Top Ten Tuesday: Last 10 Books I Read In One Sitting

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday.

July 20: Books I Read In One Sitting (or would have if I had the time)

For this one I just decided to keep things simple and go with the last ten.

1. Weather by Jenny Offill- This was one I read because I’d seen it recommended several places. It was short and had brief chapters so it went quickly, but it was also beautifully written, so it made me want to read more.

2. Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill- I sought this one out because I enjoyed Weather so much. It was written in a similar style, so I read it in about an afternoon. I don’t know if these are technically novels or novellas.

3. The Guest List by Lucy Foley- This had short chapters, and most of them ended on a cliffhanger or with an unanswered question. So I’d want to read another chapter, and the next one was short too, so I did… I read most of the book that way!

4. Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson- I think this one took me a day or two. It was just silly fun that let me turn my mind off for a little while.

5. Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl- I read this when I wasn’t feeling well, so I had some time on my hands. It filled that time nicely.

6. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro– Ishiguro’s writing just flows so beautifully that it makes me want to keep reading it. I think it probably actually took me a couple days to get through, but I did read it pretty quickly.

7. The Mother in Law by Sally Hepworth– This one was clever about showing something from one character’s perspective that seemed inexcusable, and then showing the same event from another character’s point of view and letting us see that there were valid reasons behind it. That back and forth kept me interested.

8. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore– This was another very short but beautifully written book. In this case though it was less the events of the story that compelled me than the characters and the style.

9. You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann– I read this for a book club. We were supposed to read a horror book for Halloween, but I wasn’t in a horror mood, so I just went for something short. It was pretty compelling though and and I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would.

10. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware– This was a fast moving update of The Turn of the Screw. The tone was very different and it lacked the complexity of James, but it was fun on it’s own merits.

Fear Street: Reboot Films and Nostalgia

Last summer Netflix’s The Babysitters’s Club sent me into nostalgic bliss. This summer, Netflix kept my childhood literary nostalgia going, with their Fear Street trilogy. When I was about eleven I devoured these books. They didn’t particularly scare me, they were more trashy, self-consciously cheesy fun. So when I heard that Netflix had adapted the series into a three film event, I definitely wanted to watch. It sent me on a walk down memory lane (which just so happens to be adjacent to Fear Street.)

Source: Bloody Disgusting

The Fear Street books were centered around a street (called Fear Street) in the town of Shadyside, Ohio. They were more of less stand alones set in the same universe with some characters appearing in more than one book. However, there were several “miniseries” within the main series. These were (usually) trilogies, centering on one storyline. They included 99 Fear Street: The House of Evil, Fear Street Cheerleaders, and the origin story, The Fear Street Saga. There were also some spin-off series.

The Netflix films act as a sort of mash up of bits and pieces the series. They use tropes that appear a lot in the series, along with settings readers may recognize. Author RL Stine began writing the series in 1989 (I started reading them years later) and they reached their heyday in the early-mid 1990’s. The first film begins in 1994 (when the books were probably at their height of popularity), and they move backwards with the second set in 1978 and the third in 1666.

Part I: 1994

source: bookstr.com

Rivalry between Shadyside (home and Fear Street and Murder Capital USA. We never really learn why people continue to go there…) and the nearby Sunnyvale (nicest place to live ever) is high. When Deena Johnson’s girlfriend, Sam moved to Sunnyvale, Deena broke up with her. Now things are tense to say the least. One day, Deena and her friend Kate are on a school bus, with Sam and her new boyfriend in a car behind them. In an ill considered move, Deena and Kate throw a water cooler out the emergency exit, causing Sam and her boyfriend to crash. No one dies in the accident and Sam’s injuries seem minor. But the crash disturbed the grave of Sarah Fier, executed for witchcraft in 17th century Shadyside. Soon ghosts from the violence in Shadyside’s past come torment Sam, Deena and Kate as well as Deena’s brother, Josh, and their friend, Simon.

