Christina reads 2+0+2+2 series, part 2

This is a continuation of the topic Christina reads 2+0+2+2 series.

Talk2022 Category Challenge

Join LibraryThing to post.

Christina reads 2+0+2+2 series, part 2

Edited: Jul 1, 2022, 9:34 am

Christina reads 2+0+2+2 series

(Image from here.)

Hello, and welcome to part 2 of 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 been focusing 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've pinpointed six specific series (2+0+2+2=6) and aim to complete or get current with them all this year. Here are the categories:

  1. Lois McMaster Bujold, Vorkosigan Saga — I’m making good progress here (currently reading Komarr) and am really loving the series! I will definitely be keeping it to re-read in the future.

  2. Naomi Novik, Temeraire series — I've read six of the nine novels in this one. I adore the central characters, the writing style, and the immersive world-building, but I find the plots to be hit or miss. I'm undecided on whether I'll want to read the series again, though I'm leaning toward keeping it.

  3. Chris Wooding, Tales of the Ketty Jay — Series complete! Fans of plot-driven sci-fi adventure and Joss Whedon's Firefly will enjoy these books. I had fun reading them but didn't feel the need to hold onto them.

  4. Anna Dean, Dido Kent mysteries — I'm halfway through this quartet of Regency mysteries. It's well written, with more than a few nods to Jane Austen, and I'm glad I decided to read it this year.

  5. Sherry Thomas, Lady Sherlock mysteries — I'm saving this one for later in the year. I won’t restart the series 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 — Another one I haven't started yet! *blush* 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!

Aside from these series, I haven't placed too many other constraints on myself! I'm participating in BingoDOG and have only two squares remaining, and I’ve been dipping in and out of the CATs/KITs. My goal is to read at least 125 total books in 2022, and I'm well on my way at 71 (as of June 30)!

Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!

Edited: Dec 11, 2022, 10:24 pm

1. Lois McMaster Bujold, Vorkosigan Saga

(Image from here.)

1. Falling Free - COMPLETED 1/6/22
2. Cordelia’s Honor (Shards of Honor, Barrayar) - COMPLETED 2/3/22
3. Young Miles (The Warrior’s Apprentice, The Mountains of Mourning, The Vor Game) - COMPLETED 3/7/22
4. Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem (Cetaganda, Ethan of Athos, Labyrinth) - COMPLETED 4/2/22
5. Miles Errant (The Borders of Infinity, Brothers in Arms, Mirror Dance) - COMPLETED 5/2/22
6. Memory - COMPLETED 6/5/22
7. Komarr - COMPLETED 7/1/22
8. A Civil Campaign - COMPLETED 8/3/22
9. Winterfair Gifts - COMPLETED 8/21/22
10. Diplomatic Immunity - COMPLETED 9/1/22
11. Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance - COMPLETED 10/5/22
12. The Flowers of Vashnoi - COMPLETED 10/24/22
13. Cryoburn - COMPLETED 11/4/22
14. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen - COMPLETED 12/6/22


Edited: Sep 7, 2022, 9:40 am

2. Naomi Novik, Temeraire series

(Image from here.)

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 - COMPLETED 7/9/22
8. Blood of Tyrants - COMPLETED 8/20/22
9. League of Dragons - COMPLETED 9/7/22


Edited: Jul 1, 2022, 9:36 am

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: Aug 11, 2022, 7:44 pm

4. Anna Dean, Dido Kent mysteries

(Image from here.)

1. Bellfield Hall - COMPLETED 5/8/22
2. A Gentleman of Fortune - COMPLETED 6/7/22
3. A Woman of Consequence - COMPLETED 7/6/22
4. A Place of Confinement - COMPLETED 8/11/22


Edited: Dec 11, 2022, 10:24 pm

5. Sherry Thomas, Lady Sherlock mysteries

(Image from here.)

1. The Art of Theft - COMPLETED 10/13/22
2. Murder on Cold Street - COMPLETED 11/8/22
3. Miss Moriarty, I Presume? - COMPLETED 12/11/22


Edited: Dec 11, 2022, 10:25 pm

6. Carol Berg, Bridge of D'Arnath series

(Image from here.)

1. Son of Avonar - COMPLETED 9/16/22
2. Guardians of the Keep - COMPLETED 10/22/22
3. The Soul Weaver - COMPLETED 11/14/22
4. Daughter of Ancients - COMPLETED 12/11/22


Edited: Jul 1, 2022, 9:42 am

Everything Else, January to June

(Image from here.)

Here's where I'll list my reading from the first half of the year 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: Dec 30, 2022, 10:12 am

Everything Else, July to December

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

54. Joyce Harmon, A Feather to Fly With
55. Craig Rice, Eight Faces at Three
56. Tessa Dare, Goddess of the Hunt
57. Ashley Weaver, The Key to Deceit
58. Kristan Higgins, The Next Best Thing
59. T. Kingfisher, Bryony and Roses
60. Susanna Kearsley, Season of Storms
61. Agatha Christie, Why Didn't They Ask Evans?
62. Loretta Chase, Miss Wonderful
63. Katherine Center, The Bodyguard
64. Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog
65. Sophie Irwin, A Lady's Guide to Fortune-Hunting
66. Sharon Shinn, Archangel
67. Sarah Hogle, Twice Shy
68. Lauren Edmondson, Ladies of the House
69. Gu Byeong-mo, The Old Woman with the Knife
70. Susanna Craig, One Thing Leads to a Lover
71. Linda Holmes, Flying Solo
72. Mary Balogh, Remember Love
73. Loretta Chase, Mr. Impossible
74. Sharon Shinn, Wrapt in Crystal
75. Mhairi McFarlane, Mad about You
76. Jennifer Echols, Major Crush
77. Jane Ashford, The Duke Who Loved Me
78. Ali Hazelwood, Love on the Brain
79. Francis Duncan, Behold a Fair Woman
80. R.C. Sherriff, The Fortnight in September
81. Jennifer Ryan, The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle
82. Loretta Chase, Lord Perfect
83. Amberley Martin, The Rogue and the Peasant
84. Kerry Winfrey, Just Another Love Song
85. Mary Balogh, A Precious Jewel
86. Anthony Berkeley, Jumping Jenny
87. Karen Cushman, Catherine, Called Birdy
88. Richard Osman, The Bullet That Missed
89. Naomi Novik, The Golden Enclaves
90. Mimi Matthews, The Belle of Belgrave Square
91. Loretta Chase, Not Quite a Lady
92. Veronica Henry, An Eligible Bachelor
93. Elizabeth Mansfield, The Girl with the Persian Shawl
94. Allison Ashley, Would You Rather
95. Sarah Mayberry, Her Favorite Rival
96. Loretta Chase, Last Night's Scandal
97. Francis Spufford, Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York
98. David Sedaris, Holidays on Ice
99. Megan Bannen, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy
100. Mary Balogh, The Ideal Wife
101. John Dickson Carr, Castle Skull
102. Elisa Braden, Once upon a Midnight Kiss
103. Lisa Berne, You May Kiss the Bride
104. Elizabeth Cadell, The Corner Shop
105. Jean Meltzer, The Matzah Ball
106. Kerry Winfrey, Not Like the Movies
107. Mary Kelly, The Christmas Egg
108. Lynn Painter, Better Than the Movies
109. Emily Gee, The Laurentine Spy
110. Rainbow Rowell, Attachments
111. Mimi Matthews, A Holiday by Gaslight
112. Virginia Heath, Never Rescue a Rogue

Edited: Dec 20, 2022, 10:06 am

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): Gu Byeong-mo, The Old Woman with the Knife
CATWoman (women in science):
ShakespeareCAT (Measure for Measure, The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, justice): Anna Dean, A Woman of Consequence
AlphaKIT (E, T): Craig Rice, Eight Faces at Three; Tessa Dare, Goddess of the Hunt; Kristan Higgins, The Next Best Thing; T. Kingfisher, Bryony and Roses; Agatha Christie, Why Didn't They Ask Evans?; Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog; Sarah Hogle, Twice Shy; Lauren Edmondson, Ladies of the House; Susanna Craig, One Thing Leads to a Lover
*MysteryKIT (Golden Age): Craig Rice, Eight Faces at Three; Agatha Christie, Why Didn't They Ask Evans?
RandomKIT (dog days of summer): Susanna Kearsley, Season of Storms; Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog
SFFKIT (biological or found family):

AuthorCAT (prize winners): Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign; Lois McMaster Bujold, Winterfair Gifts
CATWoman (children’s, young adult, graphic novels): Jennifer Echols, Major Crush
ShakespeareCAT (lesser-known works):
AlphaKIT (M, F): Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign; Linda Holmes, Flying Solo; Mary Balogh, Remember Love; Lois McMaster Bujold, Winterfair Gifts; Loretta Chase, Mr. Impossible; Mhairi McFarlane, Mad about You; Jennifer Echols, Major Crush; Jane Ashford, The Duke Who Loved Me; Francis Duncan, Behold a Fair Woman
MysteryKIT (techno-thrillers):
RandomKIT (Canada): Mary Balogh, Remember Love
SFFKIT (Asian authors):

AuthorCAT (African):
CATWoman (women in wartime): Jennifer Ryan, The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle
ShakespeareCAT (sonnets and poems):
AlphaKIT (K, I): Lois McMaster Bujold, Diplomatic Immunity; Kerry Winfrey, Just Another Love Song
MysteryKIT (animals):
RandomKIT (harvest):

SFFKIT (quests and journeys): Carol Berg, Son of Avonar; Amberley Martin, The Rogue and the Peasant

AuthorCAT (in translation):
CATWoman (women and crime): Sherry Thomas, The Art of Theft
*ShakespeareCAT (Macbeth, murder, witchcraft, politics): Richard Osman, The Bullet That Missed; Naomi Novik, The Golden Enclaves
AlphaKIT (V, N): Lois McMaster Bujold, Captain Vorpatril's Alliance; Naomi Novik, The Golden Enclaves; Lois McMaster Bujold, The Flowers of Vashnoi; Loretta Chase, Not Quite a Lady; Veronica Henry, An Eligible Bachelor
MysteryKIT (food):
RandomKIT (what's in a name): Lois McMaster Bujold, Captain Vorpatril's Alliance; Karen Cushman, Catherine, Called Birdy
SFFKIT (robots and AI):

AuthorCAT (books set against real events):
CATWoman (issues through a woman’s eyes): Sherry Thomas, Murder on Cold Street
ShakespeareCAT (books about Shakespeare or the Globe):
AlphaKIT (G, U): Francis Spufford, Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York; Megan Bannen, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy
MysteryKIT (gothic): John Dickson Carr, Castle Skull
RandomKIT (the city): Francis Spufford, Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York
SFFKIT (prize winner):

AuthorCAT (favorites): Lois McMaster Bujold, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
CATWoman (prize winner):
ShakespeareCAT (A Winter’s Tale):
AlphaKIT (Y, W): Lisa Berne, You May Kiss the Bride; Kerry Winfrey, Not Like the Movies
MysteryKIT (holiday): Mary Kelly, The Christmas Egg
RandomKIT (Christmas sweets):
SFFKIT (wishes):

AlphaKIT (X, Z): Silvia Zucca, An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts

* indicates that I’m hosting the thread

Edited: Nov 27, 2022, 6:44 pm


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: David Sedaris, Holidays on Ice
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: R.C. Sherriff, The Fortnight in September
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: Jul 1, 2022, 9:54 am


Welcome to my new thread! I figured I’d start things off by taking stock of this year’s reading. Overall I’m happy; I’m more than halfway to my goal of 125 books, and I have only two Bingo squares left. I did buy a lot of books, but I’ve also read a lot from my shelves and my e-reader, so I won’t beat myself up too much. :) Here are the stats:

Books read: 71 (2021 = 58, 2020 = 71, 2019 = 50, 2018 = 32)

Average books read per month: 11.83 (2021 = 9.67, 2020 = 11.83, 2019 = 8.33, 2018 = 5.33)

Bingo squares completed: 23 (2021 = 24, 2020 = 21, 2019 = 18, 2018 = 17)

Books acquired: 52 (2021 = 43, 2020 = 29, 2019 = 43, 2018 = 39). This is not great, but at least I’ve already read 16 of them! So on net, it’s like I’ve really only acquired 36, right? :)

Top 10 books of the year so far:
In the order in which I read them…

1. Mary Balogh, Only a Kiss — One of my favorite installments of the Survivors’ Club series, featuring an extremely charming hero whose charm deserts him in the presence of the heroine.

2. Mimi Matthews, The Siren of Sussex — Matthews is quickly becoming a must-read historical romance author for me. I loved this series opener and can’t wait for the next book!

3. Laura L. Sullivan, Love by the Morning Star — Despite an annoyingly drawn-out misunderstanding that drives the plot, this historical novel has an Eva Ibbotson-esque charm.

4. Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels — Excellent writing and great central characters elevate this somewhat angsty and melodramatic romance.

5. Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles ErrantBrothers in Arms and Mirror Dance are the high point of this series so far!

6. Emily Henry, Book Lovers — An enjoyable contemporary romance written for fans of the genre, with a prickly heroine who knows exactly what trope she embodies.

7. Claudia Gray, The Murder of Mr. Wickham — An Austen “sequel” that actually seems true to the original characters and the problems they might encounter in their marriages.

8. Kerry Winfrey, Waiting for Tom Hanks — A delightful ode to romantic comedies with a lot of great dialogue.

9. T. Kingfisher, Nettle & Bone — Immersive fantasy with excellent characters and strong Robin McKinley vibes.

10. Julia Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me — I love an enemies-to-lovers plot, clever banter, and a hero trying really hard to repress his feelings! Though I’ll admit, the compelling portrayal of Kate and Anthony in Bridgerton season 2 may have biased me as well. :)

Edited: Jul 1, 2022, 9:54 am

Oops, posted twice! Anyway, the thread's open now -- welcome! :)

Jul 1, 2022, 1:46 pm

Happy new thread, Christina! I see you are enjoying the Vorkosigan Series as am I. I am a couple of books ahead of you, and I am already dreading getting to the end.

Jul 1, 2022, 2:13 pm

>14 DeltaQueen50: Thanks, Judy! I'm loving the Vorkosigan books...I feel like the series has really hit its stride now. The good thing is, when you're done with the series, you can always go back and read it again!

Jul 2, 2022, 10:10 am

Book #72: Lois McMaster Bujold, Komarr
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Miles officially begins his career as Imperial Auditor by investigating the possible sabotage of Komarr’s solar mirror; without the mirror, Komarr’s terraforming project will experience severe setbacks, which will be politically difficult for Barrayar as well as disastrous for Komarr itself. As Miles uncovers a fraudulent scheme and a sinister Komarran plot, he also falls for Ekaterin Vorsoisson, the unhappily married wife of the bureaucrat with whom he’s staying. So, in other words, typical Miles! I feel like this series has really hit its stride now, and I loved this installment. It was great to get some chapters from Ekaterin’s point of view, though her relationship with Tien makes for difficult reading at times. I am SUPER excited for A Civil Campaign now!

Jul 2, 2022, 10:30 am

Happy new thread, Christina!

Jul 2, 2022, 12:04 pm

>17 MissWatson: Thanks for stopping by!

Jul 2, 2022, 5:07 pm

Christina, A Civil Campaign is my favorite of the series so far. I predict you will love it as well. :)

Jul 2, 2022, 6:45 pm

>12 christina_reads: Good to see the historical romances in your top ten! I really like Loretta Chase's books, the more ridiculous the better.

Jul 2, 2022, 8:28 pm

>19 DeltaQueen50: I've heard so many good things about it! I've basically been reading one Vorkosigan book for month, but I'm not sure I can wait till August for this one...

>20 pamelad: I was actually a little embarrassed about having so many historical romances, but apparently that's what I'm loving right now! I am on a quest to obtain some of Chase's backlist...hoping my favorite used bookstore will have some (or all) of her Carsington books!

