This is a Good Book Thursday, March 16, 2023

Connie Willis’s Crosstalk is on sale for $1.99, which is a great deal because it’s a great book. “Science fiction icon Connie Willis brilliantly mixes a speculative plot, the wit of Nora Ephron, and the comedic flair of P. G. Wodehouse in Crosstalk—a genre-bending novel that pushes social media, smartphone technology, and twenty-four-hour availability to hilarious and chilling extremes as one young woman abruptly finds herself with way more connectivity than she ever desired.” So yes,it’s quirky–at the request of her boyfriend, a woman signs up for a procedure that will increase the empathy between them and it works really well, just not with him. I loved it, but then it’s Connie Willis.

What did you read this week?

194 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, March 16, 2023

  1. I read a Rosalind James romance and it was good! I have had so many contemporary m/f romance fails (for me) I had almost given up, but faith restored! Also it was set in New Zealand but not written by an NZer which is sometimes eek, but no! It was good there too! Thanks for the recc.

    And of course I read KJ Charles ‘ new The Secret Life of Gentlemen which was more romance and less subplot than typical I thought, but still excellent.

    And I dipped in to some Penric audio. So good.

    And a week or two ago I found myself thoroughly addicted to the (yes problematic) Princes Game series, so thanks for that rec too, Argh.

    For podcast listeners, I also really recommend the BBCs In Our Time – there are many many of them, but it’s super cool to learn about things that are entirely new to you and to listen to geeks really geek out. This week I enjoyed The Electron (mind blown) and Chartism (interesting history).

    Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone. May your day be full of dance, song, literature and craic.

  2. Since, I recommended the Touchstone series to Lupe last week, inevitably I have embarked on another reread of it. And yet I still can’t pinpoint why I like it so much.
    I also read the latest KJ Charles and enjoyed the Kentish setting very much. I went to Romney marsh very briefly years ago but I remember it as the nicest bit of Kent.

  3. I’ve been in the mood to re-read the Sebastian St Cyr series by C S Harris, particularly the ones focused on Hero.

    Otherwise, there’s been a lot of fanfiction in my reading diet.

        1. I’ll read anything that’s good – occasionally I’ll read/watch canon so that I can understand the fanfic 😉

          Favs are Astolat and Dira Sudis so far

  4. Still reading hockey books – almost finished listening Hard Hitter (listening is always so much slower thank reading). I like the protags but don’t care for the sex scenes at all. Very old fashioned imho.
    Have read a short novella (Training Camp) by Sarina Bowen and was truely charmed.
    Also have almost finished “Off the Ice” by Michaela Grey and sort of got whip lash from her MCs going from enemies (well, only one of them) to lovers in record speed without a proper lead to. Also: one MC grew up being a show jumper AND hockey player. He surely didn’t have to go to school or such minor activities?

    Have tried the excerpt of KJ Charles’ new book but it didn’t grip me at all, I guess because these days I’m not much into casual sex scenes very early on in books.
    Will try again at a later time for sure.

    Lined up for reading are the short novel “Must love Hockey” by Bowen and the new NR Walker.
    Have dipped my reading toes into some books by Nicky James but was overwhelmed by the topic of anxiety/phobia. I need more light hearted stuff.
    The new Connie Willis sounds good for that, so I’ll check this out, too.

    1. I think Sarina Bowen’s novellas are really sweet as a rule. The Ivy league ones are great too.

        1. That explains why I have got it. I forgot I had subscribed mainly to get that story 😀

    2. Hey Michael Jordan also played a damn fine game of baseball. *:) I don’t love all of hers but I liked that one. Still think you should try Avon Gale for a more reliable hockey author.

          1. Opps. My bad. I forgot that was a thing. I just remember the looney toons popping up to get him after he hit a home run. Product of my age, I suspect.

      1. LOL, Tammy, I’ve got a huge tbr pile and Reid and Gale are high on top there. But I’m a slow reader, so please be patient 😀

  5. I stumbled across an older Kristan Higgins romance I’d somehow missed when it came out, Waiting on You. I’m enjoying it. I like her romances better than her women’s fiction–or at least they’re more what I’m in the mood for right now. I also need light hearted or at least light.

    So on the Kindle I’m rereading Trisha Ashley book, which has parts that are darker than usual, but I know it will all turn out okay. The House of Hopes and Dreams is one of her more recent ones, so I’ve only read it once before. It has very cool details on stained glass making, which is something Trisha herself did in her younger years.

    I’m looking for more magical realism to read, if anyone has any suggestions. I’ve read everything by Sarah Addison Allen, and some Alice Hoffman (who I don’t really love for some reason).

    1. Alice Hoffman tends to be too sad for me. I like her ya stuff better than her adult stuff.

    2. One of my favorites of Dorothy Gilman’s is Thale’s Folly. It may be a really early work. There are some inaccuracies, like someone drinking valerian tea with absolutely no reaction to the smell or taste. She obviously read about it, but never experienced it. Another of my favorites is Mary Stewart’s Thornyhold. The aunt is a soothing counterpoint to the dreary and controlled life of the MC as a girl. The magical fudge is a fun twist to the plot. I re-read both of these at least once a year. I’m not sure they qualify as magical realism, but they are great reads.

      1. Thale’s Folly is literally one of my top ten favorite books. I never really thought of it as magical realism, but I’ll have to look again. I haven’t read Thornyhold in years. I’ll have to revisit it. Thanks!

    3. Years ago Hoffman wrote 4 similar type magical realism books that I loved. Chocolat was one of them. Since then I tend to be very selective of her stuff because it is all over the map as to whether or not it will interest me and whether or not it will leave me feeling bruised.

