Book Recommendations

Monday Book Talk

Another new thing here on the blog, is Monday Book Talk. It’s not reviews, it’s not promo for my own books. It’s just me, talking about books I read and liked. There may be a specific theme or trope, or there may be something else connecting them. There aren’t really any rules, just book talk. Because what’s better than talking about books?

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When I traveled to Sweden (I’m back home in Malaysia now, YAY!), I downloaded books to my e-reader I’d read before. It’s perfect to re-read old favorites when spending 14 hours on a plane. I picked two books on the same theme: a main character receiving a wrong-number text and love ensues.


Textual Relations by Cate Ashwood:

Evolutionary psychology professor Henry Hathaway is ready to spend his birthday the same way he does every year: a good teeth cleaning followed by dinner with his brother. But when he receives a wrong-number text confirming the details of a date, he does what any considerate person would—he goes to meet them and explain why they’ve been stood up.

Asher Wescott hadn’t expected his blind date to go well, because when do they ever? Henry shows up instead, and things are suddenly looking up. Socially awkward and attached to his routines, Henry is nevertheless one of the most charming and kind men Asher has met in a long time.

Too bad he’s not Henry’s type.

An accidental date, an impulsive kiss, and a few conflicted feelings later, can Asher get Henry to see the world—and him—in a different light?

Textual Attraction by K-lee Klein:

Lewis has spent most of his adult life looking after his aging parents, and he recently ended a relationship with a domineering guy who’d been nothing but bad for him. Despite his less-than-stellar track record with men, he’s still hopeful there’s someone out there for him, but he’s learned to be careful with his heart. So he can’t figure out why a cryptic, gruff, drunken voice mail from a stranger named Jerry doesn’t make him hit the DELETE button. It’s clear the man’s got the wrong number. But when Jerry begins to text, Lewis finally responds, saying he’s not the guy Jerry wants. Jerry, however, is nothing if not persistent, and he keeps texting and teasing Lewis, even after he knows the truth.

Lewis is surprised when something sparks between them. Jerry turns out to be charming and witty, and they develop an odd friendship through text messages. When Jerry suggests they finally meet in person, Lewis is apprehensive, yet curious. Can he take the big step to meet Jerry face-to-face? More importantly, can he maybe even trust Jerry with his heart?

Even though they have the same main theme, the books are very different. Henry in Textual Relations is the world’s most clueless person (in an adorable way) who doesn’t realize he’s on a date with a man. Lewis in Textual Attraction is super annoyed by Jerry’s texts at first: Jerry doesn’t believe in punctuation and uses lots of emojis which irritates Lewis to no end.

Lewis and Jerry keep texting for quite some time before they finally meet, while Henry and Asher meet the same evening Asher sent the text to the wrong person. Lewis is burned by a previous relationship, while Henry doesn’t even know he’s gay, or at least bi.

What the books have in common is that they’re adorable, low angst, feel-good stories that both ended up on my re-read shelf over at Goodreads the first time I read them. And I really love the idea of two people meeting like that: by a text message meant for someone else.

Have you read any books with a theme like that? If yes, tell me. I’d love to read them!

(Apparently Textual Attraction isn’t available for purchase any longer because it was published by Amber and I can’t see that it’s been re-released anywhere else. But Textual Relations is available on Amazon.)

Top 5

Nell’s Top Five


Nell’s Top Five

…Things I love About Coming Home to Sweden
  1. Hanging out with my daughter (and son-in-law.) My kid turns 24 this year and she never grew out of hugging her parents. She’s smart and stubborn and funny and wins every argument. Being with her makes my heart sing and fills my soul with joy. I wish I could pack her into my suitcase and bring her home to Malaysia with me.
  2. FIKA! (If you’re new to my blog and have never heard about fika, read here for an explanation.) If you follow me on Instagram, you have seen lots of fika pictures these last couple weeks. I’ve never met a Swede who doesn’t love fika – it’s in our blood.
    Chai latte and a chocolate ball with nib sugar
  3. Drinking tap water. The tap water in Malaysia is not drinkable, so coming home to Sweden where the water is yummy and of excellent quality is such a luxury. I took it for granted when I lived here. I don’t anymore.
  4. Swedish candy/snacks. These are my favorites: dill flavored potato chips, and Djungelvrål, super salty licorice.
  5. Rainbow bubbly!! I’m a huge bubbly lover and I drink it every chance I have. And this bubbly is super yummy, but what I like best about it is that 5% of the price of every sold bottle is donated to Regnbågsfonden, a Swedish LGBTQ charity.
About Nell, Guestpost, Nell's WIP

WIP teaser and guest post

One of the new things here on the blog now that I’m trying to produce regular content, is a teaser from current WIP. I’ve mentioned it earlier here, and it’s the May/December project I’m teasing from. It’s still untitled and I haven’t written a lot more since I told you about it (I’m traveling and I’ve had to prioritize writing my chapters in the collab project I’m working on with Kris T. Bethke.)

If you need a reminder, the story is about two neighbors called Buck and Pippin. They’ve known each other since Pippin was six, but now that he’s all grown up, things are starting to happen. This is the (unedited) beginning of the story.

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I see him immediately as I turn my truck onto our street. Huddled up under a threadbare blanket, he’s curled into a ball at the top of the stairs leading up to the tiny, rundown house he shares with his mom. He has a paperback book open on his lap and he uses the flashlight on his cell phone so he can see to read since it’s still dark outside.

