What are we reading: Summer reading time!

Atomic Habits.  About changing habits.  It was ok, nothing really new, but pretty good.  Maybe I’ll re-read it at some point.

A Quiet Life in the Country, by T. E. Kinsey.  It’s the frothiest of English country-house murder mysteries, featuring a sassy rich titled widow and her even sassier lady’s maid.  They both have hidden depths and are very good friends.  They fight crime!  #2 also really enjoys these (and has purchased and read 4 of them in the past two weeks!).  But note– if you’re the type of person who wants to be able to figure out who done it using carefully hidden clues, this is not your series.  It is more Ngaio Marsh (giving you the necessary info near the end) than Agatha Christie.

The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders: Very good!  Highly recommended.  Found family; mostly female characters; convincing bad guy; excellent world-building.  This is for you if you like Dune, or if you want to like Dune but can’t get through Herbert’s writing style.

The Shadow Glass by Rin Chupeco.  This is the third book in a trilogy I’ve been reading from the library and I want to like it… but it has too many italics.  Hard to get through.

#1 also attests:  Before you read Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure, make sure you have plenty of bread and the meltable cheese of your choice.  #2 had to stop reading it in the middle because she was on a plane and could do nothing about the craving.

A wicked kind of husband by Mia Vincy wasn’t bad (despite the hero being kind of a jerk and the heroine being an unappreciated doormat).  If there were more books available I would probably read them, but I’m not going to great lengths to remember the author.

City of Lies by Victoria Thompson was a fun PG 13 con book.  It read more like a YA historical novel than a romance or mystery, but I am eager to get the next book from the library.

Talia Hibbert continues to make me sloppy cry on airplanes with her Damaged Goods novella (tw: rape as a back story, though not shown graphically) (Well worth the 99 cents it cost!)

I deleted: A Night of Angels:  A Magical Holiday Collection.  Most of the novellas were pretty awful.  Never Dare a Duke by Meara Platt was not great– I am not crazy about engaged people who entered into the engagement of their own free wills cheating on each other instead of having a conversation to break it off (not a spoiler if you read the about, which I apparently did not prior to putting the book on my amazon wishlist).  The Duke’s Hidden Desire by Gemma Blackwood was well-written but I’m so tired of the brooding jerky hero and the perfect heroine.  Perfect heroines deserve perfect heroes!  Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau was ok for a read but not rereading.  I did not finish A Fallen Lady by Elizabeth Kingston– stick to checking out the next book in the series from the library.  It is much healthier.

I am not sure how many older Jayne Ann Krentzes the local library has that I haven’t read.  I’ve been cranking through them pretty thoroughly.  One of these days I will have to look at their website and possibly put things on hold.

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Ask the grumpies: Can kids have too many books? (Spoiler: so long as they’re not in danger of being crushed, no)

Leah asks:

How many kids’ books are too many?

Does not compute.

What are we reading? Mostly mixed-quality romance.

All Night Long was dark and (tw: spoiler) turned out to have child rape in it.  Not the usual Krentz/Quick/Castle fare.  Do not recommend.  (Then right after I tried When All the Girls Were Gone, which, while less graphic, is about tracking down a rapist.)  I think I’m now out of Krentz/Quick/Castle books that I can borrow online from Big City Library, though the library in the next town does have a ton more in paper that I have not yet read.  And in a few months our local library will be open again!)  The library also had an old Krentz called “Lady’s Choice” which wasn’t that bad even though it was originally published in 1989 and neither the hero nor the heroine were particularly likable.  It was kind of fun in that it turned the hero seeks out the heroine for revenge on her family trope on its head (this is not a spoiler) and it is the first book that I’ve read that starts mid-orgasm.  Probably not worth rereading though.  I also liked a trio of early Castles that have floral women’s names.  They’re set in a world that is similar to but different than the Harmony books– the key differences being that, 1st,  people with powers either have the powers or they can help someone with powers focus their talent, so it takes a pair to do anything substantially paranormal, 2nd, there are no dustbunnies.  But they’re fun nonetheless.  In other Krentz novels, Eye of the beholder was a great (non-paranormal) mystery, and I think I like the Coppersmith books enough that I will have to eventually buy them.  I wonder what it would take for Krentz to write a novella with the gay brother, Nick, as the main character, since the two sisters have gotten full novels.  And what Coppersmith family member would he eventually pair up with?  Oh man, that would be so great.  Krentz was an early romance novelist to add LGBT characters to her novels, and LGBT characters as completely normal people not sassy best friends.  (Nick, in this case is a super sexy thief with paranormal powers.  Just crying for him to pair up with some hunky Coppersmith guy.  Especially since SHE SETS THAT UP in the second, and final, book.)  Sadly she last visited this group in 2013, so it’s probably not going to happen.  :(  If I were super rich, I’d totally talk to her agent to see if I could commission one.  (Update:  I’m fairly sure he would pair up with a guy from the family that is in competition with the Coppersmiths.  Like, it’s all there, just ready to be written.)

