This is a Good Book Thursday, January 16, 2020

. BookBub sent me a “Books recommended by Romance Authors” e-mail and I thought it was time I tried new romances so I bit. And then I spit a lot of it out. I know I’m RIDICULOUSLY picky about what I read, but when I can’t get through the entire book because I’m so annoyed, I start to wonder if maybe I’m not being ridiculous, I’m being insane. People really liked these books, some of them people I know and respect. WTF? Then I read a good one, One of Us Is Lying, and I felt better.

I also read The Princess Diarist which left me feeling vaguely depressed with flashbacks to my own nineteen-year-old romance bad choice (Reader, I married him); then I read the reviews/commentary on it and felt even more depressed. The book is good, the writing is strong, dear god I’m so glad it’s not 1975 any more.

My newest book buy is Cleaning Sucks which is actually a journal. I think. I haven’t opened it yet.

What did you read this week?

86 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, January 16, 2020

  1. I binged on Anne Gracie regencies from my library. And I’m glad it’s not 2000 anymore. If I’d started with one of the early ones, I probably wouldn’t have kept going, because all my #metoo buttons were getting pushed. But I skimmed my way through the problem areas and enjoyed the storytelling.

    1. I love Anne Gracie, almost everything by her, except a few earlier ones. Starting with the Merridew Sisters series, she has been consistently good.

  2. I just started a book which was recommended when I was looking for books by an author I know and love. It was in the library, so I checked it out. I didn’t even make it through the first chapter. If that makes me insane, I’m OK with it. Life is too short to read annoying books.

    Honestly, I’ve read some of the best books of my life based on recommendations here. I love Good Book Thursday!

    1. Much too short for annoying books, or boring books, or books that are Not For Me. Finishing them is what would make me insane, not quitting.

  3. I stupidly finished a not-good book from the library. I hate to stop part-way through, but every time I push on regardless like this I regret it. Followed that mistake with another, this time a story I loved when I bought it in 1992, but which rubbed me up the wrong way this time round.

    Have just started rereading ‘Breathing Room’ by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, which is a big favourite, and I hope a good story for me right now. Because some of this will be down to me being anxious about various things at the moment. (And come to think of it, the story’s about opening up and letting chaos in, so probably what I need to hear.) (No, no!)

  4. “Reader, I married him.” You crack me up.

    I picked up and read a few pages of ” The Grammarians,” and laughed out loud. I am looking forward to reading it when my husband finishes it.

  5. I have been reading Simon Winder’s Germania which I first read about here. How often do you laugh out loud reading history?

  6. I dunno if I’d recommend what I’ve read, they were mostly “just okay.” I like “City of Girls” from what I’ve read of it so far, but I’m about halfway through that one so who knows.

    I need to go through my giant bookcase of books I got off free tables and haven’t read yet. The problem is that when I start in on that pile, I usually end up not liking the books, and after about three boners in a row, I give up and hit the library again.

  7. Full plate here. Last week I read the first three mystery stories of a 4 part set by Liliana Hart. I didn’t get to the last book because Pamela Kelley’s The Nantucket Inn came in to the library for me. I’ve been waiting for it for months. Now I just have to make lobster quiche. It seems every book about Nantucket has to have seafood in it. From mom’s cooking to restaurants.

    Now I’m into Ashley Farley’s Life on Loan about two fifty year old former college girlfriends who meet at an airport while their running away from their lives. One is divorced and it looks like the other could be if her family doesn’t smarten up. They exchange houses one in Charleston SC and the other in the family’s weekend retreat in VA. Oh, and they took a selfie at the start and will take another in a months time when they return home. Just have to read what happens in between.

    In the meantime I have two copies of Dogs and Goddesses, one a paper back and the other an audiobook. The audiobook is to get me started back again on the treadmill.

    1. Just finished Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins by Katarina Bivald. It was about how the narrator’s friends and family changed and grew after the narrator’s untimely death. There was a lot of sad in it but I enjoyed it overall.

  8. The bad news is the last few days, my part of the world has been in a deep freeze. Yesterday we woke up to -42C (-40F and -40C are the “same” temperature, so you get the drift).

