Random (but not really)

Sunday, May 8, 2022

The Books of April

It’s been a strange month.

Homicide and Halo-HaloI mean, the past several years have been weird, but this was personal oddity as opposed to (gestures at everything)

But I read some books. (Of course I did.) Just fewer than I have in awhile. Which isn’t bad, since I did go hiking every weekend.

And, I even read some new to me books, as well as a book that was published this year.

Because I was having a difficult time, you can see comfort reads there. To be honest, I’m not sure I can tie together why I love these books so much, but these are the books I’ve reached for when I just needed to be enveloped in a book.

And if anyone can tell me what Come Unto These Yellow Sands, Banquet of Lies, Waiting for the Flood, and Grilled Cheese and Goblins: Adventures of a Supernatural Food Inspector all have in common that make me reach for them as comfort reads, I would be delighted for THAT analysis.


Come Unto These Yellow Sands (2011) Josh Lanyon 9/10
Homicide and Halo-Halo (2022) Mia P. Manansala  7/10

Waiting for the Flood
Historical Mystery

In a Treacherous Court (2011) Michelle Diener 8/10
Regency London by Michelle Diener: Emperor’s Conspiracy (2012) 8.5/10,
Banquet of Lies (2013) 9.5/10, A Dangerous Madness (2014) 8.5/10
Sins of the Cities by KJ Charles: An Unsuitable Heir (2017) 7.5/10, An Unnatural Vice (2017) 8.5/10, An Unseen Attraction (2017) 9/10

Supernatural Fantasy

Grilled Cheese and Goblins: Adventures of a Supernatural Food Inspector (2018) Nicole Kimberling  9.5/10


The Remaking of Corbin Wale (2018) Roan Parrish 8.5/10
Waiting for the Flood (2018) Alexis Hall  9/10


Women Warriors: An Unexpected History (2019) Pamela D. Toler 8/10

Audio Books

Within the Sanctuary of Wings: A Memoir by Lady Trent, Audio Version (2017) Marie Brennan narrated by Kate Reading 9/10
The October Man, Audio Version (2019) Ben Aaronovitch narrated by Sam Peter Jackson 8.5/10


Written by Michelle at 8:40 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Monthly Round-Up  

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Spring Flower Pr0n

I’m trying to post more frequently here.

Not a lot of success, but I’m trying.

So as your reward, here is some flower pr0n from the Arboretum!



I never see a lot of bloodroot flowers, so I’m generally excited when I spot one.


Just a couple of delphiniums were up


Lots and lots of trillium, including this weirdo!



Early bluebells are up, but nowhere near peak yet.


Lots and lot of spring beauties


Some trout lilies!




And downtown, some cherry blossoms

Written by Michelle at 7:07 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Photos  

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Books of March

In the Labyrinth of DrakesI didn’t read quite as much as I have been, but sadly, it wasn’t because I was doing other fun things. I was just too scattered to focus, and have several books I was determined to finish, even thought they weren’t working for me.

Luckily, there were some good books in there!

After four years, I thought that Jane Steen‘s Lady Helena series wasn’t going to have another entry, but there was one, and I was delighted by it!

I started (and finished) Amy Lanes Hedge Witches Lonely Heart Club, which had a world building that pulled me in and kept me thinking. I had issues with a couple of things, but mostly I wanted to know what happened, and so I couldn’t stop reading.

I found Sadie Bosque’s An Agreement with the Soldier fascinating, because it it had so many bits that I thought were going to follow the well-worn trope path, but then: THEY TALKED! They used their words and talked! And it was marvelous!

And apparently I’m reading non-fiction again. I highly recommend No Man’s Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain’s Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I, because I remain gobsmacked this is something I knew nothing about.


