69 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, August 1, 2019

  1. I’m really enjoying “The Devil Himself” by Eric Dezenhall (fictionalized version of Meyer Lanskey telling about how he and other mobsters helped foil Nazi spies in New York Harbour right after Pearl Harbor). Really beautiful language that makes me stop and wish I owned the book so I could highlight (it’s from the library).

    I also recently finished and loved “A Prince on Paper” by Alyssa Cole (cute contemporary romance that does the Playboy With Secret Feelings + Wallflower trope very well) and got halfway through Nuts (contemporary small-town romance) before the library repo’d it off my Kindle (liked it so far, but it was a slow burn/internal conflict and I wasn’t hooked enough to buy it when my library copy disappeared).

  2. I finished The Traitor Baru Cormorant, and it was GREAT. Utter competence porn power games. (Be aware that there are some upsetting character deaths.)
    Currently devouring the sequel. It’s less focused, but there’s a sense of purpose to the digressions, that all of these different pieces are relevant.

    1. Finished the sequel. It was definitely less focused, and so in that sense, did not capture the appeal of the first book. However, it was also kind of thematically questioning the appeal of that first book, so the messiness was intentional. A very Empire Strikes Back/The Last Jedi kind of novel, so very much dependent on if the next one sticks the landing.

  3. Just finished Pico Iyer’s latest, “Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells,” which is beautifully written and appropriately elegiac, with ping pong and the Dalai Lama. It’s set in Kyoto environs, where he lives half of the year with his wife, who is Japanese, and about whom he has written before in “The Lady and The Monk.”

  4. Zipped through T. Kingfisher’s (Ursula Vernon) just-released MINOR MAGE last night. Loved it, even though, superficially, it’s not what I’d expect to enjoy.

    Actually, Ursula herself said something on Twitter the other day about only choosing books based on writing style and worldbuilding, not plot, so pitches that focus on plot are meaningless to her. And once she’s decided she enjoys the style/world (and I’d add “community” as part of the world, and I think by style she means to include voice), she’ll read anything by the author, regardless of plot.

    I’ve always felt that way (when it comes to my own choice of reading — I understand how pitches to editors and publishers have to be more plot-based). I read back-cover blurbs or review summaries and they’re pretty much white noise; I have to read the first page to know if I’m going to like it, and then the plot can be pretty much anything. (Assuming basic competence.)

    So, a 12-yo coming-of-age-with-horror-elements is not something I’d expect to like from the plot points. But I read one page and I was hooked. Well, I was predisposed to like it, because it was Ursula Vernon, but I think I’d have been hooked by the page regardless.

    1. Well I really enjoyed her Swordheart. So based on your recommendation, although I’m not a horror fan, I figured I would at least download a sample of Minor Mage. But after reading the blurb I just went ahead and bought it.

      “He only knew three spells, and one of them was to control his allergy to armadillo dander. His attempts to summon elementals resulted in nosebleeds, and there is nothing more embarrassing than having your elemental leave the circle to get you a tissue, pat you comfortingly, and then disappear in a puff of magic. The armadillo had about wet himself laughing.”

      I may even have to move this one up to the top of my To Be Read pile.

    2. I have been thinking about this and I think one of the things I really delight in with Ursula Vernon’s work, and especially in her work for children, is the way she writes to the smartness of the reader. She writes for children as though they are young and possibly ignorant, not simple or unsophisticated or incapable and her explanations are neatly, subtly done and never condescending. It’s just great. I feel very trusting of her as an author.

      Martha Wells’ Raksura books are the same way, and can therefore be read to the quite young. (My 4 & 5 year old nieces love them. Our progress is slow because of needing to look up words and figure out which definition is the one that best fits, but they are great reads).

  5. I just finished a GAD from the UK by a forgotten author, Moray Dalton…The Strange Case of Harriet Hall… solid mystery from 1930’s Britain. These reprints of a few of her books are very reasonably priced.

  6. I just finished With the Heat on High by Elizabeth Acevido. Emina is an unwed mother exerting her senior year of high school. She loves to cook and the descriptions of what she makes and the spices and seasonings she uses makes me want to really learn how to cook.
    It’s more compiles that it sounds but I really enjoyed it. I got hooked within the first few pages and had trouble putting it down, even to eat dinner!

