This is a Good Book Thursday, January 28, 2021

I’ve got a trio of non-fiction books on writing in my TBR list, two old and one new, and now that I think of it, there were two other books on horror fiction I wanted to read, so I’ve got those. And a great site, the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction, which is a less-addictive TV Tropes, assuming you like dictionaries, which I do.

What did you read this week?

106 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, January 28, 2021

  1. That dictionary sounds great. I read a while back Jo Walton’s What makes this book so great which is about all the SF books she loves to reread and it made me read many classics I had never read before.
    As for what I have been reading, well, I have continued rereading Sharon Shinn and enjoying her prickly heroines and steadfast heroes. I have just finished rereading the angel books which I enjoyed enormously this fifth, sixth? Who knows? I am not counting, time round. I have read them in publication order rather than chronological order and it worked very nicely. I am now contemplating what to read next. Probably Heart of Gold.

  2. I’m horribly bad at reading at the moment. My attention span is nill. Even though I’ve got great titles on the tbr pile.

    The reason for this might be, that at the moment I’m quite addicted to a fascinating docu-series on youtube (thanks to its algorithm for suggesting me this 😉

    It’s “Supervet” about Dr. Noel Fitzpatrick (a “crazy Irishman” according to his colleagues, said admiringly).
    What this genius achieves to help cats, dogs, rabbits, turtles, penguins and whatever creature tame or wild has serious problems is absolutely amazing. This man is a innovator for sure. And a compassionate one.

  3. I finished Loretta Chase’s Dressmaker series. The last book ws my favourite! Now I’m reading The Book of Eels. It’s not for everyone so I won’t recommend it …but who knew that Sigmund Freud spent a year dissecting eels??

    Started reading M/M historical romance The Lion and the Crow but it made me yawn so I banished it back to Kindle Unlimited without finishing.

    Have been compulsively (is that redundant?) re-reading Cat Sebastian’s M/M Soldier’s Scoundrel, probably her most popular and certainly one of her top three. Favourite line: “The man was muscled like a Greek statue of a angry, brutal god. Not Apollo or anyone half so well-behaved, but rather the sort of god who spent his time at a forge or smiting enemies.” That line makes me smile to read every time.

    1. Cat Sebastian couldn’t call that god Hephaistos, could she 🙂 He might be THE angry smithy of a Greek God, but he definitely wasn’t handsome, with his own mother Hera tossing him down from Olympus at first sight… poor chap!

    2. Vixen in Velvet is my favorite dressmaker, too. Who else but Leonie would find ledgers sexy?

      1. No my favourite is Dukes Prefer Blondes – it’s an end to the series although it’s about Clara who technically is not one of the dressmakers.

      2. She had the most unsettled life of the three, and numbers are reliable and consistent and never let you down, they just are. I understand Leonie.

  4. I am still in a historical kick, so I read KJ Charles’ The Band Sinister. It was great.

    Then I started the Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan. I am having a hard time getting into it, but I am sure that it will be good. Part of it is me and the craziness that is my life at the moment and part of it, I think, is that it doesn’t follow the comforting format that I subconsciously expect from a historcal romance. It doesn’t feel like one. It feels more like a fantasy set up in a slightly different version of a familiar world.

      1. It’s much lighter than a lot of her books but I did enjoy it. And it’s got substance it’s just not grim.

        1. PS her latest, The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting is, I think, even better. Fluffy and trophy, but more like good chocolate with crunchy caramel bits than pure candyfloss. I recommend it!

          1. Ah, she let people put their names forward for a limited number of ARCs though Facebook and I got lucky. I thought it was out Jan 24th, but it’s Feb. Definitely worth the pre-order, I really liked it. It’s more Heyer-esque than Band Sinister I think, complete with tangles. The characters are not what they seem, the writing is typically good, and overall it was wonderful.

    1. I had to muscle through the first part of ‘Duke Who Didn’t’ – the heroine’s extreme anxiety made me anxious. Then a couple really good conversations happen and the love story begins to flow. 🙂

  5. I started the week with a reread of Network Effect because I was having a difficult time and needed to de-stress. I love all of the Murderbot series, but my favorite scene is when Murderbot realizes what ART has done just for him. I find myself looking forward to it from the first page.

