Whatcha Reading? January 2023, Part One

Cozy winter still life: cup of hot coffee and book with warm plaid on windowsill against snow landscape from outside.It’s the first Whatcha Reading of 2023! How are we all starting off? Strong? A big of a slump?

Shana: I just glommed I Like You Like That by Kayla Grosse ( A ) in a day. I don’t read a lot of bodyguard romances, but this hit the spot for me.

Next up on my TBR is Asia Monique’s Flower Sisters series ( A ) . Each book is themed around a heroine’s love language. I’m starting with the “words of affirmation” sister. (edited)

Sarah: I am currently reading Rest is Resistance, alongside An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles. ( A | BN | K | AB ) I had meant to read Rest is Resistance over winter vacation but it was Not a Restful Time (we flew Southwest). So I am catching up.

Rest is Resistance
A | BN | K
Oh hold on. The library must have bought a LOT of copies of Spare ( A | BN | K ) because I was 70+ on the wait list but the audiobook is ready for me to borrow. Wow, thank you librarians!

Carrie: Rest is Resistance blew my mind

Elyse: I’m reading The Fraud Squad by Kyla Zhao ( A | BN | K | AB ) and I’m loving it.

Also totally waiting for my copy of Spare to show up today

Claudia: I read Nights of the Plague (non romance) over our winter break and decided that I can read about a pandemic as long as it takes place on a fictional island 100 years ago, but that’s about it. I’m still sort of trying to decide what to read next!

Kiki: I have been largely unable to focus on physically reading for several months now and have essentially only been using audiobooks (which is wonderful but also limiting on what I can access) so I’m attempting to force myself to slow my brain down enough to read words on a page by spending some time with my very cherished first edition of The Secret by Julie Garwood. ( A )

The Facemaker
A | BN | K
Also I think it’s very possible that the last time I gave a reading update I was also reading The Secret which is both delightful and awkward so I’ll also share that I recently finished listening to The Facemaker by Lindsey Fitzharris which details the career of a WWI plastic surgeon and how he revolutionized facial reconstruction. It was spectacular and read by the subject’s great, great nephew.

Elyse: My husband has been listening to the Murderbot series ( A | BN | K | AB ) on audio so I’m catching it periodically and it’s delightful

Maya: Audiobooks are the best!! I’m listening to Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez ( A | BN | K ) and the three narrators, Almarie Guerra, Armando Riesco, and Ines del Castillo, are fantastic.

Sneezy: I’m so excited for my turn at Rest is Resistance at the library!

Go Away Romeo by Paintword just got upgraded to an original webtoon. Congratulations Paintword! It’s the story of Romeo and Juliet told from the perspective of Rosaline, who had gotten pregnant by Romeo. So far the art looks great, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes.

So whatcha reading? Tell us below!

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  1. Heather M says:

    My last two books from 2022:

    The Siren of Sussex – Mimi Matthews
    My favorite part of this book was the way it brought in late-Victorian spiritualism. The fashion was also fun. The romance was less memorable to me, and I’m not sure I’m going to pursue the rest of the series.

    Animal, Vegetable, Junk – Mark Bittman
    This is subtitled “A history of food, from sustainable to suicidal.” It’s a deep dive into how agriculture is a main factor in humans’ destroying the planet, and how single-crop agriculture has destroyed us in turn. I’ve always kind of struggled with food, in the broad sense, and this helped me put some context to that. It’s not exactly a nice read but it’s changed my outlook on how I approach what I eat.

    First read of 2023:
    The Reading List – Sara Nisha Adams (cw: discussions of suicide)
    My mom randomly picked this off a buy 2 get 1 table and passed it on to me. So I went in with no expectations, and I loved it. A lonely widower and a teen girl reluctantly working a summer job at a library connect over a mysterious reading list, and working through the various books (To Kill a Mockingbird, Rebecca, The Kite Runner, among others) they reflect on how these books and characters make them realize things about their own lives. I’ve noticed that the UK particularly has this genre of what I call “lonely people” books. This fits squarely in that. It was fairly sad, but as a lifelong reader it really resonated with me.

    That’s it for now. My goal for 2023 is to get my TBR under 100. This is kind of my goal every year, not really expecting it to happen, but I’ve started by using my holiday gift funs to scoop up a dozen or so ebooks and organizing my goodreads list to have library-available books first, so project Reading the TBR is a go.

  2. Sarah says:

    Shame on me: a memoir of race and belonging by Tessa McWatt which deals with McWatt’s multiracial heritage and how her appearance causes others to react to her. It is a very reflective book, you can feel the hurt she felt as a child and young woman at times. I am halfway through but I would recommend this book.

    The Come Up: an Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop by Jonathan Abrams is fantastic. It reads fast even though it is incredibly detailed. He uses the voices of a lot of the ‘unknown’ to the general public people to tell the story. It reminds me of something in the tradition of Studs Terkel that Terkel would have never thought to write about. It is over 500 pages so it is a time consumer but it is well worth that time.

    I just started Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall and I don’t really have much to say yet only that the ‘com’ part in rom-com’ is actually present. I am looking forward to this book.

