This is a Good Book Thursday, December 14, 2023

This week I read (and wrote) Very Nice Funerals, and read Arresting Anna to see what Bob had done with it (a lot) and Surprise Lily because I mentioned I’d started a book with Vikings and he’s evidently all about Vikings. Imagine if I’d said, “I have this book started about zombies . . .”

What did you read this week?

167 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, December 14, 2023

  1. A DIOGENES CLUB FOR THE CZAR by Huff and Goodlett. More “Ring of Fire” series.

    VARIATION ON A THEME, BOOK 5 by Grey Wolf. As I’ve said, this serially published story will be in every one of my GBT posts for the next year. Up to Chapter 8, today.

    WEARING THE CAPE: REPERCUSSIONS by Marion G. Harmon. “Book 7.” No spoilers.

    I finished THE DARK ONES. Excellent end to an excellent series.

    I finished Michael Dalton’s SHIFTER GIRLS: URBAN FANTASY HAREM trilogy. The uber-story concludes in another series. I’ll pass. As much as I enjoy shifters, the harem element required way more, and more explicit sex than was necessary to advance the plot. I skimmed a lot.

    I’m finished binging on Star Trek: Lower Decks, all four seasons, and Daria (Paramount Network).

    I’m still rewatching THE ORVILLE, season 1 (Hulu) with commercials. I never knew there were so many medicines NOT recommended for people with alergies or diabetes or heart conditions or eyesight. “This drug will cure what ails you but caution: will probably kill you, too.”

      1. He’s right. American pharma commercials brazenly and blatantly tell you, “Ask your doctor if Ojusphuquitol is right for you!”

        And the disclaimer(s) are read in a softer and much, much faster voice than the rest of the commercial.

  2. I can’t recall if it was already recommended here, but The Blonde Identity by Ally Carter, is very enjoyable.

    1. Lots of resources on which federal programs use American Community Survey data to allocate their funds.
      Whee! Now I get to write (for an unrelated purpose) comments on whether they should change certain questions.

      It will not surprise you to learn that between that and mom all I can bear to read is Trisha Ashley . Oh and once again I am trying to reduce the size of the New Yorker pile.

  3. I echo Gary’s comment above – I also finished The Dark Ones, the excellent end to the excellent Vixen War Bride series.

    And I read my first Christmas themed novella of the year – RJ Scott & VL Locey’s Family First, which continues the Railers series – because I like a little hockey with my Christmas. And I wanted to catch up with some characters that I’ve followed along for a long time now. Their books are not exactly sweet but definitely not angsty and always with a ridiculously happy ending.

  4. I listened to the new Murderbot to pick up all the things I missed the first time around. And now I am doing my annual listen of A Christmas Carol. Dickens unshakable belief that Christmas and mankind’s innate goodness is uplifting, even if I am not sure that I agree.

    And Cm Nascosta dropped A Holly Jolly Mess on Tuesday, so I started that. Billed as Love Actually meets Cambric Creek. It’s a romp of short stories visiting a bunch of characters from previous writings, so not a place to start reading her if you aren’t familiar. But it’s short, smutty, fluffy fun. And sometimes I need that.

      1. Fluffy flully gingerbread and peppermint flavored smut.

        Also, Dickens warning about doom being written on Ignorance’s brow is hitting very hard this year. He knew two hundred years ago and we didn’t listen.

        1. Hmmm, is this a good thing for you to be listening to right now? Maybe go back to hunting for the perfect silver slipper.

  5. I mentioned last week I was exploring Sarina Bowen’s MM back catalogue and this week got to Roommate, which is part of her multi author Vino & Veritas series.
    Roommate, was good, nice characters, low key and I liked the setting which brought me to more in the multi author V&V series. It seems fun way to check out authors I haven’t read and see who I will read more of. I enjoy the rural Vermont setting too.

    No 1 Featherbed, was nice enough, nothing too original but good background setting. My favourites in the series so far are Headstrong (Eden Finley -college hockey adjacent, farms, post trauma etc) and Heartscape (Garrett Leigh-outdoors, winebar, post trauma).
    For my birthday I read Time to Shine (Rachel Reid, MM hockey and a favourite here). It was sweet, and fun and I enjoyed it, but its not my fav of hers (Tough Guy, Role Model and Heated Rivalry probably in that order)
    I’ve started Aftermath (LA Witt) in the V&V series, which I really like so far, more post trauma!

    Clearly, I am drawn to the angsty stuff, though I love Crusie style funny too, that seems harder to find…

    In litfic, I read Claire Keegan’s novella ‘Small Things like these’ which has a 1980s Ireland Christmas setting. I can relate to the 1980s Ireland (my teenage years) and her writing is great, it conveys the cold, grey, damp grind of the time (still cold, grey and damp, less miserable though!), but the novella form meant it finished just where I thought the real questions would start. Still, if looking for a short Christmas read that is not particularly jolly, I’d recommend it!

    Finally, on audio I finished Ali Hazelwood Check & Mate which was very enjoyable and brilliantly read. Then I tried a few things (90 mins of driving to My Year of Rest and Relaxation -Ottessa Moshfegh- was enough for me), and while Douglas Adams Restaurant at the End of the Universe is always fun, I wasn’t in the right mood. So I went to a certainty with False Value (Ben Aaronavitch, Rivers of London) which coincidentally had a lot of Hitchhikers Guide references. Enjoying it a lot so far. I’d been saving it, as I am nearly caught up on the latest (one to go).

