This is a Good Book Thursday, October 6, 2022

I’m reading the last book in a trilogy I love, and I’m having troubles with it. It makes me wonder if by the time you get to a third book, the juice isn’t gone. I’m still completely wrapped up in these characters, but this book does so much explaining, so much description, so much introspection, that I’m skimming big blocks of text to get to the action, which is really well motivated. I want to find out what happens, but there’s all this static stuff in the way. And of course, I’m just finishing up a trilogy with Bob, so now I’m paranoid about third books. I think our situation is the opposite: the first book is the longest because there’s so much set-up, and then they get shorter. But at the same time, the first one’s plot is the simplest, and then they get more complex. So I dunno. Thoughts?

Oh, and what did you read this week?

96 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, October 6, 2022

  1. Jenny, I am in awe of you and any writer who write trilogies or series.

    You want to provide some backstory in case someone is picking up the series at that point but not so much that it becomes tedious for old readers.
    Also, some authors end up with too many characters and endless pointless cameos.

    At the moment, I am rereading Kate Canterbury’s Walsh series after reading her latest which is very loosely connected to it.
    All her series are connected but she does it very deftly I think.
    One of the ways she avoids tedious backstory is by having the same plot points / scenes seen from someone else’s point of view, so it feels fresh. Also there are secrets which get revealed only gradually which make you understand why certain people behave the way they do.
    Another plus point, her sex scenes follow the Jenny rules pretty well even if there is way too much biting for me!

    1. Wait, what is the Jenny rule on sex scenes? (Ugh! No biting, says I!) Sorry I can’t keep up with everything I want to read, including this most excellent blog, so I have missed the rule.

      1. Really more of a guideline than a rule.
        What I basically say in different ways is that a sex scene has to do what any scene has to do: arc character and move plot. It doesn’t matter whether the characters are having sex or dinner or any other action, it’s what happens to character and plot so that both are different at the end of the scene. If you stop thinking “This is about two people having sex” and start thinking about change and agency, you get scenes that people can’t skip because they’re essential to story, not just descriptions of people boinking.

  2. I have been thinking lately that endings are really really hard. A couple of the books that had potential for me lately didn’t end the way I wanted them to and I have a feeling that the writers of Rings of Power are going to flubb the season ends pretty badly. And the end has so much bearing on how we feel about the whole. So whether it’s a standalone, a trilogy or a series, I think that sometimes people struggle with how to end.

    Happily for me, it’s October, which means I am relistening to Maybe This Time, so I know the ending is good.

    For my new reading, a spooky smutty anthology was released and I bought it because it features CM Nascosta. So far her story is far and away the best. I am so impressed by how she took a dubcon situation and still made her main character likable and then tool a smut story and made me care about the characters more. I dnfed the first story in the anthology, but then enjoyed the second. Her story was dead last, which I skipped to and am now working through the rest, but it made me wonder about placement in an anthology.

    I rather thought that you put your biggest name at the beginning and usually that quality peters out as it goes. But maybe you put a big name at the end to try to get the readers all the way through?

    1. I agree with you that the third act seems to be the toughest, with books, movies and TV series. I was thinking about Katherine Center’s The Bodyguard that I read last week and how the last couple of chapters ended up being preachy – about the power of love or something blah blah and wondered why she thought that would be a fun way to end a fun book. And you’re right – they’re probably going to flub the end to the Rings of Power – has already started to flag.

      1. I mean, I am hopeful for season two, but they definitely have a pacing issue. Also, I feel like everyone is waiting for more hobbits and dwarves. Enough with the elves and humans already…

        1. My husband and I said the same thing! The elves and humans are wayyyy too serious. And those pre-hobbits are wonderful.

          1. Yes, I think that they are missing the point. No one really cares about Sauron or his origin story. But more of the Not All Who Wander are Lost song style fan service would be great.

