What’s hanging around on your Kindle?

(… or other e-reader?)

A copy of Jane Eyre; Persuasion; Northanger Abbey; Carmilla; Middlemarch; Barchester Towers; a Jeeves book.  Father Brown mysteries by G. K. Chesterton.

Several books from the Liaden universe by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (Fledgling).  Lots of short stories by Seanan McGuire.

Almost everything K. J. Charles has ever published!  Romancing the Werewolf by Gail Carriger.  Amethyst by Lauren Royal.  (#2 thinks she deleted Amethyst, but she loves the Temptation series, especially the Consent is Sexy parts of Tempting Juiliana, even if sometimes that heroine is pretty silly– note that the first in that series is still 100% free for kindle and a good read/reread)

Serpentine by Cindy Pon.  At least 1 collection by John Scalzi.  The Corpse Reader by Antonio Garrido.

Random fantasy novels that I got a deal on:  The Native Star by M. K. Hobson; Not Dark Yet by Berit Ellingsen (I don’t remember reading this but apparently I did; I have no memory of it); The Final Formula by Becca Andre (tried to read further in this series but petered out); Ghosts of Tsavo by Vered Ehsani.  Here’s me talking about some of this before.

The Amsterdam Assassin series by Martyn V. Halm.

Several books by Martha Wells (Wheel of the Infinite; City of Bones; etc.). (#2 has all of these in paperback because her hardbacks from high school disappeared for some reason… maybe her BIL ended up with them?)

Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk.  A romance novel I haven’t read yet that I heard about on a podcast.  Novellas by Tiffany Reisz.

Most of Sarah McLean’s Rule of Scoundrels series (A Rogue by Any Other Name), plus some Courtney Milan.  (Some of the Milan has nifty behind the scenes commentary throughout!)

Assorted detritus, short story collections, un-great romance novels, terribly-written fantasy (although I’m trying to delete most of this stuff).  [#2 only keeps very good and great romance novels on hers– even the sub-par Heyer got deleted.]

A couple of the Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold; I have most of them in paper books instead.

Here’s some earlier posts on this topic, with links to mostly free or in a few cases inexpensive stuff.  (#2 has literally hundreds of books on her kindle– btw, did you know you could get Shellabarger and Sabatini books for free on your kindle?  #2 had no idea that Sabatini wrote so many boring terrible books in addition to classics like Captain Blood, Scaramouche, and The Sea Hawk.)  (#1 still prefers paper books.) (#2 does too except for traveling which she does a lot of, thus the need for more ebooks.  I’m pretty sure my sister ended up with my Sabatini hardbacks.)

We’re gearing up for holiday reading [and conference trips]… be sure to click our “books” tag to see all kinds of things we’ve read and loved in 2018 (and before).

That oughta keep me occupied for a while!  Whatcha got, Grumpeteers?

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Ask the readers: Help! DH stepped on my oldschool Kindle 3

We didn’t have an ask the grumpies thing queued this week because it has been a crazy insane week, but I have an emergency question!

#1 asks:

DH stepped on my old school Kindle 3– the kind with the side page turners (which I love) and the keyboard.  If money is no object, should I get the Voyage, the Paperwhite, the currently-offered no frills kind, or a used ebay replacement?  (Amazon no longer sells refurbished Kindle 3s and the replacement screens are no longer available for sale anywhere.  We tried all the recommended kindle rebooting things and they erased the stuck picture but it still no longer shows new text.)  If money is an object, what would you get?  Anybody have personal experience with multiple kindles?

I don’t have an answer to this.  The replacement kindle 3 is $35 (including S+H) but sold “as-is” from a 99.4% satisfaction store that has sold 45 of them so far.  The no-frills is $99 without ads.  The Paperwhite is $139.  The Voyage is $219.

Like I said, I really like the side page turners, but I haven’t tried reading with the screen touch, so it might be fine.  I am also skeptical of lighting, but again, haven’t tried it so it might be fine.  I don’t want to see how much time the kindle things I have left– I liked the percentage left options, but I might get used to it.  Basically I’m scared of changing up something I like for something that might irritate me.  But it might be fine!  Is it fine?

Thanks in advance for your help.  I need to keep reading She (free on kindle!– also the origin of the honorific “She who must be obeyed”).  Analysis paralysis is not fun at all.

Kindle stuff besides Regencies that we mostly enjoyed

Here are some (mostly) free things we’ve enjoyed reading on the kindle.

Tyger Tyger: A Goblin Wars Book book by Kersten Hamilton (interesting; Celtic mythology)

Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian (fairy tale)

BECOME (Desolation #1) by Ali Cross (fantasy YA)

(In none of the above 3 cases was I inspired to pick up the sequel, however.)

