This is a Good Book Thursday, July 18, 2019

The best thing I read all week was a recipe for Chicken Au Jus. And the book I’m writing which is brilliant, brilliant, I’m telling you. Also the directions to my spiralizer. Note to self: Find a good book to read that you’re not actually writing.

So what’s a good book to read?

74 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, July 18, 2019

  1. An excellent book to read is Dunham by Moriah Jovan, so far the earliest-set (though not the earliest-written) of a genuinely epic multi-century family saga. I’ve now read (I’m pretty certain) every full-length work this writer has published, just as I did with Jenny and with Jodi Taylor. And you HAVE to love a book in which the heroine is a pirate, amirite?

    6+
  2. Warlight by Michael Ondaatje. Finished a couple of weeks ago and still resonating with me.

    Currently stuck in first couple of hundred pages of Tombland, the latest Matthew Shardlake mystery set in 1549. It’s terrific as always but bleak, bleak bleak depiction of Tudor reign.

    5+
    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I checked it out and have read the first few chapters. It really is engaging.

      1+
      1. Since my husband is a Michael Ondaatje fan, I asked if he had read this. Yes. he said. It was really good but when he offered it to me in London but I did not think I would like it so we passed it on to Jane when we saw her.

        Ah, the power of an Argh recommendation.

        1+
  3. Finished “Not Your Sidekick” by C.B. Lee. YA future wherein people have superpowers, but our plucky high schooler protagonist does not. Cute shenanigans ensue, but be warned that the book doesn’t wrap up its biggest plot, and will likely have two more books to do so.

    Just started “The Abyss Surrounds Us” by Emily Skrutskie, and the world map at the beginning just cracked me up. Post-climatepocalypse, the US has devolved into smaller nations, which include Norcal and Socal being their own states.

    6+
    1. Emily Skrutskie is so good.

      Not Your Villain is so disjointed. It tries to be so it can be read alone but…no. Just no. Infodump and time jumps and nonsense. Wish I’d read the first one first. Or never read it at all.

      3+
      1. Oh, that’s disappointing to hear about Not Your Villain. I’ll probably wait for the 3rd book to come out, then, so I can binge through both of them at once, so I can skim over the less good parts.

        3+
      2. I really enjoyed the first one, Not Your Sidekick. The second one, Not Your Villain was a major disappointment. It looks like the third one is out now, Not Your Backup. I’m still debating wether to try it out or not. I’ll probable download a sample.

        3+
        1. I guess I kind of expected it, once the main plot kicked in I got kinda bored. I wanted more cute mixed identity shenanigans over cute pining and workplace shenanigans! [SPOILER character] suddenly going full racist and how they couldn’t get [SPOILER]’s name right was way hokey and felt like a jarring change from the novel I had been reading up until that point.

          3+
  4. I just finished Lent by Jo Walton, a very different depiction of hell and demons than in Nita. I’m still thinking about it and feel much more sympathetic to Savanarola than I ever have before.

    8+
  5. Inspired by earlier entries on this site, I went to Georgette Heyer for her mystery, Envious Casca. I was happy to figure out whodunit (though not how) before the end of the book, and to identify who would end up with whom. Then went on to Margery Allingham’s Death of a Ghost, which I didn’t figure out at all. Similarities between her amateur sleuth, Albert Campion, and Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey (whom I adore) are striking, or at least they struck me.

    8+
    1. I think they’re significantly different, but then I love Campion and find Wimsey often unbearable (although not in Murder Must Advertise except in the Harlequin stuff). Campion was disowned by his aristo family and uses an assumed name and basically rambles around solving problems for the government and the occasional friend, and I don’t think he ever spent a sleepless night over any of the murderers he caught. I like Allingham’s characterization much better, although Ngaio Marsh still gets the gold for supporting casts in Golden Age mysteries.

      I did my first master’s thesis on early mysteries. I’m obsessive (g).

      7+
  6. Love reading about what everyone is reading.
    Michael Gilbert has been recommended on this site, but which one? The author of The Body of a Girl (and numerous others) or the author of the crime classic Death in Captivity?
    I’m ploughing (catapulting/charging/excavating) my way through Jodi Taylor’s St. Mary’s series, thanks to SOMEONE on this site. It’s exhausting, but fun.