Lady Odelias Secret

Historical Mystery

Lady Odelia’s Secret (2022) Jane Steen (Lady Helena Investigates) 8/10
A Sanctuary for Soulden (2021) J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry (The Lords of Bucknall Club) 8/10
Lessons in Trust (2018) Charlie Cochrane (Cambridge Fellows) 7.5/10



A Ghost of a Chance (2012) Josh Lanyon


Supernatural Fantasy

Hedge Witches Lonely Heart Club by Amy Lane: Shortbread and Shadows (2020) 7/10;
Portals and Puppy Dogs (2021) 7/10; Pentacles and Pelting Plants (2021) 7.5/10;
Heartbeats in a Haunted House (2022) 7.5/10;
Mistlefoe: A Mead Realm Tale (2021) Kimberly Lemming  7.5/10
Mysterious Charm by Celia Lake: Wards of the Roses (2019) 7/10, In the Cards (2019) 7/10
Whirlwind (2021) A. M. Rose (Daydream, Colorado) 7/10
Jane Yellowrock Short Stories Faith Hunter

No Mans Land



An Agreement with the Soldier (2021) Sadie Bosque (Necessary Arrangements) 8/10
Summer Makeover (2021) Kelly Fox  7/10
I’m So (Not) Over You (2022) Kosoko Jackson 7/10



No Man’s Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain’s Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I (2020) Wendy Moore 9/10
Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics (2014) Kathryn J. Atwood 4/10


Audio Books

In the Labyrinth of Drakes: A Memoir by Lady Trent, Audio Book (2016) Marie Brennan narrated by Kate Reading 9/10
Faith Hunter narrated by Khristine Hvam
Curse on the Land (2016) (Soulwood) 8.5/10; Jane Yellowrock:
Shadow Rites Audio Book (2016), 8/10
Cold Reign, Audio Book (2017) 7/10

Written by Michelle at 7:54 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Monthly Round-Up  

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Snowshoeing at Coopers Rock

It’s not quite been a year since I last posted about hiking, but close. I actually have been hiking, but didn’t feel up to writing about it, since I didn’t have much joy to share.

But yesterday was a gorgeous hike at Coopers Rock, and I wanted to share some pictures. Hopefully this means things are slowly (slowly) getting better.

We grabbed our snow shoes got to Coopers Rock where we saw lots of cross country skiers. Since they all seemed to be heading out the roadside trail, we went down Scotts Run trail, which had no ski tracks for and out and back.

It was stunningly beautiful.


There were a couple of trees down across the trail.


And disconcertingly, here you can see the tree lying over the tracks in the snow we’d made on our way out.


Why did so many trees and branches fall? Because under the layer of light fluffy snow, everything was covered in ice.



But that’s why everything was so shiny and bright and gorgeous. And having gotten there early, we got to see parts of the trail no one else had yet traveled upon.




The other thing that’s lovely about hiking in the snow is just how quiet and peaceful it is. For the most part, we all we really heard was the creek.


Because I kept stopping to take pictures, we were overtaken by a guy who was also out to enjoy the fresh snow.

When we reached the point where we generally turn back (after hanging out by the creek for a bit) we discovered he’d stopped briefly.


Thank you, random stranger, for leaving that. It made me happy.

The hike was just under four miles, but some of that is because I kept wandering off the trail, to hike through the fresh snow and avoid the wet bits of the trail.

Location: Coopers Rock State Forest
Trail: Scotts Run (partial, out-and-back)
Distance: 3.9 miles
Elevation: 1860-2253 ft (475′ change)

scotts run showshoe

And just for fun, I’ve been recording creeks for awhile, now I’m putting them into one place.

I took four different videos yesterday. Feel free to click through and look at the rest.

Written by Michelle at 8:34 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The Books of January (2022)

What did I read in January? Unsurprisingly, a whole lotta books. Let me tell you about them!

The Missing PageI seem to have been in the mood for mysteries, devouring a lot of cozies, including several new releases.

I’ve been a fan of Cat Sebastian for awhile, so I was delighted to see that she had another book in her Page & Summers series. Note it was a 2022 publication and I actually read it the week it was published. I also read the second Pentecost & Parker mystery, which was also good, although in a very different way, since the two are private investigators, and the story is set post WWII rather than post WWI.

I’ve also started a new Ellis Peters series. It was (at the time) a contemporary, and quite different from her Brother Cadfael series, but I’ll read another.

