This is a Good Book Thursday, March 10, 2022

I needed something safe after a traumatic week, so I reread Connie Willis’s “Take a Look At the Five and Dime” and felt good again, all squishy inside, because it’s a story about joy that really captures the exultation of the emotion. And because it has wonderful characters (some of them horrible people but still great characters) and very nice people getting a happy ending along with a life-changing epiphany. Plus Willis’s wonderful, gentle sense of humor. Big Willis fan here. It’s just a lovely story.

What did you read this week?

105 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, March 10, 2022

  1. I’ve just been reading Neon Gods by Katee Robert, a hot interpretation of the story of Persephone and Hades with an urban fantasy edge. I enjoyed it. Also re-reading The Goblin Emperor, because I need to re-read it on a regular basis.

  2. I (finally) read Boyfriend Material after ton ‘o’ recommendations on this site and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not as good as Red, White and Royal Blue but still good. Then I followed up with The Charm Offensive (thank you JaneB) and also enjoyed it. So far my entry into the M/M RomCom category is a solid 3 for 3.

    I also read Country Friends which hit a lot of best seller lists – no idea why. About a group of friends who are stuck in lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic at a get-together and a more unlikeable group of people I’ve never met. It was like Seinfeld without the humour. Supposed to be inspired by Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and apparently I forgot except for The Seagull how boring I find Chekhov. Lesson relearned.

    1. Ha. I am re-listening to Boyfriend Material this week so I remember what happened when Husband Material comes out.

      1. I’m definitely looking forward to that! And how goes your quest for new reading material this week??

        1. Bleh. I tried some contemporary romance and didn’t have the heart to finish either of them. I think that I am throwing in the towel for the time being and sticking with the comfort rereading.

          1. Should I try to tempt you with a couple of things on Kindle that you can DNF easily if required?

          2. Tammy, there should be little purple devil horns on your icon.

            Please, recommend away. Can’t promise to pick anything up in the near future, but I am always willing to add to my list.

          3. I’ll see if I can add those little horns. But hey, who was it that got me into alien romances with tentacles and tails?? Anyway, here are two of my favourite novellas, both on KU, so free AND short, and they both come under the category of Sweet..with an Edge – my favourite kind of sweet. Next Season by Avon Gale – it’s hockey but there’s no real on the ice action; more like a context. And First Blood by Eliot Grayson – may not sound sweet given the vampire/male prostitute premise but…totally adorable. And if you’ve got anything to tempt me with today go for it. Am mostly rereading also and in the mood for something new.

          4. What does it say about me that a vampire/ sex worker pairing makes me perk up and say, “oooh, how is that going to work?”

          5. It says that there is something deeply wrong with you and it says you’d better read it quickly.

    2. Reading The Charm Offensive thanks to recomendations here. Laughing out loud occasionally.

  3. My partner has requested that I as you all for more recommendations for things to watch on Netflix and Amazon Prime, since you have guided us to so many winners. Any recommendations?

    We just started Derry Girls, which is fun, but otherwise are struggling. We watched the new Ghostbusters, Dune, and the Disney about the riverboat. All pretty Meh. I have requested Encanto when the library finally gets it…

      1. Another vote from me for Lupin. I got whatever service it’s on for a month just to watch it, and it was totally worth it.

    1. I’ve just finished watching ‘Never Have I Ever’ on Netflix, and enjoyed it. It’s YA comedy drama/romcom featuring an Asian American teenager. Bizarrely, the commentary by John MacEnroe works well.

      1. We watched that, on your recommendation I believe. It was good, though I liked the first season better. I was really happy that she ended up with Jackson at the end. I like him a lot and was expecting that she would get the other boy, not the beautiful, older one, which made me examine my expectations of tropes more carefully.

      1. Love love loved the Good Place! We keep watching mediocre movies with Kristen Bell in them just because we like her so much now.

      1. Ah, that is the tricky part, navigating both my partner’s tastes and my own.

        Basically, we will watch anything, regardless of premise, if it is written well enough.

        I prefer something on the more lighthearted end of the spectrum, though exceptions can be made. Jack Reacher, for example, was a little bloody for my tastes, but not too dark and the characters were good.

