied topology, hijinks ensue. A number of entertaining characters, and a little romance. I’m now reading the sequel.

    5+
    1. She also wrote an entertaining book, Mathemagics, and had some short stories in the Chicks in Chainmail series with the same characters. Recommended for SF enthusiasts.

      2+
  7. I’m reading Homicide in Hardcover, a mystery by Kate Carlisle. It’s the first in a series that honestly I’d never heard of. The most recent offering was in the library’s new books section and looked tempting. Call me anal-retentive (ya’ won’t be the first!) but I have to read a series in order so I checked this out. It’s well written and I haven’t figured out who did it yet.

    3+
    1. I read this series (among many other cozy series) and enjoy them very much. Do continue to read them in order.

      2+
  8. I read Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. I liked it, it is a coming of age story mixed, with a lot of natural history mixed with a murder mystery.

    5+
  9. Have you tried the Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning? It’s a very enjoyable read. The author is matter-of-fact and funny. I don’t know that it helped my cleaning and organizing needs, but I enjoyed it. The reader on the audiobook is just right 🙂

    6+
    1. Swedish death cleaning? Not a term I’m familiar with… I guess my mum only went for normal cleaning, without death.

      Now I have to Google this and see what it is. Sounds very violent. 😉

      7+
      1. Lol. No violence. It’s a nice, humorous book about letting go of things you don’t want your loved ones to deal with after you are gone. There is this one bit about dildos…:)

        2+
  10. I re-read Dick Francis’ “Proof” this week. The ebook conversion is a little bit sketchy but it’s still one of my favorites of his.

    4+
  11. My best read of the week was in Metabolism magazine, “Diagnosis, Treatment-Monitoring and Follow-up in Children and Adolescents with XLH.” Doesn’t sound scinitillating, but it really is. First time in a loooooooong while that I’ve read something on this topic, that got me shouting, “yes, yes, yes, you got it right!” instead of “no, no, no, are you TRYING to ruin people’s lives?”

    I also read Courtney Milan’s Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure, and while it was well-written, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys romance (elderly women fall in love while getting some revenge on a Terrible Nephew), it also confirmed to me that I’m just not a romance reader any longer (or for now; maybe it will change again). I kept skipping over the romance bits to get to the battles with the Terrible Nephew. But that’s me, not a problem with the book itself.

    9+
    1. I read Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure too, and loved the fact that the heroines were elderly rather than young and spunky. And the Terrible Nephew was truly awful. But I’ve enjoyed some of her other books more.

      4+
  12. I’m reading It Didn’t Start With You by Mark Wolynn. It’s about inherited family trauma and how that shapes who we are, and how to end the cycle. I hadn’t realized the roots of some of our issues can go back three or more generations. Thoroughly enjoying this read.

    5+
  13. I did a reread of two books: To Die For, and Drop Dead Gorgeous, both by Linda Howard. Both feature first-person POV by Blair Mallory — a southern, blonde, former cheerleader gym owner — who spends a lot of time deciding what to wear. Despite that description, she is far from an airhead, and I find her voice endlessly entertaining.

    A gym patron is killed in Blair’s gym’s parking lot, and Blair is the only (sort of) witness. This brings an ex-boyfriend, a police lieutenant, back into her life. The results are pretty amusing, especially once it seems Blair might be the killer’s next target.

    I know Blair and first-person POV aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I return to these books every couple of years. Besides liking Blair’s voice, I love both her family and Wyatt’s. The two moms in particular are great.

    You’ll enjoy Drop Dead Gorgeous much more if you’ve read the first book.

    3+
    1. I also read the first Murderbot this week. I loved it and hated it – loved the character – didn’t realize it was a novella. I was so disappointed when it ended so quickly!

      7+
    2. I’m a Muderbot convert as well. My library has the third book on hold for me, so will pick it ip on my walk today.

      3+
  14. I took last weeks recommendation of Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files. It’s a good thing I’m home recovering from knee surgery and that the library has the series available online. Just finished #4, a fun series.

