This is a Good Book Thursday, April 18, 2024

Last week was six kinds of awful, so I decided to put my mind on something completely different, a very old book I’ve been working on for a very long time called You Again. It’s my homage to the country house murder mystery, especially Agatha Christie’s versions of it, so I reread The Hollow and my fave, 4:50 to Paddington. Then I went on to Marsh and Overture to Death; next up: Death and the Dancing Footman. I’d already read all of these long ago so I know who the murderers are, which means I can watch while Christie and Marsh duck and swerve their ways through the plots, playing fair with all those fascinating characters. It’s a master class in mystery writing, or would be if I started taking notes. The biggest lesson so far, which was not a surprise: It’s the characters, stupid. You’d think it would be the plot, but it’s the characters that make it work.

So what did you read that was enjoyable this week?

186 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, April 18, 2024

  1. Sorry you had such an awful week, Jenny. But I love the sound of You Again. I’ve been reading a few Marshes, and like them so much.

    Best read for me this week was a thriller by Gytha Lodge, She Lies in Wait. Dual timeline, 14 year old girl disappears, bones turn up years later and a team of cops are trying to find out what happened to her. It didn’t grab me straight away, but crept up on me and I ended up gripped.

    I tried to read Ali Hazelwood’s Check Mate but it was awash with unnecessary angst right from the beginning, so I gave up.

    Sarah Wynde’s A Gift of Ghosts. I picked it up because I love Cici and the Curator which she wrote as SJ Wynde. This was nowhere near as good. An okay romance, nothing special.

    1. @Lian: I liked Lodge’s book too, enough that in my usual fashion I read all of her Jonah Sheens novels in one fell swoop. I’m a sucker for a sympathetic MC detective. And speaking of characterization, Jenny, I find her characters convincing and sometimes fascinating. Plot’s good, too:-)

  2. I’m sorry things haven’t been going well. I am experiencing family drama and have been tempted to slide back into comfort rereading, but have settled for new works by favorite authors instead. Really, it’s almost the same.

    I loved the new KJ Charles. The structure was different, also a murder mystery, but the characters were great, which is always what I am showing up for. I’m not much of a plot reader.

    And I listened to Jane of Lantern Hill by the author of Anne of Green Gables, which I have never read. But it surprises me that Jane isn’t more popular. It’s such a collection of cozy and resilience. I had it on cassette tape as a child a d listened to it over and over. It held up coming back to it, but my version was heavily abridged! I feel betrayed because all the stuff cut out feels essential to the character development.

    And now I am working on two m/m murder mystery anthologies. The Irregulars, recommended here. I highly enjoyed the first story and now am on to Josh Lanyon in the second, always safe there. And Footsteps in the Dark, free on audible. Again, Lanyon and other authors. Too soon to tell there, but I have high expectations.

    My aunt recommended The Librarian of Burned Books and I started it, but I am worried that it will be too real and heavy for me at the moment. Has anyone here read it? Thoughts?

    1. I really liked the new KJ Charles too even though it isn’t a romance at all. It immediately reread Proper English and Think of English to compensate. She is so good at characters.

      I also finally read Alexis Hall’s Ten things I hate about you. It was such a delightful read I don’t know why I hadn’t read it yet.

  3. It’s a good thing that this blog readership is so diverse you’ll always find people with similar and with different tastes. It helps me broaden my reading, though it also means some of the things recommended won’t be to my taste.

    I really liked the whole Gift of Ghosts quartet plus its extras, as well as Cici and the curator, and wished ms.Wynde would have written some more in either style – they are indeed different, but I found both enjoyable.

    I read the first two Miss Seeton books by Heron Carvic, recommmended here earlier, and enjoyed them; I will continue with the next two.

        1. My bad Olga – there are 5 books & 2 (possibly 3) short stories:

          1 A Gift of Ghosts
          2 A Gift of Thought
          2.5 The Spirits of Christmas (a short story)
          3 A Gift of Time
          The Wedding Guests (a short story published between Time & Grace – originally published in the anthology Magical Weddings}
          4 A Gift of Grace
          5 A Gift of Luck
          (I thought there was another short story about Maggie the diner owner & Max but I couldn’t find it. Sarah comments on here once in a while & I am going to email her & ask if the story exists & if so, where.)

          She also has two books written in the fantasy land of Sia Mara that she created:
          A Lonely Magic
          A Precarious Magic

          And, of course, Cici and the Curator.

          And a non-fiction book: Practicing Happiness

          Sarah is a wonderful author but not so good at self-promotion.

          1. Judy told me to come tell you about the other stories — there are two Max & Maggie stories, both super short, both sent to my mailing list. I don’t think they’re available anywhere else, but if anyone wants to send me an email, I’m happy to send them out. Not exactly at the moment — I’m not at my computer — but I should definitely be able to do it this weekend. I think if you sign up for my mailing list on Rozelle Press, if it’s currently working (it was broken for a couple years, but I think it’s fixed now), you can automatically get the first one, called Welcome to Tassamara, from BookFunnel. The second one has a name, I’m sure, not that I remember it, but it’s a short set at the memorial service for Dillon. (And I just realized that my email link won’t work but it’s Sarah at sarahwynde-dot-com)

    1. I love the earliest Miss Seaton books by the original author, the first five, I believe. I was no longer charmed when the authors changed over time.

    2. There are actually five Miss Seeton books by Heron Carvic: Picture Miss Seeton, Miss Sefton Draws the Line, Witch Miss Seeton, Miss Seeton Sings, and Odds on Miss Seeton. Only four are available on audio books in the states, though. The fifth one was recorded (I think it is Odds on Miss Seeton), and may be available in the UK. Does anyone know how to get it if that’s so?

  4. I want to read You Again. Signing up for your beta list. I’ll be happy to read it twice, for that matter, in case I miss something 1st time around.

    I’m reading Kyra Jacobs Once Upon A Summer Night. It’s my favorite in the series, which is unusual; I almost always like the 1st one best. She lives “just up the road” from me, and her prose is absolutely comfortable for that very reason.

  5. I finished Adrien English series this week (Josh Lanyon, MM crime) and really enjoyed it. I know it is popular here. Three things I liked about it —there were more… and some flaws —but these caught my attention.

    1. I admired the author’s ability to maintain the romantic* tension over 5 books. Impressive feat, plausible issues and she didn’t resort to crazy scenarios or ridiculous misunderstandings. (*I guess it falls under romance much of the time not very ‘romantic’!)

    2. I liked the introduction of some good female characters midway though (step sisters), they were fun and distinctive and had some depth. I often find that, even though most of the MM that I have read is written by women, the female characters can often be a bit like cardboard cutouts and lack depth.

    3. Finally also impressed that the last book (a Christmas ish novella), written at least 5 years after the others, kept the characters and setting consistent with the rest of the series and the plot worked and it tied things up nicely. I am often a little nervous when an author goes back to characters they haven’t used for a while as sometimes they aren’t really the same people as earlier books. I’ve been disappointed by this on occasion.

    Then I went back to MM baseball and read Unwritten Rules, KD Casey, the first in that series. Really liked it. There was discussion of flashback here a few days ago. This uses flashback, really more of a dual time line than flashbacks, but I thought it was good in this book and kept the narrative drive strong. I think worked better than a simple linear timeline would have.

    I definitely recommend this Unwritten Rules series so far (I’ve read 2). I read the second (Fire Season) first, but I don’t think for these 2 it matters which order they are in. Lots of baseball, so I’m continuing to learn!

    She also has also a good free baseball short story (An Occasional Victory) in that world if you sign up to her newsletter.

