59 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, September 5, 2019

  1. Blathering on about the series I’m loving is a failing of mine, but if you haven’t read Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn I’m thinking you would enjoy it. It opened my eyes to how useful it is to have clueless innocents providing the opportunity for a great deal of background information about a story, in very few sentences and in a very smooth, unforced way. In this book the story begins through the eyes of a smug tavernkeeper, and as things progress, an innocent character is added to a mix of people whose backgrounds and motivations can be unfolded with hardly any effort. Two home runs in the clueless POV championship, and the runners keep rounding the bases throughout the book, and the series.

    1. I struggled with Mystic and Rider series at its start, but I loved it as it progressed.

      I just* started -The Three Questions by Miguel Ruiz and Barbara Emrys. I figured I’ve read the Four Agreements enough and it DID improve my life. I just need to use it conscientiously.

      * Just as in literally a few minutes ago and read chapter 1.

  2. I just got and finished The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire. Book thirteen in the series, so I can’t say “hey newbies, get this one,” but it finally follows up on something that’s been hanging since book 5, so that’s a yay for me.

    1. I’ve been dithering on whether to get this ASAP or wait for the price to drop, because I was underwhelmed by the last book (#12).

  3. I’ve been rereading a lot, but I also squeezed a couple of new books into the mix.

    First I read the new Fredrik Backman novel. I haven’t found any possible English title for it yet, not even on Goodreads, but it might turn out being something like “People with Anxiety”, being “Folk med Ångest” in Swedish. It was very, very good, just like his other books. That man knows how to put snark into descriptions, and how people are put together. About grief and love and guilt and anxiety, how people puzzle their lives together just to make it through the day. I think he’s very good in patching things together into a real good patchwork story with patchwork characters messing things up for themselves and others. Delightful.

    I was also recommended, read and finished “The School for Good and Evil” by Soman Chainani, first in the series of the same name. Every four years, two kids – one pretty and good, one ugly and bad – are kidnapped from a village and brought to the School for Good and Evil. But what happens there, and why are they brought there? What happens when good meets evil close up, when good becomes evil and evil becomes good? What makes someone good, and what makes someone evil? What defines who, or what, you are? It was intricate and twisty and I really liked it. Not sure if I dare go on to the next, perhaps it can’t hold up to the first one…

    Anyway, planning on starting on “The Fire Keeper” by J. C. Cervantes today. It’s the second in a series called “The Storm Runner” of which the first book was released last year. In the first there was a lot of Maya myth, I think there will be Aztek in this one. Looking forward!

    1. Shass, the first Good and Evil book was good but I felt the series went down hill and got bogged down in rehashing the same themes over and over.

      1. You know, I had that feeling already at the end of the book, that the sequels might not be able to keep up the standard of the first. So I might just leave it there unless I cant find anything to read on my already-too-long-TBR-list and get desperate. not all books need a sequel. Thanks for the heads up about it 🙂

    2. Schass, according to the Salomonsson Agency it’s “Anxious People”…but doesn’t appear to have an English translation yet, so that may well change (I am sometimes astonished how completely different titles may be when translated into another language…).


      1. I’m with you on this one… sometimes titles become ridiculous, weird, misleading or simply uninspired when they’re translated or, in many cases, totally changed. In some cases I’ve got the feeling that the translator of the title wasn’t the same person that translated the book, which sometimes makes for weird titles, too. Or, possibly, that the translator translated the title before translating the book.

        One good example is the Dutch translation of the 2nd “Dark Tower”-book by Stephen King: “The Drawing of the Three”. In Dutch it’s been translated into “Het Teken van Drie”, which would be translated approximately to “The Sign of Three” or to a drawing in a sketchbook (although a drawing is more “tekening” than “teken” but yeah…). Apparently the translator, or title translator, did not get it that “drawing” in this case was referring to “to draw” as in “to pull”…

    3. I found the series went down hill after the first 1-2 books but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy them.

  4. I’ve been listening to the Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman, mostly just because they’re at hand (on a shared Kindle account). The narrator is quite good, and I like some aspects of the stories, but they’re sort of second-tier, as opposed to “gotta read it right now” tier. Others may consider them top-tier though.

    Ooh, and I just got notice that the new Donna Andrews book, Terns of Endearment, is ready to pick up at the library. I inadvertently put the audio version on hold instead of the paper version, and it was already being transferred to my library before I realized it, and I didn’t want to waste the effort, so I get to find out whether I like the narrator and whether the stories work well in audio. Andrews does a lot of plays on words in the books (as you might guess from the title), and they don’t always work so well in audio, at least for me. I need to see the word in order to get the puns.

    1. Let us know what you think! I’ve been wondering about getting an audio version of one of the Meg books from the library; I’d love to know what you think of the narrator and whether you enjoy listening. (BTW, I enjoyed the print version of TERNS; I was first on the request list at the library when it arrived.)

