This is a Good Book Thursday, November 4, 2021

I’ve been doing a massive reread of Ngaio Marsh (no, I didn’t know why) and got to the beginning of Swing, Brother, Swing, which is all letters from different people in the story to each other, and I thought, “Ooooh, I want to do this.” But I CANNNOT start another book, I have to finish the ones I’ve got going, so I thought about You Again, which I haven’t worked on in years (that’s the one I lost big chunks of), and which has another one of my hellaciously long set-up intros, and I thought maybe I could do that epistolary opening there and cut out about twenty-thousand words of ramp-up-to-the-real-story. So that’s why I’m rereading Ngaio Marsh: to send me back to my Crusie version of Christie-Marsh-Allingham mystery (I-should-be-so-lucky).

Also there’s a new audio of Good Omens that has Tennant and Sheen repeating their characters. I don’t like audio books, but for Tennant and Sheen . . . except it’s twenty-six bucks. Argh.

What did you read this week?

129 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, November 4, 2021

  1. I most recently finished Payback’s A Witch and In A Holidaze.

    Payback’s A Witch is a girl who’s from the fourth-ranked family in a magical town who (a) had a bad breakup in which her HS BF dumped her for not being top notch enough and (b) realized she’d always be fourth class in town, so she decided to move to the big city even though it made her lose her magic. She has to come back to town to arbitrate the big magical competition between the three top families and finds out that her ex has also loved and left her best friend and the hot mostly-lesbian chick in town. The girl gets involved with the latter.
    It’s not all THAT revenge-y on the ex, mostly a “everyone’s fed up with his family running the town, let’s do what we can to make sure he doesn’t win” sort of thing. The romance is pretty instant. It was along the lines of fun fluff, I like the snarky narrator but it could have used a bit more depth for me to find it more memorable.

    In A Holidaze is pretty great: girl has always been in love with a family friend but thinks he’s uninterested. She accidentally makes out with his brother (which sucks) and then finds out the family friends are selling the cabin. She makes a wish to find out what makes her happy, then they get into a car accident–and then next thing she knows, she’s starting the trip over again. This happens a few more times and then the time loop thing fades out as she finally gets up the nerve to quit her job and confess her love to the friend. They hang out and have a good time together and it’s very Hallmark. The romance is great, very sweet. Very good friends to lovers there.

    1. Payback’s a Witch is my next bookclub book. I have to get a copy so I can binge read it tomorrow before Saturday’s book club. Good to hear it’s fun!

      1. I just finished Payback’s a Witch. Enjoyed it. Good story arc. Especially liked the fact that many characters have partners of either gender and it’s no big deal.

  2. Thanks for recommending Envious Casca! It’s now my 2nd favorite Heyer mystery after No Wind of Blame.

    I actually figured out the murderer early on because of the title. I really liked reading Julius Caesar with 9th graders (I’m just different from you, Jenny), and Robert Vaughn (man from UNCLE) played Casca in the old movie version I showed the kids.

    There was a literary/historical tie too that I didn’t know about.

    And I liked the two who ended up as a couple.

    Finally, there was a moment at the end that in other detective traditions would have led to wiping out one of the romance partners. But no, Heyer is civilized. Lovely.

    Jenny, it’s cool that you are rereading Marsh et al.

    1. Envious Casca is one of my go-to Christmas reads. I love revisting all the mostly annoying characters because they are so unwittingly funny. (But I ask myself, what on earth does Stephen have to be so misanthropic about?)

      I have no recollection of No Wind of Blame, so it must be worth a look.

      1. I suspect that Stephen feels like an idiot for being kind of tricked into an engagement with a nincompoop. Also, Stephen really cares deeply for Nat who is angry all the time.

  3. I’m doing a slow re-read of Boyfriend Material prompted by the news that there will be a German version soon. I really can’t imagine how they are going to translate all the language jokes and puns – will check it out when it’s out.
    Previously I’d listened to the audiobook and though I knew that I do the equivalent of skimming when listening I’m constantly surprised just how much I’ve missed. E.g. I didn’t remember how fucked up Luc was for most of the book. To me he resembles a stray puppy/kitten (i.e. in need of rescuing), he’s always beating himself up over everything with no self respect whatsoever. But to his surroundings he seems to come across as arrogant and haughty. Interesting difference in perspective.

    Apart from this one book (and a couple of excerpts that I didn’t like enough to purchase the book), some time was spent on knitting and drawing – the kids have drawing prompts for Art class at school and I’m a sucker for such things. DS gave me a great pose to draw (his hand in a great position) and I’m totally in love with the finished drawing. Dito with “my dream room” – basically a private library with a comfy sofa, a desk with good lighting, a lot of plants and the dog and cat I never had and most likely never will have.
    And now it’s already the last day of my short vacation so I’m off to IKEA with dh to hunt down a new rug for the new sofa.

