Books

Overall I liked A Summer for Scandal by Lydia San Andres.  I think it’s underrated, but still a library book for me rather than a reread.  I especially love the setting and the heroine and her sister.  If your library has a copy, check it out.

DNF Four funerals and maybe a wedding by Rhys Bowen.  I just couldn’t handle the bright young things who have no money and don’t work but still need servants, so their rich friends provide.  There was just this sense of entitlement I couldn’t handle. Like of *course* someone vaguely related to royalty shouldn’t have to get a typist/reporter/sales job like all the other bright young things beggared by the inheritance tax (or unhappily living with a rich soon-to-be-murder victim relative) in the books actually written between WWI and WWII do.

DNF The love that split the world by Emily Henry.  Boring and pretentious.  I’m glad her later books had her loosening up and going for humor instead of “beauty.”

DNF People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry.  It had obnoxiously twee characters — after finding it irritating, I looked on goodreads and found that it got worse AND has some of my least favorite tropes (why didn’t they just have a conversation/denying they should have a relationship for no good reason after deciding they love each other/etc.)  I did read the last chapter and found it dumb and the epilogue and found it both boring and annoying.  So… yeah, let me tell you how I really feel.  I think Emily Henry is just going to be hit or miss for me.  (DC2 also tried some of her JV fiction and found it very hit or miss– some of it was great and some of it was 100% stupid teenage angst with supernatural elements, IIRC.)

SPOILERS: Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan was ok, but I was never really sold on the hero and the “boy loses girl” is incredibly stupid (I think starts at 40% as one goodreads comment noted) and lasts months and then as soon as the misunderstanding is cleared up, they get engaged.  So I think they met and dated like a month and then were apart because they didn’t know each other well enough for the hero to say, “hey is this thing I was told actually true?” and then suddenly after months apart they’re married.  It might have been a better book without the hero in it at all?  And it would have been a much much better book if they’d spent more time together, gotten to know each other’s families etc. etc. etc. instead of the lengthy stupid separation.  But hey, it’s a best seller, so what do I know?

The Banishment by M. C. Beaton was ok.  I tried some other M. C. Beaton romances, one of the finishing school ones, I think, and the key plot point was about the heroine scaring off multiple suiters by claiming not to be a virgin even though she actually was and ::vomiting emoji::

I tried reading The Duke’s Gambit by Tracy Grant.  It dragged.  A lot.  And there’s tons of couples where it seems like the woman first slept with the son and then married the father or vice versa in previous books in the series.  And now everyone is having new babies.  Lots of half-siblings in this book.  Like, I do want to know why Giselle left her husband and infant to go off to London with a British spy and why the other British spy was framed for the murder of the prostitute… but it takes a long long time to get to either one of those.

More mediocre Emily Hendrickson novels.

At this point I decided I needed to remember that excellent books do exist and reread The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting by KJ Charles.  I love her so much.  I hope her latest comes out soon.  There keep being tantalizing hints on her twitter, but no announcements, not even for pre-order.

If you like feminist memoirs about toxic misogyny and fat-shaming, you will probably like Shrill by Lindy West.

I’ve been really loving the Miss Silver Mysteries by Patricia Wentworth.  As of this writing I have read the first 11. They are remarkably neither racist nor anti-Semitic.  So far I’ve come across two definitely Jewish people (if you include people with Jewish first/last names, there are more, but their religion/ethnicity is not mentioned).  One of them was a jeweler, but like, not an evil jeweler or anything, just a random jeweler and it’s not clear why his Judiasm was mentioned.  The other was a very sweet and brilliant scientist who fled the Nazis and was beloved by everyone (sadly he was working on an important government project to defeat the Nazis and was killed).  One unnecessary mention of a person getting so much soot/dust on her face that she looked like a [old fashioned word for Black person that ends in o].  But nothing like what you see in any random Agatha Christie.  (Not as forward thinking as the previous century’s Conan Doyle, who actually addresses racial stereotypes and comes out against them, though.)  Also, even though they’re set in the UK, they are nowhere near as classist as Christies are, and death duties are treated more as a matter-of-fact and it isn’t a huge tragedy that someone has to sell a giant mostly-unused manor house supporting relatives who could work but choose not to.  People are happier in smaller homes.  There’s no shame on servants being unavailable because they have better jobs now, or for women of a certain class taking jobs.  Much more pragmatic.  And the servants are fully realized people and not just accessories/plot points/etc, particularly as the series goes on.  (Whereas in Christie’s the servants go from unnoticed and silent except when questioned to “you can’t find good help these days” stupid as time goes on.)