I’ve been having trouble getting through Unfit to Print by KJ Charles because although it is high quality, it is also dark and sordid and has child prostitution (not a spoiler because that’s pretty up front), and though it’s never graphic about it it is still disturbing.  The quality of her work taking on these dark subjects is unmistakable, but I so much prefer her (equally high quality, IMO) lighter fare.  Where children aren’t getting abused and family members aren’t betraying each other.   And I guess that’s literally the definition to the plot of Any Old Diamonds, but the children are grown and the abuse is off screen and some of the betrayal is deserved unapologetic revenge betraying.  Speaking of Any Old Diamonds, it is amazingly good– extremely well-plotted (at the end, I texted #2 to tell her it was “splendid”).  You can read it as a one-off, but I think it gains something extra if you read it after reading An Unsuitable Heir, as it is set place in the same world a couple decades later.  If you’re into rereading, then I might suggest reading this one first, then reading the entire sins of the cities series (which is dark and Victorian– I like the third book best… the people in it, even the more minor characters are amazing), then rereading this one to maximize pleasure (reading the first time for the plot which is riveting, the second time to indulge).

Last night with the earl by Kelly Bowen was pretty meh, and the Grace Burrows novella at the end was But Faaaaaaaamily and magical thinking.

I deleted A rake never changes his spots by Samantha Holt.  It was ok, but not worth ever reading again.  Maybe worth a library read if you have a lot of free time and need something brainless.  I mean, it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t very good either.  I’m a bit mystified by the high reviews.

Salt magic skin magic by Lee Welch was ok, I guess.  I’m really not into that particular supernatural trope, which I can’t tell you about because the book is a big mystery leading up to the unveiling of that particular trope, but I figured it out pretty early because I feel like I’ve read this book before but without a M/M romance and without the main character being a jerk.  Usually it’s a daughter in the trope.  And the mom is always dead dead dead.  (Usually there’s a “or is she” attached.)  Aside from the trope, the writing was good, one of the two leads was great, but the romance wasn’t really believable given the other dude.  There’s a long inner monologue in which the great lead thinks about how great the other guy is…how different from other aristocrats… and the things he’s saying are at odds with what’s actually shown in the book.  Maybe worth trying this author again, I dunno.

I got so many amazing books for my birthday this year!  The kids and I loved Lupin Leaps In.  There’s a lot more substance to this one than to the first Breaking Cat News compendium.  Squirrel Girl continues to be unbeatable!

A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert was wonderfully soothing.  More than worth the $2.99 it cost on Kindle.  I need to get the rest of her books now.

House of Cads by Elizabeth Kingston was fun! Part grand sophy, part farce. It has the irrepressible French woman trope but manages not to be obnoxious.

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure was pretty good.  Definitely a novella.  And I think the first aging septuagenarian F/F romance in which the couple are the main characters and not minor characters (in which one invariably the heroine’s aunt… in this case, the aunt was aunt to a horrible nephew).

I was excited to see a Cat Sebastian book in the new books section at the library!  Previously the library had been 0/(all of them) for LGBT romances.  I already own this one, of course, because I get all her books when they come out, but I’m so glad that our town has purchased at least this one.

What should I read next, Grumpeteers?

Ask the grumpies: How do you pick which book to read next?

Steph asks:

Most of my postdoc-salary lifestyle inflation has gone to my local indie bookstore, and I waaaay overbought in 2018. My TBR pile has ~30 books, plus at least a dozen graphic novels/comics collections. I find I’m paralyzed with indecision when I confront the pile! How do you pick your new books to read? Any suggestions for wading through a massive TBR stack? (I’m already forbidding myself from most new book purchases for a while, except for a couple new releases like Rebecca Roanhorse’s Storm of Locusts)

#1:  Back when I was a kid, what I would do would be to line up the books I was considering in a grid.  Then I would close my eyes and let fate guide my hand like with a Ouija board.  It always seemed to work out pretty well for me.

Now what I do instead is look at the book on top (either of the literal pile of unread books or on my kindle) and if it looks too hard, I look at the book under it, and so on.  When I’m on the plane and need something easier than what I have in my “new” kindle section (which, in addition to things I’ve gotten from my amazon wishlist, includes a bunch of classics I got from Gutenberg before DC2 was born… which I’m sometimes good with on trips and sometimes are too hard), I will go to the last page of my “read” section and see if there’s anything in there that looks like a pleasant reread.

Personally I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having unread books in the stack.  I’ve had some for decades.  One day they may be what I need, or I’ll actually get to them and decide they’re not ever going to be worth reading all the way through and I’ll pass them on.  I read books for pleasure and not for improvement, so being forced to get through a stack seems like the opposite of fun for me.  Though sometimes I do find unexpected gems when I decide to wade through a pile (which I used to do back when I was sending my unwanted stuff to DH’s relative’s kid, but now have much less incentive to do).

