This is a Good Book Thursday, April 1, 2021

Just for the record, we don’t do April Fool’s Day here, so when I say I finally read Aaronovich’s What Abigail Did That Summer and it was excellent, I am being very serious. And now I want more Abigail with foxes even more than I want more Peter Grant, even though Peter now has twins that should be the most interesting infants ever. Still, Abigail has foxes that talk to her while demanding scratches and cheese puffs. Team Abigail here.

What did you read this week?

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81 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, April 1, 2021

  1. Flesh Wounds by Richard Glover. A funny, bizarre, sad, positive autobiography.

    His mother, a deluded snob, who made up large swathes of her past and who ran away with Richard’s English teacher, a Tolkien devotee, nudist and stuffed-toy collector.
    His father, a distant alcoholic, who ran through a gamut of wives, yachts and failed dreams.

    +12
  2. No April fool’s day prank from me either but not much to report about on the Book front this Thursday. I have read a little bit more of Sebastian St Cyr but I think I need a break from that series so I have been mostly revisiting Patricia Briggs’ Mercy books which are much more tightly plotted and full of characters I like spending time with. I started with the one just before « River Marked », leapfrogged over « River Marked », not because I don’t like it but because I actually like it very much and reread it not so long ago and at the moment, I am in Prague with Mercy seeing ghosts and battling vampires. A nice break from our current travel-less existence.

    +12
  3. I read Tsumiko and the Enslaved Fox by Forthright, started Merry Farmer’s Just A Little Wickedness but DNF, started Jordan L. Hawk’s M/M Whyborne & Griffin series with Widdershins and enjoyed that so moved onto the next in the series. I like the Victorian American era, like the ex-Pinkerton detective and the museum nerd as romantic partners, plus their trusty sidekick Christine, the snarky ‘lady’ Egyptologist. Don’t love the magical element but I generally don’t love magic except in fantasies (how’s that for a fussy requirement?). Re-read the Captive Prince. Her Dark Rise book comes out in September. I cannot cannot CANNOT wait.

    +11
    1. I also started that Farmer and DNFd. The Whyborne & Griffin series was a binge-read for me even though I almost never read fantasy. Go figure! 🙂

      +6
      1. I don’t count this series as fantasy since it’s set in our real world/history – with the inclusion of magical elements. But it’s so well written and I love the characters so I’m quite happy to have found a new series that I can sink into.

        +5
    2. I liked the magic element best in Whybourne and Griffin, after the first few books anyway. The romance just didn’t progress enough for me given the length of the series – in kinda felt they started and ended at the same place in each book? But the fantasy did (I still gave up before the end…)

      +5
  4. Before my vaccination, I read and really enjoyed “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” by Maria Semple. I must have heard about it here, because where else do you go to find book reccos? But I’d also read a funny review on Amazon, which I went back to find so I could quote you the phrase that made me laugh — “It’s set in Seattle where apparently Microsoft is based” came in a low-rating review that found everything about the book irritating and confusing, as did several other UK reviewers, although other UK reviewers raved about it.

    It’s episodic and kind of mixed-media, going from phone messages to emails to police reports and so on — but at heart it’s about kind of a contemporary woman with a 60’s hippie personality, doing architecture, solving household challenges via some random remote tech in India, and raising a child with love, individuality, and a climate conscience. Started slow, came together as your picture of the main characters began to jell, and ended fabulously.

    +12
    1. I tried to read that book and couldn’t get into it at all. To be fair, I had a book subscription where they kept sending me worthy “women’s fiction” that I didn’t like at all and I had begun to despair of the books by this point. They had been told I like genre/fantasy/romance/anything-but-women’s-damned-fiction but they kept sending books about women with families that want to escape their dull lives. I can get that at home!

