This is a Good Book Thursday, December 26, 2019

I reread Agatha Christie this week. It seemed like a good time to find corpses under the tree. Plus my kid sent me gorgeous Christmas cookies and I had hot chocolate, so I re-read Hogfather, too. Tis the season to believe, Argh people. I believe next year is going to be GLORIOUS, so I’m just going to sit by the fire and read and eat Christmas cookies until it gets here.

What are you reading to get through the rest of 2019?

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78 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, December 26, 2019

  1. Read oldies but goodies by Elizabeth Peters. ‘Summer of the Dragon’ and ‘The Copenhagen Connection’. Just beginning on ‘The Seventh Sinner’. Also ‘Death Has Deep Roots’ by Michael Gilbert. Thanks for all the wonderful recommendations here.

    1. I Love Summer of the Dragon! It is second only to Legend in Green Velvet as my all time favorite Elizabeth Peters. And Elizabeth Peters was my favorite author for a decade or 2.
      I’m sure they will seem a little dated to me now, but I think there will still be plenty to enjoy. Must add them to the reread pile.

    1. I shall have to try the Connie Willis. Seem to have read nearly everything else she’s done. Then I might leaf through some gardening magazines until the new year.

  2. This holiday, we did not visit local bookstores to buy armloads of books for each other. We went to two local libraries. Early morning reading: Making A Life, Melanie Falick. The rest of the days & evenings, I’m catching up on Alexander McCall Smith titles that passed by me the past two years (normality & kindness); Agnes Gomillion’s The Record Keeper (wow!); James S.A. Corey’s stuff (recommended by librarian & fellow SF reader); and Savage Feast. The spouse collected the usual pile of history, politics & current events. I don’t know how he does it. I’m taking a break from the sewer spew of news. Comfy chair, tasty food, a full mug or glass, & good reading to all. Glad to know I’m not alone.

  3. I really enjoyed “Can’t Escape Love” by Alyssa Cole. I had been procrastinating on reading it b/c I really like the Reggie character in the other Reluctant Royals and I was worried this wouldn’t hold up to my expectations, but I was in a novella/short story sort of mood the other day and I found it perfectly delightful. I do think it’s not really a great place to dive into the series.

  4. I keep starting books that sounded good when described, and that begin well, and then bogging down and thinking “Why am I bothering?” so I’m rereading a lot of Martha Wells and Anne Bishop and Ann Leckie, and also large chunks of D.E. Stevenson.

  5. I re-read (via audiobook on Hoopla, not a great production, but adequate) A Christmas Carol for the first time since high school. I’ve seen visual adaptations (tv/movie) since then, but never returned to the actual book until now. The adaptations tend to keep a lot of the dialogue, but not much of the narrative, and I’d forgotten how great the narrative language is.

  6. Things you Save in a Fire by Katherine Center. Nice story with heart of forgiveness, but also some interesting aspects of how perspective can cloud judgements. Not new ideas but well put together and good read.

    Probably that will be my last book for now since I need to get back to writing and have a hard time reading other author voices while I write. But I may sneak in one more before new year:)

  7. I’m trying to get through my TBR.

    Currently reading How to Greet The Queen and Other Questions of Modern Etiquette.

    It’s been years since I bought it at Tower of London, so I decided it’s time. It’s interesting from a modern post-colonial way. It is not a book of basics, but rather added knowledge.

    It’s quite light-hearted, so I’m not taking it seriously but I’d love to read a similar book for different cultures like Japanese, Indian, Indigenous peoples, etc.

    1. It’s been almost 30 years since we’ve been to England as tourists and when we went to the Tower I bought a book about the Crown jewels because I was fascinated by the glitter. I just went looking for it only to discover it’s not there. Must have gone to the great purge. When we had a coffee table it was one of the picture books lining the top.

  8. It’s the Second Day of Christmas. So, two Turtledoves. The first will be Guns of the South, an alternate history novel set during the American Civil War by Harry Turtledove. The story deals with a group of time-travelling white supremacist members of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) from an imagined 21st-century South Africa, who attempt to supply Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia with AK-47s and small amounts of other supplies (including nitroglycerine tablets for treating Lee’s heart condition). Their intervention and technologies results in a Confederate victory in the war. Afterwards, however, the AWB members discover that their ideas for the Confederate States and Lee’s are not one and the same as they believed and the general and the men of the South have a violent falling out with the white supremacists from the future.

    The second Turtledove will be in the Chicks in Chainmail anthology – “Goddess for a Day.” I started the anthology as a bathroom book on my littlest Kindle.

