This is a Good Book Thursday, December 2, 2021

This week I’m reading a book by Anne Stuart that you can’t get yet (feeling smug about beta reading) and some Terry Pratchett and some Elle Kennedy and a lot of recipes. Possibly Hogfather (about Discworld’s Santa) to get me closer to the Christmas mood, especially the part where Susan Sto Helit asks her grandfather (Death) what the point of the whole thing is:

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”


“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”


“So we can believe the big ones?”


“They’re not the same at all!”


“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”


[from Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather.)

Such a good book. I’m definitely rereading it. Possibly with a gnome by my side.

What did you read this week?

95 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, December 2, 2021

  1. I’ve been reading Cursed Luck by Kelley Armstrong (I have to wait a few more days before the sequel comes out, damn it!) and The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik. I’ve also been re-reading The Golden Key by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson and Kate Elliot, because I’ve been watching snippets of The Crown, and it reminded me of The Golden Key (the middle section has a Diana-esque story to it). The whole book revolves around art and fantasy and machinations, and each author focuses on a different generation tied together by the overarching story.

  2. Please let us know how the Anne Stuart is – I’ve read everything she’s written so am dying to hear.

    I read Joanna Chambers and Sally Malcolm’s latest, Total Creative Control. You were right, Alexandra, it was a disappointment. Joanna Chambers is one of my top three or four favourite M/M romance writers and Sally Malcolm is solid but this wasn’t. They’re both venturing out of their usual historical genres into this contemporary context and it wasn’t a successful venture. Where is the rich historical detail of Joanna’s Enlightenment series, like the King George visit to Edinburgh? Or her sharply drawn characters? Instead, both of the MC’s are…really attractive. Oh boy. I am glum. Am hoping Joanna and Sally jump on their time machine and flee back to the past.

    1. I’m generally happy when authors I like try different genres (that’s Alexis Hall in a nutshell) because it encourages me to read outside my usual box. I think I was mostly disappointed with TCC because it would’ve taken *so little* to turn it into a book I truly loved. But we all gotta write the thing we gotta write.

      Joanna’s actually published some other contemporary things that I do love, especially a collection of holiday shorts (“Merry and Bright”). Which I need to download to my device again because ’tis the season. 🙂

      1. My favourite Joanna Chambers stories are the two contemporaryChristmas novellas I have: ‘Humbug’ and ‘Rest and Be Thankful’. I’m not keen on her historicals; too downbeat, as I remember.

      2. Okay I’ll have to try the Christmas ones! I think Lisa Henry is an M/M writer who has way more breadth than most writers – writes sci fi, fantasy, paranormal, contemporary, suspense, comedy, history – you name it. Not all at the same level of competence perhaps but I admire her willingness and ability to try/do it all.

      3. I read the first two stories in Merry and Bright – yes, better, thank you. And if you like a good M/M retelling of A Christmas Carol, try Eliot Grayson’s Yuletide. Great fun.

  3. Just finished ‘The Bookshop of Second Chances’ by Jackie Fraser: thanks to whoever recommended it here. It’s a romance cum women’s journey (the protagonist is dealing with her husband going off with one of her friends), with a really fresh voice. I was almost thrown by the hero – rather childish – and it’s a bit slow, but am glad I stayed with it. It’s set in the Scottish Borders, and I think will appeal to those of you who like British romcoms, although it’s got more depth than such as Katie Fforde. I’d been reading a lot of m/m stories, and the discretion around sex in this one was a welcome change.

    1. Oh, and am finally reading ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ by Nigel Slater, which I was given a few years ago. Love the writing, though haven’t been really tempted by any of the recipes so far. The title’s a little misleading: it starts at the beginning of November and continues through February. Really a big celebration of winter and winter food.

    2. You might’ve got The Bookshop of Second Chances from one of my posts here. I read it recently and liked it very much. I’m glad it worked for you.

  4. I am still rerereading Andrea Höst’s Touchstone series. I reread it last week and then decided to reread it from the end of book 2 and then went back to book 1 and ended up rereading book 2 and half of book 3. I am not contemplating continuing again. I am not sure why but I am not ready to leave that universe.
    I have never done this before. Very peculiar 🙂

    1. That’s exactly how I was moved to go back to the beginning of Bujold’s Sharing Knife series. I had low expectations, based on ‘well, it’s not Vorkosigans, so…’ but the story just kind of woke me to its pace and flavor, and I went from the end of Book 4 back to re-read Book 1, then all the rest. And I had that same feeling of wanting to stay in and better understand the universe Bujold had created. The setting varied with each book, and the two main characters each started out as innocent observers of the other’s culture, which was a nice way to get into a complicated created universe. I’m glad others have had the same experience!

