A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall

I keep trying to find regency romance novels that I like as much as Georgette Heyer’s and Jane Austen’s. While most of the books are fine, I don’t love them. This one was the same.

This a queer regency romance with a transgender woman as lead. It had great reviews and it is well done in parts. I liked the protagonist. As usual, I could have done without the male lead who was super angsty (dad issues, PTSD, physically disabled, drug addiction). I really liked the supporting best friend who was the lead’s sister-in-law. That was a good character.

My biggest issue with this book was that it was too long. I started in early January on vacation but it took me ages to read 15%; it was a very slow start. I contemplated giving up on it a few times before powering through to one third into the book. At that point, it did pick up in plot but I still found it all a bit too over written personally. I had to skim a lot to finish it.

I do think for people who read a lot of regency novels, this is probably one of the better ones. I think I preferred this over the Bridgerton in terms of quality of writing and characters. Therefore not for me personally but not bad overall.

I am going to stop picking up regency romances now. I keep hoping to replicate my love of the classics but it never does.

3/5 stars. Read on Kindle January 4-20, 2023.

Best of 2022 Books

Without going into personal stuff details too much, 2022 was a more difficult year than I had anticipated. It’s been a rough time with COVID-19. I really hope that personally and globally, we all recover. On a book front, I was able to maintain my reading goal of reading over 52 books every year. It was a decent year for reading books. I read 60 books which is not as good as 2021’s 70 but a great year in terms of quality books and audiobooks. This is by no means exhaustive and I really could not list all the good books I read this year.

For 2023, I am aiming to read more from my collection so less new books and more classics.

Audiobooks and Non Fiction

2022 was a great year for audiobooks. I was able to appreciate it more and listen to them while I was sick, knitting, or puzzling. The following are great books and well narrated.

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett – Not non-fiction but narration by Tom Hanks really made this novel.

General Fiction and Literary

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Young Adult and Children’s Fiction

Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster

Last Night at the the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Graphic Novels/Manga

Satoko and Nada series by Yupechika

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

I picked this one up in a little library in Sydney. It’s by an Australian author and set in Melbourne. I knew from initial impressions and some light reading on good reads that it was a “domestic thriller” similar to the work of Liane Moriarty. I debated about bringing it back but eventually decided to try for it as my plane reading.

My expectations were low because I don’t really read a lot of these domestic thrillers. Upon reflection when I have read the popular ones, I don’t mind them as much as say modern romance novels.

I found myself liking this more than expected. I did figure our the twist half way. I didn’t love the romance or abuse survivor storylines. I think these thrillers use trauma too much as a plot device. The resolutions to these storylines was a bit too neat as well.

What was good is the author seems to really know middle class women and to a certain extent, a woman from a poorer background. Of course the women are all white and most of it happened in a very privileged setting. Still, I found myself actually liking and relating to the women in the book. They were all messed up but the author had a nice way of showing their relatability.

As a novel published in Australia by an Australian, I found moments and words which were for that audience and would likely have been changed for international readers. I liked that after my own experience travelling in the country.

Not bad pulp fiction. Didn’t regret reading it and it kept me occupied for a few hours. Sometimes these kind of novels are great for travel.

3.5/5 stars. Read January 13, 2023.

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham

John Wyndham was an English sci-fi author known for his works published in the mid-20th century. I read The Chrysalids by John Wyndham as assigned reading in middle school and remember it leaving an impression. It was helped by the fact that I had one of my favourite English teachers at the time. In any case, I wanted to try more Wyndham especially since this book is in the 1001 Books list and I managed to get a copy.

The premise that a small town of women are suddenly impregnated after a day out through xenogenesis is horrible. The concepts in this book and in Wyndham’s books make him one of the most interesting of sci-fi authors. Having read David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, I can see how Wyndham influenced them more so with the Chrysalids though.

