This is a Good Book Thursday, July 30, 2020

I’m reading Process Not Perfection, which should probably be the title of my autobiography, and How to Make Handdrawn Maps, and a ton of new romances which is making me think I’m not a romance writer any more, and a ton of old mysteries which are reminding me that stories are about character.

What are you reading?

106 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, July 30, 2020

  1. Thanks to Kaye55, I ordered the three daily deal Murderbot books and immediately re-read them, which meant I wasn’t reading one after a library hold wait, then gobbling down another after a longer hold wait, and finally getting the third from the library hold list and gobbling THAT one, barely recalling the first two.

    Which meant I could really watch his self-awareness and psychological development, which was so endearing. These books really deserved the Hugo and Nebula awards they received. I can hardly wait to read the novel, which I won’t touch until the next one has actually been published. No more dreadful waiting.

    Second — I imagine these new romance writers only WISH they could do it as well as you.

    Third — I hope JenniferNennifer posts the name of the light-hearted romance she enjoyed so waiting Argh readers can try it out. Inquiring minds are waiting.

    1. Sorry, I forgot to go back and answer, but for you, I just got up and walked into the other room to get my kindle and check. I think I got the author from someone here – her name is Talia Hibbert and I read two out of three of a series which is either ravenwood or small town romance. Both were good.

      And I haven’t read anything of new except samples since then, so thanks for reminding me that the first one is worth re-reading.

      1. Thank you. I read her last one (Dani Browne, or something) and found it a pleasant diversion. And I don’t have to worry about having too much to read when I get it because the Chicago Public Library has ordered very few print copies and I think I am 75th in line for one. Sigh. They really don’t cater much to us Luddites.

  2. Someone mentioned “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson last week. I had checked it out a while ago, but I finally sat down and read it. Very good, but heart wrenching at time.

    And now for philosophizing. . . 😉 Romance is such an interesting genre b/c it *is* so personal (how do we fall in love?) and so political (what does society accept/promote/condemn when it comes to personal relationships? Who is “worthy” of love?) at the same time. That’s why I feel like romance really has to have a big umbrella, b/c you’re never going to get a lot of agreement about that.

    My mom is a baby boomer and I am, I guess Gen-X/Millennial (I always like to say I’m “on the cusp”). My mom read all sorts of romances in the 80s and stopped some time around 2000. She now reads mystery, historical fiction, sci fi, fantasy, etc.
    I started reading romances in the 90s as a teenager (and my mother never shamed me or tried to stop me, which I appreciate deeply) and am still reading them. We talk about books a lot. There are many books/authors and authors we both love (A Wrinkle in Time, Connie Willis), but I don’t ever think there has been a “strictly romance” romance we’ve both enjoyed. Our ideas of what is “romantic” are just too different. She doesn’t do lighthearted or contemporary. She wants big, meaty historicals. We do often agree about what we *don’t* like, so that’s something.

    My mom has also gone back recently and read a lot of the romances she used to love in the 80s and been disappointed. She said a lot of the heroines seem wimpy and over-idealized and the villains seem over the top caricatures. I reminded her that not only has she changed a lot in almost 40 years (yikes!) but society has changed a lot on what behavior we expect of people. We expect better behavior from men (I hope) and give women more leeway to be human and be individuals (once again, I hope!).

    Anyways, what I’m just trying to say, is if it’s something that doesn’t speak to you, that’s all right. People and times change. And romance, especially, changes.

    1. There are fashions in romance just as in any other genre including literary fiction, and I can generally read across sub-genres, so I don’t think it’s that, although I definitely have strong tastes in general. I think it might be a generational thing, or maybe I’ve just read too much in the genre. I think that happened to me with mysteries back in my academic years: I read so many of them that the only ones I didn’t skim were the ones that brought something extra to the table, like Ngaio Marsh’s characterization. I think that may be what’s happening with romance: so many of them are the same thing, which is of course the strength of genre in general, it tells you what you’re getting. But a lot of the ones I’m reading now follow the same rut without bringing in anything new to make me want to read to the end. And too, because there’s not a whole lot of barriers to younger lovers these days, a lot of the plot complications pretty much boil down to “if they just talked” based not on real reasons for the parties to be silent but because the plot requires a break-up to keep moving. I think that’s why I liked the first two in Bowen’s Ivy Years series (haven’t read the rest yet); those people had real reason not to share secrets. Mhairi McFarlane usually does a good job with people trying to work through problems instead of keeping secrets. So many of the others I’ve gotten about halfway through and then just turned to the ending because the plot was boring (you really can’t do will she or won’t she in a romance because she will) or annoying (really, he hugged her and you didn’t realize she was his sister? because sister-brother hugs are really different from lover hugs).

