76 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, June 4, 2020

  1. I read “1918 – Pale Rider or How the Spanish Flu Changed The World” by Laura Spinney and was blown away. It was published in 2018 for the flu’s ‘anniversary’ but now, of course, has gained a totally new momentum.

    But I wasn’t just impressed because the topic is so close and so impactful. This is a non-fiction book that is as captivating as a novel. It’s not simply a report about what happened during the last big pandemic. It tries to understand how these things work – how people react and why, how the scientists, politicians, artists and the church dealt with this phenomenon, why the Spanish Flu does not hold the important position within history it should have due to the huge changes it brought about. And of course it offers an outlook on future pandemics that is rather creepy if you are in the middle of one yourself.

    I can only recommend to read this book.

    1. Thanks for this review. I’m already on the wait list at the library. Looking forward to a deep dive.

    2. This sounds really interesting, thanks. One of the things I find fascinating about the Black Death in Europe is the huge effect it had on the feudal system – how it totally changed the value of labour.

  2. I’ve read nothing…NOTHING half as good as that tiny Murderbot prequel. How the hell does she think up these out-of-left-field solutions Murderbot finds to horrible predicaments?

    Thank you, Jenny.

  3. Most of my reading the past month has been re-reads of various Ilona Andrews books. Fantasy was the only genre that appealed and I didn’t have the energy for much new stuff. Iron and Magic is awesome; I think it will have to be a thing I read once a year. This was only my second read of it. I really enjoy how Hugh and Elara make each other insane and needle each other but still work effectively as a team when dealing with outsiders. Not smoothly at first, but they at least take that seriously from the beginning. Also the suggestion that Hugh’s horse may possibly be a unicorn will always be funny to me. I also read the newest Patricia Briggs and Jessie Mihalik, which I liked but were not my favorite installments of those series.

    Funny to see the Murderbot mentions this week because the second novella ebook just came in for me at the library. Sadly I didn’t know about the Tor giveaway until the third day and only managed to get the last two. But then the first went on sale and I got it for half off. Now that I have access to all four novellas, that’s my plan for the weekend. Looking forward to it.

    1. My read this week was my first Ilona Andrews, BURN FOR ME, which I’ve liked enough to begin on the next in series, WHITE HOT. They’re urban fantasy with romance. Also a short Bruno by Martin Walker was released, OYSTERCATCHER, which I found to be very short on plot — not usually a problem with Walker — however, as food porn it did include details about oyster farming!

      In non-fiction, once I’d read THE MAN BEHIND THE TUDORS (Thomas Howard, second Duke of Norfolk), I read through the bibliography and was able to pick up GENDER, FAMILY, AND POLITICS, about the Howard WOMEN. It is now possible to collect a serious amount of information about at least some 15th century women who were not royal, and the Howard-connected women had their own social links (and included not only Anne and Mary Boleyn but also their cousin Jane Seymour — Jane and Anne and Mary shared the same mitochondrial DNA).

      1. I could only find Oystercatcher on Kindle, which I just don’t. So frustrated. Not fair. Also, do you know anything about a cookbook by his wife and daughter he alludes to in an Author’s Note at the end of A Body in the Well? Can’t find a mention on line.

  4. I recently (late yesterday) started reading T R Ragan’s Lizzy Gardner books. All six of them are 99¢ each on Amazon. The first book went on sale a couple of days earlier and I bought it then the rest of them went on sale I purchased them at once from the series page and they knocked off another fifty cents or so off, not sure why… Hey, who doesn’t love a bargain?

    Two of her three Faith McMann books are also 99¢. For some reason the first one is 1.99, but it is available for free through my Prime account.

    The few chapters I have read so far are good. I have read other books she has published under Theresa Ragan, so I expect good things.

  5. I haven’t been able to concentrate on a thing this week. I had started Red, White and Royal Blue last week. I am now less than halfway through a book that would normally take me an evening to read.

    I have Stamped, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi checked out (digitally) from the library and very much want to read it, but I doubt I’ll be able to focus enough to do it justice. I’m conflicted about returning it early without reading it. 15 people are waiting for it. Should I be realistic and just return it now or wait and hope I’ll recover enough to be able to read and absorb before I have to return it?

