This is a Good Book Thursday, September 24, 2020

I’ve been sampling romances still, but not buying many, mostly because the writing seems (a) awkward and (b) trite. They’re both hot, they think about sex a lot, can he protect her (get a taser, lady), how much info dump can we get in here. Yes, I’m getting jaded. So instead, I’ve gone back to watching TV, especially cop shows on MHz, which, since they’re all subtitled, is like reading. Only with moving pictures. Still annoyed I can’t get the last two seasons of The Art of Crime. Now watching Murder on the Lake. Bookmarking a lot of he-has-issues-she-has-issues-they-fight-crime stories. Yeah, I know, it’s like romance all over again, only with blood in some great scenic locales, mostly European and beautiful. Also pre-pandemic. Sigh.

What are you reading (subtitles count)?

Random Thoughts about Reading Romance:
“Can he protect her?” has just moved up the list beyond “smirk” for heroes. Now I don’t read past the blurb.

What’s with all the ex romances? I don’t have anything against them, but they’re everywhere now, more ex-loves or hopeless loves from the past than brand new guys/women. Is this something to do with yearning for past stability? Usually when there’s a glut of a romance subgenre–rape romances, gothics, baby romances, etc.–it’s a reflection of reader fears and hopes, but the ex thing has me baffles. For one thing, the back story problem is big.

I’m skipping shape-shifters, too, which is odd because I have minor character shape-shifters in one of WiPs. Think I’m gonna change that.I get the idea of somebody turning into an animal in bed, but I feel strongly that it should be metaphorical not literal.

20+

99 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, September 24, 2020

  1. I’ve been dreaming about books. So weird.

    I haven’t bought new e-books because my credit card company sent us new cards bwith new branding for free! So I thought, Yay CONTROL.

    It’s worked very well so far. And now I’m considering buying some softcovers and hard backs on Ayurvedic food and Chinese medicine, so I must see if I can ensure that I don’t enable one-click. Also, I want to try other vendors.

  2. I’m telling you Il Proceso/The Trial is really good. . . but that depends on how much you can handle both the prosecution and the defense during a trial lying (on purpose) and screwing up (on accident).

    I think it would give my friends and family with law degrees heart burn. I just went in in thinking “okay, everyone is a jerk, but in kind of different flavors of jerkdom” and was fine with it. Plus, by the end of it, there is the hope of justice being served and people having learned from their flaws. So it didn’t have a bummer nihilistic ending. I wouldn’t say there’s “romance” in the traditional sense, but there’s lots of interesting relationships that get explored.

    In reading, I really, really liked “When No One is Watching” by Alyssa Cole. I’ve read romances by her before but this is the first thing I’ve read by her that has some suspense elements. It was described as “Get Out” crossed with “Rear Window” and I think that’s an accurate description. It starts out kind of slow and just vaguely spooky. People disappearing, dogs barking for no reason, doors mysteriously open in the middle of the day. But by the end it escalates and fair warning there is a quite a bit of gore (and some sex). The ending is quite grandiose and ties a lot of threads together, but I didn’t personally have a problem suspending my disbelief.

    I took me a long time to read, not b/c it was slow but b/c I’m a big baby who had to read most of it during the daytime.

  3. I’m a big baby at this point, too. Don’t nobody bring me no bad news books or shows. I want justice and not much suffering, damn it.

    1. Most of the gore happens to the really bad people, fwiw. There’s definitely a bit of revenge fantasy going on here.

  4. On YouTube I see lots of ads for VPNs, which supposedly allow you to watch streaming from other countries by simply pretending to be located in that country. I’ve never tried this so I have no idea how well it works, nor do I know what the subscription price for a virtual network might be. But perhaps it would be a way to let you watch the most recent seasons of your French series. Just a thought.

    1. Thank you. Unfortunately for me, the show is in French (well, you know, made in France with French actors, makes sense) and my French is non-existent (although getting marginally better since watching this show). What I need is Mhz subtitling Season 3 and 4.

  5. Read ‘The Cold Dish’ by Craig Johnson. Really liked it in the beginning – great characters and interesting world – but mystery’s not my first love and I found it was a bit slow and too downbeat in the end for me to read more in the series. It’s well done, though, and I’m sure would be a lot of people’s thing. A near miss.

    Cast around a bit for something to cheer me up, and am rereading an old Jennifer Greene, ‘Rock Solid’, also in the Rockies but much lighter; a fun romance.

