This is a Good Book Thursday, December 31, 2020

Welp, this is the last day of this did-you-get-the-number-of-that-truck-that-hit-us-and-then-backed-up-and-ran-over-us-again-several-times-freaking year. As Dave Barry said, I used to think some of my years were the nadir (my major-relationship collapse/abortion/diagnosis of stage 3 cancer summer springs to mind) but now I have a baseline for all eternity. Of course that’s what I thought about the summer of ’83, too, so please god, let this be the low point in years. One of the redeeming factors: books. Lots and lots of very good books.

This week it was My Girls, Todd Fisher’s memoir of his life with Debbie and Carrie, a re-read of Loretta Chase’s Last Night’s Scandal, and the fantastic Antiquarian Sticker Book. But if I look back at the whole year, I think the best book memories are the new writers I discovered, the ones I can re-read over and over and be enthralled each time: Mhairi MacFarlane (If I’d Never Met You), Casey McQuiston (Red, White, and Royal Blue), Sarina Bowen (The Year We Fell Down), Alexis Hall(Boyfriend Material), Naomi Novik (A Deadly Education), and ohmygod Martha Wells (I will buy Murderbot books as soon as they’re published forever). I know a lot of those are not new authors, but they were new to me and made me very happy.

So what good book did you read this week? What were your faves this year (this no-good, horrible, very bad year)?

Oh, and Happy New Year! (Just read until it’s 2021. And drink, but mostly read.)

60 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, December 31, 2020

  1. I have always been a voracious reader but up until this year I never counted how many books I read. This year I actually wrote it down. I thought I read a book a day but it turns out I read a bit more than that. Between 1 January 2020 and 31 January 2020, I have read 421 books and 38 short stories. Of the books I read, 133 were rereads. I thought it I would have reread more than that but this year I have been following assiduously Argh and another book site which has led me to great new authors to read. So among this sea of new books, which have been my faves? I’ll go with authors rather than specific books. So, in no particular order: KJ Charles, T. Kingfisher, Alexis Hall, Kate Canterbary, Nathan Lowell and Honor Raconteur.
    I am looking forward to meeting many new authors thanks to you all next year.
    Bonne année et bonne santé à tous!

      1. All I had to see was T Kingfisher and sped to Amazon to look up the rest. Now have 3 new books in my TBR pile.
        Thanks LN!

    1. SNAP!
      KJ Charles, Alexis Hall, & T. Kingfisher (and Jenny) are all on my auto buy list, so I’m definitely checking out your other author recommendations, thanks!

  2. Happy new year!

    I am skimming through the Bridgerton books after watching the series. They added some stuff and changed some other stuff, but what irked most was the siblings saying “Brother” or “Sister” when talking to each other instead of using names. What the heck was up with that? The books did not have that problem.

    Liked that the Featherington family was clothed in jewel tones. The colours, other than yellow, suited the actress playing Penelope.

    Also reading the Andy Carpenter series, some Hardy Boys, and the Hurog duology.

  3. I read Lord Perfect (Thank you for that recommendation) and Donna Andrews’, Gift of the Magpie. Not my favorite of hers but still lovely.

  4. My favorite new-to-me reads this year were 1) the Donna Andrews Meg Langslow series, for all the good will and competence and available handymen and childcare. Also someone else decorating for the holidays, which I enjoy looking at, but not doing.

    And 2) by far my favorite new read has been the Murderbot series. Just so good. I have read and listened multiple times this year, I enjoy Murderbot’s voice so much.

    3) I ate up the Mercy Thomson series by Patricia Briggs, I live in Maine, but sometimes I miss the West, and among other things that gives me a nice dose. I admire Mercy, because she doesn’t back down for anything. Her community is a lot of cranky werewolves, but somehow it also sounds like living with a bunch of really big doggies, my idea of a good time.

    For re-reads it’s been, gee, Jenny Crusie, Terry Pratchett, Georgette Heyer, and Barbara Michaels, who ground me with their wit and their ability to create relationships and community.