    What I really want to do is immerse myself in either the Murderbot series or start a Jenny Crusie binge (starting with Welcome to Temptation), but I have so much to do, and I know if I start either one, I won’t move until I’ve reread them all. I might do it anyway. No one is allowed to come into my house anyway. Who cares if we can’t see any of the horizontal surfaces in my house or garage?

    1. I discovered that my library offers the option of letting the next person in line get the book but still keeping me at the top of the list.

  6. I have a really good and FREE book to recommend! Alex Vitale’s The End of Policing is available today as a free e-book download (copy and paste link: https://www.versobooks.com/books/2817-the-end-of-policing). Really good, sensible, and quite definitely relevant to the question of “how can we do better.”

    I got my first batch of library books and have finally been trying to read new-to-me fiction. And…yeah, it’s not working. I think my brain is just broken. But I am slogging onward, in case escapism ever occurs.

    In thinking about your question about re-readability and Murderbot, Jenny, it occurs to me that Murderbot is consistently driven to save people (except, you know, bad people). Sarcastically and often grumpily, it is true, but over and over again, they put themselves on the line to help, even though they could just keep watching their entertainment feed. My small-and-simple thought is that this connects to a real emotional need right now.

    1. That’s certainly a factor, but also that the people he saves think of him as a person, thank him, and confound him because he’s used to being a machine. It’s not just that he’s a good person, he gets rewarded for being a good person. The Murderbot universe is just.

          1. I know Murderbot is it but it leans she in my head. It is a kickass…I guess protagonist who reminds me of UF heroines with the snark and the reluctant emotions rather than male thriller types 😀

        1. I did a big reply to this and it got lost somehow.

          I was wrong. Murderbot prefers “it,” which is not an insult because it’s dehumanizing since it’s on emphatic record as not wanting to be human.

          And I will make this mistake again because I read it as an actor who played a cold, distant, violent character who kept saving people in exasperation, so in my head, it is a he visually.

      1. My current favorite Murderbot quote: I was a thing before I was a person.

      2. I also think the rereadability thing might have something to do with humour. Murderbot is really funny – and so are most the books I love to reread. You wouldn’t class them as humour, but they see the odd side of humanity, and there’s a slightly cynical but ultimately compassionate edge to them that is very appealing.

  7. Read my first Ilona Andrews and quite liked it – On the Edge. Working my way through the Inkeeper Chronicles now.

    Also read Lilith Saintcrow’s The Damnation Affair. Really liked it, but not sure how I feel about the ending.

    And thassit. By the end of work, even reading is difficult. Miss vacation haha

    1. I love Ilona Andrews. Kate Daniels is dark compared to the rest of the work, but all is excellent. The Innkeeper set is on my constant comfort reread list. I also love the Hidden Legacy Universe. Again, a bit lighter. Some of the edge stuff gets dark. Enjoy!

  8. Murderbot! You got me started and I didn’t stop. Reread the novel, then reread all four novellas, then reread the novel again. I’m now debating whether I want to start over again at the beginning. Such comfort food. But thank you for sharing the prequel, I didn’t have it and it makes my morning.

      1. I think the shortness helps, although the full length one was fabulous. I just remember picking it up for the first time and feeling relieved because it was a novella. Life can get so hectic that a full novel that begins a series can be intimidating.

      2. Jenny – my online friend and yours, Sarah Wynde, does not like to sing her own praise so I will. Her book Cici and the Curator has won it’s way into the SFWA Fantastic Beasts Bundle!
        Go to sarahwynde.com and check out her 5/29 blogpost for details.
        It is a delightful book!

  9. Red, White, and Royal Blue came through from the library, so I whipped through it. I got stuck partway through and had to go look for spoilers so I could safely make it through the inevitable Bad Thing that Happens, but it’s a light story so the difficulties aren’t tragic and the whole thing was surprisingly uplifting. What might have been…

    This probably belongs in happiness Sunday, but at this point I will take anything good that happens on any day. It looks like all the Confederate (traitor) statues in Richmond may finally come down. Alexandria took down its Lee statue yesterday. Last year the commonwealth finally allowed local jurisdictions to rename Jefferson Davis Highway. As a lifelong Virginian, it’s good to see some symbolic progress. And I have friends in Richmond working in the community to correct the many problems caused by Richmond’s centuries of racial discrimination.

    Honestly, seeing the Lee statue graffitied all to hell and has made me very very happy.

    1. Sorry – that was for Karen B in response to her comment about passing the book to the next person in line and then getting it back. Not sure how it ended up at the bottom on it’s own!

