This is a Good Book Thursday

I’m resting my brain on Aaronovitch Rivers of London rereads this week, but I’m also taking an online class on art crime which is fascinating, and I have a ton of art crime books, so I see that coming up in my very near reading future.

What did you read this week?

185 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday

  1. Tanking a class on art crime – that sounds fascinating!!

    Some time ago I stumbled upon a great clip on youtube where the art crime private detective Arthur Brand viewed movies on art heists together with former art thief, Octave “Oky” Durham. Detective and former thief even seem to collaborate by now.
    The youtube channel Insider is a treasure dove – it’s just soooo refreshing when actual experts comment on movies about their field of expertise.
    Brand has published at least one book on his work – Hitler’s Horses. Totally fascinating.

    Regarding reading that past week: due to being sick my reading was all over the place. Finished Alexis Hall’s Waiting for the Flood/Chasing the Light which I liked a lot. Very poetic. Very good narration by Will Watt. Both of stories being short ones/novellas, I’d have liked them to have more “meat” – in both I liked the love interests a lot, more than the pov MCs and would have loved to see more of them.
    I guess the key to me liking a book is if I can connect with the MCs, regardless whether they’re likeable or not.
    Then I picked up The Revenge Agenda by Saxon James. The story is kind of silly and in parts highly inappropriate as the eventual MCs/love interests “share” the same creep who cheats on them with the other one and many more guys. So they concoct the plan to get revenge – which is just a ploy to get closer with each other. Inappropriate because one turns out to be the new boss of the other. Many details not to like. Yet one of them is a cutie – the portrayal of his ADHD is interesting – and the other one is so very kind in his dealing with his ADHD “quirks”. I’m on the fence whether the book could be called good, but reading it was a pleasant past time.
    Now I’m reading/listening Roommate by Sarina Bowen (got the ebook with added listening option) and so far I like both roommates a lot: who can’t when one is a baker (competence porn) and the other an artist hiding under the layers of a lumberjack/farmer?
    I’ve also started on The Island by Lisa Henry. I was scared off it in the past, it seemed far too grim. But in the meantime I’ve discovered that in fact I like many of Henry’s newer titles (e.g. the Alpha Tau books). So far I’ve read the beginning and the end – I’m a wuss, had to know how the victim MC survived – but will read on.

    1. Oh The Island is definitely her grimmest. You really have to grit your teeth for it.

      1. I might end up skimming and skipping… but the last couple of chapters give hope.

    2. I agree; a class on art crime would be fascinating (I can think of at least three other crime classes I really need to take). My reading is always a mix of known favorites (absolutely no disappointments guaranteed) and new ones. I reread Agnes and the Hitman, which I read every three months, on average. Even though I know most of the dialogue by heart, the articulate, hilarious ass kicking these amazing women accomplish is pure balm to my soul. That line from Lisa Livia about pulling all the skeletons out of the closet and making them dance is priceless.
      Also Double Shot and Dark Tort by Dianne Mott Davidson, and The Deeds of the Disturber, by Elizabeth Peters. Reread Cursor’s Fury, by Jim Butcher, part of another series which I reread regularly for sheer inspiration.

      I love to cook and bake—this is primary therapy in the same category as reading—one of the many reasons I love Agnes.

      In the hope that someone who can actually help is monitoring here, I have tried several times to buy more Cranky Agnes aprons through an online promo from CafePress, which lists them at $18.99. On the site, it is also priced at $18.99. However when I go to the cart to buy everything, each apron is $42~~. The customer service link was apparently originally in French, but it now indicates that it is no longer functioning, which I figured out, even though that was also in French. The phone number for ordering goes to a recording with an electronically garbled company name that makes it in recognizable, and apparently no one is ever there, including the operator.
      If someone is monitoring this, I would appreciate it no end, if you could provide actual help. I really want more Cranky Agnes aprons. They’re fantastic, FYI (in case writing keeps you all too busy to cook).

      1. Huh. Are you in France or the US? Because it should go through with the sale price here in the US, I think. Anybody else having troubles with this? I have nothing to do with Cafe Press, these are fifteen year old listings, so who knows what’s going on.

    3. I agree; a class on art crime would be fascinating (I can think of at least three other crime classes I really need to take). My reading is always a mix of known favorites (absolutely no disappointments guaranteed) and new ones. I reread Agnes and the Hitman, which I read every three months, on average. Even though I know most of the dialogue by heart, the articulate, hilarious ass kicking these amazing women accomplish is pure balm to my soul. That line from Lisa Livia about pulling all the skeletons out of the closet and making them dance is priceless.
      Also Double Shot and Dark Tort by Dianne Mott Davidson, and The Deeds of the Disturber, by Elizabeth Peters. Reread Cursor’s Fury, by Jim Butcher, part of another series which I reread regularly for sheer inspiration.

      I love to cook and bake—this is primary therapy in the same category as reading—one of the many reasons I love Agnes.

      In the hope that someone who can actually help is monitoring here, I have tried several times to buy more Cranky Agnes aprons through an online promo from CafePress, which lists them at $18.99. On the site, it is also priced at $18.99. However when I go to the cart to buy everything, each apron is $42~~. The customer service link was apparently originally in French, but it now indicates that it is no longer functioning, which I figured out, even though that was also in French. The phone number for ordering goes to a recording with an electronically garbled company name that makes it unrecognizable, and apparently no one is ever there, including the operator.
      If someone is monitoring this, I would appreciate it no end, if you could provide actual help. I really want more Cranky Agnes aprons. They’re fantastic, FYI (in case writing keeps you all too busy to cook).

      1. I have no idea why this was in the spam folder, Lynne, but I just pulled it out and saw your question.
        Are you outside the US? That’s the only thing I can think of, because I ordered an apron with no problem.

  2. I read the first Murderbot. That one book one time read was enough for me. Meh. Mediocre. I probably would have DNF if not for the many fans here.

    I started a second reread of Jayne Castle’s 16 book Harmony series. So far I’ve read After Dark and After Glow. Almost finished Ghost Hunter. Silver Master is next.

    I can’t seem to leave the land of brave intelligent heroines with attitude, cute dust bunnies and the men who love them exactly as they are.

    Thank you, Jayne Castle aka Jayne Ann Krentz. Eagerly awaiting the new book in the series in May.

        1. Judy, I’ve never noticed that sci fi is your jam. Do you read any others that you like?

    1. I agree with you on Murderbot Judy, it was okay but not really my thing. Hail Mary Project was the best sci-fi I have read.

      Totally agree with you on JAK and the dust bunnies, what is not to love.

      1. I really liked Project Hail Mary, although I have argued elsewhere at some length that it is implausible that an international project would accept as its name an American sports idiom that, what is more, is based on a Catholic prayer. Especially with heavy participation from Communist China. But the title works really well if you’re comfortable with the idiom, and Andy Weir does not let reality get in the way of something sufficiently gripping. For The Martian, he knew that the wind on Mars blows fast, but that the atmosphere is so thin that it has little force. He just decided a sandstorm was more dramatic than the realistic alternative ways to leave a crew member behind.

        1. I liked Project Hail Mary for the most part, but I had to do some serious work on suspending belief to accept the idea of the world coming together to eradicate an existential threat. I might have had an easier time with it before covid (and I’m guessing it was written pre-covid), but no longer.

      2. Christine and Judy/Clever Cherry, I’m with you two on Murderbot. However, my tastes vary from many of the books described here. But when Arghers come up with a one that blows all my whistles — it’s terrific.

  3. I am still mostly reading DE Stevenson. I have especially enjoyed The Four Graces, Anna and her daughters, Katherine Wentworth and Amberwell but honestly I have liked them all
    What I like is that they are not formulaic. You know it is going to end well but the twists are not the usual ones and there are many sharp observations.

    1. I love DE Stevenson. You’ve hit the nail on the head in that her books aren’t formulaic – and there are so many of them! I found a couple in a local bookshop, gleefully bought them and brought them home, only to find I already owned both of them. Oops.

