We found a cute, but unused “little library” while out on a walk. As she’s always got some to hand, Caley left a couple of books to get it started.

We’ll check backnext time we’re going that way, and hopefully the library has started to get some more use… otherwise, I’m sure we can find some more books to donate and grab people’s interest!

A row of 17 books, mainly hardback fiction, on a wooden sideboard top
My 2023 (physical) “TBR” shelf

For the first time in a long time, I have a physical shelf of books that form my “to be read” list. (aka TBR in bookish circles)

Over the last few years I’ve fallen out of the habit of reading regularly for fun. Which is odd, given I live with someone who has their own book review blog, YouTube channel, and read 210 books last year. This year I want to make a concerted effort to try and be more consistent, so I’ve put the books I want to read sometime soon front and centre in my office – they’re on top of the sideboard that sits to my right when I’m at my computer desk, or left when I’m at my hobby desk, and within arms-reach of both.

The list itself is a mix of old favourites I haven’t read in years, new fiction reads I’m sure I’ll like, some new authors or genres I’m not familiar with, and a couple of non-fiction books to round things out. I still have 3 books I’m waiting on physical copies of to arrive. The full list, in no particular order, is:

  1. Hallowed Ground – Richard Strachan
  2. The Hollow King – John French
  3. Rogal Dorn: The Emperor’s Crusader – Gav Thorpe
  4. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
  5. The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
  6. The Two Towers – J.R.R. Tolkien
  7. The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien
  8. The Triumph of Saint Katherine – Danie Ware
  9. Helbrecht: Knight of the Throne – Marc Collins
  10. Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett
  11. Mort – Terry Pratchett
  12. Soul Music – Terry Pratchett
  13. Dune – Frank Herbert
  14. Dead Lies Dreaming – Charles Stross
  15. Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories – Agatha Christie
  16. Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories – Agatha Christie
  17. Briardark – C. L. Werner
  18. Haven’t You Heard? – Marie Le Conte
  19. Escape – Marie Le Conte

Hopefully these won’t be the only books I read through the year; I’m giving myself permission to pick up new books throughout the year as they pique my interest.

In terms of keeping track, I might use Micro.Blog, as it’s added several book-related features over the last couple of years, and has a nice and simple companion app for iOS, called Epilogue. Another option, that my partner recommended, is The Storygraph. Naturally, I’ll be posting updates to this blog too!

I ordered Powers of Darkness for Caley’s birthday. It’s an “alternative” version of Dracula. The story behind it sounds like it could be worthy of a novel in and of itself:

In 1901 Icelandic publisher and writer Vladimar Ásmundsson set out to translate Bram Stoker’s classic novel, Dracula. Called Makt Myrkranna, the Icelandic version was unnoticed outside the country until 1986, when Dracula scholars discovered Stoker’s original preface to the book. It was not until 2014, however, that noted Dracula scholar Hans Corneel de Roos realised that Ásmundsson hadn’t merely translated Dracula but had, rather, penned an entirely new version of the story, with some all-new characters and a re-worked plot. The resulting narrative is one that is shorter, punchier, more erotic, and rivals the original in terms of suspense.

A photo of the front cover of the book Alpharius: Head of the Hydra, by Mike Brooks, taken shortly after I had finished reading it.


Legends abound of the glorious or infamous deeds of the Emperors sons. Yet almost nothing is known of Alpharius, the most mysterious of them all, for the Lord of the Alpha Legion is unparalleled in the art of obfuscation. Such are his gifts of secrecy and deceit that even his rediscovery has remained an enigma until now. But when the tale comes from the serpent’s mouth, where does the deception end and the truth begin?


It’s felt like it’s been ages since I’ve read a Black Library book that I just can’t put down and end up finishing in a single sitting. Alpharius: Head of the Hydra turned out to be just that sort of book. Without giving away any spoilers: secrets and origins are revealed, and there are insights into one of the sneakiest and most enigmatic characters in the Warhammer 40,000 mythos are given.

Or are they? Alpharius is at his core a master of subterfuge, and Games Workshop make heavy use (personally I’d say overuse) of the “unreliable narrator” trope in their world building. So there is definitely scope to discount everything in this book as nothing but a gripping yarn woven by the narrator to distract from what really happened. But based on how the story is framed, I choose to believe that the events of the book are canonical fact.

Mike Brooks takes a character which is supposed to be largely unknowable and deceitful, and manages to make them a well rounded – and often sympathetic – protagonist. It’s not easy to do when the subject matter is a giant, genetically-engineered trans-human intended to be a demi-god for all intents and purposes. The biggest problem with a character like Alpharius is that they often come across as knowing everything and are fully in control, right up until the plot-point where they conveniently aren’t. There’s a popular meme – “just as planned” – where even in apparent defeat certain characters “win”. That meme could be tailormade for Alpharius under most circumstances, and while there are a few moments of that in this book, they’re minor and don’t get in the way of the rest of the characterisation.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.