This is a Good Book Thursday, April 11, 2019

I’ve been on a Rex Stout binge (comfort reading), but the sun has come out and the ice is gone, so I’m going to try some of the ten thousand new-to-me books everybody here has loved. Thinking about either The Goblin Emperor or Murderbot, since they’re pretty much 100% Argh Approved, but I can always use more recommendations.

So what have you read lately that was really good?

77 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, April 11, 2019

  1. Re-reading Justice Hall by Laurie King, and the Rockton series by Kelley Armstrong. Not quite comfort reading territory, but familiar favourites.

    5+
  2. I’m rereading K. J. Charles’s Sins of the City series (starts with ‘An Unseen Attraction’, which is my favourite of the three, tho’ I like them all). Victorian London with lots of fog, a lost heir and wonderful characters in m/m romances/mysteries.

    I was going to try the sample of ‘Any Old Diamonds’ again, but remembered she’d said it was set in the same world, so thought I’d reread this trilogy first. Although it turns out this is twenty years before the new series, so there can’t be too much overlap.

    8+
  3. I just read ‘A Memory Called Empire’ by Arkady Martine. A young woman is sent as replacement diplomat to the local massive empire. On arrival, she finds out that her predecessor has ‘suffered a tragic and unexpected allergic reaction’. (Murdered. He was definitely murdered.) Also, the empire is about to devolve into a succession crisis, people come up to her at fancy parties to tell her ‘the deal is off’, and the tech that was installed in her brain to help her is malfunctioning, possibly sabotaged.

    7+
  4. I read A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby and I think he did a really good job with that, especially if you have depression/suicide issues.

    I also read Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski and that is a book I think everyone should get. EVERYONE. It talks about how to deal with burnout beyond “go on vacation and self-care!”-type crap.

    7+
    1. Sounds like “Burnout” is a book for me. I got a burnout (not diagnosed bbut quite clearly) when I was 14 and I’ve never recovered. It’d be great to see if something can be done about it now. I’ll try to grab it somewhere, thanks for the recommendation!

      8+
        1. Following up on recommendations from last week, I read the first of Martha Wells’ Raksura books, The Cloud Roads. It was a very well drafted fantasy with descriptive world building and lots of interesting species with elaborate cultures. It really drew me in. I then read Allegro Court by Brenda Magriet. It’s the first contemporary romance I’ve read in some time, and it was an enjoyable light read. I was having a stressful day and it hit the spot. I then gobbled up Grave Destiny, by Kalayna Price, the newly released 6th book in the Alex Craft series. It was fun, and fast paced and managed to surprise me at the end. I’d love to be able to read The Goblin Emperor for the first time again; you are in for a treat, Jenny.

          8+
          1. Hmm, thought I was replying to the general thread….but since I ended up here, the interview with the Nagoski sisters on Smart bitches is really good.

            6+
  5. I’m currently reading the second book of the (7 book) Lady Darby mystery series by Anna Lee Huber. Really loving these.

    When you mentioned rereading Rex Stout in a post a couple of weeks ago, you inspired me to pick up “Fer-de-Lance”, which I had last read sometime in the 1970s when I was a teenager. It’s such an interesting experience to read something set in a different time that was written contemporaneously, especially if it’s as well plotted as a Nero Wolfe novel. I loved getting that little glimpse of the 1930s again, so thanks for that!

    6+
  6. Currently reading An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole. What an exquisite storyteller. This is my first book by her, but it won’t be my last. Absolutely adoring the emotion in this book in addition to the American history.

    5+
  7. Just started listening to Surrender, New York by Caleb Carr. I quite like it so far! I also love the narrator, first time I’ve listened to him.

    I’m struggling anymore to actually read books, which is frustrating. I was a voracious reader growing up, and now suddenly can’t find more than minimal interest.

    6+
  8. About to read Courtney Milan’s new book about a romance between two senior women set in 1867.

    And then An Extraordinary Union.

    5+
    1. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the Mrs. Martin book! Very good!

      I also liked An Extraordinary Union, but I read that a while back.

      5+
  9. Finished Scott Westerfeld’s “Impostors,” highly anticipating the sequels.

    Currently reading “Invictus” by Ryan Graudin.

    The YA Scifi is on a roll. We’ve finally made it out of the play-a-game-in-a-dystopia formula!

