Tag: Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Reading Memories

Posted March 26, 2024 by Nicky in General / 4 Comments

Greetings all! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme didn’t speak to me, as I don’t watch a lot of movies at all. Instead, I’m going to talk about ten bookish memories. I remember a lot of events by the books I was reading at the time, and it’s interesting to think about all the times books have left an impression on me.

Cover of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien Cover of The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin Cover of American Gods by Neil Gaiman

  1. Five On A Treasure Island, by Enid Blyton. When I was a kid, I loved Enid Blyton’s books, and the Famous Five were among my favourites. I had a habit when I was a kid of reading in weird places: stairways were a common choice, and I remember sitting on my parents’ stairs reading. For each chapter I finished, I’d move down a step. Once I reached the bottom, it was probably time for lunch or a snack or something. I remember curling up by the front door during one of those days, probably watching out for Mum coming home, while eating slices of apple and cheese on crackers. I used to be quite happy doing that for hours.
  2. The Positronic Man, by Isaac Asimov. A lot of people have read the short story this was based on, ‘The Bicentennial Man’, but it was also made into a novel (I think with Robert Silverberg as a co-author, maybe). After I learned to read, I swiftly graduated to being able to read adult fiction, and this had my mum ferreting around the library looking for books she remembered that might be suitable. Asimov was a major component of that, in part because the library actually had a bunch of his books, and The Positronic Man was a huge hit with me. So much so that I read and reread it, and refused to return it to the library for ages. I have no idea how bad the fine was when I finally parted with it, but I’m still not sorry. My wife later bought me a copy (sometime before we were married, not sure exactly when), and I loved it again then… though I must admit I’ve no idea where my copy is now.
  3. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë. Another major habit of mine was finding small spaces to hide in and read. I had a bunk bed with a sofa underneath, which made it easy: if I hung a blanket down from the bed, I got a warm enclosed space underneath (with a reading light; thanks Dad!). I remember reading Jane Eyre for the first time there: I don’t think I finished it back then (I was probably a bit too young for it), but I felt quite the kinship with Jane hidden behind her curtains!
  4. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m not sure exactly when my grandparents turned their airing cupboard into a little shower room, but when they did, they created a little haven of a hiding place for me. I have no idea why I loved jamming myself in there (including in the shower cubicle) to read, but probably it mostly kept me out of my sister’s sight and thus out of her mind, making it an excellent spot to hide and read. I had my own copy of The Lord of the Rings, but I remember borrowing my grandmother’s for a reread when I stayed with them. Also, I remember an epic argument between myself and my grandmother about the BBC radio adaptation, which she had on cassette tape, one of which I temporarily mislaid. She was furious with me. I was furious with her for being so cross about a mistake I’d apologised for (and which turned out to have an easy answer that we should both have thought of: the tape was in the player). She was probably more in the right, though. Sorry, Grandma!
  5. The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula Le Guin. I don’t know whether my mum suggested my aunt buy me what was then a quartet (which is what I suspect is most likely), or if my aunt was unusually inspired in her choice of Christmas present for once. I read this one sitting on my grandparents’ stairs, which had gaps between each step, through which I would insert my legs and dangle them. The living room door was never closed, so I could hear the adults pretty close by, but their conversations didn’t interrupt my reading. Those first experiences of Earthsea were pretty magical.
  6. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. I read this one during the trip me and my mother took to look around Cambridge University and the University of East Anglia, to decide where I’d apply for university. One thing I remember about American Gods particularly is that I have very strong sense-memories of food around this book, and of sitting in a hotel room reading it. Because I am synaesthetic, I suspect the taste-memories have nothing to do with anything we ate. Anyway, I didn’t like Cambridge (at all). Sorry, Mum. I assume I’ve made it up to you by now with my achievements various.
  7. The Stand, by Stephen King. I was still living with my parents when I read this, and my then-girlfriend (now wife) nudged me to do so. I’d always felt a bit unsure about reading Stephen King — both because horror wasn’t my thing and because I was a terrible snob. The Stand enthralled me, though, and I kept putting off bedtime by half an hour, then another half an hour, then half an hour more… I later read a big chunk of his oeuvre, much of it sourced for me by my grandfather, whose idea of being supportive when I went to university was in large part helping me comb book sales and charity shops for plenty of reading material that fit my budget. Mysteriously, a lot of the time he paid for it anyway. Mostly, I think he was just thrilled that I’d chosen to go to university so nearby, and made any excuse to see a little more of me. I’m glad he did.
  8. Troublemaker, by Joseph Hansen. All of the Brandstetter books are potent reminders of my time at university. One of my housemates read them for her dissertation, and I remember I read quite a few of them all during a single day, during one of the 24 hour readathons. I keep meaning to do a reread, in part for nostalgia’s sake, and in part because I remember the books being good!
  9. Feed, by Mira Grant. When I had summers off from university, I often spent a chunk of time visiting my then-girlfriend (yes, the same one who is now my wife) in Belgium. One summer it was horribly hot, all the time, and I remember just lying on the (tiny, single) bed during the day being far too hot, with our rabbit jumping on me every so often, and wishing it would cool down. I remember giving Feed only two or three stars back then, but it stuck with me, and I’ve read it several times since. It’s one of those that grew on me, beyond all expectation.
  10. I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. I never have written anything while sitting in a kitchen sink, but I Capture the Castle features in a bunch of memories. My last readthrough happened when my grandfather got ill, though, and after his cancer diagnosis (and his passing), it sat half-read on my bedside table for some months before I picked it up again, and found the familiar words comforting. I don’t know if I could read it again now, even though I can quote large sections from it still. Only the margin left to write on now. I love you, I love you, I love you.

