This is a Good Book Thursday, February 1, 2024

And here it is February already. 2024 is just zipping in by. In my efforts to turn back time, I’ve now been rereading Heyer’s mysteries. She definitely gives the romances their short shrift so you have to fill in a lot of the blanks there, but the mysteries are solid. Well, the murder method in No Wind of Blame is extremely shaky, but the romance in that one in so good that I don’t care.

So what did you read in the first month of 2024?

158 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, February 1, 2024

  1. Wow, I don’t think I read anything last month. But I did watch live action series of One Piece on Netflix (Australia) which I loved and wish I could rewatch again for the first time.

  2. I finished listening to Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Torzs – three young people across the globe linked by a history of magic. Thank you to everyone who recommended it – a great read or ‘listen’ – I can highly recommend the audio book which had a fabulous reader.

    I read the second book in Josh Lanyon’s Holmes and Moriarity series – I appreciated those two guys even more this time around.

    I also read a couple in NJ Lysk’s shifter wolves’ series, plus a very smutty and super funny Jesse Reign book.

    Only missing some hockey – although there is plenty of hockey drama here in Canada this week – All Star Games in Toronto, sexual assault charges against five players, the discovery of an unopened box of hockey cards including those from Gretzky’s season with bidding currently at $1MM.

    1. I liked the Holmes and Moriarity books, I think mostly because Kit is so far from typical hero, we read books all the time where the people in the books are just better than real life people – Kit’s POV just feels quite real I think.

      1. Totally agree. Also, he’s been hard to pin down romantically, which is not usually the case for a first person narrator who is typically pining for the romantic interest.

  3. I read a fun cozy set in Scotland with an American doctor who is also acting as coroner in a small town. Death at a Scottish Wedding is the second in a new series by Lucy Connelly (Candace Havens). There were a few minor things that made me twitch, but it was still a very good read.

      1. Nope, not paying that.

        When I saw that price for a book a couple of weeks ago, it was no way. Back to the library. Or rereading favourites or the dozens of books to be read.

  4. I reread the first three Kate Daniel’s books by Ilona Andrew’s. I’m not much of a re-reader, but I had surgery to rebuild my pelvic floor on Tuesday and I was apparently craving the familiar for comfort.

    Which is an idea I picked up here, so thanks!

    1. I think that I would reread less if I could find more books that I wanted to live inside, but as I age I seem to get pickier and pickier. My DNF rate is high when I wander off the beaten path of authors that I trust.

      1. That is my problem, too, Lupe. I’ve been disappointed so many times that I resist new authors and books. They have to have a really good recommendation or the sample has to pull me in right away.

        1. I go in spurts where I feel hopeful and excited and try a bunch of new things only to be left with a bad taste in my mouth to go scuttling back to my rereads. Oh, the pain of being a connoisseur with excellent taste.

          1. Well put. Thank goodness there’s so much good stuff to go back to. Plus some really great new books like Murderbot – there is gold, you just have to keep panning for it. I had a real disappointment this week – it started so well, and I got excited, and then went downhill: I think the beginning must have had extra editing.

          2. I hate it when that happens. Usually things stall out in the middle for me. I hit the doldrums of ‘I just don’t care what happens to these people”. But when you make it all the way to the end and it goes sour… So frustrating.

          3. And yes, that moment when you find a new “keeper” author and they have a backlog of books: Magic.

  5. Many many rereads especially Sheila Simonson and Donna Andrew’s.

    Among first time books, Operation Mincemeat which is a new look at the WW2 counterspy operation first told in The Man Who Never Was. I’m going to see the musical Saturday and will report back. The book is good and even though the old book was written by one of the two central operatives the new book has a LOT more info.

    Demon Daughter which I liked a lot but it’s Bujold so I’m an addict.

    A book of letters to the London Times, which is in hardback at home so I will have to look up the name later. Fun in exactly the way you would expect.

    Several by Jenny Colgan that I liked but didn’t love.

    New York City Ballet Costume
    Gala: choreography and couture
    Which had lots of amazing picture of wonderful dancers in fascinating poses in interesting costumes but it wasn’t actually about dance so didn’t blow me away.

    1. I’m enjoying Operation Mincemeat, and breathlessly await reports of the musical. Thank you.

  6. I read six books, so Goodread tells me, only one of them I liked enough to give 4 stars. Currently I’m reading two books – Avon Gale’s Off the Ice and Becca Steele’s Savage Rivals which i also listen to because my two all-time-fav narrators narrate. In spite of that i don’t like it – their mutual obsession at first is nothing but mutual attraction, so the whole book is basically the two MCs lusting after each other and that’s too little content for me. So instead of dnf, I started to skim. This time not a KU, so money not well spent.
    The other one is not a bull’s eye either – I really don’t much like those insta-lust things. So it might be a good book, just not one for me at the moment.

    Though at least it has hockey. Not much as it takes place in the hot Georgia summer and features a hockey player intent to complete his degree and his sociology prof. And yes, they struggle with prof-student relations not being okay.

    So my next book will feature ace MCs I’ve decided.
    Freezing my fingers off at my desk and looking out into a grey day = typical January weather on February 1st simply doesnt make me feel any feelings nearing the hotness of those last books…

    1. Avon Gale’s series with Piper Vaughn is not my favourite and the first one is the best so I warn you about going further…also, I’ve read a few hockey books with ace MCs and found them mostly unsatisfying. So maybe time for a new hockey author? have you tried Michaela Grey? Blindside Hit is a good one.

