Christina reads 2+0+2+2 series

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Talk2022 Category Challenge

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Christina reads 2+0+2+2 series

Edited: Dec 9, 2021, 1:55pm

Christina reads 2+0+2+2 series

(Image from here.)

Hello, and welcome to my 2022 category challenge! I'm Christina, and by day I'm an editor at a nonprofit in northern Virginia. Aside from reading, my main hobbies are music (piano, trombone, and singing) and community theater.

This year I’ve decided to focus on series, specifically those that I’ve started but never finished. I have a bad habit of liking book #1 of a series, then buying the rest of the books but leaving them on my shelves unread. I’m going to pinpoint six specific series (2+0+2+2=6) and will aim to complete or get current with them all this year. Here are the categories:

  1. Lois McMaster Bujold, Vorkosigan Saga — I’ve read two of the omnibus volumes (Cordelia’s Honor and Young Miles), but the rest of the series has been sitting on my shelves unread. This is the year I finally tackle it!

  2. Naomi Novik, Temeraire series — I’ve actually read seven of the nine books, but it’s been so long that I need to start over. Luckily, these books are so fun; what’s not to love about the Napoleonic Wars plus dragons?

  3. Chris Wooding, Tales of the Ketty Jay — I’ve read the first two books in this quartet, but again, I’ll need to start from the beginning. This series reminds me strongly of Firefly, so if you loved that show, I’d recommend these books as well!

  4. Anna Dean, Dido Kent mysteries — I remember really liking the first book, Bellfield Hall, which is a historical mystery with Jane Austen vibes. Time to finally read the whole four-book series!

  5. Sherry Thomas, Lady Sherlock mysteries — This is the only series I won’t restart from the beginning, since I read the first three books recently, in 2020-2021. (That said, I do still have some difficulty remembering specific characters and plot points, so perhaps I’ll skim the earlier books after all!) But I’ll pick up the series with book #4, The Art of Theft, and get current in 2022.

  6. Carol Berg, Bridge of D’Arnath series — I was a huge fan of Berg’s Valen duet (Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone), so I started buying any of her novels I could find, including this entire quartet. I vaguely recall reading the first book years ago, but I don’t remember anything about it, so I’m crossing my fingers I will still like the author!

So, that’s my main plan for 2022. Because these categories are so specific, I’m not going to place too many other constraints on myself! I do plan to participate in the BingoDOG, and I’ll dip in and out of the CATs/KITs but won’t commit to doing them every month. I’m also going to aim for 125 total books in 2022, which leaves me with plenty of non-series reading too. :)

Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!

Edited: Jun 5, 5:10pm

Edited: Jun 16, 9:46am

2. Naomi Novik, Temeraire series

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1. His Majesty’s Dragon - COMPLETED 1/12/22
2. Throne of Jade - COMPLETED 2/14/22
3. Black Powder War - COMPLETED 3/18/22
4. Empire of Ivory - COMPLETED 4/26/22
5. Victory of Eagles - COMPLETED 5/20/22
6. Tongues of Serpents - COMPLETED 6/15/22
7. Crucible of Gold
8. Blood of Tyrants
9. League of Dragons

Edited: Apr 13, 8:45am

3. Chris Wooding, Tales of the Ketty Jay

(Image from here.)

1. Retribution Falls - COMPLETED 1/9/22
2. The Black Lung Captain - COMPLETED 2/9/22
3. The Iron Jackal - COMPLETED 3/13/22
4. The Ace of Skulls - COMPLETED 4/12/22


Edited: Jun 7, 10:19pm

4. Anna Dean, Dido Kent mysteries

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1. Bellfield Hall - COMPLETED 5/8/22
2. A Gentleman of Fortune - COMPLETED 6/7/22
3. A Woman of Consequence
4. A Place of Confinement

Edited: Dec 9, 2021, 2:05pm

5. Sherry Thomas, Lady Sherlock mysteries

(Image from here.)

1. The Art of Theft
2. Murder on Cold Street
3. Miss Moriarty, I Presume?

Edited: Dec 9, 2021, 2:06pm

6. Carol Berg, Bridge of D'Arnath series

(Image from here.)

1. Son of Avonar
2. Guardians of the Keep
3. The Soul Weaver
4. Daughter of Ancients

Edited: Jun 27, 7:39pm

Everything Else

(Image from here.)

Here's where I'll list all my reading that isn't from one of the above series.

1. Julie Murphy, If the Shoe Fits
2. Mary Balogh, Only a Kiss
3. Lucy Worsley, Jane Austen at Home
4. Kristin Burchell, Court of Venom
5. Nicholas Blake, Thou Shell of Death
6. Virginia Heath, Never Fall for Your Fiancée
7. Sophie Cousens, This Time Next Year
8. Connie Willis, Crosstalk
9. Kristan Higgins, All I Ever Wanted
10. Silvia Zucca, An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts
11. Mimi Matthews, The Siren of Sussex
12. Mary Balogh, Only Beloved
13. T.A. Willberg, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder
14. Lindsey Kelk, In Case You Missed It
15. Laura L. Sullivan, Love by the Morning Star
16. Leo Bruce, Case with Four Clowns
17. Sophie Cousens, Just Haven't Met You Yet
18. Josi S. Kilpack, Lord Fenton's Folly
19. June Hur, The Red Palace
20. Lisa Berne, The Worst Duke in the World
21. Rachel Lynn Solomon, Weather Girl
22. Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels
23. Jane Ashford, Married to a Perfect Stranger
24. Lee Child, Killing Floor
25. Katherine Center, What You Wish For
26. Stephanie Burgis, Scales and Sensibility
27. Georgette Heyer, Death in the Stocks
28. Mimi Matthews, The Matrimonial Advertisement
29. Caroline Stevermer, The Glass Magician
30. Jenn P. Nguyen, Fake It Till You Break It
31. Georgette Heyer, The Convenient Marriage
32. Kate Noble, Revealed
33. C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
34. Agatha Christie, The Moving Finger
35. Suzanne Allain, Miss Lattimore's Letter
36. Lauren Kate, By Any Other Name
37. Cece Louise, In a Dark, Dark Wood
38. T.A. Willberg, Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose
39. Melissa Ferguson, Meet Me in the Margins
40. Emily Henry, Book Lovers
41. Elizabeth Cadell, Any Two Can Play
42. Jenny Holiday, One and Only
43. Mary Balogh, Dark Angel
44. Claudia Gray, The Murder of Mr. Wickham
45. Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford, Business as Usual
46. Kerry Winfrey, Waiting for Tom Hanks
47. T. Kingfisher, Nettle & Bone
48. Beth O'Leary, The No-Show
49. Julia Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me
50. Derville Murphy, A Perfect Copy
51. Ngaio Marsh, Vintage Murder
52. Susanna Craig, Who's That Earl
53. Delia Sherman, The Evil Wizard Smallbone

Edited: Jun 30, 10:10am

CATs and KITs

(Image from here.)

I’ll participate in these sometimes, but I definitely won’t aim to do them all every month!

AuthorCAT (indigenous):
CATWoman (biography, autobiography, memoir): Lucy Worsley, Jane Austen at Home
ShakespeareCAT (King Lear):
AlphaKIT (R, H): Chris Wooding, Retribution Falls; Naomi Novik, His Majesty's Dragon; Lucy Worsley, Jane Austen at Home; Virginia Heath, Never Fall for Your Fiancée; Kristan Higgins, All I Ever Wanted
MysteryKIT (series): Nicholas Blake, Thou Shell of Death
RandomKIT (home sweet home): Lucy Worsley, Jane Austen at Home
SFFKIT (villain or morally gray main character): Chris Wooding, Retribution Falls; Kristin Burchell, Court of Venom

AuthorCAT (19th century):
CATWoman (in translation): Silvia Zucca, An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts
ShakespeareCAT (Much Ado about Nothing, romcoms): Silvia Zucca, An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts; Lindsey Kelk, In Case You Missed It
AlphaKIT (A, B): Lois McMaster Bujold, Cordelia's Honor; Silvia Zucca, An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts; Chris Wooding, The Black Lung Captain; Mary Balogh, Only Beloved; Leo Bruce, Case with Four Clowns; Lisa Berne, The Worst Duke in the World
MysteryKIT (cold case):
RandomKIT (read a cat): Chris Wooding, The Black Lung Captain
SFFKIT (time travel):

AuthorCAT (first published at age 40 or later): Lee Child, Killing Floor
CATWoman (pioneers):
ShakespeareCAT (book based on a play):

AlphaKIT (P, S): Rachel Lynn Solomon, Weather Girl; Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels; Naomi Novik, Black Powder War; Jane Ashford, Married to a Perfect Stranger; Stephanie Burgis, Scales and Sensibility; Georgette Heyer, Death in the Stocks; Caroline Stevermer, The Glass Magician
MysteryKIT (small towns, big secrets): Lee Child, Killing Floor
RandomKIT (hobbies):
*SFFKIT (historical): Naomi Novik, Black Powder War; Stephanie Burgis, Scales and Sensibility; Caroline Stevermer, The Glass Magician

AuthorCAT (debut):
CATWoman (women of color): Jenn P. Nguyen, Fake It Till You Break It
ShakespeareCAT (Hamlet):
AlphaKIT (L, J): Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem; Jenn P. Nguyen, Fake It Till You Break It; C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce; Suzanne Allain, Miss Lattimore's Letter
MysteryKIT (noir, hardboiled):
RandomKIT (April showers):

SFFKIT (lifespans): Chris Wooding, The Ace of Skulls

AuthorCAT (from your own country): Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles Errant; Cece Louise, In a Dark, Dark Wood; Naomi Novik, Victory of Eagles; Emily Henry, Book Lovers
CATWoman (classics):
ShakespeareCAT (Shakespeare’s kings, medieval history):

AlphaKIT (O, D): Lauren Kate, By Any Other Name; Cece Louise, In a Dark, Dark Wood; Anna Dean, Bellfield Hall; T.A. Willberg, Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose; Jenny Holiday, One and Only; Mary Balogh, Dark Angel
MysteryKIT (in translation):
RandomKIT (May flowers): T.A. Willberg, Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose
SFFKIT (invasion): Naomi Novik, Victory of Eagles

AuthorCAT (nonfiction authors):
CATWoman (set in cities or about cities): Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford, Business as Usual; Kerry Winfrey, Waiting for Tom Hanks
ShakespeareCAT (Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, ancient history):
AlphaKIT (Q, C): Claudia Gray, The Murder of Mr. Wickham; Julia Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me; Derville Murphy, A Perfect Copy; Susanna Craig, Who's That Earl
MysteryKIT (historical): Claudia Gray, The Murder of Mr. Wickham; Anna Dean, A Gentleman of Fortune
RandomKIT (food, cooking):
SFFKIT (next in a series): Lois McMaster Bujold, Memory; Naomi Novik, Tongues of Serpents

AuthorCAT (Asian):
CATWoman (women in science):
ShakespeareCAT (Measure for Measure, The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, justice):
AlphaKIT (E, T):
*MysteryKIT (Golden Age):
RandomKIT (dog days of summer):
SFFKIT (biological or found family):

AuthorCAT (prize winners):
CATWoman (children’s, young adult, graphic novels):
ShakespeareCAT (lesser-known works):
AlphaKIT (M, F):
MysteryKIT (techno-thrillers):
RandomKIT ():
SFFKIT (Asian authors):

AuthorCAT (African):
CATWoman (women in wartime):
ShakespeareCAT (sonnets and poems):
AlphaKIT (K, I):
MysteryKIT (animals):
RandomKIT ():

AuthorCAT (in translation):
CATWoman (women and crime):
*ShakespeareCAT (Macbeth, murder, witchcraft, politics):
AlphaKIT (V, N):
MysteryKIT (food):
RandomKIT ():
SFFKIT (robots and AI):

AuthorCAT (books set against real events):
CATWoman (issues through a woman’s eyes):
ShakespeareCAT (books about Shakespeare or the Globe):
AlphaKIT (G, U):
MysteryKIT (gothic):
RandomKIT ():
SFFKIT (prize winner):

AuthorCAT (favorites):
CATWoman (prize winner):
ShakespeareCAT (A Winter’s Tale):
AlphaKIT (Y, W):
MysteryKIT (holiday):
RandomKIT ():

AlphaKIT (X, Z):

* indicates that I’m hosting the thread

Edited: Jun 30, 10:12am


As always, I'll aim to cover the whole card, but we'll see how we do!

1. Title contains a Z: Delia Sherman, The Evil Wizard Smallbone
2. LGBTQ+ author
3. Set in a capital city: Mimi Matthews, The Siren of Sussex (London)
4. Nonfiction: Lucy Worsley, Jane Austen at Home
5. Title contains a month
6. Children's or young adult: June Hur, The Red Palace (YA)
7. Set in another country: Nicholas Blake, Thou Shell of Death (England and Ireland)
8. By a favorite author: Mary Balogh, Only a Kiss
9. Character shares a name with a friend: Lois McMaster Bujold, Falling Free (Claire)
10. Published the year you joined LT: Naomi Novik, His Majesty's Dragon (2006)
11. Travel or a journey: Naomi Novik, Throne of Jade (voyage from England to China)
12. You'd love to see this movie: Chris Wooding, Retribution Falls
13. Read a CAT: Virginia Heath, Never Fall for Your Fiancée (January AlphaKIT = H)
14. Features a dog: Kristan Higgins, All I Ever Wanted (heroine and hero both have dogs)
15. Flowers on the cover: Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels
16. In translation: Silvia Zucca, An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts (translated from Italian)
17. Modern retelling: Julie Murphy, If the Shoe Fits (Cinderella)
18. A gift: Sophie Cousens, This Time Next Year (2021 Secret Santa gift)
19. Published in a year ending in 2: Kristin Burchell, Court of Venom (2022)
20. About sisters or brothers: Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles Errant
21. Award winner: Lois McMaster Bujold, Cordelia's Honor (Barrayar won the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 1992)
22. Weather word in the title: Rachel Lynn Solomon, Weather Girl
23. A book club read: C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
24. Silver or gold on the cover: Naomi Novik, Black Powder War (silver title)
25. A long (for you) book: Chris Wooding, The Black Lung Captain (536 pages)

Edited: Dec 9, 2021, 2:16pm

One more for safety, and...that's it! Welcome!