  6. Not a book, but a baby. My granddaughter was born yesterday. Mom healthy and happy. Baby Blanka healthy with good lungs. I’m unbelievably happy.

    1. Congratulations and celebrations! Best wishes to new grandma and momma and the little one and everyone else around that loves the little one! <3 Hurrahs and hurrays!

      1. Thank you all for your kindness. Blanka will be our only grandchild; in fact, we’d decided that our son and daughter-in-law weren’t going to have children. Turns out, they have been trying for years.

        Yes, she is already being loved.

        We’re visiting them in Warsaw, Poland, next month.

        1. Congratulations on new grandbaby, my sister was the same, she wouldn’t say anything, but I had to quell the urge to tell people to shut up when they asked about children. She only told my family about difficulties after she managed to have my niece

  7. Sorry, that your week was so crappy, Jenny!

    I do remember You Again – I guess I was pregnant with kid 1 when you asked the cherries for feedback on e.g. what kind of car your MMC would drive 🙂 I kind of fell in love with your hero from what you told us about him. I remember the heroine less vividly which migh thave to do with you changing her name?

    My reading week was sparse, too much “life” going on.

    But I finished listening to “Delay of Game” by Ari Baran and loved it (I realized I love idiots-best friends-to-lovers). It’s one of those rare books that came to life in my imagination IN SPITE of being an audiobook. I usually have trobule picturing the story the same way in audio, it’s like 2 D compared to 3 D or tunnel vision compared to widescreen. But here it worked. We mainly see everything unfold from the 2 MCs’s pov so in a way are in “tunnel vision” mode anyway.

    Then I speed-read “White Noise” by a to me so far unknown author. Not badly written but it rubbed me the wrong way in so many accounts I was kind of livid.

    Does anyone know the paradoxon that you keep on reading altough you don’t like the story being obviously directed by the author like a puppet on strings?

    Well, now I’m listening to “Game Misconduct” by Ari Baran (I already know where Mike and Danny end up in book 2 which I loved) – but as I need something to do with my hands, I’m not far into it yet.

    I also started reading “Bromantic Puckboy” by Finley/James. Much anticipated book because the author-duo is great at social media marketing…
    I liked the almost farcical first chapter (the veteran hockey player’s pov) but I’m not so sure about the other one, the rookie goalie.
    All series of those two get more and more connected and the rookie as appeared before in James’ Frat War series).
    I like the feeling of not having to leave a world, of community, but those many series being that closely connected… it feels a bit suffocating.
    Also I don’t know how I feel about frat boys anyway – and the rookie is very close with his frat bros. It’s a very foreign concept to me (we do have “Studentenverbindungen” /fraternities and sororities, but they feel distinctly different and not too popular). I prefer to get to know any MC as his/her own person, not as a puzzle piece.

    1. “not as a puzzle piece.” That describes a problem I have had with many characters lately in books I was lukewarm about. I could not come up with words for what was wrong. Thank you!

  8. Best book I read all week was KJ Charles’ Death in the Spires. It’s a murder mystery, a romance and a complex character study all in one. And I take back everything I said about not liking flashbacks.

    I read the Irregulars, a series of novellas about Two Guys Solving Paranormal Cases and Falling In Love in a world populated by every kind of magical creature. What was most notable was how consistently strong all four authors were, unusual in my experience. The first story led me down a path strewn by Nicole Kimberling, whom I’m unfamiliar with, and I read another book of hers, Grilled Cheese and Goblins, short stories and novelettes all featuring the same magical Food Inspector, highly amusing. Thank you Yuri!

    I also read Dal Maclean’s Object of Desire, which had more graphic violence than I’m comfortable with, plus I didn’t love the MC who kept sleeping with people to solve his internal issues, unsuccessfully. I really wanted to yell at him. Still might do the sequel though now that he’s settled down.

    And finally, hockey fans, a new hockey author, Stephanie Hoyt’s Prove It is about a neurodivergent hockey star and his sunny rival,. Despite the similarity to Taylor Fitzpatrick’s characters I quite enjoyed it. Slower and sweeter. It’s as if David and Jake had a love child with Catherine Cloud.

    1. I’m going to have to look for Grilled cheese and Goblins. I really enjoyed the first novella.

      1. I really enjoyed it – funnier than the first novella but that’s not a problem for me.

      2. Glad to hear you liked it Tammy. I think that’s the only paranormal Lanyon I’ve read, and I think she doesn’t really well.

        I haven’t actually read Grilled Cheese and Goblins – need to move it up my tbr!

    2. Prove It sounds like it could be my kind of thing, I’ll check it out. Sometimes I like sweet (and sometimes not).

  9. I’m reading The Beach Trap by Ali Brady – a story about half-sisters who jointly inherit a beach house when their father dies. It’s bringing up some interesting feelings as one of the sisters was the secret result of an affair and although the father had plenty to do with her and her mother, when her mother died he disappeared. Move a few of the timings around and you’ve pretty much got how I grew up. Anyway, the book’s written well and I’m enjoying how different the sisters are before the inevitable reconciliation.

    I also read my first Kate Atkinson book this week, but it won’t be my last. I got put off years ago when I started Behind the Scenes At The Museum and didn’t enjoy it instantly, so I put it down in a fit of pique and never restarted it. I was given When Will There Be Good News? by my cousin and it’s sat on my shelves for years, but I finally read it this week and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ll now be looking out for the other Jackson Brodie books.

    1. I had exactly the same experience with Behind the Scenes, in fact it took me years before I went back to Atkinson. I’m now a true fan (though still have tried Behind the Scenes again…) and have read and enjoyed every Jackson Brodie book.

          1. Funny you should mention Atkinson @Hannah and @Christina: I just began Life after Life last night. Have you read it? Anyone? I’d be interested to hear what you have to say. On a related note, one of my favourite book titles is her “Started Early, Took My Dog.” That’s me to a T… except maybe “Started Late, Took My Dogs.”

          2. Beth, Life after Life is probably my favourite Kate Atkinson book, though I love her work generally. But LAL is so utterly compelling.

  10. I’m always impressed by how much the folks on this blog get read over a one-week time period; only reading for maybe half an hour before sleep makes me far less prolific. 🙁

    Last week I finished the penultimate of the Aaronovitch Rivers of London series I’d already read (“Lies Sleeping”), and am starting a new one — “False Values.”

    The previous book’s ending shocked me, and I guess it serves me right, because I’m finding it hard to figure out the whys & wherefores of this one. Is Peter still in the police force? Is he fired? Placed on indefinite leave? Working undercover? I guess I’ll find out in a few weeks (or maybe months….) Still, what a great series! I really don’t like books where characters I like are put into danger — probably a flaw in my own character — but with Peter, I think of him as having endless powerful allies somewhere behind him. Thank goodness, because there is certainly danger enough for him in the Rivers series!

    1. I read at a snail’s pace, Jinx.
      Plus when I really like a book I have to dwell in the after glow.
      Cannot switch to another book that fast – can do so only with books that I don’t much like.

      1. Dodo, You are undoubtedly more fluent in English than I am in any foreign language, but for what it’s worth, I expect that even with material that I can handle without a bilingual dictionary (standard literary dialect, little or no esoteric vocabulary) my reading speed is maybe half of my English speed, and that I have to concentrate harder, so that at times I’m too tired to handle it efficiently. Do you also read “at a snail’s pace” in German?