      1. Tammy, I never contemplated to try ace hockey books. Doesn’t seem to go together at all.
        Thanks for the warnkng about zhe Piper Vaughn/ Avon Gale collab. I love goalies, so the second book was the one I was mist curious about, but will re-evaluate. The dubs are easier to stomach when it’s KU which this series isn’t.

        Michaela Grey who nowadays goes by Tierney Rose, I know, I’ve tried some of her books. Off the ice had a good premise, but the timing and some other plot details were weird (very short recovery time for very badly injured goalie) felt just off.
        Worse with Power Play which made me angry because she used a secret baby device and the mom was just a catalyst, the MC never investigated, never reached out, never was curious, niente. It’s otoh obvious zhat she has a lot of potential.
        Double Shifting I liked a lot. I’m a sucker for friends to lovers anyway. And now I’m curious about Blindside Hit and have downloaded it already – it sounds very intriguing!
        Hockey is still fascinating: just came home from a game, my FIRST real life one. A xmas gift from dd – all 4 of us at our local team’s home game against a strong team.
        We’re hooked now, and plan to go again asap. Ds’s pal has season tickets, so ds will be there again already next week, sigh….
        It’s SOOOO good to share your passion with one’s kids. Thankful, too, that dh is very patient.

        1. She’s not a sure thing. I like Blindside Hit and Off the Ice. I’m reading her new one which is good so far. I don’t know if you’ve followed the horrible social media bullying that led to her having to change her name to Tierney Rose, but I’ve read some of the posts by the bully and she is a nut job.

    2. I also didn’t care for Off the Ice. Neither character “grabbed” me and frankly I wasn’t comfortable with the prof-student aspect of it though they abided by rules and that aspect gets smoothed over. I decided to take Tammy’s advice and not go for any more of the Gale-Vaughn books in the series.

  7. I still haven’t gotten to the books I picked up at the library last week. I’m too busy picking up and putting down others that were ahead of them. We did get to watch The Holdovers with Paul Giamatti this week. About a disliked teacher at a boy’s academy outside of Boston who is stuck watching over a few students during the Christmas holiday. He is eventually left with one boy that is under threat of being sent to military school if he doesn’t stop getting in trouble. It’s a must-see movie.

    I’m now into season four of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix and getting into the groove of many breakups and get back togethers. This series is nineteen seasons and I’m keeping an open mind and wondering do my doctors act like that around each other? But it still moves along.

    1. DH and I watched the Holdovers last weekend. It really is about those two (actually three if you include the cook) coming to terms with each other, learning about each other – especially how they were very similar. “No one likes you” was said by each to the other. It was a very good movie, with a little bittersweet ending.

  8. I read some more Anna Karenina. Lots of detail on day to day life. Whew!

    I read Georgie, All Along, by Kate Clayborn. It felt like a YA book, but the MCs are older.The story was told through the two MC’s thoughts, and seeing how they differed on what was happening furthered the plot. There was a sweet dog, and Georgie’s quirky parents are elder hippies. I got to a point where not much was progressing toward furthering the action and nearly gave up, but then things began to move toward a resolution, and it was a lovely HEA. Probably not a reread.

    Then I read a snippet of The Matrimonial Advertisement, by Mimi Matthews, and was hooked. It was a Kindle freebie on Bookbub. It’s a story of a wealthy abused woman, whose uncle wants the money her deceased brother left her in his will, and he uses cruel asylums and a hulk of a jerk to try to persuade her to sign the money to him. She answers an ad for a wife from a taciturn man living in the wilds in an estate on the northern coast. They correspond, and she furtively escapes London, and they meet and marry. They both have secrets that cause problems, and the hulk eventually finds her. The interpersonal dynamics are gripping, and the solution for deterring the uncle is unusual. I may buy the next in the series.

    I read multiple reviews of cat litter. Sigh. the kind I have bought for years that is unscented and low dust was made by a company that got hacked, and stopped making it for months. They are making it again, and it has a strong scent and clouds of dust rise from it. It is also a lot more expensive, and getting the box open is nearly impossible. The next brand I tried did not impress. I am now trying the second replacement brand. The bag weighs 40 pounds, which is a deterrent, but it got great reviews. I’ll figure something out for getting it in the litter boxes.

    1. I use World’s Best cat litter and have for years. It is made from corn, and they have different size bags. It prevents odor and tracks less than any others I’ve tried. When I was trying all sorts of things to try and figure out what my cat Koshka was allergic to, I had to give it up for months and I could have cried. (So hard to find decent unscented cat litter.) Was very happy when we decided that wasn’t the issue and I could go back to it.

      1. Deborah, thanks. I will keep that in mind. I’ll bet the bags are lighter than for the clay stuff, too.

      2. Deb, that’s what I use too. My neighbor gave me what they had left when their cat died, I tried it and have been using it ever since.

    2. I use World’s Best too and loved because it is flushable. Then there was a period of oiler box issues and I added another box which I put

      1. (My cat was helping and hit the wrong key.) Anyway I put Dr. Elsey’s littler in the new box which I really didn’t like but the cats did and that solved the not using the box problem. Gradually I switched them from Dr. E’s to Arm and Hammer’s Fragrance Free, which seems to track less than Arm and Hammer’s Unscented. I still use world’s Best upstairs and two of the cats will use that but one really wants a clay based litter.

