This is a Good Book Thursday.

. I’m feeling cranky. (I know, what else is new?). Bob just told me that three million people are traveling for the holiday (I have no idea how he knows this, but I definitely believe it) because evidently they all want death for Christmas. Mona’s not feeling well, which means I have to get a vet appointment on a holiday week. And the only romances showing up on BookBub are either alpha billionaire werewolves or Christmas stories with lots of sugar (both confectionary and verbal). I did read a good book last week: It Ended Badly, the story of the thirteen worst (according to author Jennifer Wright) break-ups in history. Henry VIII gets two–Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard–but Nero’s in there, too. The only one I couldn’t read was Oscar Wilde. That one is just heartbreaking. Also, Norman Mailer was a terrible person.

What did you read this week? (Also Happy Thanksgiving, American Argh.)

75 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday.

  1. Good Talk by Mira Jacob. I got this on a whim because there A was no wait at the library. A graphic novel in memoir form, it’s a little hard to describe. Mira Jacob was born in the US with a West Indian background. The book opens with her as an adult and her young son asking her questions about race and racism in the US and then it hops back and forth in time to conversations she’s had with friends, l family, lovers, and strangers about racism, bigotry, and culture clashes. I don’t usually like books that hop around in time, but I could follow this. It was very moving and uncomfortable at times, but also funny. I think the thing I most appreciated about it was that it wasn’t a book that offered a lot of easy solutions.

  2. Alpha Billionaire Werewolves sound interesting, if they get hunted down…I’ve been watching Supernatural. For Leverage fans Christian Kane turns up as a guest star and sings. This week I’ve been slowly making my way through The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, recommended by numerous people and on my TBR for ages.

    1. I’ve been watching Supernatural via gifs on Tumblr since the most recent episodes aren’t going to be on in the UK for a while. Which has led me to start watching Teen Wolf (the series not the film) in which the hunters are the bad guys and the werewolves are more sympathetic. Well, some of them…

      1. I’m in the UK and currently watching it on TV, up to episode 10 I think

        The latest season is on freeview the 4music channel friday 9pm

        Teenwolf, I do like the Michael J Fox movie, will keep an eye out for that.

      1. It was, I think he’s in a band. He’s sung in a lot of the show’s he’s done including Angel. 😀

      2. It’s him, House Rules is his single and he released Thinking of You, which he performed on Leverage (country music episode) as well. I heard the music before I saw him and had a fangirl moment. Also laughed at him poking fun at Dean “Can’t just sit around lipsyncing Eye of the Tiger” I love Dean’s eye of the tiger video

        1. The Eye of the Tiger. That’s one of those rare moments where you see the character just morph back into the actor. Dean’s playing air drums, Jensen crawls out the car window.

      3. That was really him.
        Did you see him in Angel? He was great there as an anti-hero. Lots of angst, but then that’s Angel for you.

  3. I am currently reading Camilla Monk’s Spotless series. It’s got two things I really like. Each chapter starts with a laugh out loud quote from a made up cheesy romance novel (and among the made up books quoted, there is of course an alpha werewolf billionnaire one). The title of those books are themselves a complete hoot. And, as the author is half French, the French quotes peppering the first book in the series are correct. Such a relief for me as a French teacher and translator.

  4. Read two very interesting, though slightly odd books by Zen Cho – Sorcerer to the Crown and the sequel The True Queen. Then decided, what the hell, try a prolific romance author people have recommended, so placed holds on three of them.

    They came, but with the most horrific Romance-y covers I have ever received from a library. Each (theoretically impoverished or working class) heroine was depicted in kilometers of ruffled silk — ballgowns slipping off every limb, lace and fubelows on every hem, and enough tumbling curls to populate an eighties glam rock video. And every (wealthy high-ranking-British-peer) hero was likewise shown bursting out of his (vaguely Regency-ish) expensive suit with muscles aplenty and possibly a riding crop in hand.