I enjoyed The Corpse Reader by Antonio Garrido (which wasn’t free).

I really enjoyed Fledgling (Liaden Universe) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.  Thanks, Baen Free Library!  This one “worked” for them in that it got me really interested in the universe and now I will buy more books in the series.

Another fun (free!) find was Anna Katherine Green.  Her work is strongly reminiscent of Poe and Doyle. I was entranced with the first paragraph of The Mayor’s Wife which is well worth the read.  Subsequent novels of hers haven’t really been keepers (and there’s been some antisemitism and other assorted racism that make for immediate deletion).  Still, I haven’t tried everything I’ve downloaded yet.  Amazon thinks we should read her Amelia Butterworth mysteries.  [Update, the first is a good mystery so far, but man, had to take a break when I hit racism… this time anti-Chinese-American.]

Ooh, the 2014 Campbellian Anthology of Campbell Award nominees.

I also have some other free stuff (incl. Cory Doctorow) that I haven’t read yet.

Have you found any good free Kindle gems since our last post on the topic?

 

Authors I have been enjoying on my Kindle

Free books and you don’t even have to go to the library to get them! Yay Project Gutenberg.

Maria Thompson Daviess: The Melting of Molly is delightfully tongue in cheek. And has a lovely ending.

A. A. Milne:  He didn’t just write books about Christopher Robin.  I’ve been enjoying his very silly plays.  Belinda, for example.

Mary Roberts Reinhart:  Lovely romantic suspense, lovely romance, lovely suspense.  Fun all around.

Raphael Sabatini:  Sadly not all of his stuff is good; he was prolific.  But they’ve got his best: Captain Blood, ScaramoucheThe Sea-Hawk.  Mmmm swashbuckling romance!  I don’t think they have Master at Arms, which is a shame (also titled The Marquis of Carabas… under which you can get it for cash money as a paperback).

Booth Tarkington:  I loved the Penrod books growing up.  (So did my mom!)  They’re like a lower key Tom Sawyer set in a slightly later time period.

Carolyn Wells: The Patty books are so very silly.  So much like brain candy.  Quite soothing!  Even if women’s best career ambition is to be a homemaker. (Ptuii!)

Oscar Wilde:  The Canterbury Ghost, plays, so soothing, so wickedly funny.

P.G. Wodehouse:  There are at least two Jeeves books.  And assorted crap not worth reading (juvenalia, stuff that is a bit racist and just not very good in other ways).  There may be some non crap stuff too but I haven’t gone through it all yet.  Jeeves and Wooster are soothing my anxious soul.  I like hearing Steven Fry and Hugh Laurie in my head as I reread them.  It adds another dimension.

Fry and Laurie

I say!

What are your recommendations for free kindle books?

More books!

I tried to read more of the Ravenels by Lisa Kleypas and was reminded why I stopped reading her last time. Marrying Winterborne was ok, a reasonable library read. Hello Stranger … starts with an attempted rape and then is an eternity of the trope where the seemingly capable of defending herself heroine is told by the hero that she’s not actually capable but is instead deluded which she denies and then he teaches her to fight dirty and then it’s more he doubts her capability and she disagrees, rinse, lather, repeat. I hate this trope. So… basically I just stopped reading before any plot could happen. I read the last chapter and found I didn’t care. So…

I found a list of Beta heroes and got Backstage Pass, which turned out to be erotic fiction, which… not my cuppa, but whatever. The irritating thing (besides the author not really understanding academia) is that the hero was NOT a Beta hero– he refused to be understanding about the importance of her work and whined when it took her away from him and forced her to make sacrifices, never him (though he framed it as he was the one always sacrificing, which… he wasn’t, also that’s irritating controlling Alpha behavior, not can we find a solution together Beta behavior). That is obnoxious and not what I am looking for in an understanding supportive Beta guy. Nope. (Also three-somes with two guys sound *really unpleasant.* And there was some cringey not really understanding consent stuff with the BDSM portions– one of the characters, Jace, sounds like the reason I can’t listen to Moxy Fruvous anymore. So I won’t be reading any more of that series.)

A duke, the lady, and a baby was ok, but I think would have been better if the hero wasn’t such a jerk.  Like, the idea was good, the heroine is pretty cool, the side characters are intriguing (with lots of set-ups for future books in the same series), but the hero himself… not great and especially not great in interactions with the heroine.  He’s much better with people who are not the heroine.  Awful pushy alpha hitting on his nanny, following her with the baby once he finds out she’s not the nanny (this is not a spoiler– it’s in the first chapter) because she doesn’t follow his orders anymore.  Just… could have been a lot better.  I don’t agree with the author about what makes a guy attractive, I guess.

