Monday Book Talk

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I’m pretty sure you’re growing tired of hearing me talk about just how much I love short stories by now, but bear with me for moment, please. I have another reason for loving them!

I am someone who can’t just put down a book I love. Yes, I admit: I have a problem.

*stands up and clears throat* Hello, my name is Nell and I’m a readoholic!

Seriously, though. I don’t understand you people who can read a chapter and then put the book down and do something else. Especially not while reading in bed, because one of the greatest pleasures in life is a nice bed, fluffy pillows, cool sheets, and a great book. I can read for hours and hours and it’s happened more than once that I’ve been so sucked into the book that I realize that crap, maybe it’s time to sleep, when the morning prayers start outside my window (Malaysia is a Muslim country) sometime between 5 and 6AM.

So here’s the deal. If I read short stories, I can finish the story and put down my e-reader and fall sleep at a reasonable hour. But if I read a 100K word story, it’s likely that I’ll be prompted to put it down by the morning birds. So you see! Another reason why short stories are better!

Tell me: are you one of those weird people who can read one chapter and then put the book down and go to sleep? 😂😁







Monday Book Talk

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Do you re-read books you like?

I’ve come across several people over the years saying that they don’t re-read books because of too-many-books-too-little-time syndrome. I can totally understand this. If I could sleep less and read more, I would! (Or add more hours to the day would work, too).

But even so, I love re-reading books, and I do it all the time. Those days when I’m in a bad mood and need something to cheer me up. Or when I’m sick and need comfort. Every time I need to read a book I can be absolutely certain that I loved, I re-read.

It’s like meeting old friends again. And I’m not bothered that I already know what happens: I’m one of these people who actually seeks out spoilers instead of avoiding them like the plague, so I take comfort in knowing the story. By re-reading, I’m not caught off guard by a sudden angsty moment I wasn’t prepared or in the mood for. I know exactly what I get, and I love it.

I have a shelf on Goodreads called feel-good re-reads. Below are four books from that list.

Tell me which books (if any) you re-read!


The Naked Remedy | Jesse’s Diner | Shiny! | Galaxies and Oceans




Monday Book Talk

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One day, I want to write children’s books. I adore children’s books, especially middle grade stories when kids are developed enough to understand complex story lines, but before all the teenage drama that eventually will ensue. I also love coming-of-age stories, and they are common for that age. Not to mention: the covers are so colorful and beautiful and happy.

So currently, I’m reading a lot of children’s books, because while I don’t listen and adhere to many of the traditional “writing advices” other writers share so generously, there is one piece of advice I do follow:


I can’t write if I don’t read, that’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? And I need to read more before I can attempt to write any myself.

So while doing that, I stumbled on an absolutely fantastic book: Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby.

hurricane seasonFig, a sixth grader, wants more than anything to see the world as her father does. The once-renowned pianist, who hasn’t composed a song in years and has unpredictable good and bad days, is something of a mystery to Fig. Though she’s a science and math nerd, she tries taking an art class just to be closer to him, to experience life the way an artist does. But then Fig’s dad shows up at school, disoriented and desperately searching for Fig. Not only has the class not brought Fig closer to understanding him, it has brought social services to their door.

Diving into books about Van Gogh to understand the madness of artists, calling on her best friend for advice, and turning to a new neighbor for support, Fig continues to try everything she can think of to understand her father, to save him from himself, and to find space in her life to discover who she is even as the walls are falling down around her.

Nicole Melleby’s Hurricane Season is a stunning novel about a girl struggling to be a kid as pressing adult concerns weigh on her. It’s also about taking risks and facing danger, about love and art, and about coming of age and coming out. And more than anything else, it is a story of the healing power of love—and the limits of that power.

(Look at that pretty cover, which is extra pretty when you’ve read the book and know that Fig, the MC is obsessed with Vincent Van Gogh – look at that swirly sky!!)

This is an absolutely fantastic book and everyone should read it, whether you’re a middle grader or a soon-to-be forty-seven year old woman like yours truly. It also has LGBT representation which is why I’m writing about it here on the blog. If we ever are to rid ourselves of bigotry of any kind, we need to educate our kids. And what better way to do that than normalize it by telling inclusive stories?