  3. Jill Q. says:

    I started out the year strong, finishing LEGENDS AND LATTES by Travis Baldtree (Christmas present) on New Year’s Day and handing it off to a friend. This was delightful. I feel like it’s already been talked a lot about here. An orc in a high fantasy world is done with campaigning and just wants to open a coffee shop. The trouble is, she lives in a world where almost no one knows what coffee is. This had found family, a light touch of romance, and just the right amount of bad guys (for me). The subtitle “a novel of high fantasy and low stakes” is perfect. I feel like what T. Kingfisher is trying to do in a more grounded, serious, (and gory) way, Travis Baldtree is doing in a more whimsical gentle way. They’re both showing the people that are not the young gallant heroes in the high fantasy world and what they’re up to. It’s generally saving their little corner of the world, not the whole thing. And I love that.

    My other great read was DELILAH GREEN DOESN’T CARE by Ashley Herring Green. Coincidentally, this filled the Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge “read a romance with bisexual representation.” Not planned, but helpful. I described it to a friend as “similar to Jennifer Cruisie, but a little bit more modern with more lesbians.” Deliah comes back to her small hometown to photograph her (estranged) stepsister’s wedding and she has a huge chip on her shoulder and sometimes is a bit of brat (I still loved her fwiw). She runs into her step-sister’s good friend Claire her first night back and they start a flirtation. Claire has a kid and a life in the small town. Delilah is a big city artist who can’t see her moving back home. And of course the evil (not so evil) step sister hates the idea of them getting together. The thing I loved about this book is that everyone is messy and complicated and wrong about some things, everyone grows, but it’s also not super angsty. And it’s funny. Already on the waiting list for the sequel about the stepsister.

    These both had sapphic vibes (as the kids say) and found family which was just a coincidence but kind of a nice way to start the year.

    I read PENGUIN AND HOUSE Volume 2 by Akiho Ieda at the 10 year old’s request and because “Read a manga” was on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. It was cute but not for me. I hate to sound old, but I find a lot of graphic novels/manga feel disjointed to me? Like we’re skipping through the story really fast and I’m missing something important. This one didn’t have much of a story and I was reading Volume 2, but I still found it lacking (yes, I was reading it the right way. the 10 year old made sure I did it right!) I do have graphic novels I love (SAGA, some of SANDMAN and MILES MORALES, some lighter romantic or kid friendly ones). Maybe I *am* just old. (shrug)

    Then I kind of hit a slog. I’ve joined StoryGraph, in the hopes that tracking my reading will help me read more. So far, it’s mostly making me feel guilty. The Smart Bitches spreadsheet worked great at the start of quarantine, but I had a hard time keeping up with it once life picked up again. I started cutting down on my library requests (unofficial resolution) b/c I definitely have the problem of too many books coming in and I feel overwhelmed. I feel as I get older my reading slumps get harder? I’m sure some of it is the distraction of the internet and so many choices, but some is just getting pickier. I find I tend to really love everything I read all the way to the finish, but that means I also don’t finish a lot. But it’s hard to say no to the throwing something on the library request list if I think there’s even a remote chance I might like it. I don’t find shopping for most things appealing, but the library is my free retail therapy. 😉

    I’m reading a few books that are picking up steam, so fingers crossed I’ll have more to report next time.

    Happy Reading in 2023, y’all!

  4. FashionablyEvil says:

    A couple that I particularly enjoyed recently:

    BLOODMARKED by Tracey Deon, the second book in the Legendborn series. I really enjoy the blending of Arthurian legend with contemporary and other historical perspectives and am enjoying the character arc of the heroine, Bree. I’m still a little tepid on the love triangle and sometimes the discussion of race feels overly pedantic (presumably because it’s YA), but on the whole, it’s brisk and engaging. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, so hopefully it won’t be a long wait for book 3!

    EVEN THOUGH I KNEW THE END, a novella by CL Polk, is noir and set in 1930s Chicago and features a private detective, angels, demons, and magic. It’s a compact story that doesn’t suffer from being novella length. My only complaint is the ending which, given the title, and given that it’s noir, is entirely apt, but I still wished it were different!

    A mixed bag on some others, including DANIEL CABOT PUTS DOWN ROOTS by Cat Sebastian (nothing happens which is usually fine with Sebastian, but here I just found it irritating after the 2/3 mark), THE KISS CURSE by Erin Sterling (spotted it 125 pages and then flipped to the end, read the last five chapters and called it good) and WHERE THE SKY BEGINS by Rhy Bowen (competent, but not particularly compelling or memorable).

  5. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    PART ONE

    (You can tell it’s been a few weeks between WAYR posts, because I have to divide mine into two parts.)

    Cate C. Wells’s THE LONE WOLF’S REJECTED MATE is the latest in her Five Packs series of shifter romances. It’s a beautifully written, if dark, story of coming to terms with childhood trauma, mistakes made as a result, and having the courage to trust in another. LONE WOLF is an age-gap romance between Mari (who is about 19) and her unhappily fated-mate, Darragh (who is in his late thirties). Mari—who loves pretty things and spends her free time filling her Pinterest board with ideas for her future home—is not thrilled to realize that Darragh—who lives alone in primitive conditions and spends most of his time hunting and foraging—is her fated mate, but she decides to make the best of things. But when Darragh makes it clear that he’s uninterested in being the supportive and loving companion Mari dreams of, Mari is thrown into despair until she eventually bucks herself up with, “I learned a long time ago that people do things that are incomprehensible, and in the end, there is nothing you can do but rely on yourself.” This self-sufficiency (along with the support of her friends, most of them unmated females) keeps Mari strong for four years until the story takes a sharp turn (cw/tw: abduction, captivity), and Mari & Darragh have to work together to get out alive, discovering unexpected connections with each other in the process. LONE WOLF’s timeline begins before the events in THE TYRANT ALPHA’S REJECTED MATE, and both Darragh’s and Mari’s childhoods are full of traumas (cw/tw: abuse, suicide, violence); Mari’s life is, in particular, inextricably linked with that of Una and Killian from TYRANT, and LONE WOLF also has connections to events touched on in THE HEIR APPARENT’S REJECTED MATE, so I strongly recommend reading the first two books in the series before LONE WOLF. Key quote: “Sometimes we cannot be other than what we are, even when it breaks our hearts.” One of my favorite books of 2022. Highly recommended—but prepare for some dark themes and read the previous two books in the series first.