It has been decades since I read the Chrysalids so I can’t offer a great comparison on the writing except that the children in that book were the central characters. Here, the children are the antagonists. The writing feels a bit heavy handed since it’s a bunch of mostly male adults talking a lot. There are not enough from the female characters at all which is disappointing given that they suffer so much by the plot.

I do think the themes and the creepiness make this book and Wyndham’s interesting.

3.5/5 stars. Read January 3-4, 2022.

What I Watched – Autumn and Holidays 2022/23

Rick & Morty Season 6 – This was the only show I was watching in the autumn.

Free Guy (13 11 22) – Fun. Sweet rom com. Great cast. Mindless entertainment

Knives Out: Glass Onion – Very fun! I thought Janelle Monae was great in this and I continue to adore Daniel Craig’s Blanc character. I am so happy that this series is living up to the first film.

My Kitchen Rules AU – I was actually really pleased by the winners.

Only Murders in the Building season 1 & 2 – Funny. We loved this. Growing up I remember watching a lot of Steve Martin movies and his comedy style is silly and often wholesome. A bit predictable for me as someone who reads mystery but the comedy is top notch. I also like the chemistry between the three leads.

Julia Season 1 (13 01 23)- Started on plane and finished at home. Very great plane watching as it has some of my favourite things: food, mid-century decor and fashion, female characters, and a great cast! Uplifting and sweet. Also as someone who loves Frasier, the many scenes between Bebe Neuwith with and David Hyde Pearce feels like a spiritual successor to Frasier. The show’s writing is not perfect and the artistic license taken with the lives of real people and the social issues is clunky. However, relationships and acting and design are one point.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

I packed this classic and another for my time abroad. I’m trying to read from my stash and in particular, classics. This one was a quick novella that I should have read it sooner. It was an hour and some change in a beautiful park on a sunny day down under. Location was better than the novel. While not bad exactly, it was a parable novel which the short intro forewarns. It does not have rich character work. I read that it is taught widely in middle and high school and has that assigned reading feeling about it. I still like Steinbeck and should re-read East of Eden one day.

3/5 stars. Read January 1, 2023.

A Suitable Boy by Virkram Seth

This review is overdue. I am writing and finishing it now in another country but posting it after my holiday. This novel was the last novel I read in 2022 and one of the best.

This is a true classic. It is well written with a large, diverse cast of characters, some that you root for and some that you love to hate. It feels humane and true to life. It’s very similar to classics such as War and Peace, Far from the Madding Crowd,, Middlemarch (which I haven’t read yet but it always feels like I have), and Jane Austen novels.

This is one of the longest single volume novels in English literature. I was fortunate to read this over the course of three days including Remembrance Day so I did not have to work. I was was feeling poorly due to my covid booster but it allowed me to get through most of this novel thankfully.

Like the war parts War and Peace, I did find the political aspects of the novel a tad boring and my attention waned. Other than that, everything else was engrossing. The characters are rich. Everything happens in the space of the year but it did not feel tedious or long. I did worry that things would not resolve quickly enough because the pace was not as quick as it could have been. Then again, that sort of reflects life.

There is some tragedy and I was surprised that I was triggered by a mentally ill character in this novel. One of the characters experiences episodes of psychosis. I’ve had experiences with someone very close to me who has gone through it. I felt very sad and disturbed when reading the passages.

I know a sequel was announced about 14 years ago, and I am looking forward to it whenever it does get published.

Reading this novel reminded how much I love classics and reminded me about the 1001 books list. I revived it and will aim to read more classical books fro my stash in 2023.

4.5/5 stars. Read November 10-12, 2022. Review finished January 1, 2023.

October 2022 Books

Dreams 1-2-3: Remember, Interpret, and Live Your Dreams by J.M. DeBord and The History of Last Night’s Dream: Discovering the Hidden Path to the Soul by Rodger Kamenetz

I’ve been going through a personal dream project for the last couple of years. It’s taken me awhile to get to the research given my life. I finally got around to them. These are the fourth or fifth book I’ve read on these. Most don’t really satisify what I am looking for. The first one here had some good tips for intereptation but nothing that intrigued. The second one really started well but then sort of meandered too much into the Judea-Christian and psychiatric Freud history of dreams that did not interest me. After this, I became much more discerning and flipped through a few more dream books which I returned without really reading. 3/5 stars and 2.5/5 stars.

