This is a Good Book Thursday, September 8, 2022

I’ve been re-reading romances because I need to stay in that realm of thought as we finish up One in Vermillion. Bob is still agitating for a zombie Christmas novella set in the same town, and I am still ignoring him. Do I seem like somebody who would write a Christmas novella? I only did one once, and that ended up with Chinese spies because I ran into plot problems and asked Bob for help. His idea of a great Christmas novella plot point is a black helicopter. I am looking forward to The Golden Enclaves which is out in two weeks (third in the Scholomance trilogy), and our plan is to be finished with Vermillion by then, so I can read anything I want at that point. Nothing but good times.

So what did you read this week?

111 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, September 8, 2022

  1. Thanks to Jenny having mentioned Jo Walton’s blog on the website, and then someone (Gary J. I think?) posting a link to that blog, I went to visit it, and have really enjoyed scrolling gradually through it.

    First of all, I was heartened that her favorites among Jenny’s books are the same as my favorites, and her favorite volume in The Sharing Knife series was mine too. She did a number of posts about the Vorkosigan series by L.M. Bujold, most of which were in 2002 and before, but towards the end of that group, everyone was looking forward to “the Ivan book” even though no one knew exactly that was going to cover. When Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance (yes, the Ivan book) came out, her blog piece about it gave her verdict: “I loved this book!” And I felt a compulsion to search out and re-read the Ivan book again.

    I also loved most of it, although the epilogue kind of lost me. My favorite thing in it was a chance reference: talking about a small park near the Barrayar spy headquarters building, “hardly anyone ever uses it…except a few fellows with that seasonal affective problem…. Simon did make full spectrum lighting an allowable requisition, years back.” This was so spot on a thought about bureaucratic systems that I had to laugh. Small perceptive things like that are what I most love about Lois Bujold’s writing.

    1. Those little details are how she builds such a realistic world. I always loved how after Cordelia brings her Beta tradition of babies being born from a little incubator that it catches on with the Vor – except that some women show their loyalty to tradition by giving birth the old-fashioned way.

    2. If you like Jo Walton’s blog posts, then I suggest you get her book « what makes this book so great » which is a compilation of those she wrote between 2008 and 2011. Reading it made me want to reread some many great SF and Fantasy books and introduced me to some great new-to-me authors.

      1. Thank you, LN! Mirabile dictu, my library actually had this book, and I’ve requested it. I will have so many books in my tbr pile that an earthquake will probably kill me, but books! are worth it!

      2. Jo Walton’s novel ‘Among Others’ listed everything her juvenile heroine was reading – a few years ago my SF book group read it, which led to a really great discussion of the books that we’d read and been influenced by.

    3. I love Ivan’s book, more the second time around. And I love the epilogue because he’s so magnificently unapologetic about making sure his job gets done as efficiently as possible and they have as much leisure time as possible.

      1. I think it also shows how bright and quietly competent he truly is.
        The whole book does really.
        I really like the way we see him as through the eyes of Tej and how that allows us to see him as a proper grown up and a much more intelligent and sensitive person than we saw through the eyes of his uncle and cousin. He is not really « that idiot Ivan » anymore, if he ever was really.
        The same thing happens also in Komarr when we see Miles through the eyes of Ekaterin.

        1. It made Ivan Xav very attractive.

          Speaking of very attractive, I have 18 (eighteen) magnets that measure 1½” x ¼” x 3/16″. What can I do with them, besides sticking papers to the fridge? They must be good for something.

          1. Put them together, glue a photo to them, then take them apart and reassemble it as a jigsaw. Or just make a picture out of the existing ones.
            Or make it into a story. Glue words or phrases to them, and set up some rules, like you can use any verb you want to link them.

  2. New Cait Nary came out, Contract Season, her second M/M hockey book – not as strong as her first (for example, the two MC’s from Season’s Change make a guest appearance in this and I notice that’s been my most re-read part already) but still, totally solid, and she is wiggling her way into the top pantheon of hockey romance writers – Taylor Fitzpatrick please bless us all, Avon Gale and Rachel Reid.

    I read CM Nascosta’s two Cambric Creek After Darkverse novels – Run, Run Rabbit and Moon Blooded Breeding Clinic – oh so good, thank you Lupe for introducing me to this author. The first book was intense and often funny – hate sexual the way through with both him and her being a-holes (although I didn’t love that he kept calling her ‘mouthy’ – can’t remember the last time I heard that applied to a man) and the second book with the male were being hyper, chatty, sunny and a little lost. I love Nascosta’s world building – humans living alongside other beings (a clinic devoted to supporting interspecies procreation so sweet) – although the pandemic is the ‘human pandemic’ which made me chuckle.

