Top Ten Tuesday: The Last Books I Read With Colors in the Title

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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August 4: Books with Colors In the Titles

For this week’s topic I decided to go with the last ten I read with colors in the titles.

97801437861601. The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth-Shortly before the Terror of the French Revolution, Viviane, daughter of the Marquis de Ravoisier, falls for David, the landscape architect at her family’s chateau in Brittany. Though he returns her feelings, her father will never allow her to marry the young Welshman. When they’re parted, Viviane is forced to marry another, and joins the court of Louis XVI in Versailles, where she becomes a lady in waiting to Marie Antoinette. Meanwhile David joins a trip to China, with a British ambassador who hopes to open up trade with the east. Though his job in China is to get seeds, in Canton, David hears a fable of impossible love, called The Blue Rose. This inspires him to find Viviane again.

51hxtrvunwl._ac_uy218_2. Sapphire Skies by Belinda Alexandra– Natalya Azarova grew up privileged and happy in Stalin’s pre-war Russia. During WWII, she became one of Russia’s top fighter pilots, before her plane was shot down. No plane or body was ever found, but her reputation in Russia was tarnished by rumors that she was a German spy. Her lover, Valentin Orlov, does his best to combat these rumors and discover the truth of what happened to her. In his 80’s, in the year 2000,  the remains of her plane, along with her sapphire broach are discovered. But still no body. Meanwhile, the same year, Lily, the daughter of a Russian refugee in Australia, who works and works in Moscow, meets and old woman who may know the truth of what happened to Natalya all those years ago.

91i5spgjyyl._ac_uy218_3. Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller– Frances is a middle aged spinster in 1969, when she goes to Lytons, a recently sold British country estate, to catalog antiques. Her only companions are her colleague, Peter, and his wife, Cara. Frances finds herself enthralled with couple and the three become fast friends. But Peter and Cara have secrets that trap them, and may entrap Frances as well.

 

 

81vo0svb2l._ac_uy218_4. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith– This  is the fourth Cormoran Strike book. It begins when a young, mentally ill man named Billy, asks Cormoran to investigate a crime that he witnessed as a child. In spite of the man’s troubled mental state, Cormoran is worried enough to investigate further, even though Billy flees the agency in a panic. Along with his now partner, Robin, Cormoran sets of on an investigation that brings them from the streets of London, to Parliament and to a manor house in the country. I’ve got some not so positive feelings about the author at the moment (Galbraith is a pseudonym for JK Rowling) but if you like the Cormoran Stike series (which I do), you’ll probably like this one.

a1q86cjvzxl._ac_uy218_5.Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik– Miryem’s father is a hopelessly inept moneylender. So, desperate to do what he cannot, she takes over the business. She collects what she can from everyone. From one farmer, she takes the service of his daughter, Wanda, until his debt is paid off. Miryem also makes a boast that is overheard by the Staryk, magical, wintery creatures that control the forest lands. To protect her family, she must complete an impossible task. Meanwhile, Irina, daughter of a duke, is turned into a pawn in her father’s desire to gain power. All of these plots come together in a unique and complex Rumpelstiltskin retelling.

81njuluy7cl._ac_uy218_6. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -Set in Nigeria, this book tells the story of 15 year old Kambili and her older brother Jaja. Kambili and Jaja are wealthy and privileged. Their father is an important person in their local community, known for his generosity. But with his family, he is a religious fanatic and a tyrant. As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent outside the city to stay with their aunt. Aunty Ifeoma is a progressive university professor whose home is a relaxed place of laughter and lightness. In her home, Kambili and Jaja experience life without their father’s oppressive presence for the first time. When they return to his house nothing can be the same again.

