This is a Good Book Thursday, August 29, 2019

I’m reading Krissie’s work-in-progree (working title: “34th St. Time Travel”) and enjoying it tremendously (while I take apart the structure, of course).  She’s reading the latest draft of Nita, while taking apart the characterization, of course.  

So what are you reading?  Taking anything apart?

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72 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, August 29, 2019

  1. I miss Jon Stewart. Not that his replacement on the Daily Show, Trevor Noah, isn’t cute & smart & funny, but there was a smart idealism to Jon Stewart that made every show unexpected and potentially thrilling — with the brilliant, truth-telling insight of it all.

    So I’m reading a biography of Stewart called Angry Optimist by Lisa Rogak at work during my lunch breaks, so it’s just six or seven pages a day over salad and soup or whatever — which means I can savor each phase of his life, which seems to have been different than I remembered. Rogak has some serious flaws as a writer, leaving bits out of her transitions that make you scratch your head sometimes, but the great thing about the book is reading all the quotes from Stewart that help to illuminate why he did or didn’t do certain things. “I didn’t realize the most of the show’s writers were basically assholes,” he said, after taking over for the smarmy self-absorbed comic who preceded him on the show. “They’d do a joke about how bad it was for girls to see Barbie as a role model, and then pitch the next one about how ugly some spokesmodel was.” Apparently most of them eventually quit, which was a plus for Jon because it meant he didn’t have to confront and fire them during his first few months on the show. And he gradually made the Daily Show into the cultural landmark it turned into in the US.

    At a time when my country is being run by a sociopathic narcissist, and similar (but slightly less crazy) nuts seem to be running the Brexit debacle in Britain and the rainforest destruction in Brazil, I just yearn for people like Jon Stewart, whose heart and humanity sparked such joy in me. And somebody seems to be Marie Kondo-ing these people out of power in our world.

    1. I also miss Jon Stewart. I think your description of smart idealism is perfect. I found more than once that his expectations for those who serve as elected officials were much higher than mine, which made me question and then raise my standards.

      I wasn’t sure how I was going to survive the current administration without him, but I’ve come to really like Stephen Colbert as well as Trevor Noah.

      I finished the third novel in the Raksura series by Martha Wells. I’ve really enjoyed the voice of the main character Moon. He’s not just the hero – he’s growing emotionally and I like it.

      I read Tightrope by Amanda Quick because it became available from the library, but just couldn’t get into it. I really want to start the book 4 in the Raksura series. I’m going to try to put it off for a couple of days, though, because I have a lot that I need to get done and once I get involved in a story, I don’t read responsibly. 🙂

  2. I finished up Dark Lord of Derkholm, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Now, based on a recommendation from my brother, I’ve started Wool by Hugh Howey. It’s a post-apocalyptic story of a civilization that resides within an old missile silo. There are over a 100 floors deep into the ground. No one goes outside, unless it is to die. It’s really well written and the characters are engaging. I’m only within the first fifty pages of a substantial book. I don’t think it is for the faint of heart – there has been some heart breaking stuff so far – but I think it will be a thought-provoking read.

    1. Wool is pretty good. I’ll be interested in what you think at the end.

      Don’t forget to add Year of the Griffin to your line up (sequel to Dark Lord). And, if you haven’t already, Homeward Bounders and also my favourite since I was eleven and found it at a library, Charmed Life Both Diana Wynne Jones).

      You could also check out, if you like YA, Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover. And Jones’ Fire and Hemlock. All excellent.

      If you like SF, and you can find it, have a go at The Man Who Folded Himself, by David Gerrold.

      I’m a quarter into a WiP, so am only reading the first book in The Expanse series.

  3. I liked Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills. I also read The Inevitable Collision of Birdie and Bash, which is good but has very, very dark subject matter (drunk driving, small child hit by car, dying mom).

  4. In France, I stumbled across a book-exchange box in a tiny chapel within a just-as-tiny village. No German books, of course, and the only English one they had was “Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. It sounded promising, so I took it with me. Of course it’s not a novel, but one of the most interesting books I read in a long time.

  5. I’m mostly reading my WIP too (second in the garlic farm mystery series) — the final proofread/polish before it’s due September 15. And looking forward to starting the third book in the series next week after a long weekend of playing with fabric and my new sewing machine.