  4. I read Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA, by Amaryllis Fox
    Interesting life! Excellent writer! Jenny Cruisie, I would be surprised if you don’t admire this one if only for the artistry of the writing. I tend to highlight especially gorgeous turns of phrase as I read. Quite a few highlights in this book. It’s her insights though that blow me away here. She is trained to conceal her identity and starts to lose her sense of self. Then she eventually has a baby who unerringly shows her who she is again, over and over. Fascinating. The way she deals with hostile people and forms a connection with them is riveting. She has now retired from the CIA and teaches peace – not unicorns and balloons peace – but practical, gritty, messy, human, real, working peace. We all need some inspiration in difficult times. I recommend this one for sure. (Could you tell?)

    1. Ooh. This might be worth a look. I need something interesting.

      I’m in a slump, reading and otherwise, hence my absence here. I’m just mainlining Netflix and Viki for Asian TV while I get my work done.

      Found a really mellow Japanese show called Samurai Gourmet. Ep one really made me feel chilled. Will report if ep 2 does the same.

      I haven’t found anything French that appeals after Lupin so meh.

      1. I love Samurai Gourmet so much. I wish there was more than one season. If you like quirky Japanese shows with an emphasis on food, there is also Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. The first episode of that is the best but we enjoyed all four seasons.

      2. We mainlined Clickbait on Netflix this week. Three episodes Wednesday and five, count’m five, last night. Seven and eight just rolled into each other. We didn’t get to bed until after midnight. And were completely stunned by the last episode.

  5. And wait, I have a question. Can anybody help me with this one? I bought a book that had pages and pages of rave reviews and had won awards. The heroine is relentlessly self destructive. She harms herself, physically and emotionally and it gets worse as the book goes on. She is supposed to be very intelligent. I didn’t see it. She must be very beautiful or something because people are drawn to her. She lies to the three people who she is closest to, her mother, her best friend and her (married) lover. She shuts them out and jerks them around and pushes them away. This character has a serious mental illness IMHO. (I will not diagnose her.) There is NOTHING redeeming in her character. She doesn’t learn anything. She doesn’t grow. She continually harms herself and the people around her. It’s grim and tedious. Yet this is a massive best seller. Why?

    1. Personally, I never like movies with a lot of critical acclaim. We just watched the Green Knight, which I was excited about, and I absolutely hated it on all fronts. Did anyone here like it?

      But maybe it’s something like that? I feel like reviewers get jaded and are unreasonably excited by stories that break the rules and feel different. For me, sometimes the rules are there for a reason, like don’t kill the dog.

      Jane Doe, which came out a couple of years ago got a lot of people excited, but left a bad taste in my mouth. I know that the bad guys deserved what they got, but I guess vengeance just isn’t for me?

    2. Some best sellers are not even read, they are bought in hardback by people who want to be thought of as well read and left on the shelf. A while back I heard people who were doing a radio show were questioning who read books like you described. So to prove that point, they wrote up a number of notes offering a cash prize to the bearer, if they claimed it within a year and placed them securely into the centre of a number of hardbacks of that years critically acclaimed deep and meaningful best sellers, that were all sold at the local bookshop. Nobody came forward to claim their prize

    3. Cannot help you. Reading along here to see if anyone can. Because I ponder this question on many occasions after reading a book or watching a movie or TV show that gets rave reviews!

    4. Marian, I don’t understand this either. I stop reading a lot of books because the protagonist is so down on themselves, or so self-destructive that I can’t bear it. I want problems in books, but I want a reasonable degree of adulthood and mental health too. Or, if there are mental health issues, I want them to be trying to deal with it, not just flailing around hurting everyone in their path.

      1. Exactly! Jenny teaches us how important conflict is to a story. Conflict, yes, and then the characters learn and grow and develop in response, not get ever more destructive. My mother was a children’s librarian and she used to say that you don’t have to water things down for children. Then can take rugged stories. But there has to be hope. There has to be a way out of despair. I think that goes for the rest of us too. Otherwise, what is the point?

    5. It’s up there with weird Motion Picture academy award winners. Nobody has the time to watch all the films. Some skim, some watch highlights, some go by what their assistant said, or the discussions around them. That’s how Anthony Hopkins was awarded over Chadwick Boseman. Bitter about that one.

    6. The book got good reviews because some people liked it.

      I agree with the other posters here that when it becomes admirable to have read a certain book, people will buy it and then not read it, but it’s also entirely possible that some people liked it. We do not, thank god, all have the same reading tastes which is why there’s so much work for so many different writers.

      When I was working on my MFA–not a good place for genre writers but I had an amazing mentor there–people used to moan about the success of Bridges of Madison County, Twilight, and I suppose later Fifty Shades of Gray. What they missed was that people really liked those books. I thought they were awful, but I’m one reader. I also thought Moby Dick was awful and I wanted to strangle Faulkner for Sanctuary, but obviously there were people who really thought those books were wonderful, too. And they weren’t wrong, they were wonderful for them.