817roardvyl._ac_uy218_7. The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen– In The Emerald Circus, Jane Yolen includes stories about existing stories and historical events and people. The title story is about Dorothy Gale’s return to Kansas, seven years after the twister took her away (the delay was due to amnesia from a bump on the head.) In another story we read about a feminist labor organizer who travels to Neverland and leads the lost boy’s female counterparts in a strike. We see a geriatric Alice attempt to return to Wonderland one last time. In other stories Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe and Hans Christian Anderson all take center stage. Yolen also includes poems and notes about each story

81susx6ql-l._ac_uy218_8. White Hot Grief Parade by Alexandra SilberActress/singer/novelist/blogger Alexandra Silber turns her skills to memoir, in her most successful literary venture yet (IMHO anyway.) At the age of 17, Silber lost her father to cancer. This intimate memoir covers the year after that loss, during which her three best friends move in with her and her mother to help out. The household supports Silber and her mother through the most difficult period of their lives. Silber recalls the year in many forms, using “straight” prose to tell parts of her story and telling other parts in the form of a play, lists, puzzles and more. She offers us stories and snapshots of her life with her father, interwoven with the “now” of the text, exploring the year after his loss. This book is sad, but it’s surprisingly funny too. Much like the titular “parade” the emotions come one after another in this, sometimes with seemingly little logic. But we’re left with an understanding that’s ultimately hopeful: grief is the price we pay for love, and it’s worth it.

91jnmkvum3l._ac_uy218_9. The Ruby Brooch by Katherine Lowry Logan– This was the first in Logan’s Celtic Booch series.I haven’t read any of the others. Make of that what you will. Kit MacKlenna is the only survivor of a plane crash that killed her parents. Grief stricken, she discovers a legacy that includes a faded letter and a journal that reveals that Kit was abandoned as a baby- 160 years earlier. She is also left a blood spattered shawl, a locket with a portrait of a 19th century man inside, and a Celtic booch with magical powers. Kit decides to use that brooch to travel back in time and get some answers. Cullen Montgomery is a San Francisco lawyer, who seems familiar to Kit. He helps her join a wagon train headed West. But on the dangerous journey he becomes convinced that there’s something that Kit isn’t telling him. Like how can she save lives with medical knowledge no one else possesses? His accusations are dangerous. But the fact that she’s falling for him may be even more so.

51htvi6il._ac_uy218_10. The Blonde by Anna Godbersen– In 1949, Alexei Lazarey met Marilyn Monroe, before she was famous, at Schwab’s in Los Angeles. By the end of the day he got her signed with a talent agency, and the poor, unknown actress was on her way to being a household name. Ten years later, at the peak of her success, Alexei contacts her for repayment. His instructions to her are to find out something about the favorite for the Democratic nomination for President; John F. Kennedy. Something no one else knows. This book re-imagines history in a combination of biography, spy novel and love story.

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best MetaFiction

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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July 28: Freebie (This week you get to come up with your own TTT topic!)

I made this list recently and decided to use it here. For the purpose of this list, I’m calling metafiction a “self conscious” novel. These books discuss, and think about themselves as works of fiction, within the context of the novel. So we have lots of books within books, narrative footnotes that continue to story while commenting on it, and other forms withing the novel (diaries, letters, poetry, essays, plays etc).

51va-sxea5l._ac_uy218_1.The Princess Bride by William Goldman – The author frames the story as an abridged  retelling of an older book with the boring parts taken out. He frequently alludes to these parts throughout the text.  In the film adaptation this was handled by having frame story in which a grandfather reads his grandson the novel. We see this in the book as well, but it’s less prevalent.

“He held up a book then. “I’m going to read it to you for relax.”
“Does it have any sports in it?”
“Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True Love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest Ladies. Snakes. Spiders… Pain. Death. Brave men. Cowardly men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.”
“Sounds okay,” I said and I kind of closed my eyes.”

 

71jfo2zkzvl._ac_uy218_2.If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino– This one opens with “You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler.” Throughout the text the fictional reader and real reader’s relationship is discussed and addressed, blurring the distinction between fiction and reality. There are also several books within  the book that we read (at least in part).

