This is a Good Book Thursday, March 31, 2022

This week I read ten thousand files of Lavender’s Blue, a book I started in 2013 (?). It’s part of a three book trilogy, and I like it, a lot, but it’s a mess, which talking to Bob confirmed. (Let’s give the guy props, he read over 65,000 words for me.) Which is when I said, “This needs Vince’s PoV.” The whole thing was in Liz’s first person voice, and I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but my voice can be overwhelming. Oh, you already knew that? Sorry. So I said, “How do you feel about writing Vince’s PoV?” and we talked about that and he did a scene that was, of course, great in Vince’s voice and it pretty much confirmed that low-key Vince needs to be the counterpoint to snarky, angry Liz. So we are cautiously thinking about collaborating again. Those of you who’ve been here for all of Argh know that occasionally Bob and I have tried to kill each other, but we’re older and wiser now, so with any luck we can do this. I’m also re-reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and watching while Christie tap-dances around the murderer. I maintain that it’s completely fair play, but still she was dancing pretty fast on this one. I sympathize.

So what did you read this week?

151 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, March 31, 2022

  1. I’m re-reading The Secret of Chimneys, which I enjoy in spite of its glaring racism, and made the mistake of watching the movie of it. That ain’t no Agatha Christie.

    I’m reading one of the Sebastian St Cyr series that I haven’t read before. Once again, I just wish there was more Hero in it.

    And reading a lot of fanfiction. A few of my favourite authors have come back after a hiatus.

    1. Don’t watch the new Agatha Christie tv series. they change the plot, the characters, and the murderer … gives me a headache. I couldn’t even watch the Tuppence & Tommy series due to woeful miscasting.

      1. I haven’t enjoyed any after the Joan Hickson Miss Marples – but I’m not a Christie fan, so it’s not about how faithful they are, just how enjoyable and non nihilistic.

        1. I have a box set of Margaret Rutherford playing Miss Marple, and every couples of months I rewatch an episode because she is just brilliant in that role.

          1. Joan Hickson *is* Miss Marple, IMHO. Though I did think Geraldine McEwan did pretty well.

          2. I agree with Frances — Joan Hickson is my favorite by far. I also recall reading that Agatha Christie met her when she was a young actress and told her that when she was old enough, she might be the person who most looked like the Miss Marple that Christie had imagined when she wrote those books.

  2. I have hit the place described by Beverly Cleary as: (paraphrasing) if you can’t find a book you want to read you have to write one.
    I DNF 4 samples I just couldn’t like.
    I did get further into Bob Mayer’s Novel Writer’s Toolkit. Which led me to optimistically buying his companion book, Write It Forward for when my novel is finished and ready to publish.
    I reread bits of Another Roadside Attraction again as I am using the same book structure Tom Robbins used for that book.

    1. PS the idea of you and Bob cowriting Lavender’s Blue is exciting. I think finds it easier to murder someone than you do, Jenny. 😉

      1. I have mixed feelings. I also have questions, queries, posers. (Yes, I liked Short Circuit.) I don’t understand the title. Is it
        Lavender’s (possessive) Blue?
        Lavender Is Blue (contraction)?
        Lavender Has Blue (different contraction)?
        or All Of The Above as a play on words?

        1. On the menu pick works in progress. Then scroll down to The Liz Danger mystery series. She doesn’t answer your question about the title Lavenders Blue but she talks about the series. The 4th book has been trashed so it’s a trilogy now.

        2. My mind instantly turns to the song lyrics:

          Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green,
          When I am king, dilly dilly, you shall be queen:
          Who told you so, dilly dilly, who told you so?
          ‘Twas mine own heart, dilly dilly, that told me so.

          Earliest versions have “diddle, diddle,” instead of “dilly, dilly.”

          1. I remember the song Lavendar Blue from my teens, googled it to find out who the singer was, Sammy Turner and was surprised that Dinah Shore also sang it in 1948. Who new!

          2. It’s a really old song. I thought it was a folk song.
            I have to find that list of titles. You all worked on it a million years ago. Anybody here remember that?

          1. The wikipedia page has a picture of a 1680’s broadsheet with the lyrics (“diddle, diddle”) but it’s clear that the song was far from new then, so yes, it’s an old song, probably a folk song; it’s certainly one now.

  3. I read Eliot Grayson’s latest in her Mismatched Mates series, Lost Touch – alpha werewolf and human matchup – smutty but sweet, Grayson’s specialty.

    Most of the week I was still down the Lesli Richardson state/federal politics tunnel. Not so sweet and definitely smutty.

  4. Yay Lavender’s Blue! I think that was before I found Argh, so I don’t know much about it, but I love the color names.

    For reading, an Anthology I have been waiting for came out. Most of it was pretty bad, but the author I bought it for was the last story and her theme was about a strong and loving couple who are going to get married and the bride is nervous for no apparent reason, and upset with herself for it. It was really helpful as it mirrors my thoughts. And then I started the Pyramids of London by Andrea Host. I’m not very far in but her voice grabbed me immediately.

    Also this week, we watched the new Blade Runner movie, which we went to see in theaters but not since and I was struck with how good it is. The overall theme of person hood was so compelling. And then we watched the new Matrix, which was terrible. But the comparison is interesting because the themes could have been similar but the handling was so different.

    1. I thought the new Matrix was terrible too. Although any movie that puts Keanu Reeves into a bathtub with a rubber ducky on his head can’t be all bad.