    8+
    1. Those are both his titles. The Body of a Girl is great (not a child murder), but so are most of his. Night of the Twelfth is really good, but it is about child murders, so fair warning. End-Game is the one with the competence porn protagonist that I find fascinating, in part because of what he does with that protagonist–a switch almost as good as Freddy in Cotillion–and part because of how he structures the plot, David descending as Susan ascends. His short story collections are great, too. Death in Captivity has a protagonist in a prisoner of war camp in WWII, which Gilbert actually was, so it’s supposed to be not just good but accurate historically.

      I’m a big Michael Gilbert fan, so I’m usually the one pushing him here.

      5+
  7. The open books on my devices are Princess Holy Aura by Ryk Spoor and <Rising Sun by the late Robert Conroy. I have a couple of books waiting for me to turn the airplane mode off on Joe, one of them a fake marriage type – The Cowboy’s Fake Marriage: A Sweet Fake Marriage Romance Book One by Bree Livingston (I just checked. It’s downloaded.) The other is a $.99 copy of Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion which an ARGHonaut alerted me to.

    On the non-reading side of life, I checked my bank balance this morning, and that Social Security windfall of which I had spoken? It is marked “pending” as a deposit. I had to overcome an urge to dash about shouting “HUZZAH!” and such. Besides, the dotter has gathered all the grandkinder into her SUV and taken them beaching. I did let one inarticulate scream loose, but they’re just so hollow when there is no one to hear them, amiright?

    I guess this means I’ll be getting a cell phone this weekend. I promised Jen.

    12+
    1. When I was a child in the 50s, ABC radio in Australia had a show called The Argonauts, which was VERY loosely based around the original Argonauts in that the leader was called Jason and everyone had ancient Greek names, and the sign-off was ‘Good rowing, Argonauts!’ ‘Good rowing, Jason.’ A huge number of kids belonged to it, sending in drawings and stories and stuff, and we all had our own names. Scratch just about anyone of my generation and they’ll tell you their Argonaut name. I was Cambyses 4.

      14+
    2. I just added The Orphans of Raspay: A Penric and Desdemona novella in the World of the Five Gods (Penric & Desdemona Book 7) by Lois Bujold at Amazon (also at ITunes).

      4+
      1. Thank you, Gary, for the head’s up!
        Also thank you, Jenny, for the clarification re: Michael Gilbert. From the way they were packaged, I got the impression there were two authors, one older (classic crime) and one new. I shall give them a try.

        2+
  8. Reread “Kill the Queen” so I can start in on “Protect the Prince.” I like it so far 🙂

    4+
  9. I read a couple of DE Stevenson’s books. They were free on Kindle Unlimited and I was curious after reading about her here. I enjoyed them. Not sure I enjoyed them enough to track down more but I might. I also read the Poison Ink books by Beth Byers. And found a short story with her Lady Violet, et al. in Candlelight Madness.

    6+
  10. I read the worst book yesterday, followed by two bad graphic novels trying to get some of that sweet, sweet 80s nostalgia money.

    I am depressed.

    6+
    1. I was an 80s kid. I have no nostalgia. I enjoy Stranger Things but it does not make me nostalgic.

      4+
      1. LOL. This reminds me of my husband saying “Of course, he did not date in high school. Did I looked at year books from the late 50’s and early 60’s. Poodle skirts, bright red lipstick and pony tails.” And for girls all the guys wore square, black heavy-framed glasses and crew cuts. It’s a miracle there was a next generation at all.

        11+
        1. My high school yearbook picture looks nothing like me at the time. My mother made me go to a beautician who teased my hair to the point where it looks like my head exploded. The glasses did not help.

          9+
          1. I didn’t have a high school yearbook picture because they would only include pictures taken by one or the other of the two bad photographers who had a studio in our very small suburb. I was far too stubborn to do that. Instead I saved up the money I made at my part time job and had my picture taken by the very artsy photographer who had a studio near my Dad’s downtown office. The photographer was so impressed by my determination (read as stubbornness) that he gave me an open invitation to stop by any time he wasn’t shooting. And I met some very fascinating people there over the years.

