This is a Good Book Thursday, May 13, 2021

Read some new books but nothing I’d recommend with enthusiasm. Reread a lot of Georgette Heyer, whom I can recommend with enthusiasm. Also read a lot about my new phone which is so freaking complicated it took me two days to find the phone app (shouldn’t that be the first screen and not the camera?) and then another two days to find the hoop to jump through to find my voice mail. I need another Heyer just to calm down.

What did you read this week?

112 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, May 13, 2021

  1. Slow Medicine by Dr. Victoria Sweet — I highly recommend. Sweet tells the story of choosing medicine and becoming a doctor by way of the insights she learned from medical professionals and patients. Her personal education shows examples of the growing concept of fast medicine in the US: fast medicine treats patients as machines who are diagnosed by tests and treated by medications.

    At its worst, fast medicine is impersonal and driven by statistics, ultimately a healthcare commodity whose success is gauged by how inexpensive it is.

    In contrast, slow medicine sees the doctor-patient relationship as gardener-plant. The gardener tends the individual sick plant, watches it in its environment, gauges whether it’s too wet or too dry, too hot or too cold. The gardener fiddles with treatments in order to come up with what is best for that plant.

    I’ve given the extremes; actually, lots of fast medicine is good. And slow medicine lacks the advancements in medicine and treatments of fast medicine that are doctors have at hand these days. Sweet’s point is that good medicine is slow with fast and fast with slow.

  2. Not much reading progress. I finished Wanted, a Gentleman and the only thing it lacked was length: I would have liked to spend more time with the story and the protagonists, but I knew in advance that it was only 130+ pages.
    I finally finished listening to the audiobook of Reflex by Dick Francis. The listening experience is always so completely different for me ghan the reading one…
    Now I’m reading Seven summer nights by Harper Fox. It started out great, very atmospheric, glimpses of Grantchester, WW2 flicks, English Patient (for the archeology bits). Far more expensive than I usually spend for ebooks, but then the paperback would have been 16+ Euros (gasp) and with 470+ pages, I can spend some time with the story.
    Also, the Heyer thread made me try out The quiet gentleman as audiobook. The mountain of ironing melted away line ice 😉
    Am curious if the Heyer bug catches on, before it sadly never had (problem of the right translation back when I didn’t read the originals)…

    1. I loved Wanted, A Gentleman — such a sweet story. Theo and Martin are both worthy protagonists in different ways, and it’s just a fun read all the way around. One thing I like most is that even when (maybe especially when) she’s addressing tough subjects, KJ Charles manages to keep a healthy dose of wry humor in her books, and I always find that grounding.

      Oh, and for those who liked the book and didn’t know, she has a connected free short story on her website called Wanted: An Author. Behold the link:

      1. Thanks for pointing this story out.

        Funnily enough, I read that short story first – at the time when I sampled as many free reads by KJC as possible.
        Then I read Unfit to print where Theo’s book that he got commissioned in Wanted: an Author was mentioned. So I got curious again and had to read Wanted: a gentleman.
        I liked it a lot. Only it was too short, sigh. I’d have liked to spend more time with Theo and Martin, know more about their time before the plot.
        But then, it wouldn’t have made the story better, sigh.

  3. Hmmm. User’s manuals.

    I’m still reading Jay Shetty and also have Wayne Dyer reads The Tao on YouTube to get a better sense of how to use life, ya know.

    Read the Heirs of Hansol series by
    Jayci Lee. Nice billionaire romance to escape the drudgery of this sinus cough.

    1. Had to jump back and say I’m reading the third book now and her characterisation is so good that reading these books is an immersive experience for me. I really get lost in the stories.

      1. I am happy to find my library has them in ebook. Unfortunately I have my ebook limit checked out already. Must. Finish. Something. (I’m reading Shetty, thanks to you, and continuing my Becky Chambers re-read, and several others.)

  4. Things I miss from the library being closed for so long and only porch pick-up is available:
    Opening the door and being greeted like I’m in an episode of “Cheers”
    Browsing the new titles
    Checking out new titles
    The occasional gift basket raffles (I’ve never won but it is the anticipation of winning)
    Chatting up the librarians and patrons I know
    If I’m in another library out side of town, checking through the computer to see if there is anything for me at our library on my way home
    Notices of upcoming events
    I’m sure there is more, but it was the gift basket raffles that got me thinking.