  5. I finished Pupcakes: A Christmas Novel by annie england noblin. It made me cry. I can’t remember who recommended it, but I know it was in Arch Ink. Also, Kay Keppler’s Skirting Danger. I’m still reading Virginia DeMarce’s Things Could Be Worse. I finished her Designed to Fail. I’ve reached the fourth book in “the Jennifer Crusie Collection:” Fast Women.

    I’ve read others, whose names escape me just now.

  6. This week I finished the Ancillary trilogy. It’s no Murderbot, but in the end I liked it. Half the time I had no idea what was going on, but somewhere along the line I decided it didn’t really matter and probably I would figure it out later. The constant switching of gender pronouns made me a bit insane–and more to the point, didn’t seem to matter in the story. Definitely Checkov’s gun.

    100% of my new reading came from this group. I’m too lazy to write things down most of the time, so it’s not until I see the same recommendation more than once that I generally remember it. Murderbot took about 12 mentions before I requested the first one from the library. (The title doesn’t really convey its essence!) Sometimes I manage to request them from the library immediately, but not always.

    I have this fantasy that I’m going to look back through the Good Book Thursdays and make a list. HAH.

  7. I had a hard time concentrating on serious books this year. I reread Georgette Heyer, Jennifer Cruisie, Terry Pratchett, and Connie Willis. New books I enjoyed were The House in the Cerulean Sea, the Left-Handed Booksellers of London, Transcendent Kingdom, Good Talk, and Girl, Woman, Other. Many of the romances I read had main characters who were too gorgeous to be believable but I did like If I Never Met You; Take Hint, Dani Brown; and The Duke Who Didn’t.

    It was a good year for reading if nothing else.

  8. I just found this on Goodreads. The narrator is a cat. The story is very short and I liked it.

    In 2020 I mostly reread old favorites, discovering bits by authors like Georgette Heyer and Jennifer Crusie which I hadn’t read before. Very few of the rereads let me down; many contained surprises I hadn’t noticed before. I am reassured that I have a rich past of characters and places and authors — I was buoyed by them through this tough year.

    That said, Jenny, I sure hope that you never, ever have another series of horrors like your summer of 1983. Even wonderful books wouldn’t have helped me survive those combined experiences.

    Bests to Jenny and all you Arghers in 2021.

    1. You know, it turned out to be the motivator for the change I needed. I sat in a hospital bed that September and thought, “I’m going to die now, having not done any of the things I’d dreamed about?” I’d spent thirty-three years living to please my parents, my husband, and my daughter, and the only one who was worth that sacrifice was my kid. That was my first “fuck this” moment. One of the things on that list was writing a novel, so it all worked out in the end.

      1. Yup–nothing like Stage III cancer diagnosis to clear the mind. I expected to die within the year, so restarted the writing group that had fallen apart and quit doing things I didn’t enjoy doing. Just marked 14 years from diagnosis; other health issues, but not a recurrence of the cancer I expected to kill me.
        So glad you are still with us, still writing. : )

  9. I’ve really relied on rereading favourites this year, as well as trying lots of samples. This week has been a bit so-so: Loretta Chase’s ‘The Devil’s Delilah’ wasn’t nearly as good as ‘Viscount Vagabond’ (it’s a farce, and I felt the great characters were rather wasted). I read Katie Fforde’s ‘The Christmas Stocking’, which was fine but limited and samey.

    Then ‘Romancing Mr Bridgerton’, which is the only one of the series I’d kept (most were borrowed from the library). I enjoyed bits of the TV series – mostly Penelope Featherington and Lady Danbury, although like everything else they’re rather different from in the novels. So I guess I found both the originals and the TV version unsatisfying, although fun while you’re reading or watching them. Not keepers. But the series is definitely colourful, if completely ahistorical: for example, wonderful but completely inauthentic costumes.

    I’m now trying more samples on my Kindle: first was a reject. Also reading cookery books, in search of delicious and easy vegetarian recipes for one (or which freeze well). Turns out the library has three Nigel Slaters which look promising, as ebooks.

    1. Bridgerton worked for me as long as I never thought of it as Regency. I did end up shouting “You idiots!!” at the screen a few times, but it was exactly the bright, fluffy drahmaz that I’ve been needing with just enough bite to keep it interesting.

