This is a Good Book Thursday, January 14, 2021

This week I started a Connie Willis binge, starting with To Say Nothing of the Dog and Crosstalk, both of which I love. Then I looked to see what else was on my Kindle and saw something called DA. It was a YA, but I like YA, and I was immediately invested in the heroine and her problem and her best friend, and while I saw the plot twist coming, I wanted to see what the protagonist did with it, and it was going along great and then the protagonist just changed her mind and the story ended. It’s a short story. And I am frustrated. The whole thing would have been a great first act because Connie Willis is a terrific writer, but then the protagonist evidently got a mind wipe or something and became a different person, and the story that was set up here, one I’d really like to read, just does not happen. Amazon needs to label novellas and short stories as short fiction. Actually, I think it does usually say if a book is a novella when you read the descriptions, but this time there was only a plot tease.

So now I need a Willis that delivers, which I assume is most of her books since she’s really great. Weren’t there some that had downer endings? Because I can’t face those right now.

What did you read this week?

136 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, January 14, 2021

  1. It’s been a good week for books for me – the universe delivered. I worked my way through the Honey Badger series by Shelly Laurenston, and it was all the batshit crazy snarl I needed. I’m currently reading The Blacksmith Queen (same author, different name). The absolute gem, though, was The Lord of Stariel by AJ Lancaster. It was charming, it had a forthright heroine and an enigmatic and hot butler. It made me keep reading, and reminded me a little of Stardust (the movie) . And now I’m desperately waiting for my shipment of the next book.

  2. I didn’t like “DA” either, but I’ve never read a Heinlein juvenile (which she based it on) and I think it was one where she was maybe a little too in love with the idea and didn’t know how to end it.

    “Doomsday Book” has a very sad ending (it’s about the Black Death, a happy ending would be kind of weird), but it is also one of my favorite endings of all time for what it’s worth. “Passage”is about death, so that one is also kind of sad. “Bellwether” is very cute. I think it’s similar to “Crosstalk” but I actually like it better.

    This week has been a slow one for me and books, but I’m enjoying “Marry in Scarlet” by Anne Gracie on audiobook. It’s the fourth in a quartet and it really does work better if you have the books before it. The heroine is an animal mad tomboy and the hero is a very high in the instep “old school” duke. He has been left at the altar by a family member of the heroine (also one of her closest friends) and the families decide they will solve the scandal by pairing him off with the heroine. I don’t read a lot of historicals anymore, but Anne Gracie has just the right touch. And generally her people are just very likeable.

    1. I agree about Passages, I read it shortly after my college roommate (who had introduced me to Willis’ work) died. I didn’t want to think of her in that story, but they are inextricably linked for me and I can never read it again.

    2. Passages is an incredibly moving book and probably not a good choice for this moment in time. I second the recommendation for Bellwether. I’ve loved most of the Connie Willis I have read, but Bellwether is probably the only one I would read a second time.

      1. I also HIGHLY recommend BELLWETHER. It’s lighthearted so much fun. I got the blog email and logged in specifically to recommend Bellwether, but I and I see that Ruth and Lee have beaten me to it.
        It’s one of the her books that gets a lot of humor out of the zaniness of life, especially when bureaucratic rules don’t make sense and one ends up going in circles. She also incorporates chaos theory, which I found fun. I agree that Willis is wonderful, but while some of her books just make me happy (e.g. SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG), others leave me with a sinking feeling in my stomach. This one makes me happy.

  3. I read “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green, and much to my annoyance it did not move me as much as I had thought it would. It did not move me much at all, actually. Maybe it was the wrong book at the wrong time, or maybe I had too high expectations, I don’t know. “P.s. I love you” by Cecelia Ahern made me cry all over the place, “City of Masks” by Mary Hoffman gets me even on the rereads, and “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman (although only briefly touching the subject of cancer) also has me sniffling and sobbing on the rereads (the movie does it too…). The Fault in Our Stars though… not a tear. 🙁

    Almost finished with “Love, Lies and Lemon Pies” by Katy Cannon. It’s YA, kinda cute about a girl who’s lost her dad in an accident and has isolated herself from friends ever since, but is more or less forced into a baking club to prove to the adults at school that she is fine, and to prevent them from contacting her mother. But perhaps baking club wasn’t such a bad idea after all, and perhaps friends aren’t the worst thing ever either… if she can only keep them from finding out the truth about her and her home situation…
    It’s cute. And there are a lot of nice recipes to try out, so I’m enjoying myself. 🙂 My only snarl-moment was when the love-interest smirked. Smirking should be forbidden for everyone but the villains. Smirks push all my buttons.

    1. Yeah, mine, too. I just found a smirk in one of my books, but fortunately the smirker was an asshat, so that’s okay.

      Heroes? Never.

      1. How were sexy bad boys described pre-smirk? Have we transitioned away from whatever that is to smirk? I can’t think of an alternative atm…

        1. It depends on what the writer thinks “smirk” means.

          If they think it means “sexy smile” then there were any number of ways to say that, the most effective not being the word for the smile but the effect it had on others.

