Top Ten Tuesday: Random Shelf Picks

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a fun one: Grab 10 titles randomly from your shelves, and share your thoughts if you’ve read them. I did a digital version of this, using a random number generator to pick 10 books from my LibraryThing catalog (the bigger the number, the longer I’ve owned the book). Here’s what it came up with, and I must say, it’s a pretty good representative snapshot of my library!

1. Francis Spufford, Light Perpetual (27) — I haven’t read this one yet, but I picked it up at a library sale after loving Spufford’s previous novel, Golden Hill.

2. Megan Whalen Turner, The Queen of Attolia (612) — I absolutely adore this YA fantasy series set in a world similar to Ancient Greece. This is book #2, and it’s got action and violence and strategy and a really compelling romance. Can’t recommend it highly enough, but you should definitely read book #1, The Thief, first!

3. Robin LaFevers, Grave Mercy (224) — Historical fantasy set in medieval Brittany with killer nuns! What’s not to love?

4. Bud MacFarlane Jr., Pierced by a Sword (795) — This novel was super important for my faith and spiritual development; it’s not an exaggeration to say it changed my life. However, I haven’t read it in years, and I think it is maybe not actually a very good novel? It was just the right book at the right time for me.

5. Mary Balogh, A Counterfeit Proposal / The Notorious Rake (169) — I really like Mary Balogh’s historical romances, particularly her older titles. The Notorious Rake is a favorite; the hero is pretty terrible at first but has a great redemption arc, and the pragmatic, intelligent heroine is a delight.

6. Genevieve Cogman, The Masked City (273) — Haven’t read this one yet, but I bought it after enjoying book #1 in the series, The Invisible Library. Maybe next year I’ll finally get around to continuing with the series!

7. Darcie Wilde, A Useful Woman (164) — I remember liking this historical mystery set in Regency England. I plan to reread it this year and then continue with the series, which I think is up to five or six books now.

8. Rex Stout, Fer-de-Lance / The League of Frightened Men (432) — This volume contains the first two Nero Wolfe mystery novels. So far I’ve only read Fer-de-Lance, but I liked it and have been meaning to continue with the series.

9. Susan Conroy, Mother Teresa’s Lessons of Love and Secrets of Sanctity (866) — I think someone gave this to me as a gift, and I haven’t read it yet. In fact, it may not even be on my shelves anymore . . . I seem to recall lending it to someone and never getting it back!

10. Connie Willis, Crosstalk (315) — Connie Willis is probably my favorite sci-fi author. I’ve read this book about romance and telepathy twice so far, and I loved it both times!

Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors in 2022

This week’s topic is another look back at 2022, this time to think about the best new-to-you authors you discovered last year. I didn’t fall in love with that many new authors, and I’ve only read one book by most of the folks on my list, but all 10 are authors I’d like to read more by. So, without further ado (and in no particular order), here they are:

1. Virginia HeathNever Fall for Your Fiancée caught my eye because of the catchy title and fake relationship trope (one of my favorites!), and I enjoyed it enough to continue with the Merriwell Sisters series. I may wade into her backlist when I’m looking for something light and insubstantial.

2. Claudia GrayThe Murder of Mr. Wickham is one of the few Austen spinoffs I’ve really enjoyed, and I’m excited to read the sequel when it comes out this year!

3. Kerry Winfrey — I was so delighted by the author’s voice (and love of rom-coms) in Waiting for Tom Hanks that I read two more Winfrey books in 2022!

4. T. Kingfisher — An author I’ve been hearing great things about for years, and I’m so glad I finally gave her a try!  Both Nettle and Bone and Bryony and Roses are magnificent.

5. Susanna Craig — I’m a sucker for historical romance that involves espionage, so when the first few books in her Love and Let Spy series went on sale as e-books, I snapped them up! So far I’ve read and enjoyed the first two, and I’m looking forward to book #3, Better Off Wed.

6. Sophie Irwin — More historical romance! I really liked A Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting and am eager to read her next book, which is coming out this summer.

7. Sarah Mayberry — I was very pleasantly surprised by Her Favorite Rival (too steamy for my taste, but well written with great characters), so I’m interested in checking out some of her other contemporary romances.

8. Megan BannenThe Undertaking of Hart and Mercy was one of my favorite books of 2022, and I’m so interested to see what she’ll do next! I loved the mix of fantasy, romance, and quirky charm.

9. John Dickson Carr — Interestingly, this is the only male author on my list! Castle Skull was maybe not the ideal book for me (a little more horror/gothic than traditional mystery), but I am definitely eager to read more of Carr’s books! He’s supposed to be the master of the locked room/impossible crime, which intrigues me.