    1. I just put Check and Mate in my shopping list on Amazon and I noticed it’s the number one bestseller for Boardgames. Romance rules everywhere 😀

  6. I read a GBT-recommended book set in post-WWII London about two young women who start a marriage bureau together. They are horrified to learn that one of their clients was murdered, and the man they matched her with has been jailed as her killer. Apparently this is the first in a series of mystery novels about these two and their business — has anyone here read any more of them? This book was enjoyable and I’d be curious to read more.

    1. p.s. Title is “The Right Sort of Man” and author is Allison Montclair. It’s early this morning….

      1. I read that book a while ago and remembered liking it but somehow I wandered away and didn’t read any of the sequels. I’d also like to hear if anyone else has read the rest and what they thought.

      2. I read this last year as one of the local library’s mystery book club selections. I really enjoyed it, as did most of the club members, and hope to get around to reading the additional books, as I try to conquer Mount TBR over the holidays …

      3. I read that book too. Must read it again, the story is coming back to me as I type. It was good.

    2. I’ve read all of them (the latest, The Lady from Burma, I finished this week) and liked them all, but they can be too much angst for me. I couldn’t possibly re-read them all in a row.

  7. Huge Lower Decks and Orville fan (Seth is an amazing story teller)!

    Lower Decks had a post I have pinned to my writing station now-
    Star Trek Lower Decks misadventure in four parts:
    1. Nothing can go wrong.
    2. Oh no it all went wrong.
    3. Terribly, terribly wrong.
    4. That was awesome.

    I’ve been binging Britain’s Portrait Artist of the Year lately, think I have to start working on more self portraits- I just enjoy seeing other’s faces more than my own…maybe that’s an even bigger reason I need to do it. I’m starting to see a 50 day-50 faces of Penny challenge coming up- but probably not until after Christmas!

    1. Self-portrait is a Real Challenge in the “drawing what’s really there instead of what you think you see” category.

  8. Following the gem of a novella “Hearts upon the Hill” by Ari Baran last week, I had a glorious reading week.
    I loved “Breakaway” by Avon Gale (book 1 in the Scoring Chances series) because on of the MCs has a very quirky way to express himself: Lane, the quirky one is a very talented rookie and Jared is the distinclty older enforcer of Lane’s rival team. Those two are surprisingly sweet together and both grow into better versions of themselves on and off the ice thanks to being together (I’m a sucker for personal growth :-)).

    The second book of the series, I also liked though not as much: “Save of the Game” features Riley, the goalie (goalies are my weak spot), and Ethan, the team’s enforcer, which very likely is due to minor squibbles like those two having some kinks that I simply don’t get and to Ethan’s smoking habit (in real life I react too strongly to the smell of cigarettes, so even if I get the appeal for Riley and Ethan, I cannot get over my aversion).

    The series is based in the ECHL, a very unglamourous league to pursue one’s hockey dream (hardly any money, no comfort, no fame, but still a lot of passion). I don’t know anything about it yet. Which might change, as I don’t seem to tire of hockey any time soon.

    In between those two books I got sucked in by “Project Hero” by Briar Prescott.
    And loved it!
    Andy, the nerdy physics student, is such an endearing character! He regards himself as the mediocre, invisible sidekick to his best friend and crush, the basket ball playeer.
    Wants to re-invent himself to make the crush notice him. Which coincides with Law(rence), former hockey star and no to-be coach, needing someone to tutor his rookies and providing help with the re-do of Andy. The become friends, then more (it is a romance!).
    Friends to lovers is one of my fav tropes, but what makes this story so great is Andy’s unique personality and way to express himself (very sarcastic and very lively). The friendship bits are well balanced with the sexy bits and what I loved is how the nerdy MC really starts to blossom thanks to his friendship with the jock who’s just an overall nice and kind character himself.

    Yes, I’m still not over my hockey phase, though in Project Hero hockey really plays such a minor part that it could be swapped for almost any other sport.

      1. Great to have all those recs. I’ll be checking them out. And as for long posts, clearly I am a fan/culprit!

      2. Your post has just provided yet more fodder for by TBR list! Thank you! I too am going through a hockey phase even though I’ve never even watched a full game ever… go figure.

        1. Christina, I haven’t seen a full game myself either! When the World championship was on this past summer, it was too thrilling for me. When my team played, I couldn’t watch, it was so suspensful. My husband (who is thrilled I finally share one of his interests) kept me informed. It’s far more interesting than soccer which the whole family are avid fans of. Much faster, easier for a team in the lead to still lose and even strong teams can succumb to a streak of weakness/bad luck. I love it and am still too much of a whimp to watch when a team I love is playing…

          1. My recs are short because I mainly say « I enjoyed that ». Yours really give an idea about the book. Keep them coming!

          2. Fronzen Pond, Christina, LN, Mary Anne and whoever is putting up with me so patiently: thank you!!
            It’s soooo nice to be able to ramble to fellow book enthusiasts (my family can only take that much…).

            And thanks for the thumbs up about the rambling. I’ll keep trying to be more concise (Chachal proves it’s possible while giving great recs) though.

    1. Hockey m/m romance is not a phase; it’s more a way of life.

      Glad you’re enjoying Avon Gale – that ECHL is on auto re-read for me. And don’t forget her novella Next Season – it’s NHL but oh so good.

      1. “Hockey m/m romance is not a phase; it’s more a way of life.”