            12+
  11. I just finished (and enjoyed) Less (winner of the Pulitzer Prize) by Andrew Sean Greer. It’s the story of a novelist, about to turn fifty, who accepts a raft of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world in order to avoid his boyfriend’s wedding.

    I also started, and then immediately stopped and deleted from my Kindle, an ARC for a Regency Romance. It started with a prologue and rape that made me so uncomfortable that I didn’t want to go any further. Other readers on Goodreads have said how wonderful the book is, so perhaps I missed a good story but, oh well.

    8+
  12. I read Crossfire, the fourth book in Lindsay Buroker’s Star Kingdom series. Very good, but not the end of the story yet. Fifth book scheduled for September.

    How to Become a Henchman, by J Bennett. A city where super heroes and villains all have their own TV shows, and the City Council passes laws to promote bank robberys, hero/villain fights, as tourist attractions, one girl is just trying to survive long enough to graduate from college. But there just aren’t that many jobs available in Little Big City…

    And Murder by Chocolate, by Beth Byers, the latest in her Lady Violet Carlyle mystery series. Still good. This time they’re meeting her new husband Jack’s family, poisoned chocolates ensue.

    4+
  13. The best thing I read this week was a letter from my nephew in law. Yesterday was my Mom’s birthday and he sent a note to all of her kids in case we were having trouble dealing with the first birthday since her death. No book could match that level of kindness and consideration.

    I also enjoyed finishing The Governess Game by Tessa Dare. The heroine and her friends had individual interests and talents and 2/3 of them had to work for a living. It was much more fun than listening to spoiled little rich girls size up the financial assets of their prey,

    14+
  14. Still binging Pratchett/Vimes-books. Finished “Feet of Clay”, then went straight on to “Jingo”, “The Fifth Elephant” and just finished “Night Watch”. I’m entirely sure Pratchett and Vimes, together with you ladies, keep me sane. So I’ll pick up “Thud!” now.

    I was googling Distressed Pudding the other day and discovered that there is(!) a “Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook”. I will have to buy this at some point! Has any of you read it?

    90 % done with “The History of Karate” and so forth by Mark I. Cramer. I still think it’s a very good and interesting book for those (including me) interested in martial arts, karate in particular. It’s repetitive at times, but I think that is to remind the reader of what’s been mentioned before. However, larger part of the book repeats itself sometimes, and then suddenly he keeps putting in stuff like “see chapter 5” in situations where he would do a repetition before. A bit weird but… Oh well. I’ve enjoyed the read, that’s what counts. 🙂

    Time to look for a new nonfiction read!

    4+
    1. Yes, I have a copy of Nanny Ogg’s cookbook, it is fun. It is no Joye of Snacks but, obviously that was banned by the Patrician 🙂

      5+
  15. I’m just reading your blog, but I’d love to read the Chicken Au Jus recipe – can you share a link?

    4+
    1. I think you probably have to belong to Plated to get the recipe, and I’ve changed it some, but it’s pretty simple:

      Saute panko-breaded chicken breasts in olive oil in an oven-proof pan until brown on both sides but not cooked through. Remove from pan.

      Saute shallots (or not, the original recipe didn’t have them) in same pan, then deglaze the pan with eight ounces of chicken broth, a quarter cup of white wine, and the juice of half a lemon. I mostly just slosh stuff in. Simmer for a couple of minutes to thicken and maybe add some parsley.

      Return the breasts to the pan and sprinkle parm on top. They used half a tablespoon, but that is to laugh. I’m a lot more lavish.

      Pop in the over and bake until the chicken is done. They said 12 minutes in a 375 oven. I let the chicken go to about 160 degrees because I know it’ll finish as it rests, especially in enameled cast iron.

      After about five minutes rest (for the chicken, not you), slice the chicken and serve it over whatever you want and then stir a couple of pats of butter into the sauce and pour that over everything. They went with broccoli and orzo for a base, which left me cold, so I serve it over wild rice with peas, mushrooms, and garlic, but you can put it on just about anything.

      11+
  16. I (re)read Sweep of the Blade, and it was interesting to see how and where it changed between the web episodes (?) and the final publication and enjoyed it.