    2. I have no idea if this would be up your alley but…I’m a big fan of Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. It’s a total geek show – watching him be a geek about comedy. He deconstructs comedy and the lives of comedians and the comedians he drives with. He laughs constantly – plays the straight man for most of them. It’s a good look on him. Also – cars and coffee.

      1. I like Comedians in Cars… too. Some eps are more successful than others, depending on the comedian. Speaking of comedians in cars, Jay Leno’s Garage on, I think, CNBC is pretty funny sometimes. There is mostly no coffee but you can catch Jay and Arnold Schwarzenegger joy riding in an actual tank, for example…

    3. How about venturing into K-Drama? There’s so much to watch. Forget the hype around stuff like Squid Games (unless you like violence, in which case go for it). There’s some hilarious / sweet rom-com ones:
      I am Not a Robot
      Moonlight Drawn by Clouds (aka Love in the Moonlight)
      Goblin (you might have to venture to Viki TV for that)
      My Love from a Star
      Crash landing on You

      I’m biased because I love K-drama – so much fun and willingness to just go full tilt for the story – but I do recommend people try some if they haven’t. I thought I’d hate having to deal with subtitles but I honestly don’t even notice.

      1. You all may have discussed these already, but The Untamed is very pretty and Imperial Coroner is fun — Chinese Historical tales on YouTube, although I gather other paid services have better captions for Untamed. (I got the book, too, but haven’t read it yet as my TBR stack is rather high at the moment.)

      2. Thanks! We like K dramas, but I usually like to work on a project while we watch, so subtitles are not always ideal. I will put them on the list 🙂

      3. I love love love kdrama, too! Now, regular tv is boring for me. A fav sci fi romance intrigue profound thought crazy in-law (kdrama writers toss in the whole kitchen sink of tropes) – Are You Human Too? The actor playing the robot is gorgeous and great actor. One of my fav robot stories was AI (Spielberg) – explored so many thoughts about our humanity. and I found similar threads in this little kdrama as well.

  4. I read Summer at Sea by Katie Fforde. I liked it, even though the drama is mostly caused by people not talking to each other, which annoyed me as the characters were generally well adjusted otherwise. But it had the nice location and happy ending I needed.

    I’m also relistening to Nora Roberts Three Sisters trilogy. They are good to walk to. Most of her trilogies are.

    The Goblin Emperor is in the wings, but as the library only had a paper copy, it’s waiting for me to carve out some time. It’s also a reread.

    I almost forgot. I listened to the Irish Hostage by Charles Todd. It’s the latest in the Bess Crawford series, home of the slowest-developing romance ever. I binge-listened to the previous books and the male love interest’s backstory has him starting younger every book. (Not that they ever say his age.) They met when she was a child and he was a soldier, so it’s taken a while to get him in range. If there are further books (half the Charles Todd writing duo recently died) I hope the finally resolve it.

  5. I have finally emerged from Liad but am still in space.
    Following last Thursday’s discussion about Komarr, I just had to reread it. I seamlessly went on to a Civil Campaign and Winterfair gifts and am now starting on Diplomatic Immunity.
    I am pretty sure I am going to keep going till the end of those and might even go back in time because if I had to pick a favourite Vorkosiverse book it would be Memory which comes just before Komarr! I like that one for lots of reasons including, among many others, Gregor finally finding his Empress.

    1. Like you I also reread Miles books and Liad books I an rereading the Jethri books as Fair Trade will be out in May.
      I enjoy these two series can you recommend any other similar authors? Like a lot of people I now prefer kind MCs . No cruelty or phycology messed up MCs
      Thanking you in advance.

      1. Have you tried Ilona Andrews? Kate is a little nuts, but all of the MCs are solid. I prefer the Innkeeper series or Hidden Legacy. Those are more comfortable.

      2. It’s difficult really to find exactly the same type of books.

        Authors who write in the SF/Fantasy genre I reread a lot (some leaning more towards romance, some with explicit scenes) are in no particular order:

        Andrea K Host (the stray series)
        Meljean Brook (especially the Iron duke and the Kraken King )
        Wen Spencer ( the Elfhome series but all her other stuff is great too)
        Patricia Briggs (Mercy Thompson + Alpha and Omega, urban fantasy)
        Lindsay Buroker (her stuff is uneven but I really like the encrypted series)
        Sharon Shinn (everything!)
        Nathan Lowell’s solar clipper books
        Thea Harrison elder races series
        Michele Diener’s class 5 series (these are very formulaic in that every book has in the series has basically got the same plot but I find them a restful read!)