10. Lynn Painter — I quite liked Better Than the Movies and already have both The Do-Over and The Love Wager on my TBR list!

Top Ten Tuesday: First Half of 2023

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is our 10 most anticipated books releasing in the first half of 2023. So far, I can only come up with 8 books, but I’m sure I’ll be adding to that number once I look at some other people’s lists! Anyway, here are the new releases for January to June that I’m most excited about, in publication order:

1. Benjamin Stevenson, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone (January 17) — As a mystery lover, I really can’t resist that title! Plus, I remember reading a very positive review of it (it’s already out in the UK), so I have high hopes!

2. Kate Clayborn, Georgie, All Along (January 24) — I’ve really enjoyed Clayborn’s contemporary romances, so even though second-chance romance is not my favorite trope, I’ve already put this one on hold at my library.

3. Lynn Painter, The Love Wager (March 14) — I enjoyed Painter’s Better Than the Movies enough to try one of her adult titles, and I like the premise of this one: Two people agree to help each other find love, not realizing they are each other’s perfect match.

4. Emily Henry, Happy Place (April 25) — Henry writes some great banter, so I’m excited for her latest romance, even though I’m not sure the setup is for me (a recently broken-up couple pretends to still be together during their friend group’s annual vacation).

5. Ashley Weaver, Playing It Safe (May 9) — I’m really enjoying the Electra McDonnell series of mysteries set during World War II, and I’m excited for this latest installment. I hope there will be some movement on the romance (I’m Team Ramsey)!

6. Claudia Gray, The Late Mrs. Willoughby (May 16) — As a die-hard Austen fan, I usually find the modern sequels and spinoffs underwhelming. But I actually really liked The Murder of Mr. Wickham and am happy to be getting a sequel, especially since (I assume) the author won’t have to service quite as many Austen characters in this installment.

7. Ali Hazelwood, Love, Theoretically (June 13) — I find myself in a strange position with respect to Ali Hazelwood; I don’t think her writing style or brand of romance is really for me, yet I’m still compelled by her books! I’m hoping this one will be a little lighter on the heroine’s quirks and the hero’s giant muscles, but that does seem to be her brand, so we’ll see.

8. Mary Balogh, Remember Me (June 20) — Balogh is one of my favorite historical romance authors, so I’m excited to continue with her latest series. I didn’t love the first installment, Remember Love, but now that the world and characters have been established, I’m hoping this one will be better.

Top Ten Tuesday: 2022 Favorites

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a Top Ten Tuesday post, but I’ve been dying to discuss my favorite reads of 2022 anyway, so this is the perfect opportunity! Below are the top 10 books I read in 2022, not counting rereads. The books weren’t necessarily published in 2022, but I read them all for the first time last year. The list isn’t ranked by my preference; I just listed the books in the order in which I read them, since I find it impossible to crown an absolute favorite.

Based on my recent reading habits, I’m not surpised to see many romances on the list — in fact, I think all the books contain a prominent romantic storyline! Nine of the ten were written by women. One author (T. Kingfisher) appears twice, which means I definitely need to read a lot more of her books! And as usual, I gravitated toward the light, fun, and warm-hearted rather than the bleak and depressing.

So, did you read any of these, and did you like them as much as I did? What trends have you noticed in your own reading recently? And of course, what were your favorite reads of 2022?

1. Mary Balogh, Only a Kiss — One of my favorite installments of the Survivors’ Club series, featuring an extremely charming hero whose charm deserts him in the presence of the heroine.

2. Kerry Winfrey, Waiting for Tom Hanks — A delightful ode to romantic comedies with a lot of great dialogue.

3. T. Kingfisher, Nettle and Bone — Immersive fantasy with excellent characters and strong Robin McKinley vibes. I definitely need to read a lot more by this author!

4. Craig Rice, Eight Faces at Three — A fun and fast-paced The Thin Man-esque mystery. Don’t think too hard about the plot; just enjoy watching the sleuths crack wise and down far too many drinks.

5. T. Kingfisher, Bryony and Roses — One of my favorite Beauty and the Beast retellings, and that’s really saying something!

6. Mhairi McFarlane, Mad about You — Compelling women’s fiction/romance about a woman with a history of bad relationships who falls for the guy she’s renting a room from. One of McFarlane’s best, I think.

7. Loretta Chase, Lord Perfect — A Regency romance with wonderful main characters, especially the hero; I loved watching the duty-bound, uptight, emotionally repressed Benedict slowly unravel as he falls in love!