        1. Patrick, that’s lovely of you!
          And yes, my speed is the same in both languages.
          The need to bask in joy is the same.
          My day job has become more or less a bilingial one, too, so my days are spent in both languages anyway. We’ve hired increasing numbers of non German speaking colleagues and it’s funny to experience rooms with 45 Germans and 5 non Germans and all of us speaking in various stages of grammar error ridden English…
          My reading and writing is definitely less cringeworthy than my spoken one. Dd loves to remind me of the mistakes I made during our visit to London last year when she was being too shy to open her mouth and I had to shoulder every conversation…
          don’t need a
          I don’t reed many German novels days anymore as most of what interests me is in English. I’m reading

          1. Btw, my Polish colleague who was born and educated in the UK but fled to us b/c of Brexit speaks the most wonderful English and has the best sense of humour (a mix of British and Polish)…

          2. I can ask my colleague whose whole family step by step re-located to “Europe”, i.e. the continent.
            Our staff is very international but he’s the only Brit afaik. British spouses of Germans that we know have started the process to get the German citizenship after the Brexit vote but I’m not sure if this just sped up the idea.

            But the effects can be felt – we used to have some British shops which have closed down probably because of the high customs costs. At least that’s what the owner of our local Irish Shop told me as explanation why their range of goods has been drastically reduced – they get their stuff via the UK, so cannot avoid their nonEU customs.

          3. Dodo, So most of the Irish Shop’s goods were either fake Irish or were made in Northern Ireland? Must be a little daunting to people from the Republic of Ireland, which after all is in the EU.

          4. Patrick, I don’t think the iteams from the Irish Shop were fake, but who am I to know?
            According to the owner, items like tea and jewellery – smaller items with maybe relatively little profit margin, high competition by continental brands or higher customs – were usually sent via the UK, for whatever reasons.

            The shop’s main wares are pieces of clothing and other accessories made from wool and – from what I saw, made in Ireland

          5. Dodo, By “fake Irish” I didn’t mean fraudulent, just not made in Ireland. I have been discouraged to discover on return from trips abroad that some (fortunately not many) of my souvenirs from various countries were clearly marked as having been made somewhere else, such as China.

            Tea, of course, never is grown in Ireland, and I don’t even know if it’s ever packed there, so I certainly would not call non-Irished-packed tea fakery. I current have on hand Irish Breakfast Tea from Twinings. It has no country of origin marked, which I think means it’s packed in the US. I’m currently using up Lidl house brand Irish Breakfast, and no origin is on that either. (Unless for some reason tea is exempt from marking regulations?)

            Guinness is indeed made in Ireland and in my experience much of what is available in the US (especially bottled rather than canned) seems comes from there. But some is brewed in the US and some of our Guinness is brewed in Canada. It all still has a sort of Irish penumbra.

          6. I think my earlier apology should have gone here. If not, it belongs after my last reply to Dodo before the apology. This nesting can get confusing!

        2. Dodo and Lian, As I recall, unlike the US, the UK does not have birthright citizenship, so someone can easily be born and raised there without being a British citizen, especially when EU citizens could work there without restriction. Even in the US, I think it somehow happens with children of foreign diplomats, who somehow don’t count. So is this UK Pole really a Brit in the legal sense? I watch a fair amount of the Japanese state broadcaster NHK World. Since an edict of a recent nationalist prime minister, Japanese citizens are supposed to use the same surname-first order in English that they do in Japanese (unlike their practice for the preceding century or more and unlike what Hungarians do). It’s interesting seeing that, out of a pool of NHK broadcasters who look ethnic Japanese and speak with perfect North American accents, some do surname-first and some (the non-Japanese) are still surname-last. It probably depends on their legal status when they were raised in North America.

          1. Patrick, that’s correct. I called my colleague a Brit because to me, he’s so quitessential British, but legally, he’s indeed no British citizen.

            The spouses I mentioned are “true” Brits opting to stay and apply for German citizenship because they intend to keep living here with their “mixed” families.

            And yes, the advantage of being EU citizen is that we can move, live and work freely within Europe. And are even allowed to participate in some regional and European elections.
            For kids of Europeans and other “foreigners” born here, the threshold was made lower to gain German citizenship, from what I’ve read. One of my son’s friends is German born Korean but studying law here, so he is about to enter the application process (plus: the military service obligation is daunting).

            No automatic citizenship as birthright here for sure. Not much different than in the UK.

        3. Sorry for the typos and autocorrects in the above, but I think they are decipherable.

    2. I read slowly and I don’t usually have time during the day — but it’s amazing how much reading one can get done if one is unable to sleep! 😁

      1. Christina, insomnia has plagued me for some time lately but I’ve discovered a wonderful cure… listening to audiobooks 😉
        Audible, Spotify etc lets you put a timer, so at least I know how much story I’ve missed, lol. And if it doesn’t work it’s magic, at least I get to enjoy the story.

          1. For the first few minutes my mind is wide awake and listens attently, drowning out the thoughts and to do lists. The noise level is set rather low, so i have to listen intently. And somehow then the tired body manages to sneakely take over control. Bam..sleep.
            The dreams are unaffected by what I’ve listened to.

            If you don’t hsve the right audiobook handy: some podcasts work, too.

            Right now, I’m listening to a podcast (the big gay fiction podcast) by two lovely hosts: no bad reviews of books, pnly good ones = a lot of positivity to end one’s day! Good interviews with authors and narrators. More than 400 episodes of 40+ minutes = good weapon against my form of insomnia. Some episodes I have to listen to x times to finally get the content while awake lol.
            Some don’t wirk b/c the voice of the intervewee is not the right fit, but interviwes usually start after I’ve already fallen asleep.
            Free on spotify w/o interruptions.

        1. I also listen to The Big Gay Fiction Podcast but usually when I’m cooking or doing some chore. They are totally positive about every book which is lovely –though perhaps not as useful in the long run — and the tone is fun. Definitely a source for ideas for books to look into!

          1. Wow, that’s cool, Christine 🙂

            Yes, their tone is very positive. Which is such a nice change from the scathing reviews that can be fun but miss the point quite often. Like when the reviewers don’t realize how much their expectations and preonceptions influence their opinion.

            Disadvantage of the Big Gay Fiction podcst: the hosts tend to re-tell the stories, give a bit too much away. Thanks to this, I’ve got the feeling taht don’t need to read a couple of titles in my tbr pile which is okay as the pile is too high anyway :-).

            It’s also nice to experience how the authors come across. Some, like Ari Baran, were a surprise (why did I expect them to sound like Miko Soto?) and made me curious to try the books in spite of being too much of a wuss.

            Rachel Reid and Lily Morton were as lovely as the seemed from their newsletters.

            No interview made me keep away from their books though K.M. Neuhold’s very, very lively voice made the podcast useless as sleep-inducing device…

        2. @Dodo and any others trying to get a good night’s sleep: I’ve been using audiobooks, like you suggest, Dodo, and they work if they aren’t too good…:-) There are narrators who I find I can’t hear (see below) and those that I find ugly (sadly, usually female and American). Those I am able to comprehend are few and far. Recently, however, I’ve been trying the podcasts (free, check Google) Nothing Much Happens, which really work for me. The narrator/author is female, with a low and clear voice (I’m deaf), and makes an excellent use of the language.

          1. Thanks so much, Beth. Have found it on spotify, will try tonight!!
            I’d tried meditation apps before, strangely enough those in my own tongue made me antsy. An app wigh a male voice with Australian accent worked far better but not as much as the podcasts/audiobooks, maybe because I’m more invested?

            I totally get it with stories that are too good – happened to me as well recently (Alexis Hall, Waiting for the Flood, new ed. Will Watt narrator).
            Second the experience that some voices or style of narration are jarring.
            Or other aspects don’t fit. E.g. cannot listen to the Vorkosogan audiobooks because to me the voice sounds far too old.
            Narration is an artform for sure.