    I was embarrassed to see them piled on my bedside table. If I’d had the sense, I’d have a handmade temporary grocery-bag cover to slide onto each one so I didn’t have to see the damn cover as I dipped into the text.

    The author plotted well, wrote engagingly, and the lead figures were (except for the viewpoints and values of every lead character having been drawn from a 20th-century American cultural perspective) nicely characterized, but good lord those covers!

    So-called “chick lit” covers today are a little cutely routine, what with the cartoon sketches and plain backgrounds and all, but who on earth directs the creation of all these overblown covers on romance novels? And WHY? I hope someone here can give me some insight on this cringeworthy art genre.

    1. Covers are part of the sales pitch. People who want a certain kind of historical evidently automatically pick up that kind of cover, so they keep using them. That’s the same reason Fabio was on all the covers a couple of decades ago, why legal thrillers all had marble on the cover after The Firm sold big, why there for awhile ever women’s fiction novel had Adirondack chairs on the cover. It’s a signal that “This is That Kind of book.” Same with titles.

    2. Now, I want to know who is the prolific author with the ballgowns? So many possibilities…
      Now to hide the book, you could slip it in a notebook cover. Many many years ago, I remember seeing in the Paris metro a woman reading what looked suspiciously like a Harlequin book in a very chic Louis Vuitton cover. Of course nowadays, this is where e-readers come into their own!

      1. Many thanks for the replies! I think it’s the 70’s feminist in me that gets upset at seeing those covers. Or the English Lit major in me appalled by the anachronisms of dress and hair and language & such. I only want a cover-covering so I don’t have to look at the poor wretched folks when I pick the book up to read it (shuddering a little).

      2. My late uncle once commuted by bus from the East Bay to San Francisco to work (I did myself for more than twenty-five years, too). A fellow commuter usually on the same bus was reading DOMBEY AND SON. After some two years of commuting, my uncle asked him why it was taking him so long to finish the book? He laughed, removed the dust jacket, and showed the book he was really reading — something much lower brow, I gathered!

        Some years back I gave an after-dinner speech to a business & professional women’s club on book covers, and explained the code as it was then: the steaminess of the book was shown by how far the hero’s arm was from the heroine’s waist. The farther away, the steamier the book! I took a bunch of romances as examples, and gave them away after the talk — my mother, who knew a number of the women and had gone with me, was much amused as the women were interested in testing my theory . . . and would never otherwise have read one.

        But as Jenny says, the book cover is a poster for the book, and its purpose is to say to a prospective buyer, “Buy me! Take me home!” Everything on that cover is supposed to to precisely that. If you’re a really, really senior author, you may be permitted some slight input — my cousin once wrote a book set during the Trojan War and objected strenuously when the cover proofs came back with a Corinthian Greek pillar as being totally out of period.

        1. I’m not sure I agree with the “really senior” part. I never had much input at Harlequin, but SMP always gave me a lot of power over the covers of my books. They gave me great covers, too.

          1. Every so often the cover art is just amazingly wonderful. Your first BET ME cover was great, with that Really Cheerful blue sky background. The Chalion covers for the first releases. The first edition of THE MISTS OF AVALON.

    3. I actually adore those covers and their over the top drama. They are so unapologetic, that I find it charming. But then, I think that Frank Frazetta is vastly underrated as an artist… And they remind me of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, where he walks through the art department. The original with Danny Kay, not the horrible remake.

      I have this thought that someday I will come up with a craft project to use them. Haven’t settled on anything yet though.

      I used to be embarrassed too. I even stole one from the library that I wanted to read but didn’t want to be seen checking out. I am over it though. And I refuse to be embarrassed about something that I like.

  5. I read an older Patricia Briggs novel, Dragon Bone, which was enjoyable, and does include a dragon, which want I want in a book with “dragon” in the title.
    I’m watching The Mandalorian, which I started and then stopped some time ago. Now I’m almost through Season 1. I enjoy it, but so many characters, including the protagonist, wear facial coverings, that it’s hard to get very involved, and is more about watching the imagined worlds.
    Happy Thanksgiving to all of us in the USA, let’s stay home, and then let’s stay home some more, as much as we’re able.