      +8
      1. I was dubious too at first with it. The author left you with a lot of divergent pieces to put together over, say, the first third of the book, and none of the family members seemed much like people I would enjoy, but the more I learned about the mother and her history, as well as the daughter’s steadiness in pursuit of truth & fairness and that kind of stuff, I got fond of them. But I’m a kind of 60’s hippie child, so a main character into thrift and creativity and building things locally who’s also a very considerate mother began appealing to me by the middle.

        +3
  5. Well, I just went to Amazon to look for Abigail and found that the follow up to The Goblin Emperor is coming out in June. There may have been squeeing as somehow I missed that date. I finished Love In The Mist by Victoria Goddard. I am enjoying this series a lot. Jemis is a very likeable hero and you never know what’s coming next. Also read The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting by K.J. Charles who is always good. And I’m re-reading Paladin’s Grace.

    +15
    1. Thanks, Mel. I’ve added the sequel to my wish list (I don’t want the sneak peek they’re trying to ‘sell’ me): something to look forward to. And thanks for the reminder about Victoria Goddard; I’m going to try that series.

      +9
        1. First time I’ve come across it, too. I daresay there’s some convoluted sales advantage involved, but I don’t want to start reading a book in April that I can’t finish until June.

          +6
      1. The first three books in Victoria Goddard’s Greenwing and Dart series are fabulous. I found the two after that to be more uneven but still mostly good

        +3
    2. I’m reading Paladin’s Strength. Love the non-traditional, older, slightly plump heroine and the Paladin is totally worthy of her. And “plump heroine” reminds me of Penric’s woman from Penric and Desdamona. Thinking my “Covid 15” in on my mind…

      +6
  6. I stayed up too late to finish The Anubis Gates last night. Still a satisfying ending, and even though this was a reread, apparently 20 years (or more) is enough to forget the details. There were whole sections that I had not remembered.

    Next on the list is a biography of my great uncle. My cousin wrote it, and sent it along. It details his experiences as a commander of engineers – including during the Battle of the Bulge. One tidbit already learned – he trained his men in upstate New York, as a result none of his men suffered ill effects from the brutally cold conditions during that time.

    On a more cheerful note, while I was pre-ordering the new Murderbot, I saw that Mhairi McFarlane has something coming out soon. I’m looking forward to both.

    +15
    1. Have you read The Drawing of the Dark by The-Anubis-Gates author Tim Powers? Fun with lots of adventure. And King Arthur references, I kid you not. It filled a space for me as male action story until I read The Curse of Chalion.

      +5
      1. Oh yes! Probably my first Powers book, which had me hooked on him as an author – him and James P Blaylock. The Drawing of the Dark is an excellent book, with the fisher king / Arthur mixed with the invasion of Europe by the Turks, and of all things, beer!

        +2
  7. I’ve been in a ‘nothing’s right’ space, so rejected a load of samples and cheered myself up with a reread of ‘Dogs and Goddesses’. Love Sam. I’m now rereading Elizabeth Peters’ ‘Falcon at the Portal’, but it’s taking a while to really get into it; I’m not enjoying it as much as I have in the past.

    +12
  8. I read A Place for Everything by Judith Flanders. It’s a history of alphabetizing and really of how we organize. It was interesting especially in small pieces. Not world changing but glad I read it.

    I also read Loretta Chase’s Lord Perfect which was fun. I liked Mr. Impossible better. Next up Not Quite a Lady.

    Will have to find the story about Abigail and the Foxes.

    +16
  9. I finally got Naomi Novik’s ‘A Deadly Education’ ftom the library, so that’s what I’ll be reading for the next day or two.

    +11
    1. I just came here to say that I finally got around to reading “A Deadly Education” and LOVED it.

      +7
  10. I’d been reading “Something Human” last week but it has lost traction a bit and instead read many samples of what was recommended last week some of which were quite tempting.