  7. My favorite cookbook this week is Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients Quick and Easy Food. Saw a few episodes on TV and borrowed it from the library. What we had for dinner from the book is One-Pan Fabulous Fish. So simple and easy. Basmati rice with olive tapenade, cherry tomatoes, basil and fish. Prepared as almost a mini Paella. It was that good.

  8. I pits been a week of so-so books but last week I read When We Were Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal. “Her sister has been dead for fifteen years when she sees her on television.” ~ The premise hooked me and the story did not disappoint. This book is free on Kindle Unlimited.

    1. I just got that book, signed by Barbara at RWA Nationals (I wasn’t there, but I arranged for her to speak at our Women’s Fiction chapter, so the president of the chapter kindly sent me one). Can’t wait to read it.

  9. Finally finished The Missing Corpse by Jean-Luc Bannalec. I feel like I know more about oyster farming in Brittany than any southern woman with a shellfish allergy should. It’s not that I disliked the book; it’s just a different style than my reading “muscles” are accustomed to. There is a pile of detail. Does anyone recall reading The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers and thinking to themselves that they could take up bell-ringing afterwards? Kind of like that.
    Moving onto something completely different–See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson. I started it yesterday and I think it’s hilarious. It’s good fluff and exactly what I want just now.

    1. This was one of the first Rachel Gibson I read and I thought it was really amusing. Also True Confessions, and The Trouble with Valentine’s Day. These were the ones that got me hooked. Some of the rest I liked parts of (I treat the first part of Simply Irresistible as a prologue and go straight to Georgeanne catering a charity dinner. And really the story is a lot stronger for it), but a lot of the later ones I skip huge sections. So I stopped reading her years ago.

      Not as bad as my response to Laurell K Hamilton, who not only did I stop reading, but her later books were so bad that it tainted her earlier ones and I got rid of even the early books that I at one time enjoyed.

        1. Me too. I got embarrassed for her, which is an awful way to feel about an author (or anyone, really).

    2. I am re-reading Nine Tailors right now (just about done). It makes me want to read up on bell ringing British style – the language is just so amazing, even thought I don’t understand a word!

      The story also made me ponder on the the rule “start where the story starts.” The mystery doesn’t really start until the body is found in the grave, yet I wouldn’t miss the first many, many pages for anything.

    3. I think See Jane Score is my favorite Rachel Gibson and I enjoyed The Trouble With Valentine’s Day quite a bit, too. But the one that really got me following her output is Truly, Madly Yours ( and not just because one of my very favorite movies is called Truly, Madly, Deeply)

  10. I just finished “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens about a young girl in the 1950s who was abandoned by her family and left to scratch out a living in a North Carolina swamp. Lyrical, with a murder mystery and sweet love story to keep the pages turning. The ending was pretty ham-fisted but still a good read.

    1. There is a fascinating article, um, somewhere, about the overlap between the book and a murder that took place during documentary filming in Namibia (1995) where her husband and stepson were very very implicated. I am old, and I remember both the documentary and the subsequent (sort of – 2010) NYer article. I have been too uncomfortable with the overlaps to read Crawdads but I admit I am increasingly curious.

  11. I absolutely cannot recommend the following as comfort reads, but I can’t stop thinking about two excellent books I read last month: Wanderers by Chuck Wendig and In The Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant.

    Wanderers is an 800 page sprawling epic about the apocalypse. It’s drawn a lot of well deserved comparisons to Stephen King’s The Stand, but manages to be entirely it’s own thing. The book starts with a plague of sleepwalkers sweeping through America and ends with the end of the world. Wanderers is dark, brutal, and horrifyingly realistic both in its scientific grounding and its understanding of the soul of America in the age of social media and the 24 hour news cycle. It’s a hard, brilliant novel and I hope it gets made into a six season prestige streaming show that sweeps all the award shows every year.

