February Reading

Okay, so, I did read more books during February, partly because I didn’t have my laptop for a long weekend, but mostly because revising doesn’t interfere as much as writing the first draft. I expect I’ll be reading more this whole semester compared to any comparable period last year.

Louisiana Longshot by Jana DeLeon. Someone here recommended this light mystery, and I’m glad I picked it up and happy I gave it a try. It’s a fun story, not quite too cutesy for me, though now and then it tended in that direction!

Though not quite too cutesy, it’s definitely cute. CIA assassin Fortune Redding has a big price on her head, so she’s lying (very) low in a tiny Louisiana town. I enjoyed it, and I appreciated the plot twist at the end, which I sort of saw coming, but not exactly. This is the first book in a series of 23 (!!!). There’s a pretty good chance I’ll go on to the next book, though not immediately.

The Wizard’s Butler by Nathan Lowell. This was a re-read. An extremely low-stress, easy-to-read story. I like the new cover.

I liked this book the first time I read it, obviously, that’s why I read it again now. Here are my earlier comments about this book.

Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn. Another re-read, of course! But I remembered SO LITTLE about this book that it really counts as reading it for the first time.

I must admit, I didn’t like it — or not until past the middle. It was just SO PAINFUL watching the protagonist fawn over that ass Bryan. And sure, I get that slavery was part of her society and she probably wouldn’t question it, but wow. This made the first part of the book difficult for me.

For me … let me think about this … all right: the real, actual problem was that I despised Bryan so much that I disliked every. single. scene. in which he appeared, and he got worse and worse as the book progressed, and keep in mind that I didn’t remember the plot at all.

So, even though it was obvious Kent would make an infinitely better king and therefore I assumed he was going to wind up as king at the end, and even though I knew Sharon was SURELY not going to force anybody to marry Bryan for real, watching everyone head for disaster was difficult. I breathed a sigh of relief when Bryan finally got killed off. I enjoyed the rest of the story. But I can’t think of any Sharon Shinn novel that is in the same category in terms of making such a really unpleasant character so central for such a long time, so for me, this is not going to be one of my favorites of hers.

I’m glad I read it again, though!

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawsett, and this one was outstanding. No question about whether I’d go on with a second book; I’d absolutely love to! You probably saw my review, but if not, here it is.

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen. Another winner from Allen! My review.

Six Ways to Write a Love Letter by Jackson Pierce. Yet another winner! The latter part of February was filled with lovely novels. My review.

A Damsel in Distress by PG Wodehouse.

A re-read. The thing is, I can’t stand the bumbling humor of Bertie Wooster too much and have never been able to enjoy any of Jeeves books. But Wodehouse is such a delightful writer, so I greatly enjoy some of the non-Jeeves stories, including this one, where the protagonist is not an idiot.

Inasmuch as the scene of this story is that historic pile, Belpher Castle, in the county of Hampshire, it would be an agreeable task to open it with a leisurely description of the place, followed by some notes on the history of the Earls of Marshmoreton, who have owned it since the fifteenth century. Unfortunately, in these days of rush and hurry, a novelist works at a disadvantage. He must leap into the middle of his tale with as little delay as he would employ in boarding a moving tramcar. He must get off the mark with the smooth swiftness of a jack-rabbit surprised while lunching. Otherwise, people throw him aside and go out to picture palaces.

The Necklace by Carla Kelly. I have read a good handful of romances by Carla Kelly, which ranged from good to excellent, so I picked up this one. Here’s the description:

Santiago Gonzalez needs the army that his bride’s dowry will raise. But with the dowry comes a bride who is Santiago’s match for shrewdness, courage and love, in this story of conquest in 13th century Spain.

Very brief, but intriguing! I liked the beginning pages too. But, I’m sorry to say, I got a third of the way through it and gave up. I just did not believe in any of the characters. I didn’t believe in the protagonist, the male lead. the loyal boy sidekick, or especially the villain, when the protagonist meets him. None of them seemed plausible to me, none of them seemed to behave in ways that made sense, and as I say, I gave up.