    Right now, I don’t seem to be in the mood for romance though, so when reading the sample “The Jane Austen Society” by Natalie Jenner, I jumped into reading this story instead.
    Lovely atmosphere, some very restrained “romances”. I liked it although I started to skim fairly soon and then got impatient and jumped to the end and then read in between to get the gist. Usually this would mean I didn’t like it but with some books this seems my modus legendi (sp?). I did indeed like it for it’s very different tone to what I read lately. Yet I’m glad I didn’t pay for the paperback. And still – a prices of just 0,99 Euro seems shamefully cheap for a book – and no compensation of time and love invested by author, editor etc.

    My Yale happiness course suggested I read some non-fiction books, too, to satisfy my love of learning: There are some I’m tempted to read or more correctly: read some chapters of. One of them is “Männer” by Ann-Marlene Henning. Henning is a Danish sexologist with a very refreshing take on all things human. The book covers a wide, wide range of everything regarding men (health, love, sex).

    Also I’ve listened to a number of BBC podcasts “You’re dead to me” following the recommendation of “Dead famous” by the podcast’s host Greg Jenner. So I got the sample of the book, too, and will likely read some chapters.

    After that I’ll continue with Something Human to give it another try.

    +10
  11. I listened to The Mrs. McKinnons by Jayne Davis, a long meander of a novel, but it was a pace I enjoyed. Next Burn Bright, one of Patricia Brigg’s Alpha and Omega series. Then I wanted to go to the next one right away, but decided to keep it in reserve for a rainy day.

    +11
  12. I read Fireworks by Sarina Bowen. I haven’t really enjoyed how the True North books don’t have very dramatic conflicts, but this one was better than “We’re just going to eat a lot of good food in Vermont!” for a plot, so that was nice.

    +9
    1. Wait! Where is there good food in Vermont? I’ve had plenty of average food, and anything not made in my kitchen is preferred, but really good food?

      Maybe in Burlington.

      +6
      1. T J Buckley’s is a really superb restaurant in Brattleboro. (You kinda need an equally superb budget to afford it, but the experience is spectacular.)

  13. I’m trying to like Laurie Colwin, have just made a second try at her novels, with Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object. Two strikes, I’m afraid. (Sorry….)

    Good think I love Home Cooking 1 & 2

    +10
    1. Have you tried Happy All the Time? The only one of her books I really liked but have re-read it for years.

      +5
      1. Me, too. Shine On was her first novel and she definitely improved. In fact, I initially only read Home Cooking (1&2) because I loved Happy All the Time so much. As in being horribly frustrated I couldn’t call anyone at 2am to share a passage I had just read. How can you not love a book where one of the characters, the bookish one , says, “I don’t call it gossip. I call it ’emotional speculation.'”

        +12
  14. Not much to report. Lotsa rereads.

    I did read Throwing Shade by Deborah Wilde thanks to the rec here. I liked it very much to read but not enough to get the next one. Characters are great and I even enjoyed the decisions that were sketchy to me.

    The bit that blocked me was world building reminded me of Nalini Singh’s Archangels and Illona Andrew’s Kate Daniels worlds but hidden like how magic is in the Harry Potter series. These are built worlds that I particularly dislike enough to only ever have read one book in each series.

    I know this very same thing will be someone else’s favourite, so YMMV.

    +8
  15. Beginnings — Info dumps in conversations and characters’ thoughts started two historical fiction novels I tried to read recently. I wondered how to communicate the intricacies of a time long past without having a preface and a lot of background info.

    As a comparison, I figured that a fantasy story is as difficult to begin as a historical novel, so I tried College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer and had no problem at all. (It helped that my daughter went to the same college as Stevermer, so I recognized the traditions and type of student gab going on). Stevermer told the important info to know as the need occurred. I couldn’t put the book down.

    +11
  16. I have been listening to a book with a protagonist who is sexist, bigoted, xenophobic, slow on the pickup, and TSTL (too stupid to live.) But despite this moronic narrator I keep listening because while I despise this man, I love two of the supporting characters enough to ignore him. They are a couple of characters and you never know what they are going to do next. I cringe through the whining about why he can’t get the girl so I can see the community.