    In the Shadow of Spindrift House, by comparison, is a novella that asks the question “What happens to those meddling kids when they grow up?” It’s the final ride of a Scooby D00-esque band of mystery solvers who have aged out of their precocious adorableness and into traumatized and disaffected young adults. With a Lovecraftian twist. If you’re familiar with Grant’s work you know it’s a bit like punching a ticket to Jurassic Park– no one is guaranteed to come back. But for as terrifying as the story was, I can’t get the feelings it’s evoked out of my head and I hope she revisits the setting soon.

    1. A note about Wanderers: when I say “ends with the end of the world” I don’t mean that literally and this is not a spoiler. The ending is far, far wilder than that!

    2. Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero is a singular notion to the Scooby Gang. I had to return it to the library before I could sink my teeth in, but I love visiting that notion in general.

  12. I read/finished Kill the Queen based on a recommendation from someone last week. I had apparently gotten almost halfway through on my first try. I did like the main character, but the plot felt somewhat trite and predictable. My basic reaction on the second try was, meh. I don’t think I’ll read the sequel.

    I also read Irish Magic by Susan B. James, who posted here asking if anyone would be interested in reading an ARC of it. A pleasant, sweet romance, with a little bit of magic, that gave me a nice feeling about roaming about Ireland with the main characters. I think the people here would definitely enjoy it.

    I also read Murder, She Barked by Krista Davis. A paranormal mystery with pets. I don’t think I liked it as much as the Argh’er who recommended it. Mainly because I’ve read a couple of other books/series similar to it recently that I liked more. A lady goes back to her hometown, or her grandparents hometown, and suddenly starts seeing ghosts. It was pleasant enough but the characters were a little flat, and the mystery was confused by being based on a lot of random secrets and lies.

    My wife discovered the first couple of Aurora Teagarden mysteries, by Charlaine Harris, that I had on the iPad and then went and bought, and read, the next 8, so I think we could call that a recommendation 🙂 This lead me to recommend the Harper Connelly paranormal mysteries, by the same author, starting with Grave Sight. And contemplate re-buying her Lily Bard mysteries, starting with Shakespeare’s Landlord, in ebook form, as we only have them in paperback. Both are a bit darker than the Aurora Teagarden mysteries, but really good.

    1. Have you tried her Sookie Stackhouse series? These are the books that the television show “True Blood” was based on. I liked the first season of the show, but the books are a lot better.

      1. I really enjoyed the first couple of Sookie Stackhouse books. But then about book 3 or 4 the vampires took over and it became all about them, and then they weren’t fun anymore. As I understand it the HBO series leaned on the parts I didn’t like.

    2. I LOVE the Harper books!!! I wish there had been more. I never could get into her other mysteries, and I was disappointed by the ending of Sookie. But Harper, adore the first three books!

      1. You didn’t like Lily Bard? Huh, I’m not sure how you could love Harper and not like Lily Bard.

        1. I’d be willing to give Lily another go. I think, tentatively, I read a later one and just didn’t get sucked in. I disliked aurora after three or so read. I think I need the supernatural to get sucked in to her books. I don’t think the mysteries are enough, the style if it’s just mysteries isn’t my thing. I also don’t like where she tends to go with the books. I liked the first Aurora well enough, but didn’t like how it continued. Sookie was not an ending that befit that series, i don’t think. And i feel like she rushed book four of Harper – it felt out of left field, and I think it’s because she didn’t want to write more of the series so wrapped up that last thread. Just my two cents, to each their own.

          1. Aha. Definitely start with the first Lily Bard, Shakespeare’s Landlord. The character development throughout the series only makes sense if you see where she started from.

            I had the same reaction to Aurora, that’s why I stopped after two books. My wife read all ten though and says they get better after the first couple. So maybe I’ll try them again, or more in this case, since we now own all of them 🙂

          2. You could try the series set in Midnight, Texas. Sort of the same feel as the Harper Connolly series, and with a common character in between. I enjoy them.

  13. I finished Mrs. Harris goes to Parris and it was a sweet little book. Not what I usually read, but that doesn’t matter. I did enjoy it.

  14. I’ve read… I don’t know. What have I been reading?

    Oh, right, I read “Witches Abroad” by Pratchett because I needed some Granny Weatherwax in my life and also some banananana daiquiri, if only for the spelling. Then I went on to “Reaper Man”, because I also very much needed some Death and a bunch of Wizards in my life.