      Or maybe I’m just corona-bitchy these days. That’s probably it.

      1. Is that why you think you might not be a romance writer anymore, because you can’t see yourself writing these kinds of stories?

        1. Not exactly. I think I may have gotten too far into the weeds and need to pull back. I’m so fascinated by detail right now, so I have to put a big virtual post-it on the screen that says, “IT’S THE ROMANCE, STUPID.” Case in point is Nita, where I got so caught up in the scene and in the subplots and the setting and sort of lost Nick and Nita until the third act.

          I think that a lot of the problem I’m having with many (not all by any means) romance novels right now is that they’re just the romance. Supporting characters comment on the romance, but it’s the romance all the time. And that makes the characters very flat. I think there are some romances that can probably make that work, I did it in a lot of my Harlequins which is why people bitch about them on Amazon, but if you’re going for 100,000 words to build a rich and compelling relationship, you gotta get out of the “Does he love me, I wanna know” part of the plot. Nobody falls in love in a vacuum.

          I think I just expect more from my romances than the romance, the way I expect more from my mysteries than just mystery.

          1. I’ve never liked romances without some other story at play, so I dont see that meaning you’re no longer a romance writer. It just sounds like you’re getting engaged in building a more robust world.

            You mention at times how you aren’t writing mysteries, or something else, and it always sounded like you were compelled (out of honest desire) to make romance the main plot point. If you were forcing that idea on yourself, then I could see writing in other genres vs romance. But it sounds like you’ve always wanted to write romance as the main plot point. Ergo, still a romance writer. 😀

          2. I actually started with mysteries when I began to write, but pretty quickly went to romance. I like romance, I’ve just been at it a long time, and when you write contemporary, the meaning of contemporary changes. I’m good with most of the social changes, I think they’re for the better, but I’m still wondering if I haven’t aged out of the genre. That could also just be virus glum; I’m still trying to find my new normal.

            Every WiP I have is a romance or at least a romance-hyphenate, so that probably means the Girls are romance-centric.

          3. It has been years since I read my first Crusie, Manhunting, but I still remember how much I fell in love with the community that you created. It wasn’t just a woman meeting a man and falling in love, it was a woman finding new friends, new interests, re-evaluating her life and coming up with a plan to make it better. I had never read a romance like it. In fact, at that time, I might not have ever read a romance by a contemporary author that had any sense of community or a best friend like Kate’s. Without realizing it, it changed my standard for romance.

      2. I agree with you on the sameness and the annoying made-up problems that simply require even a one-minute chat: who were you hugging?

        One thing I’ve noticed in a lot of recent romances is the return to things I hated about the romances I read in the late 70s and early 80s: domineering men. I threw more than one of my mom’s Harlequins across the room because of them. Now there is this whole “alpha” thing (which is actually a lie and is not how dogs or even wolf packs work — another topic for another time) and really, it seems mostly to be another way of saying “domineering” in a more acceptable (hm) way. I didn’t like that then, and I don’t like that now. A strong character? Yes. “I always get what I want and because you don’t want me I will get you.” No. Being so intensely physically drawn to someone the character thinks is a total asshole bothers me. So I do quit books. I see the ‘alpha/domineering’ thing as different from Dom/sub, but even a lot of the D/s stuff I read make the Dom a domineering man, rather than simply dominant. Ruins the sexual titillation of that kind of thing for me. One excellent example of some non-domineering Doms in a D/s situation are the two in Charlene Teglia’s Wild Wild West. They are not pushy or domineering. They are men I would truly like and would want to be with in real life. (Although, apparently all the kids these days are having anal sex, which is so not appealing to me. Sigh.) I am curious as to why so many romance writers today have returned to the asshole/alpha. (Ilona Andrews has an interesting blog post on that, actually.)

          1. That book rocks. One of the first I read with bondage. Excellent characters. Thank you for writing it!

        1. Personally, I think that is fatigue on the part of women in society. My friends are all driving forces in their relationships, pushing their male counterparts for what they want. Millennial males strike me as very passive and very needy. I think that the females are tired of feeling like they are prodding their partners and pulling most of the emotional weight. Alpha assholes provide a trope were the girl gets to skip the “does he like me” part. These guys are blatantly committed, to the point of unhealthy, but at least you know that they aren’t staying in a relationship out of apathy. The rest is just window dressing of the fantasy. The core is being wanted by someone who bluntly says and shows that he does.