      If you want to know how popular a book really is, look at how long it stays on the bestseller list and then how long it stays in print. Bestseller lists are about velocity, how fast a book sells, not about how many books sell. There are books that have never been on the bestseller list that have outsold bestsellers ten times over because they keep selling, Energizer bunny books that keep going and going and stay in print when the bestsellers are gone.

      If you want to know if you’re going to like a book, read the first pages online. That won’t protect you from a bad ending, but it will let you know if the story is going to hit your reading sweet spot.

  6. Jenny, I’m sure you know but Dorothy Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon starts off with a series of letters so might be a good one to revisit.

    I read Iris Foxglove’s Starian (not Stariel) series, Half of Iris Foxglove is Avon Gale, if any of you are familiar with her work, not sure who the other half is – does anyone know? Anyway, I loved the whole series of five books and can’t wait for sixth to arrive this month. The series is labelled an M/M Dark Fantasy Romance which is fairly accurate. Definitely M/M Fantasy, not as Dark as some, and very high scoring on the Romance scale. Court intrigue, a BDSM background (especially in the first book set in a brothel but if you’re not into that it would be hard to avoid the first book which sets the arc for the series) and great characters, suspense and magic to sparkle it all up. One of my favourites was book three – a host and his demon capture a fleeing noble. The demon, who feeds on anger and pain, learns to feed on other things – like joy and desire. Completely romantic.

    1. Tammy, you are hell on my book budget. I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy any more books until next month, but I think I need to give Iris Foxglove a try.

      1. Lupe, I knew you would say that but…you won’t regret this one, I promise. They’re all on Kindle Unlimited if that helps.

          1. I don’t do Kindle unlimited. I read from too many places and too slowly sometimes to make it worth the fee. But thanks!

          2. And I forgot to say – she actually gets funny by book four – so much for the ‘dark’ part! More breadth to enjoy is what I say though.

            I hear you on the Kindle Unlimited – but there’s so much available there now, and it also makes any decision to DNF something easier.

  7. It’s been good books for me, rather than excellent, so I’m really here to say hi.

    But since I’m commenting anyway: the good books:
    The Sword Dance series by AJ Demas. They were enjoyable, I really liked the characters, they communicated sensibly, they were competent and interesting and mature, but I think the series suffered in my mind because the first one felt very much like Think of England by KJ Charles, which is fairly hard to compete with (although I didn’t love ToE on first reading either).

    I also finally finished The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue, which I wanted to love, and somehow nearly DNFd. It took soooo loooong to feel like it was going anywhere, which is clever given that it reflects how Addie lives, but. What did others think?

    I’m still interspersing novels with The Paper Menagerie stories by Ken Liu which I am liking A LOT.

    And I read Peter Darling by Austin Chant – “a queer, transgender retelling of Peter Pan in which Pan returns to Neverland” which was SO MUCH better than I was expecting. It’s short, and it felt light and fun and like a Peter Pan adventure and it stuck with me…so also highly recommended. Huh. That’s two gender fluid MCs in two weeks, which is two more than I’ve ever read before.

    Actually, looking at that, it has indeed been a pretty good book fortnight or so for me. So lucky to be a reader. So many good books. Thanks, writers.

  8. I’ve never been able to get into audio books because I can’t do something even as simple as housework AND listen at the same time, LOL. But I’ve discovered I can crochet and listen, as long as I’m careful to pause the book whenever I need to count stitches. So I’ve been revelling in Nero and Archie, because I’m so familiar with the stories that I figure I won’t miss too much if I do zone out for a bit.

  9. I seem to be paralyzed lately. Forthright has not one, but two new books out in the last few weeks and Nacosta had a new one for Halloween. I know that I will probably enjoy all of them, but I can’t seem to start.

    So I have been reading cheap, fast smut. It’s comforting. The standout was a witch who accidentally summons Jack, as in jack-o’-lantern, as in he has a pumpkin head and magical powers on Halloween. Very smutty, but we’ll constructed for it’s length and original.

    I started listening to Paladins Grace on Hoopla. It’s different than I expected from the cover. Classic case of me judging and putting it off because it looked too serious. I did the same thing with Murderbot, to my shame. Thanks for the recommendation!

      1. She only has three at the moment. And I am spelling it incorrectly. Nascota. Morning Glory, which you read, Girls Weekend, which I liked a lot but is just a hfn as it follows three friends with more books to come, and Mabon Feast, which features va spider man as the love interest, which I haven’t read yet.

    1. I’ve heard so much here about Paladins Grace but the only book by T. Kingfisher that I’ve read (A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking) was so depressing at the end I am reluctant to try another. How do you like it? Is it grim or is it hopeful? I’d like to read more by her, because her writing is excellent, but I don’t need anything else depressing in my life.

      1. Oh no, these are lovely! They are good people being good to each other, and yes there are servered heads, and it’s not a saccharine world, but good people being good to each other is always hopeful for me.