The Sarah Fier storyline references the Fear Street Saga. That’s a story that’s followed through all three parts of the film series. The plot of this film brings together several elements from other books. .

Part II: 1978

Souce: IMDb

The second film in the series is set in Camp Nightwing (book fans may recognize this as the setting of Lights Out) on the border between Shadyside and Sunnyvale, in the summer of 1978. Ziggy, rebellious and angry, is in her last year as a camper. Her older sister, prim and proper Cindy, is a counselor. When the camp’s nurse tries to murder Cindy’s boyfriend, Cindy soon comes to realize that she may have had a reason to do so. A reason that ties in to the death of Sarah Fier almost three hundred years earlier…

In this film, we meet another important family: the Goodes of Sunnyvale (these names really aren’t subtle!) The connection between the Goodes and the Fiers goes back to the days when Shadyside and Sunnyvale were a single colonial settlement.

Part III: 1666

Source: Wikipedia

The conclusion is set in Union Settlement (soon to be split into two towns, Shadyside and Sunnyvale). Sarah Fier is a friend of Solomon Goode (ancestor of Nick). One night she and several other friends attend a party. Several strange things happen, and the next morning, the town is struck by misfortune. Food goes rotten, animals become viscous and the pastor goes mad, locking several townspeople into the chapel and killing them. Solomon Goode’s brother, Elijah, convinces the townspeople that Sarah Fier is a witch who brought a curse upon the settlement. The accused witches are condemned to be hung and dawn, but Sarah has a plan to turn things around.

I liked that this series managed to tell a story both forwards and backwards. We see Deena’s story upfold over the course of the trilog as she tries to break Sarah Fier’s curse, while the 1978 and the 1666 stories are told via flashback. The origin story in this is significantly changed from The Fear Street Saga books. One difference (that I remember at least! there are probably many others but my memory of the books isn’t great) was that in the books we learn how “Fier” became “Fear.” Also, in the books, the creepiness was centered around the titular street. The films have the same title, and we see a road sign for “Fier Street” in 1994, but the focus is on Shadyside and Sunnyvale as a region. That’s not a criticism: because they books are all stand alones set in the same universe, it’s waaay too much to adapt them all, unless you’re making a longform series. Hence the mash up and streamlining. But I would have liked to see how the film’s Sarah Fier tied into a street in Shadyside somehow.

But really what I liked most about these movies was playing “spot the reference.” For example, the first scene in the trilogy takes place in a mall bookstore. We see some very Fear Street inspired book covers on the shelves, and the author of this series is Robert Lawrence. I’m one of probably only a few viewers who knows that “Robert Lawrence” is what the “RL” in “RL Stine” stands for. Yes, I am that much of a geek!

Now that I’ve put my geekery on display on my blog for all to see, I’ll sit back and wait to see what kind of literary nostalgia Netflix has in store for me in the future.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish Had Sequels (The Sequel)

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s topic was:

July 13: Book Titles That are Questions

But I feel like I just did a book title list recently and I wanted to mix it up a little. So I found an old topic that I thought sounded interesting.

Standalone Books That I Wish Had Sequels

I found this kind of tough, because most of these I like as standalones, even if I want to know what happened next. Some I left off, because even if they had open endings, I don’t think they’d work with a sequel. I did something like this a while back, but on that one I included books that ended a series that I wished weren’t the end. I also counted sequels by other authors. So I decided to make a new list with actual standalones. Sequels by other authors don’t count on this list. I tried to be fairly general in my comments and not include specific spoilers, but just be warned…:

1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell- OK this actually does have a sequel that was authorized by the author’s estate, but for the most part, it’s not great. Also based on the rules I made up for this list, sequels by other authors don’t count. I would have liked Scarlett’s next chapter as imagined by Mitchell herself. But it’s also not like I felt that the original book left me in the middle of nowhere. It just left me wanting to know more.

2. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern– I was once again torn between this and The Night Circus for this list. Both have such vivid settings that could be explored further, and neither ties things up in a bow, so there could conceivably be more to the story. I finally decided to go with this one for this list because the setting (literally) lends itself to millions of stories. Also, I put The Night Circus on my first list.