  5. Hi Jenny,
    I was really busy yesterday (most unusual) so I would like today to say thank you for the collage I DID remember Nita and Chloe! but not the rest.thanks.

  6. I am reading (among other things) The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitkin. Can you say plodding through, when really you’re gulping it down as fast as possible? It’s about how our brains organize things and how we make decisions, and it’s heavy on the neuroscience. I know all the words, but putting them together into meaning is some heavy lifting. It’s fascinating, but I feel like a python swallowing a deer.

  7. I’ve been rereading Alexis Hall’s ‘How to Bang a Billionaire’ and then ‘How to Blow it with a Billionaire’ and have just started the new, final book in the series, ‘How to Belong with a Billionaire’. I do think they’d have been better as the single book they really are; but they’re a lot of fun as well as full of heart. I had a slightly surreal moment on Tuesday, walking up to Knightsbridge tube station from the V&A, where I’d looked at the costume gallery, especially thinking of Austen and Heyer – and realized I was headed for One Hyde Park, where Hall’s hero (also a huge Heyer fan) lives.

  8. I just finished By the Book by Julia Sonneborn, a modernization of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I think knowing Persuasion better would have helped. It took a long time to get to the happy ending. The book made me sad, because it was a (very accurate) send-up of academe, the pond in which I swim, despite all the algae bloom. I wanted to shake the characters sometimes, especially the female protagonist, to shout, Stop drinking! So I don’t know if that’s a recommendation or not, but it’s what I’ve read!

  9. We had a return to 90+ degree heat this week. While I’m not a fan of pumpkin spice every-damn-thing, I’m PAST ready for cooler temps. The heat did make for more time for reading as I stayed indoors and blessed the inventor of AC.
    I read Sunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews and The Summer of Sunshine and Margot by Susan Mallery. If you can just read one, I’d go with the Susan Mallery novel but neither is a bad book. My mood often determines what I enjoy more.

  10. I just read Magic Outside the Box by Honor Raconteur, the third book in her Casefiles of Henri Davenforth series, that started with Magic and the Shinigami Detective. Excellent. I highly recommend this series. A police detective is pulled from our world by an insane witch/sorceress into a world where magic exists, and elves and werewolves are just ethnic minorities, and has a technology level equivalent to about the 1930’s. Once they figure out they can’t send her back she gets partnered with forensic magical examiner Henri Davenforth. It has humor, magic, mystery, and a very interesting friendship.

  11. I read the last in the Murderbot series, Exit Strategy. I now REALLY want to read them back to back, as parts of one book (which is basically how they are written) because I think Murderbot’s character arc would be even more stunning all in one gulp.

    1. But as much as I loved them, I can’t afford to spend $37 (Canadian) for 4 novellas. I totally agree with writer’s being paid what their worth, but $11 for 30,000 words is too rich for me.

      1. Yes, like you, I think they are too expensive. I like the stories and the character of Murderbot, but I read them all from the library. If they cost half that much, I’d have bought them.

          1. I’m stalled on them because my library’s not got them, and wasn’t able to buy them when I asked. She needs to rethink her publishing strategy – we won’t be the only potential buyers she’s lost.

          2. She’s not self-published – the pricing is a publisher decision, and she’s published by a big house, so once the revenue stream was established, prices went up. The first murderbot published on kindle and cost 0.99$ Her short stories (both for raksura and the only one out for murderbot) were/are pretty widely available (ie, her website, emagazines) free. I don’t like how big houses treat readers but I’m not confident they treat their writers or staff a whole lot better.

      2. I like to look up my favorite authors and check to see if they have anything new. The past few weeks I noticed that Susan Elizabeth Phillips has had Hot Shots on sale for $1.99 and I thought to myself that I already had it in my bookcase. That is until I checked the bookcase and I don’t have it. So I figured at least the library has a copy. So I went on a quest of all the library networks I’m connected to. I could only find one copy that I would have to travel over hill and dale for. It wasn’t even in the e-books. I finally found it in a Commonwealth network that will deliver it to my library so I ordered it. Long story short this morning I looked up SEP again and the book is now $5.99.

      3. They are pricy per word, though I have reread them so often, and with such increasing delight, that I don’t think I find them pricy per hour.

        But! who could be sure of that before rereading them?

        But! all the ebook pricing schemes that rent them to us and keep charging for every re-read creep me out even more.

        Thank goodness for libraries.

  12. I finished Ilona Andrews’ latest, Sapphire Flames. It’s a solid urban fantasy, a fast and absorbing read, but I liked the previous books of the series better. I liked the protagonists of the previous 3 novels, Nevada and Rogan, better than the protagonists of this one.
    Also, after reading the newest Anne Gracie’s novel, Marry in Secret, I embarked on a re-reading project. I’m devouring all the back list of hers and enjoying every minute of it. It’s not often than I could read books of the same author without a break, but I can in this case. She is a wonderful writer.

