This is a Good Book Thursday, December 17, 2020

This week I read like crazy while hunkering down for a storm. I read Connie Willis’s mostly Christmas anthology, A Lot Like Christmas, and re-glommed Loretta Chase because historicals are cosy and I need cosy right now. In fact, I think it’s going to be a re-reading month.

What was good for you this week?

83 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, December 17, 2020

  1. Still going strong with Vera Stanhope and now the Magic Men series set in Brighton after WWII. Two men who worked together in the war in a deception unit (fake tanks, etc.) solve crimes. One is a cop, one a professional magician. It’s scratching that not too cute, not too grim mystery vibe I like.

  2. I am reading Jeannie Lin’s Lotus palace series and I am really enjoying it.
    I don’t know much about historical China so it is really interesting to be immersed in a different culture and the protagonists are not run of the mill.

  3. I read the last book in the Divergent series because they’re never going to make the last film. Very YA and not my kind of thing but I knew that going in. Also The Unknown Ajax (Heyer) because I need a good book. I love the way the author trusts you to work out what’s going on (that Hugo is a lot smarter than he looks and something nefarious is going on) while also landing a romance that could have been instalove but is actually a great partnership. As ever, she is so good at the younger brother/cousins. I think her first book was written to entertain her brother? I wonder which one he is!

  4. I read Emily Tesh’s Drowned Country, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I need to go back and reread Silver in the Wood because I didn’t give myself enough opportunity to enjoy it because I was stressed about where it was going. I have this problem with movies and tv shows too. I need to know about anything bad/sad that’s going to happen before I can invest my emotional energy in the characters. There’s a scene in Murderbot where ART can only watch shows in short increments…that’s me!

    I’m also listening to the latest Emily Hardcastle mystery. I like them, though (because?) they are completely unrealistic.

  5. I am re-reading the Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey for my current comfort re-read.

    Romney, I agree with you about The Unkown Ajax. It is fun to watch how the characters view Hugo and see how their opinions of him change as the story progresses. As to the characters based on her brother (and, I think, her son as well) many of her books have the irrepressible young male character that is so much fun to read about. I think those side characters are the ones she does that with.

  6. I’ve been reading the Highland Dragons series by Isobel Cooper. It’s a bunch of stand alone fantasy romances, mostly set in Scotland in the time of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace, but there are a couple of Victorians and one modern that I’ve seen so far. The women are strong capable competent, and the men are welcoming of this and the culture and plot are not annoyingly sexist. Which is my usual complaint with historicals.

  7. I’m mostly reading Crusie because I bought The Jennifer Crusie Collection, a single file on my Kindle containing: Tell Me Lies, Crazy For You, Welcome to Temptation, Fast Women, Faking It, Bet Me, Maybe This Time Kindle Edition. So even though I read the end of Temptation earlier this week, I’m rereading from the start because it’s the first book in the collection.

    I’m also rereading the Service of the Sword anthology, an Honorverse book, on the little Kindle.

    1. Ladies and gentlemen, I have just made an astonishing discovery which, after clicking “Post Comment” above, I realized I had to share with someone. You’re all handy. 🙂 My HP Chromebook, which I have had for months, now, has HD Touchscreen, of which I was completely unaware. This says much about my skills of observation – it’s on a sticker on the keyboard to the left of the finger pad I never, ever use. I have a full-sized keyboard and a mouse plugged in to a USB port.

      I do not see me using this feature, but I should have been aware of it sooner. That is all.

      1. I also have an HP 360 Chromebook with touchscreen. One of the features I really like is the ability to enlarge what is showing on the screen by using the two finger pinch zoom. It comes in handy when doing online banking to be sure I can read the transaction codes. I still prefer using a keyboard and mouse for general browsing as it keeps the screen cleaner.

        I got the Chromebook when Windows stopped support of Windows 7. I did not want to do my online banking on my old Windows 7 laptop. I still use the old laptop for general use as it’s connected to a 23 inch monitor/TV combo in my office.

  8. I tried one of the stories recommended last week, but it didn’t work for me because the main characters seemed very 20th century American and the premise that the setting was 19th century England wasn’t supported. I felt like I was floating in no-universe.