  5. Still on my Dick Francis binge reading. Very good opening lines. Read the first couple of novels to the last few with his son and a few in between to see his progression as an author. For the most part enjoy the stories. Only a couple I skipped to the end. Strong protagonists. Ruthless antagonists. The website Crime Reads – Dick Francis guide to the classics gives a good overall view of his body of work and the opening lines. Interesting facts about his writing and his wife Mary researching for the novels. Thanks, Jenny.

    Hot Money, Straight, Bolt, Banker, Dead Cert, his first novel, the first Sid Halley and the last.

    1. Thanks for the info for
      Fsdcinating guidd to DF.
      Now my tbr list has grown rather long…

  6. I had the same trouble finding my voicemail when I switched phones. Had to ask for help and do some google searching.

    This week I reread Fugitive Telemetry and liked it better.

    First go, I was ripping through it to find out what happened. This time I took my time and paid better attention. Before, I thought it was about Murderbot’s struggles facing cultural prejudice. Now I think that it’s about both sides being prejudiced and having to overcome it for the good of everyone. There were a lot of subtle changes in MB’s behavior that I missed, unspoken cues. Now I am rather in awe of Martha Wells for being able to plan it all out.

    And a friend started reading Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, so I am listing to that so we can talk about it. It’s a comfort reread for me, so no hardship there.

    1. Wells’s plotting really is excellent. During one of the rereads I noticed some of the technical stuff, like placement of major turning points, and they were so well done — invisible in the first read, but identifiable in a studying read. I don’t know if she comes by it naturally or if she works at it, but it’s really remarkable.

  7. I don’t want to call out what was a meh book for me by its title.

    Just because it didn’t 100% work for me doesn’t mean someone else might not completely love it, but I had this book that I was basically hate reading.

    While I enjoyed the romance elements that were the B plot of the story, the A plot was that the protagonist was supposedly SO good at her job (one that’s adjacent to what I do) and that no one ever gave her proper credit for all her hard work and brilliance because she was a young woman.

    And she had this super entitled attitude about how smart she was and how she deserved a promotion …when, trust me, the stuff that was being used as evidence of “brilliance” and “hard work” was very much standard industry stuff. It pretty much demonstrated either a lack of author understanding about what would make for brilliance/standard hours for a young professional in the field, or is the reason why the author is now writing about the field and no longer in it.

    Not that the character couldn’t use a pattern of solid work to get promoted, but she was like 5 years into her career, and acting like basic stuff any reasonably good person in the field would be doing was extraordinary. And at the same time also acting super passive aggressive about how no one was giving her credit for being so amazing.

    Like, yes, you’re doing your job competently, and are probably undervalued…but you’re not changing the entire game here at some level of undeniable elite excellence. You’re proposing smart but obvious stuff that any other half way decent professional would also be doing. In her slight defense, her direct boss was a straight up nightmare, and not also crediting her with some of the ideas that were hers…but she was so focused on “this is just because I’m a young woman and the man is keeping me down, because my brilliance is undeniable!” when…. is it? Is it really undeniable?! I didn’t see you cure cancer. Why aren’t you just cc’ing your boss’s boss/the rest of the team on your proposals. And credit problem solved. I can’t believe your strategically brilliant mind didn’t see that solution. And why aren’t you going to HR on your awful manager. For someone who’s so OBVIOUSLY a boss in her own mind, you are taking no ownership or agency here and maybe that is also the issue/evidence that maybe you have to grow a little more in your professionalism.

    And then her love interest was the other guy gunning for the job, but LEGIT – HE WAS CLEARLY WAY BETTER AT THE JOB. And in the happy ending twist, he gets the promotion but her company also offers to elevate her into a C-suite position as an uber genius of strategic thinking. (Again – she’s shown to be solid at her job…but she’s also an obnoxious, entitled 28 year old who’s shown that yes she ultimately deserves some sort of a promotion and for the credit for her steady and smart work along the way, but not this kind of several rung skipping ridiculousness…it’s beyond straining credulity that this would happen that way)

    BUT as much as the career portion of it was driving me crazy, I just couldn’t quit the book, because I enjoyed the writing style and was super invested in the relationship. The protagonist was SO eye-roll inducing in her entitlement, and the Love Interest was so eye-rolling in how he was just WAY too perfect to be true, and they probably will be miserable with each other in about two years, but I just didn’t care because I wanted them together enjoying their great chemistry right now.

    1. That’s competence porn gone bad. Kind of mere competence masquerading as competence porn?

      1. Yeah, exactly.

        I mean, honestly, if the book toned down how passive aggressive she was about no one recognizing her brilliance a tad (in the same breath about complaining about a lack of recognition, she was writing bitchy emails throwing her counterpart under the bus… when again – HE WAS ACTUALLY IN THE MIDDLE OF DOING THE JOB BETTER) – and if in the conclusion they canned her awful boss and gave her HIS job instead of creating a special new position several rungs ABOVE where he was, I might have bought the whole thing more.