      1. Agreed. I thought the beginning was clever and interesting but the middle to the end felt like spitballing all over the storyline. It was sad, because the beginning had promise.

        1. I have a friend who was close friends with Keanu Reeves’ sister when she was in high school. So grew up knowing him and of course just thought of him as her sister’s brother. He started playing bass in the band Dogstar when she was in her early 20’s so she used to hang around with the band and slept with …the drummer! I call that a real missed opportunity.

          1. You have interesting friends Tammy. My only claim to fame once removed is that I went to school with the only daughter of René Goscinny who wrote Asterix!

  5. I did enjoy the Jenny and Bob collaboration books and blog. I think collaborating again will be good. You don’t live near each other, so you will have calmed down by the time you are within arms reach of each other. Also Bob can always kill/shoot a character whenever the plot slows down. You will resurrect them, but then you’ll both have lots of fun new ideas to get the plot rolling without the body count. So good luck

  6. I am about a fifth of the way through Fiona Hill’s nonfiction book “There’s Nothing for you Here” and loving it. She starts with autobiography and then begins to weave the story of her family and home town as examples of the way post-industrialism wiped out opportunity for so many people in northeast Britain. Which doesn’t sound all that interesting but she’s so perceptive and smart that she is eventually explaining the 20th century, the rise of Hitler, and the economics and politics of the modern world, including why the hell we ended up with an all-round entitled jerk as US President for four years.

    I also read One Last Stop by the author of Red White & Royal Blue, which was well done but intense. I found myself liking the MC’s found family more than the MC herself, unlikely as the whole plot turned out to be.

    What on earth am I doing getting submerged in nonfiction?

  7. The other evening, our internet was down. Since DH couldn’t go putter on his computer, I convinced him to pull a DVD off the shelf and watch it with me. Grand Budapest Hotel – a story within a story within a story. The outer frame was barely there. The second frame allows you to see the epilogue of the inner story. Meanwhile the interior story was quite interesting. There’s a lot of fast dialogue, so paying close attention is rewarded.

    Meanwhile I’m still in the midst of the Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. – the book with witches and multiple strands of time. So far, the characters who are bureaucratic assholes get their comeuppance, so that’s nice. I’m hoping for a few more to get theirs before the end, but I’m still several hundred pages from there.

      1. Thanks. I’ll have to see how I feel about that when I’m finished with this one.

  8. Jenny, you and Bob working together is wonderful news.

    I found a new author. I was listening to a podcast called Book Of and Jodi Picoult was recommending a book called The Invisible life of Addie LaRue by V E Schwab, which is about a young woman who makes a Faustian pact. Addie has lived for over two hundred years when the reader meets her. Addie can not tell people her name and seconds after leaving a room everybody forgets her, yet her presence can be seen in paintings, books and songs. Until one day somebody does remember her. I’m on a waiting list for this book.

    Whilst waiting I borrowed Gallant by V E Schwab. I’ve just finished reading it and I’m going to read it again. Oliver Prior was abandoned at a school/institution as a child, but because she can’t talk and she can see ghouls life at Merlaince is not good. Then one day the Matron takes Oliver into her office and gives her a letter from a man who claims to be her uncle. She is driven to her uncles house (Gallant) but finds out he has been dead for two years. His son lives at the property with two members of staff. Hannah and her husband have been there for years and so remember Oliver’s mother Grace. Grace left her diary with Oliver but it’s never made any sense because it’s full of riddles and incomplete thoughts. But the house starts to give her answers to some of those riddles and Oliver realises it’s not just at Merlaince that she can see dead people. But can she stay away from the wall at the bottom of the garden…

    1. I really enjoyed Addie LaRue! So many interesting things to think about about in terms of identity while reading a story like that. Especially since I think I was reading it at times during covid lockdown, where I was already thinking about the ways in which seeing people/having people see me plays into my sense of self and my place in the worlds. A very cool story – you’re in for a treat.

      I can’t remember if I’ve ever recommended “The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker which also had fantastical elements and grappled with questions of identity and was also just really good – for some reason those books are sort of linked in my head as being complimentary – but I don’t know if it’s really some much for the style/content or if I just happened to read them close together so it’s more of a personal link, but if you like The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, you might like to try that one too.

      I’ll have to look for Gallant.

  9. Yay about maybe, possible, potentially working together again!

    I haven’t read anything new that really blew me away. I reread Helen Hoang’s THE KISS QUOTIENT and THE BRIDE TEST which I love.

  10. Great news about the collaboration with Bob.

    This week, I reread most of Sarina Bowen’s hockey books to try and work out why they are not so good after the Ivy years. I think they are all a bit samey: hero is basically a decent humble millionnaire with a horrible childhood which explains why he isn’t married yet and the heroine is not a plucky beautiful non gold digger.

    I am not sure why but those led me to reread Mariana Zapata’s From Lukov with love. I like to revisit her permanently snarky/angry dedicated sportwomen heroines, once in a while.

    I have now just started reading Stella Riley’s latest, the Montesoro legacy. It’s pretty good, even though it suffers from too many guest appearances from previous couples as have all her latest offerings. My favourite books of hers are those she wrote years ago, especially her Civil war books, before she took up writing again but still she is one of those writers whose books I can’t help buying automatically, even if they are not as good as that.