    4. I’m not sure whether you’ve already read these or not, but A Thousand Years of Solitude, The Lonely Bodybuilder, and anything by Etgar Keret are all really excellent

    5. I have mixed feelings about Higgins. I find some of her humor crude and at the same time some of what she writes—in the same books—intensely moving.

  6. I dnfed a lot, which is fine. If feels good to clear some of my KU books off my kindle. My best read was the Orc Upstairs by CM Nascosta. A short story in a historical setting.

    And we watched Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. I’m pretty sure it was recommended here and it was delightful. It feels like magical realism to me, without actually being so. And total eye candy.

    And I am listening to the newest Innkeeper book. My hold on it came in from the library I really like the narrator. Plus I splurged on two other audiobooks that were on sale. These Old Shades and A Taste of Gold and Iron. I don’t usually buy audio that I haven’t read, but it was highly recommended and I am looking forward to it.

    1. Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris was one of my favourite books as a child. Must see the movie.

      1. There was a version years ago in which Angela Lansbury played Mrs ‘Arris. She was wonderful.

      1. Lesley Manville is on such a roll these days with Mrs. Harris, Magpie Murders, The Crown and she also narrates the first two Thursday Murder Clubs. And Mum on BritBox.
        She is marvelous.

  7. I’m having a good week. Enjoyed Like Real People Do, an m/m hockey romance recommended here, even though it meandered towards the end, and I realized it’s really half of a longer story – though it does have a HFN ending. The sequel, Like You’ve Nothing Left to Prove, was published on Tuesday. I’d read and/or tried a couple of other hockey books by then, which weren’t keepers and also made it more challenging to remember all the minor characters in the E. L. Massey books.

    Anyway, I definitely recommend them if you’re into romance. They’re a lot of fun – although expensive when it’s really one story. Surprisingly little sex: I think they’re YA.

    I’m now enjoying The Secret Life of Country Gentlemen: feared it might be farcical, but so far it’s fun and romantic.

    1. Yes YA – otherwise, you’d have a hard time convincing me that two young men over the age of 18, in a relationship, can share a bed for an extended period of time without having sex.

    2. Ok, I don’t understand this hockey book thing. This is a niche genre? As a Canadian female, the last thing I need is more hockey talk.

      1. I don’t understand it either. It is a niche genre, and I’ve less than no interest in sport, but there are some good stories – as well as a fair few duds, especially if you’re not sporty. If I ever have to watch ice hockey, I now know that at least half the players will be gay. Not that it’ll make any difference to my boredom.

        1. I wish there was a laugh emogi here.
          Not much for sports but mark my words, The Blue Jays are headed for the World Series this year ( disclaimer: no responsibility admitted for losses sustained in gambling)

        2. Jane: I now know that at least half the players will be gay.

          And secretly having sex with each other. That’s pretty much all I know about ice hockey, too.

      2. I think that it is a vibe thing. Sports romance has a definite vibe, with some variation between sports. It’s not my thing, but I understand liking one and not understanding why. Cowboy romance is also not my thing, but a very dear friend of mine loves them.

        Some more modern historicals just don’t feel right to me. Not that they are bad stories, or bad historicals, but they just don’t feel the way I expect them to…

      3. Niche but expanding. And now that I’ve read all these gay hockey books, I’m way more interested when I see a game come on. Told my dad: “All those guys are sleeping together, you know.”

    3. Meant to say: I really liked how E. L. Massey handled backstory in the first book – it’s kept minimal, but you know there’ll be more info later. Elegant.

  8. I read the first books in Thomas Doscher’s Vixen War Bride series – Gary, it was SO GOOD! When is he writing the next one?? He needs to hurry up. I think a number of people on this site would enjoy this series – LN and Lian, I am definitely looking at you. It’s sci fi where America has just defeated the aliens on another world, so it’s less focussed on the fighting aspects which are mostly over (although life in the weird military bureaucracy is definitely featured; author is ex military – army brat here so I could relate) and more on how the American ruling military now navigates a very uneasy peace. Really well written, great characters, with a long arc of romance (hence the title). And who can resist this line: “Space aliens, crazy Canadians; is it really so different?”

    Also read So This is Ever After, that was fun, thank you Chacha1, tried another of the Regency Monster Ball series called the Monstrous Duke and I – Lupe, it was okay but I wouldn’t recommend it, and read another in MCA Hogarth’s universe, Healer’s Wedding, still enjoying the characters.

        1. Hmmm, I worry about recommending any books to you right now…what if you dnf it and never return to it??

          1. I will never tell you. And this one isn’t available in audio, so it will probably live on my tbr list for a while.

          2. I have been trying to think of books about nothing to recommend to you. I came up with Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson. The latter is more YA but the former has some…problems. Anyway, lots of building stuff.

    1. I loved these too! Thanks Gary. I read on Facebook that the author has started the sixth book, which is the last of the series.

      1. I will pass all the thanks to Dave Barack of Grrl Power Webcomic for his recommendation, and mention book 6. Thank you!

          1. Oh, my, yes! Dave loves to share.

            First, he is a major fan of Tamer: King of Dinosaurs by Michael-Scott Earle. It’s a series. He is such a fanboi that he has written (and published) two fanfics of his own: Tamer Enhancer: Archduke of Dinosaurs 1 and 2. Those are free, links on the GRRLPOWER website.

            An Orc at College

            I’ve recommended this Liam Lawson series before. I love me some good xenoanthropology, and my favorite thing about this series is the “fish out of water”/”Tarzan in New York” bits where the Orc main character has to figure out all the weird cultural stuff humans (and other races) do.

            Well, Book 8 is out, Trorm’s family is coming to visit, and the xenoanthropology spills out onto the front lawn in the form of fistfights and flaming maces, much to the horror of the hand-wringing and probably slightly racist HOA. Mmm mmm! Good stuff!