    I am now reading The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty. I am about 2/3 of the way through it and it has been wonderful so far. It is fantasy world building, the first of 3 books and I’m praying for a strong ending because I’m very excited to have 2 more books about this world.

    On a funny side note, my iPhone has decided that I need a timed reading goal. Seriously? I need a timed reading limit, not a goal.

    1. My iPad does that, too. “Congratulations, you met your reading goal this week” and it’s something like five hours even though the iPad has my Kindle app. No idea what that’s about.

      1. Part of the latest iOS. Doesn’t apply to any of us! On the other hand my FitBit keeps thinking I’m napping when I’m reading. It thinks I get lots of sleep!

    2. I find this ironic, because it is my computer that has been seriously cutting into my reading time

    3. My kindle app on android does that sometimes. I don’t know whether to feel pissed off at its patronising tone or roll my eyes because I definitely need a reading limit instead of a goal. I think this week I read more hours than I slept, oops.

  6. In true word nerd fashion, I have enjoyed this week –


    I’m also enjoying THE VANISHING BOX by Elly Griffiths. I’m not done with it yet. I think I know who the murderer is, but not why. I also just plain enjoy the characters and I also really enjoy the love triangle. Which is interesting, b/c I usually hate love triangles, but I like that both women have a level of respect for each other.

    1. I just purchased Word By Word for my husband for Valentine’s Day. Thank you. I did not want to go shopping and had no idea what to get him but he is a word nerd and this should appeal.

      1. Jessie, he might also enjoy Mark Forsyth’s book, ’The Elements of Eloquence’. 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. Yeah, but he missed some stuff, like the beautiful rhythm there. “She sells seashells by the seashore” alliterates but it ain’t Shakespeare. “Peter Piper picked a pack of pickled pepper” isn’t nearly as good as “It is a truth universally acknowledged . . .”

  7. I came rather unstuck with Victoria Goddard. I still think ‘The Hands of the Emperor’ is great, if overlong, but the sequel – only a third of the length – while it began well, didn’t go anywhere. Just one incident after another; quite fun, but seriously in need of structure. And I discovered that there are other books in this world, including at least one prequel to ‘The Hands of the Emperor’, which I’m really glad I didn’t know about, since one of the strengths of that book was the mysterious character of the emperor.

    It’s frustrating, since she writes really well, creates characters you want to spend time with, and has values I appreciate; plus she’s funny. But she seriously needs to learn how to be ruthless in editing her first drafts.

    I still recommend ‘The Hands of the Emperor’ as a standalone, if you don’t mind a meandering tale. It’s a lovely place to hang out.

    Read a dud after that, and am now rereading ‘Boyfriend Material’ by Alexis Hall: great fun.

    Also (amazingly) read a good book for the day job: a history of architecture and energy (mostly the energy required to build things) – ‘Architecture: From Prehistory to Climate Emergency’ by Barnabas Calder; due out from Penguin in June.

    1. Making a note of the architecture and energy book. I thought it sounded interesting when you were first talking about it.

    2. I think there’s another bit of the emperor’s story coming. And a follow up to Hands. I’m reading the Greenwing and Dart books now which are fun. I like her world and characters a lot, so I’m happy meandering around trying to connec the pieces 😀

      1. I’ll probably go for the next one focusing on Cliopher; and will try the others. I do love her world and characters; just frustrated that she strings the stories out so much.

  8. I haven’t posted anything here for a few weeks because I have found it almost impossible to get into a book. I have mostly been sticking to re-re-re-reads. But this week I read something new (to me) and enjoyed it immensely: A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. Interestingly, I bought this book years ago and DNF’ed it after a few chapters. I just couldn’t get into it. But this time, everything clicked. It is a very character-driven novel, and the characters are so interesting. She has the best conceptualisations of different planetary species that I have read in a long time, and a multi-species cast of characters that really care about connecting to and understanding each others’ unique cultures. I loved it.