Ten things I hate about the duke by Loretta Chase was much better than the previous book in the series that I DNF.  It wasn’t worth purchasing, but I do not begrudge having read it.

The Devilish Lord Will by Jennifer Ashley was quite good.  I accidentally borrowed it when I meant to just look at it, so it I read it out of order in terms of the series, like WAY out of order, but it was an excellent stand-alone so I think that’s ok.  I’m not usually into to Scottish heroes, but this one was not at all brooding.  Quite jolly, really.  A++ do recommend.  Not sure if I’m going to buy it or not… maybe?  (Oh hey, it’s only $4.99, I think I will just get it.)  I then read a bunch more of these MacKenzies books and have so far liked all of them (but not all of them are library available– I suspect I wouldn’t enjoy the one about Lady Isabella because I tend to dislike the estranged-for-a-stupid-reason spouses trope.  It is so rarely done well (really only done will when it’s for Scarlet Pimpernel reasons!)).  I especially like the 18th century ones about Will (see above) and Alec (haven’t read the one about Mal yet, but I bet it is also good, cw: the villain was also a rapist, but no rape is shown and he does not survive very long after that is found out).  There’s some problematic stuff very early about Roma in the 19th century series, but Ashley seems to learn throughout the novels what not to do with respect to that so it gets better.

Gave up on Strange Neighbors (I think this was another from that list of beta heroes) because it started with an attempted rape right after the heroine mentioned to her new landlord who was hitting on her that she hadn’t been allowed to move out of her dad’s house until she was 25 because her mom was murdered after leaving the house and… could we just not?  I didn’t even finish the first chapter.  UGH.

A Notorious Vow by Joanna Shupe had such a great setup, but didn’t really deliver.  It was almost Grace Burrows-esque in terms of the villains not getting their comeuppance because the heroine was too milquetoast and forgiving.  Like, if she could have become braver and the hero could have helped her grow into a more confident version of herself, this would have been an amazing book.  It had that promise.  But it didn’t go that route.  Sometimes the trope way is the best way.  I mean, sometimes you just want the joy of seeing Trump prosecuted and landing in jail, you know?

DC1 noted that there are a lot of dukes in the titles of the books I read and we talked about how when there isn’t a social safety net the safest person to marry is a duke (assuming he’s not abusive) because it sucks marrying a prince and might even be dangerous if someone decides to depose you, but dukes are the most powerful and safest you can get without actually being in direct line for the throne (some ducal exceptions apply).

The library and amazon both claim I tried reading Fortune Favors the Wicked by Theresa Romain, but I think I must have lost interest right away because although I remember the cover I don’t actually remember reading it(!)

The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds by T E Kinsey was not at all cozy like the books in the previous series although it started out that way.  It made the fatal mistake of unexpectedly killing off someone that the reader has come to care for, on screen even(!).  Which, not what I am looking for.

Drops of Gold by Sarah M. Eden was too boring to finish.  Also:  Nanny trope, not my favorite.  Pollyanna trope, also not my favorite.

The other two books in Tessa Dare’s Castles ever after series were fine (Say Yes to the Marquess and When a Scot Ties the Knot) but not as good as the first one (Romancing the Duke).  Not perfect, but ok.  I don’t regret having read them though I’m not going to buy them.  Even at $3.99.  I think Harper Collins might be having a sale– I just picked up Romancing the Duke for $2.99.  It may not still be going on when this posts.  :/

A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore was pretty good.  I stayed up late finishing it because it got exciting near the end.  I was astonished to realize I’d also read the first in the series because the heroine from that book is in this book but I had no idea it was the same person(!)

I really wanted to love The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows (lesbian beekeepers, what’s not to like?)… but Olivia Waite has this problem where she creates stupid angst and drama from lack of communication.  It was nonsensical in her last book where the heroines had a ridiculous fight with basically no provocation.  Here it took the form of 9/10 of the book being them not talking about how they were into each other, which made sense when neither of them knew the other was into women, but about halfway through the book the lesbian started giving extremely strong signals to the bisexual including straight out saying she was into women and had done women etc.  And the inner thoughts of the bisexual at that point just made no sense.  Then everything interesting in the book happened in literally the last (or technically the second to last, since the last chapter was just setting up the next book) chapter.   Waite needs an editor who is going to say cut the angst in the middle 5/6 of the book, stretch out this awesome part at the end so it’s not so rushed, and if you’re going to go with drama, them make things actually happen instead of repeating the whole, I like her but she couldn’t possibly like me ad infinitum.  I am glad our local library has started purchasing her so I can continue to test her books as they come out.