Dec 9, 2021, 2:39pm

A great plan! You should enjoy the Vorkosigan books and the others sound interesting as well. And plenty of room for everything else.

Dec 9, 2021, 3:12pm

The Dido Kent mysteries are tempting. Enjoy your series in 2022!

Dec 9, 2021, 4:08pm

I don't read any of the series you're reading, but I'll be following everything else.

Dec 9, 2021, 4:41pm

>12 hailelib: I definitely enjoyed the Vorkosigan books that I did read...I just need to motivate myself to keep going!

>13 pamelad: I'll certainly report back on the Dido Kent books. :)

>14 dudes22: Glad to see you here! I realize my actual categories are going to be pretty niche...the series are mostly not new and not terribly popular. But I'm planning to do a lot of non-series reading as well!

Dec 9, 2021, 7:29pm

Enjoy your series reading in 2022! Love the kitty at >9 christina_reads:. Yes, you need a bigger bookcase.

Dec 9, 2021, 8:01pm

Great plan. Wishing you great reading in 2022

Dec 9, 2021, 10:33pm

Excellent plan, Christina, and you've chosen a good variety of series. I love the Vorkosigan books and you have some great ones ahead of you. I also have a couple of the Ketty Jay series on my shelves and perhaps you will give me a nudge to get started on them.

Dec 10, 2021, 3:39am

That's a good plan. Enjoy your reading!

Dec 10, 2021, 9:21am

>16 VivienneR: I always need a bigger bookcase, for sure.

>17 majkia: Thank you!

>18 DeltaQueen50: I'm excited to jump back into the Vorkosigan series. Hope I can inspire you to pick up the Ketty Jay books as well! :)

>19 MissWatson: Thanks!

Dec 10, 2021, 9:37am

Good plan, although I must admit the thought of 125 books in a year is too ambitious for me! The last couple of years I've managed about 90, but I can't imagine ever hitting 100.

Adding my voice to the 'get bigger bookcases' discussion. No such thing as too many books, just not enough shelf space.

Dec 10, 2021, 10:18am

>21 Jackie_K: Honestly, 125 books is ambitious for me as well, but I've been reading more than usual for the past couple years...less opportunity to do stuff outside the home has given me more time to read!

Edited: Dec 10, 2021, 10:55am

I don't need another series going for sure BUT I have a friend that is reading the Lady Sherlock and she really likes it. I may give it a try sometimes next year.

Good luck with great reading in 22!

Dec 10, 2021, 10:58am

Good luck with your 2022 reading. I, too, have been reading more since March of 2020 and I do think it's because there is less to do "out there."

Dec 10, 2021, 3:40pm

>23 clue: Haha, we never NEED another series...but they find us somehow! I have been liking the Lady Sherlock books, so I'm excited to get caught up.

>24 Tess_W: Thank you!

Dec 14, 2021, 4:19pm

I love the Vorkosigan Saga. Love, Love, Love.

I also very much enjoyed the beginning of Temeraire, but fell off about halfway through the series.

As we seem to share a taste in books, I'll have to take a look at the rest of you're series.

Dec 14, 2021, 4:38pm

>26 dreamweaver529: I'll definitely be reporting back on these series! I'm sort of hoping that most of them won't be keepers, so that I can get rid of the books once I've finally read them. But I guess, worst case, I'll LOVE them and have some new favorites, which is also a pretty good outcome!

Dec 16, 2021, 10:00pm

Have a great year of reading!

Dec 17, 2021, 4:47pm

>28 thornton37814: Thanks, same to you!

Dec 23, 2021, 10:48pm

I really like the focus of your challenge. I have read the first eight or so books in The Vorkosigan Saga - I'm ready for Mirror Dance, but like you it's been so long since I read them that I might start over again, at least with the Miles books. I have not read any in your other series, but I do have the first book in the Ketty Jay series in the stacks.

Dec 27, 2021, 9:02am

Oooh, I have 5 of your 6 series on my TBR already! I'm interested to see what you have to say about them. At least there should be fewer book bullets for me that way, right? :)

And the picture in >9 christina_reads: is adorable!

Jan 2, 2:54pm

>30 Crazymamie: Thank you! I finally realized that in order to motivate myself to read these series, I had to target them very specifically in my challenge. Hope you enjoy Retribution Falls whenever you get to it!

>31 casvelyn: I hope I'm able to protect you from some book bullets for these series! :)

Jan 2, 2:57pm

Yesterday I finished my 2021 reviews and recaps, which can be found here: I'm excited to catch up with the 2022 challenge threads now! I've started my first book for the challenge, Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold. So far so good!

Jan 5, 12:09pm

>3 christina_reads: I loved this series! Hope you enjoy all the books.

>5 christina_reads: I've been working on this series too!

Jan 5, 2:36pm

>34 cyderry: I've liked what I've read so far in both series, so I'm optimistic!

Jan 6, 9:14pm

Book #1: Lois McMaster Bujold, Falling Free
CATs: none
Bingo: Character shares a name with a friend (Claire)

Space engineer Leo Graf doesn't want to be a hero; he just wants to keep his head down and do his job. But his latest assignment involves genetically engineered humans called quaddies -- they have a second pair of arms instead of legs, which makes them excellent workers in a zero-gravity environment. When Leo learns how the quaddies are exploited and what their eventual fate will be, he decides to take action. I enjoyed this competently written sci-fi adventure, but I wasn't blown away. Parts of it feel dated now (understandably, since it was published in the '80s), and the story and characters aren't particularly unique. Still, the book does raise some interesting moral questions, and I'm excited to continue with the series!

Jan 7, 11:51am

>36 christina_reads: I concur with your assessment. I plan on rereading this series this year but plan on skipping this one and one other, as they aren't part of the main overarching storyline. They are there for back-story/world-building and will be referenced in the future, they just didn't grab me like the rest did.

I look forward to seeing what you think of the rest of the books.

Jan 7, 11:53am

>37 dreamweaver529: It will be interesting to compare notes as we both read the series this year!

Jan 7, 12:01pm

>38 christina_reads: I'll keep my eyes on your thread and do my best to keep pace with you. This is one of my top 3 series I recommend a lot, so far I've never had anyone read one and say, "Na, this isn't for me."

(The other two are Dresden File and Bobiverse)

Jan 7, 1:47pm

>39 dreamweaver529: Right now I'm planning on roughly one Vorkosigan book per month, but I certainly don't want to rush you (or hold you back)! Cordelia's Honor is on deck for February.

I read and liked the first couple Dresden Files books, but for some reason never continued with the series. Still, I think that fits with your experience! I'll have to look into the Bobiverse series as well now.

Edited: Jan 7, 2:07pm

Book #2: Julie Murphy, If the Shoe Fits
CATs: none
Bingo: Modern retelling (Cinderella)

Aspiring fashion designer Cindy has just graduated from design school, but now she’s at a loose end and feeling creatively blocked. Due to her stepmother’s connections, she is offered a place on Before Midnight, a Bachelor-esque reality show. Cindy is skeptical, but she thinks it could be an opportunity for her to publicize her name and brand, as well as break some ground by being a plus-size woman on a show full of thin beauties. But when she unexpectedly falls for the guy on the show, she has to figure out how much of their relationship is actually real. This novel, loosely based on Disney’s Cinderella, is a cute, quick read, but nothing about it really stood out to me. The love interest doesn’t have much personality, so I wasn’t invested in the romance. It’s a fine read if you like the premise, but definitely not a keeper for me.

Jan 9, 4:02pm

Book #3: Chris Wooding, Retribution Falls
CATs: Alpha (R = Retribution); SFF (morally gray main character)
Bingo: You'd love to see this movie

Darian Frey is a small-time criminal doing odd jobs and staying one step ahead of the law. The only thing he cares about is his airship, the Ketty Jay; his fellow crew members are with him solely for their mutual convenience. But when Frey is offered a too-good-to-be-true job that immediately goes wrong, he and his crew have to band together to get out of trouble and figure out what's really going on. This book is a hugely enjoyable romp, with an action-packed plot and characters I came to care about. I highly recommend this book, especially if you loved the TV show Firefly! Can't wait to continue with the series now!

Jan 9, 7:23pm

Hi Christina! Just catching up on your thread!

Jan 9, 8:15pm

>42 christina_reads: Oh, you do make Retribution Falls sound appealing. I will have to bump it up!

Jan 10, 7:56am

>42 christina_reads: >44 DeltaQueen50: I really really enjoyed Retribution Falls and the rest of the series.

Jan 10, 9:16am

>43 VictoriaPL: Thanks for stopping by, Victoria!

>44 DeltaQueen50: It's a fun one, Judy!

>45 majkia: Glad to know the rest of the series lives up to the first book. I vaguely recall also enjoying book #2, The Black Lung Captain, but I don't remember much about it. Apparently I last visited this series in 2014!

Jan 10, 3:27pm

Book #4: Mary Balogh, Only a Kiss
CATs: none
Bingo: By a favorite author

Percy Hayes is the Earl of Hardford, but despite acceding to the title two years ago, he’s never been to the Hardford estate; located in the “wilds of Cornwall,” it’s a world away from his carefree, pleasure-filled life in London. Indeed, when he finally visits the estate on a whim, he runs into a bewildering set of problems and responsibilities. He also meets the beautiful but cold Imogen, Lady Barclay, and finds himself unwillingly attracted to her. But she carries deep emotional wounds from the Napoleonic Wars, in which her husband was tortured and killed, and she’s seemingly impervious to Percy’s charm. Can he convince her to open her heart? This sixth book in the Survivors’ Club series is one of my favorites. I loved seeing Percy’s normal charm and poise desert him in his conversations with Imogen, and his growth as he embraces his responsibilities is very satisfying. Definitely one of the strongest books in the series, in my opinion!

Jan 10, 7:05pm

>47 christina_reads: I liked that one too, and was pleased to see Imogen find happiness.

Jan 11, 10:29am

>48 pamelad: Same here. I find Imogen one of the most interesting Survivors, so I was happy to read her story -- although honestly I felt this was more Percy's book!

Jan 12, 9:19am

Jan 12, 9:49am

>50 hailelib: It's a very fun read! Hope you enjoy it if you decide to pick it up.

Jan 12, 1:44pm

Book #5: Naomi Novik, His Majesty’s Dragon
CATs: Alpha (H = His)
Bingo: Published the year I joined LT (2006)

When naval captain Will Laurence captures a French ship with a coveted dragon egg aboard, his life is turned upside-down. He bonds with the baby dragon, Temeraire, which means he must give up his naval career to become an aviator — a way of life completely different from what Laurence is used to. But his newfound friendship with Temeraire carries him through, and the two of them will have an important role to play in England’s ongoing war with France. I’ve read several books in this series, but I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed them! The concept (Napoleonic Wars plus dragons) is right up my alley, and I adore both Laurence and Temeraire as characters. I can’t wait to read about their further adventures in subsequent books!

Jan 12, 1:51pm

>52 christina_reads: Such a fun series.

Jan 12, 3:08pm

>53 majkia: I'm really excited to continue!

Jan 14, 9:35pm

What a great start you have made with BingoDOG: 6 books read in the first half of January! (I notice you do not yet have a circle in #4 Nonfiction although you have Jane Austen at Home listed as being read for BingoDOG and have listed it in other threads as part of your reading this month.)

Jan 15, 10:18pm

>55 sallylou61: Thanks! I've only read 5 books so far...still working on Jane Austen at Home, so I won't place the marker on the card until I'm done.

Edited: Jan 17, 10:47am

>52 christina_reads: Yes! Love this series, too. Have made it to #4 and looking forward to #5. Definitely savoring them slowly.

Jan 21, 10:37am

Book #6: Lucy Worsley, Jane Austen at Home
CATs: Woman (biography); Random (home sweet home); Alpha (H = Home)
Bingo: Nonfiction

This biography is a breezy and entertaining look at Jane Austen’s life through the lens of the homes she lived in. It also explores how the concepts of home and domesticity informed her work. As an enthusiastic Janeite, I enjoyed this book, although if you’ve read other Austen biographies you don’t particularly need to read this one. It appears reasonably well cited; there are numbered endnotes, and Worsley quotes many primary sources. She speculates quite a bit about motives and emotions (as she herself admits in the introduction), and I occasionally found her interpretations farfetched. Overall, though, a good read, especially for those who haven’t read other books on Austen’s life and work.

Jan 21, 8:58pm

Book #7: Kristin Burchell, Court of Venom
CATs: SFF (morally gray main character = poisoner/assassin)
Bingo: Published in a year ending in 2 (2022)

Badriya never wanted to become the queen’s poisoner, but she has no choice. The malicious Queen Solena will kill her if she refuses, and the city is surrounded by a wasteland full of witches and demons, making it impossible for her to run away. But when a neighboring prince arrives as a potential suitor for the queen, Badriya may finally get the chance to pursue a different life. This novel reads like a standard YA fantasy (though it’s marketed as adult); the heroine is an outsider with special powers who eventually has to fight for justice. It’s entertaining enough, but not particularly unique. I didn’t like how the book kept jumping between past and present; I think it was supposed to generate suspense, but instead it just made the world-building confusing and hard to follow. Overall, while I certainly didn’t hate this book, I wouldn’t particularly recommend it either.

Jan 22, 3:16pm

Book #8: Nicholas Blake, Thou Shell of Death
CATs: Mystery (series = Nigel Strangeways)
Bingo: Set in another country (England and Ireland)

When legendary airman Fergus O'Brien receives a series of threatening letters, he asks private detective Nigel Strangeways to come to his Christmas house party, where he's invited all the people he suspects of being the letter writer. He hopes Nigel will discover the author's identity and prevent any violence from occurring, but unfortunately O'Brien is indeed shot the day after Christmas. Now Nigel and the police must work together to discover the killer -- a task that is complicated by a few more bodies, not to mention Nigel's growing attachment to one of the suspects. I enjoyed this book very much. It's well written with a touch of sly humor, and while the mystery's solution is wildly dramatic and implausible, I do think it's fairly clued. I'm definitely interested in reading more of the Nigel Strangeways books.

