Top Ten Tuesday: What To Read Next Wishes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s topic was:

June 21: Bookish Wishes (List the top 10 books you’d love to own and include a link to your 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 in the list description so people know how to get the book to you.)

But I’m on a book buying ban until I read some of what’s on my shelves (I’m not, however, on a book borrowing ban, so the library is fair game…) and I don’t really feel comfortable with this. So I decided to tweak it a little and make it the 10 books I hope to read next (time, life and work permitting) A lot of these are books I have, I just have to get to…

  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – I read this years ago, but my book club is doing it next month, so I’m going to try to give it a reread at some point soon.
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – I’ve had this on my TBR for years. When I was trying to think of things for my Future Classics list I did a bit of googling to get ideas, and I saw a number of lists with this on it, so I think it’s time for me to tackle it.
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – I’ve been meaning to read this for a while now. I’ve heard it’s best when you’re in the mood for something very atmospheric though, which I haven’t bee lately but hope to be soon.
  • A Spell of Rowans by Byrd Nash – I’ve been meaning to read more by indie authors, but as usual, so many books, so little time! I do hope to get to this soon though, because I’ve heard good things.
  • The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier– This was a long ago gift from my Aussie book buddy. Actually she got it for me last year, and got the sequel for me this year, but I still haven’t read this one (*hangs head in shame*) I love Marillier but I keep getting sidetracked!
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton – This is one of a few long (700+ pages) books that are taking up shelf space. I used to dive right into hefty tomes, but in my old age I’ve gotten more hesitant. I’ll reach for one and then think: “I’ll get to that later, this other book looks like something I’ll finish in a day or two…”

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Epilogues and Endings

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

For this one the topic was:

June 14: Books I Wish Had An Epilogue

But I went with just best epilogues and endings. Basically, there were some that I wasn’t sure were epilogues or not! Warning for SPOILERS here:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I think of this as “how to do an epilogue properly.” It’s set 200 years after the events of the story and is narrated by a historian who found and transcribed it. It gives us a glimpse of the world after it changes from what Offred knows. It reminds us how civilizations rise and fall.

And then There Were None by Agatha Christie – The epilogue moves this book from the “frustrating” to “satisfying” category. Basically, this is where we learn whodunnit and why.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling – People seem divided into those who like this epilogue and those who don’t. I do, because we learn in it that Harry’s son is named Albus Severus Potter. In other words his initials spell ASP. Snakes are usually significant in the Harry Potter universe and don’t usually mean good things are coming. On an entirely different note, it’s always nice to get a “where are they now.”

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon – For three books a threat loomed over the heads of these characters. A character from the future had learned something bad happens to them, and warned them. It doesn’t play out in the way we expect though. In the epilogue we learn why. It’s a reminder of how historical record often gets things wrong, and no one ever knows.

Animal Farm by George Orwell – This allegorical novel depicts an animal revolution against humans on a farm, led by pigs. As time goes on the pigs create laws that oppress the other animals, until the end, when the pigs are sitting at table talking to the humans, and it’s hard to tell which is which. Because with power we can become our enemies.

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult – This is another “love it or hate it” ending. I loved it, because it went against everything we’ve expected all along. People who dislike this ending call it a deus ex machina. Which it is, but it’s done in a thought provoking way. The film adaptation changed this to the ending that felt expected which (I thought) missed the whole point.

Atonement by Ian McEwan – It’s almost impossible to discuss this ending without major spoilers. The book finishes off with an ending that feels conclusive and then there’s “just kidding!” that totally makes sense given character and circumstances. I often feel like those kinds of endings are cop outs, but in this situation it was done right.

The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve – This has a tie-in to another of Shreve’s books, The Weight of Water. All through this book, I thought that a character was lying about something mentioned in The Weight of Water. It turned out to be true.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – This is probably another unpopular choice. A lot of people feel like the second half of the book is a let down after the first, and movies frequently end the adaptation after the first half! But I think the second half brings everything full circle. Without it, the narrative lacks balance. I wish there was a less boring word than “symmetry” to describe what I mean!