A woman entangled by Cecilia Grant was quite good.  Plus it actually did have a beta hero (though one who isn’t a doormat– he does yell at the heroine but she deserves it at the time).  Both the hero and heroine are interesting but not completely likeable, and they both grow up during the story which is nice.  The twin separate storylines about family estrangement, scandals, and choices also work well together.  It is a well put together book.  Not perfect (the ending is a bit rushed and to be honest, I completely skipped over the sex scenes), but definitely worth reading, maybe even buying at 7.99 depending on your price point for books.  I realized near the end that I’d read the first in the series and though it ok, but apparently not good enough to even mention in one of these round-ups (I vaguely remember it being a silly storyline about a recent widow paying a man to get her pregnant so her late husband’s estate doesn’t go to a Bad Man– if the sale is still going on, only $2.99 on kindle right now if you want to give it a shot) and had skipped the second.  I think I will not pick up the second given its lower reviews.  You don’t need to have read the previous books to read this one AT ALL.  In fact, the heroine of the first book was complete unrecognizable.

For some reason I don’t remember, I put “A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem” by Manda Collins on my library holds list.  I’m still #5 on that list.  But I noticed it doesn’t have great reviews, so I investigated it further and it turns out a lot of people *thought* they were getting a new book with a similar title, “A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder” by another author, Dianne Freeman.  That book being the third in a series.  Those books have much higher ratings and the pictures on the cover are DELIGHTFUL– full of the whimsy of Edward Gorey, though not quite in his exact style.  So I picked up the first two books in the series, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder and A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder from the library.  They are fun!!!  They’re kind of expensive so I probably won’t get my own copies, but if they were more in the $5.99 range, I would– the mysteries themselves are fine but kind of rushed, but they’re also fun romance novels set in the late 1890s (no sex), so…

What are you reading, Grumpy Nation?

Books books books

Pretty much done with the Agatha Christies– there’s a handful of singletons that weren’t available at the library that I haven’t read/reread, but I’m mostly done.  I quite like the Harley Quinn short stories for the most part (the last/second to last depending on your viewpoint, that is, the one directly before the Harlequinn Teaset is stupid).

I’ve been cranking through Lord Peter Whimseys as well.  My local library didn’t have Murder Must Advertise and I wonder if it’s because of the completely unnecessary use of the N word or if it’s just that their copy fell apart.  (But they have two copies of 9 little tailors, which is the next book in the series, so…)  I swear, the number of times I have read the N word in the past year from these 1930s British mysteries.  Ridiculous.  In any case, my university library had a first edition of Murder must advertise, so I as able to continue my reading mostly uninterrupted.  The Nine Tailors was … boring.  I ended up skipping large chunks even though I had no problem with the previous Scottish Five Red Herrings case which is supposed to be one of the duller Whimseys.  Then I read Gaudy Night which continues to be a masterpiece.  I’m not sure how good it is if you haven’t read the previous two Harriet Vanes, but it really is a classic.  I also read through the short stories again (except the last one which I’m saving for after Busman’s Honeymoon, though I should have also saved the second to last for then too!) and with the exception of the Harriet Vane novels, I think the short stories might be better than the novels.

The big city library recommended Nina Coombs Pykare to me.  They are for the most part forgettable retreads, but go down easily.  A Man of her choosing was TERRIBLE and I eventually gave up on it– TSTL heroine who is not like other girls (because she likes horses) and thinks she’s ugly “a wren” and says so about every other page.  Hero who has no personality other than occasionally jealously shaking the heroine and yelling at her.  The Lost Duchess of Greyden Castle was a nice Gothic that may be worth trying out if you can get it for free from  your library.  A Daring Dilemma and A Matchmaker’s Match were both soothing and forgettable (unless you care about historical accuracy, in which case you should completely avoid this author).

I tried a few more Alexis Hall books but none of them have quite jelled.  They have good bits, but haven’t really been cohesively good like Boyfriend Material was.  I have to wonder if what was lacking was an excellent editor, or if this is a matter of becoming a more experienced author.

The big city library also recommended Emily Hendrickson and I tried A Man of Her Choosing… and it was just super boring and forgettable so I didn’t even bother reading the last couple of chapters, I just DNF.

