The Care and Feeding of Books

This draft is from 2012:

Here’s the part I’m not really sure what we were talking about:

largely inspired by Anne Fadiman (this post)

Gladstone’s quotes

Books are delightful society. If you go into a room and find it full of books – even without taking them from the shelves they seem to speak to you, to bid you welcome.

buying new bookshelves for fancy books

should we reorganize?

And here’s a part that I think deserves its own post:

Are you a courtly lover or a carnal lover of books?

#1 is a carnal lover.  Anne Fadiman is as well (if #2 recalls correctly).  #1 dog-ears and writes and highlights and outlines.  She experiences the books. (She doesn’t do this to other people’s books or library books, just her own, of which she has many.)  She also dislikes the kindle.

#2 often uses bookmarks, though usually repurposed things— hair bands, receipts, etc.  She will occasionally leave a book open flat, but the only book she ever dogears is a paper conference catalogue.  She doesn’t usually write in fiction books.  She loves the kindle, especially for travel but hates its notes feature because it will often create a note when she just wanted a translation or a definition.  She does write in things for work.  It’s easier to process non-fiction when one is allowed to underline and star and write in the margins.  But fiction is pleasantly forgotten to be picked up and enjoyed once more almost as new, but with the familiar knowledge that everything is going to be ok.  She is not quite a courtly lover, but is much closer to that ideal.

Which are you, Grumpeteers?

books!

Sadly the Patricia Wentworth Miss Silver Book 18 has the n-word in it, completely unnecessarily, using a phrase that is one of Christie’s favorites, though oddly attributing it as an American phrase (maybe it is? but I’ve never read it in literature written by Americans and I have seen it in several Agatha Christie novels set in England… Wikipedia suggests it is from the US, and based on the use of woodpiles to smuggle enslaved people out of the South, as if that is a bad thing).  It seems to have been an aberration though– I only have the last three two Miss Silvers left to read and so far no slurs.  Lots of rich people not being careful about their wills and lots of stupid people trying to blackmail murderers though.  [Update:  Have finished all the Miss Silvers– the last one wasn’t that great, but the second to last one was pretty Gothic.]

A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall was tight and funny and just lovely– until near the end where I think he couldn’t figure out how to end it and put in a completely unnecessary kidnapping.  At least it wasn’t a carriage accident, I guess.  But I do think he could have come up with a better way for the Duke to realize the solution to their problem.  There’s plenty of crimes that aren’t kidnapping, which is such a cheap trope.  (I particularly dislike it because it takes away a woman’s agency and usually is treated like no big deal when in reality it’s probably pretty traumatic for most random people.  I’m fine when it’s like a spy or detective being kidnapped– that’s part of what they signed up for and they’ve had training to deal with it.  Debutantes, not so much.)

I enjoyed the latest Jayne Castle, Sweetwater and the Witch though I wish it could have been longer.  No new ground here– all the Harmony tropes plus a fake boyfriend plot.

Dealing with People You Can’t Stand started out really useless seeming but actually turns out to have some decent advice in it.  Lots and lots of extra words though.  Tons of stuff you can skip.  I’d like a pamphlet version!

DNF By Any Other Name.  Just couldn’t get into it.

Skipped big chunks of The Romantic Agenda by Claire Kann.  If you’re going to read it, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but the end turns out to have one of my least favorite tropes where if people had just talked to each other the book wouldn’t have existed.

Men are Frogs by Saranna DeWylde was light and fun.  I will have to get the first and third books!  Not 100% sold on the morals, mind you (the lesson the hero/heroine learn about love doesn’t seem like it would be that great IRL), but I can let that go.

Really enjoyed the Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennett and rewatching the Lizzie Bennett Diaries with the book as background material.  I think I found even more linked content than I did last time though some of the pictures and tumbler posts are no longer accessible a decadish later.  Also I still wear a couple of the tops Lizzie must have gotten from Loft (hers in green, mine in magenta) which concerns me a bit given how outdated Lydia’s slang has become…

Enjoyed Husband Material by Alexis Hall.  Not as good as Boyfriend Material, but that’s just regression to the mean.  Still an excellent book.  Definitely disappointed that Oliver’s friends didn’t really show up, and there was too much angst and miscommunication.  The author talks in the back about the decisions he made that I didn’t like and why he made those choices, so he was aware.  I think it would have been a better book if he hadn’t been going for a message and a metaphor and a bow and if he’d just not been so confined by the 4 Weddings and a Funeral backdrop.  Definitely worth reading and I hope we get to spend more time with Oliver’s friends at some book in the future.