    3. There are various companies that sell this litter but the kind that is made of sawdust into wood pellets is awesome. There are 2 trays and the top tray is a sieve. When the cats pee, the pellets turn to sawdust then you shake the box and the sawdust goes through the sieve to the bottom. It is BY FAR the best cat litter I have ever tried and the brand I have found is very cheap.

  9. I finished Code Name Charming and it was
    … Fine. It felt rote, the character motivations were shallow. I really like Lucy Parker and am somewhat disappointed.

    Then CM Nascosta reissued a novella that had been part of an anthology. And because I really liked it and don’t fancy finding the correct anthology every time I want to reread it, I bought and read it again.

    Lastly, I found that I can listen to several books by Charles De Lint for free with my audible membership. That’s always a bonus because you usually have to pay for the good stuff. Deb, if you are still looking for Magical Realism recommendations, I think that he fits. I would have said fantasy, but as I listen to The Little Country, it has that dreamy, soft focus feel in a modern day setting. Slightly melancholy, but beautiful. And everything I have read of his so far ends well. Sometimes it’s a bit dire getting there though.

      1. Sigh. I was really looking forward to that, too. It felt like the author was just inserting standard stuff in for their backstory/drama. And I really miss the creative small business setting.

        And while I am whining, why is Matthias supposed to be Mr. Rules and Regs, and yet he keeps making silly mistakes. Argh. Grumpy.

    1. Was that Shadows & Light? I’ve downloaded. The new Adhara is coming out very soon that will revive your reading?

      1. What!!! Oh, that is exciting.

        And yes, Shadows and Light. I love it dearly, just for one throw away line; “Being poor is a skill.” I felt that one in my bones.

        And also, there are tentacles 🙂

          1. They are secondary tentacles. Side note tentacles. Not main event stuff. Bonus tentacles, if you will.

  10. I read the rest of the Avon Gale (Scoring Chances?) series.
    Enjoyed Power Play (Tammy’s fav) and Empty Netter. That was more angsty than the others, but well enough done though possibly too many issues to cover in a short book.
    The last one Coaches Challenge was ok, MCs not very distinctive.

    Also read Eden, Avon Gale, ex Coastguards. Good set up and conflict and I liked the Alaska setting but the story was middling.

    Finally, I’ve switched to baseball!
    Reading the Signs, Keira Andrews. Enjoying it and trying to understand the baseball stuff. I have a general idea but not the details but fun to have stuff to learn.

    1. I’m very concerned about this baseball thing, Frozen Pond! Totally agree with you by the way on your assessment of the Avon Gale books. See above for reco to Dodo.

    2. Have you seen the movie Blast from the Past, where a family is locked in their bomb shelter for 35 years, and the dad is trying to explain baseball to the kid who was born in the shelter? It’s hilarious.

    3. Thanks for the baseball recommendation! I read the KD Casey baseball M/M stories but they were only okay for me. I’ll try Keira Andrews next!

  11. I’ve read Huckleberry Finn, but not recently. However, for some reason I thought of the gimmick in there that blows Huck’s disguise as a girl. A suspicious woman tosses an object toward his lap and he closes his legs to catch it rather than spreading his skirt to offer a bigger target. I suspected this would not work in this day and age, when women wear slacks much of the time. I searched online and found only a couple of references to it, none citing anything contemporary with Twain. Modern women reported that they closed their legs even when wearing skirts, which plausibly could be ascribed to often wearing slacks and shorts. But Twain had a wife and daughters. Did he come up with this test on a purely theoretical basis without ever verifying it (and had no woman call him on it before publication), or had a lifetime of skirt-wearing made a difference in the mid-19th century and earlier? Has anyone here run across anything bearing on the question? I imagine somebody must have tested it for real before slacks came in.

      1. Surely the men would have been in robes too in his day and country? But I can believe that it predated Twain. (I can vaguely remember a couple of tests from the Hebrew Bible, such as whether you can pronounce sh and whether you drink by raising water cupped in your hand to your lips, but I can’t think of any for discovering men disguised as women.)

  12. I just erased a couple of titles, remembering that I’d mentioned them earlier. So once again I seem to be in the middle of a bunch of books but have finished none except the latest volume of Jerry Boyd’s Bob’s Saucer Repair (light sf). As I think I’ve mentioned, that series is best started from the beginning, with the eponymous novel.

  13. I haven’t quite finished the DVD of The Barbie Movie, but I’m enjoying it, despite not being in the target demographic. It reminds me of The Lego Movie, both for ingenuity and for managing to build in some profundity despite a starting point that superficially offers little opportunity for that. I’ll have to report again when I’ve finished watching, however.

    1. Thought Barbie was fun, if a little convoluted. They tried to do a whole lot in a short time frame and I don’t think that it all gelled. That said, I enjoyed the experience.

    2. I remember thinking that Oppenheimer, which was three hours in length and involved scientists and depositions and physics and equations, had me on the edge of my seat the entire time…whereas Barbie, although great, at two hours seemed a little too long.

      1. Yes. There is a sort of fugue state in the middle where I can’t quite figure out what is going on. Maybe it gets clearer with rewatching? I haven’t tried it again. But I enjoyed the vibe overall.

      2. One of my favourite parts was the opportunity to wear an entire outfit of vivid pink as a vital element of the movie-going experience.

        1. And I loved how Margo Robbie recreated iconic Barbie outfits for her red carpet appearances. So fun.

          1. If only there’d been an opportunity to dress up for the Oppenheimer film. Sadly, fashion wasn’t really a key feature of the movie.