Joanna Shupe was pretty fun… reading her books in rapid succession left a bit to be desired because she reuses tropes and characteristics and turns of phrases and so on.  But The Prince of Broadway was pretty good.  A scandalous deal not as good, but readable.  The rogue of fifth avenue, similar. The Lady Hellion was a fun romp (cw: a serial rapist/murderer is the MacGuffin), though the heroine had some TSTL manic pixie tendencies, but I think the hero with his interesting anxiety disorders made it readable, AND it had the smartest “how to get someone killed without actually doing it yourself” thing I have ever seen.  Magnate had a great set-up but was ultimately a huge disappointment– it would have been 10x the book if she had spent more time on the heroine and heroes’ fascinating careers (steel magnate and wall street consultant) and less time on boring married-too-soon tropes (and interminable filler sex scenes… literally the first sex scene went from 62-72% on my kindle, and it wasn’t the only one.)  The Devil of Downtown was solid and maybe even a bit better than the previous two books in the series.

I tried out a Shana Galen bundle based on the library recommendation… Couldn’t get into The making of a duchess or The making of a gentleman, but the Rogue’s pirate bride was worth reading the first few and last few chapters and skipping the middle.

The Trouble with Harry by Katie MacAlister is silly and pretty funny (and also I kept going… did I accidentally check out an erotic novel?  but maybe this is too silly to be erotic?)

The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie was interesting.  The hero was nice.  There’s a mystery (more dead prostitutes, though only two this time around).  It’s got gothic bits.  I’d like to read the second from the library (but not buy it because I am not a fan of the estranged spouses trope and the hero doesn’t seem so great from his appearances in book 1), but alas, neither library has it available, so I guess I will skip and try the third next.

I’m not sure how to feel about In for a Penny by Rose Lerner.  I LOVED the way that the protagonists spent a day writing up a list of rules for marriage together (No Mistresses)– that was cute and fun and unique.  I had been hoping that the second half of the book would be watching them quietly building up the hero’s falling down estate while falling in love.  Instead, the second half was full of so many tropes… all together (no carriage accidents though… well no important ones anyway).  There was a two pager that had at least 3 things that would have been stunning drama game changers in another book, right after another from the beginning of the chapter.  Finally, I almost threw the book across the room (if it hadn’t been a library book, I might have) when I realized the entire story was just a huge long walk to get to a terrible terrible pun.  I think I may have to buy it.  And maybe read some more by this author.

Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas was solid.  It’s another in a series and I found myself wishing I’d read the other ones more recently because I think it would have been more rewarding.  I may have to reread these someday.  This one by itself isn’t really worth owning, but maybe it is if I reread it as part of the entire series?  I’m not sure.  Update:  Apparently I didn’t read all of the prequels because I got annoyed by too many attempted rapes on the heroine in one of her books and just gave up on the author entirely.

The latest Jayne Ann Krentz, “All the Colors of the Night” was a solid Jones book in the Fogg Lake sub-series.  I also wished I’d read others in that series more recently (amazon tells me there’s only one, but I feel like some of the other Jones books must have overlap).  (Also… I wondered if twitter was making fun of her recently by riffing off authors who use the book’s title in the book’s last sentence…)

Ask the readers: What edition of the complete works of Shakespeare should I get?

Dear Grumpy Nation:

DC1 hasn’t been getting enough Shakespeare.  I would like to ameliorate that.  I, myself, had a lovely hardback version of the complete works of Shakespeare that was beautifully annotated so that I could easily figure out what was going on while still seeing the natural beauty of the words themselves.  I would read it on days I was home sick from school and had nothing else to do (also how I read Ivanhoe and several other classics my mother placed strategically in the small bookcase next to my bed).  Sadly, all I remember about it is that it had a navy blue hard cover– it appears to have disappeared from my parents’ house in the 20 years I have been away from it.

I have gone to Amazon to seek a new anthology and I am overwhelmed by the options.  I do not want a kindle version– I want something nicely edited and easy to read the annotations/explanations along-side the original words.  Hardback would be nice, but that’s not a deal-breaker.

There are so many choices and so many different price points I don’t even know where to start.  I’m willing to pay for the $75 Norton edition if it is, indeed, the best for our purposes.  But if the $30 Oxford Works is better, by all means I’ll go with that!

I know we have experts on this topic in our readership, so help a lay-person out!  What would you recommend?

Thanks in advance!