          If they knew what it meant, they never used it for a good person. Arrogant, supercilious creeps smirk. A hero can do it, but it’s awful and he better be really sorry he did on the next page and change his ways forever. Its not the same as “sneer,” but it has the same effect on characterization: it signals “this person is not one of us.”

          1. We have had a couple of smirking politicians in Australia. Our treasurer some years ago, Peter Costello, and our current PM, Scott Morrison, are both unrepentant smirkers, and it makes their general loathsomeness even more loathsome.

          2. I think this would be a good topic for a complete post. There are a lot of facial expressions that are hard to describe without going into a whole lot of detail — a slight smile, a pursed-lip crinkly smile, a sneering look sometimes mixed with smile, a doubtful smile, a “glad you see I was right” smile, a raised eyebrow “oh really?” smile, etc. etc. Smirk and smile both have the same Old English-y root, and I think various authors use the terms sort of differently.

            The “heroes never smirk” test doesn’t quite do it for me.

            jinx —
            for some reason, actually jinx today!

          3. You want a whole post on “smirk”? Nobody wants that much screaming.
            I should run this past Bob, who in real life has no expressions. Seriously. We did a two hour photo shoot one year and the photographer told him, “You have the range of expression of Kevin Costner.”

  4. I’m back to reading East by West by Jasmine Hemsley for sumptuous healthy recipes.

    Appropriate in these times especially where Ayurveda was banned under British colonial rule and slowly resurfaced after Indian independence in 1947.

    My choice was inspired by a tweet thread from Damien P. Williams in reply to my query on clean eating. Turns out clean eating is based upon eugenics within a white supremacy framework.

    To prevent myself from going down a book-buying rabbit hole, I’m reading the food related books that I have left incomplete, including the recipe books, because I want to be educated on this area more.

      1. While I love these books, and Connie Willis in general, I don’t think I’d recommend them if you’re looking for light hearted fun right now.

        Blackout and All Clear are set in the same universe as To Say Nothing of the Dog and The Doomsday Book. The target of the time travelers is England during various phases of WW II, including the Battle of Britain, so there are definitely parts that are downers, even though you know how the historical events are going to end up. They are long books and you really have to think of them as if they were a single story since the first one leaves everybody hanging off a cliff. You are definitely making a time commitment when you tackle them.

      2. I love them and have re-read several times however it did take me a while to grasp all the different timelines in Blackout.

        1. I’m okay with conflict and trouble, it’s “and then they all died” that I can’t face right now. I’m a wimp at the point.

          1. I think that if you’re reading Connie Willis and you don’t want downers, you have to stick to her shorter books. The longer ones like Passages and Blackout and Doomsday are really good books but I wouldn’t read them to cheer myself up. All of them made me cry.

          2. As long as you read them as one story, they are good. If VERY long for a single story. I liked them much better second time around, when I was on a Connie Willis roll.

          3. Like in Rogue One – what a downer!
            Quite realistic considering what happens with rebels in a hopeless situation. But the kids afterwards sent us grown ups to check out the following Star Wars movie first. Just in case.

  5. In my memory, Willis’ Remake is fun, with a dash of old movies thrown in. I don’t remember anything else about it but the movies, so it could be sad.

    Meanwhile, after the recommendations here, I’ve read Loretta Chase’s Duke in Shining Armor, and I’m currently reading 10 Things I hate about the Duke. I’m glad that Ashmont has been learning to actually think instead of react – I wasn’t looking forward to him as a main character after reading the first one.

    1. Don’t miss ‘Dukes Prefer Blondes’ – part of a different series, but I think will be fine if you haven’t read the others in that ‘family’.

      1. I am currently reading Dukes prefer Blondes and I am really enjoying it. Good to see Clare step out on her own

      2. The Carsington (?) series, especially Mr. Impossible, Mr. Wonderful, and Last Night’s Scandal. That last one is probably my favorite Chase.

      3. This is my favorite one of hers. I think I’ve re-read it a half-a-dozen times. It’s just delightful and I love how the couple ends up together (and when, in terms of story).

    2. She does a nice job of reclaiming him. I just wish the heroine had done some changing, too. I like arcs, damn it.
      But I do love that mini-series of hers.

  6. I read Love Lettering which had a lot of good to it. Got a little draggy towards the end, but that might just be my head space and the family issues that are going on. Spoiler here, I did really like that one character had psoriasis. I thought all the markers were heading towards self harm/ suicide scars and this was a different kind of vulnerability. Just as life effecting perhaps, but it overturned a trope that I didn’t realize I was expecting. I will have to think more on that.

    Up next is Blood Heir by Ilona Andres, which I am very excited for. I started it, but can’t quite sink in. Maybe because I read another version of it as a pandemic serial or because of aforementioned family things. When my head clears I will dive in.

    1. I loved Love Lettering! That’s funny though, I thought it dragged a bit at the beginning but sped up at the end. Agree with the psoriasis. I didn’t notice it at a until it was revealed, but I liked that it was a way of making your hero character less physically perfect.