    5+
  10. Reading “anything you can imagine Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle Earth” by Ian Nathan. A doorstop size book about the filming of LOTR and Hobbit by a reporter. If you’re one of the people who loved the extended versions of the movies that came out on DVD later, the ones with all the extras, you will like this. I’m one of those people so I’m definitely enjoying it. Lots of interesting backstage stories and trivia. But the book hopscotches around the time line a bit and I’m not convinced it was the best approach. Also, I’m not crazy about the many grammatical errors and errors of other kinds (the editors and proofreaders sure missed a lot). Plus, I thought they could have used more photos from the productions and fewer selfies by the author. Nonetheless, I would certainly recommend this to other LOTR movie fans.

    7+
  11. I reread part 4 and 5 of the Magic 2.0-series by Scott Meyer: “Fight and Flight” and “Out of Spite, Out of Mind”. It was fun. Probably exactly what I needed to stay sane. Luke Daniels really is a brilliant narrator.
    Looking forward to book 6 in June.

    Also read “The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden” (which is a weird title that doesn’t have anything whatsoever to do with the Swedish original title) by Jonas Jonasson. It’s as nuts as his other books but quite an enjoyable read. People tend to die in interesting ways in his books, and a lot of craziness happens. His voice is pleasant and although the book doesn’t really make me double up with laughter, it’s nice reading. A returning theme in his books are intelligent people and stupid people getting tangled up with each other in one way or another and trying to make the best, or the worst, out of it. Works for him! 🙂 Also the library narrator was really good, which definitely made it an extra-pleasant read.

    Not sure yet what to read next.

    5+
  12. Oh, that’s right – I also read a cookbook! Just to see how it felt. “Unicorn Food” by Sandra Mahut, about how to make nice and colourful food that is both healthy and nice to look at. It was… Well, colourful. Perhaps still a bit early for me to read cookbooks, but I think it’s a great read for Unicorn fans and fans of colour alike! Especially if you like to be creative with the cooking. Can’t say anything about the pictures in the book of course, but I bet it’s an explosion of colour.

    4+
  13. This week I read a lot of books I really enjoyed: “The Fangs of Freelance” which is #4 in the vampire accountant series, Watcher in the Woods one of Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton series, Soleri by Michael Johnston, which has some truly amazing world building – it is a fantasy/scifi riff on ancient Egypt and Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff, which Patrick Rothfuss describes as steampunk Japanese. AND I can recommend all of them.

    My current read is an autobiography by Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan “The Glitter and the Gold”. The writing isn’t particularly spectacular but it is incredibly entertaining, keeping in mind that she glosses over the scandals.

    4+
  14. Midway through Ashes of Victory by David Weber. Military SF/Space Opera. The next in the series is where Weber seriously began over-bloviating his writing… and yet I’ve read and re-read the entire series. Hooked, I am.

    3+
  15. I’ve been reading Agatha Christie— or more accurately, listening to the audiobook of And Then There Were None. Great choice to keep me hooked while I’m working out in the garden.

    Also reading Maybe This Time, which is a great choice to keep me baking chocolate chip cookies at 9pm. Ahem. The gift that keeps on giving.

    10+
  16. I’m reading The Body Keeps the Score – recommended here, obviously, and at night re-reading The Hanging Tree. I just like going to sleep listening to Kobno Holbrook Smith’s voice.

    Was going to go off on a ramble about publishing and reading, but I think not. I don’t have anything new to say. BUT, wait for it, …

    It’s sunny today!! Lovely, lovely sun! I’m so happy.

    10+
    1. Just finished The Body Keeps the Score which I first heard about here and decided to read because trauma keeps coming up everywhere (vets, children at the border, #metoo). I never grasped just how it changes everything physically as well as mentally. It’s very well-written.

      4+
      1. Speaking of trauma everywhere lately,
        Thou Shalt Not be Aware by Alice Miller was interesting. About society’s betrayal of the child, and how it affects us all.

        2+
  17. Bannerless and its sequel were fun in the reading and are giving me food for thought. They’re detective novels set in a post-ecological-crash society, and the main character is tough and reasonably good and certainly flawed, kind of Kinsey Millhone style. The food for thought is that the society — much poorer than ours! — emerged when during the crash people chose what the tech they absolutely needed to save for a just, low-energy society was. Birth control and solar panels. Then the society is based on sustainable resource use and voluntary association, and the details are hard and people try to cheat, and that’s why they need detectives, and away we go.

    Turns out I really wanted to read a post-crash world that was trying to be just, not trying to be all grimdark Mad Max.

    (On looking up the link — does the book’s own blurb call the world dystopian? Boy, we have different views of what the possible future are!)

    3+
  18. Burnout.