    It’s sad really.

    +17
    1. Wow, that is dedication, I’ve read an entire series of mystery books, because I like the community … I mean there was always a murder and murderer, but they were always the weakest part of the story along with the motive

      +4
  17. I’m looking forward to Abigail and the talking foxes. 🙂

    This week I read eleven things, including one of mine. Skimmed through a traditional Regency that felt like the author started two different stories, couldn’t get anywhere with either of them, and mashed them together. Unsuccessfully.

    Very good new historical M/M by Sally Malcom, ‘King’s Man.’ Very fun contemporary/fantasy M/M by E.J. Russell, ‘Purgatory Playhouse.’ A solid Beauty & The Beast retelling by Ann Aguirre, ‘Bitterburn.’

    And last night, ‘Richly Deserved’ by Brenda Margriet, which I liked even better than last year’s title with the WWII journal mystery. The historical mystery in this one really grabbed me, in part because we owned a piece of California Gold Country for a minute and have spent a lot of time there. It will never cease to annoy me how the thousands of people of color who came to the Sierra Nevada during the Gold Rush (not to mention the ones who already lived there) are so thoroughly left out of the story, so seeing a bit of the Chinese part of that story in British Columbia was great. Also appreciated the later-in-life main characters and thought their relationship was very well developed. This is a hero who sticks when he needs to.

    +12
  18. Just finished The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles. Liked it enough to get the next in series. Speaking of preorders, do y’all know Lucy Parker has a new book Battle Royal coming out 8/17/21? It’s already in my shopping cart.

    +15
  19. Reading Cat Sebastian’s ‘The Lawrence Browne Affair’. It’s a change of pace after the Crows. I’m not sure if I want to go to Laurentston’s shapeshifter books.

    Next up will be Jessie Mihalik’s ‘Polaris Rising’. I love the recommendations because I need to broaden my horizons past the Regency, cozy, romance books. And just about everything recommended here is something I can take a chance on.

    And, I’ll be trying to read my own handwriting when I transcribe some meeting minutes.

    +10
    1. I find the Crows a lot darker than Laurentson’s other series if that helps? The Badger books are hilarious.

      +3
      1. I love the Crows series, and I adore the Honeybadger series. I’m a bit Meh on the other shapeshifter books.

        +2
        1. Yeah. Badgers an unqualified thumbs up. Regarding the other shifter books, I like some better than others in terms of men’s attitude towards women. I haven’t done an analysis or anything but think she has gotten better on that as she goes along.

          +2
  20. A lot of DNFs this past week, couldn’t seem to settle. Then, yesterday, I roared through ‘Richly Deserved’ by Brenda Margriet. Wonderful! Fascinating characters, got to learn about a Canadian Gold Rush I knew nothing about, got to learn something of the art world, loved it! Highly recommend. I’m off to try some more of Brenda’s books, outside the Timeless Seasoned Romance two she has out now.

    +7
  21. What is this book? I need books with foxes in them. Will check it out as soon as I’ve written this.

    I’ve tried to read lots and failed to read lots lately, because reader’s block and other stuff going on in my head. BUT, I did read Sarina Bowen’s “The Year We Fell Down”, which Jenny talked about here last summer. I might have had too high expectations on it OR it might’nt have been the best time to read that sort of book, but I was a little underwhelmed. Maybe it was the narrators. I don’t know. It wasn’t a bad read, just not something I will reread again, at least not anytime soon.

    I’m TRYING to read “Mystic & Rider” by Sharon Shinn, and also “Homeland” by R. A. Salvatore, but I can’t keep my head in the stories right now. It’s just that kind of period, I guess. I’ll return to them both once my head starts working again.

    Now I’ll go and discover foxbooks to put on my TBR.

    Sending you all love and good vibes. Just because I can. <3

    +13
  22. I tried to post hours ago, but the internet went away when I clicked “Post Comment”.