        But there was so much emphasis on the point that she was so UNIQUELY hardworking, brilliant and STRATEGIC! And NO ONE else could have possibly come up with this pretty basic idea that she proposes … (when in fact, after she has this “brilliant lightbulb”, they literally mention some of their competitors are having success doing something exactly like it)…that it’s hard for me to buy it.

        And in fairness she did have a come to Jesus moment at one point where she started to realize maybe she wasn’t the only hardworking professional with good ideas, and quite possibly there were other deserving people at the company, too…but only briefly, and ultimately she was crowned chief executive of the world out of no where, so it felt more like lip service than character growth.

        Of course, the real take away here could possibly be that it was true competence porn all along, and since it was all so obvious a proposal to me from the beginning, perhaps I too am also just super brilliant and strategic and should be immediately handed a C-Suite job! =)

  8. Finished the delightful Winter’s Orbit, M/M, sci-fi politics, Bujold-lite but with some darker themes I wasn’t expecting but thought were well done.

    Read Christie’s The Big Four. Now questioning my commitment to reading the Christie canon in order. Is Captain Hastings a TSTL character? What was with the foray into espionage? Not my fave at all.

    Not really a YA reader but read the friend-recommended Get A Clue by Tiffany Schmidt – mash ups of classic lit re-tellings in high school times. This one was Sherlock Holmes and it was really well done. I may just read the other 3 over the summer.

    And finished Amanda Cross’ Death in a Tenured position. I just like her writing style and the wittiness of her MC. Slightly dated.. yet not…generational clashes and working women try harder…societal change in the 70s.. and quick reads.

      1. And it’s been far too long since I read any Amanda Cross. Why do I have to go to work, again, when I was born to read?

    1. I was just thinking about Christie’s Sparkling Cyanide (1945) and Stout’s Champagne for One (1958), about people dying in the middle of posh dinner parties from poisoned champagne. Fun to read together because they’re both classic mysteries and yet the female/male, British/American differences are interesting. Both really good mysteries, too.

      Might be my next re-reads.

      1. I’ve been rereading for the upmteenth time my Rex Stout books and came across a bit that somehow escaped me before…Archie sits at his desk and hits ..the alphabet piano…that is so good loved it. You mentioning Rex made me remember again.

    2. I read Winter’s Orbit this week too, and really liked it. Yes, the darker themes were handled well, weren’t they. But the title bugs me a bit. It just doesn’t seem to fit the book.

      But that’s a very small bug. It was a good read.

  9. I read The First Ten Years by Meg Bashwiner and Joseph Fink (of the Welcome to Night Vale) podcast, in which they both recount each year of their relationship. Meg in particular is descriptive, snarky, and romantic. Not that Joseph’s bad (he already writes for a living), but more Meg, please. God, I wish I could have found true love at 22 like they did.

    I read Finding Freedom on the Sussexes, which I enjoyed, it’s a pleasant read on their side, though kinda seems to minimize the drama now when you think about That Interview.

    1. Oh, and I forgot to mention finishing “Crush the King” by Jennifer Estep. I got this book around the start of the pandemic and somehow it’s taken me over a year to poke through. I finally just started over and finished in a few days, and it was really good. Third in a trilogy though, so not somewhere to start reading.

  10. After reading all 8 of the Murderbot Diaries last week, I reread them again this week. Then Bujold’s newest Pen and Des story came out – novel length, instead of novella – and I dropped everything to read The Assassins of Thasalon, last night.

    I’m going to reread “Assassins” again immediately. No choice. There are parts I need to understand better. Did the Duke of Orbas expect to lose his newest, bestest general? Did he accede to that? I need to savor the call-backs, too.

    Oh. Official weigh-in day, no change from last week. These things happen.

    1. Such good news, I thought it was coming out later in the month. Off to buy that right now! The week is getting even better.

    2. I started reading it last night and didn’t realize it was novel-length! I did notice the price was higher than I remembered for novellas, but just thought she’d decided to get paid better. So yay!

    3. Edit: After morning ablutions, I got back on my scales for the weekly weigh-in. New number is 276.8, a loss of nearly two pounds. These things happen, too.

    4. I think it might have been implied that losing his newest bestest general would be mitigated if all of his newest bestest general’s family remained in Orbas as honoured guests and almost everyone was far too polite to mention the word hostage out loud.