    So I’ve been rereading the Hornblower series following Horatio Hornblower’s chronology, not the order in which Forester wrote them. I just finished the 5th book in the series which is the first Forester wrote. It’s fun to observe how much his writing — all aspects of it — became stronger and more direct as he wrote more books. There are a couple of inconsistencies, none of which are important. We’re deep in snow today — I’m pretending I’m on a ship on the high seas.

    1. I read the Hornblower books chronologically too–I didn’t realize he wrote them out of sequence. I discovered them after watching the miniseries years ago. They are so much fun.

        1. If you liked Master and Commander you might like Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series – British Navy in the Napoleonic Wars…with dragons. Technically a fantasy series but honestly very shipshape and Navy-like. Except for the dragons.

        2. Yes! I read the first four and liked Aubrey and Maturin. Not sure why I didn’t keep reading the books.

          1. That is who was the name source for my cat Aubrey. He was an extreme polydactyl with 26 toes and polydactyl cats are also known as captain’s cats so it seemed appropriate. My husband, who is a big Patrick O’Brien fan, named him.

          2. Jessie, Aubrey’s paws must have been huge! 😀 I just spent some time on google images looking at polydactyl cats. I suppose they were captain’s cats because they were more sure-footed than regular cats and better suited to a ship?

        3. I agree with both of you, betsyh and Lian Tanner. Maybe I should look up the movie of Captain Horatio Hornblower, RN — Gregory Peck starred. I haven’t read any Patrick O’Brian, but my husband has and he particularly likes the movie of Master and Commander.

  9. I finished Boyfriend Material last night, and laughed a lot. What I really want from Alexis Hall, though, is a sequel to The Affair of the Mysterious Letter. I laughed a lot reading that one, too.
    I’m getting close to the middle of Elizabeth Bear’s Machine. I can seldom read her very fast, and it’s not because of the complexity. (Most people’s complexity sends me back to look at things going “what did I miss?”) I just have to digest a bit before I go back.

  10. I read The Goblin Emperor. I really liked the protagonist, a fifth son who unexpectedly becomes emperor after his father and 4 brothers are killed in an airship calamity. He is forced to take on a role for which is woefully ill-prepared.

    There were approximately a million character with long, unfamiliar names, which left me feeling as overwhelmed as he did. Interesting technique.

    1. I loved the audiobook but am not sure I could make it through the written version without a reference and pronouciation guide.

      1. I don’t know about pronunciation but there is a handy reference guide in the back of the book!

  11. I’ve downloaded a ton of reading samples after last week’s Good Book Thursday, but haven’t had time to read more than one or two which were to short to judge if I want to continue reading.
    Then on Friday my buddy at work (all of has have been assigned buddies to keep spirits up which is quite a nice thing) alarmed me that we’re going to exchange buddy santa gifts tomorrow at our virtual xmas party via Teams. Argh, I would have totally missed the secret note.
    So I went along and got a big mug with the stuff to make hot chocolate – and what better than to read something appropriate. I ordered Loretta Chase’s newest – thought it would be a nice kitschy suprise (those covers) and a nice reading apart from the cover. Alas, we exchanged gifts before it arrived (my buddy and I are nowadays only rarely working at the office at the same time). So now I do have the copy for myself. What a tragedy 😉
    I discovered that along with the unwrapping of gifts we’re meant to prepare something creative – singing a carol, reciting a poem etc, but linking to a xmas related youtube video will also be okay. So I researched extensively and came across an almost naked Baldric in Black Addar’s xmas special. With a studded collar. But I will refrain from ruining my reputation at work… and will probably go with a short carol sung by stormtroopers.
    Apart from that, I’ve finally came around to watching the first episode of Netfix’s “The Surgeon’s cut”. Wow and wow again. The first eposide was about Dr Kypros Nico-something, a fetal surgeon, and wow, what an inspiring man.

    1. If you want an exotic christmas song, I think AlanaH rec’d this australian (although the depiction of christmas celebrations also feels heart-breakingly kiwi as well).

      It’s mournful and funny and sweet (and the part in the song about children being 10,00 miles from home feels especially poignant this year).

      1. Oh, my. Thank you for introducing me to this wonderful talent and glorious song. Made for a moment.

      2. As we speak, I’m sitting at Kaiteriteri, with great friends, the kids are playing badminton and we’re drinking white wine in the sun. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

      3. Tim Minchin also wrote the music for Roald Dahl’s Mathilda musical, and it was brilliant. He has a wicked sense of humor and a potty mouth and you should be warned about that before listening to any of his other stuff!