    R Cooper’s latest also exists in her world where humans live alongside other beings but far less easily. She definitely uses the ‘other beings’ to explore the intersectionality of those beings, people living in poverty, non whites and queer people. Forget Me Not – which is actually a sequel to one of her earlier novels – starts as the MC werewolf cop realizes he has total amnesia about only one thing – that he has a fairy mate (the romance of the earlier novel). He tries to figure out who/why cast this spell on him, while at the same time navigating a whole new romance with his former mate from scratch, realizing that their former relationship had its dysfunctional elements, so there’s some relationship forensics here, and trying not to recapture those this time around. This is not the same quality as her novel A Suitable Consort for A King and His Husband – she often meanders and is a bit long-winded but it grabbed me and is going on my re-read list.

    I also finished Rakes I’d Like to F**k. The first story about the highwayman kidnapping a noble who enjoys being tied up a little too much was the best. The rest had too much sex that didn’t further the plot, although the one with the artist and the engineer did take an interesting turn.

    1. I am with you on Rakes. I stalled out in the artist and engineer story and it is now doomed to remain permanently unfinished on my Kindle. I had such hope for that set up, too. I will seek out the author of the first story at some point though.

      And I think you put your finger on what I like so much about CM Nascosta. I am in love with Cambric Creek. I want to live there, in a small picturesque inclusive community with tons of small, creative businesses. It’s my version of a cupcake shop in a small oceanfront town. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy her characters and stories, but I keep revisiting for the setting and the vibe.

      I will have to catch up on R Copper. Back to carrying dirt in teaspoons, I see. Sigh. Although I really shouldn’t whine about the bounty of things I want to read and the ease of accessing them. That part is really quite magical.

      1. You didn’t miss anything with the rest of the Rakes book. I forced myself to complete it, yawning all the way. Sad when that much sex bores me.
        I’m definitely just going to bite the bullet and download the Nascosta books I haven’t read yet. Then pick my way through them at my leisure. Yes her world is as you described it, quite delightful.
        Teaspoons of dirt? Well I like that. (Imagine my saying that in a faux offended voice.) Not dirt, honey, teaspoons of honey, or agave if your sensibilities run more vegan.

        1. Boring sex is boring. There is just nothing else for it. And it is hard to build out enough emotional attachment in a novella to write really good sex.

          Let me know if Nascosta’s Krampus anthology isn’t available anymore. I will see if I can loan it to you. It was a lot of fun, if dark because, you know. Krampus.

          And now I have this mental image of me swimming through honey…

          1. “There Arose Such a Clatter is a short anthology of bite-sized scorching hot tales from Krampus’s Naughty List” – is that the one you mean?

          2. Yep. I am not a christmas person, so this might go into the yearly reread. It’s sort of anti-Christmas, like Hot Toy. But very very smutty.

  3. Christmas novellas are very often too saccharine for my taste, so your novella was quite the hoot as it captured the hectic atmosphere perfectly. And I still have Santa Baby in my ear whenever I think back to it.

    My reading this past week was a good one: I had somehow discovered a new-to-me author, Fearne Hill, and found one series of hers on Kindle Unlimited. So I got Dipped in Sunshine (book 2) and absolutely, absolutely loved it. The story is set in Fuerteventura (I was sooo in the mood to go abroad at least in my imagination), I loved the main protagonist Fifty from the start (he’s such a humble and kind guy), as I did with fluffball Otto, and though the age gap trope is not really my thing, here it didn’t bother me. The crisis/conflict wasn’t hairbrained but a logical conclusion of the story and dealt with accordingly.
    Poor dear husband had to listen to me rave on and on about how lovely the book was (for me).
    But as always, tastes vary, so other Arghers might find Fifty too dull (he’s far from being an Alpha), but please don’t tell me, I might get protective 😉

    Then I had to read book 1 and have almost finished. “Brushed with Love” is Eggy’s and Clem’s Story – they are side characters in book 2. I really like it, but probably wouldn’t have to this degree if not for book 2 where you meet them as lovely, weird couple. It’s more conventional as those two are more “successfull” (Eggy is rather dashing, Clem an author and his unlikely love-interest).

    I’ve also started listening to “To holf a Hidden Pearl” by Fearne Hill (while starting on a major cleaning marathon), but it hasn’t captured my imagination which I guess is due to the narrator. Must probably embark on reading it myself.
    And continue with books 2 and 3 for which the excerpts are promising…

    Alreadyy downloaded is Charles Heppel’s final book by Con Riley. I loved the first book and love, love, love the cover. Not so much the cover of this one, but I’ve seen that cachal has given her thumgs up about the story itself, so I’m looking forward to reading the book.