  10. I downloaded A Deadly Education and have started it. Trying to drag it out because it seems like it’s going to be a great book. I need distraction right now. Today is the fourth anniversary of my ovarian cancer diagnosis. They’ve taken me off chemo and started me on pills that are supposed to target a specific marker. Just been on it a week or so but having significantly less bad side effects than I had with the chemo. I do feel very fortunate to have had those four more years with my husband and daughter. Looking forward to 2021. I would say that it has to be better but I am too superstitious to do that!

    1. This is so good. When you were first diagnosed, you worried that you might not make it to Christmas but you were going to live your life in the belief that you would make it. It is now three or four Christmases latter. Go, you.

  11. This week I’m reading through The Elementals series by Sherry Thomas, which is sort of Young Wizards In Love Who Must Overthrow The Evil Empire of Atlantis except that makes it sound much more hokey than it actually is; it’s a great story. (It was actually recommended to me as a “Why do we still talk about HP when we have these books?” but the similarities to the Potterverse are superficial at best. This series is very much its own thing.)

  12. This past week I discovered a romance by Clare Kauter, an Australian writer, called Get Folked. He’s a folk-rock singer songwriter whose band has just gotten famous. She’s being going to his shows for years, way before anyone had ever heard of them, but when she unexpectedly meets him at a party she gets so nervous that she tries to make him go away by pretending she’s never heard of him and is distinctly unimpressed. Hijinks ensue. It was very well done, both characters are endearingly awkward with serious family dysfunction in their backgrounds.

    This lead me to looking other books by that author and discovered she also has a couple of mystery series so I tried Baxter & Co., which is a collection of the first three books in that series whose names I never found out. I read the first two, which were very good and kind of funny, about two private investigators who work for a firm called Baxter & Co.

    After the first two it becomes obvious that her other mystery series came first and in the third book characters from the first series become important, so I decided to go and read the first few books in The Charlie Davis Mysteries 1 – 3, a collection of the first three of nine. I’m in the middle of book one and it’s decent, though not quite as good as the Baxter & Co. books, yet. But it has possibilities. Charlie is a walking disaster who still lives at home and makes a bet with her oldest frenemy that she can solve the murder he has been accused of.

    Most of the really good books I read this year were continuations of series I had started reading in previous years, like Murderbot which I started reading when they first came out.

    The Wizard’s Butler by Nathan Lowell did inspire me to read all of his Solar Clipper series, which I enjoyed.

    My favorite re-read was Nameless Magery, which the author, Delia Marshall Turner, got the rights back for and published it as an eBook for the first time. I had read the paperback a dozen times, but my eyes are going and I pretty much only read eBooks these days.

    My favorite new book this year was A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones, which was hilarious. Which has been described as like the Gilmore Girls except Sunshine is the new sheriff in her hometown, after winning an election she hadn’t been aware she was running in, and ends ups with several mysterious deaths to investigate on her first day, and her daughter wants to be Veronica Mars.

  13. New to me in 2020:
    The Duke Who Didn’t
    T Kingfisher—Sword heart and A Wizards Guide to Defensive Baking and Paladins Grace but others too
    Patricia Briggs early books

    But I also did an enormous amount of rereading —Crusie of course, Nora Roberts, Sarah Mayberry, Michael Gilbert, Dick Francis, Georgette Heyer, Mary Balogh, Sarina Bowen, Jo Goodman, Loretta Chase….

    And then there are a lot of books where I saved a sample on my e reader because they look good but too dark to read in a pandemic when I’m also stressed about work and possible breast cancer (which got ruled out last week so now I might have the emotional energy to read them.) Or just too new. I apparently need certainty for comfort. I haven’t read much nonfiction either.

    I expect eventually to go back and review the samples and read a number of them.

  14. On a brighter note I’m throwing our annual New Years party tonight on zoom with a 2020 bingo card and two 2020 crosswords we made . Looks like we will have over 50 people (about 20 households). We dropped party supplies to the 13 close to us (champagne , streamers, noise makers, cheese, chocolates).