There were a couple of parts of the last schoolmance book, The Golden Enclaves, by Naomi Novak that I didn’t like, and there were a couple parts where the editing could have been tighter. BUT otherwise a very satisfying book and very satisfying end to the trilogy.  I don’t think it would hold up very well as a solo book– it really is the end of a trilogy.  Also it resolves the cliffhangers from the first TWO books in the first chapter.

Now that I’m done with all the Miss Silver series, maybe there will be some more variety!

RBOC

  • I had no idea before reading the Miss Silver mysteries that women in England also got “called up” aka drafted for work during WWII.
  • Had to pay $1K to get a below-ground sprinkler bubbler to replace our out-dated pond-making old one.  We could have spent $300 for an above-ground one, but apparently you have to be careful with them if it gets below freezing and nobody wants to deal with that.  DH explained all of this to me and I silently handed him a checkbook.  “I trust your judgment,” I then said.  “I assumed you would say that,” he responded, “It’s only money, right?”  “1K isn’t going to make a difference in the fact we can’t afford a 3 million dollar house.”
  • The sprinkler guy gave us a used super fancy sprinkler control system for free (worth $200 new), which makes DH suspect he felt guilty about overcharging us.  It cancels the sprinkler when the weather forecast is for rain and lets us know via email.
  • Remember how we home-schooled DC2 for a semester until zie could get a covid vaccine?  And how we had no idea what we were doing with Language Arts?  Well, apparently stealing material from California teacher websites and having hir read modern children’s classics paid off because zie got 100% on reading comprehension on the state tests.  This is a first for both our children for reading comprehension.  (They’re both readers, but I don’t think they’ve ever gotten a perfect on a reading comprehension standardized test.)  (98% math– zie got X and Y mixed up for coordinate points, 94% science.)
  • DC1’s government teacher started the first day of class saying he is a libertarian.  Fortunately this was followed up with a small rant about social conservatives (and an equivalent one about progressives), so he’s not a fake libertarian.  Still, there’s a lot of irony in libertarian public school government teachers.
  • Chipotle in adobo sauce food processed with Mexican crema or sour cream is AMAZING.
  • DC1’s English class this year says that all Western literature is just the Bible redone and metaphors for the Bible.  I was like, what about things that are Ancient Greek literature redone and metaphors for Ancient Greek literature?  Western Civilization predates the Bible!  Of course, one of my high school English teachers said that all poetry was just metaphors for Sex or Death (or just Death if you consider Sex to be the Little Death), which was hilariously funny when the next year a completely different English teacher tried to teach the one Emily Dickinson poem that’s not about Sex or Death.  DC1 pointed out that a previous class had said all literature was the Hero’s Journey and it’s not clear that all the stories in the Bible fit that.
  • They’re reading the Jack London short story To Build a Fire AGAIN.  They read so little literature compared to how much we read in the midwest in high school, and yet they have run out of books about dumb white male protagonists who lose the Man vs. Nature theme to the extent that they have to reread one.  (Recall that the Fascist sophomore year was 100% books about privileged white dudes who do dumb stuff and end up dying.)
  • I have to wonder if maybe there would be more scope for things that aren’t Bible allegories if they, maybe, I dunno, read books by women or minorities or non-Christians or you know, really anything that’s not a Privileged White Dude repeating the same boring tropes over again.  (I would say Dead White Dude, but they actually do read books by living Privileged White Dudes.)
  • They are actually reading TWO Shakespeare plays.  This makes for three total for their K-12 careers here.  Which ones you ask?  Well, obviously Othello and Hamlet.  Can’t have any with you know, non-tragic Female Characters who don’t meet an oxygen-deprived grave.  I’m a little surprised about Othello, because it has a minority character in it, but really, it’s a minority character written by a white dude who does violence against a white woman because he thinks she’s impure.  So… really shouldn’t be that surprised.
  • I think I may finally have gotten post-covid out of my lungs.  I had a cough and some congestion for well over a month after.  (Scishow says this is normal, apparently it takes the proteins that fill your lungs up a while to get the message to stop doing that after you’ve fought off some respiratory infections.)
  • I’m really enjoying using notepad++ instead of wordpad for programming.