    The good news is I leave on Sunday for a hot beach vacation. YAY!

    The bad news is I have still searching for a new, epic saga (think Outlander or Black Dagger Brotherhood) to read on my holiday.

    The good news is it is Good Book Thursday and I can ask some of the smartest readers on the planet for recommendations.

    Hit me, please!

    1. Have you read Robin Hobb? If not, start with Assassin’s Apprentice, and you’re welcome. 🙂

      1. I agree with “the other Rachel.” Also consider The Lacuna (Kingsolver) especially if you’re going to Mexico.

        1. Also meant to be! It also was available to immediately download from my e-library.

          And yes, we are going to Mexico. It has “warmed up” to -21C (-6F). 🙂

    2. Normally I’d ask if you were going to Victoria but even their weather has sucked!

      Epic sagas aren’t my thing so I have nothing to offer, just a bad Canadian joke.

      (The weather on Vancouver Island, where the city of Victoria is, is normally very mild and so warm the rest of Canada gives them the stink eye. They have been having bad winds off the ocean and actually were supposed to get below 0 C the other day which is really cold for them.)

      1. Hey we had a Lot of snow here Naniamo (north of Victoria) snow ploughs and everything!! But today the sun is shining and the snow is melting.

        1. I lived for five years on an island, and let me tell you about the dismal winters. One year, it got so cold, I had to wear socks and shoes instead of flip-flops to the beach! (Key West, FL, 1958 – 1963) All kidding aside, the most I wore was a windbreaker, though the locals broke out their arctic gear if it got below 70F during daylight.

    3. If you never read the Roselynde series by Roberta Gellis I highly recommend it. Historical and so much fun. A series about an independently wealthy woman in the time of Richard the Lionheart
      It’s still available at libraries.

      1. Also available on Kindle. Her other books are also great reads, though the Scepter’d Isle series with Mercedes Lackey is Tudor urban fantasy. I liked it, but I passed on some proofreading corrections to the authors (“did you really mean to give This character That title? Urban fantasy or not?” Answer – “Oops!”)

  9. I read This Love Story Will Self Destruct, about two people in New York slowly finding each other over the years. Other than the random sentence where an Asian-American woman gets described as “exotic,” which felt tone-deaf and unnecessary, I really liked it. The author is clearly in love with the city, and the characters felt like people I’ve met.

  10. I raced through The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms. Made me laugh, with bad Latin jokes and much about school librarianship, which made me glad I don’t work in a school library.

  11. I read T. Kingfisher’s The Twisted Ones. I do NOT read horror stories but it was T. Kingfisher. It was of course excellent and it had a quote I have been saving for all of the Argh editors “I’m a freelance editor. I turn decent books into decently readable books and hopeless books into hopeless books with better grammar. ..It’s a living.” It had some laugh out-loud lines but given that it is a horror story I will not re-read it. The only way I could do it this time was to cherry-pick the sentences in some paragraphs. But boy can that woman write a good story.

    I also read the Silver Stag by Yasmine Galenorn which I abandoned because I could not get into it. I have read some of her work in the past and enjoyed it but for some reason it seemed almost like it had been ghost written and ghost written by someone who wasn’t particularly interested in writing it.

    And I am starting The Others series by Anne Bishop, which had engaged me from the first paragraphs. This is great a new to me series that doesn’t appear to go on too long that I can enjoy. Thanks for the recommendation.

    1. I am currently 80% through A GOOD HEART IS HARD TO FIND, where the heroine WRITES horror — schlock, she thinks, but saleable schlock — and giggling hysterically as she turns the events of her daily life into horror plot points. Definitely Screwball Romantic Comedy, and I haven’t seen characters so nutty since MANHUNTER.

      1. I didn’t recognize the title (I think they changed it when the publisher reissued it) but that’s Trisha Ashley, one of my favorite British authors. I loved that book.