            Entangled Fates

            A near future, proto-cyberpunk novel. As in, the main character is, through circumstances beyond his control, the first guy with a quantum linked AI in his brain. It’s kind of like he’s got “The Machine” from Person of Interest riding shotgun, only instead of being an enigmatic and vaguely creepy superintelligence, his machine decides it likes the human experience and adopts very anthropomorphic (feminine) qualities right off the bat. Corporations, governments, and organized crime antagonize, and eventually a bunch of ex-military female bodyguards are hired because they blend in better than burly dudes in suits and sunglasses. Yes, it’s a (slow burn) harem, obviously.

            Savage Ascension

            There’s a lot of stories like this one, i.e., displaced hero makes good and grows his household and gets his revenge, partially by living well, but mostly with head chopping. I’m recommending this one because from among the similar books I’ve read recently, I thought this one stood out. I immediately bought the second book when I finished the first, which is a pretty good gauge of a series I think. I have a lot of orphaned Book #1’s in my library. This one is like, Isekai-lite. Instead of being from another world, the MC is a “Savage” from the north, forcibly taken to the “civilized” city where he proves that being a skilled hunter is advantageous in slave arena battles. So, it’s kind of a bummer at first, but then he finds out that if he wins, he gets to pick a wife from an assembly of female combatants, and the ruling class here has a way to combat a blight of infertility sweeping the land, so the MC is like, “I guess I’ll pick up a wife or two before I get my revenge on everyone.” So, yeah. As books of this nature go, I thought it was one of the better ones.

            The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by [Jack Campbell]

            This series is a little different from most of my recommendations. It’s more akin to the early Honor Harrington books, which I quite liked, for their technical fleet battles. (I’m as surprised as anyone I enjoy that stuff.)

            The hook of this series is; Guy wakes up from 100 years in cryosleep to discover 1) The war he was fighting is still going on, 2) Everyone thinks he’s some mythical super-tactician cause he fought in a famous, desperate battle before jumping in his pod. 3) He kind of is, because now, after 100 years of constant war, so many people have died that advanced fleet tactics have been lost as the war chewed up all the old captains and admirals, and most warfare has devolved into “charge forward and hit them harder than they hit you.”

            Something I like about this series is that it recognizes that space is stupidly huge, and when a ship that is 10 light minutes away from you does something, it takes ten minutes for you to know about it. Fleet battles held at .1 lightspeed still take hours and hours when fleets start off in distances measured in AU’s.

            That’s a taste of his recommendations, and there are more at GRRLPOWER dot com. One more I will share/inflict: My favorite superhero genre author, Marion George Harmon, is responsible for Wearing The Cape: Team-Ups & Crossovers which contains Sydney’s first Crossover adventure. (Also her first appearance in prose!) Sydney is the main protagonist of the GRRLPOWER webcomic. Mr. Harmon also makes recommendations on his site and his facebook pages.

          2. Dude likes his sci fi adventure with a dollop of romance – love it. Put three or these on my list. Thanks Gary.

          3. Dave also likes to put 4th-wall breaking comments in the bottom margins of the webcomic. This week’s comic re-introduced Chimyriad, a shape-shifter. Chimy always does creepy faces as part of her schtick. The margin comment said, “There’s a lot of things I would do as a shapeshifter. They… mostly involve boobs.”

    2. Thanks Tammy, I have a lot of faith in your recommendations (no pressure!), plus it’s only AUS0.99 on Kobo, so have splashed out in a big way and bought it.

      1. I’m strictly in the buyer beware camp so I will take no blame assign no blame. But I hope you like it and will look forward to your review.

  9. Connie Willis is sooo good! And she’s got a new one coming out at the end of June!!

    This week I enjoyed Lian Tanner’s “Museum of Thieves,” and will read Icebreaker, next. 🙂

    But you guys (sad wail), I don’t think I had previously noticed the ‘break up right before the end’ trope in many romances. I was happily reading “Marlowe Banks, Redesigned,” when 28 pages from the end the MCs broke up over an issue that had previously been hashed out; and then, ofc, got back together….

      1. You end up expecting so much that when it doesn’t happen you are bracing yourself till the end in case it crops up in extremis.

        Same thing when one MC keeps a secret from the other MC that could potentially wreck their relationship. When they actually tell it to them themselves, I am so so relieved!

        I like characters who use their words 😀

  10. This week I finished reading Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand. I picked it up for the nine hour flight to Hawaii with my daughter and I needed a beach read; my daughter is moving to paradise for work. Lucky her!

    This is the first time I have read anything from this author and I liked it so much that when I put the book down I couldn’t wait to pick it back up again. I usually lose interest when there are a lot of characters introduced in the story, but I became invested in them; some more than others. The author did a good job of weaving each character into the complete story that they all played an integral part from the first page to the last.

    Vivian Howe is a bestselling author of 13 beach novels all set in Nantucket where she resides and is unexpectedly killed while jogging in a hit-and-run accident. She leaves behind three children who are all struggling with their own problems as well as dealing with their mother’s sudden death. Vivian watches over them and has to choose how she will use her “nudges” to influence their lives for the better before she must go over to the beyond.

    Although the element of the story is heartbreaking and full of family drama, the author takes us on a journey through beautiful Nantucket giving the whole novel not only a feeling of melancholy but joy as well.

  11. Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit and Glamour of an Icon by Kate Anderson Brower. You just love her in this book and wish you could have met her.

    Man, I did not like Crosstalk. It was a DNF for me. The family was super much, the guy was super much, everyone just got on my nerves :/ I guess I am a lone weirdo who does not love Connie Willis.

    1. I loved ‘To Say Nothing of the Dog.’ Then I read ‘Blackout’ and found it a slog, but read ‘All Clear’ because I was promised an actual conclusion, and found it to be the same damn story over & over again, and was strongly irritated. Since then I’ve read one novella that made me sad, and that was enough to call it on Connie Willis. Good writer, just not for me.