Cover of Troublemaker by Joseph Hansen Cover of Feed by Mira Grant Cover of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Writing this I came up with a bunch of others — like reading Dorothy L. Sayers’ Whose Body during a holiday, in what must’ve been my second or third year of university: I was doing a course on crime fiction, so Mum promptly loaded me up with the classics. She later used either the Peter Wimsey radioplays or an audiobook read by Ian Carmichael (who played Peter in the radioplays and one of the TV adaptations) to calm me down from an epic panic attack as I woke up from an operation. I have no idea which one she played to me, I just remember the tone of Ian Carmichael’s voice…

But ten and a bonus are quite enough. Despite my departure from the theme, I hope folks find my effort this week interesting! Do you have any strong memories around books?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

Posted March 19, 2024 by Nicky in General / 14 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is all about reading plans for the spring, which is always fun. I don’t really theme my reading with the seasons, or with anything beyond my own whim, and my approach to having a reading plan is a bit like Douglas Adams’ approach to deadlines (“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”) — but I find it fun to set them up, all the same.

So what would a good spring reading list look like for me? I’d like to clear some of the partly-read books out of my list, so I’ll start with those.

Cover of The Tainted Cup by Robert Jackson Bennett Cover of Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, by Cat Bohannon Cover of Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs Cover of The Book of Perilous Dishes by Doina Rusti Cover of The Cleaving by Juliet E. McKenna

  1. The Tainted Cup, by Robert Jackson Bennett. I’ve made a start on this one! But then I got distracted and haven’t picked it up in a week. I’m really enthusiastic about the premise, though, so it’s time to dig in.
  2. Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, by Cat Bohannon. I had this one as an ARC before it came out, so I really must get back to this one. I was finding it fascinating, just dense with information — and a bit overly blessed with footnotes, to be honest. It keeps fragmenting my attention and sending me bouncing around the page, and I didn’t have the focus for a bit. Soon I’ll hand my essays in, though, and then I hope to dig into it more.
  3. Ink, Blood, Sister, Scribe, by Emma Törzs. I’m at the point of being intrigued by this without being fully sucked in. Which is maybe worrying since I’m already 100 pages in. Still, I’m enthusiastic enough to finish it, and I’d like to prioritise that soon!
  4. The Book of Perilous Dishes, by Doina Ruști. I started on this soon after getting it, but it didn’t suit my mood at the time. I might need to start over to find my way back in, since I wasn’t very far into it, but we’ll see! I’m very curious to read more translated works in general, and I don’t think I’ve read anything by a Romanian author before, so I want to give it a proper shot and not just dislike it because I’m in a weird mood.
  5. The Cleaving, by Juliet E. McKenna. I’ve meant to read McKenna’s work for sooo long, and I did enjoy the first 50 pages of this… in fact, I’ve no idea why I got distracted from this one. Maybe just my bad habit of reading a gazillion books at once.

That’s not quite all the books I’m reading at once — for example, I’ve also been neglecting A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross for… too long. But let’s take a look at the new-to-me books I want to read and haven’t even dipped a toe into yet!