  11. I reread Agnes and the Hitman then moved on to several novellas because I couldn’t decide what next. I read Jenny’s Sizzle, The Way Home (a reread) by Linda Howard, Kissing Frosty by Anne Stuart, and Family By Fate by Paula Detmer Riggs.

    After the novellas I reread Maybe This Time. And am now suffering from a book hangover and trying to decide what to read next. I love that book so much!

    1. I don’t know if I have read The Way Home. I thought I had all the Linda Howards. I will have to investigate.

    2. I loved Maybe This Time, too!

      Have you read Corina Chapman series by Kerry Greenwood? Not gothic but the main character is around the same age as as Ande, I think. I loved those books. Corina is a baker & she lives in a building full of lovable, quirky characters. She solves mysteries with her delicious lover Daniel.

  12. Sorry about your awful week, Jenny, but my week just got better when you wrote that you are working on a long standing book. ‘You Again’ sounds perfect. I love a good old fashioned country house murder mystery. And you can always be trusted to deliver wonderful characters. The best part of any book. I am currently working my way through KM Shea’s Timeless Fairytales. I am enjoying the unique spin on the plots and her endearing characters.

  13. Brutal insomnia this week meant I was able to read quite a lot this week.
    I started the week with another really good Taylor Fitzpatrick story on Ao3 “No Expectations of Return.” It is a novella length, relatively angsty M/M hockey story between teammates which starts with a career-ending injury for one of them (hence angst. ) Fitzpatrick has a way of pulling you into the story from word one. Such a good author!

    I also read Script by R.J.Scott and V.L. Locey and quite enjoyed it. M/M romance between a Hollywood actor and star hockey player. Fun. No angst. Maybe a bit fairy-tale-ish in the story resolution. Nice.

    I then DNF’d Hannah Henry’s Drive the Net. Given so many people loved this one I will probably try it again at some point but this time it just did not work for me.

    I reread of Katie Fforde’s M/F romance “Second Thyme Around” which I had remembered as being light and fun and satisfying. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my memories and included a scene in which the FMC and MMC get into a physical altercation which is pretty disturbing. I guess this type of scene was okay back when this book was written in 2004 (?) but it doesn’t pass muster today. Disappointing.

    I started rereading Dal MacLean’s Blue on Blue series and read the first in the series “Bitter Legacy” which I loved. It’s an M/M police procedural with one MC a homicide investigator and the other a “civilian” photographer. Good story, good emotional development arc, angsty, lovely. And though I saw a few problems in it this time around, it stays on my reread pile. But if promiscuity bothers you, you might want to pass on this one!

    And finally I reread “Just the Sexiest Man Alive” by Julie James which I had also enjoyed in the past: FMC is an ambitious Chicago lawyer and MMC is a top “sexiest man alive” actor. I enjoyed it a lot first time I read it but this time saw problems with the pacing. Sadly it is no longer on the reread pile.

    1. Christina, do you have the link to No Expectations of Return?
      Novella sounds just the right length for me right now but I’m not savy enough in finding it on AO3, yikes.

      1. Yes, I was hoping for a link too. My efforts to find it have not yet been successful!

      2. Here is the link to the beginning of the story. There are 7 short chapters. Once you’ve read one just click on “next work”.
        I download each “chapter” (top right) using EPUB so I can send them to my Kindle.
        You can also download as pdf.

        1. Fitzpatrick isn’t using all the A03 features – I have no idea why she posts each chapter as an individual work in a series. If they were loaded as chapters you could click the “Entire Work” button and download them as a single file.

          Anyway, I think maybe that’s a different link as it got me to “Giving into the Influence”. I sorted her works by title and got “No Expectations” coming up at

        2. Btw I’m very grateful her work is available on A03. Its just my database brain, positively itching to re-organise all her works.

          1. Thanks for the links Christina and Yuri! Sorry for the late reply. Will check it out.

  14. Last week on my trip I read Someone to Romance by Balogh. I’ve been enjoying the Westcotts quite a lot.

    I also finished up Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. I definitely need to work on her first point – give up trying to be perfect and just be myself. Apparently I’m a people pleaser, and I go a little overboard with it. I need to re-read the rest of the book more carefully, taking notes, etc, to more fully digest it.

    But that was work, so I picked up (and finished last night), The Lord of Stariel, by A J Lancaster. I figured out the culprit about halfway through, but I still enjoyed it, and am looking forward to the next in the series.

  15. I read all of your recommendations and appreciate them, even though my book budget does not. 😉

    Congratulations, Elizabeth, on the new grandchild. They’re the best – you get to spoil them rotten then send them home. Payback for your child’s childhood.

    Also, if there is a sign-up list for beta readers, I would love to be considered. Please??

  16. Back in the March 21 GBT, I mentioned reading Patricia C. Wrede, because, love her. This week I’ve read THIRTEENTH CHILD, ACROSS THE GREAT BARRIER, and 29 chapters (so far) of THE FAR WEST. I’ll be finished the reread today. I still love these books.

    Even as I typed, Chapter 44 of VARIATION ON A THEME came out. I’ll read it after this post. Still extreme word opera. I mention it because another reader posted in the comments for that book, “@Gary_Jordan
    Since you are both a coffee snob, a Navy vet, and a lover of good science fiction, I have to ask if you have ever read Half-Share by Nathan Lowell? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. It’s a slice of life story about a kid forced to go to space on a merchant vessel after his mother dies. A lot of the story was inspired by the author’s time in the CG, and I think it would really resonate with you.

    Another poster pointed out that HALF SHARE is book 2 of 6, but I’m reading it now. In fact, I’m alternating chapters with THE FAR WEST which is why I’m only at chapter 29 (Chapter 13 of HALF SHARE.) It’s an interesting book. My jury is still out on picking up the rest of the series.

    Speaking of series, I reread Don Lockwood’s (pseudonym) NAKED IN SCHOOL series. First, some background. Back in 2002, Karen Wagner wrote KAREN NAKED IN SCHOOL. It took place in a near-future not quite utopia in which all sexually transmitted disease has been irradicated and 99.999% effective birth control is available as a five-year reversible shot.

    “We’ve had a change in policy for the school,” he told me. “We’re going to pick a few students each week. Here, this will explain further.” He handed me a pamphlet.

    I glanced at it, then blushed; it had a picture of a nude man and woman on the cover. But the principal had given it to me… right in school… it seemed pretty weird.

    “You can review that later,” he told me. “It explains a new program we have, where we will select a few students each week to attend school in the nude. You will not be permitted to wear any clothing this week during school hours, except shoes and socks if you wish. Could you please undress now?”

    Thus begins a week of enforced nudity, an experiment in personal growth.

    Is it pr0n? Well, yes. mostly. Erotica, at least. But by now there are over 70 stories in the series by many authors. I even started collecting them in their early days and, with permission, posted the collection to ASSTR (Alt.Sex.Stories Text Repository). I passed it on, and now it’s a collection at Don’s stories are almost infamous for being sweet enough to induce diabetic comas.

    1. I get it’s fiction and p*n, but irl forced nudity in childhood/teenage while still at school would have been traumatic for me.
      Dreaming of having to take exams in the nude is nightmarematerial for a reason…

      1. I’d have been a dropout, too. Some of the stories actually deal with the psychological aspects as a main theme. Don’s stories emphasize a “buddy” program where the naked students are paired to help one another get through the day.

        Obviously, NIS is not for everybody. It’s what I read this week.

      2. Dreams. I am a nudist, and when I dream of being nude in public, no one notices me, as if I were a ghost.

        My equivalent exam nightmare is that My Purse Has Disappeared! and I can’t think about anything else, and where is it? and I can’t leave the exam room!