    1. Yes. I had a WiP about a bad boss and didn’t know what to do with it (I’ve had bad bosses, but they didn’t apply here) and then found some books that were supposed to be good about the corporate jungle. And I bought a bunch of Malcolm Gladwell, too. You never know what you’ll trip over.

      1. Alison Green runs a blog called Ask a Manager, where people write in about their bad bosses/work situations and she answers. Friday are open-post days for the readers to chat amongst themselves about work stuff and Sat. are open post for chatting about anything. You may find her helpful.

  13. It’s interesting that you guys are talking about the pricing of the Murderbot books which I love but find expensive also in terms of pages per dollar. That’s because I was wondering earlier today about the pricing of Melissa McShane’s self-published books. They’re 13.99 US $ for approximately 220 pages in paperback for each book. 220 pages is a pretty short read for me. So, while I like the Last Oracle series, and would like to read more, they just seem a little too much money for too few pages. And when you consider that the series is at 4 books and is expected to reach, iirc, 9 books before it’s over, then it adds up to quite a lot of money which I’m reluctant to spend. I’d be curious to hear how people who self pub paperbacks decide on a price point? How much do the books actually cost to print and how much of the price of a book is net vs gross? How does one maximize the number of readers while reaping the maximum profits an author deserves for her work? Also, should a reader avoid mentioning concerns about affordability and the bang for the buck to an author or is that something that the author might find potentially useful to know? Hmm. Probably outside the scope of Good Book Thursdays but still I’d like to know.

    In terms of recent reading, I’ve been reading Sarah Zettel’s A Palace of Spies series. I’d describe it as YA espionage capers at the royal palaces in England during the Georgian period. It’s entertaining but I’ve read other Zettel books I thought had a little more depth. But not a bad way to pass a few hours.

    1. I find that all the theories on pricing leave readers like me out of the question. If it is self-published, my library won’t buy it. And after 27 years on disability, trade paperbacks or hardcovers are few and far between(unless they are used or remaindered). So although I agree that authors, as a rule, are grossly underpaid, I am not in a position to do much about it.
      My library is devoting more and more money to buying e-books and because I find reading on my computer limiting and uncomfortable after a while, I find fewer titles are available to me every year. I don’t think that is what they had in mind when they started issuing books in that format.

    2. I think it’s good to know that readers think you’re priced out of line, but most of the time, there’s not a lot you can do about it.

      Paper and ink aren’t cheap, but they’re by no means the majority of the expense of publishing. That’s the full staff of editors, marketing, and pr, the rent and utilities on the building, shipping, and that’s before you get to the discounts that bookstores get, at least 40%. And then there’s paying the author royalties . . . Not a lot of margin in publishing.

      The only thing I know about pricing e-books is that if it falls below $2.99, Amazon gets weird, but I don’t remember why. (Trust me, I’m an expert.)

    3. If you’re talking about self-publishing print editions, the unit price the author will have to pay their printer and binder is going to be far higher – they won’t have the economies of scale or the long-term commercial relationships an established publisher will have. Unless, I suppose, they’re so wildly confident about their book they order twenty or fifty thousand copies for their initial print run.

      1. Yeah, that’s why I was talking about net vs gross. I’m aware the margins seem to be, unfortunately, quite thin. There’s definitely a tension between writers earning enough and readers affording enough. I wish I had an unlimited book budget so it wasn’t a problem. Writers deserve enough to earn a comfortable living and good health care and sufficient retirement funds.

  14. Almost finished Gaudy Night. Love this book. Read a novella before starting it. So, so modern story.

    An older Mary Balogh book is up next. Then Busman’s Honeymoon.

  15. Sorry for the 2 replies to Shass, my computer was being weird.

    This week I finished Almost Midnight by Paul Doiron, the latest of his Mike Bowditch mysteries. Another solid book even if the ultimate baddie was kind of obvious.

    I am working through Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan which is the first in a new series about Lady Trent’s granddaughter Audrey. I’m really enjoying it and being back in that world.

    I read a new Chronicles of St. Mary’s short story this morning and quite enjoyed a very devious Leon.

  16. I read two books that get rave reviews and am not raving.

    “Daisy Jones and the Six” is like a modernist painting of a big red cube. The author demonstrated technical mastery: the book, an “oral history,” feels like a Behind the Music transcript, with distinct voices and some nice layering. But it does not advance the art form. Predictable story, familiar characters…I found myself wishing I was reading about a real band whose music mattered to me.