    1. The follow-ups in the Wayfarers series are good, too. Each of her books explores a different world and different people. The only one I didn’t like was her most recent, which isn’t linked to the others at all, but is rather a polemic on the virtues of space exploration (‘To Be Taught, If Fortunate’).

    2. I liked it too, best of all her books. I thought I discovered a new favorite, but then Chambers disappointed me. The quality of her books went gradually down afterwards (at least they did for me). I completely disliked her latest one.

  9. I read Boyfriend Material after so many recommendations here and am so glad I did, funny and heartfelt.

    I also read Frederica by Georgette Heyer. I love the little brother, Felix, and his many adventures.

    1. I adore Frederica, as a book and a character. I also loved the stern butler: “The Animal did not bite me, sir.”

  10. I read K.B. Wagers’ A Pale Light in the Black, a delightful space opera with romantic sub-plots, and with descriptions of fights that I can actually visualize clearly, a rare thing. Liked it enough to go start the previous series, unrelated (I think; haven’t got the book yet) to this one.
    Finishing my reread of Murderbot, who also describes fights perfectly understandably.

  11. I look forward to good book Thursdays–I have found new-to-me authors like Jenny Colgan, Jodi Taylor, Katie Fforde, and Trisha Ashley, whose books I’ve enjoyed so much.

    This week I read Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen, which was also recommended here. Except for Janet Evanovich, I don’t usually read mysteries, but I enjoyed this author’s voice, and it was a fun read.

  12. Sometimes it seems like everyone is in the middle of, or having just finished, a Murderbot Diaries re-read. I’m part of that crowd. Plus, counting instances of eye-rolling and smirking.

    I haven’t finished anything else I started last week. OTOH, Harmon is snippeting book 9 of the Wearing the Cape series, and it looks promising.

    After Christmas, I mentioned the dotter giving me a night-light. I found it on Amazon, and it’s not a night-light. It’s “LOTOS Star Trek Battleship 3D Optical Illusion Multi-colored Change Touch Botton Desk Lamp Table Light” Whatever, I use it as a night-light. 🙂

    1. Eyerolling: this time (for the first time) I noticed Murderbot saying something about ART rolling its non-existent eyes. No smirking, though.

  13. I am proud because I have been reading new things! A mystery, a fantasy and a romance. The fantasy is part of a series, so there was an end point – sort of. The mystery was so-so, just not all that well written. The romance was acceptable.

    You will not be shocked to hear I am going back to tried and true again. I appreciate all the suggestions from people here, so I occasionally feel the need to mention why I am not helping the process.

    1. Argh is a guilt-free space. You don’t have to contribute, but you’re always welcome.
      Also, you contribute plenty so, really, no guilt.

    2. You are hardly the only one here who has been on a rereading binge! It will be interesting to see if I feel more adventurous in my reading now that He Who Should Not Be Named is out of office.

  14. On the third book of my re-read of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series: H.M.S. Surprise. I love these books.

  15. The one up-side to my dear, darling husband deciding that my putting a very tiny screw into the cabinet during the Adventures in Tip Out Tray-ing with a manual screwdriver was too slow and needing to step in with the drill and do it (even after I told him that there was no room for the drill and the screwdriver bit because there was barely room for the very thin drill bit) and therefore stripping the hell out of the screw because he couldn’t get the bit in straight was that I got to listen to my audio book, a YA horror called Asylum by Madeline Roux, for an extra hour or so while I removed the stripped screw and invented new swear words. Many of them involved the word Husband.

    I should probably have my keyboard taken away for that run-on sentence.

    1. I find that run-ons are very good for communicating moments of overwhelming emotion: passion, rage, etc.

  16. I tried another of the Selena Montgomery (Stacey Abrams) romances, but I just couldn’t get into it. This was a surprise, because I love listening to her speak, so I think I’ll stick to her political writings from now on. Rather more satisfying was A Duke, the Lady and a Baby by Vanessa Riley It was pleasant, but didn’t stick with me very long once I’d finished reading it.