    1. I’m glad we agree on Sarina Bowen’s hockey books being over rated. Makes me growl because there is SO much better stuff out there but everyone is buying hers. #grumblingoverunfairnessofworldtoday

    2. I generally end up disliking her male leads in the m/f hockey books. They lack agency I think? And then I get frustrated with the women for sticking with them. The m/m ones were better, but the Ivy Years are by far her best, in my opinion.

      1. I do have soft spot for Patrick though, which probably why I do reread the books occasionally!

        1. I’m not a big fan of the thr hockey books but I absolutely love the standalone Accidentals.

          And I do like Bountiful. She is so highly variable

        1. I liked the lack of deep drama, although there were some that had legitimate trauma in them. Sometimes I don’t want death, sexual assault, abusive family, etc. Sometimes I just want people with non-PTSD problems. The first three Ivy Years had harsh problems in them, and I thought they were great, but then there was one where the hero was falsely accused of rape, and I stopped reading the series because I just didn’t want to read about it. It’s one of those story aspects that makes me stop reading immediately like students sleeping with teachers. Just no.

          1. Agreed about the false accusation of rape thing. Thats why I hated The Art Of Racing In The Rain. I know it happens but it makes me furious because it makes it harder for real victims. And that makes me feel helpless. There’s enough of that in reality. I don’t want to go there in books.

          2. Exactly. The hell any rape victim goes through makes is unlikely (but not impossible) that the accusations are false, and I don’t want to read narratives that normalize the idea that woman often lie about rape. Especially after Kavanaugh.

  11. I watched the newest Death on the Nile and mostly didn’t like it. I did like the diversity in the casting but hated the cinematography.

    Also, BritBox has a new 4 episode mystery series called the Chelsea Detective that I liked a great deal.

  12. Oh, and I am reading many years of craft books so I can donate some of them to Goodwill. This is after I moved three entire bookcases full to the newer house. Of course.

    1. The thing about books is they’re so heavy that moving them really does make you think. When I last moved house I noticed two dead computers that I could have sworn I had thrown out already. I hope I’ve thrown them out by now but you never know.

  13. Sorry about the outburst. I read half of two of the Bob collaboration novels, and they gave me whiplash, switching male and female perspective like that, so I gave up on them and sold them to the used bookstore. You do what you need to do.

      1. I love them. Jenny, I’m so pleased you’re going to collaborate with Bob again. I love the books you write alone, and I love the books you write together. They’re just different.

        1. Exactly. After reading Dogs of War which is pretty violent, I read a lot of Robert Ludlum, Fredrick Forsyth, Tom Clancy, Grisham, and Mayer. The books are well written. Just different. The transition of the male/female protagonist voices didn’t bother me at all. Bob is a great teacher of all things writing as is Jenny.

          I read Bob’s new book; Shane and the Hitwoman and looking forward to the next book on the organization.

  14. Hey, older and wiser and less homicidal could lead to good things! Yay.

    Not a great reading week for me due to the ongoing family crisis stuff BUT I am reading Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts and it’s fabulous. It’s like Mr. Monticello’s Library for grownups with romance and friendship and mystery.

  15. I read Patricia Rice’s new book, The Indigo Solution, the first book in her Psychic Solutions Agency series. Book two is coming out in May and I’m greatly looking forward to it. She is still writing about the Malcolm family, but this is set in modern day Afterthought, SC. Evangeline (Evie) Malcolm is surprised when a little girl who is a distant cousin shows up on her doorstep (actually her mother’s shop) and claims that Evie is her new guardian, because she’s a recent orphan, and that someone is trying to kill her for her money, because she inherited a bundle. Hijinks ensue, and they’re pretty entertaining. A lawyer, who has been assigned as her temporary guardian, shows up trying to find her and take her back to the boarding school they put her in, and he insists that Evie is *not* her new guardian. Is he the one that’s trying to kill the girl for her money?

  16. I love the idea of Lavender blue .. and you and Bobo together again sounds like a lot of fun. Agnes and the Hitman is one of my favorite books that I recommend all the time to other people.

          1. Because he would hurt me if I called him that.
            Actually “Bob” is a nickname, so we’re good.

  17. My review this week is The Impossible Us by Sarah Lotz, in which two people are randomly emailing and when they try to meet, figure out that they are actually living in alternate universes and literally cannot do so. I pre-ordered this because it reminded me of Griffin and Sabine back in the day, but this definitely goes in a different direction and it’s…not a usual ah, romance, I would say?

    Specifically, they decide to try to date the equivalents of their other selves in their own universes. This goes well for the one whose equivalent is single, not so much for the one where the equivalent is married with a child and a rich, abusive husband, so it turns into more of a rescue situation there. Then eventually it covers (kinda) how one would change universes, but that’s a pretty extreme, risky step. So…very not typical. I found it interesting, but I don’t think everyone would be into it. The Dear Author review in particular tries not to spoil but you get the drift of why it made them uncomfortable. So, proceed with caution and this is probably not for everyone.

  18. I read SJ Bennett’s The Windsor Knot; it took me a little while to get into it but I did enjoy it.
    Patricia Briggs’ Frost Burn – I really like this series.
    Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Sharing Knife: Beguilement. First Bujold I’ve ever read. Don’t know why but the name kept popping up here so when I saw it on the library shelf…
    Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik. Temeraire is the only one whose character seems to be evolving. All the people are like cardboard cutouts. Very satisfying ending though.

    1. I love pretty much anything by Lois McMaster Bujold. She wrote a great SF series featuring hero Miles Vorkosigan, but she also writes great fantasy. You have a long reading adventure ahead. I met Bujold once at a con and embarrassed myself by babbling like a fangirl.