Cover of The Undetectables by Courtney Smyth Cover of The Three Dahlias by Katy Watson Cover of The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown Cover of Swordcrossed by Freya Marske Cover of The Husky and His White Cat Shizun by Rou Bao Bu Chi Rou

  1. The Undetectables, by Courtney Smyth. With a tagline like this, who could resist? “Be gay. Solve crimes. Take naps.” It looks like fun, and it’s a recent acquisition, so I want to strike while the iron is hot.
  2. The Three Dahlias, by Katy Watson. This book was chosen for my mum by Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, and is quite possibly up my street as well. It’s definitely worth a try.
  3. The Book of Doors, by Gareth Brown. This was a bit of an impulse purchase, and I know very little about it. It involves books, though, so that gives it a bit of a headstart in my book!
  4. Swordcrossed, by Freya Marske. I couldn’t resist requesting the eARC of this based on the description (and my previous enjoyment of Marske’s work, even if I haven’t read the whole trilogy yet). It sounds like such fun, and maybe I’ll even read it before it comes out this time if I start soon…
  5. The Husky and his White Cat Shizun, by Rou Bao Bu Chi Rou. Having read and loved The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System (Mo Xiang Tong Xiu), I want to try out some other danmei! MXTX’s Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation is also on my list, but I’m curious to try other authors as well.

It was hard to narrow it down… and knowing me, I won’t read any of them. But it’s always fun to dream! Does anybody else have such trouble sticking to their intended reading lists?!

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Top Ten Tuesday: To Reread or Not to Reread?

Posted March 12, 2024 by Nicky in General / 24 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is about books that you’re scared might not stand up to a second reading — books you originally loved, but are scared to reread. I heard about the concept of the Suck Fairy from Jo Walton, and that’s exactly the problem here: maybe the book just isn’t as good as you remember. Times have changed, or you’ve changed, or the book isn’t really what you remember… that’s the Suck Fairy!

Anyway, let’s give this a shot. Note that I’m not saying these books necessarily do or will suck now (in fact for some I’m sure they’re really good but maybe not for me). I’m just afraid that if I reread them, I won’t love them the way I did before.

Cover of Among Others by Jo Walton Cover of Camelot's Shadow by Sarah Zettel Cover of A Sorcerer's Treason by Sarah Zettel

  1. Among Others, by Jo Walton. I don’t really think the Suck Fairy can have visited this book, surely. It meant so much to me. On the other hand, I read it in my early twenties, fresh out of being a teenager, and it meant an enormous amount to me then. Can it stand up to that weight? I think it probably can, but it’ll be a very different experience now.
  2. The Magic Faraway Tree, by Enid Blyton. I have very fond memories of so many Enid Blyton books: so much so that I get tempted to revisit for the nostalgia hit. That said, everything’s coloured by what I know about Blyton now, and by having seen some of the sexism and racism lurking in her stories the last time I read them (which was in university, for a children’s literature course). I’m not sure that can be unseen.
  3. Idylls of the Queen, by Phylis Ann Karr. I did this to myself: I wrote my MA dissertation about this book, in part. Mostly I was looking at character, and the use the author made of the sources. That said, I did semi-recently reread Exiled from Camelot (Cherith Baldry), which I also wrote about in that dissertation — and Idylls of the Queen was the better book. I think this’ll probably be OK to revisit.
  4. Camelot’s Shadow, by Sarah Zettel. This is quite possibly where my interest in romance fiction in general really began, a little foot in the door. And again, I wrote about it in my dissertation. I keep thinking about revisiting, but are Gawain and his brothers as enchanting as I remember?
  5. A Sorcerer’s Treason, by Sarah Zettel. I remember really liking the Isavalta books, and I keep wondering about a reread. I don’t remember much about them, though? Only the fact that I liked it at the time. Seems a bit worrying.
  6. Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay. There was a time when I’d have dived on a new Guy Gavriel Kay book instantly, but I’ve been really lax in keeping up of late. Around about when Under Heaven came out, I think I started… going off his work? Which is a shame, because there’s much I loved about The Summer Tree, Tigana, etc. I did read Under Heaven, and I liked it, but it didn’t stick in my head in quite the same way. Maybe I’ll have to just give it another shot, though, and see.
  7. Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb. Mum and I were pretty obsessed with these books, and a lot of it is probably packed into my reading self on a DNA level. But… could I stand rereading Fitz’s teenage whinging? Presumably one doesn’t need to be an adolescent to put up with it, since Mum could, but maybe also she was just in practice due to me and my sister!
  8. Sabriel, by Garth Nix. I loved Sabriel and Lirael, and found so much of the world-building fascinating, and then… didn’t really like Abhorsen for a few reasons, and have barely kept up since. Something went pear-shaped for me at some point in all this. I kinda want to give it a second chance — but what if it was pear-shaped all along, and I just didn’t see it yet back then?
  9. Waking Gods, by Sylvain Neuvel. The first book of the trilogy blew me away several times, and I remember liking this as well — and yet somehow I never went on to the third book. Maybe the answer to why is found in Waking Gods, and will spoil everything?
  10. Spillover, by David Quammen. I give this book a lot of credit for my current path (my MSc in infectious diseases), but it’s probably getting a bit long in the tooth now. Science doesn’t stand still. Still, I have an enormous affection for it, because it’s also the book that made me a bit less scared of infectious diseases by helping me be curious about them.