    I’ve also caved in and got the paperback of Husband Material. I already got the audiobook weeks ago. Alas I can’t find the time to listen (listening while cleaning and shrubbing the windows doesn’t feel right). I fall asleep when I listen withouth doing something with my hands at the same time (chores, sewing, ironing etc).
    So, listening to the wonderful Joe Jameson will be the treat after I’ve read the book.

    So, good reading times ahead!

    1. I really like non-alphas. They tend to be a lot more interesting, because they can’t just walk into a room and have all the (fictional) women swooning over them.

      1. Exactly. Plus, Fifty compares himself with Eggy, his bronze-haired, tall, gorgeous Viking best mate and finds himself lacking. He’s also aware that he loves his tapas maybe a bit too much.

        But he’s a passionate surfer, with the physique sculpted by decades of surfing (it’s told that he was keen on it from a very early age). And you see glimpses of what he really looks like through the eyes of others (in both books): he’s in fact rather attractive (tanned and athletic physique, clear blue eyes, blond curls) but isn’t aware of it which I find far more attractive. He’s quite clueless why two guys are wooing him at one point.
        But what’s clear is that he’s just a great guy – kind, empathetic, considerate, and as a reader you just root for him to find his happiness.

  4. I read “The Untied Kingdom” by Kate Johnson, that was recommended here. I think I got hung up a little on trying to figure out what the inciting event was for the change in history. That particular facet didn’t matter to the MC – she just kept finding out things that were different between her world and the one she finds herself in. I’m glad that the two get together, but the ending seemed a little abrupt. I’m pretty sure there will be trouble ahead, now that they’ve both transferred back to her world.

    So, as a palate cleanser, I have started #2 in Balogh’s Survivor’s Club series – “The Proposal”. So far so good.

  5. I finished Ruby Fever and was very happy with it and then started Soul Taken. I am most of the way through and it didn’t go into deep dark territory yet, for which I am grateful.

    My audio book is Kiss Hard by Nalini Singh and that one is falling flat for me. I appreciate her amputee FMC, but there just isn’t any conflict in the story. There is no reason for these people who have known and liked each other forever, with similar lifestyles and family support, not to be together. I would have thought that would be my catnip but I am bored.

    Happily, my hold on Other Birds came in much sooner than I expected, so that is up next. Age of Ash came in too. I have had that on hold so long that I have forgotten who recommended it or what it is about. It must have been someone here. Hopefully I can get to them both before they are due.

    1. I had the same problem with Kiss Hard. I loved the inclusivity and the thoughtfulness around ability/disability, and I really like this family and their dynamics. But I have found the last books in this series aren’t capturing my attention. I decided it was because the characters are too young. I just can’t become invested in romances with 20 somethings. Clearly, I am getting old and grumpy.

      1. I think that the family may be too perfect?

        I really appreciated the open talk about not comparing your misfortune to someone else’s. No pity Olympics or something like that. And that the hero did all the steps to report his being drugged in the bar. Good examples all.

        But all of the possible tension/growth story lines just petered out. There was no blow back on the hot young guy being with a paraplegic, and he was happy playing rugby and his family was all happy…. No one is that perfect all the time. Idk. I enjoyed the one with Naina and Raj. The family loved each other, but there was still stuff to work on. I think that it is time to let this series to.

  6. I finished my Judith Flanders reread, which was great, and went on to Division Bells by Iona Datt Sharma, also great, but unfortunately they don’t seem to have written anything else in the same vein (it’s an m/m romcom, with great world-building). Discovered I had a collection of their short stories, but had found them depressing.

    So I reread K. J. Charles’ Think of England – not my favourite, but good. I’ve just started the Will Darling trilogy, because I remember the characters pop up again (around twenty years on) at the end of that.

    Hot Toy is my favourite Christmas novella, so I’d love another. Maybe fun as a solo outing, self-published?

    1. I started one with her sister, Courtney, because I loved Courtney. I really like the beginning, but then I got into Plot, and as we all know, that’s where I break down. I can set up the problem but figuring out what’s actually happening is harder. And if I ask Bob there will zombies. The romance is good though.

      1. The absolute worst thing about Hot Toy was trying to share it! To share why I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. I was surrounded by coworkers who stopped reading anything but Field & Stream or Guns & Ammo after high school (and possibly during.) The dotter was neck deep in newborn twins. I would say, “She’s searching for a Major Macguffin!” and they would say, “Yes, go on….” NOBODY knew what that meant! I started out with tears of laughter, ended with tears of despair. O the humanity!

        I still laugh my butt loose when I reread it. (No longer off, but oh well.)