    Read the first and the last few chapters and skipped the middle of an historical.

    Rereading old favourites. It’s raining buckets. Heading to the Arctic tomorrow for a week. Get back just in time for Easter and hiding the eggs for granddaughters. And my bed.

    7+
  19. I just finished Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik. It’s a space opera romance. I don’t usually go for sci-fi, but I heard excellent things, and it did not disappoint. Lots of action and adventure in space, love the romance, love the characters. The protagonist is on the run from her aristocratic family to avoid a forced marriage, although she’s still in contact with her siblings, and she gets captured by mercenaries who want the bounty her father put on her. She gets tossed in a cell with another fugitive, the hero, and they escape together. Another book about the heroine’s sister is coming out in the fall, and I will be getting it.

    6+
  20. It’s been a week of comfort reads, plus turfing out a whole lot of other books after the first chapter because they just didn’t make sense. Like a woman who discovers her boyfriend is about to propose to her, and she’s horrified and thinking of running away to avoid it – but then he breaks up with her instead because he has realised they’re not right for marriage (which is why she was going to run away) – and suddenly she’s heartbroken. Deeply irritating.

    But the comfort reads were wonderful. Terry Pratchett’s ‘Night Watch’, and J Crusie’s ‘What the Lady Wants’.

    9+
  21. It’s so, so, so hard to predict someone else’s reading taste. I think everyone on the planet should adore Terry Pratchett, but there are people I respect and who share some other reading tastes with me (including a few here) who can’t connect with Pratchett. Which is why I’ve never believed in the “if you like AuthorX, you’ll like AuthorY.” I often wonder what it is that does explain those differences, beyond basic storytelling competence. Probably something to do with one’s lived experiences, I suppose.

    Anyway, an author who hasn’t been mentioned here lately but might be a good one to try is C.S. Harris (a/k/a romance author Candy Harris) for her Sebastian St. Cyr series. And, violating my own principle of not believing in “if you like AuthorX, you’ll like …” advice, if you do like those books, you might also like the Ashley Gardner “Captain Lacey” series. They have a similar vibe, similar setting. Both are historical mystery series with ex-military protagonists and really strong female characters.

    And I’ll put in a bid for Lindsay Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge (steampunk) series or Fallen Empire (space opera with strong romantic subplot).

    Oh, and if you haven’t read any of Donna Andrews’s cozy mysteries in the bird-title series (starts with Murder With Peacocks), they’re fun. Great community-building. I also like her “You’ve Got Email” series, but I think it’s out of print. May be available used.

    5+
      1. I currently have my dad’s books from Andrews’s Turing Hopper series. I sped through them. Some parts read as vintage now, but the story and characters are excellent.

        The Meg Langslow books have made it into my summer reading list for years. Sometimes you just want a cozy where everyone is eccentric, from the murderer to the pets.

        3+
    1. Beyond life experience, I think what kind of sense of humor you have also weighs heavily on if you like a book or not. I’m in a stage of my life where HEA means very little to me – my friends tell me I’ll get over this – bur protagonists need to have an ‘I can get through this attitude.’ Not that they never doubt, but they aren’t looking for someone to save them. And tragedy is right off the table. Humor and maybe a sense of irony is what I really like.

      4+
    2. I just started reading the St Cyr books and I love them. She includes the gritty parts that a lot of historical writers leave out. I’m on book 7 now. I didn’t know CS Harris also wrote romance. Will be checking those out right now.

      1+
  22. No new books but a couple of lovely old movies. Agatha Christie’s Murder She Said with Margaret Rutherford and The Mad Miss Manton with a very young Barbara Stanwick and Henry Ford.
    I also recorded a 1930’s version of Nancy Drew, but haven’t watched it yet.
    Finally showed Mom, Crazy Rich Asians.

    3+
  23. I re-read Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, for my book club. We were feeling that our last few selections were well written but depressing, so this book is a perfect antidote. I laughed out loud just as frequently as I did the first time.

    I am about halfway through reading Educated by Tara Westover (also a book club selection). Gripping and fascinating memoir, about a girl raised by isolationist fanatics who leaves and discovers the power of education.

    2+
  24. I’m re-listening to Jodi Taylor’s The Chronicles of St. Marys. It’s a time travel historical series with fabulous characters and story.
    I just got Scott Meyers Off To Be The Wizard, Murderbot, and An Extraordinary Union. It’s going to be a great week.