Cover of Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay Cover of Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb Cover of Sabriel by Garth Nix Cover of Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel Cover of Spillover by David Quamnem

Funnily enough, there are a few books that grew for me on rereads, and stuck in my head in astounding ways. Maybe someday there’ll be a topic about that, but for now, shoutout to Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey, Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons, Robin McKinley’s Chalice, Mira Grant’s Feed, and probably many others…

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Top Ten Tuesday: To Google We Go!

Posted March 5, 2024 by Nicky in General / 20 Comments

This week’s theme from Top Ten Tuesday is about weird or funny things you’ve googled thanks to a book. I couldn’t think of many weird or funny things I’ve put into a search engine due to a book. I was tempted to google about the scene with the rice wine in volume four of The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System — I’m not surprised it’s a thing, but would it have helped?! (If you know, you know. I’m saying no more. I advise against googling it if you’re not in the know, and definitely don’t do so on a work or school computer.)

Anyyyyway, moving on from that, I decided to just discuss ten times I looked up more information because of a book! Note that these don’t necessarily constitute recommendations of the book, just times I enjoyably got my nerd on and dug in!

Cover of The Notebook: A History of Thinking on Paper by Roland Allen Cover of Work: A History of How We Spend Our Time, by James Suzman Cover of Christmas: A History by Judith Flanders Cover of Rebel Cell by Kat Arney Cover of Overkill by Paul Offit

  1. The Notebook, by Roland Allen. This one’s fresh in my mind since I just finally put up the review: I found myself searching for more info about ICU patient diaries, because I hadn’t come across it at all and I think it sounds like a really helpful concept. And indeed, it is a thing, and the research suggests it helps a lot!
  2. Work: A History of How We Spend Our Time, by James Suzman. The feathers of a peacock have been widely cited as an example of sexual selection in birds, but Suzman suggested this isn’t true. So far, I haven’t been able to find sources backing him up, though I admit I forgot to check whether he included a source for this.
  3. Christmas: A History, by Judith Flanders. I googled a lot to find her sources, which eventually a question to her revealed on her website. I went on a whole journey with this one, discussed in my review: she seems to have quoted previous scholarship which I consider to be pretty fundamentally flawed.
  4. Rebel Cell, by Kat Arney. This one had me googling a few things, one of them being contagious cancers. It’s amazing how when you google this, you get repeatedly assured that cancer is not transmissible, but in fact it is. That’s frightening and unpalatable, but heyho, it’s the truth. It’s mostly attested in Tasmanian devils (transmitted during fights) and in dogs (transmitted sexually), rather than in humans, but unfortunately it has been reported occuring in recipients of organ donation.
    (While HPV can ultimately cause cancer and is transmissible, it isn’t transmission of the cancer itself. That said, quite a number of viruses can be implicated in the development of various human diseases including cancer, and we should in general get our vaccines and take all the preventative measures we can.)
  5. Overkill: When Modern Medicine Goes Too Far, by Paul Offit. The author discusses a lot of common medical interventions and the evidence that suggests they have, at best, no benefit — and at worst cause unnecessary suffering. Those are big claims, and the author knows it, so he provides details of how to go to the primary sources for yourself. I still have stuff I want to dig in on further from this one! I can’t pick an example here, it was all fascinating.
  6. Adrift: The Curious Tale of the Lego Lost at Sea, by Tracey Williams. I read quite a bit about Lego’s sustainability efforts after reading this one, which is about Lego shipments lost at sea and how they end up on beaches. It seems that Lego had to abandon its efforts to make bricks from recycled plastic bottles, because it was ultimately going to cause a bigger carbon footprint.
  7. An Immense World, by Ed Yong. I grabbed a search engine for a lot of things here, just to read more, e.g. about the eyes of scallops. They have little mirrors made of guanine (a nucleic acid used in DNA) in their eyes — whaaaat?
  8. The Good Virus, by Tom Ireland. Did you know that bacteriophage therapy is actively being used in Georgia? It involves using viruses that infect bacteria to control bacterial infections, if you’re not familiar: as Tom Ireland discusses, it may well be a way we can handle antibiotic resistance. I knew about bacteriophages and the theory of using them to treat actual infections. I had no idea it was actually in use.
  9. Immune: A Journey into the Mysterious System That Keeps You Alive, by Philip Dettmer. If you are curious about the immune system, I really recommend this one. And I learned new things from it myself, even though I’m doing my MSc in infectious diseases, so know a fair bit about immunology! The bit I loved was learning that neutrophils sometimes create sticky nets using their own DNA and extrude them to capture and do damage to pathogens: neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs). Here’s the Wikipedia page for something a bit less technical… or you could read the book, which explains things beautifully for laypeople.
  10. Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art, by Rebecca Wragg-Sykes. I loved this one, and there was so much worth searching up and learning more about. Consider the fact that Neanderthals (widely assumed to be rather stupid compared to us) had complex methods for making glue.

