Top Ten Tuesday: Cosy Reads

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics

Yes, I am changing the spelling of the word “cosy” here! Us Brits generally do prefer the soft sibilance and rounded corners of the ‘s’ rather than the harsh sound and spiky edginess of a ‘z’ and for a word like “cosy”, which is all about warmth and hugs and comfort and safety, the softness of the ‘s’ seems even more apt!

And there was a time when I would have derided cosy reads – yes, I confess it – because surely books should be disquieting and challenging, shouldn’t they? And yes, of course they should. But they should also be heartwarming and sweet and create that feeling of being wrapped up in a warm blanket in front of a fire with a cup of tea (and of course a book) on a winter’s night…

What sort of things am I looking for in a cosy read? Warm characters with whom I want to spend time… low stakes narratives… maybe a bit of romance… an overall sense of optimism and hope and simple joy in humanity. Not all our reading has to dwell angst-ridden on our demons…

The House in the Cerulean Sea, T. J. Klune

Linus Baker leads a quiet life. At forty, he has a tiny house with a devious cat and his beloved records for company. And at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, he’s spent many dull years monitoring their orphanages.

Then one day, Linus is summoned by Extremely Upper Management and given a highly classified assignment. He must travel to an orphanage where six dangerous children reside, including the Antichrist. There, Linus must somehow determine if they could bring on the end of days. But their guardian, charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, will do anything to protect his wards. As Arthur and Linus grow ever closer, Linus must choose between duty and his dreams.

  • Characters: so wonderful! A fantastic array of fantastical children in the orphanage, presided over with genuine love and understanding by Arthur.
  • Stakes: when your antagonist is… bureaucracy, the biggest threat is whether the orphanage would pass the inspection or not.
  • Romance: so sweet, but not the central tenet
  • Optimism: overwhelmingly optimistic about humanity

Under the Whispering Door, T. J. Klune

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own sparsely-attended funeral, Wallace is outraged. But he begins to suspect she’s right, and he is in fact dead. Then when Hugo, owner of a most peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace reluctantly accepts the truth.

Yet even in death, he refuses to abandon his life – even though Wallace spent all of it working, correcting colleagues and hectoring employees. He’d had no time for frivolities like fun and friends. But as Wallace drinks tea with Hugo and talks to his customers, he wonders if he was missing something.

The feeling grows as he shares jokes with the resident ghost, manifests embarrassing footwear and notices the stars. So when he’s given one week to pass through the door to the other side, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in just seven days.

  • Characters: wonderfully gentle and calm, and Wallace’s growth from curmudgeon to caring is very touching
  • Stakes: will Wallace choose to move on?
  • Romance: more central to the novel that The House in the Cerulean Sea but very tender and sweet
  • Optimism: overwhelming

Legends and Lattes, Travis Baldree

After decades of adventuring, Viv the orc barbarian is finally hanging up her sword for good. Now she sets her sights on a new dream – for she plans to open the first coffee shop in the city of Thune. Even though no one there knows what coffee actually is.

If Viv wants to put the past behind her, she can’t go it alone. And help might arrive from unexpected quarters. Yet old rivals and new stand in the way of success. And Thune’s shady underbelly could make it all too easy for Viv to take up the blade once more.

But the true reward of the uncharted path is the travellers you meet along the way. Whether bound by ancient magic, delicious pastries or a freshly brewed cup, they may become something deeper than Viv ever could have imagined.

  • Characters: intensely likeable, whilst the focus is on Viv the other characters are so gently suportive too – and oh Thimble the Rattkin pastry chef!!
  • Stakes: very low – will Viv persuade people to pay for coffee? Might she have to pay off the local extortion racket?
  • Romance: present but not central – who wouldn’t want the orc and succubus to get together?
  • Optimism: totally optimistic: people come together to look after each other

The Thursday Murder Club series, Richard Armstrong

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

  • Characters: utterly likeable and compelling bunch of pensioners – rabble rousing trades unionist, gently insightful psychiatrist, erstwhile spy and, well, a rather capable old biddy! The characters and
  • Stakes: actually pretty high as the series progresses, but there’s no real sense of threat
  • Romance: negligible
  • Optimism: high – like good cosy crime novels, good triumphs, which is not always the same as the criminals being arrested. Some just become friends!

The Wayfarers series, Becky Chambers

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The ship, which has seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.

But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptillian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.

But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

  • Characters: vivid, pleasant, entirely likeable with a nice range of diversity all looking out for each other
  • Stakes: there is a vague threat of interstellar war in the opening novel but in the main we just follow characters who want to get on, do their jobs, be safe…
  • Romance: yes and very sweet but not the focus.
  • Optimism: absolutely – kindness and trust and accepting others leads to triumph.

Psalm for the Wild-Built, Becky Chambers

It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.

They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

This is a cheeky honourable mention that I would have kept separate except for the fact that it is by the same author and I am in the midst of reading it. So far, the stakes seem to consist of making a decent cup of tea!

The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells

 In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid – a self aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as ‘Murderbot’.

Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighbouring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

  • Characters: Murderbot is at the heart of the novel – snarky, confused, exploring its own identity, awkward and uncomfortable around humans and wanting only to escape into fiction… I know how you feel, Murderbot!
  • Stakes: on one hand pretty high – life and death in the first book which is all I’ve read; on the other hand, Murderbot just wants to finish the job and go and watch TV…
  • Romance: none yet
  • Optimism: high – decent characters worked together, learned to trust the uncontrolled Murderbot, and won!

Red, White and Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston

Alex Claremont-Diaz is handsome, charismatic, a genius – pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House ever since his mother first became President of the United States. There’s only one problem. When the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an altercation between Alex and Prince Henry, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family and state devise a plan for damage control: stage a truce. But what begins as a fake, Instagrammable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon they are hurtling into a secret romance that could derail the presidential campaign and upend two nations.

  • Characters: wonderful, vivid and engaging, genuinely caring for each other
  • Stakes: world politics is the background – our main characters are First Son and Prince of Wales after all – and there is an election to be won by Alex’s mum, but the foreground is very much the relationship.
  • Romance: At the heart of the novel – why do most of my cosy reads these feature same-sex relationships?
  • Optimism: this was, I think, written as explicit an anti-Trump anti-hate novel… and it works brilliantly and shows the power of acceptance.

One Last Stop, Casey McQuiston

Moving to New York City is supposed to prove cynical twenty-three-year-old August right: magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist.

But then, she meets this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile.

August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane is displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help Jane. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things after all.

  • Characters: like Red, White and Royal Blue, the characters here are gorgeous, especially Jane and August, but I found the found-family and the group of secondary characters more compelling here
  • Stakes: reasonably high at a personal level – Can they save Jane from an eternity travelling the subway? Might she die if the power is cut? Would she revert to her own time?
  • Romance: Strongly present – and I found McQuiston felt more comfortable with the sex here and it was more effectively described.
  • Optimism: Totally!

Nevermoor, Jesssica Townsend

Morrigan Crow is cursed, destined to die on her eleventh birthday. But, as the clock strikes midnight, she’s whisked away by a remarkable man called Jupiter North and taken to the secret city of Nevermoor.

There she’s invited to join the Wundrous Society. Mystery, magic and protection are hers – if only she can pass four impossible trials, using an exceptional talent. Which she doesn’t have…

  • Characters: spunky, anarchic, individual – a brilliant cast of fascinating people and a wonderful magnificat!
  • Stakes: reasonably high – there’s a genuinely sinister guy floating around in the background here who I suspect will be a high level threat to Nevermoor…
  • Romance: none yet
  • Optimism: as with all these, really high – trusting yourself and others allows you to achieve anything, even pass rather arbitrary tests!

Rivers of London series, Ben Aaronovitch

My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service… Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England.

Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden … and there’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.

  • Characters: Peter Grant is a fantastic creation – a surprisingly convincing modern policeman, turning that methodology on the magical principles of his boss – and Nightingale remains compellingly powerful. And the whole concept of the genii loci having their own identity, personality and body is brilliant
  • Stakes: pretty high in places – personally I preferred the novels that were more standalone and not following the Faceless Man arc.
  • Romance: Oooo, Peter and Beverly are wonderful…
  • Optimism: absolutely: despite the threats and challenges, good triumphs and people are saved.

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Coldhearted Ebenezer Scrooge has no use for Christmas cheer. He rejects a dinner invitation from his jolly nephew, scolds charity workers, and very begrudgingly allows his clerk a day off. All the warmth and joy of the holiday are humbug to Scrooge until Jacob Marley, his long-dead business partner, pays a call. Marley’s spirit is the first in a series of ghostly visitors who offer visions of the past, present, and future ? warnings that transform a bitter old miser into a charitable and compassionate man.

  • Characters: utterly iconic – I do have issues with Tiny Tim, but the Cratchits, Fred, Belle, Scrooge, Marley, even the miners and lighthousemen and sailors, are all utterly iconic
  • Stakes: life changing for Scrooge (and the Cratchits) but there is a lot of embedded institutional issues not addressed in it….
  • Romance: none – no one wants that
  • Optimism: at the very heart of it: God bless is, every one.

Honourable Mention: Discworld

All of them. Need I say more?

So, as these dark night draw in in Europe and we reach to these cosy books, I hope there is something here that you will be drawn to! I’m looking forward to reviewing your lists tonight!

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

December 6: Freebie
December 13: Books on My Winter 2022-2023 To-Read List
December 20: Books I Hope Santa Brings This Year
December 27: Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection (What books did you get as presents this holiday season? Or what did you buy with gift cards?)

14 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Cosy Reads”

  1. As someone who is physically disabled myself (I was born with Spina Bifida) I have some issues with A Christmas Carol. However, I credit Charles Dickens with giving people with disabilities some representation. Overall, I love the story and I enjoy watching every adaptation of it. Also, I have The Thursday Murder Club on my TBR. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can absolutely see how Tiny Tim is hugely problematic! To be honest, he’s not credible enough as a character to be representation, is he? Just a plot device…
      Thursday Murder Club is great fun and genuinely touching too with the complications of old age.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I like that he has a positive attitude. Sometimes in books and movies people with disabilities are portrayed as depressed and living grim lives. Tiny Tim is genuinely happy and I love that. However, I definitely agree that he’s used as a plot device, which is hugely problematic.

        Liked by 1 person

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