      1. I adore Bujold but if I were picking a book a place to start it wouldn’t be the Sharing Knife. So if that doesn’t work for you here are where I would start.

        For a romance reader I might start in tbt middle of the Vorkosigan series with a Civil Campaign. Especially a Jennie fan. If you like sci fi of tbt more military political type start with the beginning of tbt series . If you like fantasy the Curse of Chalion.

        Mind you I would read anything she wrote—just trying to encourage you to try a second one if the first doesn’t work for you

        1. I started with The Sharing Knife. Still my favourite, though I love everything she wrote. Well, I found the one about the quaddies a bit of a slog. Never reread that one.

  19. My reading in the past week was pretty eclectic. Sophie Kinsella’s latest, The Party Crasher, was heartwarming and funny. I liked the book. It explored the complex family dynamics and the different aspects of love: the parent-child love, the siblings love, the romantic love. What makes them, what breaks them, and what mends them.
    As if to counterbalance Kinsella’s poignant novel, Aliette de Bodard’s short book In the Vanishers’ Palace was a DNF. I would apply such controversial adjectives to it as surreal + medieval + scifi + Asian. Or maybe horror + space travel + dystopia, all wrapped up in mythology. The characters are kilometers-deep. The tension thrums through the text. I tried to read it to the end but I couldn’t. It is a powerful book, a scary book, a book to make you think, but I didn’t enjoy reading it. Not one bit. I felt too immersed in the dreary, forbidding world the author has created, the world without hope, and I desperately didn’t want to be there. So I stopped reading on p.70 (out of 200).
    Agatha Christie’s The Mystery of the Blue Train was OK, but I wouldn’t consider it among the best of her Poirot stories. Besides, I’m not really a fan of Christie.
    After my latest foray into the Christie’s Poirot novels, I decided to turn to Dorothy Sayers. I’ve read all the Peter Wimsey stories before, of course, and liked them so much I bought all of them. I don’t own many mystery books – not my favorite genre – but I own these ones. So this would be a re-read project.
    This week, I whizzed through the first three: Whose Body?, Cloud of Witness, and Unnatural Death. I can say I like these stories much better than anything by Christie. Peter Wimsey is such a darling. Besides, this is one of the rare series where I can read books back to back and not get tired of the characters. Just the opposite, Peter’s charm and sharp mind appeal to me the more I read about him. To paraphrase Harriet in the later novels “I want to read him talk piffle.” His novels were delightful in every way.

    1. I used to love Sayers so much but I haven’t read them in years. You are making me want to reread them!

      I remember that Lois Mcmaster Bujold dedicated ‘A Civil Campaign’ to « Jane, Charlotte, Georgette and Dorothy ».

      I think we all know who she means :).

      1. For me, I should say it would be « Jane, Dorothy, Lois, Georgette and Jenny (in order of discovery)

          1. Am I allowed to admit that I have never read Wuthering Heights (it just sounded too melodramatic for me) and that I didn’t especially like Jane Eyre.
            My daughter loved Jane Eyre when she read it in her early teens but I think it is partly because, being half french, she liked the bits of French in it.

    2. I’ve just finished re-reading the Peter Wimsey books. Not sure if I want to venture into the ones written by not-Sayers. Does anyone here have experience with them?

      1. I read a couple of them, and they seemed OK, but it was a long time ago. Now, I’m going to do a full re-read of Sayers and then I’ll try one or two by Jill Paton Walsh and see how they compare.

        1. I read one which was supposed to be the completion of a novel Sayers had begun. It took place soon after Harriet and Peter’s marriage. It was awful — no sense of Peter and Harriet, or of Sayers’ writing style, or of Sayers’ plotting.

          Other than that, folks who have read more of the non-Sayers Sayers talk about St George being killed, I suppose during WWII. I don’t like that idea.

      2. I have, and disliked the first — the characters’ personalities were pretty strange — and I was really ticked off when the author inserted the radio message in January 1936 on King George V’s death. The actual message was, “The King’s life is moving peacefully towards its close.” It was quite historic. And the author got the wording wrong, on something a quick Google search would have found without any difficulty. Nor did any editor catch it, either. It was so sloppy it just knocked me right out of the story.

        [I have Views on continuing with another author’s series characters, because it’s much more difficult than the publisher wants to admit.]

        1. I’ve read so a number of books that were continuing another author’s series. Most of them are terrible, because they are trying to hit the right notes, and are usually just slightly off key. I found the Sayers ones by Jill Paton Walsh … bland and syrupy. But then I don’t like Busman’s Honeymoon either.

        2. Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg had a fun romantic adventure series, Fox and O’Hare, for a few years. There was friction between the authors and Goldberg dropped out.
          Evanovich had her son (or some unknown writer) pick up the series, and it was as if he didn’t even read the 5 or so prior books of the series. Completely frustrating.

          1. I remember that book, he messed up right out of the gate. Nick has a meeting at FBI HQ… Nick has never ever gone to FBI HQ, his secret deal is secret and if he is seen in public, he would be arrested as he is still on the 10 most wanted list, but hey lets ignore the entire backstory in the first chapter. And forget all the fun quirky characters they recruit for their crazy plans that are the only reason I actually read this series.

          2. That’s what happened? I got so bored of Evanovich having an unchanging world and Goldberg made it interesting. No wonder I quit that.