Cover of Adrift by Tracey Williams Cover of An Immense World by Ed Yong Cover of The Good Virus by Tom Ireland Cover of Immune by Philipp Dettmer Cover of Kindred by Rebecca Wragg Sykes

I would recommend most of those books, minus #2 and #3, on balance. So if any of that sounds fascinating, you probably know where to start!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Things From Nature

Posted February 27, 2024 by Nicky in General / 22 Comments

This week’s prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday is “Covers/titles with things from nature”. I feel like I don’t often focus on cover design, so I used this as an excuse to go looking through the book covers I have saved for various posts to admire the cover designs…

Cover of Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori Cover of Around the World in 80 Plants by Jonathan Drori Cover of Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

Cover of Unwell Women by Elinor Cleghorn Cover of Slime: A Natural History, by Susanne Wedlich Cover of Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid, by Thor Hanson Cover of The Possibility of Life by Jaime Green

Cover of The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by KJ Charles Cover of Guilty Creatures, edited by Martin Edwards Cover of The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed

It’s a bit of a random mix, as regulars have come to expect from my shelves!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Superpowers

Posted February 20, 2024 by Nicky in General / 22 Comments

This week’s theme from That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday is “bookish superpowers”. I had to have a think about this one…

  1. The ability to persuade people to read books I love. I mean, beyond just the power of nagging and explaining how awesome they are (and giving them a copy). Something that nudges people straight past the inertia into giving it a try. I don’t require people to love the books I love, I just want to share them more and have more people to talk to them about!
  2. The ability to stop or slow down time when I’m reading. If I could just get a little more time in my day, I’d read so much. I’d accept a more limited power that gives me just an hour a day. Anything!
  3. The ability to create infinite space for books. My collection always grows to exceed the space available for it. Back in my bedroom at my parents’ home, my dad even built a shelf over the door to help contain my collection. My coffee table was actually bookshelves. Shelves everywhere. Even though I don’t keep all the books I read, and donate loads of them, over time my collection grows all the same.
  4. The ability to remember the crucial details about everything I read. I’d be so much better at reading series if I could just put them on pause for a bit and not forget the major plot points of the first book!
  5. The ability to fully forget things I read. Sometimes, I wish I could experience something again for the first time, with only the knowledge that I really loved it.
  6. The ability to fix book snobs who sneer at the things other people read. I mean, this sounds like brainwashing, so maybe not seriously, but I wish I had some way to convince people to stop judging what other people read. Sneering at romance novels and looking down on graphic novels doesn’t make you look clever! Not everything is for everyone, but that’s fine. Enjoyment is what matters.
  7. The ability to get hold of a book in the very instant I decide I want it, to the benefit of an indie bookshop. I know, I know, I want the world. But my reading is so whim-based, sometimes books don’t arrive before the mood is lost, unless I use Amazon. And that sucks!
  8. The ability to magically bring a book back into print. I was sadly rather put off second-hand books for reasons I don’t want to discuss (since it’s gross), so sometimes when a book is out of print, it’d be nice to be able to summon it back into print magically, so I can grab a new copy.
  9. The ability to read books that never got written. I’m thinking about Dream’s library from The Sandman — something like that! Sequels that never got written, ideas that never got fleshed out, the things authors would produce if they had world enough and time.
  10. The ability to fix typos in all copies of a book once I spot them. I’d be doing a favour to humankind!