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?

Ask the grumpies: Mystery novel recommendations?

CG says:

I am ALWAYS up for another post with reader book recommendations. I mostly read mysteries, so selfishly I’d like that.

Dame Eleanor Hull adds:

I’ve been sampling cozy mysteries but haven’t found anything as much like what I feel like reading as Agatha Raisin.

#2 and I have different preferences.  I tend towards cozy, where the mystery is kind of incidental and nothing particularly sordid happens.  #2 likes darker stuff– very similar to my mom’s preferences.  All amazon links are affiliate.

Let’s see…

#1

The Countess of Harleigh mysteries by Dianne Freeman are must reads for me.

I liked the Lady Hardcastle mysteries by T E Kinsey, which are kind of amusing farces and you don’t particularly care about anybody, but the other series by the author kills off someone you are made to care about in the first book which was really unexpected given the Hardcastle books.

Agatha Christie

Some of Amanda Quick/Jayne Krentz’s books are actually mysteries (though shelved under romantic suspense)

Shinigami detective series by Honor Raconteur

Inspector Dimm series by Barbara Metzger (these are shelved under romance– they don’t all come up when you search on amazon though)

Between the Devil and the Duke by Kelly Bowen (also shelved as a romance)

The suck fairy has visited a lot of Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels books since they came out, but the Jacqueline Kirby series books are still pretty good, especially Naked Once More.

KJ Charles read a bunch of Patricia Wentworth novels and liked them– I haven’t tried any yet, but it’s on my to-read list.  Maybe worth trying if your library has some?  Update:  Really enjoying the first one.  Better than a lot of early Agatha Christie, and so far no racism!

#2

Anything by Deanna Raybourne

Dorothy L Sayers

Patricia Ryan’s Nell Sweeney series.

Cas Russell series by S. L. Huang

Death Below Stairs series by Jennifer Ashley

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.

Amanda Cross’s Kate Fansler mysteries

Dee Goong An (Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee)

Agatha Raisin

Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley

Grumpy Nation– what are we missing?  What are your mystery recommendations?

As always, more books

Book Lovers by Emily Henry was extremely good.  A bit deeper than what I usually read, but it has fun playing with tropes.  It is a little predictable, but also the author does a really good job of showing not telling and the predictability is because of foreshadowing.  And the message is wonderful.  I put it on my wishlist to read again later.

Well Matched by Jen DeLuca was much better than the first book in the series and very readable.  Would recommend.  Well Met was also good, but not as good.

The kids and I have been enjoying Spy x Family manga.

I wasn’t crazy about the first M.C. Beaton romance novel that I read.  But then I picked up the last book in The House for the Season series, Rainbird’s Revenge, and it was fantastic.  Just utterly satisfying in every way (and is now on my amazon wishlist).  Books 1-5 were more mixed. Wouldn’t recommend the Miser of Mayfair.

Also tried to read The Education of Miss Paterson, but the hero attempts to rape the heroine so… no.  She seems to like heroes forcing themselves on heroines, or almost forcing themselves because they think the heroine isn’t innocent and pure and somehow that makes it ok.  It doesn’t.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian was delightful! It’s in the same series as The Queer Principles of Kit Webb. I’d say it’s the most KJ Charleseque of the Cat Sebastian books I’ve read, though not exactly like a KJ Charles book. Very fun.

The first half of Unnatural Magic by C. M. Waggoner was very good. But then it went over the line on grim and gruesome and depressing. While still having half the book in a completely different tone. And, the trope used for who the villain turned out to be, UGH. When I saw that foreshadowed, I skipped to the end and was like, ugh, nope, do not need to read from here to the point where the villain is revealed. So I didn’t, and just skipped past that to the lengthy conclusion.