  14. I’ve picked up several DNFs in January, which probably is more about me than the books.
    I did finish the most recent in Lizzie Shane’s series about a Vermont ski town and dogs, Four Weddings and a Puppy. Shane has at least one more in the series to write. Nothing earth-shattering or unpredictable, but a fine way to pass an evening.
    Also doing a lot of rereading. My brain seems to be tired or maybe frozen.

  15. Best this week was rereading Mary Stewart’s Wildfire at Midnight. I also finished a rather dense but really well written history of Britain in the Dark Ages: Lost Realms by Thomas Williams.

    1. Ooooh I need to re-read this. I’ve been re-reading all of her books over the past couple of years.

  16. Tried to listen to an audiobook, where the Heroine has gone through 9 months of mourning, 2 more and she is of age. Instead of just asking her guardian if she could mourn a full year out of respect, she locks him in the tower when he turns up wanting to know why she hadn’t replied to his letters. She’s over 21! (shake my head)

  17. The new book I really enjoyed is not technically new – published in 2001: Erasure by Percival Everett, which is the source of American Fiction, the Jeffery Wright movie about a middle class black writer who writes an anonymous book that becomes a bestseller. Movie hasn’t yet reached us here in São Paulo, but I wanted to read it. The book has comic moments, but it also has tragic ones, and one of the most moving depictions of a middle aged guy trying to look after his ageing mother. Highly recommended.

  18. Oh DNF for book I bought because it was written by Rupert Holmes, famous for the Piña Colada Song. It is called something like the McMasters Guide to Murder. Avoid. Stick to Crusie/Mayer for fun, light hearted criminal capers.

  19. A whole month of reading?

    * * *

    Grey Wolf’s VARIATION ON A THEME BOOK 5, now 22 chapters in and still on the Monday/Thursday publishing schedule. ★★★☆☆

    For rereads, Books 1 – 3, and starting 4 now. ★★★☆☆

    UNIVERSES FOR SALE Gorg Huff & Paula Goodlett. It’s an anthology. It contains ten stories, chosen from the 1632 Universe, the Warspell Universe, The Demon Rift Universe, and the Star Wings Universe. ★★★★☆

    Bujold’s DEMON DAUGHTER. ★★★★★

    Terry Pratchett’s GUARDS! GUARDS! ★★★★★☆☆

    Flint/Huff/Goodlett AN ANGEL CALLED PETERBILT ★★★★★ Still at 75% complete – the rest comes out in five days.

    Ikenberry, Kevin. THE CROSSING (Ring of Fire – Assiti Shards Book 4 ★★★★★☆☆ Still in progress. It may earn that fifth star.

    1. I was wondering about that, but then I assumed it was some sort of computer lingo that I didn’t understand.

      1. It was supposed to look more like this:

        Grey Wolf’s VARIATION ON A THEME BOOK 5. ★★★☆☆

        For rereads, Books 1 – 3, and starting 4 now. ★★★☆☆

        UNIVERSES FOR SALE Gorg Huff & Paula Goodlett. ★★★★☆

        Bujold’s DEMON DAUGHTER. ★★★★★

        Terry Pratchett’s GUARDS! GUARDS! ★★★★☆

        Flint/Huff/Goodlett AN ANGEL CALLED PETERBILT ★★★★★

        Ikenberry, Kevin. THE CROSSING (Ring of Fire – Assiti Shards Book 4 ★★★★☆

    2. I thought it was a weird take on “snarf” and I said to myself “That’s strange. I thought Gary liked those books”

  20. SE Harmon’s PS I Spook You, about an FBI profiler who’s been farmed out to a cold case unit headed by his ex-boyfriend, because he can see ghosts and no one believes him. I really enjoyed this, despite the predictability of its romance. Happy to read the next one.

    Connie Willis, The Road to Roswell. Wonderful, charming, funny. This is going to be one of my favourites, I think. Good to know she’s writing another Oxford time travel book.

      1. With narrator you mean the MC telling the story, not the narrator of the audiobook, correct? I’m asking because I’m always looking for good audiobook narrators.

        1. Sorry, yes, I’m referring to the first person narrator/MC of the book. Although I listened to this entire series and quite enjoyed it. Although I always flinch when I hear sex scenes being read.

          1. Someone in my disorganized book club has a funny story about getting into her car with a coworker and, despite her best efforts to ensure that it didn’t happen, a sex scene came blasting out of the speakers as soon as she turned on the car.

  21. I meant to post this last week when Jenny talked about rereading Heyer, but got busy. I really appreciated Jennifer Kloester’s, The Novels of Georgette Heyer-A Celebration. Kloester has written a very good biography of Heyer, but here the analytical focus is on her novels and what was going on while she was writing them. They are short essays reviews for each book so you can dip in and out of each one depending on which book you are reading. It also works as a short biography of her as an author and person.

    1. Just bought on your recommendation. Haven’t had a chance to start yet, and have realized that I’d better get cracking on the February book club book before the meeting!

      1. I hope you like it! The publishing history for the novels was really fascinating. I hadn’t realized that people were lined up to get the newest release. Even in America. Kloester doesn’t shy away from the classicism and prejudice in her writing either.

        Also good for analytical essays on the novels was Mari Ness’ Heyer essays on You should still be able to search the site for them. She even did Heyer’s contemporaries which I’ve never even seen for sale or at a library.