  11. Recommendations wanted for your favorite Christmas contemporary romances. I’m plotting mine and trying to get into the mood. Have watched a few Hallmark Christmas movies, but they aren’t doing it for me. Thanks!

    1. Not sure if this is helpful, but one of my all time favorite holiday movies is Eloise at Christmas time. It just has the right feel, you know? And a very sweet romance, even though it’s a subplot.

        1. It’s based on the Eloise children’s books and played on Disney channel when I was a kid. I still like it as an adult though. Julie Andrews is in it, as Nanny. It’s sweet.

    2. I just read one that had a great premise: Ten Blind Dates by Ashley Elston. High school senior overhears her boyfriend say he’s tired of her, breaks off relationship and heads for her grandmother’s house for Christmas week. Grandma’s place is full of her extended family who want to help her get over the guy and decide that ten of them will fix her up on blind dates for the ten days (plus Christmas and Christmas Eve) she’ll be there. I liked it because it wasn’t about Christmas, it was about family, the aunts and uncles and cousins who fixed her up (some of them evil or clueless), the cousins she re-connected with, the sister having a dangerous pregnancy in another part of the state. And of course the romance. It was pleasant more than great, but I never once thought about skimming or not finishing it.

      1. I read it this afternoon. Yes, more pleasant than great, but very pleasant, and I’m waiting for the next one. (The other books of hers the library has appear to thrillers that don’t appeal to me, but some time when I’m not buried under books I might give them more than three pages.)

    3. Not that you asked, but I’ve always thought that the best Christmas romances weren’t about Christmas, they just made the holiday once more damn thing the protagonist has to put up with. Life is coming unraveled, and now there’s all this wrapping paper and sappy songs and expectations making it worse. Christmas as complication.

      Oh, and Connie Willis has great Christmas novellas. My fave is the Five and Dime one, but there’s also the one about aliens that’s just lovely. That one is “All Seated on the Ground,” and it’s in a story collection called A Lot Like Christmas: Stories.. At the end of the collection she has a list of twenty Christmas stories and poems and six TV episodes. And now I want to write a Christmas novella. I blame you.

        1. Not sure what you’re asking (because I’m slow tonight).

          “Santa Baby” is Christmas song that’s been covered by a lot of people; it’s a woman asking for a lot of expensive stuff (jewelry, a yacht, a platinum mine, etc.) and then adding “hurry down the chimney tonight.” Eartha Kitt did the first version, I think, in 1953, and then Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Ariana Grande. And Michael Buble, for some reason.

          The novella I wrote was called “Hot Toy” but I think the first anthology it was in might have been called Santa Baby.

          1. Sorry, I should have checked. Yes, I was thinking of “Hot Toy.” It’s a terrific Christmas novella that, well, is more about the problems with Christmas than about Christmas — not being able to live up to either the “magic” of Christmas nor the “magic” of romance. Until magic happens. Actually, “Hot Toy” is a lot more like Connie Willis Christmas stories than I thought.

    4. I remember a movie I used to watch every Christmas titled If You Believe until the networks stopped playing it so I bought it on dvd. It starred Ally Walker and a young Hayden Panettiere about a cranky book editor (Ally) who has an argument with her brother at Thanksgiving and he kicks her out of the house. In one of the next scenes she is shopping and slips on the ice, when she gets home she sees one of her nieces (Hayden) or thinks she is. The girl is herself at a young age. There is a romance but to me that was only secondary to the relationship between niece/self and older self. The publishing company is on the verge of firing her, if I remember correctly, because she hasn’t brought any number one bestsellers to the table recently. I also loved when the camera panned the dining room table (brother’s house) at the beginning and then at the end of the movie. To me it was that good.

    5. Topic-adjacent (at best). I’ve been listening to The Neuromantics podcast series. Each episode the neuroscientist assigns the poet/literature professor an academic paper, and in return he assigns her a reading, and they discuss how each explain humans. It’s great.

      One of the readings was this nativity poem (see, Christmas!) which re read in it’s intended Yorkshire accent. I’m not religious, but I liked it a lot.

      The Sheepdog, by U.A. Fanthorpe

      After the very bright light,
      And the talking bird,
      And the singing,
      And the sky filled up wi’ wings,
      And then the silence,

      Our lads sez
      We’d better go, then.
      Stay, Shep. Good dog, stay.
      So I stayed wi’ t’ sheep.

      After they’d cum back
      It sounded grand, what they’d seen.
      Camels and kings, and such,
      Wi’ presents – human sort,
      Not the kind you eat –
      And a baby. Presents wes for him
      Our lads took him a lamb.