    2. Someone (who I guess didn’t want to be either Gen X or Millennial, or didn’t feel like either quite fit) told me that in between Gen X and Millennials is the Oregon Trail Generation, named for those playing Oregon Trail (the computer game) in school.

      It might not be that well known, but it seems to fit something…and I’ll probably keep remembering it because how precisely it places Root from Person of Interest into a generation.

      1. Haha, I’ve heard that, but I don’t feel like I can claim it since I never played Oregon Trail, I don’t think I even became aware of it as a game until years later. The things you miss out when you grow up abroad. I’ve also heard Xennial. Generational differences do exist to an extent, but then they get played up and emphasized for marketing purposes. My husband is definitely Gen X (he’s older than me by a few years), but I fall in the gap depending on when you want to split the generations.

      2. There is also the gap between Boomers and Gen X. I knew that ages ago — that is me. Someone finally wrote a book and called us Generation Jones (I think they used Jones because we were invisible). I think there are often gaps. I was definitely different from my Gen X boyfriend all those years ago.

  3. I have nothing to report. This week I have barely read a paragraph of the four ebooks I need to finish and return to the library because my Scrabble-clone game is eating up all my reading time. I don’t want to read words in sentences; I want to make words that fit in spaces. It’s a disease.

      1. It’s called Classic Word and it’s on my iPad.
        I overcame its compulsion and managed to finish Patrick Ness’s Burn, which is a dystopian apocalypse portal fantasy with dragons. It is so much not a romance, but it has two love story threads which are not finished when it ends. The world doesn’t end. Quite. Probably.

  4. I got out an old audiobook of Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet: Dauntless, the first of the series. I read a review that said it got good in the middle, and since I owned it already I persisted. It did get better, if you like the kind of thing, which I often do.
    Our library opened to 5 people at a time, so I masked up and had the pleasure of wandering the aisles. I brought home a small pile that I think the others in the house will like as well. I got a hardback of “Diplomatic Immunity” a later book in the Vorkosigan series. If you’re able to read outside, an actual book is the best.

    1. I agree. I also think a physical book is better for pre-bedtime reading. You don’t have to worry about blue light keeping you up. And, since that’s my primary reading time, I generally go for physical books.

      1. I must be an outlier in the light thing. I get sleepy MUCH faster reading (or playing games) on a screen than on paper. A paper book can keep me reading and reading and reading much too late. An ebook will have my eyes drooping in about an hour, unless I’m very uncomfortable. I don’t have the light change thing on the iPad, whatever it’s called, enabled because it looks weird to me.

    2. I liked Dauntless, and felt books 2 and 3 held up. I pick his work up sporadically, and have just been feeling like I should get the next book!

  5. I started a romance/women’s fiction book by a fairly big name in the romance world and it was so horribly written I couldn’t make it through the first chapter. Right now I’m all about reading books with little to no real conflict (there’s a deep divide between what I’m listening to and actually reading this year and a distinct difference between paper books and e books as the paper books are all fluffy) and predictable paths but is it too much to expect competent, smooth writing?

    I read The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher. It was twisted and creepy but very good and she tells you right up front that the dog lives which is good. That was a Kindle read.

    I’m now listening to Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon. It’s a middle grade about a girl pretending to be a wicked (not evil, just wicked) witch. It’s a complete 180 from The Twisted Ones and a shining example of why pen names are important.

    I’ve pressed pause on Peace Talks, the latest Dresden Files novel, because it seems to have an Infinity War/End Game vibe with the next book. The Big Bad from Battle Ground has shown up already and (off screen) killed a minor character I really liked so I’m mad now. Deb, have you finished it? I’ve got a bad feeling about all of this; two books out in a span of 3 months does not bode well for Harry.

    1. FWIW, I’m pretty sure Butcher has said he’s got a plot through book 20 or something like that. So I don’t think this is the end for Harry.

      I don’t remember where I read it though, so maybe someone else has a more definitive answer. Deb?

      1. Butcher originally planned for an Arc of 27 books. I don’t know if he is still thinking that many, but I suspect he is, thereabouts. The two books are coming out so closely together because he wrote them originally as one book, and his publisher told him that he could not publish one humongous book, and Butcher had to figure out where to break the huge manuscript in half or so. But both were essentially finished, so both are being published very closely together.