“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, “No, I don’t want to watch TV!” Raise your voice — they won’t hear you otherwise — “I’m reading! I don’t want to be disturbed!” Maybe they haven’t heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: “I’m beginning to read Italo Calvino’s new novel!” Or if you prefer, don’t say anything: just hope they’ll leave you alone.”

810pcxbl3l._ac_uy218_3. House of Leaves by Mark Danielwski– This books is has text arranged in strange ways that mirrors the events of the story. It contains lots of footnotes (which also have footnotes themselves) that reference works that don’t really exist. There are several narrators some of whom directly address the reader. It claims to be an unpublished manuscript of a lost documentary film, annotated by a tattoo artists. There’s also an appendix of letters from the tattoo artist’s (insane) mother.

“This much I’m certain of: it doesn’t happen immediately. You’ll finish [the book] and that will be that, until a moment will come, maybe in a month, maybe a year, maybe even several years. You’ll be sick or feeling troubled or deeply in love or quietly uncertain or even content for the first time in your life. It won’t matter. Out of the blue, beyond any cause you can trace, you’ll suddenly realize things are not how you perceived them to be at all. For some reason, you will no longer be the person you believed you once were. You’ll detect slow and subtle shifts going on all around you, more importantly shifts in you. Worse, you’ll realize it’s always been shifting, like a shimmer of sorts, a vast shimmer, only dark like a room. But you won’t understand why or how. You’ll have forgotten what granted you this awareness in the first place”

 

81oy308r7ql._ac_uy218_4. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles– This novel looks at the 19th century novel as seen through a late 20th century perspective. We read the story that takes place in 1867, and the narration that calls one’s attention to the fact that the 1867 plot line is in fact, fictional. This was handled in the film adaptation by having a second timeline in which we see the 1867 story line being made into a film.

“You may think novelists always have fixed plans to which they work, so that the future predicted by Chapter One is always inexorably the actuality of Chapter Thirteen. But novelists write for countless different reasons: for money, for fame, for reviewers, for parents, for friends, for loved ones; for vanity, for pride, for curiosity, for amusement: as skilled furniture makers enjoy making furniture, as drunkards like drinking, as judges like judging, as Sicilians like emptying a shotgun into an enemy’s back. I could fill a book with reasons, and they would all be true, though not true of all. Only one same reason is shared by all of us: we wish to create worlds as real as, but other than the world that is. Or was. This is why we cannot plan. We know a world is an organism, not a machine. We also know that a genuinely created world must be independent of its creator; a planned world (a world that fully reveals its planning) is a dead world. It is only when our characters and events begin to disobey us that they begin to live.”

 

71scqfzfhel._ac_uy218_5.  Atonement by Ian McEwan– Minor spoiler alert: The book turns out to have been “written” by one of the characters in the novel. The reasons that the character has for doing this involve much bigger spoilers. Interestingly the film adaptation didn’t try to do anything fancy with a secondary timeline. The “reveal” is simply there at the end.

“How can a novelist achieve atonement when, with her absolute power of deciding outcomes, she is also God? There is no one, no entity or higher form that she can appeal to, or be reconciled with, or that can forgive her. There is nothing outside her. In her imagination she has set the limits and the terms. No atonement for God, or novelists, even if they are atheists. It was always an impossible task, and that was precisely the point. The attempt was all.”

 

51xunct3xjl._ac_uy218_6. The Keep by Jennifer Egan– In the first chapter, this shifts from a story about two estranged cousins a Gothic castle to being about a man named Ray who is writing the story as a part of a prison’s creative writing program. The two stories unfold, switching back and forth, as the storylines reflect  back on one another.

Being somewhere but not completely: that was home for Danny, and it sure as hell was easier to land than a decent apartment. All he needed was a cell phone, or I-access, or both at once, or even just a plan to leave wherever he was and go someplace else really really soon. Being in one place and thinking about another place could make him feel at home.”