          2. The problem with the Middle Earth story is that most of it leans towards tragedy; at least as far as I have gotten into it. I have tried several times to get through The Silmarillion since my initial reading when it first came out and there are very few feel good stories in it. Since they don’t have permission to use anything from The Silmarillion and are relying heavily on information gleaned from the appendices of LotR, they are also creating characters to fill in gaps. I don’t like tragedy and gore and have chosen not to watch Rings of Power, but I am listening to The Rings of Power Wrapup podcast (by the creator of the Prancing Pony Podcast and a couple other Tolkien authorities) so I get the gist of what’s going on. I understand that the setting and costumes and beautifully done, for that alone, I almost signed up for Amazon Prime so I could watch it, but knowing that much of it does not involve any HEAs, I chose not to get Prime.

          3. It is absolutely gorgeous. They put in the time, the money and the effort. I would call it visually pitch perfect. I especially love the green man armor for the soldier elves. And the ships for Numenor.

          4. Actually, I am feeling better after seeing the latest episode. It is much more hopeful. More hobbits, and there is a very fun Easter egg about Eleanor/Nori and the golden flowers in Loth Lorian that Sam names his daughter after.

  3. Mary Anne in Kentucky recommended Alexandra Rowland’s A Taste of Gold and Iron last week and that was a winner. Rowland says it was the book of her heart and that shows. Fantasy of a prince who suffers severe anxiety – he calls it the ‘fear-creature’ – and his uptight bodyguard who thinks the prince is flighty. I’m not representing the characters fairly enough – they were fabulous. Against a backdrop of palace intrigue and some connecting mysterious events. A definite recommendation for those people who liked A Suitable Consort for the King and His Husband.

    I read two books of related stories – CM Nicosia’s There Arose Such a Clatter (you’re right, Lupe, that was very naughty – in a makes one laugh kind of way sometimes), Christmas smut to set the tone for the coming season, enjoyed it although I missed the Cambric Creek setting of her other books – and Tales from Blackthorn Briar which is really a set of sequel stories to Sebastian Nothwell’s Oak King Holly King – Chacha1, I know you didn’t love the first one but this still might be worth your while – couple were mere excuses for a smutty romp but The Holly King’s Peril was great.

    And speaking of Alexandra Caluen – I read her novella Screw Your Courage – a lovely blend of Shakespeare, dancing, art and a teacher deciding to come out with two of his fellow teachers at his Christian private school after he starts a serious relationship. There was also a guest starring appearance of Kit and Valentine from one of my Caluen faves, Be Mine, so that led to my re-reading it. Really great and everyone should read it! Okay enough of my commercial. *:)

      1. It’s Monsters in Love. volume 3(?) something about in the dark/nightmares. Should still be available. Stupid disappearing anthologies.

  4. People have said, and I tend to agree, that the third book in my cozy mystery series was the best of the three. But maybe that was just because I was finally getting the hang of writing mysteries.

    I just (5 minutes ago) finished Patricia Briggs’ new one, Soul Taken, and it was wonderful. I’d been a bit worried because the last couple were so dark, but this one wasn’t as bad. Despite the grimness of everything, there was a much more hopeful tone, I thought. So for anyone who has been waiting to read, go for it.

    1. Deb, Yes, there was more confidence in the writing and a clearer framework to the plot in Claws for Suspicion. It was very well researched. But Furbidden Fatality (1) has a freshness that I particularly like, and Doggone Deadly (2) is great, too.

      I think you got screwed by whatever points system publishing uses. It’s like not knowing the other candidates for a job that you would be perfect for. Who knows what they were like?

  5. I re-read Fred’s Book, aka Anyone But You, by Jennifer Crusie. I had watched Rocket Man before that, which is a sad look at Elton John’s early life and his ascent into fame, coupled with debouchery. I love the music, and the steadfastness of his partnership with Bernie Taupin. These two works were basically about insecurity and feeling unlovable. And I love that Nina and Elton, both talented and wonderful people, rose above their fears and low self-esteem and found happiness. I’m re-reading All Systems Red, and it is gripping. The first time I read it I misunderstood the ending. This genre is not my usual, as violence and senseless death really upset me. But so many of you rave about this series! So, I’m trying it again. I discussed it with my brother, who was the first one to hook me onto it, and he thinks I’ll like it when I understand the ending. Thanks to everyone who gives detailed reviews and recommendations. It really helps me to choose well.

    1. The end of All Systems Red is definitely more of a beginning. And there is more violence and some very sad stuff, but it all builds on each other and I think that you will be happy with where the story ultimately goes. Martha Wells is one of those writers who I have a lot of faith in to get it ‘right’.