      2. I didn’t like A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking either, couldn’t even finish it, but she has many other good books. Her old fairy tale retelling books are excellent. Nine Goblins is a powerful book, and Swordheart is an amazing read. I liked all three of the Paladin series novels so far. On the other hand, I dislike her horror stories, but then, I don’t read horror as a genre, so no surprise there.

      3. I DNFed the Wizards guide. So far this seems like a gentle romance in a slightly magical setting. There are some dark and dire elements, but it’s pretty hopeful.

      4. I don’t like horror but do like T. Kingfisher’s writing and characters, so I tend to be ambivalent about her books.
        The Paladin books are on the edge of too much horror for me; the first was on the edge, the second one gave me nightmares, but the third had less of a visceral impact and I was okay with it.
        I won’t be rereading them, because of the horror elements, though I probably will read the next book (once) if she continues writing them, as I do want to know where she is taking this series.

        I much prefer her Swordheart, and Nine goblins, books with less overt horror elements.

        I haven’t read all her books, as I keep teetering on the edge between liking her writing & characters, and not wanting those horrifying images in my head!

        1. Oh that’s interesting. I never thought of those elements as horror because it’s creepy but not something I need to worry about. I found Wizard’s Guide more disturbing: the rage at the adults not taking care of things.

  10. Also, my hearts seem to be behaving normally. Yay.

    And Sorcery and Cecilia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer is my favorite book comprised of letters.

      1. Lupe on my first read I interpreted your first comment as meaning that you had been having cardiac trouble, and now it had settled down. Hooray!

        But alas! Your second comment made it clear that it hadn’t settled down after all. I wondered if it was atrial fibrillation. That seemed to fit the ‘going crazy’ description.

        Then I read it again, and thought ‘hearts, hmm’. Just how many has this woman got?

        Then I realised. 🤣🤣🤣

  11. I chewed through An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris. It’s the first book in a series about a young female gunslinger who hires herself out as a protector and guide for people who need to move through the new and unsettled territories of the United States. The president, Franklin D Roosevelt, was assassinated in Florida, which destabilized the government, allowing foreign powers to invade and seize sections of the country. Russia got a chunk, Mexico got a chunk, another chunk aligned with Great Britain. The resulting chaos has created shortages of goods and desperation among people stuck in the wrong place. And various people have various kinds of magical powers. Plus zombies! I like Harris’s writing, and I thought the concept was intriguing, And I liked this story a lot until about three-fourths of the way through, when I suddenly felt that there had been too much killing. It’s all justified, but it just got to be a bit much. I enjoyed the book overall, but I probably won’t go forward with the rest of the series.

  12. Watching/listening to LETTERS LIVE on you tube. And listening to the workshops from the SiWC. Haven’t completely read a new book to the end in awhile. Nothing is grabbing me.

  13. Those books I was in the middle of last Thursday? I’m still in the middle of them, only slightly farther along. I enjoy the characters and want to spend time with them, but I’m somehow impatient for the plots to get moving, so I keep putting them down and re-reading things (Ladies of Mandrigyn, for example, and Paladin’s Hope, after I totally failed to remember the plot) which I also don’t finish because I keep going back to the new ones a few pages at a time. They all taste the same to me (well, two of them are by the same author and part of a series, so–) and I am not getting far with them, and _yet_ I want to finish them, because they’re likeable.

  14. I went through my tbr list which fuelled by Arghers recs had reached truly depressing proportions and pruned it ruthlessly.

    As I had written in my list Polk’s midnight bargain not once but 3 times, I have now bought it.

    However, I had already embarked on a rereading of Anna Butler’s Taking shield series so I’ll read Polk once I am finished with that.

    My favourite Anna Butler is the first Lancaster’s luck book which is steam punk m/m but I like it for the setting up of the coffee shop. There is something deeply satisfying about this type of endeavour within a romance book.

    I always end up rereading the others too because I like Rafe, the main character but I tend to skip the sex scenes after a while as they are a repetitive and a tad too long for my taste.

    1. Downloaded the first Anne Butler Lancaster book on your recommendation. Looking forward to it – thanks!

  15. I must start by saying “Half the hearts were red and decremented if I clicked them. It’s contagious!” What’s different? I’m still on the Windows 11 confuser, but I’m using the Edge browser instead of Chrome.

    Okay, then. Books. I’ve read the first three books in the Soul Screamers series. Also the first book in the Wildcat series. I’m not sure I can recommend the latter, yet.

    I’m 8 chapters deep into Gin’s third Crazy Cat Lady book, Three’s a Clowder. I haven’t identified the murderer yet, so good.

    I needed a break from the guts and gore I was reading, so I re-read Wearing the Cape: A Superhero Story by Harmon.

    Lastly, it is Official Weigh-In Day #29. I’ve been on this diet for 29 weeks! That’s not a record, but it shows endurance. Today I weigh 253.6 pounds, down 43 from last April. My ideal weight is in the neighborhood of 160. I just want to make a smaller pile of ash when they cremate my remains. I haven’t seen 230 this century, and I’d like to, very much.