    1. PS. Could the ex thing be related to that sinking feeling that we (the world; at least the West) made a wrong turn forty years ago, and could do with going back and making different choices?

      1. Or perhaps the ex things is that people at the moment can’t go out and meet new people like they would normally do, so they’re obsessing over people they’ve met in the past? I don’t understand it – if I’ve broken up with someone (or vice versa) it’s for good reason!

    2. I’ve enjoyed the Craig Johnson series, even though I prefer my mysteries cozy and a lot less death of characters I came to like. Also, I don’t like the amount of cold weather! But I’ve read 15 books, so there’s something to keep me coming back.

    3. His books have a very strong voice. I think he’s a brilliant writer but his voice is so strong that I can see not being able to sink into it.

      To be honest, I prefer “Longmire,” the series, which is based on these books. But maybe because I watched that first.

  6. Reading the third book in a romance trilogy, but not enjoying it or gripped by it. Heroine’s a bit of a ditz, while also helping her sisters run a business.

    For book group, I’m reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s Natural Causes; even though the research is a bit dated (pub. date 2016), it’s a great book. I saw at the library yesterday Ehrenreich has a new volume of collected essays, so that’s next. Also began Thin Places by Jordan Kisner, essays about her spiritual journey (maybe), but it depressed me mightily, because she goes deep, and my memoir ms. is more a series of vignettes, not a single mention of Soren Kierkegaard to be found.

  7. I finished off The Wizard’s guide to defensive baking. I really enjoyed it, and shed a tear toward the end. Still thinking of sending it to my 12 year old niece. I also started “All the light you cannot see”. So far so good, but it is set during WWII, so keeping my fingers crossed.

  8. Betwixt by Darynda Jones, from a new paranormal series she started. I read it because I heard it has a cliffhanger ending that readers liked, and since I’m unsure about cliffhanger endings in books I wanted to see how she pulled off one that readers felt good about.

    After finishing it, I’m processing the pros and cons of the cliffhanger and how it felt to me. I don’t read a lot of paranormal, but this is a light witch-related story so on that score it was mostly an easy read.

    As for Art of Crime, that one is bugging me, too, because I can’t get any seasons in my region. Which is crazy to me since it’s French and this is a bilingual area. I can, apparently, buy season 3 at Amazon for some large sum, but that appears to be it. Unless anyone here knows of another Canadian access source.

    I did check the Youtube interviews with the L’Art du Crime cast & crew and the show looks so up-my-alley, so I’ll keep checking for it. But meanwhile, grr.

    1. I’m in Canada and we just got a subscription to MHz so we could watch Art of Crime. We watched the first episode. As Murderbot says, it’s the right sort of unrealistic.

      1. Thanks, Ruth. Hmm. We tried doing that the other day and got a “not available in your region” note but will try again in case it was glitch:)

      2. I know. Everything is so dramatic, but they’re all French, so it seems right. They’re all just so out there.

      3. Oh, before I forget, once you burn through The Art of Crime, try Murder on the Lake. It’s German/Austrian, set on a lake where both countries share jurisdiction. He’s German and loosely wound, she’s Austrian and borderline autistic because of childhood trauma, they fight crime. Lots of lake scenery, great mysteries, partnership stuff (she’s trying to find her father, he’s trying to save his marriage but not very hard, they do not have an affair but instead develop a strong partnership loyalty). It’s not the romance that Art of Crime is shaping up to be, but there’s a strong emotional bond at the center of it that I find compelling.

        And then there’s always Jonathan Creek in English, although I’d avoid the last couple of seasons because somebody really perverse got hold of it then. Also most of the women in it are horrible even though presented as a attractive personalities. The mysteries are worth it.

        1. That Austrian series sounds like it could be a remake of the Bridge which is set on the border of Norway and Sweden, I think. The Bridge also spawned a French English remake set around the Channel Tunnel. I haven’t seen either but the French one didn’t have much success whereas the Bridge is meant to be very good.

          1. I just checked (thank you Wikipedia) and the Bridge is set on the Danish/Swedish border. In the UK, it really launched the Nordic noir genre and much was made of the jumper the heroine wore.
            The German/Austrian remake is called Der Pass and the French one is The tunnel and there’s apparently quite a few others including a US/Mexico one of course :).

          2. How grim is The Bridge? I think Murder on the Lake is a riff on that subgenre, which I didn’t even know was a subgenre.