      1. I disliked that series, the only one of Bujold that I truly disliked. My reason: the huge age difference between the hero and the heroine. I believe that a 50-year-old guy, pretty well chewed by his life, could fall in love with a fresh-faced girl of 17, but I don’t believe she could fall in love with him. He is her father’s age. And that one fact affected my reception of the entire series.

        1. I think the great age difference might have been intended to show the elasticity needed in understanding the two groups represented by Dag and Fawn. Dag will live far longer than any farmer. At least he’ll be up to speed with Fawn and she won’t be widowed young.

          The opposite is true for Cordelia and Aral in the Vorkosiverse. Cordelia is significantly younger than Aral and will spend much of her life after he is dead.

          Cazaril is 35 to Beatriz’s 19 at the start of Curse of Chalion.

          Even Dreamweaver’s Dilemma, Bujold’s earliest story*, has a much older man as mentor/lover to a young woman. *I think this is Bujold’s earliest published story.

          1. Cordelia and Aral don’t have much difference in age, not more than 15 years, maybe less. But he is Barrayaran and is not expected to live much past 80 or so, just like us. On the other hand, she is a galactic from Beta colony, gene-cleaned at conception, and expected to live almost twice as long – to 130 or even 150. Of course she spent lots of time alone after he is dead.

          2. I thought Falling Free was her first? Maybe not. I read it when it was serialized in Aboriginal SF a long, long, long time ago.

          3. Oh yeah. I finished Shane and the Hitwoman last night. I enjoyed it, but it lacked your touch, Jenny.

        2. The age difference in the Sharing Knife is what bugged me, too, Olga. It was just such a huge gap.
          With Cazaril (not as old), I liked that he struggled a lot with not only the age difference but the huge gap in experiences. Well, and status (washed up ex-soldier/courier/courtier etc).
          With Cordelia and Aral I found it less of a problem, maybe because as Captain of her own ship she had a position of strength, not equal, but equally responsible.
          It it’s a strong theme in Bujold’s work. One that I don’t usually enjoy because it’s got the flavour of boss/employee or teacher/pupil. A lack of balance.
          To sone degree, we live vicariously through the MCs. So personally, I can find young guys attractive, but I’d feel creepy to do more than admire youth and aestethics. But shackle it to my older and meanwhile less attractive self? No way!

          1. Weirdly I didn’t mind the implication quite so much in Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (possibly because it was clear that Jole had other positive experiences that weren’t quite so associated with age difference).

        3. Yeah that series was a major squick for me
          (I love the word squick, it comes from fanfic and implies something that might turn one particular reader off but be perfectly fine for another)

        4. I know what you mean by the age imbalance, but the extreme cultural difference between the two characters alleviated that for me. I don’t think I would have read past the first chapter if it had been a contemporary romance set in our own world. Because it took almost the whole of the first volume for the two to really feel that spark, it felt to me as if these were two people who were used up and almost thrown away by their own experiences with their setting and culture — they didn’t fit those around them, and weren’t seen clearly by their own people except insofar as they could be of quotidian usefulness. Both had families that treated them like failures; both were essentially loners in their own worlds.

          And the fact that they went through a series of really serious testing challenges together sort of took away, for me, the potential stain of courtship and phoniness that gives me the squicks when an experienced man tries to worm his way into the affections of a younger woman. Just didn’t feel that way to me at any point.

          1. This is my own personal opinion, but I know Bujold was extremely close to her smart, highly educated, personable, engineer father. Bujold is by nature and training a biologist, so a scientist like her father in a general way. Falling Free, like some of the other books mentioned here, has a far older man — in this case, the protagonist — who ends up with a young quaddie woman. But it isn’t about sex, it’s about responsibility and seeing different human “species” as equal humans.

          2. Elizabeth, what you say completely resonates with me. I was also extremely close to my very smart highly educated father who also was incredibly kind and honest. He died ten years ago but he is still my hero and my moral compass. That may be why the age difference doesn’t squick me in Bujold’s books. Same thing with Georgette Heyer actually.