  4. I always tell Kevin that the only way to launder money is to open an art gallery.

    This week I finished the Josh Lanyon anthology I was working on and needed a break, so I went back to Rest In Pink.

    Reading wise, I am about 30 percent of the way through Smash and Grab by Maz Maddox. It’s Jurassic Park meets Indiana Jones plus dino shifters. Super wacky but the dialogue is very cute so far. M/m with a human paleontologist and the raper who saves him and his fossil from the evil drug lord collector. Who also has a pink mohawk and doc Martens, piercings and tattoos while in human form. It’s early days yet and I haven’t hit the dreaded middle potential slump, but so far it’s light and fun and quippy.

      1. I have hopes, but really it’s too soon to tell. So far the dynamic is very cute but I can’t tell how the plot is going to go…

        1. It’s on KU! Thanks, downloaded! Just what I need while stuck in bed with the flu.

          1. Yay! I am most of the way through now and it is still holding up. Potential Big Misunderstanding navigated very well.

    1. Smash and grab sounds good, thanks for the recc. But do you mean raper or is that Autocorrect for raptor?

        1. Utahraptor is definitely more interesting than raper! 😀 Now I really want to read this book. But say it’s not available on hoopla or at my library. 🙁

          1. It was free on Amazon as part of a ‘stuff your kindle’ promotion, but that was some time ago. Maybe it is still, as it is the first book in a series?

  5. The fortnight of obsessive reading continues. I finished The Party Season by Sarah Mason and was pleased to note that it stood up to re-reading. It’s staying in my collection.

    I whizzed through Mrs Winterbottom Takes A Gap Year by Joanna Nell on the train journey home from York. It was a fairly undemanding read about a GP who retires from work and goes on holiday to Greece without her husband. I enjoyed that I couldn’t quite predict how the book would end, and liked the ending too.

    I then read The Lark by E Nesbit, which was her last book for adults. I loved the fairy tale element of it, neatly skewed by the fact that the girls seemingly get everything they want, it all goes wrong initially, but all works out for the best in the end. I would like to be left a chocolate-box cottage in the country as they were, but don’t think I could have dealt with the issues they faced afterwards anywhere near as well. However! They are fictional characters and I am not.

    I’m now reading Needlemouse by Jane O’Connor but I’m really not sure about it so far. It’s one of the proliferation of books that were published a few years ago where the main character is a early to middle-aged woman who’s isolated herself from the world somewhat but presumably gets drawn back in and learns to live again. The problem is that I’m 142 pages in and so far the main character has done absolutely nothing to endear herself to me at all. I’ll continue reading in the hopes it turns around, but at the moment I’m actively hoping for things to go wrong for her…

  6. I’m reading a cozy mystery in one of my favorite series. The Dog Across the lake by Krista Davis, part of the paws and claws series, which is set in a town called Wagtail that caters to tourists who bring their animals. I found the series when I was doing research for writing my own cozies, and I still find it entertaining.

  7. Thief Liar Lady, by D.L. Soria. (The lack of commas is bothersome.)

    I recommend the book. So good!

    M/F, and no tentacles (sorry! 😂). Loose fairytale rewrite with some magic.

    1. I accept women up to no good, especially if they disguise themselves as boys and completely befuddle the male lead. I can always edit the tentacles in later in my head…

  8. I finally finished As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson. Very good series (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder), and I did love it despite being very disappointed in Pip’s actions halfway through the last book.
    I apparently got really invested in her character.

    I am currently reading The Recovery Agent by Janet Evanovich. I’m not sure if I’m not enjoying it because I’m sick, or because it’s just not as enjoyable as the Stephanie Plum series was.

    1. Is Stephanie Plum finally finished? I wandered off around book 16, when the ghost writer took over and it became clear that she wasn’t going to end up with Ranger even thought THEY WERE SO MUCH BETTER FOR EACHOTHER THAN SHE AND MORELLI. End rant.

      1. And yet – I’m a Morelli fan. I always like the steady, stable guy better. And no, Stephanie is not finished.

        1. You and I are going to have to agree to disagree on the good guy/bad boy thing.

          And I like Morelli. I like him too much and the grief that Stephanie puts him through makes me sad. He doesn’t deserve it. Whereas Ranger has the resources and patience to put up with her shenanigans. It actually lightens him up and makes him better, IMO. Potato, potahto.

          1. For the record, I like Ranger. Four thumbs up for smutty weekend. And yes, I’m not happy with Stephanie’s treatment of Morelli. However, in my earlier days I had my own version of Torn Between Two Lovers and…it’s not a simple time with simple answers. So I sympathize.

          2. Yes, I suppose my problem is that I stopped liking and respecting Stephanie. She started skating too close to cheating on two good men for me.

            Also, I just like the problematic love interests.

      2. I too left off at 16 or 17.
        Read the series with he stones (?) and felt like the main character was just Stephanie Plum with a different name and plot.

        Apparently Plum is up to 30: Dirty Thirty.

        1. Stopped at book 6. Couldn’t be bothered with the indecisiveness. I guess I saved a lot if time and money that way… i liked both men, but I’m half Italian, so …

      3. Not over yet. Book 30 came out recently, it’s a bit slow. Totally agree with you about being Team Ranger. Sometimes Morelli and Stephanie are too similar to each other. That’s why they are in a breakup n makeup pattern.

      4. Ah the Morelli vs Ranger debate. The thing with Stephanie is who she is, if she was free she’d probably quite happily be with Ranger, since they both don’t want to get married. However she was raised in the Burg if she had followed the path her parents set for her, she’d have married Morelli, settled down and had some children. To misquote someone “It is hard to have roots and wings”

    2. I didn’t finish As Good as Dead for the same reason, Natasha. Well done for getting to the end. I was sad because I really enjoyed the first two but couldn’t live with the way the third was going.

      1. I pushed through after a multi-day break, and it was worth it. Lost respect for Pip, but it was fascinating to see how it all played out, and at the end I’m not sure if I respect her, but still like her somehow?
        It was well written and believable, not just conveniently believed by all the other characters even though readers see holes…

  9. I read Laurie Frankel’s Family Family – a story of four adoptions – and loved the heroine, loved the book, except for the speechifying at the end about adoption which I found pedantic. It’s a small point. Her stuff is delightful.

    Lupe’s recommendation Good Deeds by Kathryn Moon was totally my jam – future sexy spacefarer seeks out sex worker androids to satisfy her seasonal needs. The sci fi was better than I expected, the sex was not as gratuitous as I would have thought and each of the heroine’s five relationships with the androids develop with a distinct flavour. Fits into the sweet smut category.

    I reread Lisa Henry’s Dark Space series which I love. Dodo, I would recommend this of you, as well as for Christina (give you some of that angst you seek) and LN and Lian.

    I also read Lemon Drop Kid by Josh Lanyon – a new Christmas novella (interesting timing), not my favourite by her but still good.

    And I listened to And I Darken by Kiersten White – an historical fiction about the Ottoman Empire. A brother and sister (fictional) from Wallachia are sent there as semi hostages and grow up with the to-be Sultan (who is a real figure). Fascinating.

    1. Who was your favorite Android? I liked Romeo more than I would have thought, given my tastes. And Gloss. He is such a little punk. I really appreciated his pouting and selfish attempts to help.

      1. Oh Avan-8 for sure. I loved that he tried to adjust his personality code so that he would not love her.

        1. Actually I just checked on my kindle and I have it and have read it already. I did enjoy too 🙂

    2. Dark Space series is now on my tbr pile!
      As for the Lemon Drop Kid — I read a comment she made that this story just came hurtling out of her and she couldn’t have stopped it if she’d tried. And then no sooner was it up online than she wished she’d changed the ending. And that she might still do that! She also said that though it’s set at Xmas time it wasn’t really a Christmas story.
      All this intrigued me but before getting to it I had some hockey stories I HAD to read. Its next on my list.

  10. I just finished Katherine Center’s Hello, Stranger. This is my first book with this author but not my last. It has a unique premise and I didn’t see then twist at the end.