Jan 24, 1:29pm

Book #9: Virginia Heath, Never Fall for Your Fiancée
CATs: Alpha (H = Heath)
Bingo: Read a CAT (January AlphaKIT = H)

Hugh’s mother is determined to see him wed, but he doesn’t want to get married because he’s afraid he’ll be like his philandering father. His solution? Invent a fake fiancée. It actually seems to work, until his mother announces she’s planning a visit from America to meet his dear Minerva. Desperate, Hugh offers to pay the beautiful but penniless Minerva Merriwell to pose as his fiancée, but complications ensue when he really falls in love with her. I love a good fake-relationship plot, but this one does strain credulity, particularly Hugh’s motivations for creating and persisting in the lie. The book is a breezy, enjoyable read (though not as funny as it wants to be), but I can’t get past the utter ridiculousness of the plot. I may look for the sequel when it comes out, but I’ll borrow it from the library instead of buying.

I also need to complain about the cover for a second. I don’t mind illustrated covers, but I do want the people to look the way they’re described in the book! Minerva’s hair is described as very dark, “almost black,” and Hugh is supposed to be blond! Not sure what happened there — maybe dark-haired heroes sell better?

Jan 25, 3:07pm

Book #10: Sophie Cousens, This Time Next Year
CATs: none
Bingo: Gift (Secret Santa 2021)

Minnie Cooper and Quinn Hamilton were both born on January 1, 1990 — but since Quinn came just moments earlier, he became the first ‘90s baby born in the UK. He won notoriety and a large cash prize, while Minnie got nothing. And the same bad luck has dogged her ever since, especially on her birthday. When Minnie and Quinn meet again as adults, she’s strangely drawn to the man she’s resented all her life, but several obstacles threaten their romance. I liked this book a lot; both Minnie and Quinn are sympathetic, and they have real problems that aren’t magically solved by love. The romance is sweet and satisfying, but the characters’ individual growth is equally (if not more) important. I’m excited to try more by this author, and I would definitely recommend this book to chick lit fans.

Jan 27, 2:00pm

Book #11: Connie Willis, Crosstalk
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Briddey is excited to get a cutting-edge surgical procedure that will allow her to mentally “connect” with her boyfriend and sense his emotions. But something goes wrong, and she doesn’t connect with her boyfriend but with her antisocial coworker, C.B. And she doesn’t just sense his emotions — they can speak to each other telepathically. As Briddey and C.B. try to figure out what’s happening and how to stop it, Briddey learns that telepathy has dangerous consequences. I love Connie Willis and was happy to revisit this novel, which combines sci fi with romance and satire. The book does drag in places and could probably be quite a bit shorter, but I still loved it and would highly recommend it!

Jan 29, 6:06pm

Book #12: Kristan Higgins, All I Ever Wanted
CATs: Alpha (H = Higgins)
Bingo: Features a dog (hero and heroine both have dogs)

Callie has been in love with her boss, Mark, for years. But now that he's in a serious relationship, she knows it's time to move on. Maybe the new vet in town, Ian McFarland, can help...except that he's silent and grumpy, while Callie is a bouncy ball of sunshine. But as Callie and Ian get to know each other better, they realize they're more compatible than they originally thought. This is a cute, undemanding small-town romance. The humor is a bit too try-hard at times, but I enjoyed it overall. It helps that I love a grumpy romantic hero! Not all Kristan Higgins's romances have stood up well to re-reading, but I plan to hold onto this one for the time being.

Jan 31, 9:38am

January recap

So we’re already a month into 2022, somehow? January has been a bit rough; I started the month with a cold, the weather’s awful, and I had to buy new tires for my car. But obviously none of these problems are too bad in the grand scheme of things — and on the plus side, I was able to get a lot of reading done! Here’s what I read this month:

Books read in January:
1. Lois McMaster Bujold, Falling Free
2. Julie Murphy, If the Shoe Fits
3. Chris Wooding, Retribution Falls
4. Mary Balogh, Only a Kiss
5. Naomi Novik, His Majesty’s Dragon
6. Lucy Worsley, Jane Austen at Home
7. Kristin Burchell, Court of Venom
8. Nicholas Blake, Thou Shell of Death
9. Virginia Heath, Never Fall for Your Fiancée
10. Sophie Cousens, This Time Next Year
11. Connie Willis, Crosstalk
12. Kristan Higgins, All I Ever Wanted

Favorite book of the month:
Not counting re-reads, I’d have to go with Only a Kiss, a lovely historical romance and one of the strongest installments of the Survivors’ Club series. (If I’m counting re-reads, the answer is His Majesty’s Dragon — I forgot how much I loved the Temeraire books!)

Dishonorable mention:
I wasn’t impressed with the shallow characterization or confusing world-building of Court of Venom.

CATs completed:
- CATWoman (biography, autobiography, memoir): Jane Austen at Home is a biography.
- AlphaKIT (R, H): Chris Wooding, *Retribution Falls; Naomi Novik, *His Majesty's Dragon; Lucy Worsley, Jane Austen at *Home; Virginia *Heath, Never Fall for Your Fiancée; Kristan *Higgins, All I Ever Wanted
- MysteryKIT (series): Thou Shell of Death is book 2 in the Nigel Strangeways series.
- RandomKIT (home sweet home): Jane Austen at Home has “home” in the title, and it looks at Austen’s life through the lens of the homes she lived in.
- SFFKIT (villain or morally gray main character): The protagonist of Retribution Falls is a small-time criminal who sells out his friends and accidentally assassinates someone. And the narrator of Court of Venom is a drug dealer and poisoner.

Bingo squares completed:
- Character shares a name with a friend: Falling Free has a character named Claire, which is also my best friend’s name.
- Modern retelling: If the Shoe Fits is a retelling of Cinderella, specifically the Disney animated version.
- You’d love to see this movie: Retribution Falls would be a super fun sci fi/action movie!
- By a favorite author: Only a Kiss is by Mary Balogh, one of my favorite historical romance authors.
- Published the year you joined LT: His Majesty’s Dragon was published in 2006.
- Nonfiction: Jane Austen at Home is a biography.
- Published in a year ending in 2: Court of Venom will be published in 2022.
- Set in another country: Thou Shell of Death is set mostly in England, with a quick detour to Ireland.
- Read a CAT: Never Fall for Your Fiancée fulfilled the January AlphaKIT (H = Heath).
- A gift: This Time Next Year was a 2021 Secret Santa gift.
- Features a dog: In All I Ever Wanted, both the heroine and the hero have dogs, and she takes her pup to his veterinary practice to engineer a meet-cute.

Books acquired in January:
- Silvia Zucca, An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts
- Craig Rice, Eight Faces at Three
- Mignon G. Eberhart, Murder by an Aristocrat
- Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion
- Anne Gracie, The Summer Bride

Edited: Jan 31, 10:02am

You had a good month for reading.

Do read The Curse of Chalion which I really liked both times I read it. It's sequel, Paladin of Souls, is even better.

Jan 31, 10:22am

>66 hailelib: Thanks! I'm looking forward to The Curse of Chalion. This year I'm focusing on the Vorkosigan series, but once I'm done, I definitely want to try Bujold's fantasy!

Feb 4, 10:01am

Book #13: Lois McMaster Bujold, Cordelia’s Honor
CATs: Alpha (B = Bujold)
Bingo: Award winner (Barrayar won the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 1992)

In Shards of Honor, Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan are on opposite sides of a war, but they must band together to survive on a strange planet, suppress a mutiny (him), escape from captivity multiple times (her), and prevent a civil war on Aral’s home planet of Barrayar. That last task continues in Barrayar, as Aral becomes regent for the four-year-old emperor and Cordelia adjusts to an alien politics and culture. I really enjoyed revisiting these two books, which are an exciting blend of sci fi, action, and romance. I love the moral complexity of this world: Cordelia, Aral, and the others are doing their best, but they often have to make impossible choices with heartbreaking consequences. I’m now even more excited to continue with the series!

Feb 5, 6:27pm

>58 christina_reads: Such a pretty cover! This is a total BB for me. Ten years ago (yikes! I can't believe it, it feels like it was just recently!) I visited Jane Austen's house in Chawton and also traveled to Winchester and Bath. I think it would be lovely to revisit these places (or some of them) through this book.

>65 christina_reads: What a fantastic reading month!

Feb 7, 9:25am

>69 MissBrangwen: I'm jealous -- I haven't been to any of the Jane Austen sites, but I'd love to make that trip someday! And thanks...12 books in a month is definitely a lot for me!

Edited: Jul 28, 12:18pm

Book #14: Silvia Zucca, An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts (trans. Ashley Bell)
CATs: Woman (in translation = Italian); Shakespeare (romantic comedy); Alpha (A = Astrological, B = Broken, Z = Zucca)
Bingo: In translation (Italian to English)

Alice Bassi is unlucky in love, so when her new friend Tio suggests that she should date only men with compatible astrological signs, she figures it’s worth a try. But even after studying her star chart and horoscopes, she jumps from one disastrous relationship to the next — and the man she’s most drawn to may be the worst possible choice. I picked up this book because I enjoyed the Netflix series of the same name; it’s a cute romcom set in Milan, and the actors made the main characters likable. In the book, though, Alice is flaky and inconsistent, and her main love interest is a dishonest jerk. So unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend this one…but if you like the premise, the TV series is better!

Feb 10, 10:25am

Book #15: Chris Wooding, The Black Lung Captain
CATs: Alpha (B = Black); Random (features a cat)
Bingo: A long-for-you book (536 pages)

Darian Frey and the crew of the Ketty Jay are down on their luck once again, so they’re happy to take what should be a simple job: locate a shipwreck in the heart of the rainforest and salvage the treasure within. But of course, things are never that simple, and Darian & co. find themselves up against a lunatic rival captain, a weapon of mass destruction, Manes, and Awakeners — not to mention Darian’s ex-girlfriend. I enjoyed this book just as much as Retribution Falls; it combines a fun, fast-paced adventure plot with some genuine character development. I’m extremely interested to see where the series goes from here!

Feb 10, 4:38pm

Book #16: Mimi Matthews, The Siren of Sussex
CATs: none
Bingo: Set in a capital city (London)

Evelyn Maltravers is determined to make her first London Season a success. She plans to impress society with her excellent horsemanship, so she employs gifted tailor Ahmad Malik to design her an eye-catching riding habit. Ahmad is immediately inspired by Evelyn — and attracted to her. But a romance between himself and someone of Evelyn’s class is impossible, especially with the added obstacle of his half-Indian heritage. I always enjoy Mimi Matthews’s books, and this one is no exception. Evie and Ahmad are both such likable characters, determined to do their best for each other. And the impediments to their romance are handled thoughtfully and seriously. There’s some obvious sequel bait with Evelyn’s new London friends, and I can’t wait for the next book to come out this fall!

Feb 10, 11:20pm

>73 christina_reads: I've put this on the wish list and hope it turns up on Overdrive. Happy to see a new series from Mimi Matthews.

Feb 11, 9:52am

>74 pamelad: Hope you like it when you get to it! I'm excited for book 2.

Feb 13, 9:01pm

Looks like your February is getting as accomplished as your January! Congrats, Christina!

Feb 14, 9:41am

>76 threadnsong: Thank you! :) I've been in a reading groove lately.

Feb 14, 2:57pm

>73 christina_reads: going on my WL

Feb 14, 4:36pm

>78 Tess_W: Hooray, hope you enjoy it!

Feb 14, 10:35pm

>73 christina_reads: BB for me too! -)

Feb 15, 12:18am

>80 Tanya-dogearedcopy: My evil plan is working. :)

Feb 15, 10:08am

Book #17: Naomi Novik, Throne of Jade
CATs: none
Bingo: Travel or a journey (voyage from England to China)

Former naval captain Will Laurence and dragon Temeraire are now fast friends and inseparable companions. But because Temeraire is an extremely rare and valuable Chinese dragon, China is demanding him back. So Laurence and Temeraire are forced to travel to the imperial court to placate the emperor and prevent the Chinese from allying with France. This book is a worthy continuation of His Majesty’s Dragon, fleshing out the global political situation and contrasting English and Chinese treatment of dragons. I enjoyed watching Temeraire mature a bit and start to question the English way of doing things. Looking forward to book 3!

Feb 15, 2:49pm

I need to continue the Temeraire series. Hope you enjoy your next one.

Feb 16, 10:28am

>83 hailelib: I'm looking forward to it! So far I'm really glad I decided to tackle the series this year.

Feb 17, 10:20am

Book #18: Mary Balogh, Only Beloved
CATs: Alpha (B = Balogh, Beloved)
Bingo: none

George, the Duke of Stanbrook, has helped the other six Survivors to heal from their war wounds and find true love. But he has never truly coped with his own pain and loss: his son died in the Napoleonic Wars, and his wife took her own life soon afterward. Now George is lonely and decides to remarry, but his chosen wife is determined to help him finally confront and heal from his tragic past. This isn’t one of my favorite installments of the Survivors’ Club series, but I still enjoyed it. I like Balogh’s style, and it’s refreshing to see historical romance protagonists in their 30s and 40s. The book takes an oddly melodramatic turn toward the end, and the last few chapters are a bit cloying, with all the blissfully married Survivors and their babies. But it’s still worth a read, especially if you’ve enjoyed the rest of the series.

Feb 17, 2:32pm

>85 christina_reads: An accurate assessment. Not my favourite either, and the epilogue is cringeworthy. I wonder if sometimes, by the end of a longish series, writers get sick of their characters.

Feb 17, 3:26pm

>86 pamelad: I'm sure some writers do get sick of their characters! I was certainly done with hearing about the other Survivors by the end of Only Beloved. Especially the characters from the earlier books -- I already know they're happy (and apparently quite fertile), no need to keep hitting me over the head with it!