    Next week, I’ll be reading the stories in ME TOO SHORT STORIES: AN ANTHOLOGY, Crimes Against Women, Tales of Retribution and Healing, which comes out on Tuesday. I’ve got an urban fantasy story in it (under the pen name Gin Gannon to avoid genre confusion, because it’s darker/bloodier/language-ier than my cozy mysteries), but there’s apparently a wide range of genres in it. There’s a glitch with retailer listings, so it’s only listed at Amazon right now, but it should be at the other major sites by Tuesday. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VNP8RZX/

  6. The only book I’m actively reading is Murder With Peacocks, and I’m less than half done. It seems… dense? And I’ve come to dislike all the brides. But I haven’t narrowed the list of suspects, yet, so maybe one of them…

    1. PEACOCKS is the first book, as I’m sure you know, and the series gets better and better as it goes along. I think the author really hits her stride at about the fourth book (which doesn’t mean the first three aren’t fun–they are). Have you gotten to the part in PEACOCKS where Meg’s Dad is using milk jugs to test water current? I enjoyed that a lot. If you just can’t get into it, you could always jump to the fourth book, CROUCHING BUZZARD, LEAPING LOON, but I’d advise sticking with PEACOCKS a little longer before you leap (or crouch).

        1. You were close! MURDER WITH PUFFINS is the second book in the series. MURDER WITH PEACOCKS is the first.

    2. Keep on with PEACOCKS. I’ve said often that if I had to deal with those brides, I’d be the murderer, not the sleuth!

    3. I just looked up this book to add it to my list of books to try and realized it’s set where I live – Yorktown, VA! Now I MUST read it.

  7. I’m reading No Escape Claws, the 6th in a cozy series by Sofie Ryan (who I think might be an Argher under another name). Really enjoying the series. Also working on a cozy of my own, so lots of rereading of that.

      1. I prefer the Sofie Kelly ones. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both good. But I love Owen and Hercules (the cats).

  8. I enjoyed The Rosie Result by Graeme Simionson, it was funny and light hearted like his first book. And I read Eye Spy by Mercedes Lackey, which I also enjoyed. It was a bit like a series of related short stories instead of a single novel.

    1. I, too, enjoyed books 1 and 3 more than book 2. I’ve just bought “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” whose main character is also on the spectrum, but haven’t started it yet.

  9. I gulped down Gail Carriger’s latest, Reticence, which was fun and charming. I also listened to 2 audiobooks about a ghost hunter which were entertaining and I’m listening to Dead Voices by Katherine Arden which is a middle grade ghost story.

  10. I reread a couple of my Christmas novellas that will be in anthologies this year, which I didn’t mind doing as much as usual, because I was having a hard time finding anything new to read. Many books I want to read are war-era — usually WWI or II — but there’s so much crap going on in the world that I want something less fraught. Such as a murder mystery — I guess because usually only one or two people are killed and the bad guys get caught. So I bought Cocaine Blues, the first in the Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood. I like the TV show (especially her clothes — I’m not generally interested in clothing except for practical purposes, but hers are so gorgeous!), so I thought I might like the books even better, and yes! I can’t wait to finish work and cuddle up and read the rest.

    1. Phryne Fisher’s clothes are beautiful and the books talk about food a lot as well. I’ve comfort read my way through the entire series as I come across them in the libraries. May have to invest in my own copies

    2. Good. FYI, Kerry Greenwood is about 40% along on the current Phryne book — no working title that I know of — and there’s a movie sequel to the screen series in progress as well. I’m not sure about the current status of that. She does say that the book continues the story of the paper Phryne, while the movie continues the story of the screen Phryne, and as anyone who has read the books and seen the screen version knows, they are a bit different.

  11. I bought and read 3 new novels by Sharon Shinn – a series about echoes. Truth to tell, I was disappointed. Shinn was one of my all-time favorite writers before, and I enjoyed every book she has written prior to this series, but I actually disliked these 3 new novels. I finished only one of them, the second. The others, I couldn’t bring myself to read to the end. They are much bleaker than her previous works, and the system of the echoes made me uneasy and unhappy.
    In the world of this series, every aristocrat has one or several echoes – creatures that look exactly like their ‘original’ but don’t have their own consciousness. They are just mindless echoes, unable to think or speak, and their movements always echo their originals.
    When in book #3, she made an echo a protagonist, I couldn’t understand that choice. By page 70, when I stopped reading, the heroine still didn’t have much of her own personality; she was still learning to construct independent sentences (in secret), so her characterization was a moot point, but how can a book protagonist be a non-personality? I was pretty depressed.
    After I finished with the series, to cheer up, I decided to re-read one of Georgette Heyer’s. I settled on The Reluctant Widow, and what a delightful contrast. Every character acquired a distinct personality long before page 70: the heroine, her beau, his brothers, even the dog. A wonderful book.