8. Lois McMaster Bujold, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance — Honestly, I could have populated this entire list with books from the Vorkosigan saga, but I decided to restrain myself and pick only my favorite. I just adore Ivan! Plus there’s a treasure hunt, multiple romances, and a few thrilling heroics, so what’s not to love?

9. Francis Spufford, Golden Hill — A romp of a historical novel set in 1746 Manhattan. It’s so much fun, and so perfect in style and tone, that I can forgive the somewhat heartbreaking ending.

10. Megan Bannen, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy — A mashup of romance, Western, and zombie novel that seems too weird to work, but it totally does! I loved the Shop around the Corner/You’ve Got Mail aspect of the plot.

Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors

Wow, it’s been forever since I’ve done a Top Ten Tuesday! But I’d like to start participating more regulaly, and this week’s topic is a fun one: ten authors I discovered in 2021 whom I’d like to read more of. It’s always great to discover a new author, especially if he/she has a substantial backlist for me to sink my teeth into!

1. Katherine Center — I love her bright, vibrant book covers so much, and I was delighted to discover that the books themselves are just as enjoyable! I really liked both Things You Save in a Fire and How to Walk Away, and I definitely plan to seek out more of her books.

2. Charlotte Armstrong — I never say no to a vintage mystery, but they tend to vary in quality, so I truly didn’t suspect (pun intended) how much I’d enjoy The Unsuspected! I already have another Armstrong book, The Chocolate Cobweb, on my shelves waiting to be read.

3. Richard Osman — I absolutely devoured the first and second books in the Thursday Murder Club series, and I can’t wait for book #3 to come out!

4. Amor Towles — I’m wary of books that get too much hype, but I truly think A Gentleman in Moscow deserves it all. I’ve already picked up Rules of Civility and hope to get to it soon.

5. Uzma Jalaluddin — I found Hana Khan Carries On a very enjoyable contemporary romance with a new-to-me perspective. Jalaluddin has also written a Pride and Prejudice retelling, Ayesha at Last, so obviously I need to read it as well!

6. India HoltonThe Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels was, for me, sheer delight. The sequel is already on my Amazon wishlist, even though it doesn’t come out until March.

7. Ann Granger — I love a historical mystery, but I feel like a lot of the books out there are pretty cookie-cutter, and the characters are 21st-century people in (not always accurate) period costume. But I really enjoyed Granger’s The Companion and plan to continue with the series.

8. Paulette JilesNews of the World honestly blew me away. I’m a little afraid to try any of her other books, for fear they won’t be as good!

9. Emily Henry — This author has gotten a lot of hype in the past year or two, and after reading People We Meet on Vacation, I can totally see why. I love a smart, well-written rom-com with some truly excellent banter! Henry’s next novel, Book Lovers, comes out in May, and I cannot wait!

10. Anne Gracie — I read a lot of perfectly fine Regency romances, but I hardly ever get excited about a new-to-me author in the genre. However, I loved The Winter Bride so much that I’ve already purchased The Autumn Bride. I really hope I enjoy Gracie’s other books and series as much as TWB!

Top Ten Tuesday: Mardi Gras

It’s been a while, but I wanted to participate in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. In honor of Mardi Gras, we’re supposed to pick 10 books with purple, yellow, and/or green covers. I found this surprisingly difficult; purple covers seem pretty scarce, at least in my own library! Nevertheless, here are 10 books on my shelves with Mardi Gras covers, all of which I’ve read and enjoyed (except His at Night, which I haven’t gotten to yet). Which of these have you read?

Top Ten Tuesday: Judging books by their covers

TTT Christmas

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is a cover freebie, so even though we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, that’s exactly what I’m doing this week! Below are ten nine covers of books I own (or formerly owned), all of which I really like. I wouldn’t call them all beautiful (though many are), but they’re all appealing to me in some way, and in some cases they even contributed to my buying the book!

Midnight Queen, TheDarker Shade of Magic, A*Nightingale

1. Sylvia Izzo Hunter, The Midnight Queen — I don’t often do this, but I’m pretty sure I did buy this book based solely on how gorgeous the cover is!

2. V. E. Schwab, Shades of Magic series — The covers for this series, designed by Will Staehle, are so striking! I love the neutral beige and black with that pop of red.

3. Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale — I really like the colors on this cover, especially the author’s name in aqua and the title and bird/flower design in yellow. (The yellow is brighter in person than in this photo!)

