Short stories of astonishing power

Grumpeteers, I have a confession.  I started this post with notes to myself back in 2011 and now I don’t know what they mean.  Let’s see what we can resurrect from my cryptic ramblings…

This was going to be a post about what the title says.  Although actually I don’t read a lot of short stories anymore (my attention span got too short to have to keep starting over and over and over).

see list (?)

A Dream of A Thousand Cats, by Neil Gaiman
in Dream Country (exquisite)

Tastings, by Neil Gaiman

A Very Obedient Cat  [But… which very obedient cat? Librarything is silent]

Silver Water, by Amy Bloom
in the book Come to Me (Everyone should check out this book!)

Cleansed and Set In Gold, in the book Masked.  I remember this blowing my brain.

about the tea with the magician; the blind guy with the  [What did I mean?]

Sherlock Holmes, including The Adventure of the Red-Headed League

Do you have any short stories to recommend?

Books books books

Read Bramble and Blood and really enjoyed it– the first chapter is pretty clunky, but by chapter two the writing is smooth.  The world building was really neat.  I liked it so much that I immediately bought Birdsong and Bone which was also excellent.  Then I bought Shadows and Souls.  These were a nice break from the maybe too predictable stuff I’d been reading lately.  (Note:  The third book had a completely unnecessary Pathos death.  Disappointing, given the second one made a different choice about another potential Pathos death.)

I returned Destiny’s Embrace unfinished because ugh… the hero force kisses the heroine who his mother has employed as his housekeeper on the first day that she meets him after they get into a verbal argument.  I am just OVER “heroes” kissing women they barely know without consent, and doubly over “heroes” kissing the heroines they employ.  Kissing strangers is not normal and kissing employees is harassment.  The book didn’t get better after that, so I gave up.  Which is a shame because the set-up was interesting.  (I’m willing to give some leeway for the hero and heroine being in a working relationship while falling in love if the author can make it work in a way that’s not squicky– not the case here.)

Chance of a Lifetime by Jayne Ann Krentz was similarly terrible, by which I mean the hero force kissed the heroine he has employed as his housekeeper on the second day she meets him after they get into a verbal argument.  I wish the first goodreads review had been on amazon– I wouldn’t have bought it!  I’m considering recycling the used copy I have instead of passing it on.  I need to be better about checking all reviews, though in fairness I thought this was from 1994 (Krentz was mostly better by then, so long as it wasn’t a Stephanie James reissue), but it’s actually 1987.

Merry Inkmas was similarly irritating though not quite as bad.  I did finish it, but I deleted it off my kindle.

Lady Osbaldestone’s Plum Puddings was better than the second in the series (which I do not regret reading and have not deleted, but definitely dragged a bit) but not quite as good as the first.

Death Beside the Seaside was another fun Lady Hardcastle.

A Delicate Deception was a nice meandering book, though the ending seemed kind of abrupt.  It would have done well with a five years later epilogue, though I know that sort of goes against the message of the book.  Still… life does go on, and it’s nice to get a peek into the happily ever after.  I assume they’ll show up in a future book as minor characters but by then I’ll have completely forgotten who they were.

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics was pretty good except for the heroines losing each other for no good reason.  I hate it when the drama has to be achieved by sensible characters not talking things out.  The end was a bit wishful, but still nice.

I liked the novella One Bed for Christmas.  IIRC this also had some stupidity drama, but it was resolved much more quickly, and in a way that’s more realistic– sensible characters had sensible friends who told them to stop being dumb.

The Magician’s Angel was a good library read but I didn’t feel the need to buy– very much a novella.

I reread Lord Perfect and decided to buy it.  I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t the first time around.  (Maybe because it’s overpriced for an older kindle book and we were on half salary at 2x expenses at the time?)

I impulse bought My Fake Rake and wish I hadn’t.  It took all my favorite tropes… and then was just kind of dumb.  It would have been an ok library read if I didn’t have better stuff, but I think I may have deleted it off my kindle.