        1. The Reluctant Widow is not one of my faves, but when Heyer is on, she’s ON. When I began writing, I decided I wanted to be for contemporary what Heyer was to historical. Heyer, Dorothy Parker and the woman who wrote “Green As Spring.” They never fail.

          1. Personally, I believe you succeeded. Like with Heyer there are some I like better than others, but you and Heyer are wonderful.

    1. I am a Sharon Shinn fan too but have been hesitant to order these books as I was a bit put off by the idea of the echoes. I think I will wait and see if my local library gets them and then give them a try.

        1. Me three. I love most of Shinn’s stuff but didn’t enjoy her shapeshifter books. Although I did think they were well done.

  12. I need to find something to read – I just have such funny taste in books that I don’t know what to pick.

    I’m exhausted and need something light, funny and possibly mystery. And because I listen, the narrator has to be good too.

    I’m a tired and cranky child right now. I’ll be better on the weekend!

    1. Have you tried Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters? I like the one narrated by Barbara Rosenblat.

  13. I’m in the middle of reading Gumiho by Kat Cho, and thoroughly enjoying it. It’s YA fantasy about a Korean fox spirit and I love all the characters – they’re sharp and snarky.

  14. I am about to start a beta read on Lord Bryon’s Daughter which means my next read will be Victorian or Heyerdahl. I’m thinking Caroline Warfirkd’s The Unexpected Wife. Right now is am reading a brilliant mid grade/ya debut novel- Cursed by Karol Ruth Silverstein. I love her voice. I read till two am last night.

    1. Moral of last post? Don’t type on a small screen after having your eyes dilated. Heyer and Warfield.

  15. I had a miss and a half this week, but they’re both books that have been widely acclaimed, so it’s probably me. I’m keen to hear what others think though…

    The first was The Bride Test. I finished it, but didn’t love it. It felt the conflict was based on not communicating (acceptable from the autistic hero, not from her), and the heroine felt inconsistent – apparently strong and brave and clever, but her day-to-day behaviour didn’t reflect that – it felt like two different characters. But I guess all of us are faceted, so maybe I’m being a bit harsh.

    The half is Red, White and Royal Blue – I really want to like it but I keep get thrown out of the story – it doesn’t start at the start, the ‘arch-nemesis’ (without real cause), the way the mistitled ‘Prince of England’ talks (like he’s in a regency, because aristrocracy don’t use contractions?), and a really unconvincing portrayal of England (Jane, if only they had asked you to edit it for Britishness!).

    Those who have read it – is it worth finishing? I have to keep stopping to roll my eyes…but I could really do with a lovely escapist romance. With characters who are competent – I have definite craving for competence just now.

    The problem with excessively competent writers like Jenny and KJ Charles is that they spoil me – fun, smart books with smart characters and never a step wrong.

    1. I just downloaded “The Bride Test” from the library so I’ll be giving it a shot this week. Your not the first person I’ve heard that didn’t love it. Unfortunately, this means that if I don’t really get into it fast I probably won’t finish it. I no longer waste time trying to finish books if I don’t connect with them. Life is too short.

    2. I loved the Bride test. I forgive the not-communicating thing because she’s:
      – alone in a foreign country
      – separated from her support network
      – has dramatically less social and economic power in the relationship
      – aware that she frequently makes cultural missteps throughout the book

      She’s in a circumstance where the stakes for being vulnerable and telling the truth are a lot higher, so her not telling didn’t undermine the assertion that she was brave, for me. It just felt real. That said, I definitely accepted the relatively simple/ based on misunderstanding conflicts because it’s basically a Cinderella story. And as such, I need it to hit different beats (worthy prince, dreamy heroine with a backbone, awesome party with fabulous dress, etc.), which it did.

      But also sometimes you just don’t click with a book.

      1. Those are very good points, and I’m sure you’re right re the communication, I just didn’t want to see it because the character was annoying me so much – halo effect in reverse. Situations like when he opened all the doors and windows after she cooked – she recognised that he didn’t like the smell of the cooking, but the next morning, she didn’t think to open the windows herself when she cooked (this from a woman we’re told again and again is clever) – that became symptomatic to me of poor communication, but yes, I should see those things separately. And accept that sometimes a book is just not for me!