        Funnily enough I think these authors have all been mentionned by me or someone else here 🙂

        1. Oh yes Ilona Andrews too but I found some of their more recent offerings a bit too violent for me.

          1. I usually skim the violent bits. I just don’t care who stabs who with what.

            I agree with LN on Andrea Host, Meljean Brook/Milla Vane, Patricia Briggs and Sharon Shinn.

            Sherwood Smith is also a fav and kind of feels like Andrea Host’s fantasy work. I like her YA and adult stuff.

        2. Thank you very much I will read synopsis’s and see if my library has them.
          I have. been reading all my favourites again (Hi Jenny) But would like something new.

  6. I finished up the reread of Network Effect, and once again enjoyed it. Now I’ve started on ‘The rise and fall of D.O.D.O.” by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland. It’s premise is that something happened in the 1850s that caused magic to stop working (where it had previously been working just fine.) The main characters are trying to figure out what happened, and potentially reverse it to allow magic to work again. Like all Stephenson books, it is a massive doorstop of a book. I’m 100 or so pages in, and I’m still intrigued. I’ll let you know my final opinion in about six months.

  7. I reread The Frame-up and The Queen Con by Meghan Scott Molin, which are fun, and then havered over buying the next one (The Vigilante Game), because they’re a bit plot-heavy for me. But the reviews made it clear that it does tie the story up, so I went for it. I love the characters, although the heroine is annoyingly (stupidly) impulsive.

      1. I think for me it was partly due to my unfamiliarity with comic books: I skated over many obscure references, but then would suddenly realize that I’d actually lost sight of the main threads of the plot. Couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

  8. I’ve still been quite difficult to entertain. I just want to read the Murderbot series again for the first time. Or some Pratchett for the second time.
    Brothers Karamozov – 17 hours left.
    Reading The Water Dancers for my upcoming book group meeting. I’d better, I suggested it!

  9. I read Spelunking Through Hell by Seanan McGuire, her latest Incryptid book. And I enjoyed it, although I was somewhat skeptical about Grandma Alice as the main character. I wasn’t all that fond of the past few, after really really enjoying the first several.

    I’m now in the middle of Beguiling Birthright, the latest in Melissa McShane’s Extraordinaries series. Pretty good so far.

    For those of you who enjoyed Victoria Goddard’s The Hands of the Emperor, I just got an email (I signed up for her email list), that there is a new companion novella to it out now called Portrait of a Wide Seas Islander.

    1. Thanks, Gary. I’ve downloaded a sample: fear she may be milking it a bit. I thought all the omitted backstory was a brilliant move when I read The Hands of the Emperor, which was my first encounter with the author. I’m not wowed by all the infilling I’ve discovered since – am deliberately avoiding the prequels, in fact (well, I suppose they’re really earlier books; but prequels so far as my reading order’s concerned). But if she’s on form . . .

  10. I finished Radio Silence his week and found it a perfectly pleasant romance except for the dystopian setting. At a time when the Post Office has not delivered 2 packages that I ordered and I am anxiously awaiting an important document that has so far taken 5 days to get 250 miles, I guess I wasn’t in the mood to read about a society where all systems have collapsed and nobody knows why. I think it is the first in a series and it tied up one burning question very neatly, but my library doesn’t own any of the following titles, which means that I’ll never know what caused the descent into anarchy or if the other set of parents has survived.

    Far more satisfying is The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood. I didn’t think I’d like it because it is a title that got a lot of hype and it is set in academia. But so far (I am almost halfway through) The MCs are interesting, the anxiety about funding rings true and the professor is in a totally different department than the grad student. I actually look forward to long transit times as an opportunity to read this. We’ll see if the second half turns out well.