I think the Miss Silvers are more like Hercule Poirots than they are like Miss Marples, even though the comparison is usually made with Miss Marple because Miss Silver is an older lady who knits.  Wentworth does a much better job of characterization of the people in the stories, especially as she matures as an author.  These are also less dark than a lot of Agatha Christies, though #10 has some unexpected (to me!) darkness (I didn’t like #10 as much as the others I’ve read).

The Wedding Crasher by Mia Sosa was a good library read.  Not perfect, particularly in the characterization, but very readable.

I liked Constance Verity Destroys the Universe by A. Lee Martinez.  If you liked the first two books in the trilogy, this is very much the same (I don’t think you need to read the first two to read the third).

A Tangle of Serpents by Andrea Penrose was fine.

What have you been reading lately?

19 Responses to “Books”

  1. heybethpdx Says:

    In the feminist memoir category, I just started Billie Jean King’s All In. She’s a goddamn hero for her roles in professionalizing tennis for women and for persistently advocating for fair and equal pay for athletes across many sports.

  2. FF Says:

    I’ve recently read a book and a novella by Ali Hazelwood, The Love Hypothesis and Below Zero, respectively, She calls her work “STEMinist romances,” because the main characters are female scientists. Although they are somewhat formulaic/predictable, I have to say that she nails the science-y background setting (the author is a neuroscientist) and I found both fun, except for the tmi-for-me sex scenes.

    I also read Unmarriageable by Sonia Kamal, which transposes Pride and Prejudice to modern Pakistan and, I think, does a very good job of it. Recommended.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think I read the love hypothesis but I can’t remember what I thought of it.

    • xykademiqz Says:

      I loved the Love Hypothesis, then liked Under One Roof, but I haven’t been able to get into the other two novellas. Maybe I wasn’t in the right headspace, but I can’t stand overly klutzy heroines, and the one in Stuck With You really got on my nerves. I am a STEMinist, and it really grates on me that we can’t just be normal women who are good at math/science and have jobs in STEM, and instead we are always portrayed as socially inept weirdos with no control of our limbs/feelings. It’s particularly irksome when this is perpetuated by one of us.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        One of the comics I regularly read was talking about how fiction seems to need to give nearly perfect women a flaw so they don’t seem like Mary Sues. Clumsiness and bad cooking are the two standard ones. It’s lazy and unrealistic. (Imposter syndrome would be more realistic… or cynicism… or saying yes to too much service.)

      • xykademiqz Says:

        LOL Saying yes to too much service

        I mean, I’m pretty average looking. I hate shopping and don’t wear a lot of makeup of fashionable clothes. Shouldn’t those be unforgivable flaws for a romantic heroine? No? Not enough? Seems like the ability to do math is such an unspeakable boon that it must be offset by the heroine’s complete inability to function in the world. Being able to walk in a straight line without falling on one’s face or being able to feed oneself seem like the bare minimum for competent adulthood, yet a heroine can’t even have that if she’s to be to handle college math FFS (this is me just shaking fist at universe, not you, of course)

        Hubs and I often comment re doctor shows, how among all these supercompetent brain and heart surgeons nobody seems capable of cooking Thanksgiving dinner (always depicted, for some reason, as the unmasterable pinnacle of culinary complexity).

  3. Steph Says:

    Shrill has been on my list, so I will bump that up. I’m currently listening to Atomic Accidents by James Mahaffey. It’s pretty enlightening and entertaining, although the the narrator pronounces some terms like tritium and americium in ways I have never heard before (he ends them with the sound IH-shum, rather than ih-ti-um or ih-see-um so that they would rhyme with deuterium or uranium). So that’s kind of distracting.

    Next on my list is The Milky Way: An Autobiography of our Galaxy by Moiya McTier, which was just released yesterday! I know the author, so I’m biased, but so far the reviews are good :)

  4. omdg Says:

    I finished 10:04 (finally) by Ben Lerner which one of your readers, Gwinne, recommended to me two years ago. I enjoyed it! It was the right balance of pretentious/deep & readable/fun for me. I am not going to pretend I got out of it everything I should have, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It made me download The Topeka school, which I’d actually heard of before, and which is currently sitting on my kindle waiting to be read.

