The Replacement Husband was an impulse read, because it was on Kindle Unlimited and I thought “why not?” It’s set in a Regency-analogue fantasy world where various gods exist and choose people to receive their blessing. Owen is one such, blessed by the goddess Mirreith: he is apparently inevitably gay, and will have to marry a man. Though he obviously cannot produce an heir, his partner is guaranteed to have a healthy heir and good fortune.
Unfortunately, in his little countryside estate, there’s very little chance of him meeting anyone anyway. At least until he takes a tumble, hits his head, and is gallantly carried home by a pair of brothers. He quickly falls for Tom, the more handsome and lively of the two — but Tom jilts him more or less at the altar by having a shotgun wedding with someone else. Tom’s brother Arthur steps in…
I wasn’t wholly enamoured of Arthur’s possessiveness and temper; provoked or not, several times he’s inches from violence, and clearly frightens Owen. He is in general a considerate partner, in fact, and takes pains to make Owen comfortable… at the same time as saying things like “say stop now or it’ll be too late”, which, ah, no. No thank you. Owen should get to say no whenever he likes, dude.
So there was some stuff about their relationship that was weird and uncomfortable, and led to me not quite believing in the sweetness of it as they settled in. However, I also did not root for Tom and his behaviour, and I find it difficult to believe that the next book is about Tom getting a happy-ever-after. I might read it if it’s on Kindle Unlimited, because I’m very curious as to how Grayson manages that — Tom makes himself extremely unlikeable — but I’m not in a hurry. Particularly since the other protagonist of the next book is apparently a complete arsehole.
In conclusion: fun enough, but not something I’d be in a hurry to read.
It’s that time again! Check out Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!
What are you currently reading?
Fiction: Network Effect, by Martha Wells! I won’t say too much about it, given people may not even have their copies yet. I got the eARC and then didn’t read it because I was waiting for my wife to read it. Now she’s ahead of me. So it goes.
Non-fiction: I still have Digging Up Armageddon on the backburner, but I’ve started How to Invent Everything by Ryan North, as well, for a book club. It’s got a fun conceit, but once you’ve grasped that, the first few sections are mostly obvious. I suspect it’ll get better as it describes more complex concepts.
What have you recently finished reading?
The Beautiful Librarians, by Sean O’Brien — it’s a poetry collection and I frankly did not get a single one of the poems on any kind of level.
Before that, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, which I did not love nearly as much as I was expecting.
What will you be reading next?
Well, How Language Began by Daniel Everett is high on the list, also for a book club — or technically, a Habitica challenge. (Side note: it’s a fun challenge, where each month a different Dewey decimal category is announced and you have to find and read a book that fits somewhere in that category. This one is the 400s, languages.)
Other than that, I’m not sure. I’m being bad at focus. I am really interested in Gina Perry’s The Lost Boys, which promises to pick apart Muzafer Sherif’s Robbers Cave experiment in much the same way Behind the Shock Machine picked apart Stanley Milgram’s most famous experiment.
I confidently expected to love this book. January is a temerarious girl who grows up in the home of a very rich collector, shielded by his money and position from the judgement that might arise from her coloured skin in the US at the time. Her father is away constantly, searching for things for their benefactor, so January grows up in that house, lonely and browbeaten into becoming a good girl.
The “temerarious” thing and some of the narration constantly reminded me of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making, especially with the names of the protagonists (September, January). Perhaps it’s partly that constant obvious comparison that brought it down for me; I really, really love the Fairyland books, and all their bright and wondrous cast of characters, the joys and pains of growing up and falling in love. There was a fair bit of the same here in many ways, and it just didn’t make a niche for itself in my heart in the same way.
That being said, there were things I loved; Jane is really cool, and it’s beautifully written; whenever I picked this up I crammed it into my brain in big chunks. It just didn’t quite come to life for me: when I put the book down, I didn’t feel the immediate desperate urge to pick it back up. I actually took a month to read it, even though it was so easy and quick and more-ish once I was reading it. To some extent that’s January’s rather spoilt ways: raised in privilege, she thinks she’s so much better than she is — and then I didn’t believe her transformation at the end to being able to do whatever she set her mind to! In a way, I preferred the story within the story: Adelaide and Yule Ian.
It’s enjoyable, but it’s not a favourite for me. I can’t put my finger on why not, but… here we are.
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is about books you’ve abandoned… so let’s have a look at my Shelf of Abandoned Books. The thing is, I’m a mood reader, so for one reason and another it’s fairly common for me to end up putting down a book in the middle. Here’s the tour!
Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay. Fantasy, set in a sort of China analogue. This is actually a reread and I have no idea why I stalled. I think I just got busy? It’s actually a book I really enjoy, and the opening always sticks with me so much — the idea of the loneliness Tai feels there, lying the ghosts to rest… I don’t even seem to have left a bookmark in! Mystery.
Heartstone, by Elle Katharine White. Fantasy romance. I definitely just got distracted with this one — it has dragons! It was cool! But then stuff happened.
Hild, by Nicola Griffith. Historical fiction, about Hild of Whitby. There are things I loved about this — mostly the lush language — but ohhh it’s so slow.
A Conspiracy of Truths, by Alexandra Rowland. Fantasy, featuring a crotchety old man being cranky and a cinnamon roll who keeps falling in love with pretty boys. I thiiiink I was just pretty depressed and meh about a lot of things, and I wasn’t able to concentrate for long enough to just finish this. Oops. It’s one I’m more or less constantly thinking about picking back up! Even though it must be coming up on a year since I started it.