I’m all caught up on Charlie Cochrane’s Lindenshaw Mysteries, and very much enjoyed this cozy series. One partner is a teacher, the other in the police, and the ways Adam gets pulled into Robin’s cases is not utterly ridiculous. I’ve just started her older, historical series. It’s not quite as good as the Londenshaw series, but I did enjoy it.

I finally read the final Inspector Montalbano book. He had written it years earlier, and instructed his agent it was to be published only after his death. It is truly the final Montalbano story.

Valor Wands
Comics were more miss than hit this month, although I thoroughly enjoyed Valor: Wands, the second book in that series.

Finally, I want to mention Lissa Kasey’s Reflections on a Curse, which is part of an existing series, but can be read on its own. It’s set during the (continuing) pandemic, but I thought it was handled well. It’s also a story I read a segments after finally joining the Patreon community.

And if you don’t want to count–I read 33 books in January, which is a new high for the month. But to be fair that was 30% novellas and short stories.

Historical Mystery

The Missing Page (2022) Cat Sebastian (Page & Sommers) 8.5/10
Murder Under Her Skin (2021) Stephen Spotswood (Pentecost and Parker) 8/10
Lessons in Love (2008) Charlie Cochrane (Cambridge Fellows) 7/10
Death and the Joyful Woman (1961) Ellis Peters (The Felse Investigations)


And Everything Nice (2016) Ada Maria Soto 9/10
Jericho Candelario’s Gay Debut  (2018) R. Cooper 9/10
Christmas Wish List (2021) N.R. Walker (Hartbridge Christmas) 7.5/10
In the Winter Woods
Frog (2012) Mary Calmes
Life Saving Dal (2017) Ada Maria Soto
The Boy Next Door (2017) Josh Lanyon


The Beat Goes On: The Complete Rebus Stories (2015) Ian Rankin 9/10
Lindenshaw Mysteries by Charlie Cochrane: Jury of One (2016) 8/10, Two Feet Under (2018) 8/10, Old Sins (2019) 7.5/10, A Carriage of Misjustice (2020) 8/10
Riccardino (2020/2021) Andrea Camilleri translator Stephen Sartarelli (Inspector Montalbano) 8/10
The Mystery of the Spirits (2021) C.S. Poe (Snow & Winter) 8/10
In the Winter Woods (2020) Isabelle Adler 7/10
The Postscript Murders (2021) Elly Griffiths (Harbinder Kaur) 7/10
Christmas Dessert Murder (2021) Joanne Fluke (A Hannah Swensen Mystery)
Stranger in the House (2019) Josh Lanyon

Historical Romance

Something Fabulous (2022) Alexis Hall (Something Fabulous) 7/10
A Marriage of Equals (2021) Elizabeth Rolls 7/10
An Irregular Arrangement (2021) A. L. Lester (Border Magic)
Mr Warren’s Profession (2017) Sebastian Nothwell

Witch Hat Atelier 1
Supernatural Fantasy

Reflection of a Curse (2022) Lissa Kasey (Romancing a Curse) 8/10
Conventional Shadows (2022) Lissa Kasey (A Simply Crafty Paranormal Mystery) 7/10
Threshold (2013) Jordan L. Hawk (Whyborne & Griffin) 7/10

Graphic Novel

Valor: Wands (2018) Isabelle Melançon, Megan Lavey-Heaton 8.5/10
Death Wins a Goldfish: Reflections from a Grim Reaper’s Yearlong Sabbatical (2019) Brian Rea 7/10
Witch Hat Atelier 1 (2017/2019) Kamome Shirahama
Moonstruck Volume 1: Magic to Brew (2018) Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle, Kate Leth

Audio Books

Broken Soul (2014) Faith Hunter narrated by Khristine Hvam (Jane Yellowrock) 8/10

Written by Michelle at 7:23 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Monthly Round-Up  

Thursday, December 30, 2021

The Books of 2021: Wrap Up

Favorite Covers: Fantasy, Mystery, Romance
Favorite Mysteries
Favorite Romances
Favorite Fantasies
The Rest
Books that got me through the year



My Favorite Books


Top of the list? Murderbot!