3. A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux- I was torn between this book and Deveraux’s other romance with elements of time travel, Remembrance. I just went with this one because it was the first that popped into my mind. In both cases, Deveraux twists the expected “happily ever after” a bit. Not that they don’t have happy endings (it is the romance genre after all!) but not in the ways the reader would expect, so more questions begin to emerge.

4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel- This one ends on a hopeful note. It’s a post-apocalyptical novel, so there isn’t much hope through most of it. When it emerges at the end, my biggest question was, “how do people deal with this?” It’s a big change from the status quo for the characters, learning to exist in a world where things may improve. I wanted to know how they handled it!

5. The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente- This is a strange book. It’s supposedly intended for a middle grade audience, but plot deals with the Bronte siblings falling into the fantasy world that they wrote about in their juvenilia. I’m not sure how many middle graders are familiar with the Brontes, let alone their lesser know juvenile works! But I enjoyed it nonetheless. Knowing biographical information about the real life version of characters made me wonder how their book versions would handle some of what I knew was facing them. I was also interested in their evolution from the children depicted in the book to brilliant writers. But a sequel with that stuff would probably take it even farther out of middle grade territory.

6. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- I’m fine with where it ended, but I’ve always been curious about what the future holds for Mary, Dickon and Colin. Another author did write a sequel but I’m not counting sequels by other authors for this list.

7. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman– I’m kind of curious what happens to Bod when ventures out into the (non-graveyard based) world. How do his daily interactions with the living go? What becomes of him as an adult? Does he find a job? Get married? Live “normal” life? Or does he do something different?

8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke– I have a conflicted relationship with this book (mostly because I found it way too long!) but it does leave off with a lot of unanswered questions.

9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen– Let me just preface this by saying that I’m totally fine with this not having a (official) sequel (there are many, many sequels and spin offs and fanfic by other authors!) But I’ve always wondered what became of Kitty and Mary after their sisters got married. I mean, the fact that Lizzie and Jane married money means that they won’t be homeless when their father dies (presumably they could stay with one of them!) but what did they do with their lives? Did they ever marry? Did they do something else? If so, what?

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I Love Reading

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

July 6: Reasons Why I Love Reading

How do I love reading? Let me count the ways:

1. There’s a book for almost every mood. If I’m depressed and I want something to cheer me up there’s a book for that. If I want something to make me cry (and hopefully feel better after) there are ones for that too.

2. Books teach me new things, Nonfiction has made me aware of things I never would have imagined before. Fiction too, actually.

3. Books entertain me. I’m rarely bored when I’m reading.

4. Reading lets me travel the world. I wish I could travel more IRL, but if I can’t, books are the next best thing.

5. I think reading has made me a more empathetic person. By getting into the heads of characters and authors with different experiences, I can understand those experiences much better, even if I’ve never had them myself,

6. I’ve made friends due to books. In college, the first friend I made on a strange campus, away from my family, was someone who I saw reading a book I love. Online I’ve made friends chatting about favorite books or types of books.

7. I have happy memories associated with reading. My parents read to me every night when I was little. I used to read (in the dark!) after I was supposed to be sleeping as a child. When I was in camp one summer, we went to a baseball game. I’m not the biggest sports fan in the world, so I brought a book with me and spent the time reading a good book, with sports fans cheering in the background. Remembering those things make me smile.

8. It’s built my vocabulary. As a kid I would use words I’d read all the time. As a result I had a very… odd vocabulary. I wouldn’t walk around the block, I would circumnavigate the block! I also frequently used, and mispronounced, words I’d read but never heard. But having a broad vocabulary definitely helped me academically as I got older.

9. Books are like friends who are around all the time. I have friends who I don’t see a lot because they live far away. But books are always there.