The Death of the Author

One of the nice things about being an author is the knowledge that even after you’re gone, your books will still be out there. But some authors continue to put out new books even after they’ve died. In most cases, this is because the family of the author (or whomever owns the copyright, I suppose) hires a ghostwriter to continue to write under that author’s name. ‘

A famous example of this is author VC Andrews. In 1979, Andrew’s debut novel, Flowers in the Attic became a best seller. She wrote a few other successful novels before her death in 1986, and more than 70 bestsellers since! The vast majority of her work has been written under her name by Andrew Neiderman. Initially Neiderman was hired by Andrews estate to finish Garden of Shadows, the prequel to Flowers in the Attic that she’d been working on at the time of her death. He later finished her unfinished Casteel series and continued from there.

A biography of VC Andrews by her ghostwriter, Andrew Neiderman

Andrews wrote mostly 4-5 book series (with a single stand alone title) that were mostly non-supernatural gothic horror. But literary markets change. So Neiderman has written trilogies, standalone and duologies in her name. And sometimes a lot changes: for example the duology Daughter of Darkness and Daughter of Light introduces vampires to Andrews’ world. Obviously no one can know what Andrews would have thought of this: she may have been all for it, or she may have hated it! But the Andrews estate is pretty open about Neiderman’s work. In an open letter included in the book Dawn in 1990 they announced that a ghostwriter had been hired to “organize and complete Virginia’s stories and to expand upon them by creating additional novels inspired by her wonderful storytelling genius.” It was another several years before it was revealed that Neiderman was the ghostwriter. Since then, he has been interviewed a number of times about the gig, and written a biography of Andrews under his own name.

Tilly Bagshawe is credited alonside Sidney Sheldon as the author of the “Sidney Sheldon” series (image credit: goodreads)

Tilly Bagshawe is another writer whose work frequently appears under a different name. Sidney Sheldon had sold hundreds of millions of books when he died in 2007. Bagshawe, who has written books under her own name as well, has a Sidney Sheldon page on her website where she reveals that she’s taken “up the mantle of this late, great author, writing in his inimitable Sheldon style.” All of Bagshawe’s work in Sheldon’s name has titles like “Sidney Sheldon’s Mistress of the Game” and “Sidney Sheldon’s The Silent Widow” whereas Sheldon’s own work is just called by the novel’s title. Additionally, Bagshawe is listed as an author on all the “Sidney Sheldon” books she wrote.

An interesting case is romance writer Janet Dailey. Dailey died in 2013 having written a number of romance series. However, over on the Topaz Literary Blog, Lyndsay E Hobbs wrote that as a February 2021 Dailey’s website made no mention of her death, and even seemed to make an effort to make it sound like she was still alive and writing. You could subscribe to the “author’s” newsletter, follow “her” on Facebook, and read a bio written in the present tense with no mention of Dailey’s death. When Hobbs sent a contact email to the website about this she received this in reply: That’s a good question and one I get asked frequently. Before she died, Janet mentored a young author and taught the woman how to write in her style. Janet also left outlines of future books and outlines for the characters to work from. I guess Janet knew how beloved her characters were and how heartbroken readers would be if no one ever knew what happened to the Calders, or her other characters. We like to think the writer is doing a good job of keeping to the spirit of Janet’s writing, and she is acknowledged in every book.” However the website admin she’d been corresponding with didn’t even know the name of the ghostwriter. After she’d contacted the publisher and been told they don’t give out any info about ghostwriters, she said that it did seem as if the publisher was trying to be deceptive about Dailey’s death. She received no response.

In 2017, Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone mystery novels died. She’d started the Kinsey Millhone series in 1982 with A is for Alibi. At the time of her death, her most recent novel, Y is for Yesterday had just been published. In a Facebook post, her daughter wrote: “Many of you also know that she was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV shows, and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name. Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.” In an interview, her husband Steven Humphrey added that she’d been struggling to think of an ending for the series when she became ill, so there’s no manuscript to work from. “Nothing’s been written. There is no Z.”

Obviously there are a number of ways to handle someone else writing in the name of a dead author. Personally I’m OK with the idea, as long as the author would have been OK with this (I think in Grafton’s case her family did the right thing), and as long as they are open and forthcoming about the fact that the books are being written by a ghostwriter. Would I want someone writing in my name someday when I’m gone? I don’t know…

What do you think of this practice? Are you comfortable with ghostwriters taking over from popular authors?