  10. Today’s reading is pretty much a repeat of yesterday. The Shaman of Karres, The Demons of Constantinople by Flint, Goodlett and Huff, sequel to The Demons of Paris. The Murderbot series last book and pre-ordered the next. Started Heyer’s Arabella. Weber’s The Honor of the Queen is still in progress.

    Finally, I read that Murderbot Prequel. Outstanding! Also, short!

  11. Finished up Maureen Corrigan’s Leave me Alone, I’m Reading, her short memoir of her reading life. Not what I expected at all. Usually in books about books or reading, there are lots of recommendations and lists and reviews . This broke down into 3ish long essays about books that fell into 3 different literary themes and how they related to her life. It was excellent. Interesting perspective and depth (and it did have an addendum with recommended reads at the end.)

  12. I’ve just finished N.K. Jemisin’s City We Became, after finally reaching the top of the ebook reserve list, and I’m still luxuriating in the richness of it. I often get distracted reading her books because there’s _so much_ going on, but with this one, every time Bronca came onstage I snapped back into focus. Which meant that by the middle of the book I was able to completely focus. The richness and depth of her language makes me feel I’m eating perfectly seasoned food. I was delighted to learn it’s the first of a trilogy. I am sure I missed a lot from having spent only a handful of days in NYC, but even so it was wonderful.

    1. I just finished listening to it. I agree that it was fabulous and rich. Also the narrator was excellent. I loved hearing all the New York accents.

      Glad to hear it is part of a planned trilogy since I felt the ending was a little abrupt.

  13. Read Claimed in the Italian’s Castle by Caitlin Crews/Megan Crane, an HP and one of the best romances I’ve read in a long time. It’s a Bluebeard retelling, and it’s worth reading just for the description of the freaking door she’s forbidden to open. Seriously over the top Sharnado style fun.

    Now reading The Reluctant Widow by Heyer.

    I re-read all the Murderbots, too, and there are a bunch of ingredients that make them re-readers for me. First of all, as Murderbot itself says “I like stories about smart people saving each other”. There’s humor, action, adventure, smart people, a really great cast of characters, there’s growth, struggling with difficult emotions, a whole spectrum. The writing is great, the characters are great, plot and setting are great, it’s the whole enchilada. It’s a place and a group of people you just keep wanting to go back and revisit. You can enjoy a story just for a good character or a good setting or a good plot or for really masterful writing (words!) but when they all come together, it’s rare and that’s a book I will re-read until it falls apart and then buy again. (why yes, I have been thinking about this ever since you brought it up)

  14. I still can’t read books, not even Murderbot. But thanks for the links, saving them for later.

  15. Well, NOW I have read Murderbot links, thank you so much.

    Otherwise I am re-reading a murder mystery “Riddle at Gipsy Mile” by Clara Benson which is ok. The first one in the series was best, and they got sillier as they went on, but it is an acceptable and unchallenging read. Don’t remember what I read before that, so obviously nothing outstanding. DH still reading his way through all the best Francis Hodgeson Burnett books and I am envious of his enjoyment!

      1. Recently said “The Shuttle” may be the best thing he ever read. All three children’s books. He is reading the ones I am telling him to read, and I am obviously directing him to my favorites, so the response is somewhat skewed.

        “Lass of the Loweries” and “Through One Administration” are the only ones I remember actually disliking, though some are definitely better than others. And you do have to read through the belief systems of the time at some points.

        1. I like THE SHUTTLE, too, as well as both A LADY OF QUALITY and its partner, HIS GRACE OF OSMONDE, THE MAKING OF A MARCHIONESS and THE METHODS OF LADY WALDERHURST. Definitely period pieces!

  16. I read Woodwalker, the first in a trilogy (I hate trilogies, but this one came highly recommended by people I trust) by Emily Martin. I skimmed part of it (after I finish the trilogy, I may go back and read it more fully) but finished the rest last night.

  17. I’m not able to read anything except Twitter right now. (Yeah, not good for my sanity. Giving myself another few days before I quit.)

    Someone on Twitter posted a thread of Terry Pratchett quotes about policing, and it made me tear up. I miss having Pratchett in the world (the man himself, I mean, the words live on). You can see it here: https://twitter.com/Sotherans/status/1268301354268680196

    Going to read the Murderbot short now! If anyone’s interested, you can probably find other short stories by her in other worlds by googling, and they’re also excellent.