Jul 5, 2022, 10:59 am

Book #73: Joyce Harmon, A Feather to Fly With
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Arthur Ramsey, the Duke of Winton, is far more interested in his scientific pursuits than in high society. But he knows he must eventually marry, so he asks his gregarious best friend for help in navigating the intricacies of flirting and courtship. Meanwhile, unconventional (and highly unsuitable) Cleo Cooper has her own reasons for embarking on a London Season, and they don’t include matrimony. But when Arthur and Cleo meet, their mutual attraction threatens to upend their future plans. The front cover of this book calls it “a sparkling romantic romp in the classic Regency tradition,” and I’d say that’s spot on. I especially liked the adorably nerdy Arthur and his struggles to learn society’s unspoken rules. It’s not a particularly deep book, but it is a fun read if you like this kind of thing!

Jul 5, 2022, 7:48 pm

>22 christina_reads: I read this and quite liked it. A very tidy resolution.

Jul 6, 2022, 9:54 am

>23 pamelad: I thought I'd probably taken that book bullet from you...thanks for the rec!

Jul 6, 2022, 1:46 pm

Book #74: Anna Dean, A Woman of Consequence
CATs: Shakespeare (justice)
Bingo: none

Dido Kent finds herself in the middle of another mystery when a young lady utters the words “I saw her,” then falls from the tower of a ruined abbey. Rumors suggest that the injured girl was referring to the Grey Nun, the abbey’s ghost, but Dido suspects there is a more mundane explanation. Shortly after this incident, renovations to the local estate uncover the skeleton of a woman who went missing from the area 15 years ago. Was it suicide, accident, or murder? I’m continuing to enjoy this series; the books are well written, with several nods to Jane Austen thrown in without being too annoyingly obvious. I also liked the development of Dido’s relationship with her maybe-suitor, William Lomax. The plot was a little too convoluted for me, but otherwise I enjoyed this one, and I’m interested to see how everything will wrap up in the fourth and final book.

Jul 6, 2022, 6:23 pm

>24 christina_reads: Thank you! I read it after you mentioned it because it's on KindleUnlimited. I've also read the next two in the series, which is enough for now.

Jul 7, 2022, 2:11 pm

>26 pamelad: Yeah, I don't think I'd want to read a bunch of these in a row. But they're fun as a one-off!

Jul 8, 2022, 10:29 am

Book #75: Craig Rice, Eight Faces at Three
CATs: Alpha (E = Eight, T = Three); Mystery (Golden Age = published 1939)
Bingo: none

When a rich old woman is found stabbed in her home, suspicion immediately falls on her niece, Holly, who had both motive and opportunity to kill the old woman. But if she’s guilty, why did she make all the beds in the house on the night of the murder — and why did she stop all the clocks at 3:00? Holly’s lawyer, John J. Malone, is on the case, assisted by his friend Jake Justus and eccentric heiress Helene Brand. As a mystery, I’m not sure this book is entirely successful; it’s not quite fair play, and some of the “twists” are obvious from early on. But it’s just so much fun! The witty one-liners and snappy banter among the three sleuths are a joy to read, and I was happy to be along for the increasingly drunken ride. If you love movies like The Thin Man, I highly recommend this book, and I’ll certainly be seeking out more by Craig Rice.

Jul 9, 2022, 5:15 pm

Book #76: Naomi Novik, Crucible of Gold
CATs: none
Bingo: none

In book #7 of the series, Laurence and Temeraire are reinstated as members of the British Aerial Corps and ordered to Brazil, where they must help defend the Portuguese colony against France and its Tswana allies (last seen burning slave ports in Empire of Ivory). Along the way, they encounter many disasters including shipwreck, mutiny, capture, and a detour across the vast and possibly hostile territory of the Incas. I must admit, I'm losing my enthusiasm for this series. I still love the main characters and the superb writing style, but I'm a little burned out on the plots, which are unevenly paced and don't always seem to further the overall arc of the series. That said, I will certainly continue to the end of the series and hope all turns out well for Laurence, Temeraire, and their friends!

Jul 10, 2022, 3:03 pm

Book #77: Tessa Dare, Goddess of the Hunt
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Lucy Waltham has been in love with her brother's friend Sir Toby Aldridge for ages, but he still sees her as a little girl. To make Toby notice her, Lucy decides to practice her seduction skills on another of her brother's friends, Jeremy Trescott. Appalled by her scheme to chase Toby, Jeremy resolves to stop her by any means necessary -- even if it means letting her seduce him instead. Despite the farfetched plot, this book is enjoyable Regency fluff with likable main characters. I read most of it in one sitting and regret nothing! This author has been hit or miss for me, but I'd definitely recommend this book for fans of historical romance with some heat.

Jul 11, 2022, 10:07 am

Book #78: Ashley Weaver, The Key to Deceit
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Just weeks after her first espionage mission, Electra “Ellie” McDonnell is once again summoned by Major Ramsey to help with a case. A dead woman has been recovered from the Thames, and Ramsey suspects her of spying for the Germans. He needs Ellie’s lock-picking skills to open a locket found on the woman’s body. What they discover points to a dangerous spy ring that is sending photos of strategic London locations to the Nazis. As Ellie and her criminal associates help pursue the spy ring, she also continues her investigation into her mother’s past — and finds herself torn between old friend Felix and the antagonistic but attractive Ramsey. I’m enjoying this series for its blend of mystery, WWII setting, and romance, and I’m eager for the next installment to come out (probably not till next year, alas!). If you enjoy these genres, I’d definitely recommend the series, although you should start with book #1, A Peculiar Combination.

Jul 11, 2022, 1:38 pm

Book #79: Kristan Higgins, The Next Best Thing
CATs: Alpha (T = Thing)
Bingo: none

Lucy’s beloved husband, Jimmy, died five years ago, and now she's decided to finally try to move on. She doesn’t want to fall in love again, but she would like find a nice, reliable guy to marry and have kids with. Complicating matters is Jimmy’s younger brother, Ethan, with whom Lucy has had a friends-with-benefits arrangement for the past two years. Can Lucy get past her grief and open her heart? And if she does, how will her family and friends react? I flew through this book — it’s an easy, compelling read — but I also found it incredibly frustrating, mostly because of Lucy’s obtuseness. Ethan is great and totally in love with her, but somehow she doesn’t figure this out until the very end of the novel. So I spent most of the book being simultaneously irritated at Lucy and concerned about her, because it seems like she really needs therapy before she can have any healthy relationships in her life. While some Higgins books are keepers for me, I think I can let go of this one now.

Jul 12, 2022, 10:32 am

Book #80: T. Kingfisher, Bryony and Roses
CATs: Alpha (T = T.)
Bingo: none

I’m a sucker for Beauty and the Beast retellings, and this is a great one! When Bryony gets trapped in a snowstorm and is about to freeze to death, she suddenly finds herself on a path to a secluded manor house infused with magic and inhabited by a Beast. At first she resents being trapped in the manor house, but she gradually learns that the Beast is a prisoner as well, and she sets out to discover how to break the house’s sinister enchantments. The strength of this retelling is in the characters, especially Bryony: she’s pragmatic, stubborn, funny, and a devoted gardener who is determined to grow things herself, without the help of the magical house. I loved her snarky interactions with the Beast as they get to know each other better. If you love fairy tale retellings, I’d highly recommend this one, and I’m excited to continue exploring T. Kingfisher’s work!

Jul 12, 2022, 8:34 pm

>33 christina_reads: BB for me. I am also a sucker for Beauty and the Beast retellings. I recommend the one in Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales, a book of fairy tale retellings all with a twist.

Jul 12, 2022, 8:38 pm

>33 christina_reads: I’m seeing T. Kingfisher everywhere these days! I definitely need to move Nettle & Bone up in my stacks and add Bryony and Roses!

Jul 13, 2022, 8:47 am

>34 lowelibrary: Thanks for the recommendation! Beauty and the Beast is probably my favorite fairytale. As for retellings, I also really loved Beauty by Robin McKinley and Hunted by Meagan Spooner.

>35 Tanya-dogearedcopy: I have been really loving T. Kingfisher thus far! I believe she also writes horror, which is a genre I avoid like the plague, but I definitely want to read more of her fantasy novels. I already have Swordheart on my e-reader...

Jul 14, 2022, 12:12 pm

Book #81: Susanna Kearsley, Season of Storms
CATs: Random (dog days of summer = two dogs are featured throughout)
Bingo: none

Struggling actress Celia Sands is suddenly offered the role of a lifetime: she’ll play the lead in a famously unstageable play, written by a rich Italian in the early 1920s for his mistress, who was also named Celia Sands. Moreover, the performances will take place at the playwright’s own villa, which is now owned by his grandson. When Celia arrives at the villa, she encounters several dramatic personalities, solves a mystery involving stolen antiquities, falls in love, and possibly even communicates with a ghost. I liked this one — the Italian setting spoke to my wanderlust, and as a community theater participant, I also enjoyed the details about staging the play. There’s a slight historical story that runs parallel to the contemporary events, but it’s pretty negligible in terms of both interest and page time. The book is slow-paced and not particularly exciting, but I enjoyed spending time in its world.

Jul 15, 2022, 10:16 pm

Book #82: Agatha Christie, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
CATs: Alpha (E = Evans, T = They); Mystery (published 1934)
Bingo: none

Bobby Jones is golfing on a course located near the edge of a cliff. When he hears a cry of surprise, he goes to investigate and discovers that a man has fallen over the edge. By the time Bobby reaches the man to offer help, it’s too late: he’s dying. But just before he breathes his last, he utters the mysterious phrase, “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” That simple question plunges Bobby into a series of sinister events, which lead him to suspect that the man didn’t accidentally fall off the cliff — he was pushed! So Bobby and his friend Lady Frances “Frankie” Derwent decide to investigate in hopes of finding both the murderer and the mysterious Evans. I like this book a lot; it combines a twisty mystery plot with the feel of a fun caper, plus a bit of romance thrown in. I’d also recommend the recent adaptation, which can be streamed on BritBox.

Jul 25, 2022, 4:34 pm

I just got back from a week's vacation in Florida, where I spent time with my parents and did a lot of reading but very little reviewing. So here come my thoughts on the books I read during my trip...nothing too heavy, as you might guess! :)

Book #83: Loretta Chase, Miss Wonderful
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Alistair Carsington, the third son of a wealthy earl, has accumulated a mountain of debt. His father has given him six months to either get a job or marry an heiress; pursuing the former path, Alistair travels to Derbyshire to promote his friend’s scheme to build a canal. Unfortunately, he encounters opposition from Mirabel Oldridge, the 31-year-old “spinster” daughter of a local landowner, who is dead set against the canal. They are immediately attracted to one another but must find a way to resolve their differences before they can marry. I’d actually read this book before, but I didn’t remember much about it — and I’ll likely forget it all again in a month or two. It’s a solid, fairly well written Regency romance, but I didn’t get emotionally invested in the romance or its obstacles. I recently bought all the Carsington books and so will continue with the series, but I hope subsequent books are more engaging.

Jul 25, 2022, 4:34 pm

Book #84: Katherine Center, The Bodyguard
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Hannah is an “executive protection agent,” a.k.a. a bodyguard, whose job is her whole life. But her latest assignment is less than ideal: the client is Jack Stapleton, a famous (and incredibly handsome) actor who has been receiving threats from a stalker. He doesn’t want to worry his sick mother by telling her he’s in danger, so he asks Hannah to pose as his girlfriend. Inevitably, their fake relationship starts feeling a bit too real for Hannah. I have really loved some of Katherine Center’s books, but this one fell flat for me. I never quite bought Hannah as a character, and I didn’t believe she was as good at her job as she claimed to be. The obstacles to the romance also seemed a bit contrived. It’s not a bad read by any means — I tore through virtually the whole thing in a day — but it’s not a keeper for me.

Jul 25, 2022, 4:35 pm

Book #85: Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog
CATs: Alpha (T = To); Random (dog days of summer = Cyril)
Bingo: none

It’s 2057, and time travel is possible, but there are two laws that govern it: you can’t change the course of history (no killing Hitler), and you can’t bring anything back with you (such as ancient treasures or priceless works of art). That is, until historian Verity Brown returns from a trip to the Victorian era with a cat. No one knows how this could have happened, and everyone is terrified that Verity might have destroyed the space-time continuum. The only hope is to send fellow historian Ned Henry back in time to replace the cat before anyone notices it’s missing. But of course, complications immediately ensue. This is one of my all-time favorite books: it has everything from time travel and chaos theory to romance and Agatha Christie references, not to mention historical trips to the Victorian era and World War II. I can understand why the book may not be for everyone — there’s a lot of miscommunication, which can be stressful, and perhaps a bit too much going on. But I love it too much to be rational about its flaws, and I always want everyone to read it!

Jul 25, 2022, 4:37 pm

Book #86: Sophie Irwin, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Kitty Talbot desperately needs to marry a rich man. She and her four younger sisters live in a crumbling country cottage, from which they will soon be evicted unless Kitty can come up with the money to pay the mortgage. She convinces a friend of her deceased mother’s to launch her in London society, and she soon zeros in on a target: the young, wealthy, and smitten Archibald de Lacy. Archie’s older brother, Lord Radcliffe, sees through Kitty’s scheme and is determined to prevent the match. Yet the more their opposing goals throw them together, the more they actually enjoy each other’s company. The plot of this Regency romance is nothing new, but I found it great fun! Kitty’s single-minded determination (combined with the subtlety of a sledgehammer) makes her a unique heroine, and I loved the development of her relationship with Radcliffe. I’d definitely recommend this book to historical romance fans, and I’ll be interested to read more by the author.

Jul 25, 2022, 4:38 pm

Book #87: Sharon Shinn, Archangel
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Gabriel, an angel who intercedes with the god Jovah on behalf of the people of Samaria, needs a wife to sing the annual Gloria required by the god. But when he asks an oracle for the name and location of his fated bride, he is dismayed to learn that Jovah has chosen Rachel, a slave and the daughter of peasants. Rachel is equally angry at the news, thinking she will be going from one type of slavery to another. As Gabriel and Rachel unwillingly comply with the god’s will, they slowly inch closer together, but a power grab from an ambitious rival angel may tear them apart — and cause the destruction of the whole land of Samaria. I found the world of this novel jarring at first, as it borrows names and concepts from the Hebrew Bible but uses them in a very different context. But ultimately I did enjoy the story and the romance between Gabriel and Rachel (although her continued defiance gets a bit frustrating at times). Recommended if you like the author or you’re interested in the premise, but I don’t plan to continue with the series.

Jul 25, 2022, 8:07 pm

>41 christina_reads: Taking a BB for this one. It sounds like a fun read.

Jul 25, 2022, 8:53 pm

>39 christina_reads: I hope you like the other books in the series better, particularly Lord Perfect. I like Loretta Chase's flippancy and detachment and her irritating heroes and heroines, so was happy for Alistair and Mirabel. One of my favourite Loretta Chases is the utterly ludicrous Don't Tempt Me from the Fallen Women series.

Jul 26, 2022, 8:46 am

>44 lowelibrary: Ooh, yay, I hope you like it!

>45 pamelad: Thanks, I hope so too! I read the online sample of Lord Perfect and quite enjoyed it, so I'm looking forward to that book. :) I'll have to look out for Don't Tempt Me as well!

Jul 26, 2022, 11:49 am

Book #88: Sarah Hogle, Twice Shy
CATs: Alpha (T = Twice)
Bingo: none

Maybell is down on her luck, stuck in an unfulfilling job and recently catfished by someone she thought was a friend. Things seem to improve when she inherits a huge old house and hundreds of acres of land from her great-aunt — until she discovers that Wesley, the taciturn groundskeeper, is an equal inheritor with his own plans for the property. As they work together to fix up the house and grounds, Maybell and Wesley grow closer, but their emotional baggage may keep them apart.

I enjoyed this book overall, but I have some quibbles. The novel mentions serious issues like child neglect and severe anxiety/panic attacks, yet it never takes the time to really engage with them. Instead, the focus is on lighthearted renovation projects, treasure hunts, and romance — which I like in theory, but in this case they’re tonally jarring. Also, Maybell’s personality and narrative style are impossibly twee, which bothered me at times even though I have an above-average twee tolerance. All that said, though, I did like the book and would consider reading more by the author.