    2. The book of Firsts was like that for me. I’m not usually a rereader back to back, but I just didn’t want to leave…

      1. Agreed, Lupe! What was it about that book? Some of her fantasy series had that same feel of just wanting to stay there.

    3. I had the same reaction to MEDAIR, and just kept rereading it. Some years earlier it was the Quartet from the Amelia Peabody series — SEEING A LARGE CAT, THE APE WHO GUARDS THE BALANCE, THE FALCON AT THE PORTAL, and HE SHALL THUNDER IN THE SKY.

      1. I need to get on Medair. The description sounds sad and that’s why although I bought it, I haven’t been in the mood to read it. The world is still stressful.

        Should I trust Höst?

        1. I know there are a lot of people who love the Medair duology, but for me, it is the one story by Andrea Host that I do not feel like ever rereading.
          That also means I have forgotten a lot of the details that make reading one of her books enjoyable, so only the general impression it left behind remains.

          The sad sense of inevitable, inexorably advancing doom that one can struggle against but never win, is not something I like. And the ending, which is supposed to give a positive spin to the end result, is of a type I particularly dislike.

          You know those old children’s fantasy endings “and they woke up, and it was all a dream”, that negated all the engrossing story you just vicariously lived through? I purely hated those. This is not that sort of ending, but *for me* it pushes most of the same buttons, and so it did not alleviate the sadness of what went before.

          Like the much-loved “Stealing the elf-king’s roses” by Diane Duane, which I tried but could not get through, the ending makes this not the right book for me.

          But obviously, others react very differently to these books.
          Perhaps someone who loves them can give you a better, and more detailed, review.

          1. Thank you for this, Hanneke. I don’t think I’m quite in the mood yet based on what you describe. The beauty of buying an ebook is that you’ve supported the author and you read it when you are ready. That’s my philosophy anyway!

          2. Well, I’m probably the Argher who loves MEDAIR. For me, its fault is that Andrea Höst had enough trouble trying to sell it that she ultimately decided to self-publish it, which required splitting it into two volumes. Consequently, she had to rewrite Volume 2, VOICE OF THE LOST, to include backstory from Volume 1, THE SILENCE OF MEDAIR. And that meant that the utterly elegant foreshadowing which was in the original single manuscript was diminished because she had to repeat it, or duplicate it. It was also not the best place to split the story; Volume 1 ends right after Medair’s true identity is revealed — she’s no longer silent — but for the plot, it should have been split a couple of scenes later.

            However, I didn’t find the story hopelessly sad. Medair had attempted to rescue her Emperor and Empire by going on a quest to find magical help, and she had found it, only to discover that, on her return — in the best magical tradition, five hundred years had passed, her Empire had lost the war, and she herself was unexpectedly a legend. Can she still be a patriot when the half-millennium has seen the former enemies mostly merged into a blended country? Do the people who want to use her patriotism have an agenda she could, at this point, support? Crisis of conscience. And how will she live in this new time?

            I found the universe fascinating and the characters, too. Medair isn’t a warrior or a sorceress, she’s a diplomat! It makes an interesting change from the more usual tropes. And the ending, though beautifully foreshadowed (in case it isn’t obvious, the foreshadowing is one of my favorite things about MEDAIR), comes as a complete twist.

            Andrea Höst had a few pages of material she’d cut from the final version which she sent me — I’m probably pretty boring as an enthusiastic fan of this universe — and I was very interested to see what she’d originally continued with, but also I could see and totally approve of the cuts (she’d have had to rewrite an awful lot and some of the material completely contradicted the logic of the rest of the story).

  5. I read and enjoyed A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske after seeing it recommended in several places, (including here?). Thanks for the rec! It’s a historical fantasy with a M/M romance set in England. The magic users of England are in danger from a shadowy cabal that wants, what else, power.

    I also took pleasure in reading Briarheart by Mercedes Lackey. It’s the newest entry to.the 500 Kingdoms series where Lackey takes on familiar fairy tale tropes and subverts them.

    And now I’m reading Hypnosis is for Hacks, by Tamara Berry in which the heroine continues her current career of unmasking charlatans. In this installment, someone seems to be trying to con our intrepid heroine herself.

  6. I am enjoying One More Christmas at the Castle by Trisha Ashley. Many thanks to the person who recommended.

    And I am thrilled to report that my hearts are working properly for the first time in weeks! It is remarkable how satisfying it is to click from grey to red.