      2. As I’ve mentioned, I’m in Yet Another Re-read of the “Wearing the Cape” series. Astra and the Sentinals don’t have to fight zombies until like book 7, and then they aren’t traditional zombies, they’re corpses reanimated by a florakinetic supervillain. But chapter 9 of book 3 starts with

        I figured it out a long time ago. When you shoot someone in a video game, they fall down — unless they’re zombies, and then you have to blow them apart. When you shoot someone in real life, they fall down — unless they’re zombies (don’t ask). So the human brain knows that if you shoot people they tend to fall down, and when it panics, it forgets that there are exceptions. It can’t help itself, especially when the exception looks like me — so the opposite of tough and bulletproof.

        Astra, Notes From A Life.

  7. I like Santa Baby, and I re-read it at holiday time. The Chinese spies weren’t that bad an addition.

  8. I just saw Bet Me is on Kindle Unlimited though as with my other Crusies, I have multiple paper copies as well as digital and audio already.

    And I just cancelled my KU. I had a wonderful offer for 6 months for $30 which I think is an ideal price for me. The renewal at $10 a month is just more than I want to pay as I still purchase many other books outside the Unlimited list.

  9. I read Murder with Puffins and then started on Revenge of the Wrought Iron Flamingos. I get to a point in these books where there is a lot of seemingly extraneous stuff going on and new characters appearing, and I put them down for a bit. Eventually, I get over that hump, and things begin to get interesting again. Does anyone else have that experience?

    My book cover says Santa Baby. But it’s called Hot Toy inside. Anyway, I like Trudy’s single-minded search for the ‘Guffin toy, her obvious love for her nephew, and the careful putting back of the boxes by Nolan. The whole gingerbread house/gin thing Courtney is going through is hilarious. The talking cow was genius. I just reread the beginning dialogue in the warehouse between Trudy and Nolan and laughed out loud. Don’t ever regret writing this. It’s so real, and Christmas is just like that for many people.

  10. I am reading an unusual shifter series: Ghost mountain shifters by Audrey Faye. It was recommended either here or on another blog I occasionally look at and since shifters books are one of my guilty pleasures and these are on KU, it was a no brainer for me.
    Unlike most shifter series, romance is not the main focus of each book even though there is some romance.
    Also, all the violence happened before the start of the series and is not used as a means to resolve conflict. In fact, the books deal with healing the trauma caused by violence. It sounds grim but I wouldn’t say the books are dark even though there are grim moments.
    Another odd thing is the use of multiple first person point of views. Each chapter has one character’s point of view but these change nearly always from one chapter to the next so sometimes, I am halfway through the chapter and I need to go back to the header to check who is talking.
    I am not sure if I am selling these books very well here but I am really enjoying them. It is a gentle journey towards health, happiness and redemption (for some of the packmates) and I desperately want them all to be ok.

  11. I just finished Jim Hines’ newest, Terminal Peace, the third in a SF trilogy about a group of space janitors turned saviors of Earth. Really enjoyed it. There was a particularly funny moment when Captain Mops brought an enemy ship to a grinding halt with her knowledge of cleaning protocols. Looking eagerly forward to Golden Enclaves, just like Jenny. Meanwhile, I have the third Inheritance Games book by Jennifer Lynn Barnes in my hot little hands. Metaphorically hot, of course; we wouldn’t want the dust jacket to wilt…

    1. Loved the space janitors series, especially how the ships are named after *statistically* dangerous beings so you nod along to a ship called the Pufferfish, do a minor double take at the Hippopotamus and then realise what they’re doing with the Cone Snail….(and then when the influenza shows up you’re just running with it).

  12. I’ve been working my way through Gregory Ashe’s Somerset & Hazard: Arrows in the Hand mysteries, and I’m enjoying them too (same author, different series than last week). The characters are more serious than the Shaw & North series, but I’ve read many of them in a row and I’m happy to keep reading, without sidetracking to something else, so that’s a good sign I think.

    They are contemporary mysteries, minor romance plots (in the series I’m reading the couple is now well established, but that is not the case in the earlier series), but they include issues that are interesting, sort of plausible situations, characters who are both infuriating at times because they are real and not perfect, but still good, aaaanyway, I recommend.

  13. I just finished Husband Material by Alexis Hall. It was fun, and occasionally touching, but something about the pacing felt off and then the ending landed somewhere I wasn’t expecting (don’t worry, still a romance HFN).

    I wonder if the pacing would feel more natural on a re-read, now that I know where it’s going? Which has me pondering how much of pacing relies on correctly predicting reader expectations, so that the writer can play to or against those expectations.

    School started last week, which means I will spend the next few months reading Serious MFA Books. I’ll report back if there’s any good stuff in there.