  11. I finished reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It was interesting to see what a person would do to improve their life. She did love most of the husbands, but the love of her life was not any one of them. She was an interesting character, and there were some lessons there about going for what you want. But I probably don’t need to read this again.

  12. I read Paladin’s Grace, by T. Kingfisher and literally could not put it down. I started it in the afternoon, and ended up staying up till the wee hours of the morning to finish it. The perfumer was fascinating in what she did and how she could recognize scents. The Paladin, Stephen, was sweet, for a berserker, and his tendency to knit socks when waiting for things to happen was charming. The villains were disgusting and frightening. I don’t know why I avoided these books, before. Probably the gore and death?

    Then I read Paladin’s Strength, and that was fascinating. Istven was on the trail of the horrible murdering ceramic heads, and a nun he picks up along the way is searching for her kidnapped sisters. It turns out these nuns have a talent that is startling and powerful. The multiple twists and turns, hopeful discoveries and terrifying dangers that appear and then meet their doom, make for a spell-binding end to the tale.

    I went on to read A Modest Independence, by Mimi Matthews, for a break from the berserkers. I loved her first book of the orphans series, but this one started slow and became tedious, soon after. I finally dnf’d it on page 189. I think she could have left out a whole lot of the detail on the travel, and moved on to the actual searching for the lost/dead? soldier.

    Then, I went back to the Paladins, and P’s Hope is just weird. I will review it when I’ve read a lot more. It does have an MM romance, which simmers along.

    1. Paladin’s Hope leans more into the gore/horror aspects if I remember correctly. Kingfisher sometimes goes too dark for me, even with the Paladins. But I also enjoyed the knitting.

      1. Yes, it does, and I have claustrophobia, so the rooms/traps in it are very disturbing to me.

        1. Hope is grim but once they get back to their homes it is lighter and it has the most amazing ending so it’s well worth finishing.

          Paladin’s Faith is lighter in tone.

          I gather there are three more planned.

          If you haven’t read her book Swordheart I strongly recommend it too.

          1. And also A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking. A little lighter, same universe. Love this whole T. Kingfisher world (except the ceramic head guys).

          2. I agree, the ceramic guys are too creepy for me too.
            The defensive guide to baking is wholly original and very moving.

          3. I also recommend Nine Goblins, which was the first of hers I read and is a favourite of mine.
            Very good to hear that there are three more planned!

          4. I 2nd (eighth?!) Wizards Guide. It’s funny, dark, and (no spoilers) encapsulates the next generation’s rage at our failure to Do Something about major problems.

  13. Yet another week in which I have read a lot but finished nothing.  I’m going to break my own rule and report on reading in progress.  I’m nearing the end of Mary Kay Andrews’s _Homewreckers_.  I’ve previously read (on audio) other books by her which either I didn’t think worth mentioning here, or didn’t yet finish because they had to go back to the library.  I’m going to have to give MKA a rest for a while after this one because her books all seem too much alike.  This is a pity because the library has a lot of them on CD,  and I prefer CDs for some purposes.  The library seems to be inatead favoring e-audiobooks these days, and I’ve already been through much of their interesting holdings of CDs.  (Multiple times for those Crusie books that they have.)

    _Homewreckers_ involves rehabbing  a house for a new TV series (somewhat like This Old House).  One suspense-building element is the pressure to get the rehab complete in time for first scheduled air date, under threat of cancelation if the unreasonable timeline is not met.  I see the Doylist purpose in doing this, but from a Watsonian perspective it is getting less and less plausible as the novel goes on that the network would cancel the show just because of a schedule slippage.  Since it is mentioned on the jacket copy, it is no spoiler to say that a body is discovered on the site and the impending show has become a general media sensation, which sensation is being stoked by the network. They’re already airing promos and talking merch, for crying out loud.  Is it really plausible that they would kill a sure hit show over a little slippage? They could always fill in with reruns or whatever for a week or two. Sure, their liaison network exec may talk a hard game and keep the pressure on since the network would rather meet its schedule, but there is no indication that the experienced show makers have any idea that she may be making idle threats.  It’s getting a little hard for me to suspend disbelief. … And suddenly I have so much wordage that I’ll post this by itself.  I may or may not manage to get back to more books in progress today.

    1. Totally agree about that fixed schedule thing. Lord knows there’s enough to mess up scheduling based on weather, disasters, and so on — and it’s not like the audience is out here with time clocks and TV guides saying “I’ll never watch this channel again, because they delayed an episode of one show!”

      1. Particularly since they do not start airing these series until the project is finished.

  14. The last couple of weeks I have read:

    The Twelfth Card by Jeffery Deaver – a really great story with a wonderful teenage girl character who I adored. A friend lent me it, I have never read any of this author before but there are loads in the library so I can correct that.

    My non-fiction has been Paul Johnson’s Follow the Money – a book about the way the British Government spend our taxes. Really well written and not at all dry, dusty or boring – anger making and exasperating though.

    The Sandbar Sisters books 1-4, re-reads from my read-once pile – they made it to the keeper shelf. Bit unhappy that book 5 is only out as an e-book so far(‘cos I don’t do them).

    Under Her Skin by Stephen Spotswood – second in a series and did not disappoint.

    And after someone here mentioned Stephanie James recently I have begun reading some of her back catalog starting with Velvet Touch. It was good as I remember, but found the hero bit 80’s (as you would expect from when it was written) and realise I have moved on from 80’s men!

  15. Still reading Jayne Castle. Illusion Town, Siren’s Call, Canyons of Night, and almost done with The Lost Night and Deception Cove is up next.

    I know I’m reading some out of order but that’s okay, it’s not like I don’t know the H&h end up together.

  16. With a day and a half left with the day job before I jump back into writing full-time, I’ve been reading anything that gets my brain to understand that doing this the way I’m doing it IS crazy, but that’s okay. Currently reading Don’t Keep Your Day Job by Cathy Heller. (And if you think it doesn’t work, the character voices and ideas that have been silent for years woke up this morning and said, “Oh shit. You’re serious about this. Well, okay then. What if…? Or this maybe…? Or THIS could happen…” So good stuff.

    And if you’re into erotic romance with kink, I highly recommend Sara Cate’s Salacious Player’s Club series, which I finished this week.

  17. I’m flipping back and forth between two: The Scandalous Confessions of Lydia Bennet, Witch by Melinda Taub (the youngest Bennet sister) and Three Kinds of Lucky, a new series by Kim Harrison.

    Don’t throw things at me, but I’ve never been much of a Bennet family fan, so it’s a slog. I’m only 2-3 chapters deep, but I’m trying to give it a chance.

    The new Kim Harrison is good, while I’m having a tough time figuring out the relationship (F/M). They were best friends from childhood and he dropped her once they both ended high school, now there trying to work together to solve a magic problem. He’s not really getting any sympathy from me right now, although they haven’t discussed/resolved their dispute. We’ll see.

    I love the dust bunny series, so much that I have the entire series in paperback for re-reads every once in a while. Jayne Castle a/k/a Krentz and Quick rocks!

    I stopped ready Stephanie Plum about halfway through the series. How many times can you read a plot before you don’t even bother starting the book?

    Also, I’m getting into the Ilona Andrews’ Innkeeper Chronicles series. They have just released a graphic novel of the first one and I’ve got it on order at Amazon. I already love her magic series.

    1. I really like the Innkeeper Chronicles even though I’ve found most of IA’s other work too dark for me. (There are some other exceptions.)

    2. The Innkeeper books are definitely my most revisited, although I really like the kinsmen books. Silver Shark is a short comfort reread. And the first Edge book. On the Edge? The rest get too dark for me to go back to. And I am enjoying Kate’s Wilmington years. Much less dire than the full novels so far.