    Misha Horne’s sweet and sexy m/m romance, SNOWED IN WITH BENEFITS, is very much written to the “Misha Horne template”: two men discover that their sexual relationship (involving role-play, spanking, and mild domestic discipline) is not only satisfying physically but also gives each of them the emotional boost required to make much needed changes in their lives. In SNOWED IN, Austin is a superstar singer, cycling from rehab to relapse, leaning into all aspects of his fame, even invasive paparazzi and gossip (“Attention was a hell of a drug,” he muses), while obsessively participating in social media (Horne does a good job of showing how addicting it is to see the number of followers and likes inching upwards). Austin has been stuck in his careless, bratty, self-indulgent persona for so long, he doesn’t even acknowledge to himself how much he wants to get out of it. Meanwhile, older Marco is a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter but is completely unprepared for the mega-fame created by his fluke casting in a vampire-themed tv show. In his own way, Marco is a stuck as Austin is: he feels as if he’s hit a wall creatively, plus he wants to break away from the social circle of his parents (successful composers) and create his own path. When Marco’s impulsive act of generosity toward Austin leads to the two men being snowed in together in Marco’s parents’ cabin (i.e., an enormous home in the mountains), each man discovers that feeling safe and secure within a D/s dynamic opens the door to productive, positive changes. Well-written with two completely distinctive narrative voices, I think SNOWED IN WITH BENEFITS is Horne’s best book since her 2018 historical romance, LOOKING FOR TROUBLE. Highly recommended.

    Another m/m romance with a similar set-up to SNOWED IN WITH BENEFITS but with a completely different style is HAYDEN AND SANTINO FALL IN LOVE, the next in HB Lin’s P*rn Stars Falling in Love series of erotic m/m romances. In HAYDEN AND SANTINO, the title characters are both p*rn stars who, by complete coincidence, knew each other in childhood. When they reunite a decade later to film a movie in a Rocky Mountain hideaway, they discover that a past emotional connection coupled with current physical attraction equals explosive chemistry—especially when a blizzard leaves them snowed in alone with each other. There’s also an opposites-attract element between impulsive Santino and more thoughtful Hayden; and there’s a lot of childhood issues for both of them to process. Although no one would describe Lin’s writing as particularly smooth, I have liked the books in this series because of their completely non-judgmental approach to adult filmmaking and the matter-of-fact presentation of various forms of sex work. In addition, the story does explore some interesting questions about the difference between the “acting” the men are doing in front of the camera and how that relates to the feelings that flow between them outside of the set. Recommended.

    Caitlin Crews’s latest HP, THE ACCIDENTAL ACCARDI HEIR, features a strong theme of “be careful what you wish for”: the heroine has been under the thumb of her tyrannical father her entire life. She has bided her time, planning to take advantage of any possible means of escape. When she uses an unguarded moment to confront the brother of the man to whom she has been promised (that man’s story is told in the first book of the duet, THE CHRISTMAS HE MARRIED THE SECRETARY), things escalate quickly and several months later she is the bride in a “shotgun wedding”. What she hadn’t counted on was discovering that her new husband is just as set in his ways (and, more importantly, set in his ideas of what he expects from his wife) as her father had been. There begins a cat-and-mouse game of the heroine attempting to outwit her hide-bound husband while also making him see how he could have a happier, freer existence if he wasn’t so committed to the idea of who he “should” be. Recommended.

  6. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    PART TWO

    Maisey Yates’s HER WAYWARD RANCHER is a novella in her Four Corners Ranch series of cowboy romances. HER WAYWARD RANCHER focuses in large part on how a person can get “stuck” in a time of life or in a way of thinking and have great difficulty moving forward. The heroine fell in love with an older man when she was 18; nothing happened between them then, but—for a number of well-delineated reasons—she has never quite recovered from that overwhelming first love. When the man returns some 13 years later (divorced, his young son in tow), things are still buzzing between them, but there are any number of obstacles left to overcome: the age-gap is no longer the barrier it was years ago, but the heroine’s dysfunctional family situation (of her siblings she thinks, “you would be hard-pressed to find people less sympathetic to each other’s trauma than the ones who shared the same trauma”) and the physical scars she bears from a car accident make the path to an HEA challenging. As usual, Yates manages to pack a lot of heat and emotion into a small package. Recommended.

    Alessandra Hazard’s AT YOUR SERVICE is an erotic/fantasy m/m novella. The story requires a bit of a hand-wave toward the social setup, but it’s best just to let that slide and enjoy the story of a “pleasure servant” who enters into a contract with a “Master” of their society. The Master is a type of empath who absorbs the feelings of others—particularly sexual ones—and requires a constant “outlet”, which is provided by the pleasure servant. Naturally, feeling begin to develop in this business arrangement. As the servant realizes, “lust and want weren’t the same thing.” AT YOUR SERVICE is exactly what it says on the tin: a very hot erotic story. Recommended—assuming you’re not expecting a lot of social connective tissue.

