This is a Good Book Thursday, December 23, 2021

This week I mostly read my own stuff. I tried Hunter Thompson’s Hells Angels, but I’ve had enough toxic masculinity this week from Congress, so I passed on that. (Hella well written, though.). I sampled a couple of new romances and mostly learned what not to do before I DNFed (not well written). I tried to figure out what it was in blurbs that made me buy and realized I was moving toward a romance reading black hole–no billionaires, no shifters, no bikers, no smirkers, no control freaks, no professor/student-boss/employee-rich person/poor person stories, no werewolves, no . . . Yeah, I gotta get a grip. The gold standard is still “read the sample and if it keeps me reading I don’t care if it’s about a billionaire shifter who smirks while he tries to control a woman who kicks his ass on a regular basis . . .” Actually it’s that last part that matters. Well, that and good writing. Hunter Thompson, for example, was a good writer. Too bad he never tried romance. No, wait, that’s a terrible idea, forget I said that. We can’t stop on that idea, that’s bat country.

What good writing did you read this week?

103 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, December 23, 2021

  1. I’ve just chewed my way through the Unlikeable Demon-Hunter series. It wasn’t perfect by a long shot, but it was fun and snarky, and it hit the spot enough to keep me going through six books in short order.

  2. I kept DNFing things. I would like the opening and the characters and then I’d get fifty to a hundred pages in and plod. plod. plod. until I gave up. This was both romance and SFF. I don’t think it was me, either, because I’m re-reading some books that are pretty formulaic and not having a problem there.

  3. Too much work on all fronts so I fled into a book and got far too little sleep.
    An Argher’s rec from last week irrc, Christmas every day, about a down on her luck woman (late 20s), who inherites her unknown hoarder grandmother’s cottage and rebuilds her life, rebuilds her self esteem (due to massive family issues) and eventually ends up with her neighbour who’s a romance writer with (until the later part of the book) writer’s block due to his marriage in shambles/last stages.
    I overall liked it but it didn’t feel even and could have done with some more critiquing, so instead of getting even less sleep I skipped to the end. Now I’m reading the supposedly funny bit around 70 %. I just realized I’ve already forgotten how it ended. But not which parts I didn’t like. Oh well…

    I won’t dive into that but one major issue was how the people behaved: the members of the book club that helps her grow and get happy have a very unfriendly way of arguing. Yet they seem to like each other. As if the smileys were missing from the text that you put in a private Whatsapp chat. And the kids to whom she is a sort-of-nanny feel like a nightmare. They behave really rude and the smaller triplets trash everything. I’ve never liked kids like that – yes, I’m stuck up. And I know triplets would be a major challenge. Still. I always felt incredibly grateful that my own kids never thrashed anything so casually (well, dd in her attempt to dye her hair recently managed to splatter the dye almost everywhere, so know we have a speckled bathroom door and ceiling, argh). Plus, they never ever treated books badly even as toddlers which was my big fear before.
    I liked the prickly hero. And I very much liked that there was no instant sexual connections (attraction, yes, early sex, no) – I guess I had an overdose of too detailed descriptions lately.
    My next book is already lined up: My city’s Chronica from the 1160s to the 1500s. Fascinating, but not easily read in one gulp 🙂

    1. I realize I need strong women who can kick ass on their own but also have friends who help. So I’m reading and rereading Ilona Andrews books. They don’t have the touch of grimdark that Mercy Thompson has (although her Anna series has less of it even though there’s plot overlap between them). Violence doesn’t seem to bother me as long as she (whomever she is in a given book) wins and survives and finds people to care about her. Some writers are better at that than others. Kim Harrison’s series doesn’t have “it” for me despite any description being very similar to Patricia Briggs’ books. There’s an intimacy in Briggs and Andrews that I seem to need.

      1. It’s amazing how hard this is to find. I too crave a focus on character that seems to get lost in fantasy and sci Fi in favor of what is happening in the plot… Of course I am perfectly happy reading about people doing very little but going through everyday life at this point. As long as I like them, I don’t seem to need to see them in conflict anymore.

        And Ilona Andrews and Briggs both do steadfast heroines very well. I think that is it for me. They may not know how to get out of a situation, but they never waver in their beliefs.