Okay, so some of those are a bit silly, but it’s fun to dream sometimes…

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Top Ten Tuesday: All About Love

Posted February 13, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 24 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is a love-themed freebie.

There are some relationships in books which live in my head rent-free, so this list is about all of those. The books aren’t necessarily romances (though some of them are) — just books where a central relationship has well and truly taken up a place in my own heart. I stuck to romantic relationships, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, though platonic relationships are the beating heart of many stories, and I love them too!

Cover of The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System vol 4 by MXTX Cover of The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison Cover of Heartstopper by Alice Oseman Cover of Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews Cover of Band Sinister by K.J. Charles

  1. Shen Qingqiu and Luo Binghe (The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System, by Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù). Let’s start with an obvious and recent one. Sure, it took until the third book for me to be really swept away, and the fourth book (which contains short stories from various parts of the story’s timeline) to really cement it… but now I’m actually rereading the series (already!) to better understand these characters, what makes them tick, and especially Luo Binghe’s thoughts during certain parts of the plot. I’m not saying this is an exemplary relationship or something: these guys are messed up. But I love them.
  2. Maia Drazhar and Csethiro Ceredin (The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison). I love The Goblin Emperor so much, though I’d be delighted to get a little more “screen time” for Csethiro. I love that she’s clever, that she’s not willing to just do anything to marry an emperor, and that she genuinely comes to care for Maia. Her scenes are some of my favourites in the book, and I’d love to have seen a lot more of her.
  3. Nick Nelson and Charlie Spring (Heartstopper, by Alice Oseman). These two are just so cute, and come of age together in a way that… yeah, maybe I’m a bit envious of. Like Charlie, I was outed at school, but it didn’t go as well for me (and it didn’t go great for Charlie, at least at first). They’re just solid and wholesome and maybe a little too ideal at times, but it’s nice to be reminded that that genuinely happens for some people.
  4. Kate Daniels and Curran Lennart (Magic Bites, by Ilona Andrews). I had so much fun reading this series, and part of it is the bond that gets forged between these two. They’re both strong, stubborn, and in need of one another — and they can only really win by leaning on each other, trusting each other, and trusting that the other won’t break. It takes time for them to get there, but once they do, they’re unstoppable.
  5. Philip Rookwood and Guy Frisby (Band Sinister, by KJ Charles). This is one of my favourite of KJ Charles’ books. I was originally going to pick a different couple of hers, Kim Secretan and Will Darling from Slippery Creatures… but Philip and Guy are the ones I first really fell in love with, in Charles’ work. I enjoyed her work before, but the way this relationship works — the communication and care that Philip teaches Guy — sticks in my head more than anything.
  6. Griffin Moss and Sabine Strohem (Griffin & Sabine, by Nick Bantock). Part of the attraction here is the mystery of it, it must be said: why are they connected? How? And let’s be fair, the novelty of the presentation of this book is a huge part of my fondness for it. But even still, I find myself thinking about these two sometimes. I’d love to read the sequel trilogy, though the books tend to be pretty expensive.
  7. Tobias Finch and Henry Silver (Silver in the Wood, by Emily Tesh). It’s funny remembering how mad I was about the start of Drowned Country when these two were clearly not together anymore, ha. The duology handles this relationship in a lovely way, and it’s one thousand percent worth reading Drowned Country as well… but it didn’t start with them in the position I really wanted to see them in: secure and safe with one another. Drowned Country develops their relationship and their individual characters beautifully, though.
  8. Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey (Strong Poison, by Dorothy L. Sayers). In a way, these two should probably have been first on my list. In the end, I think Sayers’ books became much more about illuminating the relationship between these two characters (and what it says about each of them, singly and together), more than the mystery plots they were wrapped around. The mysteries were intrinsic to Peter Wimsey’s life, but once Harriet came along, she quickly became the guiding star (both for him, and for me as the reader).
  9. Sir Gawain and Rhian (Camelot’s Shadow, by Sarah Zettel). I love Sir Gawain as a character, though I’m often picky about how he’s deployed. Zettel understands the dream of Camelot very well, and handles a bunch of disparate myths and stories fascinatingly to create her world where the sons of Lot of Orkney are central to that dream. Gawain and Rhian in particular stick in my mind, though I love all four of the novels. To be honest, it’s probably part of why I’m so fascinated by Gawain.
  10. Charlotte Neville and Karl von Wultendorf (A Taste of Blood Wine, by Freda Warrington). It’s been a long time since I read these books, but I keep thinking about reading them again, because I loved the way they handled the vampires — frightening, amoral, intense, and alluring all the same. Warrington went to town with her vampire romance, fully cognisant of what she was doing, and it makes for a lush story. You can’t say Charlotte and Karl have a healthy relationship, but it’s a powerful one that sticks in the mind, and there’s no doubt of their love.