    I’m also still busy with Metro 2033 by Dmitry Gluhkovsky. Not really a chapter a day but still only one chapter per reading session. So it’ll take a while to finish, I suppose.

    Went from Pratchett over to Rick Riordan to reread the “Trials of Apollo”-series, in preparation for the 4th book, which will be released coming October. Now on book 2: “The Dark Prophecy”, after having finished the first one yesterday: “The Hidden Oracle”. I remember that I had serious troubles with bonding with Apollo the first time I read “The Hidden Oracle”, and yes he IS a douche and you want to slap him with an iron skillet several times, but there is a lot of character growth there and all supporting characters are great. Also, the haiku chapter-titles! Inspiring stuff for me that enjoy writing weird travel- or otherplaces-related haikus on Twitter. Riordan knows how to make his characters real, realistic and engaging and his world one you want to revisit again and again.

    Picked up another book to read during streams, about a street fighter who managed to change his violent ways thanks to karate, but I can’t say too much about it yet since I’ve only read one chapter so far.

    Sort of off topic: Have had weird physical symptoms last days, so much that I had to visit the doctor today. Our standard doc is on vacation so this was a temporary one, but he was very kind and sweet (luckily…). He couldn’t find anything visually alarming, so his conclusion was (wait for it… wait for it…) most likely stress, which is… not surprising, I suppose. But it’s troublesome because there’s no fast and easy fix – no pills for these things. We’ve been discussing back and forth the last days whether we should cancel our vacation or not, but I called my mum today and said that except for the live singing I have next week, all I want and can and should do is hug my cat, groom my horse and NOT STRESS. Doctors orders. If other plans were made, they’d have to be cancelled or I can’t go there right now. She said she hadn’t scheduled anything else, so it was fine by her and we’ll all try to teamwork things so I won’t break instead of get some rest. Most of all I am longing to hug my cat.

    But first survive the travel there. Keep a finger or two crossed for me tomorrow, please. Please. Because the journey is a nightmare and it always stresses me out, even at the best of times.

    1. Hugging your cat sounds like a brilliant plan. I hope the journey is far less worrying than you expect, and that your cat is immensely huggable. Fingers crossed for you. xx

    2. Oh best wishes for the trip and I hope the cat hugging is just everything. And I am so glad the doctor was sweet. It really does help.

  15. So I have flailed through my all-in-French mystery reading adventure and I am absurdly proud of what has turned out to be 1. Effective usage of a dictionary and 2. A freakish retention of verb tenses. I often cannot recall my birthday or zip code but the subjunctive and umpty variants of the past in a language I haven’t spoken for 20+ years are no problem. Crikey. Anyway, I continue to believe Fred Vargas is a great read. So far, all of it, in all two of the languages I have tried.

    I have been feeling sort of punk and so I read all the moomin comics in a giant collection and I loved it. It is so big that it is kind of too heavy for me, but it is worth it for the decency (which seems lacking on the real-world macro scale lately) and the comfort I take from it.

    I have also read Sy Montgomery’s How To Be A Good Creature (which I liked and wasn’t what I had expected. I thought it would be more like Bernd Heinrich’s raven books.); and then McKillip’s Forgotten Beasts of Eld, (which I must have read as a kid but felt really new, still) and then both of the Wyndham and Bannerjee books which were very thinky – they are pretty meticulous and it comes through.

    I also made my TBR bigger (but am pretending I did not) by clogging it up with preorders. It is unfortunate, my book greed.

      1. I feel like a blend of chump for having missed her for so long and elated/lucky that for having found her.

  16. I majored in English in grad school decades ago, prefering Old and Middle English lit and language the most. I recently realized that I haven’t read anything dealing with those subjects for a long time. I picked up “wordslut a feminist guide to taking back the english language” by Amanda Montell. I really enjoyed it. Chapters range from gendered insults, grammer nazi’s, cursing, and the use of’ they’ as a singular pronoun. It is funny, breezy, and irreverent; just a nice overview of our ever and rapidly changing language.

    I also read “The BrideTest” by Helen Hoag. Another winner. She does a great job of portraying rather than explaining.The hero is autistic and the heroine is the Vietnamese girl his mother aranges for him to marry. Lovely book.