  7. I reread Helen Hoang – ‘The Kiss Quotient’ and ‘The Bride Test’ – and enjoyed them. Have switched to K. J. Charles, ‘The Secret Casebook of Simon Fexinal’, and now a favourite, ‘Spectred Isle’.

    1. Spectered Isle is one of my favourites too, but I don’t love it the first time I read it. It definitely rewards rereads I think.

  8. I read The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel. It’s a reboot of history starting in 1952 where a climate catastrophe catalyzes the urgency to get to outer space. Includes a lot of interesting women/Jewish/black discrimination themes as well as some mathematics and space stuff which I always find interesting. She’s not the strongest writer but she pulls together a lot of interesting plot threads so I’m starting the sequel next.

    I also re-read Cat Sebastian’s M/M historical romance “A Gentleman Never Keeps Score”. It’s one of my favourites because it has such a great relationship arc – as well as class differences and racial differences, the two heroes have to deal with one of them not like being touched (a great back story there) which makes sex…kind of unique.

  9. I started reading The Myth of the Lost Cause a couple of days ago, and finally stopped midway through it this morning. It’s a good, thorough refutation of a lot of the post-Civil War retconning of history, but it feels just a little too on-the-nose right now.

    So, I’ve switched over to re-reading Murderbot until I feel better/less tired.

    1. I am on a Murderbot loop. Even though I have lost count of how many times I have read them. And I read every word. There are no sections I gloss over.

      1. Isn’t it amazing how good they are even after twenty rereadings? There’s no part you can skip or skim over because every word tells. She’s just marvelous.

  10. I’m listening to “The Goblin Emperor”, very long listen. I remember thinking that if this didn’t pick up I wouldn’t last through about 16 hours of it, but it grew on me. I’ve become very fond of the young emperor and his associates. Although, as with the Ancillary series, the names are confusing if you don’t get to see them on the page.
    On Tuesday I was overwhelmed by life, domestic and national, and listened to the first Murderbot for the sixth time, which got me through a bad night.

  11. As previously posted, I finished a DeMarce and the Crusie Collection of seven books, and the first Murderbot Diary. This week I’ve laid out (lain out?) no less than eight never-been-read-by-me books. Three are from a series by Seanan McGuire, who I adore for her Velveteen Vs. series. But the ones I’m starting with are all from Eric Flint’s “Ring of Fire” universe.

    I’m 22 chapters deep into Uptime Pride and Downtime Prejudice by Huston. It’s doing a marvelous job of plastering the cracks left by other RoF novels while telling the story of an uptimer named Mary among the downtime Fugger family, the richest family in Europe. One thing Mary notes is that every other woman in the 1630s is named some variant of Mary Anne – Anna Maria, Maria Anna, Maryanna… it drives genealogists nuts. I think I’m getting to the good part. A count has already tried to ask Mary to marry him… badly. Despite turning him down, bluntly, she seems interested.

  12. I started my Loretta Chase re-read with ‘Miss Wonderful’, next up is ‘Mr Impossible’, then ‘Lord Perfect’.

    1. I finally read Miss Wonderful last year (after having read everything else in that series) and ended up liking it even though I’d suspected I would not.

      Not Quite A Lady I think is kind of the only dud in there. Not loving Darius, he’s kinda like a Vulcan.

      1. I love ‘Not Quite a Lady’! Find it funny, love the world – esp. doing up the house – and the heroine and the boy; don’t find Darius a dud, either.

  13. Oh !! My book club is tonight and we read Lisa Wingate’s ‘Before We Were Yours’.

    Truly a heart breaking book based on true events.

  14. I’ve always liked Willis’ Bellwether (I’m not certain about the spelling, it might be Bellweather) – it has sheep and a bubble gum snapping, utterly useless intern and some of the same manic energy as To Say Nothing of the Dog. I also like her older book of short stories, and made both kids read “Even the Queen” before they started menstruating. Because it is the best description of both the public attitudes towards it and also the private miseries everyone endures. And it is funny, which helps a lot.

  15. My Connie Willis suggestion is the short story “Even the Queen.”

    This week I began Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel. De Hamel chose 12 manuscripts, including the Book of Kells, visited each and explored it fully. His delight in manuscripts resembles a top notch interviewer revealing a famous person: de Hamel describes the manuscript’s current setting, delineates the look and character of the manuscript, and recounts its story. One tale reminds me of the Russian royal Anastasia who was believed to have survived the mass murder of her family. Another takes me back to a visit to St Paul’s in Jarrow (England) when I stood where Bede had worked, even in the light of the same Anglo-Saxon glass. Wonderful stuff.

  16. Finishing Meg Cabot’s No Offense, happy that Cabot hasn’t made any major gaffes in writing about a children’s librarian. Also happy to read a novel set in Key West, which I’ve visited, and which at this time of year is warmer and greener!

  17. I read Minor Mage by T Kingfisher. It was a fun read and then it just stopped. I actually shouted “What!” Where was my closure?