Cover of Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock Cover of Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh Cover of Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers Cover of Camelot's Shadow by Sarah Zettel Cover of A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington

Are there any literary couples that stick in your mind? I feel like I could go on and on, especially with KJ Charles’ characters… and I didn’t mention Jordan L. Hawk, or Cat Sebastian!

Very curious to see where other people have taken this freebie week!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Quick Reads

Posted February 6, 2024 by Nicky in General / 24 Comments

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.

Cover of Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley Cover of All the Horses of Iceland, by Sarah Tolmie Cover of Luke and Billy Finally Get A Clue by Cat Sebastian Cover of The Apple-Tree Throne by Premee Mohamed Cover of Blue Jeans by Carolyn Purnell

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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)
  8. 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)
  9. 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)
  10. 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)

Cover of The Changeling Sea by Patricia McKillip Cover of When the Tiger Came Down The Mountain by Nghi Vo Cover of The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw Cover of The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan Cover of Even Though I Knew The End by C.L. Polk

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.

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Top Ten Tuesday: New To Me Authors in 2023

Posted January 30, 2024 by Nicky in General / 40 Comments

This week’s topic from That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about authors I discovered for the first time in 2023. I don’t keep very good track of this, but I’ll take a look at my 2023 books and see if anything jumps out… I’m not trying to pick authors whose books are perfect, just some that (in looking back over the year) stand out to me.

  1. Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù. This one’s on my mind because I’m eager to read the last volume of The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System. I haven’t read danmei before, and a lot of the stuff the story takes for granted is new to me… but I had fun getting into it, and the characters linger in my mind. I only seem to have one review up so far, but reviews of volumes two and three are coming soon!
  2. Juneau Black. I discovered the Shady Hollow series in November or so, and tore right through them. They’re cosy crime stories, only the intrepid detectives are a fox and a bear — in fact, everyone in this town is an animal. It reminded me of the Redwall books, only a different genre.
  3. Akane Tamura. I don’t think I reviewed any of the volumes of this manga on the blog, but I tore through A Side Character’s Love Story, and I’m very eager to read more. The romance is a slow burn, but they communicate with each other so well (most of the time, at least) and they’re really sweet. The whole series seems to be available on Kindle Unlimited, at least in the UK, by the way…
  4. Ali Hazelwood. I’d been meaning to try her work for a while, but this was the year I started! I’ve only read the three novellas collected into the Loathe to Love You book, and I didn’t love all of them equally, but I had a good time.
  5. Fonda Lee. Once more, I’d been meaning to read her books for a long time (I’ve owned a copy of Jade City since it came out), but I got started in 2023 by reading her new novella, Untethered Sky. It made the list of my favourite reads this year.
  6. Travis Baldree. I loved Legends & Lattes instantly, and it made my top ten books from 2023! I enjoyed the prequel as well, though not quite as much.
  7. Malka Older. A similar story to some of the others: I intended to read her work before, but finally got round to it this year, via the novellas The Mimicking of Known Successes and The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles. I loved them both.
  8. Cassandra Khaw. Not all her books appeal to me, but I absolutely loved The Salt Grows Heavy, so I think I’ll give more of them a try!
  9. Thor Hanson. Let’s get some non-fiction up in here! I enjoyed both his book about bees, Buzz, and his book about how animals and ecosystems are adapting to climate change, Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid. He’s written a couple of other books, and I’ll probably pick them up at some point.
  10. Tom Ireland. As far as I can tell, he’s only written one book, so I’ll have to keep an eye out in future. I really loved The Good Virus: absolutely right up my street in every way. Bacteriophages are fascinating, maybe a way forward for dealing with antimicrobial resistance, and his anecdotes, case studies and interviewees were all engaging.