    5+
  25. I just read the beginning of a sample of a romance on Amazon and the hero smirked. That was it for me. I cannot stand heroes who smirk. Villains who smirk are okay, although it’s awful close to twirling a mustache, but heroes? Absolutely not. Remember that kid who smirked at the Native American and then sued the WaPo for implying he was smirking? Yeah, That’s why I loathe a smirker, so when it shows up in a book, it’s a combination of despising the action of the word and not trusting an author who thinks heroes who smirk are attractive. We do not belong to the same tribe.

    One word and I was out. I can only imagine all the words I use that toss people out of the story.

    13+
    1. *Thinks madly about whether or not she ever had a hero smirk in a story. Pretty sure not. Sighs in relief*

      I just read a romance that had more explicit sex than I usually would choose. Which wasn’t a problem until there was a bit that was so un-sexy (for me) that it threw me right out of the scene. (And I get that everyone has different things that turn them on, but NO.)

      5+
    2. My word is “high-handed.” I chuck a book for that one. People rave about the Fever series, but when the guy was described as “high-handed” (in a modern book) I was outta there.

      3+
    3. Back in the 80s, it used to be almost obligatory to have the word “tawny” in a romance. I use to play a game with myself to see how many pages a writer could go before throwing in the first tawny. If it showed up on the first page, I was out of there. The other one that killed me was “slanted” as in “he slanted his mouth over hers”. These days the word “billionaire” is a real turn-off.

      7+
          1. Unless they’re Vikings are actually plundering an unfortunate populace. But yep, otherwise, plundering is out.

            2+
    4. I read a friend’s book draft (I’m definitely not qualified to be an editor or even a critiquer) and pointed out the many times her characters smirked. She wasn’t bothered by the word. We’d met on the Lois McMaster Bujold listserv, and in retrospect I think “smirk” is a verb Bujold uses fairly often. I’m put off by it.

      1+
      1. Words that turn me off include coyly. At least when it’s meant to be attractive.
        Libation. Somewhere, somehow, romance authors decided that this was how 19th c men offered each other a drink. I defy you to find it in a 19th c novel.

        Smirked is ok for me if it’s being used to refer to an irritating smile. Otherwise no.

        0
  26. Coronado Library Book Sale and our Flower Show start tomorrow (82nd year). I’ve been taking notes on Thursdays so I know what to look for. Sunday afternoon I’ll be taking money for the book sale last call. Maybe I’ll enter a heritage rose into that show. Oh, all the fun! All downhill from here after this weekend. Community returns to the mundane.

    8+
  27. When I finished book 5 of The Others series by Anne Bishop, it was driving me crazy that I didn’t have anyone to discuss the books with. So I loaned the first one to my oldest friend, who loved it, and I started taking them out of the library one by one to reread and keep pace with her. They were even better in the re-reading, since their page-turning addictive quality meant I never got a chance to savor the detail. And they were even better the second time around. I never would have expected to like a contemporary urban fantasy series, but the skill and empathy displayed in this one was perfect.

    5+
    1. The Others series, especially the lakeside books, became a kind of book discussing anchor for a group of us who had gotten to be friends and then were separated by circumstances. They do really lend themselves to re-reading and talking through and I find myself deeply appreciative of the skill she demonstrates in the consistency of the characters and their development through the lakeside books and on into the next books as well.

      Martha Wells pulls off the consistent characterization and development with both the Raksura and Murderbot books, although I don’t know how to classify them – definitely not urban fantasy, I wouldn’t think.

      4+
  28. I read (and loved) In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan, which is (I think?) a YA book. I did not expect to enjoy it so much, but it had me laughing aloud and reading bits of it aloud for the accuracy of the smart kid snark. And I did a bunch of re-reading – KB Spangler’s Stoneskin, which is so good and so different from the Girl and her Fed and Rachel Peng series that I am kind of fidgety with wanting more of that now, now please, and some Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire) – Blackout and Rise, which are medically/scientifically plausible zombie apocalypse and part of a tightly linked very cohesive horror series and – yeah. So. I can recommend all of them but for very different reasons and I will chime right in with all the bells on any recommendations of either murderbot or the raksura, with the lone caveat that do not start the 4th raksura book without having the 5th on hand.

    3+
  29. Just finished Wild Country by Anne Bishop and absolutely loved it. I remember a few other folks here had issues with the ending, but it seemed just right to me. Alas, she’s working on two books for a different series before returning to this world, so it is going to be a long wait for the next one. (Although she promised me there would be another.)