    I read the three dressmaker books by Lorett Chase .

    I also watched Bridgerton on Netflix. It was fun frothy stuff but who my goodness the sex scenes went on forever! I ended up fast forwarding through about 1/3 of one of the episodes. I just don’t have the voyeur gene.

    1. Oh, THANK you for sharing that. Because I have her Swordheart, Minor Mage shows up in my recommendations.

      1. It’s a what we call a To and Back book. He went and it was fun and interesting and he got back and it just stopped when he got back. I wanted to find out the reactions of the villagers. What did his mom do when she found out he left. All that type of stuff and it didn’t happen
        Just a yay we are home, the end.
        The ending didn’t bother my brother asich as it bothered me.

  18. Yesterday, two preordered books from two of my favourite authors uploaded to my kindle so of course I read them right away.
    I found Blood heir by Ilona Andrews underwhelming. I think it is because the romance just doesn’t advance at all in that book. You hardly see one of the supposed protagonists and he has an incredibly frustrating conversation with the heroine at the end where they sound about 12 even though they are supposed to have matured enormously since the last time they saw each other. Very frustrating. Further the action plot is not that interesting. Still, I will read the next one because I just love the Andrews’ humor and even their not so great books such as this one are enjoyable in parts.
    The other book I read was Sarina Bowen’s Roommate . She is incredibly prolific and of late I have found her books not so great. This one is part of her Vermont series and I really enjoyed it. The two protagonists were very sweet together, the conflict was very believable and their reactions neither over the top nor idiotic.

    1. Good to read that Roommate is better. I loved Bowen’s Ivy League books, but didn’t like the newer ones to a degree that I stopped reading them altogether.
      I’m curious if the excerpt of Roommate can seduce me over.

      1. I feel similarly, the Ivy League books were gripping but the Vermont ones (and most of the new adult hockey ones) were mostly pretty dull to really dull. I think I need more drama in order to care, and just tooling around Vermont eating really good food and going to farms is…yawn to me.

        1. If you liked early Bowen I strongly recommend you read her The Accidentals. Like, I am jumping up and down screaming at you how wonderful it is.
          It is not part of any series.

        2. But for me (a Frenchwoman living in the UK) Vermont is exotic!
          Saying that, I like some of them more than others. I especially liked Sophie and Jude.
          Of the Brooklyn hockey ones, my favourite is the one with Patrick.
          Can’t keep all the titles in my head but these guys stood out 🙂

          1. I liked the one about the billionaire, which boggles my mind because I don’t like billionaire stories. But she’d set him up so well in the previous books, and there was such a Cinderella quality to it, she got me with that one.

  19. I read In a Holidaze, which I loved. Normally Christina Lauren books are fun for me but not re-reads. But I loved the family, the heroine’s arc, and the hero so much I’ll definitely be re-reading this one.

    Does anyone have any recommendations for romances with older heroines? My mom just read Jasmine Guillory’s Christmas one and liked it. But when I said “Great, she’s written other stuff, but about younger women” my mom got kind of disappointed and said “Oh. That was the part I liked about this one.”

    1. Does your mum like fantasy because Lois Mac Masters Bujold’s Ista in ´Paladin of Souls’ is one of my favourite mature heroines.

      1. Sort of? She’s not a regular fantasy reader, but when fantasy pops up in more literary fiction (The Night Circus, Practical Magic) she always loves them.

        1. The heroes in both books – Paladin and Curse – are at first glance no alphas, but silently competent and nicely mature. So they don’t have problems with strong women even if those are regarded as crazy, like Ista.
          Gosh, I think that’s why I love Lois Bujold’s books – I’m not the biggest fan of your stereotypical alpha male (though they can be nice to read about). Spock over Kirk any time (iirc Bujold started out with Trekkie fanfic ;-))!!

    2. You may already have read Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones. The protagonist is young, but magically transformed into an old lady, which opens her eyes to what older people go through.

      But Jones also wrote another wonderful fantasy novel for adults, called A Sudden Wild Magic. There are various major characters, many of whom are witches living totally anonymously in Britain and helping to edge things in a positive direction for everyone there. There’s a glorious character in the book named Gladys, who’s so funny and smart and capable. She seems to be in her 60s or 70s — maybe even older. Again, the fantasy thing, but I think your mother might enjoy the book.

    3. Judith Flanders has some mysteries featuring Samantha Clair. They are a lot of fun. Sam must be in her thirties or forties. I can’t remember for sure.

  20. So per Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, I read Subversive by Colleen Cowley and then bought every other book the author has (all $2.99). It blew me away. I’m on to the second book now. I’d say to read the SB review:

    I just finished reading Across The Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire yesterday. If you were a Horse Girl, that one’s for you.

    I have bought a lot of popular ebooks right now, almost all of which have been mentioned here, hah.

    1. Ack! I did not realize that Green Grass Fields was out. I was a Horse Girl, from a long line of them. Now I know what I’m doing tonight!