October 1, 2022 and October 1-8, 2022.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Of all the East Asian fantasy novels that I’ve read in the past year, this is by far the most Chinese. It has a protagonist with a hidden past and a journey of training and discovery. It’s true Chinese historical fantasy love drama including a complicated political love triangle with lots of angst. There is betrayal, messiness and back and forth relationships. I actually think I’d try watching an adaption if it was ever remade as a C-drama. I wonder if it’s doing well in East Asia. Enjoyable and looking forward to the sequel. 4.5/5 stars.

Read October 10-14, 2022.

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

See blog post here. 4/5 stars.

The Rule of 30: A Better Way to Save for Retirement by Frederick Vettese

This finance book is written as a novel of a couple who learn financial lessons from an actuarial neighbour. It’s a good way of explaining information and there were a couple of things I did find interesting that weren’t covered as much in other personal finance books including the importance of demographics in interest rates. I did find myself a bit pessimistic about saving for retirement because the book has a formula predicting people’s lives including first house, kids, second house, paying off mortgage, retiring at 65 etc. This book was published last year right before inflation started going up. While the author/characters acknowledge black swan events and disability affecting working age, I found it depressing given that we are currently in a recession and also, a lot of people of my generation won’t be able to get a home with house prices. I am extremely grateful we have a condo, but I do not really want to work until I’m 65 or 70. I learned a couple of things but it kinda made me sad given the times we are in. 3/5 stars.

Read October 18, 2022.

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Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

In 2009, I owned a copy of this book when I lived in London. As with a few other books I had there, I never got around to reading it due to my graduate studies. These books became casualties of my move when I left. Since then, I continued to want to read it especially after reading March by the same author. In the last year, I heard someone in my book club read and I also found a copy of this in a Little Library. It seemed that the universe was telling me to finally read this book.

I really like Brooks’ writing style and how she researches a time period and historical events but weaves ordinary characters into them. She did the same here as she did in March where she has people in history acting as best they can in extraordinary circumstances. I like her prose and character writing and will read more from her.

Both novels are about difficult times and there is a lot of death. It actually got too grim and bleak as so many bad things happened to the characters in this book. Thankfully it’s not too long. I won’t recommend this book to people because there is very little levity in it.

I do appreciate how Brooks wrote about a time in history that I don’t see covered a lot in literary or contemporary novels. I wish there were more interesting novels about the 1600’s and 1700’s in the old world. The epilogue was satisfying and intriguing. That could be a whole novel in itself. At the core of this novel is a strong friendship between two women of different classes and wish we had even more of it.

4/5 stars. Read October 15-17, 2022.

September 2022 Books

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

This was a lovely YA novel. It’s is a queer love story and very good historical fiction. I found the writing mature and well done. If the main protagonist was a few years older, I could see how this could have been marketed as an adult novel. Really well done

Read Sept 5, 2022

The Maid by Nita Prosse

I noticed this bestseller mystery awhile back and was intrigued by the cover and the concept of the maid in an escape mystery. The protagonist maid is neurodivgerent and this reminded me of Curious Incident of Dog in the Night time. The plot was obvious and depended a lot on the naivety of the title character. I have mixed feelings on how the author leaned into this because it was part of the story that the character was gullible for a time. There is an additional twist at the end which I appreciated but I don’t think I liked this enough to read another book from the author.

Read September 7, 2022.

The Hygge Holiday by Rosie Blake

I shouldn’t have read this but I wanted something so mindless. This not something I normally read. It’s basically a Hallmark Christmas movie. The characters are all two dimensionally drawn and most of them are not that likeable. The ending is super sappy. I’m wondering if I should be pickier with my books these days. Thank goodness I read fast.