The LGBT aspect is handled beautifully in this book. When Fig (who’s a wonderful character) realizes she likes girls instead of boys and tells her dad Tim, his reaction is great. He listens to her and accepts her truth without questioning it. Without showing the slightest bit of hesitation.

But also, if this had been a M/M romance book, it would be labeled as a double-GFY (and I know the GFY label is problematic and I agree with the arguments why we shouldn’t call it that, but this story is told from Fig’s POV so we don’t get any insight to whether either of the grown up men have liked other men before) because it turns out that Fig’s dad falls in love with their new neighbor Mark. Both men have only had relationships with women before, but when Mark helps Fig with her dad, they connect.

And as a M/M writer, I watched their relationship unfold through Fig’s eyes. She didn’t understand it the way I did, and when she found out by accident she was angry. But not because her father likes another man, but because he kept it a secret from her, and because when she told him her truth, he didn’t reciprocate. Valid reasons to be angry, if you ask me.

Also, the M/M reader in me screams for Tim and Mark’s story from a romance POV. Watching their relationship unfold through the eyes of the eleven-year-old protagonist was interesting and fabulous, but I want more. I want their points-of-view. Their backgrounds, their feelings, their deepening connection. Is that too much to ask?? 🙂

Anyway. Buy this book for any middle grader in your life. Or for anyone who loves books ,really. It kept me up all night reading it, and I sobbed for an hour straight, that’s how good it is! 🙂




Monday Book Talk

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If you’ve followed me for awhile you probably know one important thing about me: that I don’t like series. I don’t like series that follow the same couple over several books, because that usually means that the author fucks with the characters’ HEA to make sure there’s drama enough to write a sequel. Or it takes the characters several books to get their shit together and reach their HEA, and I’m much too impatient for those kind of stories.

So I tend to steer clear of books like that. Which is why you probably will be shocked to learn that today, I plan on talking about sequels. As in: I’ve read two series that have been about the same couple, and I absolutely adored them.

So today, I thought I’d tell you about these, and also acknowledge that there are exceptions to every rule, even my I-don’t-like-series rule. 🙂

A couple months back, I reviewed a book that I absolutely adored, Leather and Tea by K.L. Noone. (Link to my rave-y review here). It’s a wonderful story about an established couple and a little glimpse into their lives that I loved the crap out of. So when I learned that Ms. Noone was releasing a sequel, I scurried over to JMS Books and pre-ordered it, ignoring my rule about not reading sequels. Because the two MCs, Ben and Simon, are so fabulous I absolutely had to read more about them. Because, somehow, I trusted K.L. Noone to not fuck up their HEA.

And my trust was not misplaced. In the sequel, A Leather and Tea Morning, we are treated to the deepening of Ben and Simon’s relationship. Something happens outside of their relationship that make them look at what they have together, and value it even more. At the end of A Leather and Tea Morning, I’m even more convinced that Ben and Simon will live happily ever after forever and ever, because they just love each other so darned much. So much it touches my heart and makes me cry happy tears. So much that I hope Ms. Noone will write a third book about them that I can break my rule for.

The second book I’m going to rave about is The Best-Laid Plans by Addison Albright, the sequel to The Contingency Plan. The first book is a very short story about two princes unexpectedly getting married, and it leaves the reader with the promise of a HEA instead of a solid “we love each other forever.” I don’t have a problem with that, but I also didn’t have a problem when Addison told me she was writing a sequel, because I really liked Prince Marcelo in the story.

And boy, she didn’t let me down with her sequel. Just like with A Leather and Tea Morning, the drama in The Best-Laid Plans is something outside of Efren and Marcelo’s relationship, something that strengthens their bond and pushes them closer together. The drama tests Prince Marcelo’s limits in a very interesting way: he lived a very sheltered life until he married Efren, and he’s a soft man without any hard edges. But he’s also smart and determined and resourceful, so when he’s flung into a dangerous situation, he doesn’t wilt like a hothouse flower under harsh weather conditions. Instead, he’s more like a wild flower that fights its way through asphalt. You look at it and wonder How can something so weak-looking and pretty survive under those harsh conditions? But it should teach us to not judge a book by its cover.