        1. Also, I know I am a broken record, but maybe give Tsumiko and the Enslaved Fox a try? She is unfailingly kind and stable, unflinching in her beliefs, which ultimately sees her through… Also a very comforting read. Everyone takes care of each other in these books.

          1. Thank you for being a broken record! I had missed this recommendation before but if it’s in the vein of Briggs/Andrews and Mercy/Kate, I’m super excited to try it.

  4. I read a spate of good ones lately (thank God).
    *Catfishing On Catnet by Naomi Kritzer
    *Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots, and
    *Well Met by Jen DeLuca

    I’m beginning to think maybe I should read mostly romances from YA authors. Since they can’t really throw characters immediately into bed with each other, they have to focus on building the relationship, and the relationship building is why I read romances. Curse Fifty Shades of Grey for that right to the sack trend. Sigh.

  5. I read another Christmas book from England, this one by Jenny Colgan. I liked it, but I already brought it upstairs and don’t remember the name, sorry.

    Just started Donna Andrews new Christmas book (which will be my last holiday read for the season so I’ve been saving it for Retail Hell Week). The Twelve Jays of Christmas is light and funny and I love the characters, so it is just what I needed. You can’t go wrong with Donna Andrews.

    1. Jenny Colgan is always comfort read for me. Slow and lovely, with settings I want to vacation in.

  6. I’ve been immersed in all things Taylor Fitzpatrick this week. Thank you Jen+B for pointing me to her online world which is huge and diverse (as diverse as you can be inside a “slightly gayer NHL”). Anyway, loving my tour of her landscape.

    I also read Catherine Cloud’s three books – she is a kinder, gentler Taylor Fitzpatrick. Style is very similar as is her subject matter and characters but she is nowhere near as funny as Fitzpatrick and lacks her edge. Fitzpatrick makes you wince with how ruthlessly she writes her characters, whereas with Cloud it’s more like you produce a little moue when her characters make Bad Choices.

  7. This week was crazy at the day job. One and a half more days of demanding people and running short staffed.

    So I went back to the beginning of Forthrigt’s Amaranthine saga and am working my way through, trying to pick up details I forgot for the big loose end tie up in the newest one. There is also a strong component of craft in each book which is helpful to me in my making practice. Something about reading about other people making things is both soothing and inspiring.

    The other thing I did was purge my Instagram following. I learned a lot about what I think people should not do with business accounts and unfollowers a bunch of personal accounts who I either don’t know, or don’t remember that I know. If it was someone here, my apologies. Sometimes it makes me feel like a voyeur into someone else’s private life. Anyway, I am hoping to put this knowledge to use in the new year, hopefully building my following there as a way to build my business. #1 thing I learned: for heaven’s sake, be consistent, but also be interesting…

    1. Reading about other people making things is indeed both soothing and inspiring. It’s almost as satisfying as doing it myself.

  8. I love Ellen Tracy‘s “Adventures of Anabel Axelrod“ series. Annabelle owns the a book/coffee shop. I like it because the H/H actually communicate when they have a conflict. There is good dialogue and smart choices—most of the time. It’s part adventure (due to hid line of work) and part romcom (due to her actions). This series is definitely in my personal TBR… again pile.

    I believe the first book in the series is Permafree.

  9. I read The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. I also read Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, which is about Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos. Both books were a fast and enjoyable read.

    1. I loved Bad Blood and I’m eagerly awaiting the verdict in her trial. The issue of intent is a strong one in fraud cases – just because something doesn’t ultimately work out doesn’t mean you intended to defraud people of their investment – but it seems like every time someone told her the machine didn’t work, she added more claims to what it could do and suckered more people.

      1. I read Bad Blood too and listened to Tyler Shultz’s Thicker Than Water. Here’s the summary from Audible:

        @From the hero whistleblower of the infamous Theranos scam, Thicker than Water is a look at never-before-revealed details behind closed doors at the company, revealing a cautionary tale of corporate bullying, gaslighting, ego, and wealth running amok in Silicon Valley.”

        Tyler Shultz has a great voice and so much courage and integrity. It was great to listen to him tell the story.

  10. I’m like the dog turning circles to find the best place to lie down, I can’t settle on anything to read. It’s been mostly podcasts this week.

    1. I’m with you Maine+Betty. I haven’t been able to settle on any of the 4 started books staring at me from the tbr stack.