  21. *drags out my Connie Willis collection to double-check story titles*

    If you’re looking for light-hearted, my ooh-ooh-THIS-ONE recommendation is the short story “deck.halls@bough/holly” from the collection A Lot Like Christmas. Fifty pages of delight, for me. Classic Willis near-future-ness with a romance sprinkled in. And I think it’s the correct length for that story – as much as I would have loved to spend more time in that world, I think the story is complete as it is.

    From the same collection, “Now Showing” is very good, as is “All Seated on the Ground.” (Others in the collection are great, but their endings are more complicated – not downers, necessarily, just complicated).

    And if you read “All Seated on the Ground” before “deck.halls@bough/holly,” there’s a tiny mention of previous characters that made me think, “Oh, I’m glad they’re doing well.”

    “At the Rialto,” from the collection Impossible Things, is also an upper for me. Romance intermingled with quantum physics and Hollywood and older characters.

    (I know short stories don’t feel right if you’re in the mood for a novel, but I think the only truly light-hearted, non-downer novels (of the ones that I’ve read) are Crosstalk, To Say Nothing of the Dog, and Bellwether).

  22. Well I’ve been rereading for comfort so nothing new from me. It was confirmed today that my contract will not be renewed next year. They are “restructuring” and eliminating my position. It’s possible one of the other Admin’s will get fed up and I would have the second job, but I’m not waiting for that to happen.

    Time to start job hunting in earnest.

    1. I’m sorry. I know you had mixed feelings about going back, but it’s always nicer when you get to be the one to make that decision, not them.

  23. I read nothing very interesting last week, except some re-reads.
    As for light reading – have you read Sharon Shinn’s old Archangel series? It is romantic fantasy with non-standard angels. Lyrical and unusual, very well written, with nothing gritty or dark. I love all the books in the series, but my favorites are Archangel and Angel-Seeker.

    1. I love Sharon Shinn’s Archangel series – almost as much as I love her Mystic and Rider series.

    2. Also love, though Jovah’s Angel and The Alleluia Files are my favorites in that. I love the whole mystery behind it all.

  24. I read Artistic License by Elle Pierson, who also writes the London Celebrities series as Lucy Parker. Set in her native New Zealand it’s a romance about a shy, asthmatic art student who witnesses a crime (a heist? No ones quite sure) at a gallery opening and an security consultant whose job was to secure said opening. He is known for being big and ugly but she only thinks of his face as being ‘dramatic’. He’s the black sheep (or white sheep, depending on how you look at it) of a rich and well-connected family and her’s raises sheep and grows grapes. It’s pretty good.

    I also read Bone Canyon by Lee Goldberg. The second Eve Ronin mystery, after Lost Hills. In Lost Hills Eve wangles her way into a detective position with the Lost Hills division of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which has been mired in scandal after much misconduct has been revealed. She becomes a celebrity after a viral video is posted of her taking down and arresting a famous actor who is attempting to beat up his wife in public. She is in no way expirienced enough for the position and gets partnered up with a guy who is only counting the days until his retirement. He turns out to be indifferent to her, which is good because everyone else in the department hates her.

    In Bone Canyon the recent wildfires have burned the brush in the canyon revealing multiple skeletons that had been trapped in the brush for years. Investigating these gets Eve into further trouble.

    I really enjoyed Lost Hills and Bone Canyon was an excellent follow up. There’s a third book scheduled for October and I’m really looking forward to it.

  25. Reading Stephanie Laurens ‘Lady Osbaldestones’s Christmas Intrigue’ because i need something winter, light, happy and short.

  26. No book recs, but this, which I liked a lot.

    Today’s scribbling on friends – after listening to the lovely Michael Pedersen talk about how friendships are also romances, and also after re-watching all Star Wars with my kid whilst really missing my friends! x


    though i have never snogged you sober
    or with serious intent
    you are still the greatest
    romances of my life

    if i were romeo, my friends
    and you were juliet
    there is no way that play
    would have ended as it did

    i would have known
    without you telling me
    the poison were a trick
    and if you were

    anakin, my friends
    and i was pregnant padmé
    we would have talked our feelings through
    you would not have joined the dark side

    you would not have spent forty years
    stuck inside that mask
    heavy breathing into plastic
    and if you were

    rose and i were jack
    i would have made space
    on that bloody raft
    because there was a bit of space

    we would have grabbed onto the front
    feet dangling off the end
    and sixty years afterwards
    when someone asked us if there’s any chance

    we could remember just a snippet
    of our time aboard the ship
    if we knew ‘anything at all
    about a giant diamond necklace?’

    we would have shook our heads in unison
    blamed our older age
    the interest from the sale of it
    still growing in our bank accounts
    for our yearly trips to Spain.

    1. To clarify, the link is the lazy accreditation, this is not my work!
      Just sharing because it’s great.

  27. I read the third in a quirky mystery series by Tamara Berry, Curses are for Cads, and really enjoyed it.

    Then I read Susan Wiggs’ new book, The Lost and Found Bookshop. It started out sad and a bit tough, but it was well worth getting through the beginning to have the rest of the book. Very satisfying romance, and a wonderful ending. Highly recommended.