Because while Prince Marcelo might look like a worthless, mollycoddled softy, he rises to the occasion. He gathers all his courage, uses all his wit, and comes out victorious. He’s scared, but the thought of making Efren proud of him, the thought of being someone worthy of standing next to his prince, a formidable and experienced warrior, gives Marcelo the strength he needs.

And all that makes Marcelo a brilliant character. Yes, Efren is a really good character, too, but he’s got nothing on Marcelo. I’ve read most of Addison Albright’s books, you know by now that we’re friends and that I love her work. But Prince Marcelo sailed past all her other characters and firmly placed himself as number one. From now on he’s my favorite of all Addison’s characters. And that is something I would have missed if she hadn’t written this sequel and if I’d not read it.

I guess the gist of this, is that I’m fine with reading sequels as long as the drama isn’t within the relationship and threatens the characters’ HEA. And what I’m saying is that I’d love to read the third part of Ben and Simon’s story, and I definitely want to see Prince Marcelo continue to grow as a person and see how his and Efren’s relationship develops.

What I’m saying is, sequels aren’t always bad. 😀

leatherRetired secret agent Ben Smith has never been happier: married to his romance-novelist husband, settled into their life together, learning to bake scones because Simon likes them. But all Ben’s training and skills can’t deflect the car accident, or the injuries. Simon’s not badly hurt, but Ben can’t stop thinking about it. He promised to keep Simon safe, in bed and out of it. But what if he can’t?

It’s been three weeks. Simon’s been going crazy. He’s completely fine now, but his husband keeps treating him like glass, fragile and breakable. Simon isn’t breakable, though, and misses Ben’s hands, the touch of leather, cuffs and caresses and the thrill of submission.

He’s just going to have to prove to his husband he’s safe and alive and ready for anything. And he’s a romance writer, after all, so he’s going to make this a perfect scene, and a morning to remember.

Buy link (JMS Books)


plansA death that wasn’t what it seemed … A kidnapping that isn’t what it seems … Time is running out.

The morning after his wedding night, Prince Marcelo thought he’d be embarking on a journey to his own personal fairytale happily ever after with his husband Efren, the crown prince of Zioneven. But when news arrives indicating his sister’s death wasn’t as accidental as previously thought, that journey becomes fraught with danger.

Enmeshed in political intrigue, death, and a kidnapping that might not be what it seems, will Efren untangle the web of misleading clues in time to save the naïve young man he’s already come to admire? Or will Marcelo dig deep to discover a previously untapped inner strength and determination to facilitate his own survival?

Buy link (JMS Books)


Monday Book Talk

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Today, I’ve stolen another tag from the internet, Unpopular Bookish Opinions.

A popular book or series that you didn’t like.

50 Shades of Grey. In June 2015, 125 million books had been sold worldwide, which is ridiculously many books. I thought: 125 million people can’t be wrong, and read them, all three of them (because book 1 and 2 ends in a cliffhanger and I can’t with cliffhangers!) Turns out 125 million people can be wrong, and I really, really dislike this book series. The writing is terrible. The characters are horrible. And they do a piss-poor job of depicting BDSM. No thank you.

A popular book or series that everyone else seems to hate but you love

The Da Vinci Code. It’s on this list of books considered the worst, but I liked it when I read it. Stayed up all night reading it, googling all the artwork that are mentioned in the story, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

A love triangle where the main character ended up with the person you didn’t want them to end up with, or an OTP that you don’t like.

Bella-Edward-Jacob, in the Twilight series. To be perfectly honest, I was #TeamEdward when I read Twilight back in 2005, but time – and age – has made me realize that Edward and Bella is kind of creepy. She’s a teenager and he’s a 109-year-old vampire, albeit looking like a teenager. I’m all for May/December romances, but this is a little too much, considering he’s also a creepy stalker. It would have made much more sense for Bella to end up with Jacob.