    1. As an academic in a Science field (Regenerative Medicine) I thought it was pretty spot on. I read it too fast and now want to go back and read it again – just have to wait for my spot in the holds list to come up (in about 12 weeks or so…)

  11. I read Burn by Patrick Ness, a YA fantasy/SF novel about people and dragons seeking to save the world from being destroyed. It was a different take on the saving the world trope and I enjoyed it.

    I also read a SF novel by Mike Chen, Light Years from Home. It’s about a young man abducted by aliens who returns home some years later. The book deals with the psychological trauma the abduction caused to everyone involved. I didn’t like any of the people in the novel, so that was difficult, but I did find the premise interesting enough that I continued to the end. I would recommend it only to someone interested in the psychology of trauma.

    I also read with pleasure the latest Kelley Armstrong Rockton novel, The Deepest of Secrets. It is sadly also the last. I’ll miss the two main characters.

  12. Read Fantastic Hope anthology. Like many short story anthologies, it was uneven. Some stories I liked. Most I didn’t. My favorite was Patricia Briggs’ s story Asil and the Not-Date. It was set in the world of Alpha & Omega novels, starring – you guessed it – Asil.
    Olivia Dade’s Spoiler Alert was supposed to be a rom-com, but it didn’t work for me. First, it wasn’t funny. Second, the protagonists were supposed to be professionals (36 and 40 years old respectively), but they behaved like spoiled teenagers in the middle of an angst fit. Neither got any sympathy from me.
    And then I read Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader. It was a treat, a little gem of a book, and a totally unexpected pleasure. Funny and wise, it tells a story about HRM, the queen, discovering the joy of reading. It also pays tribute to many literary classics. And it is written superbly. No surprise there: Bennett is a master playwright. Altogether yummy!

    1. I really enjoy all of Asil’s short stories so far. The anthologies are expensive, so I wait for the library to get them and frankly, I didn’t even bother to read the others in the collection.

    2. I loved The Uncommon Reader. Might re-read it. I read it years ago and thought it was charming.

    3. I also vote for The Uncommon Reader: entertaining, thoughtful, beautifully written love letter to readers.

  13. Between futzing around with PDF files and editing screenshots, I managed to keep up-to-date om Variations on a Theme (Chapter 58 – 59 tomorrow), and reread Rewind by Frank writing as Don Lockwood. I also reread Miles, Mystery and Mayhem by Lois McMaster Bujold. That’s another of her collected books, two novels and a novella, in this case Cetaganda, Ethan of Athos, and Labyrinth. I finished Hunt the Stars. I’m in the middle of Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues and Memory. I’m not willing to say Memory is my favorite Bujold. That’s more like a forty-way tie. I will say that Memory leaves me no choice but to continue to Miles in Love, which contains Komarr, A Civil Campaign, and Winterfair Gifts. And then I’m in the muddle/middle of a Bujold reread. On the bright side, it’s a Bujold reread.

    Thursday, Official Weigh-in Day #47: 251.8 pounds (114.2 kilograms). I’ve been losing ground all year – January 1 I weighed 248.6.

  14. I love the Mercy Thompson series by Patty Briggs, but I don’t love them all the same. For some reason, River Marked struck me wrong when I read it (back in 2011 when it came out) and I have never re-read it. This is compared to say, Frost Burned, the next one in the series, which I re-read once a year (on Black Friday!) Some time ago, I read a blog post which ranked all the books in terms of romance and it ranked River Marked quite highly. Hmmm. Interesting, but I still didn’t pick it up. And then last week someone mentioned it here and I decided to try it again. I’m not done yet, but I am totally immersed in the story right now. I am trying to figure out why I disliked it the first time around. Maybe something will happen still to reinforce my original opinion, or maybe I’m just in a different place right now. Either way, I’m happy to be enjoying a book!

    1. It’s funny really because River Marked is one of my favourites in the series for two reasons . I like to see Mercy learning more about her indian heritage and I love seeing her and Adam starting their married life.

    2. I don’t reread the early Mercy books. They are too dark for me. The later ones and Alpha and Omega are more my speed. But I do remember River Marked as being the first one where she and Adam work as a unit. I appreciate that and seeing more of him in later books.

      1. I found that the last 2 Mercy books, and the last Omega book as well, were very, very dark. I don’t think I’ll be reading those again. I hope she moves into a slightly lighter place with the next one.