  12. Addendum: When sewing my alternative version of wrapping (drawstring bags in red with gold trimmings) last weekend, I listened to Ruth Goodman’s “How to be a Tudor”. The narrator is a bit of a bore (not comparable with the author herself who’s a rather lively narrator), but the book is fascinating. I do have to do some sewing still, so I’m looking forward to continuing to listen.

  13. I got a couple of Loretta Chase’s book from the library because of all the love expressed last week. I have started them both (one is an audiobook, the reader is excellent), but I haven’t finished them yet. I’m sure I will, but I realize that I am missing having significant supporting characters, such as Heyer (or Jenny)provides, often with a secondary romance in the mix. That’s much more interesting to me, since we see many sides of the two main characters, and have more context and contrast.
    They have made me laugh out loud a couple of times, so that’s a big plus.

  14. I’m in the middle of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. So far, I like it a lot. It is a deep and complex story with interesting protagonists.
    I have a question for you, folks. Many of you read cozy mysteries. In my experience, most cozies are structured the same way. Murder is committed. The sleuth starts to investigate and comes to the attention of the murderer. The murderer targets her as his next victim. Now, along with investigating the murder, she also must dodge danger and avoid being killed.

    I don’t like my sleuth being in danger. That why Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Poirot work for me. That’s why I like Peter Wimsey. Are there mysteries like that but more modern, where the heroine is not in danger of being murdered but just uncovers the clues through clever deductions and meticulous attention to details? I would appreciate some suggestions. Thank you.

    1. The Ngaio Marsh mysteries don’t put the hero in danger — and his wife plays a role in many. Josephine Tey mysteries I think don’t put the hero at risk. Either are exactly modern.

      I’m a fan of Sheila Simonsen but I think her heroines do get put at risk. But they definitely are about putting the clues together .

    2. The Lady Sherlock books by Sherry Thomas are really good. Obviously, historical but the series is ongoing.

    3. hi .. you could try Tony Hillmans books .. protangist is a native american police officer..and lots of information about the Navajo lifestyle and beliefs

    4. It depends on whether the sleuth can NEVER be in danger. Donna Andrews follows a pattern of the sleuth doing stuff, uncovering clues, no obvious danger, until the very last chapter or so, when she confronts a killer who doesn’t want to be identified and will be violent to prevent it. Her Meg Langslow series is a lot of fun, and the sleuth is in danger for only a few pages at the end. I use the same basic pattern in my stories, FWIW.

      I’m not sure anyone’s doing a true Christie/Sayers type plot these days. Of course, I’m not a fan of either (sacrilege!), so maybe they’re out there and I just haven’t seen them. Look for “traditional mystery” in the description instead of “cozy.”

      Hmm, I wonder if the Vera books would count as Sayers-like, if not Christie-like? They’re procedurals, but Vera herself is never (seldom?) in danger. Author is Anne Cleeves. She’s written other series too, but I’m not as familiar with them.

  15. It has definitely been a rereading week for me. I tried a few new ones, but didn’t get past the first few pages. So I’ve been rereading Patricia Briggs’ early fantasies. Raven’s Shadow and Dragon Bones. I enjoy the Mercy Thompson books, but I LOVE these earlier ones, and am sorry she stopped writing them.

    1. Oh, I loved her early books too! I would have happily read more books in either of the two series you mentioned (are two books considered a series?)

      1. It’s a Duology. Dragon Bones and Dragon Blood are titled The Hurog Duology. Hurog being the kingdom it’s about. Ward of Hurog is one of my favorite characters.

  16. I listened to Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, a YA mystery, and really liked it. The mystery was good and I liked the characters.

    One of the parts of the mystery I put together fairly early on but not how it actually played out.

    I usually don’t enjoy mysteries with “twists” but this one doesn’t seem designed to make the reader feel stupid.

  17. Whoever recommended A Wizard’s Guide To Defensive Baking, I can’t thank you enough. I finished Heinlein’s A Door Into Summer. Tomorrow I will read Heinlein’s Between Planets on Set. Then maybe iive back into Space Cadet for Saturday.

    1. May or may not have been me. I also strongly recommend Paladin’s Grace and Swordheart by the same author.

  18. My favorite Loretta Chase book is Lord of Scoundrels–not surprising considering it ends up on best romance lists. But a close second is Viscount Vagabond. The heroes of these books share some traits, maybe that’s why I like them so much.