      1. OK, I will keep on it. My brother says the first four are her best work on Murderbot.

        1. Well, I really love the full length Murderbot book, and the in-between novella really grew on me. I don’t usually revisit book three because I think it’s the saddest of the lot. As always, ymmv.

        2. I liked them all, loved the first five, especially the novel. I think my problems with the last one were expectation because she moved to what happened before the novel and I wanted to know what happened after the novel, with Murderbot and Art traveling together.

  6. On vacation, so reading all the new things I have been saving up. Thus far I liked the third Thursday Murder Club book the best. Also the 4th book in the Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery series and the 4th book in the The Case Files of Henri Davenforth series. Everything else on my done pile has been covered by someone else here, so no need to list. I am just thrilled to post on a Thursday for once!

    1. Also just reread the first three Sparks & Bainbridge books to get ready to read the fourth. Love those characters. Thank you to the Argh reader who recommended them way back when!

  7. Jenny – I love trilogies and I am eager to read Liz Danger’s. IMHO the way you are describing yours is best: ” the first book is the longest because there’s so much set-up, and then they get shorter. But at the same time, the first one’s plot is the simplest, and then they get more complex. ”
    To me – that just seems logical.

    I am rereading this week and I am rezzing with the frequency. That is a Jayne Castle phrase. Phrases like that are why I love her. I am on the last book of the Rainshadow series. Siren’s Call features Ella, Rafe and dust bunny Lorelei.

    I’m not done with JAK yet and may find another trilogy or series to reread.

    1. I love the dust bunnies! I am just re-reading the Illusion Town books after reading the new one, Sweetwater and the Witch. And I just discovered the Copper Beach and Fogg Lake series, paranormals with links to the Arcane Society books. I have enjoyed all her paranormal books, from the historicals, to the present day, to the future Harmony world, but I like her later books much better than some of the earlier ones. Her heroines have so much more agency. Now if she would just stop info dumping at the climax…

    2. There is a new one, Sweetwater and the Witch. I enjoy the Sweetwater men, they are not afraid to admit they are in love. I have my name for this new one at the library it is H C and I-only buy p b now.

  8. Just finished the new Jayne Castle. A fun romp as always. Now I’m reading How to Date a Superhero (and Not Die Trying) by Cristina Fernandez. The title very much describes this YA book. So far I’m enjoying it. However, I’m halfway through and I feel like I’m still waiting for the other supervillian-sized shoe to drop. Let’s see if the book can finish with a flourish.

    1. How to Date a Superhero… definitely stuck the landing! I am happy to recommend it as a thought provoking but ultimately sweet exploration of the realities of dating a superhero.

  9. Oh! and I forgot. Now that Peter Beagle finally has the rights to his work back there is an audiobook version of The Last Unicorn, with a sequel coming and I have both on hold. Happy Dance.

  10. It’s funny, right now I am (like Jenny) reading the third book in a trilogy, and (unlike her) finding myself skipping a lot of the extended action and sex scenes to get to the introspection. At the end of a book, I want to feel I know the characters: if there’s a love connection, or the building of trust between two people, I want to understand that. Just doing it based on their actions (which can be revealing in a guarded sort of way) or their disputes and conversational style (which can reveal what they choose to reveal to another person at any given moment) isn’t enough for me.

    I’m liking this trilogy — The Consortium trilogy by Jessie Mihalik. Her plotting is tight and organized, and her characters likeable — it’s kind of like if Princess Leia and her family were dealing with internal rivalry among noble families on Alderaan. The danger & misery conditions that scar each of the main characters are kind of at my upper limit — lots of intense pain that each of them have dealt with past or present. But I like the author’s skilfulness and will look for other things she’s written.

      1. Me, too. I re-read it recently so probably not time to dive right back in, but maybe….

    1. In this last book of the trilogy, I liked the relationship between the main character and her best friend (Ying Yamada) even more than the love interest.

  11. Last week I read Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew, a mystery set in South Africa. It had lots of cooking, lots of unfamiliar words (fortunately there was a glossary at the back), and a tiny bit of a love story. I really enjoyed it.