      2. I just finished A GOOD HEART IS HARD TO FIND and I really enjoyed it. It’s the first one in quite a while. I am like Jenny – I subscribed to BookBub hoping to get some new authors but I have decided that most of them (not mentioning no plot, lack of development of characters, and juvenile dialog), if they even have an editor, have one that really is not good at their job. I have decided that in the future all my recommendations will come from here!

    2. I’ve recently read Swordheart by T. Kingfisher and really enjoyed it. I love her characters, how her writing is light but satisfying and her worlds bend towards justice.

  12. Either you are not insane, or I am too. I CANNOT read stuff that I would have read without complaint 25 years ago. Things other people loved. It’s a mystery.

    I read “The Summer That Made Us” by Robyn Carr, because it was a freebie. I liked some of the characters, they were well enough drawn that I could keep the large cast straight with no problem. One character was described in what I felt were conflicting ways – not just different facets of her personality, or even one face in public, one at home, but seriously inconsistent traits. And then there were the “trying to be colorful” sentences that made me long for a red pen… “They chatted and chatted for 15 minutes” I am sorry, that is just a stupid sentence. Her premise was good, though I did see some things coming, and some things a little unlikely. I just think her editor failed her – this could have been a good book, not just an acceptable one. Rant over, it was a decent book, but not running out to buy everything she wrote.

    On the plus side, I now have the ability to enjoy reading a book sample, even while pretty sure I don’t want to actually read the whole book. Kind of like having a sample at the deli counter – one bite was enough, moving on to something different.

  13. I finished Bad Blood by John Carreyrou which I recommended last week and was flabbergasted by it. Every page brought something new and different and more horrifying than the last. It read as fast as a fictional thriller and was easy to understand. What astonished me the most was how people, smart people who are used to being lied to, still believed her and took her side of things even after it was proven that she was lying. I totally understand wanting to believe that her company could make a home blood testing device but, geez, there has got to be a limit.

    1. I read about her online after your post last week. What an extraordinary story! And the people who worked for her resigning one by one as they realised how impossible it was, what she was claiming, and she STILL KEPT GOING.

      1. Kept going and kept adding more things to the list of what her machine could (not) do! I totally get people not understanding how blood tests work (I certainly don’t!) and not knowing that test X, Y, Z are done one way and 1,2,3 are done another and need different machinery or whatever so I don’t fault her early investors. R&D is basically people noodling around seeing what works and what doesn’t. I think that people who invest in those kinds of companies understand that sometimes products don’t ever show up and that’s a risk they are willing to take. What shocked me the most was that she was willing to submit patients to her faulty testing and then try to intimidate them when they said the tests were bad.

        If she had concentrated on building a machine that could test your blood cholesterol levels at home she would be wealthy beyond her wildest dreams and not going to trial. Home glucometers, blood pressure machines, and coagulation monitors all made money. Paul had to get a new coagulation machine and it was $500!

  14. I’m in a reading slump, but have a bunch of stuff on preorder:
    1. False Values (Aaronovitch, Feb. 24)
    2. Smoke Bitten (Patty Briggs, March 17)
    3. Network Effect (Martha Wells, May 5)

    and at long last:
    4. Peace Talk (Jim Butcher, July 14)

    I think T. Kingfisher has something coming out soon, but not sure of the details. She’s coming to Readercon in July, which is local, so I’m looking forward to hearing her speak.

  15. I’ve been comforting myself with romances this week. I really enjoyed a novella by Mary Jo Putney, A Wicked Winter Night in the Seduction on a Snowy Night anthology. It was a second chance romance with characters who were mature enough to really know themselves. I liked having the feeling that the relationship would survive the HEA.
    After that I read My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas. It is a swashbuckling adventure with two very appealing lovers. If I was tired when I was reading it, I sometimes got confused by the switches back and forth in time, but if I was not sleepy, it wasn’t a problem. All in all, a lot of fun.

  16. I’ve been reading the first two parts of the “His Dark Materials”-trilogy by Philip Pullman: “Northern Lights” and “The Subtle Knife”. I read the first one in Swedish in 2008 and liked it, but was not overwhelmed. It was MUCH better in English now the second time around and I gave it a 5. Subtle Knife got a 5 from me as well, although Pullman for some reason started overusing the word “presently” in the last 5 chapters or so which annoyed me a bit. I really like how he writes except for that little detail. Directly moved on to “The Amber Spyglass” while cooking tonight. It’s been a while since I binge-read a series that wasn’t a reread, so this feels good.