    I also read Rising out of Hatred, which is well-written nonfiction about a man who grew up in the heart of the white supremacist movement and then separated from it as an adult. There’s a lot potential for big drama in the story and it is instead very human in scale and scope and told in a way that recognizes the courage it took to step away without excusing the damage both the movement and the person caused, or minimizing how painful the separation was for the families involved. I am really glad I read it, because for all that parts of it rocked me back on my heels, it left me with some hope I didn’t know I was missing.

    And I am working on reading a Fred Vargas mystery in the original French. Before the squishing I was pretty literate and it’s much more difficult now. Like, agonizing and I’ve gotten a dictionary for the kindle which is wicked shaming. I should’ve started with a children’s book but I really wanted this series.

    5+
    1. Now, there’s an idea Anne. I have enjoyed her books in English (except the one set in Quebec for some reason). And I don’t read in French (anymore), except local newspapers and occasionally blogs, because I’m lazy and read for pleasure. I still find speaking daily in a second language fun in a challenging way but reading, just arduous. But it would be good for my ageing brain. And I do love Adamsberg, more than Gamache (possibly because Three Pines was modelled after the village I currently live in and I have occasionally felt he was more an English person’s idea of a QuĂ©becois cop than the real thing. Penny’s a good writer but she’s from Ontario …lol).

      7+
      1. I have to say, it is kicking my butt and if I wasn’t so stubborn and so curious I would give right up. My squished-up brain needs the work which I can especially tell by how disinclined it is to do it, if you see what I mean. All the words are just out of reach and my brain doesn’t want to stretch.

        When I lived in Maine we used to come up to Quebec and it was so lovely.

        4+
      2. Interesting thoughts re Three Pines, Beth.

        I also think Louise Penny is a lovely writer, but as someone who is from QuĂ©bec (MontrĂ©al) and also writes books set there I think it’s open to lots of interpretations. Hard to say where those interpretations comes from, though. Years ago when I shopped my series to agents & editors I had a lot of interest in my books, but they always wanted me to change how I depicted MontrĂ©al and the Francophones–they wanted me to really play all of it up like a caricature because then they could really sell it (apparently). This was not a change I wanted to make, so I didn’t work with them, but since then I often wonder how much how a place (or its people) is depicted is solely the discretion of the writer or influenced by their agent/editors input.

        4+
  17. “Lab Girl,” the autobiography of scientist Hope Jahren. I had to force my way through the first couple chapters, and the text cries out for a good line editor–but her stories are fascinating and should lead to a good book club discussion.

    8+
    1. Pre-squish I worked in a research unit and I have to say that the recommendations for Lab Girl from MD/Ph.Ds are pretty consistently favorable, and often rather forceful. I have a copy TBR, but I am a procrastinator. Now I am more motivated bc Argh recs just win always.

      6+
    2. I second that recommendation. I liked the book on several levels. The science parts I thought were very painterly written (except for the surprising poverty of the life of a scientist!). On the personal side Hope struck me as an over-achiever even as a child–but it comes off as dedication (and maybe competition) not snottiness. Later in the book though [SPOILER ALERT?] a chapter opens with a manic-depressive episode that explains a lot. But for me it was also a fascinating first-hand inside look at how that disease works. Like MJ said, a good book for thought.

      0
  18. You love dogs, Jenny…I highly recommend “Swimming for Sunlight” by Allie Larkin.
    It made me laugh and ugly-cry in parts, and the dog didn’t even die.
    Her book “Stay” (another dog) was good, too.

    2+
  19. A couple of weeks ago someone here mentioned Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, so I got it from the library, but after the first few chapters began to suspect I had already read it. Never mind! It was well worth a reread, so thanks to whoever mentioned it.

    I also read Marisa de los Santos’ Love Walked In, which was so full of heart, and utterly delightful, particularly because it didn’t at all go where I expected it to go.

    4+
  20. Just finished “Mostly Harmless” which wraps up Hitchhikers Guide. It was a bit depressing. And I’ve started “Beastly Bones” which is the second book of the Jackaby series which is not depressing.