  17. I read ‘Feet of Clay’ by Terry Pratchett – still on my slow Sam Vimes kick, and still loving it. Also ‘Don’t Look Down’, because I needed happiness and distraction and alligators, and got them in spades.

    Last week I read ‘The Tall Man’ by Chloe Hooper, an utterly heartbreaking book about the devastating history of the Aborigines of Palm Island in Queensland, their relationship with white authorities, and how that has played out so tragically in modern times. Hooper doesn’t downplay the difficulties of policing in remote communities, but puts this up against ‘two hundred years of dispossession and abuse.’

    Quote: ‘Asked at the inquest if he’d received cultural-awareness training, [young Constable Kristopher Steadman] said he’d been told about the barbed wire surrounding the barracks.’

    Then I read the first Grace Burrowes book that I haven’t like much, ‘The Traitor’. Part of it was the hero, who we had met in the previous book as a torturer, and who Burrowes was trying to redeem in this book. Very difficult to accept, as was the heroine’s whole-hearted embracing of him, despite the terrible things he had done. Plus I didn’t find either of the main characters as engaging as usual, and there was a major editing lapse that irritated me and put me off stride.

  18. I’ve been needing comfort reads, so I read Heyer’s The Corinthian — lots of lovely laughter — and now I’m reading some old short romances by Loretta Chase — Isabella and The English Witch. Also downloaded the latest Penric novella by Lois McMaster Bujold. Started it, but it’s a little too fraught for my mood at the moment.

  19. I read three books I really liked: This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel about a family whose child is transgendered, it was funny, heartbreaking and full of love; Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner, which I read compulsively and am still thinking about; and finally The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garces Graves, a love story about a high functioning autistic woman which was also funny and heart wrenching.

  20. I can’t remember the title of the fake marriage romance on Joe. I mentioned it in a post this past week. The little Kindle is doing Fangs for the Mammaries, another of Esther Friesner’s Urban Fantasy Anthologies. Mostly this week I did Amazon Prime TV series.

    Marion G. Harmon, a writer in Las Vegas, is behind on his, as he numbers it, eighth Wearing the Cape novel. I called it Consequences some time back, but he calls it Repercussions. He’s the author, so we’ll go with his choice. Like someone I could mention, he sometimes publishes snippets of his WIP in his blog. At this point, the whole first chapter. Last book, he did five chapters. It’s at https://marionharmon.com/

  21. I ordered lots of stuff from the library and it all came at the same time. First I started Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan for my book club. It is the story of the women who came from all over the country to Oak Ridge, TN (which was just being built) to work on the development of the atomic bomb. It was well written and some of the women profiled were very interesting, but after a while books that keep switching back and forth between a large group of protagonists become hard for me to follow.

    Then I read a review of Women Talking by Miriam Toews (which called her the best novelist in Canada.) It was based on the story of a Mennonite colony in South America where a significant number of the men gave the women animal tranquilizers and raped them while they slept. The women then had to decide whether to stay in the colony and accept the general lack of consequences for the perpetrators or strike out on their own. The book imagined the discussion among the women as they tried to decide. Although I agree with the reviewer about the author’s skill and the depiction of the Mennonite culture was fascinating, I had to put it down before the end because I wasn’t up to such a challenging read this week. So I went back to romances.

    Jenny recommended Grace Burroughs and I tried 2 of them: My One and Only Duke and A Rogue of Her Own. I enjoyed both of them and decided to try another Arghonaut recommended romance. I’m now about 2/3 through The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Lauren. It is a high school lovers reunited book with a very interesting wrinkle. The characters are all survivors of a school shooting who return to town to be interviewed for a documentary. Since the filmmakers will set up a fund for the victims’ families, the survivors agree to return. I am enjoying it so much that I went to grab the sequel before I even finished the first one. My TBR pile is completely out of control , especially since I picked up 2 other new books while I was at the library.

    1. Me Jenny? Because I didn’t. Is there another Jenny on here? (I know there are other flavors of Jennifer . . .)

    2. Miriam Toews is really something. I have read Irma Voth, which was amazing, and then Swing Low. The writing is so lovely and compelling and then the stories are so hard. It’s like Vikram Seth in that way. I am too rickety in my feelings for Women Talking right now but it’s in my TBR.