Jul 28, 2022, 10:01 am

Book #89: Lauren Edmondson, Ladies of the House
CATs: Alpha (E = Edmondson)
Bingo: none

This modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility shifts the story to the DC political world. When Senator Gregory Richardson dies of a heart attack — in bed with his 20-something mistress — his wife Cricket and daughters Daisy and Wallis are left to deal with the scandal and the ensuing loss of their credibility and social standing. When more details of her father’s shady past come to light, Daisy must decide whether to speak up or keep silent.

I’m of two minds about this book. It’s a successful retelling in that it realistically transposes most of the events of the original book to a modern setting; but at the same time, I think it totally misses the spirit of the original! Daisy is no Elinor Dashwood; instead of being the steadfast, unselfish character who keeps her family afloat, she spends most of the book wallowing and makes some shockingly unethical decisions. I also wasn’t a fan of the author’s dismissive attitude toward people who don’t agree with her politically. To be fair, I was never reluctant to pick up the book, and I found it a quick read, but overall I was disappointed with this one.

Jul 31, 2022, 11:58 pm

>43 christina_reads: I remember reading this one way back when and really liking it. I think I'll take a hint from your page and add it as a re-read this month. Thank you for your review!

Aug 1, 2022, 11:15 am

>49 threadnsong: I hope you enjoy your re-read! I'm now really eager to read Wrapt in Crystal, which I've had on my shelves for a while but haven't gotten to yet.

Aug 1, 2022, 11:27 am

Book #90: Gu Byeong-Mo, The Old Woman with the Knife (trans. Chi-Young Kim)
CATs: Author (Asian = Korean) - I read this in July
Bingo: none

Hornclaw is a 65-year-old Korean woman whose ordinary appearance conceals the fact that she’s an extremely competent assassin. Because of her age, she’s worried about slowing down and losing the unique skillset that makes her good at her job. She’s also dealing with a hostile colleague and an assignment she is surprisingly reluctant to complete. As she considers retirement, it soon becomes evident that she may not make it out of her profession alive. I quite enjoyed this book, which isn’t so much a thriller as it is a reflection on aging and human connection (or lack thereof). Hornclaw is a fascinating character, and I was rooting for her despite her job. I would definitely recommend this book if the premise interests you.

Aug 1, 2022, 11:36 am

Book #91: Susanna Craig, One Thing Leads to a Lover
CATs: Alpha (T = Thing) - I read this in July
Bingo: none

British intelligence officer Major Langley Stanhope is on the trail of a French codebook, which has accidentally fallen into the hands of Amanda, a young and attractive widow. Since her much older husband’s death, Amanda has felt stifled by her mother’s constant concern and the attentions of a worthy but dull suitor. When she meets Stanhope, she’s eager to experience an adventure, and their collaboration soon takes a romantic turn. I enjoyed this book more than the first in the series (and it can definitely be read as a stand-alone); the spy plot is a little more prominent, and Amanda and Stanhope are likable characters with good chemistry. I wish the book had delved into Stanhope’s backstory a bit more (there’s a lot there, but it’s pretty glossed over). But if you enjoy light, low-stress historical romances, I’d recommend this one. And the next book features a fake relationship (one of my favorite tropes!), so I’m sure I’ll be reading it soon as well.

Aug 1, 2022, 11:47 am

July recap

Anyone else dreaming wistfully of autumn yet? I’m so ready for it! But July was a pretty good month for me, on balance. I kicked off the month with COVID (again!), but it was a mild case and I’m well recovered. And later in the month I took a week’s vacation, which I spent in Florida with my parents. It was very lovely and relaxing — though, alas, now I’m back to work and regular life. Anyway, because of all that COVID isolation and vacation time, I had one of my best reading months ever in terms of quantity!

Books read in July:
1. Lois McMaster Bujold, Komarr
2. Joyce Harmon, A Feather to Fly With
3. Anna Dean, A Woman of Consequence
4. Craig Rice, Eight Faces at Three
5. Naomi Novik, Crucible of Gold
6. Tessa Dare, Goddess of the Hunt
7. Ashley Weaver, The Key to Deceit
8. Kristan Higgins, The Next Best Thing
9. T. Kingfisher, Bryony and Roses
10. Susanna Kearsley, Season of Storms
11. Agatha Christie, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
12. Loretta Chase, Miss Wonderful
13. Katherine Center, The Bodyguard
14. Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog
15. Sophie Irwin, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting
16. Sharon Shinn, Archangel
17. Sarah Hogle, Twice Shy
18. Lauren Edmondson, Ladies of the House
19. Gu Byeong-Mo, The Old Woman with the Knife
20. Susanna Craig, One Thing Leads to a Lover

Favorite book of the month:
I’m torn, but I think I have to give the top spot to Eight Faces at Three, a fun and fast-paced The Thin Man-esque mystery. Bryony and Roses is a very close second!

Dishonorable mention:
I was annoyed by all the politics in Ladies of the House, and I felt it wasn’t true to the spirit of Sense and Sensibility.

CATs completed:
- AuthorCAT (Asian): Gu Byeong-Mo, author of The Old Woman with the Knife, was born and currently lives in South Korea.
- ShakespeareCAT (Measure for Measure, The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, justice): A Woman of Consequence is a mystery novel in which revealing the truth may be at odds with true justice.
- AlphaKIT (E, T): Craig Rice, *Eight Faces at *Three; *Tessa Dare, Goddess of the Hunt; Kristan Higgins, The Next Best *Thing; *T. Kingfisher, Bryony and Roses; Agatha Christie, Why Didn't *They Ask *Evans?; Connie Willis, *To Say Nothing of the Dog; Sarah Hogle, *Twice Shy; Lauren *Edmondson, Ladies of the House; Susanna Craig, One *Thing Leads to a Lover
- MysteryKIT (Golden Age): Eight Faces at Three and Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? were both originally published in the 1930s.
- RandomKIT (dog days of summer): Season of Storms features two greyhounds, Max and Nero, who play an important role in the climax. And one of the most memorable characters in To Say Nothing of the Dog is a lovable bulldog named Cyril.

Bingo squares completed:
None this month.

Books acquired in July:
- Dianne Freeman, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder (e-book)
- Loretta Chase, Last Night’s Scandal
- Stella Gibbons, The Matchmaker
- Tessa Dare, Goddess of the Hunt (already read)
- Loretta Chase, Miss Wonderful (already read)
- Loretta Chase, Mr. Impossible
- Loretta Chase, Lord Perfect
- Loretta Chase, Not Quite a Lady
- Sophie Irwin, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting (already read)
- Katherine Center, The Bodyguard (already read)
- Lauren Edmondson, Ladies of the House (already read)
- Susanna Craig, One Thing Leads to a Lover (e-book) (already read)
- Susanna Craig, Better Off Wed (e-book)

Aug 4, 2022, 9:28 am

Book #92: Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
CATs: Author (prize winners = Hugo, Nebula, Locus); Alpha (M = McMaster)
Bingo: none

This installment of the Vorkosigan series is full of romantic turmoil. Miles loves Ekaterin but doesn’t know how to woo her, since she’s wary of romance after her traumatic first marriage. Mark loves Kareen Koudelka, but she is torn between her Barrayaran roots and her exciting new life on Beta colony. Meanwhile, Emperor Gregor is getting married, and there are two contested seats in the Council of Counts, so Miles & co. have plenty of political drama to deal with as well. As expected, I absolutely loved the romances in this book (that letter from Miles to Ekaterin!), and I was delighted to see more of Mark, Ivan, and the Koudelka girls. I could have done without the butter bug subplot, and the political intrigue was a bit simplistic, but that’s understandable since the book’s main focus is the relationships. I’m excited to continue with the series, particularly to see what happens with Ivan’s love life!

Aug 9, 2022, 10:19 am

Book #93: Linda Holmes, Flying Solo
CATs: Alpha (F = Flying)
Bingo: none

Laurie’s Great Aunt Dot has recently died, so Laurie returns to her Maine hometown to go through Dot’s things and sell the house. When Laurie discovers a potentially valuable wooden duck among Dot’s possessions, she investigates its background and learns some new information about Dot’s life. She also reflects on her own circumstances — like Dot, she is single and childless by choice — and considers rekindling a romance with her first love. If you want a lot of drama and excitement in your books, this one isn’t for you; it’s very quiet and doesn’t have much plot (aside from a charming little heist!). But the dialogue and characterization shine — Laurie and her friends feel and sound like real people. There is a romantic subplot, but I would definitely not characterize the book as a romance. Overall, I mildly liked this novel, but it’s not destined to be a favorite. I prefer Holmes’s previous book, Evvie Drake Starts Over.

Aug 12, 2022, 9:45 am

Book #94: Anna Dean, A Place of Confinement
CATs: none
Bingo: none

In this fourth installment of the series, Dido Kent is acting as a companion to her Aunt Manners, a rich invalid, and staying at yet another country estate. One of the other houseguests, a young lady, has gone missing and is thought to have eloped; later, a man with a mysterious connection to the estate is murdered. The chief suspect for both incidents is Tom Lomax, the son of the man Dido loves, so she is determined to prove his innocence by discovering what really happened. As with the other books in this series, this is a well-written historical mystery that (unlike many other historical mysteries) feels true to its time. The plots can get a bit convoluted, with a few too many side characters. Also, I don’t think the author planned for this book to be the last, but the series-long arc ends in a good place, so it’s a reasonably satisfying finale. Overall, if the “Jane Austen + mystery” concept appeals to you, I’d definitely recommend the series!

Aug 15, 2022, 1:33 pm

Mimi Matthews's The Siren of Sussex is on sale as an e-book today -- $1.99 (US) at Amazon and Barnes & Noble! I really enjoyed it when I read it earlier this year and was excited to snap it up!

Aug 15, 2022, 2:11 pm

>57 christina_reads: TY! I just grabbed a Nook copy! :-)

Aug 15, 2022, 5:46 pm

>58 Tanya-dogearedcopy: Yay! I've been hoping it would go on sale, since book #2 in the series is coming out in October.

Aug 17, 2022, 9:25 am

Book #95: Mary Balogh, Remember Love
CATs: Alpha (M = Mary); Random (Canada = author is Canadian)
Bingo: none

The Wares of Ravenswood are a tight-knit family, beloved in their community — until the estate’s heir, Devlin, discovers a shameful secret about his father and publicly denounces him. In the ensuing scandal, Devlin is banished from Ravenswood and spends six years in Europe fighting Napoleon’s forces. When he eventually returns, he must mend his broken relationships with his family and with his first love, Gwyneth. I’m a Mary Balogh fan, but this book is not her best. The pre-scandal section drags on forever and introduces far too many characters, most of whom don’t play a significant role in the story. I also disagreed with Devlin’s initial actions, so I found it hard to warm up to him later. Further, the book is so focused on setting up the series’s world and characters that the romance takes a backseat. I never felt the connection between Devlin and Gwyneth or cared about them as a couple. That said, I do love this author and will plan to continue with the series, hoping future books are better.

Aug 18, 2022, 1:54 am

Hey, I'm just stopping by to tell you that I listened to The Matrimonial Advertisement and loved it! Thank you for the BB! I already started book 2 because I liked it so much.

Aug 18, 2022, 9:28 am

>61 MissBrangwen: I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I also liked the rest of the series, so I hope you do as well.

Edited: Aug 18, 2022, 4:24 pm

Ooh, another e-book sale PSA -- Claudia Gray's The Murder of Mr. Wickham is $1.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble! I often find Austen sequels disappointing, but I really liked this one.

Aug 22, 2022, 10:10 am

Book #96: Naomi Novik, Blood of Tyrants
CATs: none
Bingo: none

As the penultimate book in the Temeraire series begins, Laurence washes up on the shores of Japan with no memory of the past several years: He still thinks he’s a naval captain and knows nothing about Temeraire or their joint adventures. When the two finally reunite, Laurence must piece together his past while participating in a diplomatic mission that goes awry and ultimately fighting Napoleon yet again, this time in Russia. I hate to say it, but this series has gotten pretty stale for me. I’m never a fan of an amnesia plot, and it was both tedious and depressing to wait for Laurence to catch up with what the reader already knows. Things pick up when Laurence and Temeraire finally get to Russia to fight Napoleon, but I still found this book pretty dull overall. I hope the final book is more exciting and emotionally satisfying!

Aug 22, 2022, 10:11 am

Book #97: Lois McMaster Bujold, Winterfair Gifts
CATs: Author (prize winner); Alpha (M = McMaster)
Bingo: none

The viewpoint character of this Vorkosigan novella is Armsman Roic, last seen covered in bug butter (and not much else) in A Civil Campaign. As guests arrive for Miles’s approaching wedding, Roic is fascinated by Sergeant Taura, the bioengineered super-soldier rescued by Miles in Labyrinth—and also Miles’s former lover. As Taura and Roic grow closer, they thwart a plot against Miles and his bride. I quite enjoyed this story and was glad to see Taura find some happiness. I do think Miles’s ex-girlfriends let him off a bit too easily, though! The mystery aspect of the novella is a little weak, and overall this is not the most memorable installment of the series, but it was a fun interlude with a delightful incident involving Ivan and a rabbit sculpture!

Aug 22, 2022, 1:52 pm

Book #98: Loretta Chase, Mr. Impossible
CATs: Alpha (M = Mr.)
Bingo: none

Daphne Pembrooke’s chief desire in life is to discover how to translate Egyptian hieroglyphs, but the world believes her scholarly brother is the expert and that she is just his assistant. On a research trip to Egypt, her brother is kidnapped for his supposed language skills. Daphne immediately sets out to rescue him, but she needs a man’s help, so she hires the brawny but not particularly brainy Rupert Carsington to be her muscle. As the two search for her brother, they are also irresistibly drawn to one another, but will their love survive the adventure? This book is an enjoyable romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously — at one point the villain feeds two of his underlings to crocodiles, which gives you an idea of the tone. I adore a hero who’s not as dumb as he appears, so I really liked Rupert. Chase does seem to favor insta-lust between her romantic leads, which isn’t my favorite thing (I prefer a slow burn), but if you like your historical romance on the lighter side with a large helping of adventure, this is definitely worth a read!

Aug 22, 2022, 6:54 pm

>66 christina_reads: I'm not mad keen on insta-lust either, but I do like a romance that doesn't take itself too seriously. A bit of adventure is good because it takes up space that would be otherwise occupied by bedroom scenes.

Aug 23, 2022, 9:22 am

>67 pamelad: I did enjoy the adventure plot of this one! But now that I think about it, there were still several bedroom scenes -- more than I usually expect in a historical!

Aug 23, 2022, 11:59 am

Book #99: Sharon Shinn, Wrapt in Crystal
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Cowen Drake is a Moonchild (essentially a space cop) who’s been sent to the planet of Semay to investigate a string of murders. All the victims are priestesses, but they belong to two different religious sects: the Triumphantes, who serve their goddess via joy and pleasure, and the Fideles, who favor a more austere approach to worship. Nothing else seems to connect the victims, so Cowen has to dig deep to find suspects and motives. As he investigates, he also wrestles with his own feelings about religion and is drawn to both Jovieve, the leader of the Triumphantes, and Laura, a Fidele nun. I really liked how this book skillfully blends the genres of fantasy, police procedural, and romance. The exploration of religious faith is also thoughtful and interesting. If the premise appeals to you, I’d definitely recommend this one!

Aug 24, 2022, 11:51 am

Book #100: Mhairi McFarlane, Mad about You
CATs: Alpha (M = Mhairi, McFarlane, Mad)
Bingo: none

Harriet is a wedding photographer but has no interest in marriage for herself. So when her boyfriend of two years proposes (in front of his obnoxious family, no less!), she knows she has to end things — which means she needs a new living situation ASAP. She ends up renting a room from Cal, but as she grows closer to him, her past relationships affect her present, and she must ultimately confront an abusive ex-boyfriend. I think the marketing of this book is terribly misleading — while there is a very sweet romance in it, this novel is primarily about Harriet working through the trauma of an abusive relationship. At least a third of the book is about her experiences with the abuser, so if that’s a tough topic for you, I would urge you to steer clear! That said, I stayed up way too late to finish this one; I found it very compelling, and I liked Harriet’s humorous narrative voice (her friends were a hoot as well!). I think this is one of McFarlane’s best books and would recommend it to those who like women’s fiction — with the caveat that the subject matter is heavy and hard to read at times.