        1. Me too! I hadn’t realised but apparently it’s their take on the Boss-secretary classic romance.

    3. I returned to Lydia Bennet for the 3rd time today, so I understand you. I started reading it on October 5th last year. I’m still trying to decide whether to keep reading this book or not, at 47 % read. There’s a lot of back and forth, and I guess I wasn’t much of a Bennet-fan either to begin with. The narrator does an excellent job voicing Lydia though.
      I guess there must be SOMETHING that makes me pick it up again, but I really can not say what. Today it was probably mostly: “Ah dangit it’s time to cook and I need to have something to read. Oh, this book’s still on my memory card? Fine, then. Let’s read a little.”
      It’s comforting somehow that I’m not alone in not knowing what to make of this book.

      1. What do we expect when a different author continues a character who is so firmly entrenched in the popular canon? I think it is a no win situation. Especially since Lydia was such an unsympathetic character to begin with. Do we think she woke up one day with better taste and discernment?

    4. I gave up on the Lydia Bennett book after about 3 chapters. She just wasn’t a very appealing character for me, and the book didn’t engage me. A pity, because I thought it was an interesting idea. The bit I DID like was that her sister was actually her cat, but she’d made everyone believe that Kitty was part of the family.

  18. Just wanted to comment that I just read a Barnes & Noble promo email about Romantasy books, and — am I wrong? The typeface on each of the covers (by different publishers, I think) is more or less identical to the fancy typeface on the hardback covers of Deb Harkness’ “Discovery of Witches” series. It was something that drove me to try the first book in that series, but man, it’s metastasized!

    1. I was doing some research on “cozy fantasy” a few weeks ago, a new-to-me genre that Legends & Lattes is probably the best known example of, and I swear, all of the books that came up on Amazon looked like sequels to L&L — same font, same cartoony fantasy characters, same color palette, and even similar titles, all following the structure of “nouns & nouns”). I understand that’s how marketing works, but it also seemed to be fool’s gold — settling for being a knock-off instead of an original.

  19. Last week’s Argher discussion re WWI (I can’t remember who it was, sorry…) got me in the mood to read some WWI -adjacent fiction. I read Liz Fenwick’s “The River between Us” which was a lovely book but hard to describe without including spoilers — essentially its a story where past and present meet and there the WWI past affects the lives in an old house on the Tamar river between Devon and Cornwall. Lovely book.
    I then reread “A Farewell to Arms” (Hemingway) which I loved as a young adult. It was interesting this time around, if not as moving to me as it had been on my first read many many years ago.
    I’m still on a WWI era fiction kick — all recommendations welcome!

    I also went back to hockey M/M romance. It was a very bad week for sleep so I got quite a few read this week:

    Avon Gale’s “Power Play” a romance between two coaches which not only had all the feels but was interesting because of the different take on the game.
    “Empty Net” which I loved. Story of two goalies and was very angsty.
    “Coach’s Challenge” about a coach and a player (both older, i.e. mid 30s early 40s) which was fun to read. I did get a bit annoyed by the stupid risks they took. But I will reread this series for sure.

    Rose Tierney “Blindside Hit” which I loved. I don’t want to include spoilers but I do have my doubts about the wisdom of the ending… Nevertheless I’ll probably reread this one.

    Finally I am reading book 2 of Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wolf series and absolutely loving it. FBI agent and a werewolf colleague solving crime. Excellent.
    Thank you again Tammy!

    Because it’s been the type of week where there was time for podcasts, I must mention how much I am LOVING the “Empire” podcast with Anita Anand and William Dalrymple. There are 4 separate series: The British Empire, The Ottoman Empire, Slavery, and the most recent: Russia. Almost every episode of each series is absolutely riveting. So much new stuff even about topics I thought I sort of knew about and had studied “in depth.” It’s the type of podcast you sit and listen to in your car even when you’ve arrived at your destination 25 minutes earlier.

    1. I also just reread that whole Avon Gale ECHL series, and I totally agree about the risks they took in Coach’s Challenge. Given what the team had been through, it would have created a very toxic environment had they been caught by another player, which they could have easily been on multiple occasions. It felt irresponsible and, as you say, stupid, especially considering how committed he was to changing the team dynamics.

    2. Same here with the hockey books!!
      Also loved Empty Net and will re-visit the avon gale series.
      Same with BH which I liked a lot, too.

    3. Coming out of lurking to suggest that you might find L. M. Montgomery’s novel, Rilla of Ingleside, an interesting take on WWI. It’s ostensibly about Rilla Blythe, the youngest of Anne and Gilbert’s children, and Rilla’s own romance; but it’s really a book about the Canadian homefront during WWI. Montgomery wrote it, I believe, partially during and right after the war — before Canadians had fully grasped the true and tragic costs of World War I. It’s not Montgomery’s best book, but it is very interesting because it is one of the few novels written contemporaneously to WWI that actual centres the homefront experience (especially the experiences of the women). And back to lurking I go. . .

      1. The other book that puts an interesting Canadian twist on WWI is Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business. Most of the book is before or after but the narrator’s whole life and perspective is changed by his war experiences and you get an excellent sense of the home front.
        I think it’s time for a reread…
        (It’s fiction, in case that’s not clear.)

  20. I read The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon. It’s a fictionalized story of Martha, Ballard midwife who lived and practiced in Massachusetts in the 18th century. The events in the book are based on Martha’s own daily diaries. It’s organized as a murder mystery but it’s much more expansive – deep discussion of women’s rights and place during that time, as well as the US justice system and community life. Not an easy read in some places (key story line involves a woman who was raped) but one of the best books I’ve read in the last several years. I’m definitely going to read Lawhon’s previous books.

  21. I recently read Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt. It was absolutely addictive and kicked me out of the reading rut I’d been in for awhile.

    I also read Patrick Stewart’s memoir Making It So. It was a little slow at the beginning but I enjoyed it (and learned quite a bit about acting in the process).

    I just finished The Air Raid Book Club by Annie Lyons. I found it on the new books shelf at my local library. It takes place in London and starts in 1938, when Gertie Bingham contemplates retiring from running her bookshop. At the urging of a friend, she agrees to take in a teenage Jewish refugee from Germany, which changes both of their lives. If you like novels about what it was like on the home front during WWII, you’ll like this.

    1. I just got the Stewart memoir on audio – hoping that voice makes it pace well!

  22. Bruno’s Cookbook by Martin Walker & Julia Watson has recipes I’ll be able to cook — the ingredients and tools of the Périgord are all available in Massachusetts, if not as fresh. It’s organized by the person who’s closest to the product: a chapter on the farmer, one on the fisherman, and so on. The photography has me drooling. Diet? What diet?

  23. I finished Simply the Best by SEP and was also surprised by the murderer, didn’t see that coming.

    After that I went into my filler series and then I’ll start reading the next book. The filler series is hockey related which is about a dynasty of players, very family connected with members showing up in various books. The last one I read is Made for You by Natasha Madison a new to me author. Her storylines are different in that some hockey is in the background. For instance, in this book the MC is a hockey player who hangs up his skates because of issues with him trying to get help from the club after he has gone into a slump. The slump leads to fans jeering him on the ice (okay that happens) and then the media gets on board with nasty headlines about his performance. It gets to the point with no help from the coaches and management and players and then told to suck it up he gets so far into his head that he quits. He quits and buys himself a boat. Luckily for him he finds himself in the slip next to the granddaughter of hockey gods.

    After that I’m now reading The Women by Kristan Hannah. A Vietnam story about nurses during the conflict/war. The story centers on Frances (Frankie or Frank) who joins the army after being turned down by the Navy and Air Force. Remember this is the sixties, women are just changing the course of their lives. Her father has a service memorial wall of pictures and there are no women posted on it. She is a nurse just starting out very young and newly beginning her career.

    On Netflix I’m now up to just about the end of Season 5 Grey’s Anatomy. Finally, someone got married and it is not Meredith and Dereck. Actually, I’m kind of sick of them as a couple, too much back and forth. Only 14 more seasons to go.

  24. More Discworld for me, albeit at a slightly slower pace because the rest of life got a little too busy this week. Witches Abroad and Small Gods were both excellent though.