81qh7u4anel._ac_uy218_7. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne– I remember reading this in college with a big, “WTF!?” expression on my face the whole time! It claims to be the memoirs of a country gentleman, but it’s really one digression after another, and sometimes the digressions have digressions of their own! We also get some sermons, essays, drawings and more mixed in there. I tend to think of metafiction as being postmodern, so it’s amazing that this book was written in the 18th century!

“Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine;—they are the life, the soul of reading;—take them out of this book for instance,—you might as well take the book along with them;”

 

813yvojs9pl._ac_uy218_8.The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood– This book includes a story within a novel within a novel. Iris is publishing a book written by her sister, Laura. Her book is about Alex Thomas, an author pulp sci-fi, who has a complicated relationship with two sisters (who may be counterparts for Iris and Laura). It also contains one of Alex’s stories, The Blind Assassin. Got that?

“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.”

a150ni9rjrl._ac_uy218_9.Possession by AS Byatt- This novel follows two academics as they follow a paper trail, researching the love affair between two fictional 19th century poets. It incorporates fictional diary entries, letters, and poems. These devices are ultimately used to question the authority of textual narratives.

“Think of this – that the writer wrote alone, and the reader read alone, and they were alone with each other.”

 

71vksxqmbul._ac_uy218_10. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz– Susan is editing the new manuscript by best selling mystery author Alan Conway, known for writing in the tradition of authors like Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. We read the manuscript along with her. But there seems to be a chapter missing. Specifically, the last one where we learn whodunnit! Susan figures that it’s a mistake and she’ll talk to Alan on Monday and get the missing pages. But then she learns that Alan has just died and the missing pages are nowhere to be found. As she starts looking for the rest of the book, Susan discovers that the missing portion of the manuscript may reveal more than just the murderer in the novel: it may also contain information about who was responsible for Alan’s own death. In this case not only the manuscript, but the title itself if a clue as to whodunnit.

“I had chosen to play the detective—and if there is one thing that unites all the detectives I’ve ever read about, it’s their inherent loneliness. The suspects know each other. They may well be family or friends. But the detective is always the outsider. He asks the necessary questions but he doesn’t actually form a relationship with anyone. He doesn’t trust them, and they in turn are afraid of him. It’s a relationship based entirely on deception and it’s one that, ultimately, goes nowhere. Once the killer has been identified, the detective leaves and is never seen again. In fact, everyone is glad to see the back of him.”

” Yet still I keep thinking that something wonderful is about to happen. Maybe tomorrow” A Patti Smith Reader

71fsooy68nl._ac_ul320_I first “met” Patti Smith in her memoir M Train. I forget what drew me to the book initially, since I wasn’t a fan of Smith’s music particularly, but it appealed to me. In it, Smith travels from Mexico to Iceland to her New York City home. She meditates on the writers craft and the process of artistic creation. She visits the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud, and Mishima. She remembers her late husband, Fred, and when her children were young. Past and present weave together a bit in Smith’s kaleidoscopic vision. We’re left with an appreciation for her loves, which range from coffee, to detective TV series, to the bungalow she acquires in Far Rockaway, just prior to Hurricane Sandy (which hit the Rockaways hard). It’s a quiet feeling book, illustrated with Smith’s Polaroid photography. I didn’t know much about Smith before reading it. I was vaguely aware that she was a musician but I’d never sought out her work, but I loved the book and I wanted to read more.

41fcz0g6yal._ac_ul320_I next read her National Book Award winning first memoir, Just Kids. This book documents her close relationship with photographer Robert Maplethorpe. It follows their youth at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City in the late 60’s and 70’s and how they wound up at the center of New York’s art and music scene. It was more linear than M Train, and  I didn’t love it. I think one problem for me was  the  fact that it was more focused on Smith’s youth. I first encountered a middle aged Patti Smith in M Train, so I felt like this was going backwards in a way. I appreciated some of the wisdom that she’d acquired over the years, and I didn’t have the sense of it in this book. Which makes sense, and is appropriate for what the book is. But it wasn’t what appealed to me.