        I’m still trying to read Changes (about three books back) to pick up the thread of his overarching story. It’s been a long time since Butcher published the last Harry Dresden, and I need to meet the characters again!

        1. I have zero memory of what happened in the previous couple of Harry Dresden books. (Mind you, I have zero memory of what I read yesterday.)

      2. I really enjoyed the Harry Dresden books, but I also have end of the world fatigue, it’s always an extreme emergency or the end of the world or he’ll be enslaved forever by evil beings. So maybe in one book he catch a break, eat some lunch, and walk his dog . Not for the whole book, just a bit.

    2. I’m trying to avoid conflict — at least big conflict — in my reading right now and am finding it difficult to find things without that. I’m okay going back and reading some of my comfort books that have that because I know where things are going and I’ve read them so many times the conflicts don’t feel so big now.

        1. Madeleine Robins wrote five standalone regency romances early in her career, before going on to the Sarah Tolerance historicals. If you like Georgette Heyer there’s a good chance you’ll like these too: My dear Jenny, Lady John, Althea, The heiress companion, and The Spanish marriage.
          I liked them, and wish she wrote more like that, but she’s past that phase of her writing career.

          Mary Robinette Kowal wrote the Glamourist histories, a short series starting with Glamour in Glass (which can be read as a standalone). It’s Regency romance with a bit of magic added (women can use ‘glamour’ to beautify things, but it’s not supposed to be something men practise).

      1. Have you read Calvin Trillin’s Tummy Trilogy? I find it delightfully diverting. And if you like the way he writes, you can follow up with Travels With Alice or Feeding a Yen.

    3. I bought Peace Talks, but from what I’ve read about it (see below), I will probably wait to read it until I have the sequel on hand.

    4. I haven’t started it yet. The other one is coming so soon, I had the gut feeling that it was a two-parter. And I have a stack of new books that came out at the same time by Susan Wiggs, Kristen Higgins, and a bunch of others. So I’m saving him for last.

  6. (De-lurking) For those who are fans, Ben Aaronovitch has a new e-book of short stories called Tales from the Folly out tomorrow, as a present to us during the pandemic. (Re-lurking)

    1. WHERE? Amazon?

      Just checked. Yes, $7.99. I know what I’m going to be doing tomorrow.

      1. Also available on my preferred reading platform Apple Books.

        Thanks for the heads up Becky!

  7. I’m dealing with some really terrible stuff (happened to a friend, but I’m having trouble accepting it), and can’t even read at the moment.

    I hope it’s okay to instead mention a friend’s book that got a really good review from Publishers Weekly (surprising for a self-pubbed book), and that the romance readers here might enjoy: It’s the first of a trilogy, with the second already published and the third in the works.

    It’s more angsty/steamy than what I imagine the light-hearted romance JenniferNennifer mentioned to be, but perhaps it would be of interest to anyone here looking for steamy romance.

    I tried writing romance a long time ago (and for a long time — I love all the people I met through RWA), but when I stopped reading romance was when I realized I was more interested in elements of my stories other than the h/h relationship, and I turned to writing mysteries, which is a MUCH better fit for me.

  8. I’m trying to read some non-fiction because it isn’t going to give me all that emotional challenge, but that is kind of difficult too, possibly because it doesn’t transport me into someone else’s world/reality. I’ve been renewing my loan on the ebook version of The Book of Joy with the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu; I can read only a bit at a time. Who knows why. And A House in Fez by Suzanna Clarke — about an American couple who move to Morocco, a place I’d love to visit — should be not at all difficult to get into to, yet it is. So weird.

    I currently have checked out The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede, which I haven’t read in a very long time. I think I can manage that. I have some cool-sounding books I own on my iPad, but I haven’t opened them yet. Just jumping into and out of various books and rereading specific bits. Sigh. I believe my brain is melting.

    1. Sometimes I go to the library and check out a large pile of books only to find that I am no longer interested in the ones on the bottom of the pile when I get to them. I then reread something countless times and feel frustrated with myself for not touching all the books I had so impatiently awaited when I placed the order for them. As a result, I have resolved to order fewer books at one time from the library so that when I pick them up each one will feel more like a treat. I’m not sure what I can do about the fact that over half of the recommendations on this blog are never ordered by the library, but I can only circumvent one aggravation at a time.