Aug 25, 2022, 10:15 am

Book #101: Jennifer Echols, Major Crush
CATs: Woman (young adult); Alpha (M = Major)
Bingo: none

Virginia is proud of being the first female drum major at her Alabama high school. Too bad she has to share the position with Drew, a cute but cocky boy whose leadership style clashes with her own. The band director threatens to demote them both unless they can stop their constant arguing; but the more time they are forced to spend playing nice, the more complicated their relationship grows. I wasn’t expecting much from this teen romance, and indeed, a lot of the plot elements are a bit half-baked and confusing. But I’ve read and enjoyed some of Echols’s later work, and there are definite signs of her talent here too. Mr. Rush, the irascible band director, is a delight, and Virginia and Drew’s tumultuous relationship feels pretty true to teenage life. So while the book is definitely not a keeper for me, I did enjoy it more than I thought!

Aug 26, 2022, 2:10 pm

Book #102: Jane Ashford, The Duke Who Loved Me
CATs: Alpha (M = Me)
Bingo: none

James Cantrell has just inherited a dukedom, and with it a mountain of responsibilities. Desperate to avoid these, he proposes to Cecelia Vainsmede, a longtime friend whose competence and organizational skills will surely allow him to ignore his new duties. But Cecelia is in love with James (unbeknownst to him) and is hurt by his casual proposal. Her refusal piques James’s curiosity and interest — especially when a rival suitor appears on the scene. But James needs to grow up before he can figure out what he truly wants. Ashford’s books have been hit or miss for me, but I quite liked this one! James is definitely a flawed character, but I appreciated his growth throughout the book. The main obstacle to the romance is poor communication, which is frustrating at times but relatable and realistic. The ending is very abrupt and I wanted more resolution, but otherwise I liked this one and would recommend it to fans of the genre.

Aug 26, 2022, 2:37 pm

>70 christina_reads: I've yet to encounter a book by her that I didn't love.

Aug 26, 2022, 2:38 pm

>73 RidgewayGirl: She's pretty much an auto-buy author for me at this point!

Aug 26, 2022, 4:42 pm

>74 christina_reads: For me as well. I thought that Just Last Night was slow to get going, but it was just as good as the others. I'm looking forward to reading Mad About You.

Aug 26, 2022, 4:45 pm

>75 RidgewayGirl: I didn't love Just Last Night quite as much as the others, I think because of the pacing, as you said. But I still really enjoyed it!

Aug 29, 2022, 11:29 am

Book #103: Ali Hazelwood, Love on the Brain
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Bee Königswasser has just landed her dream job as the lead neuroscientist on a NASA project. Unfortunately, her co-leader is also her grad school nemesis, Levi Ward, who has always treated her with cold disdain. When Bee starts the job, she’s plagued by workplace sexism and office politics, but Levi is an unexpected ally, and eventually Bee discovers that he never actually hated her at all. As with the author’s previous book, The Love Hypothesis, I found this novel compulsively readable, though some aspects of it didn’t ring true for me. For example, I love a hero who pines after the heroine, but the extent of Levi’s pining did not feel realistic. I also found Bee’s various cutesy quirks annoying at times, and the ending took a weird turn into straight-up melodrama. Still, I’d recommend this one if you like the premise and don’t mind a steamier contemporary romance.

Aug 30, 2022, 11:48 am

Book #104: Francis Duncan, Behold a Fair Woman
CATs: Alpha (F = Francis, Fair)
Bingo: none

Mordecai Tremaine is a bit burned out on his hobby of detection, so he’s taking a vacation to visit some friends on a (fictional) Channel Island. At first he’s happy to enjoy the beaches and mingle with the other vacationers, but he soon begins to notice tense relationships and suspicious activity at an old mill. When one of his new acquaintances is murdered, Tremaine helps the local police to solve the mystery. Like the other books I’ve read by this author, I found this one solid but unspectacular. The pacing felt a bit off: the murder doesn’t happen until about halfway through, and then all the various strands of the mystery finally come together about two pages from the end. I wanted a bit more resolution, I think. So, I’m not enthusiastically recommending it, but it was still a decent read.

Aug 31, 2022, 9:23 am

August recap

It will be September tomorrow, which means autumn is here for those of us in the northern hemisphere, right? Even though it is still 90 degrees outside? I hope we can all agree on this, because I am SO ready for it! But I had a good August overall. I was in the orchestra for a community theater production of “Ragtime,” and it was probably my very favorite pit experience (great musicians, great people). So that was wonderful, but then I was sad when it was over! Luckily, I’ve been socializing with friends a bit more than usual, and that’s been wonderful too. Anyway, on to the books!

Books read in August:
1. Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
2. Linda Holmes, Flying Solo
3. Anna Dean, A Place of Confinement
4. Mary Balogh, Remember Love
5. Naomi Novik, Blood of Tyrants
6. Lois McMaster Bujold, Winterfair Gifts
7. Loretta Chase, Mr. Impossible
8. Sharon Shinn, Wrapt in Crystal
9. Mhairi McFarlane, Mad about You
10. Jennifer Echols, Major Crush
11. Jane Ashford, The Duke Who Loved Me
12. Ali Hazelwood, Love on the Brain
13. Francis Duncan, Behold a Fair Woman

Favorite book of the month:
I really enjoyed Mad about You and think it is one of McFarlane’s best books.

Dishonorable mention:
I love Mary Balogh, but her new series opener, Remember Love, was disappointing. I’m hoping subsequent books will be better!

CATs completed:
- AuthorCAT (prize winners): Lois McMaster Bujold, author of A Civil Campaign and Winterfair Gifts, has won several awards, including multiple Hugos and Nebulas.
- CATWoman (children’s, young adult, graphic novels): Major Crush is a YA romance.
- AlphaKIT (M, F): Lois *McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign; Linda Holmes, *Flying Solo; *Mary Balogh, Remember Love; Lois *McMaster Bujold, Winterfair Gifts; Loretta Chase, *Mr. Impossible; *Mhairi *McFarlane, *Mad about You; Jennifer Echols, *Major Crush; Jane Ashford, The Duke Who Loved *Me; *Francis Duncan, Behold a *Fair Woman
- RandomKIT (Canada): Mary Balogh, author of Remember Love, is Canadian.

Bingo squares completed:
None this month.

Books acquired in August:
- Jane Ashford, The Duke Who Loved Me (e-book) (already read)
- Annie Darling, Crazy in Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop (e-book)
- Hannah March, Death Be My Theme
- Veronica Henry, An Eligible Bachelor (already read)
- Lois McMaster Bujold, The Hallowed Hunt
- Mhairi McFarlane, Mad about You (already read)
- Mimi Matthews, The Siren of Sussex (e-book) (already read)
- Amberley Martin, The Rogue and the Peasant (e-book) (LTER)

Sep 2, 2022, 10:11 am

Book #105: Lois McMaster Bujold, Diplomatic Immunity
CATs: Alpha (I = Immunity)
Bingo: none

In this installment of the Vorkosigan saga, Miles visits Quaddiespace to smooth over an interplanetary incident before it degenerates into armed conflict. A Barrayaran soldier, part of the military escort of a Komarran trading fleet docking at Graf Station, has disappeared. Was he murdered, and if so, why and by whom? Miles must navigate the various agendas and prejudices of the Barrayarans, Komarrans, and quaddies to find out. I’m still absolutely loving this series, though there’s not enough character interaction in this book for my taste — no Ivan or Mark, and very little Ekaterin. It was nice to see Bel Thorne again, though! And I did find the mystery, which involves bioweapons and Cetagandan genetics, compelling as well. So while this isn’t my favorite installment of the series, I still enjoyed it and am excited to continue — especially since the next book appears to be Ivan-centric!

Sep 6, 2022, 10:24 am

Book #106: R.C. Sherriff, The Fortnight in September
CATs: none
Bingo: Title contains a month (September)

This quiet, reflective novel follows the Stevens family as they embark on their annual two-week vacation to the seaside town of Bognor. As they enjoy their holiday, the father thinks about his career’s successes and failures; the mother valiantly hides her fear of the sea from the rest of the family; the 20-year-old daughter experiences an exciting friendship and romance; and the 17-year-old son decides on a new path for his future. This book has no plot to speak of — the main focus is on the characters’ interior lives. The tone is nostalgic and a little sad, as it’s obvious that both the family and the town are irrevocably changing with the passage of time. But it’s also very pleasant (and a refreshing change!) to read about a functional family of people who are fundamentally kind to one another. Definitely recommended if you like this kind of thing.

Sep 6, 2022, 12:39 pm

>81 christina_reads: Another BB from your thread! I see that this has also been published by Persephone Books.

Sep 6, 2022, 1:31 pm

>82 MissBrangwen: True, and I think it definitely fits within the general Persephone aesthetic. The edition I read was a recent republication that appears to be widely available.

Sep 7, 2022, 9:38 am

Book #107: Naomi Novik, League of Dragons
CATs: none
Bingo: none

This final book of the Temeraire series focuses on the last desperate efforts of England and its allies to defeat Napoleon once and for all. The French emperor has a new plan to get the world’s dragons on his side by promising them lands of their own, as well as political and economic rights. Laurence and Temeraire must convince their dragon allies (and even some British dragons) not to defect to Napoleon’s side; meanwhile, a newly promoted Laurence deals with insubordination among the Aerial Corps captains. While I enjoyed this book more than other recent installments of the series, I think it’s a disappointing series finale. So many characters’ fates are left up in the air, and I really wanted to know what happened to Hammond, for example, and Captain Harcourt, and Emily and Demane. The conflict between Laurence and the other captains isn’t resolved either. Granted, I’m a person who likes tidy endings, so maybe others won’t be so bothered by the lack of resolution here. But I wanted more from this book; I feel like the series started strong but ended with a whimper.

Sep 7, 2022, 3:52 pm

>81 christina_reads: That sounds lovely. I'll keep an eye out for a copy.

Sep 7, 2022, 4:04 pm

>85 RidgewayGirl: I hope you enjoy it! I found it very pleasant and relaxing.

Edited: Sep 7, 2022, 4:19 pm

Oops! Sorry, I posted in the wrong place!

Sep 7, 2022, 4:34 pm

>87 Tanya-dogearedcopy: Haha, no worries, thanks for stopping by! :)

Sep 7, 2022, 4:47 pm

>88 christina_reads: I don't engage much these days; but I actually read your thread and take quite a few BBs! :-)

Sep 8, 2022, 6:04 am

>84 christina_reads: Oh, that does not sound promising.

Sep 8, 2022, 9:18 am

>89 Tanya-dogearedcopy: Thanks, that is good to hear! Hope I haven't steered you wrong with the BBs. :)

>90 MissWatson: It wasn't a BAD book, but I was disappointed. I think I'll be getting rid of at least the last half of the series...I'm trying to decide whether I want to keep the first few books.

Sep 9, 2022, 9:17 am

Book #108: Jennifer Ryan, The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle
CATs: Woman (wartime = World War II)
Bingo: none

This historical novel focuses on three women whose lives change during World War II: Cressida, a successful fashion designer whose London home and studio are both destroyed in the Blitz; Violet, an aristocratic young woman whose ambition to marry a titled gentleman is thwarted by her wartime duties; and Grace, a vicar’s daughter who rethinks her decision to marry a man she doesn’t love. All three women grow, discover something new about themselves, and find love. I thought this novel was fine; the main characters are ultimately likable, and the romances are enjoyable if not particularly deep. But the writing style is clunky and simplistic, and the story beats are quite predictable. Overall, I thought this was OK, but fans of light WWII novels can do better.

Sep 16, 2022, 9:42 am

Book #109: Carol Berg, Son of Avonar
CATs: SFF (quests and journeys)
Bingo: none

Seri is a noblewoman by birth, but she has lived in self-imposed exile for 10 years after suffering grievous losses in her former life. When she encounters a desperate fugitive, she hides him from the authorities but discovers that he cannot speak and doesn’t even know his own identity. The book alternates between the present, in which Seri investigates the fugitive’s background, and the past, in which she falls in love with a sorcerer even though magic is forbidden in her country. The two storylines eventually converge, but the vast majority of the book is introducing the main characters and setting up the world of the series. It’s solid, well-written epic fantasy, but I wasn’t a fan of all the jumping back and forth in time (nor of the frequent mentions of Seri’s flame-colored hair). Things pick up near the end of the book, but the first half is a bit of a slog. Still, I like the characters, and the story is shaping up well, so I’m curious to see what will happen in subsequent books!

Sep 21, 2022, 8:28 am

Book #110: Loretta Chase, Lord Perfect
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Benedict, eldest son of the Earl of Hargate, knows his duty and always obeys society’s rules. But a chance meeting with Bathsheba Wingate and her wayward daughter, Olivia, upsets his carefully regimented life. When Olivia runs off in pursuit of treasure with Benedict’s frustrated nephew in tow, Benedict and Bathsheba must work together to rescue the fugitives, while fighting an attraction that can only end in disaster for them both. This is the Loretta Chase book I was waiting for! I love a duty-bound, uptight, emotionally repressed hero, and it’s a delight to watch Benedict slowly unravel. I also enjoyed Bathsheba’s practicality, wit, and determination to gain respectability for herself and her daughter. It’s just a really fun read, full of romantic tension, and it has me excited to read Olivia’s book soon!

Sep 21, 2022, 4:07 pm

>94 christina_reads: This is one of Chase's best, I think. She's so good-humoured.

Sep 21, 2022, 4:34 pm

>95 pamelad: It's definitely one of my favorites by Chase thus far!

Sep 23, 2022, 10:42 am

Book #111: Amberley Martin, The Rogue and the Peasant
CATs: SFF (quests and journeys)
Bingo: none

Esme is a peasant, but her mother always told her she’d be a queen someday. So when a noble lady arrives at her cottage to whisk her off to Finishing School, Esme assumes it’s time to fulfill her destiny — but being kidnapped doesn’t seem like part of the plan. Meanwhile, the kidnapper, Rory, has his own problems: He’s paying off a debt to a sinister Fairy Godmother, and he’s literally haunted by his father’s ghost. When Esme and Rory begin to work together, they learn that their fates are intertwined in surprising ways. Based on the book’s cover copy, I thought this was going to be a romance, and it definitely 100% is not. I also thought the author’s influences were a little too obvious — there’s a whole chapter that basically rips off the movie Labyrinth. But I did like Esme and Rory as characters, and the book subverts traditional fairy tale narratives in interesting ways. Overall, it’s a decent fantasy read, just not what I was expecting.

Sep 23, 2022, 2:54 pm

Hooray, another Mimi Matthews title, The Work of Art, is free as an e-book from Amazon (US) and Barnes & Noble today! I am slowly amassing the complete collection. :)

Sep 27, 2022, 10:01 am

Book #112: Kerry Winfrey, Just Another Love Song
CATs: Alpha (K = Kerry)
Bingo: none

Fifteen years ago, Sandy and Hank were high school sweethearts, determined to leave their small town of Baileyville, Ohio, and pursue their dreams. Now Hank has achieved his goal of becoming a famous musician, but Sandy stayed in Baileyville. While she’s mostly content with her life, she regrets the way things ended with Hank, especially since no other man she’s dated has measured up. When Hank comes back to town, Sandy is forced to confront her unresolved feelings. I loved Kerry Winfrey’s first book, Waiting for Tom Hanks, and I really enjoy her warm, funny writing style. But I didn’t love this one quite as much, mostly because I don’t tend to like second-chance romances. I also thought the book’s dramatic tension vanished around the halfway point, when Sandy and Hank have an honest conversation that eliminates most of the conflict. But I did like the book overall and will definitely keep reading more by this author.