    2+
  21. I just read the new Mary Balogh book “Someone to Honor”. I love the idea that started the series, but this book…. in one scene the hero acted like a petulant child. (imho). So I have a little bit of a problem with this book…

    4+
    1. Oh dear. I bought it the other day, because even though the series has gone downhill, I thought I’d want to finish it. I’ll set my expectations really low.

      2+
      1. It just wasn’t up to her usual, for me. And I’d bet there is one more coming, because the brother (Harry?) needs his story told.

        3+
        1. There are two books —Harry and Jessica—-and a novel for Matilda.

          I don’t recall a scene where the hero acted like a child but I did feel like their relationship had no momentum at all.

          But any Balogh is a delight in how it depicts every day life so I still think it’s worth a read.

          0
          1. I agree about Balogh being a delight. She’s a peaceful read. (When he said he won’t do something, he just won’t do it).

            I’m looking forward to the 2 more books. And I’m glad Matilda’s getting her own story.

            0
  22. I just finished the Jenny Colgan book Christmas on the Island, I mostly enjoyed it, too much waffling about between the lovebirds. The rest of the characters were very good. I got the Judith Flanders out of the library and discovered I had already read them, but enjoyed rereading them.

    Has anyone read Janet Neal? She is a British mystery author I enjoyed very much some years ago, the protagonist worked as a Civil Servant and her boyfriend worked in Scotland Yard. I must dig then out again. I think Jenny you would like them.

    Someone mentioned Alice Tilton’s detective Leonidas? Are the books being reprinted again?
    I liked them, and would enjoy reading them again.

    5+
    1. That would be Janet Neel. She is brilliant. Her Francesca books are by far the best. Death’s Bright Angel (first in the series) and Oh Gentle Death (last in the series) are by far the best IMHO. She writes about music and musicians (as well as death, obviously), so well that a non-musician can be transported by it. A real gift.

      9+
      1. Second the praise of the Janet Neel books! I particularly love DEATH’S BRIGHT ANGEL, and especially the scenes set at the amateur choir’s MESSIAH rehearsal. I always laugh when I read them again.

        6+
  23. Today I finished reading an excellent book:

    The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built, by Jack Viertel

    If you like Broadway musicals, theater in general, show tunes, or behind-the-scenes stuff (not gossip; nuts and bolts) about actors, singers, composers, writers, producers, etc, this is the book for you. Tremendously entertaining and educational.

    4+
  24. Reading The Racketeer by John Grisham. Gripping! I have several books I need to read for work and I do read and love a lot of non-fiction but was ready for a break.

    4+
  25. Not really reading. But the job interview today was pretty good. They have a lot of experienced candidates so I may not get an offer. I don’t know if I should hope they do offer it to me or hope they don’t!!

    This week I’m babysitting my daughter’s dog so there are four dogs in the house again. Pippin is sulking in her bed but will love it when Darcy runs with her tomorrow.

    I drank a caffeinated soda at 8 pm and now am wide awake at 2:30 am. Tomorrow will be full of naps. The funny thing is that caffeine doesn’t usually keep me up. In fact, it often makes me sleepy. Not tonight apparently. Ugh.

    11+
  26. This morning Cruel Fate by Kelley Armstrong turned up on my doorstep. This afternoon, I’ve finished it.

    3+
  27. Have you read The Friend, Jenny, by Sigrid Nunez? I just finished it the other day. It’s about a woman’s friendship with a dog (a great dane) helps her come to terms with the death of a friend. Lovely writing. Thoughtful.

    3+
  28. I read The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) yesterday and it was so great that I immediately moved on to Wayfarers #2 and am halfway through that. If you’ve read all the MurderBot books and need more space opera I highly recommend this.

    3+
  29. I read Barbara O’Neal’s new one, When We Believed In Mermaids which was very good. All of her books are very good. Then Sweep of the Blade which I hadn’t read all of on the blog and thoroughly enjoyed and then Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer which is a fairy tale mashup/retelling so if you like books like Uprooted, Robin McKinley’s Beauty etc or Fire and Hemlock, you will probably enjoy a lot.

    1+
  30. Read Every Wild Heart by Meg Donahue on the plane home. Skipped a few pages otherwise okay. Got it from Book Pub a while ago. Slowly going through unread books on nook. Bought a lot of different genres and authors.

    1+

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