        1. That’s so funny, Mary Anne! Nudity doesn’t really faze me (I refused to wear clothes to my fifth birthday party, and my mom realized that she didn’t want to make me feel ashamed of my body, so there’s a picture of a long line of girls with little matching sundress and hat outfits, and me, buck-nekkid and grinning), and nudity dreams don’t really make me anxious, either. I’ll get annoyed, usually, because other people keep focusing on the fact that I’m naked while I’m trying to get something done!

          I don’t think I have a particular anxiety dream. I’ll have dreams where I am anxious, but I’ve never identified one particular theme or motif…

          1. My version of nudity dreams is that I’m about to go onstage (which I haven’t done for 33 years) and I’ve forgotten my lines and no one’s got a script. I am however wearing clothes, so I guess that’s something.

    2. Gary, I had a short look into the first story – very interesting concept.

      The rules that were added to the fact of enforced nudity (not even hands or bags allowed to cover anything) and the explicit freedom of teachers and class mates to ask the naked students to do ANYTHING they were told to do was terrifying.
      e.g. what the first heroine had to endure in maths: the questions asked for equations by fellow students and not stopped at all by the teacher (an enabler if not more) I found deeply disturbing.

      I had to stop because event the sheer idea of living through anything like that would give me nightmares ad infinitum.
      Not just the fact of loosing all control over my decision if wearing clothes or not, but over others taking over complete control over my body. Which I have trouble separating from my mind.

      Even that first chapter would provide a rich basis for ethical discussions.

      But that’s me.

    3. @Gary: a good time to thank you for turning me on to Nathan Lowell several years ago, especially the Ishmael Wang series. I even enjoyed the last three, written and published after his recent bout of cancer. I say “even,” because my favourite is the one you referred to, “Quarter Share,” in which Wang is launched into space after his mother dies. You might also like “Artifact of Space” by Miles Cameron, which follows another emotional refugee who becomes a midshipman. I don’t remember coffee playing a significant role, though.

  17. I had too much yard work and house work to do, so not much reading. I’m still on book one of Gin’s Helen Binney series, and I’m really liking Helen. She’a a Mrs. Pollifax, type, without all the travel and travail.

    I outsmarted Kali, yet again. It’s a real challenge to keep one step ahead of her. Since I’ve tried to brush her several times, she takes to running to her crate and going all the way to the back of it, where it’s hard for me to reach her. If I call her, she runs. Very suspicious animal, Kali. This morning, I shut the crate door. She has a fluffy bed to nap in. She will be fine. Ha!!

    1. All my animals hated the brush, but they liked the metal comb. Don’t know why. They would bite the brush, but tolerate or actively enjoy the steel (metal) comb.

    2. I don’t know how well it works on dogs, but for my cats, who hate brushing, I’ve used a glove that’s got little nubs on it that collects fur very effectively. I can’t find the exact one I have, but it’s something like this: One of my cats absolutely adores it, and will fight anyone who gets between her and the glove. Two others tolerate it, and one runs away as if it were the very devil. But it’s cheap, so it might be worth a try.

      1. Thanks, Gin. She doesn’t shed, much, but she could get tangles and knots in her long fur, so a glove wouldn’t help that.

  18. I read The Lemon Sisters by Jill Shalvis and I liked it a lot. I’m now trying to figure out which of her books I’ve read, and pick up a few more of the ones I haven’t. Contemporary romance, a little spicier than I like, but a just skim those bits…

    Jenny, you have all my sympathy. My week has been…challenging. I hope yours improves soon.

  19. Oh, and for the person who asked for it on the post about my Baba Yaga books, I put up a list of all the books in the series, novellas included, and the order they should be read in.

  20. I reread/listen my favorite books half of the time , while I am driving, cleaning, gardening, or watching a baseball game.
    Usually J.Crusie, Kristan Higgins and others.
    This week I began and dropped Michelle Griep’s Man of Shadow and Mist because I was getting too depressed, even though I like the premise “Dracula origin story “.
    I may go back to it when I feel stronger.
    Also on book 4 of Victorian mysteries by Robin Paige. I liked the first two books very much but by the fourth I am less interested. I do recommend it.
    About a strong American woman moved to England for a job and writes Penny dreadfuls for a side gig, yay!

  21. Sorry to hear your week was a challenge, Jenny. Hopefully some good reads and good food took the sharpest edges off. Sending hugs!

    I decided at 60 % progress not to read further in The Vintage Dress Shop in Primrose Hill by Annie Darling. I couldn’t connect with the MC. In fact: she annoyed me more and more the longer I read, and that’s a bad sign. Might try another one of hers at some point, but this one didn’t work for me. Trying not to feel guilty whenever this happens, but life is too short to read books one does not enjoy.

    Sooo I read Bet Me instead. <3

    After a long, long break (I think at least a couple of years), I returned to The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk. It's one of the best and most interesting books on psychology I've ever read, but it's also very tough, taxing and – for someone with a PTSD-diagnosis – confronting reading. I imagine even someone without any mental issues whatsoever would have trouble reading some of the things in there; some stories are such horrifying testemonies of disturbing human behaviour and pure evil that it's a challenge to read further. I have to take it in small portions. Yesterday I had to stop and go ask hugs from Sven until the trembling stopped, because it was so… spicy. But, I also learn a lot(!) about myself, why I react the way I do, why some therapies haven't worked and how much forgiveness I owe both my child and adult selves, and more. I still have about 40 % left to read, but already recommend it, albeit with a cautionary note: Some case-examples are incredibly detailed about the trauma inflicted, and it's absolutely horrifying stuff some of these people have been through, including parents doing unimaginable things to their own children. Please be aware of this before reading.

    Last but not least: Remember the discussion on sex-scenes in gay-books and what gay-people reading them thought about them? The friend I asked about this asks for some good recommendations of M/M romance written by female authors. He's curious now what the differences might be, and wants to dig in to report back to here, but doesn't really know where to start. Any suggestions? 🙂
    (Yes I know I asked about it a few weeks ago, please forgive me for asking again! I can't remember whether I asked it in a Sunday- or Thursday-post and can't seem to find it or if anybody replied. So hereby I beg your indulgence and your best recs for my friend!)

      1. I second this.

        Depending on how wild your friend is willing to go, I also really liked Eileen Glass’s Human Omega series, but that is alien m/m/m.

        And Josh Lanyon’s Out of the Blue has stuck in my head so much that I just bought a paper copy for the forever library. Historical, m/m WWI pilots with some bittersweetness.

        1. Lupe, you can’t recommend Eileen Glass to a newbie! You’re going to scare him off for life! We need a gateway drug approach.

          1. Ok, that is fair. I was thinking of my favorite sex scenes. I keep wanting to recommend Alexis Hall, but he is male and doesn’t fit the parameters for this search.

      2. Second Tammy.

        Also: KJ Charles has variety: In the Society of Gentlemen we’ve got the “usual” as well as one MC who’s into more hardcore which his best friend and former lover just doesn’t understand (a pov I can relate to, but to each his/her own).

        If your friend is not totally averse to sports, I’d totally love to get his opinion on what he thinks of the many books by Finley/James, e.g. Clueless Puckboy.
        They’ve written A LOT. In most of their sports romances there actually isn’t that much sport anyway.
        But what I noticed in the more current books is that sex and love is somewhat used synomymously. Is it really? Always? Or does this need to be impale/d (sorry for my crudeness) wears off after some time?
        I’m married for such a long time now that I can hardy remember if we acted as passionately but knowing me I guess I never was to that degree…

        Also: Tammy, your gay best friend agreed that rimming and “eating out” is totally “in” right now?
        That’s what I came across lately a lot. Totally not my vibe, but heck, I’m not gay, not even queer.