  17. Now that it’s in my head I’m coming across more and more eye rolling in my reads and sometimes a smirk or two. Very funny!

    Sunday is the last day with my current KU two year contract before I renew. So I looked back at what I had read over the last few years. It seems I have a thing for bad boys and it doesn’t matter if they are rich or not. I know I don’t like dark stories they’re too grim, but my guys have to have bit of humor to balance their shenanigans. Also, when I first picked up KU I read a lot of magazines, now not so much, I think it was all the advertising and I’d like the actual magazine.

    I haven’t finished anything lately, but my husband is a few pages away from the end of Troubled Waters by Robert Galbraith. He takes breaks in between that behemoth to nap.

  18. Prince of Secrets and The Court of Mortals by A.J. Lancaster turned up in my letterbox yesterday, so I’ve been reading those. I’m halfway into Prince of Secrets already, and loving it – I’d been nervous about whether it would hook me as much as the first book in the series did, but I was worried for nothing. I love Hetta’s conversation with her cousin about deflowering, and Wyn is everything I want a hot butler with secrets to be.

  19. Taking my time reading The Dressmakers Series. I hven’t read Loretta Chase in years and it’s good to rediscover her.

    Otherwise, my reading is all political stuff. Some of it is interesting.

  20. I read Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews (put the next one in the series on hold at the library), The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs. The first two were recommendations found here–thanks ya’ll.

    Every week I jot down an author/publication to check out from the comments here. Must take better care of myself; it’s a long list.

    1. I’m working on Magic Burns as well. Usually I don’t reread that series because it gets dark and I am all about the comfort, but Blood Heir fixed some things for me so I want to go through from the beginning again. I love the snarky voice.

  21. Have read a book a day the past week. Two of them were novellas (and one a re-read) so it’s not as impressive as it sounds. 🙂

    Noteworthy M/F historical, ‘Fair as a Star’ by Mimi Matthews. 1860s-set small-town romance featuring the local curate, his brother (the local lord), and the lord’s fiancee, with whom of course the curate is in love. She suffers from depression which I thought was handled well. Various small dramas play out, resulting in the correct two people getting married. A sweet book with a very lovable hero.

    Noteworthy M/M contemporary, ‘Prince Charming’ by Sean Ashcroft. Picked this up as part of my self-indulgent holiday-themed-books binge and just now got to it. It’s good! Two adorable MCs and a Good Father, plus so many tropes, so smoothly interwoven, that I kind of had to applaud. My first from this author so I’m delighted to have enjoyed it so much, now I have another backlist to devour.

  22. Finished Hench and Midnight Bargain, both part of this year’s Canada Reads fun competition. Highly recommend both of them. Both are sort of fantasy/sf, the first is about a temp assisting super villains, and the second is a Regency of sorts with a heroine would rather stay single and practice magic.
    I’ll be looking at the other three books soon.

    (Yes, that’s the pilot from The Mandalorian holding Hench.)

  23. Read a lot in the past 10 days or so:

    Elizabeth von Arnim’s The Enchanted April was delightful, by turn lyrical and hilarious. The novel was first published in 1922, but I never read it before. What a pleasant discovery. Thanks to the people who recommended it here.

    Mercedes Lackey’s 2014 Valdemar anthology No True Way was OK. Sometimes, I have a yearning for short stories, and this collection worked.

    Jayne Ann Krentz’s Promise not to Tell was a reread but it read like new. I didn’t remember the plot and for some reason didn’t write a review when I read it first in 2018. It was a satisfying and absorbing thriller with a dash of romance. Loved it.

    Jayne Castle’s Bridal Jitters was the first Castle’s story set on Harmony, a futuristic romance novella first published in 1999. It was a quick and easy read. Lots of sex. Nothing to remember about the plot or the characters in a day or two.

    Connie Willis’s Take a Look at the Five and Ten was a charming Christmas novella about love plus a bit of sci-fi stuff. Very short – took only a couple of hours to finish.

    I’m now reading The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff and surprisingly enjoying it. I’m not much for historical fiction, but this book hits all the right notes for me.