      3. I liked the Jill Paton Walsh books. The dynamic between master and servant is more equal than with Sayers. But the treatment of servants in books before WWII can grate a bit, so that’s an improvement as far as I’m concerned.
        With Chrisitie this goes on well into the sixties. The way Miss Marple thinks about her maids sets my teeth on edge.
        I don’t find Peter’s nephew dying as a fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain very unrealistic. The life expectancy of those young men was very low. And it gave JPW the chance to make Peter a duke when his brother died of a heart attack. As they were both a bit impoverished after the war, this is quite strain.

        1. Fighter pilots in both World Wars did not have great life expectancy. There is a heartbreaking WW1 film called Dawn Patrol which starred David Niven and Errol Flynn

          1. When we visited our daughter in London last summer we went for a hike in the suburbs and came across what I think was the or one of the main airfields in the Battle of Britain. It said the average pilot life expectancy was 4 weeks. (I just confirmed my memory.)

          2. Dawn Patrol is a great movie. I suppose nowadays it would seem completely stereotyped because it was the standard for many other movies.

            My problem with killing off St. George has nothing to do with life expectancy. Rather, it’s with Sayers’ expectancy: she wouldn’t have killed him. Sounds like it was done just to fit the plot.

          3. Read the British war poets. When I taught high school English, I couldn’t read them to the class without crying. Brooke and Sassoon and Owen, they’ll break your heart over the sheer waste. All war is obscene, but WW1 was just viciously wrong.

        2. I don’t find St. George’s death during the Battle of Britain unrealistic, either. He was in the right age group, he would have had the right skill set, he was probably a pilot pre-war.

          I do have a problem with the change in dynamic between Peter and Bunter, because they’d established the previous dynamic over a couple of decades, and changing it feels unnatural to me.

  20. Read three duds this week; got my money back on one of them (the other two I did finish, but won’t read again). Comforted myself by rereading parts of ‘The Hands of the Emperor’, which my recent read of ‘Portrait of a Wide Seas Islander’ had made me want to do.

    I’m now halfway through ‘Total Creative Control’ by Joanna Chambers and Sally Malcolm, and loving it. I was wary because it’s two authors, but it reads seamlessly so far. It’s a contemporary m/m romcom, set in the TV industry in London – a PA who falls for his boss, but the authors are making it work. Great characters, world and story.

  21. I just finished “Devil of the North”, the last book in the Lingua Magika series by Kat Ross. It was fast-paced, entertaining and a good coda to the series.

    I also read all books in the Edge series by Ilona Andrews – which is also a very entertaining series, although I think the first one – “On the Edge” is the best of the series.

    I finished “One Thousand Steps Into Night” by Traci Chee which features an innkeeper’s daughter breaking free from the constraints her society puts on females. I liked it and I loved her crow friend. I found some resonance in what happened in the book’s past to regulate females to what’s currently happening in red state America today.

    I’m currently starting “A Pocketful of Stars” which is the first book of the Applied Topology series by Margaret Ball which involves features a mathematician (who is actually a magician) and a 3-letter agency man getting together to solve crime. So far it seems interesting.

    1. I agree with you about On the Edge being my favorite. The rest tend to be too dark for me. Although I do enjoy getting to see Jack and George grow up before they hope into the Innkeeper Universe.

  22. Would very happily read new book jointly written by you and Bob. Agnes is still my favourite and often reread it. Made me happy to hear you may be co-authoring a book or books.

    Finally read something new. An anthology. So, so, many pages skipped. Going to read Sayer now.

  23. First, Official Weigh-In Day (OWID) #50 has arrived. 252.0 pounds or 114.3 kilograms or 18 stone. Also, 4032 ounces. Too many, and more than I started the year with. There. That’s out of the way.

    Books. I finished Miles in Love, and that’s a good stopping/pausing place for my Bujold Reread, at least until there’s a new book. Probably a Penric & Desdemona novella, but she surprises us from time to time.

    I’m up to date on Grey Wolf’s Variations on a Theme through Chapter 68. Chapter 69 comes out tomorrow. I once swore that I would never again read a book published serially (because several remain unfinished), but here I am. Hooked again.

    I finished The Grantville Inquisitor by Sinor and Morris. It’s another of those Ring of Fire series “side books,” in that it takes place in that series, but is not at all in the main line. The characters are derived from a story in an anthology. They aren’t mentioned directly – their introduction is a comedic spinoff. How do you ensure that nobody takes a rumor seriously? You write a slanted story and put it in a “National Enquirer” type rag, in this case the eponymous “Grantville Inquisitor.” You surround it with articles about Bigfoot and Elvis sightings, so that nobody believes a word of the very true but politically inconvenient story. Once you have the characters from that story, it only makes sense to keep using them, and abusing them. 🙂

    I’m several chapters into Uhura’s Song by Janet Kagan. I’ll definitely finish this one.

    Somehow, I started a Murderbot Diaries reread. Only Future of Work: Compulsive so far, but the rest just follows (and I have them all under one cover, so they follow easily.)

    I suppose I could tack on a Farm Report. I harvested and ate my largest Romaine lettuce plant and started a new one. There are little green balls growing on some of my tomato plants. Some sort of fungus? Maybe I should cut them off? (Just kidding.) All of my pepper plants look like they are about to flower. I have the bee vibrator standing by.

  24. I read Stargazy Pie, which someone here recommended ages ago. It started very slowly and I almost gave up a couple of times, but I ended up really enjoying it. A smart and very original read.