        1. I wouldn’t dare click on your Reply, because the heart is red and the count is +9. Consider yourself virtually clicked, however.

  16. I’ve been comfort reading Ngaio Marsh for most of the pandemic (especially the stories that have bits of the inspector and his family) and just re-read of Swing, Brother, Swing. I liked those opening letters the first read through, but I do tend to skip them in re-reads.

    I picked up Georges Simenon’s The Yellow Dog the other day. It was okay, but I don’t know that I’ll search out more. A very bare-bones kind of story. On the plus side, that made it a very quick read.

    I also read Dorothy Gilman’s A Nun in the Closet, which was fun, though trying a bit too hard to make a social statement. I followed that up with The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, which was okay but stretched my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point.

    Not sure what to read next. I have hundreds of unread books awaiting my attention, but I’ll probably go back to another comfort read instead.

  17. Lots of re-reads in the past week but only 2 new books worth mentioning.
    Bujold’s latest, Knot of Shadows was disappointing. I never thought I’d say this about Penric, but I disliked this novella. It was more fictional theology than fictional adventure. Everything about souls of dead people, nothing about the living and their concerns.
    A.J. Demas’s Strong Wine was a nice conclusion to the series. I enjoyed reading this book and this entire series, all M/M fantasy romances, but one question bugged me to a degree that I turned to Google for answers. One of the protagonists, Varazda, is a eunuch, castrated in his childhood, but the author employs sex scenes in all three novels. According to her, a eunuch could feel desire, actively participate in a sexual act, and even achieve orgasm. Before this series, I thought it impossible. But Google doesn’t lie. According to Google, Demas is correct. Eunuchs could participate in sex, especially with a right partner, and derive satisfaction from the act. The only thing they can’t do is sire children. That was an entirely new worldview for me. I wonder: did the Eastern sultans of the past know it when they employed eunuchs in their harems?

    1. Agree with you on Knot of Shadows. It’s the only Bujold book I’ve picked up and set down at least 3 times (and still haven’t finished). Disagree about Wizard’s Guide. I’ll have to go back and re-read (at least the ending).

    2. I know absolutely nothing of the real history of eunuchs in the harem but … if said eunuchs were in all ways functional except sterile, it might actually explain why the harem women didn’t tear the sultan to pieces. 😉

    3. Knowing very little about eunuchs, but doesn’t it depend on the age at which they were castrated? So a pre-puberty eunuch’s abilities are rather different from a post-puberty eunuch’s.

        1. Yep, both.
          It doesn’t help if you’re post puberty when everything is cut off – as it was done in China according to the sources.
          If “only” the testicles were removed and this at a later age, more seems to have been possible.
          Does anyone remember the movie “Farinelli” (late 89s)? There, eunuchs like the famous singer seem to have been admired not only for his beautiful voice. The attraction might have originated from more (fame, celebrity status, artist, the exotic) and the advantage of not having to fear a pregnancy as the result of your adventure/fling.
          As Martial said – the pleasures of the marriage bed without the fruits.
          Though I’d be curious about functionality. In AJ Demas’s books we get the impression that the drive and usage b different…

  18. Last week I read, and really enjoyed, Lauren Christina’s Soulmate Equation. I don’t think I’ve ever read books by a pair of authors who are friends & girls (but not girlfriends, it sounds like). They presented their MC in relation to her best friend, so the back-and-forth between the two of them has to have been drawn from their own interactions and all I can say is, they’re pretty darn charming to read.

    What trope is there that shorthands the plot device of having a heroine despise the hero when she doesn’t know him, but grow to love him as she gradually gets to know what he’s really like? That’s the trope here, and it was done very skillfully. Liked the setting, liked the believable science & statistics that came up as part of the plot, and liked the secondary characters. Left me feeling warm & fuzzy.

      1. You are right. Same trope. Is there a term for it? In the Lauren Christina book cited above, the initial dislike is based on the MC’s irritation at someone dropping in at the same coffee shop every morning to pick up his preferred coffee order, without any banter or engagement with the barista or anyone else, which is a prejudice so 2020’s that it didn’t trigger the P&P connection, but it carries on with an overheard remark by the guy that sounds dismissive, so it should have.

  19. Hearts already red on all but the last two or three comments. I miss being able to like.

    I reread a few Olivia Dade, but ended up, as before, finding them over-egged and repetitive (fun to begin with, though: I started with ‘Teach Me’). So I treated myself to a reread of Alexis Hall’s ‘Waiting for the Flood’, and followed that with ‘Looking for Group’, which I’d forgotten. It’s pretty hard going if, like me, you know nothing about online gaming. Partly because of the way a lot of the dialogue is set out, which makes it not as obvious as it could be who’s actually speaking. Still, a sweet romance, and probably more funny if you know that world.

    I’ve just begun the billionaire trilogy, which should be good, although the first time round I felt it was a bit drawn out. Still, he’s fun to read regardless.