      1. I had exactly the same experience with those three books, although I’d read Domesday Book first. Connie Willis is definitely hit & miss for me, but I love her shorter novel ‘Bellwether’ which I found humourous and thougt-provoking.

      2. Chachal, Blackout and All Clear were, imo, one really good novel that went on far too long and should have been edited down in a big way. There was so much repetition. Having said that, it drove me crazy the first time I read it, but I enjoyed it the second time round – probably because I knew much more about what was going on and it didn’t frustrate me so much. And the final payoff was so brilliant, because you felt as if you’d lived through the whole bloody war with these people.

        But Willis does tend to go in for a lot of repetitive actions that don’t actually move the story forward. She does it in Domesday Book, but that’s such a hard hitting and emotional book that you don’t notice it so much.

    2. I had a hard time with Crosstalk too, but some of her books I just love. Doomsday Book and all the time travel ones. Passage chilled me, possibly because I was eight months pregnant when I read it. Bellwether is still a favorite of her shorts. So funny if you’ve spent any time in academic life. I do think she is better given a page limit.

      Btw, there is some excellent fanfic of Doomsday Book/Blackout/All Clear about Colin and what he and Mr. Dunworthy were doing behind the scenes. Let me know if I can post a link, and I’ll put it up.

  12. I’ve read two short novels and one novella and one of my own and re-read a book that had a sequel coming out (all M/M). I am worried about the sequel because it’s an author I reliably like a lot but writing with a collaborator and honestly I’d hoped the collaborator might rein in a few mannerisms and … not. It’s not holding my attention. Too much rumination, and on re-read I really noticed that in the first in series as well.

    I am spoiled by KJ Charles, in whose books every bit of internal monologue advances either the character development or the plot. She is my model when I go back to the self-published work: what is in here that serves no purpose to *this* story and *these* characters. (Thus the nearly 4K words trimmed from the most recent re-launch.) Or: what *isn’t* in here that needs to be. (Sometimes I err on the side of concision.)

    Also, Dodo – the new KJC opens with a sexual encounter but then there isn’t another one for quite a while. 🙂

    Most likely to return to, this week: ‘The Bachelor’s Valet’ by Arden Powell, which is a Jeeves & Wooster pastiche set in a mildly magical England. Very silly, quite funny & sweet.

    1. Good to know, chachal!
      Not a bad thing to start that way, I just wasn’t in the mood. Also A Thief in the night started similarly with a BJ…the family shares an audible account and since the cover is relatively tame, my daughter thought it a good idea to listen to Thief. She’s 14… apparently she wasn’t too keen on it LOL. The sun knows to stear clear of Mum’s titles…

      1. Whereas I share a Kindle account with my mother and she knows to steer clear of my titles.

  13. I borrowed two Georgette Heyer books from the library. The Corinthian, which I really enjoyed despite the age gap between the two main characters. It read like a romcom. I liked the way Georgette Heyer developed the romance in this book. The other book was Venetia, which I didn’t enjoy because there were too many story lines in the book and I felt that I was being told the main characters were falling in love rather than shown. Currently reading Magpie by Elizabeth Day that has a plot twist I didn’t see coming. I’m enjoying it so far.

    1. Huh . As a young adult I loved Venetia. Now I am afraid I keep wondering what sexual diseases her rake will give her…

  14. I read and enjoyed “The very secret society of irregular witches” (S. Mandanna) and quite enjoyed it — a sweet YA about an isolated young witch meeting a wonderful new family against some rules and waking up to both family and (m/f) love. (Thanks to Deb Blake)

    And I then I breezed right through “A taste of gold and iron” (A. Rowland) and really enjoyed that. (Thanks to ?I don’t recall who) It’s an m/m romance between a young VIP son (+brother of a VIP) and an elite bodyguard, and very rewarding after initial difficulty learning the details of that world’s titles, rules, problems etc.

    And then I was out of library books except for “The body: a guide for occupants” (B. Bryson) which I dipped into here and there and somewhere else. I’ve read Bill Bryson’s Appalachian Trails book, his British towns book and a few others and liked his author voice very much, and same with this, but I read at night, so not easy to follow a narrative with this one. But I recommend picking it up because it clarifies many things I hadn’t realized about the body, like the 40+ feet length of our intestines or the pencil-size diameter of the optic nerve. May pick it up & browse it again.

    Then I got into my very last stack of Mary Balogh books and read “The Secret Mistress” — a title that bugged me somewhat so I put off trying it. A nice read, with all the sex scene material right near the end, so…skippable.

    But after reading these, it made me wonder about the question: Why do all the females in this group of readers so enjoy (and often write) the m/m romance fiction so much? As much as or moreso than reading classic m/f romances? (And of course, me among you). I was wondering if it had to do with being able to forget the inevitable differences in agency between men and women, both in gender roles/morphology etc. and in terms of worldly success & position. Two men are just who the world basically revolves around, as well as equal in knowledge of the other’s anatomy. Could that be all?

    1. I wonder if you could be right. Could I tentatively suggest that our ages as female readers may play into this? The classic m/f romances become less relevant and less interesting to us as we ‘mature’. For instance, I doubt I could read the fluffy harlequins I consumed as a young adult (with one notable exception that I do re-read), but I used to adore the masterful male, and Mr. Rochester was totally in my line. Lord Peter Wimsey was much more interesting as a person but I suspect I secretly wished he was a bit more buff and thought he might have tried sweeping Harriet into his arms and covering her face with burning kisses.
      Freshly post-menopausal, my hormones just roll their eyes at all that male domination. Sex becomes less associated with pleasure and more with recurrent UTIs.
      I can’t say I find m/m books interesting. I did enjoy an f/tentacled alien I saw mentioned here though!