Read September 23-24, 2022.

Reticence (The Custard Protocol #4) by Gail Carriger

I have been reading this series for a few years now. They are mindless steampunk urban fantasy fun. Most of the characters are enjoyable and the author has added onto them over the years. I have read most but not all of this series. I did not know this book was the last in the series until the end. I felt a bit sad that it was over. I gave it a 4 for the solid end to the journey.

Read September 18-25, 2022.

August 2022 Books

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

I loved this. It really helped relax me during a very bad weekend. I love the use of East Asian fairy tales and iconography. There was not enough of the dragon character. I liked all the characters. I also loved how the author subverted one particular fairytale staple. Very fun. I can’t wait for the second book coming out later this month. I already have the author’s first series lined up on my bookshelf.

Read July 31-Aug 1, 2022.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book is a bestseller. I had heard good things from members of my book club. I liked the old Hollywood era and know about it from my love of old movies. I really liked the characters and the romance. The writing is also really clear. There is something really straight forward in Reid’s prose which makes her novel so easy to read. I have Daisy Jones and the Six on audiobook so I will get that next and read her other works too.

Read Aug 2-5, 2022.

Dirt: Adventures, with Family, in the Kitchens of Lyon, Looking for the Origins of French Cooking by Bill Buford.

I read Heat many years ago and remembered vaguely liking it. This one was much longer and I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author. I didn’t warm to Buford’s narration for the first few chapters, but I came to enjoy the stories of his working in the French kitchens and all the characters he meets. Sometimes the book meanders on the origins of the French Cooking without much definition. The best part to me was the reflections and connections on the history in the region. While I have not been to Lyon, I have actually lived in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes so I could picture the landscape. It made me miss France and the French language which has become very rusty in the last 6 years. Not necessarily a memoirs that I would recommend unless one really likes French food and history.

Listened July 30-Aug 11, 2022.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

This was different and engrossing even though there were definite moments where I was annoyed with the two leads. It features too many characters and was a bit slow to start, but it’s a fascinating look at class and coming of age in 1950s Naples. Not hard to read but not easy either because I grew to appreciate both the leads. The book ends with a wedding but it’s not a happy one. I have all the novels in this quartet and will make my way through them slowly.

Read August 16-18, 2022.

The Girl From The Other Side: Siúil, A Rún, Vol. 10

This volume has background on the main character and a revelation. The background was good but the revelation at the end makes me think the ending won’t be satisfying.

Read August 28, 2022.

The Girl From The Other Side: Siúil, A Rún, Vol. 11

The ending was confusing and odd. It’s bittersweet. Not sure how I felt about it.

Read August 31, 2022.

What I’m Watching Lately – August 2022

“Emma” (2020) – This was okay. The Romola Garai 2006 mini series is still the best. I think Anna Taylor Joy can act but her and the script did not make her Emma sympathetic enough at the start. Emma is very annoying in the book but you still get a sense of how much she loves the people around her. This one showed her as a tad too manipulative of Harriet. Everyone seemed more miserable and they played it laughs which I did not find as funny. There was too much crying in the second half. I liked the supporting actors like Bill Nighy and Miranda Hart. The movie did look good with its costumes, settings, and decor.

“Call my Agent! / Dix Pour Cent” Season 4 – I really like this show and I’m glad I caught up. My French is so rusty now! In any case, this was was suppose to be the final season and there seemed to be great character development with all the characters. We am cancelling Netflix for awhile but maybe I’ll get it back for this in the future.

“Running Man” (primarily 2010-2013) – I have watched a couple of eps of this show before and it’s unavoidable if you know East or South East Asia media. I never really got into it until now. The Yoon Eun Hye teasing was one of the reasons I wanted to try the earlier episodes. I’ve seen a number of episodes in the last couple weeks. I’m still in the sub 200 ep range. I will not watch everything and there are resources to tell me the best eps thankfully. It’s been a fun journey.