    I read the three books in The Boy series (THE GOOD BOY, THE NAUGHTY BOY, and THE BOY WHO BELONGED) by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock. The books (first published in 2013 and republished in 2021) cover the relationship between Lane, a young man coming to terms with his unknowing participation in the criminal fraud committed by his emotionally distant parents, and Derek, a photographer in his late-thirties who lost his nest egg when he invested it with Lane’s parents. The books touch on a lot of issues and, especially in THE GOOD BOY, required trigger warnings primarily due to an abusive situation Lane experiences with an older man (a family friend who, like Derek, lost much of his money to Lane’s parents) who uses Lane as a means of revenge before committing suicide; there are multiple flashbacks to the days Lane spent with this man and the injuries Lane suffered. I thought Henry & Rock did a good job of showing that any sexual activity (whether vanilla or BDSM/kink) without consent & boundaries can be nothing other than abusive. When Lane and Derek begin their relationship, both men have a lot to untangle while they explore, in Derek’s words, “lust…twined with a desire deeper, more complex, and less knowable.” Although the books touch on a number of BDSM activities (specifically “puppy play”), the focus of the story is the emotional development of the characters as Lane has to learn how to stand up to his manipulative parents, come to terms with how he was hurt by a family friend, and negotiate a loving, strong, stable relationship with Derek. I also enjoyed the “found family” aspect of the story where Lane becomes friends with Derek’s mother and sister (who runs an animal shelter), along with Derek’s ex, Brin, and Brin’s boyfriend, Ferg (THE NAUGHTY BOY is mostly focused on Brin & Ferg). Recommended—but keep the triggers in mind.

    DNF
    I DNF’d two books in the past couple of weeks—one m/f and one m/m—primarily for the same reasons: expositional info-dumps, lots of telling-not-showing, and demonizing of ex-wives. JUSTIFIED was the first book I’d tried by Jay Crownover, and if it’s an example of her work, I won’t be trying another. The hero (soi-disant) hates the heroine, an attorney, because she represented his ex-wife in family court and, thus, he blames the heroine for the fact that he lost custody of his son. The hero was so mean-spirited and so verbally abusive to the heroine, I didn’t care about his redemption arc. I couldn’t make it past the 20% mark. My other DNF was DIBS by Rachel Lyn Adams & Kimberly Knight. I knew nothing about the book, but I grabbed it from KU because of its cover which—depending on your point-of-view—is either smoking hot or reminiscent of the gay sex gifs that used to populate m/m romance reviews on GoodReads (insert “Why not both?” meme here). Alas, it was ANTON all over again: the book simply could not live up to the promise of its cover. DIBS is the story of two former college roommates who, after a drunken one-night hookup, don’t see each other again for 20 years—until one of them is coaching the other’s son’s baseball team. Both men are divorced, with children, and one of the two ex-wives is nothing a caricatured harpy. Heavy sigh. As with JUSTIFIED, DIBS overexplained and info-dumped everything, with the narrators telling us how they felt rather than letting their actions show what they felt. Another DNF—but at least the cover was nice.

  7. Jcp says:

    I’m reading The Colonel’s Lady by Laura Frantz. Set in 1779 Kentucky a 28 year woman journeys with a broken engagement, to the military fort where her father is stationed, to discover her father has died. With winter approaching and no money and nowhere to she and her travel companions (4 soiled doves and a little girl) have to stay at the fort for the winter.
    My only resolution I this year is to leave reviews on Amazon for every book I h read this i year and not to stress at the slow pace I’ve been reading at for the last few months.

  8. Lostshadows says:

    So far, I’ve finished three books, though, since they were all short, I’m probably in a bit of a slump.

    WITCHMARK, by C. L. Polk. Murder mystery and M/M romance. First fantasy book I’ve encountered where almost everyone travelled by bicycle. I enjoyed it.

    LOST IN THE MOMENT AND FOUND, by Seanan McGuire. Even numbered Wayward Children book, so it focuses on a specific character, not everyone ignoring the school’s “No Quests” rule. Normally, I don’t like these ones as much, but I really liked Antsy’s story. (She is escaping a BAD situation, so look into the trigger warning if applicable.)

    DUNE MESSIAH, by Frank Herbert. I’ve been meaning to continue this series for awhile. If you liked Dune, but thought it needed less action and more conspiracies, you’ll probably like this. I intend to continue the series, hopefully in less than a couple of decades. (A lot of stuff involving pregnancy.)

  9. I’m reading THE CHEMISTRY OF LOVE by Sariah Wilson. The heroine’s grandfather rescues birds, and I am cackling over all the funny bird names, like Feather Locklear. (FYI, the book is part of the Amazon First Reads program so Prime members can read it for free before it officially releases in February if anyone is interested.)

    I also have SEARCHING FOR BRISTOL by Susan Stoker waiting on my TBR pile. I also want to check out THE INHERITANCE GAMES by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

    Also, how can it be the middle of January already??? I feel like the holidays were just yesterday. I’m still finding pine needles and glitter everywhere. LOL.

  10. footiepjs says:

    First book of 2023 was The Lone Wolf’s Rejected Mate. It might be recency bias but I think I liked this one the most.

    Working my way through Karan K Anders’s Four Kings, the second in the A Very Secret Garden series. It’s like the first in that it tests my suspension of disbelief in a similar way to not very good fanfic. And yet I’m reading the second book. Oh well.