91lfspbeeel._ac_ul320_So I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up her latest book, Year of the Monkey. Set in 2016, this memoir skirts the boundary between dream and reality. It opens following a series of New Year’s concerts that Smith gave at the San Francisco’s Fillmore. She begins what amounts to a year of solitary wandering, first heading down the coast of Santa Cruz and then to the Arizona desert, her New York City home and a Kentucky farm.  In that sense it’s more of an “American” odyssey, while M Train was perhaps more global. Her companions are some imaginary(?) friends and beloved books. The year is a difficult one for Smith, who loses a dear friend, and sees another through a terminal illness. For many Americans, the election of 2016 was devastating, and for Smith it was no different. It brings forward all of her feelings of loss, grief and despair. What she’s left with, when it’s all over, is the strength that got her through a lifetime (2016 was the year Smith turned 70) and her hope for a better future.

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Polaroid photo by Patti Smith, from the exhibition “Land 250” at Fondation Cartier pour lart contemporain, Paris, March 28 June 22, 2008 © Patti Smith © Fondation Cartier pour lart contemporain

In terms of the spectrum of my opinion on Smith’s work, I didn’t love this as much as M Train, but I liked it a lot more than Just Kids. In some ways it’s her wisest book yet, but also her least linear. It wanders back and forth between dream, reality, and imagination. It’s not a book that I’d recommend to readers who want a clear focus, but for me, that murkiness seems to be where Smith shines. It also resonated for me on a personal level. 2016 was an incredibly difficult, painful year for me. So I can relate to Smith’s feelings of loss and pain. I too felt like that year was a perverse cosmic joke that never landed.

But I’m writing this now. 2020 has been another difficult year. I’m not sure what to do with the sense of cautious, world weary optimism with which Smith ends the book. I want to believe in a better future. But right now I feel as if we’re in the middle of another cruel practical joke that someone is playing on global level. It makes me wonder if, in another few years, we’ll get another Patti Smith memoir about this year.

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Installation view of some Polaroid photos by Patti Smith, from the exhibition “Land 250” at Fondation Cartier pour lart contemporain, Paris, March 28 June 22, 2008 © Patti Smith © Fondation Cartier pour lart contemporain

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Literary Parties

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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July 21: Book Events/Festivals I’d Love to Go to Someday (Real or Fictional. Submitted by Nandini @ Unputdownable Books)

I decided to do fictional festivals/events  for this one. I’m not much of a party girl to be honest, but some there are some  literary soirees I might be tempted to attend. I decided that nothing thrown by Jay Gatsby was allowed on this list. Big parties really aren’t my scene.

81hkqvsgyl._ac_uy218_1.  The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern– The literary masquerade party in this one sounds like one of the few parties I’d really get into!

“He sits at the bar, feeling like a failure and yet overwhelmed by all that has happened as he attempts to catalog the entire evening. Drank rosemary for remembrance. Looked for a cat. Danced with the king of the wild things. Excellent-smelling man told me a story in the dark. Cat found me.”

61-q3ssh0l._ac_uy218_2. The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien– I might be persuaded to attend Bilbo Baggin’s eleventy first birthday party. If nothing else, I doubt I’ll have the opportunity to attend many eleventy first birthdays in my lifetime.

“I hope you are all enjoying yourselves as much as I am.” Deafening cheers…. Cries of “Yes” (and “No”). Noises of trumpets and horns…. Indeed, in one corner some of the young Tooks and Brandybucks, supposing Uncle Bilbo to have finished (since he had plainly said all that was necessary), now… began a merry dance-tune. Master Everard Took and Miss Melilot Brandybuck got on a table and with bells in their hands began to dance the Springle-ring: a pretty dance, but rather vigorous.