      Jenny was reading Mhairi McFarlane a few weeks ago and I was able to find a copy of her newest book, If I Never Met You. I enjoyed the characters and their growth. It also started me thinking about how much we expect people to stay the same as our initial summation of them. The MP had finally started to grow up, but nobody would see it because that made him even more threatening to how things had always been done and the FP finally started to acknowledge how much talent and responsibility she had always had. I felt like cheering when she finally told the men in her life that they no longer got to make decisions for her.

    2. Skye, if you are looking for comfort reads without a lot of conflict, off the top of my head, I have a few favorites to suggest. Thales Folly by Dorothy Gilman; The Night of the Comet by Daniel Telfer; Enchanted April by Elizabeth vanOrman; Greenwillow by B.J.Chute; and of course, as already mentioned, pretty much any Georgette Heyer or Elsie Lee (Regency romance).

      1. Er…that was supposed to be Elizabeth vonArnim…I should have proofread it more carefully!

      2. Thank you! I think Thale’s Folly is the only Dorothy Gilman I haven’t read. And I’ll look at the others, too.

      3. Those sounded like books I’d enjoy, so I went looking for them.
        Night of the Comet by Daniel Telfer I couldn’t find at all; Greenwillow is exclusive to Kindle; Thale’s folly I could find as an audiobook or secondhand but not as an ebook, not even on Kindle.

        For Elsie Lee I could only find two titles as secondhand books on Amazon, at a price of $60-$100 (no go! Who’d pay that for a secondhand used book?); no ebook or audiobook versions.
        Is that because I’m in Europe, or are there no ebook versions available at all?

        But in rooting around Kobo looking for them, I decided to check once more if another old favorite had been digitised, and yes, apparently ALL of Elizabeth Cadell’s (50+) books have become available in one big scoop.
        Honey for tea, and Out of the rain, both gentle English romances from about 1950-1960, are two of my favorites from those I’ve read on paper. I haven’t read even half of what she’s written, as most were unavailable or way too costly secondhand, like Elsie Lee’s books.

  9. Started A Touch of Stone and Snow (Milla Vane/Meljean Brook) but didn’t get far because this was Recarpet the House week and pretty much that killed reading time. Love the cat. The animals in this series are the best.

  10. I have definitely not been up to anything new this week, so it’s all been re-reads. Eric Flint’s “Ring of Fire” series. See, Eric infects all his books with “romance cooties.” The romance is never the central theme, but often figures deeply in side plots. So I started with 1635: The Dreeson Incident, as much to revisit the romance between Ron (Elrond on his birth certificate) Stone and Melissa “Missy” Jenkins as to revisit the alternate history thirty years war. I followed that up with 1635: The Eastern Front and 1636: The Saxon Uprising, because that was a logical progression in the series.

    Next I backed up and to the side for 1636: The Viennese Waltz, but you have to back even further to 1636: The Barbie Consortium. That’s an e-novelization of stories first published in the e-magazine, The Grantville Gazette. Those stories introduce the daughters of the Wendell family who become millionaires, and in the case of Judy the Younger Wendell, all her middle school and high school friends who get rich with her. They get their professional label because they started by pooling all their Barbie and other dolls and selling them to rich downtimers for exorbitant sums and investing the proceeds. (Barbie dolls have articulated joints, have inset hair, and are made of plastic – plastic that won’t be duplicate-able for probably a century.)

    Viennese Waltz is mostly about Haley Fortney, member in good standing of the Barbie Consortium, getting taken by her family to Vienna because the Emperor needs a 240Z and it needs mechanics. Her dad is a semi-spy and does roads, canals, railroads, steam and surveying. The romance cooties are everywhere in this one. Most of the Barbies are enobled (princesses!) and wind up with boyfriends. Princess Sarah Wendell gets hitched to Prince Karl Eusebius von Lichtenstein. She also ends up running the national bank of Austria.

    Romance cooties. 🙂

  11. I ssometimes think the marketing department has gotten way too much influence over the romance genre.

    I seem to be reading a lot os self published books ore, at least, books not based on the dominant tropes (race, class ,etc.).

    But, I’ve still got some reader’s block.

  12. Re-read “The Rosie Project,” which has been mentioned on Argh before, for book club. It’s filled with humor as well as pathos. If you like watching “The Big Bang Theory,” you’ll love this book.