    Witches Abroad is the second outing for our trio of witches, and sharpens each of their characters in deeply enjoyable ways. If I have a complaint, it’s that the pacing is uneven — the book starts with a series of whimsical adventures as the witches travel to Genua, and then ramps up the urgency quite abruptly once they actually get there. Apart from letting Pratchett practice some skillful callbacks later, the comical travel vignettes don’t really serve the plot in any way (and are kind of flimsy, really). I like the part in Genua much better, but it often feels rushed after all that meandering.

    But I love the three witches in this, especially Granny Weatherwax’s bone-deep fury at having been forced to be ‘the good one.’ I like the subverting fairly tales themes, and the postmodern narrative. And the final showdown is fantastic (maybe especially the bit with the voodoo doll, although Greebo as a human man also has a special place in my heart).

    Small Gods might be even better. Like Pyramids, it’s a stand-alone book about fundamentalism & belief, but infinitely more sophisticated and interesting. Vorbis is a truly great villain, and there is almost nothing in this book that feels extraneous or tacked on for comedic effect (okay, maybe the CMOT Dibbler doppelganger stuff, which I would not miss if it were excised). Really though, I have no complaints.

    Both of these books have Pratchett playing around with ideas while also writing great characters, and I read them with the feeling that I’ve made it to the golden era of Discworld books. Small Gods in particular I would probably place among the best Discworld books of all time.

    While I didn’t have as much time for reading this week, I did manage to listen to podcasts while wearing myself out with some yardwork. So I’ll add a shout-out for My Dad Wrote a Porno, which is one of the only things I’ve listened to in a long time that made me actually cry laughing. It is very explicit (but I promise, absolutely not titillating), and contains much food for thought about the value of good writing. And the entertainment value of bad writing, of course.

    1. I hadn’t ever heard of My Dad Wrote a Porno, so had a listen. It’s hilarious and ridiculous and I’m not surprised it’s been so popular.

  25. I’m having a non-fiction week. Read A Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an end in Papua New Guinea by Don Kulick, which someone here recommended, I think. Really interesting and engaging. I’m now three-quarters through Ruth Goodman’s How to be a Victorian, which is excellent and also a good read. Interesting for anyone who’s into the periods before and after Victoria, too. She’s spent a lot of time living what she writes about, so a really reliable source.

  26. Read a few things lately that I din’t like and almost DNF, though I slogged through to the end, One I have already forgotten. One is called the Cold, Cold Ground. Set in the time of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Grim, no redemption, didn’t like the main character and especially his attitude toward women. Oh well.
    Needed something fun so I read Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall. Very good fun. It’s set in the midst of a British baking competition show. Lots of interesting characters. Satisfying ending.
    Then I read another Alexis Hall – number three in his Spires series, called For Real.
    Hmm. I greatly admire a lot of his writing. No one develops characters and relationships better. I generally tend to prefer the lots-of-romance-and-not-too-much-sex books of his, with a couple exceptions. But this one… I keep thinking about it. I am not interested in BDSM. Not at all. Yet For Real, entirely set in that world, caught me up in the characters and made me understand more than I thought was possible about why someone would want that. Fascinating. I will read it again.

    1. I had a similar reaction to For Real. I am not much for BDSM, but can sometimes like it in m/m situations.

      It’s not a polished book, but the emotions are so real and thought out and deep… I don’t know how to say it. It legitimized BDSM relationships for me in a way that my very shallow reading of the trope when it got super popular did not. I really appreciate when a book opens my eyes and deepens my understanding. I also thought that the reverse age gap was very interesting. It stuck with me too.

      1. Lupe you took the words right out of my laptop! I loved For Real for exactly those reasons. And the angst, of course.

      2. Exactly so. The “this pairing should not work” trope is of course very prevalent in fiction. Hall often has people of different “classes” who often have a fundamental lack of understanding of each other’s background, experiences in life and world view. This one had the significant age difference as well.
        There were so many emotional peaks in this book! They just kept coming. He uses the emotional connection to, as you say, open our eyes. This is true art.

    2. Alexis Hall really has a wide scope.
      I didn’t like some of his books, For Real way one of them. However, I have a hunch the dislike stems from listening to the book. I react strongly if I don’t like the narration (those two guys might have done a good job for anyone but me). I guess, I’ll give it another try in the near future.

  27. I’m so weak for art crime stories. No idea why!

    I’m re-listening to Josh Lanyon’s Pirate’s Cove cozies right now. I dipped into the Walt Longmire series with the most recent addition after skipping a bunch of books. Very meh. Lawmen who refuse to get with the times (the man still won’t own a cellphone!) aren’t very endearing to me at this point. Really enjoyed Wild Rescues: A Paramedic’s Extreme Adventures in Yosemite [and other national parks]. I almost never read nonfiction, but it’s been calling to me lately.

    1. I agree re the Longmire books. The Netflix series of Longmire glosses over (or ignores) some of those idiosyncrasies that appear in the books and make it a pretty cool series.

  28. I reread the Rue Hallow series, starting with Hallow Graves, by Amanda A. Allen. There are seven of them, a spin-off of her Inept Witches series but a lot darker. Rue just wants to get away from her cold-hearted super-villain mother by going to a witches college on the other side of the continent, but then her roommate is murdered, who turns out to have been her cousin that she didn’t know she had, and then more relatives she didn’t know she had start turning up. Sadly although I was looking forward to more books in the series the author appears to have stopped writing in 2018 and even her web page is gone now 🙁

    Someone recommended The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews, and it was kind of fun.

    I also read Hexed in Show by Gretchen Galway, the sixth book in the Sonoma Witches series that I have mentioned here before. She’s a hearth witch with an Incurable Inability to kill (things like demons, and fae and so forth) so she gets fired from The Protectorate. In this one a guy who had been a fellow rookie when she started at the Protectorate writes to her for help, but then gets murdered before she gets the letters and she tries to find out why.

    I’m currently reading Aftermarket Afterlife by Seanan McGuire, the newest Incryptids book, told from the perspective of Mary Dunlavy, the ghostly babysitter.

  29. More historical fantasy with a bit of mystery for me this week: The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer, set in Philadelphia and New York in the Gilded Age. The protagonist is a stage magician, and I loved the backstage view of being a young female performer on the road, with details like the special corset to hold the doves for your act, and visiting the family business that builds tricks for magicians. I also loved how magic in this world was an additional complication for a performer, not an easy way out.

    (If you’ve read Stevermer’s other work, this felt more similar to me to A College of Magics or A Scholar of Magics than the Sorcery and Cecelia books.)

    1. I really like Stevermer, but College of Magics almost broke my heart. Wonderful, but complicated.

      1. Agreed! The Glass Magician wasn’t nearly as heartbreaking for me, to be clear. It just has more of the potential cost of magic built in than the lighter tone of the Sorcery & Cecelia books, imo.

        1. Just fyi, Scholar of Magics is in the same world and has some character crossover with College of Magics; as far as I know The Glass Magician is a different world, no crossover. But all are worth a reread in my book!

  30. Still going back to MM hockey, despite starting a few other things.

    I whizzed through the EL Massey Breakaway series. The first two (‘Like Real People Do’ and ‘Like You’ve Nothing Left to Prove’ are about the same MCs but there is no cliffhanger between. And these are now my favourite ‘sweet’ hockey.
    The third All Hail the Underdogs also good. Different MCs and based in a school with strong identity and family themes.

    Then I read a college hockey MM ‘Lets Do This’ by Loren Leigh which I really liked. Intense but not angsty. The first chapter is a bit odd, but it settles down into a good book, I think.

    1. FYI E. L. Massey puts her books up on AO3, one chapter at a time, under the name xiaq, then leaves then there for a short time before taking them down to edit for publication. (You can download them from AO3.) She just finished one called Free from Falling featuring Matts (from the first two books) and a trans woman (budding) rock star. Not sure when it’s coming off the site, but here’s the link.