  7. This week I re-read two M/M BDSM novels because, I think, I wanted something Really Physical. ‘Cinnamon Roll’ by Anna Zabo and ‘For Real’ by Alexis Hall. The Zabo is a solid story full of essential negotiations; the Hall is simply one of the most heart-wrenching romances I’ve ever read. One of few in which I strongly identified with both MCs. This time I remembered to look up how to pronounce Dalziel.

    Then I read ‘The Cross of Sins’ by Robin (aka Geoffrey) Knight, which is an absolute riot. It’s a mashup of Indiana Jones and James Bond and The Librarians, enhanced by a cast of hot men sexing each other at generally-inappropriate moments. Love ridiculous action movies? Try this. First in a series, and there’s no single central couple, so there’s not a The End, but the internal story is wound up neatly.

    Couple of short things, then a small-town romance I didn’t much like, then ‘Work For It’ by Talia Hibbert, which I loved. Both MCs take a minute to warm up to because we first see their crusty shells, but as layers peeled off I got more and more invested. My favorite book of hers so far.

    Finally, ‘Until the World Stops’ by L.A. Witt, a M/M pandemic romance featuring two Navy men. It’s a marriage of convenience plot with some harsh workplace realities. Internal monologue got a bit circular, but that’s exactly what happened to my own head in 2020 so I’m calling it realism. Good character development and a believable HEA.

    1. The Cross of Sins is free right now on Amazon, so that is fun.

      And I am with you on the Alexis Hall. I had to take breaks because the emotion was so intense… But really beautiful and well written.

      1. For Real might have grown on me, but I listened to the audio and the more I listened the more I disliked the narrators. Which then coloured the story.
        Complete contrast to Joe Jameson, the narrator of Boyfriend Material. Just the way he reads and makes the protagonists alive makes any book a treasure.

        1. Ah, that might do it. It’s a tough book though and probably not for everyone.

          I always have a hard time connecting to a new to me book in audio. Usually I try to read it first, then listen later if I like it enough. Otherwise the experience and my retention is very different.

          1. Same here.

            As a rule it’s better to read the book first and try to get an extra bit of enjoyment out of listening to the audiobook.
            Alas, we have an sadly under-used audible account and sometimes it’s just nice to have something to listen to when doing stuff with your hands (like sewing).
            However, I’m incredibly picky when it comes to voices, tone and accents. It’s difficult to find audiobooks that are read well.
            When a book is read by more than one narrator, it’s doubly difficult because the sample usually lets you hear only one.
            Usually with audiobooks, non-fiction titles work better for me (Ruth Goodman reads her own books very well), but sometimes the books get an extra appeal when read by the right voice (another brillant match is Harry Dresden-James Marsters).

    2. I’ve downloaded For Real. It will be my first Alexis Hall. I haven’t even read Boyfriend Material, heathen that I am.

      1. He’s got a very wide range. If For Real is not to your liking (as it was for me), be sure to try some of the other titles 😉

        1. Oh, yes – ‘ForReal’ is a challenging place to start. If you don’t like it, maybe try ‘Waiting for the Flood’, which is a novella and a complete contrast. He has a really wide range. Even though he’s a favourite author of mine, I don’t like – or read – all his books.

  8. I feel like my last few recommendations I’ve made were in the “it’s complicated” vein…so I’m happy to just straightforwardly recommend some light, fun recent reads for anyone who’s looking to hang out with nice, interesting characters who find meaning in their relationships/lives and are going to ultimately be HEA.

    Here are some of my recent hits of happy:

    The Dating Plan, Sara Desai
    While We Were Dating, Jasmine Guillory

  9. Before I mention books, I must mention Official Weigh-in Day #33: 249.4
    At the current rate of weight loss, I could be in my 230s by my next birthday, which is just eleven (and a half) weeks away. However, one must always keep in mind those pesky truisms; Murphy’s Law, the principal of premature egg counting, et cetera. On no diet in the 21st century have I seen the 230s.

    My average calories per day comes out to 1480. Even at the rate adjusted for current age and weight (’cause these change constantly), that number should produce a loss of 1.47 pounds per week. Thirty-three weeks of diet should show a loss of 48.5 pounds. Actual loss has been 45.8 pounds. There are reasons for this, for plateaus and gains and fluctuations, and I won’t repeat them all here. I will simply enjoy the day’s number.