    Roni Loren returns to erotic romance with Good Girl Fail Jan 17 but I’m not super excited because it has college age MCs and the heroine’s first name is O’Neal and I hate it. Buuuut I’ll probably read it anyway.

  11. Mikey says:

    I’m reading a children’s book that my friend was the editor for! It’s an adventure story about a horse. It’s the first of her tens and tens of edited books that I know the title of, so I was first in line for it at the library. I’m lucky–not only is it pretty good, but it’s also relatively short, about 80 pages, so if it hadn’t been good I’d still be able to finish it.

    I mean, you know how it is–if your friend is in a movie then you’ll watch it, but if your friend is involved with a 1,000 page novel then you might not read the entire thing, right?

  12. kkw says:

    Have read zero good new romances, but it’s entirely for lack of trying. I’ve been sticking with rereads since the holidays, because it’s safer, and this time of year I am taking no chances.
    On the non-romance front, I am reading The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas. It’s a classic I had missed, (because it’s Brazilian, presumably, grumble grumble fucking establishment grumble). It is hilarious, provided you have a high tolerance for the 19th century, when it was written. Is that enough of a caution? Brace yourself for all the isms, basically, but still legit made me laugh out loud quite a few times. Macabre, unexpected… it’s like Swift or Sterne maybe but crossed with Baudelaire.

  13. Mikey says:

    Jill Q: If PENGUIN AND HOUSE was one of the graphic novel series you found disjointed, that might be because, as far as I recall from when I read it, it’s a slice-of-life series of little vignettes. Those usually do feel really disjointed if you interpret them as one ongoing plotline and not as little stand-alone stories with the same characters.

  14. Jess says:

    “Hen Fever” by Olivia Waite: F/f historical, holiday novella. The small town of Bickerton is obsessed with its Christmas poultry show, and Lydia Wraxhall is one of the most serious competitors. War widow Harriet Boyne recently moved to town and doesn’t have any interest in chickens, until Lydia finds a supposedly lost breed on her property. This was a sweet story and managed to have a lot of the feel of Waite’s novels despite the short length.

    “Safety Protocols for Human Holidays” and “The Solstice Pudding” by Angel Martinez: Two short holiday novels, both f/f sci fi set in a Star Trek-esque universe, with a pretty comedic tone. I thought these were fun although too short for much character nuance to develop. Would read more by this author.

    “Pixels of You” by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota, illustrated by JR Doyle: This is a short YA graphic novel, sci fi with f/f romance. It’s set in a future where AIs in android bodies are integrating into society and follows two interns at a photography gallery: a human girl with a cybernetic eye that causes chronic pain, and an AI with an unusually humanlike body. They clash at first but have to learn how to collaborate. I liked the art and this was a fun, short read, but it was pretty unsatisfying. It tries to address questions related to AI/machine learning in real life, including by just dropping present-day headlines into the book. But it wasn’t nearly long enough to address those questions with nuance, especially since it’s presenting a world with the kind of self-aware AI that is nowhere near existing in real life. For me this book brought up the feeling that the more AI becomes part of everyday life and used mostly for sinister/unequal purposes, the less these stories that use it as a way to talk about connecting with people different from ourselves are going to resonate. And that’s sad because I liked those tropes and I don’t think sci fi as a genre is prepared to move on from them.

    “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas” by Agatha Christie: I started reading the Poirot novels in order but quickly made an exception to that to read the seasonal one. Poirot investigates the murder of a wealthy man who gathered his distant, resentful family together for Christmas, and made sure they all overheard his plans to change his will. This actually has a lot of plot similarities with “Knives Out” (though the mystery unfolds in a very different way) and I’d bet that it was a direct inspiration. I guessed the killer and motive in this one and thought the reveal was really satisfying. (Features some typical problematic Christie content with a focus on South African diamond mining and a character’s “Spanish temperament.”)

    “Poirot Investigates” by Agatha Christie: Back to reading in order. The short stories are less satisfying than the full-length books, but this was fun.

    “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee: A generations-spanning family epic that follows Sunja, a Korean teenager who has an affair with an older man, gets pregnant, and ends up moving to Japan, and how her decisions impact the subsequent generations of her family who are financially better off but face significant ethnic prejudice. This was an interesting read for me because a lot of people felt very connected to the characters following them across their lives; I felt like I was barely getting to know them before we would switch to another perspective and a time when the characters’ lives were completely different. I probably would’ve liked it better if it was told only from Sunja’s perspective, but that’s purely a matter of taste. I did think it was very well-written and a great look into a part of history I didn’t know much about, and if you like generational family stories, you’ll love this.

    “The Feather Thief” by Kirk Wallace Johnson: Nonfiction book that follows a heist of rare birds from a natural history museum, by a teenager obsessed with the world of fishing fly tying where rare feathers are in high demand. This was described as reading like a thriller and I do think it would appeal to fans of that genre, as a big part of the story is the unanswered questions about the crime and the author’s obsession with finding out the truth. It also has a lot to say about environmental destruction and examines whether what fly tiers are doing is more about art or about greed. Liked it a lot.

  15. Escapeologist says:

    Haven’t been finishing any new books, I get annoyed with the characters and go off to look at pretty pictures.

    Webtoon: Of Swamp & Sea – fantasy/supernatural adventure in a 1920s setting with a strong romantic subplot. There’s mutual attraction and forced proximity but they can’t consummate for Reasons. It gets a bit dark and violent at times, as hero’s job description is monster hunter and heroine has a werewolf-ish situation going on. Season 1 story arc is complete, with consistent weekly updates to look forward to. I was trying to read slowly and not binge it all buuut here we are.