    2. The podcast Heyer Today also does a good job of telling us what was going on while Heyer was writing her novels, often with a short reading of Heyer’s letters. It is a lot of fun to put the various books in context. Will check out Kloester’s Celebration.

  22. Working through The Maid in audio while I knit, and The Helsinki Affair as my bedtime read. Haven’t finished either so I hesitate to give an opinion, but fwiw both are holding my interest.

  23. My year started with a snapped ligament in my ankle, a broken tooth, my kid coming home from Jamboree with Covid, and a rained -off tramp (240mm in one day! In tents! My whanau anyway, I was holed up at the nearest backpackers with a moon boot) and yet things feel pretty good! But that might account for a steady diet of hockey romances and similar. Nothing notable to recommend…

    But! At the point where my brain was mushified and I needed something meatier, I picked up The Dictionary People, the unsung heroes who created the OED. It’s really good! Not just for the history, but really for the people stories – the lives, times, and interests of those who contributed. Recommended.

    1. Years and years ago I read a history of the original OED focused on its editor – ??James Murray (it’s 30 or 40 years ago) – I remember it took forever and a day to produce, with slips of paper all over the place. Seemed a miracle it ever got published.

      1. It really does! I can’t imagine managing that now with technology, let alone post and paper slips.

        This book focuses on the people who sent in the slips. Accounts of ordinary and extraordinary lives and the times and places they lived, connected only by their contributions. It also tells the author’s process of trying to track down who the contributors are, based on not much more than a name. Fun times. The writing is light and engaging too.

      2. I read something a million years ago about it, and it really was fascinating. And thinking about it now, it was probably the wikipedia of its time, the way it came together.

      3. Was this one: The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary? I loved that book.

        1. No, it was longer ago than that: Caught in the Web of Words: James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary, published 1977; I must have read it in the early eighties. This new one about the contributors – who were minor characters in the Murray book – sounds good. I’ll see if the library has it.

      1. Good as gold! Well, I still can’t run or dance, but it will get better. No-one else in the house got covid, modern dentistry is excellent, the tents dried, nothing but good times ahead.

  24. I am also still rereading Georgette Heyer’s detective novels. I have been reading them in publication order and I have just started rereading « No Wind of Blame ». I did remember it was a favourite of yours, Jenny, because you did a great post on the opening chapter and how skilfully it introduced the cast of characters which made me instantly repurchase the book for my kindle at the time.
    At this point, I have very hazy memories of the romance in that one so that’s a treat in store.

    Of the earlier books I have reread so far, I have enjoyed the romances more than the mysteries but I think that true of all her detective novels. The point is not the plot, it’s the characters. I particularly liked the two « reptilian » characters, a term that she certainly doesn’t use in her regencies. They make for very unusual love interests! I also wondered whether one of them, Neville, in « A Blunt Instrument » was neurodivergent. The other is Randall in « Behold, here’s poison » and that’s a delightful romance. In the regencies, this type of character tends to be a villain, or villain adjacent.

    What I definitely didn’t enjoy however is the antisemitism. It is unfortunately more prominent in these novels. I also didn’t like the use of « subhuman » to characterise lower class people. The snobbery is pretty rampant.

    1. When I reread Duplicate Death (1951), I was really put off by her hostility to the post-war settlement – the redistributive taxes that funded the rebuilding of the country, universal education, the NHS, etc. It’s all ‘the poor rich people, how iniquitous that they’re having to pay estate duty’.

    2. I LOVE Randall. To bits.

      With the racism and snobbery, I try to read it as historical, reminders that past eras really were not great. And then I skim it and ignore it for the good bits.

      1. Current eras aren’t always great either. I don’t like reading where racism, homophobia, antisemitism etc reads as normal and unremarkable, but at the same time it’s comforting to see the reminder of how some things have improved somewhat.

        1. Agreed. And it is important, I think, to acknowledge the existence of the bad things. If we whitewash the past too much then we are in danger of rewriting history and glossing over the unsavory bits that we need to learn from. Also, we would negate the struggles of people who suffered and fought against the wrongs.

          I think that this is why I don’t care for the recent trend in historical romance to adopt modern sensibilities for their main characters.

          1. Yes: I think if you want to write contemporary characters, put the in the contemporary world. Not that any ‘historical’ characters aren’t coloured by the author’s viewpoint – cf Heyer – but if you’re playing with history, it needs to work as a whole, and modern viewpoints shatter the illusion.

          2. In the 1990s, I was paying more attention to historical mysteries than I have lately. One thing I noticed at the time was a tendency to pick protagonists whose views were “modern” for their period, but within documented possibility, just at one end of the bell curve. (Sharan Newman, for example.) As more authors started doing this, this got a bit tedious. Then authors edged closer and closer to the impossible and anachronistic, as with at least some Lindsey Davis. I’ve read some recent historical romance that is totally over the top, where the authors evidently decided that it’s all make believe anyhow, so forget verisimilitude. Not to mention using jarring contemporary trendy language.

          3. I think that’s how Diana Gabaldon ended up writing time travel – she keep giving Claire modern sensibilities, so she found a way to keep that.