  19. Finishing up “Boyfriend Material” and I have been laughing out loud.

    Someone mentioned Heyer’s “the Talisman Ring” last week. That’s one I always reread sometime during the winter. It just fits somehow.

    And coffee and snow removal.

  20. Read 10 Things I Hate About the Duke and loved it. That’s basically been it for my week in reading due to school stuff, house stuff (we’re trying to get plumbers in during a pandemic and it isn’t going well) and general life stuff. I haven’t picked up A Lot Like Christmas yet because I couldn’t figure out how much of it I already had between Miracle and All Seated on the Ground. It looks like it has some new stories though.

  21. Read several (or rather, started) “romances,” and just could not get into them. So DNF. Actually gave up on one after 8 pages, which is a record for me, but the girl was so insipid I couldn’t take her anymore. Serves me right for ordering them on Bookbub and not reading a few pages first.

    So I reread Patricia McKillip’s Sunshine, for the umpteenth time. I love her prose, and this IS a sorta love story (involving a vampire, but no twinkling involved, and he is definitely a non-human species!) so if you haven’t read it, I’d suggest giving it a try.

    Now I’m into Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister. He is such a tremendous world-builder, just fun to see where he goes. Not a romance, more an epic fantasy (first in a trilogy) but I’m entranced.

      1. It was definitely McKinley that wrote Sunshine. I love that book. But I love both McKinley and McKillip. Would love a new book from either one.

        1. Yes, it’s got to be McKinley. One of my favourite books. I love the way the world is slowly revealed. Beautifully written.

  22. Last payday, I bought and downloaded a bunch of stuff, including the new Robert Galbraith and a book called “The Other Bennet Sister,” by Janice Hadlow (a look at the post-Pride and Prejudice life of the middle sister, Mary–the one who was attracted to Mr. Collings.

    I’ll note that what got me through the end of my teaching semester in this difficult time was re-reading the Crusie-Mayer books. I’m so in love with “Agnes and the Hitman.” Thanks for the comfort reads.

  23. I’ve been reading Rachel Maddow’s BAG MAN, which is feeling a lot like a caper, rather different from DRIFT and BLOWOUT.

    Also LOVE, LIES & HOCUS POCUS, by Lydia Sherrer, the first in a series. I am most amused by the heroine, a wizard and currently the archives manager at the McCain Library at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. Apparently magical vocabulary is mainly Mesopotamian, always useful to know if you work in the library at Agnes Scott . . . .

    I usually reread Gene Stratton Porter’s THE HARVESTER around December, and, if I can find my copy, Rosemary Sutcliff’s THE ARMOURER’S HOUSE. THE HARVESTER is a 1910 romance set in central Indiana, and THE ARMOURER’S HOUSE is set about 1534-35 in London, where the heroine, age about ten, has come to live with her uncle and aunt and a lively bunch of cousins. I’ve always liked the details — Aunt Deborah always looks to see whether a ship has come in from the Indies, because if one has it may be possible to buy a little sugar, for instance.

    1. Yes. The Love, Lies and Hocus Pocus series is a lot of fun. That’s the actual series title, each book has a subtitle and the first one is naturally :Beginnings. If you like cozy urban fantasy I recommend this one.

      1. This is how I make it out:

        Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: BEGINNINGS (Book 1)
        REVELATIONS (Book 2)
        A STUDY IN MISCHIEF (Prequel, apparently, but set between 2 and 3, so 2½?)
        ALLIES (Book 3)
        LEGENDS (Book 4)
        CAT MAGIC (Book 4½)
        BETRAYAL (Book 5)
        IDENTITY (Book 6)

        I was tickled at the setting at Agnes Scott, an institution of higher learning that used to specialize, sort of, in producing prospective minister’s wives.

  24. I’m re-reading too, but then I always do around Christmas. This year it’s The Dark is Rising sequence, other year’s it’ll be the Box of Delights. Real comfort reading back to childhood. Have also squeezed in the Hot Toy anthology for some more contemporary fun!

  25. I read 3 of Forthright’s Amaranthine Saga series, and then lost my credit card. So I can’t buy the 4th till the new card arrives. Or any other ebooks. Waaaah!

  26. I saw the post about Boyfriend Material a couple of weeks ago and it was a great recommendation. I’m having trouble focusing when I read these days so I listened to audio book and the narrator was terrific.