    1. just bought this, it was on $2.99 on bookpub yesterday looking forward to reading it

      bought Aunt Dimity and the Duke – Nancy Atherton, as well

      1. I loved that first one and several of the sequels. As with all long-lived series, I eventually burned out, but it is a very fun series and the first one is the best.

  13. I find myself wondering if the pandemic quarantining/social distancing is going to have a big effect on all kinds of media. Maybe not now, but over the next few years. I know that whenever I see a commercial that was created pre-COVID, with acquaintances meeting on a street and embracing, going together into a busy restaurant, browsing clothing racks next to one another, and so on — it makes me uneasy. Scenes of partying come across as selfish and inconsiderate. Chefs standing at barbecues and high fiving once they taste one another’s awesome hand-assembled sandwiches seem insane.

    As a result, I have no idea what the future is going to bring in terms of meeting, dating, socializing, or romance, but I think internally, I’m moving back into Victorian expectations, more or less. Does this make sense?

    1. If everyone has to maintain social distance until the knot is tied, Regency – Victorian is where we are!

    2. Yes. I think we’re going re-examine things we’ve been taking for granted for decades.

      I do expect a lot of quarantine romances; in an age where there’s not much bar to romance, the pandemic is very useful. A new version of the marriage of convenience: you get quarantined together. Or you meet on Zoom in a meeting and have to text and develop the relationship through words (there’s my sweet spot). Or you’re a health care worker and . . . well, fill in the blank, there’s enough danger and drama there to power a thousand novels. So many possibilities with real barriers.

      1. I started attempting to write a play about role playing Jane Austen over Zoom and two of the characters like each other but can’t figure out how to get it started. Not sure how to do it though!

  14. Good reading: A ROYAL AFFAIR, by Allison Montclair, set in 1946 London, sequel to THE RIGHT SORT OF MAN in the Sparks & Bainbridge series. I like it because it has a genuine flavor of post-war London, which I can just barely remember from a few years later, and doesn’t seem as improbable as the sort of series which has the heroine working, from book to book, for every Big Name associated with WWII.

    Lightweight reading: TO MARRY A PRINCE, by Sophie Page. Heroine has counted enough fish (ah, science) to want to do something else for a while. The unexpected ensues.

    Nonfiction: I CAN’T REMEMBER THE TITLE BUT THE COVER IS BLUE, by Elias Greig. The adventures of a bookstore clerk . . . .

    Cookbook: THE ROOTITOOT COOKBOOK, a great introduction to cooking with the Instant Pot. The late (alas) Ruth McCusker acquired an Instant Pot and worked out how to make it cook the things her family likes to eat. She ended up with a very active FaceBook group — don’t know how active that is now that she has died — and two volumes of cookbook. What I especially like is that she has a method for cooking vegetables so they aren’t overcooked, which I never expected anyone to be able to do in a pressure cooker. There are also many pages of good clear directions for cooking different things — how to, say, make a pasta sauce and keep it either from burning or from triggering the IP’s Help! the food is Burning! switch. The methods are at least as valuable as the recipies.

    Watch out: One of my comfort reads is any book by Emma Lathen and/or R. B. Dominic, so I was pleased to discover them available as ebooks. I think the person issuing them is infringing the authors’ copyright, though I don’t know for sure. What he has done is self-publish, WITH Emma Lathen’s name, a book called POLITICAL MURDER which is a derivative work, bringing the time to the present when, apparently, the Sloan has moved to Ireland, is the biggest bank in the world, and John Putnam Thatcher is at least a hundred and ten years old but not retired yet. I do not feel the guy’s writing is up to standard, but that may be because I’m seriously fussy and also ticked off. Mad enough to write St. Martin’s Press about it, in fact.

    1. Should add that THE ROOTITOOT COOKBOOKS, volumes 1 and 2, are technically available in a Kindle edition, but my regular kindle options were grayed out. They will download and happily run, displaying lovely pictures, on a Kindle Fire, or probably some other tablet form. The print editions are spiral bound and nicely produced.

    2. I saw those Lathen books with that guy’s name on them. Emma Lathen is a treasure and it made me fume to see that guy taking advantage.

      1. So far as I know, the surviving partner, Martha Henissart, is presumed still living and I don’t think the copyright is likely to have expired. I sent St. Martin’s a link to the derivative work.

  15. I’ve been enjoying a new sci-fi/romance series by Michelle Diener called Verdant String. I didn’t like the first two books as much as the last two, but overall, liked the world building.