      1. Tentacles are always fun. Plus Alien romance usually has a language barrier, which I love. It usually means both characters have to work really hard to communicate and there is a lot of empathy. All the emotional warm and fuzzies.

        1. But there’s always that challenge: Which damn orifice? Which tentacles? It’s all decisions.

          1. I sigh at the two of you. Jinx, have you tried the Nepenthe series yet? The most intelligently written tentacle smut you can imagine. All orifices welcome.

          2. I second Tammy. With tentacles it’s pretty much all or nothing for me. That is the point of tentacles. There is a famous Japanese print about a farmer’s wife and an octopus…. Quite old. Don’t look it up in public or at work…

          3. Would you believe my husband bought that Japanese print for me? Well, in a book of Japanese erotica. His idea of a birthday gift.

          4. My husband introduced me to it as well. He finds my liking for monster erotica amusing. Obviously he hasn’t read any yet. Poor guy.

          5. Oh man….

            Don’t Miss!! Today Only!!! The Tammy ‘n’ Lupe Show Talks Titillating Alien Tentacle Lit!!!!

            I have to say I’ve never encountered any of this other than the brief scene in Galaxy Quest. I have a low tolerance level for erotica, I guess. A little bit at a YA level is perfect for me. Not that I wouldn’t joke about it, though….

          6. Oooohhh I’ve always wanted to do a podcast and now finally you’ve identified the right topic! And yes, if you don’t do erotica definitely don’t try the Nepenthe books.

      2. Such an interesting point re age influences, Lisa. My hubby and I talk about this, too, especially with movies. Not just re gravitating to more mature characters, but also because of experience in that we’ve seen so much and much of the younger romcom character storylines we’ve seen played out many times.

        For me, stories are more about the relationships than the romances, so books or movies that lean heavily on typical romantic equations can feel lacking. Whereas stories with older characters in romantic situations feel like they often, not always, but often broaden the scope of what makes a potential romantic partner appealing and therefore how the couple comes together. The piece about looking for a “partner” is key for those stories. Of course, that happens sometimes with younger character romcoms, too, but is especially prevalent with mature characters who are looking for different things in a mate because of their life experience, so the storylines reflect that and can feel like they have nice depth.

        Just the other day, I was saying to hubby that it would be great to have a sequel to the movie It’s Complicated that would follow Meryl Streep and Steve Martin’s characters in their new relationship and have them get married/move in together and play out “newlywed” issues of more mature folks. Think there’s a lot of humour there because the best humour comes out of truth and reality and the truth and reality of a mature newbie couple has so much to play with:)

        1. Yes! And mature relationships, let’s face it, necessarily involve some humorous situations. If Jane and Rochester had been a couple of decades older each, the dramatic parting scene would have differed. “But Jane will give her love-yes, nobly, generously!” Up the blood rushed to his face … “Sir! Your hypertension- have you been forgetting your Vasotec? Tut, what will you do without me?”

          1. Lol. There was a scene a bit like that in a Hot in Cleveland episode between Victoria and the aging rock star that contrasted their youthful encounter with their current conditions with bad backs, etc. Was fun.

      3. Totally agree with you Lisa but I am intrigued and I bet I am not only one. Which Harlequin do you still reread?

        I have very fond memories of reading the Harlequins my older sister used to hide under her bed when we were teens. I’d just sit on the floor against her bed and read six in a row.

        They were very very slim because every detail a French reader wouldn’t understand was cut out from the translation!

        1. There actually was another harlequin I used to reread but I cannot remember the name-the hero was a cartoonist who injured his hand and had to hire an assistant to draw for him, didn’t realize she was a she until she arrived to stay at his ranch for months. He was a moody grumpy art genius hero and bullied her into her own artistic self-actualization.

          1. That sounds like a Nora Roberts book in the MacGregors series. Don’t know the name off the top of my head.

      4. If you’re referring to Strange Love by Ann Aguirre I totally agree with you. It was both very funny at times as well as sexier than I would have believed in the context.
        Regarding the m/m stories, I agree with your assessment except that I think the different dynamics are a refreshing change. By age 65, I have become cynical about men in the m/f romance. I think they are so often idealized or just outright villains.
        Also I want to thank everyone here for all the recommendations since I started following this page. I don’t comment very much but often want to. I’ve been more of a lurker.

        1. It’s really fun once you start to make friends. I used to tune in just for the recommendations, then started paying attention to who had similar tastes, and now I like visiting other people’s milestones. You all are my only online friends and it was a great comfort during lockdown and political craziness. I often feel like an alien in my small, conservative community.

          1. It’s such a nice community, isn’t it Lupe. Very kind and definitely comforting. And I love the way we start to know each other’s tastes.

          2. Knowing each other’s tastes makes the book reqs much more reliable and the community has made a lot of things much more bearable.

          1. I find myself wondering if our love of m/m romances is similar to prepubescent girls adoring horses. You get all the power and the sensuality without the mess of m/f relationships.

          2. I’ve just finished Book 4 of Heaven Official’s Blessings so interesting to read about its popularity in China. Although there’s an awful lot of reading between the lines to call it erotic. I guess I should check AO3

            It is amazing to me that authors are risking jail to publish these stories. Very courageous.

          3. This was an interesting article. Some women are authors, the readers are primarily women/girls, these visual portrayals feminize the dress and features of the male characters — there have to be basic genetic features of our biogenic attributes that predispose the two genders in many ways to certain behavioral attributes and to patterns of attraction that carry on the species, but we have gone so far from the basics of human biology and the simplest social patterns that it’s just very hard to understand it all.

            To me the basic plus of a M/M romance is that it allows escape from the restrictions that contemporary gender roles place on us all. And the change from a Now|Here|Us setting helps also — don’t try to imagine these two normal modern guys in our world, driving normal cars, in normal jobs, finding each other attractive — put it into different centuries, unusual social settings or power groups, different planets, different – I don’t know, maybe a hockey team?