    BOOKS – Rereads first. I have reread the entire StarWings trilogy, Pandora’s Crew, Arachne’s Web, and The Rat Rebellion by Goodlett and Huff. That’s some mighty fine Psi Phi. Next was the Czar’s Holmes trilogy, also by Goodlett and Huff – A Holmes for the Czar, Two Cases for the Czar, and A Mission for the Czar. These take place in Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Universe, alternate history. They’re up to 1637 in Holy Mother Russia. Now we get to yet another trilogy, Bjorn Hasseler’s NESS series, A Matter of Security, Missions of Security, and Security Threats. This series also takes place in the Ring of Fire universe. Since I’m hooked on trilogies (or at least, series that only have three books so far), no surprise that I also reread the Alexander Inheritance series, The Alexander Inheritance, The Macedonian Hazard, and The Sicilian Coil. Technically, also Ring of Fire, kinda, sorta, except that instead of a West Virginian town transported to 1631, a late 21st century cruise ship and refueling barge go back to the 300s BC, shortly after Alexander the Great died. I admit to a liking for alternate history, I do.

    Enough rereading! I have Gin’s Four Cat Night open on the Ai1 and in progress, if just barely. And that’s my week in books.

    Tonight I celebrate by consuming a third of a family-size Stouffer’s Grandma’s Chicken Vegetable Rice Bake (white meat chicken, white rice and vegetables in a cheddar cheese sauce). 340 grams. It’s on the diet. No, really. 🙂

    1. C’mon Gary, do it! Whatever you’ve been doing to get you to 249.4 continue! Is it getting lost in good books? I tend to Forget All Else when reading–eat all the words you need. Think of it maybe as a gift to yourself AND your family AND friends AND Argh?

      220’s in 2022. Do It! Do It! Do It! Do It!

  10. I’m reading the last of four volumes of the Mary Balogh “Simply” series. I’ve liked this one — better than the improbably Westcott saga, and not quite as much as the Survivors series. These are romances set in a girl’s school, where three teachers in a row, and now the headmistress, get forked into connection with an aristocrat who eventually becomes the POI for them. The unequal marriage thing, plus the overrepresentation of dukes, earls and so on, was an irritating part of the experience for me, but I guess it’s de rigueur in the Regency romance universe. As before, I’ve really enjoyed Balogh’s tendency to make it clear what each of the main characters feels about the other, interspersing those interior views with social interaction that precipitates the change in response over time. I just like that kind of thing in romance books — SO much better for my mental health than the “Ohmigosh, he/she’s so ATTRACTIVE!” that I find in books I don’t really like.

  11. I’m re-reading Loretta Chase’s dressmakers series. Really worth reading again to pick up on all the little historical details she throws in. I’m on the last one (Dukes Prefer Blondes) and slightly worried about what I can read next that will live up to these.

    1. Have you read the newer Dreadful Dukes series? I thought the last one (a twist on Taming the Shrew) was really well done. And not just because the heroine has my name!

  12. I’ve been listening to CJ Archer’s Glass & Steel series, which is marketed as fantasy/mystery, but has a really strong romance element (across the series, same couple throughout, no HEA in individual books), that sometimes takes over the other plot, so I’ve got mixed feelings about it.

    I’m still listening (book 4), so it’s reasonably good. The narrator annoyed me in the first few minutes, but has grown on me. My main quibble is just that I wasn’t looking for a romance, and I find the romance bits too heavy-handed/cliche. I’m not sure if they are badly done or if it’s just not the story thread that I’m looking for (and it’s harder to skip those bits in audio than on paper/screen).

    So, bottom line, depending on expectations in re: the romance subplot, the series may qualify as a good book (or else an “adequate” book if nothing else appeals, which is where I’ve been, except I just got notice that my hold on Sherry Thomas’s latest Lady Sherlock has come in, so I’ll be switching to that tonight).

      1. I’m enjoying it so far (and expect to enjoy the rest). I was a little worried it was going to be entirely told in letters, and while I enjoyed the letters, I didn’t want a whole novel made up of them, but it switched to regular novel prose just before I lost interest in the letters.

        It’s an interesting contrast to the romance elements in the CJ Archer books (since both are historical mysteries with romance subplots) — just much more nuanced in Thomas’s story. Or perhaps it’s just because I prefer the trope of the Lady Sherlock’s romantic elements more than the Archer trope. Archer’s is the billionaire/penniless trope (although credit for giving the heroine an independent income in the first book, so she’s not entirely dependent on the hero), which doesn’t work for me, while the Lady Sherlock trope involves equals, with a lot of dry humor.