    What else… I finished Bujold’s Knife Children again and doubled back to the Sharing Knife books, specifically “Passage” and “Horizons.” I’m at chapter 8 of the latter. How I ended up there… I filled in my Kindle Crusie library last week, as I’ve mentioned. Then I turned around to do the same with Bujold because the Chalion and Sharing Knife books were originally purchased from a subdivision of McMillan, and now they’re Kindle, too.

    Then I’ve got twenty Danger Cove short stories to read, all queued up.

    Did I mention that MGHarmon has a new Wearing the Cape story? A short story, A Christmas Carol. I loved it. 🙂

  9. Having read almost all of Heyer’s romances multiple times (thanks to everyone’s recommendations), I decided to start the mysteries. I’ve enjoyed the first two I’ve read, Death in the Stocks and They Found Him Dead. Jenny, you posted about them a while ago, and I made a note of the titles you recommended, but now I’d like to reread what you wrote. However, I can’t find that post. You lost a lot of past blog content a little while back, right? Are you finished recovering it or are you still bringing back posts? If the latter, I vote for that one.

    1. In case it’s helpful, here’s my chronological list; you’ll see there are two titles I don’t recommend, her first (before she hit her stride) and ‘Penhallow’, which is darker than the others:
      GEORGETTE HEYER mysteries
      Footsteps in the dark (1932) (not great)
      Why shoot a butler? (1933)
      The unfinished clue (1934)
      Death in the stocks (1935)
      Behold, here’s poison (1936)
      They found him dead (1937)
      A blunt instrument (1938)
      No wind of blame (1939)
      Envious Casca (1941)
      Penhallow (1942) – very dark; no romance or HEA (didn’t reread therefore)
      Duplicate death (1951) – includes characters from ‘They Found Him Dead’
      Detection unlimited (1953)

          1. Seriously, the more Jenny goes on about it, the more I think “hmmmm…now I wanna find out what all the fuss is…”. 😆

        1. There’s nothing wrong with Sizzle, it’s just short and not polished. It’s like the pilot of a really good TV show. All the elements are there, they just haven’t gelled yet.

        2. I finally broke down and read the copy of Sizzle I bought a couple of years ago and then didn’t read because you said not to. But it was a tough December and I needed something…

          It wasn’t terrible. As an author, I can see why you don’t want people to read it. It was definitely an early Crusie, and while one could see the potential you hit later, you aren’t wrong in saying it isn’t the best example of your work.

          On the other hand, a bad Crusie beats a good anything else just about any day. So I still enjoyed it. So there. Neh.

  10. I read Sword Dance by AJ Demas, which I think JaneB recommended. A historical world based loosely on the ancient Mediterranean, some splendidly pompous and hypocritical philosophy students, and a love story between an ex-soldier with a gammy leg and a eunuch. Gorgeously written – I’m following up on more of hers.

    Also The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta. I love her books so much – they are full of heart and fallibility and warmth.

    1. Our library doesn’t have a copy of The Place on Dalhousie, but it does have a few other titles by that author. Do you have any recommendations?

      1. Looking for Alibrandi was her first novel and the one that made her famous in Australia. There are several more which I seem to remember have connected characters – Saving Francesca, Jellicoe Road and The Piper’s Son. Of those, I think The Piper’s Son is probably my favourite. Marchetta writes like an angel and her characters are the sort of people you’d like to know. I don’t know anyone who writes better about friendship, family, love and ordinary life.

    1. She’s a brilliant writer, Jane. Her best known book is Looking for Alibrandi, which came out years ago. She mostly writes naturalistic YA, with a couple of fantasies and one detective novel.

  11. I’m reading “Get a Life, Chloe Brown” by Talia Hibbert which is indescribably lovely. I was in love with the hero on page 20 and so far there wasn’t a single page I didn’t smile at. I can already tell it’s going to be one of my favorites this year.

    Also Jenny, if you care to comment, I would love to hear your thoughts on the whole RWA debacle that’s happening right now. Though if you’d rather, in keeping with your hopes for a glorious new year say nothing, I completely understand.

        1. As far as I’m concerned, everybody screwed up massively. I’m annoyed with the whole lot of them, both sides.
          RWA goes up in flames pretty regularly. At least we’re not SFWA. Those guys are nuts.

          1. I think of the RWA and then I think of Princess Bride –

            Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder today. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam…
            And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.

            And isn’t that what the RWA should be about, mostly, kinda?