Witch Please by Ann Aguirre was boring and kind of squicky.  DNF.

Along for the Ride by Mimi Grace was ok.  Make a Scene was a bit better.

Skimmed through large chunks of How to be a wallflower by Eloisa James.  I think she’s phoning it in.

Teach Me by Olivia Dade was pretty nice.  Spoiler Alert was also not bad, though had some stupid unnecessary third act boy loses girl stuff.

Joanne Fluke Christmas Bundle– tried really hard to read the first book but it was just pretty awful.  So I gave up.  None of the characters were at all likable.

A Lot Like Adios by Alexis Daria was fine.  I think I liked it better than the first book?

DNF Bittersweet Herbs by Marty Wingate.  It just dragged too much.

DNF Trial and Error by Anthony Berkeley.  It was very funny and thought provoking– a man who knows he is dying decides to do a service by killing someone who needs to be killed and sets about trying to find someone.  And all of that was fine until he actually settled on the person who he decided to kill… and it’s a woman who has affairs with other people’s husbands.  Which… no, she doesn’t sound like a very nice person, but those men are not blameless, and as Jesus said in a very similar situation, let he who has not sinned…  Not really a murdering offense.  Not like, say, Murder on the Orient Express.  Or any of the shows where a serial killer takes out other serial killers.

I read a bunch of old regencies by Emily Hendrickson.  So far none of them have stood out as being particularly good or particularly bad.  They’re all… mostly readable.  Some of them feel a bit like a trope grab-bag that hasn’t really been put together well.

Ask the grumpies: Good pop non-fiction books?

Steph asks:

What are some good pop non-fiction books?  Good pop economics books?

Mary Roach is always fun.

Everyone should read Search for An Abortionist.

Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein is a good one.

The Paradox of Choice is a bit old now, but it is one of my life-changing books.

Your Money or Your Life is a classic.

What Works for Women at Work is extremely good.

I’ve just gotten the No Club, but haven’t read it yet.

I also haven’t read The Voltage Effect, about why interventions don’t scale up and how to make scalable interventions, but the book talk I went to on it was informative.

I greatly enjoyed The Anthropocene Reviewed.  Not a fan of John Green fiction.  Huge fan of John Green non-fiction.

Speaking of memoirish stuff…

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacy by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar.

She Memes Well by Quinta Brunson.

Grumpy Nation, what pop non-fiction books have you been enjoying?  What should we be reading?

Books, always books

I checked out a book of old British mystery stories from the library and some of them were pretty good.  I enjoyed one by Anthony Berkeley particularly and then checked out The Layton Court Mystery which was pretty entertaining… until I got to a throwaway anti-Semitic line.  (The narrator compared the protagonist’s hatred of various desserts to his hatred of Jewish people.)  Just… why?  Completely unnecessary, except to hurt Jewish people.  Did not at all add to anything, and made it so this book is not going to live as long as it could, despite being otherwise entertaining even to a modern audience.

The Frangipani Tree mystery by Ovidia Yu was pretty interesting.

The City library added some more Barbara Metzger mysteries to their kindle offerings.  I had read the Hourglass before but reread it and when I got near the end remembered why I hadn’t sought it out again.  Don’t recommend it (cw:  pregnancy loss).  Truly Yours was pretty fun– an Inspector Dimm mystery I hadn’t seen before.  Wedded Bliss was nice but forgettable.  Lady in Green had some funny bits.  Rake’s Ransom also had funny bits, but is one of those irritating December-May romances– he’s a hardened ancient rake, she’s an idiot 17 year old (actually I think she’s 22 or so, but she acts like she’s 17), he reforms because he has compromised her and is charmed by her manic pixie ways. I enjoyed The Scandalous Life of a True Lady probably more than I should have (this is the second in the Truly Yours trilogy) — it definitely veers into farce territory, but also I like the way it treats all the different courtesans as if they are people… some of the side characters end up more well-developed than a lot of heroines in other books.  I think I thought the wicked ways of a true hero was ok, but not as good as the previous two in the series.  The hero is much less likable, but also maybe a bit more amusing.  Some of the short stories in Greetings of the Season and other stories were good, but some where meh.  Autumn Glory and Other Stories was interesting because she reused a lot of the elements from these stories in full-length novels.  An Enchanted Christmas was lovely and soothing– several novellas were just feel-good people’s luck changing for the better without unnecessary angst…I think I will get myself a copy.  Minor Indiscretions was fun.  Father Christmas surprisingly fun, though not so much for the love story (the hero and heroine spent very little time together).