Devil Take me was a great selection of m/m short stories.  Some of them were astonishingly good.

I bought a series of four super silly m/m novellas by Jordan Castillo Price.  They probably weren’t worth what I paid for them, but they hit a silliness spot that I needed.

Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk was fun.  I find most of Hawk’s books just really easy to read, even though they’re not entirely predictable.  I’m hoping for more omnibuses to be available in the future.  You can already get some of their series in omnibus form, like SPECTR, the complete first series, which is a steal at $4.99.  Did I say that in the last books post?   Must not have– it’s been a long time since the last one of these posts!

Charmed and Dangerous was fine, but not as good as Devil Take Me, even though many of the authors were the same across the two anthologies.

I can’t remember what I thought about the Duke I tempted by Scarlett Peckham.  Obviously this feature needs to be done more frequently.  I think it had some unnecessary angst, but… I can’t actually remember.

I do remember that A Rogue by Night and Night of the Scoundrel, both in the Devils of Dover series were delightful, though I do think there was more that could have been done with the hero in Night of the Scoundrel– usually the mysterious King in these books is given a full novel finale rather than a short novella with a Mary Sue heroine, but that’s an interesting direction to take the trope.

Gilded Cage by K J Charles was wonderful!!!  Not anywhere near the mindflip as the first book in the series, but I think the simpler nature of this book nicely parallels the differences between the two different Lilywhite boys featured as heroes in the two books.  There’s also some nice followup to the characters in the rat catcher’s daughter short, which is an excellent read.

Flowers in the Storm by Laura Kinsale was Gawdawful.  Just don’t.

I think I liked Lady Isabella’s Ogre by Emily Larkin.  I read it way back in October though!  I bought it before I read a huge dud of hers, and haven’t bought anything else from her.  I wish the library had more of her stuff so I could try before buying.

What are you reading?  Anything you recommend?

Atomic Habits: A book review

After being less than impressed with The Power of Habit, I decided to give Atomic Habits (amazon link=> we get a cut) by James Clear a spin.

tl:dr Although this book is much better than The Power of Habit, it is ultimately still an imperfect book.  Definitely worth giving a read, maybe not worth purchasing unless you have a specific easy-to-define-and-implement habit you want to focus on.

Unlike The Power of Habit, most of the book (until the last section) is made up of examples that make sense and are not taken out of context. It also goes much more into depth with more nuance than the previous book (which it does cite extensively).

Each chapter ends with bullets and potentially actionable items.  There are habits cheat sheets with “laws” explaining how to create a good habit and how to break a bad habit.  These laws are broken into easy to remember subheaders:  Make it obvious, Make it attractive, Make it easy, Make it satisfying.  Make it invisible, Make it unattractive, Make it difficult, Make it unsatisfying.  This is helpful– I hope that the podcasters at By the Book pick this one up sometime.

The “Advanced Tactics” section that the book ends with is problematic, relying almost entirely on anecdote and contradicting most of the rest of the book, leaving the reader with a particularly confusing “it’s complicated” message, along with additional bizarre messages like you should only try to do what you do well (I should really be a grocery bagger, I thought to myself, though that is not where my comparative advantage lies) but you should also only chase your passion (because people do more when they enjoy the work) but you should also do the boring bits (because the most successful people do the parts they don’t enjoy).  Examples from this section are very correlation is causation.  After reading it, I felt a sense of hopelessness, like maybe I should just early retire and forget my career, which I hope was not intentional.

For me– most of the stuff discussed in the book I already do or have done.  But I also have been struggling with bad work habits for the past couple of years.  I used to have very good work habits, but somehow they’ve been broken.  I need to fix that, but I’m not sure how.  It seems to be more complicated than say, getting into the habit of taking a walk every day or calling about politics.  (And… when I start focusing on one area of life, something starts slipping in another, which is not what any of the online lifestyle bloggers ever mention… it’s always exercise more and everything else will get better too.)