  16. Simon and Schuster found me by e-mail to tell me today is National Paperback Book Day. Before kindle I carried one paperback with me every where I went. Now I carry at least five hundred just to tyed/tied myself over from being too bored while waiting.

    My e-book holds are coming in, I now have three choices one of which is Waiting for Tom Hanks. That is going to be first.

  17. At home Anne McCaffrey All the Weyrs of Pern

    On set Terry Prachett’s At the Blink of a Screen which was on sale through BookBub last week.

  18. For comfort and fun, I reread Paladin of Souls bu Lois McMaster Bujold. My other books were all non-fiction. I read Pale Rider, about the Spanish flu, which was recommended by someone on this site. It was interesting how many parallels there were between the Spanish flu and the current pandemic; the same suspicion about medical advice; the same blaming of immigrants, churches who help mass prayer events and spread the virus, the same political divisiveness.

    And I read The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson, about the theft of historic stuffed rare birds from a British natural history museum; stolen by an American music student and sold to guys who tie flies for fishing (true story, easy read).

    My book club is reading White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, which defines racism as permeating society, and specifically confronts white peoples unwillingness to confront or deal with awkward issues of racial inequality. I am reading this book very slowly; there is lots to ponder. Not an easy book for me to read, but I am glad my group will be discussing the issues.

  19. I’m deep in comfort re-reading territory. I just can’t handle anything new, so it’s Cotillion and Witches Abroad right now.

  20. So, when I worked at a library Jennifer Crusie books were tagged as Chick Lit, not romance. Not sure if that is significant.

    My car audio book this week is Me and White Supremacy. It’s good. I am learning.

    And oddly enough, I have been reading short, uncomplicated romances. I haven’t indulged in a while. It’s like eating cotton candy. I tried a mystery series, but there just isn’t enough character interaction or something, to suit me. I think that is the hook for me with romance… It’s the only genre to really guarantee character driven stories.

  21. Just finished re-reading Faking It. Delightful as ever.
    Also I’m in the process of reading the new T. Kingfisher, A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking. I think as time goes by, her stories get darker, more depressing. Her earlier novels were more light-hearted, and I loved them. I’m determined to finish this one, but I’m not sure I’m enjoying it. I mean, a fourteen-year-old girl is running for her life, with a murderer on her tail. It makes me upset.

  22. I am generally behind the times, so am only now beginning to read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. Bad things are going to happen, and I also prefer comfort reading, especially now, but the characters and the mystery about one of them is drawing me in. Good thing, because it’s due for Monday’s book club! Read Hyperbole and a Half in book form, and a Regency romance. Realized, reading all the comments, that they are terrible about the dominant male (duh), so that’s a problem. I don’t even know why that’s the period that draws me. But it does irk me that modern Regency writers I’ve read don’t sprinkle in the accurate vocabulary, as G. Heyer does, and that everyone is having sex before marriage all the time, which may have been true in the aristocracy, but it seems unlikely to me, the way chaperones suddenly disappear, or heroines end up in china closets for a quickie. But I’m crabby this week especially, so that may be it.

    1. The one oddball thing about BLACK SHEEP is that two of the chapters were typeset in the wrong order. It’s something I only spotted on a later reread.

  23. I’ve had a lovely week of reading courtesy of Argh Ink. Last week someone recommended A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking. It was delightful. I love the idea of sentient sourdough! I thoroughly recommend T Kingfisher’s other books such as Swordheart and Paladin’s Grace – wonderful characters and dialogue. I then picked up Trish Ashley’s latest – Garden of Forgotten Wishes. Her books always lead to me indulging in a frenzy of baking or gardening. It was a nice book. Similar to her others but still very enjoyable. Lastly I dug out my Georgette Heyers – all of which are actual rather than e-books. One of those that I don’t think has received a mention here is Black Sheep – reading it was like having a warm hug. It also showed up the writing of a lot of authors I’ve read recently! I hope you are all keeping safe and sane. Here in Australia it’s been a bit up and down but on balance we are better off than most.

    1. I love Black Sheep. It’s the way Abby is trying to be proper – everyone thinks she’s proper – but Miles laughs with her and never underestimates her, and gives her the outlet to be herself.