        I see my kids roll their eyes LOL

        But dd agreed to try knowing more about the game and plans to go skating more this winter as part of her plans for the year abroad in Canada…

    2. Thanks for the warning re smoking in the second book. Absolutely agree, it really spoils a book for me. I don’t get why authors do that. Surely no-one is going to be turned off by the absence of smoking, whereas plenty of readers won’t like an MC who smokes, so why narrow your audience?

      1. The smoking is actually an important clue to Ethan’s character, as it is with Ilya in Heated Rivalry. After all, hockey players aren’t supposed to be smoking. In Ilya’s case it’s more defiance than anything else, but in Ethan’s it points to his carelessness about his physical well-being and his lack of passion around hockey.

        1. Fair enough, I guess it depends for me how frequent it is, and whether or not the character quits. By the time I got to Ilya’s book I was already hooked on the series, and I thought he’s Russian and just tried to block it out.

          To me, it doesn’t signal much about character because I see smoking as an addiction, probably picked up in childhood, rather than a choice. It just makes me think the character is going to smell and taste bad, which rather spoils the romantic fantasy. So if I preview a book and see smoking I’m probably not going to buy it. But I guess if I was the majority, publishers would dissuade authors from including smoker characters.

  9. My head has been stuck in Murderbot’s for a few weeks. I keep rereading and wishing for more. Has anyone read Witch King?

    1. I have read Witch King. It is a very different book from Murderbot. There is adventure, found family, and magic, as well as competence from the various characters. I enjoyed it.

    2. Ditto to what Nancy said — Witch King is good, just in a different way from Murderbot. It is epic fantasy, so it sort of depends on whether you like epic fantasy. I recommend checking out her earlier books, the Ile Rien series, which your library may have (or it may be on Hoopla). It has much the same feeling as Witch King. I really enjoyed the Ile Rien books, and the good thing is that if you like them, there are several of them! And then Witch King, not set in the same world, but the same voice/feel to the Ile Rien books.

    3. I love Witch King. It does feel a lot like the Ile-Rien books, but I felt it has more snark than they do, though not as much as Murderbot. (Now I am trying and failing to come up with a Witch King t-shirt like Murderbot has.)

    4. For Murderbot fans I just read there will be a ten-part series with Alexander Sarsgaard in the lead. To be seen on Apple TV.

  10. I’ve been reading a new series “A River Enchanted (Elements of Cadence)” which is really great, despite the clunky title. Very reminiscent of early Maggie Stiefvater, if you’ve read Scorpio Races, but not as grim. Also kind of reminds me of the Sharon Shinn short about a woman who haunts an old house, but I can’t now find the title of the collection. If you like medievalish fairytales, though, River is worth reading.

    1. Thank you for reminding me about Maggie Stiefvater. I really liked the books of hers I have read and I checked the library listings and there are lots more that I haven’t read.

    2. Kat, could you be thinking of a short story collection by Sharon Shinn called Shadows of the Past? There is a short story in it called The House of Seven Spirits; about a woman who moves into a house that is haunted by several ghosts.

  11. Last week’s GBT reminded me that I hadn’t reread Hot Toy since it came out so I went straight to that. So much fun! That in turn put me in the mood for more Crusie so I reread Bet Me which is one of my all time favorite comfort reads.

    I followed that with Catherine Alliott’s The Pink House (her most recent.). Contrary to my praise of this author last week, I’m sorry to say this one would not make the recommendation list. Too slow.

    I read Emergency Contact by Lauren Layne. I really enjoyed her Oxford series. All her books are Romance in New York City. She wrote Emergency Contact with her husband Anthony Ledonne. It’s sort of planes, trains and automobiles with the MCs being ex spouses. The frustrations the MCs were living put me a bit on edge, so that mitigated the fun but I read it through to the end and the author definitely stays on my auto-buy list.

    From there I went back to hockey and read one more Taylor Fitzpatrick — You Could Make a Life. While I liked it, I wasn’t blown away by it like I was by the first two of the Between The Teeth Series, I only have one more of her published works to go and am saving it. ( Tammy, I tried to get to her backlist on A03 but I could only find lots of fanfic by others. How do I get to HER stuff? The AO3 site confuses me.)

    Since then I have been focused on Cordelia Kingbridge’s 7 of Spades series which I’m enjoying greatly. A Las Vegas homicide detective and a bounty hunter/PI investigate together and work through stuff. The romance is good with real obstacles and problems, and the case(s) are interesting and even though I am pretty sure I know who the serial killer is, I am really enjoying the ride. I am half way through book 3 and am sensing angst and heartache ahead. Tammy, you were right, this is definitely my cup of tea!

    1. Here’s the link to Taylor’s A03 series site. And remember – her series range from fun to angsty and everything in between. And stay way from the outtakes which are includes as ‘series’ until after you read the series.

        1. Oops – let’s try this again:

          https://archiveofourown.org/users/youcouldmakealife/series

          And by the way, I suspect the reason you can’t find her stuff is because you’re putting Taylor Fitzpatrick into the search – which will give you all the fanfic stuff people have written riffing on her fiction. She goes under the name youcouldmakealife because that’s the original book that created her universe (it’s not my favourite book of hers either but Riley is her baby).

          1. Thank you!! You’re right: I was putting her name into the search. Yay! I’m so excited to get her other stuff! Maybe I’ll even read Thrown off the Ice now that I have other stories of hers to read. I was hoarding it… 🙂

    2. And I will be interested to hear at the end of the Seven of Spade series if you were right about who the serial killer was – I didn’t have a clue.