Feb 18, 11:48am

Book #19: T.A. Willberg, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Marion Lane is an apprentice at a mysterious private detective agency that operates beneath the streets of London. When one of her colleagues is murdered and her mentor is accused of the crime, Marion decides to investigate. But she uncovers some troubling secrets about the agency’s history and isn’t sure whom she can trust. I really liked the world of this novel (shadowy secret society + crime fighting + cool steampunk gadgets!), but I wish it had been more developed. The novel is almost entirely focused on plot, to the detriment of character development and world building. I also found myself oddly sympathetic to the villain! I’m interested enough to read book 2 in the series, but I hope the setting and characters will be more fleshed out.

Feb 21, 10:57am

Book #20: Lindsey Kelk, In Case You Missed It
CATs: Shakespeare (romantic comedy)
Bingo: none

At age 32, Ros Reynolds is unemployed and has just moved back in with her parents after three years away. Despite these setbacks, she’s looking forward to reconnecting with her former friend group, not to mention her ex-boyfriend Patrick. But she’s dismayed to learn that nothing is quite the same it used to be, and that by clinging so hard to the past, she might be missing out on a better future. This is an enjoyable British chick-lit novel that made me chuckle out loud several times. It’s not groundbreaking, and I wanted more development of the romance, but overall it’s a fun read if you enjoy this kind of book.

Feb 21, 10:58am

Book #21: Laura L. Sullivan, Love by the Morning Star
CATs: none
Bingo: none

On the eve of World War II, two young women arrive at the grand English estate of Starkers. Hannah, a half-Jewish refugee from Germany, is a distant relative of the family and hopes to stay with them until she can reunite with her parents. Anna, the daughter of a British fascist, is supposed to pose as a kitchen maid to spy on the family. But a mix-up sends Hannah to the kitchen and Anna to the main house — a misunderstanding with dramatic consequences, especially when both girls become involved with the handsome heir to the estate. I liked a lot of things about this book; Hannah is a delightful heroine, and the general tone reminded me of Eva Ibbotson, one of my all-time favorite comfort authors. But the big misunderstanding dragged on so long that it became completely unbelievable, and I was so frustrated that nobody figured it out! So I think I’ll say goodbye to this one and reread Ibbotson instead.

Feb 22, 10:22am

Book #22: Leo Bruce, Case with Four Clowns
CATs: Alpha (B = Bruce)
Bingo: none

Former policeman Sergeant Beef and his Watson, detective novelist Lionel Townsend, receive a tip that a murder will shortly occur in a traveling circus in Yorkshire. But when they arrive at the circus to investigate, they soon discover enough animosity and jealousy to make every member of the circus a potential victim — or killer. I really liked the first Sergeant Beef book, Case for Three Detectives, but this one was a big disappointment. The murder doesn’t happen until the last 30 pages, so most of the book is just Beef and Townsend talking to the circus people. There are some funny bits where Townsend gets meta (he “vaguely wonders” something and then comments that it is appropriate for him, as the Watson, to vaguely wonder). But overall, I wouldn’t recommend this one, unless you are super into the circus setting.

Edited: Feb 24, 9:49am

Book #23: Sophie Cousens, Just Haven’t Met You Yet
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Laura is a journalist whose latest assignment is to tell the romantic story of how her parents first met. For research, she travels to the Channel Island of Jersey, where it all began — and en route, a suitcase mix-up leads her to her own potential soulmate. But as she spends more time in Jersey, she learns that both her parents’ love story and her own romantic destiny are more complicated than she thought. I enjoyed this one; it’s entertaining and well written, and despite the focus on romance, I think it does a good job of portraying the complexity of relationships. That said, I didn’t fall in love with the book the way I was hoping to…though I now definitely want to visit the Channel Islands!

Edited: Feb 23, 4:22pm

>92 christina_reads: Sounds like you ended up with a crush on the Channel Islands! :-)
It happened to me with the Western Isles off of Scotland. I was reading something years ago, and developed a "place crush"! I haven't been there yet, but it's definitely on my bucket list.

Feb 23, 2:11pm

>93 Tanya-dogearedcopy: I have so many "place crushes" -- what a great term! And yes, I've definitely added the Channel Islands to that list. :) The Scottish isles also sound beautiful, from what I've read.

Feb 24, 10:28am

Book #24: Josi S. Kilpack, Lord Fenton’s Folly
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Charles, Lord Fenton, has been behaving badly — so badly, in fact, that his father plans to disinherit him. To avoid this fate, Charles agrees to his parents’ long list of conditions, including a demand that he marry before the end of the Season. At his mother’s encouragement, he proposes to Alice, an old friend of the family who (unbeknownst to him) has been infatuated with him for years. But when she learns why he proposed, she becomes angry and bitter. Can Charles and Alice recover from such a bad start and make their marriage work? This was a pleasant, PG-rated Regency romance, but I wanted to see a bit more of Charles and Alice together. They seemed to go from mean bickering to trust and love pretty quickly. I wouldn’t mind trying another book by this author, but it’s not a high priority for me.

Feb 25, 1:43pm

Book #25: June Hur, The Red Palace
CATs: none
Bingo: Children’s or young adult (YA)

In 1758 Korea, Hyeon has risen from humble beginnings to become a palace nurse. But when four women are murdered in a single night and Hyeon’s beloved teacher is the prime suspect, she risks her position — and her life — to find the real killer. Along the way she teams up with handsome police inspector Eojin and becomes embroiled in the horrifying intrigues of the palace. This book is fast-paced with a likable protagonist, and I enjoyed the unique (to me) setting. It all felt a little insubstantial, and the mystery wasn’t particularly satisfying, but I did like the book overall. I doubt I’ll seek out more by this author, though.

Feb 28, 11:54am

Book #26: Lisa Berne, The Worst Duke in the World
CATs: Alpha (B = Berne)
Bingo: none

After the death of his first wife, Anthony Farr is expected to remarry and provide a “spare” to ensure the succession. But Anthony has no interest in remarrying because his first marriage was miserable. He just wants to be a good father to his heir, Wakefield, and possibly win the “fattest pig” award at the local harvest festival. But when he meets newcomer to the neighborhood Jane Kent, their mutual attraction tests Anthony’s resolve. This book is very silly, and I think some people will find the tone off-putting, but I must admit the humor (mostly) worked for me! There’s very little conflict, so most of the book is just Anthony and Jane spending time together and being silly and infatuated. I even liked Wakefield, and I don’t usually enjoy precocious children in fiction. I’m interested in trying more by Lisa Berne when I want a pleasant, low-stakes read.

Edited: Mar 1, 9:51am

February recap

This has been a weird month for me. I’ve been feeling down, for no particular reason — although I’m happy to blame the weather and the state of the world! I read a lot, but most of it was just OK. Not a lot is sparking joy for me right now. Here’s hoping March will be better! In the meantime, on to the books:

Books read in February:
1. Lois McMaster Bujold, Cordelia’s Honor
2. Silvia Zucca, An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts
3. Chris Wooding, The Black Lung Captain
4. Mimi Matthews, The Siren of Sussex
5. Naomi Novik, Throne of Jade
6. Mary Balogh, Only Beloved
7. T.A. Willberg, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder
8. Lindsey Kelk, In Case You Missed It
9. Laura L. Sullivan, Love by the Morning Star
10. Leo Bruce, Case with Four Clowns
11. Sophie Cousens, Just Haven’t Met You Yet
12. Josi S. Kilpack, Lord Fenton’s Folly
13. June Hur, The Red Palace
14. Lisa Berne, The Worst Duke in the World

Favorite book of the month:
I think it might have to be Love by the Morning Star — despite being incredibly annoyed by how long the mistaken-identity plot played out, I did enjoy the strong Eva Ibbotson vibes.

Dishonorable mention:
I was completely underwhelmed by An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts. The Netflix series is more enjoyable, in my opinion.

CATs completed:
- CATWoman (in translation): An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts was both written and translated (from Italian to English) by a woman.
- ShakespeareCAT (Much Ado about Nothing, romcoms): An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts and In Case You Missed It are both romantic comedies, though they’re more women’s fiction than straight-up romance.
- AlphaKIT (A, B): Lois McMaster *Bujold, Cordelia's Honor; Silvia Zucca, An *Astrological Guide for *Broken Hearts; Chris Wooding, The *Black Lung Captain; Mary *Balogh, Only *Beloved; Leo *Bruce, Case with Four Clowns; Lisa *Berne, The Worst Duke in the World
- RandomKIT (read a cat): A subplot of The Black Lung Captain involves the airship’s ornery cat, Slag, terrorizing one of the crew members.

Bingo squares completed:
- Award winner: Barrayar (in Cordelia’s Honor) won the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 1992.
- In translation: An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts was translated from Italian to English.
- A long-for-you book: My edition of The Black Lung Captain is 536 pages long; anything over 500 pages is long for me.
- Set in a capital city: Despite the title, The Siren of Sussex is set almost entirely in London.
- Travel or a journey: Throne of Jade centers around a sea voyage from England to China.
- Children’s or young adult: The Red Palace is a YA novel.

Books acquired in February:
- Stephanie Burgis, Scales and Sensibility (e-book)
- Sophie Cousens, Just Haven’t Met You Yet (already read)
- Michael Gilbert, Death in Captivity
- Emily Henry, Beach Read
- Lindsey Kelk, In Case You Missed It (e-book) (already read)
- Katherine Center, What You Wish For
- Delia Sherman, The Evil Wizard Smallbone
- Garth Nix, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London
- Stuart Turton, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
- R.C. Sherriff, The Fortnight in September
- Anne Gracie, The Spring Bride
- Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels (e-book)

Feb 28, 2:17pm

>92 christina_reads: I have this on my "books to pick up at the library" list so I'm happy to read your good opinion.

Feb 28, 3:45pm

>99 VivienneR: Hope you enjoy it! I was too impatient to wait for the library hold, but in hindsight I probably should have.

Edited: Mar 8, 9:53am

Book #27: Lois McMaster Bujold, Young Miles
CATs: none
Bingo: none

In The Warrior’s Apprentice, Miles Vorkosigan fails his entrance exam to the Barrayaran Imperial Service Academy, so he must figure out an alternate plan for his life. Of course, being Miles, it’s not a “plan” so much as a series of chaotic events that puts him at the head of a fleet of space mercenaries. In The Mountains of Mourning, Miles investigates the infanticide of a “mutant” baby in a village within the Vorkosigans’ jurisdiction. And in The Vor Game, Miles struggles with insubordination, rejoins his space mercenary fleet, and thwarts an enemy invasion of local space. I’ve enjoyed all the books in this series so far, and these are no exception. I really love Miles; he’s certainly a flawed character, and quite immature in these early adventures, but he’s smart and creative and always fun to follow. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Mar 9, 9:37am

Book #28: Rachel Lynn Solomon, Weather Girl
CATs: Alpha (S = Solomon)
Bingo: Weather word in the title

Ari loves being a meteorologist at the local TV station, but she doesn’t love the disruption caused by her boss and the station director, ex-spouses who are constantly arguing in the office. Ari and her sympathetic colleague Russell decide to try and get the exes back together, hoping this will result in a better work environment. But when sparks fly between Ari and Russell as well, they have trouble opening up to each other. I loved the premise of this contemporary romance, which is very reminiscent of the (adorable) Netflix movie “Set It Up,” but overall I thought the book was just fine. I didn’t click that much with Ari or Russell, so I wasn’t particularly invested in the romance. A perfectly OK book, just not the right book for me.

Mar 11, 12:58pm

>101 christina_reads: I love this series and am thinking this would be a good year to reread some of Miles' adventures.

Mar 11, 2:09pm

>103 hailelib: So far I'm enjoying it a lot! I'll be interested to compare notes with you if you do decide to re-read anything.

Mar 13, 8:08pm

Hello Christina! Amazed and astounded by your reads last month and this. I'm glad you enjoyed Throne of Jade and congrats on making a dent in your series and challenges!

Mar 14, 9:45am

>105 threadnsong: Thank you! I've definitely been on a roll in terms of quantity. And I'm really enjoying my series challenge so far...looking forward to finishing up the Ketty Jay series in April!

Mar 14, 11:16am

Book #29: Chris Wooding, The Iron Jackal
CATs: none
Bingo: none

After the events of The Black Lung Captain, Darian Frey is a minor celebrity, and he and his crew are unusually disaster-free. They’ve just been hired by Frey’s once and (possibly) future lover, Trinica Dracken, to steal an ancient and valuable Samarlan relic. But what should be a simple train job quickly gets complicated when the relic puts a curse on Frey. This is another solid installment of the Ketty Jay series, though I think it’s my least favorite so far; the plot meanders a bit and drags on a little too long. But it was good to learn more about Silo’s backstory and to see the characters, especially Frey, continue to grow. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next (and final) book in April!

Mar 15, 9:21am

Book #30: Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels
CATs: Alpha (S = Scoundrels)
Bingo: Flowers on the cover

Sebastian, Lord Dain, has a deservedly terrible reputation, and he enjoys living down to it. Jessica Trent is concerned when her dimwitted brother enters Dain’s orbit, and she is determined to make Dain back off. Of course, he intends to do no such thing, but their ensuing arguments are complicated by a strong mutual attraction. This book is full of DRAMA and over-the-top emotions; both Dain and Jess behave ridiculously at times. Nevertheless, I found it all very compelling! Chase is a good writer, and there are some real human emotions grounding all the craziness. My only other complaint is that the book is too steamy for me, but obviously that’s very subjective. So I prefer Chase’s traditional Regencies, but I’m still glad I read this one!

Mar 15, 5:14pm

>108 christina_reads: I've become a big Loretta Chase fan and this is one of her best. Agree with you about the steam factor, but at least her books aren't all steam and nothing much else.

Mar 15, 5:18pm

>109 pamelad: I can definitely see why this is one of Chase's most beloved books! I intend to make my way through more of her backlist -- and I'm impatiently awaiting the next Difficult Dukes book!

Mar 21, 10:25am

Book #31: Naomi Novik, Black Powder War
CATs: Alpha (P = Powder); SFF (historical = Napoleonic Wars)
Bingo: Silver or gold on the cover (silver title)

After the events of Throne of Jade, Laurence and Temeraire are about to leave China and return to England. But a last-minute order redirects them to Istanbul to pick up three dragon eggs that the Ottoman Empire has sold to the British government. On their journey they face the hazards of bad weather, feral dragons, and a guide with dubious loyalties; once they arrive in Istanbul, even greater dangers await. This series is still going strong; I really enjoyed the plot development in this installment, especially Laurence and Temeraire’s experiences with the Prussian troops. I’m also excited for the introduction of new characters such as Tharkay and Iskierka. Looking forward to book 4!