  13. I reread Charley All Night and am wondering about Jenny’s “thug” versus “suit” guys. I suppose North Archer is the most physically present of Jenny’s heroes for me because he is so pale and his coloring is replicated in his niece and nephew. While North is obviously a “suit,” the most attractive Crusie hero for me is Nick in Crazy for You. Not a “suit.”

  14. Read this week: Maureen Johnson’s The Box in the Woods. Then I went back and read Truly Devious book 1 which I’d had for a while and not gotten around to. (Box is sort of standalone from the first 3 books) Super fun mystery and also every horror movie trope with an interesting cast of characters, and who amongst us doesn’t relate to Nate.

    Also read The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman, the fabulous follow up to The Thursday Murder Club, and somewhere in there Mimi Mathews’ Holiday by Gaslight, which was sweet. But mostly I’m all about the horror and murder in my reading preferences right now for no apparent reason *glares at news*.

  15. Of all the books I read in the past week, Georgette Heyer’s Envious Casca was one true fiasco. I adore Heyer’s historical romances, re-read them periodically, but I could never read her mysteries. I tried several times and always DNFed them. This time I decided to stick to the end to figure out why I could never stand her mysteries. Here is what I think:
    1. All the characters are unsympathetic. I disliked the entire bunch.
    2. Not much action in the story. Instead, there are interminable pages of dialog. That’s a mystery for you, I suppose. I’m not a fan of the genre in general.
    3. The author mostly employs the omniscient POV. She describes everyone’s thinking and feeling, but in the case of the murderer, she is lying to the reader. She never once described the murderer’s thoughts and emotions correctly. As the murderer camouflages the inner working of his mind with a stream of meaningless prattle, so does the author. I hate this trick. Heyer could do (and has done) so much better.
    4. The title of the book has nothing to do with the story. Who is Casca? Why is she/he envious? Of whom? Is that some obscure mythological reference? Literary? I have no idea. There is no Casca in the book, envious or otherwise.

    On the other hand, Heyer’s The Foundling was as funny and delightful as ever.

    Another re-read – Bujold’s Paladin of Souls – was also a wonderful book. I read it first a long time ago, almost 10 years, and I didn’t remember much of the plot except that I liked it. My review on Godreads, posted at that time, was a glorious 5-star essay. Now, after I finished the book, I read my review again, and I still agree with every word.
    I especially liked the heroine Ista, a 40-year-old woman. I think Bujold has a gift of writing amazing middle-aged women. Her Cordelia is my favorite sci-fi heroine, bar none, but Ista comes a close second. Altogether, a great fantasy novel.

    1. ‘Envious Casca’ is a quote from Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’. It’s fifty years since I studied it for my O levels, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you more than that.

      1. The historical Casca was Publius Servilius Casca. In Shakespeare’s play, Casca is a gossip who tells Cassius (Gaius Cassius Longinus) that the senators plan to make Caesar king in the Senate the following day. Cassius draws his dagger and swears to the gods that if they can make a weak man like Caesar so powerful, then they can empower Cassius to defeat a tyrant. Caesar is assassinated the following day.

        1. Yes, and Casca is an officious flatterer (Julius Caesar’s weakness was his susceptibility to flattery) who loves getting attention through his snarky gossip. Picture lots of eyebrow waggling. So I knew the bad guy in Heyer’s Envious Casca early on. Lots of fun.

          Several titles of Mary Stewart books (Nine Coaches Waiting and Wildfire at Midnight) come from revenge tragedies of roughly Shakespeare’s time. I think their purpose is to set up the “thriller” tension; they don’t translate into specifics in the stories, as I recall.

    2. Paladin of Souls is my favourite Bujold. Shards of Honor comes second. Ista and Cordelia are amazing characters.

      1. As usual I post too quickly. I should say Shards of Honor and Barrayar, the other half of the story, come second.

    3. Try “Death in the Stocks” by Heyer – Antonia and Giles are much more sympathetic characters. And it is more of a romp in places than her other mysteries.

    4. Casca was the first one to stab Caesar in the back in the Forum, according to historical accounts.

      Then in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Marc Antony says “See what a rent the envious Casca hath made.”