    Right now I’m reading The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri. It is very long and it took a long time to hit its stride because every chapter is from a different characters point of view and there are a lot of points of view. Eventually they all coalesce into one storyline. It had great reviews but I’m lukewarm on it.

    Next up is The Golden Enclaves.

  12. I finished up The Escape, by Mary Balogh – part of her Survivor’s Club series. This one and the previous one seemed a bit low-stakes. The heroine does the sensible thing and actually talks to people in spite of her preconceived ideas, and things turn out okay. I mean I’m glad that there wasn’t some wild improbable dust up, but maybe I’m ready for a little bit more conflict.

    I’m trying to decide if I want book #2 of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series, or do I pick up something else until my copy of Christopher Moore’s Sacre Blue comes in (recommended by a friend.)

  13. I finally read Seducing the Sorcerer, by Lee Welch, and it was as lovely as you all said it would be. Two cranky but kind hearted men trying to take care of each other and their kingdom, with magic on top. So thank you to everyone who recommended it!

    1. And I really loved the fact that they were both middle aged and just tired. It was a lovely dynamic.

  14. Finished Heartburn early last week, took me a while between the stuff of life. Reading I’ll Be Your Blue Sky, Maria De La Santos. Two main characters, Edith (storyline 1950s) and Clare. Edith leaves Clare a house. Loving the language especially surrounding Edith’s storyline.

    Remembered reading Love Walked In, her first novel, (2005). Loved it.

  15. For pleasure, I’m reading the second book in Nev March’s Captain Jim and Lady Diana mysteries, Peril at the Exposition, set in the 1893 Chicago Exposition also featured in The Devil in the White City. Lovely writing with engaging characters and a thoroughly immersive historical setting. March focuses on aspects of Indian culture that don’t get much play in American fiction: Parsees and the illegitimate offspring of the British raj and local women. In contrast to Peril’s Chicago setting, first book in the series (Murder in Old Bombay) was set in India, and I wonder if future installments will return.
    For research, I’m reading Prairie Fever: British Aristocrats in the American West 1830-1890. After that it will be books on 19th century animal husbandry, copper mining, and feral hogs in 17th century London. For my sins, a Franken-pig with bat wings and a drinking problem has decided she wants to play in my next novella. At least she doesn’t want to be a zombie. Yet…
    In the recent recommendations department: Leslye Penelope’s The Monsters We Defy, magic and mayhem in 1920s Washington DC’s Black Broadway.
    In the TBR pile: T. Kingfisher’s What Moves the Dead, an idiosyncratic retelling of “Fall of the House of Usher”. T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) is so good, I’ll even read her horror.
    On order: Gutter Mage by Kelley Skovran, w/a J.S. Kelley. Kelley read two chapters at Capclave last weekend, the book sounds like a total hoot. Think epic fantasy shredded by a snarky woman protagonist. Can’t wait.
    In the TBR pile are

    1. If everybody wrote horror the way T. Kingfisher writes horror I might actually read some. Most people couldn’t retell House of Usher so that it’s roll-on-the-floor hilarious as well as creepy.

  16. I went for a reread of Mary Balogh’s Westcott series this week. I’m not a fan – they’re pretty weak, and there’s a lot of recapping to skip – but they require minimum mental energy, which is ideal when my head’s stuffed with cotton wool. I was surprised to find I’d actually bought them all, in the vain hope they’d get better. Still, comfort reading if not thrilling.

    I’m not sure what’s gone wrong with Balogh, but I suspect it’s partly due to (presumably) contracts to write long series. Trilogies would probably tighten her stories up – plus the uncertainty of selling the next one. Not that I really wish more insecurity on any author, but perhaps sometimes there’s an upside to it.

    1. I have this thing with Mary Balogh and also Nora Roberts, that I like thier books but there’s this rhythm to their prose I find hyper-distracting and its something that’s becoming increasingly noticeable in their later books. It almost feels someone knocking on a table the whole time I read the book. Does that happen to anyone else or am I just imagining it?

      That said I now have this urge to re-read Slightly Dangerous and see if it holds up.

      1. Haven’t noticed that – and am going to forget you said it, or I daresay I’d find them unreadable, too. Balogh’s platitudes get to me sometimes, though.