    1. I’ve had several gay men read my books and tell me my treatment worked for them. 🙂 Alexandra Caluen or A.Y. Caluen, available on most platforms. I might suggest A LITTLE TURN or PUBLIC OFFERING as places to start in full-length novels. In novellas, OUR REVELS NOW or MAKE ME. All titles stand alone.

      1. Public Offering is one of my top three Chacha1 novels – haven’t read the others but can definitely say yea to this one!

    2. ” someone without any mental issues whatsoever”–no such thing. 🙁

      1. Very, very true. But even those non-existing folks wouldn’t be able to read this without feeling it. Unless they’re robots. That might be the only mental-issues-free kind of… reader.

    3. If he is willing to read sports m/m romance, why not have him try Taylor Fitzpatrick’s Thrown Off the Ice (though no HEA here) or
      Rachel Reid’s Heated Rivalry and/or The Long Game?
      If no sports, Josh Lanyon might be good one to try. Perhaps the first in The Art of Murder series “The Mermaid Murders”.

    4. I really appreciate The Body Keeps the Score book, too, Shass. Very good. While it is emotional, it’s also so hopeful and a great look at empathy in healing.

      I have the audiobook and find I get more things out of it with repeated listening to some parts because there are so many aspects to understanding how experiences affect individuals and how that plays into their healing journeys. So helpful in understanding ourselves and others through an empathetic lens. So often folks think of trauma with a capital T as being the main issue, and of course it can be, but this book also helps point out that any experience an individual experiences as traumatic can have an impact that can affect their life yet also be healed. A great read overall.

      1. I agree on all points! You very likely nailed exactly that what keeps me going: The hope, the empathy, the compassion, the possibilities of healing. Having it repeated over and over that there are ways of changing, that you can reconnect with yourself and people around you and the world and heal parts that have been damaged. Hope. I owe myself so much forgiveness, so many apologies, so many HUGS, and I can feel it. I’ve been in therapy for PTSD, but I think no therapy I’ve been through so far has given me this strong a feeling of wanting to reconnect with my body and self and giving them, me, the love they, I, deserve as this book has done and keeps doing for every chapter I read. Admittedly I think I’ve grown a bit since I read the first half of it, having been through even more therapy since, but it’s still a surprisingly strong and…alive sensation that I don’t want to let slip away.
        It really is tough reading, but so worth it. I learn a lot, also about people around me. So much perspective.

        1. @Shass: thank you once again for sharing your experience so generously. You have a gift for communicating your feelings that I find extraordinary!

    5. Thanks everyone for your reading suggestions! I will note down all authors and books and drop the list on my friend. I expect he’s had his fair share of steamy scenes – apparently he reads erotica too, just for the sex. Indeed not sure about his position on aliens… but let’s find out! 🙂
      Thanks again! I’ll report back once he’s told me about his findings.

  22. Reread a Heyer mystery I’d read so long ago I couldn’t even remember who was murdered, much less who committed the crime. But yes, it’s always about character for me, and Heyer nails that, whether it’s Regency or 20th century.

    Things will turn, Jenny. Your crocheting is beautiful, and I miss your characters if it’s been a long time since I reread a book.

    1. Yes, but that’s a Georgette Heyer Mystery for you, in them she was all about the characters, I heard her husband used to help with some of the basic plot outline for the detective stories

  23. I listened to a John Scalzi, The Android’s Dream, and Lavender’s Blue. Of course, I did next crave a cheeseburger.
    Still enjoying Vincenzo on Netflix. The episodes are about an hour and 20 minutes, so it can’t be binged. Of course, then I craved noodles. People eat a lot in this series, and are always having elegant little cups of espresso. I realized that Vincenzo qualifies as another hitman hero, along with Shane from Agnes and the Hitman, and John Cusack’s character in Grosse Point Blank.

  24. I forget how I found Grace Draven’s Entreat Me, sort of a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but I read it and enjoyed it a lot, so I read her Wyvern, which was nice, but not great, which lead me to reread Radiance and Eidolon (still in the middle of this one) which I had read years ago and enjoyed them very much, and to discover that the third of the trilogy has been out for a while, and now I have a hold on it.

    Having two weeks off when I’m allowed to read but not garden has meant a LOT of rereading. I’m almost through the complete Murderbot, and I’ve reread all the Cairo setting books of P. Djeli Clark. I was surprised to see how little romance there is between Fatma and Siti in A Dead Djinn in Cairo. There are barely hints that they are attracted, yet there is a romantic arc. I’ve read a few not-Pollifax Dorothy Gilmans that I hadn’t read in years. The more books you find that you like, the less time there is to reread them all.

    At least five more days of complete idleness (well, except for housework and baking–I asked, and flour does NOT count as dust.)

    1. I really like how Fatma and Siti’s relationship is a solid subplot without taking up many words in that one! It’s novella-length, isn’t it? And it still felt real to me. I love those books. (Very excited to see what The Dead Cat Tail Assassins is like, out later this year — though not a Cairo book.)

      1. The way their relationship develops in the background is like the way ordinary people’s lives just go on barely disrupted by all the disaster and world-ending stuff in the foreground. I love that.

        1. Yes, exactly! But at the same time, it’s also key to surviving/solving the mystery, so it’s essential to the book. It’s part of why this detective can solve this mystery, because of who she is and how she relates to others.

  25. I finished one reportable novel over the week, John M Ford’s Growing Up Weightless,  1993, which I read for my book club.  One of Ford’s points is that nobody ever gets the Big Picture of what’s going on.  That especially means the young, but includes everyone else too.  So here one one track we have a story like a somewhat updated Heinlein juvenile about a teenager feeling stifled in circa 2090 in a colony on the Moon who, along with his friends, engineers a brief respite from his “intolerable” home life in the form of a rail trip to a distant Lunar city and back—and who with pluck and luck ends up achieving his dream of a long-term escape.  On another track we have his father, a veteran of the struggle for Lunar independence, who is somewhat distracted from family life by (1) an inherently somewhat aloof personality, (2) his true vocation as a composer, and (3) his day job as a politician trying to find the water resources to maintain Lunar independence.  But who, guess what, really does love and support his angst-ridden son.  Then there’s the FTL drive that turned Luna into a backwater (the frontier is now interstellar, in part on worlds far more habitable then Luna), but that secured Luna’s independence by also being a weapon of mass destruction, and that possibly could buy Luna’s salvation (at arguably too high a cost) by also being a mass teleportation device.  And there’s a plot by an EvilCorp, possibly to be undermined by a minion developing a conscience.  And other stuff.  I thought Ford attempted something very ambitious and did not fully pull it off, but that its good points outweighed the bad.  

    I definitely am a bigger fan of closure than Ford was.  Ford argues that life is like that—we mostly never know how things work out.  I agree, but art is not life.  Someone at the book club meeting pointed out a number of subtle details that I had missed.  The novel may not be quite on a Gene Wolfe level of layerdness and intricacy, but it’s heading in that direction. I have mixed feelings about that approach.  I thought that Francis Spufford’s intro to the new edition (which one can read complete for free in the sample from Kindle and no doubt elsewhere) did a good job of interpreting what Ford was trying to do.  As I said, I don’t think Ford fully pulled it off.  I also had numerous specific nitpicks about foreign languages, science (as known in 1993), the utility of going on so long about a VR game long after VR had stopped being a novelty in sf, the plausibility of legally allowing 14-year-olds  to wander out into the universe, the issue of whether a population of only 1 million Lunars could support the degree of cultural activities depicted (I’m partly convinced after discussion) and other areas. 