10. You can find hidden gems where you least expect them.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set in Hotels

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This was this week’s prompt:

June 29: Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2021

But rather than make yet another TBR, I got to thinking: since people are starting to travel again, what are some good books set in hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and other travel lodgings? And if you still can’t travel IRL, you can do it vicariously with these books. Hotels are great settings because you get all kinds of people, each with their own stories, all in the same place at the same time. I tried to keep it pretty varied.

The Shining by Stephen King– This is a hotel you probably won’t want to stay in! When Jack Torrence gets a job as the caretaker at Overlook Hotel, the recovering alcoholic sees it as a fresh start for himself, his wife, and their son. But the idyllic location is remote and cut off from the rest of the world, particularly during the harsh winter. And the Overlook is home to something dark, something that threatens both Jack’s mind and his family’s safety.

A Room with A View by EM Forester– While traveling in Italy with her aunt, Charlotte, Lucy Honeychurch meets George and his father, who kindly offer to switch hotel rooms with Lucy and Charlotte, as their room has a view. Charlotte refuses this offer out of snobbery. But Lucy finds herself drawn to George. She’s headstrong and bright, and pushing against the ties of her upper class British upbringing, but she can’t quite bring herself to sever those ties. When the characters return to England, where Lucy and George’s paths soon cross again.

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving- In the mid 1950’s, Win decides to buy and convert and old school into a hotel. His family comes along for the ride and the challenges of helping to run, and live in a hotel bring out different aspects of his children’s personalities. When an old friend offers Win the chance to operate an Austrian hotel, he sells his first hotel, and moves the family to Austria. Several years later the family moves to NYC. Along their travels they encounter a number of eccentric characters and situations, but they’re probably the most eccentric of all in their own unique ways.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier– After losing her parents, Mary Yellan moves to north Cornwall, to live with her aunt Prudence and Prudence’s husband, Joss Merlyn, who operates the titular inn. Soon Mary comes to suspect that something criminal is happening at the inn. She finds herself drawn into dangerous situations, and falls in love with a man she doesn’t trust, before she discovers a secret even darker than she’d anticipated.

Eloise by Kay Thompson– Eloise is a precocious child, living in the Plaza Hotel. “Getting bored is not allowed” so Eloise fills her days with various (self assigned) jobs and adventures. It’s a great look at the world of a child who turns a luxury hotel upside down. When I was a little kid I wanted to be Eloise!

Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner – This one about Edith Hope who writes romance novels under a different name. But when she realizes her life is looking like the plot of one of her novels (and not in a good way!) she escapes to the quiet luxury of the titular Swiss hotel. But the hotel’s other guests all seem to come with their own drama.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James This is a pretty decent ghost story/mystery. In 1982 upstate NY, Viv takes a job as a clerk at the titular motel. But something creepy is happening there. In 2017, Carly has heard all about her aunt Viv, who disappeared from the Sun Down Motel before she was born. Unable to let the story go, she moves to Fell, NY and gets a job at the motel. She learns that a lot of things there are still the same, including the things that may have cost Viv her life. The story is told in alternating chapters between the two time periods, but it all comes together at the end.

The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis In 1945 actresses Hazel and Maxine meet on a USO tour of Italy. Five years later, they reunite. Hazel is working as a playwright now and Maxine is cast in the lead role of her play. Both are living in the Chelsea Hotel, which a number of artists of various kinds call home. But as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare gains momentum, both Hazel and Maxine and the other artistic residents of the Chelsea find themselves under suspicion. Lies, espionage, betrayal and more abound.

The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell Sophie wants to put her messy past behind her in St. Carys. When Josh arrives in the idyllic seaside town to run his family’s hotel, he’s taken aback by Sophie’s lack of interest in him (women are usually very interested in him). But there are other dramas happening. Josh is tricked into hiring Sophie’s friend, Tula who seems to have a crush on him that’s unrequited. Meanwhile, someone else has a thing for Tula. And things get more complicated from there… This is frothy fun set in a seaside hotel.

