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.

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!