  22. I’ve been reading Melissa Scott’s The Kindly Ones and even set on another world in the deep future, one of the protagonists goes into a yarn shop and a non-knitter watches in fascination. Then stuff blows up. I am enjoying it a good deal.

  23. I just finished Jane Steen’s “Lady Helena Investigates”, a story set in 1880 about a young widow who finds out that her husband’s death was not an accident but murder. It was part of my sample reading of historicals because I got a book contract for a novel taking place in the area where I live around 1860. A lot of the books I read were truly disappointing – but this one was a real winner so I can only recommend it. It’s the first part of a series but the others haven’t been published yet.

  24. Lois McMaster Bujold just put out the 7th novella in her Penric series (ebook only), which is part of her World of the Five Gods. It had been a while, so I had to read the first 6 novellas first to reorient myself. Penric possesses (by is not possessed by) a demon, which gives him some magical powers. But also makes him an abomination that must be killed by some people of some neighboring nations, which is a problem when your ship is captured by pirates. Then he gets trapped on an island completely controlled by the pirates.

    I find the whole universe really interesting – I might have to read the 3 full novels now, it’s been a while. It has the most fully fleshed-out religion I’ve ever seen in a fantasy world – two versions of the religion, each of which considers the other heretical.

  25. I was slow to order #7 in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric series. This week I read it and really enjoyed it. But then I like everything she writes.

    Lately it has been series mysteries for me: Steven F. Havill’s Posadas County Mysteries and Martin Walker’s Bruno, Chief of Police. I can’t read too much of Walker’s at once but every few weeks or months I find them entertaining.

  26. I read Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews. I hadn’t read it when it was serialised on their blog, but had held out till it was published. I like the Innkeeper universe. I also read Still Life, the first Gamache mystery by Louise Penny. This I read because of its many fans on this forum. I loved this book. Her characterisations, and her characters, are fantastic. The language is so beautiful. All of the witty conversations referencing art and literature were so enchanting. I would have loved it even if the plot was crappy. But it wasn’t! I tried to read it really slowly and enjoy every sentence.

  27. Nothing to recommend. Start, flip and stop reading lately. Started Whose Body yesterday, thought I would start with the first and go to Gaudy Night and Busman’s Honeymoon. And started Once Upon a Gulf Coast Summer too. It seems promising.

    Searching through my real books now. A couple of Louise Penny novels I haven’t read. A couple of non-fiction and a couple of anthologies might do the trick.

    Also reading the new slush pile for an short story & poetry anthology magazine. Some promising reads so far.

  28. Hi Jenny, your former art student Matt here. When we worked together at Books & Co I purchased an architecture book we both coveted… Anyway I remember you really loved the section on Mackintosh. I thought it a bit to angular, stretched and austere for my taste, but you loved it. So I am in a Half Price Books in Houston and I ran across a book called Mackintosh Architecture that you would love ISBN 0847803309. I always imagined you talking the money you made from your books and building a jewel box of a house in the Mackintosh style…so I decided to look you up and low and behold just yesterday you are asking for what to read…I know you always liked eye candy.

    1. Matt!
      I still love Mackintosh. Lovely, lovely stuff. I did manage to get a couple of windows in his rose style, but never built the house.
      So great to hear from you!

  29. For a little bit of magic, family and romance… ‘Garden Spells’ by Sarah Addison Allen.

    For a quirky, sweet, sad and hopeful story about family… ‘Henry’s Sisters’ by Cathy Lamb.

    For a beautiful read that requires more of your heart and mind… ‘Remains of the Day’ by Kazuo Ishiguro.

    For a great Australian story try Tim Winton. Start with ‘Cloudstreet’ (urban) or ‘Dirt Music’ (outback) as everything else gets quite dark.

    My current favourite reads are cook books. Easy to read small amounts and often include the author’s journey. Fascinating and full of community! Perhaps try ‘Baked Explorations’ or ‘Midnight chicken’.

    🙂 Hope you found something that took you far from reality and calmed your soul a little.

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