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye – Alice “Nobody” James is a gun moll who arrives in Portland, Oregon in 1921 escaping a violent past. Her newly acquired travelling companion, Max, brings her to the Paragon Hotel to be treated for a bullet wound. The segregated city’s only all black hotel may be an unlikely hiding place, but it has the advantage of a doctor who doesn’t ask too many questions. As she recovers, Nobody is drawn into the lives of the hotel’s residents, especially Blossom, a secretive chanteuse, and Davy a lovable mixed race orphan who is cared for by the hotel’s staff. When Davy disappears, the racial tensions in the city reach a boiling point, and Nobody may be the only person who can safely make inquiries.

Am I A “Writer?” Am I A “Published Author?”

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

Let me make one thing clear:

If you write, you are a writer.

Full stop.

You don’t have to be published.

You don’t have to be paid.

You can write anything, anywhere.

I believe that completely. But it’s only in the last few years that I started to feel comfortable calling myself a writer. Really, the thing that changed was the publication of Beautiful. So why, if I believe all of the above, was I uncomfortable calling myself a writer before I’d published a book?

I think the reason my have something to do with how other people respond. Usually the first question that someone asks when you say you’re a writer, is “What do you write?” (or “What have you written?”)

I could have answered that before I published my book. I could have pointed to short fiction and articles in various publications, as well as the novels and novel fragments sitting on my computer while I tried to figure out what to do with them. But I didn’t feel comfortable answering that question until I was able to point to a book (or a link to a book) and say “that.”

My standards for myself have always been different from what I expect of other people. I’m harder on myself, and I demand more of myself. I think that’s probably fairly common. So while my criteria for other people is “you have to write to be a writer,” my criteria for myself was “you have to write and publish a novel to call yourself a writer.” Is it fair? Perhaps not. Is it hypocrical? Maybe. But it’s what made me comfortable.

Once I managed to call myself a writer though, I was surprised to find another mountain behind it. I’m still struggling to call myself a “published writer.”

Yes, I have a book out. It’s available to purchase. I’ve held a physical copy in my hands. The ebook is on amazon. But there are still a lot of prejudices about self publishing vs. traditional publishing. There’s also a lot of incorrect information. Note: I’ve addressed some of this in the past here. I see traditional publishing and self publishing as different means, to the same end- a published book.

But in spite of that, the words “published author” have a glamorous connotation. I picture book tours, hotels, signings and release parties. I think TV and film rights. In other words, I picture the complete opposite of my daily life! So I’m still trying to reconcile the difference in my head between being a “published author,” and the glamorous, high flying image, that I think depicts very few real-life authors, whether they’re self published or traditionally published.

As of right now, I’m calling myself a “published author” even though it does make me uncomfortable.

Because I know that the image that I have of the glitzy, beguiling author is completely fictional.

Because I know that self publishing is just as valid as traditional publishing.

Because I probably shouldn’t have waited as long as I did to call myself a “writer,” and I don’t want to make the same mistake with “published author.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Wishes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

June 22: Bookish Wishes (My birthday is today, so celebrate with me by granting the wishes of your friends! This is a popular thing to do on Twitter, but today we’re blog hopping. List the top 10 books you’d love to own and include a link to a wishlist so that people can grant your wish. Make sure you link your wishlist to your mailing address [here’s how to do it on Amazon] or include the email address associated with your ereader so people know how to get the book to you. After you post, jump around the Linky and grant a wish or two if you’d like. Don’t feel obligated to send anything!)

I feel a little uncomfortable linking to my wish list, but here are the next ten books I want/plan to buy:

  1. The Dorothy Dunnett Companion by Elsbeth Morrison– I started reading Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles series a few years ago. I enjoyed the first two books, but they’re slow going because the main character speaks several languages and makes references to things that the reader may or may not be able to understand. That can make them hard to follow. But many fans recommend this companion as a helpful guide to the series.