  11. I gave Andrea Höst’s Stray to my daughter as an early christmas present and that has lead to yet another reread of the series. I am on the final short story « Snow day ». I feel like I am in a book time loop at the moment :).

  12. I’ve been reading some Young Adult books, fantasy, and realize that the ones I skip most of the middle on are ones where the character does not change. Lots of stuff happens, but the voice of the character doesn’t change. Min changes during Bet Me. So do all Crusie heroines. Sam and Frodo and even Aragorn and Gimli change during the stories. The voice of this character didn’t change. They were just in threat a lot and met people. Frustrating. However Iron Widow’s heroine (same general reading audience) does change her voice — she gets more militant and fierce, and it was perfect. (Definitely recommended.)

  13. I was really thrilled to hear that my friend Sheryl’s cookbook, The Little Prairie Book of Berries, got a major shout-out in Chatelaine (a Canadian women’s magazine) and the National Post newspaper named it one of the 12 best Canadian cookbooks of the year. The praise is very well deserved and one of the best things about the book is that it’s not just a baking book but there are recipes for all sorts of things like dipping sauces and cocktails. It’s making me eager to get into my haskap berry bushes next summer and the saskatoons and to find a u-pick with chokecherries and sour cherries

    I can’t resist plugging her books any chance I get.

    I have not read or listened to anything thrilling this week, unfortunately. I am looking forward to the St. Mary’s Christmas story on Saturday.

  14. I’m on a YA kick. I’m currently reading Bookish and the Beast (Book 3 in Once Upon a Con), and it’s fantastic. I’m almost about to finish The Hawthorne Legacy (Inheritance Games #2), and I’m really enjoying it. Highly recommend both series.

  15. Ahh.. Hunter Thompson.. I still consider his Las Vegas book a masterpiece.. have not read it in many years and never read Hells Angels and dont intend too.. I don’t think I would have liked the man, but his talent at written is amazing.I first started following his political comments in Rolling Stone and loved his writing then. I am also definitely having a hard time getting into new romance books. I recently read Matchmaking for Beginners and I think it could have been an awesome story but it was only ok. Parts of it were great. I thought the middle sagged and parts of the middle were boring and unnecessary. But my biggest complaint is the heroine was mean and cruel to someone who did not deserve it. I was just stunned and hated her.. i finished the book by skimming most of it just to see how it ends. So I am spending most of my time rereading favorites. Currently working my way through Lawerence Blocks Burglar Who series and enjoying them..

  16. I began this week intending to read just one book: Bujold’s The Hallowed Hunt. Okay there were research diversions. I was preparing a blog article on Why I Love Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Universe, and that caused me to open and read stories from the Ring of Fire anthology, and the original book, 1632, and I ended up rereading Mrs Flannery’s Flowers. On the other reader, I reread The Book of Firsts, because why not? So, it was a week of The Hallowed Hunt with diversions and digressions.

    OWID #36: 250.0 pounds. Disappointing, in an old white male sort of way.

    1. I would be very interested in your blog about Ring of Fire. Due to your mentions of different titles, I finally started the series and have really enjoyed it. Please provide a link to your blog when you post. Thanks!

  17. This week I re-read books I hadn’t read in so long they pretty much qualify as new.

    Roger Zelazny’s Doorways in the Sand. SFF not romance, but a quick, fun read. I’d completely forgotten the part about the wombat impersonator.

    W.R. Gingell’s Blackfoot. Also not romance, a fantasy with two children and a snarky talking black cat who sounded a lot like my cat (although not nearly as concerned with tuna).

    1. Wombat impersonator? It has been a very long time since I read Doorways in the Sand. Maybe it’s time now.

      1. You might be right. I think its been 20 years since I last reread Amber. I’ve reread Doorways in the Sand, Lord of Light and Jack of Shadows in the last 10 years. It might be time.

