This is a Good Book Thursday, February 22, 2024

This week, I read Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Simply the Best, and then wrote her an e-mail that included this:

“In other more important news, I finished Simply the Best and loved it. I plan on snarking on my blog about how you wrote a great book just because you wanted to research (aka, eat) chocolate. I was so sure I knew who the murderer was, too, and you got me. Did not see that coming. Anyway, Simply the Best is just more proof that you are simply the best. Still the Queen of the Rom Com, baby, I bow at your feet.”

I had “Still the One” playing in my head while I wrote that because she really is still the best.

What did you read this week that was simply the best?

221 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, February 22, 2024

  1. And now… I and countless other arghers, if they have not already done so, must read it this minute!

    As for my own reading, I am still wading through KU for the good stuff. Currently, I am reading Project Hero by Briar Prescott (recommended here of course) and so far it is very sweet. Both main characters are just lovely people.

  2. Thanks for reminding me of SEP’s new one!!
    Have just downloaded the audiobook – the soundbite was exquisite!

    Also, I’ve got travel time coming up, so this comes in handy 🙂
    Am very excited ’cause dd and I will board a flight to Dublin to go see and listen to Niall Horan’s The SHOW concert. Fan girly here.

    Reading wise I’m not sure if I’d say it was SIMPLY THE BEST book, but I finally got over my initial reading slump regarding the second Alpha Tau book by Henry/Honey. At first, the chaotic Marty O’Brian was not quite my guy, but boy am I glad I did come back to the book: fluffy, funny, heart-warming. No big conflict, but that seems the red thread of the series. Just very nice and cozy College MM stories that provide excellent reading time. The MCs are very different: Dalton is a sensible, ambitious, serious pre-med student, Marty is kind of scatterbrained chaos incarnate from the neighbouring frat house. He gets it into his mind that to get up his grades he should try the gay stuff since that’s the epitome of following the role model of his more successful frat guys. Dalton is kind of bulldozered into becoming his tutor/mentor on academia and the other stuff. But chaotic Marty brings fun into his life and does loads for his self-esteem after being dumped by his long-term boyfriend. Very nice read! Like Dalton I kind of envy Marty’s unfiltered and selfconfident way to just be himself.

    Apart from that I kind of re-read Blindside Hit which I had raved about last week. Really liked it!
    Not so sure about Odd-Man Rush, Roughing and Butterfly by the same author: I tried the reading samples and it didn’t sit too well that in the former a new guy would kind of hit on his goalie in the locker room at their first training. The author really seems to have a tendency to get the attraction/heat going VERY early on. With Blindside Hit this was okay because it started with a celebratory and somewhat tipsy hook-up in a bar. Here, not so much.
    In Crushed Ice, one MC also flirts with the other MC from the start, but that’s just his way of communication – he’d flirt with everyone and the next cat, so that’s something different and made me like him. You (well, I) cannot NOT like Liam in this book.

    Also, I started to listen to Waiting for the Flood, narrated by Will Watt. Very poetic. I think I like it 🙂

    Sorry for yet again rambling too long…

    1. No, Dodo — *I* am the one who rambles too much. I’m sure if you held a contest for long rambles here *I* would certainly be judged longer-winded than you. Besides, I enjoy following your ice hockey evolution, which has come a long long way!

      1. Dear Jinx, I love to read your ramblings which to me never are long or long-ish 🙂

        Yep, I am mightily suprised about my hockey evolution, too. Not least helped by hockey connaisseurs here on the list (waves to Tammy specifically!!).

        I’m now following several teams including my home town one. They get a new rink in autumn and for the grand opening there’s even a NHL team announced (yet not known which one – I’d even take the Sharks). Now we only have to make sure to somehow get tickets…

        And if everything goes well – fingers crossed – dd won’t even be able to come with us (dh and ds are very patient with me 😉 It helps that one of ds’s friends is an avid fan too), but more likely be able to go and see the Canucks (well, the budget will not suffice for them, more likely the AHL affiliate, the ECHL team is too far away).

        1. This hockey evolution thing is fascinating. My family is following along with my evolution from books to actually watching games with total astonishment. Jaws dropped when I spent two entire evenings this week watching NHL games. Full games! 🙂 And as if that weren’t enough, I also seem to be spending a fair amount of time going down the hockey rabbit hole by watching YouTube videos of some of the greatest of all time. Next: a live game!

          1. I actually watched the All Stars skills demo for the first time in my life, which shocked my husband.

          2. Well, thanks to Tammy’s comment, I’ve now actually watched ten minutes of ice hockey skills. They don’t look quite as silly as American football players, but I think I’m going to stick to using my imagination.

          3. Same here.
            By now I get notifications of all the game results that happened while I was asleep 😉
            The family is almost hooked as well or at least VERY patient. My Canadian kid was as fascinated as me at the live game recently – great bonding. Funny side note: her football PE teacher was at the game as well and noticed us (proof that our rink/stadium is FAR smaller than the ones in North America.

          4. So I too watched some of the all-star hockey skills –thanks to Tammy — and it was very helpful when I watched two games last night cause I could actually transpose those skills to the games and got a much better idea of what they were doing. Its a process…
            And I too now get game results notifications. Yikes!!

        2. Am I the only one who enjoys seeing Dodo shift from blue hexagon to pink bomb-shape and (sometimes) back again? So versatile!

    2. Didn’t one of the founding fathers write a letter apologizing to another for the length because he didn’t have the time to be brief? Brevity is hard and certainly not necessary here. More talking about books is always good. 🙂

    3. Alexis Hall’s email had a link to his instagram where he showed the walk Marius took. I haven’t read the book yet, but the little video felt poetic. Can’t wait to read it!
      Oh, and he also posted a link to his Spotify playlist which totally fits with Waiting for the Flood.

  3. I might have to put that in the TBR hopper.

    I did a re-listen to LAVENDER’S BLUE that ended just an hour ago.

    THE CROSSING by Ikenberry, Kevin. I haven’t finished it, yet. I’ve been trying to figure out why. Part of the reason, I think, is the multiple viewpoint characters, some of which are historical characters like George Washington, the British and Hessian officers around Trenton, and the like. For all I know, their behavior is based on letters from George to Martha and so forth, It just doesn’t feel quite right.

    I lost my place in AN ANGEL CALLED PETERBILT and may have to start over, or at least back up a few chapters. At least I know why I haven’t finished it.

    Bjorn Hasseler has a fourth Neustater’s European Security Service novel coming out April 2nd. SECURITY SOLUTIONS: Partial (1/2 Ebook now; full Ebook available 04/02/24). I’ve read the first half. This is the 4th book in the sub-series within the Ring of Fire series.

    Finally, there is that serial, VARIATION ON A THEME. bOOK 5 IS UP TO CHAPTER 28 LATER TODAY. i HAVEN’T WEENED MYSELF FROM IT YET.

    1. Gary, I downloaded the sample of The Crossing but wasn’t impressed enough to buy it straight off. Perhaps I’ll wait for you to finish and deliver your verdict.

  4. I listened to the audiobook of ‘Simply the Best’ by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. It was sooooo good. I’m also listening to the Albert Campion mysteries by Margery Allingham, thanks to your mention in an earlier blog post. My public library has the audiobooks for loan, (but no print formats !!!!). The narrators are hugely entertaining. They should help me fill in some time till Rocky Start is available. I love the good book Thursday blog.

  5. I started Simply the Best this week but had to set it aside until I can give it my full attention. Can’t wait to discover who the murderer was. I will not cheat, I will not cheat! While picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy I stopped by the candy aisle for the half-priced Valentine’s Day chocolate and luckily found Dove dark chocolate with strawberry swirls. Yum!

  6. Jenny, and other Arghers who have read SEP’s newest – I have a question for you. I was going to read it as soon as it came out – have read everything she’s written – and then I was put off by the Amazon description which sounded like (yet another) romance where the hero has it all together and the heroine is a mess. Which was really shocking given that her last book was about two grown-ups and the heroine is an accomplished opera singer so I thought “what the hell” when I read the description. Please tell me it’s not true and then I can read it with impunity.