But Bilbo had not finished. Seizing a horn from a youngster near by, he blew three loud hoots…. “I shall not keep you long,” he cried. Cheers from all the assembly. “I have called you all together for a Purpose…..” There was almost silence….

91d11myiibl._ac_uy218_3. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway’s party. This one has a lot of build up and a gentle success marred only by news of a suicide. Because no party is perfect. But in this case, bad news might make the fun even sweeter.

She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble.

71v4ebr1nxl._ac_uy218_4.The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton– One of the most opulent literary parties in my mind is the Wellington-Bry ball when Lily Bart appears in a tableau vivant.

The noble buoyancy of her attitude, its suggestion of soaring grace, revealed the touch of poetry in her beauty that Selden always felt in her presence, yet lost the sense of when he was not with her. Its expression was now so vivid that for the first time he seemed to see before him the real Lily Bart, divested of all the trivialities of her little world, and catching for a moment a note of that eternal harmony of which her beauty was a part.

71cmat1al._ac_uy218_5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- This book (and Austen in general) has a few good parties; but I went with the one where Jane and Mr. Binghly fall in love and Mr. Darcy declares that Lizzie is ” tolerable.”

When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy approached to claim her hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning her, in a whisper, not to be a simpleton, and allow her fancy for Wickham to make her appear unpleasant in the eyes of a man of ten times his consequence. Elizabeth made no answer, and took her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her neighbours’ looks their equal amazement in beholding it. They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she made some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent. After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time with:

“It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. — I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”

He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.

513t3s6mwl._ac_uy218_6.Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier– Note to self: if you ever marry a widower do not attend a costume party dressed as his late wife, however unintentional it may be. And don’t listen to your evil maid’s costume suggestions either. Yes, it’s an awkward party, but it wouldn’t be a boring one.

That was why I had come down last night in my blue dress and had not stayed hidden in my room. There was nothing brave or fine about it, it was a wretched tribute to convention. I had not come down for Maxim’s sake, or Beatrice’s, for the sake of Manderley. I had come down because I did not want the people at the ball to think I had quarreled with Maxim. I didn’t want them to go home and say, “Of course you know they don’t get on. I hear he’s not at all happy.” I had come for my own sake, my own poor personal pride.

71m1o7fy1fl._ac_uy218_7.Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– I might go to Mr. Rochester’s house party. If nothing else, the host disguising himself as a fortune teller would be fun!

When I heard this I was beginning to feel a strange chill and failing at the heart. I was actually permitting myself to experience a sickening sense of disappointment; but rallying my wits, and recollecting my principles, I at once called my sensations to order; and it was wonderful how I got over the temporary blunder—how I cleared up the mistake of supposing Mr. Rochester’s movements a matter in which I had any cause to take a vital interest.

91dwzgedaml._ac_uy218_8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll– I’ve actually never been to a tea party, but if this is anything to go by, they can get pretty wild. Though it might get tiring having to change seats every few minutes…

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone: “so I ca’n’t take more.”
“You mean you ca’n’t take less,” said the Hatter: “It’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

61uzqqwbnnl._ac_uy218_9.Invitation to Waltz by Rosamund Lehmann- Like Mrs. Dalloway’s soiree, Olivia Curtis’ first ball has a whole novel dedicated to it. While her more socially adept sister threatens to overshadow her, this party is both more and less than Oliva expects.

“And they waltzed together to the music made for joy. She danced with him in love and sorrow. He held her close to him, and he was far away from her, far from the music, buried and indifferent. She danced with his youth and his death.”

81e67pau6hl._ac_uy218_10. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding– I’m not much of a drinker, so unlike Bridget, I wouldn’t be hungover at Geoffrey and Una’s New Year’s turkey curry buffet. I would also (always!) be able to tell Mark Darcy a few titles when he asks what I’ve read lately.