  18. I wanted a nice Christmas romance, so I tried Karen Schaler’s Christmas Ever After. Sadly, it was a DNF. Didn’t work for me.
    Then I tried Barbara Cartland’s two 1979 novels in one book, Love in the Clouds and Imperial Splendor. It was a flop too, even though I slogged to the end. I never read Cartland before, so of course, I dug into her wikipedia entry first. It astounded me. Why did I never encounter this writer if she was so famous? I love romance. How come I missed such a prolific and popular romance writer? After I finished this book, all became clear. She couldn’t write worth shit.
    Maybe at the time she published, there weren’t any better writers working in the historical romance genre? No, that’s not true. There was at least one – Georgette Heyer. But Cartland’s novels – at least these two – couldn’t even compare with Heyer’s charming, funny, and skillfully constructed tales. From the example of these two novels, I can’t understand why Cartland was famous. She should’ve been barred from publication by any self-respecting editor.
    Kate Stradling’s Kingdom of Ruses was a weak YA story. I did finish it, but it was a struggle.
    The only book I truly enjoyed during the past week was a re-read – Wen Spencer’s fantasy novel Wood Sprites. It is #4 in her Elfhome series. It isn’t my favorite of the series, but it was a darn good book nonetheless. The next book in the series, Harbinger, is coming out in spring 2022, after over 5 years of no publication at all from this writer, and I rejoice by the news. I wanted to remind myself how Wood Sprites ended before I opened the next book.
    Spencer is one of my favorite speculative fiction writers. I like everything she has written so far. I even wrote fan fiction set in her Elfhome universe and posted it on my wattpad account and on Archive of Our Own.

    1. I really like Wen Spencer’s Elfhome series. I have read it multiple times. It does go progressively more complicated and ever so slightly bonkers as it progresses (I mean the mice…) but it is great.
      Her other books are good too.
      I especially like Endless Blue, a Brother’s price and the Black wolves of Boston. Very creative, very well realised worlds.

      1. Endless Blue is wonderful, one of the most original sci-fi I’ve read. And I love Eight Million Gods. Who am I kidding? I love everything she’s written. Even her earlier Ukiah Oregon series is great.

    2. Barbara Cartland is terrible 🙂 I ran across her once and never again will open her books. I do enjoy her self portraits on the back covers though.

      1. Barbara Cartland is definitely terrible. She seemed to be famous more for her prolific book writing than anything else. She appealed I think to an indiscriminating reader (many apologies in advance if any of you reading this are one of them). Her books really did not make any demands of the reader.

      2. I read about two dozen of them when they were first available in the US in the 70s, fascinated by how unbelievably bad they were.

    3. +1 on Barbara Cartland being terrible! LOL But I have to say: I adore the covers of many of her books, painted by fashion illustrator Francis Marshall. I read probably two dozen of the silly things when I was a teenager, have hoarded one as an Archetype of Silliness, and have a stripped cover from another. Just love that style of art.

    4. Cartland produced quantity, not quality. Apparently she also produced a couple of readable books, but they didn’t sell well, so she switched to schlock. I did read a couple of her non-fiction books, an autobiography and a biography of her mother, IIRC, and they were not outstanding, but not terrible (they also came my way when I was stuck for something to read on the train). However, she imitated Heyer so closely that apparently there was an undisclosed settlement for plagiary.

      1. Really? I read a couple of her books as a teen and what I remember was one sentence per paragraph and no personalities at all. It’s hard to imagine she copied Heyer well enough to be considered plagiarism.

        1. My guess would be that she adopted a Heyer plot and borrowed all the Regency slang and so on. Heyer did much detailed research in obscure places, so when there’s a phrase that was used once in a manuscript source, you could probably depose Cartland and ask where she found it. A few dozen questions like that would make the point pretty clearly.

          1. I swear I read somewhere that Georgette made up a piece of slang which Barbara stole – so Georgette could prove it wasn’t just using the same references. It’s not in the biography I thought it was though, so I can’t quote source.

            And I am talking about this because I have not read anything worth sharing, sadly.

          2. There was a couple of authors apparently.

            I think someone used the term Cheltenham Tragedy, and another phase that she had found in an old letter for her research and had no other source. Also Barbara Cartland’s character was Sir Montagu Reversby in Hazard of Hearts (Friday’s Child cough)

            Also Kathleen Lindsay


    5. I knew Barbara Cartland was related to someone famous but couldn’t remember who until I looked it up on google. Oh yeah, Princess Diana as her step-grandmother. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by her so I can’t give an honest opinion one way or another.

    6. Barbara Cartland was a friend of the Queen Mother, and Princess Di was her godchild. Rumour has it they conspired matchmaking.