A popular book genre that you hardly reach for

Fantasy and sci-fi. I have a hard time reading extensive world-building, so these genres are not for me.

A popular character that you don’t like.

Albus Dumbledore. He expected a child to rid the wizarding world of its greatest threat, and instead of helping him, he withheld information. Not cool, dude.


A popular author that you can’t seem to get into

J.R.R Tolkien. I’ve read The Hobbit, and 200 pages of The Fellowship of the Ring and nope. Nope nope nope. (I like the movies though.)

A popular book trope that you’re tired of seeing.

The Big Misunderstanding. If I never have to read a book with characters not communicating again, it’ll be too soon.

A popular series that you have no interest in reading

The Temptation series by Ella Frank. Not because I don’t like her writing, I liked the two  M/F romances of hers I’ve read. The reason I don’t want to read it, even though it’s wildly popular among M/M romance readers, is that all six books follow the same couple, and I’m not a fan of series like that. I’m too impatient to wait six books for a couple to get their HEA, and if they get their HEA in book one, the author adds drama (most of the time) and fucks up the HEA, which pisses me off. So I’m a stand-alone kind of gal. Or at least series with new couples in every book 🙂

Everyone says “the book is better than the movie”, but which movie or TV adaptation did you enjoy more than the book?

Dangerous Liaisons from 1988, starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, and Uma Thurman among others. It’s a fabulous movie, the acting is so great it’s ridiculous, and I’ve watched it many times. The movie is based on a French epistolary novel, Les Liaisons dangereuses, by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos from 1782, and I thought: the book is always better than the movie and I love epistolary novels and I love classics so I went to my local library to borrow it. They kept it in storage because no one had wanted to read it in ages, so it took an hour for them to find it, and when they gave it to me, it came with authentic library dust.

The book was such a disappointment. It was boring and uninspiring, and for the life of me, I couldn’t understand how they could make such a brilliant movie from it.



Monday Book Talk

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Last year, I discovered fanfiction. It’s a little funny that I didn’t even know it was a thing until last year, considering so many of the authors in the M/M romance genre started out writing fanfiction, but I was oblivious. I’ve thought a lot about why; why didn’t I know of the phenomenon?

After some consideration, I thought it was because I’ve never really shipped characters, I didn’t even know what shipping was until recently. At first I thought that might be a Swede thing, that Swedish people don’t do shipping, but after a conversation with my daughter, I realized that was not it. She knew what it was, so I just wrote it off as an age thing and didn’t think about it again.

Until I remembered. There ARE two characters I ship. Two characters all of Sweden (more or less) ship. Wilfred of Ivanhoe and Rebecca of York.

You see, every year on New Year’s Day, Swedish television airs Ivanhoe, a British TV-movie from 1982 (based on the novel from 1819 by Sir Walter Scott), starring Anthony Andrews as Ivanhoe and Olivia Hussey as Rebecca. It’s tradition; it’s been going on for as long as I can remember, and a lot of people in Sweden re-watch that movie every year. The tradition is so widely known that Sam Neill, who plays the evil character Brian Guilbert, tweets about it every year (which is hilarious if you ask me!):


If you’re not familiar with the story of Ivanhoe, here’s a summary:

Ivanhoe, the son of a Saxon nobleman, returns to England from the Crusades. Prince John is Regent in the absence of his brother, King Richard the Lionhearted who is imprisoned in Austria. Saxons have not accepted their Norman conquerors and there is much animosity between them. Ivanhoe arrives at court just as a jousting tournament begins and bests the three Norman noblemen who have agreed to take on all comers. Ivanhoe is seriously injured however and is cared for by Isaac of York and his beautiful daughter Rebecca. They are taken prisoner however, along with Ivanhoe’s father Cedric and his ward Rowena, by the three knights Ivanhoe bested in the tournament. With the assistance of Robin Hood, the mysterious Black Knight attacks the castle of Front-de-Boeuf where the captives are being held. It’s left to Ivanhoe to rescue to rescue Rebecca however when she is accused of being a witch.