      1. Thanks. I’ll take a look, but I’m not 100% sure I want to read unedited versions as I’m a bit picky about editing! However, I did like the first chapter of Free from Falling that was included at the end of Underdogs.

  31. Hello again! Recently read:

    The Invisible Library series. Secret Library keeps a neutral balance between high order dragons worlds and high chaos fae worlds by retrieving books from all of them. Our intrepid lead is a librarian with a new apprentice and they uncover a traitor within the ranks. The first was a bit too intro-y for me but I kept on and these are delightful! The POV of the librarian is supper witty and pragmatic, and there is a little burgeoning romance – but with which M MC? Voice reminds me a bit of The Rook MC. Genevieve Cogman – 8 books total.

    The Puzzler/A.J. Jacobs. Nonfiction look at the appeal, history and current vibe of different types of puzzles (crossword/cryptics/suduko/wordle, etc.) If you know this author, you know his M.O., takes a year and exams something and throws himself into it. If you enjoy puzzles (I am a daily crossword person) then you might enjoy this – quick fun read.

    Currently reading:
    Every Frenchman Has One/Olivia de Havilland. Yes, Melanie from Gone with the Wind. What a charming surprise this is! Great actress goes to Cannes, meets Frenchman, marries him and lives the rest of her life in France. These are very short essays on her observations as an American in Paris. She can write! And is slyly funny! And good-natured!

    And here is where I need some guidance. Read a K. L. Noone short story (they are all short stories or short novellas), loved it and then glommed 4 more. My mileage varied – loved 2, DNF’d 2, one was good. M/M contemporary and paranormal genres, most with a magical realism bent. I see she has some series, and I really want to grab ’em and be aboard for them all – but would appreciate if you’ve read this author, recommendations for ones you just loved. Thanks!

    1. RE: K. L. Noone, I like the Character Bleed trilogy of novelas (with lots of short stories set afterwards). Contemporary. Interesting hurt/comfort take on D/s: no pain or humiliation, the dominant guy just likes to be in charge to make sure everything is safe and comfortable. The paranormal aspect is extremely light and subtle. Also, I enjoyed Apprentice’s Luck. It’s a bit too short to make the romance seem realistic, but I like how the magician is figuring out his powers turns into light competence porn.

    2. I’ve read all (except the very newest) by K.L. Noone. What I like: the animist writing style, in which the entire environment seems to participate in a scene; also a general tendency toward Truly Nice People whose bad behavior, if any, is based on their own personal issues and rarely antagonistic. I loved the Character Bleed books, with the caveat that it’s 2.25 books plus a lot of bonus material. Most of the separately-published shorts in that world are nicely-framed sex scenes, which is fine if you know that’s what you’re getting, and if you like that kind of sex. It is nearly all D/s with light bondage, lots of toys, much graphic penetration, praise kink.

      Aside from Character Bleed, I like the Demon universe a lot and would suggest buying the collection rather than piecemealing it. Also Kitten & Witch, two novellas.

  32. A couple of DNFs of some new books, and then, I hit on an excellent oldie: Tanya Huff’s Blood Price. It is #1 in the author’s Blood series. I first read this book ages ago and loved it. I re-read it later, a couple of times, but it’s been a while. This re-read, in 2024, convinced me that this book should still have a place on my shelves, because I still enjoyed reading it, 33 years after its original publication in 1991.
    At that time, it was probably one of the first vampire/urban fantasy novels on the market, as was the entire series it started. I have to confess: it had been one of my favorite urban fantasy series for many years. I can’t say it is still a favorite, but this story stood well to the test of time.
    The plot is quick and absorbing, the tension high throughout, the world fully realized, and the characters alive and sympathetic. My favorite character was (surprise!) the vampire, Henry Fitzroy, the bastard son of King Henry VIII. He is probably the only vampire in the entire modern urban fantasy genre I truly like. He is a good guy, no ambiguity. I want him for a friend, more than any other character in the book.
    The only problem of this novel is the absence of cell phones (1991, remember; cell phones were not nearly as prevalent as they are now). The plot resolution hinges on Henry waiting for a phone call on his home line, and for a modern reader, it sounds strange.
    Otherwise, a great read. I’m going to continue with the series.

  33. I continue to go through all of Mimi Matthews with much pleasure.

    Yesterday I finished Lish McBride’s A Little Too Familiar, and laughed so hard all the way through. She gets the vet practice So. Completely. Right.

    I just finished Martha Wells’ Book of Ile-Rien, which I extravagantly pre-ordered, and now I need to go back and reread all the Ile-Rien books my library has. I love that world.

    1. I am >so pleased!!< you are enjoying Ile Rein – I fell into The Wizard Hunters and I love that trio of books so hard. I had already read Nicholas's book, Death of a Necromancer, so I recognized Tremaine's antecedents, and I continue to be amazed by Wells' scenery – it feels like she manages to find the economical description that will make the terrain come alive for me without excess details.

      Enjoy the next ones!

      1. I first read the fall of Ile-Rien years ago after I found her through the Raksura books, which I don’t like nearly as much. My library has that trilogy and City of Bones, but not Elements of Air or Death of the Necromancer, so I splurged. 😊

        Her scenery, and the way she uses clothing to set up a culture.

  34. I am still dealing with Home Moanership issues. I will be getting a new sump pump tomorrow. I will be getting a basement ejector pump and tank for the washing machine. Other related issues. At least the flooding will be taken care of.

    For reading, I’m all caught up on the Assitti Shards series (plural) of books. Now I’m rereading Tamer: Enhancer Arch-Duke of Dinosaurs A Tamer FanFic by Dave Barrack. Based on Tamer: King of Dinosaurs by Michael-Scott Earle. Enhancer is about alien abduction. It starts with our protagonist, Sam, being teleported down to a dinosaur infested earthlike planet after the aliens rip out one eye and substitute an cybernetic prosthetic that does stuff, like interpret other alien languages and pop up a stat screen like the one in the last two Jumanji movies (except it’s a heads-up display visible only to the user.) Sam is able to “enhance” things and people. He starts gathering a harem of sexy alien women, the first of whom is an alien romance writer.

    Her eyes widened and she tensed slightly. “I’m an alien? You… You’re the alien!”
    “Well, you’re the alien to me.” I shrugged. “Obviously it’s a relative term.”
    We stood there quietly for a moment absorbing the implications. Intergalactic diplomat I was not.
    She glanced around like she was chasing thoughts inside her head, then focused on me. Her eyes swept over me a few times, then a smile jumped to her lips.
    “It’s all true then! Aliens are real!” She slapped her hands together. “Suck it, Chauffrey!”
    “Chauffrey? Is that a friend of yours?” This had quickly become an oddly casual conversation. Definitely not how Sagan pictured first contact.
    “Hah! Hardly! She’s a bitch writer who thinks all my alien lover romance novels are stupid.” Her tone shifted to a mocking falsetto. “It’s a stupid premise, Nira. There’s no such thing as aliens, Nira.” Nira (apparently) put her hands on her hips and returned her voice to normal. “You would think that you no-imagination gangrenous blowhole. Go write your fortieth Drowned Kingdom book, hack!” she railed at the sky before returning her attention to me.
    “I’ve written about a lot of handsome alien men, but I never imagined one that looked quite like you. The fur on the head is interesting.” She walked her eyes all over my body again, this time with a more appraising expression on her face, pausing at the stone I was holding.

    I’ll forego quoting the paragraphs of description. Nira is alien, attractive, and eager to explore interspecies relations. A bit of a “furry.” Sam will attract at least five more mates by the end of the book.

    1. Then again, she was a romance author, and I suspected that much like on Earth, ‘romance’ was code for ‘female oriented smut.’ Talking with her about some of her works had me convinced her books were less about the relatably average yet somehow also exceptionally beautiful and witty heroine finding her Prince Charming or Mister Right, and were more about her finding both of them in bed with her at the same time.


  35. Lish McBride is always so brilliant! I’m excited for Red in Tooth and Claw too (out this fall.)

    (Now you’ve got me wanting to re-read the Fall of Ile-Rien books too! Though some of the collected stories were a little too heartbreaking for me.)