      I had to stay behind wi’ t’ sheep.
      Pity they didn’t tek me along too.
      I’m good wi’ lambs,
      And the baby might have liked a dog
      After all that myrrh and such.

    6. Happily This Christmas by Susan Mallery, one of the Happily, Inc., series. Read in one sustained go, not so Christmas-centric as to be off-putting.

  12. Thank you Gary (Hayenga) for letting us know Honor Raconteur had a new Case files of Henry Davenforth book out. « Grimoires and where to find » was a nice read, a bit like a nice warm bath. I also read Stella Riley’s new book « Under a dark moon » set mostly on Romney Marsh with lots of smuggling and a great hero and heroine as always. So two dependable reads from two authors I really like, that’s what I call a good book week.

  13. I finished Chaos on Catnet last night, with great pleasure, and before that Charms, Death, and Explosions, the only Honor Raconteur my library owns.
    My Becky Chambers reread, after a frustrated start when all the e-copies were checked out, is going well, and I hope to finish them all before my hold on her newest one comes up.
    I’m rereading Tamora Pierce’s Beka Cooper trilogy, and pondering why those are the only ones of hers I like. I’ve tried several of her other books and bounced hard off them in the first few pages, “I Don’t Care What Happens to These People” hard. Every few years I try again, because so many people love her, and it never works, or it hasn’t yet.

    1. Funny, Beka Cooper is her only series that I can’t seem to get into. Adored and reread Circle of Magic, Songs of the Lioness and so on…

      1. I’ve heard that from other people, and it adds to the weirdness.

    2. I like all her books, but hated how Beka ended. Her style really dramtically shifted from the other book series to Beka. I haven’t reread any in awhile here, but I feel like her other books started younger, or felt that way. It seemed like Beka kind of had the edgier established YA feel, or maybe her character started older? I felt like the Trickster duology was a bit of the same. You can start to see the shift in Trickster, and it’s firmed in Beka. I haven’t read her Numair book yet to test the theory. If you haven’t tried the Trickster books yet, you might like those!

      1. Love everything by her, but especially, the Trickster, and Beka, and Numair. I think she keeps getting better.

    3. I love everything Tamora Pierce ever wrote, but I must confess (don’t tell her, she’s a friend of mine), the Beka series was my least favorite. I think it was darker and less hopeful.

      1. And I usually don’t like darker and less hopeful.
        So what is going on with her and me??!!??

        1. I liked the Beka series a lot. The sense of place(s) was fantastic. I thought finding out who the informant was was heartbreaking. I’m told that a lot of readers didn’t like that revelation. To me, it fit — and even more so, now, years later, having lived through Trump’s presidency.

  14. I have the new Bujold, Assassins, yay Penric and Desdemona. I’m also still finishing Bottle Demon by Stephen Blackmoore, which I started reading on release day but Things Happened and my reading got derailed.

    I also read Talia Hibbert’s The Roommate Risk. Friends to lovers, happily ever after, ahhhh.

  15. I read Georgette Heyer’s A Civil Contract after several people mentioned it as one of their favorites. It didn’t do as much for me as a lot of the others.

    I finished Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary. It was good. A similar feel to The Martian (Astronaut scientist alone a long way from home), but with higher stakes. I liked The Martian better, mainly I think because I liked the main character better. This one was fine, but didn’t have the sense of humor of The Martian.

    Other than those I read a bunch of samples and then deleted them.

    Next up is The Assassin’s of Thasalon.

    1. I was surprised at the enthusiasm for ‘A Civil Contract’. It was about my least-favourite Heyer as a teenager, and not one I’ve revisited in ages.

      1. I think that really the emotion in that book all centers around the hero, rather than the heroine. His story begins, not with just a single blow to all his dreams and hopes, but a series of them, and the steps he takes to move towards some sort of balance and to avoid further disasters really display his basic character — honest, decent, practical, and hopeful, with a big handful of military duty thrown in. The happy ending at the end of the book is nearly all his own, and all to his credit.

        The heroine’s story is not one that I think teenagers can really grasp or enjoy, but I think the older and wiser one gets, the more one can appreciate it.

        1. I must have been pretty wise as a teenager, then, because I loved it when I first read it, and still do.

          1. Me too! I liked the heroine pragmatism and I adore the hero with his quiet decency and delicate stomach!

      2. I didn’t like it as a teenager, either. But coming back to it in my thirties, I love the marriage arc, the “what happens after the not happily ever after” story. It’s a slow build love story built on two good people working together to make a life and finding that while they didn’t get what they wanted, they got what they needed in each other. I also like the contrast between their marriage and the one that his great love has with her husband. It’s not that the great love has a bad marriage, it’s probably like a lot of other marriages, but the contrast between what they have and what the marriage-of-convenience partners have is subtle but deep.