    1. I think that’s why the beginning has to set up the ending.
      Husband Material was really well-written, but it felt aimless, as if the narrator was just following his nose instead of pursuing something. This is a problem my early drafts have, too, so not throwing stones.

  14. I’ve got to say, the idea of a “zombie Christmas novella” has definite appeal. If Bob was responsible for the spies in Santa Baby/Hot Toy, then thanks to him for that.

    This week I tried to make a dent in my list of ebooks to read from the library. There are about 400 books on the list, so it will take a while. According to the library app, I can still at4,600 more books to the list. I’m trying not to take that as a challenge.

    So far, I finished 3 books in Jenn McKinlay library-c0zy-mystery series. I had stopped reading the series a while back because the main character had just too many too-stupid-to-live moments, but was curious how the various relationships were progressing. The stories were entertaining enough to go through all three books in a day, though probably not to ever re-read.

    That leaves 397 titles to go. While deciding which to read next, I’ve moved on to Edmund Crispin’s Swan Song, which I found in a used book store and has been cluttering up my physical TBR pile for quite a while.

    Other than that, I’m trying to declutter my home library, which takes up an entire room. The process is slow, though I did find three whole books to donate to the local library for their book sale so . . . progress?

    1. Cleaning up my personal library is an on-going process for me. I have four five-shelf bookcases, and they are perpetually full. Once in a while, I embark on a weeding spree, taking away the books I stopped re-reading or never wanted to re-read, but then I buy new favorite books, so the empty space on my shelves never materializes. My latest purchases were Jessie Mihalik’s books, and the few days of re-reading them were fun.

  15. Happy Good Book Thursday!

    I suspect the only zombie Jenny appreciates wears a sprig of lilac to commemorate the Treacle Mine Road Revolution. I’m not sure about him, either.

  16. I was sad to hear this afternoon on the news that Queen Elizabeth died today. Condolences to the Brits among us. 🙁

    1. Thanks – don’t forget the Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and any Commonwealth lurkers, though.

      I’d rather live in a democracy; have felt that way all my adult life. So not feeling it, in fact. I don’t think it’s fair on the people in the royal family, any more than it is on the rest of us. And the timing underlines how undemocratic our governance is: a prime minister with presidential powers has just been voted in by 140,000 members of the Conservative party; and now we also have a new head of state without having any say in it. Hope we start evolving a better system soon. I suspect the other countries of the UK may start pushing for a new settlement now.

        1. In the time of no TV, he banned games, theatre, sports, the parliament at the time tried to ban Christmas, most importantly for this country, he tried to ban pubs and restrict drinking. Though I heard at his daughter’s wedding they were allowed violins and dancing so wild partying for Puritans

          1. I think his campaign to crush opposition in Ireland was more misjudged and serious. But I do think we missed a great opportunity when he died: people just couldn’t get their heads round an alternative to inherited power, and so ended up with a monarchy again.

  17. So that is why that Christmas novella was so jarring, I didn’t feel like it was your style at all, tell Bob to stay away from Christmas. He probably thinks Die Hard is a feel good Christmas movie. Great Great Movie, but I don’t watch it for the heartwarming aspects, the machine gun fire tends to detract from the Christmas partying

    1. I will only say that when it comes to Christmas movies, I prefer Die Hard to It’s a Wonderful Life. My favorites are the variations of A Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street. Most of the others? Bah. Humbug!

    2. I hate to disagree with you, kay, but I love this novella. I think the relationships between all the main characters are spot on and the shootout totally works for me. To each her own!

      1. But then I also think a zombie Christmas novella would be a fantastic idea, so you may want to take that into account. Lol!

        1. It was probably the Spies in Christmas that jarred, I don’t think I even read the summary first. I was all look Jenny has a Christmas novella, so I was just expecting some of the famous Jenny’s Snarky dialogue and Christmas present fun

  18. Good books: Last week I read The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer, part of “The Enola Holmes Mysteries ” collection. This week I have read The Case of the Left-Handed Lady and The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets . The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan is in progress, up to Chapter the Fifth. Re-reads include the second “Wearing the Cape” story, Bite Me by Marion G. Harmon, and Villains Inc is in progress. The only thing that annoys me about this series is that George and I disagree about the numbering. He doesn’t number Bite Me at all, since it is about Jacqueline “Artemis” Siegler/Bouchard, the vampire vigilante superheroine who was Hope “Astra” Corrigan’s BFF in the first book. But she isn’t superheroing in Chicago in her book, she’s supervamping in New Orleans, where her grandmother is a Voodoo Queen.

    I am still reading Variations on a Theme Book 3. Chapter 138 of ~142 tomorrow, said book to be finished in a fortnight. I don’t know when he’s scheduled to start publishing Book 4, The Senior Year.