          3. I’ve seen the French/English remake of The Tunnel, and it was utterly gripping. And terrifying, so now might not be the best time to watch it. But my word it was good. And the autistic French woman was wonderful.

          4. It was ‘The Killing’ that had the jumper: different series, before ‘The Bridge’, and the breakthrough Scandi noir drama in the UK. I switched it on, since everyone was raving about it, but it was so dark – literally – that I couldn’t see what was going on, and switched off again.

    2. I’m frustrated because I can’t get Seasons 3 and 4 (although 4 may be filming now), except for the DVDs on Amazon which are not in my region and are not subtitled. ARGH.

      1. Lol. The DVD for season 3 does seem available to me on Amazon. But expensive.

        But we did finally find a way to view seasons 1&2, so thanks for tip. Will check out the other recs, too, when done this show. Looking forward to something new and thinking the scenery will be fab!

          1. Yes, Canada. And no to subtitles. Well, it says it does but they’re in French. Plus it ships from France but isn’t clear on compatibility with North American DVDs. The first two seasons are also listed from other sellers it looks like and for a few hundred dollars. Not sure who’s paying that:)

            But we started it last night. Had to get through computer not Apple or Amazon but working and looks great!

  9. I listened to All The Devils Are Here, the new Louise Penny, and it was so good. The problems with the last book are gone, most likely because the turmoil after losing her husband has calmed a bit – I can’t imagine what she was going through losing her husband to dementia like that – and her writing is back to her usual.

    I started an ebook from the library by who I thought was a favourite creepy mystery/ghost story writer and it was horrible. Beyond bad. In thundering need of an editor. I went to Amazon to look at some of the reviews and it was by a person who just has the same name as the other author, whose next book is not out until November 1.

  10. I have been having trouble reading anything new except YA so I have been rereading a lot. However, this week I found a SF series that is really, really good and I have not seen the series previously recommended here. And this is not just my subjective opinion. Between the 3 books in the series, they have won best book from British Science Fiction Association, Hugo Award, Nebula Award, the Arthur C. Clarke award, plus nominated for a bunch more best book awards. The author is Ann Leckie and the books are Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy. If everybody else is already familiar with this and did not tell me about it, you should have.

    After I was about half way through, I began to wonder if the Murderbot Diaries is a riff off of this (this series is a few years earlier than Murderbot). The protagonist is a ship AI’s that no longer has it’s ship, just a single ancillary human body. It is obsessed with collecting songs. The first book I found somewhat slow at first, then I became totally engrossed. And the second and third books were even better. Anyway major recommendation.

    1. Ann Leckie is amazing and I am sorry I did not tell you about the Ancillary books, I thought everyone knew by now… And yes, it definitely feels like Murderbot is in conversation with Breq about who is a Person and what they might want and how they behave. There is also a short story by Janelle Shane (who wrote a whole book about Artificial Intelligence and how it goes wrong) her story also feels like it is in conversation with Murderbot and the Ancilliary books: http://strangehorizons.com/fiction/68hazardcold/

      When you finish with those, I strongly recommend the rest of Leckie’s work.

      In search of more charismatic AIs, Marissa Lingen recommended Megan O’Keefe’s Velocity Weapon.

      1. Thanks for the reference. I have read Provenance (set in the same universe) and liked it a lot also. I am currently trying to read Raven Tower (20 % into it) and am about to abandon it. So far I cannot connect with the first person present narrator (although for all I can tell, it is the first person present with two different narrator’s. There isn’t enough personality showing through to engage me). So unless something happens to make it less work to read, I am going to abandon it for a while.

    2. Sorry for not recommending the Ratsch (sp?) trilogy. I think I read it before Good Book Thursday was a thing. Really loved them (but beware the audio; at least the first one is narrated in a Siri-style stilted-computer voice; ugh; and I too found the first one kinda’ slow, with much philosophizing that could be skipped). I didn’t like the first non-Ratsch book as much, so I didn’t read the second.

    3. The Ancillary books are wonderful. I’m sure I’ve recommended them here before, but maybe I just imagined it. As with Murderbot, a lot of the charm is seeing humanity from the outside.