  12. Back at work after 2 weeks in bed with a sinus infection so haven’t read much this week – too busy trying to catch up at work (and the dentist, the hairdresser etc that I had to postpone while I was ill).

    Loved Jenny Colgan’s Christmas at the Island Hotel which is the fourth in the Mure series (not sure it would work if you haven’t read the others though). Very enjoyable, but realistic about life on a Scottish Island.

    Then re-read Call it Magic by Janet Chapman – the last in the Spellbound Falls series (and published just after she passed). Haven’t read one Janet Chapman I didn’t love and this was as good as I expected.

    Feeling the need for a sure thing, a comfort read, right now – too much going on in my life and in the world and I want a pleasant escape with a HEA.

  13. I read two Georgette Heyers that have been on my shelf for ages, but unread. Sylvester or the Wicked Uncle is a slow-starting book, but gets more exciting after a child is kidnapped and friends follow him on board the ship. The child is a real kick, and his rescuers are resourceful. Sylvester turns out to be a willing rescuer, and there is an HEA for just about everyone.

    Black Sheep is about a man who was sent to India as punishment, who returns to find his nephew courting a naive young heiress for her money. There are twists and some ingenious revenge on the nephew. The uncle, who is fairly antisocial, still manages to lure the aunt of the heiress. The book has a very strange ending, and I’m wondering if a page was left off. The last sentences read: “You may be able to abduct me,” said Abby, with dignity, “but you can’t force me to tell lies!…. Miles! there’s a coach coming, and a man staring at us over the hedge! For heaven’s sake-!” That’s it. The end. It’s very odd.

    1. These are two of my top five Heyers! I envy you reading them both for the first time. My grandma lent me Sylvester when I was about 14 and we were house sitting for my aunt. I’d read all the books I’d brought with me, and she’d finished reading Sylvester for the umpteenth time so gave it to me to try. I’ve never looked back since.

      1. Sylvester is my very favorite of Heyer’s Regency novels, but I don’t recall a thing about kidnapped children or ships. Phoebe Marlow’s friend (the boy next door) volunteers to help her escape a horrible marriage, then breaks his leg during their getaway journey in a carriage accident. I remember the whole book being about the gradual rapprochement between Phoebe and the snooty Duke Sylvester as they encounter one another over and over in London society after a very bad beginning to their relationship.

        So where did the ship and the kidnapping happen?

        1. Sylvester’s sister in law takes her son with her when she marries a rich man obsessed with his appearance. Sylvester, Phoebe and the childhood friends try to stop them when the boat they are on sets sail for France. Hijinks ensue including the poor child walking for his nurse “I want my Button!”

    2. I love Miles – isn’t he the one who says his ancestor was probably a thatchgallows or something like that (too lazy to look up) who came over from Normandy?

      1. I like him a lot too. She wrote that one in the 70s so there is something a little more earthy about him than her other heroes.

      2. ‘We came to England with the Conqueror, you know. It’s my belief that our ancestor was one if the thatchgallows he brought with him. There were any number in his train.’

      3. Yes, that’s Miles! He is one of my favorites too, for that line and for his totally cynical yet humorous attitude.

  14. I just finished Lavender’s Blue, started Sophie Kinsella’s The Burnout. I was so happy to see our library (Columbus Metro) added your latest 3 books!

    1. Oh, thanks for letting me know. That’s great.
      I used to live there (Columbus, OH, right?), maybe that’s why.

      1. Well, in an area with no known biographical association with Jenny, of the 3 county libraries where I have cards to borrow ebooks, one has none of the new books, one has the first Liz Danger, and one has all 3 Liz Danger books.

  15. I don’t think I’ve finished any books since last week, partly due to reading multiple ones at once and partly to some having to go back to the library and back onto the hold queue or the “take out again” list. I did finish all the commentary material on the Secret of Kells DVD that I mentioned last week, and I watched the feature again in light of that. I still find it striking how lightly the film skates over Christianity, focusing instead almost entirely on the book’s illumination as a pure work of art inspired by nature. Generally, films on religious subjects do try to broaden the theme out. For instance, A Man for All Seasons is as much about rule of law and resistance to tyranny as about Thomas More’s support of papal authority. But the Kells animation does not so much move out from Christianity as to nearly ignore it. But I still thought it worth viewing and re-viewing despite that oddity.

    1. The Secret of Kells is beautiful. The same company also did Song of the Sea. It made me cry, but was also beautiful and well done.

  16. I read a review of Jane Austen’s Wardrobe by Hilary Davidson and ordered copies for my friends who love Austen’s books. The author, Hilary Davidson, scanned letters and other documents to discover what was in Austen’s wardrobe, then recreated pieces like a silk pelise. Apparently, Austen’s build was the equivalent of a modern size 2. Amazingly, she was probably 5’6″ to 5″8″ tall, making her much taller than contemporary men as well as women. Who would have known? Austen had much to say about her clothes in her letters. If you’re interested, Barnes & Noble has the book online; both Amazon and Bookshop are sold out. The review is in The New York Review of Books dated December 21, 2023.

    1. I am in the middle of Jane Austen’s Wardrobe, a truly wonderful book. Great illustrations, and for anyone who sews, on offer in this book is the expertise of a professor AND a seamstress. She recreated the silk pelisse, sewing it by hand, of course, having first sourced fabrics as close to the originals. Fun fact: she dropped out of high school to learn bespoke shoemaking. I figure anyone who learned to sew leather probably had a head start on sewing fabric.