  19. I enjoyed two (bio)graphic(al) novels: Parenthesis, by Elodie Durand and Ramshackle, by Alison McCreesh -I don’t think I will move to Yellowknife soon-.

  20. Timothy Hallinan has a new Junior Bender caper, Rock of Ages. More low key than we’ve been given before, but up to his high standard. Some of the same crew show up demanding and wreaking havoc for the cutup set pieces. A thin melancholy overlies the doings as we’re shown the degeneration of past high glory into present coping. I found action’s end wistful, moving and on a slow upbeat.

  21. I wasted all my reading time this week getting my author page / blog set up. Major PIA because I tried to use wordpress & you need to be a computer genius to use the. It is now up – and I’m happy with it though it isn’t perfect – on blogger.
    When I did get reading time I am still in Amanda Quick reread mode. Discovered another that I haven’t read the first time. Mischief. I am enjoying it. All of her heroines are always intelligent and resourceful. They are usually experts about something they are interested in. And I love it when she makes them messy or clumsy. This one is clumsy and the love interest finds it adorable. The only criticism I have about these books as they do frequently have ‘the big misunderstanding’.
    I picked up Heartburn by Nora Ephron so hopefully I will have a chance to read that.

  22. I’m so disoriented with this week that I’m taken aback to see it’s the Thursday thread already. It’s Thursday? Well. I’m reading Fairy Tale by Stephen King, a good book with a very good dog.

    Other than that I’ve been reading the Wildlife Gardening Forum. I’ve apparently made such a wildlife friendly garden that it is now frequented by weasels and beavers as well as racoons and the odd owl.

  23. I just finished Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt, her first published novel. It’s about an octopus escape artist who was rescued and now lives (unhappily) in an aquarium. It’s lovely and poignant but one must suspend disbelief.

  24. London, With Love by Sarra Manning. I’m in two minds about this one. The love interest was such a prick for 90% of the book that it was hard to take him seriously when he started to grow up. Plus it was a loooong build up.

    The Other Half of Augusta Hope. This I loved unreservedly. The writing is beautiful and the story is both heartbreaking and hopeful.

    And after this morning’s news I’m remembering all the novels I’ve read where someone has said, ‘The king is dead. Long live the king!’ And thinking how strange and poignant it is to live through such a moment.

    1. I skimmed most of London, With Love, and was glad I gave up on it. I’ve now given up on Sarra Manning. I had a copy of Unsticky, which I’d never got round to rereading. As I remember, I thought it was good, but not quite my cup of tea. But the two recent ones I’ve read have been rejects for me. This one was tedious, apart from anything else.

      1. Yes, I don’t think I’ll seek out anything else of hers. It just left me feeling … unsatisfied. One of the problems with such a long build up is that you pretty much need a nuclear explosion to pay it off.

  25. Yesterday I picked up a couple of romances at my favorite used bookstore, as well as a cozy mystery which shall remain nameless, which is in the DNF pile after reminding me why I generally don’t like cozies.

    Ahem. Dear Romance Writer (not you, Jenny). Please write me a heroine who isn’t a hot mess, has some self-respect and more than one dimension. Give me someone I can identify with for more than her many faults (some of which I admit I share), so I can understand why the hunky rich intelligent funny hero is attracted to her!

    Now I must go finish rereading Boyfriend Material. Luc is also a hot mess, but I can see what made him that way, and he’s trying really hard to get better.

    1. And at least the hunky great witty guy who’s attracted to Luc the hot mess is a mess himself too, though Luc doesn’t realize this for 3/4 of the book 😉

    2. I have been struggling with this in contemporary m/f romance. It’s like being a hot mess is a requirement for a lot of the female leads. I can handle need for growth, but don’t make them unlikable.

      My latest dnf involved our heroine falling in deer poop on her morning run and then forgetting it was on her hands and wiping her hair/face in the same few minutes. Is she an amnesiac? Who forgets they have poop on their hands?

      1. It’s kind of taking the ‘loveable klutz’ thing too far, isn’t it. I like my heroines to be competent humans at the very least.

        Though I did have a friend once who probably would have forgotten she had poop on her hands. She was wildly intelligent but could get lost between one telegraph pole and the next. I loved her to bits, but no way I could’ve lived with her.

        The bloke she married was equally annoying, but in a completely different way.

  26. I finished Other Birdswhich enchanted me. I love Sarah Allison Allen’s work. Then I read confessions of the principle’s Kid by Robin Mellom because I am doing reading to kids on Saturday and that’s the fourth grade book. It was cute.
    Now I’m onto Beverly Jenkins and To Catch a Raven. I also love her work.
    Some friends of mine told me about a series on Netflix called The Extraordinary Attorney Woo which is turning out to be amazing. Attorney Woo is very young and she is also autistic. And she’s in love with whales. And the stories are remarkable and I can’t stop watching. It’s an absorbing and feel-good Show. It is in Korean with subtitles and I don’t care. Subtitles are not my favorite but this is too good to miss

    1. I was the same way with The Art of Crime. After about ten minutes, you forget you’re reading subtitles because it’s so good.