All Systems RedThe Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

All Systems Red (2017) 9/10, Artificial Condition (2018) 8.5/10, Rogue Protocol (2018) 8.5/10, Exit Strategy (2018) 8.5/10, Network Effect (2020) 9/10, Fugitive Telemetry (2021) 9/10

Science Fiction

I generally dislike SF, so I put off reading this series. But when I was in desperate need of a distraction, Murderbot was the perfect fix.

A Ladys Guide to Etiquette and MurderA Countess of Harleigh Mystery by Dianne Freeman

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder (2018) 7.5/10, A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder (2019) 8.5/10, A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder (2020) 8/10, A Fiancée’s Guide to First Wives and Murder (2021) 8/10

Historical Mystery, Cozy

I have always loved historical mysteries–even though the first “historicals” I read were actually Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. This series is a cozy historical series with a female lead, who does NOT go running into danger, but instead tries to be safe and do the sensible thing, but events overtake her.

I am really looking forward to the next book when it comes out.

The Charm Offensive

The Charm Offensive (2021) Alison Cochrun 9/10

Contemporary Romance, LGBT

Initially I didn’t even think I wanted to read this book, but by chapter two I was sucked in and in love with both characters.

I loved how Dev worked to keep Charlie calm and able to get through the day, but even more I loved how Charlie saw how hard Dev was working, and wanted to appreciate him.

A Marvellous LightA Marvellous Light (2021) Freya Marske (The Last Binding) 9/10

Fantasy, Historical, Mystery, LGBT

This is the first book in a new series, and it was full of things I absolutely adored.

It’s historical, with great fantasy world-building, and a side of mystery. And the two characters (eventually) talked about what they were reacting to.


Publisher / Cover Roundup

An Unexpected Peril

Here are all the publishers who had more than a single cover I loved.

Berkley – 9 (Penguin)
self – 8
Kensington – 5
Carina – 3 (Harlequin)
Tangled Tree Publishing – 3 (Hot Tree)
Emporium Press – 2
Forever – 2 (Grand Central Publishing)


Although it was close thing, An Unexpected Peril (2021) Deanna Raybourn was my favorite cover, but as a whole, the mystery category had many many to choose from.


I Read a LOT of Books

As I mentioned earlier, 2021 was a terrible year for me, so I went to my favorite form of escapism: reading.

This is the most books I have every read in a single year, since I started keeping track (2003).

Total Books Read: 335
Total Pages Read: 82788
Total Hours Listened: 7 days, 4 hrs, and 12 mins
Average days per book: 5.56
Average pages per day: 123



As you can see, an overwhelming majority of the books I loved were in the romance category. That is, of course, because a romance has an HEA, and those HEAs got me through the year.

Unfortunately for me, that means half the books I read had explicit sex scenes, so that was a downside.

But I did read my FIRST BOOK EVER with a chapter heading for aces!

Content disclaimer This chapter includes a sex scene. If you’d rather not read sexually explicit content, please skip ahead to chapter 23.



As a reader of SFF, every couple years a guy complains that there aren’t any good female authors. (Seriously, I’ve been ranting about this since 2005.) So I started keeping track of the sex of the authors I’ve been reading.

As I have every year since 2012, the majority of the books I read this year were written by women, and when you take pseudonyms into account, more than three quarters of the books I read this year were written by women.

Why do I take pseudonyms into account? Because in genres like fantasy and mystery, women frequently take male pseudonyms or use their initials instead of a first name, to hide their gender. So I track those numbers as well: 7% of all the books I’ve read since 2003 have been written by women (overtly or subtly) hiding they are women.





With a couple of exceptions (Terry Pratchett, Robert B Parker, Ben Aaronovitch, FREX) I tend to prefer books written by women–and when reading primarily SFF, I tend prefer female leads; mostly because there is less blatant sexism and misogyny.