      1. Lady Fermoy, Diana’s maternal grandmother, was a friend and lady-in-waiting to the Queen Mother, and she was the one who was supposed to have conspired with the QM to do a little matchmaking. I’ve also heard that the royal family concluded afterwards that Lady Fermoy should have discouraged any matchmaking, but don’t know whether this was hindsight in action. [Oddball note: my late neighbor shared the QM’s August birthday and exchanged cards with her every year, and many of the notes were written by Lady Fermoy.]

        Cartland was the mother of Diana’s stepmother, and the tabloids were absolutely predictable in what they said, and are still saying, about the relationships.

  19. I’ve had a major change of heart since last week, having gobbled down the first three books in Mary Balogh’s “Slightly” series, about the rich & snobbish Bedwyn clan. The first two of these were about less-mentioned Bedwyns: Col. Aidan Bedwyn and tall, reckless Rannulf Bedwyn. And the third was about the hoyden of the family, Lady Frejya, who’s been at least mentioned in two-thirds of the Balogh oeuvre that I’ve read at least, always looking down her nose at something, insulting someone, or in an angry snit about something.

    I totally see why Jane and others mentioned this as a good series. It’s cohesive, fun to read, and gives you a sense of the whole extended family and a lot of details or summaries of the events in other lives that have formed the core of those other people you came to know by reading their own MC books.

    At this point, I’m not sure if someone who hasn’t been on a Baloghathon like me would find that interconnectedness a fun thing, but I have to say I did. So much of life involves event X, which was central to the life of person A, a frustrating distraction to person B, a source of worry to C, tragedy to D, disaster to E, et cetera, and all of those people talked to others about that event, thought about it, wondered how others thought about it, and so on. It’s part of the web of relationships that we’re all part of, but don’t see every part of. I think it is why some cinematographers do long panning scenes that take the viewer all around a complicated interaction scene sometimes to give the scope of a film in little snippets. Everything has ripples.

    Anyway, I find myself not hating any of the Bedwyns any more, and looking forward to reading all the rest, and then enjoying the added perspective everytime they show up in the background in other couple’s books, or on the re-read.

    Very satisfying, all of them so far.

    1. I like Mary Balogh. I’ve read almost all her books, and some series, like Slightly, I re-read at least once. Although, I think her latest few books don’t do as well, which makes me sad. :((

  20. I read Kristen Ashley’s Dream Team series. I knew I would like it because she never disappoints and this series was another winner.
    All of her books have things in common that I love. She forms communities of lovable quirky characters. Her characters arc. Her plots are suspenseful. Her voice is compelling.
    She does the alpha male thing which I tend to ignore. Her heroines are strong women who hold their own. She also has lots of sex which I skip through because sex scenes written by almost anyone bore me.
    Yet even with those 2 cons I keep going back for more -she is that good, imho.
    If you don’t know her work she is a highly successful, self published writer with tons of fans.
    If you haven’t read any of her books I recommend you start with the Rock Chick series. The community in Dream Team is an offshoot of the Rock Chick community.
    There are 9 books in the RC series & the first book is titled Rock Chick.
    Dream Team series starts with a prequel novella titled 1001 Dark Nights: Quiet Man. So far there are 4 books starting with Dream Maker.

    1. I enjoy Kristen Ashley as well, but I am not sure I would start with the Rock Chicks. In my opinion, Indy’s book is difficult and she hadn’t quite found her voice as an author yet. But I love the lighthouse series, and the one in the mountains. I settled into the Rock Chicks but DNFed them a couple of time first.

      And yeah, I mostly ignore the alpha male stuff too. I also appreciate that she writes older heroines and that they are not ashamed of being girly girls. It’s something that doesn’t happen a lot anymore. Women are supposed to not care about their looks or be effortlessly beautiful. If they spend too much time or money openly on their appearance they are seen as vain or shallow. It’s a weird thing, in my opinion. I like that her heriones are just this side of slutty and know it.

      1. She is kind of a law onto herself I think, and difficult to describe. Her books are bricks, they are so long, and I usually listen to them instead of read them. Still, I keep coming back to my favorites to relisten. And I give her points for trying out just about every trope under the sun.

    2. I started with the Colorado Mountain series and read Sweet Dreams twice (older divorced woman has put on a few pounds and gets insulted by the owner of a bar where she works). I’d heard a lot about the Rock Chick series and bought a few but couldn’t quite get into them. Also read the Chaos series, The Magdalene series, the Unfinished Hero series and some of her fantasy series. What I really like are the epilogues and I know some people can do without them but not me.