    Manga: Witch Hat Atelier – this has been mentioned on here multiple times. Cozy fantasy with a preteen girl learning magic.

    Manga: Cat + Gamer – gamer girl takes in a stray cat, adorable hijinks ensue.

    Reread: Greenglass House and Ghosts of Greenglass House. Middle grade mysteries set within a cozy corner of a larger fantasy universe. Also has pretty illustrations.

  16. Big K says:

    Hello, and Happy New Year, Bitches!
    Did not do as much reading as I would have liked over the holidays (did end up doing a lot of ice skating though, so no complaints). I am going to try and rectify that on this gloomy three day weekend, and I am thankful for the recs.
    I have some reading highlights to report:
    Reread GOING POSTAL by Terry Pratchett. Fantasy and FUNNY! M/F romantic elements. Perfect book. If you haven’t read it, and you like Terry Pratchett, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
    SWEEP OF THE HEART by Ilona Andrews. M/F, paranormal romance, more paranormal than romance in this one, Innkeeper Chronicles #5. Not as good as Maude’s book, but a very solid entry in this series. I can’t wait for Hugh’s next book – I get why they haven’t written it yet, but IRON AND MAGIC is one of my absolute favorites! It is hard to be patient for book two.
    EVEN THOUGH I KNEW THE END C.L. Polk, F/F paranormal historical. Very original – felt unique to me. A queer, 1930’s-ish, hard-boiled detective story with angels and demons and magic. So, Maltese Falcon, but romantic, sweet, and mystical? Really excellent writing, cohesive story with a resolution that makes sense. And the characters felt real and clearly defined. Lovely book! Would like to visit this world and these characters again. Polk can really write!
    THE TRUTH ABOUT CADS AND DUKES Elisa Braden, M/F historical. Excellent! Well done — shy miss who gets embarassed by the younger brother, older brother steps in to “rescue” her reputation – or is he rescuing himself? Like a piece of chocolate cake – not the only thing you want to eat, but really delicious when you are in the mood.
    I am reading two books that I like a lot so far – one is THE MASK OF MIRRORS, by M.A. Carrick. A little slow, but it has potential, and seems exactly what it says on the tin – paranormal, M/F, trade delegation between two countries where she’s an empath and he’s an incubus, and they are on opposite sides of the table. Still on the setup, so we’ll see.
    The other book is blowing my little mind! THE BONE ORCHARD by Sara Mueller. I don’t think it will be a romance, but anything could happen here. Think Gideon the Ninth, but paranormal, not sci fi, and answers reveal themselves as you go, so you don’t feel so lost in space (at least, Gideon made me feel lost – may be just me). Society feels like European, late 1800s, pretty brutal, emperor was assassinated and his mistress is working to take out all his evil heirs. I have no idea what is going to happen. Original, disturbing, warm, inviting, and surprising all at once. In fact, I’m going to take a bubble bath and read it right now!
    Hope you are all safe and healthy! I am looking forward to hearing what you are reading in 2023!

  17. Another Anne says:

    Renewed my membership in the Bad Decisions Book Club this week, while reading Spare. I ended up buying the book, because my audible preorder was delayed. Despite the bags under my eyes most of the week, it was worth it. It is a compelling read. Parts 1 and 2, which cover his childhood and army experiences were both fascinating and disturbing. The rest of the book covers his relationship with Meghan and their eventual departure from official royal duties. I’d recommend reading it and not relying on any of the reporting about it, if you have any interest in Prince Harry.

    Over the New Year’s holiday, I read The Heretic Royal by G.A. Aiken. It took me awhile to get into this book, because I could not remember the hero from prior books and had to search the others to see if I’d just forgotten him. T Although I enjoyed this one, I’m hoping that there are future books about another of Queen Keely’s sisters (both Isadora and Endylon), as well as Gwenvael’s son, Var. All 3 appear throughout The Heretic Royal and definitely added some hilarity.

  18. catscatscats says:

    I’ve just read Between: A Cozy Fantasy Romantic Comedy Novel by LL Starling. I thought I heard about it here, but not finding it in search. I enjoyed it. The first half of the book is events from the PoV of the heroine, and the second half from the hero, who is the king of a fantasy kingdom called between, which is very chaotic (the Minotaur falling into a sinkhole beimg a typical problem). Things I liked – the heroine’s relationship with her friend, Lyla, and how well Lyla stands up for her despite being unmagical; the details about the problems the king has running the kingdom – he starts with 47 things on the agenda for the day, but items keep being added. I didn’t exactly not like the length of the book (750 pages) once I got into the rhythm of it, but you have to be prepared to go with it. Because of the two points of view thing there is repetition.

  19. catscatscats says:

    Discovered where I found Between recommended – on the Cosy Fantasy subreddit, here.

  20. DonnnaMarie says:

    I literally just finished BOOK LOVERS by Emily Henry, and I feel like I might as well give in and call it the best read of 2023. I laughed. I sighed. I cried. I have no words for just how wonderful this experience was.

  21. Big K says:

    I made a mistake the empath/incubus book is EMPATH LURE by Jen Lynning, not Maske of Mirrors. Sorry for the confusion!

  22. Jennavier says:

    Ever since I had my third a year ago my reading has gone down the toilet. I’m desperately trying to finish Sarah J. maas’s House of Sky and Breath so I can get to Sanderson’s first secret project. My husband desperately wants to discuss it with me.