      3. It’s not one of my favorites either that one and Cousin Kate rank very low in the list for me?

        1. I love Cousin Kate, and the scene where they’re staring at each other like two cats and she starts laughing is one that always makes me giggle. I like the gothic drama of it.

          1. That’s the thing with Heyer isn’t it. Like all great authors she doesn’t write the same book over and over again.

    2. What did you think of Project Hail Mary as compared to the book that came out after The Martian? I could not get into that second book at all (nothing objectively wrong with it, just didn’t connect), and I’d liked The Martian. Wondering if the new one is closer to the one I liked or the one I couldn’t get into.

      1. I’m about half-way through Project: Hail Mary, and it’s much more like The Martian than Artemis (the second novel, which I couldn’t stay interested in long enough to finish).

        P:HM is all Mark-Watney-and-Angus-MacGyver-ish sciencing and improvising the sh*t out of the situation and the problems encountered. There is most definitely math involved.

        1. Ooh, thanks. Glad it wasn’t just me on Artemis. And I’m not afraid of a little math! Will have to check the new one out.

      2. I didn’t mind Artemis but ripped through Project Hail Mary a lot faster than that one. Much more like the Martian.

  16. On the recommendation of others here, I bought Winter’s Orbit. It was excellent. A reminder of how comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides can lead you astray. Both protagonists have uncertainties and flaws but only see the other’s strengths. I read Anxious People by Fredrik Backman who also wrote A Man Called Ove for my book group. It is a book that switches point of view and time frequently which made it a harder book to start but it is worth it. Anxious People is filled with wonderful characters who struggle with how hard life can be. The impact of suicide is woven into the story but it is not a sad book. I laughed out loud many, many times while reading this book. I highly recommend both Winter’s Orbit and Anxious People.

  17. I finished Roni Loren’s Yes & I Love You and enjoyed it – a sweet, emotional romance with an overload of hot sex. I already can’t wait for her next book, out in June.

    Michelle Diener’s Interference/Insurgency contains two sci-fi (lite) novellas in one book. Both are prequels to the VERDANT STRING series of novels. I liked this book. Although I didn’t fall in love with it, I’ll definitely try at least one full-length novel of the series to see how it goes in the longer format. I’ll have to buy it, as my library doesn’t carry it.

    Ilona Andrews’s Gunmetal Magic was swift, gritty, and violent, a classic Kate Daniels, even though the heroine was not Kate but her friend, Andrea. Good writing, but too bloody for me, as many novels by this team are. I was just in the mood for dark, so it worked.

  18. I read Allanah’s puzzling book, ‘Catalysts’ by Kris Ripper, and then the novella that follows it, ‘Unexpected Gifts’. Enjoyed both. They’re character-driven, fun romances with a lot of BDSM sex that’s central to the story. The first one was originally two stories, and takes an unexpected 90 degree turn halfway through; I also felt I wanted to read the sequel in order to feel complete with all the characters. You can get it for free, but I bought it from Amazon (£1.99), having had the first one free. The author’s friends with Alexis Hall, which makes a lot of sense.

    It’s been a good week: I really enjoyed two of my three library books, too: ‘Flatshare’ (mentioned last week) and Sophie Kinsella’s ‘Love Your Life’. As usual, this took a long time to really get going, and I only stuck with the ultra-silly first half because it was a library book. But the ending was great.

    1. Thank you for reading it and commenting. It’s not that I needed my opinion validated, it just seemed better than it looked on the surface, so I was keen to know others’ thoughts. I hadn’t thought of it as fun given the angsty characters and the floggers (ha!) but you’re right, the tone is light and it really was fun. Also yes, characters. And now I think of it, maybe the themes around finding what is right for you and doing it, without shame, no matter what society thinks (without harm of course), that’s a good theme. And people who love you seeing that, and family and found family. Huh, now that I write that, of course I liked it!

      I also read the most recent, Untrue, which had practically no sex and was also good, a study of relationships and misunderstandings that happen through assumption, and where they can lead you. It’s not Big Misunderstanding, it’s more human and life and again, I liked it.

      They’re a very human writer.

      Right, having talked that all out, Arghers: my now unqualified recommendation is for Kris Ripper, at least book 1, Catalysts, and if you can bear reading out of order, also Untrue, which is able a decade later. M/m love story, with floggers.