Yet more books

I read a couple of books by Jasmine Guillory, The Wedding Date and The Proposal.  She does a fantastic job on the meet cute and has really adorable epilogues.  But the last 2/3-3/4 of these books are such painful if only they talked to each other … then they’d realize it was all a big misunderstanding.  Especially the they really like each other but are afraid to say anything after they’ve spent a good portion of the book having sex.  (Also:  with sex scenes she’s too detailed for PG-13, but also just cuts stuff out so it never actually gets steamy.  Pick a lane!  Cut out earlier or go through with the entire thing.)  So… I think she needs to figure out how to put conflict or substance in her books– maybe wacky hijinks (her intros would make fantastic movie material), or really cool projects that aren’t just about the relationship (see The Boyfriend Project) or just make them a ton shorter (see Jackie Lau).  Still, she’s selling well so who am I to tell her what to do.  It’s just… the intros are so GOOD I wish the entire novels could follow through on their promise instead of being boring and disappointing (with a little adorable bon-mot at the end that is as good as the beginning).

Read Red, Royal, and Blue also had a great start and dragged in parts, with a very wish fulfilling ending.  It’s set in a parallel universe with a slightly different royal family (Prince Charles is instead daughter Charlotte and next in line for the throne), and Trump did not get elected in 2016, and did not even run.

Then I’ve been rereading the entire Miss Marple series and the entire Hercule Poirot series (I get David Suchet talking in my head– such a perfect perfect Poirot).  Miss Marple has anti-semitism and racism I didn’t remember.  Many of the books have occasional use of the n-word (with respect to Indians, not African-Americans, who they call “Black slaves” . . . ), which I thought had been struck from the American editions of the book and replaced with the word Indians or n— or just replaced entirely (see:  And then there were none) back in the 1960s, but…apparently not all the current kindle versions.  Also the early books have so much with young women conniving to get doting older husbands instead of those age differences indicating power differentials and controlling husbands.  And Nemesis is really disgusting with the lengthy diatribes about how all rape accusations are false accusations (one wonders what rapist Christie was friends with…)–I’m pretty sure middle school me just put the book down at the first such diatribe, but middle-aged me is pushing through.  And the Miss Marples are a very interesting study of how Agatha Christie treats the subject of hired help and people of the lower classes over the decades she wrote the Marple stories.  She definitely becomes more egalitarian.  Of course, her mysteries also become much more sordid.  I haven’t gotten to my favorite Miss Marple yet, the last one, Sleeping Murder.  (“With hands… like monkey’s paws.”) [Update, still excellent, though some small anti-Semitism I didn’t remember and you might miss if you’re not reading closely]  And of course, she provides us modern folk with a reminder about how important the MMR vaccine is in an earlier Marple.  All those anti-vaxxers could use a read of… well, I can’t say which because it is a plot point, but the movie version is even more creepy and compelling.  There are a LOT of Agatha Christie books.

Read Cousin Cecilia by Joan Smith.  It was a pleasant old-fashioned regency romance about a matchmaking miss who ends up with the man she’s trying to thwart.  I will probably read more of her once I’ve finished the Christies.  I’ll probably do a run through of the Sayers again sometime as well– I think my last read through was in graduate school.  (#2 owns them and reads them much more frequently– I generally use the library, though I did at one point have a book of Sayers short stories, I think including the one with their kids.  Not sure what happened to that book.)

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall was tremendously funny.  Even if you don’t like romances, this was a hilariously funny novel.  I literally kept laughing out loud.  It was so hilarious I made my DH read it even though he almost never reads romances (unless I force him) and I caught him laughing out loud at least twice.  I mean, I have not laughed so hard so honestly since Summer of 2016.  I’d say it’s a B+ romance interwoven throughout an A+++++++++++++ British-style comedy.  The side characters are gut-bustingly funny.  The social commentary is droll.  The little repeated gags really do get funnier every time.  It is BRILLIANT.  I am scared to read any more Alexis Hall books because what if my expectations are too high, as regression to the mean would suggest?  But I’m going to try them anyway because even a fraction of funny would probably be great.  DH and I both want a second book in the universe set with one of the second hero’s friends (we’re not picky about which, we just want to see more of them in their natural environment, with the heroes of this book as minor characters who do cameos.

Tried Indexing by Seanen McGuire but just could not get into it.  Not light enough (not that brutal murders are fluffy, but Agatha Christie is rarely difficult even when you don’t figure out whodunit).  It would probably have been a decent read back in 2015, but not for me today.

DC2 has run through all the Rick Riordan presents and has loved them.  Now I’m going through the Newbery winners/honorees starting with the most recent year, basically checking another year’s out each time zie runs out.  Zie seems to like them as well, even though a lot of them are difficult books about difficult situations.  (“Why are all immigrants to the US girls?  Are there ever immigrants to the US written about in kids books about boys?”– I don’t know, DC2, I don’t know.  Similarly, DC1, I don’t know why white boys need a white boy or a dog to die to come of age, white girls need a horse to die or to fall in love to come of age, black girls need a black boy to die to come of age, and black boys need to be accused of killing a white woman or have some other jail sentence to come of age.  Tropes can really suck, DC1, they really can.)  I feel like a lot of the Newbery winners from my childhood didn’t really stand the test of time.  Like… I haven’t reopened The Indian in the Cupboard, but just looking at my old copy makes me cringe.  I mean maybe it’s not as bad as I’m imagining, but I suspect it is worse.