*Essex SerpentGreenglass House*Wildwood Dancing

4. Sarah Perry, The Essex Serpent — I love a super ornate cover, and this one also has a fun raised/embossed texture!

5. Kate Milford, Greenglass House — This cover is absolutely stunning, and it looks exactly the way Greenglass House is described in the book.

6. Juliet Marillier, Wildwood Dancing — I really like the cover artist, Kinuko Y. Craft. Her paintings are so detailed, lush, and fantastical; they really evoke the magic of the story.

*Study in Scarlet Women*September Society*Secret History of the Pink Carnation

7. Sherry Thomas, A Study in Scarlet Women — This is such a great cover for a historical mystery. I love the darkness of the room contrasted with the light behind the door, and the woman’s red dress being the only spot of color apart from the light sources.

8. Charles Finch, Charles Lenox series — Each book in this series features three of the same type of object on the cover, and the center one is always broken or “wrong” in some way (like the bloodred ink dripping from the second pen here). It’s such a clever concept, and I’m sad it’s no longer being used for the prequels.

9. Lauren Willig, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation — I’ve always liked art-based covers for historical novels, and this is a gorgeous example. The first few books in the series followed a similar style, but unfortunately the cover art changed partway through the series. Don’t you hate when that happens?!

Top Ten Tuesday: Early 2020 releases

TTT Christmas

Appropriately, the first Top Ten Tuesday topic of 2020 is the books whose publication in the first half of 2020 you’re most excited about. I’m not totally current with all this year’s upcoming releases, but here are six books I’m looking forward to reading (couldn’t think of a full 10!):

1. Lucy Parker, Headliners (1/28) — Lucy Parker is an auto-buy author for me, so of course I can’t wait to devour her latest book, which is about rival TV personalities who are forced to work together and who eventually fall in love. I’ve already preordered this book and can’t wait to get my hands on it!

2. Lottie Lucas, Ten Things My Cat Hates about You (3/5) — This looks like a cute little rom-com about a woman whose cat keeps thwarting her attempts at romance, until she experiences two meet-cutes in a single day and must choose which relationship to pursue. It’s being pitched as perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Lindsey Kelk, and Mhairi McFarlane, so we’ll see!

3. Beth O’Leary, The Switch (3/19) — After loving O’Leary’s debut novel, The Flatshare, I am 100% on board for whatever she writes next!

4. Emily Henry, Beach Read (5/19) — I am so intrigued by the premise of this novel: a man who writes critically acclaimed literary fiction and a woman who writes best-selling romance novels end up vacationing in neighboring beach houses. They’re both suffering from writer’s block, so they challenge each other to step out of their comfort zones: the man will write a romance and the woman will write a “Great American Novel.”

5. Jessie Mihalik, Chaos Reigning (5/19) — I enjoyed the first two books in Mihalik’s Consortium Rebellion series, so I’m looking forward to reading this next installment of the series, which might be the final book.

6. Natalie Jenner, The Jane Austen Society (5/26) — From the Amazon synopsis, this book sounds like a read-alike of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, except with an emphasis on the works of Jane Austen. Which could be very disappointing . . . but if done right, it could be my new favorite book! So, fingers crossed!

What books are you most excited for in 2020? What should I be adding to my TBR list?

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite books of 2019

TTT Christmas

Somehow it’s New Year’s Eve already, and the year 2019 is coming to an end. So it’s only fitting that this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic asks us to list our 10 favorite books of the year. I’ve had a really good reading year overall, so it was hard for me to narrow down my list! But here, in the order in which I read them, are my 10 favorite books of 2019:

1. McKelle George, Speak Easy, Speak Love — I loved this 1920s-era retelling of Much Ado about Nothing. It was the first book I read in 2019, and it just might be my number-one book of the year!

2. Meagan Spooner, Hunted — I never thought I’d love a Beauty and the Beast retelling as much as Robin McKinley’s Beauty, but this one comes pretty darn close!

3. AJ Pearce, Dear Mrs. Bird — This poignant World War II novel hit the same sweet spot as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, for me. I believe Pearce has a sequel planned, and I’m dying to read it!

4. Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine — I liked this book more than I was expecting to; its portrayal of loneliness is moving and sad, but the ending still manages to be uplifting.

5. Lucy Parker, The Austen Playbook — I adore Parker’s contemporary romances set in London’s theater world. This one involves a grumpy hero and an Austen-themed murder mystery TV show, so what’s not to love?

6. Mary Balogh, The Notorious Rake — I’m not really a fan of the “reformed rake” trope, but the hero of this book totally sold me on it. He’s awful at the beginning, but he truly does grow and change throughout the book — and he’s able to repair many relationships in his life, not just the one between him and the heroine.