    Finished “The Wasteland”, the 3rd “Children of D’Hara”-novella by Terry Goodkind and was relieved to find I liked it better than the previous two. Although characters sometimes did things “out of character”, they were at least moving a bit closer to how I’ve known them from before. I did not exclaim “GET A GOOD EDITOR” as much throughout this one either – one of my number 1 passtimes throughout his last 5 books or so – so improvement! Have moved on to the next one: “Witch’s Oath”. It’s one cliffhanger ride, however, so I’m happy we’ve been taking it so slow that the next installment was released before we finished the previous one…but I secretly think he should’ve joined them all together into one book instead of 5 novellas.

    Question: Has anybody here read the books after “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’engle in the “Time Quartet”? We started on the second one, “A Wind in the Door”, last year but haven’t managed to finish it. We’re stuck at 86 % or so and none of us want to finish it because we just don’t care. Those 14 % equals 43 minutes of listening, but we just can’t get to it, it seems. “A Wrinkle in Time” was fine, but this one was… not a new favourite, so to speak. Anyone else out there who feels the same way? How are book 3 and 4?

    1. I loved Wind in the Door when I first read it, when it was new. I haven’t re-read it, or the subsequent ones which didn’t do much for me, so I can’t say how I’d feel about it now. I loved Wrinkle in Time when it was new (in elementary school) and re-read it a lot, and as people started talking about it before the movie came out I kept thinking I should read it again, but I haven’t, so I guess I don’t love her as much as I do Laura Ingalls Wilder or Louisa May Alcott. I read them regularly.

    2. I loved A Wind in the Door as a kid, but was only okay with A Wrinkle in Time. And I remember liking the later ones too, though not as much. I think A Wrinkle in Time felt less substantial to me. That may’ve just been to do with my age when I read them. I haven’t re-read any of them as an adult.

    3. Hmm. I loved A Wrinkle in Time. I liked A Wind in the Door. The third book, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, was much weaker in my opinion. If you’re having trouble finishing the second book you’re probably not going to want to continue. Book 4, Many Waters, was added much later, and I feel is only interesting to completists. What is listed as book 5 is actually the start of a new series of four books featuring Polly O’Keefe, Meg and Calvin’s daughter. Which I never got into but some people like quite a bit.

    4. I loved the first two books in the His Dark Materials trilogy. The third one, not so much – I felt as if he got so caught up in his loathing of the church that it overtook the storytelling side of him. However I’m really enjoying his new series with its prequel and sequel.

      1. I agree about the first trilogy; he undermined my disbelief/broke the story for me. I’m steering clear of the newer books, since they sound grimmer than the first trilogy. Which I did think was brilliant, for the most part.

  17. Strange Love by Ann Aguirre might rock you out of the romance-reading doldrums! So fun. Talking dog, accidental alien abduction, hijinks ensue. It’s making me happy.

    Also had much fun reading A Nun in the Closet by Dorothy Gilman for mystery and Ilona Andrews’ Sweep With Me novella in the Innkeeper series. Project Read More Fiction 2020 is going well.

    And in honor of Locke and Key coming out as a series, I have all the graphic novels ready to wallow in.

    1. I haven’t read A Nun In The Closet in years. Thanks for reminding me of it before the library discards their 1 remaining copy.

  18. Oh wow, BookBub romances. 90% absolute crap, 5% well written, but the characters are stupid, and 5% excellent.

    Currently reading a “blind date with a book” (sold wrapped in brown paper with a brief and vague description) called The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall.

    Lovely, so far, the way Alexander McCall Smith is lovely.

      1. I feel that sometimes the people who are giving rave reviews to badly written romance books must be in terrible relationships and they don’t even know it.
        Or, they wouldn’t know good writing if it hit them in their autocorrect BC like IDK they R all Txt tlkin.