The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown was a group of short stories by different authors.  Some were entertaining and some were awful.

The Duke Who Loved Me by Jane Ashford was ok.  I didn’t rush out to get more Jane Ashford books though.  It could have been better.

The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews was pretty good.  I was a little worried at first, but I don’t think it ended up at all being accidentally racist.  It could have used more relationship development though.  There’s a trend with some newer books that seem to get all their “what is falling in love” tropes from The Bachelor.  That is, people are physically attracted to each other and then they exchange sad stories about their past and have exciting/scary experiences together.  But there’s no, like, additional development for compatibility.  Most Bachelor relationships don’t last long after the cameras stop, because that’s not really how strong relationships develop.

Earl on the Run by Jane Ashford had a really promising start and the two main characters were interesting on their own.  But then somewhere around the 40% mark it became clear that the author couldn’t come up with any plot other than the heroine being upset that he hadn’t told her he was an earl before she found out on her own, which then made it very clear that the two main characters didn’t actually know each other very well, which made it clear that they weren’t ready to get married yet.  And… like, they didn’t really get to know each other through chapters of interminable repetitious introspection alone and they got married without even an epilogue.  There was also a lot of repetition of telling-not-showing about the relationship of the main characters from the previous book.  We get it, they have a connection because they love each other.  I skimmed a lot from like 40%-80% of the book.

Her Favorite Rebound by Jackie Lau was kind of disappointing.  I mean, I’m not deleting it and I don’t regret that I bought it– it was very readable.  But the hero is very one-dimensional and comes across as a crazy 1980s hero/stalker, which the heroine notes, but she’s attracted to him anyway.  Lots of outdated icky tropes, which the heroine acknowledges are creepy, but reacts like a 1980s movie heroine instead of a 2020s more real person.  Also for no reason he’s into mild domination and she’s into being mildly dominated by him, which worked in the Professor Next Door but seems out of place in this one (plus… repetitious!  it was just like 2 books ago in the same series, if that).

DNF Shadows of Swanford Abbey.  I thought I’d already talked about it, but now I think maybe it was in a comment on another blog.  Basically I no longer read Gigi-trope books.  Like, it’s gross when the much older hero comes back and realizes the little girl who used to follow him around when he was a young adult is sexy now.  Yuck.  (Completely different if they were both kids at the time.)

The Matzah Ball: A Novel was bad in the way that bad Christmas Hallmark movies are bad.  And that’s, like, intentional– the heroine has authored several bad Christmas Hallmark movies (this is not a spoiler– it’s in the book blurb).  But… also… so much dumb.  And no real relationship building between the hero and heroine.  On the other hand, it did a great job illustrating what it’s like to have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Meet Me in the Margins was a nice contrast to The Matzah Ball because anytime the writer tried to veer towards bad Christmas Hallmark Movie, the hero called her out on it.  However, I’m not crazy about the dating your boss trope.  And technically they didn’t start dating until he was no longer her boss, but also he was definitely courting her and giving her privileges while he was.  And that was never addressed, which is sketchy.

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria was good and fun except that the unnecessary 3rd act breakup DRAGGED.  Plus, as per usual with these unnecessary 3rd act breakups, it seemed pretty out of character for the heroine.  (The heroine is generally a doormat, but suddenly decides to take offense without listening to the hero or even thinking about things from his viewpoint?  And is willing to destroy her career, the driving force behind her actions from the start of the book? Totally out of character.)  In her defense, her obnoxiousness is pointed out by her friends and she’s like, yeah, I getcha, whoopsie.  But that should have happened WAY SOONER, and probably before she took it out on the hero or tried to sabotage her career.  Some reviews complain about the lack of the two characters getting to know each other, but they’re both such nice people, that it’s going to work out (with the exception of the bizarre third act bit).

Any good summer reads to recommend?