    1. It is a bit of a retread (I’m 90% in). But her last with the opera singer seriously didn’t work for me – I just didn’t buy the characters or the story, even though like you I’d prefer stories about two grown-ups.

      1. I bought Simply The Best as soon as it came out (HUGE fan of all but 4 of SEP’s books) but have been saving it for when the mood is right — and until I heard more about it. I also share some of Tammy’s concern about the description… A story about grown ups would be good. But I too was not a fan of the one with the opera singer. When she slapped the hero I got so turned off that it just never captured me again, though I did finish it.

      2. Jane, at some point, you recommended SEP’s Breathing Room and I’m so glad you did.
        It is by far my favorite of hers that I have read thus far.

      3. I’m going to have to reread that one as I appear to have forgotten every single thing about it, except that one of the characters was an opera singer.

    2. She does like to do that, doesn’t she. I gave up on Nora Robert’s Inn Boonsboro trilogy for the same reason, right around the time the bad guy sexually assaulted the heroine and she refused to press charges. I know that it is a realistic reaction, but he was so clearly going to escalate that it annoyed me. Which is a shame, because the set up of refurbishing a small town hotel and running it well is totally my jam.

    3. Tammy, for me, the heroine in Simply The Best appears to be a mess but she ends up holding everyone else together and the hero, who had it all together, totally unravels by the end.

      Although that could just be my interpretation.

      1. I’m listening to Simply the Best right now and agree with Carrie. The characters make me think of Match Me If You Can in that way. But even if the heroine is a bit feckless at the beginning she is never made to look foolish.

        1. I’m half way through Simply the Best and I’m enjoying it. I agree with Jane B, When Stars Collide (opera singer) wasn’t my cup of tea either. I think my favourite SEP is Call Me Irresistible.

  7. Kind of a mad reading week for me. Hard to believe I got through so much, but I was recovering from a busy stressful period.

    Anyway some good ones:

    Just finished ‘Three is the Luckiest Number’, Catherine Cloud (MM Hockey). Quite intense but not angsty. Loved it.

    Total contrast ‘The Inside Edge’ Ashlyn Kane (MM, Hockey adjacent, about two presenters on an ice hockey TV programme). This was FUN. It is light, has nice MCs and best of all it made me laugh pretty often.

    Both of those are going to be rereads for me.

    Also, after Tammy and Dodo last week I read The Blindside Hit, Tierney Rose/Michaela Grey (author seems to use two names). As they said, this was good 🙂

    Followed that up with a few by the same author:
    Goalie Tandem, pleasant, and nice but not much drive to the story. There was knitting though!

    Roughing, I liked this more. Nice MCs, very low key angst. Good, but not the best I’ve read on the issues.

    Finally, I liked ‘Off the Ice’ about one hockey player whose career is ended by the other. One graphic bit about the injury at the start but that’s it. Mostly on a farm. I liked that bit. Despite the major issue, the angst is low key and things resolve easily enough, which makes for a nice read, but not as realistic as others I’ve read on similar. Still, I liked it a lot and will probably reread at some point.

    On audio I’m back to The Dresden Files (Jim Butcher), Skin Game (no 14 I think?). the reading is as ever fantastic (James Marsters, one of the best, I think,), and I just love how the plotting over the series comes together and new things to be picked up later are put it. I felt the last one had lost it a bit, but maybe I just listed to a few too many in a row.
    For those who didn’t like the start of the series, Harry gets less macho as the series goes on.

    1. James Marsters is just great, isn’t he!

      I liked the early Harry just fine – Butcher lost me with his loooong silence, though.
      Didn’t read the last two. I’m a sucker for the daily smallish stuff – the big battles not so much. Oh well. If my tbr pile ever gets manageable, I’ll get back to it 🙂

      Codey Alera and the other stuff with the flying ships I couldn’t get into.

    2. I read (present tense) the Dresden books as they come out, but find that not every one is a winner. Some get far too involved for me in the vicious politics of Faerie. I think I liked Skin Game, but the titles blur together after a while. (I grew up in and near Chicago until I left for grad school and never returned to live, so the setting is a plus, even though Butcher researched it with, I presume, occasional visits, and is vague on many details. So the setting is a plus for me.)

    3. Off the Ice and Blindside hit are my two faves by Rose Tierney/Michaela Grey. She is changing her nom de plum to Rose Tierney because she has been stalked for years online by a completely batshit crazy person (I’m in HR so that’s the technical term) who is named Michaela Gray and claims she stole her name. I’ve read her posts; they’re quite something. Because the books are M/M she also manages to spew a whole lotta homophobic crap. And by the way, she is not content with the name change and is still stalking her online and still spewing. Some people need a hobby.

      1. Ugh. That reminds me a little of the time the band Perry tried to sue Christina Perry for damaging their Christian image with her song Dark Horse.

        There is another person in this town with my name, first, last and same middle initial and I get sent her unpaid parking tickets from time to time. You don’t see me hunting her down, running her off the road, tickets in hand in a fit of rage.

        We should open an Only Fans account for Michaela Gray. Draw some of her fire.

        1. I think it would be quite amusing to see you hunting her down, and running her off the road, tickets in hand in a fit of rage – and I hope, in fabulous shoes.

          Probably a better idea is the Only Fans account – love it.

          1. Ooh, yes.

            Shoes. Fluffy Malibu feather slippers… I might actually enjoy this and all the shoes would be a business expense.

          2. Bernadette Banner of historical clothing had a youtube video about victorian ankle pictures, she set up a joke temp onlyfans and donated it to charity. Shoe lovers check out her shoes

        2. When I moved to DC I was the welfare expert at a small national advocacy organization for children.
          The welfare expert at the most well known child advocacy organization had my name with one more syllable in the last name.

          People confused us a lot.

          Then we were both heads of national advocacy organizations that partnered on projects and people confused us.

          Now I am a consultant for her organization and people confuse us.

          Fortunately we both like and respect eachother so it’s not an issue. It’s not like the two Naomi’s in “Doppelgänger”.

  8. This week I read a gay human/dragon series that was meh. And after the Argh conversation about Robin McKinley’s book Dragonhaven which is my favourite dragon book of all time, I re-read that which was way more satisfying. It’s told by a fourteen year old boy so the voice is quite specific. It’s a unique fantasy because it has a grounded, modern tone and context that isn’t very fantasy-like. I’m not describing it well.

    I also drowned my sorrows in a number of Josh Lanyon books: Cards on the Table, the fourth in the Holmes & Moriarity series, the Ghost duology and the Dark Horse/White Knight duology.

      1. LOL – only that I invested in a three part series waiting for a payoff and nothing. So book sorrows only.

    1. After hearing so many mentions of Josh Lanyon by Aarghers, I decided to try one last week, and now I’m 9 books into the Lanyon oeuvre. Lol. Thanks for the recc, guys!

          1. Hi Lian. My suggestion for a good place to start would be her stand alone short story “Come unto these Yellow Sands” which is a little gem and gives you an idea of her style of writing. It’s a romance between a police chief and a creative writing professor/poet.
            She has a long backlist which includes some wonderful stories. I am also a big fan of the Adrien English series (First in the series is Fatal Shadows). This series is about a deeply closeted LA police detective and a book seller. There are 6 books in the series.) This series is one of her most popular couples. Enjoy!

  9. I finished Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty. The structure of the book is really another character, as you slowly untangle all the various backstories of the characters.

    It started off slowly, or maybe I was just tired and read slowly, and I couldn’t decide if I liked the characters. But then as I kept reading, different threads wove together and I found myself compelled to speed forward to the finish. While I was reading I was thinking that I’d need to reread the entire thing right away, just to see if my new-found knowledge would change how I interacted with the book. But once I was done, I found I needed it to gel and rest in my brain for a while. But it is back in the reread pile for the future.

    The plot – a spaceship crewed by 6 clones and an AI is in deep space. At the start of the novel all the clones have been killed, and regenerated but without their recent memories, so they all have to figure out what happened and who the killer was.

    I’m probably not doing it justice, but it was a fascinating work.