  21. I was going to start Hogfather, but time has been short, so I thought I’d try a Christmas novella, which seem to be flying every which way lately. I skimmed one a didn’t like, read another that was frustrating, and then picked up the one I knew I could count on: Hot Toy. Love it every year–and it’s funny how much of it ISN’T dated (except the reference to 2007, of course. 🙂 Tonight I start Hogfather.

  22. I have a couple of week’s worth of Good Book Thursdays and Working Wednesdays to catch up on. Have been very tired lately, so haven’t been around much, but please know that I appreciate you all a lot! <3

    I've read some great things lately. Not including rereads, I've read:
    Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – Very much enjoyed this one. Everyone’s been talking about how great the movie was ever since I was a teenager, but I never got around to see it, nor to read the book, Finally done it, and so happy I did!
    The Teashop On the Corner by Milly Johnson – Nice feelgood read. A lot of great people with a lot of awful experiences weighing them down and a LOT of awful people in their lives coming together and becoming a great community. The teashop reminded me SO much of a dream a friend and I had when we were teenagers about having a book-café….. Anyway, enjoyable read.

    Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues by Trisha Ashley – Also a very nice and cosy read. Especially enjoyed the great aunt for some reason. Maybe because the narrator did her so well.

    Chocolate Wishes by Trisha Ashley – This one takes place before Chocolate Shoes, which I discovered after reading it. Also very nice, but I think I liked Chocolate Shoes slightly better.

    Currently reading:
    Summer at the Comfort Food Café by Debbie Johnson – Anybody else noticed the feelgood book title patterns of today? Anyway, reading this on my phone during the day and loving it. It’s cosy and funny with a lot of great, lovable characters and just the right amount of silly. About halfway through and having such a good time with these people.
    The Christmas Pig by J.K. Rowling – Reading this on my audiobook reader before I fall asleep. Think I would’ve found this one slightly unsettling or even scary as a kid, but also thrilling. It’s quite an adventure. Took me a while to get into the story, but curious to see where it’ll end.

    Wishing you all wonderful holidays, a good end of the year, and a happy new one! Hope Santa and 2022 will bring you much, much joy and a lot of good books.

    1. Once upon a time…
      I bought a lot of books with Chocolate in the title. I am, after all, a card-carrying chocoholic. Seeing the Trisha Ashley books sent me to Amazon, where Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues was not available in Kindle Format… but was available in a set, a chocolate bundle. I got those and a Christmas collection, and recommended for me was another Kay Kepler, Skirting Destiny, so I got that, too. Next Thursday…

      1. Trisha Ashley is very good at food. It’s very hard not to crave all the food she includes in her books!

        1. I used to have that problem reading Diane Mott Davidson. All those recipes and food that I was never going to cook. And JoAnna Carl (aka Eve K. Sandstrom) and Lee McKinney, Ten Huis Chocolade cozy mysteries. I just noticed there’s a new mystery, The Chocolate Raccoon Rigmarole (Chocoholic Mystery Book 18) , published last August. 1-clicked it.

          1. I did not realize that JoAnna Carl and Eve K. Sandstrom were the same person. I really enjoyed her Eve K. Sandstrom books, particularly The Down Home Heifer Heist. I’ve seen the JoAnna Carl books in the bookstore here in Michigan but I’ve never read them. I might have to fix that.

      2. I haven’t read it yet, but KayK is an Argh Author, so…

        Skirting Destiny (Chasing the CIA Book 3) by Kay Keppler

        When a frantic Russian defector jumps into her taxi, CIA language analyst Phoebe Renfrew would love nothing more than to take him to the proper government officials. But then the taxi’s windows are shot out. And with the government shutdown, she’s got little choice but to take him home. He can hide in the basement of the beautiful but rundown place she just bought with Chase Bonaventure, her fiancé. It’s only for the weekend. What could happen, right?

        But between fighting off the attacks of a determined Russian assassin—and deflecting her mother’s plans for a big wedding she’s not ready for—Phoebe’s got her hands full. When the showdown comes, maybe planning a wedding to Chase isn’t that important, after all.

        Because she and Chase may not survive the weekend.