Books

Read and enjoyed the first two books in the Magical Bakery Mystery series.  The first book, Brownies and Broomsticks, was extremely formulaic, but also set up an interesting setting.  The second book, Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti was also fun and a little less predictable.  I would read the remaining 8 books if our library had them, but they’re not quite worth spending $7.99/book on (or keeping– they are definitely library books).

Read a bunch more books by Laura Matthews.  Some were great, and I put The Nomad Harp, A Very Proper Widow, and Miss Ryder’s Memoirs on my amazon wishlist to read again later.  Some of the other books where truly awful (various misogynies), so be careful.

Read a bunch of books by Cynthia Bailey Pratt.  Most were not memorable, but also none of them were terrible.  Definitely great quick library reads.  In the end, I decided Gentleman’s Folly was worth putting on my amazon wishlist.  If you like farces sprinkled with screwball scenes, you’ll love this book.

Couldn’t get into The Duke Goes Down by Sophie Jordan.

Couldn’t get into Mimi Lee Gets a Clue.  The heroine isn’t that bright and is too much of a pushover, the talking cat is too twee, and if the heroine isn’t that bright it’s even crazier how stupid everyone else is.  (None of these chihuahua owners take their beloved dogs to the vet when they’re hurt or acting weird, really?  Not a spoiler since it’s like the first chapter.)

Antidote:  Happiness For People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman made some good points and provoked a thought here and there but really dragged in a lot of places.  It’s not a very thick book, but I think it could have been improved by some serious cutting.

Stranger at the Hall by Mary Kingswood was GREAT.  Less overtly religious than Stranger at the Manor (so maybe it’s just that the heroine in Stranger at the Manor is very religious), and really satisfying with a few moments of nervousness for the heroine that most books attempt but completely fail to inspire.  And the heroine isn’t TSTL even though you’re screaming for her to get away from the Obvious Villain.  It’s reminiscent of Gaslight.  It’s the last book in the series and what I love most about it is that after the epilogue there’s an end credits thing where the author tells you where everybody who didn’t get matched in this series ends up both romantically and in terms of employment.  Which is extra satisfying even though I’ve only read two books in the series so far!  (#4 and #6) Update: Stranger at the Dower house (#1) not as good and I’m not sure if I’m going to read the rest or not.  If they were library books I definitely would.  For now I have #2 on my wishlist and we’ll see what happens.

A Little Village Blend by ‘Nathan Burgoine was short and sweet.  Not worth the $3.99 I paid for it given its brevity though– more of a short story than a novella.

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman was also a short and sweet more of a short story than novella, but I think worth the lower $1.99 price tag.  (Something I’ve noticed among the books Amazon recommends to me:  gay guys charge about 2x as much for their self-pubbed M/M novellas as lesbians do for their self-pubbed F/F novellas.  Who is right?  It depends!  A lot of these female authors could be charging more and I would still buy, and some of the M/M novellas I still do buy, but some, like ‘Nathan Burgoine, I would be more likely to buy if they cost less or were actually novella-length.)

An Inconvenient Duke by Anna Harrington was ok.  I skimmed through large portions and I haven’t queued up any more of her books from the library, but I don’t regret the time spent reading it.

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi was lots of fun overall.  I was a little disappointed, but only because all of Scalzi’s other first books in their series have a nice twist at the end on top of the world building and this one… didn’t.  Once the world was built, everything else was pretty straight-forward.  But that twist was always something extra special in his other first books of series, and not needed for enjoyment. Here he’s also stealing some from his previous series– there’s a lot of the setup of Redshirts and Old Man’s War in there (group of newbies in military-esque style situation become protagonists), and, like in Locked In, you never hear pronouns associated with the protagonist… and some other stuff that’s too spoilery to get into here.  I am certain we will get the audiobook and listen to it on some future car-trip, especially now that the children are old enough to know not to repeat the F-word.

Candenza by Stella Riley was delightful and very low angst.  It follows two heroines who are cousins and one of the stories is much better and more fleshed out than the other, but if that alone had been a novella it would have been enough. Also you can listen to the harpsicord music referenced on youtube and Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer is new and amazing (try Vertigo and La March des Scythes, but also you have to get someone who is virtuoso levels of good at it or the latter sounds terrible– I’ve been enjoying Yago Mahugo), despite being from the time of Mozart and for harpsicord. I think I’m going to need to buy more Stella Riley series since this set was so good.