Edited: Sep 28, 2022, 9:36 am

Book #113: Mary Balogh, A Precious Jewel
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Sir Gerald Stapleton has no interest in marriage; past experience has taught him that women can’t be trusted, and he feels himself too dull and ordinary to inspire love. But he doesn’t want to do without female companionship altogether, so he occasionally visits a high-class brothel. When he meets Priscilla, one of the brothel’s employees, he is drawn to her — and when another client abuses her, Gerald impulsively decides to make her his mistress. But the more time they spend together, the more complicated their relationship grows. I was fascinated by this book’s premise and by the unconventional protagonists, a beta-male hero and a prostitute heroine. While I found Gerald unlikable at times and Priss too much of a doormat, I was also able to sympathize with both characters and root for them to figure things out. I’m not exactly sure how I’d rate this book, but it’s certainly a memorable one!

Sep 29, 2022, 1:34 pm

Book #114: Anthony Berkeley, Jumping Jenny
CATs: none
Bingo: none

A disagreeable woman dies at a house party, apparently by suicide, but amateur detective Roger Sheringham discovers proof that she was murdered. Yet Roger — along with all the other party guests — believes that she deserved to be murdered, so while his curiosity prompts him to search for the truth, he also works to shield the killer from the police. This novel has an interesting structure, in that you think you know what’s going on by the end of chapter 4, but there are several more twists and turns to the plot. Berkeley is a good writer but cruel to his characters, and I didn’t find a single one of them likable. I thought everyone’s attitude toward the dead woman was pretty horrifying. Yes, she was obnoxious, but everyone hated her so much that I found myself pitying her! All in all, this novel was very clever but a little too mean-spirited for me.

Sep 29, 2022, 9:28 pm

>101 christina_reads: Mean-spirited is a good description. And "deserved" to be murdered is so very wrong.

Sep 30, 2022, 9:26 am

>102 pamelad: Call me old-fashioned, but I generally like my mystery novels to operate on the premise that murder is wrong!

Sep 30, 2022, 9:34 am

September recap

The pace of life always seems to accelerate in September…summer is over, many of my “extracurricular” activities (choir, band) are starting up again, and retailers are hinting that the holiday season isn’t too terribly far away. So I’ve had a busy month but a good one; the highlight was running up to NJ for a weekend to see my mom and grandma. I’m anticipating more busy-ness ahead, but hey, it’s better than being bored! Anyway, on to the books:

Books read in September:
1. Lois McMaster Bujold, Diplomatic Immunity
2. R.C. Sherriff, The Fortnight in September
3. Naomi Novik, League of Dragons
4. Jennifer Ryan, The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle
5. Carol Berg, Son of Avonar
6. Loretta Chase, Lord Perfect
7. Amberley Martin, The Rogue and the Peasant
8. Kerry Winfrey, Just Another Love Song
9. Mary Balogh, A Precious Jewel
10. Anthony Berkeley, Jumping Jenny

Favorite book of the month:
For sheer enjoyment, I think I have to go with Lord Perfect! I loved the main characters, especially Benedict, and I can’t wait to read Olivia’s story.

Dishonorable mention:
League of Dragons wasn’t actually a bad book, but as a series finale I found it incredibly disappointing.

CATs completed:
- CATWoman (women in wartime): The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle is a novel following the lives of three women during World War II.
- AlphaKIT (K, I): Lois McMaster Bujold, Diplomatic *Immunity; *Kerry Winfrey, Just Another Love Song
- SFFKIT (quests and journeys): The main characters in Son of Avonar spend the second half of the book traveling in search of a legendary gate between worlds — a quest and a journey in one! And in The Rogue and the Peasant, the two protagonists are both on quests to fulfill their destinies.

Bingo squares completed:
- Title contains a month: The Fortnight in September qualifies.

Books acquired in September:
- Hannah March, A Necessary Evil
- Mary Balogh, A Precious Jewel (already read)
- Karen Grey, What I’m Looking For (free e-book)
- Mimi Matthews, The Work of Art (free e-book)
- D.E. Stevenson, Listening Valley

Sep 30, 2022, 2:25 pm

>104 christina_reads: So cool, I looked up A Work of Art and got it for free, too. Yay!
I hope you have a good time shopping for the holidays and with your choir and band!

Sep 30, 2022, 3:16 pm

>105 MissBrangwen: Glad you picked it up as well! I am trying NOT to shop for the holidays quite yet, but now that temperatures have dropped where I live, I am starting to look ahead!

Sep 30, 2022, 3:48 pm

>104 christina_reads: I also have picked up a free copy of The Work of Art - thanks for mentioning it.

Sep 30, 2022, 3:50 pm

>107 DeltaQueen50: Hope you enjoy it, Judy!

Oct 6, 2022, 9:39 am

Book #115: Lois McMaster Bujold, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance
CATs: Alpha (V = Vorpatril), Random (what’s in a name)
Bingo: none

Ivan Vorpatril likes to keep his head down and stay as far away from politics as he can. But he gets dragged into a sticky situation when an ImpSec operative asks him to protect a mysterious woman, Tej, and her blue-skinned companion from unknown enemies. Ivan is willing to help, but complications ensue when an emergency forces him to offer Tej the protection of marriage. Ivan is one of my favorite characters in this series, so I was excited to read his book, and fortunately it delivered everything I wanted! More than once I found myself chuckling and affectionately murmuring “Oh, Ivan” (not an exaggeration, I literally did this!). A large chunk of the book is a cozy reunion with beloved series characters; Byerly Vorrutyer makes a welcome return; there’s a lovely exploration of Simon Illyan’s relationship with Ivan; plus a treasure hunt, multiple romances, and a few thrilling heroics. In short, I adored this book, and it’s definitely my favorite of the Vorkosigan saga!

Oct 6, 2022, 2:59 pm

>109 christina_reads: Captain Vorpatril's Alliance is next in line for me and now you have me chomping at the bit to get going on it!

Oct 6, 2022, 3:18 pm

>110 DeltaQueen50: You're in for a treat, Judy!

Oct 7, 2022, 10:16 am

Book #116: Karen Cushman, Catherine, Called Birdy
CATs: Random (what’s in a name)
Bingo: none

Catherine is a 13-year-old girl growing up in the Middle Ages, but she’s not particularly interested in becoming the lady of the manor. She loathes spinning and embroidery, her best friend is Perkin the goat boy, and she’d rather join a circus or go on crusade than get married. But when her father finds her an old, ugly, rude — but rich — suitor, Catherine doesn’t know how to escape her fate. This was one of my favorite books as a child, and I decided to reread it because there’s a new Amazon Prime adaptation coming out today. I was delighted to find that the book really holds up! Catherine’s voice is a joy as she describes her unique thoughts and the various scrapes she gets into. The depiction of life in the Middle Ages is also vivid and compelling. I’m glad I read this book again and discovered that it really is as good as I remembered!

Oct 7, 2022, 1:21 pm

>112 christina_reads: Sigh, you got me again! I guess I was too old when Catherine, Called Birdy was originally published so I missed it earlier. I've picked up a Kindle copy so I have it to enjoy in the future!

Oct 7, 2022, 1:28 pm

>112 christina_reads:, >113 DeltaQueen50: LOL, They got me too :-)

Edited: Oct 7, 2022, 1:51 pm

>113 DeltaQueen50: It was published in 1994, the year I turned 9, so I was definitely in the right age bracket for it! But I do think it's very enjoyable to read as an adult too.

>114 Tanya-dogearedcopy: Hope you enjoy it!

Oct 7, 2022, 1:53 pm

>112 christina_reads:, >113 DeltaQueen50:, >114 Tanya-dogearedcopy: I'm too old to have read it as a child too, but I did read it a decade or two ago. In a recent year I reread it for a Cat. Good both times!

Oct 7, 2022, 6:03 pm

>112 christina_reads: Never too old. Hit with a BB!

Oct 10, 2022, 10:00 am

>117 Tess_W: Yay, hope you like it!

I watched the Amazon Prime adaptation over the weekend, and I have mixed feelings. On the plus side, I think it's well cast and has a lot of charming moments. Some lines and scenes are taken directly from the book, but there's also a lot of new stuff. The ending diverges pretty wildly from the book, which I wasn't a fan of -- I felt like it was changing the message of the story. But if you saw the trailer and liked it, you'll probably enjoy the adaptation.

Oct 10, 2022, 11:48 am

>112 christina_reads: I remember seeing this book when I was a kid, but I never read it. Perhaps I should!

Oct 10, 2022, 11:52 am

>119 rabbitprincess: I would certainly recommend it. :) And it's only 200-ish pages long, so not a huge time commitment!

Oct 10, 2022, 2:08 pm

Book #117: Richard Osman, The Bullet That Missed
CATs: Shakespeare (Macbeth = murder)
Bingo: none

The Thursday Murder Club is back at it, this time investigating the cold case of a murdered journalist. But things heat up when a prisoner connected to the journalist’s last big story is found dead in her cell. Meanwhile, Elizabeth faces a threat from a mysterious “Viking” who attempts to blackmail her into killing a former associate. New romances blossom for Ron and Donna, Stephen’s memory loss worsens, and Ibrahim becomes Connie Johnson’s psychiatrist. As with previous installments of the series, this novel is a lot of fun and treats its quirky characters — even the criminals — with warmth and charity. The plot does get a little overwrought toward the end, but I still liked the book a lot and will certainly continue with the series.

Edited: Oct 10, 2022, 3:46 pm

>121 christina_reads: I liked Joyce's KGB friend, I think he may be a recurring character since he mentioned that he might like to live where they do.

I agree with the tangled ending, it was too much, but I'll be reading the next one a year from now!

Oct 10, 2022, 4:06 pm

>122 clue: Yes, I'd like to see more of Viktor! Also, I am kind of hoping for a Joyce/Ibrahim romance, though possibly I'm reading too much into things. :) Looking forward to the next book, for sure!

Edited: Oct 14, 2022, 9:44 am

Book #118: Sherry Thomas, The Art of Theft
CATs: Woman (women and crime)
Bingo: none

In this installment of the Lady Sherlock series, the maharani of a small Indian kingdom — and an old flame of Mrs. Watson’s — needs help. She’s being blackmailed and needs to recover some sensitive letters, which are currently hidden in the frame of a valuable painting that will soon be auctioned off at a French chateau. So Charlotte Holmes & co. decide to infiltrate the auction and steal the painting so they can retrieve the letters, but of course everything is more complicated than it seems. I love a good heist story, so I was predisposed to enjoy this book, but I have mixed feelings. The pacing feels off; not much happens until about 75% of the way through, and then it’s plot twist after plot twist. I also find myself getting frustrated with Charlotte and Lord Ingram, since the obstacles to their romance seem pretty flimsy at this point. On the other hand, I did like seeing the whole gang together, and I’m invested in what happens to these characters. So I’d still recommend the series, but you definitely need to start with book one!

Oct 18, 2022, 10:26 am

Book #119: Naomi Novik, The Golden Enclaves
CATs: Shakespeare (Macbeth = witchcraft, prophecies); Alpha (N = Naomi, Novik)
Bingo: none

***Warning: SPOILERS for previous books in the series!***

At the end of The Last Graduate, El graduated, saved the entire student body, and sent a huge percentage of the world’s mals spinning into the void. But none of that matters to her right now, because Orion voluntarily stayed behind to get eaten by a maw-mouth. Devastated, El doesn’t know what to do with herself, until she learns that enclaves around the world are being attacked, and her unique powers may be their only hope. Meanwhile, she decides she needs to put Orion out of his misery, which means she’s not quite done with the Scholomance after all. I’ve enjoyed this series and think this last book is a fitting conclusion. As with the Temeraire series, there are pacing issues, and some developments came out of nowhere (El and Liesel?!). The plot takes some very dark and dramatic turns, but I was satisfied with how things turned out. I’d recommend this trilogy if the premise appeals to you, but you definitely need to read it in order!

Oct 18, 2022, 9:41 pm

I'm enjoying your reviews of the Vorkosigan books. I keep changing my mind about which one is my favourite. I do have a soft spot for Komarr because it was the very first Vorkosigan novel I'd read and it totally drew me into Miles's world.

>125 christina_reads: I've loved so many of Naomi Novik's books but A Deadly Education just didn't appeal to me and I didn't continue with the sequel. However, I've seen so many accolades for the series that I think I should give it another try.

Oct 19, 2022, 9:20 am

>126 mathgirl40: Komarr is such a good one too! Several books in the series could plausibly be my favorite, but I love Ivan so much that of course his book rose to the top. :)

And if you didn't like A Deadly Education, I'd say no need to continue with the series -- it's essentially more of the same. And I will say, even though I liked this trilogy, it's probably my least favorite thing Novik has done so far. I definitely prefer the Temeraire series and her stand-alone fantasy novels.

Oct 23, 2022, 9:23 pm

Hello Christina! It sounds like you've had a busy and musical few months. I totally get how these things cut into one's readings. I always enjoy coming by and reading your reviews: they are concise and explanatory, and I see that you have lots of BB from your followers. Always a good sign!

I was especially intrigued by >100 christina_reads:, and also thanks for the heads up on the Temeraire series. I really enjoyed the premise and I last read Empire of Ivory. I hadn't really decided to ask for more books in the series but I'm thinking maybe I should stop while I still enjoy them.

Have a wonderful, shopping-full and music-full holiday season! And I hope the temps have gotten to where it feels like autumn at long last.

Oct 24, 2022, 11:04 am

>128 threadnsong: Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words! Regarding the Temeraire series, I think it all depends on what you're looking for. If you like the travelogue aspect of the books, and if Laurence and Temeraire are really the only characters you care about, you may enjoy the later installments more than I did!

Oct 24, 2022, 11:33 am

Book #120: Carol Berg, Guardians of the Keep
CATs: none
Bingo: none

***Warning: SPOILERS for book #1 in the series.***

After the events of Son of Avonar, Karon/D’Natheil is staying with his mentor, Dassine, to see if his dual memories can be restored without overthrowing his reason altogether. Meanwhile, Seri returns to Comigor to fulfill her brother’s dying wish. She expects to stay only a short time, but she finds everything in disarray and her nephew, Gerick, strangely hostile. When Gerick later disappears, Seri and Karon join forces to find the missing boy, and the trail eventually leads to the land of the evil Lords of Zhev’Na. Like its predecessor, this book is a solid, enjoyable fantasy novel. The story is told primarily by Seri, Karon, and Gerick in turn, and this device gives varied and interesting perspectives on the book’s events. I especially liked the chapters in the land of Zhev’Na, which were dark and disturbing at times but also full of dramatic tension. I’m intrigued to see where the series goes from here!

Oct 24, 2022, 11:36 am

Book #121: Mimi Matthews, The Belle of Belgrave Square
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Captain Jasper Blunt is hailed as a war hero, but he is also the object of sinister rumors involving illegitimate children and a crumbling, possibly haunted estate. He needs a wife with a large dowry to fund the necessary estate repairs, and he’s soon drawn to the anxious, bookish heiress Julia Wychwood. Julia is attracted to Jasper as well, but she is reluctant to pursue a relationship because of his dubious character. When circumstances force them together, Julia is willing to make the best of things, but she soon realizes that Jasper is keeping many secrets from her. I’m a huge Mimi Matthews fan and was excited about the Beauty and the Beast-esque plot of this novel, but while I did enjoy the book overall, I didn’t love it quite as much as I wanted to. I figured out Jasper’s secrets pretty early on, and it was frustrating that he kept them from Julia for so long. The plot also reminded me of Matthews’s earlier novel, The Matrimonial Advertisement, but I liked that version better. I still did like this book a lot, though, and I’m eager to continue with the series!