      2. I have that problem with some writers, but not them. Trying to think: Agatha Christie (I re-read Miss Marple regularly) is nevertheless like being tapped on the head with a teaspoon.

      3. I don’t read Balogh but don’t have a problem with Roberts who I do read. The one I notice that with is Catherine Coulter.

    2. I’m having this problem with her latest. I’m not going to finish it before it’s due, and I’ll have to put it on hold again for several weeks, because there’s too much filler and I’m getting bored. Yet I do want to finish reading it.

  17. I couldn’t read fully Elly Griffith’s latest in her Ruth Galloway mystery series, “The Locked Room”. I read the first 3rd and the last 3rd, but couldn’t deal with the middle part. The story features a murder possibly disguised as a suicide set during the Covid-19 Pandemic. I had to bail out of the story when the heroine had to go to the store for groceries and had to deal with the queuing and arrows and lack of supplies. It was too much for me, I just couldn’t take being back in that mindset any more. I think I now realize why people stopped mentioning the Spanish Flu Pandemic in the 1920’s. The loss of life and the remembered fear is too horrific.

    I finished “Ruby Fever” the latest book from Ilona Andrews from their Hidden Legacy series. I don’t think I can read their books any more. I read a recent Kate Daniels snippet and tried a re-read of the first book in their Hidden Legacy series and realized that too many of their heroes and heroines are bullies. I don’t know, I think the Ukraine vs Russia war has sensitized me to bullying behavior and I have had it up to here that kind of overbearing attitude. This book itself was fine, since there were no real interaction with any “normal” non-mutated humans. The problem with Ilona Andrews’s heroes/heroines come in when they have to deal with normal humans. That’s when they become “it’s my way or die, you useless human.”

    I”m now reading the last book in Lindsay Buroker’s Dragongate series, “The Orbs of Wisdom”. It’s good so far, although, I really don’t know how she’s going to rehabilitate the mages and the dragons.

    1. Ha Nguyen — I, too, have had current events affect my taste in stories and movies. One of my favorite movies was the Taming of the Shrew with Shirley Henderson and Rufus Sewell, done as Shakespeare Retold segment by Sally Wainwright. I collect versions of Taming, and this was my favorite. But then Trump became President and I found I couldn’t watch that movie anymore.

      I’m curious to see how the covid pandemic is covered in fiction. Ursula Vernon’s A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking is a good treatment of the aspect that leaders didn’t protect people from the covid plague. I’d like to know about more as they come along.

  18. The Bujold theory of series is that each book has to work as a standalone and also as a part of the series arc. This is much easier said than done.

    Good book this week; I read Killers of a Certain Age and loved it. From the description I said, “this sounds like everything I loved about Red and also Thursday Murder Club” and I was not wrong. Now reading Station Eternity, the Midsolar Murders because who doesn’t want the Midsomer Murders in space.

    1. I got definite RED vibes from Killers, too, places where it seemed like she was doing homage.

    2. Good to hear. I’m waiting impatiently for my copy of Station Eternity to come in. I hope it’s as enjoyable as her other books. Speaking of zombies becsuse Jenny loves them so, I really enjoyed Lafferty’s The Shambling Guide to New York City. Time for a reread.

  19. Regarding weak endings to trilogies – no, I have not found that to be true. I have read plenty of trilogies where the last book was just as good, if not better, than the first two. Considering the skill of the authors, I have no doubt the Liz books will be rock solid from beginning to end.

  20. I’m reading Terry Pratchett‘s three witches book on my iPhone. Hilarious I wanted to say that Elizabeth Peter’s Crocodile on a sandbank is on sale for $1.99. This is one of my favorite books. I was going to try to put in a link but I’m getting ready to board an airplane so that won’t work. Anyway if you haven’t read it please take a look. It’s fabulous.

    1. I loved Crocodile on the Sandbank. It’s my favorite of the whole series, although I genuinely like pretty much all of them, some more than others. The only one I couldn’t get through was the one finished after her death; it was all wrong character wise so I closed the cover and got rid of the book (donated, not dumpster, although I felt the dumpster was a better fit! lol).