I reread Redshirts because some random comment somewhere made me think of it and feel like rereading it.  Still good!

The Rainbow Cat and other stories was so lovely.  I had dug this up on gutenberg (free) because of the short story of the princess who couldn’t cry, but the rest of the stories were lovely as well.  A soothing balm.

I know this is pretty soon after the last books post, but don’t we all need soothing books?  Don’t we all need something to keep our mind off things?  Well, maybe not everyone, but definitely this one does!

What is soothing you?

Ask the grumpies: Computer educational programs that DC2 (grade 4) loves (and others zie’s ok with)

Parent to two virtual learners asks:

“Have you or your readers been using any computer programs to supplement virtual learning at home? I need to work full-time and my kids (elementary schoolers) seem to get done with their work in 2-3 hours each day. They don’t want to spend all their time reading books and I don’t want them to spend all their time playing video games or fighting with each other. Do you have any educational games and similar things to recommend? Anything non-electronic that doesn’t create too much of a mess?”

DC2 loves Prodigy to pieces. It’s basically an RPG-ish game where your choices don’t matter much, but in order to fight monsters you have to get a math problem correct. The math problems are very similar to going through Khan Academy– they get harder and you master a specific skill and then they give you a new skill. I think it’s free and they make their money with in-game purchases that DC2 would really like to have but we have not been doing.

DC2 loves Epic! though sadly we have to pay for it now because this year’s teacher didn’t sign up for it like last year’s did. (Technically zie can sign in as guest with hir class from last year, but that seems wrong somehow.) Epic has a lot of fun books, including a TON of comicbooks to read. All the Big Nates, even some that are so old or new that DC1 doesn’t own them. (There are Bill Clinton jokes(!))

DC2 likes DuoLingo just fine. Zie is doing Spanish with it, mostly on weekends. There isn’t much playing with it if it’s not required like there is with Prodigy.

We’ve recommended DragonBox before– DC2 did a spin through again before school started this past summer.

Similarly to DuoLingo, DC2 is fine with Khan Academy. Zie is mostly going through the math part.

DC2 is supposed to go through a math thing called xtramath, but finished last year, so after zooming through addition and subtraction, hir teacher asked hir to play Kakooma instead. DC2 is not a fan of the timed aspect of it, but did enjoy it at first.

Instead of Epic!, DC2’s teacher is doing Reading A-Z, which has more educational stuff than does Epic and has step readers in both English and Spanish. One not so great thing is that it tested DC2 in English and is now only allowing hir to read within a few levels of hir tested level in Spanish. Hir Spanish level is not as high as hir English level! There’s no Phoebe and Unicorn here, but there’s lots of non-fiction.

With all the additional laptop stuff, DC2’s computer class has a lot of typing. They use Typing Agent through Clever. This is not as much fun as typing of the dead, but it’s more focused for if you don’t know how to touch type (as opposed to just needing practice to get your speed up).

In terms of exercise, we have two games for the Switch right now that DC2 has been using. Ring Fit Adventure is a good exercise game, much like Prodigy except you do exercises to complete an attack. Zie has also been doing Just Dance 2020 and now I have Baby Shark stuck in my head for all eternity even though I’m fairly sure I’ve only heard it twice.

DC2 is also getting into Minecraft Coding Academy, though that occasionally requires assists from DH. Similarly DC1 (in high school) is working on USACO coding projects (zie isn’t actually signed up, just going through the problems)

I’m probably forgetting something, but these are the things that have been popular enough (or required enough by class) to come to mind.

In terms of non-electronic stuff:

DC2’s art teacher requires them to draw daily in a composition book. We’ve gotten some calligraphy pens and so on to make that a little more interesting. They’re both also into origami, but that makes a mess.

DC2 does a page of Singapore Math each day.

We’ve downloaded a bazillion children’s classics from Gutenberg to DC2’s kindle (Oz is very popular with both kids, also E. Nesbitt).

We’ve increased the chores they have to do– doing laundry has been added to their list which previously only had laundry folding and removing things from the dishwasher. Now there’s 15 min of cleaning their rooms each day, though sometimes we add an additional 15 min to DC2 because zie is so talented at making messes. DC1 cooks a meal a week (usually on Sundays) and DC2 helps. They also pick out one meal each week for menu planning (DC1 makes hirs).