      We had to read the Shakespeare in high school and I had to teach it when I taught English in high school. I liked the part about lions whelping the streets:

      “A lioness hath whelped in the streets;
      And graves have yawn’d, and yielded up their dead;
      Fierce fiery warriors fought upon the clouds,
      In ranks and squadrons and right form of war,
      Which drizzled blood upon the Capitol;
      The noise of battle hurtled in the air,
      Horses did neigh, and dying men did groan,
      And ghosts did shriek and squeal about the streets.
      O Caesar! these things are beyond all use,
      And I do fear them.”

      Always listen to your wife when she has nightmares and tells you not to go to work. Otherwise, skip Julius Caesar.

      Envious Casca, though, I love. The Foundling, not so much. Thank god different readers have different tastes, makes it so much more interesting.

  16. I’m reading Spells Like Teen Spirit, the 3rd in Kate Williams’ Babysitter’s Coven, a YA paranormal. So far, so good and I really like the series.

    I’m also reading (I know, 2 actual paper books!) House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland. So far, it’s a YA dark fairy tale about 3 sisters who disappeared/reappeared as children and are now very different. One of the sisters has gone missing as an adult and it’s up to the other two to find her.

    I’m listening to one of the Ishmael Jones books by Simon R. Green. I was really disappointed that my library only had this book and the next as full cast productions which I really don’t like, I find it harder to remember which voice is which character than one person doing different voices for each. I looked on Audible Plus, the catalouge of free books/podcasts they have and poof! there the next 2 were being read by the single narrator. I downloaded the ones them and a few other random things since I have a long drive this weekend and I never know what I’ll feel like listening to.

    1. I read the Sutherland book. It was interesting but not something I’d reread. for a variety of reasons. I’m curious to hear what you think once you read.

  17. We watched A Castle for Christmas on Netflix and it was cute and fun. I will watch Cary Elwes aka Westly from the Princess Bride, do anything. But it was also really nice to see a romance with an older couple as the protagonists.

    Reading, I started Ilona Andrews newest. I am having trouble getting into it, though that may be the fuzzy covid brain. It feels more actiony than usual for them and I always show up for the characters, so that is somewhat disappointing. I hope that isn’t a style shift for them, just the way this book worked.

    And I am binging Crusie on audio. I checked out a lot of new and recommended audiobooks, and Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen to try to get into the Christmas spirit, but I couldn’t settle on them. So I listened to Faking It and now am in the middle of Bet Me. I may stay here a while.

  18. I read Ilona Andrews newest Fated Blades. Not her best. Somehow I just never connected with either of the main characters.

    I also read Stone Magic: Counterfeit Psychic book 1. Which was enjoyable. A lady making a living as a fake psychic is enlisted by the paranormal police to help investigate a serial killer who is killing psychics, because the paranormal police have mistaken her for a real psychic. Which is ridiculous because there’s no such thing, is there?

    1. I’m wondering if Fated Blades isn’t as good because they split the perspective? Usually we just get the main female character’s point of view… Or that they just wrote differently than usual. I follow their blog and Ilona has mentioned being fatigued and tired, like most of us. I just don’t think that the heart and core of caring for others is there and she is usually so good at that.

    2. I also was disappointed by Fated Blades. Didn’t really care for either of the MC’s, and an awful lot of fighting. I won’t be re-reading this one.

  19. I also was disappointed by Fated Blades. Didn’t really care for either of the MC’s, and an awful lot of fighting. I won’t be re-reading this one.

      1. In the same series, I really like Silver Shark. Claire is a brilliant character with a real arc.

  20. I waded through Diana Gabaldon’s last Big Book, Written in my Own Heart’s Blood (all 1240 pages) so I could get back up-to-speed on all the characters. She published it in 2014. Then, I read her new Big Book, Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone (only 960 pages) and loved it! Gabaldon is such an incredible story-teller! If you have not read her before, don’t start here; she has built up the character arcs since her first novel, Outlander. Start there. This new book is the ninth in the series. She plans only one more, to finish out Claire and Jamie’s arcs. Since it will be another Big Book it will likely take 4-7 years before we see it.

    Unfortunately, after reading Gabaldon, everyone else seems kind of blah. I wonder if that is part of the reason I didn’t care for the new Ilona Andrews. I also was not impressed with the new Nora Roberts, Becoming; and normally I’m a big fan. But this one just didn’t grab me. I doubt I will bother purchasing the third in this trilogy.