            BUT. It is now the Third Day of Christmas, and I have pictured the impressive clergyman singing the song. “On the thiwd day of cwissmas, my twue wuv ga’ to me: fwee Fwench hens, two turtu doves and a pahtwidge in a paih twee…” (I Googled French Hens. They are or were a breed apart, visually distinctive, bred for eggs and meat.)

    1. I wrote a whole blog post on it. I’m just not sure I want to post it. But here’s the beginning:

      “Romance Writers of America/RWA is once again in a controversy, this time over something it’s been struggling with for decades, much like the rest of my country: racism and indignation. Here’s what I think about the current mess, boiled down to four points:

      1. Racism is bad.
      2. Doing literary criticism using inflammatory language is bad.
      3. I’m going to get yelled at for saying both of those things.
      4. If we don’t stop yelling at each other and start talking to each other and listening to each other and TRYING TO UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER, RWA and this country are both going down the tubes.

      Let’s take these things one at a time (unless you’d rather just attack me for that much, then go ahead, my throat is under my sagging jawline).”

      It’s a long post, but that’s pretty much the gist.

        1. The problem with my post is that I’m fed up with both sides, so I’d alienate everybody.

          But I must go read Laura Vivanco now. She always makes sense.

      1. Not really sure why anyone would disagree with those 4 statements but then people rarely shock me anymore.

      2. I’d like to read the whole post too. Hell, I’d like to sit down and talk to you about it, because I’m really struggling to figure out my own personal response (beside the very loud cursing, which I think is a given). There are so many things I love about this organization, and I have always known it wasn’t perfect, but holy moley….it’s like there was a crazy wife stuck in the attic I never knew about. And I feel like an idiot for not knowing.

        1. I thought about it and decided I’d rather keep this a safe space, a place people can come and not argue about racism and libel and shriek at each other. I’ve waded into controversy before, and it never does any good. We’re just too damn polarized.

          We’ve talked about racism on here before and it was a really great discussion (thank you, Melissa) but I don’t see that happening in this context. People are going to pick sides. And I have no time for that. If people would discuss the issue without pointing fingers and name-calling, I’m in, but that’s not going to happen. So, nope.

      3. Yeah, number 2 will get you a giant yelling because it’d be considered the tone policing used to silence/sideline PoC who get upset and vocalise at systematic institutionalised racism that they face in aggressions and micro-aggresions almost every interaction on a daily basis.🤷‍♀️

        1. Courtney Milan was quoted as saying that she gets upset/emotional about this because her close family has been directly affected. Which is completely understandable.

          1. I think for me it always comes down to the same thing: What are you trying to accomplish? What’s your end goal?

            Milan has worked hard to raise awareness of the racism in RWA. I think this works against that goal.

        2. And if all they want to do is vent and fight back, that’s fine, I completely understand.

          But if they want to change things, yelling “You’re a racist” is not going to open up a dialogue, or make changes, or bring two sides together. And this country has pretty much split into two warring factions because people are refusing to listen to each other or to try to understand each other, and I am sick and tired of that. If you’re stuck in a big country/organization with a lot of people who don’t agree with you, you either go start your own country/organization and become much less powerful and effective, or you stop yelling, sit down, and try to find common reality.

          I’m tired of indignation and outrage, no matter how earned it is. And in RWA’s case, both sides have ample reason for indignation and outrage, so I see no end in sight. Nothing will get done because it’s so much more satisfying to stand on one’s rights and principles and shout the other side down. Fuck that.

          1. The problem with trying to find a common reality is that (from an outsiders perspective) a faction in both the RWA and the USA look to be attempting to take a giant step backwards which will negatively affect PoC and LGBTQ and other marginalised populations.

            This is a problem because any request to find compromise means “only” taking a smaller step backwards instead of a giant leap, which boils down to throwing marginalised populations under a minivan instead of a bus in the interests of getting along.

            I can see why that might make some people angry and unwilling to listen.

          2. I don’t think RWA as a group wants to take a step backwards. I think they’d like to have a professional discussion of the problem that doesn’t involved name-calling or lawsuits.