  20. I read Lizzie & Dante by Mary Bly, who usually writes as Eloisa James. I think someone here recommended it, but I’m not sure. An American woman with stage 3 cancer, who has given away all her books and reconciled herself to dying, goes on holiday to Elba with her gay friends and falls in love with an Italian chef and his 13-year-old daughter.

    It’s a beautiful book, despite the illness of the main character. Great romance, and the daughter is a delight.

    1. I liked that book too.

      Hearts aren’t working for me either btw. All red when I got to the comments even before I’d read anything.

  21. This week I read the new Penric, yay Bujold, and am now reading The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman which I described to my teen reader as “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel solves crime”. Great setting, great cast of characters. There’s a sequel, The Man Who Died Twice, which I will definitely read too.

    Also somewhere in there I read the sequel to Scarlet Princess, Tarnished Crown, and it was terrific. I am not normally big on the whole love triangle trope but this book did it right. Am looking forward to the conclusion.

    And in the name of market research and because her covers are adorable I read Bear With Me by Lucy Eden. It was cute and light and the cover suited the story perfectly.

  22. Jenny, you’ve raised the topic of one of my favorite phrases: the epistolary novel! I don’t know why I love that word “epistolary” so much. Maybe because it consolidates so much in one word, or maybe because it sounds so Victorian.

    Anyhow, off the top of my head, 3 of my favorite epistolary novels:

    “The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society” by Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Shaffer. Read it a few years ago, absolutely loved it. I highly recommend it if you haven’t read it. (I recently watched the movie adaptation: kind of “meh.” Not awful, but also not one I recommend to people.) An English journalist goes to Guernsey after WWII ends & gets immersed in the local people and the then-untold story of what the Jersey islands endured during the war.

    “84 Charring Cross Road” by Helene Hanff (adapted into a wonderful movie maybe 30 years ago with Anthony Hopkins, Judi Dench, & Anne Bancroft). A reader in New York and a bookseller in London develop a close friendship through years of trans-Atlantic correspondence about books.

    “Dear Committee Members: A Novel” by Julie Schumacher. I listened to the audio version of this one (excellent narrator). Series of emails and memos among faculty and staff as a small university in the US. Short, enjoyable satire about academia (as has been said before: the competition is so vicious because the stakes are so small).

    1. I listened to Dear Committee Members not that long ago and agree that the narrator was excellent. He was a perfect fit for the story.

    2. I second the Guernsey and Charing Cross wholeheartedly, of course. Wonderful books, a true delight.
      Didn’t know the Committee so far, but this sounds interesting!!

  23. I’ve just finished “The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels” by India Holton, a New Zealander. Set in Victorian times, it’s the tale of women who can fly houses, as well as steal items. Cecilia, our heroine, is guarded by an aunt; Ned (only one of his names) is hired to assassinate Cecilia (only one of the tasks for which he was hired by various persons. The whole thing is a hoot and well worth a fun read; the book jacket calls it a “fantastical historical romance.” Cecilia, btw, is continually warned against the Great Peril: freckles.

  24. I don’t remember who commented about re-reading all the JD Robb books, but I accept the challenge 🤔

  25. I’ve read 8 books in the past week, counting two of my own. Four of the non-me 6 were, honestly, a little disappointing this week.

    I’d been eagerly awaiting ‘Total Creative Control’ from Joanna Chambers and Sally Malcolm. It was billed as an angsty rom-com and, eh? When I think ‘rom-com’ I think ‘light-hearted, funny situations and banter, nobody gets seriously hurt, and the relationship-bungling problems get solved.’ Angsty yes, because MC1 who is adorable, admirable, and much deserving of all the happy endings is in love with MC2 who is a bad-tempered socially-maladjusted advantage-taking man-whore much in need of comprehensive therapy. Someone tells him he needs counseling and refers him to someone, but I recall nothing on the page to indicate he took the necessary step, which leaves the happy ending to be taken on trust.

    Much more fun was ‘Schooled’ by Jeff Adams, second in his Codename: Winger YA thriller series.

    The best book of the week (aside from mine. Ha!) was ‘The Larks Still Bravely Singing,’ by Aster Glenn Gray, which is a WWI story featuring two young men who were close friends at boarding school, went separately to war, came home severely damaged, and during their recovery rekindle a friendship that matures into love. Patience, loyalty, understanding, and tolerance would be the keywords here.

    1. I can’t resist a new Joanna Chambers, no matter what, so have downloaded it. And the Larks Still Bravely Singing sounds lovely so downloaded that also – thank you!

  26. Halloween reread was A GOOD HEART IS HARD TO FIND, by Trisha Ashley. Cass and her ramblings in the graveyard at midnight for literary inspiration — not to mention the Crypt-o-grams in fangs with Clive, her rubber bat — always make me smile if not laugh out loud. The point of a horror plot is the suspense, leading up to where the actual horror is revealed (to be less horrific than the suspense led one to believe), and this is neatly shown in the subplot with Pa and Ma and the Dark Secret.