  28. ‘Shining in the Sun’ by Alex Beecroft, M/M contemporary, angsty and conflict-filled but nicely resolved. ‘The Stonecutter Earl’s First Christmas’ by Adella J. Harris. Regency-ish M/M novella, a Pygmalion story. ‘A Guy Walks Into My Bar’ by Lauren Blakely, M/M contemporary, would make a great rom-com except R-rated.

    ‘The Case of the Lazy Lover’ by Erle Stanley Gardner, my first Perry Mason; liked it. ‘Unclaimed’ by Courtney Milan, M/F historical with a Big Lie plot device. ‘A Sound Beginning’ by Jeff Adams, short M/M novella set in San Francisco, not much to it but a pleasant diversion.

    ‘Again’ by Kathleen Gilles Seidel, M/F about a soap writer and an actor on her show. Worked great on the mechanics of daytime TV, not so much as a romance. Both MCs were really likable in their own way, and you could see how there could (maybe should?) be a great love there, but I didn’t think what was on the page led to that conclusion. ‘Off Base’ by Annabeth Albert, M/M contemporary featuring a young Navy SEAL and a math professor. A coming-out story that I found well-paced, with realistic conflicts, and a relationship I could imagine succeeding for the long term.

    In other entertainment, we watched two documentaries: ‘Somm: Into the Bottle’ and ‘Scotch: A Golden Dream,’ both of which drove me to drink. 🙂

  29. I think it was here that some people mentioned they would like some books where the protagonists weren’t young, but at least middle-aged?

    I recently read the fantasy trilogy of Tanyth Fairport adventures by Nathan Lowell; the first one is called Ravenwood. They’re not available on Kobo, only on Kindle.
    A bit more bad stuff happens than in the Solar Clipper series, but it ends well. The protagonist is a grumpy, hard-headed and practical menopausal woman, who is going through some changes in her life – a refreshing change from all the young heroes and heroines, coming of age and romantic drama, I found.
    Not as lighthearted/funny as The Wizard’s butler, more reminiscent of the Shaman’s tales than of the Solar Clipper series.
    There’s hardly any romance in them, they are more shortish fantasy adventure stories (not wildly fantastical, but they definitely belong in that genre), so I’m not sure if people here would like them.
    The first finishes OK so you can try it as a standalone, the three together bring the search for answers to an end.

    1. On that topic, Martha Wells also has The Wheel of the Infinite which features an older priestess as the primary POV characters. It’s a standalone, not part of a series.

      1. The heroine of Swordheart is not young. And while she is not the heroine there is an older woman who is a role model for us all in Paladins Grace

    1. I never read Elsie Lee. Looked her up on Goodreads, and I’d definitely want to try her. Unfortunately, she is not available at our library and her books cost ridiculous amounts on amazon. One of them was like $156.00 for a paperback????

      1. Try, I’ve never borrowed books from them, but they have some Elsie Lee books available

      2. I love Elsie Lee. Her Regencies are 1) comedies of manners, and 2) NOT Georgette Heyer knock-offs, although I’ve spotted an occasional historical error.

        Her Gothics and contemporary romances are slightly more sophisticated than the average, even now when they’re more than fifty years old.

        Her cookbooks are especially good, and one of my top company entrées is still her Chicken in Champagne Sauce from ELSIE LEE’S PARTY COOKBOOK. Guests all but lick the plate. If they don’t, the cats do! Probably a sign that the cats aren’t as sophisticated as they might be.

        You might check Thriftbooks for used copies at less than ruinous prices.

        THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, MUSCLE BEACH PARTY, and THE BLOOD RED OSCAR can safely be ignored. Also, though Wikipedia doesn’t list it, her bio of Henry Cabot Lodge, unless you’re a political history buff.

  30. Started Ilona Andrews’s Blood Heir and it kept my attention for a couple chapters, which is more than I can say for any other (non-Murderbot) book I’ve tried in months. Fingers crossed for the rest.

  31. This is totally off topic (I am not claiming a tweet is even a very small book) but this group will appreciate this:

    With one carefully selected word Maggie Haberman won Twitter today.

    “The guy who flew a confederate flag predictably surrendered.”

  32. I just started “Murder in Old Bombay” by Nev March. It takes place in India in 1892 and the protagonist is an Ango-Indian retired Army Captain hired to investigate the murder of two young Parsee women. I’m only about a third of the way in, but I’m enjoying the amount of cultural setting included in the story. I find myself wanting to know what happens next. That doesn’t always happen for me, so I’m pleased to find a book that’s engaging my interest.

  33. THE BOOK OF LOST FRIENDS, by Lisa Wingate, is based on stories from actual “Lost Friends” advertisements that appeared in Southern newspapers after the Civil War, as newly freed slaves desperately searched for loved ones who had been sold away. This is the next book club selection, and looks promising. Seems to be a part-Reconstruction Era, part contemporary, viewpoints switching back and forth. I find that’s hard to do well.