  25. May McGoldrick’s The Promise was a decent historical romance (the action takes place in 1770), although the theme of slavery running through the story made it grimmer than I like my romances. I’ve read many regency romances by now, but I didn’t know that slavery existed in England during the regency period. According to wikipedia, the official Slavery Abolition Act only passed in Parliament in 1833. Although the 1807 Slave Trade Act prohibited the slave trade in the British Empire, it didn’t abolish the practice of slavery in England, even though it was already unpopular. What an interesting thing to learn from a romance novel.
    After that one, I turned to re-reading my old favorites, Michelle Diener’s Verdant String books. Already gobbled the first 3. They are delightful, as always.
    The new book in the series, Enthraller – #7 in the series, only came out a few days ago, and I couldn’t stay away. I enjoyed it. The entire series is a wonderful example of escapism literature, light sci-fi romance. The scientific facts of astronomy or space travel are not addressed at all. It is delightfully unrealistic, the way Murderbot and his friend ART like it.

    1. The Wikipedia indicates that, although the court cases were rather murky and ambiguous, slavery on the soil of Britain itself was pretty much illegal by the Regency. It seems that even many members of the middle class, to say nothing of the upper, profited from the misery of slaves in the British colonies, however. This figures even in the investments of a poor widow in a Jane Austen novel. Our hero straightens out her income with never a thought for the slaves producing it. A Mary Robinette Kowal fantasy, Of Noble Family, deals with the topic of Caribbean slavery. (The Brits did abolish slavery before the Americans had to fight a bloody civil war to do the same thing, however. )

      1. Yes, this us what I thought: the plantation owners were strongly represented in
        Parliament, so that when (?in the 1830s) slavery was finally abolished in Britain’s overseas colonies, the slave owners (and not the slaves) were given financial compensation.

  26. My good books this week are all about the stress relief reads, so: My Hockey Romance series by Lauren Blakely (Double Pucked, Puck Yes, Thoroughly Pucked) and Billionares of Manhattan series by Annika Martin (Billionaire’s Wake Up Call Girl, etc.) In both series the romantic comedy is nailed, no pun intended. The funny parts are funny, the romance parts are swoony. Humor hits people different so YMMV but I love both these series.

  27. I enjoyed:

    Enchanted to Meet You by Meg Cabot (I loved the small town witch/clothes shop owner + witchy teen teamup to save the town)

    Chaos Terminal by Mur Lafferty (second in the Midsolar Murders locked space station SF mystery) (I love the grounding details for the wide range of aliens and the near-future time frame)

    The Witchwood Knot by Olivia Atwater (her eerie faerie vibe reminds me of Jonathan Strange)

    Also relistening to Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (such an intricte puzzley series!) and thinking about re-reading Theodora Goss’s Athena Club series next (also so intricate and layered, with a similar tone and wildly different Victorian viewpoint as Katherine Addison’s The Angel of the Crows. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is one of my fav books!)

  28. I took a short break from hockey when I realized I was getting the characters all muddled up. So I reread Lucy Parker’s London Celebrity series. I loved Act Like it and the others are almost as good (except the one about the make-up artist which for some reason is a DNF for me, can’t explain why but I just don’t like or care about the characters in that one.)
    Having taken that break, I went back to hockey M/M with Catherine Cloud’s Three is the Luckiest Number which I loved. I then realized I’d raced through Love and other Inconveniences and so reread that and enjoyed it more than the first time.
    I will look for a baseball M/M next so as to let my brain keep all my hockey MCs straight!

      1. It’s called Making Up (#3 in the London Celebrity series) The MMC is a special effects guy, not strictly a make up artist. I’ve now tried this book 3 times and it just falls flat for me.

  29. I have re-read Love and Other Inconveniences many times. I adore those two MC’s and that book.

  30. I read a strange book this week — very gripping & barely put-down-able, but I did enjoy it. Title is “A Lady’s Guide to Scandal” by Sophie Irwin. It’s apparently only her second novel, but it’s written very skillfully. The FMC is a youngish woman who was recently widowed, but she’s not really mourning that marriage, because her somewhat bullying mother pressured her into marrying a much older man because of his wealth & title. That marriage obliterated her prior romance with the older man’s son, and yet the girl had been so controlled by her mother and later the husband that she put him, and her love for him, out of her life. Ten or so years later, she’s rich and alone and has no idea how to proceed with her life, so she is persuaded by her bff to take lodgings with her in Bath.

    So, that far a classic romcom setup, and the cover reads that way too. But the FMC is tempted to start painting again, which she used to love doing with her grandfather in her childhood and early years. Oh, and the teenage swain shows up in Bath as well, But then enter an acquaintance with a sense of humor who chanced upon her sketchbook while waiting with his sister in the parlor one day. He asks her to paint his portrait and all sorts of complications happen.

    It ended up being a very odd Regency romcom, with some twists that made it odder than most I’ve read. At one point she hates both the old flame and the nice fun man she’s been painting. It all ends quite happily, but somehow, really strange. If anyone else has read it, I’d love to hear your take on it.

    1. I’ve read it and enjoyed it! I thought it began as a strong second chance romance trope, so I expected it to go a certain way. But then it started unpacking how the main characters grew with their life choices and opportunities (or lack.) I don’t normally like love triangles, and I found the middle section deliberately uncomfortable as the protagonist came to terms with who she was as an adult and I could see the story couldn’t follow the starting trope. But I loved the painting parts, and I loved the meticulous unpacking and exploring of growth and the resolution.

      I think I read that Irwin is an editor — it felt like she had a very strong grasp on story structure, and I agree that it’s very well-written.

      Did that address the parts that felt odd to you? There was a lot more going on in there!