    I finished re-reading the entire Wearing the Cape series, including the Christmas story. George has been promising a new book, and even shared snippets, but the only date he’ll commit to is “real soon now.” *heavy sigh*

    So I picked up and zipped through Manhunting, despite the first sentence (which I secretly love, so there!). :}~

    The closest I’ve approached an April’s Fool joke (or prank) is that I ordered three mini-umbrellas for the dotter which Amazon promised to deliver today. It’s been rainy, lately. Two had polka dots. The third is a transparent bubble type that she’s said she wanted forever “but they’re too expensive.” So there’s that.

    +11
  23. I read The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs and enjoyed it very much. I’ve been reading so much fantasy of late that something set in this world felt novel. Of course, I’m currently partway through Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews so “real world” didn’t last long.

    +9
  24. Bujold’s Masquerade in Lodi was a re-read and a delightful one. I wanted an infusion of Pen and Des for the sheer lightness of that story.
    Grace Burrowes’s My One and Only Duke was OK as historical romances go, but I doubt I’ll ever read this author again. She made no impression on me.
    Linda Howard’s Open Season was a happy discovery. I enjoyed this book very much. It was my first by this author, but it won’t be my last. I got her name from this forum and I want to thank you, people, for the rec. You’re the best. She has such a long back list – the anticipation alone keeps me blissful. How did I miss this writer before?
    Linda Howard’s Troublemaker was also engaging and satisfying. I’m planning on slowly plowing through her entire back list. Nice new books are in my future. A question: are her earlier books from the 1980s as good as the later ones?

    +11
    1. Linda Howard’s Cry No More is one of my favourite re-reads. To Die For, Woman Left Behind also great. Her earlier books are…a bit old fashioned because they were written of course in the ’80’s and romance was different then, silly as it sounds to say it. But Mackenzie’s Mountain still hits my re-reads list regularly.

      +9
    2. For my tastes, Howard’s earlier books feature male protagonists who are well past Alpha male and into sadistic. She later got lighter.

      +5
    3. Linda Howard varies. She definitely hit her sweet spot in the 90s or 2000s. Some I absolutely adore and are on the reread list. Killing Time, Now Your See Her, and so on. And I enjoy some of her earlier stuff, Heart of Fire comes to mind, but some of it makes me so mad I could spit. And I find most of her new stuff to be pretty disappointing and in a different voice. Ghost writer I am guessing?

      But there are some really great ones in there.

      +3
  25. I read Vanessa Yu’s magical Paris teahouse by Roselle Lim. Thank you to whoever recommended it here. I loved it. Now I am re-reading Beverly Jenkins blessing series and I got myself a copy of murderbot. I’m dictating this because My 14-month-old grandson is sitting in my lap trying to open the cinnamon toothpaste. Not a great time to write stuff. Happy April everyone O

    +12
  26. I finally got around to reading A Deadly Education, and ended up ripping through it far too quickly. Now I have to wait until September for the sequel.

    I’m also re-reading Swing, Brother, Swing by Ngaio Marsh as my bedtime brain-shutting-down book at the moment. It’s engaging enough after so many re-reads that I want to pick it up, but it’s so familiar that it doesn’t stop me from going to sleep when I need to.

    +11
  27. I’ve mostly been reading and transcribing James Garfield’s diaries (ugh, loathsome person) a part of the By the People project, which I do whenever I’m feeling stressed and apparently I’ve been REALLY been stressed this week.

    For fun, I read TUESDAY MOONY TALKS TO GHOSTS on Gary’s recommendation here, and I wanted to like it, and I’m sure lots of people will like it, but it’s just not my genre (lit fic, I think, although I’m not sure how it’s technically labeled). The author can write beautifully and has a lovely imagination, so I think it’s just me, not the book. It’s got some really quirky characters and a lot of the descriptions and flashbacks and characterization that’s more typical of lit fic than pop fic. Just not my cuppa, but I can totally see it being others’ cuppas.