  21.      Is it Thursday already?!? What happened to the week? Okay, yes, Official Weigh-In Day and more Bah-Humbug! More cooking. Stir Fry yesterday. Chili today. Hot tamale. (Old dad joke, which I can utter, because I’m an old dad.) Anyway, today’s chili is different! It’s got dark red Kidney Beans! Some of my chilis have had green beans, but I haven’t had pinto or kidney beans in Jenny’s back-door coon’s age. They’re hard to find marked “No Salt Added.” Let’s see. Covered weight, covered food, what else? Gardens! There’s stuff growing in my room. There. That leaves BOOKS!
         I finished Remedial Rocket Science: An Opposites Attract Second Chance Romance (Chemistry Lessons Book 1) by Susannah Nix. It was okay. All the angst was so junior-high, though, as was the “if only they would talk” thing. One thumb up.
         I just finished Marion G. Harmon’s Recursions in his “Wearing the Cape” series. Earlier I finished Ronin Games and his anthology Team-ups & Crossovers in that series. All re-reads.
         I’m still reading the serialized Variation on a Theme by Grey Wolf on Chapter 9 tomorrow.
         Looking at my TBR list, there is The Hunger Games Trilogy by S. Collins and Eros by Night by Karen Anders. There are others, but none appearing as “recently acquired” on my Kindle Ap.

  22. This week I re-read 5 of my own books. In the mood to do some tidying-up of the text as I wait for new covers, jotting down priorities & ideas.

    In non-romance, I read ‘The Kaiju Preservation Society’ by John Scalzi which I enjoyed but probably won’t re-read unless I go on a Scalzi Standalone Binge. Then I read ‘Still Just a Geek’ by Wil Wheaton, who I adore on The Ready Room. He’s pretty hard on himself about things he wrote in his early 20s. I’m glad nobody’s holding *me* accountable for the BS I said & did decades ago.

    Finally, in ‘romance written by someone other than me,’ I read ‘The Charm Offensive’ by Alison Cochrun. A good book with (mostly) appealing characters. It’s deeply concerned with mental health, which made Wheaton’s book a good precursor. Probably will not be a re-read for me since the emotional temperature of the book was very elevated and the happy-ever-after was very truncated. I’m glad they got there but the journey was fraught with difficulty and with all their issues I really wanted the ‘working things out TOGETHER’ part to be on the page.

  23. Just finished reading, ‘Hands Down’, by Felix Francis. This was more like one of his dad’s books and I thoroughly enjoyed the return to racing and my favourite character, Sid Halley.

  24. FOOD! FOOD FOOD Food food (food)
    Got your attention, do I?

    Earlier in the week I implied that chili is like type O blood. Universal donor. You can add it to any kind of pasta – spaghetti, elbow macaroni, shells, egg noodles, fettucine – whatever you got, chili makes it better. I made some today and ate a bowl with brown & wild rice. Fabulous! Normally I wouldn’t add chili with beans (kiddley beams) to a starch, and most of my chilis are free of beans.

    I just (not too long after retiring the first chili to a bowl in the fridge) made a whole ‘nother chili, this one with what Food Lion labeled as “Beef Bites.” Bite-sized chopped beef? Lots smaller than stew beef, at any rate. I also cheated and bought pre-chopped yellow onion and pre-chopped green peppers, five ounces each. While I was cheating, I substituted garlic powder for chopping cloves. Same cans of diced tomatoes with garlic, basil, and oregano, a can of Rotel diced tomatoes and chilis instead of tomato paste, twice as much corn starch for thickener. I added habanero powder instead of chopping up jalapeños.

    My old boss was known to love hotter foods than anyone else. He had a bunch of pronouncements, such as “If it don’t make your gums tingle, it ain’t hot enough.” This steak chili he would find very disappointing. However comma it makes my lips tingle so it’s Hot Enough for Me. And chewy. A change of pace, and now there are TWO bowls of red delight in the fridge.


  25. Finally did the Boyfriend Material / Husband Material thing over the weekend, and I enjoyed them but like everyone else I preferred BM. Not because there’s a lack of tension bc I’m quite happy with slice of life but because the final scene didn’t quite feel resolved for me and I think that’s because we don’t get Oliver’s point of view so its diffcult to understand his thinking. OTH I was super-happy with the way Oliver’s parents’ casual homophobia was handled. So overall enjoyable and I’m looking forward to the third book.