    Now I’m finishing up a delightful new Southern romance by Molly Harper called Gimme Some Sugar (way too many descriptions of yummy cupcakes…you have been warned). I love Harper’s humor. All of her Southern Eclectic novels and novellas are well worth reading.

    3+
    1. One of my favorite things about the Others is that the endings aren’t hermetically sealed. There’s space for the characters to continue. whether that happens directly in the author’s future work or indirectly in the readers’ imaginations. It’s very generous.

      4+
  30. I read The Lost Gutenberg by Margaret Leslie Davis tracking a Gutenberg bible through its last several owners. It was more engaging than I expected and the individuals described were fascinating. Also this particular Gutenberg ended up being scanned with a cyclotron and then later scanned and put on the internet.

    4+
  31. Last time I went to the thrift store I checked out their selection of picture books because a certain young man of my acquaintance was turning 5. They had a copy of The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater. Although I’ve had a copy for years, I haven’t read it recently. What a delight it was to revisit some old friends! I’m supposed to be culling my collection of picture books for a local book drive at the end of the month, but if the rest of them are this much fun, I may not donate any. ….. I wonder if I can hang a bookcase from the ceiling.

    5+
    1. I have a copy of that book that I bought for my nephews! It’s very fun and my now 4 year old nephew likes it a lot.

      2+
  32. Just finished Comics Will Break Your Heart, by Faith Erin Hicks. YA romance, using a Romeo and Juliet theme and bits of comics history. What a great book, even for non-comics folk!

    2+
  33. I’m continuing the Traveling Matchmaker series by MC Beaton and can confidently say that Belinda Goes to Bath is a book I do not ever need to read again. The first, third and fourth books are fun , but this one has toxic double standards and domestic violence that we don’t have to excuse. And really, the book was written in 1991 not 1891.

    I am reading All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of An Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister. So far, highly recommend!

    The big spring used book sale at the local library is the next three days. I’ll try to be good.

    3+
  34. Am in the middle of a book called Lotharingia, about the area between the North Sea and Switzerland. It’s the third in a trilogy of books about Central Europe and I know I will go back and read the other two because the writer’s style is so funny and wise. He’s a man called Simon Winder, and the book is a sort of combination of general chronological history, travel and art/archaeology. I’m about ⅓ of the way through and am laughing out loud continuously and reading chunks to DH, both of which are unusual. In these gloomy times, it is wonderful to have something light and genuinely funny to read.

    6+
    1. Oh, yes! My mother and I read Danubia (while on a train in Central Europe). We read it sequentially, but I read a certain amount of it when I tore the book from her hands because she was laughing so hard she couldn’t breathe.

      4+
  35. Just finished reading Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. By John Carreyrou.
    The intrigue kept me on the edge of my seat, I kept thinking this has to be it and then it would snowball even bigger.
    The tension builds through the entire book until he finally releases you at the end, where you can take a breath.
    Loved it.

    2+
  36. I hate smirking too. And munching. Ugh.

    And I hate it when an author writes that someone shakes their head yes. Nods yes, yes. But not shakes. That’s a no.

    I’ve been reading “Good Omens” by Gaiman & Pratchett. I have a vague memory of reading it when it was first published, and I enjoyed it. Funny and subversive.

    It made me think of how the devil in Jenny’s Nita book is very different from traditional notions.

    1+
  37. Shaking the head yes thing reminds me of the beginning of Mary Stewart’s Greece-set My Brother Michael, when the heroine, in exasperation, says, “Ne, ne, ne!” to a minor character, only to realize too late that she’s confused things and she said yes when she meant to say no.

    I feel like I read something really good recently, something that made me sad that I couldn’t fulfill my desire for more…but I can’t remember what it was.

    3+
  38. I read two really good books last week: Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black. Very different, but such brilliant writing in both.

    Am currently reading a plodding mid-life-crisis memoir (title/author withheld!), and listening to a perfectly fabulous audiobook about the emotional lives of trees (The Hidden Lives of Trees by Peter Wohlleben). Although I think maybe I should relate more to the human mid-life crisis, it is the tree book that resonates, and I heartily recommend it.

    2+
  39. I’m binge-reading my way through The Invisible Library series, starting with the Invisible Library (5 books). I’ll finish those about in time to read the 10th Chronicles of St. Mary’s book coming out this month, plus the next Eric Carter (Dead Things) UF will be out. The Invisible Library is really fun, stealing books to stabilize reality and save humanity. If you’re a fan of the St. Mary’s Chronicles or Connie Willis’ Oxford Time Travel series this is probably right up your alley.

    0

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