      1. Yes, exactly! I’ve never read a book with so girly a cover and so simple an initial setup (I mean, rich boring husband, dies, leaves you wealthy, young men and the social life of Bath are calling you, etc. etc.) that moved into such an interesting series of strange, surprising moments in the middle. And I think I loved it too, (there’s an obvious historical parallel as well that I enjoyed) but it was so…I don’t know…unexpected?

        1. Yes, I feel like the author was deliberately setting up the second chance trope and then showing exactly why it would not lead to a HEA in this case. (I got uncomfortable enough that I had to check the end to make sure I wasn’t going to be unhappy with her choice — though to be fair, I read the end first to be able to read most unfamiliar books comfortably.)

          I agree that the cover either presented it as a simple love triangle trope with a hobby instead.

          I did feel like the secondary romance and the twist with the patron were set up in the structure of the story pretty clearly, though they were definitely supposed to read like twists, so those didn’t surprise me. (I over-analyze structure a lot.)

          I think it maybe surprised me less overall because after the first part I began to read it as a book about a widow figuring out who she was now, so the rest fit well I thought. (Also, I was very pleased she was mad at them both!)

    2. I tried to read that author’s first book. A lady’s guide to fortune hunting I think it is called but I found it very clicheed and I didn’t finish it. That’s very unusual for me.
      I am intrigued by this one though. I lived in Bath for many years and I love painting… but not sure.
      Did you all read the first one and liked it???

      1. I read the first one and it held my interest enough for a very quick read, but it was too much like a lot of other books I’d already read.

  31. I spent the first part of the month catching up on the Demon Days, Vampire Nights series (specifically the Dual-Mage and Warrior Fae trilogies), thanks to Graphic Audio (“a movie in your mind!”). Also working on the Spellslingers Academy of Magic series by Anabel Chase.

    I re-read the classic Jayne Ann Krentz Eclipse Bay trilogy.

    I started listening to The City series by Sarah Lyons Fleming (fantastic on audio), but that got derailed when …

    … the newest book in the Innkeeper series by Ilona Andrews was released on Graphic Audio. I listened to that then went back to the beginning and re-started the series. I’m now finishing up Sweep of the Blade (#4).

    Mysteries: I also read the newest book in the “In Death” series by JD Robb, then started re-reading the last few in the series.

    1. I should note that I read some in ebook format and listened to some on audio (either Audible or Graphic Audio). I listen to audio books while I do chores (I foster cats for a rescue so I listen to audiobooks while I hang out with and take care of them.

  32. My niece was very excited to share Holly Black’s Prince of Air trilogy. I am so busy I usually don’t commit to series (except Jenny and Bob!) but these are dark fae which I enjoy and her enthusiasm sold me. I’m now on the second The Wicked King and I have to only read on the weekend or I stay up too late. So yes they are good.
    I’m also reading Anne Katherine’s Boundaries books and they have been so helpful. If you struggle at all in having healthy, happy relationships they are worth the read. Clearly written and quick reading.

  33. I think I needed a little magic and nostalgia in my life and a bought 8 paperbacks and hardback books, and 5 audio books for my birthday at the beginning of January and have read 3 of the in hand and listened to five of the audio.

    -Gail Carrigers- Parasol Protectorate series and the spin offs of it, fun, steampunk, sligth retelling and fabulous characters, only the first seven out of the many many more.
    -Jolene, Mercedes lackey easy read not the best written but familiar magic and world that is easy to get lost into without too much angst or anxiety.
    – and the final one is took a ridiculous but so worth it dive into Ruby Dixon’s, Ice Planet Barbarians universe and i am not mad at it, and it was so off the rails it was exactly the distraction in needed.
    -I am mid read three others presently but the start of 2024 really good so far.

  34. This week has been an intense one at work, so I’m binging Leverage: Redemption and reading the Discworld Watch books. The new Leverage isn’t as well-written as the old Leverage, but the relationships are still there.

  35. I read 33-ish books & shorts in January. Since last GBT, re-read two of my own novels, one of my novellas, and two of my shorts. Aside from those:

    1. NRF, meaning Not Really Finished – I skipped from 30% to 80%, then skimmed to the end to see if my predictions were correct, and they were. ‘The Last Heir of Blackwood Library’ by Hester Fox, which I picked up because it’s set post-WWI and that’s the period I’m looking at right now, but I was not the target reader for this Gothic.

    2. ‘The Bookbinder’ by Pip Williams, a very good historical novel about a bindery worker at the Oxford University Press during WWI. A bit bloodless for my taste; no big emotions on the page, everything’s a bit muted. There is some lyrical writing, the milieu is fascinating, and all plot threads are neatly tied off.

    3. [re-read] ‘Firestorm’ by Nevada Barr, mystery set during/after a wildfire in northern California. Has one of the most memorable anxiety-producing scenes I’ve ever read: a firefighting team forced to deploy emergency shelters and try to live through a burnover. Also has a highly sympathetic killer, so this is the rare case of rooting for him to successfully vanish. This is part of the Anna Pigeon national parks series and contains scenes referencing her are we/aren’t we semi-relationship with an FBI agent, which isn’t resolved in this volume, so go into it for the thrills. 😉

    4. ‘Prince Eddy and the Homosexual Underworld’ by Theo Aronson, which is three sort-of complementary things. A biography of Prince Albert Victor, a grandson of Queen Victoria who died leaving his brother to become King George V of England; a fairly detailed look at a true scandal involving a male brothel with highly-placed clients (including the Prince) and the investigative / legal chicanery that went on to protect some of those clients; a bit too much time spent debunking some truly ludicrous 1970s conspiracy theories about the Prince being Jack the Ripper. This Prince was mostly useless but also mostly harmless, which is more than can be said for many whose position / money protects them from the law. Extensive bibliography inevitably added to my reading list.