  27. I’ve been binging Cherise Sinclair’s Sons of the Survivalist books, which are feature four foster brothers bringing a remote Alaskan town called rescue back to life and of course falling in love along the way. Very much comfort reads and what I needed this week.

    Funnily enough I was in the middle of reading Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton series and even though the two series are completely different, I couldn’t read them both because the settings of wintery towns accessible only by helicopter were just similar enough for my brain to get confused 😒

    1. I tend to read by series and put them in a loop. I’ll read the first book if I like it I’ll get the second and remove the first book in KU. I have several ongoing just enough not to get confused. I’ve read the first two of the Survivor series and will get around to the third. When Alaska is a setting it gets my attention.

      Currently I’m reading the Bootleg Springs series by Lucy Score and Claire Kingsley and just finished the first book. It reads like Green Acres has landed in West Virginia. With a state legislator who is laying low at his grandmother’s lakefront home and meets the neighbors in grand style. The story has fun and mystery that carries throughout with a great cast of characters so far. One in particular was thrown in just to see you’re paying attention, the town mascot a feathered chicken with the name of Mona Lisa McNugget. I’m in.

    1. Were someone to write a book implying that all Christians were zombie worshipers (as well as cannibals for eating His body or vampires for drinking His blood) they would be burnt, banned, bashed and burned yet again. Maybe Bob would co-author?

        1. On reflection, there is a series written by David Weber and John Ringo. The “Empire of Man” series, March Upcountry, March to the Sea, March to the Stars, and We Few. Prince Roger Ramius Sergei Alexander Chiang MacClintock has been trapped on the planet Marduk with the dwindling Bronze Battalion.

          Bad enough to be the spoiled rotten fop of a prince no one wanted or trusted.

          Worse to be sent off on a meaningless diplomatic mission, simply to get you out from underfoot, with a bodyguard of Marines who loathe and despise you.

          Worse yet to be assumed dead and marooned for almost a year on a hell-hole planet while you and those same Marines fight your way through carnivorous beasts, murderous natives, and perpetual rain to the only starport. . . which is controlled by the Empire’s worst enemies.

          Worst of all to have discovered that you were born to be a warrior prince. One whose bodyguards have learned the same lesson. And one haunted by the deaths of almost a hundred of your Marines… for what you know now was an unnecessary exercise in political expediency.

          A warrior prince who wants to have a few choice words with your Lady Mother, the Empress of Man.

          But to have them, you, your surviving Marines, and your Mardukan allies must cross a demon-haunted ocean, face a civilization that is “civilized” in name alone and “barbarians” who may not be exactly what they seem, and once again battle against impossible odds. All so that you can attempt to somehow seize a heavily defended spaceport and hijack a starship to take you home.

          One of his top sergeants is a priestess of Satan who, when they learn that the have encountered hungry cannibals, cries “Papists!” before laying about her with weapons at hand. Her religion is explained in the book(s).

  28. Lots of Trisha Ashley comfort reads over the past few weeks as KU is ending. Comforting, indeed.

    I just started Thursday Murder Club and think I am going to enjoy. I listened to Breathing Room last weekend and it is absolutely the best SEP I’ve read in many years.

  29. Since last report, 11 novels (including two of mine) and a short. Assigned myself three M/M/M romances to see if I could get a sense of the subgenre-specific tropes (following a query by a friend). One (‘Three’s Company’ by N.R. Walker) was sweet & very smutty, one (‘Welcome to the Show’ by Jules Kelley) had a serious mental-health issue at the heart of it which I thought was built up well but then ‘resolved’ WAY too fast, and one was a complex treatment of three fully-developed characters (‘Misfits’ by Garrett Leigh). All three involved established couples in open relationships who then met a mutually-appealing third person. So that was interesting. I’ve been toying with a M/M/M scenario myself, which wouldn’t have quite that setup and has a ton of potential triggers. (All three of these recent reads also have a ton of potential triggers.)

    Read three books by Ashlyn Kane, one of them co-written with Morgan James. That one was ‘String Theory’ which I thought was very good. It’s set in a nearly-real world in which the pandemic ended after only a year but has still cost the world a lot of people and disrupted a lot of lives. Also thought ‘The Inside Edge’ was very good. I’ve read one too many hockey romances but in this one, it’s an EX hockey player plus a former champion figure skater, co-hosting a hockey talk show. The third book, ‘Fake Dating the Prince,’ delivers exactly what you’d expect. It had some thematic/characterization overlap with ‘String Theory’ which I might not have noticed if I hadn’t read them so close together.