    Working my way through THE FIRST PHARAOHS (Lives and Afterlives) , by Aidan Dodson, a content-intense scholarly account of Dynasties One through Three. I can’t recall whether I mentioned it in previous weeks, but the Kindle version requires a large screen rather than a handheld reader, but this is justified by the many gorgeous pictures.

    STRONGMEN: Mussolini to the Present, by Ruth Ben-Ghiat, is a very readable look at the evolution of authoritarianism, defined as a political system in which executive power is asserted at the expense of the legislative and judicial branches of government. Main characters are Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Francisco Franco Bahamonde, Muammar Gaddafi, Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, Mobutu Sese Seko, Silvio Berlusconi, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump, with Idi Amin, Mohamed Siad Barre, Jair Bolsonaro, Rodrigo Duterte, Nahrendra Modi, Viktor Orbán, and others making cameo appearances. All of these sought to destroy democracy, which is what she’s examining. The author was interviewed about this book last night on the Daily Beans podcast [] and I was very interested to learn that with strongmen who end up the focus of a cult . . ummmmm . . . the thing that causes them to lose charisma is criminal prosecution, but it needs to be criminal, not political.

    “It should be borne in mind always that the number designated as “bust measure” is not taken at the fullest part of the figure, but close up under the arms and across the chest . . . . Remember, too, that the bust measure printed at the top of the label is that measure taken by the tape and that the pattern is always larger, varying from two inches in a tight-fitting waist lining to six or eight inches for a loose blouse or waist.”
    Wow, I am fascinated to learn that a fitted bodice (“waist” in this context means “bodice” as we’d call it now) measurement would be two inches larger than a measurement taken around the back and the upper chest! These must have been intended for ladies of very slender bosom . . . .

    1. Your mention of the horror in the Ashley book immediately reminded me of Cold Comfort Farm and the horror in the woodshed. 🙂

    2. I took the “2 inches larger” to mean the ease in the pattern, not the addition for the full part of the bust. In one of the dressmaking books I read years ago, I was struck by the statement that the much touted 24″ waist was the measurement of the corset without the lacing – the lacing could add an inch. Hard to wrap my head around a stated measurement not being a literal representation of the body in question!

      1. Especially in patterns! There’s a lot of slack in ready-to-wear sizing and an unfortunate psychologist once asked me about any fantasies I had about buying a size ## and wearing it out of the store — poor lady, she got an earful and I still laugh about it (I will forever wonder whether I made it into a professional paper?). But with a dress pattern from the 1950’s for a fitted dress made with no-stretch material, you HAVE to measure twice, allow for ease, and cut once — no fudging at all.

  27. I read Code Girls by Liza Mundy, about the women who cracked codes for the US during World War 2. The work they did was impressive and so was their commitment to keeping secrets even decades after the war. Mundy did a really nice job of explaining how the code cracking worked and how effective it was particularly for naval warfare.

    The stories about women decoding messages about the deaths of family members and lovers were particularly touching.

    Now I’m looking for a comparable book about Bletchley Park. There are plenty of books but it’s hard to tell which one gives both a good description of how code cracking worked and of the experience of being at Bletchley. Anyone have a recommendation?

    I’m a fan of epistolary novels too. There is always Austen’s Lady Susan.

    1. Amazon will give you a search choice of “bletchley park books” and several of the offerings looked interesting to me.

      Also, YouTube’s Numberphile channel has a couple of videos about the Enigma code and machine particularly. They’re mathematicians, but the videos are interesting to non-math buffs.

      1. The DC spy museum has or had an excellent display on the Enigma machines, including Britain gifting them to former colonies without revealing that they could break the codes…

        1. The DC Spy Museum has excellent everything! The only thing it was missing when I was last there was a replica of Checkpoint Charlie.

          My friend and I went through the whole place in five hours and THEN hit the gift shop. She kept finding One More Thing for Daughter No. 1 — or 2 or 3, of course. I kept accumulating books until a nice young man approached me and said, “Ma’am, can I bring you a basket?”

          [I just looked at their website, and they offer a book of Bond cocktail recipes]

  28. I read Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham’s, as recommended. Loved it. Amanda is a delightful character. I very much appreciated that novelist and characters all agree that, at almost 18, she’s too young to date and allow her to do thing unimpeded. It feels quite different from the way young women are often treated in golden age detective novels.
    I want to read more, but my local library doesn’t hold any of Allingham’s novels so I’ll have to break the bank and order them in bunches from the Book Depository.

    1. Can you try inter-library loan? My library has an arrangement with the surrounding counties.

      1. Amanda resurfaces in the one about Campions sister … and then Traitors purse… and just continues being delightful

      2. The library charges an exorbitant fee for interloans unfortunately. So I’m just going to have to build my own private Allingham collection. That’s my excuse anyway…

          1. Have you watched the TV series? My library does have that, but I want to read the books first.

  29. I am listening to the second in a series of paranormal cozy mysteries/light romances by Kirsten Painter and really enjoying it. The Miss Frost books are part of the Nocturne Falls series which I have not read. This one is Miss Frost Ices an Imp. The first one is Miss Frost Solves a Cold Case.