      1. Will look for Untrue. Would like a bit less sex after those first two! I definitely wouldn’t have gone for ‘Catalyst’ based on a description of it; I wouldn’t have though polyamory could work for me. So thanks for the suggestion!

  19. I read a few more Adella Harris books – her BDSM “Lord Dixon” series which I do not recommend. An interesting premise but just not that well written and some REALLY nasty bits. Yes, I know you’re wondering why I read the whole series. I promise you, it wasn’t for the nasty bits. Now I’m reading her Traitor Lords Saga series which I much prefer.

    I’ve also been slogging my way through Winterkeep, the last in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series. I should be enjoying it. It has everything I love about her work. I think. I absolutely cannot figure out why I’m finding it hard to to get through. Has anyone read it? Any thoughts??

    1. I read Winterkeep and wasn’t impressed either. I loved Bitterblue, as always, but I disliked the other protagonist, Lovisa. She is a brat and doesn’t deserve the protagonist’s spot in a story. And my disgust of her colored my perception of the entire novel.

    2. I have a hard time with her endings. I love her characters and world building and plot lines, but everything I have read of hers has left me sad/dissatisfied/I don’t know but I don’t like it by the end.

      1. So disappointing. I’m going to finish it but yes – I don’t like Lovisa either. Why Cashore’s given her such a big role is a mystery.

  20. Another endorsement of the new Penric novel by Lois McMaster Bujold (although I’m only a few chapters in).

    I also read a good chunk of Lindsay Buroker’s new epic fantasy, Kingdoms At War: Dragon Gate, and it’s well done, but I think I’m just not an epic fan. I prefer to focus on one protagonist (or in romance, the two leads), and having half a dozen protagonists, all with their own pov and their own arc (I think they have arcs; I haven’t finished it) just waters down the experience for me, rather than expanding it. So I think it’s good by epic standards, but I’m just not into epics. It’s got all the action and snappy banter (and dragons) that I enjoy in her books, but it’s just not a genre I like, apparently. I didn’t get into her YA series either, so I really think it’s me, not her, and i if you like epics, check it out.

    Oh, and I too was reading my new phone manual, but it was pretty easy once I figured out how to insert the sim card, with the help of the phone store guy who, for once, wasn’t condescending when it was a simple fix — like Murderbot, I need to hack his personnel file and give him a good review.

  21. Another lot of reading, wrapping up the week with an old-school-feeling brand-new Regency. What makes it new is it’s M/M and the history’s been queered up with a fictional law permitting same-sex marriages. What made it old was a hapless ingenue (a sweet character but makes the Only I Can Solve This Problem That I Perceive To Be Huge assumption and gets himself into ever-worse trouble) surrounded by dicks. The alleged hero is a dick almost all the way through. The ingenue’s sister (whom he loves and is trying to protect) made me want to slap her. I rage-read to the end despite a few glaring anachronisms of language because I wanted it to be better than it was. If someone like KJ Charles had edited it … ah well.

    Otherwise, read two post-WWII mysteries by Sheila York that I liked (a re-read of ‘A Good Knife’s Work’ and freshly-discovered ‘Death in Her Face’); another of the Mimi Mathews M/F romances that I mostly liked (‘A Modest Independence’) – the road trip aspect was pretty great, but the heroine was a bit much; a wartime mystery by M. Ruth Myers that I wholly liked (‘Victory Garter’); a M/M novella by an author I usually like, would have been improved by more words. Only two scenes are really fleshed out. Also the timeline was unbelievably compressed.

    Finally, two more M/M romances in the Vino & Veritas multi-author series, both of which I really liked. ‘Unguarded’ by Jay Hogan (who is an auto-buy for me) and ‘Heartsong’ by A.E. Wasp.

  22. I read Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews and I liked it even though it almost felt like whiplash at the end. It went from constant struggles against evil to cookies on the counter F-A-S-T. Still I’m looking forward to checking out the next one.

    I also read J.D. Robb’s Faithless in Death and reread Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score and enjoyed both.

  23. Got through two pretty good books this week:

    The Good Sister, by Sally Hepworth. We see things from the points of view of two twin sisters (non-identical). Which one is the unreliable narrator? It didn’t turn out the way I was expecting, which is always nice.

    Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir. I loved The Martian (book and movie) and liked his second book, Artemis, fairly well. This new book may be my favorite Weir. As Gary said in a comment above, this book’s main character isn’t as likable as the guy stuck alone on Mars, but I loved the secondary character of Rocky. The very fact that there was a secondary character to interact with (unlike The Martian) made it far more interesting to me. Also, I enjoyed the main character’s frustrations with measurement systems (having a scientific background, I too get annoyed when I find myself thinking in both the metric and “American” systems at the *same* time).