    1. The first book in the Roberts trilogy didn’t grab me either. But I got the second hoping it would be better. I haven’t read it yet but from what you’re saying it doesn’t sound promising…

    2. Bees was the book I read this week too. Took a long time to finish it and I was up until 1 am with the last section. Gabaldon leans hard into slice of life in the 18th century and the cast of characters is still too much to keep up with, but I found myself really enjoying this installment. And that ending!!

  21. “The Vengeance of Sekhmet” in the Nov-Dec issue of EQMM, is a newly-discovered short story by Barbara Mertz as Elizabeth Peters, featuring Amelia and Emerson. Having discovered the story while going through her papers, her estate placed it with ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE and it’s in the current issue. I wish I could say it’s a full-length novel, but no. You may, if you like, buy a digital download of the current issue from Amazon; here’s the link. Pay attention to single issue versus subscription. I plan to completely surprise one of my cousins with this, since we’re both long-time Amelia fans and she can’t possibly be expecting it. I think I’ll wrap it with the just-released Amelia paper doll collection, which I also didn’t try to resist.

    Cookbook of the week: LION HOUSE CHRISTMAS, compiled by Lion House. A fine collection of very traditional holiday recipes, family style. For anyone who doesn’t know, Lion House is a Mormon institution in Salt Lake City, Utah — originally the family home of Brigham Young, now a famous restaurant specializing in Mormon cooking. I’m contemplating St. Nick’s Green Beans (bacon, and onions browned in the bacon) with perhaps a Spiced Cranberry Cocktail.

    Comfort reread: WE WISH YOU A MERRY MURDER, by Valerie Wolzein. This is, IIRC, the third in her Susan Henshaw series, and my favorite, probably because of the holiday theme. And I’ve always been amused because the setting, in a very upscale Connecticut neighborhood, was regarded, at the time the book was first published, as exotic!

    P.S. Here’s the link for the paper dolls:

  22. I have been reading the Brother Cadfael mysteries and watching the tv series with Derek Jacobi. Conclusion: Ellis Peters is a much better author than the TV script writers but Derek Jacobi is always worth watching. Also Peters has what I really admire in historical fiction —the ability to build a book around a problem or situation that was true to the day and would be very unlikely now. One mystery is built around what happens to an abandoned wife when her husband becomes a monk. In another the moral dilemma is whether one monastery has the right to take a saints bones from where she was buried when her towns people want to keep her.

    I’m now moving on to her contemporary mysteries. Not as satisfying but still worth reading.
    Also yay hearts!

  23. I love that speech in Hogfather, that and Hub’s speech in Secondhand Lions
    “That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love… true love never dies, ” “Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.”

  24. I read The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. It takes place before While We We’re Dating and is about Theo and Maggie. I enjoyed it but not as much as WWWD. I like that all her main characters, male and female, are complex and have their own issues.

    I also read Helen Hoang’s The Heart Principle, which I loved. Very moving and lots of layers to both MC’s. I really identified with Anna’s struggles in caring for her father and the challenges of dealing with other family members. I was my mother’s primary care-giver for the last 6 months of her life and it was exhausting and isolating. Anna and Quan finally get their HEA but it’s not without personal struggle and hard work.

    I’m reading Nana Malone’s Coulter family series. I’m a big fan of sports-based romance series. Every family member has a different sport. A bit formulaic but the MC’s all have insecurities rooted in family expectations. Apparently I like my HEAs with a dose of personal struggle for both MC’s.

  25. Today’s Guardian has an interview with Joel Coen director of The Tragedy of Macbeth. Argher Susan Berger is credited as Lady-in-Waiting. Very cool!

  26. I have a Good Book update: Marion George Harmon has finally published book 9 of the Wearing the Cape series: Joyeuese Guard. I’ve started it in Mobipocket Reader while I alternate with Four Cat Night in Kindle.

    At one point, I issued George an ultimatum on the 12th of October: “I’m sorry, Mr. Harmon, but I have reached the end of my reach. It’s ultimatum time. If you do not have Joyeuse Guard published by 10/12/2021, 24:00 EST, then I have no choice but to say, ‘I will not read your book tomorrow!’ I mean it!”

    So it’s a couple months late. I lived. And it’s good. 🙂

  27. I finished “Duels & Deception” by Cindy Anstey. It was a delightful historical with a strong heroine.

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