  34. How about The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold? For some reason I often pick them up after reading Connie Willis.

      1. Me too !!! In fact I have the original paperback. The type is very small & the pages are dark.

  35. I don’t know if anyone will see it down here 😉 , but “Apples Should Be Red” by Penny Watson is a really charming romance with older protagonists. Novella length.

  36. My favorites by Willis are To Say Nothing of the Dog and All Seated on the Ground. After that, Epiphany which is a Christmas short story.

    I read Ilona Andrews’ Blood Heir all day yesterday, fabulous book, great spinoff of the Kate Daniels series. I had it Tuesday when it released but this was a busy week so it took until yesterday to finish.

  37. You could try Jodi Taylor’s Just One Damned Thing After Another which is very reminiscent of Connie Willis’s time travel books, with a strong female protagonist and stuffed full of snark. It’s the first book in a series (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s) and there must be a dozen books, with titles like What Could Possibly Go Wrong? and An Argumentation of Historians. I’m just getting started on them.

    I also second Black Out and All Clear, though they’re not as light as To Say Nothing Of The Dog.

    1. I just finished book 11 in Taylor’s St. Mary’s series and now have to wait for book 12 to be released. I’ve gotten really attached to the characters and my sleep has suffered because I kept starting the next one right after finishing the last. I’ve been recommending them to everyone I talk to.

  38. I’ve been reading and lurking in Good Book Thursdays forever, but this time I will actually comment. Followed someone’s rec to read Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall and it was good fun with genuinely interesting characters. And I’ll throw in a recommendation for Olivia Atwater’s Half a Soul, which is a fantasy romance mystery with a girl who has (you guessed it) half a soul. For readers who liked Patricia Wrede.

      1. Thanks! I love your books (all awesome but I have a soft spot for Cranky Agnes) and this community you’ve built. 🙂

  39. I’m reading Mark Forsyth’s ’The Elements of Eloquence’. It’s a library book, but I’m thinking I might have to buy it. I’m only a little way into it so far, but it’s funny as well as interesting. From the chapter on alliteration:

    ‘You can spend all day trying to think of some universal truth to set down on paper, and some poets try that. Shakespeare knew that it’s much easier to string together some words beginning with the same letter. It doesn’t matter what it’s about. It can be the exact depth in the sea to which a chap’s corpse has sunk; hardly a matter of universal interest, but if you say, “Full fathom five thy father lies”, you will be considered the greatest poet who ever lived. Express precisely the same thought any other way – e.g. “your father’s corpse is 9.144 metres below sea level” – and you’re just a coastguard with some bad news.’

    I LOVE this book.

    1. This reminds me of Bill Bailey taking the mick out of The Killers lyrics ‘i’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier’ which he decided was the equivalent of ‘I’ve got ham but I’m not a hamster’.

      Not knocking The Killers, mind.

  40. I just noticed this, a good regency romance by one of my favorite authors is FREE for a limited time:

    John Fitzhugh Wyckerly has been the spare heir all his life, supporting himself with gambling and charm. The news that he’s inherited the bankrupt title of Earl of Danecroft shatters his indolent world. Even penniless, he’s always paid his debts, but now the estate’s creditors are closing in. He can fake his death and run for cover…or accept overwhelming responsibility and find a rich wife–one who will also accept his illegitimate terror of a daughter.

    On his way to find an heiress, he meets Abigail Merriweather, who is neither rich or aristocratic, but she can tame The Terror and stomp cockroaches. Unfortunately, she needs a wealthy, powerful man who will fight her father’s executor and retrieve her four half-siblings. When an unexpected inheritance falls into Abby’s lap, she sets out for London to seek a lawyer.

    Can Fitz charm his practical Abby into trusting him to save her siblings when it’s doubtful that he can even save himself? And can Abby surrender reason and logic for the folly of love offered by a man who can have any woman he wants but insists he wants only her?

  41. I finished Mark Huston’s Uptime Pride and Downtime Prejudice last night and suffered an attack of the chortles. Chortles from me sound annoyingly like giggles and are related to “Laughing Out Loud,” which I abbreviate LA for “Laughing Aloud.” That way, I cover volume and permission, sort of.