However, as is obvious from my love of SFF, I like reading about experience that are not my own, and so I started seeking out books by and about POC, as well as books set in places unfamiliar to me.

When I started reading romance, I discovered that many of the best books were sexually explicit, which sometimes gives me a feeling of dysphoria, plus, sex scenes are just boring. I soon discovered that MM romance was much easier for me to read, since I don’t feel as if I should be inserting myself into the story, so I also started reading a lot of LGBT stories–not just romances, but across all genres.

What this chart is showing is that I read a LOT of MM stories, and I still have work to do in reading more stories with POC representation.




I read almost exclusive ebooks at this point, with the exceptions being cookbooks and comics. Since I have barely cooked or baked this year, all the paper books were comics.

And as you can see, almost half the books I read were rereads.

You can see here what years I’ve struggled with my mental health, by the percent of rereads in a year.



Random bits and pieces

Country of Origin


Every once in awhile I come across a genre book / series that is translated into English, and I adore these books, since they (especially mysteries) give a completely different view of another country. And books written in English but set in a country that is not the US or Great Britain are also lovely.

I do need to branch out more, but at least it’s not all US & UK authors.




This is unsurprising, since I had so many rereads this year. What I did find interesting (and don’t have a way to track, is that some of the comforting rereads were ones I hadn’t rated above a 7 1/2. However, something about the story settled my mind and emotions.

For example, Dahlia Donovan’s Sin Bin series pulled me in and stuck in my brain, even if I didn’t always like the characters, or the trope wasn’t my thing. But for the most part I picked up books I loved, or was pretty certain I was going to love, to read this year.


And that’s a wrap for 2021. Any books I read in the next couple days will be shoehorned into 2022, just to make things easier.

I hope y’all read some amazing books this year, and I hope that the next year will be one that requires less comfort and more adventure.

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Yearly Round-Up  

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Comfort Reads of 2021

This year was awful for me.

Really awful.

So I did a lot of rereading of books of favorites, or books that brought me comfort and allowed me a distraction from reality. And those two are not always the same thing. Some distracting books are not comforting, but none of the books have a cliff-hanger ending, and to me, all of the endings are satisfying.

This list is going to be a lot of books. But I read a stupidly large number of books this year, so this is kind of a drop in the bucket.

Small VicesI’m not even going to try to tell you what makes these books so good, just that each and every one of these served to pull me out of my own head when I desperately needed it. In fact, the first book I reached for after my father died was Robert Parker’s Small Vices, and the only reason the Miss Marple series didn’t make the list is because I had just finished rereading that entire series at the end of 2020

I do, however, want to note that several authors made this list in multiple genres, including C.S. Poe, who wrote books I adore in all three of my escapism genres. The others are Nicole Kimberling, Cat Sebastian, Aidan Wayne.


Big Bad Wolf series* by Charlie Adhara

The Wolf at the Door (2018), The Wolf at Bay (2018), Thrown to the Wolves (2019), Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (2020)

Supernatural Mystery, Romance, LGBT


The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred the Vampire Accountant

Fred, the Vampire Accountant series by Drew Hayes:

The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant (2014), Undeath and Taxes (2015), Bloody Acquisitions (2016), Deadly Assessments (2018), Undeading Bells (2019)

Supernatural Mystery


Offbeat Crimes series* by Angel Martinez

Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters (2016), The Pill Bugs of Time (2016), Skim Blood and Savage Verse (2017), Feral Dust Bunnies (2017), Jackalopes and Woofen-Poofs  (2017), All the World’s an Undead Stage (2018); Brandywine Investigations*: Open for Business (2016), Family Matters (2018); Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists* (2017)

Supernatural Mystery, Romance, LGBT


London Falling

Shadow Police series by Paul Cornell

London Falling (2012), The Severed Streets (2014), Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? (2016)

Supernatural Mystery


C.S. Poe

Love, Marriage, and a Baby Carriage* (2016)

Supernatural Romance, LGBT, Short story


Nicole Kimberling

Grilled Cheese and Goblins: Adventures of a Supernatural Food Inspector* (2018)