Oct 25, 2022, 11:18 am

Book #122: Lois McMaster Bujold, The Flowers of Vashnoi
CATs: Alpha (V = Vashnoi)
Bingo: none

This novella is set in the region of Vorkosigan Vashnoi, which was nuked by the Cetagandans during their invasion of Barrayar and is still highly radioactive. Ekaterin and Enrique Borgos have developed insects that might be able to consume radioactive materials and convert them into non-harmful substances, so they’re experimenting on a small plot of land within Vashnoi. But when some of the insects go missing, Ekaterin gets an upsetting crash course on her responsibilities as Lady Vorkosigan. This is my least favorite of the Vorkosigan novellas, which doesn’t mean it’s not good — it is! Bujold is always a good writer, and I liked the focus on Ekaterin’s POV. But it doesn’t do much to advance the overall series plot, and I also felt some of the events and themes were a retread of The Mountains of Mourning. So I don’t think you’re missing too much if you skip this one, though it will still be of interest to Vorkosigan enthusiasts.

Oct 26, 2022, 9:35 am

Book #123: Loretta Chase, Not Quite a Lady
CATs: Alpha (N = Not)
Bingo: none

Often accused of being heartless, Darius Carsington is an unrepentant rake. He’s not interested in women apart from the physical pleasure they can bring him — that is, until he meets Lady Charlotte Hayward, who doesn’t quite seem to fit into any of the categories of women he’s used to. As he becomes better acquainted with her, Darius is disturbed and confused by his growing attraction. But Charlotte has a secret that makes her determined to avoid romance, even with the dangerously appealing Darius. I’ll admit, I have a fondness for romance novel heroes whose conflict is essentially, “I’m having a feeling and I don’t like it!” Darius’s struggle to resist his attraction to Charlotte is both amusing and endearing. I also liked Charlotte and was rooting for her to heal from her painful past, even if the resolution to that story felt a bit pat. Overall, this novel wasn’t quite as much my catnip as Lord Perfect, but I did really enjoy it and look forward to the next Carsington book!

Oct 28, 2022, 3:52 pm

Book #124: Veronica Henry, An Eligible Bachelor
CATs: Alpha (V = Veronica)
Bingo: none

Guy Portias, heir to a manor house in the Cotswolds, has just gotten engaged to beautiful actress Richenda Fox. But they’ve only known each other a short time, and there are several obstacles that might prevent their union: Richenda’s keeping a secret about her past, Guy’s mother doesn’t seem too keen on her future daughter-in-law, and local girl Honor begins helping out at the manor—and getting closer to Guy in the process. The novel ultimately bounces among several characters connected with the manor and the larger neighborhood, who variously search for excitement, purpose, redemption, and love. I first read this book years ago and remembered liking it; this time around, I found it enjoyable but not particularly amazing. The overall tone is breezy and light, as you’d expect from an early-aughts British chick lit novel, but there’s also a very upsetting (though brief) description of the rape of a 14-year-old girl that I was not prepared for! Aside from that, it’s a fun, undemanding read that I’d recommend if you like the genre.

Oct 31, 2022, 12:30 pm

Book #125: Elizabeth Mansfield, The Girl with the Persian Shawl
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Kate Rendell is a strong woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. So when Harry Gerard, Lord Ainsworth, shows up unannounced to buy a painting from her — a family heirloom, no less — she doesn’t hesitate to tell him off. But she regrets her actions when she encounters Harry again and finds herself unwillingly attracted to him. The interest seems mutual, but Kate’s beautiful cousin Deirdre may throw a wrench into their romance. I picked up this book at a library sale because I dimly recalled that Mansfield wrote Regency romances with no explicit sexual content. My memory was accurate, but the book was mediocre at best. Kate is fairly obnoxious and jumps to a lot of ridiculous conclusions. Harry is appealing enough but rather two-dimensional. So unfortunately, I wouldn’t particularly recommend this book and have no interest in reading anything else by the author.

Oct 31, 2022, 1:49 pm

October recap

Happy Halloween, everyone! I’ve had a busy month, full of choir and band concerts. But on the plus side, my library’s semi-annual sale happened this past weekend — and as you’ll see from my “Books acquired in October” list, I took full advantage of it! I must also admit, somewhat shamefacedly, that I’ve already started watching cheesy Christmas movies. But no holiday music yet — one has to draw the line somewhere. :) Anyway, on to the books!

Books read in October:
1. Lois McMaster Bujold, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance
2. Karen Cushman, Catherine, Called Birdy
3. Richard Osman, The Bullet That Missed
4. Sherry Thomas, The Art of Theft
5. Naomi Novik, The Golden Enclaves
6. Carol Berg, Guardians of the Keep
7. Mimi Matthews, The Belle of Belgrave Square
8. Lois McMaster Bujold, The Flowers of Vashnoi
9. Loretta Chase, Not Quite a Lady
10. Veronica Henry, An Eligible Bachelor
11. Elizabeth Mansfield, The Girl with the Persian Shawl

Favorite book of the month:
I absolutely adored Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance and am confident that it will be my favorite book in the Vorkosigan series.

Dishonorable mention:
I was unimpressed with The Girl with the Persian Shawl. It wasn’t awful, but I can’t recommend it.

CATs completed:
- CATWoman (women and crime): The Art of Theft is part of the Lady Sherlock series, in which Charlotte Holmes and her companion Mrs. Watson solve mysteries.
- ShakespeareCAT (Macbeth, murder, witchcraft, politics): The Bullet That Missed involves murder, and The Golden Enclaves involves witchcraft (or at least magic use) and a main character trying to escape a foreboding prophecy.
- AlphaKIT (V, N): Lois McMaster Bujold, Captain *Vorpatril’s Alliance; *Naomi *Novik, The Golden Enclaves; Lois McMaster Bujold, The Flowers of *Vashnoi; Loretta Chase, *Not Quite a Lady; *Veronica Henry, An Eligible Bachelor
- RandomKIT (what's in a name): Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance and Catherine, Called Birdy both feature the main character’s name in the title.

Bingo squares completed:
None this month.

Books acquired in October:
- Megan Bannen, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy
- Mary Roberts Rinehart, The Red Lamp
- Julia Quinn, To Sir Phillip, with Love
- Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (already read)
- Emily Larkin, Unmasking Miss Appleby (free e-book)
- E.C. Bentley, Trent Intervenes
- E.C.R. Lorac, Murder by Matchlight
- Kate Clayborn, Love at First (e-book) (already read)
- Alwyn Hamilton, Rebel of the Sands
- Patricia Wentworth, The Case Is Closed
- Baynard Kendrick, The Odor of Violets
- Martin Edwards, ed., The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories
- Elizabeth Mansfield, The Girl with the Persian Shawl (already read)
- Ben Macintyre, Agent Sonya
- John Dickson Carr, The Mad Hatter Mystery
- Francis Spufford, Light Perpetual
- John Julius Norwich, A Short History of Byzantium
- Catharine Maria Sedgwick, The Linwoods

Oct 31, 2022, 7:54 pm

Some good reads in your books acquired! I liked the Lorac, the Carr, and the Macintyre. I probably also liked the Edwards collection ;)

Nov 1, 2022, 10:24 am

>137 rabbitprincess: I always keep my eyes open for a good vintage mystery! I've never read Carr or Lorac before, so I'm excited to try some new-to-me authors.

Nov 6, 2022, 8:36 pm

>136 christina_reads: What a great haul you have from the library! And I learned in October that I have an early December Christmas gig coming so yep, that means I've already started re-learning some Christmas tunes. They're fairly easy to pull up from memory; my especial favorite is "Gloucester Wassail." I agree it's not the time for holiday music in general, though!

Nov 7, 2022, 9:39 am

>139 threadnsong: I'm in the same boat with rehearsing Christmas songs for upcoming concerts! But still trying not to listen to Christmas music on my own time...though it's already playing in a lot of stores. Not sure I'm familiar with Gloucester Wassail, so I'll have to look that one up!

Nov 7, 2022, 10:30 am

Book #126: Lois McMaster Bujold, Cryoburn
CATs: none
Bingo: none

In this installment of the Vorkosigan saga, Miles is investigating possible skulduggery on the planet Kibou-Daini, on which people generally choose to be cryogenically frozen instead of dying. The corporations that do the freezing then assume control of their frozen patrons’ assets and political votes. Now these cryocorps are trying to expand their business onto Komarr, which makes it Miles’s problem, and he soon uncovers and foils yet another dastardly scheme. I’ll admit, I didn’t totally follow the plot of this novel, but I did enjoy Miles’s antics and the characters he meets on Kibou, especially young animal lover Jin Sato. It’s also interesting that, while much of this series is about the creation of life (uterine replicators, Cetagandan genetic manipulation), this book pivots to examine death. I’m eager to read the next (and final) book in the series, but I’m also sad that it’s coming to an end!

Nov 7, 2022, 10:32 am

Book #127: Allison Ashley, Would You Rather
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Noah and Mia have been best friends since childhood, but despite a long-simmering mutual attraction, they’ve never tried to take the relationship farther. Now Mia has the opportunity to go back to school and pursue her dream career, but to do that she’ll need to quit her job — which she can’t do, because she has a rare kidney disease and can’t afford to lose her health insurance. Noah suggests a marriage of convenience so that Mia can be covered under his insurance, but complications ensue as they both try to navigate a fake relationship with very real feelings. This is a quick and enjoyable read with a lot of angsty mutual pining. I liked that both Noah and Mia had problems outside the relationship that weren’t magically fixed, but I also really wanted them both to get some therapy! But I liked this one overall, and I’m kind of hoping for a sequel featuring side characters Graham and Claire. Thanks to JayneCM for the BB!

Nov 7, 2022, 3:59 pm

>136 christina_reads: Elizabeth Mansfield is off my list now. Dull, bland books. I've read two.

I've read seven of your October acquisitions, and applaud your taste! Murder by Matchlight is a good E C R Lorac. Crossed Skis, written as Carol Carnac is another. Having read lots of Mary Roberts Rinehart, but not The Red Lamp, I'm waiting to read your report. She's such a reliable standby. So many books!

Nov 7, 2022, 4:04 pm

>143 pamelad: You've definitely confirmed my instinct not to try Elizabeth Mansfield again! Also glad to hear you liked Murder by Matchlight. I actually haven't read any Mary Roberts Rinehart yet, so I'm excited to see what I make of her!

Nov 9, 2022, 9:52 am

Book #128: Sherry Thomas, Murder on Cold Street
CATs: CATWoman (women’s issues = #MeToo, workplace sexism)
Bingo: none

In this installment of the Lady Sherlock series, Charlotte Holmes’s ally Inspector Treadles is arrested for the murder of two men with ties to his wife’s business. The evidence is wildly incriminating, but Mrs. Treadles insists her husband is innocent, so Charlotte and her friends must try to discover alternate suspects and motives. Meanwhile, Lord Ingram finally decides to act on his feelings for Charlotte, which leads her to reexamine her own emotions. This book was fine, but at this point I’m reading for the characters and relationships rather than the mystery plots. Charlotte & co. spend a lot of time interviewing witnesses, and in the end the solution isn’t terribly complex. I’m getting a bit weary of Moriarty as a shadowy background villain who seems to have a connection to every aspect of Charlotte’s life, and I hope he’ll get some actual character development in the next book. Once I get current with the series this year, I may not care enough to pursue future installments.

Nov 11, 2022, 10:43 am

Book #129: Sarah Mayberry, Her Favorite Rival
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Audrey Mathews and Zach Black are both smart, talented, and ambitious — and since they work in the same office, they’re each other’s biggest competition. But when they’re paired on an important project, they also discover a mutual admiration and attraction. As they struggle with whether to act on their feelings, a new manager comes in and immediately starts restructuring and laying people off. Will their newfound romance jeopardize their careers? I really enjoyed this rivals-to-lovers story, which is reminiscent of The Hating Game (though this version came out first!) but with more emotionally mature main characters. Audrey and Zach actually communicate pretty well and act like adults, even when they’re at odds. They both have excellent reasons for their devotion to work and their reluctance to commit to a relationship. The book is too sexually explicit for my taste, but otherwise I really liked it, and I am definitely interested in trying more by this author!

Nov 15, 2022, 10:46 am

Book #130: Carol Berg, The Soul Weaver
CATs: none
Bingo: none

***Warning: SPOILERS for previous books in the series***

Karon and his Preceptors have finally come up with a plan to free their enslaved brethren and defeat the Lords of Zhev’Na, but a traitor in their midst ruins everything at the last minute. Reluctantly, Karon concludes that Gerick must be responsible and therefore that he must be killed. To escape — and to prevent himself from inadvertently hurting anyone else — Gerick flees to a mysterious world called the Bounded, whose strange inhabitants want to make him their king. With the help of old friends and new, Gerick must confront his demons and accept his true destiny. I’m continuing to enjoy this series, although Gerick’s time in the Bounded felt like a bit of a side adventure. I also wanted more of Seri, who’s somewhat sidelined in this installment. Still, I liked it overall and am eager to see how things turn out in the final book!

Nov 15, 2022, 1:36 pm

Breaking news: Mimi Matthews's Christmas novella, Holiday by Gaslight, is FREE as an e-book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble today! If you're a historical romance fan, I would definitely recommend picking this one up!

Nov 15, 2022, 10:52 pm

Nov 16, 2022, 12:32 am

>148 christina_reads: Thank you! :-)

Nov 16, 2022, 10:24 am

>149 Tanya-dogearedcopy: >150 Tess_W: >151 MissBrangwen: Haha, you're welcome! Hope you all enjoy it. I may reread it this year!

Nov 16, 2022, 5:03 pm

>148 christina_reads: Thanks for the heads up, Christina. I also got myself a copy. :)

Nov 17, 2022, 9:42 am

>153 DeltaQueen50: Hope you like it, Judy!

Nov 17, 2022, 10:20 am

Book #131: Loretta Chase, Last Night’s Scandal
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Peregrine Dalmay has just returned from a long archaeological expedition in Egypt, and he wants nothing more than to go back. But his capricious parents have decided he must instead repair the family’s crumbling castle in Scotland — and if he refuses, they’ll cut him off. Peregrine’s old friend, the scandalous Lady Olivia, has a Plan and is determined to help. As they fix up the (possibly haunted) castle and argue, they also fall in love, but can they have a future together when they’re so different? I had high hopes for this book after meeting Peregrine and Olivia as teenagers in Lord Perfect, but I found it a bit of a letdown; there was too much plot and not enough development of the romance. The characters’ internal struggles didn’t really make sense to me and needed more fleshing out. Still, it’s not a bad read, and I have certainly enjoyed my foray into Loretta Chase’s backlist! But for me, Lord Perfect is the best of this series and the only one I feel compelled to keep.

Nov 17, 2022, 3:07 pm

I agree. Not as good as Lord Perfect. I'm waiting for Loretta Chase to write more books!

Nov 17, 2022, 3:27 pm

>156 pamelad: I am so impatient for the last Difficult Dukes book!

Nov 23, 2022, 9:41 am

Book #132: Francis Spufford, Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York
CATs: Alpha (G = Golden); Random (the city = New York)
Bingo: none

It’s November 1746, and Richard Smith has just arrived in the small town of New York. He visits a countinghouse and produces a note for 1,000 pounds — a huge sum. The denizens of New York don’t know what to make of him: Is he simply a rich man planning to explore the pleasures of a new place? Or is he some kind of fraud, spy, or scoundrel? As Smith explores the city, he gets into various kinds of financial, political, and romantic trouble, but it’s not till the end of the novel that his true purpose is revealed. I really enjoyed this book, which apes the picaresque adventures and digressive style of 18th-century novels. It does a good job of pointing out the social ills of the period (such a slavery) without being anachronistic or preachy. It’s also just plain fun to follow the possibly roguish Smith around and try to figure out what he’s up to, though the ending is a bit of a heartbreaker. But I’d still heartily recommend this book to historical fiction fans!

Edited: Nov 23, 2022, 10:08 am

>158 christina_reads: Though not a setting & time period that generally appeals to me, this definitely has me intrigued! Onto the Wishlist it goes! #BB 🙂

Nov 23, 2022, 9:57 am

>159 Tanya-dogearedcopy: I got it as a gift, and it sat on my shelf for years, but I'm really glad I finally picked it up!