  17. Having just got my groove back after NANOWRIMO – I am finally in a place where some reading can take place alongside the writing.

    First up is going to be a re-read of Hot Toy by Ms Crusie.

    Also – I missed something & I’m gonna have to dig through arghink – who is Anna of Arresting Anna? I was totally thinking that was a book about Alice from Maybe This Time.

    Liz and I are into Dr Who at the moment. We watched David Tennant bi-regeneration with Ncuti Gawta (pronounced Shootie Gat wah). Ncuti is a cutie and looks like fun!!!

      1. Where in ArghInk did you find Arresting Anna? I think I came upon this blog after that was discussed, too.

        1. It was during the lockdown. Jenny was writing it and releasing in bits. Spring of 2020? March and April?

          1. Whenever I read ‘viola’ in a sentence like this, I hear it in my head as the French word ‘voila’ (pronounced vwah-lah, meaning ‘see there’, ‘look, there it is’).

            Is viola (in this usage) just a really common misspelling of that French word (I see it written this way much more often than the French spelling, in English texts), or is it an official Americanisation with its own pronounciation? Does it sound like the name of the flowers, when a real American reads it?

          2. Hanneke,

            I’ve always heard voila pronounced vwaLA, i.e. as an anglicized attempt at the French pronunciation. I think “viola” is either a typo or a spellchecker “correction.” My own spellchecker doesn’t automatically change it, but the dictionaries vary.

          3. “Viola” in that post looked like just an inadvertent typo, unless both Judy and Patrick were talking about the musical instrument.

          4. This is a bit late so you might not catch this, but yes “voila” is commonly misspelled as “viola,” however it is also a woman’s name, a type of plant (the genus that includes pansies and violets), and a musical instrument (the one that’s like a violin but bigger).

  18. Despite a stack of wonderful library books I’ve been wanting to read forever, I plunged into T. Kingfisher’s latest, PALADIN’S FAITH, as soon as it was released Tuesday. I’m weak–and enjoying the heck out of it. 😀

  19. I know several people here enjoyed Sherwood Smith’s The Phoenix Feather trilogy, well she has now written another book set in that world, though with essentially no overlapping characters, that’s also very good called Tribute.

    S.J. Rozan has released a new Lydia Chin/Bill Smith mystery called The Mayors of New York. The first female Mayor of New York’s son is missing, possibly a runaway, but the Mayor is currently negotiating a new contract with the police department and doesn’t want to give them any political leverage. But when Bill starts to investigate things start to look much worse. I tend to like the Lydia Chin narrated ones better than the Bill Smith narrated ones (she alternates them) but this was pretty good.

    1. I love Sherwood Smith, but it is so hard sometimes to find the beginning of her series. They overlap and interlock. Can I read this one as a stand alone?

    2. Gary, pretty sure Phoenix Feather’s a quartet, not a trilogy. So if you missed the 4th book (Dragon and Phoenix), that means you have another to look forward to. 😀 Also, I too enjoyed the new Rozan. There’s another Rozan series starting in the spring, btw! Very curious to see what that one will be like.

      1. You are correct I had forgotten there were four books, but I have read the whole series.

        And I too am looking forward to S.J. Rozan’s new series, though I hope that just means she writes more instead of abandoning the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series.

  20. Finished Glitterland by Alexis Hall this week. Loved it. It is way more overtly sexy than say Boyfriend Material or Husband Material, just so you know. I could do without that, but fair to say, it is usually serving to move the plot.

    The protagonist is a grimmer character than usual, with serious mental health issues. As always (from what I have read so far), this author excels at character development and most of all, relationship development. On top of that the MC progresses through stages of personal growth – very hot ticket for me – and he makes you believe it. Very well done! The love interest character and his best friend are delightful in themselves. MC is highly educated, Love Interest and his friends and family, not so much. I know that this is a common trope, but Mr. Hall wields it (if you can wield a trope… why not?), in a deeply satisfying way.

    1. I love Glitterland. The only problem was the heavy accent written out phonetically of one of the characters. I may have to look for it on audio.

    2. I really enjoyed the entire Spires series – each one has excellent character and relationship development (my catnip.) Glitterland might be my favorite but each one is an emotionally satisfying read. Apparently there will be a new installment of the Spires series in 2024. Am really looking forward to that!

  21. Read The Book Charmer. Bit of an uphill climb first half. Not quite to taste. Others may feel more positive. May be just my mood. Starting Murderbot, heading out on Saturday, milk run on Sunday, two stops before destination, need a good story.

  22. I’m reading an actual paper book!!! I don’t know if it’s good yet or not, I’m only about 50 pages in but they are real paper pages that I can see and interpret in normal room light.

    Aaand I finished Bookshops and Bonedust on my Kindle and it was great. Of course. Felt like a big, warm, orc-y hug.

  23. I finished 10 Things That Never Happened by Alexis Hall and really liked it. Starting a reread of Network Effect because so many people here recommended doing that before starting the next one (which is sitting underneath it, taunting me).