    1. On the other hand, I really bounced off of Six Wakes, although I finished it because it was for my book club. It was long enough back that I don’t remember why I reacted that way, except that I thought that for the sake of the plot Lafferty was very cavalier about killing off all those clones. Dead is dead, even if someone who looks like you and has your memories can step into your social role.

      1. Me, too. I decided early on I didn’t like anyone, and did not continue far, fascinating as the set-up was. I have read the opening of something else by Mur Lafferty and bounced off that, too.

    2. Sounds good. I love an interesting structure, as long as it works for the book and isn’t some sort of gimmick. This sounds like it works well. I’ll check it out

    3. I enjoyed Six Wakes too! I love interesting structure, and I love puzzling things out. I definitely read for character, and I found some of the characters intriguing enough to keep reading until I understood where they were coming from.

  10. My own reading to follow later. Meanwhile a question for all you SEP fans:

    SEP was earlier recommended to me by the Crusie-loving relative I had earlier mentioned. (I know she has started Liz Danger and probably she has finished by now.) I later replied to her as follows:

    “I tried The Great Escape by S.E. Phillips, who you had recommended, but I bounced off that one. Hero completely unsympathetic to me, although presumably redeeming qualities are to be revealed by book’s end, which I plan not to reach. … I’ll try a different Phillips before I give up on her.”

    I haven’t yet followed up. Was Great Escape a bad place to start, or is SEP likely just not to my taste?

    1. Definitely not a good place to start, in my opinion. My favourites of hers are Natural Born Charmer and Breathing Room. The first is in the Chicago Stars series, but it takes place elsewhere and only has minor appearances by a couple of other characters from that series. She’s written a lot of great stories, though her earliest and most recent ones are more misses than hits for me. But there’s the odd dud here and there in the middle, too. Which is strange, because she’s really very good most of the time.

      1. Jane and several others recommended Natural Born Charmer, and I now have the e-audiobook out from the library. My thanks to all who recommended things!

    2. I really loved Match Me if You Can by SEP. It was my first grown up romance with a sex scene and I still have a soft spot for it. I also liked her Georgette Heyer homage, Ain’t She Sweet (?) but had to skip the flash back section in the middle. She can write some hard, humiliating stuff.

      And sometimes I bounce off really hard from her. One of the early ones about the football team involves rape in multiple forms and when the male lead had questionable sex with someone he clearly really shouldn’t have, that was a hard nope for me. I just couldn’t handle it. I did like the one about the artist who redoes an old house. Maybe Natural Born Charmer? YMMV.

      1. I completely agree about the hard stuff, Lupe. Ain’t she sweet? was my first SEP and the flasbacks made me uncomfortable.
        I like This heart of mine & Daisy’s book with the tiger.

      2. “Match Me if You Can” is my favorite too although haven’t read it in years and I’m a bit afraid that it might not stand up.

        I find SEP very hit and miss and I think its very subjective because some of her books I liked least are other people’s favorites. I think humor can be very individual like that sometimes.

    3. I agree with JaneB that Great Escape was probably not the best place to start. My favorites are some in the Stars series (which work as standalones) with the rereads being It Had to be You, Dream a Little Dream, Heaven Texas and Match Me if You Can . Breathing Room — not a Chicago Stars-related story — is also near the top. SEP is good but there are definitely some not-so-great ones there and a few which simply have not withstood the test of time.

      1. I tried some of SEP’s books, but I think my formative years as a newly awakened feminist affected me more strongly than I realized. No matter what they’re doing or how sensitive they act, I just don’t believe football players being anything other than Macho Macho guys who have no regard for concussions whatsoever. I find the curled, made-up grinning cheerleaders alarming, the coaches kind of beastly, and the whole atmosphere makes me want to curl up on a sofa somewhere and just read with no thoughts of football. (That’s American football, btw. Soccer/Eurofootball seems like skilled labor by comparison.)

        1. This is why I’m sticking to imagining these worlds rather than watching the sports involved. Also because I have less than no interest in sport of any kind. So there’s a fair amount of heavy lifting involved in suspending my disbelief. But the upsides, if I ignore the sport involved, are the built-in community and the closed worlds, where winning a game is important.

    4. I used to really like the Wynette ones and the chicago stars ones but I haven’t read them for a long time!

    5. One of my favorites is a a stand-alone “Heros Are My Weakness” – an homage to gothic novels that I think works well and still has her off-beat humor. And Annie stands up for herself well. After that, Natural Born Charmer is my comfort re-read.

      1. I love Heroes Are My Weakness. I can cheer myself up by reading the epilogue of that book.
        I also love the one with the Banksy-like hero Ian North. I think the title is Dance Away With Me

  11. I am still rereading Jayne Castle’s Harmony series. There is one list that has 10 books so far and another list that has 16.

    I finished the 10 list. The last one was a good read titled Sweetwater and the Witch.

    Now I’m backtracking to pick up some books on 16 list that weren’t on 10 list.

    First up Midnight Crystal. It’s a reread but I don’t remember much except Marlowe Jones’ dust bunny Gibson.

    So far so good.

    1. I reread those every so often! Are there ones not on the short list because they’re Arcane series crossover? Anyway, I’m currently rereading some of the Amanda Quick Arcane books. I read the contemporary ones a few months ago. I know that puts some of these plots all out of order, but they’re dinner of my comfort reads.

    2. I love the Harmony books, because how could I not love the dust bunnies! She has a new one coming out in May – People in Glass Houses – and I am counting the days.

  12. Ooh yes! I just read the new version of Waiting for the Flood (I don’t think there were many changes from the old one), but of course bought it for the Chasing the Light story. I love Edwin too much to really adore Marius, who’s very prickly, but it was good.

  13. I am still happily ensconced in smut. The one I finished last night was very emotionally satisfying and now I am completely hungover. Not sure what I want to try next. Still, I am very happy with the amount of new to me reading I have done so far this year. I like to think that it says better things about my mental headspace than the comfort reread loop I was stuck in so firmly at the end of last year. I am sure that I will relapse, and I am ok with that too, but happy with where I am at the moment.

    I went back to listening to Adrienne English because the last book in the first three ended in a somewhat cliffhanger, at least emotionally. Not my favorite ‘two guys solving mysteries and falling in love’ series, but I am still hooked. The breadcrumbs of the relationship keep me following along and it has a good listening rhythm. Paced enough that it makes for good background as I work and clean and drive, etc.

      1. Yep. Got passed that one, but it was rocky. I got a little frustrated with Adriene for pushing Jake so hard to come out. I don’t think that he was wrong, but I still don’t think that one should push someone else on that subject. Grumble grumble.

        1. Perversely, I actually enjoyed the tension in the first two added to the story by Jake being so firmly in the closet and in other relationships. It’s not something you see very often and I appreciated how Adriene accepted it, even though he knew it made him unhappy and wasn’t really good for either of them.

        2. And see, I was annoyed with Jake for being a confused guy, not explicitly talking about the boundaries of their relationship, and not apologizing for some poor behaviour.

          1. I could understand his fear. I was never in the closest, but my father was very controlling and prone to large upsets. My sister and I both struggled with setting boundaries with him, healthy limits, etc. Plus you add in the self loathing that Jake felt and I guess I have patience for his being frozen with indecision. He had his whole life to lose.

            There were no consequences for Adriene. He doesn’t lose anything, really, only stood to gain if the coming out went well. And he knew the score going in…

            Of course that became moot when the blackmail potential came into play.

          2. Ooo. I got to the part where they have it out in the cemetery in book 4 on my lunch break. I appreciate the jump in emotional intelligence. I love blunt honesty.

          3. Sorry LN,

            I am listening to it, so I don’t have a strong visual memory of how it is spelled. I know there is an E in there, because it comes up as an inside joke multiple times.

    1. Book 4 of the Adrien English series (Death of a Pirate King) is my favorite in the series. So much angst. So much emotional payoff. You know that comfort reread loop you mentioned? The whole Adrien English series a leader in my loop. (Lanyon’s Art of Murder series is in there too…)

      1. Have you tried Charlie Adhara? I feel like those books are a similar vibe and they are absolutely comfort reread loops for me. Lots of emotional juiciness.