        On the other hand I finished Red, White and Royal Blue and actually enjoyed it – it’s definitely written for US audiences – there is a lot of expectation that you understand the US political system and references, and in contrast the UK largely rings false (except the descriptions of the V&A), but if i suspend that I liked the characters and their relationship, so in the end, a win.

  16. I got an email:

    [eroticwriterssupportgroup] Dear Mr. Jordan (and all of you)
    Friday
    Aug 28, 2019, 9:49 PM (23 hours ago)
    I’m trying to remember a title to a story and I swear to doG it was something Gary gave me a link to online. It’s a science fiction short story. I really want t

    It’s about a colony on either the moon or mars. Mostly underground and the main character is a teenage girl who’s a guide to help tourists find their way around the city. There’s a huge central area where they can put on wings and fly. Orange wings signify a novice flyer. The tourist the girl is guiding is an older lady, a famous actress from Earth, who wants to try flying. She has an accident and the guide saves her by getting underneath her and breaking the fall. The guy she’s interested in has been flirting with the actress but when he sees the accident he realizes he loves the guide.

    This is driving me batshit. Anyone remember the name or author of this story? I’m sure it’s a short story, not a full novel. Please help me before I lose my mind trying to remember.

    I recognized it instantly – The Menace From Earth by Robert A. Heinlein, a Dean of American Science Fiction. I replied as much and included a picture of the eponymous book cover. She replied with thanks and a link, thusly: “And if anyone else wants to read it, it’s posted for free on Baen Books website. https://www.baen.com/Chapters/0743498747/0743498747___2.htm –Beth”

    It’s a very short story, so I just re-read it. I recommend it to anyone.

  17. I just finished Sapphire Flames, the fourth book in Ilona Andrews Hidden Legacy series (there’s also a novella that’s billed as book 3.5 in the series). I had really high hopes for this one, and it was very good. I’m not sure why I didn’t think it was great. I’ll have to ponder that some more.

    I also read several new Beth Byers books, my goodness she’s putting them out quickly. The 14th Lady Violet Carlyle mystery, she’s now Mrs. Jack Wakefield, as she prefers to be called. Murder By the Sea. Pretty good. This time it’s not someone they know well, or are related to, who gets killed. And a lot of the book is focused on wether Ham and Rita will be able to reconcile.

    Also Death Misconstrued, the fourth book in her mystery homage to Miss Buncle’s book. This time they’ve left Bard’s Crook. Not bad.

    And Philanderer’s Gone. The first book in her new series, which I didn’t really enjoy.

    1. Sapphire Flames is a bit much of a Middle Book because there is no real resolution and the Big Bad is still there and only the reader is aware (and the writers). But my daughter and I still loved it. It was a fun ride.

  18. Been reading Gary Corby mysteries set in ancient Greece. Full of historical facts and tidbits and name dropping (for example, the main character’s younger brother is Socrates). Interesting enough that I keep going although I also keep tripping over the racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., attitudes of the characters. To be fair, they’re not the author’s attitudes, they’re the attitudes of the culture and time that he’s writing about, and it’s clear he’s not endorsing them one bit. But it’s still difficult to read. And my tolerance level for that sort of bias seems to be getting lower and lower. Current state of local/US/world affairs not helping. Hmm, I sound cranky. Ignore me. But don’t ignore the books.

      1. I agree with you. It would undoubtedly help if I mentioned that in the book I just finished, the main character, who is Athenian, didn’t stay in Greece, he went to a Persian colony. The author used that culture clash between the differing mores of each culture in order to point out how ridiculous some beliefs were then (and now).

  19. My brother is producing stack after stack of books, as we go through my mother’s house (anyone need an 1876 encyclopedia?) and last night he came up with a box that I identified as all keepers. So I’m comfort reading Helene Hanff’s LETTER FROM NEW YORK, a collection of pre-blog blog posts she actually used for a short monthly gig on the BBC Women’s Hour Broadcast. So they’re three page accounts of what was going on in her life, among her friends, and around her city.

    1. I was going to ask why Helene Hanff’s name was so familiar-sounding, but then I remembered that she is the author of 84, Charing Cross Road. She always wrote in a way that sounded like she would have been a nice person to know.

    2. If you were anywhere near Vancouver Canada I’d love that encyclopedia. But I figure you’re not ….

  20. Just devoured sapphire flames by ilona andrews, first of a new trilogy in her Hidden Legacy series. Excellent.

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