Mar 21, 10:29am

Book #32: Jane Ashford, Married to a Perfect Stranger
CATs: Alpha (P = Perfect, S = Stranger)
Bingo: none

John and Mary got married after a very brief acquaintance, mostly to please their families. Almost immediately, John, an employee of the Foreign Office, left for a two-year diplomatic mission to China. Now he’s returned, but when he and Mary meet again, they have both changed in many ways. They butt heads at first but are also intrigued by these new versions of each other. As they get reacquainted, Mary develops her talent for drawing and John struggles to advance in his career. This was a pleasant but unremarkable Regency romance. I did like that the protagonists aren’t aristocrats; John and Mary both have some wealth, but they aren’t part of high society, and John realizes that his lack of social connections may harm his career. But the story is a bit bland, and there’s a suspense subplot that never really goes anywhere. I’m open to reading more by Jane Ashford, but I won’t be expecting a 5-star read.

Mar 21, 4:11pm

>112 christina_reads: I've read a ridiculous number of Jane Ashford's books, probably because they're available on Overdrive, short, undemanding and not too graphic, and written with correct grammar and vocabulary, but I've rated none of them above 3 stars (not a bad rating for a romance, but nothing special). I didn't finish Married to a Perfect Stranger because the bad tempered husband annoyed me too much!

I liked The Duke's Sons series (except for the second book).

Mar 21, 5:13pm

>113 pamelad: I get what you mean about the bad-tempered husband. The other Ashford book I've read, The Bargain, has a similar problem -- the hero is initially quite a jerk in his attitude toward the heroine (and in fact all women). While he shapes up in the end, it's definitely a frustrating journey!

Mar 21, 5:32pm

Book #33: Lee Child, Killing Floor
CATs: Author (first published at age 40 or later = 43); Mystery (small towns = Margrave, GA)
Bingo: none

In this series opener, former military cop Jack Reacher walks into the small town of Margrave, Georgia, and is promptly arrested for murder. Reacher didn’t kill anyone (not recently, anyway), but in the course of proving his innocence to the local police, he gets drawn into the search for the real murderer despite himself. Along the way, Reacher uncovers an international criminal operation and puts his skills as a trained killer to good use. This type of thriller isn’t my usual fare, but I’m glad I gave it a try. The book is a real page-turner and Reacher is a compelling character. Despite the overall darkness and violence of the plot, there are some moments of humor (such as when Reacher feels the need to explain that Oxford, England, is a university town). I’m not invested in reading the entire series, but I’d certainly pick up another Reacher novel, and I’ve put the Amazon Prime TV series on my watchlist.

Edited: Mar 21, 5:57pm

>115 christina_reads:-The Amazon is somewhat violent but follows the book pretty closely. And there's some of the humor too.

Mar 22, 10:02am

>116 dudes22: Good to know! The book was definitely more violent than I'm comfortable with, and I had to skim over a few of the gorier details. But I can always close my eyes when the TV show gets to those parts!

Mar 22, 11:11am

Book #34: Katherine Center, What You Wish For
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Samantha Casey loves her job as a librarian at an idyllic independent elementary school. When the school’s beloved principal suddenly dies, Sam is devastated — especially when she learns that his replacement is Duncan Carpenter, the man she had a hopeless crush on when they worked together at another school four years ago. But when Duncan arrives, he’s cold and authoritarian and rigid, not at all the fun-loving guy Sam remembers. Nevertheless, as they battle for the future of the school, sparks fly between them. I’ve really enjoyed Katherine Center’s books in the past, but I didn’t quite fall in love with this one. Aspects of Sam’s character irritated me, and I wanted more romance and less school politics. Still, I stayed up way too late reading this book and will definitely continue to follow the author.

Mar 22, 5:41pm

Book #35: Stephanie Burgis, Scales and Sensibility
CATs: Alpha (S = Stephanie, Scales, Sensibility); SFF (historical = Regency)
Bingo: none

Practical, penniless Elinor Tregarth tries to endure her cousin Penelope’s constant abuse and belittling, but eventually she can’t take it anymore and runs away, bringing Penelope’s mistreated dragon with her. Little does Elinor know that the dragon has magical powers: when she wishes to be as beautiful, confident, and respected as London society’s most fashionable leader, the dragon’s power makes her look just like the society woman. In disguise, Elinor is free to plan her future, stand up to her cousin, and perhaps even catch the eye of a handsome stranger. This is a cute bit of magical Regency froth, and while it’s less substantial than Burgis’s excellent Masks and Shadows, I still enjoyed it very much. I’ll definitely pick up the sequel when it comes out this fall!

Mar 24, 12:08pm

Book #36: Georgette Heyer, Death in the Stocks
CATs: Alpha (S = Stocks)
Bingo: none

The rich but disagreeable Arnold Vereker is stabbed to death, and his body is found in the stocks on the village green. Suspicion centers around the dead man’s half-siblings, Kenneth and Antonia, as well as their shady love interests. Scotland Yard is assisted by Giles Carrington, the Vereker family’s attorney, though he has a personal interest in the case as well. I adore Heyer’s romances but have been less impressed with her mysteries overall. This is one of the few I kept after my initial read, but upon rereading I thought it was just okay. The Verekers are supposed to be likable and entertaining, but they annoyed me this time around, and the romance was barely sketched in. It’s a decent read if you like Golden Age mysteries, but it’s no longer a keeper for me.

Mar 24, 5:27pm

Book #37: Mimi Matthews, The Matrimonial Advertisement
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Justin Thornhill needs a wife — a sensible, hardworking person who can run his home and occasionally warm his bed. Helena Reynolds needs to escape a bad situation and gain the protection of a husband. When she answers his matrimonial advertisement, neither of them is expecting much; but as they get to know one another better, they learn that they don’t have to settle for a marriage of convenience. I liked this book a lot when I first read it a couple years ago, and I really enjoyed revisiting it now. I love a marriage-of-convenience plot, and both Helena and Justin are likable characters. I also like that, while there are no sex scenes, it’s still very clear that the hero and heroine are attracted to one another. I'm so glad to have discovered Mimi Matthews and can't wait for her next book!

Mar 25, 4:44am

Mar 25, 10:07am

>122 Tess_W: Hope you enjoy it! And if you do, there are three more books in the series (although The Matrimonial Advertisement can definitely stand alone). I haven't been disappointed by a Matthews book yet!

Edited: Mar 25, 3:25pm

>121 christina_reads: I have a friend who loves Mimi Matthews. She recently gave me one of her books that isn't a romance, it's animal stories about the pets of people from history. I look forward to reading it.

Mar 25, 3:28pm

>124 clue: That sounds interesting as well! I've only read her romances thus far.

Mar 25, 5:15pm

>121 christina_reads: I also enjoyed the Parish Orphans of Devon series and would like to find more Victorian romances. More trains, fewer horses.

Mar 26, 5:28pm

>126 pamelad: I don't mind horses, but I'd certainly be happy to see more trains!

Mar 28, 10:35am

Book #38: Caroline Stevermer, The Glass Magician
CATs: Alpha (S = Stevermer); SFF (historical = Gilded Age New York)
Bingo: none

Thalia Cutler is a stage magician on the vaudeville circuit, but when a dangerous trick goes wrong, she discovers that she also has real magical powers. But until she learns to control them, she’s in grave danger and must take shelter with a friendly family that has similar powers. Meanwhile, one of Thalia’s onstage competitors is murdered, and her mentor is arrested for the crime, so she must discover the real killer. I wanted to love this book, but it didn’t have the same spark that A College of Magics and A Scholar of Magics did for me. It felt very much like book 1 of a series, with incomplete world-building and storylines that aren’t resolved. I don’t know if a sequel is planned, but I’m not especially interested in it, unfortunately.

Mar 31, 10:07am

March recap

A weird month, March has been. (I see I said the same thing in February! I hope this is not an emerging pattern...) On the plus side, my mom came to visit for a long weekend, which was lovely as I hadn’t seen her since Christmas. We got manicures, went shopping, tried some new restaurants, and saw Kenneth Branagh’s “Death on the Nile” (it was pretty good!). On the minus side, I got Covid. Happily, it was a pretty mild case (just some coughing and nasal congestion), and I’m recovered now. And, silver lining, it got me out of jury duty! But overall, I'm looking forward to better things in April. For now, on to the books:

Books read in March:
1. Lois McMaster Bujold, Young Miles
2. Rachel Lynn Solomon, Weather Girl
3. Chris Wooding, The Iron Jackal
4. Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels
5. Naomi Novik, Black Powder War
6. Jane Ashford, Married to a Perfect Stranger
7. Lee Child, Killing Floor
8. Katherine Center, What You Wish For
9. Stephanie Burgis, Scales and Sensibility
10. Georgette Heyer, Death in the Stocks
11. Mimi Matthews, The Matrimonial Advertisement
12. Caroline Stevermer, The Glass Magician

Favorite book of the month:
I’m somewhat surprised to be picking Lord of Scoundrels! Even though it’s a little angstier than I usually prefer in a romance, the good writing and vivid characters more than compensate for that.

Dishonorable mention:
I had high hopes for Weather Girl but was underwhelmed.

CATs completed:
- AuthorCAT (first published at age 40 or later): Killing Floor, Lee Child’s debut novel, was published when the author was 43.
- AlphaKIT (P, S): Rachel Lynn *Solomon, Weather Girl; Loretta Chase, Lord of *Scoundrels; Naomi Novik, Black *Powder War; Jane Ashford, Married to a *Perfect *Stranger; *Stephanie Burgis, *Scales and *Sensibility; Georgette Heyer, Death in the *Stocks; Caroline *Stevermer, The Glass Magician
- MysteryKIT (small towns, big secrets): Killing Floor is set in the fictional small town of Margrave, Georgia.
- SFFKIT (historical): Black Powder War is set during the Napoleonic Wars, but it’s an alternate history with dragons. And Scales and Sensibility is a Regency romance with dragons. Apparently I was in a draconian mood this month!

Bingo squares completed:
- Weather word in the title: Weather Girl was the obvious choice. :)
- Flowers on the cover: Lord of Scoundrels qualifies.
- Silver or gold on the cover: Black Powder War has an embossed silver title.

Books acquired in March:
- Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure and St. Claude de la Colombiere, Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence
- Lee Child, One Shot

Mar 31, 12:44pm

Hopefuly your "weird" months are now past and April brings lots of good things your way!

Mar 31, 1:44pm

>130 DeltaQueen50: Thanks, Judy! I'm optimistic.

Apr 1, 10:30am

Great reading month! Glad you were able to see your mom, too.

Apr 1, 9:00pm

A good reading month! I'm enjoying your Vorkosigan reviews. This is one of my two favourite science fiction series, The Expanse by James S. A. Corey being the other one. I'd already done a reread of the entire series a few years ago but I may do another reread sometime in the future.

Apr 4, 9:52am

>132 rabbitprincess: I'm really glad I was able to see her! And glad that travel is becoming more commonplace again.

>133 mathgirl40: I'd like to read the Expanse series! I watched the first couple seasons of the TV show and really enjoyed it. I'm strongly considering another series-themed challenge for 2023!

Apr 4, 2:11pm

Book #39: Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem
CATs: Alpha (L = Lois)
Bingo: none

In Cetaganda, Miles and his cousin Ivan travel to Cetaganda to attend a state funeral, only to become entangled in political intrigue and murder. In Ethan of Athos, Ethan leaves his all-male planet and is forced to team up with that most mysterious and dangerous of creatures, a woman (and hey, it’s Elli Quinn from The Warrior’s Apprentice!). And in the novella Labyrinth, the Dendarii Mercenaries’ simple mission to pick up a scientist from Jackson’s Whole goes awry. I’m still really enjoying this series, although the characters trump the plots, for me. I adore Miles and have a huge soft spot for Ivan as well! Also, I find it interesting how much of this series (at least so far) is about gender, sexual politics, and reproduction. Looking forward to seeing what happens next!

Apr 4, 2:12pm

Book #40: Jenn P. Nguyen, Fake It Till You Break It
CATs: CATWoman (woman of color = author and heroine are Asian American); Alpha (J = Jenn)
Bingo: none

Mia and Jake have known each other forever; they live in the same neighborhood, and their mothers are best friends. In fact, their moms would love them to date each other, but they just don’t get along. To stop the maternal matchmaking for good, Mia and Jake decide to fake a short relationship and a spectacular breakup. But as they pretend to fall in love, they’re surprised to develop real feelings for each other. I love the fake-dating trope, and this was a cute read, but it’s quite predictable and not particularly unique. Still, a fun bit of fluff to pass an afternoon.

Apr 4, 2:13pm

Book #41: Georgette Heyer, The Convenient Marriage
CATs: none
Bingo: none

The rich Earl of Rule proposes to the Beauty of the Season, Elizabeth Winwood. She’s in love with someone else but feels obligated to accept his proposal because her family is poor. Fortunately, her sister Horatia comes to the rescue — since Elizabeth is unavailable, would Rule consider marrying Horry instead? Rule is amused and agrees to Horry’s unusual proposal, but their relationship is fraught with miscommunications and misunderstandings. This is not one of Heyer’s best books — I’m not sure I buy Rule’s character or his feelings for Horry — but it’s the first Heyer I ever read, so I’ll always have a soft spot for it!

Apr 4, 5:36pm

>135 christina_reads: I read Ethan of Athos last year and really enjoyed it. It didn't go the direction I thought it would.

Apr 5, 9:35am

>138 NinieB: At first I was disappointed at the lack of Miles & co. in Ethan of Athos, but it's a fun side adventure! And I wonder if I had the same assumption as you regarding the direction of the plot -- I was expecting a romance between Ethan and Elli.

Apr 5, 10:19pm

Apr 7, 5:10pm

>129 christina_reads: Glad to hear you survived the Covid without lasting ill-effects and had a good time with your mum.

Loretta Chase is now one of my favourite romance writers. I like her lively writing and her sense of humour.