        I found it on Amazon

  23. It’s been another week of excessive reading; day job has been sufficiently slow that in between work emails, I’ve either been writing/noodling on the Chromebook or sitting with my Kindle. I will definitely cross the 500 titles/yr mark by New Years.

    There was a book this week that I DNFd at 30% despite strong expectations as it is a sort-of-sequel to something by our best beloved Jenny. Yeah it’s the one that came out this year. Just could not get involved.

    Finished the A.J. Demas Boukos trilogy with ‘Strong Wine.’ Really liked the way Varazda showed up as a crime-solving hero, and the sweet concluding scene; then re-read ‘Charles’ by Con Riley before proceeding to ‘His Horizon,’ the first in her Cornwall-coast trilogy. We have some style/theme elements in common and I love her atmospheric settings.

    Holiday novella ‘On a Midnight Clear’ by Lily Morton is a fantasy that did not answer quite all my questions (would an English lord really think of his love interest as a hummingbird? can an indebted estate, presumably entailed, actually be foreclosed on?) but enjoyable/satisfying nonetheless. Re-read ‘Yuletide Treasure’ by Eliot Grayson, which is going to be a Holiday Tradition for me.

    Next up, ‘Battle Royal’ by Lucy Parker which I liked better than ‘Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake.’ There, I said it (Alexis Hall fan here). I found the development – of characters, romance, and enveloping plot – very satisfactory, not to mention the collaboration that grows out of an adversarial situation, plus some LOL snark. This is a great case of Apparently Dickhead Hero whose spiky outer layers peel away to reveal a guy who just needs a hug.

    Pleasant sort-of-holiday slice-of-life novella ‘A Handful of Joy’ by Pat Henshaw had a complex setup, appealing characters, and the potential for a lot more book; the conclusion is all’s-well-that-ends-well, but some important stuff got left unresolved in a rush to the finish. The other holiday read of the week, a return to ‘Merry & Bright,’ three shorts by Joanna Chambers. (Her ‘Humbug’ is also on my Holiday Tradition list.)

    Most unusual book of the week: ‘Unspeakable Vice’ by Quinn Wilde, which is quite witty; it’s set in 1895 and features a blackmail mystery involving nearly all the characters. Primary POV character is an approximately 19-year-old Oxford student who falls for his father’s clerk. Sketchily edited but seems well-researched and left nothing unresolved.

    1. Glad you Re-read Yuletide Treasure. Best holiday read I’ve had this year. Have you read any Alessandra Hazard? She and Eliot Grayson are writing partners/editors. She is edgier so you might not like that but they have similar styles. Love her stuff.

  24. THE WINDSOR KNOT, by SJ Bennett; like others, I liked this book, and pre-ordered the next one, ALL THE QUEEN’S MEN. I’ve never met the Queen, but her character in this book didn’t hit a single wrong note for me, nor did the palace background nor the relationships. The supporting cast were equally plausible, and I enjoyed the mystery. The only criticism I have is that there’s a person who, without giving anything away, is always off-stage and should probably have made an in-person appearance.

    MENUS THAT MADE HISTORY, by Alex Johnson and Vincent Franklin. Not sure whether these gentlemen are authors or editors, because they have assembled an interesting collection of menus, from the iconic — First Class on the RMS Titanic the night she sank, for instance, — to tea-rooms, and restaurants, and some famous foods that don’t have menus at all, like fish-and-chips with mushy peas. Something for everyone. I’m reading it on the desktop screen because the book has reproduced actual menus, so it doesn’t work well for me on a handheld reader. A tablet should be fine, too.

    AN UNEXPECTED COOKBOOK: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery, by Chris-Rachael Oseland, is something I came across looking for yet another good vegetable recipe for a holiday table. Not sure it’s going to help me this week, but it is fun to read and, since hobbits are as partial to mushrooms as I am (very), there are lots of mushroom recipes I expect to make for myself. The warning in the Amazon reviews is that the cook should not follow the recipes blindly, as some of the quantities listed seem to have teaspoons and tablespoons confused. Season to taste.