Nov 23, 2022, 10:05 am

> 158 Added to my list. She has another title at our library that looks good too.

Nov 23, 2022, 10:08 am

>161 clue: I also have his Light Perpetual on my shelves but haven't read it yet.

Nov 23, 2022, 10:17 am

That's it! Looks like a good one to try too.

Nov 23, 2022, 1:47 pm

I have both Golden Hill and Light Perpetual on my Kindle - so I was very happy to see such a positive review!

Nov 25, 2022, 9:49 pm

>140 christina_reads: I know you know this one. It starts "Wassail, Wassail all over the town." I'm also singing it in my head, not that you can hear that part ;)

>158 christina_reads: After finally visiting New York as an adult and reading The Alienist recently this book sounds like an enjoyable read. Thanks for your review!

Nov 27, 2022, 5:24 pm

Nov 28, 2022, 11:57 am

Book #133: David Sedaris, Holidays on Ice
CATs: none
Bingo: LGBTQ+ author (Sedaris is gay)

This book is a collection of holiday-themed stories and essays, some of them autobiographical and most previously published elsewhere. “SantaLand Diaries” chronicles the time Sedaris worked as a Macy’s elf, “Christmas Means Giving” follows two families as they compete to see who can best demonstrate the true meaning of the season, and “Jesus Shaves” sheds some light on different cultures’ Easter traditions. These short works contain some hilarious moments, but frankly, a lot of them are dark and depressing. One story ends with the murder of a baby, while in another, parents sell their children to a pedophile. So if you’re looking for light, fun stories to get you in the holiday spirit, I’d recommend skipping this one! But if you’re of a more cynical disposition during this time of year, then it could be just the thing for you. For me, it was a mixed bag and probably not a keeper.

Nov 28, 2022, 12:13 pm

Book #134: Megan Bannen, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy
CATs: Alpha (U = Undertaking)
Bingo: none

This book is a weird but winning genre mashup of romance, fantasy, and Western. Hart Ralston is a marshal in a fantasy world similar to our own, but with zombielike creatures called drudges; his job is to kill them and take their bodies to the nearby undertakers. One such undertaker is Mercy Birdsall, who loves her job but is desperately trying to keep the family business afloat, despite a sick father and uninterested brother. Hart and Mercy fight constantly, but their mutual antagonism is concealing very different feelings, which emerge when they become anonymous penpals. So basically, the book is The Shop around the Corner/You’ve Got Mail with a bit of zombie action and a Western flavor…which sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it totally does! I didn’t need quite as much world-building and would have preferred more of a buildup to the romance, but overall I loved this one and would recommend it if the premise sounds appealing.

Nov 28, 2022, 12:26 pm

Book #135: Mary Balogh, The Ideal Wife
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Miles Ripley, the new earl of Severn, is being pressured by his mother and sisters to marry the girl of their choosing. But he isn’t eager to give up his bachelor lifestyle for a woman who will manage his life and expect his constant attention. His ideal wife will be drab and demure, someone he can send off to his country estate and forget about. Enter Abigail Gardiner, a distant connection who needs a reference from the earl to get a job. When Miles meets the seemingly plain and quiet Abby, he impulsively offers marriage instead — and the desperate Abby accepts. But as this is a romance novel, they both get more than they bargained for. After enjoying A Precious Jewel, which features Miles’s best friend and takes place during the same time period, I wanted to read Miles’s story too. And while this isn’t the most memorable or surprising Regency romance, it’s still quite a good read, with a slight Heyeresque flavor to the plot. If you’re a Balogh fan, this one is worth reading.

Nov 28, 2022, 1:43 pm

Your thread is really dangerous! I have added a ton of books to my wishlist!

Nov 28, 2022, 2:00 pm

>170 VivienneR: Muahaha, my evil plan is working! Hope you enjoy the books. :)

Nov 30, 2022, 10:50 am

Book #136: John Dickson Carr, Castle Skull
CATs: Mystery (gothic)
Bingo: none

A famous actor is murdered in a spectacularly grisly fashion, shot and then set aflame on the battlements of the sinister Castle Skull in Germany. French policeman Inspector Bencolin and his friend Jeff Marle (the Watson) are asked to investigate. Several of the actor’s acquaintances are present at a house party, and it seems one of them must be the killer. But as Bencolin outwits a rival detective to discover the murderer, he also unearths Castle Skull’s darkest secrets. This is my first novel by Carr, and it’s a bit melodramatic for my taste; it leans really hard into the “dark and stormy night” stuff and wants to be both a mystery and a horror novel. Still, the plot holds together surprisingly well (though the characters aren’t terribly lifelike), and I’m interested to read more by the author, especially since he seems to be regarded as the master of the impossible crime.

Nov 30, 2022, 10:57 am

Book #137: Elisa Braden, Once upon a Midnight Kiss
CATs: none
Bingo: none

This is a short, sweet novella about antiquities dealer Andrew Farrington and his secretary, Euphemia Sinclair. Euphemia has gone to Scotland to retrieve a family heirloom, but it seems only a married woman can claim it. Andrew steps in to volunteer as the groom, and while neither he nor Euphemia is sure how the other person feels, they soon come to an understanding. I’m torn about this one…all the stuff with the Scottish villagers and the possible magic (?) is boring and irrelevant, and the sex scene contains some extremely purple prose. But the banter and dialogue between Andrew and Euphemia totally charmed me, and I would happily have read several more scenes of them just talking and interacting with each other. So, I think I would recommend this one if you can get it free or cheap; I believe it’s free on Kindle Unlimited right now.

Nov 30, 2022, 11:45 am

November recap

It’s hard to believe 2022 is almost over! I had a good month, culminating in a lovely Thanksgiving celebration with my family, including my four chaotic but adorable nephews. And December is even more exciting, as I’ll be traveling on vacation to Austria and Germany! A friend and I are going to Vienna, Salzburg, and Munich, and we are planning on visiting a lot of Christmas markets and drinking a lot of gluhwein. I can’t wait! It does mean I won’t be on LT much in the first half of the month, but I’m sure you’ll all survive without me. :) Anyway, on to the November books!

Books read in November:
1. Lois McMaster Bujold, Cryoburn
2. Allison Ashley, Would You Rather
3. Sherry Thomas, Murder on Cold Street
4. Sarah Mayberry, Her Favorite Rival
5. Carol Berg, The Soul Weaver
6. Loretta Chase, Last Night’s Scandal
7. Francis Spufford, Golden Hill
8. David Sedaris, Holidays on Ice
9. Megan Bannen, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy
10. Mary Balogh, The Ideal Wife
11. John Dickson Carr, Castle Skull
12. Elisa Braden, Once upon a Midnight Kiss

Favorite book of the month:
I’m so torn between Golden Hill and The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy! I think the former is the superior book in terms of literary merit, but the latter pushed more of my personal good book buttons. :)

Dishonorable mention:
Holidays on Ice, while witty and well-written, was overall much darker than I was expecting or looking for.

CATs completed:
- CATWoman (women’s issues): Murder on Cold Street deals with themes of #metoo and workplace sexism.
- AlphaKIT (G, U): Francis Spufford, *Golden Hill; Megan Bannen, The *Undertaking of Hart and Mercy
- MysteryKIT (gothic): Castle Skull is set in a sinister German castle, and the book is really a blend of mystery and horror.
- RandomKIT (city): Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York has NYC in the subtitle and is set in 1746 Manhattan.

Bingo squares completed:
- LGBTQ+ author: David Sedaris, author of Holidays on Ice, is gay. This completes the last square on my Bingo card!

Books acquired in November:
- Allison Ashley, Would You Rather (already read)
- Elizabeth Cadell, The Corner Shop
- C.J. Brightley, The Wraith and the Rose
- M.B. Shaw, Murder at the Castle
- Lisa Lutz, The Spellman Files
- Sarah Mayberry, Her Favorite Rival (already read)
- Mary Balogh, The Ideal Wife (already read)
- Nancy Campbell Allen, The Lady in the Coppergate Tower
- Sarra Manning, London, with Love (e-book)
- Elisa Braden, Once Upon a Midnight Kiss (already read)

Nov 30, 2022, 1:46 pm

>169 christina_reads: Do you have any suggestion on where to start with Mary Balogh? I have come across her books many times since starting my "historical romance journey", but I feel a bit overwhelmed.

>174 christina_reads: Oh, how lovely!!! I absolutely love Vienna and Salzburg, and Munich is such a great city, too. Have you been to Austria and/or Germany before?
I hope you have the most wonderful trip and many beautiful experiences!

Nov 30, 2022, 3:39 pm

>175 MissBrangwen: No, I've never been to Austria or Germany before, and I'm very excited! I'll be sure to report back on my experiences and hopefully include some photos!

As for Mary Balogh, that's a tough question! Authors with a large backlist can be pretty overwhelming. Balogh has a lot of series, which is great if you want to follow a bunch of characters over time (earlier couples tend to reappear in later books), but it can get tedious if you don't want to keep track of everyone and how they're all connected. Her series books generally CAN be read as stand-alone novels, though -- you're not missing anything crucial if you haven't read all the previous books!

So, that said, her most popular series is probably the Bedwyn saga, which starts with Slightly Married. I liked that book, and the series in general, so that might be a good place to start. The Survivors' Club series is another I really liked, though not all the books are created equal (my favorites are Only Enchanting and Only a Kiss).

But I also like a lot of her older books, which tend to be shorter and not necessarily part of a series. Dark Angel is one I liked enough to reread, and The Notorious Rake is a favorite despite the hero's true awfulness in the beginning. My overall advice is to find either a series or an individual book whose premise interests you, and just dive in!

I'd also be curious if anyone else has a favorite Balogh book or series to recommend!

Edited: Nov 30, 2022, 4:13 pm

>175 MissBrangwen: >176 christina_reads: A couple years ago, Christina recommended Slightly Married. Regency Romance isn't something I read much of anymore and to all outward appearances, this wouldn't be my sort of book as it seems a bit tame; but I loved it! I finished with a wistful sigh and the memory of wildflowers by the water... I highly recommend Slightly Married. In fact, now that it's come up, I think I'll stack it for a re-read and line up the next book in the series, Slightly Wicked :-)

ETA: I had avoided Balogh for so long because for some reason, I thought there was a weird, supernatural, time/fate dimension to them, like the hero and heroine would find each other across time. Clearly I have confused her with someone else!

Nov 30, 2022, 4:17 pm

>174 christina_reads: Have a wonderful trip!

Nov 30, 2022, 5:40 pm

Have a great trip! :)

Nov 30, 2022, 7:54 pm

>177 Tanya-dogearedcopy: Aw, I'm so glad you liked your first foray into Balogh! And I hope you continue to read and enjoy the series. ;)

>178 pamelad: >179 rabbitprincess: Thank you both! I'm spending the evening packing furiously!

Nov 30, 2022, 8:24 pm

Oh, how great! I'm jealous, I'd love to go to the Christmas markets!

Nov 30, 2022, 10:10 pm

Have so much fun! I miss Munich and you'll love the Christmas markets. Salzburg and Vienna are likewise marvelous.

Dec 1, 2022, 10:45 am

Have fun at the Christmas markets and enjoy the glühwein!

Dec 8, 2022, 1:48 pm

I also was drawn to Mary Balogh by one of Christina's reviews and I started with Slightly Married as well. I loved it and have gone on to enjoy many of her books.

Have a wonderful time on your trip, Christina!

Dec 8, 2022, 2:23 pm

>177 Tanya-dogearedcopy: Just finished Slightly Married and enjoyed it, so started Slightly Wicked straight away. Oddly, the ebooks of the Bedwyn series aren't available in Australia, and I had to search quite a few libraries to find print copies. The rest of the series is in the Open Library, but not these two.

Dec 13, 2022, 3:37 pm

>181 clue: >182 RidgewayGirl: >183 MissWatson: >184 DeltaQueen50: Thank you all for the good wishes! I had a wonderful trip and really enjoyed the Christmas markets. I did basically all my holiday shopping there! I wasn't a fan of the gluhwein, to be honest, but I drank a lot of alcoholic punch and hot chocolate! :)

>185 pamelad: If you continue with the Bedwyn series, I'll be interested to see which books you like best! I think my favorite was Slightly Tempted, but that seems to be a minority view.

Dec 13, 2022, 3:38 pm

Book #138: Lois McMaster Bujold, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
CATs: Author (favorites)
Bingo: none

***Warning: SPOILERS for previous books in the series!***

This book, the last installment of the Vorkosigan saga (at least for now), comes full circle to focus once again on Cordelia. Three years after Aral’s death, she is contemplating the next stage of her life. Meanwhile, Admiral Oliver Jole is at a similar crossroads. He has a complicated history with both Aral and Cordelia, but when he and Cordelia truly talk to each other for the first time since Aral’s death, their relationship begins to change in unexpected ways. I’m of two minds about this book. I liked being back in Cordelia’s POV, and Oliver is also very likable and sympathetic, though he’s basically a brand-new character (he pops up once or twice in passing, in previous books). But viewing this as the final book in the series, I think it falls short. There’s not much Miles, and no Ivan or Mark at all. Plus, I think the series is just as much about Barrayar as it is about Miles and the other characters; it’s the story of a planet’s slow growth and change for the better, and I wanted to see more resolution of that arc. This is still a good novel, but it’s not one of my favorite installments of the series.

Dec 13, 2022, 3:39 pm

Book #139: Sherry Thomas, Miss Moriarty, I Presume?
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Charlotte Holmes faces her most dangerous case yet when Moriarty himself offers her a job. His daughter has gone to live at an isolated religious commune in Cornwall, and he claims to be worried about her well-being. He wants Charlotte to infiltrate the commune and report back on his daughter’s health and habits. Though Charlotte knows Moriarty isn’t telling the full truth, she agrees to investigate in the hope of discovering his hidden agenda. I really want to like this series more than I do, but the truth is, I’ve lost interest. Like the last few installments, this book really drags, plot-wise, and a lot of new characters are introduced only to be ultimately dismissed as irrelevant. I no longer care about the Charlotte/Lord Ingram romance, which seems pretty static at this point, and Moriarty just isn’t working for me as a villain. I’m current with the series now, but I doubt I’ll read the next book when it comes out.

Dec 14, 2022, 11:41 am

Book #140: Carol Berg, Daughter of Ancients
CATs: none
Bingo: none

***Warning: SPOILERS for previous books in the series!***

The evil Lords of Zhev’Na have been defeated, but their followers, the Zhid, still remain to wreak havoc on Avonar. Meanwhile, a beautiful young woman claims to be the daughter and true heir of D’Arnath, held captive by the Lords in an enchanted sleep for a thousand years. She seems to be truthful and well-meaning, but is she hiding darker secrets? Gerick decides to find out, but his mission becomes complicated by his attraction to her. This final book in the Bridge of D’Arnath series is a satisfying conclusion in which all the main characters end up where they should, and there’s a nice romantic subplot as well. The ending drags on a bit, but overall I quite enjoyed both this book and the series as a whole. I’m glad I finally decided to tackle it this year, though it’s not one I plan to reread.

Dec 15, 2022, 9:52 am

Book #141: Lisa Berne, You May Kiss the Bride
CATs: Alpha (Y = You)
Bingo: none

Gabriel Penhallow is bored witless by the young ladies he meets in Society, but he knows it’s his duty to marry, so he decides to propose to the beautiful but insipid Cecily Orr. While visiting the Orrs, however, he comes across Livia Stuart, whose straightforward nature both irritates and attracts him. An impulsive kiss forces Gabriel and Livia into a hasty betrothal, but a true romance develops as they spend more time together. This is a pretty stereotypical historical romance, with a stuffy, imperious hero and a feisty, unconventional heroine. That said, I do like that formula and I enjoyed the book. It’s a bit different from The Worst Duke in the World (which I also enjoyed) — less frivolous in tone, and with more explicit sexytimes. Overall, I’d consider reading more by the author, but I’m not racing out to do so.