Apr 7, 5:31pm

>141 pamelad: Thank you! And I also really enjoy Loretta Chase -- I need to seek out more of her backlist! So far my favorite of hers is the traditional Regency Knaves' Wager.

Apr 13, 8:59am

Book #42: Chris Wooding, The Ace of Skulls
CATs: SFF (lifespans = immortal daemons)
Bingo: none

In the final installment of the Ketty Jay series, civil war has erupted between Vardia’s Coalition government and the Awakeners. Darian Frey just wants to stay out of it; he’s more concerned with finding his former fiancée (and current sky pirate), Trinica, so he can finally tell her how he feels. But of course, the crew of the Ketty Jay get drawn into the war despite themselves — and when the Awakeners unleash their secret weapon, Frey and his friends may be the only ones who can stop it. I was disappointed by a few loose ends: we never saw Crake’s brother again, and Pelaru’s death was weirdly abrupt and never revisited. I was also shipping two characters (Crake and Jez) who didn’t get together, alas! But overall, this is a satisfying ending to a really fun series. If you enjoy sci-fi adventure stories and found families, or if you just really miss the TV show Firefly, I’d definitely recommend these books!

Apr 15, 11:09am

Book #43: Kate Noble, Revealed
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Phillippa Benning is a young and beautiful widow, the toast of the ton; Marcus Worth is a British intelligence agent tracking down a dangerous French spy. The two have nothing in common, but a series of events forces them to team up, where Phillippa proves herself surprisingly capable — and surprisingly attracted to the quite ordinary-seeming Marcus. This is a reread for me, and at first I was wondering why I’d ever kept it on my shelves. The plot is predictable, the writing is clunky, and there are a lot of grammatical errors (something I can usually overlook, but seriously, there are a LOT). But I did get sucked into the story eventually; the banter between Phillippa and Marcus is cute, and the romance ultimately worked for me. Still, this isn’t a book I need to keep around any longer; there are definitely better Regencies out there!

Apr 16, 9:12pm

Hello Christina! Stopping by this weekend to say hello and hoping your April is going well so far. Nothing weird, I hope??

Apr 18, 8:57am

>145 threadnsong: Thanks for stopping by! April is, as always, the cruelest month, but I'm hanging in there. :) Hope you're doing well!

Apr 18, 10:25am

Book #44: C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
CATs: Alpha (L = Lewis)
Bingo: Book club read

In this brief fable, C.S. Lewis examines the “great divorce” between Heaven and Hell. Some dead souls visit Heaven and are invited to stay, but they all have some secret vice or selfishness that makes them resist the invitation. I’d read this book before but didn’t remember too much about it, so I was glad to revisit it during Lent. I found it fascinating and powerful, as I share some of the struggles of the dead souls! I would definitely recommend this to Christians, though if you haven’t read Lewis before, this probably isn’t the best place to start; try Mere Christianity instead.

Edited: Apr 18, 10:29am

Book #45: Agatha Christie, The Moving Finger
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Jerry and his sister Joanna are visiting the tranquil English village of Lymstock, but their stay is soon disrupted by a spate of malicious anonymous letters that circulate through the village. When the letters lead to suicide and murder, Jerry attempts to solve the poison pen mystery, with a late-game assist from Miss Marple. JayneCM's recent comments reminded me that I hadn’t read this Christie novel in a while, and it’s one of my favorites! The mystery is really clever and the characterization is strong. Of course, I also enjoyed the romantic elements of the plot. :) Granted, Miss Marple fans will be disappointed because she’s barely in the book; she basically just comes in at the end to deliver the solution. But I’d still highly recommend this one to Christie lovers!

Apr 18, 1:27pm

>10 christina_reads: I'm just stopping by to say 'hi' and take a look through your reading challenges. Wow, I am really impressed by your progress on BingoDOG! Wishing you good luck with all your remaining category challenges in 2022.

Apr 18, 1:34pm

>149 LowProfile: Thank you! I've been lucky that many of the Bingo squares were easy for me to fill this time around. I'm thinking of starting a second card once I complete this one, but we'll see how ambitious I'm feeling then!

Apr 26, 9:47am

Book #46: Naomi Novik, Empire of Ivory
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Laurence and Temeraire have finally made it home to England, only to learn that the vast majority of British dragons have contracted a mysterious and deadly illness. They journey to Africa in the desperate hope of finding a cure, but they encounter several difficulties, including being captured by a hostile African tribe. I’m continuing to enjoy this series, although the pacing of this book is pretty uneven. But the series’ strength is world-building, not plot; I love being immersed in this alternate-19th-century universe, and Novik excels at portraying the language and attitudes of the period. She’s more convincing than most historical fiction authors, in my opinion. Looking forward to the next installment, especially since this one ends with a real heartbreaker!

Apr 26, 2:50pm

Book #47: Suzanne Allain, Miss Lattimore’s Letter
CATs: Alpha (L = Lattimore’s, Letter)
Bingo: none

Sophie Lattimore is a keen observer of people, and when she sees a well-known bachelor about to make a disastrous marriage, she decides to send him some anonymous advice. Her interference unexpectedly results in two happy marriages, giving Sophie (whose identity is of course revealed) a reputation as a matchmaker. But when the handsome and charming Sir Edmund Winslow approaches Sophie about finding him a bride, she doesn’t know what to do — especially since she’d like to marry Sir Edmund herself! This is a light, breezy Regency romance that I read in an afternoon. I liked it and would recommend it to fans of the genre, especially those who prefer to avoid steamy scenes (nothing more explicit than kissing here). But it’s definitely not a book I feel tempted to keep and re-read.

Apr 26, 6:54pm

>152 christina_reads: That goes on my WL!

Apr 27, 9:25am

>153 Tess_W: It's a cute one, Tess!

May 2, 9:49am

April recap

I know I’m a couple days late, but I still wanted to post my April recap. It was a good month but an incredibly busy one: I’m in a community theater production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” (playing one of the wicked stepsisters), and we just survived our opening weekend! So April has been a blur of rehearsals and stress — but it’s also been super fun!

As a result, I had a slightly slower reading month, but I did do quite a bit of book buying! I went to my favorite used bookstore and also took advantage of my public library’s semi-annual sale. I had given up buying unnecessary “stuff,” including books, for Lent, so I may have gone a bit overboard. :) Anyway, on to the books!

Books read in April:
1. Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem
2. Jenn P. Nguyen, Fake It Till You Break It
3. Georgette Heyer, The Convenient Marriage
4. Chris Wooding, The Ace of Skulls
5. Kate Noble, Revealed
6. C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
7. Agatha Christie, The Moving Finger
8. Naomi Novik, Empire of Ivory
9. Suzanne Allain, Miss Lattimore’s Letter

Favorite book of the month:
Hmm, the vast majority of books I read this month were re-reads. Of the new books, I’ll go with Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem, as I’ve gotten pretty invested in the series now!

Dishonorable mention:
Fake It Till You Break It was fine but forgettable.

CATs completed:
CATWoman (women of color): Both the author and heroine of Fake It Till You Break It are Asian American.
AlphaKIT (L, J): *Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem; *Jenn P. Nguyen, Fake It Till You Break It; C.S. *Lewis, The Great Divorce; Suzanne Allain, Miss *Lattimore’s *Letter
SFFKIT (lifespans): The Ace of Skulls features immortal daemons.

BingoDOG squares completed:
- Book club read: I read The Great Divorce for a Lenten book club with my church’s young adult group.

Books acquired in April:
- Cece Louise, In a Dark, Dark Wood (e-book, Early Reviewer win)
- India Holton, The League of Gentlewomen Witches
- Sheri Cobb South, John Pickett mysteries #6-10 (e-books)
- Stella Riley, Rockliffe series #4-6 (e-books)
- Lois McMaster Bujold, Winterfair Gifts (e-book)
- Lois McMaster Bujold, The Flowers of Vashnoi (e-book)
- Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls
- Manda Collins, A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem
- Suzanne Allain, Miss Lattimore’s Letter (already read)
- Lisa Berne, You May Kiss the Bride
- Lauren Kate, By Any Other Name
- Aja Gabel, The Ensemble
- W.H. Auden, Lectures on Shakespeare
- Garth Nix, Newt’s Emerald
- John Sutherland and Deirdre Le Faye, So You Think You Know Jane Austen?: A Literary Quizbook
- Christopher Morley, Thunder on the Left

May 3, 10:06am

Book #48: Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles Errant
CATs: Author (from my country = USA/Ohio, Minneapolis)
Bingo: About sisters or brothers

In The Borders of Infinity, Miles infiltrates a Cetagandan POW camp and engineers a miracle. In Brothers in Arms, the Dendarii mercenaries have cash flow problems, and Miles has trouble juggling his Admiral Naismith and Lord Vorkosigan personas. Also, he gets kidnapped and has to foil yet another plot against Barrayar. Mirror Dance switches gears somewhat, following Mark as he tries to liberate the clones from Jackson’s Whole, with disastrous results. There is some dark stuff here — the end of Mirror Dance is particularly tough to read — but in my opinion, the two full-length novels in this volume are the best in the series so far. Loved seeing Aral and Cordelia again (and Ivan, of course!), and I can’t wait to see what happens next with Miles, Mark & co.!

May 4, 10:19am

Book #49: Lauren Kate, By Any Other Name
CATs: Alpha (O = Other)
Bingo: none

Book editor Lanie is thrilled when she gets a promotion that will allow her to work with her literary idol, romance author Noa Callaway. Callaway is a pseudonym, and the public doesn’t know the author’s real identity, but Lanie pictures a worldly middle-aged woman who will become her mentor and friend. Of course, the truth is entirely different, and when a shocked Lanie meets the real “Noa,” her discovery causes her to reevaluate her entire life. I think this book has charm and potential, but I didn’t understand Lanie’s strong emotional reaction to Noa’s true identity. (My own thought was, “What’s the big deal?”) I also wanted more depth from the romance; Lanie and her love interest only spend a few days together on-page. So overall, I was disappointed, but I’d potentially try another book by the author.

May 5, 3:54pm

Book #50: Cece Louise, In a Dark, Dark Wood
CATs: Author (from my country = USA/Wisconsin); Alpha (D = Dark)
Bingo: none

Desperate to save her family from starving, miller’s daughter Calia impersonates a princess who is betrothed to Prince Brone of nearby Ebonwood. When Calia arrives at Ebonwood Castle, she encounters many mysteries and secrets, not least the personality of her reclusive fiancé. But even as she and Brone grow closer, something — or someone — at Ebonwood threatens the safety of both Calia and the entire kingdom. This YA fantasy romance is a decent read, though a bit simplistic and predictable. It borrows elements from Beauty and the Beast and from gothic romances such as Jane Eyre and Rebecca. I thought it was fine, though I won’t be racing to read the other books in the series.

May 8, 10:52pm

Congratulations on a successful April reading and I liked your review of Empire of Ivory. Your mention of the pacing being uneven was just the *click* that resonated with me. And it was interesting reading it in the After Times when the dragons are suffering with their plague.

Continued reading success in May!

May 9, 10:36am

>159 threadnsong: Thank you! I seem to recall getting bogged down in the middle of the Temeraire series last time I read it, and I never did read the final two books. I really love the world of the series, as well as the main characters, but I think Novik sometimes gets too focused on the "travelogue" aspect. In Empire of Ivory, it's mostly exploring Africa, and nothing important to the plot really happens until the last 60 pages or so.

May 9, 2:01pm

Book #51: Anna Dean, Bellfield Hall
CATs: Alpha (D = Dean)
Bingo: none

Intelligent, observant “spinster” Dido Kent encounters two mysteries while visiting Bellfield Hall. First, her niece Catherine asks her to find her fiancé, Richard, who disappeared shortly after their engagement was announced. Then a woman is found shot on the grounds of the estate, and it looks like the killer must be someone living at Bellfield. Are the two incidents somehow connected? There are a lot of historical mysteries set in the early 19th century, and they vary widely in quality. I’m happy to say that I think this is one of the best I’ve read. The mystery itself is a little convoluted, but the writing style and atmosphere are spot-on, and Dido is an entertaining sleuth. I’m excited to continue with the series!

May 12, 5:35pm

Book #52: T.A. Willberg, Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose
CATs: Alpha (D = Deadly); Random (May flowers = rose)
Bingo: none

Marion Lane, now a second-year apprentice at Miss Brickett’s underground society of investigators, has been assigned to a new case: A serial killer dubbed The Florist is branding his victims with a rose before murdering them. But Marion is also dealing with problems inside the agency, including the emergence of a club with sinister motives and an anonymous tip that one of the first-years is not to be trusted. I was underwhelmed by the first book in the series, but I was hoping that this installment would flesh out the world and characters a bit more. Unfortunately, Marion and her friends still don’t feel like real people to me; all the focus is on a confusing plot whose stakes are never really clear. I believe at least one more book is planned, and I may end up reading it despite myself, but I wouldn’t actually recommend the series.

May 13, 4:12pm

Book #53: Melissa Ferguson, Meet Me in the Margins
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Savannah is an assistant editor at a literary publishing house, but she secretly aspires to be a writer herself. After leaving her manuscript unattended in the office, she comes back to find that someone has scribbled highly critical notes in the margins. At first Savannah is offended, but when someone she trusts gives her the same feedback, she admits that her mystery editor might be onto something. As she trades notes and stories with the mystery editor, she also grows closer to her new boss, Will. But what will happen if she has to choose between them? This is a cute contemporary romance, even if the mystery editor’s identity is immediately obvious. But Savannah is relatable, her love interest is appealing, and I bought the romance. There is a significant family conflict in Savannah’s life, too, and I wish that had been fleshed out more; the resolution felt way too pat. Still, this book was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, and I’d consider reading more by the author.

May 13, 4:32pm

>163 christina_reads: gonna put this one on my WL for when I need something light!

May 13, 4:34pm

>164 Tess_W: It definitely qualifies as something light! Also, no steamy scenes in this one, which makes sense as it's a Christian publisher. (But there's nothing explicitly Christian in the story either.)