    AMONG THE WOLVES OF COURT, by Lauren Mackay, is an impressively good biography of Thomas and George Boleyn, Anne’s father and brother. Mackay has researched the origins of the Boleyn family back a surprising number of generations in a scholarly way that would be approved of by the editors of genealogical society publications (of which I am a veteran subscriber). Thomas had an impressive diplomatic career before his daughters were toddlers, and George was on the way to doing the same — he went on a number of diplomatic missions and did well on them before disaster struck. Like Julia Fox’s biography of George’s wife Jane Parker Boleyn, these people are now beginning to be the subject of more serious scholarly attention (good, less soap opera, please!). I was especially interested in the more granular details of the family’s rise and how it was done. Usually you get a lot of hand-waving with a murmur of ‘good marriages,’ but there’s more going on than that.

  25. Hey guys, there’s a new Ben Aaronovitch coming out in April called Amongst Our Weapons. I’m excited!

      1. “Our main weapons are the elements of fear, surprise…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.”

    1. Oh, GOOD. As long as it’s a Peter book. I need to know what happens to him. And Bev. And Abigail. And the foxes.

  26. I had a stack of DNF this week. I did manage to finish Mary Jo Putney’s Once Dishonoured, but only by skimming most of it. And I’m in no hurry to read anything more from her.

    Now I’m reading SJ Rozan’s On the Line which is very good. Part of the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series – this time told from Bill’s pov. Lydia has been kidnapped by a psychopath, and Bill is trying to find her.

  27. Recent good books:

    Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green. It’s about homophobia as much as it is about the discovery of a serial killer targeting gay men in the 80s and 90s and how institutional homophobia impacted how seriously the crimes were taken. Really well-written and less interested in the killer than in his victims and the world they moved in.

    Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of An American Family by Robert Kolker. It’s a biography of the Galvins, a family with 12 children, 6 of whom developed schizophrenia. It’s well-written and thoughtful, and is as much about the history of schizophrenia and its treatment, as it is about the family. It also discusses the value of the family in understanding the disease — it clearly runs in families, but iirc, it doesn’t seem to be directly heritable. (That is, the children of people with schizophrenia aren’t any more likely to have it than anyone else.)

    And last night I finally read Martha Wells’ first Murderbot novella, All Systems Red and enjoyed it very much. I’ve been re-reading Evan Thomas’ Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945, which follows two Japanese and two American naval commanders up to and through the battle of Leyte Gulf, but I wasn’t in the mood last night and switched to Murderbot. I’m really glad I did, although now I can’t decide between Leyte Gulf and more Murderbot.

  28. Not much reading for me this week, as I was baking Christmas cookies or doing homework. The news of Joan Didion’s death reminded me how much I enjoyed her writing. I read “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” in HS and it had a huge impact on me. Less the observations about what was happening in the US at the time and more the personal and reflective pieces. I don’t recall much from books I read last year, let alone HS, but I remember various threads from STB. I had forgotten that she and her husband wrote a screenplay for “A Star is Born”. My parents spilt up in Dec 1976 and my mother and I were together for New Year’s Eve. We had dinner at a fancy restaurant and went to see the movie. It was a lovely evening. One of my projects for 2022 is to re-read my favourite Didion books.

  29. I haven’t read much of anything this week. Dog sitting tends to do that to me. I do get lots of walks though.
    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

  30. It is almost 10 PM Eastern Standard Time on my Last Work Day Ever (assuming my relief shows up at midnight, and we all know what happens when you assume.) Paperwork complete, lockers emptied and cleaned, I put my state email account in vacation mode with the message, “RETIRED. Please remove this address from your contact list. It has been a pleasure working with you. :)” I put that in with no expiration date. I sent Christmas Greetings to all my cow-orkers before I closed the account, with one of those pictures that say something like “Retirement is the best way to waste a day.” Anyway, yes, I spammed them all. 🙂

    The dotter is in Nawth Caraliner visiting the son. I opened her present to me before I came to work: gloves and a new wallet, perzacly what I needed and wanted! She’s carrying my gifty to the distanter branch.

    Christmas Dinner: I had a ribeye, a boneless pork chop, mac & cheese, and broiled hash browns, with coffee and tea and chocolate covered almonds. I mean, that’s what I brought to work. I ate the chop and the hash browns, drank the coffee and tea. I’ll probably eat something at home, when I’m unemployed, if I don’t stop for a foot-long double meat double provolone BMT on Italian bread, with lettuce, tomato, onions, peppers (either jalapenos or banana peppers) and a sprinkling of oil. OTOH, throwing the diet out the window may not be the best start for my lifestyle of leisure. The odds are good I’ll just do a drive-by drooling.

    …and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

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