Top Ten Tuesday: Time in the Title

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

June 7: Books With a Unit of Time In the Title (seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, eternity, etc.) (Submitted by RS @ The Idealistic Daydream)

For this one I just went with the last ten I read

Survive the Night by Riley Sager – Because I just decided that time of day counts as a unit of time.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig – ditto

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow – I’m counting “once” and “future”

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney -“Sometimes”

The Peacock Spring by Rumer Godden – Yes, seasons count too

A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire – Ditto

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – Counting days of the week

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews – Yes, holidays count

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker– so do “ages”

Top Ten Tuesday: Comfort Genres

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 31: Comfort Reads (Share which books or kinds of books you turn to when you need to escape. You can either share specific titles if you love to re-read, or you could share qualities of books you look for in a comfort read.)

I get the need for comfort! In fact I’ll be posting some more about that soon. Since I’ve done several lists of comfort books and comfort authors, I thought I’d share some genres and tropes I tend to turn to in tough times.

image from culturefly.co.uk

Mystery: I’ve written about why here a bit. I think it has to do with knowing how things will turn out. Regardless of how bad things get for the characters, by the end I’ll get answers.

image from eveningstandard.co.uk

Romance: I’ve sort of taken a while in coming to this genre (more about that here) but and as of now I still haven’t read too much in it, but especially in the last two years, I’ve discovered that the guarantee of a happy ending is very appealing comfort-wise.

image credit vpl.bibliocommons.com

“Chick-lit:” I’m not fond of that as a genre name, but I do want to consider it separate from romance. Often these have a romantic subplot, but it’s by no means obligatory. It often makes me smile though. I like that friends and family are a big part of these.

image from medium.com popsugar

Children’s books: Old favorite and new offerings. I think people tend to write more optimistic stuff for children, but that doesn’t mean that stuff doesn’t get pretty dark in some of these! People underestimate the complexity of material for kids, but I feel like there’s more explanation in it so that the characters (and the reader) can understand and make sense of the bad things that happen.

image from independent.couk

Books about books, books about/by book lovers, books about libraries and bookshops. It’s not secret that books are my safe space. I did a list of these here. Just reading about books helps with the comfort!

image credit airshipdaily.com

Books about family, friendships and community. I will say that depending on the book (and family/friendship/community) you can wind up with something pretty disturbing here. But sometimes even a book about dysfunctional relationships can comfort me with a sense of love and closeness at its core.

Image credit geekgirlauthority.com

Feel good fantasy. I tried to get more specific with this genre but it’s not easy to identify. Some worlds it’s nice to just jump into and hide in for a while.

image credit migratingmiss.com

Books you get lost in. Again I wasn’t able to be more specific than this. It’s more of a quality I find. Some books that make you forget that the real world is out there. They’re hard to come by, but that makes finding them special.

Reading Gender

image credit: the guardian

We all know that the literary canon is represented by white, male writers to a disproportionate extent. But there are many exceptions, and diverse writers are gaining more exposure all the time. Women read about 50% female authors and 50% male authors. But for men that ratio is about 80:20 in favor of male authors. Why? I think there are a lot of reasons having to do with how our society at large sees and defines masculinity. But The Guardian recently put out a list of Books By Women That Every Man Should Read. The list included contributions from the likes of Ian McEwan, Richard Curtis, Salman Rushdie and more.

On one hand I don’t want to criticize The Guardian for seeing the discrepancy between male and female reading habits and trying to rectify some of the imbalance. But something about this article doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe it’s the authors who are left off. The omissions include (but are no means limited to) Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, any of the Bronte sisters, Agatha Christie, Zora Neale Hurston, Patricia Highsmith, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Shirley Jackson and that’s just off the top of my head! But there’s no way a list like this could possible be comprehensive. They asked a handful of men to name a favorite and these are the ones that came up. That’s fair. If they’d been asked to list favorite books by male writers there would be many gaps and omissions as well. That’s the nature of such a list.

10 Powerful Female Authors (list and collage by Bookstr)

Maybe what doesn’t sit right with me is the idea of a bunch of men telling other men that these are the books by women that are “acceptable” for them to read. I’m aware that’s not the intention. The intention is the highlight great work by female authors. But it’s how it comes off.