          1. Charlie is a she and you won’t regret it. Her books are the apogee of Two Guys Solving Cases and Falling in Love.

          1. I think she means to Charlie Adhara. Her work (and Tammy’s, Dodo’s and Frozen Pond’s) with respect to hockey is done. I’m hooked! 🙂

    2. Lupe, I have been listening to the Richard Osmond (Thursday Murder Club) & Marina Hyde podcast The Rest is Entertainment where they were talking about romantasy as a genre (according to RO this is the highest earning genre in publishing currently).
      I am just curious if this is the smut of which you refer? No mention of tentacles by Richard but he did refer to orgasmic sex with dragons & faeries etc. I find the podcast very illuminating & the pairing of these two presenters is interesting & entertaining.

      1. My understanding of Romantasy is that it is a mash of romance and high fantasy, ala Throne of Glass and is often YA. There is world building, there is plot, as well as a strong romance subplot.

        I have an unfortunate addiction to trash. Really terrible ebooks, reminiscent of those skinny romance novels my grandmother used to read, by one-off writers and about very unlikely scenarios. I started reading hers when I was young and still find the over-the-top stories to be oddly soothing. Now I read about tentacles, monsters, aliens and such. The stories are usually short, with tons of sex for sex’s sake, and lots of unlikely scenarios and appendages.

        And sometimes I find a jewel amongst the the paste. Something really well written and imaginative and unusual. CM Nascosta was one of those. There is a lot of literary fiber in her books. They are well written and insightful. But I also still love the book about the girl stuck at a cabin by herself at Christmas who gets rescued from a snow drift by a very friendly abominable snow man and learns the true meaning of Christmas. I think that one was by Honey Phillips.

  14. I gave up on two or three KU duds this week – sticking with them for longer than I should have. So I’m rather relieved that my free trial ended today. As I mentioned above, I’m now enjoying SEP’s Simply the Best, though the characters and romance are very familiar, and I prefer earlier iterations, such as Match Me If You Can.

    1. I agree with you about the duds on KU, Jane, but happily I have discovered a slew of new English/Scottish/Irish police procedural authors on KU that has kept me a member for several months. For those interested in that genre, try J.D. Kirk, Beckham, Bruen, Boyd, Dalgliesh (writer, not character), Forder, Gatward, Gitsham, and so on (until I just tried listing them, I didn’t realize there were so many!)…
      On other fronts, I’m just finishing the third in a trilogy set on the Faro Islands by Chris Ould. And last night I listened to the conclusion of Exiles by Jane Harper (of The Dry etc.), which I thought was well written, plotted, and then narrated. Huzzah!

  15. Well, I read Strange Bedpersons and What the Lady Wants on my trip to Phoenix and back. I still have some of WTLW to read, as we landed before I got to the end. Those always deliver some fun. Both have a reference to DJT in a snarky, and very prescient, way. Jenny saw through him very early.

    I also read snippets of books my DIL gave me to sample. She is into witches, dragons, and Sci-Fi, and so am I. She reads a lot of YA books, which she shares with my granddaughter. I put The Black Witch: An Epic Fantasy Novel by Laurie Forest on my Wish List, and Daughter of the Pirate King, by Tricia Levenseller, as well. Both will be fascinating and fun reads.

    I don’t think I have read any S E Philips. What’s a good book to start with? Are they all RomCom mysteries?

    1. They aren’t all mysteries. Actually I think that most of them are chick lit/RomCom without the mystery part. But it has been a while and I certainly didn’t read all of her work.

      1. Yes. I was still writing my piece when your suggestions were published. I read part of Simply… and it did not grab me. I’ll check some of her other books.

  16. I read Simply The Best last week. It was a travel day for me so I read it on the plane and during layovers. Loved it!

    I also read The Thursday Murder Club and loved it. Need to read more in the series.

    Just finished Obsidian Prey by Jayne Castle and enjoyed it.

  17. I reread Doing Time by Jodi Taylor in preparation to reading the next in the series, which I think is Hard Time. My library system doesn’t have a copy of it and neither does the local Barnes and Noble so I am going to splurge on the e book. I got a pedicure (yes, another splurge) yesterday and reread The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde. Now I am rereading Mindtouch by M.C.A. Hogarth. As my current library books have failed to hold my attention.

  18. Simply the best book I have read this week was The House in the Blue Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. So charming and special, fell in love with the characters on the island. Cannot thank the Arger(s) who recommended it enough.

    Everything else I read this week seemed quite dull in comparison, although they are authors I usually enjoy – The Summer Skies by Jenny Colgan, and What Happens in Con by Cathy Yardley. Neither were bad just disappointingly normal compared to the multi-coloured journey that was The House in the Blue Cerulean Sea.

    Have read all SEP’s previous books and will put the new one on my list for next year. Not buying any novels this year now until I have cleared out my TBR pile and my top-be-re-read pile (they have to be enjoyed twice to be granted real estate space on my Keeper shelves). I am enjoying re-reading some Keepers – just finished the Highlander/Spellbound Falls series by Janet Chapman, they all get to stay on the Keeper shelves 🙂

    1. The Cerulean Sea book by Klune was a book I loved so much that I bought it the day after finishing it. I loved the earnest, upright, hardworking protagonist and the trajectory of his realization that the Musts and Must Nots of his restrictive society were just prejudices that obscured the loving humanity of so many people that the society had either outlawed or sidelined. And the island! And the friendship with the teacher he meets there! Wonderful book. 🙂

  19. I read Reading the Signs by Keira Andrews: Baseball M/M romance between 2 teammates with an age difference. It really worked for me, some angst and enough sport that you know what game they are playing, and I really enjoyed the clubhouse dynamics. Helps that I love baseball — many thanks to Frozen Pond for the recommendation. The search for more good baseball M/M stories continues.
    I also reread It Had to Be you by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Such a lovely comfort read. Football romance this time. It thought this might put me in the mood for the new SEP, but then I fell back into hockey M/M…
    I read Unrivaled by Ashlyn Kane and Morgan James and loved it. She really stepped up the dialogue in this one. It’s on the reread pile. Excellent. One downside is that it ends on a little bit of a cliffhanger but I see the sequel is coming out in April 2024. Phew! Not too long to wait.
    Also read Gated Prey, by Lee Goldberg, the 3rd in the Eve Ronin series. Good LA procedural. I’m really enjoying this series.

    1. Lee Goldberg and Janet Evanovich did a series, Fox and O’Hare, that was fabulous.
      Goldberg left the collaboration, and it became perfectly clear that he did the writing.

      The book following Goldberg’s departure written by her son? husband? was just dreadful, as if the author had not even read the previous five books in the series.

      1. Son, yep he hadn’t bothered, you could tell when he had Nick meet in FBI HQ, which he never ever went near due to having a secret deal and still being on the 10 most wanted. I think that was the first chapter. He never even bothered to check on the couples relationship, they’d already got together in the last book. The first 5 books had some fun characters I really missed

    2. Loved Unrivaled, too!!

      There’s a glimpse of what those two are up to in Crushed Ice.
      I’m also looking forward to April 😀

      1. Isn’t it kind of amazing that a blog about largely romance & other fiction has a comment that begins “Speaking of hockey”?

  20. I actually finished quite a bit this week, but
    I have to break off for a while, so I’ll report in installments. First one is:

    Yuko Tsukuda and Suhun Saeki, Food Wars 16.  Food Wars is a manga series, on which an anime series was later based (not seen by me).  It’s supposedly set in a specialized culinary residential high school, but all the characters act more like college age.  It’s sort of Hogwarts crossed with Iron Chef, with some romance subplots.  There are major story-arc  developments in volume 16, undisclosed here because spoilers.  This is one of those series where you probably could start with any volume without getting lost, but where you would get more out of it by going back to the beginning, or as close as feasible.  (If you’re reading from the library and can’t get volume 1 immediately, another early one would likely do.) Japanese cuisine is (1) heavily reliant on seafood, which does not hugely appeal to me, and (2) uses many ingredients that one would have to look hard for in most of the US. I haven’t tried any of the recipes printed in the series, but they’re fun to look at. (Hey, I do eat a lot of soy sauce, tofu, miso, and relatively exotic Japanese cuisine.
    Not a total food philistine.) More later.