    The novel was out of print for a long time, I believe because of estate-rights issues.  Its recent edition is stiffly priced for a reprint, and one can order used print copies much more cheaply.  As I noted above, even if one reads an older edition, I do think it’s worth reading the intro to the new one, if only from a free ebook sample.

    1. I should have added that Spufford’s intro is to some degree a spoiler. I think it’s probably worth risking, for the assurance that despite how it sometimes appears, the novel is really moving somewhere coherent. The extremely spoiler-averse might want to wait until after reading the novel.

  26. I dnf’d Penelope in Retrograde even though the author, Brooke Abrams, can write. There is some good banter and humor, but I just could not finish.

    I might just be too old to appreciate a 30-something who is still blaming her parents for her life challenges. I kept wanting her to shut up. Ha!

  27. My reading week:

    1. ‘The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World’ by Michael McConnell and Jack Baker as told to Gail Langer Karwaski, joint memoir of men who managed to get legally married in Minnesota in 1971 (utilizing some letter-of-the-law loopholes), a sincere personal quest as well as part of their nearly-a-decade of gay rights activism. Fascinating social history.

    2. [re-read] my own novel ‘Lost & Found,’ the F/M one about a guy who has a 12-year secret relationship with a closeted gay men, becomes his heir, and deals with the fallout while falling in love with a photographer.

    3. ‘Dardanelles: A Midshipman’s Diary, 1915-1916’ by H.M. Denham, exactly what it says on the cover. What a shameful disaster that campaign was.

    4. ‘The Gardener’ by Charles Reeza, a v. long and v. unusual novel centered on a M/M relationship that has all the problems, including infidelity. Not for everyone, for sure, but I couldn’t put it down.

    5. ‘Death in the Spires’ by KJ Charles, 100% adored it.

    6. ‘Principles of Spookology’ by S.E. Harmon, 2nd in the Spectral Files series, in which ghost-talking POV character comes to grips with his abilities while cementing his love affair with another cop. M/M paranormal procedural + romance, this one involves a serial killer.

    7. ‘Straight Battle’ by Willow Dixon, M/M feat. home improvement, dual gay-for-you, an ex-military MC, and the disappointingly passive handyman he falls for. This could have rounded up to 4 but I ended up rounding down to 3 after one too many unnecessary (and unnecessarily graphic, I am just not that reader) sex scenes and hand-waving of how to legally run a contracting business.

    8. ‘Starter Home’ by Hannah Henry, another M/M feat. home improvement, bi-awakening, brother’s best friend. 4.5 stars for this one, could have been 5 but the last 20% felt like setup for another character’s book and I didn’t get the End of the Story of the MCs of *this* book. It’s blindingly obvious they should move in together and I would’ve liked to see that happen.

    1. In her newsletter, Hannah Henry wrote that the Starter Home title is book 1 of a trilogy plus some novellas, which surely explains the set up of book 2.
      Which I come to not like at all as it’s done by so many writers doing series.
      it should be possible to read books as standalones unless clearly announced otherwise.
      If the couple doesn’t end up HEA, it should be at least HFN.

      And book 2 should be the happy coincidence that one re-connects with former MCs in passing (best not have them take over the next book!),

      1. I would say they’re HFN, but it wasn’t a long book and one more chapter focusing on the actual MCs would’ve been doing everyone a favor. 🙂

  28. Sigh. Another one hits the reread pile. [totter, totter] I liked it, but I do not love it the way I do Casting Fortune (possibly my favorite) which I remember much better between rereads. Yes, and I’d better take a look at which Fords are back in print.

    1. Um, this was supposed to be a reply to Patrick M. How did I hit the wrong reply button?

  29. In the “Things could be worse” category, I just read in the Washington Post that Sophie Kinsella has a glioblastoma in the brain. She has already had some chemo and radiation, and she just announced it so her kids would have time to process it, first. That’s a very pernicious tumor, and it metastasizes rapidly. Send prayers. Light candles.

    1. I’ve read nothing of hers, but not a fate I’d wish on anyone. (Or at least that I ought not to. Certain Russian leaders and American politicians leap to mind as tempting exceptions.)

      1. I have a former colleague who was diagnosed with it last September.
        Three kids under 10. He was the primary earner. His partner is handling it heroically but it’s an awful awful disease.

  30. I’m reading The Blue Castle again by L. M. Montgomery and I love it still. There is a Substack that I really like called We Have Notes by Abby Gardner which is great

    1. Totally off-topic, but I’m very curious about wha
      t is depicted in your signature image.

      [– I do NOT know the official name of that round thing — sorry!]

      What is that little gray ‘n’ brown ‘n’ white object, anyway? It could be cute, but then again, it could be a bowl of snacks??

      1. The signature photo is known as Profile Picture or Avatar. May’s picture is Miss Piggy wearing a sleep mask

        1. Okay!! I see it now! Thank you, Kay — both for the correct terms and the image clarification!

          1. Instantly recognizable once it’s explained, but I was clueless before. Some optical illusions are like that too.

  31. Sofi Laporte’s Arabella & the Reluctant Duke was a quiet and charming regency. I enjoyed it. I also loved another book by Sofi Laporte – Birdie and the Beastly Duke. The characters, the landscape, the plot, the gentle humor – it was all masterfully done. What a delightful discovery this writer is for me. Her stories always lift my spirit. The next book by Laporte beckons.
    Susan Elizabeth Phillips is an old favorite of mine. I’ve read everything by her. Her latest, Simply the Best, was a wonderful book. It took a while for my turn for it to come up at the local library, but this novel was worth the wait. Interesting, three-dimensional characters, a fast-moving plot, amazing banter, and a complex, multifaceted story, unputdownable from start to finish.

  32. Just two Discworld books for me this week, but they each gave me a lot to think about.

    First up was The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, which is the first Discworld book explicitly written for younger readers. This is noticeable mainly by the introduction of chapters, and also by the fact that it is the scariest, most macabre novel to date. A horrifying number of rats die in this book. They are trapped, poisoned, squished, tortured, hunted, and attacked by dogs, cats, humans, and other rats. Just within the first few chapters, the main character rats have discussions about cannibalism and the ethics of euthanasia…and put them into practice as well. Children get kidnapped & assaulted, not to mention forced to clean their rooms. It’s a lot.

    As far as I can recall, this is also the only Discworld book that has made me cry. I had pet rats for years, and although I currently have dogs (who are substantially longer-lived and slightly less destructive), I remain utterly defenseless when it comes to Darktan, Peaches, Dangerous Beans, and the rest of the widdling rodent clan. Maurice has always been genuinely tough reading for me due to the rat-lover’s equivalent of the dog dying at the end. But it’s brilliant anyway.

    So is Night Watch, even if it has substantially less emotional impact on me. Which probably puts me outside the norm, but I’ve always struggled a bit to really feel this book. Part of that has to do with the timey-wimey stuff — similar paradoxical silliness worked well for me in Thief of Time, but here the continuity & character issues kind of pull me out of the story. I always end up reading it from a slight distance, which is a shame, because in some ways it’s probably one of the most human & real books in the Discworld series.

    It’s a great story though. Vimes travels back in time to become his own mentor & moral inspiration, and we get to experience the famous (yet never-bef0re-referenced-in-any-way, cough cough) Glorious Revolution of the 25th of May alongside him. This book is incredibly tense, emotional, and complex.

    It is also the book where Pratchett does the best job grappling with his obvious mixed feelings about revolutions & democracy. I think I’ve written here before about my frustrations with Pratchett’s politics. It’s not so much that we disagree ideologically (although we do), it’s that I think he’s often both facile & cynical in ways that simply annoy me. Here, he finally achieves a level of nuance that makes his take interesting, even if there aren’t any easy answers.