        1. I found the same. Her husband died not so long ago and I wonder if that has affected her writing. He used to write lovely posts on the blog on her website. I always enjoyed reading them.

          1. The death of her husband and the last few years on this world…

            The last Alpha and Omega was hard, but I think that it needed to happen because Anna hadn’t really dealt with her assault and needed to face it. Still, it’s not going on the reread list…

  15. I am so happy that Jenny first recommended “Matchmaking for Beginners.” When I first began it, I only liked one character — Blix, the 85-year old nonconformist lady — evidently the MC, but not the ordinary sort of MC I would have expected. Most of the others at the party during the opening few scenes were kind of irritating, except the young woman who Blix felt would be exactly the person to rescue from that setting and direct into the life she was supposed to be living.

    I haven’t enjoyed a book so much in years. Really a wonderful group of characters begin to emerge, and it turned out to be just a fireworks display of a book with heart. Can’t thank you enough!

  16. I’ve been on comfort reads for a few weeks and I plan to continue for the safety of my mental stability. I just finished Trisha Ashley’s A Good Heart is Hard to Find and loved it. Funny with a sweet snarky middle. Thank you, Deborah for your recommendation.

    I also worked my way through reading and listening again to Molly Harper’s Southern Eclectic series that starts with Sweet Tea and Sympathy. Quite funny and masterfully narrated by Brittany Presley if you enjoy audio. This series captures the essence of north Georgia in all its eccentricities and warmth.

    1. Trisha Ashley is definitely a comfort read for me. If you like her, also try another Brit, Katie Fforde.

      And I love Molly Harper’s Southern Eclectic series!

    2. I like to read Trisha Ashley books in the run up to Christmas since a lot of them are Christmas themed.
      Another Yorkshire author I like is Milly Johnson. She is very different. Her characters are working class rather than arty/bohemian.
      My favourite of hers are a Spring affair (puts me in the mood to declutter every time I read it) and Here come the girls (makes me want to go on a cruise, pure escapism).
      Another UK author I really like is Lucy Dillon. Lots of dogs. The first one of hers I read is one of my favourites of hers: a hundred pieces of me.

  17. I read The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson, which I think someone here might have recommended, since I’m not sure where else I would have found out about it.

    British book set in a library that is being threatened with closure. I wasn’t sure I would like the MC, since she was very timid, but the book was a real charmer. It just came out in 2021 and was the author’s first book, so I was bummed not to be able to immediately pick up something else she wrote.

    1. I either recommended it or seconded the recommendation. As a former library clerk, I’m a sucker for books set there. I really enjoyed the way this one had a not quite complete rescue of the library and the fact that the readers helped make the reinvention work.

      1. Me too, Aunt Snack. I grew up in libraries (my mom was a librarian and then a library director) and have worked in three. Libraries are one of my happy places and I love books set in them.

  18. Anne Bishop’s Crowbones!!!! The 3rd book in her World of the Others series.

    There have been a couple of recent books that are automatic reads because of the author that I have and said that’s nice and then left them to reread later. And then there was Crowbones. I finished it and immediately turned back to page one to start again. Wonderful. For anyone who has not read these books, start with Anne Bishop’s series The Others – Written in Red is the first book.

    I have continued rereading books as I try to weed my collection, I thought I might lose my Catherine Aird collection of mysteries, but upon rereading them have decided to keep them. Very Midsummer Murders in flavour.

  19. I just finished River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay. This is part of his Under Heaven world. I like a lot of his stuff but I found I was skipping whole pages where he went on and on giving that particular characters thoughts and background. Plus the ending was unsatisfactory – it is best summed up as everyone dies.

  20. I started reading (audio version) Rachel Caine’s INK AND BONE last night, and while I’m not wild about it (I’m not really a YA reader generally), and I haven’t really bonded with the main character, I was surprised to find that I’d listened to four hours of it before turning it off. Hardly anything can hold my attention these days, and admittedly I was playing a game on the phone at the same time as listening to the book, but for anyone who DOES like YA, it’s kind of a cross between Harry Potter (school for magic teens) and the Genevieve Cogman magic-library series. I can see why it’s a bestseller, even if it’s not quite my cuppa’.