  24. T. Kingfisher’s latest, Paladin’s Faith, was a delightful novel and a great addition to the series. I loved the characters, the plot, the writing. And the humor, of course. Sometimes, I couldn’t stop laughing for a couple minutes, despite the danger and mayhem the heroes faced. The only thing that felt dicey about this book was the resolution. I guess, at least one more book must be in order in this excellent series, for the author to end the story on such an ambiguous note.
    Elizabeth Rolls’s His Convenient Marchioness was a quiet regency love story of two middle-aged people. He is a widower of 50. She is a widow of 32 with two young children. Both suffered losses. Both are ready to compromise. Neither expects to love again. A marriage of convenience is their mutual goal. Their love, slowly unfolding against their own judgement and all the outside obstacles, was all the more gratifying because neither foresaw it. Furthermore, the addition of two children added spice and color to the more-or-less standard tale.
    With my love of regency romance, how did I miss this writer? I have never read her before, so this novel was a charming discovery. It was free on BookBub, and I liked the summary, so I downloaded it, and I’m glad I did. I enjoyed this book. I’ll definitely read more of her.
    Heather Webber’s At the Coffee Shop of Curiosities didn’t work for me. I don’t have anything against magic realism as a genre, but this story, and especially one of its protagonists, Maggie, irritated me. Maggie’s obsession with her long-dead mother seemed unhealthy, at best, not endearing, as the writer obviously intended.
    I’ve also been re-reading Anne Gracie and her Merridew Sisters series. I love this writer, and it was such a pleasure to dive into these books again. She is not as well-known as some other regency authors, but I consider her one of the stars of the genre. Certainly one of my favorites. Her stories resonate with me.

    1. Thank you for reminding me about that great Elizabeth Rolls novel! I remember really enjoying it. I’m putting it on my TBR pile in the “comfort rereads” section!

    1. Wow! That will be interesting to see. A robot pretending to be human, portrayed by a human.

      1. Alexander Skarsgard can do blank. He’s such a good actor. Excited to see what he will do with it.

        1. I think Skarsgaard does some great stuff so I’m interested to see what he will do with this one. Slightly disappointed they didn’t go with a woman or someone more androgynous. Tilda Swinton, for example. I remember her role in Constantine. Or maybe she has too much edge? Mulling. Casting decisions are fascinating to secondguess sometimes.

          1. I thought of Tilda too! Mostly because of Orlando. There’s some chatter about choosing a male actor for SecUnit as some read it as femme leaning. They had to go one way or another. Only Lovers Left Alive gives us two very androgynous actors in Swinton and Hiddleston so that film popped into my mind too.

            We’ll have to see how it looks!

    2. Any word on Sanctuary Moon? Ideally, they’d have Skarsgard do a snarky voiceover as Murderbot watches each episode, and we’d see just the episodes mentioned in the diaries.

      1. I didn’t see anything on it-it was a really brief announcement but it would be fun to have a play within a play sort of situation.

        Even more, if they make it ridiculous like Galaxy Quest.

  25. I am reading a contemporary romance by an author who has written many, many books. I am convinced that this book has been written by an AI-type bot! The sentences are short and staccato, there are lines upon lines of conversation with no text in between to set the scene or describe the characters’ feelings, movements, or anything intricate. Even then, the conversations on the page are stilted, and to my mind don’t sound like phrases or structured sentences that a human would say.

    I am so bored by it but can’t stop reading in a hate-read kind of way… I’m also intrigued as to whether all of her books are written in the same style. She’s obviously got an audience, but unfortunately once I’ve finished this book, I won’t be of that number.

    1. A couple of authors of series of books that I read began to lose their skills, as time passed, and the last books were pretty awful. It was just a matter of aging and maybe some dementia.

      1. I think it is the lack of editing. When an author reaches a certain level of fame, they stop editing her books. The publishers think they can sell it as is, and they are often right.

  26. Apparently Apple TV is doing a Murderbot series. I feel sure some of you will want to know this. How they will do it I have no idea

      1. I don’t know. I’m apprehensive that they will miss the wealth of introspection in the novels entirely….

  27. I read “The Icarus Hunt” which is the story of a down-on-their luck human Captain/Pilot and his alien spaceship mechanic partner who take on the job of ferrying the spaceship Icarus, and its cargo to supersecret destination on Earth. There are unknown forces who do not want this trip to happen and are willing to commit murder to stop it.

    I liked this book – I generally like Timothy Zahn’s non-Star Wars novels, but I somehow missed this book when it first came out in 1999. I picked it up along with its sequel “The Icarus Plot” when I learned of the release of the 3rd book in the series “The Icarus Twin” which came out this year. Reading “The Icarus Plot”, I can see why Zahn changed the viewpoint character for the 2nd novel. The viewpoint character in the 1st novel is from a more innocent time. The viewpoint character in the 2nd novel seems to be more beaten-down, less willing to reach for the stars. Although, that may change by the end of the book. We’ll see.

    I was reading “Paladin of Faith” by T. Kingfisher, but I had to stop because I’m really leery of this character and I’m afraid that Marguerite is going to turn out to be stupid because she’s making unwarranted assumptions and she’s too distracted by Shane to notice. Bah!

    1. I’m looking forward to reading this newest Zahn. There’s a 4th Icarus book out in the spring, in case you hadn’t seen that news. BTW I really like Zahn’s Quadrail series which is written in a similar vein.

  28. I’m so excited that Very Nice Funerals, Arresting Anna, and Surprise Lily are making progress. Can’t wait. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who recommended Loretta Chase. I am currently working my way through all her books. They are a fun read.

  29. I read Allison Montclair’s The Lady from Burma, and was relieved that it was not as tense as the last one, because I do enjoy Sparks and Bainbridge but I do not like them to suffer too much.
    I read Paladin’s Faith, and enjoyed it quite as much as I thought I would; enough that, after years of waiting for my library to acquire Bryony and Roses, I spent actual $$$ on it, and it was worth it, even on my budget. I will be reading it many times. (Also Paladin’s Faith, but my library has that.)
    I DNFd a few things that started out promising, but got boring fairly quickly. I hate that.

