This week’s theme from That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday prompts is “quick reads”. I have to admit that these aren’t in any logical order, and are the usual miscellany that you find around here… which some people think is a good thing, but hey, consider yourself duly warned.
- Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley. This book is from 1917, and it’s always surprising to me that more people don’t know about it, because I find it so charming. The main female character is middle-aged and has given up on doing much except taking care of her older brother, until Parnassus on Wheels — a travelling bookshop — arrives on her doorstep and coaxes her out for an adventure. It’s light-hearted and fun. I’m a little surprised I’ve never reviewed it on this blog! (142 pages)
- All the Horses of Iceland, by Sarah Tolmie. It took me a little while to decide which of Sarah Tolmie’s novellas to include, but in the end it had to be this one. It feels very much like a Norse saga, so it’s not deep into character and motiviation, and I really loved how Tolmie captured the feel of a saga. (112 pages)
- Luke and Billy Finally Get a Clue, by Cat Sebastian. I haven’t read a lot of romance set in the ’50s, and the only sport I know anything about is rugby, but this one about two baseball players really got under my skin. Forget a grumpy/sunshine dynamic, this one’s grumpy/grumpy, but I promise it works! (102 pages)
- The Apple-Tree Throne, by Premee Mohamed. It took me a while to pick a novella by Mohamed, too, because she’s brilliant at them, and they’re a varied bunch. In the end, it has to be this ghost story that deals with the aftermath of war and being a survivor, and left me feeling it had been surprisingly tender and bittersweet, despite the setup. It surprised me. (73 pages)
- Blue Jeans, by Carolyn Purnell. I know the prompt is mostly for novellas, but I couldn’t resist including at least one non-fiction book. It’s one of the Object Lessons books, which is a great source of bitesize non-fiction, especially for people who have the kind of wide-ranging curiosity that has friends calling me magpie-minded. This one was one of my favourites, digging into an everyday topic and teasing out a surprising wealth of history. (160 pages)
- The Changeling Sea, by Patricia A. McKillip. Technically, I don’t think this is intended as a novella, but the page count falls under this list, so there! This one is a beautifully written fantasy that feels like a fairytale. McKillip has a habit of letting the readers do a lot of work to understand why things are the way they are, so it’s one that lingers. Or such was my experience, anyway. (137 pages)
- When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, by Nghi Vo. This is the second book of the Singing Hills cycle, but each more or less stands alone, and it’s the first one that really hooked me and solidified each one into a must-read, though the first is lovely too. The stories can sometimes lack a little urgency because the protagonist, Chih, is gathering up other people’s stories — but in this one, Chih falls into a story of their own. (98 pages)
- The Salt Grows Heavy, by Cassandra Khaw. This book is surprisingly tender and romantic for something so gory and weird! It’s more dark fantasy or horror than romance in genre, but the relationship between the main characters is what really stuck with me. (83 pages)
- The Governess Affair, by Courtney Milan. This novella deals beautifully with trauma and healing, creating a strong bond between the main characters that makes the sex scene a necessary moment of development and connection for both of them. I suspect it’s a good place to start reading Milan’s work (though it wasn’t the one I started with) — the length does mean that you don’t get as much character development or as slow an unfolding of romance as in a novel, but in my opinion, it sticks the landing. (101 pages)
- Even Though I Knew the End, by C.L. Polk. It seems I never posted my review of this on the blog, so I’ll have to fix that soon! It’s a Sapphic love story that deals in demons and deals at the crossroads, and also has an element of detective fiction. If you were ever a fan of the Supernatural TV show, this one has a serious flavour of Dean Winchester’s brand of self-sacrifice, and it’s delicious. (136 pages)
Because I love novellas and short books, this was a really difficult list to make! I left out so many great novellas, like the Murderbot books and Emily Tesh’s Silver in the Wood… but in the end I tried to choose books I hadn’t seen around as much.