  21. I just love Connie Willis, and that novella was great! I’m in the middle of The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, and am enjoying it, especially the numerous references to other great books (since the protagonist is employed in a bookshop).

  22. An interesting concatenation of events: Good Book Thursday coincided with a routine email from Tor Books, and contained this set of recommendations: Six Wintry SFF Romances That Will Melt Your Heart

    “When romance and snowflakes mingle in the air, there’s nothing better than a happily-ever-after… Carly Silver shares six stellar mythological and fairy tale retellings set against wintry backdrops, that will make you fall in love with the protagonists and their loved ones.”

    Some look very interesting. I thought I should share. I might even read some myself, when my TBR list has shrunk a bit.

    1. I got the Tor newsletter with this article as well and added a couple to my TBR list last night. List seems very heavy on Eastern European settings though. There must be other qualifying books set elsewhere…. something to ponder.

  23. I binge-read ALL THE QUEEN’S MEN by SJ Bennett, 2nd book in her mystery series, just released. (Previously enjoyed THE WINDSOR KNOT, which I read after seeing it recommended here.) Really enjoyed it. (Also somewhat amused by the author’s tact in simply never mentioning Prince Andrew at all.) Elegant writer, lots of texture, characters it’s pleasant to spend time with, decent plot.

    After that, finally got back to reading THE OTHER BLACK GIRL which I had stalled on. It was “an instant NYT bestseller,” and “the most anticipated book of [last] year,” and on a bunch of year’s-best lists. I thought it started off pretty engaging, but I stalled about halfway through because I felt like it got sluggish, bogged down by the heroine’s habit of over-analyzing, rethinking, and agonizing over everything. I was also annoyed by the way the story jumps around a lot to other characters elsewhere, where I didn’t know what was going on, and sometimes couldn’t even figure out who the character was or how their scenes (some of which I still don’t understand) related to the main story.

    ANYHOW, bottom line, now that I’ve finally finished it… I wish I hadn’t bothered. (SPOILER ALERT!!)

    The plot eventually devolves into a really dumb… I dunno, pseudo-science-fictional? plot reveal where some Black women are using a hair product that brainwashes them to get along in the white world, and sometimes this product is foisted on them without their knowledge by a secret cabal, etc. All the “year’s best” stuff, etc., around this book means, I assume, that this plot device is a brilliant metaphor, but it just came across to me as eye-crossingly silly.

    1. I read All the Queen’s Men too, though in Aust it is published as A Three Dog Problem. It’s a real comfort read, and the Queen is totally believable in her role as behind-the-scenes detective. Hugely enjoyable.

      Also reading Rainbow Rowell’s Any Way the Wind Blows, the third book in her Simon Snow trilogy. Funny and warm hearted – I like her writing so much, and this is a great end to the trilogy.

  24. Seven full-length books (plus one of mine), three novellas, and two DNFs. In both DNF cases, I noped out early because I just didn’t care about the POV character or what was happening. One was a post-WWI mystery, the other ‘inspired by’ Jane Eyre. Oh and I also re-read a good romance short story to cleanse my palate after a not-so-good novella.

    Two recommendable romances this week (both M/M): ‘Manners & Mannerisms’ by Tanya Chris, late-Georgian English country house story; and ‘The Best Gift’ by Eli Easton, contemporary age-gap holiday story.

    But my favorite book of the week was probably ‘Brother Cadfael’s Penance’ by Ellis Peters, which I understand closes out the series, and in which Cadfael leaves the monastery and hits the road in search of his son, believed captured in the endless Maud/Matilda vs Stephen civil war. Lots of action & intrigue & deep historical detail, but it’s about Cadfael in a very satisfying way. I’ve read others in the series (including the one where the son is introduced) and liked the writing, but they can feel a bit confining to someone who cannot relate to cloistered religious service. This one opened up nicely.

  25. Enchanting — there’s a dog in it
    Heart-warming — a dog and a child
    Moving — child dies
    Heart-rending — dog dies
    Thoughtful — mind-numbingly tedious
    Haunting — set in the past
    Exotic — set abroad
    Audacious — set in the future
    Award-winning — set in India
    Perceptive — set in North London
    Provocative — infuriating
    Epic — editor cowed by author’s reputation
    From the pen of a master — same old same old
    In the tradition of — shamelessly derivative
    Spare and taut — under researched
    Richly detailed — over researched
    Disturbing — author bonkers
    Stellar — author young and photogenic
    Classic — author hanging in there
    Vintage — author past it

      1. Someone shared it — the original is a jpg. I thought it had a lot of merit! Knew Arghers would enjoy it, but I didn’t se any way to publish a picture here.