            But when a woman writes these stories, she is pushing her own mind into the imagined mind of somebody who’s unbound by the rules that she is stuck in, including the whole frustrating vulnerability of femininity, and that interests me very much. I’d love to know what interests an author in creating this mind jump and sustaining it through a whole book.

            Anybody? What changes you as you think yourself into the other gender’s framework?

        2. Tentacle virgin here, but I’ma try Strange Love by Ann Aguirre; I’ve enjoyed several of her other titles.

    2. Honestly, I think that I prefer m/m at this point because of the tropes that have become so ingrained in contemporary romance. M/m is so new as a mainstream genre that the tropes aren’t as set in stone? Or I have fewer expectations as a reader?

      Also, I think that it is part of why I like sci-fi and monster romance. In all of those, m/m included, outside forces create enough drama in the relationship that we don’t need will they or won’t they, dramatic break ups or Big Misunderstandings. There are exceptions to every rule and I still like selected m/f stories, but m/m tends to be gentler, with more found family, and supporting each other.

      1. Also, I can enjoy more weird/improbable/problematic situations in m/m than I can in m/f. I think that it has to do with the cultural baggage I bring to it. I tried f/f, but I still put myself into one or the other heroines shoes. It’s just not as escapist.

      2. Yeah, I’m enjoying m/m romances because I’ve gone off the tropes of m/f ones. I hate late-in-book breakups and forceful alpha males. And especially the sexual tropes. Every sex scene started to sound unrealistic in the same way and I’d think ugh and skip them.

    3. I downloaded ten Mills and Boon books from the library several weeks ago and couldn’t get past the first chapter of any of them. It made me sad. I used to love reading these books and hated the way this genre was treated by the media. But I don’t want to read a book where a character is plotting to start a romance in order to seek revenge on another character – not when it’s a romance. Another book started with a daughter taking over her mom’s cleaning job, because the mother had broken her leg. When the protagonist arrives to rent the cottage and the daughter opens the door to him, he starts shouting at her. I know he would have apologised to her and blamed being tired for his behaviour, but no thank you. I don’t care if the romance is m/f or m/m as long as the characters aren’t being abusive or having so many misunderstandings you don’t believe their romance could last.

      1. I think the appeal of m/m partly is that there are real barriers people are overcoming. So it can avoid a lot of the contrived plot tropes we find annoying like breaking up before the end or keeping a secret .

        1. Do you think that we will find the m/m tropes exhausting once they’ve been around longer?

          1. Maybe? But in the meantime I am enjoying the relief from the pursuit trope and the alpha male trope in m/f romance.

          2. I don’t get tired of the tropes that I like, really. So I expect that as long as there are authors who write about found family, emotionally supportive partners and good communication, I will continue to read and enjoy m/m. And m/f with same.

            The problem is that the dramatic tropes have become almost cannon in contemporary m/f romance. And it is the ones that I don’t like, but people seem to think that they are necessary…

    4. I rarely enjoy same sex romances. Only when the ‘same sex’ aspect is the least important factor of the story. If a story is absorbing on its own, and if its participants could be any sexual orientation at all without affecting the plot, only then I like those stories. Winter’s Orbit is one example of such a story. Its protagonists could be m/m or m/f or f/f, and it wouldn’t change the story one bit. I love that.

    5. I read both because love is love, but I do tend to m/m when I need a break from gendered power dynamics which can be quite stressful and far too much a reminder of real life. I’ve read f/f as well but it still seems to have gendered dynamics somehow.

      1. This reminds me of a roommate saying sadly “I thought dating women would be easier than dating men.”

    6. Speaking only for myself, I started reading M/M around 2015 after having read F/M since, say, 1978. I still do read F/M but a lot of tropes turn me all the way off really fast. Of course that applies in M/M too – there are entire subgenres that I have no interest in reading, like omegaverse (mpreg).

      My own first M/M novella was a natural branch off of the story tree I was constructing. I’m writing mostly of modern-day Los Angeles, which is chock full of non-white, non-straight, non-Christian people. My characters are ethnically and in other ways diverse; diversity of gender was something I didn’t want to ignore. My first novella in the loosely-connected series was an F/F bi-awakening story. It was inspired by my own extreme fatigue with being the F who did all the heavy lifting IRL in an F/M pairing.

      Over time I’ve focused more on queer stories because a) there’s already 250 years’ worth of straight stories and b) in a contemporary real-world setting, the obstacles for a M/M romance are more compelling (again, for me personally). There are real-world barriers and risks for queer romances that simply don’t exist for straight relationships.

  15. I started Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus, in the wee hours of insomniacville and am finding it sad.
    I’m enjoying it but warily as I don’t quite trust an author who piles so much misfortune and tragedy on her characters. If she had killed off the dog, I would have thrown the book against the wall! (digitally)
    I am assuming redemption comes at some point…

    1. Don’t give up. The book is very dark at the start but it doesn’t stay that way. Spoiler: the dog doesn’t die. Keep reading until you meet Elizebeth’s daughter Maddy and their neighbour Harriet. Maddy, Harrier and Six-Thirty was why this was my favourite book last year. And I reread it last week as a comfort read.

        1. I also found the author piled a lot of Misfortune and Bad People upon the heroine, usually Bad Men, and only relented near the end. A little too close to the end for my liking. Too much plot, not enough character. The dog doesn’t die though, that’s accurate.

    2. I couldn’t continue reading for the same reasons, but I hope to try again when in a better frame of mind.

      1. It sounds like you guys didn’t try working in offices/labs during the 1960’s. It came across as perfectly realistic to me. It’s why I was mentally shouting to the author during those sections ‘Damn. You are SO right!’