I’m not sure if this book will help with that, but I’m going to think really hard about the systematic problems I’ve been having with my work and give these checklists a spin.  I also want to get a book on habits by an actual academic to see if that has any useful advice.

And, of course, I will blog about all of this in a future post.

What are we reading?

Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne Long was very good!  The title is a bit misleading… I mean, yes, eventually she does, but the book is really about character growth, perfidy, and catching smugglers.  cw:  There is an attempted rape and rescue that seemed like a lazy way of moving the romance forward.  I still recommend.  The Perils of Pleasure was ok.  The Legend of Lyon Redmond was fine, though it is one in which if they would just talk to each other the book would be even shorter than it actually was… I skipped large chunks of it.  The rest of the books in the Penny Royale Green series have been mixed, some more worth reading than others.

I finished all the Metzgers that the city library had available on kindle.  My Lady Innkeeper was ok, not great.  The Diamond Key was silly but fun.  Snowdrops and Scandalbroth was also silly and pretty good (if you can suspend disbelief and don’t need truly 3-d characters), and another Inspector Dimm, though less from his viewpoint this time around.

I also finished all the Jayne Anne Krentz books that our local library system has.  Sweet Starfire was an extremely good sci fi romance written in the 1980s, but Crystal Flame was TERRIBLE… or rather, it started out as a really great fantasy novel and I really wanted to know what happened… but then the hero raped the heroine and it just went downhill from there.  Deep Waters was ok– a little rough here and there.  A decent library read.

I think I would have loved Kill the Farm Boy some 20-odd years ago when I was devouring funny pun-packed Ace paperbacks edited by Ginjer Buchanan.  But I just could not get into it.

The Hidden Power of F*cking Up was a good read.  I think it’s mostly aimed at teens and twenty somethings, but it was still an enjoyable and easy read.  I’m glad I was able to get it from the library rather than buying it though.  I might be willing to listen to it on audible for the sound effects, but I don’t think I’d want to read it again.

Read a couple of fun newish Cat Sebastians– I enjoyed both A Duke in Disguise and A Little Light Mischief

Tried a couple of Victoria Thompsons, but they were both too depressing and hardcore and violence against womeny.  SIGH.  I need more escapism in my life, not less.

Lady Osbaldestone’s Christmas Goose was a LOVELY form of escapism.  Interfering matchmaking grandmother and her grandkids right all the silliness in her town AND find the missing Christmas geese.  I am hoping to get the next two in the series for Christmas!

The Viscount in Her Bedroom by Gayle Callen was ok (the hero was not sweet as some of the reviews promised, at least not until he found out the heroine was a “lady” — I like my heroes to treat all women with respect, not just the gentry and not just virgins), but I could have done without the other two books I tried.

A Minor Inconvenience by Sarah Granger has been ok, but it reads very much like an early work– it could use heavy editing AND it’s a bit cringy here and there in terms of consent and other things.  It did get better as it went along though.

I don’t know why I just haven’t been able to enjoy the last few Sarah MacLeans.  Skipped large chunks of Brazen and the Beast.  Which I think I also did with Wicked and the Wallflower.  I still like rereading a couple of her other series.  Thank you library for allowing me to try before I decide whether or not to buy.

DNF Too wicked to kiss by Erica Ridley.  Just so rapey.

Deleted the free Unmasking Miss Appleby by Emily Larkin which had a really great premise and would have been wonderful if say, KJ Charles had gone with that plot and added a little bit of fantasy, or even an earlier Sarah MacLean, but the hero was a godawful transphobe homophobe and not that great in terms of his beliefs about women (though those do get corrected).  I skipped big chunks, read the bit in which the hero figured out the heroine’s secret, and then just did not care enough to finish.  What a horrible jerk.  The author had to make him an abolitionist to make him have any redeeming quality.  Oh, and there’s rape and incest in there too (though I didn’t read those bits) and UGH.