    1. Hilarious list and so true. Especially this one: Epic — editor cowed by author’s reputation.

      This is a real bugbear of mine. People write great books, and then they get famous and either stop listening to their editors or their editors stop doing their job, and the books get huge and unwieldy and not nearly as good as the first few.

        1. Dave Weber had an accident that makes it difficult for him to type, and while dictation software will get you a first draft, editing and rewrites require typing.

          Heinlein is another one — his juveniles tended to be over-edited by whatsername at Scribner, and when he escaped her heavy hand, he didn’t like to be edited at all, to the detriment of his later books (everything after THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, in my opinion). I WILL FEAR NO EVIL, in particular, could have used an editor — John W. Campbell, ideally — to point out aspects of the premise that should have been explored and weren’t, instead of the tedious focus on sex.

  26. Managed to start LIVES OF UNFORGETTING: What We Lose in Translation When We Read the Bible, and A Way of Reading the Bible as a Call to Adventure, by Stant Litore. One of my Lent books this year; this one explores what happened both with translations from Greek and Hebrew to modern languages and how the word choice tends to reinforce contemporary views rather than original meaning, especially if the target language has no word covering the original meaning. Right now I’m immersed in the words associated with the position of women in the early church and now — most suitable for Women’s History Month!

    Released this week; I enjoyed JOHN OF GAUNT: Son of One King, Father of Another, by Kathryn Warner, released this week. If you’ve read any previous books by Kathryn Warner, you’ll know that this is a biography based on a lot of original sources. She covers a good many of the finer points of fourteenth-century history that tend mostly to be discussed in specialist sources, yay. She also thinks that Katherine Swynford was probably five to seven years older than is usually thought, and that Anya Seton made a lot of editorial decisions to frame the plot of KATHERINE as a rags-to-riches Cinderella story that are unlikely to have been true or reflective of fourteenth-century culture. [I think it’s not unlikely that John and Katherine knew each other all their lives.]

    A TAPESTRY OF FIRE, by Margaret Ball (Applied Topology Book 4) — happily working my way through this series! If you like science fiction and are looking for a comfort read, try A POCKETFUL OF STARS, Book 1. In this one, our heroine is combining topological adventure and attempting to escape both a Dastardly Villain and Mother-of-the-Bride’s Fantasy Wedding.

    1. Katherine may not be historically accurate, but it did have a lot to do with making me a romance reader.

      1. Oh I am right there with you. Haven’t read it in years but it was a huge favourite.

      2. I read it too, more than once, back in the day. Librarians used to say that every time Anya Seton published a new book, library visitors would come in wanting to research genealogy to see if they weren’t descended from one of the characters. KATHERINE got me interested in medieval history, and it’s just possible that I’m descended from her and John of Gaunt, like half the people of English ancestry (as an adult genealogist with a critical view of sources, I am not perfectly happy with the documentation of every generation between me and Katherine — standards have become more rigid as access to information has increased).

        However, I was reading more of it last night, and Kathryn Worth is especially tart about the fictionalized version of John’s relationship with Constanza, because the KATHERINE version doesn’t mesh with recorded facts about her.

        Modern authors have not always written about Constanza of Castile with as much respect as they might have, and although there is no doubt that she was pious, depicting her as a smelly religious fanatic who prays to her dead father seems particularly unkind, even as a fictional portrayal. There was considerably more to her than being merely an uninteresting impediment to John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford’s glorious love affair who finally did the decent thing by dying and thus allowed them to fulfil their romantic destiny of marrying. Constanza was fourteen years John’s junior, seventeen to his thirty-one when they married, and was (one assumes) an inexperienced virgin while he was a widower and a father. Katherine Swynford was much closer to John’s own age and was a widow and a mother, and perhaps on those grounds alone, the couple had far more in common than John had with his new wife.