May 17, 11:06pm

>143 christina_reads: You caught my eye with sci-fi adventure, found family, and Firefly -- I may look into Retribution Falls. It's funny that everyone is calling out in reviews how "Joss Whedon" it seems and that also most of even the old criticisms seem to be around misogyny, since that's something Joss Whedon has also been tagged with but only relatively recently as far as I know...

>151 christina_reads: Empire of Ivory is where I stopped in Temeraire (actually, it seems I read part of Victory of Eagles and then lost interest), so I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of the rest!

>156 christina_reads: I totally agree that Brothers in Arms and Mirror Dance are the *best* of that series, right up there with A Civil Campaign. (I also now think Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen which you'll get to later, is phenomenal, but it took until a reread of the entire series with my expectations set for what it actually *is* in order for me to appreciate it -- so low expectations going in!)

May 18, 9:24am

>166 pammab: Retribution Falls is indeed in that Whedon mold, for good and ill. I would agree that the main character starts off pretty misogynistic, but I also think he grows throughout the series (and even throughout the first book). So I ultimately wasn't too bothered, but others' mileage may vary.

I am still enjoying Victory of Eagles, but I recall getting quite bored with the next Temeraire book, Tongues of Serpents. Still, I'm determined to power through to the end! Right now I'm undecided whether I'll keep the series on my shelves or not. I really love the concept, the writing style, and the characters, but I have some issues with pacing and plot.

I am SO looking forward to A Civil Campaign, as I've heard that's a good one (and also that it's essentially a Regency romance in space, which, yes please!). And thanks for the heads-up on Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen; I'll be sure to temper my expectations going in.

Edited: May 20, 2:37pm

Book #54: Naomi Novik, Victory of Eagles
CATs: Author (from my own country = USA/Manhattan); SFF (invasion = Napoleon invades England)
Bingo: none

After the events of Empire of Ivory, Temeraire has been exiled to the dragon breeding grounds, while Laurence is languishing in prison, awaiting execution for treason. But when Napoleon’s long-feared invasion of England finally occurs, Laurence and Temeraire reunite to fight against the French. I think this is one of the stronger books in the series, perhaps because there’s no “travelogue” element; the book is set entirely in Britain. I also like the historical details in this installment, including real historical figures like Wellesley and Talleyrand. Also, it’s great to see Temeraire exert some personal agency as he leads a group of (somewhat recalcitrant) dragons into battle. And finally, the emotional stakes are high in this book, which makes it a particularly compelling read. I hope subsequent books in the series will live up to it!

May 25, 10:33am

Book #55: Emily Henry, Book Lovers
CATs: Author (from my own country = USA/Ohio, Kentucky)
Bingo: none

Nora loves her life as a successful literary agent in New York, and she (mostly) embraces her reputation as a ruthless, career-focused ice queen. But when her sister, Libby, proposes a month-long vacation in a small North Carolina town, Nora reluctantly agrees. Libby hopes Nora will embrace the Hallmark atmosphere and have a fling with a local carpenter or lumberjack. But instead, Nora keeps running into Charlie, a professional acquaintance who is also staying in town. They have a strong connection, but will their emotional baggage keep them apart? I’m of two minds about this book. It’s well-written, with great banter and a compelling romance. But I wasn’t a fan of how Nora’s narration keeps skipping back in time to talk about her history with Libby and their mother. It takes focus from the current-day events, which I found much more interesting. I also thought the conflict with Libby was a bit of a letdown — there’s a mystery that builds throughout the book, and when the reveal finally comes, I was like, “Really, that’s it?” I would still definitely recommend this novel to fans of contemporary romance, but I didn’t completely love it the way I was hoping to.

May 27, 9:17am

Book #56: Elizabeth Cadell, Any Two Can Play
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Natalie Travers moves to the English village of Downing to help her brother, whose wife has abandoned him and their one-year-old twins. Natalie thinks her stay will be temporary, but she soon realizes that hiring servants to look after the twins and keep house will be harder than she anticipated. While she searches, she makes friends with the quirky residents of the village and gets involved with local landowner Henry Downing. This is a quiet, soothing story about ordinary people in a small country village where nothing much happens — in other words, an excellent stress-reducing read! I did think the romance was a bit lackluster, but overall I enjoyed this one. It was the only Cadell book available at my public library, but I’m hoping I can track down a few others, perhaps at used bookstores.

May 27, 12:12pm

>170 christina_reads: Elizabeth Cadell is an author that I haven't heard of before. I checked Amazon and they have a number of her books, some at a very reduced price so I picked up a couple.

May 27, 12:25pm

>171 DeltaQueen50: Nice! Sadly, I have a Nook rather than a Kindle, and the e-books aren't available for my device. I suppose I could always read them on my phone, though I prefer not to. Regardless, I look forward to seeing what you think!

May 27, 4:07pm

>170 christina_reads: The only one of Elizabeth Cadell's books I've read is Parson's House which, same as your experience, was the only one available in our public library system. In case it was her worst one and I didn't give her a fair go, I'm going to try The Corner Shop.

I've just found Essie Summers, a New Zealand writer whose romance novels sold more than 19 million copies in 105 countries.

May 27, 4:29pm

>173 pamelad: I hope you fare better with The Corner Shop! And thanks for the tip on Essie Summers -- I hadn't heard of her, but it looks my library has (only) one of her books, So Comes Tomorrow. I'll have to check it out!

Edited: May 30, 7:35am

>170 christina_reads: Thanks for the heads-up on this author. I had not heard of her before. My library had a couple of her books in digital format so I requested one.

May 31, 9:49am

>175 Tess_W: Hope you enjoy the Cadell book!

May 31, 10:54am

Book #57: Jenny Holiday, One and Only
CATs: Alpha (O = One, Only)
Bingo: none

Practical, organized Jane is a bridesmaid in her close friend’s wedding, and she’s been tasked with a difficult assignment: babysitting the groom’s brother and keeping him out of trouble before the wedding. Cameron has a reputation as a screwup, and he’s lately left the military under shady circumstances. Now he just wants to lick his wounds and enjoy the perks of civilian life, but Jane’s constant presence is getting in the way. That is, until they get to know each other better and realize that their first impressions aren’t accurate. I enjoyed this cute contemporary romance, though I got frustrated with Cam’s “I’m not worthy” mentality at times. I found Jane relatable, and I liked that she and her girlfriends (the bride and other bridesmaids) genuinely love and support each other. There are several steamy scenes in the book, which was a bit overkill for me, but I did like it overall and may end up reading the sequels at some point.

May 31, 10:56am

Book #58: Mary Balogh, Dark Angel
CATs: Alpha (D = Dark)
Bingo: none

Jennifer Winwood is excited for her first London Season, mainly because her five-year betrothal to Lionel, Viscount Kersey, will finally be made official. But unbeknownst to her, Kersey is a villain whose conduct has grievously harmed Gabriel Fisher, the earl of Thornhill. Gabriel wants revenge on Kersey, and what better way to achieve it than by seducing Jennifer so that she jilts him, making him look foolish in the eyes of society? But the more time Gabriel spends with Jennifer, the more he genuinely likes her and comes to regret his scheme. I normally dislike the “hero seduces heroine for revenge” plot, but Mary Balogh somehow makes it work! Gabriel was conflicted enough (and Kersey odious enough) that I couldn’t hate him, but the book doesn’t shrink from how badly Gabriel behaves and how much he hurts Jennifer. I mostly wanted the book to be longer because I felt like the happy ending needed a bit more time to develop. Still, I’d recommend this one to Regency romance fans who don’t mind some angst and a problematic hero.

May 31, 12:04pm

May recap

May wasn’t a bad month, but what I’m primarily feeling right now is burnout. Every weekend this month was packed with events, either productions of “Cinderella” (four shows per weekend) or visits from family and friends. I had a day off yesterday, but it was spent with out-of-town company doing touristy things in Washington, DC. It was fun, but also exhausting! So I haven’t had much time to unwind or relax this month, but I’m looking forward to a beach weekend in June and a longer vacation in July. Meanwhile, on to the books!

Books read in May:
1. Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles Errant
2. Lauren Kate, By Any Other Name
3. Cece Louise, In a Dark, Dark Wood
4. Anna Dean, Bellfield Hall
5. T.A. Willberg, Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose
6. Melissa Ferguson, Meet Me in the Margins
7. Naomi Novik, Victory of Eagles
8. Emily Henry, Book Lovers
9. Elizabeth Cadell, Any Two Can Play
10. Jenny Holiday, One and Only
11. Mary Balogh, Dark Angel

Favorite book of the month:
I have to go with Miles Errant — it’s a series high point, for sure! But Book Lovers is a close second.

Dishonorable mention:
I wanted more from Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose than I got, especially in terms of character development.

CATs completed:
- AuthorCAT (from your own country): Lois McMaster Bujold (Miles Errant), Cece Louise (In a Dark, Dark Wood), Naomi Novik (Victory of Eagles), and Emily Henry (Book Lovers) are all American authors.
- AlphaKIT (O, D): Lauren Kate, By Any *Other Name; Cece Louise, In a *Dark, *Dark Wood; Anna *Dean, Bellfield Hall; T.A. Willberg, Marion Lane and the *Deadly Rose; Jenny Holiday, *One and *Only; Mary Balogh, *Dark Angel
- RandomKIT (May flowers): Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose has roses in the title and on the cover, and one of the plotlines involves a killer known as The Florist.
- SFFKIT (invasion): In Victory of Eagles, Napoleon and his army of humans and dragons invade England.

BingoDOG squares completed:
- About sisters or brothers: Two of the novels in Miles Errant (Brothers in Arms and Mirror Dance) are about siblings, both literal and metaphorical.

Books acquired in May:
- Jenny Holiday, One and Only (e-book) (already read)
- Claudia Gray, The Murder of Mr. Wickham (currently reading)
- Derville Murphy, A Perfect Copy (e-book, Early Reviewer win)
- Robert J. Dunne III, 909 Days That Changed the World
- Roshani Chokshi, Once More upon a Time (e-book)

May 31, 6:58pm

I hope you get some R&R soon.

Reporting back on The Corner Shop by Elizabeth Cadell. Much better than Parson's House. Cheerful and pleasant, with a most unlikely romance.

Jun 1, 9:22am

>180 pamelad: Thank you! I'm optimistic that June will be a little less crazy. I saw on your thread that you liked The Corner Shop -- glad you had a better experience with Cadell this time. :)

Jun 2, 9:45am

Book #59: Claudia Gray, The Murder of Mr. Wickham
CATs: Alpha (C = Claudia); Mystery (historical = set in 1820)
Bingo: none

This is a hard book to describe without spoiling all of Jane Austen’s novels, but I will do my best! It’s 1820, and most of Austen’s main characters are gathered together at a house party. When George Wickham shows up uninvited, it becomes clear that many of the characters have reasons (both financial and personal) to dislike him. So when Wickham is bludgeoned to death with a blunt instrument, nearly everyone is a suspect, and two of the young guests (children of Austen’s characters) team up to solve the mystery. As an Austen superfan, I greatly enjoyed this! I think the author did a good job of portraying Austen’s characters and the problems they might face after years of marriage. I also loved the two young sleuths, especially the appealingly direct (and presumably neurodivergent) Jonathan. I was fine with the solution to the mystery, though it’s only revealed because the guilty party confesses. My only other complaint is that the romantic subplot isn’t resolved, and it makes me wonder whether there will be a sequel. If so, I’ll certainly check it out!

Jun 2, 12:53pm

>182 christina_reads: Oh, I have to read this! My library has it, so I'll pick it up if it's in next week.

Jun 2, 1:55pm

>183 clue: I hope you enjoy it! I did see some negative reviews that complained about the handling of Austen's characters. But I thought they were portrayed reasonably well, even if I don't personally imagine their post-married lives the same way the author does.

Jun 6, 9:27am

Book #60: Lois McMaster Bujold, Memory
CATs: SFF (next in series = Vorkosigan #10)
Bingo: none

As is the case with many books in the series, Miles kicks off this one by doing something stupid — something that endangers both himself and all the Dendarii under his command. He then lies to Illyan about it, which gets him kicked out of the Barrayaran military. Now that Miles has torpedoed his career before turning 30, what will he do next? It sounds like I’m judging Miles harshly, but actually I relate to him in this book. He’s reached that point of adulthood where he’s realizing his life hasn’t turned out the way he thought it would, and he has to figure out how to move forward. There’s also some plot stuff (Miles investigates a possible attack on ImpSec), but the focus is really on developing Miles’s character and setting up a new direction for the series. I’m excited to see where things go next!

Jun 7, 9:22am

Book #61: Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford, Business as Usual
CATs: Woman (set in a city = London)
Bingo: none

Twenty-something Hilary Fane is determined not to be idle while waiting to marry her doctor fiancé, so she decides to move to London for a year and get a job. She lands at Everyman’s Department Store, where she is bad at writing labels but surprisingly good at improving the store’s library system. She also gains a new empathy for working-class people as she experiences their hardships firsthand — and realizes that her fiancé may not be the best match for her. This is a pleasant slice-of-life epistolary novel set in the 1930s, and I enjoyed my glimpse into this particular world. Hilary is an engaging and humorous character, though not always aware of her privilege in being able to choose to work or not. But I mostly liked her, and I also liked both the setting and the romantic elements. Recommended if you enjoy this type of thing!

Jun 8, 9:54am

Book #62: Anna Dean, A Gentleman of Fortune
CATs: Mystery (historical = set in 1806)
Bingo: none

While visiting her cousin in Richmond, “spinster” sleuth Dido Kent comes upon another mystery: A wealthy widow in the neighborhood suddenly dies, and her attending physician suspects foul play. Her nephew and heir is the most likely suspect, but Dido thinks he may be innocent, and she soon uncovers a number of other possible motives among the widow’s neighbors. This is a worthy follow-up to book #1 in the series, and I’m continuing to enjoy Dido’s character and voice. I also think the Austen-esque setting and language is well done, though the book is perhaps a little too beholden to Emma. I wasn’t a huge fan of all the plot developments and felt especially sorry for one character; I hope he comes back and gets a happier ending in the next book! Despite my quibbles, I did like this book and look forward to the next one, especially to see what will happen in Dido’s personal life.