That’s unexpected and it makes me somewhat wary of trying something else by Carla Kelly. Perhaps returning to her more customary settings would be better. But right at the moment, you all have been recommending contemporary romances to me, so I think I have enough romances to try for now! Along with lots of fantasy recommendations, of course!

One more:

Zoology’s Greatest Mystery by Gary Meaney.

This is something different, obviously. It’s a book filled with short, three-to-four page tidbits about wild and wacky animals. The remarkable thing is that lots of the tidbits are new to me. Not only that, but the tidbits are often astounding. The very best use for this book might be to drop it in a lot of school libraries for kids to dip into. It would certainly open their eyes to the wild variety of the animal kingdom.

This book actually introduced to me … ready for this? … a canid I had never heard of before! THAT is astounding.

But there’s lots of entries about fish and insects and so on, and so it’s not at all surprising that plenty of those are new to me. Even if I’ve heard of the animal, Meaney has a knack for pulling out gosh-wow details I had no idea about.

The hatchetfishes are another strange and unique group in this order. … in addition to having black skin from head to caudal fin, some dragonfish have a black stomach lining. This blocks out the bioluminescence of the fish they swallow, which might give away their position to predators and would-be prey alike … speaking of such coloration, the aptly named Pacific black-dragon is one of the blackest organisms in the world — its scales, which are densely packed with melanosomes, absorb 99.5% of the light that hits them.

Wow, the deep sea fishes are so weird. I knew that, but I know more details of the weirdness now.

And that was February! Nine books, which is SO FEW compared to a couple years ago, but I was, and will be, spending a lot of time on revision of this, that, and the other, so nine isn’t actually terrible for the month, I suppose.

What was your favorite book for February? Any standouts that were new for you this month?

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11 thoughts on “February Reading”

  1. I’ve been reading the Brother Cadfael novels, by Ellis Peters, for the first time, and really enjoying them—a Benedictine monk in Shrewsbury Abbey solving murders in the 12th century, during the civil war between King Stephen & Empress Maud. A time period I knew almost nothing about, a very grounded sense of place on the Welsh marches, and a tremendously appealing main character: Cadfael is a monk in his late 50s who came to the monastery as an herbalist after a full career as a crusader and sea captain, so he is surprised by nothing, but still compassionate AND passionate for justice tempered by mercy. Also he has a great supporting cast around him!

    My library has all the ebooks, fortunately, so I’m ripping through them as fast as my holds come in. Though probably I should slow down soon and save some for later.

  2. My grandmother highly recommended the miniseries too—but I looked it up and the actor(s) who play(s) Hugh Beringar aren’t at all how I’d pictured him, so I’m leery…

  3. Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Fairies sounds good!
    This month I read a few LitRPG/ GameLit stories- it’s a genre I haven’t dipped my toes in since Andrea K Höst’s Starfighter Invitation, a few years ago (I’m still hoping for a sequel to that one). The standout was Sevenfold Sword Online: Creation by Jonathan Moeller, it was fast paced and immersive fun.

  4. I have tried the Brother Cadfael series, but I preferred Margaret Frazer’s medieval mystery series. It’s not really available on Kindle though. This month I read the KM Shea Magiford series, which was fun and cute. The book I would recommend is Vanessa Nelson’s Outcast. This is the first in an urban fantasy mystery series. I have enjoyed her last couple of series- they are typical of the genre, but well done (mysterious background, interesting group of characters, hint of romance to come). Also two dogs in Outcast, which you all might appreciate.

  5. I think AKH does plan to write the sequel to Starfighter Invitation eventually — I’m certainly dying to read it! Thanks for your pointer to Sevenfold Sword, which I will try.

  6. Damsel in Distress is my favorite Wodehouse book, though I like Bertie and Jeeves now and then.

    I read Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus last week which a friend had recommended. I bought it for Mom for Christmas and read it when she was done. It was delightful!

  7. I have been doing some miscellaneous rereads: Gaudy Night and Busman’s Honeymoon by Sayers, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (non-fiction about Paul Farmer and his work to bring modern medicine to Haiti and other impoverished parts of the world).