      4. I’m in another national org (not writing related) and other that paid admin, it all volunteer. I also held leadership positions at several levels. As a volunteer. My business background really helped me accomplish the duties and projects involved. In many areas I was way more competent than most – and sometimes all. Which is what can happen in a volunteer org. But that doesn’t stop the business of some mean bitchery, backstabbing and abject cruelty that people who step up, usually reluctantly, to lead a bunch of (sometimes lazy, stupid sheep) knowitalls (who have lots of opinions but don’t want to do the work), have to deal with – and some times due to relentless, evil and sick behavior that is fueled by secret drinking problems – mostly it’s just mean people. I guess you can tell I have had a share. But. The one thing this org didn’t have is protection from bullies. A lot of orgs don’t have bylaws to protect members from attacks. But RWA does. Because authors really do struggle with badmouthing of work, whisper campaigns and trolling. And it has a very negative effect on ones writing, finances and career. It’s a real hot legal potato for an organization to take on. But rwa and it’s chapters do. And they do it confidentially and as professionally as possible. So, yes rwa isn’t perfect. But imbedded racism is a publishing problem. Created by publishers. Rwa gets to deal with their centuries old problems now. But they don’t have to. They could just cut the grievance bylaws out of the whole thing. It might make it easier to lead but it leaves a vulnerable group with no recourse against peer attacks. Rwa is not a bad organization. I’m really not in favor of burning it all down. I agree with Jenny’s assessment.

      1. Thanks for the url. On point docs. Milan’s precise wording, exacting research and proof requirements, and insistence on oral history as legitimate historical evidence (can you hear Zora Neale Hurston’s voice shouting out?) reinforce the admiration I already had for her based on having read her fiction. BTW Barracoon: good as she gets!
        And thank you, Jenny, for your compressed editorial response. That says it.
        Me? I’m relistening to Simon Vance inhabit the spirits of Will and his dragon Temeraire all over the world. This series sources my Victorian grandmother’s rigid training and my flapper mother’s abandoned rebellion and the iron backbone they bequeathed me that has survived a near two hundred year span of change. Love and Bright Spirit to you all. Keep telling your truth.

  12. A friend gave me Penelope Lively”s “Life in the Garden”, which I’m looking forward to reading over the next couple of days.

  13. I read Death Comes to the Village and Death Comes to London by Catherine Lloyd, the first and the second book in her regency mystery series. Lovely. I’m going to continue with this series.
    Also read Sue Ann Jaffarian’s Hide & Snoop about an amateur detective Odelia Grey. She is a middle-aged, fat paralegal with a penchant for stumbling upon corpses. For some reason, the author keeps mentioning her being fat and unattractive, although it didn’t affect her murder investigation in any way. The book is part of a series (I think it is #7), and although I enjoyed reading it, I didn’t enjoy it enough to pursue the rest of the series.
    Then there was Love Irresistibly by Julie James, a usual contemporary romance by this author. Both protagonists are successful lawyers, rich and good looking, with everything working perfectly for them. Their problems seemed artificial to me, so the book didn’t make much of an impression.

  14. Just found and read two novels by Roan Parrish, Small Change and Invitation to the Blues, and WOW are those some great love stories.

  15. I finished “The Future of Another Timeline” by Annalee Newitz. She took a rather interesting approach of taking a “switch back and forth between present and backstory” structure and using time travel shenanigans to make that back and forth actually “linear” storytelling.
    However, I’m still not sure if it worked. The themes of the backstory vs. the A-plot seemed a little disconnected in the end, and the arc of the A-plot protagonist got a bit muddled, so the backstory still feels like an unneeded interruption of the story we really want to have our focus on.

  16. I read a bunch of things in the past week that were pretty good. The Earth Girl Trilogy by Janet Edwards, a YA far future where Earth has essentially been abandoned after they developed Portal technology and is now home only to archeologists and humans born with compromised immune systems, who are effectively orphans as well as exiles because 92% of the time their parents don’t come with them. The Earth Girl, seeking to become an archeologist without dealing with the prejudice against the ‘Handicapped’, joins a freshman university class on their first Earth archeology dig, excavating the ruins of New York City as well as other places. Lots of freshman culture clashes, personality clashes and developing romances. Though the romance’s are of the more sedate variety since most of the cultures have a very conservative moral code. Which is somewhat confusing when she’s talking about how much she admire’s her favorite male vid-star’s legs. Later you learn that you can tell what part of the legs they’re talking about by the way they say it, and that using the B-word is considered extremely naughty.

    Mrs. McVinnie’s London Season by Carla Kelly is a fun Regency romance. A naval captain forced into debutante escort duties sends for his old nurse to help as chaperone, and is quite discomfited when the wrong Jeannie McVinnie, a 24 year old soldier’s widow show’s up instead.