    “Advanced Physical Chemistry,” this year’s RITA winner for contemporary romance, is my first Susannah Nix book. The heroine’s STEM field career has little to do with the story, which is on the slow side and features too much uncommunicative hero for my tastes. On the other hand, the heroine’s approach to life is uplifting. It’s romance with a side of self-help.

    1. It’s so interesting how different stories work or don’t for different readers.

      Daisy and the Six really worked for me. The characterization was so good, and I didn’t think it was entirely predictable – I mean, yeah, some of it you guess where it’s going, but I thought that was more because of the “Behind the Music” format, and no more than the type of predictability you get in romances where you know what the overall arc is likely to be … there were definitely turns and twists in Daisy & the 6 that I didn’t see coming, and it didn’t end the way I expected.

      As opposed to wishing it was a real band and that damping my enthusiasm- for me, part of the joy of the book was that it felt like it WAS a real band and that I knew and loved their songs just from the lyrics and descriptions despite never being able to hear them. Although, I’m excited that now it’s becoming a series on Amazon that I will get to hear the songs…and I wonder how close they will be to the songs I was hearing in my mind as the book described them. I really liked it – although I probably enjoyed the authors book “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” even more.

  17. I’ve been reading a battered copy of the community cookbook of the Army Language School at Fort Ord [California], dating to the late 1940’s – sometime in the 1950’s. It was among the collection of cookbooks my mother kept, and we’re working our way through her stuff. My brother was inclined to toss it, but it triggered something in my memory and sure enough, some of the Russian recipes were contributed by our neighbor Mrs. Petroff, a White Russian, reputed to have been a countess in her own right (though Russian titles are not like, say, British titles), and married to the Czar’s youngest general who was teaching military Russian at the Language School. Hence the cookbook. But a lot of the recipes look as if they’d be quite good to make even now.

    1. That sounds fascinating — is it a locally printed cookbook? Like, some of the recipes might not exist anywhere else in English?

  18. I’ve been trying to read The Poisonwood Bible. It’s not the first time I’ve tried. Life’s too short for 600 pages you have to force your way through, but it’s book club. I’m hoping that once I get really going I’ll be caught?

    But for recommendations, Jenny, KJ Charles! I love everything she writes, but you might try Band Sinister, which is kinda Heyer but gayer.

    Or Think of England, which is cosy mystery sort of. Or The Magpie Lord – alternative reality regency London with magic (no dukes) and which I think might be my favourite, until I think about Any Old Diamonds which is just excellent storytelling, or A Fashionable Indulgence, which is sweet but with a great backstory (and necessary if you want to read A Seditious Affair which has a great plot, but you need the other one first). It’s a bit like when I try and recommend my favourite Jennifer Crusie to someone and utterly fail to narrow it down (although WTT and Faking It are high…but then there’s Crazy for you and Agnes and Anyone But You and…OK I’ll stop).

    1. I actually think Think of England is a little Heyer too – not sweet, but you know in Heyer how the relationship sometimes develops between the lines? We see it happening, but it’s not all exposition? Well, Think of England is like that too and Daniel is a great character.

  19. Finished “Line in the Dark” by Malinda Lo, a nice little thriller set in high school, when all of the relationships between the characters blur the lines between friendship, love, and hate. Ambiguity is the name of the game.

    Going to start Kushiel’s Dart, after much enjoying Jacqueline Karey’s Santa Olivia books, but those were also tighter books with lower page counts. Not sure if I’ll like going through an epic fantasy doorstopper. (I experienced a similar thing with Kate Elliott, where I very much enjoyed her YA offerings, but bounced off of her older epic fantasy books.)

  20. The Right Sort of Man by – dubious author name – Allison Montclair. Set in post-WW II London. Two women open a marriage agency, murder and mystery ensue. Cultural observation and character revelation kept my interest as I became more invested. Opener for a series that holds promise. I’ll be there for the author’s next.

    Timothy Hallinan’s new Junior Bender, Night Town. Usual opening extended set piece I’ve come to love, spiraling out to draw in a representational L.A. crowd, with side chat about the New Jersey mob lifestyle. Makes you care about people you would not have predicted you would. All done with wit and insight into L.A. life going up, going down, holding on. I’m always there for Junior Bender.

    1. I’ve read all the Junior Benders up to now, but I wasn’t crazy about where he intended to take this one: getting the woman’s kid back? I hate kids in danger books. This is not a criticism of the book, of course, since I haven’t read it, it’s just a personal quirk.

  21. I’ll have another new book before too long:

    Upcoming book by Brenda Margriet, releasing Nov 2019
    Crossroads Corner (Bendixon Sisters Book 3)
    Brenda Margriet
    Releasing on November 12, 2019
    Kindle Edition: $0.99
    You are subscribed to receive this email because you follow Brenda Margriet. We thought you’d like to know about this new book by the author.

    I’m pre-ordering tonight.

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