    Then I was going to reread Hard Time, but it was a bit too heartbreaking in places for the week I’ve had, so I’m reading The Overdue Life of Amy Byler instead. Gorgeously written, funny, with great kids. Really liking this one.

  25. This week I watched and re-read THE HATING GAME (film on Amazon, book wherever). It’s a decent enemies-to-lovers romcom set in a publishing company. The film was fairly true to the book (by Sally Thorne). Heading back for a re-watch now. I was considering reading more by the same author but the reviews of her following books are patchy.

    1. Romney, I did exactly the same this week. I think the book is deeper, but the film is decent. And I have been similarly hesitant on her other books because people here found them annoying.

      The only other thing I have read is the start of How Not To Diet by Dr Michael Greger. Good so far, but a lot of information so I’m taking it in chunks. It’s less about personal eating habits than it is about the commercial and political structures that have caused the obesity epidemic, at least so far.

  26. I finally got around to reading “The Deal” which has been on my kindle since Jenny recommended it. I loved the first half, second half was more boring because I didn’t need to read about the sex, but overall a very satisfactory read.

  27. Eight full-length books including one of mine, plus one short: ‘Out of Focus’ by A.L. Lester, a contemporary M/M novella involving two theater technicians, one of whom is injured in an accident in the first scene. Very short timeline, they’ve known each other for a couple years, it’s a co-workers/almost enemies to lovers with no on-page sex (in fact it ends, aside from a brief how-they-made-it-work epilogue, with their first kiss). I liked it (as usual with Lester, what I chiefly think is ‘wish it were longer’).

    Off my usual track rec, M/F paranormal Regency that I liked so much I pre-ordered the next in series: ‘A Most Unusual Duke’ by Susanna Allen.

    Back in M/M but not the usual book rec, ‘Downtime’ by Tamara Allen (unrelated, I believe), which is a time-travel story involving a modern FBI agent, a Victorian ghost-talker, and Jack the Ripper. A lot of story and a hard-won happy ending.

  28. “Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom,” collected and wonderfully footnoted by Leonard S. Marcus. Nordstrom led Harper’s children’s books department from 1940 to 1972, guiding writers and illustrators like Maurice Sendak, Margaret Wise Brown and Louise Fitzhugh. She wrote letters the way we send emails, and it’s fascinating to see how her mind–and the editorial process–worked. Marcus has chosen well; the book has flow and drama as well as humor. At 450 pages, this is a good book to read bit by bit as you read other books.

  29. THE BOLEYNS OF HEVER CASTLE, by Owen Emmerson and Claire Ridgway. Owen Emmerson works at Hever as Castle Historian and Assistant Curator; Claire Ridgway hosts the Anne Boleyn Files blog and Tudor Society and runs the popular Anne Boleyn Files & Tudor Society YouTube channel. Anne Boleyn’s first recorded appearance at Henry VIII’s court was in March 1522, when she played Perseverance in the Shrovetide Château Vert pageant alongside her sister, Mary, as Kindness and her soon-to-be sister-in-law, Jane Parker, as Constancy. The book is a fascinating history of Hever, of the Boleyn family, and of Hever’s history after it passed out of the hands of the Boleyns — Anne of Cleves lived there off and on. It’s now much restored and a shrine for Anne Boleyn fans, and the book is well-written with lots of new information. Because 2022 is the 500th anniversary of the Château Vert pageant, Hever Castle has a special exhibit, “Becoming Anne Boleyn,” about her early life, and a book with that title is scheduled for 2022 publication. Keep an eye out for it.

    THE WRITINGS OF ISAAC PENINGTON, edited by Jason Henderson. I’m afraid Mr. Henderson is, perhaps, a little gloomy about modern religion [“The Life that once reigned in the hungry hearts of the 17th century has been largely forsaken, and Quakerism has become a collection of dead doctrines, earthly causes, and religious traditions”]; however, Isaac Penington is worth reading. His stepdaughter was the first wife of William Penn, so he falls solidly into the group known as Early Friends. His wife Mary Penington wrote one of the first Quaker journals as an autobiography for her children, and it’s one of my favorite comfort reads. I also love Isaac; it’s impossible not to.

    Cookbook this week: TASTE OF HOME GRANDMA’S FAVORITES: Taste of Home, if anyone isn’t familiar with its style, specializes in home-style recipes and from its first issue of TASTE OF HOME magazine, promised that its ingredients would be the things you have in your pantry and fridge. Generally true — depending on the fridge and pantry, of course — but normally not too exotic. I’m eying the layer salad, which used to be a favorite decades ago, especially because you made it in advance and let it ripen overnight. This one has a mayonnaise-based dressing and I could have sworn that the traditional ones relied on sour cream, too.

    Two comfort reads; first, Georgette Heyer’s FREDERICA, which I must have read a dozen times or more since it was first published — I can remember having the paperback in my hands the first day it was released! Second, Judge David O. Carter’s ORDER RE PRIVILEGE OF DOCUMENTS DATED JANUARY 4 – 7, 2021. I love this document. If the man weren’t married I’d propose . . . .

      1. Thank you for the link. I got almost finished, got interrupted and couldn’t get back where I was. But I got the gist.
        All those hard on crime fanatics, if they don’t convict DT of felonies after this, they need to sit down and shut up because they are letting an obvious criminal off scot free.