    I’m enjoying the lightheartedness and that everyone behaves like the adults they are. Jayne is casually dating 2 guys and everyone is aboveboard with how they feel. When one of the guys snaps at her, she calls him on it and he apologizes. In Cold Case, when a necessary lie Jayne told is exposed, her friends question her about it, she explains the limits of the lie and why she told it and they understand.

    Also, the mysteries are good.

  30. The Jayne Frost sub-series are some of my favorites from the Nocturne Falls series by Kirsten Painter, as they add a bit of cosy mystery-solving to the light paranormal romances. Low-stress, lighthearted mild romances.
    The guest writers in the Nocturne Falls world are less reliable, some were disappointing so I stopped reading those not written by the original author.

  31. I received an email from BookBub with a link to the funniest books, a list which includes Agnes and the Hitman.

  32. I know this is supposed to be about *good* books, but I read three that don’t really qualify. And I read them on purpose!

    A while ago I got a bundle of Harlequin Presents books from 2008 on my Kindle for 99 cents — my hoarding gene was thrilled to get 12 books for less than a dollar. It had been a really, really long time since I read one of these. I was faintly horrified by the first one, but impressed by how well it followed the formula I remembered. I read two more from the bundle just to see if they hit the formula, too. Yep, all three each had an English-speaking woman (Australia/England/U.S.); super-rich man (Spanish/Italian/middle-Eastern); his semi-exotic world as setting, including travel-guide-worthy descriptions; a misunderstanding resulting in an estrangement; she is determined to resist him; he is determined to have her; she fails; he succeeds; they presumably live happily ever after.

    I suspect the other 9 books in the bundle will remain unread for years to come!

  33. I am doing another reread of the Murderbot diaries and have just finished The Network Effect again. Does anyone know if Martha Wells is planning anymore Murderbot books? The Network Effect comes to such a satisfying end I can’t see where she would go from here. Murderbot has had a very satisfying character arc and anything from here seems like it would just go into a straight adventure story. But she is such a good writer that I am sure she could get it closer to adult.

    Last night we saw French Dispatch. I loved it. Lots of people apparently do not. There were times when I burst out laughing and realized I was the only person in my area of the theater who was. It’s a riff on an issue of The NewYorker. The articles are written from Ennui-sur-Blasé (I snicker every time I read that) which is vaguely like Paris. And the actors are top notch and do a superb job. My husband found it difficult to follow but then he has a slight hearing loss and won’t get a hearing aid so he missed a lot of it. So much fun though. The NPR review I read describes the movie very well.

  34. I wish I could bump this up — hope it gets read:

    The NZ government has decided to donate its overseas collection to the Internet Archive and put the onus on authors whose work is still under copyright to opt out. We have until 1 December to opt out. This is the page with the list and with what to do to opt out:

    If you go to this page, there’s a spreadsheet with the titles in question that you can download. Suggest sharing this with any authors you know who need to be concerned. We passed this on to our literary agent and you might do the same.

      1. I think it’s because after that date people will be able to read them for free instead of buying them?

      2. If books are going to be offered for free, it should be the author’s choice, and an opt-in (to be sure the author has made the choice), not a third party’s choice.

        1. Yes, this NZ library is releasing a large group of books a number of which (including sixteen titles which I am responsible for and are still under copyright, thank-you-very-much!) without consulting the authors. My literary agent is just about speechless with fury; he hadn’t heard of this until we told him, and I’m sure he’s sharing this information in his circles.

      3. You wrote a book, had it accepted, the copyright is in your name, and it’s still earning royalties. New Zealand has decided that ITS copy of your book is no longer needed in New Zealand’s state library collection so they are charitably donating it (electronic version, I believe) to the Internet Archive which will make it available for free download and copying.

        There goes your income from your intellectual property. New Zealand doesn’t think you need it any longer.

  35. Hearts are now behaving normally for me, fingers crossed and I have been able to like posts rather than have them all clicked on for me … Not sure what happened 🙂

  36. Does anyone else get Chirp emails?

    Cause Lucy Parker’s ‘The Austin Playbook’ is $3.99.

  37. There are so many glorious epistolary things! Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C Wrede did an entire series of magic mishaps in (roughly) Edwardian England and Europe. Dorothy Sayers used letters to gloss over all of Peter and Harriet’s wedding and opened with them heading out on their honeymoon (that was pretty amazing), as well as in a couple short stories and in another book I think but can’t remember off hand.

    I think the whole idea of reading other people’s letters is so delicious, I’m amazed more people don’t use it.

    1. The best short story I ever wrote was epistolary. No idea why I never went back to that again.

Comments are closed.