    1. Whoops, shoot, that was supposed to be a reply to Mary Anne in Kentucky above, sorry for the lack of context!

        1. Ile autocorrect! I fixed that three times and it still snuck it past me.

  36. I had several really good reads this week. Probably my favourite was The Sleeping Soldier, aN MM retelling of Sleeping Beauty with an American Civil War soldier sleeping for 100 years and waking up in the 1960s. It’s a really sweet story, and Russell the soldier is delightful in his response to the changes in social mores.

    So then I read another book by the same author, Aster Glenn Gray – The Larks Still Bravely Singing, an MM romance set during and after World War I. I didn’t like this one as much – it wasn’t bad, and the level of trauma in both main characters was probably realistic, but it didn’t appeal to me so much.

    Sherry Thomas’s A Tempest at Sea was a splendid addition to her Lady Sherlock series with Holmes disguised as an acerbic old woman and playing the part brilliantly. The cover annoyed me – slim redhaired woman stands on deck of ship with her green cloak blowing in the wind. Badly photoshopped, and Holmes with her love of food and maximum permissible chins was never slim.

    Hitler’s Secret by Rory Clements. The next one in his World War II series about a Cambridge academic who becomes a spy. Gripping and dangerous – I continue to love this series.

    Thorne Smith’s Turnabout. Published in 1931, it’s the story of a bickering husband and wife who, through the interference of a small Egyptian god, swap bodies. Very funny, as well as being a cynical portrayal of American suburbia in the nineteen thirties.

    1. Ohmigod, I love love love Thorne Smith! I used to own three 1950s paperbacks of “The Glorious Pool” (about a mischievous goddess who decides to see what fun it would be to make the water of her pool into a Fountain of Youth); “The Night Life of the Gods”(about a statue that teaches a depressed drunken man how to turn stone statues into living people, and where better to find stone statues than in the Metropolitan Museum of Art?); and “The Bishop’s Jaegers” (about a rich man on a cruise whose lifeboat goes adrift, and washes an unlikely group of people onto an island nudist colony).

      All 3 books had these naughty-ish cartoon illustrations showing a lot of leg and a lot of drinking — they were written in the 30’s, I think? And full of strange Jazz Age slang terminology like “step-ins” (naughty silk ladies’ underwear with lace & such).

      These books were very funny, very other-worldly, and they came from what felt like an ancient but nearly memorable time in the past. I wish I still had them!

        1. I read Thorne Smith decades ago, and have done multiple re-reads since, what fun! Remember the old TV series Topper? That was originally a book by Thorne Smith as was Topper Takes a Trip. Night life of the Gods was a blast to read, and there were a few others that family members swiped from each other as soon as the books were put down. The Glorious Pool was fun to read also, you just need to put some of the social issues in the context of when the books were written.

  37. Extended word-vomitting, sorry!

    Last time I GBTed, I said I needed to find a brain-soother to soothe my brain with. Apparently my brain had other ideas, for I decided to continue on my super-slow reread of the Sword of Truth-series by Terry Goodkind that I went on after he passed away in 2020, picking up the 4th book: “Temple of the Winds”. This book contains all the delightful and soothing elements of (SPOILER) plague, war, children dying, a completely bonkers serial killer, murder, a bunch of gory shit, turbo-sad deaths, stupid decisions, torture, trauma, heartbreak, betrayal and general disaster. Maybe because it’s so over the top full of disaster, my brain just switches off and can handle it. Maybe because some of my all-time favourite characters are in it. Maybe because it’s part of one of my favourite series, I don’t know. But, it worked.

    And here’s where I started thinking that one thing that defines a really good book for me is that I don’t just forget time around me when I read it, but even if it’s a long book, it’ll feel short and be finished far too soon. Temple of the Winds is over 28 hours of audio, but I breezed through it in no time. Sometimes I read books that are under 8 hours and start checking at 1/3 or so how much reading is still left, thinking: “Ah but we must be almost done now, right? RIGHT?” Perhaps I should take the hint when that happens and move on.

    On that note, I read “Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers” by Jesse Q. Sutanto and really enjoyed it. A dead body is found one morning at Vera Wong’s tea-house and she decides to solve the murder herself, because of course only a Chinese mother would know how! Figuring that a murderer can never resist coming back to the scene of the crime, she makes up a list of suspects of the 4 people whom show up at her shop door shortly afterwards. It turns out all of them had a relation to the murder victim, and good reason to want him dead. It’s not just a crime-story, but a story of found family, broken people being mended and a whole lot of love. Despite a few instances of smirking, I really enjoyed it.

    Went back to “The Hexologists” by Josiah Bancroft that I started a few weeks back and finished it. It took me a while to get into the story (again a sort of crime/private investigation/sleuthing, but in fantasy setting), but once I did, I really enjoyed it. You’re kept a bit on arm’s length from the main characters – a married couple – but still I found myself drawn to them and wanting to know how it all would work out. The magic-system is also interesting, and there are a few turns to the story that are interesting. It does end a tiny bit unresolved however, so even if the main plot gets sorted out, some things are not and you know there’s more to come.

    I needed a brain-break again, so reread “Welcome to Temptation” by the annoying woman that writes Bob’s sex-scenes and doesn’t let him use flashbacks. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with her, but she’s pretty good. Kinda sorta like her books a tiny bit.

    Returned to T. Kingfisher’s “A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking” which I’d started back in December and finished it. I liked it more and more as the story progressed. Definitely loved the gingerbread man. Not a 5-star rating for me, but definitely an enjoyable read and I think I’d want to revisit it again someday. The writing is very good.

    Now trying to decide whether to read further in “The Scandalous Confessions of Lydia Bennet, Witch” by Melinda Taub or not.

    Medical update: Second opinion went well, I think. New internist takes it serious and wants to look further into it all. She agrees with our idea of gastroparesis possibly being behind the symptoms, and wants to do further investigation into that. However, our hospital hadn’t yet sent over all their paperwork (because of course they hadn’t…), and she wanted to do some bloodwork on her own first, so we’ll have a phone appointment in 3 weeks to discuss how to proceed. Cautiously hopeful.

    1. Shass, I really enjoyed Vera Wong – such wonderful characterisation, and the growth of the found family was really moving.

      Good luck with the medical stuff – it sounds cautiously positive.

  38. I just noticed that many of the ebooks in Bob Mayer’s Area 51 series are discounted, usually to $1.99. I haven’t read them and so can’t speak to their quality. Many or all are in KU anyhow, so I deleted the notice before it occurred to me that some people here might be interested. Since Kindle’s default ranking is by sales, these are probably near the top of the listing. I found several that way. And for all I know Bob may have more info on his own site.

    1. Correction: It’s $2.49 for Area 51 nos. 2 through 5. I think number 1 has a different discount. (I relocated the notice.) Barbary Hambly’s Stranger at the Wedding is $1.99 too.

  39. This week’s good book was a historical rom, Lady Ludmilla’s Accidental Letter by Sofia Laporte. It was sweet, it was funny, the characters were people it was a delight to hang out with for the duration of the story, I will definitely read more of this author’s books.

  40. I just finished Colour Scheme by Ngaio Marsh. I was looking for something to go along with my trip to New Zealand. Worked great.

  41. I am on a tiny little end-of-day work strike, having dealt with one too many irritations stemming from coverage of my work friend’s docket. Ah well. My reading week:

    1. [re-read] ‘Clutch of Constables’ by Ngaio Marsh, one of my favorites; in which Troy impulsively takes a river boat tour and ends up in the thick of an art fraud conspiracy, plus murder. Neatly interwoven with Alleyn presenting the case to a class after the fact.

    2. ‘Curio’ by C.S. Poe, a cute M/M short story involving a NYC junk shop, would’ve benefited from a bit more length; and ‘Frank at Heart’ by Pat Henshaw, M/M novella feat. foothills hardware-store owner and the new guy in town, which left me a bit O.O bc a mentally ill antagonist dies in a house fire he set and everybody is like Oh Well.