      2. Ann, thank you SO much for posting this link. I loved it all — the clear & cogent explanation of issues, the point-by-point analysis of Mr. Eastman’s arguments and what was wrong with them, the footnotes, including quotes from President DJT himself, and even the judge’s principled defense of the reasons NOT to allow some of Eastman’s documents to the January 6th select committee.

        If the judge is eventually widowed, and if you end up marrying him on the rebound, I am hoping to put my name in for consideration as Wife Candidate #3.

        1. If needed, I’ll write you a recommendation!

          Yes, I was pleased that even though there’s no letter of agreement or retainer agreement, he said it was obvious from their actions that Eastman WAS acting as Trump’s lawyer, and that even though Chapman University has rights over anything from its servers, that third parties (other clients of Eastman’s or other Chapman lawyers) DO have an expectation of privacy. And that the stuff he referenced as showing that crimes occurred are taken from publicly available information — most of the time crime-fraud exception stuff would normally be found only in the questioned documents, but not this time — he laid it all out. Andrew Torrez of Opening Arguments says that that last document which shows crime-fraud is almost certainly, from its timing, sent from someone like Greg Jacobs, the VP’s chief attorney, during the actual insurrection, which means the January Six committee almost certainly already has it.

          Update: Eastman is not appealing this order so these documents are going directly to the committee. There are still thousands he’s supposed to be sorting through, and he 1) requested an extension because it was taking longer than he expected, and 2) then swanned off for a weekend conference of some far-right group. If he asks for a second extension, the judge will probably not be impressed.

          1. Ann – I have been researching news sources. Where do you go for news?

          2. Greg Jacobs’ work in persuading Mike Pence (Trump’s vice president) was amazing also, and quoted several times in the judge’s decision. I’d never actually heard his name before, but I was impressed. He clearly succeeded in turning a rather limited Yes Man of dubious qualification for public office into someone who was convinced there was a right way and a wrong way to complete a U.S. presidential election, and that he’d better pursue the former, despite ongoing harangues from His Gropiness.

          3. Judy / Clever Cherry,

            I started with the newsblog TALKING POINTS MEMO, back in 2004. I like Josh Marshall’s writing voice — sensible, kind, and accurate. The blog is a much bigger operation today, and still good. Josh used to write for a legal blog, I think.

            Then Josh started a podcast about 2017, for background on Michael Cohen and other Trump characters. TPM is based in New York City, and that’s where the dirt on Trump associates tended to be found.

            Then I found Opening Arguments podcast, which covers legal aspects of news stories. (For instance, this week had one on the legal aspects of slapping someone at the Oscars and one on Alex Jones’ current legal pickle.) This is absolutely fascinating stuff for me, especially as Trump has so many legal problems.

            I also follow Mueller She Wrote and Lawfare, and since I do a newsletter for my ladies’ group chapter, I also have links to sites on the US Flag, Indians, Conservation, and Women’s History. And then there are the History of Egypt, the Not Just the Tudors, and the Gone Medieval history podcasts.

            Links available on request!

          4. jinx,

            OA574: 1/6 Committee Brief Says Trump Guilty of Crimes!

            This covers Dr. Eastman’s claim of attorney-client privilege for ALL his Chapman University emails and the 1/6 Committee’s response. You don’t have to be a legal nerd to enjoy the arguments. It discusses Jacob’s interactions with Eastman in detail — WOW. At the end of this one, Judge Carter is being requested to review in camera the 111 emails that cover January 4-7, which Andrew says he will almost certainly do (and he did).

            OA576: Election Laws and Lies, with Lawrence Lessig

            This is the sequel to OA574. Professor Lessig (former law professor for Eastman as well as Liz Chaney) discusses Eastman’s appearance on his podcast, in which Eastman said on air that he had Trump’s permission to discuss the case (so much for attorney-client privilege). Also some interesting points on why the whole plan was garbage law.

            The mother podbay site for Opening Arguments is


            or you can subscribe through Patreon.

          5. jinx,

            I posted a comment with three URL’s in response to your comment, but it is now “awaiting moderation,’ and may take a day or two before the moderation kicks in.

    1. I thought the layered salad always had a sweetened mayonnaise dressing. Same dressing my grade school cafeteria served. Man, my grade schoole had wonderful lunches. Or my mom wasn’t a great cook. Now I’m hungry.

      1. Half mayonnaise and half sour cream is the Pioneer Woman’s recipe and the Southern Living recipe, and it’s what I’m used to, though that may be a California taste. But Allrecipes and many others just sweeten the mayonnaise. By the time you add in a pound of bacon and a chunk of grated cheese it may not matter.

        I am thinking about trying to make this in a quantity for one or two, since you should be able to work your way through it over a couple of days. Possibly with a base layer and a couple of variants.

        [My aunt used to describe Gourmet Magazine recipes as beginning, “Take a quart of whipping cream and a pound of butter,” and saying that after that, it didn’t matter what else was in the dish!]

  30. I started the new James Patterson book Run Rose Run ( Dolly Parton is listed as a co-author) There were parts I liked but it got too predictable and boring so I DNF it.

  31. I’ve just managed to finish one book – Hot Wings – another collaboration between Eli Easton and Tara Lain. They’ve started another series together, the Hot Canalis.
    I’d originally started the first book in which protagonist 1 of Hot Wings is the kind of unbearable brother. But book 1 didn’t hold my attention when Bridgerton took over 😉

    Book 2 – the one with the fireplane pilot (the Wings) – came out earlier this week. The blurb didn’t interest me at all as I’m no fan of alpha guys and don’t care at all about the dom/sub thingy (is it a trope)?
    I downloaded it anyway because I Eli Easton’s writing and liked the earlier collaborations of these two authors.
    Shortcut: I swept through the story and it definitely held my attention. I liked both MCs, the dynamics were good, I got the protag’s kink. It worked for me.
    Now I’m interested in the younger brother’s story – Hot Seat – again.