    New were two books by Jane Lindskold in a series called Over Where, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge. Portal fantasy. I enjoyed them (I finished them both; I’m a lot more likely to DNF than I used to be) and if there are more in the series I will read them, but they felt a little … simplistic, maybe? They have a middle grade flavor to them (which there’s nothing wrong with, I like MG books). The three human characters summoned from our world are all older women (they’re at a book club meeting when they’re called up), which is something we don’t see enough of, but perhaps not standard MG protagonists. Anyway, their counterparts in the other world are three young adults who are looking for mentors to help them solve some problems, but they weren’t looking for mentors from another world, and strange-looking ones at that. The people in that world all have humanoid bodies and animal heads. Some, but not all, have magic. There’s a flying boat and a library that was destroyed about 20 years ago. There are various magical and family complications. Worth looking at.

    I’ve got a couple of others I’ve dipped into a little, but mostly I’m waiting for Tano to drop. :-)

  8. I read the Carla Kelly book several years ago so I don’t remember the details of the characters, but I do remember the book takes a shift about halfway through that was a bit unusual for a romance. And also the villain presents from a different perspective (but I can’t remember if he was the main villain or not.) I do remember that it emphasized the horrors of war, and how it impacts the helpless. And how our differences can blind us to the humanity that should bind us (I did not mean for that to rhyme!)

    I am listening to T Kingfisher’s varied series set in whatever the world is called that contains the Clocktaurs, and paladins and gnolls. I think I am chronologically doing them backwards – I started with the Paladins of Steel series, proceeded to Swordheart, and am now listening to the Clocktaur series. Each series has a consistent narrator, but they are different between series. It’s amazing what a difference a narrator makes in how you receive the story. It has struck me the most when they read the parts of the gnolls. I feel like they are each talking about very different species just by the way they interpret the voices.

    All that aside, I am really enjoy the books via second exposure. She’s a very clever and engaging writer, and I think I am picking up more of her tongue in cheek humor by listening instead of reading – I have to go at the narrator’s pace and take the time to hear each word. I enjoyed the Paladin of Steel series most, partly because I really enjoyed the narrator, but also I think I liked those the best when I first read them.

  9. Thanks for the book reviews! Agreed the de Leon series starts out a bit cutesy but the series matures as it continues. As for the Emily book, I wasn’t drawn in during the first few chapters but by the end of the book, I was all in. I’m looking forward to the sequel that is coming. I too enjoyed Other Birds, if not as much as Addison Allen’s earlier books which seemed a bit more … joyful. Tbe Wizard’s Butler is very soothing and low stress, good for crisis times. I have a hard time reading an entire Wodehouse book all at once (something about the plots not engaging me, I think), but if I dip into a few pages at a time, it allows me to really absorb and marvel at his mastery of language and humor. I did read Six Ways through to the end but, for whatever reason, I didn’t enjoy it as much as you did so probably not a reread. The one fiction book you mentioned that I haven’t read, Castle Auburn, sounds way too stressful for me to read these days so thanks for the warning! Finally, your mention of interesting deep sea critters makes me think you’d really like the TV show I’m watching this very minute: a 2006 episode of Planet Earth narrated by David Attenborough and called “Ocean Deep” which captures footage 2,000 meters down. The video is stunningly beautiful and reveals all sorts of weird and beautiful deep sea critters. Highky recommended! Someone mentioned Brother Cadfael. The books are very good and the videos with Derek Jacobi are also very good, even if, like most adaptions, they differ significantly from the books, in an apples to oranges way. Other people mentioned T. Kingfisher and Dorothy Sayers both of who I love and I am now wondering if it’s time to reread Gaudy Night and the Clocktaur War books for the umpteenth time. Maybe once I’ve finished rereading Patricia Briggs!

  10. Thanks for the pointer, Jeanine! I need to start posting an amazing snippet about animals every week just because, I mean, they’re amazing.

    Gaudy Night is my favorite of Sayers, but I haven’t actually read the Clocktaur books. I think I have them. I just haven’t read them.

    And yes, a lot of Allen’s books are definitely more joyful. This is the saddest, at least at the beginning. I think I read somewhere that she was working through personal grief at the time she wrote it.

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