        1. I think that a dismayingly large number of people can’t differentiate good writing from bad writing. This is proven by the number of reviews claiming that Fifty Shades of Gray and The Martian are brilliantly written.

          1. I think this is a really interesting comment. I could NOT read 50 Shades – I agree the writing was awful. But I quite enjoyed the Martian. Not sure I would say it was brilliant, but the story moved and there weren’t any annoying ticks (for me.)

            Then again, I enjoy Dan Brown quite a bit, and lots of people don’t like him either because of his writing style.

          2. Do you ever feel that “well-written” is used in an indefinable way? Sometimes it seems that the reviewer is calling attention to her creds — she’s a judge of good writing — more than illustrating why the book is worth reading. I think it’s similar to people who use fancy terms to describe wine when the point is that they like and recommend that particular wine.

            The reviews here on arghink point to characterization, theme, setting, plot, and all sorts of specifics that give me a decent idea of the books described.

          3. I think what a lot of people mean when they say “It was really well-written” is “I really liked it”. The two are not necessarily the same thing.

          4. I tried to read 50 Shades of Gray, because I was asked about it so often and it felt intellectually dishonest to pan it without trying. I couldn’t even. I couldn’t get past the sentence structure and the feeling that the characters were just tedious. That said, I have friends who loved it, and it helped them get through a tough time just by being a world they wanted to get lost in, so…

        2. I think there must be something in those books that hits a sweet spot for them. Yes the writing is terrible, but the concept is terrific and right down their fantasy alley.

  19. I’m six books into the Danger Cove Mysteries box sets – 4 sets, 20 books – but I’m reading them totally out of order. The spoilers drive me crazy, but too late to unread. My own fault, anyway. (Thanks, Gin. 🙂 )

    I needed a bathroom book, so I’m also re-reading Bujold’s Orphans of Raspay. I love Penric and Desdemona.

      1. No idea. I checked Blackstone to see if a preorder was available (no) and Lois’s blog to see if she said anything about a schedule (no).

    1. Oops. Sorry about the spoilers. I can’t speak to the other authors’ books, but I try not to be too overt in mine, using only vague allusions to previous books’ events, although if they’re read out of order and in close proximity, you’d probably be able to figure out the spoilers.

  20. I read Roomies by Christina Lauren which I would give a B-B minus. It was light and fun and I really enjoyed the main character, and her family – some of the other peripheral characters felt a bit more cardboardy, though. It’s a twist on a “marriage of convenience” plot, throughout the book she was suffering through a quarter life crisis…so I think you’re supposed walk away with the sense that it’s a story not so much her finding the ‘right’ guy as finding her ‘true’ self…but some of the stuff she was going to, while relatable on like a “I remember feeling lost like that in my 20s” level, wasn’t necessarily super compelling to me as a reader not in her 20s. It occasionally indulged in some of that type of self-absorbed wallowing that reminded me of what I felt when I once tried to watch an episode of Girls: Man, this just reeks of whiny rich white girl privilege, and she is not nearly as interesting as she thinks she is. On the other hand – it was light, it was sexy, the “marriage of convenience” device elements were done deftly enough to work for me and when it was about the relationship, I liked a lot of it.

  21. Apart from work, I rarely read nonfiction, except for cookbooks and sewing/fiber books. That said, I’m in the middle of Rachel Maddow’s Blowout. If your blood pressure or cynicism levels or low, this will fix that. It is a compelling read.
    Before starting that, I read Midnight Clear by Mary Kay Andrews and enjoyed it.

  22. I finished William Ritter’s Changling, which was great, and I’ve just started the second in the Jackaby series, which luckily is in English, not German. (I checked out Jackaby as an ebook, and opened it to find it was in German. No sign of this in the cataloguing. After enjoying Changling so much I was willing to risk it again.)
    Also read Gillian Bradshaw’s The Dragon and the Thief, middle-grade? YA? I don’t do categories very well, set in ancient Egypt. She doesn’t seem to have written any more not-adult books, but I liked it enough that one of her adult novels is waiting for me at the library even as I type.