That was pretty difficult, not because I don’t read books by new-to-me authors, but because it’s sometimes a bit of a gamble. Plus, for graphic novels, the creative team often don’t work together on any other titles, and you’re never quite sure if what you enjoyed about it was a particular storywriter or the work of the whole team or what.

What about you? Is this a difficult topic for you, or could you easily name ten new-to-you authors you loved in 2023?

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Top Ten Tuesday: When I Get A Round Tuit

Posted January 23, 2024 by Nicky in General / 38 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is all about the books you meant to read in 2023, and didn’t get to. There are books I’ve been neglecting much longer than that, but let’s hope I get a round tuit this year…

Cover of System Collapse by Martha Wells Cover of Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, by Cat Bohannon Cover of Cassiel's Servant by Jacqueline Carey Cover of Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs Cover of Witch King by Martha Wells

  1. System Collapse, by Martha Wells. I feel worst about the ARCs I neglect, and extra-bad about this one. I really want to read it! I love Murderbot! But here we are, and it’s well into January, and still…
  2. Eve: How The Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, by Cat Bohannon. This was an ARC as well, and I bought a hardback in November, but I still haven’t so much as opened it. I’m sorry… I’m in a non-fiction mood at the moment (more than usual, I mean), so I might yet pick it up in January!
  3. Cassiel’s Servant, by Jacqueline Carey. Another ARC I neglected, in part because I meant to finish rereading Kushiel’s Avatar first, and I still haven’t managed that. I still love you, Joscelin.
  4. Ink Blood Sister Scribe, by Emma Törzs. I had this in ARC and also bought a copy (I like to do that when I’m late with reviewing an eARC), and still haven’t done more than read the first couple of pages. Rare magic books, how could I not love the idea of this one?
  5. Witch King, by Martha Wells. Look, I’m wincing as hard as you are. Yes, this was an eARC as well. And I bought a copy on release day. In my defence, it did come out during my exams! But I’m letting Martha Wells down hard, I know.
  6. Lost in the Moment and Found, by Seanan McGuire. I didn’t get to this one because I needed to catch up on the series first, and hadn’t realised I was several books behind, but I can at least report I’m nearly there! I read Where the Drowned Girls Go over the weekend.
  7. In The Lives of Puppets, by TJ Klune. Once more, I own a copy as well as having received an eARC. I really enjoyed The House in the Cerulean Sea and Under the Whispering Door (though I’m aware of some of the criticisms of Klune’s work), and I’m looking forward to giving this a shot.
  8. Someone from the Past, by Margot Bennett. This one’s not an ARC! I had a tradition of reading the book I got from my British Library Crime Classics subscription right away, for the first part of the year… and then got a bit discombobulated when I got the Christmas anthology in October. I want to catch up and get back to it, so Someone from the Past is high on my list.
  9. Big Ben Strikes Eleven, by David Magarshack. Same here — I think this was the November book, and the Bennett was the December book? So I’d like to get round to both of them soon and get back to reading the new one as soon as it arrives.
  10. A Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel, by KJ Charles. I got this on the day it released, and fully intended to read it right away — KJ Charles almost never misses for me! But I wasn’t quite in the mood, and then I put it aside for a bit, and well… it’s still there now.

Cover of Lost in the Moment and Found by Seanan McGuire Cover of In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune Cover of Someone From The Past by Margot Bennett Cover of Big Ben Strikes Eleven by David Magarshack Cover of A Nobleman's Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel by KJ Charles

Broadly speaking, I try not to be too prescriptive about what I “should” be reading, and let it be flexible depending on what I feel like. Which does land me in messes when it comes to review copies… but it’s a fairly chill way to read, most of the time! So I’m not kicking myself too hard about not reading these books yet. Their time will come.

How about you? Do you have strict to-read lists and schedules?

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