2. The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons– I keep meaning to get this one, and something always takes priority. I won the second book in Simons’ End of Forever saga in a goodreads giveaway last year. But it seems like the kind of trilogy that you really have to read in order. I keep meaning to get the first book for that reason. I can only hope that after I read the first one, I’ll still want to read the second, since it’s been sitting on my shelf forever.

3. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – I’m a fan of the film adaptation of this book, but I still haven’t read the book itself. I also recently saw the miniseries that came out in 2018 (also based on the book). It wasn’t as haunting as the film, but now I’m interested in how both of these adaptations relate to the source material.

4. Lace by Shirley Conran– I was recently with a group of older women who were talking about how this book was such a guilty pleasure in the early 80’s. I looked it up, and discovered this article, and now I’m sort of on a mission to read all of the books that it discusses!

5. The Victorian Chaise-longue by Marghanita Laski– This has been on my wish list for a while along with a number of other Persephone titles, but I recently read a really interesting blog post about (that I’d love link, but I can’t find it!) and that shot it to the top of my list.

6. Sung in Shadow by Tanith Lee- This is another book that I learned about in a rather oblique way. I was looking up information about Lee’s SILVER trilogy, which went unfinished due to Lee’s death in 2015. In 2009 she wrote an essay about her intentions for the books, In that, she mentions this one, another book that she’s written, not in the SILVER series. Since I enjoyed the SILVER books I’d like to get to this at some point.

7. Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions and Heretics by Jason Porath- This one has been on my wishlist for a while. The biggest issue here is that it’s a beautiful, illustrated coffee table volume. I want a physical copy, but I need to make space for it. I’m in the process of clearing out my apartment of the old so I can bring in the new (not just this book, but others as well) so it’ll have to wait until I have some room for it.

8. Take Courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis – I really like Ellis’ first book, How To Be A Heroine: Or What I’ve Learned From Reading Too Much. Her second venture is a look at the work of Anne Bronte. We all know that I’m a Bronte aficionado, so I’ll definitely have to get to this one soon!

9. Fallen Angel by Kim Wilkins– I think I heard about this one from author Kate Forsyth‘s social media. I’m a fan of Forsyth, and when an author I admire recommends a book, I pay attention. This one sounds really good, but it’s not easy to find!

10. Miss Buncle’s Book by DE Stevenson– This is the first in series. It was recommended to be a while ago, and I haven’t gotten to it yet (same old story…) I do want to make it a priority though, because it looks like the kind of thing I’ve been in the mood for lately.

Top Ten Tuesday: TBR Progress Update

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This was this week’s topic:

June 15: Books On My Summer 2021 TBR (or winter, if you live in the southern hemisphere)

But since I’m trying to read through old TBRs before making new ones (I doubt I’ll be able to stick to this resolution for long!) I decided to revisit some old TBRs and do a progress update. If you’re interested, I did one of these in the past, and I’m trying not to repeat books:

  • Majesty: American Royals by Kristin McGree (on my Fall 2020 TBR) This was silly and soap opera-ish but enjoyable for those times when that’s exactly what you need. I made a mental note (that I’m just now remembering) to check out more of McGee’s work for that purpose.

  • How to Stop Time by Matt Haig (2018 TBR) This was a disappointment. It had a really compelling premise, that I really wanted to like, but it was turned into a just OK book. It wasn’t bad, but it was good enough for me to wish it were better.

  • Tangerine by Christine Mangan (2018 TBR) I remember liking a lot about this one, but I don’t remember much about it! I think it had sort of an “old Hollywood” feel that I liked. It felt like a mashup of elements of Agatha Christie, Daphne DuMaurier, Patricia Highsmith and Alfred Hitchcock.

  • The 7 and 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (2018 TBR, Apparently I read a lot from this list!) This was another one that I was really excited for based on the premise, but the execution fell flat for me. I think the Groundhog Day-eque premise needs to be really done well, in order for the book to work. If it’s not, it just feels repetitive. In this case I’d start to get interested in where it was going and then I was frustrated to be sent back to the beginning again! Again, I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

  • Hearts and Bones by Margaret Lawrence (Backlist TBR) This lived on my shelf for many years. I wasn’t in the mood for it, really, for one reason or another. During lockdown, I finally read it, and didn’t much like it. Once again, not bad, but I liked it less than I liked some of the other books on this list that disappointed me! Here, the problem was that I didn’t like the characters or care about the plot. I really need one out of two!