I frown and grip the steering wheel until my knuckles whiten. It’s too cold for him to sit there. It’s the second week of January, and even though we still haven’t gotten any snow—it was our first green Christmas in years—the temperature hovers in the low thirties. Even in the dim light, I can see him shiver.

With a huff, I park on my driveway, throw open the door, and step out. “Hey Pippin,” I holler, and his head shoots up. How he missed the rumble of my truck is a mystery, but he tends to shut out everything around him when he’s got his nose in a book.

His generous mouth stretches in a wide smile and he raises his hand in a wave.

“Get your butt over here,” I call.

He pulls the blanket tighter around his narrow shoulders. “I’m okay. You must be tired after your shift.”

I roll my eyes, not caring that he can’t see me. That guy! He doesn’t wanna be a bother but doesn’t realize that he never is. Not when I first moved back in with my ma to take care of her when she was sick—I was twenty-two and he was six the first time I found him on the stairs because his mother had a “gentleman caller” as Ma used to call them—and not now.

“Don’t make me come get ya, Pippin Olander. That’ll make me grumpy for sure.” I cross my arms over my chest and glare at him, but that only makes him laugh.


Just one thing before I go: today, I’m a guest over at Joyfully Jay where I talk about Awakenings & French Songs. I’m giving you an insight into a writer’s life and share an excerpt from the story exclusive for Joyfully Jay. There’s also a giveaway.

If this sounds like fun, clickety-click here to read the post.

Book Reviews

Friday review

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37909611Elliott Thompson was once a historian with a promising academic future, but his involvement in a scandal meant a lost job, public shame, and a ruined love life. He took shelter in his rural California hometown, where he teaches online classes, hoards books, and despairs of his future.

Simon Odisho has lost a job as well—to a bullet that sidelined his career in law enforcement. While his shattered knee recovers, he rethinks his job prospects and searches for the courage to come out to his close-knit but conservative extended family.

In an attempt to manage his overflowing book collection, Elliott builds a miniature neighborhood library in his front yard. The project puts him in touch with his neighbors—for better and worse—and introduces him to handsome, charming Simon. While romance blooms quickly between them, Elliott’s not willing to live in the closet, and his best career prospects might take him far away. His books have plenty to tell him about history, but they give him no clues about a future with Simon.

A blurb containing the words “historian,” “hoards books,” “overflowing book collection,” and “neighborhood library” is bound to attract my attention. I’m a book hoarder, too, but most of my books are of the electronic kind, so I can’t make a cute little library with them. But when I settle down in a place where I’m going to spend the rest of my life, I’m going to hoard physical books too, and THEN I can do a library just like Elliott did and spread joy and books to my neighbors.

A book written by Kim Fielding is also bound to attract my attention. She’s one of my favorite authors, and this book didn’t disappoint. Elliott is a very intellectual guy and he analyzes every little detail in his head. For example when he goes on a “date that’s not a date” with a guy from his sister-in-law’s job:

Elliott analyzed that statement. Did it mean Kyle didn’t really care about the not-date, or was he trying to minimize its apparent important? And how about that handshake? Had it been too short or too long? Was the amount of eye contact sufficient? Had Kyle looked disappointed when he caught sight of Elliott?

Elliott kind of reminds me of myself; I also tend to over-analyze everything so I can relate. Maybe that’s why I love him so much.

Simon is a genuinely likable guy with a huge family. He has lots of insecurities, his body is one of them, and he fears coming out to his family. Both MCs are at a crossroads in their lives, and they’re trying to decide how to move forwards, and I love how that aspect was explored in this book. What do you do when your life suddenly takes a turn you didn’t expect? How do you live up to society’s expectations on you, or your own expectations on yourself for that matter?

It’s a quiet book. Nothing much happens, and at the same time lots of things happen. Elliott and Simon meet and like each other immediately and they have to decide what to do about it. It’s not that they don’t want to be together; on the contrary. But the circumstances make it difficult. Simon isn’t out, and Elliott doesn’t want to be a dirty secret; he had enough of that in his last relationship. Elliott is looking for a job and a history professor in a narrow field can’t be picky, so he applies for jobs all over the country. How can he make a relationship with Simon work if he gets a job in Nebraska?

But here’s the thing. Elliott and Simon handle those issues by talking about them. Like two responsible adults who refuse to sweep any problems they have under the rug. And OMG, talking is so sexy!! (Almost as sexy as consent!) I’m sick and tired of misunderstandings, of characters not communicating, and of assumptions made only on the basis of half the facts. And this book is the complete opposite of that.

This book does not have chest-pounding alpha males or big drama or excitement. But it’s quiet and thoughtful and intelligent and romantic, with two flawed characters who are doing their best to navigate life together. And that is just the kind of book I love.

Buy link: Amazon

About Nell

Nell on social media

Last Monday, I told you about my plan for more regular content on the blog in 2019. That plan extends to being more active on other social media platforms as well, such as Twitter, Facebook (page and profile), and Instagram. Facebook is my least favorite platform, so to be perfectly honest, I mostly use it for promotion. If you want a little more personal content, I suggest following me on Twitter or Instagram.

I’m most active on Twitter, but Instagram is second. My goal is to post something every day. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

Here are my most liked Instagram pictures during 2018.

nell_iris-full best nine instagram 2018

As you can see there’s a little bit of promo there too, but not as much as on Facebook. I post lots of pictures of my notebooks and fountain pens, book related stuff, and tea and other food/drink pictures. You know, like every other instagrammer (except I don’t post cat pictures. I’m allergic)!

So if you like that kind of stuff, feel free to follow me over at Instagram.

What are your favorite social media accounts that you follow?