        Just as there was far more to Constanza than being merely a boring and coldly foreign impediment to someone else’s wonderful relationship, however, there was far more to Katherine than being merely an immoral homewrecker who used her wiles to ‘enchant’ the duke of Lancaster. John and Katherine’s relationship lasted for about twenty-seven years, and only John’s death severed it. He took the extraordinary step of marrying Katherine twenty-three months after Constanza’s death, legitimised their children, and made her duchess of Lancaster. Having a mistress was hardly uncommon for a nobleman – Edward III had Alice Perrers, Edward of Woodstock [the Black Prince] had Edith Willesford and probably others – but marrying one’s mistress was unheard of. John and Katherine’s relationship was no idle dalliance, but was arguably the most significant relationship of his life, and Katherine was perhaps extremely attractive physically as well as being a magnetic, charming and intelligent person for whom John felt considerable sexual and romantic attraction for many years. As well as her undoubted physical appeal to him, it is obvious that John respected and liked Katherine enormously, as did many others, and her charms went well beyond the merely carnal.

        Recommend looking at this book if you’re interested in this cast of characters as real people . . . . Kathryn Worth is one of the ultimate experts on John of Gaunt’s grandparents, has written a biography of his mother, Phillipa of Hainault, and is very readable!

  27. Recommendations please!

    Ok, brace yourself. A friend has just had to have a talk about the unreality of porn with her 12yo. (Not me, but I’m preparing for the future). I think that reading m/f romance is a great antidote (women writing it the way they want it). But a) YA romance books are never explicit? and b) do romance stories
    that capture the interest of 12yo boys even exist?

    It seems too young to me (and my friend) but that horse has bolted. Argh indeed. So, any romance recommendations?

    1. My favorite quote (okay, it’s tied with a thousand other quotes) is, “The Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12 years old.” Coincidentally, I was 12 when I discovered SF&F, which lent credence to the quote.

      Sexy SF? Reed Manning. Romantic SF&F? Eric Flint is semi-famous for injecting “romance cooties” in his stories, and getting his co-authors to do the same. Bujold has done the same, a lot.

    2. Maybe the YA fiction wouldn’t need to be explicit: if you can get him invested in good, loving relationships – between characters who have vulnerabilities – wouldn’t that put him on the right track?

    3. No rec’s here, sadly.
      My son bolted just at the idea of reading anything with love in it not only at age 12, still isn’t interested in it at least he says so to his mom. Even the Heroes of Olymp were too focused on love fir his liking… but I’m a mom of notoriously dishing out tmi, so both kids got the birds and bees (?) talk very early on and at least got told that porn really had almost nothing to do with reality a long time ago. From what I can observe since then it seemes to work. Keeping my fingers crossed.

    4. Probably not boy-girl stories. Boy and his dog is more likely at that age, and if anyone is writing porn about dogs and twelve-year-old boys, I don’t want to know.

    5. My first book with sexually active young people was one of the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce. It’s not explicit but it still blew my young mind. Her Circle of Magic series gets there too, but I think that you need to read 8 books get to the coming of age figuring out sex bits.

      Maybe not a full on romance novel? Some of the New Adult stuff handles learning about sex well. I will keep thinking.

      Other than that, I think that lots of exposure to different types of influence is key. I was raised very conservatively by my very religious grandmother and frankly, it did some damage. I didn’t know how to ask questions, or that I could. Romance novels were my saving grace because I read so many and eventually had enough information to figure out what made sense and what didn’t. It gave me a vocabulary to use when I talked to my peers, which made all the difference.

    6. Oh, maybe it would be good to mention that porn isn’t inherently evil or deviant, and has it’s place in the sex life of many normal, healthy people. But that it is like decoding advertising strategies, trying to figure out what they are trying to sell you. It’s an over stylized portrayal of a wish or a fantasy, sort of like how a big Mac on TV looks very little like the one in the paper sack.

      1. A few blogs back someone shared the New Zealand ad about naked porn stars showing up at a house to get a mom to talk to her son about why porn isn’t realistic. That might be a starting point

  28. Enjoyed ‘Hunt the Stars’ and am into “Hench’. Wasn’t sure I’d like ‘Hench’ but I do.

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