    1. Sutcliff is a wonderful author! A very dry voice and yet so compelling!
      Eagle is the start of a trilogy, loosely connected: Silver branch is the next one and Lantern Bearers the third. The main protagonists are descendants of Marcus, the hero on Eagle.

      Those books are keepers for sure. It’s not so lomg ago that i tried to track down as many of Sutcliffs titles as I could find.
      I wish my kids had any interest in discovering my bookshelves… I raided my parents bookshelves back in the time and loved it. Alas, no iPad and no mobile phones but plenty of time…

      1. The EAGLE books (not written as a series, but connected by the emerald dolphin ring):
        DAWN WIND
        SWORD SONG

        I especially love THE ARMOURER’S HOUSE.

    2. I saw the film Enchanted April a long time ago so I am fuzzy about the plot (just that a group of women go to Italy on vacation). I will have to find the book.

  24. Read another Merci Thompson book, this time she’s in Europe. My friend that recently passed away recommended that series to me, and I thought, “I’ll call Beth and we can talk about the book,” before I remembered.

    1. There is a sub-series set in that world about Anna and Charles, and I like it much better than the Mercy books. It starts with the novella Alpha and Omega.

      1. I feel the same way. I love Mercy / Adam, but there’s something more primal / fun about Charles / Anna that I really dig. I’ve just re-read all of them. Again.

  25. I read and enjoyed Blood Heir, so this week I’ve reread my way through almost all of Ilona Andrews’ back list. And I’ve found a few short stories I hadn’t found before. Not sure why I’m so keen on their books. Most of their worlds sound like an awful place to live, but I love them anyway, especially the Kate Daniels ones.

  26. I finished Blood Heir and liked it, though it definitely feels like sequel bait.

    I also reread Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, which reminded me of how enjoyable that is. I hope the TV show does it justice eventually.

  27. I’ve been re-reading; I tried three new things and was so meh about them, I gave up, which I almost never do. I don’t ding the authors here–I think it’s me. So I went back and re-read the Alpha & Omega series, after reading Blood Heir (Ilona Andrews) and really enjoying it. Now I’m back to Murderbot, which… how on *earth* did I not know there was a book 6? I’ve seen everyone discussing it and I knew I was going to circle back, but I somehow missed that there was a book six and life is now wonderful, because I have something familiar (Murderbot) but new (new Murderbot). Plus, we found out that the big job we were pretty sure we have is actually going to happen this time. (I cannot tell you how many times it’s been postponed and almost did me in from the stress of it all.) So work. whew. (Construction.)

      1. OH, I just saw it on Amazon, I didn’t click on it yet, thinking I was going to do that today. Dammit. That was me being tired and dumb. I was thinking it was out already. GRRRRR.

  28. I discovered in my most recent reread of Murderbot (which must begin at the beginning and go to the end–no picking up one of the middle books and reading it separately), that if I start Network Effect, I have to either be prepared to read until the initial resolution of the big blow, or just read the very first part up to the point when they get back to the ship. No matter how tired I am, I have to keep going until [SPOILER that everyone who has read Network Effect will understand].

    I read several Loretta Chase short stories/novellas. She’s new to me. Somehow I had confused her with another author who turned out to be overly Christian for me. (It doesn’t take much.) I have a couple of her books on the hold list at the library.

    Last on the list was the Goblin Emperor, which I liked, though again I had a really hard time remembering who all the characters were. At least there was a glossary at the end so I could read up! That is one book that I would read again but on a Kindle so I could search back and forth for the names. One of its big selling points was that it was clear from fairly early on that he was going to mostly make good choices so I wasn’t constantly worrying.

    On the nonreading front, I kept seeing tweets about the Great Pottery Throwdown on British Twitter and getting annoyed that it wasn’t available in the US, but it turns out that the first 3 seasons are on HBO Max. Same company that developed the Great British Bake Off, so much of the same energy. Very much enjoying it!

  29. My less-than-thrilling week has featured ANYONE BUT YOU — I always enjoy rereading the insightful analyses of classic films, especially SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS, but this time I’d completely forgotten about the Incredibra until it made its appearance. It also reminded me that I wish I knew what happened to Max!