Supernatural Mystery, Romance, LGBT


The House in the Cerulean SeaT.J. Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea (2020)

Fantasy, LGBT


Aidan Wayne

Making Love (2017)

Supernatural Romance, LGBT, novella



Daniel O’Malley The Rook, Audio Edition (2012) narrated by Susan Duerden

Stiletto, Audio Edition (2016) narrated by Moira Quirk

Urban Fantasy



Cut to the QuickJulian Kestrel Mysteries by Kate Ross

Cut to the Quick (1993), A Broken Vessel (1994), Whom the Gods Love (1995), The Devil in Music (1997)

Historical Mystery


Regency London series by Michelle Diener

The Emperor’s Conspiracy (2012), Banquet of Lies (2013), A Dangerous Madness (2014)

Historical Mystery, Romance


Cat Sebastian Hither, Page* (2019)

Historical Mystery, Romance, LGBT


C.S. Poe Southernmost Murder* (2018)

Contemporary Mystery, Romance, LGBT


Come Unto These Yellow SandsJosh Lanyon Come Unto These Yellow Sands* (2017)

Contemporary Mystery, LGBT


Nicole Kimberling

The Bellingham Mystery Series Volume 1* (2015), The Bellingham Mystery Series Volume 2* (2015)

Contemporary Mystery, Romance, LGBT


Grasmere Cottage Mysteries (2018) by Dahlia Donovan

Dead in the Garden, Dead in the Pond, Dead in the Shop

Contemporary Mystery, Cozy, LGBT


Robert B. Parker Small Vices (1998) (Spenser)

Mystery, PI


Shores of DesireLescaut Quartet* by Tracy Grant

Dark Angel (1994), Shores of Desire (1997)

Historical Romance, MF, Mystery


The Turner series* by Cat Sebastian

The Lawrence Browne Affair (2017), The Ruin of a Rake (2017);
It Takes Two to Tumble* (2017) (Seducing the Sedgwicks)

Historical Romance, MM, LGBT


Sins of the Cities series* by KJ Charles

An Unseen Attraction (2017), An Unnatural Vice (2017);
Band Sinister* (2018)

Historical Romance, MM, LGBT


Georgette Heyer These Old Shades (1926)

Historical Romance


Better Than PeopleGarnet Run series* by Roan Parrish

Better Than People (2020), Best Laid Plans (2021); Riven*: Riven (2018), Rend  (2018); The Remaking of Corbin Wale* (2017)

Contemporary Romance, MM, LGBT


Frozen Hearts series* by Annabeth Albert

Arctic Sun (2019), Arctic Wild (2019), Arctic Heat (2019)

Contemporary Romance, MM, LGBT


Talia Hibbert *

Ravenswood: A Girl Like Her (2018), Damaged Goods (2018), Untouchable (2018), That Kind of Guy (2019);
Undone by the Ex-Con (2018), Work for It (2019)

Contemporary Romance, LGBT


C.S. Poe

Kneading You* (2016), Joy (2017), The Color of You* (2017)

Contemporary Romance, MM, LGBT, novellas


Galaxies and OceansN.R. Walker

Galaxies and Oceans* (2018), Upside Down (2019)

Contemporary Romance, MM, LGBT


R. Cooper

Hottie Scotty and Mr. Porter* (2017), For Better or Worse* (2017), Jericho Candelario’s Gay Debut (2018)

Contemporary Romance, MM, LGBT


Layla Reyne

Dine with Me* (2019)

Contemporary Romance, MM, LGBT


Aidan Wayne

Loud and Clear (2016), Play It Again (2019)

Contemporary Romance, MM, LGBT

Blank Spaces
Cass Lennox

Blank Spaces* (2016)

Contemporary Romance, MM, Mystery, LGBT


Alexis Hall

Waiting for the Flood (2018) (Spires)

Contemporary Romance, MM,  LGBT, novella


Ada Maria Soto

And Everything Nice (2016)

Contemporary Romance, MM, LGBT, short story


* Boinking Books

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