  21. I read Eva Rice’s The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets and loved it. I don’t remember who recommended it-if it was someone here, many thanks!

    The novel is set in the mid-1950s in London and vicinity, as people are just recovering from the war and rationing has decreased. MCs include an 18-year-old narrator dealing with a new friend and a crush or two, her talented younger brother, and a drama queen of a widowed-by-the-war mother. I knew what had to happen and I thought I knew how/who, but I was happily wrong.

    Shortly after beginning I thought, this book is so British. I don’t know why, maybe something with the tone? It goes beyond the language differences and the food, but it couldn’t be set in the U.S.

    1. I adore The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets. I’ve read it four times and it’s not lost anything through multiple readings. You’re right, it has such an effective sense of time and of place, but I too can’t quite work out how!

  22. Oh! I need something new to watch.

    We finished the newest season of True Detective. I liked it, although the ending felt too abrupt, tied up too neatly in the last minute. It’s a shame really. The story and the characters showed promise.

    So, what do we like?

    1. My husband and I just finished watching the Inspector Brunetti series. They started years ago and ended in 2014 or so (I think) so we’re probably late to the game but we loved it. It’s in German (with subtitles of course) with fabulous photography of Venice and each episode stays very close to the Donna Leon book its based on. I’ve read them all and was worried they would bore me but was enthralled by them.

    2. Lupe, have you watched The Unforgotten (with Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar)? BBC: absolutely fantastic on all fronts! (But then I have a great fondness of Nicola Walker and will watch anything she’s in–Annika, anyone?) Also Bhaskar.

      1. Emphatically second Unforgotten. Excellent series. There’s another odd mystery one that Walker’s in, only one season, just a few episodes, but really good: River. Can’t explain it without spoilers — recommend watching the pilot withOUT reading any descriptions of it. And of course, also on PBS if you have Passport (for watching Unforgotten), she’s the lead in Annika. I first became a fan watching Spooks (MI-5 or 6, forget which, for American audiences), where she had a relatively small role initially, but it grew larger over the series.

        If you don’t mind subtitles, I enjoyed a couple French procedurals — Candice Renoir (on Acorn or Britbox) and the first season or two of Paris Murders (Profilage in the original French — but be aware that once the first profiler leaves the show, it quickly goes downhill), which is also on PBS Passport. Candice Renoir is fairly light for the most part, and Paris Murders is a mix of light and intense. Oh, and that reminds me — one more French procedural on PBS and really, REALLY good — Astrid (Astrid and Rafaelle is the original title) — about an autistic/savant woman who teams up with a police detective (Rafaelle) to, well, you know — solve crimes and explore the concept of friendship by and with an autistic person. Appears to be a really good presentation of autism, positive and compelling without being too cute about it

        Beyond that, I’m in a watching slump and hating everything. Really annoyed by Monsieur Spade (great acting, setting, etc., but the plot made zero sense and the ending was a total deus ex machina that didn’t really resolve anything). I’ll watch anything with Matthew Beard in it (Vienna Blood’s first season is amazing; the rest didn’t live up to the first, and are uneven), but he only had a really small part in Monsieur Spade, not enough to redeem the whole show!

        For mysteries, I’m also annoyed with Father Brown (becoming way too twee), Death in Paradise (ditto), and … I can’t remember what else I’ve seen lately. Oh, one exception is Vera. That’s still good, and there’s a new episode next week!

        1. I liked Beyond Paradise, where the Kris Marshall detective and his girlfriend move to Devon. More of a keeper than Death in Paradise, for me.

          1. I agree – except for the Christmas special. As always with that genre, it gets a bit saccharine.

      2. Oh yes! Unforgotten was great, even the latest season that is post Nicola Walker. And we loved Annika.

    3. I’ve been watching the US version of Ghosts. I have seen some episodes of the UK version of Ghosts and it’s really interesting to compare and contrast them. Generally, I prefer the original source material but in this case I prefer the US version to the original UK version. The US one just seems gentler and nicer than the UK one. Has anyone else seen this show, and what did you think?

      1. I agree about the US version. I did think that perhaps it was because I was more familiar with the US version, but when they ran the UK version during the writers’ strike, I felt no regret if I forgot to turn on the television in time to catch it.

  23. this week I read the Mead Mishaps series because I really needed some light and silly. That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon, That Time I got Drunk and Yeeted a Love Potion At a Werewolf, it’s all right in the titles. It is what it says. If you want some light and fun reading, there you go.

    Best anime of the week: Villainess Level 99 Hidden Boss, we binged it up to the current episode over the long weekend and loved every minute. The romance with Patrick is so adorable.

  24. Getting in early since I’ve been up to do essential things like refill bird feeders, walk Scruffian around the backyard for her morning safari, prep a birthday card for my sister-in-law, and check my wishlist for anything on sale. 🙂

    1. [re-read] My own novel ‘Awake & Dreaming,’ the one about an interpreter for an Asian pop star and the aphonic young man they find in an alley behind a Macau casino and take to the pop star’s private island (just put this one on sale).

    2. ‘Dancing on Eggshells’ by John Whaite, memoir by the GBBO winner who was half of the first M/M pairing on Strictly Come Dancing. This guy has a lot of issues and doesn’t spare himself much. Quite well written (thanks, law degree), self-aware (thanks, therapy), discreet about other people, however closely affected by his own experiences. I could have done without the recipes, but I’m sure those worked for other readers. 😉

    2.5 DNF at 5%, a queer YA coming-of-age set at an international school in Paris (this would be why I picked it up), but the opening scene was a bunch of overprivileged immature wankers behaving in unpleasant and self-destructive ways. Next!

    3. ‘Joseph and his Friend’ by Bayard Taylor, a late-Victorian novel set in the 1860s in Pennsylvania; part of the Green Carnations anthology of queer and queer-coded books. It’s a very typical late-Victorian novel (i.e. soap operatic). The central M/M friendship is supportive & articulate. I suspect to the late-Victorian queer reader it would have read as reassuring and hopeful – even though both men are involved / in love with women, as they pretty much had to be for such a book to get published – and validating, in that the men certainly love each other, and say so.

    4. ‘Waiting for the Flood’ [re-read] and ‘Chasing the Light’ by Alexis Hall. WFTF is a favorite of mine and I really wanted to see what AJH would do with Marius. We don’t really learn why Marius is the way he is, but we do learn why he did what he did. And his future is the merest implication, but the implication is good (his new love interest is a great character). Most importantly for those of us who love WFTF, we get resolution for the Edwin + Marius arc and a truly happy ending for Edwin & Adam. This is the AJH I fell in love with: a writer who can present a character I barely like at all and then make me want the best for them. The Spires books dig deep.

    Also, we watched the R-rated rom-com ‘What’s Your Number’ starring Anna Faris and Chris Evans, which hit all the rom-com beats but which I found truly funny. It also, most refreshingly, directly refutes the slut-shaming of many such movies and lovingly accepts its messy FMC.

    1. Thanks for the review of the new edition of ‘Waiting for the Flood’. I’m sure I’ll buy it, since it’s a favourite of mine, too; but I wish I could update the original rather than having to buy the whole thing again. (Guess I’m mean.)

    2. Oh, I know which 2.5 vook you mean!! I also didn’t manage to get far. Dnf, too. Better ways to spend my time.

  25. I seem to have finished nothing but Mimi Matthews this week–a lot of Mimi Matthews. I’m almost finished with Patricia McKillip’s Dreams of Distant Shores, which is short stories and maybe novelettes? I’m not tuned in to length. So I have finished things other than Mimi Matthews, just not whole books. I’m in the middle of Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity’s Death, which is the first of a series of mysteries, I think? It has romance elements, and I’m enjoying it too much to care what category the next books will fit into. Delightful characters, delightful voices, including the ghost of Aunt Dimity. I will be reading the next one right away.

    Apparently I’m not making progress with rereads, even though there’s a stack five books high beside my bed and three ebooks in progress on my iPad. But they’re comforting even just sitting there waiting for me.