  11. After getting hooked on the reading sample, I downloaded “Pretty, pretty boys”, a crime plus m/m romance. Not sure about it yet. The main protagonist is meant to be a top detective (after having been busted from his job in St. Louis coming back to his hometown in Missouri to solve some unresolved matter), but he seems to never find the right words. Hmph. His partner is his former school bully, so there’s some major tension which makes it not boring. This one ist both a mess (wife left him, can’t see cute daughter, so he started to have a drinking problem) and a hottie. Double hmph.
    There’re some seriously nasty baddies (swastika sporting egg-heads vandalising the town and threatening all sorts of people), so in times like these this might turn turn me off anytime.
    Well, the e-book only cost 0,99 Euro, and even being uneven, the romance-bit is a welcome departure from the usual. Those two will not end up easily together – I’ve spoiled myself a bit, there’re are a couple of books and they won’t get together until at least book 3… the crime aspect is more important.
    What I will start soon is my second hand copy of “Lingua latina per se illustrata” – a Latin textbook with a different approach. It was recommended by a very cool guy calling himself Scorpio Martinanus on youtube when talking (very interestingly) about his favourite topic – spoken Latin 🙂

    1. Ugh, on rereading one’s own manuscripts. I’m coming up on that for one of my books soon.

      One of the best things about my current publisher (compared to the smaller one where I started) is that when the books go to audio, I don’t have to do the proof-listening! I’m a bit of a control freak, so I could see why some authors like to check the audio themselves, but I really hate listening to my stories, hearing things I’d like to improve, but knowing I can’t change any words (just fix things that diverge from the text), so I’m happy to leave that review to someone else. It helps that the narrator hired for the series is good.

  12. Several new books for me last week.
    Lisa Kleypas’s Secrets of a Summer Night was an OK historical romance, but nothing spectacular. It’s one of her older books, published in 2004
    Patricia Briggs’s Smoke Bitten was unputdownable. The action galloped so fast, there was no breather for the characters nor for the readers. I can’t say it is a masterpiece, but it was really absorbing.
    Jayne Davis’s Sauce for the Gander was excellent. I loved it. It’s the second book by this author for me and it won’t be the last. I think I’ll gradually go through her entire back list. The anticipation is sweet. I think I’m falling in love with this author. Her romances are clean – no sex. They are also gentle and slow. Both features are not for everyone’s taste, but they work beautifully for me.
    Barbara Metzger’s Miss Lockharte’s Letters was objectively a weak book, but it was really funny and a crazy romp, and I enjoyed reading it.

    1. Lisa Kleypas’ newer stuff is much better, in my opinion. She takes more risks with her story lines and does a fair amount of comfort and competency porn without the Big Misunderstanding.

      Also Elizabeth Hoyt. She wrote in an earlier book how her daughter asked for a cross-dressing heroine and she couldn’t pull it off in a romance genre. Then, years later she did it. Makes me happy 🙂

  13. I think with second chance romance, it takes less time to get to the high emotions, the intensity, and the intimacy. It’s particularly effective if you’re writing shorter books/stories.

    1. Good point! also, in Her Halloween Treat by Tiffany Reisz (terrible name, surprisingly good book), it made a lot of the difficult plot stuff work. He was a friend, not ex, from high school, but she knew him and trusted him and they were very honest with each other. It was really refreshing and cut out a lot of the getting to know you misunderstandings, as you say.

  14. I am so over this thing where the MCs cannot think of anything but sex when they are near each other and cannot keep their hands off each other, even when they think they hate each other. I’m really tired of asshole alphas. And sex for sex’s sake. I want light, fun, humorous romances, and if there is sex, I want it to be more than simply gratuitous; if the book/story is about sexy times, then the sex isn’t gratuitous and I’m okay with that. I’m also annoyed that D/s in books is — in most of the books I’ve seen lately — not just about domination and submission in the bedroom, but the whole Master/slave thing where he needs to rule everything in her life. What happened to just some bondage and spanking? Sheesh.

    I’m trying to figure out what kinds of books in other genres I like, as I haven’t read in other genres much in a while.

    I read the latest JD Robb. I enjoy them. I reread From Kiss to Queen by Janet Chapman. Very good. And watched lots of those parking-lot towing videos on YouTube — I have no idea why I like them so much, but they do have a fan base, so it’s not just me.

    1. Have you tried Alexis Hall? For Real, and the billionaire series. I know! Billionaires (eye roll) but Arden is a fab character.

  15. Thanks to you who recommended Elizabeth the first wife, I really enjoyed it. Speaking of which the setting is Ashland and I remember reading mysteries about a bakery in a place that sounded like Ashland Theatre etc. But I can’t remember the author. Can anyone help?
    Really glad all the smoke from the fires on the west coast has finally cleared, now I can go out for a walk again. I sincerely hope that all is recovering from that dreadful time.