    1. I just reread Pratchett’s Jingo and I almost put it aside. Despite the humor it is really difficult to read after listening to 3.5 years of that jackass and with what is going on right now. Sir Terry was remarkably observant.

  18. I finished Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst.
    I only have one physical book left from the library now…

    Maybe I’ll finish that Watership Down reread after.

    I just can’t quite get on board with reading eBooks off of my tablet, even though I’ve read fanfiction and web serials on my phone. It’s a weird hangup.

    1. It takes a while. You get used to it, but it’s never the same. Still, I can borrow more from farther away, so long live stories.

  19. I managed to finish a new book bounce bounce!!

    Cthulhu Casebooks: Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows, very easy to read and yet he uses long words I don’t know to describe things. Now it is in comfort read territory I’m going to go through with a dictionary the second time round.

  20. Part of what I enjoy in the Murderbot novellas is considering Murderbot’s decision processes in light of Asimov’s three laws of robotics:

    Asimov’s Three Laws are as follows:

    1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
    3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

    I need to reread I, Robot.

    1. It was a different time and a different kind of AI. For one thing, Murderbot is part human. It’s the blurring lines that give him that character arc.

      I read I, Robot, but it was so long ago. I think the big difference between the Asimov AIs and the Wells AIs is the authors, but the second is the era. I think we’re a lot more concerned about the Other in society now. Definitely this week anyway.

  21. I’ve noticed something very strange. Several higher-ups in the ranks of my (progressive) employer have been tasked with sending out messages of uplift, reminding people to take time off or exercise self-care or ask for help when they need it. Those messages stress me out more than being ignored does. Possibly because I’m over here going “when TF am I supposed to take time off? where TF am I supposed to go to relax or be cared for? who TF am I supposed to ask for help? We’re ALL out of our minds.”


    Anyway, this week I binge-read the four M/M ‘Enlightenment’ romances by Joanna Chambers, to complete satisfaction.

    1. Why don’t you ask them? Sounds like the right hand doesn’t know what the left (you and your co-workers) are doing; and that they need to.

      1. It’s an enormous company. The people doing the communiques are people I have never met and probably never will. They don’t work in my practice area; we don’t intersect at all. The firm is trying to provide lots of resources – online things, of course – and I appreciate it but I can’t take a chunk of time out of my workday to do this stuff. We had a mandatory anti-harassment training, it took 75 minutes, and I did it on my own time because I’m too busy to block out that much time in the middle of a workday. It’s a first world problem, and it’s transient (my workload won’t stay this gnarly forever). Simply something I noticed. I dump those emails straight into the “admin-action taken” folder now.

  22. I finished the audiobook of Gin’s Six Cloves Under and loved it. It’s a cozy but there’s nothing annoyingly cutesy and twee about it like some themed cozies get. Relatable characters, solid plotting, character growth. I highly enjoyed it and am looking forward to book 2.

    I’m now listening to The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert which is a YA fairy tale. So far, so good.

    1. Thank you! Particularly glad to hear you liked the audio version. Audiobooks don’t get the review attention that other formats get, so it’s hard to judge whether listeners are happy with the narrator.

      Book two just went through copy edits and will be released December 22 when no one will see it because of Christmas, but fortunately books remain available after the release date!

  23. Great Murderbot short story. Thank you for the link, Jenny.
    New books for me last week:
    Susannah Nix’s Advanced Physical Chemistry, the novel #3 in the series. I liked it less than the first two, but it was still an enjoyable read. On to #4.
    Anne Gracie’s Marry in Scarlet is the last book in her latest regency romance series. I love Anne Gracie. I’ve read everything by her. She is on my automatic ‘to-buy’ list. Most of her books are delightful, but this one, alas, didn’t quite measure up. It was still okay, but… So I went back to the book #1 in this ‘Marriage of Convenience’ series, Marry in Haste, and it was as good as I remembered. I think I’m going to embark on the project of re-reading all (almost all) of her novels.

  24. We re-read Murderbot because it is great art. (Not ART, though ART is art too.) Great art bears repetition and has always got more to show us, more to reveal. Jane Austen, Shakespeare, people like that. We talk about the characters, the plots, the artistry.