  15. Favorite romances

    Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
    The Brown Sisters books by Talia Hibbert (I’m really excited for the next one)
    Beach Read by Emily Henry
    Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

    Favorite Nonfiction
    The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
    Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Good Talks by Mira Jacob
    Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
    Also a lot of interesting stuff about the 1918 flu pandemic, which I know a lot of people will find morbid, but reading about how people in history dealt with disasters is helpful to me personally.

    Vera Stanhope. Just all the Vera Stanhope.

    It’s interesting in December 2019 I decided on whim to track my reading on a spreadsheet for the 1st time. I started on January 1st 2020 and honestly I’m not sure if I would have kept up with it if it was not for crazy quarantine days. Aside from my journal habit, keeping notes on things has never been my strength.

    But I definitely had the time to do it this year. I noticed some interesting things. March I read a lot, almost a book a day. (Beginning of quarantine) Reading dipped a lot in the summer when the kids were out of school. I read more mystery and nonfiction than I thought I did, but when you add historical and contemporary romance together (I split them on the spreadsheet) romance is still my favorite genre, for now. I really haven’t found romance grabbing me in the last couple of months. Not sure if it’s just a lull or a sea change, but for now it’s British mysteries all the way. Maybe the idea of almost strangers mashing their faces together just doensn’t sound particularly appealing for right now.

  16. New reads for me past week:
    Sheila Simonson’s An Old Chaos was an average mystery. Not perfect but not bad either.
    Elle Pierson’s Artistic License was a charming and short contemporary romance. I wasn’t enraptured about it but I liked it. (Note: Elle Pierson is a pseudonym of Lucy Parker, a well-known author of contemporary romances, including the London Celebrities series.)

    Mary Balogh’s Sligtly Dangerous was good, as almost everything by her.
    Last night, I started Manhunting by Crusie and I’m savoring it. It’s a delight on every page. I read it before, of course, but not for a while. Why didn’t I?

    As for the best books for the whole 2020 – I don’t know. I always have troubles with this sort of questions. I did discover some new writers I liked, mostly through recommendations here: Jayne Davis and Mimi Matthews come to mind.

    Happy New Year, everyone!

    1. I love Manhunting so much! It’s also the first romance novel that my teenage daughter borrowed from my bookshelf; we had such a great discussion of that book and discovered a mutual love of the genre. We have shared hundreds of books since then. She took my copies of Agnes and Bet Me when she moved away, but i still have the dog-eared Manhunting on the shelf.

  17. I reread A LOT. Most of what I read was rereads. I read the next in the series of a few series (Ilona Andrews, RJ Bain, JD Robb — I think that was 2020). I’ve started many books, only to put them aside for one reason or another. There is a bunch of books I’ve kept on a rotating hold-to-loan-to-hold because I *want* to read them, but I now shy away from new books: How to Drag a Body and Other Safety Tips You Hope to Never Need and Simple Sabotage Field Manual are two of them. Yes, I am preparing for disaster, the zombie apocalypse, and the fall of democracy.

    In 2021, I plan to read new books. Lots of them.

  18. This was an odd year for books for me. I was looking at my library check-out history and realized that I actually listened to far fewer books than I thought I had. I checked out a lot and then wandered away. Of course, there were some notable standouts like the latest Louise Penny, I was thrilled to see her back on track after the death of her husband, and the 2 Dresden Files books even if they weren’t exactly heavy on the humour and light on the death and destruction. I really enjoyed The Hazel Wood/The Night Country by Melissa Albert and The Twisted Ones by T Kingfisher. I can’t recommend Gin’s Garlic Farm mysteries enough to people who like cozies.

    I only actually read a handful of paper books, mostly forgettable light romances or cozy mysteries.

    Of course, I read Network Effect just the other day which is not forgettable. SecUnit and ART 4evah. I also read the new Jodi Taylor, both Time Police and St. Mary’s.

    The books that I never wanted to end this year were Vivian Shaw’s Dr. Greta Helsing series. They were the perfect escape books for me this year and I wish there had been a dozen of them.

    1. Thank you! I’m waiting to hear if Kensington wants to continue the garlic farm series, so it reassures me when I hear that someone likes it!

    2. I’ve just finished the latest Louise Penny, and agree whole heartedly. So delightful to see Gamache in Paris, being underestimated and patronised as a provincial policeman!