DC2 also has regular minecraft playdates with friends which isn’t exactly educational but is social at least. DC2 and hir frenemy are actually much more mature playing on minecraft together than playing on the playground. Now that it’s cooler outside they’re getting kicked out for exercise again. Oh, and they’ve started teaching themselves contact juggling (using a weighted rubber ball, not one of DH’s actual clear contact juggling balls because there’s a lot of dropping). I’ve been trying to get DC1 to pick up pencil twirling because zie fidgets by worrying things until they break off and zie needs to stop doing that, but so far no luck (zie is also uninterested in fidget spinners). DC2 has been working on juggling one club, but that somehow morphs into all the juggling clubs being all over the floor of the living room.

Grumpy Nation: What educational stuff do you recommend for when you have to work but your kids are out of schoolwork?

Ask the grumpies: How do you organize your books?

Steph asks:

If you haven’t tackled this somewhere – How do you organize your books? How do you feel about the rainbow bookshelves trend that is still going on? (Or the “spines inward/pages outward” trend – maybe this is a deliberately controversial question ;) )

We have a somewhat strong disagreement on this topic in that #1 has taken all the pretty hard cover books out of the bedroom bookcases and put them into the living room and #2 thinks this is heresy.

#1:

two of the bedroom bookcases, mostly humorous SPEC fic in alphabetical order by author or editor's last name

two of the bedroom bookcases, mostly humorous SPEC fic in alphabetical order by author or editor’s last name

Otherwise:  #1 has all read paperback fiction books put together in alphabetical order in her bedroom bookcases.  To-be-read books are sideways in a pile double-stacked in no particular order across two shelves.  Our joint comic books have their own shelf in our bedroom.  DH doesn’t tend to keep fiction books (he doesn’t reread much), so the ones that we do have are scattered in with my books or DC1’s books, though they used to have their own shelf. Non-fiction books are loosely organized by subject in the living room shelves.  Cookbooks are shelved mostly by size (because of the different sizes of books and shelves… this bothers me a little, but there are only 3 shelves) just outside the kitchen.

I try really hard to keep the kids’ fiction chapter books in alphabetical order by author’s last name in their bookcases, but that doesn’t always happen.  Kids non-fiction chapter books have their own bookshelf in the hallway (they used to be on separate shelves in their room bookcases, but then we got DC2 a full size bookcase and moved hir smaller case to the hallway), which started out organized by subject but is now a total mess.  Spanish books are the bottom shelf of DC2’s bookcase.  They also keep all their comic books there which started out organized alphabetically by last author, but are not even shelved nicely anymore.  I just give up.   Books that DC2 has really outgrown are currently taking the bottom shelves of 3 bookcases in the living room not really organized at all.  I should note that I have mild undiagnosed OCD and having organized bookcases give me pleasure while disorganized bookcases give me a little buzz of unhappiness.  But I just cannot keep up with the kids being agents of destruction so I have found it healthier for me to just not try to keep up and mentally separate their messed up sections from all books.  I tell myself I’m never trying to find their specific non-fiction or comic or picture books so the lack of organization shouldn’t be a problem for me.

Most of my new books are kindle (because they’re cheaper and more portable… in normal times much of my reading gets done on airplanes) and they’re organized by read/unread and then date last read.  There’s also a separate thing for children’s books that have been read.

#2:

Three of #2's bookcases, creatively organized

Three of #2’s bookcases, creatively organized

I have fiction and non-fiction in my bedroom, with various piles of books stacked haphazardly in the living room, kitchen, etc. (And cookbooks in our kitchen.) I have a couple “emergency” books in a cabinet in the bathroom. They just ended up there.

I do not put my books in alphabetical order.  They are in an order.  For example, there is one case that is all my best-loved and most-personal books.  Authors who coauthor books have the coauthored book in between the other two authors.  I mix fiction and non-fiction together.

I hate electronic books and have been gradually replacing my cheap kindle books with paperbacks as they come available/get affordable/are gifted from my amazon list.

We’re mostly against sorting books by color (#1 moreso than #2).  We’re definitely against shelving them spine inward (though #1’s DC2 seems to favor this.  It drives #1 CRAZY.)  #2 wants to SEE people’s books out of curiosity.  #1 wants to be able to FIND books.  Why organize them at all if you’re not going to be able to use the index?

Related:

Billy the bookcase

Where the books are

Our fantasy library

Couchblogging and rearranging the library