    1. While I enjoy pretty much everything Patricia Briggs writes, her early novels, Dragon Bones and it’s sequel Dragon Blood, are my favorites.

      1. My favorite of her books is Hob’s Bargain and also the Raven duology. If you like the Raven books, I would also recommend Violette Malan’s Dhulyn and Parno series which I really love.

  6. Books this week include Two Cases for the Czar by Huff and Goodlett, The Monster Society by Eric S. Brown, and the first three books of the Wearing the Cape series by M. George Harmon. They also include Hot Toy by Herself because of Evil Nemesis Brandon and the Major Macguffin (which still makes me laugh myself buttless when I read it).

    1. Gary, do you know when/whether the Masquerade in Lodi will be available on audible? I enjoyed reading it and now I want to listen to it. I’m listening to the The Curse of Chalion (so well narrated) now and after that I’ll go back to Penric, for comfort sleep.

      1. I don’t know if or when, and I’ve read nothing in Lois’s blog on Goodreads nor in the “Miles to Go” conference of Baen’s Bar. As for where, all my Bujold audiobooks come from Blackstone Audio via rather than Audible. Since everything she’s written is there. On the “if” question, I’d be shocked if there was no audiobook planned.

          1. From the Bean’s Bar Miles to Go Conference. I posted:

            “Gary_Jordan wrote on Fri, 27 November 2020 11:57
            [Another fan] at Argh Ink has asked me (your #1 fan, there) if and when there will be an audiobook of Masquerade in Lodi. I tell them I’ve seen no mention on Goodreads nor this conference, but I’ll keep an eye out. This is me being proactive and asking you. :)”

            This is Lois’s reply:

            “Yes, it has been licensed to Blackstone and will be produced in due course. It’s too early to have a release date, but I’ll post it on my blog when there is news. Four to six months at a guess from prior works.

            “Ta, L.”

  7. Lian Tanner and JenniferNennifer encouraged me last Thursday to keep reading Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley. Thanks very much! I became so completely engrossed in the many human, horse, and dog viewpoints that I wrote to friends from the point of view of a quartz boulder I see outside my window. Then our local redtailed hawk killed himself flying into that window and I went nuts thinking about the awful events the quartz has watched over millions of years.

    I definitely recommend Horse Heaven.

  8. Depressed by a couple of duds – one I stupidly made allowances for that turned really sour at the end, and the other (a library book) I just couldn’t read. I skimmed through it and had absolutely no regrets on giving up.

    Feeling a lot happier for rereading ‘Slightly Scandalous’ by Mary Balogh, and have just started my favourite, ‘Slightly Dangerous’.

    Also (this is rare) found my work read really interesting. It’s ‘Uncanny and Improbable Events’ by Amitav Ghosh. Not out until 1 April, but it’s an extract from a longer book published in 2016: ‘The Great Derangement’. This part is about why literary fiction, and most people’s mindsets, can’t cope with the climate crisis.

  9. I read two Mary Baloghs this week, first from a sale – ‘Slightly Married,’ first in series – and then immediately went and bought ‘Slightly Dangerous,’ last in series, because I wanted to read Wulfric’s story again. Read both years ago, happy to pick them up again. My favorite part about ‘Dangerous’ was actually the scenes where the siblings + spouses are scheming about their big brother’s situation.

    Then I read Kate Kane books 3 and 4, ‘Fire & Water’ and ‘Smoke & Ashes’ by Alexis Hall. It’s going to be a while till the 5th and final (so he says) book but dang I’m glad I waited till #4 was out before starting the series because the story of #3 is an apocalyptic shitshow and I wouldn’t want to have left the characters there too long.