  19. This has been a year of finding new authors and glomming entire (or big chunks of) backlists and also re-reading a lot. Finished the Alexis Hall Complete Read yesterday with ‘There Will Be Phlogiston’ which is set in the steampunk alter-England of ‘Prosperity’ and is a lovely, lovely polyamorous romance to which I expect to return regularly. Also this week read his ‘Liberty and Other Stories’ and re-read ‘Waiting for the Flood.’

    Otherwise the past week has been mostly more of the M/M binge. ‘Not Over Yet’ by Barbara Elsborg, a fantasy novella featuring an English veterinarian and the youngest son of Father Christmas; ‘Cinder’ by Marie Sexton, a novella-length re-telling of Cinderella; ‘A Viking for Yule’ by Jamie Fessenden; ‘Wrapped Together’ by Annabeth Albert; ‘Status Update’ by Annabeth Albert; ‘The Next Competitor’ by Keira Andrews. Of that group I think my favorites were the two novellas though I enjoyed all; the Fessenden was particularly satisfying.

    Finished off ‘A Wodehouse Bestiary.’ Have been using that for bedtime reading.

    There are two Murderbot titles in my queue, which I managed to pick up on sales. I am waiting for sales to get all of them before I start reading them because it sounds like they are completely addictive and I need to rein in my book spending. Insert guilty face here.

  20. Here’s something fun:

    My brain isn’t up to a retrospective at the moment. Alot of the newer authors I’ve read were recommended here. I haven’t done too much rereading lately.

    I’m currently reading Donna Andrews “Terns of Endearment” and will probably move on to more Loretta Chase.

    Have a Happy New Year and a healthy and prosperous 2021.

  21. This year is rather blurred. I read a lot of new books by old favorite authors with so much gratitude every time something I could trust came out.

    I reread to the point of insanity.

    Today my christmas present to myself came: four back issues of Enchanted Living, formerly Faerie Magazine. They are full of folklore, poems, short fiction and crafts. I am really looking forward to them.

  22. Continued my murderous reading with Two Can Keep a Secret and The Cousins. Karen McManus was one of my new-to-me authors in 2020 and a great discovery. I did a lot of re-reading this year, especially Heyer and Murderbot, and basically anything I could hide from the relentless stream of bad news in. Good riddance to 2020, but I did read more books this year by a long shot.

  23. I just finished readingCity of Bones by Martha Wells. It is a stand alone and I loved it – which is pretty much how I feel about most of her books.

  24. Welp – I can’t shake the Murderbot, so am listening to them. Hoopla has the 4 novellas & I used an Audible credit for Network Effect.

    The narrator Kevin R Free is really good – he had me laughing about Murderbot complaining about ART.

    Nothing but Good Times Ahead in 2021.

  25. I used to keep reading lists, but finally realized in general it’s just more paper in the house, so I let the library track my checkouts. That’s not a complete list, but it’s close. I’m not counting it, but it was a goodly number. Some Katie Fforde I’d missed, the newest Mary Balogh, Crusies I don’t own. Nicola Yoon and Libba Bray, courtesy of work.

    Like many of you, I’ve reread a lot for comfort. But this year I was led to Loretta Chase and Talia Hibbert, Alyssa Cole (thanks, Argh-ers!).

    This week, as part of my ongoing efforts to understand what has been happening in the US in terms of social justice, I read Austin Channing Brown’s memoir I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. It’s wonderful, speaks to me I think because she’s female in the evangelical world, which I left.

    Happy 2021–here’s to more good books!

  26. apart from the splendid and the vile book on the blitz, which seemed much worse than this moment, it’s been crusie and aaronovitch all the time, with a vimes pratchett books andbridget jones books revisit

    plus construction accounting textbook (ugh)

    will check out murderbot next year!

    happy new year-2021 has a low bar to clear to be better

  27. I have done a lot of re-reading, the most current ones being The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer, and The Quiet Gentleman, also by Georgette Heyer. I also finished the novella Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh. Since I have been on a Georgetown Heyer kick, I am currently browsing through Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester.

  28. Like so many others, I’ve done mostly rereading this year. Still doing it, as Tasmania slides into the new year ahead of most of the rest of the world. But it was wonderful to read the new Julia Spencer-Fleming, and the new Louise Penny. And I’ve found some other wonderful new authors thanks to people here.