        I remember the boss I had during the moon landing summer who had been assigned a former nun and a former JFK-era White House secretary. Both in their late fifties or early sixties. One carried white gloves to the office every day, the other still wore white bobby sox with her loafers. I found out why the man had been given subordinates with this kind of interpersonal armor when I visited the office later to ask the man for a letter of recommendation, and he started trying to feel me up as he sat on the arm of my Visitor Chair to ‘write one.’

          1. A few months after that scene, he wrote me a note that was sent with the pathetic excuse for a recommendation letter, asking if I wanted to go out to dinner sometime — his “treat”.

            I wrote back saying that I would rather not after the treatment in his office. I told him I hadn’t screamed and stomped on his toe at the time because I felt sorry for someone who was old enough to be my grandfather. I never heard from him again. 🙂

        1. That sort of thing is why Lessons in Chemistry is so hard to read for many of us. I found it to be triggering, and I was sucked into my own past struggles with evil men in power.

          1. I know, but don’t you find it heartening that someone is getting it right — I mean describing things as they actually were to some degree? (Although no one I knew EVER got offered a TV show by walking in to the production office to make a complaint.) I had to scoot past the first bad scene, but then I skimmed a few later bits, saw that things were going to get better, and went back to the end of the bad scene and kept reading from there. And adored the whole book, reading it twice, back to back.

            At the moment, there are 680 people in the Wait List for the 90 or so copies in my library system.

        2. I am still proud of the work a colleague and I did when our supervisor was pulling this stunt on a very sweet intern. We made a list and went in to complain to his boss and made his boss listen to the whole list. I don’t know what the boss said to the supervisor but the supervisor stopped pulling these stunts on the intern and started explaining to us why his actions were perfectly innocent.
          It undoubtedly helped that we had a union.

    3. I just listened to the episode of the Lit Society podcast about this one, and decided it probably had too much misfortune for me.

  16. Second attempt to post.

    I am still re-reading Variation on a Theme Book 3, and Book 4 as it is serialized. I’ll finish Book 3 in a few hours and then start at the beginning of book 4. I re-read No One is Alone because a) I liked it a lot and 2) it dovetails nicely with VoaT serial. Stories about musicals, doncha know.

    Book 5 of the War Vixen Bride series… Vixen War Bride? That series. Anyway, it’s open on my little Kindle, but the little Kindle is on the charger. I’ll get back to it, soon.

    I looked up the titles for Murderbot – there are eight – and somehow got sucked back in, so that’s my other re-read.

    Then I read what was said about Connie Willis’s Crosstalk and went to Amazon. Yes, I bought the $1.99 Kindle ebook, but I also had a couple of credits at Audible, so… there ya go. I’ve listened to a chapter, so far.

    That doesn’t even mention all the movies and TV shows on Netflix. Well, I’ll mention binge watching season 1 of Wednesday and watching way too many people have fun with the dance challenge on YouTube. And interviews of Jenny Ortega.

  17. I’m gonna try the Connie Willis book cause P.G. Wodehouse. I’m a little worried though, because chaotic stuff annoys me. I know the throw everything at the characters stuff but sometimes it’s too much.

    Fans of Kristin Hannah – Susan Elizabeth Phillips interviewed her at a bookstore in San Diego last night & 500 people attended. I think that is amazing. I will post an instagram link from SEP in replies.

    I reread Faking It by Ms Crusie for purely enjoyment reasons this week.

    Working on the backstory for the ghost that runs thorough all three novels in the trilogy I am writing. For guidance / inspiration I reread lots of scenes from Nora Roberts trilogy: Blue Dahlia, Black Rose and Red Lily. AND scenes from Sarah Wyndes Tasamara series which starts with A Gift of Ghosts. AND my signed copy of Jennifer Crusies novel Maybe This Time.

    To my tbr pile I added the short story collection – If Not For You & Other Stories by Niles Reddick. I won the book when listened to the latest zoom event. If you are a writer it appears to be a good venue for reading a flash fiction piece to a new, receptive audience. My fellow Pinellas Writers member, Susan Rogers read a short piece on the last one. There were 21 people in attendance on the Zoom part and I don’t know how many in the actual meeting in San Jose. 6 people read and it was wonderful. The next one is in May.

    1. Wodehouse got my attention too!
      I wrote a fan-fic story about Jeeves and Bertie in pandemic lockdown. Also a Lord E piece. I think they are GOOD. ( I am biased) ( and so Canadian it is taking a real effort to leave ‘good’ in caps)

      Faking it is a favourite reread for me too. I paint in watercolour so I really enjoy Tilda’s art, and of course… Dempseys.

      1. I listen to Faking it when my art has stalled out. I need to keep reminding myself to shed expectations and just paint what makes me happy.

        1. Um, link.hmm, I think I posted one to a fanfic site once but if you have facebook still, the easiest thing would be to look up a page I started and posted to for a couple of years. It is called The Write Word (I know, I know). The profile pic associated with it is a line drawing of a girl reading on the floor.

          1. I just re-read my Jeeves piece and I still like it, although it may need some judicious pruning in the adjectival department.

    2. Just this morning as I was rushing out the door for work I grabbed my copy of Faking It by Jennifer Crusie! I needed and wanted something fun and enjoyable to read this week as well and figured that was the perfect choice!

      P.S. I read during my lunch breaks and sometimes sneak in a few pages here and there throughout the day to keep me sane. 🙂

    3. I would say that Blackout, All Clear, and To Say Nothing of the Dog, are not among Connie Willis’ best for me. They have some pretty repetitive themes and ideas. If any of you are willing to try again, Bellwether is a good one to try, and so is the Doomsday Book.

  18. My read this week was Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon; youngest and I read it together and agreed we need our own Castle Hangnail to live in. I’m going to check out Must Love Hockey and Rosalind James because I’ve been striking out on romances lately.