    I delved deep into my tbr pile and read the first two Madeline Hunter medievals from the early 2000s. Enjoyed the history a lot, but the gender dynamics didn’t quite work for me. I think By Arrangement was the better of the two and I do so love an competent hero! The heroine was very naive in the beginning but she matured quickly and I liked that the hero was attracted to her honesty and courage.

    Best of the week was Meredith Duran’s “A Lady’s Code of Misconduct” which has an well-one amnesia plot and a politics setting, both of which I love and just was very good.

  26. I’m traveling, so all my reading comes from my unread Kindle books. My Kindle is stuffed with them. I’m visiting my mom in Israel. She is 89 and isn’t doing very well, health-wise. I’m enjoying my visit, but my joy is tempered with some mordant contemplation. You all can relate, I’m sure.
    On the book front, so far, several DNFs, but there are 4 finished books. Faith Hunter’s Junkyard Cats was dark and gritty, practically one big battle from start to end. Blood and entrails rein. She writes well, and I wasn’t tempted to DNF it, but I was glad it was short. Not my stuff at all.
    Michelle Diener’s Dark Minds was formulaic but fun. It is the third in her Class 5 series, and it is built along the same blueprint as the other two, but overall, I enjoyed this quiet sci-fi romance. I’m going to continue with the series.
    Mimi Matthews’s A Convenient Fiction was a charming historical romance without sex. I liked it. The characters are well-drawn, and the language flows. The conflict is a bit contrived, but overall, I consider it a perfect vacation read.
    Susannah Nix’s Star Bright was an adequate vacation romance. Contemporary, with celebrities as protagonists. He is a top-level TV journalist. She is a movie star. He is a good guy. She is a cold bitch (because of the tragic childhood, of course). But LOVE… I finished the book, but I didn’t like it much. I don’t have any patience with celebrities who excuse their unacceptable behavior by the suffering during their childhood. She has everything now. She could’ve been more giving, but maybe it is just wishful thinking on my part.

    1. Michelle Diener’s Class 5 series is one of my favourite comfort reads but, indeed, each book has basically the same plot and the heroes are basically the same guy cloned 5 times.
      I tend to read them whenever I need the least taxing read ever, usually when I am wading through piles of marking.

  27. I finished the Jessie Mihalik trilogy — well ended. Just thought I’d note that the author does the trilogy thing by featuring three different sisters, each with her own book but the others appear throughout in small appearances. And since they’re children of a controlling father, the family pressures wait to resolve (at least somewhat) in the final book, so the urgency continues enough to spark drama.

    Still moving through Jo Walton’s TOR good-books website, and that sparked a re-read of Bujold’s Cetaganda. If I was reading it standalone, I’m not sure I would have continued past the many references to people and histories unknown, but I’ve read the whole Vorkosiverse series, so that was just an “ah…good old times!” and it sped along nicely. A fun read.

  28. Golden Enclaves? I gave up about a third of the way in. I never enjoyed all the exposition but this time it was like monster vines wrapping round my legs.

    Slowly making my was through the latest Strike novel, Ink Black Heart. First impression: this book is way too heavy to read in the bath. Second impression: online life can be terrifying. Third impression: someone please tell Jo Rowling to write shorter stories. Great writing, world building and research but it’s too long.

    1. Golden Enclaves was my guess, also. I’ve been debating getting it, but from the description, it just did not look as good as the first two. 😕

    2. Yep. I started skimming all the exposition, but it’s still moving like molasses. The first two were so good and now it’s all let-me-explain-everything and not much happening. Which is just tragic because I’m going to drag myself through it to see where they all end up. I already skipped to the ending which is my go to solution for do-I-want-to-finish-this-book. And it’s been over a week and I still haven’t got back to it.

      I am, however, hooked on Shetland, thanks to all the enablers who posted about it here. Just what I needed, a new TV show to tempt me away from work.

      1. Douglas Henshall is so good in Shetland, and the scenery is gob-smacking, but as a knitter, its the sweaters that win!

        1. I’m bitter because the original series of books by Ann Cleves was horrifically disappointing and had evil woman after innocent victim woman after evil woman until the last innocent victim woman was Perez’s fiancé. And she died. Awful, awful, awful.