  26. I don’t like to mention books until I’ve gotten to the end. Call no man happy until he is dead, and all that.* Finishing up my report on finished works:

    It seems the only other thing I’ve finished since last Thursday are Linzi Day’s so-far-published five books of the Gretna Green series, mentioned last week by Deborah Blake.  (The five books number 1 through 4, including 3.5.)  I also read the bonus opening chapters of forthcoming 5 offered as an incentive to subscribe to Day’s newsletter, but have not yet read the other bonus fiction.  Readers should be warned that volume 4 does not really come to a resolution,  and, like Connie Willis’s Blackout and other less notorious cases, is pretty much only the first half of a novel (thereby presenting a knotty case for the principle enunciated in my first paragraph). 

    This series did not remind me quite so strongly as did Matteson Wynn’s series of Ilona Andrews’s Innkeeper Chronicles, but there were similarities.  Sentient houses seem to be becoming quite the thing in fantasy.  (AIs running houses have existed in sf for a long time, but usually in a minor way, with AIs running spaceships or space stations much more common—HAL 9000 in the film 2001 was far from the first.  Even the Innkeeper Chronicles is arguably science fiction rather than fantasy, except that the authors [the Andrews pseudonym covers a married couple] have included it in a grand unification with other series that are clearly fantasy.)  And intrigue among clans, as seen in Day, is already firmly embedded in much fantasy, not to mention in much sf and much historical fiction, and even in other genres (especially if espionage agencies or organized crime groups count as clans).  I found the Day series very “grippy,” in Jo Walton’s coinage.  Also, I think, decidedly British, although informed by American and other international influences. I think I’ll have to mull the works over longer to decide how much wisdom is wrapped in the wit and entertainment.  Anyway, I’ll certainly read the next one. 
    —————————
    *I gather the Greek really means more like, “Say that no one is living a good life until that life can be judged as a whole.” Saint Augustine similarly said something about how you don’t know what a sentence means until you reach the end (maybe especially if you’re speaking Latin).

    1. Well, science fiction is really just a subset of fantasy when it comes down to it, lol. So maybe the Ilona Andrews multiverse is not as odd as it seems!

    2. I just finished the first Gretna Green book (very good! Thanks Deborah for the recommendation), and have ordered the second. Thanks for the headsup about book 4. I frequently will stop reading a series if that happens (I’m looking at you Finlay Donovan) but maybe knowing ahead will help.

    3. Re: (maybe especially if you’re speaking Latin). I think that’s a result of tge grammar rules for specific languages.
      Some keep the verb close to the noun or the subject, and/or close to the start of the sentence, others do not.

      I think a lot of germanic languages, like Dutch and German, often place the important verb at the end of the sentence – even if the sentence rambles a bit and has interjections and such, you won’t get to know what is really going on until you reach the verb at the end.

      Are you, in such a messy house that nobody could find anything in less than an hour, when you were sent to find something small but given no indication where it could be, so you really felt like lighting the whole thing on fire no matter what your boss would say, in fact ransacking it, systematically searching it, trying to deduce where the object could be before starting the search, first organising the contents, or setting fire to it?
      If someone makes a statement like that, instead of a question, you won’t know which until you reach the final verb at the end of the whole complicated sentence.

      It makes reading writers who like long sentences in those languages an exercise for your memory, keeping all the sidetracks in mind until you reach the payoff at the end, and can figure out how to interpret them.

      1. Hanneke, Just so. Further rambling thoughts on the issue: In your example, to remain ambiguous, in English the sentence would have to start “You are ..”, not “Are you …” But the former could legitimately start a question if the speaker is asking for confirmation. Shorter example, A: Who won? B: I won! A: You won? [not Did you win?] B: Yes! I don’t know Latin, but similarly verb-first is normal question order in other Western European languages that I know: ¿Habla usted español? Sprechen Sie deutsch? But subject-first questions could be used for confirmation or for other reasons. In Russian, a question could be either order, and could include a sort of verbal question mark, ли, li, depending on your emphasis. But in any case ambiguity until the sentence ends is not restricted to the statement/question issue.

        Mark Twain has a story (probably in his essay “The Awful German Language”) about two people watching a play in Germany. The play is pretty bad and after a while one friend suggests that they leave. The other replies, “Hang on another five minutes. I’m just waiting for the verb.” You don’t *have* to use long sentences even in German, though. (And the verb generally comes at the end only if there’s a relative clause or if a helping verb came first: I have today to the store gone.) I used to prize popular science writer Rudolf Kippenhahn because he could write blessedly short sentences. In the 19th century or so, Russian prose style drew on foreign models and you could either imitate German or French, where French used fairly short sentences like English. Some writers went each way, and to some extent they still do. Even in English, I recall suffering through the long sentences of Faulkner and Henry James, although I never tried seeing if I could get their drift short of the period. German and Russian have multiple grammatical cases (like Latin) which helps with a free word order and keeping long sentences straight. Spanish has no case endings, but uses some other tricks, such as the “personal a,” to help untangle fairly free word order, so that you may need the full sentence to understand it. Even in English there are wait-for-the-end examples like “He’s trying to kill me |with kindness.” or “He’s trying to get me | a better job.”

  27. I finished Elizabeth Rolls’s In Debt to the Earl. As expected, I enjoyed it. It was a solid historical romance with likable protagonists.
    Also finished the non-fiction by Laura B. Weiss’s, Ice Cream: A Global History. Interesting, if not exciting.
    Charlotte English’s Bessie Bell and the Goblin King was a fairy tale in the guise of a fantasy story: charming, illogical, and irreverent, of the kind where reality need not apply. I didn’t fall in love, but it was a likable enough little book. I think I’ll try more of this writer.

    1. I read that earlier. I thought Ada Palmer’s overall point was valid (I have relevant research experience with the case of Soviet censorship), but much of what she was saying about Rennaissance censorship seems to run contrary to what I have read elsewhere, for instance in a study on how widely the prohibitions on Galileo were ignored outside the Papal States. She, like the authors of those earlier works, is a professional historian, so I’m not sure who’s right, and I decided to wait until her book partly on the topic is published and I see what the reaction is. Palmer is also, as Olga may know but others may not, an acclaimed sf author (although I bounced off her books, I mean to try again) and a composer who wrote the words and music to an excellent Norse themed song cycle, Sundown. Just now I learned from her web page that she has a second cycle in progress and that she has a podcast with Jo Walton to which I must immediately subscribe!

      1. I, too, have bounced off her books, but her prose is so lovely I regret not being able to go where it’s taking me. Will try again.

      2. I really liked her Terra Ignota series, but I happened to be reading it at the same time as listening to a philosophy podcast and that really helped.

  28. Continuing with my reread of the Discworld novels, this week I read Mort, Sourcery, Wyrd Sisters</i), and Pyramids. Weekend snow storms make for great reading weather!

    Four books in, Mort is the most “Discworldy” book yet, and feels like I’ve finally arrived in the correct trouser leg of time. One reason for that, I think, is that it involves characters that I actually care about. Death, Mort, Ysabel, and even Albert are people I like spending time with, and for the most part they learn and deepen throughout the book (versus, say, Rincewind & Twoflower in the first two novels). The ideas are more interesting too.

    If I have a complaint, it’s that it’s hard not to feel like we’ve taken a step backward in our “Terry Pratchett writing female characters” journey. Death, having adopted a human daughter with what must certainly be an interesting story & perspective of her own, then recruits a male apprentice to serve as the novel’s main character. Mort gets an extensive arc, while Ysabel spends most of the book as a barely-there assemblage of (somewhat unkind) stereotypes about teenage girls. She does eventually insert herself back into the action toward the end, and gets a little more personality as she does, but the issue doesn’t really get fixed until many books later when Pratchett revisits the idea and names her Susan.

    Sourcery. Another reread that probably benefits from being a fairly forgettable book. If I were reading these for the first time, I’d probably be more frustrated by how much this one feels like a retread of the first two books (albeit with much-improved writing). But since all I remembered was that I should lower my expectations going in, and got a well-timed snowstorm that left me little to do but curl up and read, I had a perfectly lovely time. Compared to earlier Rincewind books, the characters are more human, the jokes are tight, the cutaways are perfectly-timed. And the Luggage had a great little mini-plot! Not the greatest entry in the overall series, and I am already well on my way to forgetting most of the book again, but I enjoyed it while I was in it.