    A lot of that is because instead of writing a polemic, he just gives us Vimes at the center of a City-wide revolution. It’s Vimes who has to grapple with the difficult decisions that ensue, while also accepting his own near-total lack of control. And he does it knowing that the Revolution will be a complete and utter failure on a political level, because he’s lived through it before. But he nevertheless decides that he has to join, has to care, and has to try, because it’s the right thing to do. It’s beautiful, tragic, sincere, and thoughtful. Even if a part of me just wants to add one other issue with this book: not enough rats.

    Next up, I finally have to decide if I will read Wee Free Men or skip it for now. Part of me wants to save all the Tiffany Aching books for the end, so that I can have a treat after some tough reading I know is coming. Another part of me is really loving the experience of reading the books in strict chronological order, because it’s making me see new connections and themes. Hmm, decisions.

    Happy Thursday, Arghers. Hope you’re all having a great spring 🙂

    1. I love “The Amazing Maurice & His Educated Rodents” – I love the commentary on capitalism and corruption and religious iconography, as well as the wonderful characters. But it is pretty dark, in a lot of ways, and a little fatalistic. I haven’t read “Watership Down” but I wonder if there’s an connection, particularly with the religious aspects.

  33. I’m still twixt and between the hockey – lite and mafia – lite books I’ve been reading. That’s authors Natasha Madison and Jessica Gadziala respectively. I like the banter between the principles. I’ve tried dark mafia and it’s just not for me, much too grisly. Got to keep it light.

  34. I have been reading more Deborah Crombie. And New Yorkers.

    It’s been a rough week (mostly about failing to get a good divorce settlement to protect the disabled daughter of the friend with Alzheimer’s).

    I need predictability.

  35. I just finished The Witches at the End of the World by Chelsea Iversen. It takes place in 1677 Norway and tells the story from alternating points of view, of two sisters who are witches. They were forced to flee for their lives as young girls when their mother was burned as a witch. How they react to that, and the contrasting things they long for in relation to community, their magic, and life plays out against the environment similar to here in the US with the witch trials. It has a really hopeful, redemption themed ending. Totally recommend.

    1. Deb – if you liked that book you might like The Heart Of the Fire by Cerridwen Fallingstar. I don’t do KU but it is on there.

      This is the amazon blurb:

      Fiona McNair is a peasant girl in 16th Century Scotland. Her grandmother, the leader of the village coven, is teaching her herbcraft, healing and magic, as she follows the visions that lead her in a path of shamanic powers known as Witchcraft. Fiona grows to be beautiful and falls in love – with her wild Gypsy friend Annie; with Sean, the youthful, wealthy and potentially dangerous son of the village Lord; and with a minstrel who still dares sing the old songs of magic and power.
      Then, the Witch-hunter comes.

      1. Thank you, I’ll see if the library has it or add it to my recommendation list. I have a pile of argh books to read before I buy any more!

  36. I haven’t read much this week. I am currently reading Deception Cove by Jayne Castle – part of the Harmony series. Eagerly anticipating the new book that comes out in the series in May.

    Also listened to Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.

    In the non-fiction realm I have been digging through Clean Eating Cookbooks & watching / doing seated walk at home or seated dance at home – etc videos on Youtube.

  37. Dirty Thirty, the latest Evanovich, enjoyable, new ghostwriter I think, but hopefully they keep this one. It was a good effort and they have the world right. Not as much quirky fun as an original Evanovich, but competently done

  38. I received an email overnight:

    Greetings Rev. Gary Steven Jordan,

    Here’s a milestone worth celebrating: it’s now been 14 years since you officially became an ordained minister! As we raise a virtual glass to this exciting occasion, we just wanted to reach out and see how things are going. Have you been able to take full advantage of your status as a legally ordained minister?

    The Commonwealth of Virginia is not one of the states that recognizes my right to perform the marriage rite, so I didn’t get to preside over anyone’s wedding. I don’t minister to a flock. I don’t have a chapel. Getting ordained online was 98% a joke, though I carry the ID and parking pass for clergy. I plan to preside over my funeral someday.

    “Our fundamental tasks are to promote freedom of religion and to ‘do that which is right‘ – core tenets that underscore everything we do.” That sums up my religious beliefs nicely.

    1. Does this mean you can get a sidegig in Vegas marrying random people, maybe dressed as Elvis 🙂

      1. Also with a cassock and collar, it might be handy to talk your way out of parking tickets

        1. The site I linked to would be more than happy to sell me clerical garb. Stoles, robes, cassocks, collars, shawls, dickies, you name it.

          Las Vegas appears to be a place where I could perform wedding ceremonies. But I look (more) ridiculous (than usual) in a sequined jumpsuit, so that won’t be happening.

          As for parking tickets, that’s what the clergy pass in the window is for.

          I’m going to sign myself REV G for the next while. It tickles me that after reinventing myself a few times, I can pass for Revision G (or maybe reversion G).

          1. Sigh you can’t go halfway with Elvis, it’s all or nothing, you need the wig, the sunglasses and a chain big enough to secure a motorcycle. When people flag you down for selfies in the street, you’ll know you’re there. So guess we should call you Rev for a while, you can go around blessing people’s hydroponic vegetables for a better harvest

          2. I choose nothing with Elvis. The king is dead, let him rest in peace. 😀

            I can bless hydroponic gardens! I go for the full-immersion baptism of your seedlings.

        2. Why did I instantly think of a dog collar? Or a silver one with spikes that were trendy with punks decades ago?

          1. I was wondering what other denominations besides Roaming Catlicks (I can say that – it was the religion into which I was born and raised) wears the starched white collar? There’s a wiki:

            I briefly thought of getting a Spaghetti & Meatball on a chain, for the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. “The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Pastafarianism, a parodic new religious movement that promotes a light-hearted view of religion.”

    2. My boyfriend’s mom and sister got him ordained online as a joke for his birthday the first year we were together. It amused him to believe that he could simply declare people married! We went to a concert with my boss and her then-boyfriend, and my boyfriend declared them married – which startled my boss to no end, as she hadn’t yet told anyone that they had just gotten engaged!

      A few years later, we went back to the same venue to see the same artist with my boss and her by-that-time actual husband. She texted me the day before to warn me that she had gotten herself ordained, and that I should play along. So we were also “declared married” in the Red Rocks parking lot!

      I like to say we have a quantum marriage – we might be married, we might not be married, no one can really know (yes, I know this isn’t really quantum, but I also have to find my amusements where I can!) My boyfriend can’t say that we aren’t married, unless he wants to admit that he wasn’t the one who officially married them…

    3. I read the comments backward so I kept wondering, “Who the hell is Rev G and how did he get on my blog?” We feel very strongly about the separation of church and blog here. And then reading the comments, I realized there was only one person it could possibly be. So as long as he doesn’t try to sell you a gold Bible . . .

      1. No bibles for sale by me, golden or otherwise! No Korans, either. Pick a holy book, and I don’t use it. Maybe The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Universal Life Church is sort of like Universalist Unitarian, but with fewer rules and less dogma.

        1. Just a little more background. There’s the Universal Life Church and the Universal Life Church Monastery. They are totally separate entities. I’ve been ordained by both – it was free, after all. That makes me Reverand Reverand Gary. I was thinking of having my name changed to Reverand Reverand Reverand, so I’d be Reverand Reverand Reverand Reverand Reverand like Major Major Major Major in Catch 22.

    4. One of my husband’s best friends obtained a time-limited license from the county clerk to officiate our wedding. One of my best friends is ordained by the Universal Life Church; she officiated my sister’s wedding. We’re all about DIY around here. 😉

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