    1. I just read the Wikipedia page on Gillian Bradshaw. Goodness gracious, she has written tons of books for both adults and YA. I own The Bearkeeper’s Daughter — must have picked it up at a book sale. Time to read it.

  23. Has been unusually cold here with snow and drivers who should not be on the road, (thus says a northern girl), but today, the sun came out, blue skies, and snow is melting. After shovelling snow for two days, I wrapped up in layers and re-read “Busman’s Honeymoon” which I love. Second read and just as good as the first time. Haven’t read any new authors or new stories to recommend.

  24. I’m reading Robyn Carr’s new one The GuestHouse. So far I love it.
    Re bookbub I am stunned by books that have 11,000 reviews. Who does that? And from the samples they aren’t very good.

  25. I binge-read Sherry Thomas’ fastasy books – the Elemental books, Hidden Blade books, and The Magnolia Sword – and loved them. She swaps between decades in some, which got a bit tiring after a while, but great stories, well written.

    Moved onto her historical romances, which haven’t enthused me as much. One of them was very marriage-rapey, which might be historically accurate but gets a total nope from me. I dropped it after a third of the book.

    And I’ve got a hold on book 4 of The Others series at the library. I really enjoyed the first one but by book 3 I felt like the series was getting a bit thinner, so I’ll be interested to see what book 4’s like. Here’s hoping!

  26. I read Sweep with Me by Ilona Andrews. A nice novella continuing Dina’s challenging series of guests at the Inn Gertrude Hunt.

    My wife found the Kurland St. Mary’s regency mysteries (Death Comes to the Village, etc.) by Catherine Lloyd and enjoyed them enough to purchase books 4 and 5 in the series after reading the three that I had already purchased.

  27. I ‘ve read Carole Bayer Sager and Julie Andrews books. Both enjoyable for the first half and then too many first world problems. Mobituaries was fun, mini biographies of interesting people shortchanged by history, and it appealed to my ADD. And cookbooks. I love the idea of cooking.

  28. I read The Raven Boys, and am in awe of her storytelling skills. Wow. Heading for the next one in the series.

    The Kurland St Mary’s series is still engaging me – I read Death Comes to the Fair and enjoyed it a lot.

  29. The Roselynde Books by Roberta Gillis were great. Every few years I re-read the series as there is so much background history. We seldom think of how the view of honor and stability and oaths kept bad kings. The series starts with the Richard I era and goes through Henry II.

    Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles are great reading (one of the few authors I make sure I keep a dictionary on standby). Each book takes place in a different country. The time is when Mary Queen of Scots was young and shows the the interweaving of the monarchy’s of different countries.
    She also wrote a series of light hearted mysteries, and did portraits that were hung in galleries. On the side she she took up sculpture- a real renaissance woman.

    SF wise Kate Danials series by Ilona Andrews has a very strong relationship line. I have enjoyed all her different series. She and her husband collaborate making a nice balance.

  30. I’m still churning through Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books and putting it down to January.

  31. Somebody mentioned the Fred the Vampire Accountant book by Drew Hayes (sorry, I am NOT typing out the title again; great title, but I invariably forget a word, and I just reviewed it on Eight Ladies today, so I’ve had enough).

    I really enjoyed it! I always enjoy something that has a really good time playing with tropes, and an accountant vampire who manages to get a girlfriend and a whole community of good undead friends is going to do it for me. There was some new magic to me, which is always exciting to discover, and it was just so friendly and full of enthusiasm. A fluffy vampire puppy of a book!

    And right after reading it, I went to check out the reviews on book two — people were favorable, and one reviewer said book two was even better than book one, so hooray for that. Someone said it ends on a cliffhanger, and I *don’t* like that . . . but since book six in the series just came out, I’m probably safe until February.

    Still not reading like I used to read, but I’m reading a lot more than I did in 2018.

  32. I read Kate Clayborn’s “Love Lettering” & Elizabeth Kingston’s “Desire Lines” & Beth O’Leary’s “The Flatshare”.

  33. On to non-fiction, just got a library notice that “Say Nothing: a true story of murder and memory in northern ireland” by Patrick Radden Keefe is ready for pick up.

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