  16. I have had a really good reading week. First, The Year We Fell Down, which I loved. So often in YA the relationships are dodgy, the girls have no boundaries, and toxic behaviour is romanticised. Not this one. Good boundaries and taking care of herself, even when she’s in love. What a relief it was to read something like that!

    Then Connie Willis’s Crosstalk, which I took a bit of time to warm up to, mainly because she did her usual thing of the protagonist trying to do the same thing over and over again and getting frustrated by various distractions. But I ended up loving it.

    And then I read Elizabeth Peters’ The Deeds of the Disturber, which was also fun, [spoilers] except for the bit at the end when a character decided that he couldn’t rape the unconscious woman after all, because she was ‘a lady’. And he knew her. Which decision apparently proved him worthy of his lineage and his name. *ugh*

  17. No new books. I read a couple of Crusies – Tell Me Lies and Crazy for You. Then I searched for another, the one with the Crazy stories. It was on my Amazon list, but apparently I only ever downloaded it to Joe, and Joe is missing. No matter, I downloaded it to the other Kindles and read parts of it. Zoe shooting Baker with a shotgun for reading her X-rated mail aloud is my favorite scene.

    Also not new is Patricia Wrede’s Frontier Magic series, and it’s another of those where I’ve long since lost track of the re-read count. Low double digits, for sure.

    There were others that I just can’t recall. I’m not sure if they were boring or my mind is going.

  18. No romance reading for me these days, but I noticed that Courtney Milan has a new release this week, and I think some folks here are fans. She also said something like it’s probably the least angsty book she’s ever written, which seems appropriate for the times, for both the author and the readers.

    That’s all I’ve got. I’m sticking to a marathon of Elementary episodes — I’m on the last full season, and then there’s just a half season left. The actors are better than the writing, unfortunately. The writing isn’t terrible, just not as amazing as Miller and Liu (and the supporting cast) are. I get frustrated when the writers take the easy way out, like one episode (no spoilers) where Miller and Liu were in unsolvable trouble, with no way out, with the bad guy having won definitively, and someone off-stage pops in as a deus ex machina to save them.

    There’s a lot of good crime fiction on Acorn (and, to a lesser degree Britbox), but beware their “originals,” some of which are fabulous (the one about a gender-reversed May-December relationship was excellent), and others not so much. They have some subtitled series too. There are a couple Nordic ones that are offbeat and darkly funny, but I don’t recall the titles — one about two unassuming but fed-up middle-aged women who commit big-bucks crimes, and another about three women who collaborate to kill their three evil husbands and take over their enterprises.

    1. We watched Elementary religiously, right through to the end. Am reasonably sure I could have written one of those episodes. Cop: exposition; Cop: exposition; Captain: concerned look, portentous recap of exposition. Bless their hearts.

      But I love Lucy Liu with all my heart, and I could listen to Jonny Lee Miller read classified ads, so … .

    2. I’m reading the new Courtney Milan (The Duke Who Didn’t) and so far I’m a bit meh on the overly quirky village it’s set in. Either have a village of chinese people in the english countryside or have a coincidentally half-chinese aristocrat in disguise or a traditional game that takes up all the village and people come miles to play once a year or a sauce-based sub-plot. All these things coming together in one story are a bit much – or perhaps I just need to care about the incredibly slow-moving couple more? At any rate, I’m not reading it at the usual Courtney Milan pace.

      Watched Enola Holmes (Netflix) this week – all over the place but fun so I ordered the book it’s based on.

  19. I have been vaccuming up 2 multi-book series by author Julie Mulhern. Murder mysteries with humor and strong female protagonists. One is set in the present day and involves the child of a famous movie star turned international woman of mystery (The Poppy Fields Adventures) and the other is set in the 70s and involves a member of the country club set awakening to feminism (The Country Club Murders). They are very different feeling series but are both very good and very funny. The first book in each series is a low price.

  20. I’m really struggling to read anything new right now. I’m re-reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I’m also trying to push my way through a children’s review book and having a hard time with it – it’s well written, it handles things with sensitivity, but I’m having to make myself read it because it’s dealing with some heavy issues and the real world is heavy enough. It’s not escapism.

  21. I have been re-reading Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief books in preparation for the latest one coming out in Oct. aside from those, I have been in a bit of a reading slump.

  22. I have been reading hundreds of emails. It’s busy at work. Also re-reading a little of my own crap after wrapping up first draft of latest novel and handing it off to my exhausted beta reader.