    Next I read the first two ‘brew’ books by Layla Reyne, ‘Imperial Stout’ and ‘Craft Brew.’ Both M/M romantic suspense featuring an FBI agent and a U.S. attorney. Odds are good I will read book three by Sunday night.

    And after that (this morning actually) I read Layla Reyne’s ‘Dine With Me,’ which is a M/M road-trip romance featuring a chef and a doctor. The set-up is ‘two week foodie tour with Michelin-starred chef.’ There is angst before the happy ending. This book gave me all the feels and also made me hungry. My favorite of hers so far, fair to say one of my favorite books of the year.

  10. I read Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center which I think was recommended here. I really enjoyed the fire house setting.

    1. I have been reading books by Katherine Center throughout the summer- love her style and voice- and being from Texas.

    2. So glad you liked Things you Save in a Fire. Think it was me who mentioned it. Or at least was among those who did:) And agree, the setting was refreshing. Also found the relationship with the mom interesting.

  11. I read “The Weight of Ink” by Rachel Kadish. I have a feeling I am coming a little late to the party as the book has something like 20,000 reviews on Goodreads, but it was excellent. Literary fiction that was poetic more than dense, with a dual timeline set in the Jewish community of London just before and after the Black Plague and the academic community of London in 2000. The discovery of a hoard of letters links the two, and the mystery is wonderfully interwoven. Not exactly a beach read, but much more accessible than many highly acclaimed novels.

  12. I bought, but haven’t read:
    The Starless Girl and The Storm Rising by Liz Delton,
    Shin by T Cook,
    Tiger Unbound by Evangeline Rain,
    Tales from the Gunpowder Chronicles by Jeannie Lin, and Kitsune Tsuki by Laura VanArendonk Baugh.

    I bought and read
    Chung Jo and the Sea Dragon by Erica Laurie, and Sword of Sorrow, Blade of Joy by JF Lee.

    I enjoyed the graceful tone of Chung Jo, not my usual fair.
    I like the humour in Sword/Blade and it’s episodically presented so I anticipated a cliffhanger and lo, it appeared.

    Oddly though, I’m content to wait. There’s just something about this author’s writing style that just made me feel a rightness. I know it’s not me, I had a distressing experience yesterday and it may have legal or professional ramifications for the person depending on where/how I decide to report it. An administrative issue with the practitioner’s equipment that they escalated to customers problem.

    I’m still content about my dog’s health and my food and shelter. I’m grateful for my salary even though I have to face a dismissive and often spiteful environment for it.

    And thanks to all Divinities for rain for the garden.

  13. This month I started a comfort/binge re-read of Nalini Singh’s Rock Kiss series- just wanted something sexy and fun and sad and mindless.

    Getting reading to listen to A Promised Land-(Barack Obama). It will be many hours-29- but I love his voice and am interested in his perspective.

  14. I’m reading and enjoying Susan Mallery’s Happily this Christmas (I like to read holiday stories around this time of year, even though I don’t personally celebrate Christmas).

    Just finished Seances are for Suckers, by Tamara Berry, a new to me author. It’s a mystery, on the verge of being a cozy but with more romance, with fun quirky characters and an interesting backstory. I immediately bought the second one in the series, so that will tell you how much I liked it.

    I hope Mona is feeling better soon.

    1. Someone recommended Seances are for Suckers last week, so I bought it and enjoyed it and am now reading the second one

  15. Read Jackie Lau’s A Match Made for Thanksgiving. Several people here recommended her books, but I’m not impressed. It’s light and fluffy, yes, but too sweet with too much smut. Not for me.

    Also I’m re-reading select Mercedes Lackey’s novels and enjoying them. So far, I’ve finished Owlfligt and am in the middle of Owlsight. I ordered a few more from my library.
    I have a complicated relationship with Lackey’s books. She was the first writer who introduced me to fantasy as a genre, and for the longest time, I adored all her novels. Then I found other fantasy writers, the ones I liked better, and Lackey fell off the list of my favorite fantasy authors. Now, I’m sort-of returning to her after a hiatus. Some of her books don’t work for me, but some, especially in the Valdemar circle, still read well: a light, undemanding fantasy.