The Subversive Stitch, by Rozsika Parker. Non-fiction about embroidery and femininity. I had this from the library stacks (and oh gosh they were suspicious about signing it out to me; I guess I do not look like their idea of someone who can take care of an old book) and ended up just returning it because I was getting through it so slowly. I have my own copy now, but I think I’ll have to restart it. I’ve lost the thread (ha) of the argument.
The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. Speculative fiction — Jesuits in space, only it’s dead serious. And heartbreaking. This was a reread, and I just couldn’t face what I remembered was coming…
The Story of Wales, by John Gower. Non-fiction, about the history of Wales. Just kind of lost interest; it’s not the most riveting.
The Firebird, by Susanna Kearsley. Romance with a touch of fantasy and historical fiction; they’re mindreaders who get on the track of a historical story, trying to figure out what happened. I love Kearsley normally; I think I just wasn’t in the right mood for it.
Salt, by Mark Kurlansky. Non-fiction. It’s basically the history of salt, and it’s really scatterbrained and kinda meh. Also, someone mentioned that they have doubts about the accuracy of his books, and he doesn’t seem to have much sourcing, and… I’m sceptical now, and will probably DNF this for good.
Banewreaker, by Jacqueline Carey. Fantasy, another reread: basically a take on What If Sauron Had A Point. It does a really great job, but I seem to have just fallen out of it. I think maybe I picked up something else… oops!
So there you go — now you know how capricious I can be! Do you DNF books? Or shelve them for later? Or are you with a book to the bitter end, no matter what?
I loved Widdershins, and pretty much expected to love this one because of it. And there’s quite a bit to enjoy about it, mostly involving Chess: they’re non-binary, they drive a hot pink car with a vanity plate saying NBINARY and a they/them bumper sticker, and they seduce a crossroads demon into making them a hero (leading to said demon’s disgrace in Hell, dooming them to an eternity of processing new souls as they enter Hell). They’re unashamedly themselves, all over the place, and that’s lovely.
Buuut, the humour and the sex/attraction-focused relationship didn’t quite work for me. I didn’t believe that Ralgath and Chess were that attached to each other, and I didn’t have much skin in the game when they were in peril. Everything just happened very fast, from the relationship to the plot, and… I’m not that good with humour or this style of plot. I’m sure it’s a lot more fun when you aren’t a humourless lump like me — but I’ll stick to Whyborne and Griffin, with their angst and pining and more solid plot. Sorry!
This one is frustrating as an ebook — Adobe Digital Editions wouldn’t let me view all of the images no matter how I adjusted the pages — but fascinating; I’d love to get my hands on a physical copy for a while to look at some of the figures again. It’s not just maps, really; it’s a world-tour of disease, with a lot of other illustrations as well. There are reproductions of informational posters, images showing the course of disease, and descriptions of the origins of diseases, the symptoms, their impacts on humanity…
Though there are a lot of images, there’s much of interest in the text as well. Much of it isn’t new to me, of course — but even when it came to tuberculosis, there was a surprise or two for me. (Alright, alright, I’ll tell you: I was surprised that the BCG vaccination actually has very mixed results: the efficacy is 60-80%, but falls as you approach the equator. It’s probably an artefact of different studies or different ways of preparing the actual vaccination, if you think about it, but it’s really interesting to try and figure out how a vaccination could lose efficacy based on geography.)
I’d recommend a physical copy to get the images, but it was interesting even when they weren’t always easy to examine. The facts are somewhat basic, since it doesn’t go into great depth, but there was enough to keep me (as someone who has studied infectious diseases and reads a lot about them) interested.
It’s been a quiet reading week, but the acquisitions have been rolling in. It’s not as bad as it looks, though; some of these were bought a week or two ago and only just arrived. There’ll be another box of books soon, too…
I’m sure this makes a reasonable coffee-table book, as there are some lovely photographs of castles within its pages. However, it either needed to go the whole hog and pay a photographer (instead of using Shutterstock images), or it needed to spend more time on the text, partly on editing it into an interesting narrative, and most especially on proper sourcing. The author is an enthusiastic, not an academic, from what I can tell — which puts his speculation on somewhat shaky footing.
It’s basically a hobbyist’s tour of a few castles he likes, and that’s okay, but I was thinking of something more like Marc Morris’ Castles.
I’ve been meaning to try out Jordan L. Hawk’s work for a while, partly at the urging of Portal Bookshop, and partly because I already loved K.J. Charles’ work — and this series crosses over with one of Charles’ series. If you’re a fan of K.J. Charles, this is definitely going to be for you; it has many of the same hallmarks.
Whyborne is a philologist working in a small museum who gets suckered into helping an ex-Pinkerton detective (Griffin) unravel the murder of a museum patron’s son. At first, he’s just meant to translate a coded book for the detective, but he quickly finds himself drawn in deeper — partly due to interest in the case itself, and a large part because he finds himself attracted (of course) to Griffin. Both of their pasts become absolutely key to the investigation, laying them bare to each other (in more ways than one, hurr hurr) and forging an incredible bond.
Their relationship progresses pretty fast, but it makes sense that it does: both are lonely, and Whyborne in particular has been hiding his desires and repressing everything for a long, long time. It’s also great fun to watch as he opens up and throws fears to the wind, figuring out how to stand tall in his own way. I liked the glimpse of his family (or mostly just his mother), and the slight complexity to his relationship with his father that creeps in at the end.