  5. Debbie M Says:

    I’ve read Daniel H. Pink’s _Drive_, hoping it would help me find ways to motivate myself to exercise and do other boring things I wish I were getting done. The first half was great with lots of research. The last part with the specific recommendations were mostly for business managers (which seemed pretty good) but had a couple of sections for just plain people and these were just terrible. Virtually every idea either had nothing to do with the rest of the book or actually contradicted it. I mean, I really hoped they would have actual examples of how to make repetitive tasks more like a game, for example.

    In other nonfiction, I’m finally reading Michelle Obama’s _Becoming_. Of course she’s charming. Favorite part so far: Once Barack Obama looked so intent in his thoughts, she whispered, “Hey, what are you thinking about over there?”
    ‘He turned to look at me, his smile a little sheepish. “Oh,’ he said. “I was just thinking about income inequality.”‘

    In fiction, like you, I read a lot of things I didn’t enjoy, but I turned to _The Murderbot Diaries_ for relief. I don’t like the protagonist as well in the later books as in the first ones, but that doesn’t keep me from sucking those books down!

    For series books, I decided I really need to start with #1. Or at least not with #7. Or, yikes!, #32! Ha, ha! (I just picked up what was in the local branch of my library–next time I’ll request inter-library loans.)

    The other books were enlightening but unpleasant. Rae Spoon’s YA _Green Glass Ghosts_ was about a young adult (everyone is referred to with they/them pronouns) moving from Calgary to Vancouver in the 1980s, which they found much more welcoming for queer trans people. (I knew the province with Calgary in it was sort of like Texas what with the cattle and the oil; I didn’t know it was also homophobic–do those things really have to go together?) It was semi-autobiographical, and the blurb about the author’s life was even more disturbing.

    NoViolet Bulawayo’s _We Need New Names_ is about life in Tanzania after the government literally bulldozed an entire town, and then about life as an illegal immigrant in the US. I used to think that once you were rescued from things, everything would be okay, but the book _Room_ taught me it can be just the beginning of a long journey. This book shows how you may be rescued from some things, but plunged into different kinds of problems. You may still be better off overall, but there may still be serious negatives.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I hate it when pop non-fiction ends up with recommendations that ignore the previous research base.

      DC1 liked Becoming. :)

      Martha Wells is awesome! (Check out her previous books if you haven’t!)

  6. DrLabGnome Says:

    Long time lurker here: I enjoyed The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. Truly the most heartwarming novel ever to involve the Antichrist. It’s a fun, fairly easy read (on the cusp of YA / adult fiction), but what I liked most was its positive take on chosen family. It also has a super cute queer romance, but the focus is not on the fact that the characters are gay, that’s just taken as fact.

  7. Linda Says:

    A previous post reminded me that I had fallen behind in the Mary Russell series, so I am catching up on that now. I recently read The Murder of Mary Russell (which I seem to have started at one point and then must have missed finishing by the end of the lending period so I had to restart it) and Island of the Mad. I’m currently on a waitlist for Riveria Gold. Continuing on the Sherlock Holmes theme, I also caught up on Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series by reading Miss Moriarty, I Presume?

    Switching to a totally different genre as I wait on the next Mary Russell novel, I’m currently starting on books by Mira Grant. I finished Into the Drowning Deep and am currently reading Parasite.

    I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately in my spare time. I recently got a new Kindle (the old one was starting to get finicky about things like fully charging and the battery wasn’t lasting as long) and it came with an offer to try Kindle Unlimited free for a three months. I’ve heard mixed things about Kindle Unlimited, but free is hard to pass on. We’ll see if it helps me get to some of the books I want to read a little faster than the library wait times have been.

  8. Cloud Says:

    Two books I read recently that I really enjoyed: The Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel and Flying Solo by Linda Holmes. I’d read and enjoyed Holmes’ first book (Evvie Drake Starts Over) and so picked Flying Solo for a vacation read. I think of her books as “romance-adjacent” – there’s romance in there but it isn’t the main point of the book. I like her books because her lead women feel real to me.

    The Sea of Tranquility I read because I really enjoyed her interview about it with Ezra Klein, particularly when she was able to articulate why I couldn’t finish Station Eleven (a book she wrote!) I think Klein asked her if having a child changed her fiction and she said that it had because now there were some futures she couldn’t write because she couldn’t imagine that happening to a world with someone she loved so much in it. Which explains why I had to put Station Eleven down even though it was really well-written. The Sea of Tranquility was written after she had a child and I had no trouble finishing it!


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