    A F/M almost-a-romance, ‘Funny You Should Ask’ by Elissa Sussman, in which the characters are interesting but I didn’t connect with the F and we didn’t get the M point-of-view.

    Read ‘Home Grown Talent’ by Joanna Chambers & Sally Malcolm, in which I liked both MCs (wasn’t the case with their first co-written contemporary) and thought both men put in an appropriate amount of work to solve the problems they mutually created.

    The last-completed book for the reading week was ‘A Duke at the Door’ by Susanna Allen. This is alt-historical Regency paranormal, which sounds bananas, but I like her world-building (delivered in easily-digestible chunks which do not kill the pace, amidst plenty of character development and good dialogue). A slow-burn F/M romance in which the M is a lion shifter recovering from a long sorcerous captivity and the F is a gifted human healer. A villain is thwarted and true love conquers.

    1. Chacha1, have you tried any Lesli Richardson? she writes M/M/M and M/M/F – they’re BDSM though so not sweet at all. Governor is my fave.

      1. BDSM is one of those sub-subgenres that doesn’t hold much appeal (like mafia or biker-gang or other criminal-hero romances) beyond a little bit of D/s or spanking (cracked myself up writing that). Generally speaking, it’s the psychology of it that I don’t get. Which is also why so much F/M doesn’t work for me anymore. What goes on in characters’ heads is much more important to me than what goes on in their beds, but I have to be able to relate to both. 🙂

        1. Totally understand and thought you would say something in that vein. My next suggestion is a romance with two aliens and a human but I really don’t think that will be your jam either…😀

          1. Lol. My bad. Human Omega by Eileen Glass. Lupe and I are very fond of this series. One of the few that gets better and richer as it goes. Warning: smutty.

          2. That sounds crazysauce and probably entertaining but yeah. 🙂 F/M romances that revolve around human babymaking don’t do it for me; the idea of transferring pregnancy and all the related meshuggahs to M/M is just like, why. I’m sure it can be done well. [skeptical eyebrows] I see that ‘Human Omega’ is 3rd in a trilogy with a 4th book en route so obviously this is somebody’s jam!

            btw in the Susanna Allen Regency paranormals, the term ‘omega’ is used but has nothing to do with mpreg / omegaverse. The Omega of a given pack or pride or herd is a sort of thermostat who can help regulate the aggression / influence of others. Also a ‘pack’ is not necessarily all one type of shifter. I’m going to follow that series because I want to see what she does next with it. 🙂

          3. Chacha, Omegas can be different things. In Patricia Briggs Omega series, the omega is defined as a zen sort of Alpha, all the protective instincts none of the aggressivity. It’s a great series too.

          4. Human Omega is the name for the entire series. And it’s not much about baby making. Much more about the war for the planet against another alien species.

          5. Chiming in late here, but Human Omega really isn’t about baby making. It’s about a cultural status that allows the physically weak partner (in this case the human, although the aliens have their own version) more power in the relationship than the dominant partners. It makes for an interesting dynamic and I think that the author handled it really well. Of course, Alien romance is very much my comfort jam.

            The other m/m/m that comes to mind is A Consort for the King (and his lover). Very sweet.

            Both of these are established couples adding a third, which is interesting. I haven’t explored this subgenre much, but I assume it’s hard to combine three single characters and give them all enough screen time to make them real and deal with the naturally occurring issues.

  30. I just finished The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman, which my daughter had recommended. I really enjoyed it. The characters kept surprising me, and it didn’t turn out at all as I thought it would.

    I also started and put down Give the Devil His Due, Sulari Gentill. True, it turned out to be well into the series, but the first several chapters were fine, and I thought maybe I was onto something worth reading. Then the author committed a sin worse than smirking. He (she?) introduced several characters with loads of backstory that didn’t matter at all to this one. I slogged through 3 pages of that and decided that it wasn’t worth it. Either do it like Evanovitch or don’t do it at all.

    Also, there was a vague feeling of Sayers and Wodehouse, so I kept expecting that caliber of writing and kept being disappointed. I think I’ll go get one of those books instead and be happy.

  31. Jenny – If you see this – back in the day when you were working on Maybe This Time, I think, you had a post or maybe it was a cherry thing with structure for gothic romances.

    Revising / rewriting my own modern gothic – Hungry Ghosts – and was searching for that post.

    Not, I repeat, not, (instructing myself), going to obsess & procrastinate about it but if you see this and you know what I mean – can you send me a link?

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