    +8
  28. No time to read the comments but I wanted to say that I read the book ‘Damage’ by Lillith Saintcrow and its really good. I recommend it. I may come back later and try to read the comments but I wanted to get that out there.

    +7
    1. Oh good to hear. I like Saintcrow a lot (esp. Dante Valentine and Jill Kismet series) but she can be very dark so I need to be in the mood.

      +3
  29. This week I’m reading Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert and trying not to finish it too fast. I’m not sure how accurate the autism spectrum references are, but I really enjoyed watching the family screw-up find her calling, acceptance and place. And while the heroine’s oddball family is not as pronounced as in the 2 previous books in this series, they definitely were present enough to add a degree of sparkle to the requisite misunderstanding.

    +8
  30. I read Royal Blood by Diana Norman. A historical novel with a romance, rather than a Romantic novel. Lots of stuff about how some of the more repressive English laws came into being, excused by the Jacobite threat, and the impact they had. And Lady Cecily is wonderful, in her journey from light-hearted lady-in-waiting to inn-keeper, highwaywoman and conspirator.

    +8
  31. Well, I spent yesterday reading my way through a handwritten REGISTER OF BIRTHS AND DEATHS, which could easily provide some plot inspiration; today it’s the WILL BOOK which has provided me with the estate inventory.

    Other than that, like Gary, I’ve been rereading MANHUNTING for fun, and beginning BIRD IN A SNARE, a mystery series by N. L. Holmes set in 18th dynasty Egypt. So far I’ve barely made it through the cast of characters, all with at least one hyphen in their names, mostly more. Also a nonfiction account called THE BARBIZON, about the famous hotel for women in NYC, so probably social commentary. MARY BERRY COOKS TO PERFECTION (wish I did! will just have to read about it).

    +8
  32. I’m reading Richly Deserved by Brenda Margriet. Thoroughly enjoying the history, setting, and the unfolding mystery. It’s beautifully paced, which allows for understanding the H and H and really wanting them to be together forever. Well done.

    +10
  33. I now have Abigail on my Kindle ready to read, thanks! I’ve been flailing around trying to get into another book and reading Let it Rot! while I set up my composter in a better location. My rom-loving teen is devouring the Sarah J Maas assassin books (Throne of Glass et al) and raves about them, if anybody is looking for a great YA series.

    +6
  34. This week I read (or, more accurately, proofread the new narration for) SISTERS OF THE SOUTHERN CROSS by Jean Grainger. Set in a Catholic mission run by Irish nuns in the Australian outback in the 1930s. It’s subject matter I doubt I’d have picked up on my own, but I found it a very enjoyable read – likable protagonist, very vivid sense of place, and the story moves at a good pace.

    (As one of my sidelines, I do proofreading for a British narrator. She’s narrating a number of Grainger’s novels, and I’ve been enjoying them. I definitely recommend THE STAR & THE SHAMROCK and also THE EMERALD HORIZON, set during WWII.)

    I am also STILL listening to the audio of THE WITCH ELM by Irish novelist Tana French. I didn’t realize when I borrowed it from the library that it’s =22= hours. Discovered that only today, when I realized I’ve been listening to it forfriggingever and still have about 10 hours to go. And now I want to know the outcome of the story, so I can’t quit. TEN MORE HOURS to go. (sigh)

    It’s an interesting story and the writing is good, but it’s WAY too slow-moving for me. I really do feel it would have been improved by an editor advising the author to cut it by about 40%. That said, the print book is covered in pages of glowing reviews, so my opinion probably isn’t a common one.

    +6
  35. I suppose I should add a dozen short stories by Reed Manning, the pen name of Dave Smeds. I don’t know why he needed a pen name – most of the stuff written as Smeds is every bit as erotic as Manning books. The majority is Science Fiction, with a bit of fantasy. I forgot I had them. They’re like candy – you find you’ve consumed more than you thought.

    +3

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