Dec 16, 2022, 10:54 am

Book #142: Elizabeth Cadell, The Corner Shop
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Lucille Abbey is a highly competent, efficient woman who runs a secretarial business. When three of her best secretaries quit a particular job within the first day, Lucille decides to see for herself why this job is so difficult. She encounters an absentminded, impolite professor and an uninhabitable cottage; but despite her initial antipathy, she decides to stay and put things in order. Later, in Paris, she encounters the professor again and gets mixed up in an art theft. This is a light, pleasant read that I enjoyed for its sharp character observations and satisfying romance. The plot has a few too many coincidences but resolves well, though I wanted the art thief to get more of a comeuppance! Overall, I liked this more than Any Two Can Play and will likely reread it at some point.

Dec 16, 2022, 7:56 pm

>191 christina_reads: going to put this on my WL when I need some light reading!

Dec 17, 2022, 2:11 pm

>192 Tess_W: That would be a great time to read it. :)

Dec 18, 2022, 9:35 pm

Just now catching up, and what a great trip for you to take! I hope you enjoyed it, and glad you are having good holiday times and adventures this year.

Dec 19, 2022, 2:03 pm

>194 threadnsong: Thanks! I had a great time but am looking forward to a lower-key, less eventful Christmas!

Dec 19, 2022, 2:09 pm

Book #143: Jean Meltzer, The Matzah Ball
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Rachel is a Jewish woman with a shameful secret: She loves Christmas and is, in fact, a best-selling author of Christmas romance novels. But now her publisher is asking for a Hanukkah romance, and Rachel is at a loss — for her, Hanukkah just doesn’t have the same magic. Hoping for inspiration, she decides to attend a high-profile Hanukkah celebration called the Matzah Ball…but to get a ticket, she’ll need a favor from Jacob Greenberg, her summer camp first-love-turned-nemesis. If you would like to learn more about being Jewish in America during Christmastime, or about living with an invisible illness (Rachel has chronic fatigue syndrome), you’ll like this book. But if you’re looking for a believable, relatable romance, look elsewhere. Rachel and Jacob were 12 years old when they fell in “love,” and after only one meeting as adults, they’re thinking about each other in terms of love and long-term commitment. I just couldn’t buy it, and I wouldn’t recommend the book unless Rachel’s specific attributes and situation in life really resonate with you.

Dec 19, 2022, 2:10 pm

Book #144: Kerry Winfrey, Not Like the Movies
CATs: Alpha (W = Winfrey)
Bingo: none

Chloe has always indulged in a bit of flirty banter with her boss, Nick. In fact, her best friend, Annie, has just written a screenplay based on that banter and their (alleged) romantic chemistry — and now the screenplay is set to become a blockbuster movie. As the film gets more publicity, Chloe finds herself viewing Nick differently, but she has no interest in pursuing a relationship; she’s too busy caring for her dad, who has Alzheimer’s, and trying to finish her degree. She’s adamant that her real life isn’t a rom-com — but the more time she spends with Nick, the harder it is to deny her feelings. I really adored Annie’s story, Waiting for Tom Hanks, and was excited for this sequel featuring Chloe. Overall, I enjoyed it, though Chloe’s total refusal to acknowledge her feelings for Nick got pretty frustrating! I also wish we’d gotten some chapters from Nick’s POV, but instead we only see him through Chloe’s eyes, and he’s a bit too perfect and forbearing. Still, it’s a good read for romance fans, and Winfrey is an author I definitely plan to keep seeking out.

Dec 22, 2022, 8:47 am

>176 christina_reads: Thank you for your detailed answer! It is very helpful.

>177 Tanya-dogearedcopy: Thanks for chiming in as well!

>186 christina_reads: I'm glad you enjoyed your trip!

Dec 23, 2022, 3:58 pm

>187 christina_reads: Congratulations on finishing your Vorkosigan reread! I agree with your comments about this book. It's not one of my favourites of the series, but at the same time, it was nice to return to Cordelia as a main character. Of course, there is always the hope we may get another Vorkosigan novel one day ....

Dec 27, 2022, 9:43 am

>198 MissBrangwen: Thanks, the trip was lovely! I'll be sure to share a few pictures with my December recap.

>199 mathgirl40: I'll read as many Vorkosigan books as Bujold wants to write! Looking forward to diving into her Chalion books next year.

Dec 27, 2022, 11:39 am

Book #145: Mary Kelly, The Christmas Egg
CATs: Mystery (holiday)
Bingo: none

A few days before Christmas, a former Russian countess is found dead in her London apartment, and her valuables — including a priceless Fabergé egg — are missing. Inspector Brett Nightingale and Sergeant Beddoes are on the case, and they suspect a particular gang of professional thieves. But the dead woman’s grandson can’t be ruled out, nor can the owner of a jewelry store who was allegedly trying to buy some of her treasures. I liked the writing style of this book and found the characterizations interesting, but I felt like there was a lot of backstory between Nightingale and Beddoes (and also between Nightingale and his wife) that I was missing. Apparently this is book #3 in a series, so maybe those relationships are fleshed out more in previous books. I also don’t think the book works particularly well as a mystery; it’s more of a thriller, with the police planning to trap the bad guys and things going wrong — but it’s not particularly thrilling. Still, I’d try another book by this author if I came across one.

Dec 27, 2022, 11:40 am

Book #146: Lynn Painter, Better Than the Movies
CATs: none
Bingo: none

This YA contemporary romance is narrated by Liz, a quirky teen who loves romantic comedies. They’re deeply personal to her because they were her late mother’s favorite movies, and now that Liz is a high school senior, she’s hoping to experience her own film-worthy romance. When her childhood crush, Michael, moves back to town, Liz is convinced that he’s her romantic hero. But to get closer to him, she needs the help of Wes, her neighbor and long-time prank war nemesis. As Liz stumbles her way to romantic enlightenment, she also deals with grief and family/friend conflicts. This is a light, fun read in which each chapter begins with a quote from a rom-com. It’s extremely predictable, and Liz’s obtuseness and bad behavior can get frustrating, but I did think the book was cute overall. I’m interested in trying one of the author’s adult romances at some point.

Dec 27, 2022, 11:41 am

Book #147: Emily Gee, The Laurentine Spy
CATs: none
Bingo: none

This book has been on my shelves for over a decade; I’d read it before but didn’t remember much about it, so I decided to try a reread. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and quite enjoyed the book! It’s basically a romance novel set in a fantasy world, where the main characters are spies masquerading as nobles in an imperial court. When a spycatcher arrives with an uncanny ability to make people tell the truth, the hero and heroine have to obtain crucial information and escape before they’re caught. Complicating matters is the fact that they don’t know each other’s true identities, and they cordially dislike each other’s court personas. So yes, I really liked this one — I’m a sucker for the combo of romance + fantasy + spies. Now I want to read Thief with No Shadow, the other Gee novel on my shelves, sooner rather than later!

Dec 29, 2022, 10:05 am

Book #148: Rainbow Rowell, Attachments
CATs: none
Bingo: none

This is one of my favorite contemporary romances; I think I’ve read it four times now, and I always love it. It’s about Lincoln, an IT guy at a newspaper who has to monitor everyone’s work email and flag inappropriate messages. But when he starts reading the emails between BFFs Jennifer and Beth, he likes them too much to send them a warning, and he even finds himself falling for Beth. But of course, he could never approach her in real life, could he? This time around, I really related to Lincoln, who’s a bit stuck in his life and unsure how to move forward. I loved his relationships with his mom, sister, and friends (I would totally read another book centered around the D&D group!). And of course, Beth and Jennifer are a delight. I just think Rowell is so good at dialogue and at creating characters who feel like real people. If you’re at all interested in the genre or premise, I highly, highly recommend this book!

Dec 30, 2022, 10:30 am

Book #149: Mimi Matthews, A Holiday by Gaslight
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Ned Sharpe, a rich tradesman, has been courting Sophie Appersett, a penniless baronet’s daughter, for two months. But Sophie is thinking of breaking off the relationship because she feels she hasn’t gotten to know Ned at all. At the last minute, she proposes that they try being more open and honest with each other, which brings them closer — but Sophie’s spendthrift father and spoiled sister may push them apart. This charming historical novella is what got me hooked on Mimi Matthews, and I enjoyed it just as much upon rereading. Ned and Sophie communicate well; there are no silly, drawn-out misunderstandings that could have been solved in one conversation. The secondary characters are a bit underdeveloped, but that’s understandable in a novella, and it’s really my only complaint. Overall, definitely recommended for fans of historical romance!

Dec 30, 2022, 12:38 pm

>205 christina_reads: That cover is so beautiful!

Dec 30, 2022, 2:17 pm

>206 MissBrangwen: I agree! It really plays up the Christmas setting of the book (though really, there's not much of a focus on the holiday in the story).

Dec 31, 2022, 5:48 pm

Book #150: Virginia Heath, Never Rescue a Rogue
CATs: none
Bingo: none

Giles Sinclair and Diana Merriwell have delighted in vexing each other ever since his best friend married her sister. Everyone thinks their teasing banter is masking a mutual attraction, but they both vehemently deny it. Yet when Giles finds himself in trouble, it's Diana he turns to for help, and eventually they'll have to admit to themselves -- and each other -- that their friends were right all along. There's a lot in this book that requires suspension of disbelief (Giles might be illegitimate but no one knows! Diana is secretly a hard-hitting investigative journalist!). But if you can roll with the implausibilities of the plot, as well as the characters' modern attitudes and language, this is a fun book. I liked it more than the first in the series, and I'll definitely seek out book #3 when it comes out.

Dec 31, 2022, 6:30 pm

>203 christina_reads: and >204 christina_reads: These sound like delightful books, both with very different plots and genres that still get the romantic point across.

Dec 31, 2022, 6:32 pm

December recap

The absolute highlight of my month was traveling to Austria and Germany with a friend! I didn't get much reading done on the trip, but I did see a lot of beautiful places (and, bonus, did the vast majority of my Christmas shopping!). Here are a few photos from the trip:

Rathausplatz Christmas market, Vienna.


Salzburg by night.

Medieval Christmas market in Munich.

I also had a very good reading month, finishing the remaining series for my challenge and reaching a total of 150 books for the year! Here's what I read in December:

Books read in December:
1. Lois McMaster Bujold, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
2. Sherry Thomas, Miss Moriarty, I Presume?
3. Carol Berg, Daughter of Ancients
4. Lisa Berne, You May Kiss the Bride
5. Elizabeth Cadell, The Corner Shop
6. Jean Meltzer, The Matzah Ball
7. Kerry Winfrey, Not Like the Movies
8. Mary Kelly, The Christmas Egg
9. Lynn Painter, Better Than the Movies
10. Emily Gee, The Laurentine Spy
11. Rainbow Rowell, Attachments
12. Mimi Matthews, A Holiday by Gaslight
13. Virginia Heath, Never Rescue a Rogue

Favorite book of the month:
I quite enjoyed the vintage coziness of The Corner Shop.

Dishonorable mention:
Miss Moriarty, I Presume? bored me and made me decide to quit on the Lady Sherlock series.

CATs completed:
- Author (favorites): Lois McMaster Bujold, author of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, is definitely a favorite by now!
- Alpha (Y, W): Lisa Berne, *You May Kiss the Bride; Kerry *Winfrey, Not Like the Movies
- Mystery (holiday): The Christmas Egg obviously qualifies due to the title, and it’s also set at Christmas.

Bingo squares completed:
None; I finished my Bingo card in November.

Books acquired in December:
- Lynn Painter, Better Than the Movies (already read)

I didn't actually receive any books for Christmas this year! But I did get gift cards to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and a local used bookstore, so I'm sure I'll be sporting some shiny new acquisitions pretty soon in 2023!

Dec 31, 2022, 6:33 pm

>209 threadnsong: You're right -- very different genres and plots, but both with a well-written central romance! That seems to be a common feature of a lot of my favorite 2022 reads!

Dec 31, 2022, 6:59 pm


Looking back at my 2022 reading, I'm pleased with what I accomplished. I made it to 150 books, which might be an all-time high for me, and I enjoyed most of what I read. I also completed my goal of finishing or getting current with six series that I'd started. That project was a mixed bag in some ways; I discovered one new favorite series (the Vorkosigan saga), read several enjoyable books that I no longer need to keep (the Wooding, Dean, and Berg series), and learned that some series are no longer for me (Lady Sherlock and the later Temeraire books). But I'm really glad I decided to tackle some of my owned series, and I'm planning to continue that trend in 2023. Here are my 2022 year, I might make some charts!

Books read: 150 (compared with 122 in 2021, 140 in 2020, 106 in 2019, and 69 in 2018)

Average books read per month: 12.50 (compared with 10.17 in 2021, 11.67 in 2020, 8.83 in 2019, and 5.75 in 2018)

Books acquired: 107 (compared with 98 in 2021, 66 in 2020, 88 in 2019, and 92 in 2018). But many of them were free/cheap e-books or used copies…and only 41 of them remain unread, so maybe that’s not too awful?

Top 10 books of the year:
In the order in which I read them…

  1. Mary Balogh, Only a Kiss — One of my favorite installments of the Survivors’ Club series, featuring an extremely charming hero whose charm deserts him in the presence of the heroine.

  2. Kerry Winfrey, Waiting for Tom Hanks — A delightful ode to romantic comedies with a lot of great dialogue.

  3. T. Kingfisher, Nettle and Bone — Immersive fantasy with excellent characters and strong Robin McKinley vibes. I definitely need to read a lot more by this author!

  4. Craig Rice, Eight Faces at Three — A fun and fast-paced The Thin Man-esque mystery. Don’t think too hard about the plot; just enjoy watching the sleuths crack wise and down far too many drinks.

  5. T. Kingfisher, Bryony and Roses — One of my favorite Beauty and the Beast retellings, and that’s really saying something!

  6. Mhairi McFarlane, Mad about You — Compelling women’s fiction/romance about a woman with a history of bad relationships who falls for the guy she’s renting a room from. One of McFarlane’s best, I think.

  7. Loretta Chase, Lord Perfect — A Regency romance with wonderful main characters, especially the hero; I loved watching the duty-bound, uptight, emotionally repressed Benedict slowly unravel as he falls in love!

  8. Lois McMaster Bujold, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance — Honestly, I could have populated this entire list with books from the Vorkosigan saga, but I decided to restrain myself and pick only my favorite. I just adore Ivan! Plus there’s a treasure hunt, multiple romances, and a few thrilling heroics, so what’s not to love?

  9. Francis Spufford, Golden Hill — A romp of a historical novel set in 1746 Manhattan. It’s so much fun, and so perfect in style and tone, that I can forgive the somewhat heartbreaking ending.

  10. Megan Bannen, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy — A mashup of romance, Western, and zombie novel that seems too weird to work, but it totally does! I loved the Shop around the Corner/You’ve Got Mail aspect of the plot.

Of these, nine of the ten were written by women, and not surprisingly, they all contain a prominent romantic storyline. T. Kingfisher appears on the list twice, which tells me I definitely need to seek out more of her work ASAP!

And with that, I hereby declare my 2022 category challenge completed. I look forward to seeing you all in the 2023 group! My thread is here: Thanks for stopping by, and happy New Year!

Dec 31, 2022, 10:27 pm

You went to Hallstadt! How was it in winter? I've been several times (it's an easy vacation weekend from Munich) in summer, but never in winter.

Happy New Year, Christina!

Jan 1, 2023, 2:46 am

Beautiful pictures, and congratulations on finishing your challenge!

Jan 1, 2023, 6:28 pm

Those were beautiful pictures! All snowy and full of seasonal cheer. Congratulations on your reading accomplishments and see you on your new thread. And Happy New Year!

Jan 1, 2023, 7:18 pm

>213 RidgewayGirl: It was cold! :) Apparently a lot of tourists do it as a day trip from Salzburg, so the crowds arrive in the late morning and leave by midafternoon. My friend and I stayed overnight, and in the morning we basically had the place to ourselves. We also happened to be there the night of their annual Krampus run, which was quite the experience!

>214 MissBrangwen: >215 threadnsong: Thank you both, and happy new year!