    1. Olga, we must be on the same wavelength; I am in the process of re-reading the same series. Like you, not all of her books work for me but those that do, I like to re-read when the mood hits me.

    2. I was 14 when I read first Talia’s stories (I’m 43 now), and then Vanyel’s and so on, and I loved them for years. I also love that they took my outside my all-girls Catholic school upbringing worldview. It means I try hard to make my kids read books with diverse point of view characters, from own voices authors.

      Actually, I still occasionally re-read By The Sword. And I still like m/m fantasy romance (Charm of Magpies, anyone?), so perhaps even more influential than I realised.

  16. This week at work has been difficult. We are under pandemic rules again and one of my coworkers keeps complaining about wearing a mask and that our governor shut down the bars yesterday. It raises my blood pressure. So I opened the Forthright book that I have been saving. It is so sweet, about a group of misfit adults who take in two orphans and do their best to raise them. The results are odd, but lovely.

    Also, have we talked about the Kingpin of Camelot here? Ilona Andrews recommended it a while ago and I really enjoyed it. Exceptionally well crafted and original in my opinion. I just got a friend to read it and she was thrilled, which brought it back to my mind.

    Also, we watched A Simple Favor last night. Not nearly as dark as I expected, funny and enjoyable. Plus I loved the costuming.

  17. I’ve started to read Ruth Goodman’s “Domestic Revolution” (not a novel). Totally fascinating! She’s worked on highly interesting experimental archeology/history projects and reenactments. Sadly, it’s only the first few pages from amazon, the e-book is rather cheap for such a treasure. But those books are to be bought as real books.
    I might put it on the wishlist for my b’day in January.
    And during the holdidays I hope to binge on whatever Goodman projects i can find on youtube 🙂

    1. She’s done some good series, several with a couple of male archaeologists. The first was ‘Down the Green Valley’, where they lived as C17 farmers on the Welsh Border. There was also one where she worked in a chemist’s shop c.1900, which they filmed at the museum in Coalbrookdale, quite near me in Shropshire. But the early farming ones are fun – the blokes go out all day, and she’s left to tackle everything indoors – which is pretty major!

  18. I highly recommend Spellbound by Allie Therin. Last night I decided to read one of mine because I couldn’t sign in to Hoopla to read Elizabeth Acevedo’s book which I had supposedly borrowed. My first book written as Susan B James – Time and Forever – was published in Jan 2014 and I never revisited it. Now I find I like it very much. Happy Thanksgiving.

  19. I read Emma Barry’s DC politics trilogy (Party Lines, Special Interests, and Private Politics). I’d avoided them because I was worried about icky power dynamics, given that they all work in politics and D.C. is a small town, but Barry neatly sidestepped any issues, and while there were potential conflicts of interest, they felt realistic-ish to the conflicts my D.C. friends actually run into dating.

    Private Politics is definitely my favorite, and can be read as a standalone. You can tell they’re written pre-Trump (bipartisanship is actually a somewhat believable plot twist), but I kind of liked the nostalgia factor.

    I think the thing Barry captures really well is the shift between the idealism of your twenties burning out, and trying to figure out what “choosing hope” means when you know a lot more about the system than you used to. The heroes where delicious in different ways, though Liam was my favorite. There were some pacing/structure details I’d quibble with in the first book, but all of them go in the re-read pile.

    Part of what I loved was just that the books take place in D.C. It’s fun to have the characters go to a restaurant my friend worked out, and talk about neighborhoods I love. It reminded me how much a great setting can do for a book.

  20. Oscar Wilde never lost his sense of humor even in heart breaking circumstances: He said, ”Like dear St. Francis of Assisi I am wedded to Poverty but in my case the marriage is not a success.” I like to think his own humor was a comfort to him.

    I read by Moonshot by Alessandra Torre. She’s a great storyteller.