    1. If you still enjoy Regencies, I can recommend Loretta Chase. Oh yeah, I got that recommendation here! Whoops.

      Also DGRampton’s Aurora, Artemisia, and Aphrodite ( three books)— I would say the closest to Georgette Heyer I have found. I would like people’s opinion on that premise.

      1. I just looked up those books on my library search bar as well on the state’s interliabrary loan system, and no title by her is available. 🙁 She sounds great, though, and her bio on Amazon is amazing — trained in engineering; writes Regency romances, loves physics, cooking, & crazy home renovation schemes.

  19. I read an urban fantasy that I saw a Big Idea post on John Scalzi’s blog and it sounded interesting, Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai. I did my usual download a sample and try it out and enjoy it and then buy the rest of the book. It starts out he’s a paranormal agent and she’s a shopkeeper who sells magic glyphs and potions, and they’re both hiding how good they actually are at it for reasons that become important later. It’s obvious from the start she has a huge crush on him but is trying to keep things profession, and then it turns out to be a romance novel, and a pretty good one.

    1. Oh, this sounds promising! I’m glad I have my Kobo tab up while I scroll through the recs. Thank you!

  20. I’m reading Graceling. I almost put it down, but forged on and am to the part where Po and Katsa are traveling. It is very similar to some of Penric, which put me off a bit. I haven’t gone very far into the third Penric trilogy because it just began to feel like the same old thing.

    I watched The Butcher’s Wife this week, and although I’ve seen it many times, it just really clicked for me this time. The closeups of the actor’s faces when they are expressing emotions are so “true”. Everyone begins the movie with the wrong person, or wishing for the wrong person, and it ends with all the people who are right for each other together. It’s so satisfying. Excellent acting, and fun scenes of New York. I am sad when the twin towers show up in the background, every time.

  21. I read Janice Hallett’s The Appeal, a murder mystery done entirely in messages /emails between the suspects, and letters to two young lawyers who are reviewing the evidence for an appeal. It worked pretty well, though there was a point about a third of the way in where I really wanted a shift away from all the messages, and it didn’t happen. But I persevered and got back into it. The characters were well delineated in their style of writing, and the story was interesting.

    The main thing for me was, although it was intellectually intriguing, there was no real emotional impact, no real connection with any of the characters. So it was kind of fun to read, but not a book I’d rave about.

  22. Madeline Hunter’s Tall, Dark and Wicked was a decent regency romance. A bit too much sex for my taste, but I skipped those scenes. Otherwise, the plot was sufficiently engaging and the tension just high enough to keep me reading to the end.
    Also re-read Legends & Lattes. That one was really good. His next book set in the same world is coming out in the autumn, and I can’t wait.

    1. Olga, I agree about Legends & Lattes; I have read it a couple of times now and am also waiting for the new book to come out.

  23. A Tempest at Sea! Lady Sherlock! by Sherry Thomas!

    Yes, I’m happy to be reading the latest installment in the series.

    Haven’t finished it yet (and no spoilers here), but 1) there’s a scene that I love, love, love, when Charlotte puts someone in their place; and 2) perhaps because that scene is so good, I’m slightly disappointed — story is still good so far, not saying it’s bad — by a long stretch of scenes where Charlotte and Mrs. Watson and Livia have very little screen time.

    In other good-book-related stuff, I saw a promo for a book coming out this fall, which is being advertised as “Aladdin meets Murderbot” (by Martha Wells’s publisher, and it looks like she’s okay with the comparison, and Ben Aaronovitch was on Twitter begging for an ARC), all of which is very appealing, but then I read the blurb, and it sounds YA, which is just not my cuppa generally. But if anyone’s curious and likes YA, check it out:

    1. The Jinn-bot of Shantiport sounds interesting! I’ve added it to my (ever-increasing) list.
      It doesn’t read as YA to me though, and neither Samit Basu nor Tordotcom are known for writing/publishing YA. What makes you think its YA?

      1. The two main characters came across as young to me, along with the sibling element. It just felt very coming-of-age against a quest backdrop. Or a quest against a coming-of-age element. But that could just be me.

    2. I always find those types of comparisons off-putting. I understand why they do them, but I almost always disagree. For me, feel of a story is much more important than the trappings of setting, etc.

      For example, SEP is often compared to Jenny’s work and I find them worlds apart in writing style.

      1. I usually find them offputting too, but this one appealed to me, and as best I can tell from the blurb, it actually makes sense here — SF with an AI plus an Aladdin element (genie). Can’t vouch for writing style, just that the plot elements are thee.

  24. I read Telzey Amberdon byJames Schmitz, which took me back to my youth when I read it first. The first story is fun; after that it’s a little cold. I found Telzey hard to believe in (her competence and independence at 15) and didn’t find myself caring about her much.
    I’ve also been reading the Miss Seeton books. And I reread These Old Shades.
    I’m still trying to find the right financial advice books for my kids.
    And I took three Emma Lathens, the old hard copies, out of the library.
    I also need to get back to reading through my old New Yorkers…

      1. Thanks! They are 32, 31 and 25 so I don’t think this is right for them but I will check it out and appreciate all suggestions

  25. I have several books going; I will pick one up for whatever reading mood I am in. So far I am reading (rereading, actually) The House in the Cerulean Sea by T J Klune, The Nabob’s Widow by Elsie Lee, Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells, The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone by Audrey Bruges, and Angel Seeker by Sharon Shinn.

    For anyone who is looking for undemanding stories that are also enjoyable, I suggest The Night of the Comet by Dariel Telfer, and Greenwillow by B J Shute. The first one is set during the time leading up to the arrival of Haley’s Comet and the second one is set in a fictional town kind of outside of our time but is our world, with 19th century like settings, no modern technology.

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