Library books do get a bit of a priority bump because I know they’re going to have to go back.

#2: I use the implicit method of “whichever one I feel like”. I don’t really have a method. Sometimes it’s LIFO sometimes it’s random, sometimes it’s when the next book is out, sometimes I’m reminded of it, sometimes I feel like a fantasy, or a romance, or whatever…. I don’t even know. All of the above, none of the above.

#1: That reminds me.  Sometimes I take a picture of my pile and send it to #2 and ask her which I should read next.  She’s usually right.

#2:  Other suggestions:  Roll some dice.  Pick the nicest cover.  Or the one on the bottom instead of the one on top (FIFO).

Ask the grumpies: Do you read the books your kids read?

Leah asks:

Do you read the books your kids are reading? At what age seems good to stop doing so? It feels weird to me (since I have little kids) to imagine a day when they’re reading books that I haven’t read.

… Are the books in question interesting?  If so, yes.  If not, no.  I don’t think we’ve ever screened books for our kids other than to warn DC1/2 that the third Harry Potter might be too scary and the fourth one definitely is.  (DC2 turned out to be fine with Harry Potter #3, unlike DC1.  DC2 was also able to watch Star Wars at a much younger age without freaking out about it.)

I guess this goes back to our lazy parenting philosophy!

Ask the grumpies: What non-fiction books do you read?

Leah asks:

You post a lot about books you read for fun/stress relief. What are some non-fiction reads you enjoy? I really liked both Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and Becoming by Michelle Obama

Those are great books.  We’ll always talk about books.  Here are some of my recent nonfiction reads:

This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jenkins – relatively new and quite a ride.  Pass it around your friend group.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson – I like this better than her first book, although I wouldn’t want to live with the author.  I recently re-read this.

Get Your Shit Together – you know, like ya do.  One of Sarah Knight’s books, which are often swearily helpful.

Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson – hilarious and great.  Get it.

I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi – extremely worth reading and sharing.

This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe

Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart – this and the one above are memoirs, which I like.

I’d Rather be Reading by Anne Bogel – by the author of the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog

Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski (I might have talked about this one)

Can’t Help Myself by Meredith Goldstein – surprisingly moving.  Written by an advice columnist about her own life.

Wild Things by Bruce Handy – a trip down memory lane.  Reading as a child is great.

The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit – read it and pass it around.  Another of her books is Hope in the Dark.

Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

The Chick and the Dead by Carla Valentine – a weird area of my reading interest is what happens to bodies after we die. [#2 read Stiff many years ago.  It was ok.]

Hunger by Roxane Gay – more people should read this!

House of Cards by David Ellis Dickerson – an interesting memoir about stuff I hadn’t read much about before.

Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature – just lovely to look at all the time.

These are all pretty good-to-excellent. I regularly trawl the library’s “new non-fiction” section and just pick up whatever looks good.

#2 reads a lot of non-fiction for work.  Not including the work stuff, she tends to go for pop-psychology research summaries (sometimes written by economists).  The last book she read in this vein was Practice Perfect.  She is looking forward to reading Defining Marriage by Matt Baume which she got for her birthday this year, which is closer to the kind of book she sometimes reads for work, but she hasn’t done a project on gay marriage.  She is not a fan of advice books that are based on neither quantitative empirical research nor qualitative research (forums count).  She hates books that are all about the “one true way” that come with no evidence other than the author says people should do it.  She also reads a lot of cookbooks.  She used to read humor, but that was a couple of kids ago.

Do y’all have more book recommendation questions?  What kind of non-fiction do you like?

Ask the grumpies: Recommendations for books with dragons (and other fantasy creatures) in them

Steph asks:

I found Marie Brennan’s “Natural History of Dragons” series through your recs, and I’m also 3 books into the Temeraire series – both of them are super fun! Do you have any other favorite or recommended books with dragons? Do either of you have a favorite fantasy creature?

We’re so glad you asked!

I’m partial to griffins myself.  And werewolves.

Herewith an incomplete list of dragon books I’ve read.  These are only the ones I definitely recommend (there are more, but not as good).

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede.  The first in a series, and the best one.  (The second is fine too, but the third and fourth go into dumb tropes.)

The Lightning-Struck Heart by T.J. Klune

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton

Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library series (my mom and I are both on book five!)

Dragons Love Tacos

Jhereg by Steven Brust (can be read as a standalone or as the first in the series)

The Book of Dragons by Edith Nesbit (so cute!)

The Lotus War trilogy by Jay Kristoff.  Starts with Stormdancer.  Strong female protagonist in a Japan-like dystopian steampunk setting.

I read Havemercy by Jaida Jones so long ago that I don’t remember it.  Ditto for Bitterwood by James Maxey.  Sorry not a lot of details here.

You should (re)read The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.

Readers, what else ya got for Steph’s question?