    1. All these people reading Project Hail Mary reminded me to check the library again. (The last time I looked for it they didn’t have it.) I now have it reserved: “0 copies of 13 are available.” It’ll be a while.

  24. The Last Big Fake which AArgh told be about. I very much enjoyed it. Then I dove into a Heyer frenzy. These Old Shades, Faro’s Daughter and currently Fredericka.

  25. Thanks to the recent Dick Francis recommendations, I read both Hot Money and Straight and enjoyed them both, although I think I liked Straight best. And it coincides with the recent Kentucky Derby scandal with the trainer accused of doping his horse, so I feel weirdly and fictionally informed?

    I’m also reading Pratchett’s Hogfather and I think I may have a crush on Death.

  26. I just started Wild Sign, the new Patricia Briggs book. I’ve been avoiding most of my most loved urban fantasy authors because I just can’t handle the dark and gritty the last few years, but I love her Alpha and Omega series so much, I got it anyway. So far, so good.

    1. It gets dark and sad. And there is some trigger stuff for sexual abuse. Just be warned, as I know that you are sensitive to this. It’s more like her earlier Mercy books than what I expected from Alpha and Omega.

      I’m still glad I read it, but probably won’t again until there is another one to bookend it that is lighter.

      But I do think that it was important for Anna. She didn’t really deal with what happened to her off screen before the series starts, just moved past it. So I think this is trying to address how long and how much work it takes to heal from abuse.

  27. I finished an ARC for “Entrancing the Earl” by Patricia Rice. This is part of her “Magic” Series and was a really great read — romance, intrigue, and fun witty characters. It comes out on the 18th and I can highly recommend.

    Then I finally caught up on “Close Up” by Amanda Quick which is set in the 1930s and is a romance/mystery. I think this is book 4 in the series, but you don’t need to have read the rest to enjoy. This series has been an interesting change for Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz. She is still able to integrate her characters from present day and back in the 1800s, but you do not have to have read those stories in order to enjoy these reads.

    Now I am busy reading “Frightfully Fortune” by Jana Deleon which is book 20 in the “Miss Fortune” series. I am truly addicted to this series — fun out there characters, good mystery, and an example of what true friendship is.

  28. I recently read the first two Harry Dresden books. They are dark in tone and Harry is always getting into trouble because he doesn’t trust other people. I’m not sure I liked them but I always wanted to know how it would turn out.

    Then I read What Abigail Did That Summer which was a delight and made me hope for more books about Abigail.

    1. Harry Dresden will always get himself into trouble 🙂 But he grows throughout the series and I very much like the community around him.
      If you like audiobooks, James Marsters did a terrific job in reading Harry. A treat!

  29. I’ve been re-reading the entire Chronicles of Elantra fantasy series by Michelle Sagara. It’s even better this time around; I’m seeing the big picture and also seeing little things I missed in prior readings. Looking forward to the new release on June 29.

    I also read the entire Rivers of London graphic novel series (these are new stories, not re-tellings). I enjoyed it even though I’m not that into graphic novels. It’s fun to “see” our favorite characters in action instead of reading about them. I also appreciated Aaronovitch not shying away from pointing out people’s racial prejudices, both hidden and overt.

    Then I read the Abigail novella. Aaronovitch is always fun, no matter the form.

  30. Also, the Tor website this week has an article by Leah Schnelbach on her 18 favorite books on writing. I’m having trouble linking to it, but go to if you’re interested.

  31. So I’m deep into the complete works of Jane Austen and quite enjoying myself. So far have read: Lady Susan, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and am halfway through Emma (which is my least liked. She annoys the hell out of me.) thoroughly enjoyed Mansfield Park. Must have been almost 60 years ago that I last read it.
    Next up is Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, The Watson’s and Sanditon.

    1. Emma always annoys me too as a character which is why the book is not on my re-readable list. Persuasion though is more brilliant ever time I read it.

    2. I didn’t like Emma so much the first few times I read it (mainly due to not liking the character Emma), but I have come around. I think the book is genius. It may be the first detective novel ever written, in the sense that there are some big surprises at the end, but the clues are all there woven throughout when you reread. Also I like that Mr. Knightley was always a good guy. He just didn’t know his own heart. Emma’s the one who has the real character arc.

      That said, Persuasion regularly trades places with P&P for first favorite.

  32. I just got Amanda Quick’s latest from the library ‘The Lady has a Past’.

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