          The last time I encountered a woman writer who was so anti-woman character was P D James.

      2. I’m glad I finished it – there were a few bits and twists I didn’t see coming. But in general, I felt like I wasn’t terribly surprised by any of it. Possibly it was that the world had been generally so well established in books 1 & 2 that by 3, I was like, well -yes, of course…but so, what now?

        I also found that I liked listening to the series more as an audio book than reading it. Something about the run-on expository style was less noticeable/bothersome in the audio format for me.

        But in mentally ranking them, I found I was thinking a lot about the expanded setting in book three and about something I had heard once about filming action sequences (stick with me, I know it’s seemingly weird & unrelated, but I swear there’s a salient point here)

        On the TV series Daredevil, there are some super cool intensely brutal fights that happen in very narrow hallways. The condensed physical space heightens the tension so that even though there’s not like crazy explosions and special effects, it makes for a very effective action sequence. To the point where a little Avengers off shoot TV show action scene can feel more impactful than some of the big budget mega Avengers movies where they’re blowing up entire cities during the fight sequence and it’s so wide ranging and huge that it almost takes the tension down a notch.

        Opening up the setting really lowered the personal stakes for El in this book for me, and any action taking place outside of the Scholomance just never felt as immediate/tension filled for me…maybe because I didn’t know or care as much about the people/places…it was just too big & non-immediate?

        Also….I was really conflicted about some of the actions of her mother in book three. She felt like a much more muddled character to me in this book where we actually got more direct interaction with her than earlier in the series when El was just talking about her. Maybe that’s on purpose…a child’s recollection of her mother is going to be different than how that mother seems to her 4 years later as a young adult? Especially one who’s Seen & Been Through Things? But I thought some of the things Gwen did/didn’t do felt out of character with who I had thought she was.

        Anyway…glad I read it…but definitely didn’t live up to 1 & 2 for me. It just felt like a lot more like story box-ticking than either of the others, with out the deep relationship/character growth & insights of the others.

        1. It was better for me once El started working with London. I definitely think a reread is in order. There was so much anxiety over the cliff hanger in book 2, I just wanted to get to the good stuff and FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED. Now that I know, a reread should give me different pacing.

        2. I agree. I will have to go back and finish it because I love the series, but I think opening it up did undercut the tension, especially since the tension was all about going to get Orion back. I don’t care what happens to the enclaves but I care about Orion.

  29. I have been thinking about trilogies. Sone do get weaker as they go (thinking about Robertson Davies) but some build amazingly like RiddleMaster of Hed.

    But I also realized that many of my favorite series are four books not three—series by Loretta Chase, by Lisa Kleypas, by Julia Quinn— and what I really think matters is that they are conceived as a group and not just added on to to keep a profitable series going

    1. Sorry that last bit was about my favorite romance series not series in general. Although it probably would be more generally applicable ….

  30. I know it’s now Sunday, but it was a tough week. If I didn’t have audionooks, I couldn’t read more than one a month. (Currently on Nine Perfect Strangers, which I’m enjoying)

    I wanted to weigh in on trilogies and series. I have stopped at book 2 many times because of rehashing All That Went Before. Thank you Jenny for helping me understand the deeper why of my annoyance. It doesn’t move anything.

    A few authors do it well. Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Tolkien, Pratchett, Rex Stout, Piers Anthony, Orson Scott Card, Christopher Moore. And without fail, all of the cozy murder type series do it badly.

    Is it just that the lower tiers of writers don’t have confidence in their own work or their readers? Do their editors not catch it, or the authors don’t listen? I don’t know, but it ruins a book for me.

    As for cameos, if the character fits, I love them. I love the cameo of Tess & Nick in What the Lady Wants. They showed up at the party, added what was needed to move the scene, and if you knew them, there was that added thrill and understanding. If you didn’t, well that’s okay too. Not like I know the back stories of many of the people in my life, and those I do know I’ve learned over time.

  31. I think I know the book you’re reading (author NN). I agree it dragged in part and I did what you did and skipped ahead. I felt bad and went back and read it carefully and it was worth it. I don’t think you can generalize about third books. I trust you.

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