That was the background, now to the point: Ivanhoe is Christian and Rebecca is Jewish. The story is set in the 12th century, when a Christian man and a Jewish woman weren’t allowed to marry. But as Rebecca cares for the injured Ivanhoe, they fall in love, and everyone in Sweden roots for Rebecca.

But, alas, their relationship can not be, and instead Ivanhoe ends up with the very beautiful, very blonde, and very Christian Lady Rowena. And every year, I’m equally disappointed. Why does he choose that boring woman instead of the lovely and intelligent Rebecca? Whyyyyyy??

So I thought, now that I’d discovered fanfiction, I would finally be able to read their happy ending. I opened AO3, searched for Ivanhoe, and found…

fanfic ivanhoe

one story about Ivanhoe and Rebecca. One measly story in a fanfiction archive that, as I write this, has almost 4,8 million stories.

To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. I was counting on you, AO3! What do I have to do, write their happy ending myself?? 😁


I guess I’ll just have to stick to Harry Potter fanfiction then 😁

Tell me: what characters – if any – do you ship? Which characters’ happy ending would you like to read?

Monday Book Talk

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Today, I’ve stolen a tag from the internet, Bookish This or That.

Audio book or text book?

Text book. I’m a really fast reader and the narration in audio books are waaaaay too slow for me. My concentration wanders and the story just becomes annoying droning in the background and I can’t keep up with the plot. Audio books aren’t for me. That being said, I’m very happy audio books exist. I have a friend in Sweden who hadn’t read a book since he graduated high school, but now he’s discovered audio books and has started reading. It’s great!

Paperback or hardback?

Paperback. I like the look of a well-read and -loved paperback book. Plus, they’re cheaper.

Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Both. I read mostly fiction, but I enjoy both.

Harry Potter or Twilight?

Harry Potter. I mean, I read and enjoyed Twilight back in the day (at least the two first books), but they haven’t stayed with me like the HP books has. I have Funko-pop Snape on my desk watching over me when I work and I spend hours and hours reading HP fanfiction. So definitely Harry Potter!

Bookshop or online?

I buy most of my books online because I read mostly ebooks. But nothing beats wandering around in a bookshop, touching the books, thumbing through them, and enjoying the new book smell.

Standalone or trilogy?

Standalone, please.

Sweet and short or heavy and long?

It’s clear whoever came up with these question doesn’t know me. Sweet and short, of course! 🙂

Cosy read or reading in the sun?

Yes. I read everywhere and all the time.

Hot chocolate or coffee?


photo_2019-04-15_23-21-13Severus Snape, keeping dunderheads on their toes since 1997

Monday Book Talk

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Hurt/comfort is my number one favorite romance trope. Every time someone asks me, that’s the first thing I say. I love a lot of tropes, but none of them are as great as hurt/comfort.

If you’re unfamiliar with tropes, here’s a definition I found online. (It says fanfiction in the definition because I borrowed it from a fanfiction site, but it applies to non-fanfiction stories, too.)

Hurt/comfort is a fanfiction genre that involves the physical pain or emotional distress of one character, who is cared for by another character. The injury, sickness or other kind of hurt allows an exploration of the characters and their relationship.”

I love this trope because it allows the story to focus on the characters and the relationship without a gazillion subplots, because I want my romance stories focused on the romance, not a mystery or a murder or something else. It’s also interesting to see the characters’ reactions: both how someone reacts to a person in need, and how the injured person reacts to being cared for says a lot of their personalities. H/C stories allows the characters to show vulnerability, and I also love to see how trust builds between the characters, and this trust is what finally lets the hurt party start to heal.

Below are four of my favorite hurt/comfort books. I’ve re-read them all several times.

Do you like hurt/comfort? If yes, tell me your favorites in the comments; I’m always on the lookout for more!

Out of the Blackness | Strong Enough | The Terms of Release | Brute

hurt comfort


Monday Book Talk

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Today, I thought we’d talk about bookish pet peeves, big and small. The things that drive you crazy and make you roll your eyes so hard, you fear they’ll roll right out of their sockets, or that make you want to throw your Kindle into the pool.