    Started writing something last week that is the darkest thing I’ve ever written and that I can only take in small doses. It’s a relief to finish each scene getting the MCs to a better place. I think it’s going to be good, though.

    Meanwhile, read ‘The Unlikely Heroes’ by Carla Kelly, very much slice-of-life rather than a conventional romance novel, but I didn’t mind that. Felt like she was trying to wrap up a number of storylines in her St. Brendan’s series, which made this a jam-packed book with noticeable repetition. Re-read ‘The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax’ by Dorothy Gilman, a longtime favorite which I think holds up very well. Read a very short M/M romance novella that I did not consider good. Read a book by Janet Mullany called ‘Hidden Paradise’ that was much better than I expected based on reviews; it’s about recovery and self-discovery. With a lot of sex. EVERYONE has sex in this book. A good bit of humor thanks to farcical sexcapades. Then ‘A Convenient Fiction’ by Mimi Matthews, a Victorian romance, well-written and satisfying. Finally, ‘Art in the Blood’ by Bonnie MacBird, a very Gothic Holmes/Watson pastiche.

    I continue to buy books as though Book Prohibition starts tomorrow, but I haven’t synched my Kindle for over a week. Telling myself ‘read at least 10% of what’s already on it before you download the new goodies.’

    1. Telling myself ‘read at least 10% of what’s already on it before you download the new goodies.’

      I’m going to borrow (steal) that, with the addendum, ‘and if it sucks, take it off.’

      1. If only I could figure out how to easily delete it from My Nook – why is there no handy delete button!?! With the appropriate torpedoing noise attached??? (It’s so much more satisfying throwing the physical book against the wall with a primal scream where appropriate). And if only I could figure out how best to make sure I never download or read it again thereafter. The Nook should come with a convenient PERSONAL rating system not for public consumption. Oh and while I’m complaining about The Nook, the number of books that download under an inaccurate title or author name is aggravating, especially because I can’t correct these mistakes in my library, and Barnes and Noble apparently couldn’t care less. Uggggggghhhh!

        1. I gave my Nook to my daughter forever ago, so I can’t exactly help. On my original Kindle, the one with the buttons instead of touchscreen, I connect to a computer via USB cable, and open Windows Explorer, hunt down and delete the offenders. It seems to work.

          There’s another method I hesitate to suggest – reset the Nook or Kindle to factory defaults, which deletes everything, then only download what you want on it.

          Best is to download everything to Calibre first.

  23. I am still mostly comfort rereading. Forthright’s new book came out Tuesday and I am waiting to start. Not quite sure why, because they are always wonderful.

    On the TV front, I am bogged down in a middle season of Dexter. The show started out strong, but the writers are definitely struggling. My cloud of suspended disbelief is so low it is dragging the ground.

    Happily, the last season of Schitt’s Creek is hitting Netflix in October. I can’t wait. They swept up all the awards recently and I adore the show. (first two episodes are terrible but it is really sweet and charming and funny and ridiculous after that.)

    1. I love Schitt’s Creek too! The character development over the seasons is so neat to watch and it’s really funny. I hope someday I can get all the seasons on DVD that plays in the US. And yes, I will binge watch the final season when it’s on Netflix.

  24. I read the new Courtney Milan and liked it a lot. It is lighter than most of her books, and funny, and also rich in chinese culture.

    And the hero is more or less an ex. So it’s consistent with the romance trend apparently.

    I also read the new Sarina Bowen and it’s kind of a mix of two of my favorite books by her and yet it didn’t really thrill me. It was competent, I guess, but it had a bunch of sub plots that never went anywhere. I’m a sucker for kids but this one didn’t come alive for me.

    Read Bountiful and Accidentals; this might be a nice night cap.

  25. I will recommend PRICELESS, the memoir of Robert K. Wittman, an FBI agent who specialized in retrieving stolen artworks, as a lively read. I’ve also been dipping into a collection of short stories edited by Katie Fforde, LOVE ME, LOVE ME NOT. As always, some are better than others, or more interesting to me, but it’s a generous collection.

    With my interest in classical Egyptian grammar, weird things sometimes happen. I bought a book on the subject from a Jewish press and — can’t think why — they thought I was a Biblical scholar and sent me ads for books in biblical Hebrew and Koine Greek for years. This month, since I purchased yet another one, ANCIENT EGYPTIAN PHONOLOGY, from Amazon, Amazon now suggests that having nothing better to do, I should buy some works on beginning Sumerian.