    Rec of the week in romance: my F/M short ‘This Time,’ F/NB novella ‘Illusion’ (free on Prolific Works, find a link on my Free Reads page at blog!), or M/M novel ‘Public Offering.’

    Rec of the week for mayhem and endurance: ‘Firestorm.’

    Rec of the month for January: I gave quite a few books five stars, but the single title that jumps out is ‘Farrell Covington and the Limits of Style’ by Paul Rudnick.

    1. One of the Nevada Barr books centers around spelunking, and that was so anxiety-producing that just thinking about it many years later spikes my heart rate. I really enjoyed that series, but would skip the cave one if I were to do a re-read.

  36. I reread Sleep No More – the first in Jayne Ann Krentz series Lost Night Files. It was as good as I remembered and set me up nicely for reading the second in the series – The Night Island. It was also good.

    I read Kristen Ashley’s newest – Too Good To Be True. It’s not part of a series. It was good.

    That’s all folks

  37. I read several seed catalogues, plus gardening books on companion planting and growing vertically. Plus 2 vegan cookbooks borrowed from the library. The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman was an Argh recommendation and I loved it. Each chapter began with a few bullet points on aspects of gardening or a vegetable – learned a few new tips I’ll use in my garden this spring. I also read the first 3 books in Ashlyn Kane’s hockey series, another Argh recommendation. I read them consecutively so can’t recall all the specifics but I enjoyed them.

    1. If interested, book 4 in Ashlyn Kane’s Scoring Chances series is due to be published on February 6th. And for her newsletter subscribers she has an added bonus of access to another of her books about colleagues at a broadcasting studio who habe a hockey and figure skating background. Can’t say anything about that one as I only downloaded it yesterday. But I’m very looking forward to next Tuesday for Crushed Ice (book 4).

  38. I read some of Ruby’s books and you captured it perfectly. I got tired of all the HEA = baby themes but I had fun with them for a while.

  39. I read What the River Knows by Isabel Ibanez. The book description says “The Mummy meets Death on the Nile.” I don’t think it’s quite that exciting a story but I did find it enjoyable, if a little bit too YA. In the late 1800s, a young woman hears of the death of her archaeologist parents. She sets sail from South America to Cairo to experience the Egypt she had heard so much about from her parents. Hijinks of all kinds ensue: lethal, magical, romantic, and archeological. I am looking forward to the sequel coming out in Nov, 2024.

  40. I read and enjoyed the first 4 or 5 Parasol Protectorate books and then I was done. They just were too much of the same thing I think .

  41. I didn’t love anything new I read this month so please bear in mind that the following grumps will probably be at least as much about me as about the book.

    Grave Expectations by Alice Bell
    I was attracted by the quirky vibe of this book and I liked it at first but got very impatient at the slowness and incompetence of Claire, the medium which I felt did not improve as the book goes on. I preferred Sophie the teenaged ghost who had a bit more oomph – but overall I was disappointed and unlikely to try the next one.

    The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels
    inventive and sometimes clever. But although the ingredients seemed up my street, I didn’t like it much. Lots of running around and talking but not a great deal of sense. It gave me a headache. It gave me indigestion. Maybe I’m just getting old…

    Grianan by Alexandra Raife (reread)
    A reliable standby to reset my palate. When Raife’s heroines lose their wits, their moral compass, or their competence it’s because something dreadful happened in their life. You know before you start that through hard thought and hard work they will find their redemption and get all that good stuffback. This is not my favourite but a good solid read.

    The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham
    A big old fantasy book and the first in a big old fantasy series. There is a lot to like here with multiple differing races and a complex renaissance level society. There are multiple lead characters who all give their own and sometimes very different views of events and the writing in general is not at all bad, although knights are often referred to as Sir [Surname] which feels all wrong to a Brit. I had some issues with the actions/motivations of some of those characters at times and one of them (out of fear) commits an appalling atrocity which gave me pause. At the end of the book i felt that I had read the prologue and been through all of this just to get the characters in to place for the real meat of the story. I probably will read on at some point.

    The Wedding Dress Repair Shop by Trisha Ashley
    I like Trisha Ashley. I’ve read all her books that are available on kindle and rated a few of them very highly. However, when reading her books I usually have to brace myself a bit to cope with her fixation with the redemptive power of hard work in a small business. She is not a great writer and her dialog is often banal and repetitive. And yet, and yet, I usually do enjoy her books. Some of them, especially the earlier ones, are witty and I am fond of a redemption story. This one was harder work than normal for me. There was an interesting cat though I was struck as I progressed that I was more interested in him than in the couple. Not great. I read on hoping for more about him but unfortunately he disappeared entirely from the last few chapters. Sigh. I won’t even start on the misleading title which was probably intended to pick up interest from fans of the popular TV series.

  42. I bought and started “Some of us are looking” by Carleen O’Connor; the latest from Richard Osman “The last devil to die”, both which I can’t wait to dive into but as with any murder mysteries, I need a good clear headspace to enjoy them. And January has been fraught with chaos.
    So I go to re-read favorites to smooth out the waves, and I will still love the new stuff later.

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