Nine Goblins by T. Kingfisher was cute.

Outrageous by Minerva Spencer was truly terrible– both the hero and heroine were TSTL and unlikable.  And yet the book was readable in a guilty pleasure watching the Bachelor sort of way.  I do not want to read the other books by the author because I’m pretty sure they’re full of Islamophobia and fetishizing people from the middle east– there seems to be a white slaver harem storyline going.

DNF Twice Tempted by a Rogue by Tessa Dare.  Hero was just one red flag after another.  Run away, lady!  Don’t marry someone way older than you who you knew as a child who proposes the day after he meets you as an adult.  Then doesn’t take no for an answer.  UGH.  I just don’t get Tessa Dare.  Sometimes she’s great and sometimes she’s just so very wrong.

Skipped most of Heiress in Red Silk by Madeline Hunter.  The hero is kind of a jerk and there’s just other random problematic stuff.

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske was great.  Reminiscent of KJ Charles, except one of the heroes is the standard tortured hero trope.  I am really irritated that I started it when only one book in the series is out.  I wish I’d discovered it after #3 was out!  I hope it is going to actually be a trilogy (because I want to know how it ends), but given the setup I’m not sure how she’s going to keep it to just 3 books.  Maybe there will be an initial trilogy and then the story will follow other people after.

Read Something Fabulous by Alexis Hall.  There just isn’t a lot of there there.  Characters are very one-dimensional– like paper cutouts.  It’s not really funny enough to be a romp or a farce.  Lots of the main character getting abused and taking it.  It’s also boring and repetitive.  I think it could have stopped halfway right after the hero realizes he likes the male twin and it would have been a fine novella, but it kept nonsensically going.

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake was pretty good, though to be honest, the wacky hijinks kind of dragged so I skipped through a lot of the middle section.

Being Mary Bennet by J. C. Peterson was kind of fun.  The hero was a little bit of a jerk who jumped to assumptions a lot, but he’s a minor part (this is YA), and there were some unnecessary hijinks that weren’t actually all that funny in the third act, and there was a pregnancy loss from one of the side-characters which is never fun to read about, especially when it’s just put there to develop the protagonist.  So, imperfect, but… who really is perfect?  Being Mary Bennet means learning to live with imperfections.

What do you recommend?

Ask the grumpies: Audio Books for car trips?

Natka asks:

We have a tradition to listen to audio books during car trips. A car trip is coming up in April, but I am having a hard time finding audio books that would be a good match for our family (and exciting to listen to).

We have 3 kids ages 8, 11, and 13. We have already listened to The Hobbit and LotR. Older kids already read all the Harry Potter books. Flora and Ulysses, Matilda, and The Mysterious Benedict Society series were all great hits as audio books. We are not fans of Narnia or The Wrinkle in Time.

Any recommendations for audio books that are not too adult, not too childish, and are entertaining for both kids and grownups during a 5+ hour drive? We have never tried non-fiction titles, but that may be interesting.

My first thought is the Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians series by Brandon Sanderson. DC2 cannot get enough of the audiobooks (DH and DC2 listen to them while doing calisthenics and on car trips).

Audible has some free Sherlock Holmes that makes for good car listening.

We’ve listened to a LOT of John Scalzi on trips (he’s my go-to on long drives), but you have to be careful about what you listen to because there is swearing in some of them.

We also listened to To Say Nothing of the Dog which is a time travel book that does not have swearing in it. It’s a bit complicated so some parts might need to be explained to the 8 year old, but also they might not.

Andrea Vernon was very popular on the last trip but we had to fast forward through some sex-ish stuff (not actual sex, but there’s a very horny water buffalo minor character who isn’t getting any, and there’s hints of it with Andrea Vernon and the Big Axe, but nothing explicit there).

For non-fiction, we mostly listen to podcasts (for a long time we reserved the Splendid Table for car trips, but now we just listen to Dear Hank and John).

Grumpy Nation– what are your recommendations?