  26. Several people here took me up on my suggestion of Honor Raconteur’s The Shinigami Detective and seem to have really enjoyed it and it’s sequels. She just released the 5th book in the series, Three Charms for Murder, and it’s also a lot of fun.

    Lindsay Buroker just released the 8th and final book in her Star Kingdom series, Layers of Force. I’ll be reading that next.

  27. No new reads worth mentioning. If you have Netflix I highly recommend the movie ‘Enola Holmes’. Well acted, well plotted. I loved it.
    Also, The Frankie Drake mysteries. Wonderful characters. Good storytelling. And reminiscent of Phrynie Fisher, the clothes are so much fun.
    I hope they make more of Little Fires Everywhere and Good Girls Revolt and Virgin River. 3 completely different series that left me wanting more.

    1. We just watched Enola Holmes for family movie night tonight, and I really enjoyed it. It was fun, the actors were great, and I think I need to watch it again tomorrow for a few of the details.

  28. Reading A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Mila Vane for bookclub. I haven’t finished it yet, but in general I’m really liking it. I read tons of fantasy as a kid, but kind of stopped as an adult. It’s got the kind of gripping, dense world building and plot that hang in your head for hours after you stop reading. It does have a “will he protect her?” thing, but it felt justified: She’s an heir to the throne who spent her whole life as a political prisoner and who’s ability to protect herself is limited by a life lived entirely in a tower and debilitating injuries she endured as punishment for trying to escape. Meanwhile, he allies with her for revenge on the people who killed his parents, and has to deal with what it means when his priorities start shifting from revenge to “protect someone I’m not even sure I can trust.”

    Some of the wording doesn’t always work for me. There’s a lot of that High Fantasy/ Oral Storytelling tone that I know some people love, but isn’t my favorite. And at the start of the book the army is battling wild, primitive people identified as “savages.” Eventually it’s clarified that they’re not actually humans, more like the fantasy version of apes. But the word choice still left a bad taste in my mouth given real world colonialism, and how “savage” was often used as propaganda against indigenous people.

  29. The last time I checked out a M/M romance was probably 20 years ago. They were few and far between (at least those that showed up in libraries or used bookstores) and so when someone recommended and loaned me one, reading the first chapter was a chore that convinced me I didn’t want to finish it, because I was finding the characters cardboard, the motivations opaque or simplistic, and all the context about hiding who you were because of course that would mean disaster.

    Recommendations here led me to give Boyfriend Material a try, and I am nearly done and loving it. What a difference! I loved the way each protagonist’s feelings and reactions to one another were gradually revealed to the other character and to the reader. A very satisfying novel, and I’ll look for others by Alexis Hall.

  30. Reading this year is like wading through golden syrup. I haven’t read as many books as usual, and I haven’t worked since early March.

    I’m currently reading Daughter of Lies and Ruin, the second book in Jo Spurrier’s new series. There’s witchcraft, female friendship, bandits, moral questions – no romance, but plenty of action. Her first series (the first book was Winter Be My Shield) was also excellent.

  31. So apparently what I want to read right now is romance novels where they go to Italy and everything is OK. I’ve been reading a lot of them. The classic ideal is Von Arnim’s The Enchanted April, but there are lots and lots of modern ones. Some of them are awful, but I’ll read them anyway. I used to laugh at the super specific categories in the Romantic Times Awards, but I never will again, my tastes have become extremely narrow. My new favourite is Nicky Pellegrino who’s much more interested in writing about scenery and food and friendship than romance, which makes them very interesting as romance novels. I randomly bought Under Italian Skies and loved it, and then found out that almost all the excellent rounded minor characters have books of their own, which was perfect as I was already invested in them. One day I will again be up for reading something more demanding. Right now, thanks for being there for me, romance novels set in Italy.

    Jenny, so, this new one with Vegas and DC, maybe they could go to Italy? Italy is full of art.

  32. I’m listening to The Hallowed King by Lois McMaster Bujold, and for once I am impatient, probably because it’s about 14 hours long, so I can’t skim. Which I never do with her, but in this one the characters keep having the same conversations without enough change. I feel it could have been maybe half as long. Only two hours left! On the other hand, some great characters I enjoy spending time with.

    Looking forward to Enola Holmes.