  21. I finally finished Red, White, and Royal Blue, and it was very much worth the struggle to pick it up again every time my White-House-phobia overwhelmed me.
    I am in the middle of several books I am not sure I will finish, because I am just so tired of grimth! I was never much of a one for books where everyone suffers a lot–Beth dying in Little Women takes up just about as much space as I will allow.

  22. I read gay werewolves. I’m not sure if they were billionaires – quite possibly, but that side of it wasn’t overt. Wolfsong by TJ Klune, and then onto Ravensong. Wolfsong was very good – Ravensong irritated me a bit because it went over some of the same territory but from a different pov. But I’ll read the others in the series.

  23. Just downloaded Employee of the Month and Other Big Deals (.99 on Kindle currently) because Gail Simone (writer of Deadpool, Wonder Woman and more) said it was hilarious and that’s quite a rec. I could use a good laugh.


    If you substitute “heartbreak” for “anger,” then that sums up my encounters with fiction for the last week.

    Battle Ground by Jim Butcher. I can’t say I enjoyed it, the majority of the book takes place over the course of a few hours and is, in a word, devastating. Having said that, I thought it was wonderfully written and I liked it. I will not be re-listening to it.

    On Saturday I watched the last 4 episodes of Supernatural. The final shot of the show, and this is not a spoiler, is Sam and Dean standing on a bridge together looking out over a small river into a forest.

    Then the camera (a drone camera) pulls back to show them and the crew of the show all on the bridge to say goodbye. It was really nice.

    Then I started a book I thought was going to be a straight up ghost story but it deals with a woman recovering after losing her mother, a woman with dementia who is dying, and a woman who died under mysterious circumstances. Nope. Not right now, thankyouverymuch.

    I need humour and lots of it.

  25. I read SINGLED OUT, by Trisha Ashley; the heroine is a horror writer and every time some trifling thing happens to her, she promptly rewrites it in her head in a horror-genre interpretation. I was bursting out laughing in bed at 1 am, so if you want some laughs, be my guest!

    I’ve also been reading, also for laughs, the lawsuits being submitted by Rudy and team. They tend to ask for things the court can’t actually do, such as asking permission for Rudy to plead before the Third Circuit (Third Circuit rules require you to be specifically admitted to practice before the Third Circuit, and Rudy is an out-of-towner). I suspect that one will be providing legal humor for years. As I’m sure you all know, courtesy of the headlines, these cases are being laughed out of court, and the reason is that they aren’t actually providing any evidence of wrongdoing, just accusations of fraud so widespread that no evidence can be found.

    Other than that, reading cookbooks, so not much help today.

    1. No, found another: PREMEDITATED MYRTLE, by Elizabeth C. Bunce. Myrtle is a Victorian youngster interested in detecting who reminds people on my Egyptology list of a very young Amelia Peabody. I’ve just started this, but am enjoying it so far. YA. The sequel is HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MYRTLE, next in line.

      1. A further matter to gladden everyone’s hearts: my copy of DEATH AT DAYLESFORD, the new Phryne Fisher, arrived in the mail yesterday. I’d ordered it from Book Depository, an international site, and it was shipped from Australia, probably by kangaroo pouch. If you order from the site, check the release dates carefully; they had four copies of this, one released November 2, one in large print a week later, and two next June (US-Canada release).

    1. Try another. ROGER ACKROYD was very controversial precisely because of the way the mystery worked out — many readers felt the author didn’t play fair with the readers. Technically she did, but you have to go back and reread very carefully for omissions as well as misdirections.

      1. Thanks Ann and Kaye55. I’m remembering instances in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd that I read as examples of cluelessness instead of as clues.

        I just read Final Curtain by Ngaio Marsh which I’d put aside previously because I’d read too many of hers at once. Final Curtain was satisfying.

  26. Yeah !!! It pays to keep checking – Hoopla has the first 4 Murderbot books as audiobooks.

    I get Hoopla thru the Free Library of Philadelphia. 😁

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