    The authors announced two more books in the series and I guess I know who’ll feature in one or even both of them. Looking forward to reading them.

    But even more I’m looking forward to getting a bit of sleep. First Bridgerton and then the Canali brother… short nights indeed (I should know better!!).
    P.S. I really liked Bridgerton season 2, I guess I have a thing for unbearable brothers, see Anthony. I really liked that the attraction was given time to grow and that we had to wait for some action. I found this more satisfying than season 1, but maybe because I really, really like Jonathan Bailey? And Simone Ashley held her own against him! They were really wewll matched.

  32. Excited about the idea that you and Bob might collaborate again. I enjoyed Shane and the Hitwoman, Bob does humor well and should write more if it. But I did miss Agnes and your voice, Jenny. Know that the CBs (yes, we are still around) are cheering you on.

    What am I reading? Just finished Polaris Rising by Jessie Mahalik. Very good, and I will be getting the next in the series. Currently reading a collection of Maigret stories by Georges Simenon. Translated because my French isn’t up to reading a whole book. It is still very enjoyable. Since I read Christie and Sayers and lots of other “golden age” mystery writers, the fact that it’s dated doesn’t bother me. And someday, dang nabbit, I’m getting to Paris, so I’m dabbling in books set there as a way of vicariously soaking up the atmosphere.

    Re Miss Marple, I’m not nearly as picky about casting for her character as I am Poirot. Every actress has brought out a slightly different side of the character but I didn’t feel that anything much was taken away. However, you don’t want to get me started on KB’s Poirot.

    1. Only watched Murder on the Orient Express, just going to say KB’s Poirot (Cough Miscast Cough)

  33. Yes please on the collaboration. Just read Bob’s Shane and the Hitwoman and thought, “Oh, if only…” So if you can do it without attempted homicide, I’m all for it.

    Finished the new Katie Fforde book, A Wedding in Provence, and loved it. Like a comfy hug. Read an ARC of Nan Reinhardt’s Falling for the Doctor–excellent romance in a continuing series but can definitely be read without knowing the others.

    Just started The Overdue Life of Amy Byler on the recommendation of my agent. I’m only two chapters in–love the humorous voice of the author, but it hasn’t really grabbed me yet. Will report back next week after I’ve finished it.

  34. I’m just rereading “Agnes and the Hitman” and remembering why I love your books so much. Especially the sex scenes. Many writers write about the mechanics of sex, and often graphic and I’m not into that these day. You express the emotion, the heat, the connection that happens with the right person. It is intimate and adds to the story and relation development between the characters, and does not feel like obligatory “add sex scene here to be a romance” I despise in many romances. It is one of the many reasons I own your books and reread them often, and why I read your blog and am so excited for any new writing you share with us. Thank, Jenny, for writing the type of books that got me through my single 30’s, married 40’s and will keep me happy as I start my fifth decade in this crazy world!

    1. Thank you for reading!

      Don’t mention sex scenes around Bob. He still has PTSD from the last time we collaborated.

      1. Unlike some of my fellow commenters I am actually OK with reading violence (I do have my limits, but Bob-level is fine) and am more likely to skim sex scenes (especially if I feel they don’t add anything – not been the case with Jenny’s, but I’m talking in generalities here).

        So, you know, if you want to accommodate Bob’s PTSD and write round the sex stuff I’m good with that 🙂 (though I appreciate I may be in a minority here)

        1. This book is first person, and neither Bob nor I want to write a first person sex scene. So it’s pretty general, not detailed. Not that I’ve ever done detailed sex scenes. I think of sex the way I think of monsters: better to let the readers fill in the blanks as to their own preferences.

    1. It’s hard work, but it’s fun, too, in the challenging kind of way. The great thing about collaborating is that you get to read stuff in your book that you didn’t write. It’s almost like a game after awhile.

  35. Just started Kit Rocha’s “The Devil You Know”. The acknowledgments (I alsways read them first) mentions Romancing the Runoff. Also ‘The Age of Sourdough Starters’.
    Bring on the mercenary librarians.

      1. Sorry, that was just a phrase in their acknowledgments that I found amusing as a way to mark time during the pandemic.

        1. Lol someone should write that book. Ooh Sarah-Kate Lynch would be perfect for that!

  36. I’m re-reading Louise Penny’s ‘Still Life’ (first in the Gamache series) as a comfort read.

    I know there are several Penny fans here already, but mention it just in case someone isn’t familiar.

  37. Thank you to everyone who talked about Bruno, the detective from the Dordogne region of France! You saved me!

    I bought the first three books for my husband — we leave for the Dordogne on Thursday. He is entranced. All of a sudden he’s finally excited about the trip.


  38. I have been working my way through the unread New Yorkers. I think by the time DH gets back from his work trip I will have caught up.

    It’s very weird reading the pre-pandemic ones

    1. I once spent a lot of time waiting for a cousin to take music classes one summer. I spent the time in the university library, reading all sorts of things, but what I remember were the bound back issues of magazines. It was very weird reading pre-WWII McCALLS, and LADIES HOME JOURNAL — even the ads were right out of time capsule.

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