    Happy New Year, everyone, and I hope 2021 brings you joy and good health.

  29. This year’s reading is a blur to me, too, with a LOT of re-reads. I’m currently working on Heyer’s THE TOLL-GATE, which is one of my favorites of hers, and just finished Neel’s DEATH AMONG THE DONS, which is one of my favorites in that series, right up there with DEATH’S BRIGHT ANGEL, with its especially delightful Messiah rehearsal. I rediscovered — as in haven’t looked at it for years — Pauline Ashwell’s THE LOST KAFOOZALUM, which is available in ebook format. I only wish the first book, UNWILLINGLY TO SCHOOL [paperback edition retitled UNWILLINGLY TO EARTH], were also. And then there’s the anthology A GRAVE DIAGNOSIS, edited by Donna Carrick. The contribution of my friend is a short story where the killer has my name. I’m sure it’s a coincidence . . . .

    HAPPY FOOTNOTE: Before posting this, I just checked to see whether UNWILLINGLY was still unavailable in ebook. It’s in an anthology called REDISCOVERY, Science Fiction by Women (1958 – 1963) edited by Gideon Marcus. I think this is the original story, “Unwillingly to School,” which was published in the January 1958 edition of ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION.

    May 2021 be a MUCH better year for us all than 2020 has been!

  30. Thank you so much to whoever recommended the left-handed bookseller of London. I’m reading it now. Last week I gave myself the Christmas present of Alyssa Cole new book how to catch a queen and I love that. I have read very few new books. Most of mine has been re-reading. Higher, Jane and krentz in all your guises Susan Elizabeth Phillips Beverly Jenkins Phoebe AtWood Taylor as Alice Tilton, Robert Heinlein Elizabeth peters Barbara Michaels and a bunch of children’s books. The oddest thing I discovered during this pandemic was sleep stories. I have an app called calm and also one called insight timer. Both of them feature sleep stories. At first I thought it was the stupidest thing I ever heard I mean I’m a grown-up I don’t need a bedtime story, except the ones I read myself. But it turns out I have never made it through a single sleep story. I keep falling asleep the most delightful discovery was that this week they added the first two chapters of Jay and Barry‘s Peter Pan. I had forgotten how much I loved that book. I haven’t read it since 1962 and now I think I must read it in my own reading time without falling asleep. It does make a great sleep story though. Happy new year to all of you I wish you health healing prosperity creativity and many moments of expected and unexpected joy.

    1. Obviously I dictated the above comment to my phone. My phone does not spell well, and does not punctuate at all. I’m still happy to have that opportunity to dictate.

  31. This week: read the Murderbot Diaries – THANK YOU to this blog for relentlessly referring to them until they forced themselves on my consciousness where they exploded in a great burst of hacking joy. Okay ‘nuff of that.

    Best books of the year: the N.K. Jemisin Broken Earth Trilogy (brilliant, difficult and heart breaking), Daniel Abraham’s Dagger and Coin series (OMG so addictive and who knew that an ongoing thread about medieval banking would be so enthralling??), the final book in Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief of Attolia series (which along with Sharon Shinn’s Mystic and Ryder series are my all time favourite fantasy series and my two most popular re-reads), Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series plus her regency The Luckiest Lady in London, A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (still pumping for her Temeraire series) and Nick Hornby’s Just Like You, KJ Charles’ A Seditious Affair and the Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh, and Cat Sebastian’s Soldier’s Scoundrel, A Gentleman Never Keeps Score, and the Ruin of a Rake, and the first three in Joanna Chambers’ Enlightenment series and Loretta Chase’s Difficult Dukes.

    Best Re-reads: see above plus Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubelshooters series – you can’t go wrong with navy seals. Well you can but she doesn’t. James Herriot’s vet books, James Michener’s Hawaii. My favourite Crusie’s: Manhunting, Welcome to Temptation, Fast Women, Bet Me and Crazy for You. And Loretta Chase has already hit the re-read list.

    Guilty Pleasures: Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series which my husband refers to as the magical horses books. And he’s not wrong.

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