    4+
    1. I also started The Spellman Files based on the recommendations last week. I am only a few chapters into the first book but finding it very enjoyable.

      4+
  15. I read my two favourite Crusies: “Bet Me” and “Faking It”. The love the love the love the love the love the love the love the love the love the love! <3 And the comfort. <3 <3 <3

    9+
  16. Finally read the first of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut books (The Calculating Stars). FABULOUS book. It’s an alt-history where we start a serious space colonization effort in the fifties; the main character is a former WASP pilot and a “computer”, a mathmatician working for the space program who’s determined to break the astronaut program open for women. So, very feminist, but also… well.

    It made me realize how unconsciously conditioned to certain tropes in these sort of break in stories. One is the “female exceptionalism” narrative — the heroine DESERVES to be the exception to the rule because she’s Not Like Those Other Girls! But Elma is merely one of dozens of exceptional women, and they all fight together and for each other. Or the Sacrificial Career narrative — Elma has a loving relationship with her husband, but when she starts neglecting him to fight the good fight, he… uh, totally supports her, encourages her, and tells her it’s ok she forgot to pay the electricity bill or do her other wifely duties? They end the book still happily married? Wait, what? It says something I don’t like much about my expectations of feminist narratives that I spent the whole book braced for that relationship to die.

    It’s also not a book of sharply drawn lines. The worst and most misogynistic of the men Elma has to deal with also has a sympathetic side; Elma herself, even as she fights sexism, is repeatedly embarrassed to discover her own blind spots — like never noticing there were no black women in her beloved WASPS.

    Plus, I mean, lady astronauts. I was Sally Ride for Halloween in kindergarten. This book is ALL THE THINGS for me.

    Basically: this is a really, really good book and you should all read it. 🙂

    9+
    1. Yes, I loved her relationship with her husband, that she didn’t have to be tortured in that direction, and that he supported her. The second book is also wonderful – in fact I thought it was even better.

      5+
    2. There is also a very good, crushingly moving short story about the lady astronaut (Elma) and her husband as they age. It’s only as an e-title, and it’s very good. I like MRK a lot, but I tangled myself up in Elma’s story because of that short story.

      6+
  17. Questionable: How do you not have a character exist just for fridging purposes, or have them just to showcase the protag’s suffering? Really, how do you have a character die and have it not just be a vehicle for rounding out the protag, as every significant death would? I can’t distinguish between a character who dies and a character who dies to showcase something about the protag or villain? It just always seems like fridging, especially when it’s not the obvious trope. Does that make sense??

    4+
    1. Not sure about the meaning of “fridging,” but normally secondary characters are there to complement the main character/s — it’s why they exist — and their subsidiary plotlines normally complement the main plot, too. If there is no purpose in the death of a character, the readers will promptly start screaming about THAT. My brother had quite a bit to say about such events in the earlier volumes of GAME OF THRONES . . . .

      3+
      1. Actually, secondary characters are not there to complement the main characters, they have to have lives of their own and motivations of their own. They may act as foils or ficelles or serve other functions, but if that’s all they do, they die on the page.

        2+
    2. I’m answering this on the dashboard, so I may be duplicating my answer to Ann, but . . .

      Every character in a story thinks she or he is the protagonist. Nobody gets up in the morning and thinks, “I’m really a best friend, not the center of my own life” or “I’m really just here to make life hell for somebody else, I have no goals of my own.”

      Think of the best friend in too many romcoms. She’s there to be less attractive than the protagonist, to be edgy where the protagonist is sweet, to be the ficelle/sounding board for the protagonist’s info dump about her life. She exists in contrast to the protagonist, to be a foil for the protagonist. If she’s not with the protagonist, she doesn’t exist.

      Now think about the friends of the protagonist in the romcoms you’ve loved. They exist outside the protagonist, have their own hopes and dreams, act on the page in ways that are not about the protagonist, They can also act as foils and ficelles, but that’s not their IDENTITY. They have lives on the page, the protagonist acts as a foil and ficelle for them, too.