  23. HeatherS says:

    I started the new year with a reread of “The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up”, which is totally a comfort read for me.

    I read Cat Sebastian’s newest Cabot novella, “Daniel Cabot Puts Down Roots”, which was cute and low-stress.

    I reread “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” last night for the first time since I was probably 10/11 years old because I saw the trailer for the new movie a couple of days ago. I’m really excited for the film and I really enjoyed reading the book again – Margaret has such a warm relationship with her grandmother, and it reminded me of all of the awkwardness of being that age and worrying about bras (and being the last – or first – to wear one), wondering about periods, etc. I wasn’t quite to the “being interested in boys” point and Margaret seems much more clear on what periods actually are than I was at that age. It’s prompted me to pick up a couple of Blume’s other books, “Tiger Eyes” and “Forever”. I read “Forever” a few years ago but wanted a refresh.

    Not sure what I’m going to read next, but something from my towering TBR is likely.

  24. Karin says:

    I finally got “Ducks:Two Years in the Oil Sands” from the library, and it was really good, but not much of a fun read, although there are a few touching moments. It’s a graphic memoir, TW for sexual assault.
    Now I am reading an historical romance by Anne Cleeland, The Barbary Mark. I think it’s Kareni who is always talking about Cleeland’s British police procedurals(the Doyle & Acton series). They are similar in that all her books have a single character 3rd person POV, which is always the heroine. There is no exposition, she just drops you into the middle of the action, and you figure it out as you go along. Her plots are always very twisty. In this case it involves spying during the Napoleonic Wars, the slave trade along the Barbary Coast, the setting is Algiers.
    I also discovered that Scribd now has dozens of Patricia Wentworth books, many I’ve never seen before, so I binged on 3 in a row. The first one was a reread, my favorite of her mystery/romantic suspense books, Nothing Venture. Then I read an early attempt at a romance, The Fire Within, and it was absolutely awful. Hard to believe it was even the same author. Then I tried another mystery/romantic suspense, Hue and Cry, it was great! The heroine is falsely accused of theft and spends most of the book on the run. Think “The 39 Steps”, but with a female instead of a male lead. All her books have an HEA.

  25. Diane says:

    I’m re-reading all the Lisa Marie Rice books I own (Midnight series and Protectors series) along with my Regency anthologys from 20 years ago… comfort reads. I just started The Saint of Steel trilogy by T. Kingfisher and, when I finished the first book, I went and put all her books on hold at my local library.

    I’m also skimming all the cookbooks in my local library for nifty recipes. Anything by Ottolenghi is woncerful especially SIMPLE. I know it’s good, my dog ate the book! Also some cookbooks attached to movies and books like The Last Airbender Official Cookbook, Harry Potter cookbooks (there are several) and War of Worlds Cookook and regional cookbooks Budmo! (Ukrainian). As an aside, I watch a lot of Max Miller ‘Tasting History’… really great recipes and interesting history.

  26. Vasha says:

    Last week I caught up on Jeannie Lin’s Red Blossom in Snow and liked it very much despite rather workmanlike prose. It’s an uncommonly successful blending of mystery and romance, where both of those genres are well done and have equal weight and support each other. It has a gentle pace, though, with suppressed longing between the MCs (very appealing characters who share an appreciation for codes of behavior and can both perform and see through the performance) The mystery is unraveled by reflection not action scenes. It also has an unusually melancholy tone for a romance, not unreasonable for two main characters haunted by past and present murders. I believed they would be happy enough together but some might be uneasy: when the hero tells his mother he’s going to marry the heroine his mother just sighs and says (quoting from memory), “You two are linked and will keep being drawn together in this life or another until the debt between you is somehow paid.” Not terribly joyous, that. Interestingly, this novel could qualify as a December holiday romance, as it centers around the Qingming Festival which then was held in early winter, though now shifted to spring. The religious aspects are not overlooked. This is one for a list of romances that feature underrepresented religions.

    Currently I’m reading Joan Is Okay by Weike Wang. The title character of this novel is quite disconcerting at first meeting. An ICU physician who lives for her work and doesn’t know what to do with herself when forced to take a day off, her conversations are apparently all missed connections, where she doesn’t get allusions (it’s true, she’s never been interested in fiction and media), is excessively literal, and goes off on unexpected tangents. Only gradually, I came to see that she isn’t unaware of the subtext of what other people are saying, she’s instead hyperaware of it and is defending herself from their expectations, judgments, and demands, from sexism and racism; she deflects with literalism and her tangents (some of them very funny) are like a private sarcastic commentary to herself. It’s a shame she has no one she can let inside these barriers; not even her mother and brother.

  27. spinsterrevival says:

    I just finished Aubrey Gordon’s “YOU JUST NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT”: AND 19 OTHER MYTHS ABOUT FAT PEOPLE which was amazing. It covers so much and really explains anti-fat bias in a very accessible read (I listened to the audiobook but also checked out the ebook for further review). Highly recommend.

    In romance I’ve been reading the entire catalog of MM writer Charlie Novak in KU. Very comforting low-angst reads set in England. I started with the HEATHER BAY series recommended by Jeff from the “Big Gay Fiction Podcast” and have now been going through all of her books.

    Somehow Libby gave me a “Skip the line” loan for SPARE in audio which I just started. Have only listened to the intro so far, but I think it should be very interesting. Skip the line only allows a two week loan instead of three, so I’ll be mainlining it.