    I also read a couple of Regency cozy mysteries. Death Comes to the Village, and Death Comes to London by Catherine Lloyd. The Rector’s oldest daughter and the local war hero, who is still bedridden almost a year after Waterloo, discover some suspicious goings on and end up investigating despite their rather prickly relationship.

  17. I re-read Courtney Milan’s A Kiss for Midwinter, which I love. Victorian England, science, feminism, a nerdy doctor with a morbid, pessimistic sense of humor, and the smart, sunny, hard-won optimist of a woman he’s in love with.

    And I’m reading a Christina Lauren my sister gave me. Will report back if I like it.

  18. I read the newest book by one of my favorite British romance authors, Trisha Ashley. She’s a comfort read for me, and it was a Christmas book to boot, which made it perfect to get me through the last two week push to the holidays. The Christmas Invitation–charming, sweet, British quirky. I loved it.

  19. I am finally reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy – had previously bogged down in the first couple chapters of The Golden Compass. This time I sailed through and am now happily into Book 2.

    The secret? My daughter suggested I read Chapter 3 of Book 1 first. And because I could not bring myself to do that, I started at Chapter 1 and just plowed through.

  20. Speaking of Dame Agatha…. This year I completed a years-long project of reading all her novels for the first time. There were 2-3 I didn’t finish (ex. Endless Night), and 2-3 I -wish- I hadn’t finished (ex. Destination Unknown), but overall, I enjoyed my project very much, and I will re-read some of the books over time.

    Some of my favorites, include:

    Taken At the Flood: A good story, and a compelling portrayal of how life in England–particularly small-town life–changed dramatically during and after the war. These changes were also integral to the plot solution, so it was a neatly-done book and an interesting look at society.

    By the Pricking of My Thumbs: I enjoyed the story, but particularly enjoyed this portrayal of a happily-married middle-aged couple engaged in an adventure

    The Sittaford Mystery: I enjoyed the setting a lot (remote snowbound Devon village), the collection of characters, and the level-headed, can-do heroine

    They Came From Baghdad: I enjoyed the plucky heroine, the humor, and the setting in Iraq

    Murder in Mesopotamia: I have to say, I thought the plot resolution was idiotic, but I really enjoyed the setting (an archaeological dig), Hercule Poirot, and the smart, sensible heroine

    I really liked at least a dozen others, maybe more, but these were probably my favorites.

    1. I love Agatha Christie, They came from Baghdad is a favourite, got to love Victoria’s resourcefulness.

      I may try to tackle the handful of her books I haven’t read yet. Though my least favourite so far was Passenger to Frankfurt.

      1. Oh, Passenger From Frankfurt was AWFUL. It’s one of the ones I regretted sticking with and finishing. When I was done, I wished I had given in to my impulse to quit it early on.

    2. I’ve always liked Cat Among Pigeons.

      Have you read Josephine Tey? Because if not, get thee to Miss Pym Disposes and Brat Farrar.

      And then there’s Allingham and Gilbert . . . .

      (I keep meaning to write and thank you again for those hooks you gave me. I love those damn hooks.)

      1. So glad you love the hooks!

        I read Tey’s DAUGHTER OF TIME and didn’t care for it. So long ago, I don’t clearly remember why–I vaguely recall finding the dialogue and characters rather stiff. Haven’t tried any of her other books, though. Perhaps I will!

        1. Daughter of Time is one of those one-offs, not so much a mystery as a character study.

          Brat Farrar is one of my favorite mysteries of all time.

  21. I have to thank everyone who recommended Anne Bishop. I finished Book 2 in her Others series and am loving it. I’m pretty sure my e-library has all of them, and I’ve been putting the next book on hold while I’m reading the previous book, which means I have to savour them. Which is a good thing, otherwise I’d been unavailable to family and friends as I binge read them all in one sitting.

  22. Not sure who here recommended The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller, but something about your review motivated me to request it from another library in my state, which was complicated. And when it came, it was encased in a “please don’t remove” interlibrary cover, which didn’t help jog my memory on why I’d wanted it, but I’m so glad I did. It disproved my theory that one couldn’t possibly make a case for one member from an unhappy family to find happiness with one from a happy one — this book did so, and was interesting to read and very satisfying to finish.

    I also found the skill level of the author kind of astounding, given that this is apparently her first published novel. Thanks to whoever recommended it. I am off to request that my library system please buy a copy pronto.

    1. Along with Out of Africa, African Farm, all three must reads for sterling quality, woman’s pov intensity, gender limit challenges, white displacement discovered in African vista.

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