    Wyrd Sisters. Honestly, I think I am incapable of any critical thought about a witches book; I just love them, and always have. Furthermore, Wyrd Sisters is probably the Discworld novel I have reread the most, so I essentially know it by heart.

    One thing that makes this book easy to love is how fully-formed the witch trio is right from the start. I adore each of them individually, but the three of them together are where it really gets good — they just balance each other perfectly and each witch is her own person from page one. The book even has the first enjoyable romance in the series thus far, and is overall a lot more interesting and ambitious. Looking forward to more witches books in my future!

    Lastly, Pyramids. If memory serves, this is the first book I ever read that made me actually laugh out loud. I wish I could remember now which footnote or sentence inspired this, but since I was probably about twelve at the time, it’s lost in the fog. It’s also a book that I liked less as I grew older, so it’s been quite a while since I revisited it.

    This time around, the book just didn’t really gel for me. I think the opening sequence, with Teppic taking his Assassin’s Guild final exam, is brilliant. But things get less focused once he is called back home, and the eventual side-trips to Ephebia & Tsort dragged. In general, I don’t think I get as much out of rereading most of the books where Ankh-Morporkian characters travel abroad, possibly because there’s a tendency to lean on broad cultural caricatures for a hefty percentage of the throwaway jokes, which doesn’t reward rereads as much. It’s not a bad book by any stretch, but was also the first book in this reread that I had to nudge myself to pick back up and finish reading.

    However, especially since I complained about the way Ysabel was written earlier, let me say that I think Ptraci is fabulous. Possibly the first example of something I love about Pratchett down the line, which is that even when women feature in his books primarily as side-characters or romantic interests, they are usually unique, complex, hilarious characters in their own right.

    Heading back to Ankh-Morpork next with Guards! Guards!, and wondering how much my reading pace will slow once the sun comes out again. Not an issue today, as we’ve got drizzling slush out there. Grumble grumble.

    1. I’m not a huge Pratchett fan, but in an online discussion, I encountered someone who had read a Russian translation of one of the books with the character Death. In Russian, the word “death” is grammatically feminine and in Russian culture death is generally personified as an old woman, not as a scythe-bearing hooded male. I wondered how the translation handled this, and in particular if Death’s name had been changed to something grammatically masculine. I was told that no, he was left as a male with a feminine name. At the time I didn’t think to make a joke about a boy named Sue. (1969 Johnny Cash song, for the young folks not getting it.)

    2. I’m very selective about Pratchett. Mostly, I like his Guard sub-series. The second best for me is Moist sub-series. The Witches are OK, but I haven’t read all of them and not planning to. The rest of the books, with one or two exceptions, hardly work at all.

    3. I’m almost done with a reread (and maybe a first read of at least one) of the Watch arc. (Part way through Thud!) Very much enjoying it. I love Pratchett and have no ability to judge how good they are. They are all good to me.

      No other reading—work is too busy. However, the Repair Shop has made its way to Britbox, so I am rewatching the first two seasons. I might have to make a quick trip to England to catch up on the later seasons. (I am only half kidding.) I could buy them, but I’d rather travel.

  29. Tangential to today’s topic, but Jinx wanted an update: I started off at the easy end of puzzles at Jigsawplanet.com, but with the image of the completed puzzle and the jigsaw outlines both off, so I wasn’t in total kiddie mode. I finished 5 puzzles with sf or space themes and 1 astronomical, with another relatively more ambitious astronomical and a ditto Manet in progress. Probably that much time spent (several hours) was a burst of initial enthusiasm. I was getting visions of puzzles in my head as I drifted off to sleep last night, possibly because I haven’t done any spatial reasoning puzzles in a long time. These are different from physical puzzles in that the ones I’ve tried so far give you the correct piece orientation, and in that you get feedback only if a piece fits in the right place, so that it rejects even a correctly shaped but wrongly placed piece. So I’m feeling my way into online jigsaw puzzles, but it will be a long time before it’s clear if they become as long-term a thing for me as have been crosswords and Wordle.

    1. Thanks, Patrick! You invested a lot of time and effort in testing waters — I don’t have the patience to do that, so I honor your stick-to-it-iveness.

      And thanks for the follow-up!

    2. Patrick, what do you think of Phrazle and Octordle. I count winning at octordle a win because so often I run out of turns before I complete all 8 words.

      1. Jessie,

        I’ve heard of Octordle but the rules looked too daunting for me to even try. I’d never heard of Phrazle until I just now looked it up. I did try a bit of a different phrase game where you were presented with a passage with a lot of the words and phrases out that the player had to guess, but when I tried that, it turned into a real time sink that I found unrewarding.

        1. Phrazle is a great game for those of us who know most of the cliches in use. Sometimes I can look at word sizes and get it right away ( 2 letter word, 3 letter word, 5 letter word, 2 letter word, 2 letter word, 3 letter word = in the blink of an eye). Usually I will just put in word in to get started: i.e., of the blank to my end. The word the would be green, on blank 4 letters would be green and that would get me solving probably on the next turn: x the bl-nk -o (the o would be yellow indicating that it occurs in that word but in a different location) — e—(the e would be green). I have solved on the second pass but usually it takes me 3 or 4 passes. Unfortunately , I am just not that good. I find it easier than wordle because the words that are solved act as hints to the whole phrase.

          1. Jessie, have you thought about using an extra starting word just to find or eliminate more common letters in Wordle?
            I’m a bit unambitious at Wordle but dislike not getting it at all, so I mostly use 3 starting words that cover all the most-often used letters (query, hoist and bland). Then I mostly get it right away on the 4th word, or half that often on the 5th; only about 12% on the 6th and 15% on the 3rd if the first 2 words hand me enough clues; but pretty rarely do I lose completely (98% wins).
            It’s enough for me to mostly start the day with a sense of accomplishment; I’m not a competitive person so I don’t care about getting it in just 2 or 3 tries, just that I get it.

  30. I just picked up Simply The Best at the library yesterday only to find that the copy I ordered is out for delivery today. Unfortunately, I can’t start reading it yet because I have Rachel Maddow’s book Prequel: An American Fight Against Fascism checked out from the library and there are 66 people on the waiting list for this title, which means I can’t renew it. It isn’t what I am in the mood for at the moment, but that is the chance you take when ordering new titles at the library.

    As for SEP’s long list of titles, there are a few I didn’t enjoy very much, but the rest of them were fun and there a few that I reread regularly. I have especially enjoyed Nobody’s Baby But Mine, Kiss an Angel, Natural Born Charmer and Match Me If you Can.

    1. Which is the one where the heroine, at one early point in the book, finds herself walking down a road on a hot summer day, simmering mad and wearing a beaver costume? I kind of enjoyed that one more than others.

  31. I finally finished the Folk of Air series by Holly Black. I’m normally a fast reader but I’ve been really busy and the series is super stressful/ tense. I had to take breaks for my mental health but also to ensure I didn’t stay up late reading just a little more…
    It was amazing. Such a good ending (the last book was overall a pleasure, less painful) and definitely one I’ll read again.

  32. Absolutely best book this week was We All Want Impossible Things. It’s the story of two women in their forties who have been friends since childhood, and now one of them is in a hospice, dying. Sounds grim, but it’s actually beautiful, hilariously funny and heartbreaking. Quite probably one of the loveliest, most human books I have ever read.

    The English Air – someone recommended this last week, the story of a young Nazi who comes to visit his English cousins in the nineteen thirties. It’s sweet and delightful, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But the ending is dreadfully abrupt.

    Code Name Verity – two young English women in occupied France, one of them captured by the Nazis, the other trying to get home to England. A lot of it is back story, which doesn’t detract from the drama. Heartbreaking, devious, not at all what it seems to be. Really enjoyed this.

    1. Code Name Verity is brilliant. I listened to it and it’s one of my favourite audio books ever. I recommend it when someone is looking to start out with audiobooks.