    FYI library and Kindle hack I use if it benefits anyone: I have an iPad with Kindle app (rather than a Kindle device), and if you’re running out of allowed checkouts in Libby/Overdrive (I check books out on the Overdrive website and read/listen in Libby), I select reading on Kindle which sends the book to my Kindle app. Then I’m able to return it to the library in Libby, but it still stays in Kindle for my three week checkout period. Hope that makes sense (and only works for books that have a Kindle version and not Overdrive only), but it makes me feel a bit better too that the next person in line for a book can check it out sooner too.

  28. Lauren says:

    I didn’t complete my reading goals last year and returned too many books to the library without finishing them. They weren’t DNFs, I just ran out of time. So I’m trying to start 2023 strong. I bought Spare using Amazon digital credits I racked up before Christmas so I will be diving into that soon. And totally coincidentally, I finally started Lucy Parker’s Battle Royale, which is about rival bakers/reality baking show judges competing to bake the cake for a big royal wedding. I’m not too far into it yet, but I’m enjoying it so far. It’s a sunshine/grump story and I do love a grumpy hero.

  29. Vasha says:

    @DDD: The Good Boy is one of my very favorite books for anguish-filled psychological drama. I thought the sequels were much weaker, though, and never re-read them.

  30. Big K says:

    Finished THE BONE ORCHARD. Dark, brutal, very satisfying, and really, really excellent. Hope this author keeps writing!

  31. Kareni says:

    @Karin, you are correct that I recommend Anne Cleeland’s Acton and Doyle books. I shall have to investigate The Barbary Mark.

  32. Kareni says:

    I don’t see my long post. Did I mistakenly post something that ought to have been redacted?

  33. Elle says:

    I’ve just discovered Kim McDougall’s Valkyrie Bestiary series, and I’m delighting in the rare sensation of being absorbed in the story. They’re available on Kindle Unlimited, which means that I can enjoy them without worrying about breaking my book budget. This is consolation for spending my Christmas self-gift on Denise Williams’ Do You Take This Man? which was highly recommended elsewhere, but which I found two-dimensional.

    I re-read Lauren Layne’s Wedding Belles series over the Christmas holiday, then started Susie Tate’s Maid for Advertising. I’ve enjoyed several of Susie Tate’s books, but I wasn’t in the mood for more romance reading, so I’ve put that book to one side for a while.

    In audiobooks, I’m listening to R.L. King’s The Lost Scion. This is Book 31 in the Alistair Stone fantasy series. I’ve enjoyed the majority of that series, but not all. So far, I’m enjoying The Lost Scion.

  34. Meg says:

    @Kareni: I don’t see any long post from you.
    @Maya: I, too, loved OLGA DIES DREAMING. But SPOIlER ALERT(!) for anyone who gets half-way through that book and then starts to really panic as I did: she doesn’t actually die, thank goodness.
    Fourteen days into the year and my favorites so far have not been romances. I loved KILLERS OF A CERTAIN AGE by Deanna Raybourn. I described it to my husband, and he said, “It sounds like “Red,” the 2010 movie with Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, and others, and he’s right. Lots of laughs and a good story about holding onto your moxie when others are counting you out. VIGIL HARBOR by Julia Glass was another good read that made me think. It takes place in New England 10-20 years into the future (the exact date is never given). Climate change has continued, some cities are gone, and the whole scenario was heart-breakingly realistic. My one comfort read was Lauren Layne’s PASSION ON PARK AVENUE which I happened to see in my Chirp library while I was checking to see if I owned something else. LL never fails to entertain. Hope this new year brings everyone hours of uninterrupted reading pleasure!

  35. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    @Kareni: it may just be me but if I try to post something more than about 1000 characters, it just disappears into the vapor. So I try to post nothing longer than that in a single post.

  36. Kareni says:

    Thank you, @Meg and @DDD.I will try to repost in shorter segments later.

  37. Kareni says:

    Last week of 2022 ~

    — Alliance (A Linesman Novel Book 2) by S. K. Dunstall along with a boatload of book samples.

  38. Kareni says:

    First week of 2023 ~

    — (A redacted title); I enjoyed this fantasy featuring an arranged marriage between men from two different kingdoms.
    — for my book group, Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman. This is not a book I would generally read (too much impending doom for my taste!), but it generated a good discussion.
    — (Another redacted title) This is a mystery set in space and is an update/reprise of the book/movie The Thin Man. I enjoyed it even though I am unfamiliar with the original.

  39. EC Spurlock says:

    My beloved son heard me waxing rhapsodic about how much I loved Viola Carr’s The Diabolical Miss Hyde and bought me a matching set of the other two volumes in the trilogy for Christmas. So I am happily wandering the fog-bound streets of Steampunk Alchemical London once again. I still feel like I missed an entire book though…

  40. Kareni says:

    Over the past week ~

    — the contemporary romance A Cosmic Kind of Love by Samantha Young which I enjoyed; it featured an astronaut and an event planner.Hard to believe that I last read one of the author’s books in 2015.
    — In November, I read with pleasure Artifact Space by Miles Cameron which I described as military science fiction. By signing up for the author’s mailing list, I received the free story/novella Gifts of the Magi by Miles Cameron which I enjoyed.
    — Shift Happens by T.M. Baumgartner; I quite enjoyed this urban fantasy featuring a woman in her fifties with hot flashes and bad knees. I look forward to reading more by the author.
    — stayed up late reading Regi’s Huuman (Gods of Misfortune Book 1) by Lyn Gala, a science fiction novel by a favorite author. I look forward to reading on in the series.

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