  • The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard (Backlist TBR) I liked this one, but I didn’t love it. So I’m sort of torn about continuing with the series. There are four more Cazalet books out there, and I’m on the fence about whether or not they’re worth reading. I did enjoy the first book, but a five book series just feels like quite an investment!

  • An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear (TBR Procrastination) This was my fifth, and I think, final (for now, at least) book in the Maisie Dobbs series. Jacqueline Winspear is a talented author, and It’s not that I don’t like them, but I feel that each one covers mostly the same ground. If the tone were slightly different that might work. For example if these were cozy mysteries I might find the same thing charming, over and over. But these are really depressing. Like they take place in during the Great Depression, with characters traumatized by WWI. And of course they’re working with crimes all the time, so it gets pretty bleak. None of the characters have grown on developed enough to make me feel like it’s worthwhile.

  • The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (Upcoming Releases for the 2nd Half of 2019) This was an enjoyable dual timeline thriller. I do wish that Simone St. James would return to the historical, gothic, romantic mysteries where she started out. Her last two books have had more contemporary settings, at least in part, (though they’ve had dual timelines as well) and while they’re good, my personal tastes tend toward to historical. I’ll keep reading her books though, because they’re still fun.

  • Milkman by Anna Burns (Winter 2018-2019 TBR) I read this after it won the Man Booker Prize. I was a bit nervous going into it, because I’d heard mixed things, but I ended up liking it more than I realized at the time. It’s not an easy read in terms of understanding what’s going on, so it required some mental effort to read. But looking back on it, I appreciate it in a way I didn’t quite “get” while I was reading it. So this one is a bit better in retrospect.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books For Which I’ve Wanted Read Alikes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

June 8: Books I Loved that Made Me Want More Books Like Them (The wording is weird here, so if you have a better way to say this please let me know! What I’m thinking is… you read a book and immediately wanted more just like it, perhaps in the same genre, about the same topic or theme, by the same author, etc. For example, I once read a medical romance and then went to find more because it was so good. The same thing happened to me with pirate historical romances and romantic suspense.)

For this one, I decided to make things a bit interesting. If a book has TV/film adaptations it’s not allowed on this list, because it’s too popular (and popular books always have imitators!). So this is also turning into a bit of a list of books that I’m surprised don’t have adaptations! I’m also sharing some of the read alikes I’ve found for the books on this list.

1.The Secret History by Donna Tartt– Actually now that I think of it, I’m surprised that Hollywood hasn’t tried to adapt this one. Apparently the rights have been sold but nothing come of it. I’m sure it’s coming eventually, and I can only hope they do it justice. Anyway, after Some read alikes are The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman and Red Leaves by Paullina Simons.

2. The Quincunx by Charles Palliser– This is another book I’m surprised no one’s tried to adapt yet. I think a miniseries format might work best. Though I’m sure it would be a difficult task. It’s actually part book, part puzzle, which is why it’s so hard to find read alikes for. Some read alikes (in different ways) include The Meaning of Night and The Glass of Time by Michael Cox and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (which was ineligible for it’s own spot on this list due to two adaptations)

3, The Eight by Katherine Neville– Actually someone in Hollywood really need to check out this list because I have wonderful source material for them! This book does have a sequel but I haven’t read it yet. I want to reread the first one before I read it. Actually some of the other books on this list, including The Gargoyle and The Shadow of the Wind make decent read alikes. Also, Amy Benson’s Plague Tales trilogy.

4. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson- The Eight (see above) is actually not a bad read alike for this one. Another one is The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (which had the film rights sold in 2005 apparently but no word on whether it’s ever actually happening!). The similarities are more in terms of tone than plot.

5. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon- My quest for read alikes for this one led me the rest of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. It also led me to Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale (which couldn’t make this list due to the adaptation) which sent me on yet another quest for more read alikes.

6. The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue– Read alikes include Donohue’s The Boy Who Drew Monsters, and The Changeling by Victor LaValle. Even though the target audiences are very different I might also say that Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, and even JM Barrie’s Peter Pan are similar.

7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern– There are rumors of a film adaptation of this one. I’m sure there will be one at some point, but for now it works for this list. Read alikes include The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter.

8. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier– Sent me on a quest to read everything else Marillier has written or will write. That includes the rest of the Sevenwaters series. Other non-Marillier read alikes include Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy and Robin McKinley’s folktale series.

9. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray– Again the rest of the trilogy is an obvious read alike. Others include Carol Goodman’s Blythewood trilogy and Bray’s The Diviners series.

I’ve Been… (Vaccinated Edition)

  • Yes, I’ve been fully vaccinated! Yay! But still a bit anxious about returning to “normal” life, minus the masks and social distancing. It’s really amazing what you can get used to!
  • A bit conflicted about Sanditon being brought back. While I enjoyed season one of the show, the fact that Theo James won’t be returning takes it even further from Jane Austen. I was ok with it being left open ended after the first season, because Sanditon is, in fact, a novel fragment. However, Jane Austen wrote happy endings as a matter of personal policy, so it’s fair to say that Sanditon was intended to have one. While Theo James says in his statement that he likes the “broken fairy-tale,” Austen didn’t, saying of her novels: “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.”
  • Speaking of Jane Austen, I’ve recently stated reading Not Just Jane: Rediscovering Seven Amazing Women Writers Who Transformed British Literature by Shelly DeWees. It’s interesting so far, but I was turned off by DeWees’ claim in the introduction that the reason that the work of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Emily Bronte are so popular, while other female writers have been forgotten, is that they paint a “pretty” picture of a sort of romantic idealized English lifestyle. That’s true of Austen to an extent, but she does much more than that. She’s also a satirist, and a social critic. This book gets into some of the social and political implications of her work. Charlotte Bronte also engaged in social criticism including commentary on the position of women in a patriarchal society. And Emily Bronte’s work isn’t pretty or romantic in the least! On the contrary it’s very dark and subversive. It can be downright “ugly” at times! I think the aim of the book, to look at the lives and work of several lesser know female writers is worthwhile, but that’s not because Austen or the Brontës lack depth.
  • Reading a lot of fantasy in May for #WyrdandWonder’s Challenge. Check out some of my posts here:
  • Really loving author Katherine Harbour’s blog. Harbour wrote the Night and Nothing trilogy, which I read and enjoyed a few years ago. I look forward to more of her work. Her blog is sort of a treasure trove of book recommendations (with some nice hidden gems!) and writing tips.
  • Enjoying the Britcom Miranda. I’ve blogged about my love of sitcoms before, but this one isn’t my usual style. But it’s really funny nonetheless, and is great comfort viewing. “Such fun!” Supposedly there’s an American version called Call Me Kat. I haven’t seen that one yet, but I’ll check it out at some point. I’m a bit skeptical though. For every one American version of a British TV show that translates well, there are about five that are just horrible!
  • Through an edit and several rounds of beta reading for Frost. I found this point in the process difficult with Beautiful too: how to tell when it’s “done?” And how to get from the “done writing” point to the “it’s a book!” point? Like is my next step a copy edit? Proofread? I thought that with my second book I’d know how to do this more, but it still seems like I’m sort of feeling my way through.
  • Reading more short fiction that usual, in both novella and short story format. I suppose that’s because I’m more interested in short fiction for my own writing, but I’m still in the process of working out how it’s done. It’s very different that a novel which develops over time. But most of my novels (as if I’ve written so many! We’re talking 2 out of 3 here!) have started as short stories and gradually expanded. I think what I’m trying to figure out is how to keep a short story a short story and make a novel a novel.