  27. I just found out that Disney has optioned the first of Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series, The Thief, for a movies project. I am excited for her but terrified that Disney will ruin a perfectly good book by using the wrong actors for the characters, or even worse, trying to make it cutesy, as they so often do.

    1. But it’s a win because more people will read the book, regardless. Any time they make a ya book to movies, the book flies off the library shelf 🙂

    2. God forbit they ruin it by insisting on adding a “cute” animal or inanimate object like the dragon in Mulan or the stupid snowman that ruined Frozen. I hate them being being horned into these projects for stupid “jokes” and lame slapstick.

      1. They’re usually attempting to appeal to ages from three to adult, which probably accounts for the cute animals.

  28. Since I first heard about Loretta Chase on this blog – a week or two ago? – I have been binge reading her novels – read both the Dukes and am on the last Carsington novel. Love her. Thank you for this.

    1. What a feast ahead of you! I want to put in a recommendation for my favorite, “The Last Hellion.” The heroine is a journalist who writes about women’s issues, prison reform, and the poor. She crosses paths with a dissolute duke and sparks fly. I better re-read it just to be sure ;-).

      1. Thank you! I will make sure I read it. Have started the Scoundrels series so am working my way through that.

  29. I read Loretta Chase’s “10 Things I Hate About the Duke” and really enjoyed it. I could have done with a little less mention of how god-like and beautiful the hero was, but I get that was to contrast with how flawed his personality was. I LOVED that he was so willing to learn about her point of view, even when he found it difficult to understand.

    Also read “Lullaly” by Freya Barker which was a unique Christmas novella with older characters which I really liked.

  30. Someone (or someones) recommended the Janitors of the Post Apocalypse books — I think last week, but what is Time really? — and I started it yesterday and am enjoying it very much. So, y’know, thank you.

  31. Earlier this year, based on several recommendations seen here, I read “The Wizard’s Butler.” Something about the way Nathan Lowell writes is apparently my cup of tea, because I have already read it twice more.

    The second re-read prompted me to look into other books by Lowell. I just finished the nine (!) book series that begins with “Quarter Share”, covering 20-some years of the life of Ishmael Horatio Wang. He starts with an entry level job — working as the lowest person in the galley (kitchen) on a solar clipper, which is a futuristic freighter that “sails” on solar winds — and winds up owning his own shipping line.

    If you’re not interested in a nine book series, the first three books comprise Ishmael ages 18-20 and wrap things up nicely. Books 4-6 take him from age 24-38; book 6 could also be a good ending place.

    What I like most about these books is the quiet competence of the main character. (That was also true of “The Wizard’s Butler.”) Ishmael definitely makes mistakes but he learns from them and grows with each book.

    1. It is worth signing up for Kindle Unlimited for $10/month if you are going to plow through this series and his other books as they are all available on the service, as well as many of Bob Mayer’s. You can just pay for a month and then unsubscribe if most of your upcoming reading list isn’t covered and then resubscribe when it is. You just need to unsubscribe on your order page when you pay so you are not automatically billed at the end of the month.

  32. If you haven’t read Lois McMaster Bujold’s first book “Shards of Honor” I recommend it, as I have been rereading it since the 80’s. As I grow older, the more I appreciate that the protagonists of the love story are middle aged. Also that the obstacles between their HEA are integral to who they are, not stupid misunderstandings. Also, if you go on and read the sequel, there is no easy HEA . If you are not into SF, read her 4 major award nominee “Curse of Chalion” featuring a protagonist who is middle aged and the worse for wear. The sequel to that, which swept the Nebula, Hugo and Locus awards, also features a middle aged romance. Frankly, I preorder anything she writes.

    1. Yes! about SHARDS. These people have ADULT problems. In fact, we’re still wondering how Cordelia actually straightened things out on Beta. Not to mention how Freddie ever won an election — certainly no one actually voted for him!

  33. I haven’t read her latest yet because it’s about an epidemic and I just can’t. Apparently she wrote it before the pandemic. But I have it and will read it when the pandemic is over and it doesn’t resonate quite so much.

  34. What was good for me this week? Your amazing books. I’m working my way through them in order and I’m laughing and so entertained. Your characters are fabulous and it’s so great finding a new-to-me author with lots of fun books to devour. Thank you!!!!

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