This article also spurred me to think about my own reading habits. Looking at the books I’ve read so far this year, I’ve read thirty eight books so far. Nine were by men. Clearly I gravitate toward women authors in my own reading. My TBR looks more or less consistent with that proportion. So am I in any position to criticize men for reading things are they feel are in line with their own experiences of the world? Maybe not.

I think the take away is that we should all try to step outside our comfort zones. That goes for gender, but also for race, ethnicity, nationality, class, and any other category you can think of.

Do you gravitate toward books that reflect your experience/identity? If so do you think it’s worthwhile to try to read outside that comfort zone?

Top Ten Tuesday: Quotes From My Last 5 Star Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 24: Book Quote Freebie (Share your favorite book quotes that fit a theme of your choosing! These could be quotes about books/reading, or quotes from books. Some examples are: quotes for book lovers, quotes that prove reading is the best thing ever, funny things characters have said, romantic declarations, pretty scenery descriptions, witty snippets of dialogue, etc.)

No common themes here other than that I gave these books 5 stars (some were rereads) and these quotes stood out to me.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow – “In the stories, it’s generally best to do whatever the hell the talking animal tells you.”

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid– “Stories are supposed to live longer than people, and the turul is the most ancient story of them all. Tears go running hotly down my face. Maybe killing it will save this generation of pagans, but what about the next? When the fabric of our stories thins and wears, the people will be alive, but they won’t be pagans anymore. And that, I realize, is what Virág always feared the most. Not our deaths, or even her death. She was afraid of our lives becoming our own. She was afraid of our threads snapping, of us becoming just girls, and not wolf-girls.”

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis – “I was never going to get any sleep. I was going to have Alice in Wonderland conversation after Alice in Wonderland conversation until I died of exhaustion. Here, in the restful, idyllic Victorian era.”

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce – “I meant to ask Hatty questions about the garden,’ Tom wrote to Peter, ‘but somehow I forgot.’ He always forgot. In the daytime, in the Kitsons’ flat, he thought only of the garden, and sometimes he wondered about it: where it came from, what it all meant. Then he planned cunning questions to put to Hatty, that she would have to answer fully and without fancy; but each night, when he walked into the garden, he forgot to be a detective, and instead remembered only that he was a boy and this was the garden for a boy and that Hatty was his playmate.”

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow – “Those of you who are more than casually familiar with books — those of you who spend your free afternoons in fusty bookshops, who offer furtive, kindly strokes along the spines of familiar titles — understand that page riffling is an essential element in the process of introducing oneself to a new book. It isn’t about reading the words; it’s about reading the smell, which wafts from the pages in a cloud of dust and wood pulp. It might smell expensive and well bound, or it might smell of tissue-thin paper and blurred two-colour prints, or of fifty years unread in the home of a tobacco-smoking old man. Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, or literary weight or unsolved mysteries.”

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – “Our generation still carry the old feelings. A part of us refuses to let go. The part that wants to keep believing there’s something unreachable inside each of us. Something that’s unique and won’t transfer. But there’s nothing like that, we know that now. You know that. For people our age it’s a hard one to let go.”

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton – “It was the old New York way… the way people who dreaded scandal more than disease, who placed decency above courage, and who considered that nothing was more ill-bred than “scenes”, except those who gave rise to them. ”

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl– “We are all anthologies. We are each thousands of pages long, filled with fairy tales and poetry, mysteries and tragedy, forgotten stories in the back no one will ever read.”

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier – “Men are simpler than you imagine my sweet child. But what goes on in the twisted, tortuous minds of women would baffle anyone.”

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – “He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Characters

For That Artsy Read Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 10: Bookish Characters (these could be readers, writers, authors, librarians, professors, etc.)

Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow – Beatrice Belladonna is definitely a bookish character. She works in a library and ends up keeping another, magical library. I sort of picture her as an owl reading a book!

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – The book club in this book has sort of an interesting evolution. They’re founded for the purpose of reading Great Literature. But they start on true crime instead. They branch out from there to fictional crime and best sellers. By the end they read Dracula for research purposes.

Beach Read by Emily Henry – Augustus Everett writes literary fiction. January Andrews writes romance novels. When they discover they’re staying next door to each othr for the summer, they decide to swap genres.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman – Irene is a spy for the titular Library. She finds and protects important works of fiction from different realities. She has a simple mission: retrieve a dangerous book from an alternate version of London. But the best laid plans…

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner – When Chawton, the final home to Jane Austen, is threatened just after WWII, a group of Austen fans band together to save the home and protect Austen’s legacy.