      That kind of character, when he or she dies, matters because she’s a fully formed person on the page. Her death is part of her story, not just a Bad Thing That Happened To the Protagonist.

      To go back to Four Weddings, the John Hannah/Simon Callow relationship in that movie was part of the ensemble, treated as important as any of the others, possibly more important because it was successful and the others were flailing around. All of the characters in that ensemble were charming, all of them were important, and all of them would have been a tragedy if they’d died during the story. The fact that the death was one of the successful couple made it even more tragic, but it didn’t come out of nowhere for no reason, it was established that the guy drank way too much and was overweight and probably stressing the hell out of his heart. It wasn’t there just to make Hugh Grant sad and realize that it was time to take a chance, it was part of that character’s story, and John Hannah’s character’s story. They existed outside of “friends of Hugh Grant.”

      In contrast, think of every character in a movie who basically showed up to die. Girl friends who say “Be careful, John” and then end up with their heads in boxes. Partners who are straight men to cop protagonists and then die to create man-pain. Puppies sent by dead wives who are impossibly cute and comforting and then get beaten to death by thugs so that the carnage the protagonist unleashes is understandable. These characters have one purpose: To die so the protagonist is catapulted into action. They do not exist outside the protagonist’s PoV. They are Fridge Bait.

      Every event in a story is always going to be seen through the eyes of the protagonist (in third limited and first person PoVs) and processed from his or her PoV, so everything is going to seem like it’s there to affect the protagonist (since if it doesn’t, the protagonist won’t notice it). So yes, to a certain extent every death is about the protagonist because in a story everything is about the protagonist. But those characters should also exist on their own; if the protagonist disappeared, they wouldn’t just evaporate from the story, they’d go on with their own lives, of which there is evidence on the page.

      8+
  18. I read The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center and was so delighted and charmed, I bought every other novel she’s written. Each one is a gem, funny and smart, kind and wise. I’m in love.

    Gretchen Archer has a new book out in the Davis Way series. These books are so much fun, they must be bad for me in some way.

    5+
  19. Organizing From the Inside Out is a freaking life changer! I haven’t read Marie Condo but the Netflix is binge-worthy.

    I listened to Hallowe’en Party by Christie (Hugh Fraser is a divine voice actor!) and L’Amour’s The Quick and the Dead. Plus, my obsession with Harry Dresden soldiers on. So it’s dead bodies everywhere for me. Again 🙂

    3+
  20. I have had a completely frightful week, and so took refuge in rereading Mumbai New York Scranton, by Tamara Shopsin – it’s nonfiction and I really enjoy the clarity of her voice and the details she catches. For new stuff I read Nina Stibbe’s Man at the Helm, which was pretty great and then started the Rockton series for which I blame y’all. Crikey.

    3+
  21. I just finished Pete Buttigieg’s book “Shortest Way Home”. Now am listening to Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”.

    It’s refreshing in this political climate to know thst there are smart hardworking people out there who are willing to serve all Americans.

    1+
  22. I read Karen White’s Flight Patterns and The Lost Hours and enjoyed them both but FP more. I really like most of her books but occasionally the main character bugs me.

    I then took 4 books, which all shall remain nameless, out of the library and didn’t get more than 5 pages into any of them.

    I am now reading Sick Puppy by Carl Hiassen and Allegro Court, both of which are fab.

    2+
  23. I am reading Fred the Vampire Accountant series by Drew Hayes. Fred blames his aggrandized expectations of acquiring coolness and suave charm when becoming a vampire on contemporary media. It is basically a bunch of vignettes strung together to make a story arc. It is really enjoyable and it is easy to break it into readable sections.

    1+
    1. I avoided Fred the Vampire Accountant for a long time. It just didn’t sound that good to me, but I liked other stuff the author had written, so I finally tried it out and enjoyed it a lot. A lot of fun.

      I recommended it to my wife later and she loved it too.

      1+
      1. I think you were the one who recommended it here. It was quite a while ago because there were so many holds ahead of me. So thank you.

        1+

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