      1. Black Sheep is so good. Emily is entirely right about Miles’ effect on Abby. Also, I chuckle over the parallel steps of Fanny’s and Abby’s romances: the ecstatic hand-holding, the public appearances as a duo, Stacy’s attempt paralleled by Miles’ action at the end of the story. In one couple the actions clearly indicate the man’s insincerity then the other couple’s actions indicate the hero’s understanding and clear thinking.

        Of course, Miles’ continuing taste for tomfoolery (dating from his youth) is a hoot.

      1. I am reading Wizard’s Guide now. I was amazed and delighted that when I looked for it on my library’s site, they offered me the chance to recommend that they buy the ebook (with lots of disclaimers about not promising to get it) and that I would automatically be on the reserve list if they did buy it. Not twelve hours later I got a notice that I could check it out. I love modern technology!

    2. Garden of Forgotten Wishes is next up on my reading list. I am always baffled that I like Trisha Ashley’s books so much. Her style is not like anything else that I read, but they are charming and comforting and I cannot start one until I have large block of time available to read it from start to finish.

      Her books do make you want to do serious cooking, crafts or gardening, don’t they? I have what I will nicely call a naturalized back yard and I often find myself gazing at it trying to figure out if I could put in a knot garden (as if I could ever maintain something like that).

  24. In addition to Defensive Baking, I finished Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel, which I’d started at least three times before this. Something about the story finally drew me in, but at the end I had the weirdest experience of not knowing WTH it was about. I mean, there was a plot and stuff happened, but I didn’t learn or feel or take away anything from it. (It could also just be these times/my brain during these times.)

    In nonfiction, I am halfway through Eddie Glaude Jr.’s Begin Again. So good! But it also makes me so angry because I’m learning things about 20th-century American history that were never even mentioned during my public school education. Thus we are doomed to keep repeating the same stupid BS.

  25. I actually finished two ebooks this week! One called Speechless (Unfortunate Souls series), which is a future version of The Little Mermaid in which the heroine wants to get to move to the Mars colony, which is being treated like a giant reality show. It was all right, there’s one major plot twist in it (think Truman Show-ish) that amused me and I can only assume the population doesn’t know what to expect of Mars.

    The other was Miss Wonderful by Loretta Chase. I liked most of the rest of the series, I didn’t really plan on reading it but it was on sale for 99 cents, so I gave it a try and ended up really liking it. Go figure.

  26. I just finished re-re-re-reading Maybe This Time. Loved it as much as always – that sense that someone can just FIX things always feels so good :-). Makes me want to make banana bread – waiting to get some good chocolate chips on my next grocery run 🙂

    Came to visit your page for the first time in a few years just to see what you were up to Jenny and what a delight to see this thread 🙂 (and your crocheting as a way to help find focus… and the plots of books you’re working on such as with Nadine, Ethan and Carter and Alice 🙂

    Another of my favorite romances is by sci fi authors Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: Scout’s Progress – coming into one’s own, overcoming lifelong challenges – starting change as if out of the blue but it’s because something inside of us cannot do the old thing for one more second even if it means risking it all…. Local Custom and Agent of Change are wonderful too (and I love many of their other books too).

  27. I’m reading The Second Sleep by Robert Harris. He wrote Fatherland, an alternate history where the Nazis won WW II, and is a fine writer. I started out thinking this was set in the Middle Ages, but it very quickly becomes clear that it’s post-apocalyptic, in a time when the church is resurgent after some unnamed disaster.

    So far it’s terrific. Not comfort reading though. Here in Tasmania we’re doing well, and I’m finding myself able to read more challenging things as a result.

  28. Have also read Robert Harris just yesterday. Conclave. Haven’t been gripped that much by a story of a bunch of (mostky) white old men in a very long time if ever.
    The ending was funny (I think) though very unrealistical. Doesn’t matter. The story itself was gripping. Usually I prefer character over plot but every once in a while plot driven books are fine. Those I tend to gulp in a rush if written well.
    The other good book I’ve listened to before was Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall. Recommended here. The reader was just lovely. His voice(s) made it special. A romance centred mainly on the two main guys, with a sprinkle of supporting characters. But they were so flawed that wirking through their issues was part of the romance and this worked well. Also nicely slow-burning. Attraction from the start – getting to knoe each orher really well – then falling in love, bump after bump on the way and likely more bumps in the future, but two people determined to work this through together: Very nice change to the usual stuff!!!

  29. I’m re-reading all of Jennifer’s books. Unfortunately not all are available as Ebooks. Can anyone explain why this is the case. Not sure how the Ebook system works.

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