The Book of Speculation by Erica Swyler – Simon is a research librarian who gets a book from a rare book dealer that has some kind of connection to his family. As her reads the story it tells, he becomes afraid for the safety of his sister.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman – Nina prefers books to reality. She works in a bookshop, and her closest companion is her cat, Phil. She’s not convinced that real life can ever live up to fiction. I know the feeling!

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern – Zachery is a grad student who encounters a book that tells him a story from his own life. Confused as to how this happened, Zachery follows clues to an ancient, secret library far below the surface of the Earth.

Top Ten Tuesday: One (and more!) Word Reviews

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

May 3: One-Word Reviews for the Last Ten Books I Read (submitted by Susan @ Bloggin’ ’bout Books)

I’m adding a bit more to some of these, because sometimes you need more than one word!

The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

One Word Review: Disappointing

More than one word: I didn’t dislike this. I just wanted to like it more than I did. I actually liked his lists of comfort songs and movies, and his little chapters about inspirational people a lot. But a lot of it felt repetitious.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

One Word Review: Underwhelimg

More than one word: I enjoyed the book, but everything built toward learning what happened about a barbeque (the first half of the book is alternating lead up and aftermath) and when we finally learned what happened, it wasn’t exactly earth shattering. I mean it was for the characters, I’m sure, but not for the reader.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Henrix

One Word Review: Ick

More than one word: I actually liked this book. It was definitely gorier than I like (hence the one word review) but in spite of that, I enjoyed most of it enough to want to read more from the author.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevado

One Word Review: Fine

More than one word: I think “fine” sums it up. I was a bit disappointed because I thought Acevedo’s debut, The Poet X, was more than fine, but this was pretty good.

Dancing on Knives by Kate Forsyth

One Word Review: Slow

More than one word: I don’t mean “slow” in a bad way. I thought the pace suited the story well. I took it’s time to get where it was going, but it worked.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E Harrow

One Word Review: Substandard

More than one word: After loving Harrow’s two full length novels, I didn’t think that this novella quite lived up to them. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as I felt like it could have been. I’ll still read the sequel though.

The Signalman by Charles Dickens

One Word Review: Creepy

More than one word: I’ve been trying to read some Victorian Christmas ghost stories this year, so this was one of those. I enjoyed it, in that it kind of made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up a bit (my measure of a good ghost story) It definitely felt like a short story, rather than something like A Christmas Carol which is more novella territory.

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente

One Word Review: Weird

More than one word: I really liked this. I wasn’t sure what it was going into it. I couldn’t tell if it was intended to be a retelling, and one of the reviews I read said the less you know going in the better, so after reading that, I stopped looking. I’m glad I did because it let me fully appreciate what Valente was doing as this unfolded.

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

One Word Review: Unheroic

More than one word: I wanted to like this one more than I was able to. The biggest problem for me was the character who was supposed to fill the romantic hero role, was totally unappealing, unlikeable and unheroic.

The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson

One Word Review: Letdown

More than one word: Anyone who reads my blog knows how much I love Eva Ibbotson. This wasn’t my favorite of her books. Not that it was bad at all! I think my expectations may have been too high based on my love for the author, but it felt like it tried to do a bit too much.

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Covers Got Back

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

April 26: Books with [___] On the Cover (Pick a thing (a color, an item, a place, an animal, a scripty font, a sexy person, etc.) and share covers that have that thing on the cover.)

I know that the reason publishers put a view of the character from behind is so that you can sort of project your own idea of the character onto it. But it still amuses me how often the rear view of a human shows up on book covers, So here are the last ten I read:

Caught in Time by Julie McElwain – This is consistent with the cover design for the rest of the series.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed By Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold – This actually seems like an odd choice for a book that’s supposed to be about shining a light on who these women were as individuals prior to their deaths. It seems more anonymous, when the book itself is arguing against anonymity.

The Angel Stone by Juliet Dark – This is actually the last in a trilogy of books with backs on covers.

The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen

When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan by Ted Scheinman – I included this one when I realized how these book covers, more often than not, have a picture of a woman on them!

Interestingly these books seem to span a bunch of genres.