  30. I read Paladin’s Faith, which was just as good as I had hoped it would be. Given the ending, I strongly suspect that the next one is going to be about Judith.

    The Charm Offensive, which took me a little while to get into, but I ended up really enjoying.

    Hearts on the Hill, the novella, which was just as adorable as everyone said.

    Still reading The Far Pavilions, which I’m finding rather slow going, but still interesting both for the pictures of India and for the overarching story.

  31. Enjoying my Christmas reading this week. Started with “Mistletango” by Alexandra Caluen (aka Chacha1) and loved it, loved the Buenos Aires setting and the milongas, and above all the wonderfully sensible MCs who see the life they want and work out how to get it. So delightfully refreshing.

    “In the Duke’s Arms” by Carolyn Jewel, a regency romance that has one my favorite pairings of quiet / friendly, particularly as the MMC is heartrendingly aware of his inability to find the right words and tone. Not particularly Christmassy, just a couple of nice touches.

    “Lumberjack under the Tree” by Keira Andrews – sweet reunion story, set on a Christmas tree farm.

    And lastly, “Hen Fever” by Olivia Waite, an f/f historical romance novella in a little village where the year culminates in the annual Bickerton Christmas Poultry Show. Lovely romance, with sharp edges given the aftermath of the Crimean War, village tensions sublimated into poultry competition and the gorgeously cold winter setting.

    1. So glad you enjoyed ‘Mistletango,’ Yuri! (and Tammy!)

      Uh, if anyone else is interested, it happens to be 50% off on Smashwords through Jan 1. 😉

      1. Cool. Already picked up a lot of Victoria Goddard and Celia Lake and Laura Anne Gilman books at Smashwords but happy to go back for this one!

  32. Countdown to the New Year.

    1. ‘All I Want for Christmas is Stu’ by Lisa Henry, a novelette feat. 26yo writer and 30yo lawyer with backstory. Small-town, funny & sweet, enjoyed this. Then ‘A Royal Christmas Cruise’ by Max Walker, a short novel / novella which I mostly skimmed because it was pornier than I like, and by that I mean very graphic sex scenes with not much relationship development. Then a M/M Harlequin Xmas book that I DNF at 10%.

    2. ‘The Santa Problem’ by Barbara Elsborg, fantasy feat. a depressed garden center manager and an elf on a mission. Xmas fluff with a dark center (some Christmas Carol vibes here).

    3. ‘English Country Life 1780-1830’ by E.W. Bovill, a Nonfiction Legit Tome chock full of great details for use in the Regency novella I just finished writing and anything else I might write in period.

    4. ‘Fluke and the Faultline Fiasco’ by Sam Burns, 3rd in series, and – as I mentioned in follow-on post last week – if you read Fluke 1 and liked it but haven’t yet picked up Fluke 2, I recommend skipping directly to this one. It’s fun, and you won’t miss the angsty mayhem of 2.

    5. ‘The Mission’ by Barbara Elsborg (obv I had a couple of her Xmas titles on my wishlist). This one features an accountant recently out of a terrible relationship with a co-worker, and a pilot who’s the sibling of MC1’s boss. Serious, no fantasy here; MC1 is in a bad place at the beginning and the bad relationship leads to a scary climax. So if you need fluffy for Xmas, save this for a different time. I liked it a lot.

    6. ‘Once Upon a Christmas House’ by A. D. Ellis. Xmas fluff. Fake boyfriends on a reality show, grumpy/sunshine.

    7. ‘Love & Limitations’ by J. Scott Coatsworth, story collection, a bit uneven but I really liked ‘Slow Thaw,’ feat. two climate scientists in Antarctica.

    8. ‘Trusting Jack’ by Ruby Moone, more Xmas fluff. Boss/employee, hurt/comfort. Best not to interrogate the logic of the setup too closely. I appreciated that both MCs need therapy, recognize it, and discuss it.

    9. [re-read] ‘Winter Oranges’ by Marie Sexton, in which an unhappy actor falls in love with a young man who’s trapped in a snow globe. That sounds ridiculous but it hangs together pretty well. The emotions underlying the situation and its development are very well articulated and the resolution well constructed.

    10. ‘Winter Magic’ by Marie Sexton, a follow-up to WO with a different MC but the MCs of WO play important roles. In this one, the setup is Fantasy Island and the MCs are another actor (this one with real problems, the BFF of MC in WO) and his love interest also works in movies but is deceptive about it (transparently so, to me at least). The relationship development is well paced and again the emotions are well articulated and natural, delivering some Big Feels. Their chemistry is on the page and their significant central conflict is worked out there too. I think this could be read independently of Winter Oranges but am glad I re-read WO first.

    Rec for those looking for a lighter, shorter holiday M/M read is the Lisa Henry novelette.

    1. I’m reading the Lisa Henry novelette as we speak. PS – what is the difference between a novella and a novelette??

    2. Wasn’t there a Hallmark Xmas movie that was set in a snowglobe? Would be interesting to compare and contrast, lol!

      1. I thought I had seen everything but… “The New York Cuban Moreno family and friends despair if matchmaking will ever get willful adult daughter Angela to date and wed a suitable man. After the delivery of a magic snowball by new neighbor Eddie, the latest arranged date, it transports her in dreams to an alternate reality, where she dwells with naive country people in permanent Christmas mood. Her admirer there, Doug, and later his admirer Marie, get transferred to our world when the globe is damaged in a fall during Christmastide.” Snowglobe (2007). I accidentally wrote that as SNOGlobe which is probably appropriate.