    Also checked out “God’s Shadow” by Alan Mikhail, about the Ottoman Empire, and Europe’s reactive relationship to it for centuries. Probably not a book I’ll sit right down and read through, but looks fascinating.

  33. I haven’t read all the comments yet so not sure if it’s been said, but two thoughts came to mind about the “ex” thing. The first is…are these books mostly novellas? It seems to me that 20-40k words doesn’t give the story enough time to bring two new people together for a HEA, so maybe using characters with history is easier to write?

    The second thought is… perhaps society collectively feels the “new and unknown” is scarier than going back to the familiarity of the past?

  34. What I read: Chris Merrill’s new regency, Vows to Save Her Reputation, which has an oversized heroine learning to appreciate that she’s not awkward, only confined by society, and a hero who suffers from panic attacks that baffle and scare him. All that makes it sound dark but it’s a lovely, warm, fun book.

    I’m also reading a lot of magazines. The new Smithsonian issue has a long article on how Emperor Nero is being re-evaluated and that was fascinating. Not so fun: an article about how lanternflies might be the next gypsy moths and wreck our trees. But, hey, lovely photographs of some of the quiet, majestic places on Earth.

    Also watched, for relaxation, season two of Frankie Drake mysteries. It’s set in 1920s Toronto, centered on two female private detectives, and it’s a lot of fun, though I keep wondering how period accurate the costuming is.

  35. Just adding to KM’s thoughts about the “ex” thing. I think the reader’s age is significant because now that I’m 65, most of my friends (ranging into their 80s and 90s, but most are younger) have had past marriages. Also, my friends are ruminating about their pasts, and pasts are often bracketed by school/college, jobs, friends, relationships, places, and marriages.

    Past marriages are significant because the life lived in them is very specific. In addition, the myth that marriage is forever leaves many divorced people with a huge feeling of guilt and sometimes public embarrassment. So a romance between ex’s is a completion of a broken time, a delayed and even better Happy Ever After.

    Jenny, you are more direct than any woman I’ve come across in that you are able to say that your marriage fulfilled your mother’s wish, not yours. I really respect you for that self knowledge.

  36. Huh. Learning French with 2 of my kids (they both picked that for foreign language because they already have a lot of vocab from ballet) and I was just thinking we needed to watch some shows in French but didn’t know where to start. Thanks, Argh.

    I’m having more flail than reading this week. I started re-reading The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart. Also reading A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle which has interesting points about writing. But mostly I keep picking things up and putting them down and I need to focus. Lilith Saintcrow’s Trailer Park Fae was on sale so I got that and it will probably keep my attention.

    1. If you want a wonderful series, I have two to recommend. The first are the first 5 books of the Miss Seeton series (the ones actually written by Heron Carvic); the first of the succeeding ones who so awful I couldn’t finish it. As I remember (it was probably 30 years ago), the replacement author couldn’t even get all the character names correct. The first of the good ones is Picture Miss Seeton and it’s charming and funny. Miss Seeton is described as a person who was attended at her birth by two fairy godmothers, who missed each other’s blessing. The first gifted her to be a great original, and the second to be highly conventional and sensible. My brother who isn’t a great cosy mystery reader found them on my Kindle, and said they had him laughing aloud at times.
      The second series may have been recommended here before. They are Peter Bowen’s Gabriel duPre books also known as the Montana mysteries. DuPre is a Metis fiddler (a mixture of various native American and European ancestry), solving crimes in sparcely populated eastern Montana.

      1. Heron Carvic’s Miss Seeton books are a true joy, gentle and funny mysteries. I recommend them to everyone.

        Heron Carvic unfortunately died after writing 5 of them and the publisher had other authors continue the series very badly 🙁

      2. I recall at least two other authors attempting to continue Miss Seeton, and they were the reason I created rules about continuing a deceased author’s series, when I became responsible for one myself.

        In the case of Miss Seeton, I concluded that the follow-on authors weren’t allowed to develop the characters any further, so although the juvenile lead had been maturing very nicely, after Carvic died he, and his parents, and all the other characters, were never another day older, and promptly turned into caricatures of their former selves crossed with Stock Characters from Imaginary English Villages. Though it can be equally difficult if the follow-on author does develop the characters further, since it is likely to feel phony to the series’ hardcore fans [Peter Wimsey, for instance].

        Also why I was so gloomy about anyone else using Elizabeth Peters’ notes to produce another Amelia Peabody book, even if one of them was Selima Ikram. It just ends with all the series characters dropping by for a social call and a wave to the crowd.

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