    Second reread is that I’ve started in again on Heyer’s THE TOLL-GATE, a word which always looks wrong to me with a hyphen. Still, John and the Saltash family are a hoot, Nell is a delight, and the gimmick is original.

    Looking forward to THE CHICKEN BIBLE (America’s Test Kitchen) next week!

    1. Charity went on a book tour and took Max as an escort. I had a proposal that was accepted at HQ but then they changed the contract and I wouldn’t sign it, and that was that for me at HQ. It was called Jane Errs. It was a double contract; Jane Errs and Newton the Rat with Women. No, I have no idea what happened to those pages.

      1. I’m sorry Jane Errs wasn’t published. I assume it wasn’t going to be about a middle-aged man who lies and emotionally manipulates a naive young woman throughout the book? (I used to love Jane Eyre but now side eye Mr. Rochester.)
        I love the title Newton the Rat with Women!

        1. That was the title of Charity’s autobiographical novel on the romantic mistakes she’d made with the assumption that Max (#13 in her series) would be the one she got right.

  30. On a semi-off-topic note, if anyone remembers my asking if anyone has ever REALLY faked a relationship IRL, the NYT has something…

    “Unbeknown to Dr. Soper, Mr. Kessler, who had recently moved to Los Angeles, also had no plans for Rosh Hashana. He wasn’t going to be able to spend the holiday with his family on the East Coast, and was in the midst of his own pity party when she mentioned the dinner. He suggested that he be her date, and the next evening showed up at her place with a bouquet of flowers.

    When they arrived at dinner, they realized that what they had thought would be a large event was an intimate meal for about seven. Everyone else at the table was either family or close friends, and Dr. Soper and Mr. Kessler made a split decision to pretend that they were already a couple, to try and stem some of the awkwardness. As the night wore on, they bonded over their shared secret, and got to know one another through their tablemates.

    “Feigning intimacy was the perfect way to allow real intimacy to grow,” Dr. Soper said. “By pretending that we knew each other ——”

    “We never stopped,” Mr. Kessler, 40, chimed in.”

  31. I am currently re-reading Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells for the umpteenth time. For fans of competence porn, I highly recommend it. Set in a 19th-century Paris analog with magic, the main character, Nicholas, is plotting revenge against the man who arranged his adoptive father’s death. It’s listed as Ile-Rien 2, but the first book is set at least a century before and has almost wholly unrelated characters. I love Martha Wells with a white-hot passion, but realize not everyone is going to like her Raksura novels (with alien main characters). The Ile-Rien books have human characters and Death of the Necromancer is IMHO the best of a great series.

  32. So much more romantic then the poor guy who had an online girlfriend for 3 years until his friends (my work colleague) finally investigated her and proved he was being catfished… she turned out to be his friend from art school’s aunt (his friend didn’t know)

  33. Reading Matterhorn. It received a lot of notoriety when it came out. About Vietnam War. It’s interesting to see how the author handles a wide cast of characters and sets the tone. He’s pretty accurate about the types of people that would be in a Marine unit.

  34. I read MEXICAN GOTHIC this week. It was named among the “best books” of 2020 by a slew of publications… and I’m honestly bewildered by that. It’s a derivative 1970s-style gothic novel, not very well written, set in a creepy old isolated mansion with a creepy old English family. I found it generic, humorless, and poorly paced. The climax is a Lovecraftian horror reveal…. which I didn’t think the writer pulled off; I found it laborious and silly. So I’m stumped by all the acclaim this book has gotten.

    I also finished reading DISLOYAL by Michael Cohen (Trump’s former lawyer), one of the few people writing about Trump who knew him personally, privately, away from microphones, cameras, and crowds. There’s nothing in it that’s surprising, but there are numerous events in the book that are a clear road map and forerunner of the problems Trump inflicted on the country, including incidents that make it clear why Cohen said some 18 months before the election that if Trump lost, there wouldn’t be a peaceful transition of power – as, indeed, there was not.

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