    I am deeply in debt to Martha Wells for this creation. Probably my favorite character of all time in fiction (and I read a lot). The Murderbot Dairies are the gift that keeps on giving.

  25. In honor of my aunr, who passed away this week, I’ve been reading Emilie Loring books. I’m not I sure I would recommend them but they are a great comfort read.
    My aunt used to have a large collection of Loring books in her guest room and I have great memories of reading them late into the night whenever I visited.

    1. My grandmother loved these! I grew up on them too, and blame them for my early romance addiction. They don’t age well, really, but are very interesting as a look into a certain time period. And yes, comfort for me because they are so familiar.

    2. I haven’t read Loring in years but still have a few of her books around. You’re right about her not aging well.

    3. She was born in 1866, so it isn’t surprising that her books are dated. I always enjoyed the heroines who always wore hats and gloves, and definitely were not Phryne Fisher!

      For myself, I enjoy period pieces, which hers are.

  26. Finished the second and third book in The Honey Badger Chronicles by Shelley Laurenston, Badger to the Bone and In a Badger Way. Both almost as good as the first one. Mostly hilarious instead of Absolutely hilarious. YMMV of course.

    Downloaded some samples of her other series, including some of The Pride which is set in the same world and about some of the other characters you meet in The Honey Badger Chronicles. I couldn’t get into them though 🙁

    Also read The Book of Harmony, The Last Oracle Book 7, by Melissa McShane. Still pretty good.

    And re-read The Unknown Ajax, The Grand Sophy, and The Nonesuch after reading discussions of Heyer here last week.

    1. Good to know about the Honey Badger series. I have trouble with her stuff usually. Great characters, very funny dialog, but the plot seems to be problem after problem, which just wears me out. She also wrote a dragon series as J.A. Aiken.

    2. I read Hot and Badgered on your recommendation, and it was both violent and very funny. When I’d finished it, I thought, ‘I must ask Gary if he has read The Blacksmith Queen, which is that same funny/violent women genre, and which I really enjoyed’. Then I looked at Shelley Laurenston’s biog and discovered that she is also JA Aiken. Who wrote The Blacksmith Queen.

  27. I’ve read Laurie Colwin’s two books on cooking, which were delightful, and am about 2/3 of the way through Thief of Time, where I am totally confused, while still enjoying it. Thanks to those on this blog who recommended all three.

  28. Last week Brenda Margriet said that Eloisa James never disappoints. Well, I like her, too, but her last one, Say No to the Duke, I didn’t like well enough to try to jam it into my exploding bookcase. The latest, Say Yes to the Duke is definitely a keeper.

  29. just finished Ghost Money by Stephen Blackmoore. I liked it but realized halfway through how much the story and hero reminded me of the Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey. Which I also like. Ghost Money is a fantasy novel about a necromancer who is investigating whoever is weaponizing ghosts in a semi-post-apocalyptic Los Angeles.

    Also enjoyed The Vineyards of Champagne by Juliet Blackwell, a gentle fiction novel set in Reims about finding joy and love again after the death of a husband, intertwined with a quest to find out what became of a WWI soldier.

    Now onto Doing Time by Jodi Taylor.

  30. I’ve been reading the Peter Grainger books recommended by Beth from Quebec. I’ve really enjoyed them, so thanks, Beth.

    1. You’re welcome, Cathy. Isn’t DC Smith a wonderful character? Now I’m so sad: I’ve finished all the DC Smith novels, the Waters novels, and have only the second volume of the Lane novels to go.

  31. Following the recommendation here I read the book Well Met. I don’t remember the authors name but I enjoyed the book. Stress free reading that I needed.

  32. Something I forgot to include on the reading list is Seanan McGuire’s Velveteen vs. series, most of which is on her LiveJournal pages, because of some sort of contract where the ebooks!? are out of “print.” She hasn’t updated LJ since 2017 – I swear she keeps it up to make Velveteen available for free.

  33. I read Network Effect and yes, Murderbot remains the best murderbot. I may start all over again. After I read this short one you’ve found. I also read a non-fiction Phosphorescence about what gets humans through tough times and searching for awe/wonder by Julia Baird (Aussie journalist) whose biography of Queen Victoria is also excellent. And the new Penric novella. So a good reading week!

  34. The best thing I read this week was Paladin’s Grace by T Kingfisher. Heroic and funny – it was just the thing I needed for a meltdown day on the sofa. And definitely a reread before too long.

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