7. Beth O’Leary, The Flatshare — It seems that romantic comedies are making a comeback (yay!), and this one is so well written and charming! I look forward to O’Leary’s next book, which is coming out sometime in 2020.

8. Ann Patchett, Bel Canto — This was my first Patchett novel, but it probably won’t be my last. A hostage situation turns into something quite different as guards and prisoners come together through the power of music.

9. Margaret Rogerson, Sorcery of Thorns — Just when I was getting sick of YA fantasy novels, this one came along and reminded me of how creative, intriguing, and fun they can be! I loved the witty banter, the slow-burn romance, and the world of the novel, in which books of magic can literally come alive.

10. Alix E. Harrow, The Ten Thousand Doors of January — Some books are written so well that you sink into them immediately and fall under their spell. This was one of those books, for me — it just felt like magic. If you don’t mind a slower-paced, more character-driven novel, you should definitely give this one a try.

Happy New Year, everyone, and may you read only wonderful books in 2020! 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: Winter (reading) is coming

TTT Christmas

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Top Ten Tuesday, but I always like to check in for the seasonal TBR posts! So below, in no particular order, are 10 books I’m looking forward to reading this winter.

1. J. Jefferson Farjeon, Mystery in White — What is it about Christmas that makes it the perfect season for (fictional) murder and mayhem? I’m excited to read this vintage mystery about a group of people who get snowed in on Christmas Eve with a killer.

2. Erica Ridley, The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation — I got this for free on my Nook some time ago, but I never got around to reading it! The setup sounds fun: the hero wants to cancel his Christmas party, while the heroine insists that he go through with it. I love a “managing female” in a historical romance! (It looks like this may also be published as The Viscount’s Tempting Minx, but I prefer my title!)

3. Rachel Winters, Would Like to Meet — This one has an adorable premise for rom-com fans. The heroine, Evie, works for a film agency whose star screenwriter has a bad case of writer’s block. He’s supposed to write a rom-com, so in an effort to inspire him, Evie sets out to meet a man using the meet-cute techniques of various romantic comedies. Obviously, this book is already on hold at my library!

4. Kate Milford, Greenglass House — I still love a good middle-grade novel, and this one seems to have great reviews. Plus, it’s set in winter, and it involves a mysterious old house and smugglers and possibly ghosts. Also, the cover is incredible!

5. Cecilia Grant, A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong — Honestly, just give me all the holiday-themed historical romance novellas. This one has an exuberant heroine and a stuffy, uptight hero (my favorite!) who get stranded in a carriage alone together. Gee, I wonder if they’ll fall in love!

6. Katherine Arden, The Winter of the Witch — Since I loved the first two books in the Winternight trilogy, I’m surprised I haven’t gotten around to the third and final installment yet! But winter is definitely the perfect time to immerse myself in the setting of this book, a fantastical version of medieval Russia.

7. Laura Wood, Under a Dancing Star — I’m a sucker for a Much Ado about Nothing retelling, and Emma at The Terror of Knowing gave this one a wonderful review, so I’m excited to read it! A bit nervous, too, because I loved Speak Easy, Speak Love so much when I read it at the beginning of this year. Will this one measure up?

8. Kate Clayborn, Love Lettering — I’m excited for this romantic comedy to come out on December 31. The heroine has a hand-lettering business, and the hero comes looking for her when he finds a secret she thought she’d hidden in her calligraphy patterns. As someone who can spend hours in a stationery store, I’m very intrigued!

9. Alan Rusbridger, Play It Again: An Amateur against the Impossible — Rusbridger is a former editor of the Guardian, but he’s also an amateur pianist. This book details his quest to learn Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, an extremely difficult piano piece, in the course of one year. As an amateur pianist myself, I’m really interested in his process, and I may even decide to follow in his footsteps! (I actually own the music already, but I’ve never read past the first couple of pages.) Maybe this will be one of my New Year’s Resolutions!

10. Lucy Parker, Headliners — Parker is an auto-buy author for me, so naturally I’m chomping at the bit to read her next London Celebrities book, due out on January 28. This one features Sabrina, Freddy’s sister from The Austen Playbook, and her professional rival. When they’re forced to work together, they’re also forced to confront their true feelings. Enemies-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes, and again, it’s Lucy Parker . . . of course I preordered it months ago!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve listed a lot of romance and a lot of books set during winter/Christmas. What about you — have you noticed any trends in your winter reading? What books are on your list?