      I came across Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, also fab, (about a woman in Iceland awaiting execution) because it’s read by the same woman who reads Verity

  33. I enjoyed Julia Whelan’s Thank You for Listening, about an actor turned audiobook narrator who is offered a book she can’t refuse — except it’s a romance, and she doesn’t do romance any more. I loved getting a sneak peek backstage of audiobook narrator life in LA!

  34. I was rereading stuff. Then Charlene Teglia talked about A Coup of Tea by Casey Blair last week, and mentioned DRAGONS. I started reading it back in December, but took it really slow because my brain had trouble taking new stuff in. The word “dragon” is like magic for my brain though, so I went back to it and finished it. Such a cosy read. Thanks for mentioning the dragons, Charlene!

    Then I read Tell Me Lies and my brain was happy and soothed. Now I don’t know what to read, just feel that I’m again at a point where I need to be gentle to my brain and myself. Fragile and sore brain kind of thing.

    Sven and I also finished “King of Foxes” (but in Dutch) by Raymond E. Feist, part 2 in his Conclave of Shadows-series. We kept reading deep into the nights because he thought it was such a thrilling read! Been a long time since we finished a book of that size in about 2.5 week. It was my third reread, but I enjoyed it too. We started on Exile’s Return last night.

    Will go try to find another brain-soother now.

    1. Hi Shass
      Tell me more about Feist: he’s come up on my radar numerous times recently. Why do you like him? Where do I start? (if you don’t mind)

      1. Hi Beth! I’m not sure if you’ll see this, because I only just saw your message, but I’ll answer anyway and hope for the best!
        I came across Feist in my mid-teens, but he’s been around since the 1970’s, if I’m not mistaken. I really enjoy his books because he creates a vivid world of epic fantasy with generally very likeable/loveable characters, twists you sometimes don’t see coming, often quite dry humour and a lot of heart. Despite war and conflict and violence, his books never feel overwhelming or gory, but it’s not too breezy brushing over the tough parts either. A very good balance, I feel. Character development is most certainly a thing! Sometimes the good guys do really bad stuff, and the bad guys occasionally have redeeming qualities. Layers of humanity, one’d say. Most of the books have male MCs, so if that’s not your thing, you can skip on Feist. There are a whole bunch of very strong women in the books too, fortunately!
        Magician (Sometimes split into two; “Magician: Apprentice” and “Magician: Master”), part 1 in the Riftwar Saga, is the very first book he wrote and that is a good place to start. You can read his series in any order, but personally I prefer to start at the beginning. Feist co-wrote the book Daughter of the Empire and it’s sequels together with Janny Wurts, and those take place parallel with the Riftwar Saga with a female MC. Definitely also worth a read! But I’d still start with the Riftwar Saga and see what you think. Hopefully you’ll also find this world a great place to hang out.

  35. The best book I read last week was “The Tainted Cup” by Robert Jackson Bennett. It’s fantasy detective novel which features a female Nero Wolfe-type detective and the viewpoint character who acts like her Archie Goodwin. It’s really good and Bennett apparently plans to continue with this series.

  36. I read Simply The Best, bought See’s candy because of it. And am thinking of doing a reading of one of her chocolate scenes on TikTok.
    I also read Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev and loved it. Must read the others soon. Started the Secret Recipe of Ella Dove. Am loving it.

  37. I think somebody mentioned “romantasy” here a few days ago.  The below File770 page’s item 1 has comments on the originality of the supposedly new subgenre. 

    https://file770.com/pixel-scroll-2-21-24-born-of-scroll-and-pixel/

    Also, a follow-up there reminds me that I’m not sure everyone here has gotten the news of the recent death of Steve Miller, coauthor of the Liaden Universe books..

    There is also more news of fallout from the Chengdu Worldcon Hugo Award scandal.

    1. So sorry to hear about Steve Miller’s death – one of my favorite authors for many years. Also rather selfishly sorry there won’t be any more co-written Liaden novels.

      The Chengdu saga is very dispiriting, except that the general reaction to it is reassuringly appropriate anger. A good reminder that a willingness to call out BS (loudly) is the best fail-safe measure, rules only being good in so far as people are willing to obey and enforce them. But given how often whistleblowers / complainants are penalized for speaking out it’s unsurprising that people often just keep quiet.

  38. Best thing I read recently I think was “Translation State” by Ann Leckie, which explores the Presgar Translators and has a likably diligent protagonist. In amongst the wonderful weirdness is a discussion of doing one’s best by one’s children, even if you don’t understand them. I really liked seeing the Geck Ambassador and the ship Sphene again; otherwise the story largely stands alone from Leckie’s other books.

    I finished up Freya Marske’s Last Binding trilogy with “Power Unbound” and really liked where it landed, although there was a touch too much angst for me. It follows directly on from “A Restless Truth” and although the focus shifts to Alanzo Rossi and Lord Hawthorn I’m really glad I re-read book 2 in preparation. I don’t usually notice prose but Marske’s imagery made me catch my breath a few times.

    Talia Hibbert’s “Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute” was LOL funny YA and very sweet. Particularly liked the way the FMC uses conspiracy theories to control the world around her. Thanks to Charlene Teglia for the recc.

    I’m also mid-way through reading all the Discworld novels and reached “The Amazing Maurice & His Educated Rodents” which was great. Pratchett always make me laugh and I really liked this character set. He also used the Pied Piper frame to comment on capitalism and corruption and religious iconography, which made my brain work – always a good thing.

  39. I read The Lost Girls of Paris (WWII spy novel) for book club. I liked it, despite the fact that historical fiction is generally not my thing. Most of the rest of the club gave it thumbs up, too, with a few dissenters who made good points.

    Bedtime rereads – Manhunting (which, except for one short scene, holds up better than most older SEP books, which is partly why I consider myself more of an Argher than a Seppie, despite my nickname) and the first in Rosalind James’ Sinful, Montana series. It’s not my fave series of hers, but it’s good enough to keep in the rotation.

  40. “Remarkably Bright Creatures.” I was on the waiting list at the library for months for this one. I’d forgotten all about the book when it finally came to me.

    One of the main characters, and partial narrator, is a very intelligent octopus who is stuck in an aquarium tank, counting the days of his captivity.

    1. Did you see that an octopus in New Zealand managed to escape from his tank and get to a drain that went to the sea?
      Remarkably bright indeed.

        1. Debbie,

          My experience is that you can get away with ONE link. More sends you to moderation jail.

          We are beginning to understand how smart octopuses are, which I think inspires the sudden uptick in fiction about them in multiple genres, but two strikes against their developing human-grade intelligence within the next few million years is that (per Wikipedia and such) they are very short-lived, like 3 years, and they are solitary, whereas all the really smart mammals (primates [us and chimps, bonobos, gorillas, etc.], dolphins, whales, elephants, even dogs, are highly social).

          1. I later thought to check on parrots and corvids. Per the Internet, parrots are social, as are some but not all corvids. (I already knew they are both pretty long-lived.) Birds seem to be better than mammals at miniaturizing brains, but even so, bigger brains mean more weight. Perhaps, as in much sf, any intelligent birds would have to give up flying. If memory serves, there are already flightless kinds of parrots. In any case, the smartest birds seem to be long-lived and social, consistent with the pattern for mammals, and suggesting that a long-lived, social kind of octopus would have to evolve before human-grade intelligence would be plausible. (Not that fiction always has to be plausible.)

    2. I read this over the weekend. I’ve had it on my To Read shelf for at least a year. It was SO GOOD that I’m kind of mad at myself for not reading it sooner. Such a lovely book.

  41. For books, I’m listening to old favorites.
    My new thing is a film of a Japanese play, Seven Souls in the Skull Castle. It’s set in 1590, a time of fighting warlords, so there are samurai all over the place, and. There are about 5 versions of the play filmed, and some things are changed for each version, roles are gender swapped, costumes, dances, scenes. It’s put on about every seven years, so most of the films have different cast. It’s played on a 360′ rotating stage (IHI Stage Around Tokyo), which moves around the audience. Lots of sword fights, dungeons, brothels, dances, pop culture allusions. They’re on Netflix, with subtitles. I’m a bit obsessed.

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