    ANYway, I liked it, muchly. Did I mention that the love interest is a billionaire Count? Wealth and entitlement are not factors that endear me to a particular romance, but… it worked. Also, I know better in the “Ring of Fire” universe, or should.
    – A half-dozen girls in what became known as the Barbie Consortium get ennobled to Imperial Princesses of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (formerly the Holy Roman Empire). They were already millionaires because they sold their Barbie Dolls and invested the profits.
    – A downtimer (a camp follower, Gretchen Richter) marries a poor uptimer to provide for her family and falls in love. It’s a surprise to them both. She also becomes the Revolutionary-in-Chief of the Committees of Correspondence, until the Emperor (of the United States of Europe, not Austria Hungary) co-opts her. She is elected, democratically, Prime Minister of Saxony, but then appointed Lady Protector of Silesia. She still loves her husband, who has worked his way up to Colonel or possibly General.
    – Then there was DeMarce’s Designed to Fail, in which the Duke, son of the King of Denmark, falls in lust at first sight with Die Richterin’s little sister, Annalise. Fred is on an allowance, which he’s been spending to run the province because he hasn’t yet received a farthing in taxes. Annalise is almost as wealthy as a Barbie because a cousin-in-law is an investing genius. Duke Fred is a very good Lutheran, and all good Lutherans know that one of the four purposes of marriage is to alleviate lust.
    – Noelle Murphee/Stuell is an agent of the tax bureau, I think. Several books later she’s married to a Hungarian Compte. There’s some politics involved, whereby King Wallensein appoints her countess of the Compte’s lands because his army is conquering them and this way it stays in the family.
    Had enough?
    – A “loser” (Bernie Zeppi) from Grantville is hired by Prince Gorchacov of Russia as a walking dictionary/interpreter of uptime English and Tech. He gets ennobled and married to Princess Natalia (nicknamed Natasha). Back in Grantville, Prince Gorchacov gets permission from the Czar to marry Brandy Bates, a former redneck bar girl. She, of course, has to convert to Russian Orthodoxy and learn Russian. Natasha is running a think tank and test facility on the Gorchacov estates. Her contact with the government is Boris. Boris and Natasha. Bernie laughs aloud. A lot.

    There may have been other Royal/Wealthy/Romances (one of the Barbie’s sister marries Prince von Lichtenstein, but she made her own fortune), but these are enough to make a point. I have no idea what point it makes.

  42. My to-be-read list, so carefully transferred to the littlest Kindle, is not keeping my attention. I can sense and state that under other circumstances, most of the Ring of Fire books would at least keep me reading. The revolution in Spanish North America should be riveting… not today.

    I turned to my Crusie directory and asked, “What haven’t I read recently enough to quote it back to the book?” What sprang out was Flirting With Pride and Prejudice. So I started reading, and the material, while familiar, wasn’t boring. More, it added pleasure to that list of stories or excerpts or observations… whatever the heck my last post was full of, about modern women making matches with 17th century nobles.

    A recurring theme is that some downtimers regard all the Americans as members of the upper class. They don’t behave in a subservient fashion, they don’t bow and scrape, “They dinna knew ther place, ya ken?” Some of the uptimers are perfectly capable of making practical matches, but they expect some degree of compatibility.

    When DeMarce writes about Duke Frederick negotiating with Annalise Richterin, he’s not dealing with an uptimer. He’s arranging to be wedded to a moderately wealthy downtimer who has read all the Harlequin romances brought back to the 1630s.. I can’t wait for a sequel.

  43. Allanah, I approve your rewrite restyling. You carried me along with a smile on my face.
    I just started Wingate’s LOST FRIENDS, also for book club, and so far she has written enslaved American voices and historical documents, “Lost” ads in newspapers from people seeking sold family, spot on. Also verbal repetition, chants from parent to child. to remember their name and the names of family and place. I look forward to reading further.
    Ditto the critic above for reading of Bujold’s older Chalion lead characters who appear to be cringers but reveal themselves as charge-takers when chance occurs. She echoes that trope to a nicety in secondary plot romances. And ditto Bellwether and happy chance causative factor chaos theory. Watch for the one who moves the movers.
    Highly rec Helen Simonson MAJOR PETTIGREW’S LAST STAND older adult romance, serendipitously anti-racist. Audio by Peter Altshuler (Oldschool, gotta love it).
    I’m back to comfort listening to Naomi Novik show the dragon Temeraire and his captain Will Lawrence as they rewrite world history, book by book, watching Will discard standards and false manners on each continent, and watching Temeraire in his brilliant naiveté challenge the logical fallacies of human justice and morality. Simon Vance reinforces my fangirl love of his narration.
    I recommended MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE MANUSCRIPTS to my library. The author’s spoken words are worth a listen, and he reminds the listener that IF you did not buy the text, then images of the mss are readily available on line.
    Bright Brigid, ancient goddess of change, to you all.

  44. I reread Mary Stewart’s Wildfire at Midnight. It’s the only book she regretted publishing; she’d tried to write a country house-type closed in mystery. She didn’t say why she was disappointed in the book.

    I think it’s because she didn’t give the male love interest enough lines and the right lines. I agree with Jenny that the romance in many Stewart stories is mostly supplied in the reader’s head (I advocate that My Brother Michael is the exception, but the reader has to pay attention). In Wildfire at Midnight, Nicholas, lead Gianetta’s ex, is extremely snarky. Because Stewart wants the reader as well as Gianetta to suspect Nicholas of being the murderer, Nicholas isn’t given any good guy moments. At the end Gianetta is so glad he wasn’t the murderer that she forgives him everything even when he is willing to take a well-deserved slap in the face. I’m left wondering if the remarriage will perhaps founder. Except for this: I’ve always been so attracted to Nicholas that even as a 7th grader I knew I would keep him in line after getting the new marriage license. I don’t know where that stands in writing success/failure.

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