      2. Or perhaps A Snow Globe Christmas (2013) “A cynical TV exec looks at the perfect town inside a Christmas globe and is magically transported to it. When she wakes up in a perfect snow-covered town, married to a local woodsman, she discovers it’s not all just a fantasy.”

  33. Definitions differ, but e.g. for the Hugo Awards:
    – Short story – 7,500 words or less
    – Novelette – 7,501-17,500 words
    – Novella – 17,501-40,000 words
    – Novel – 40,001 or more words

  34. I have been binge re-reading the Country Club mystery series by Julie Mulhern. For people new to it, it’s set in the 70’s which gives the author ample scope to wax delightfully snarky about the changing roles of women in society.

  35. I’m still mostly listening rather than reading with my eyes, but have been doing that a lot and not just endless Murderbot repeats either. New things:

    The No Show, by Beth O’Leary turned out to be absolutely heartbreaking and at the same time really lovely. Tricky to review without spoilers though.

    The Agency For Scandal, by Laura Wood centres around a team of satisfyingly capable female private detectives in Victorian London. There’s some high society stuff, but also an awareness of class privilege, which was refreshing.

    Grave Expectations, by Alice Bell is a modern mystery featuring a main character who can see ghosts and her best friend who is a ghost. They hold a seance for an old uni friend’s snotty rich family and chaos ensues.

    I also read a bunch of smut on the kindle, including the latest Alessandra Hazard, which hits all the notes you would expect from her work. So far I have only read one Christmas book, NR Walker’s newest Hartbridge novel Holiday Heartstrings. It’s part of an adorable MM series set in a small town with vulnerable characters who all start out needing more friends and build a community together. At Christmas.

    Oh, I also finally read The Body Keeps The Score. Thank you very much for the recommendation, Jenny. You were right.

    1. If you like Alessandra Hazard, you should try out Eliot Grayson, if you haven’t already. They are each other’s editor and there are often echos of the other in their work.

    2. I agree about The No-Show. It’s a much more heartbreaking story than you expect at the start. Very hard to review without spoilers indeed. I think one reason why I was less caught by The Wake-Up Call was because both No-Show and Flatshare had more complex plots you didn’t see coming, whereas Wake-Up Call had a plot I figured out pretty much on page 1. And that’s okay, predictable plots are fine! It just wasn’t what I’d expected from O’leary.
      I started The Body Keeps the Score back in 2019, also on Jenny’s recommendation here, but haven’t finished it yet. Very very good and interesting and emotionally stirring book though!

      1. I haven’t read The Wake-up Call, but I enjoyed The Flatshare and The Switch. There’s a very gentle quality to the writing even as it deals with big, heavy themes. The No Show definitely subverted my initial expectations.

    3. I felt tricked, cheated by The No Show. I clearly was deeply invested in the story line because I still feel resentful more than a year later. Actually, that’s some pretty effective writing!

      1. I found that the resolution made all the inconsistencies in characterisation that had been bothering me make sense, but it was definitely not what I expected. She played fair, it was all on the page, but it wasn’t at all the story I thought it was going to be.

  36. I’ve yet to read them, I know I will love them but I’m saving them in case of glass breaking emergency. Also my library doesn’t have them so I will have to buy them.

  37. Zombie Vikings maybe? But yay for more books.

    My week in reading was scanty due to heavy focus on Do All The School Things Before Break, but I did read One Tempting Proposal by Christie Carslysle (possibly still on Bookbub) which was a Taming of the Shrew-esque tale with wonderfully sympathetic characters. Also read My Quiet Blacksmith Life in Another World because who doesn’t need some cozy Isakai reading once in a while. It is the author’s first book, I think? Written for a contest. But in a week when everything was too stressful and I couldn’t deal with tense fiction, this let me chill out at the end of the day.

  38. I am in the middle of rereading Pride and Prejudice. I can’t seem to settle into anything else so picked this one up. So far it’s fitting the bill.

  39. Finished the Janitors of the Apocalypse series, Dashing Through the Snowbirds (Donna Andrews is reliable), The Stormy Petrel, and starting Bookshops & Bonedust.

    Happy to have finished the last 3 weeks. Even with the holidays the next 2 weeks are going to be relaxing.

  40. Okay, I’m not a fan of too much explicit sex in books about relationships. I have never liked math, or science, or the scientists I’ve known. But I am a sucker for Ali Hazelwood books. And I just finished a nicely interrelated tri-novella (is that even a term?) about, what else, sexy scientists by Ali Hazelwood — “Loathe to Love You” — and of course I was hooked.

    I loved the fact that the first FMC turned out to be a friend of the second FMC, and then a sort-of-cousin of the third FMC, and I ended up liking the three science guys they connected with. The final epilogue had them all six interacting with and still really liking one another, and it was a very satisfying book, especially for reading at night before bed, because each piece made a nice readful. And of course I skimmed through the explicit sex each time to get back to the relationship, because I’m a girl who knows what I like. 🙂

  41. If anyone reading this is in touch with Bob – for some reason I can never comment on his facebook posts. I wanted to say – I am familiar with Gunsmoke & Shane & the Rifleman.

    Of course, I’m 66.

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