I have three bigger and three smaller things I want to complain about, and if you feel like joining in, please let me know your pet peeves in the comments! 🙂

Bigger peeves

The Big Misunderstanding: If you’ve followed me for awhile, you know that this is my number one pet-peeve. For example: I hate it when MC1 listens to MC2’s side of a phone conversation, draws (wrong) conclusions and storms out. First of all: it’s overused and feels like a cheap way of creating drama to me. Also: don’t eavesdrop. And if you do and something seems strange, ASK about it. Talk to each other, fictional people! It’s not that difficult.

The Cliffhanger: This is the reason I read ALL THREE BOOKS of the 50 Shades of Gray trilogy even though I hated them: books 1 and 2 ended with a cliffhanger. And I’m a curious person and had to know how it all ended even though I really didn’t care. Now, years later, I ask myself why I just didn’t google a spoiler-filled review, read it and satisfied my curiosity that way instead of tormenting myself by reading all that crap. (If you like 50 Shades, I’m sorry for ranting about them. I really don’t, though!)

But I learned a valuable lesson from this: always read spoiler-filled reviews to know if the books end in a cliffhanger! If they do, I don’t read them.

Too Much Sex: And let’s be clear, I’m not talking about erotica here, because that’s a legit genre for that kind of thing. I’m also not talking about the sex scenes that move the plot forward. No, I’m talking about the book I read that was less than 80 pages and had 5 detailed sex scenes. Five. And no, it wasn’t labeled erotica. I know a lot of people like sex in their books, but I’m not one of them. For me, that’s something that’ll actually make me put down a book. And any time I see a review where stars are deducted because of not enough or no sex at all, I buy that book! 🙂

Smaller peeves

“‘You’re so sexy,’ he purred.” Purred!! UGH, unless “he” in this sentence is a cat-shifter, this is not okay! People don’t purr!! It squicks me out!

People having sex when they’re very sick or injured. Yes, I understand it’s to show that they were very worried to lose each other and now that the injured/sick person is on the mend, they’re relived and want to show each other they’re happy. But that person in the hospital bed with a broken bone who’s so drugged up on painkillers they can hardly remember their name, you think they wanna have sex? And if it’s a guy: you think he can have an erection in that state?

I mean: if my husband even looks at me with bedroom eyes when I have a simple cold, I’ll just hide under my covers and pretend I’m not there. If I was doped up in a hospital bed: forget about it. Kiss my forehead and squeeze my hand and tell me you’re so happy I’m okay, but don’t try to get into my pants! (I recommend To Love and To Cherish by Addison Albright, to read a realistic situation relating to a serious injury!)

Epithets. And if you’re not familiar with what it is, it’s “the red-head” in this sentence: “Harry bent down and kissed the red-head.” This can of course work if Harry doesn’t know the name of the red-head because it’s the first time they meet, but if the red-head in question is Harry’s husband Ron (yes, I read a lot of Harry Potter fanfic! Not much Harry/Ron though 🙂 ) and he knows the name…then it becomes annoying.

To be perfectly honest, I used to do it myself (Find His Way Home has so many “his lover” I cringed when I re-read it recently) until one of my editors pointed it out to me, saying that Harry in my example above probably wouldn’t think about his husband as “the red-head.” The way I don’t think about my husband as “the bearded guy.”

There are exceptions that work for me. For example: “Harry bent down and kissed his husband” would work. Or “Ron stole his brother’s broom,” because it’s not uncommon for people to think about their significant other as “my husband/wife” or sibling as “my brother/sister.”

Before I started writing, I never even thought about epithets. But now I can’t not notice them and they drive me crazy. I know pronouns are difficult when you write same-sex relationships and it’s hard to keep up with which “he” this particular “he” is referring to. And as a writer I think “I’ve written his name a gazillion times already, I have to change it up a little” and that’s why I ended up with too many “his lover” in FHWH. But seriously. A “he” or the name is so much less intrusive, so pretty please with sugar on top, use that instead! 🙂