Which is bizarre because I liked Primrose and the Dreadful Duke by Emily Larkin enough to buy myself a copy after checking it out from the library.  This book has some slow bits but no unnecessary drama and is light and happy and just a full pleasure to read.  The hero is great (not at all dreadful), and he and the heroine patch up any misunderstandings early on and focus on trying to protect the heroine’s brother from a murderer.  Same universe but doesn’t even seem like the same author.  I wish our library had more of her books so I could try before I buy, but alas, it has just the one.

Rereading the delightful Cold Comfort Farm (also, this paperback version is super cute, though your library likely has a hardback … do make sure you don’t get an abridged version– see the one star comments for which ones to avoid).  I had forgotten how horrid Flora is (this doesn’t quite come out in the movie but is quite clear in the book!)

The Rat Catcher’s Daughter (Lilywhite Boys novella/short story/novelette) by K J Charles was short but lovely!  Can’t wait to get Gilded Cage!  I love how she’s both such a wonderful author AND so prolific.  :D

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Some books

Crosstalk by Connie Willis is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  Sooooo good.

A Little Folly  I’m not sure what #2 wanted to say about this

Stormy challenge by Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Stephanie James was just bad.  It was from 1982 and both clunky and with an abusive stalker “hero”.  Not sure if it is the James penname or the 1982 that is the problem.  Legacy was another one from the 80s with a crazy abusive stalker as the “hero”.    A Coral Kiss from 1987 was pretty decent.  I checked it out from the library but I wouldn’t have minded if I’d bought a copy.  Grand Passion was pretty good, though not as good as her more recent stuff.  I broke down and bought the first Guinevere Jones book and then immediately had to buy the next two.  They are novella length and not actually worth $6.99 on Kindle, but I think they are worth the cost of the used (not new) paperback compendiums.  (The first two are better than the last two.)

The Earl I Ruined by Scarlett Peckham was ok.  It started off well, but kind of fell apart in the third quarter.

I discovered that the city library I’ve been getting ebooks from has a lot of babara metzger on kindle.  These have been mixed.  Lord Heartless started off well, but then became a mess of unnecessary complication in the second half.  There was plenty of plot to resolve without adding all the rushed stupidity and drama (though of course having the drama means that we’re not supposed to notice that the main plot from the first half never actually got resolved).  A Worthy Wife is pretty dumb with an unlikable hero.  An Affair of Interest is one of those where a middle aged grumpy controlling perfect oldest son and heir to a nobleman inexplicably falls in love with a teenager who is always getting into scrapes that he has to rescue her from… I know Heyer did one or two of these successfully (though the woman is never quite such an idiot) but when it’s not Heyer the trope seems a little gross and completely unbelievable (and even when it is Heyer I pretend the woman is older and the man younger!).  Ace of Hearts’ hero was grossly slut-shaming so I didn’t get very far.  An Angel for the Earl was ok.  The Duel was pretty good.  The Christmas Carrolls was really terrible– the patriarch date-raped a woman while traveling with his wife and kids sick at home and got her pregnant, a teenager gets married to the father of her boyfriend… and so on.  The Luck of the Devil was ok.  A Debt to Delia was silly but fine, though it had a slow start.  The Primrose Path was pretty funny.  A suspicious affair was quite good, though it was written in a different style then most of Metzger’s work– mostly third person perspective from a bow street runner, rather than from the hero/heroine (cw:  the corpse that serves as mcguffin beat and possibly raped women, including the heroine, when he was alive).  Miss Westlake’s Windfall was slow and boring… it speeds up near the end, but I skipped large chunks of the beginning and middle– a TSTL heroine.  The Painted Lady’s hero was so extremely disgusting in the first few pages (talking about how the hero’s mistresses think he’s a generous lover, but in reality he’s just getting to know their bodies so he can paint them nude later without their knowledge… if he were modern he’d be secretly filming them) that I returned the rest unread.  Lady Whilton’s Wedding started out really well– a decent take on the engaged childhood friends trope… and then a third of the way through turned into Weekend at Bernies, which… I dunno…

Rich People Problems is better than China Rich Girlfriend.

What have you been reading this summer?

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.