Jun 9, 9:42am

Book #63: Kerry Winfrey, Waiting for Tom Hanks
CATs: Woman (set in a city = Columbus, Ohio)
Bingo: none

Annie is an aspiring screenwriter and devotee of classic rom-coms, dreaming of having the perfect meet-cute with a Tom Hanksian hero. She’s thrilled when she gets the opportunity to work on an actual movie set, but less thrilled when she butts heads with the lead actor, Drew Danforth. Drew may be handsome, but he’s also shallow and frivolous — or so Annie thinks. When will she realize that she’s stumbled into her very own romantic comedy? Yes, this book is predictable, and Annie is frustratingly slow to acknowledge Drew’s good points (come on, doesn’t she recognize the classic enemies-to-lovers trope?). But the novel brims with warmth, charm, and plentiful movie references that filled me with joy and nostalgia. I would definitely recommend this book to rom-com fans, and I’m delighted that there’s a sequel featuring two of the secondary characters!

Jun 10, 9:22am

PSA for those of you who like Mimi Matthews: Her novella The Lost Letter is free as an e-book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble today! I haven't read that one yet, but Matthews is a reliably enjoyable author for me, so obviously I had to pick it up! :)

Jun 11, 10:07pm

Hello Christina! Dropping by to see how you're doing, and read your reviews of quite a lot of different books. Happy June and happy hopeful relaxing times this summer!

Jun 13, 9:36am

>190 threadnsong: Thanks for stopping by! Yes, here's hoping for some happy and relaxing times this summer. :) Same to you!

Jun 13, 10:11am

Book #64: T. Kingfisher, Nettle & Bone
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Marra is the youngest princess of a tiny kingdom sandwiched between two aggressive neighbors. In a bid for political protection, her older sister Kania is married off to the prince of the Northern Kingdom. When Marra learns that the prince is abusing Kania, she decides he must be stopped and assembles a motley crew of misfits to help her on her quest. This was my first book by T. Kingfisher, but it definitely won’t be my last! I loved the world of this novel, with its dark twist on fairy tale tropes. I also loved Marra, who is not particularly brave or strong or talented; she’s just an ordinary woman, in over her head but doing her best. There are impressive (and not-immediately-impressive) magical women, a whisper of romance, a demon-possessed chicken, and a dog made of bones — what more could you ask for? Highly recommended for fantasy fans, and I’m so glad I have more books by this author on my e-reader!

Jun 13, 9:46pm

Thanks for the PSA about Mimi Matthews, Christina. I haven't read anything by her, but I do enjoy a good historical romance. It was free here in Canada as well so I grabbed myself a copy!

Jun 14, 9:28am

>193 DeltaQueen50: I'll be eager to see what you think of it, Judy!

Jun 16, 10:17am

Book #65: Naomi Novik, Tongues of Serpents
CATs: SFF (next in series = Temeraire #6)
Bingo: none

This installment of the series finds Laurence and Temeraire exiled to Australia, where they are tasked with delivering dragon eggs to support the fledgling colony of New South Wales. They also get roped into exploring the interior of the continent while simultaneously pursuing a group of smugglers. Along the way, one of the precious eggs is stolen, and they experience the harsh realities of the Australian wilderness. While it’s always nice to spend time with Laurence and Temeraire, this is my least favorite installment in the series so far. Nothing happens to advance the overall plot; the characters mostly just wander around being hungry, tired, and/or lost. The middle stretch of the book, where the group is slogging through the uninhabited portion of the continent, is especially yawn-inducing. Hopefully things will pick up in the next book!

Jun 16, 12:38pm

>192 christina_reads: The author has a wonderful presence on twitter (@UrsulaV).

Jun 16, 1:19pm

>196 RidgewayGirl: Ooh, good to know, thanks!

Jun 21, 12:41pm

Book #66: Beth O’Leary, The No-Show
CATs: none
Bingo: none

This novel centers around three women who all get stood up on Valentine’s Day by the same man, Joseph Carter. Siobhan, a tough but overwhelmed life coach, sees him once a month for no-strings-attached sex, but she’s starting to want more. Miranda, a pragmatic tree surgeon, is excited about her new boyfriend. Jane, a shy, book-loving volunteer at a charity shop, is at first happy to be “just friends” with him, but she eventually develops deeper feelings. As all three women move forward in their relationships with Joseph, many secrets are revealed and past traumas resurface.

A plot twist near the end explains Joseph’s behavior, but whether this book will work for you largely depends on whether you can deal with hating him for most of the novel. I personally did feel he was redeemed in the end, but I can see how others wouldn’t. And I still found much of the book frustrating, believing he was a terrible cad and thinking all three women deserved better! Siobhan, Miranda, and Jane are all wonderful characters, though, and I enjoyed getting to know them throughout the novel. So overall I did like this one — it’s probably my second-favorite O’Leary novel after The Flatshare — but I feel cautious about recommending it.

Jun 22, 10:16am

Book #67: Julia Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me
CATs: Alpha (Q = Quinn)
Bingo: none

Anthony, Viscount Bridgerton, is convinced he will die young, just like his beloved father. He knows it’s his duty to marry and sire an heir, but he has no interest in falling in love, which would make him want to fight his (perceived) fate. So he decides to court Edwina Sheffield, society’s reigning beauty; but to win her favor, he must also charm Kate, Edwina’s older sister. Kate refuses to be charmed — she knows Anthony is a rake and can’t approve of him as a suitor for her beloved sister. But ironically, the more Kate and Anthony butt heads, the more they are drawn to each other, until Anthony wonders whether he may have chosen the wrong sister. This book is pure Regency fluff, but I must say I really enjoyed it! Anthony and Kate are wonderful, separately and together, and I loved their chemistry and banter. I’m very curious to see how Bridgerton season 2 compares! (I watched the first season and had mixed feelings…it was oddly joyless for a romance adaptation, no?)

Jun 23, 10:36am

Book #68: Derville Murphy, A Perfect Copy
CATs: Alpha (C = Copy)
Bingo: none

Daisy is hoping to auction off an old family portrait painted by a famous artist. But then Ben shows up with an identical painting, claiming the subject is one of his ancestors. Is one of the paintings a fake? Daisy and Ben team up to find out, and their research uncovers the surprising history of two Jewish sisters, Rosa and Lena, who leave their impoverished Eastern European village in the 1860s to seek better opportunities in Vienna, Paris, and London. The book alternates between the historical and present-day timelines, which worked fine for me, as I was equally interested in both. The plot is exciting and full of drama, though the characterization is a bit weak and the writing style is clunky at times. Overall, I liked this book fine, and it was certainly a quick read, but I’m not tempted to try more by the author.

Jun 23, 11:01am

>199 christina_reads: The adaptation is very different from the book, and definitely more fun. I thought the second season was better than the first.

Jun 23, 11:14am

>201 RidgewayGirl: Glad to hear you enjoyed the second season more! Even in season 1, I found Anthony one of the most interesting (albeit not necessarily likable) characters, so I'm definitely on board for season 2 to focus more on him!

Jun 27, 9:25am

Book #69: Ngaio Marsh, Vintage Murder
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Inspector Alleyn is on vacation in New Zealand and falls in with a touring theater company. The actors invite him to their performance and an afterparty, where tragedy strikes and the company’s owner (and husband of the leading lady) is killed, seemingly by accident. But Alleyn immediately suspects murder and cooperates with the local police to solve the crime. This is a solid but unremarkable Golden Age mystery, where the solution hinges on disproving an alibi — with information the reader doesn’t obtain until quite late in the novel. So there’s not a lot of forward motion to the plot; it’s mostly just Alleyn and his colleagues interviewing all the suspects. But I liked the New Zealand setting and the positive (for its time) representation of a Maori character. Overall, a decent read but not one I’d strongly recommend.

Jun 27, 12:26pm

I love the mix of books you read and all the beautiful covers!

I haven't heard about Mimi Matthews before, but I think I might try listening to The Matrimonial Advertisement as an audiobook! I am looking for another series to listen to because I will soon be finished with my current trilogy and this seems like something I might like: Historical and a world to escape into, but nothing that is too demanding. I usually only listen to my audiobook while doing household chores, getting ready in the morning, cooking etc.
The Anna Dean mysteries sound good as well!

Jun 27, 2:53pm

>204 MissBrangwen: Thank you! And I hope you enjoy Mimi Matthews on audio. She is becoming a reliably enjoyable historical romance author for me. "A world to escape into, but nothing that is too demanding" is all I want to read right now! :)

Jun 27, 3:06pm

Book #70: Susanna Craig, Who’s That Earl
CATs: Alpha (C = Craig)
Bingo: none

Thomas Sutherland has spent the past seven years as an intelligence officer in the Caribbean. But now he’s been ordered home to Scotland, where he has unexpectedly inherited an earldom. When he arrives at his crumbling estate, he’s shocked to find that the tenant in residence is none other than his former sweetheart, Jane Quayle. Thomas and Jane are immediately attracted to one another, but they are both keeping secrets and are unsure whether they can trust each other. This was a reasonably fun and well-written romance, but the series is called “Love and Let Spy,” and there is a sad lack of spying! I also didn’t quite buy Thomas and Jane’s romance; they seem to rekindle it awfully quickly after a seven-year separation. But I tend not to like second-chance romances in general, so fans of the trope may enjoy it more. Overall I liked this one but didn’t love it, and I don’t think I’ll continue with the series.

Jun 27, 7:04pm

>206 christina_reads: I quite liked Who's That Earl except for the ending. For a Kindle Daily Deal it was pretty good! I'm not nearly keen enough to buy the next one, but I'd read it for free.

>204 MissBrangwen: Mimi Matthews was a good find. I liked the Parish Orphans of Devon series. I'm also looking for a world to escape into, but nothing that is too demanding and historical romances are a good choice.

Jun 27, 7:38pm

>207 pamelad: I feel the same way -- I'd read the next one if I got it for free!

Jun 30, 10:15am

Book #71: Delia Sherman, The Evil Wizard Smallbone
CATs: none
Bingo: Title contains a Z (wizard)

Twelve-year-old Nick Reynaud runs away from an abusive home and is taken in by the Evil Wizard Smallbone. He’s unable to leave the property, and Smallbone has an irritating tendency to transform him into various animals, but Nick begins to thrive in his new life despite these drawbacks — and even learns some magic himself. When a competing evil wizard threatens Smallbone and his people, Nick decides to take action. I enjoyed this quirky middle-grade fantasy novel. It’s clever and fun but also doesn’t shy away from some darker realities. I didn’t fall in love with the book, but I definitely think it would be a great read for its target age group.

Jun 30, 10:45am

June recap

Apparently we’re halfway through 2022 now! June has been a good month for me. The highlight was my brother coming to visit for a week! He lives halfway across the country, so I don’t see him often, and usually his four kids are also there (whom I adore, don’t get me wrong, but it’s definitely a different vibe!). We both had to work during the weekdays, but we had meals together and played several board games, and we even got to visit our grandmother (who lives 3.5 hours away from me) over the weekend. It was great to have that family time!

I also had a pretty productive reading month:

Books read in June:
1. Claudia Gray, The Murder of Mr. Wickham
2. Lois McMaster Bujold, Memory
3. Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford, Business as Usual
4. Anna Dean, A Gentleman of Fortune
5. Kerry Winfrey, Waiting for Tom Hanks
6. T. Kingfisher, Nettle & Bone
7. Naomi Novik, Tongues of Serpents
8. Beth O’Leary, The No-Show
9. Julia Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me
10. Derville Murphy, A Perfect Copy
11. Ngaio Marsh, Vintage Murder
12. Susanna Craig, Who’s That Earl
13. Delia Sherman, The Evil Wizard Smallbone

Favorite book of the month:
Lots of good reads this month, but I have to go with Nettle & Bone. It’s exactly my kind of fantasy novel, in the vein of Robin McKinley or Naomi Novik, and I can’t wait to read more by T. Kingfisher!

Dishonorable mention:
I hate to say it, but I didn’t care for Tongues of Serpents. Definitely the low point of the Temeraire series (at least so far).

CATs completed:
- CATWoman (set in cities or about cities): Business as Usual is set in London, and Waiting for Tom Hanks is set in Columbus, Ohio.
- AlphaKIT (Q, C): *Claudia Gray, The Murder of Mr. Wickham; Julia *Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me; Derville Murphy, A Perfect *Copy; Susanna *Craig, Who's That Earl
- MysteryKIT (historical): The Murder of Mr. Wickham and A Gentleman of Fortune are both mysteries set in the early 1800s.
- SFFKIT (next in a series): Memory is the 10th full-length novel in the Vorkosigan saga, and Tongues of Serpents is book #6 in the Temeraire series.

BingoDOG squares completed:
- Title contains a Z: The Evil Wizard Smallbone qualifies.

Books acquired in June:
- Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford, Business as Usual (already read)
- Julia Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me (already read)
- Mimi Matthews, The Lost Letter (e-book)
- Ainslie Paton, The Love Experiment (e-book)
- Sarah Hogle, Twice Shy (e-book)
- Joyce Harmon, A Feather to Fly With

Jun 30, 8:34pm

Yay for grandma time! Glad you got to hang out with your brother, too.

Edited: Jul 1, 2:34am

>192 christina_reads: I just picked up a copy of Nettle and Bone (by T. Kingfisher)-- I'm hoping to get it in for the "Families" SFFkit July prompt :-)

Jun 30, 8:57pm

>210 christina_reads: Nice family pic!

Jul 1, 3:28am

>210 christina_reads: Real family time is so great. I'm sure your grandmother loved it!

Jul 1, 7:26am

>210 christina_reads: So great that you were able to see each other and also visit your grandmother!

Jul 1, 9:19am

>211 rabbitprincess: >213 Tess_W: >214 MissWatson: >215 MissBrangwen: Thanks, it was a great visit! And my Grammie was very happy that we could both come, especially since my brother hadn't seen her in a few years.

>212 Tanya-dogearedcopy: I hope you enjoy Nettle & Bone, and I think it will work very well for the July SFFKIT!

Jul 1, 9:58am

I've started a new thread for the second half of the year -- come join me!
This topic was continued by Christina reads 2+0+2+2 series, part 2.