    3. ‘Yours Truly’ by Abby Jimenez, F/M feat. two ER doctors, in which I saw the Black Moment coming a mile away and just cannot with people who know they have trauma, who have all the resources to deal with it constructively, and who instead go LALALA until it blows up in their faces. The MMC in this one is terrific, though – *his* trauma is dealt with satisfactorily.

    4. ‘3 Dukes & the Maiden of the Loch’ and ‘3 Dukes & the Lady of the Fae’ by Will Forrest, two dirty little historical fantasy stories which probably require no further summary. I was entertained.

    5. [re-read] my own M/M novel ‘Into You,’ the one feat. an aspiring actor and the porn director who gives him a boost up the ladder while trying to keep hands off. 🙂

    6. ‘New Adult’ by Timothy Janovsky, a What If M/M in which a striving would-be comic commits a family / relationship crime and wakes up 7 years in the future, having achieved success at the cost of all his friendships, and tries to fix it. Unusual, well done, not wholly pleasant reading but I got invested.

    7. [re-read] ‘Risk’ by Dick Francis, the one in which an accountant / amateur jockey is kidnapped to keep him away from some nasty fraudsters.

    8. ‘Putting Down Roots’ by Jem Wendel, M/M English village bi-awakening insta-love shortish novel in which serious issues are handwaved and People Who Hurt Us make totally unnecessary third-act appearances. The MCs were both likable but the scenario required a bit too much suspension of disbelief for me.

    9. ‘The Best Material for the Artist in the World: Alfred Bierstadt: A Biography in Poems’ by Kenneth Chamlee. If you like reading poetry at all, I heartily recommend this. It’s short, immensely well crafted, with multiple POVs / narrators each having a distinct voice. While only a sketch of a life, it is a vivid one. Went on my keeper shelf with Hafiz and Leonard Cohen.

    10. ‘Bread Crumbs’ by Kim Fielding, M/M novel, loose retelling of Hansel & Gretel; this one is pretty dark, in the sense that one MC spends most of the book spiraling down to inevitable disaster, but the other MC comes to the rescue and there is a credible happy ending. POV character is a Portland, OR drummer who is kicked out of the band he started because he’s not photogenic enough. The band manager is his stepmother and two of the members are half brothers. He’s late 20s when this begins, and the story covers a span of years. Which I appreciate, because the issues these guys have are not solved in a day (*cough*Putting Down Roots*cough*). This was a 5-star book for me, because I know I will re-read it, and because the POV character builds himself a good life while waiting for the other guy to need him.

    Rec of the week in M/M romance: my book. Ha! Otherwise, the poetry thing is great.

    1. I am going to have to give the 3 Dukes a try. That sounds like a lot of fun.

      And thanks for putting your finger on what annoyed me about Yours Truly. I dnfed it, frustrated with the female lead.

  42. I read Killers of a Certain Age and greatly enjoyed it. Thanks to all for recommending!

    I’m now working my way through Barbara Neal’s The Starfish Sisters on kindle. I haven’t read it before but enjoy her books usually so I’m hopeful. So far so good.

  43. Also, I know there’s a lot of interest here in MM stories but does anyone have recommendations for FF authors? I feel like the ones I’ve found are either straight porn or just not very well written. I’m looking for a good story whether there’s heat or not.

    1. Delilah Green Doesn’t Care- Ashley Herring Blake (& if you like it there are two loosely related sequels that are also F/F).

      The Princess and the Fangirl-Ashley Poston (sequel to an M/F, Geekerella).

      The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry, C.M. Waggoner.

      The Bewitching Hour (a Buffy prequel focused on Tara). Also by Ashley Poston.

      The Blue Place – Nicola Griffith

      1. KJ Charles has one . Courtney Milan has one where the women are both I their 60s or 70s that I like a lot .

    2. I enjoyed the Delilah Green series, the Ruthless Lady’s Guide, and Courtney Milan’s Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure too!

      I also enjoyed Olivia Waite’s historical (early Victorian iirc?) Feminine Pursuits series, starting with A Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, and also her Victorian Christmas novella Hen Fever, about a poultry show. And I love Lana Harper’s contemporary small town magical romance Witches of Thistle Grove series — the first, Payback’s a Witch, is FF and so is the fourth.

    3. Olivia Waite is very good for historical f/f romance – my favorite is still “The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics” but they’ve all been good so far.

      “One Last Stop” by Casey McQuiston is a time travel novel where the FMC falls in love with a 1970s woman stranded in time the NY Metro.

      Second the recc for Courtney Milan’s historical f/f novella “Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure”.

      Cat Sebastian has a historical f/f novella “A Little Light Mischief” is good. As is Alexis Hall’s “Proper English”, also historical f/f romance.

      If you like anthologies, “Silk & Steel” edited by Janine Southard was a good collection of f/f fantasy.

      “Far from Home” by Lorelie Brown is a contemporary cross-cultural f/f romance and really very sweet.

      Hope you find some reccs that suit you.

      1. Thank you all so much! I’ve read a couple of these but have several to add to my list. Very happy!

    4. Great, thanks for the question. I had similar thoughts. And thanks for all the answers too. I’ll be checking them out as I wean myself off MM hockey… eventually.

      1. Let me know if you manage to wean yourself off MM hockey — I keep trying. In vain.

        1. Why would you want to????
          In winter, it’s season appropriare, in summer the thought of skating cools you down.
          The blood pressure gets pumping thanks to the excitement.
          The men are manly and canweat suits without being corporate.

          1. And I obviously cannot type.
            At least on my tiny phone while sitting in the bus on my commute home from the office.

  44. All my reading this last week or so has been sff in preparation for the close of Hugo nominations on Saturday.

    “To Shape A Dragon’s Breath” by Moniquill Blackgoose was very good; as mentioned on Argh a few weeks ago I think. Alternate history, positing that the Vikings kept control of England in the 10th century and ended up colonising North America. A young native woman who bonds with a dragon and goes to a settler school, making an interesting and sympathetic protagonist. Plus I liked the chemistry.

    “Camp Damacus” by Chuck Tingle is set in a town with a gay conversion camp, and a young woman who starts seeing demons. Solid story and I really liked that the FMC’s superpower, so to speak, is her curiosity.

    Suzanne Palmer’s “To Sail Beyond the Botnet” was pure fun. The third in her Bot 9 short fiction series, starting with . Bot 9 is a small robot on a big Ship hurtling through space with an interesting take on how to obey orders. Loved it.

    Also really liked “Starling House” by Alix E Harrow, which features a magical house in a dead end town and a strong FMC who needs to learn to actually see the people around her. Liked the layers in this one.

    The novella “The Mimicking of Known Successes” by Malka Older was also really good, as long as you can suspend disbelief for the science because I don’t really think a foggy colony high above Jupiter is likely but it makes for a gorgeously quasi-steampunk setting. Add in a murder mystery and an f/f reunited lovers plot line and it becomes very enjoyable.

    1. Yuri, thank you for the rec for Suzanne Palmer’s Bot 9 series! I hadn’t heard of them, and I just read and really enjoyed them! Making notes on the rest…

      I liked The Mimicking of Known Successes too. And if you haven’t already read Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January, I recommend it.

      1. Glad you enjoyed Bot 9. There’s a lot of excellent free short fiction out there at the moment which I love, particularly when it is its own thing.

        I read and enjoyed “Ten Thousand Doors of January” and Harrow has some good short fiction as well.

  45. I am happy! Happy to report that Home Moanership XVI is resolved. The sump has a new pump. The washing machine has a dedicated tank and pumps. My wallet has a dedicated drain to pay for it all. No More Flooding! Happy!

    Too much Happiness, so let’s bring it down a notch by considering my twice-yearly Daylight Savings Rant to be given. Also, call your Senators, Representatives, and anyone associated with the issue at 2 AM Sunday morning to express your opinion, whether yay or nay. It’s the least we should do.

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