“It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting “Cathy” and banging your head against a tree.”

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Guilty Pleasure Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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This week’s topic was:

July 14: Books That Make Me Smile (For any reason! Maybe tell us why? Submitted by Julia @ pagesforthoughts)

I tweaked it a bit and made it about guilty pleasures. These books make me smile because they are are trashy, tropey, and soapy. But they also make me smile because they’re fun.

91jgf9xfe0l._ac_uy218_1. The Luxe series by Anne Godberson– Soapy melodrama in an Edith Wharton setting. I love it.

 

71vfsf-jfl._ac_uy218_2. The Shopaholic books by Sophie Kinsella– Well really just the first few. After that I stopped reading the series because I got annoyed at the character making the same mistakes over and over. But the first 3 were I Love Lucy– esque fun.

 

41mq0rfvfvl._ac_uy218_3. The Dollanganger series by VC Andrews– By this I mean the original 5 books series, not the new add ons.  VC Andrew was my middle school guilty pleasure. I still have  nostalgic fondness for her work but I’m hesitant to reread because I’m fairly sure it won’t live up to my memory.

 

b1fhmjabubs._ac_uy218_4. The Flappers series by Jillian  Larkin– Along the lines of the Luxe series (see above) this is pure historical soap.

71gkvh61vl._ac_uy218_5. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory– This kicked off a Tudor obsession when I was in my early 20’s. And not the historical Tudors or the TV Tudors (never got into the show) I was all about the soapy novel Tudors.

51tkzsftjl._ac_uy218_6. A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Devereaux– I wasn’t sure if this qualified as trashy enough to put on the list (IMO a book doesn’t belong on this list purely because it’s romance!) but this one is bodice ripper-y enough to qualify I think

71xd7ivfuel._ac_uy218_7. The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon– I read this when I was about 14. I don’t think I looked up from the page once for the whole two days it took me to read it.

81vvgnqiaol._ac_uy218_8. Scarlett by Alexandra RipleyGone With the Wind is too upscale for this list! In my defense I read this mostly because I wanted to see Scarlett and Rhett back together on better terms.  I got that, so I was happy.

b1vjcbcumqs._ac_uy218_9.Tarien Soul series by CW Wilson– Because it’s  so tropey. One after another after another. But I’m invested and I want to find out how it ends. I’m up to the last book.

810izexapdl._ac_uy218_10. American Royals by Katharine McGee– This soapfest imagines the American royal family that we might have had (in present day) if George Washington had accepted the crown that was offered to him some 200 years ago.

“Need A Sitter?” Why yes, I do…

When I was between the ages of eight and eleven, I was all about The Babysitter’s Club.

  • I saw the film
  • I watched the TV series
  • I played the board game
  • I read the Little Sister spin off series
  • I had a favorite babysitter (Stacy) and I could tell you the one that I was most like (Mary Anne)
  • At the age of 9 Ann M. Martin did a book signing near my house and I made plans with my friend to go. That morning I woke up with itchy red spots on my skin. I actually kept quiet about having Chicken Pox so that I could get my book signed. (I have gotten more aware of, and responsible about, public health issues as I’ve aged!)
  • I couldn’t wait until I was actually old enough  to babysit, myself.
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The book that started it all (Image source: amazon.com)

In the years since then, I’ve grown up. I have babysat, myself. It’s not as fun as it seemed in the books. In fact, it’s yet another thing that sounded a lot more fun in tween literature than it is in real life (Judy Blume, I’m looking at you. Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret made menstruation sound a lot more fun than it turned out to be!) And my fondness for The Babysitter’s Club (or BSC) became more nostalgic than fanatical.

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The BSC in the 1990’s TV series based on the novels (Image source: IMDB)

But when Netflix announced a reboot, I was onboard. For one thing, Rachel Shukert (author of the guilty pleasure, too soon aborted, Starstruck series) was taking on show running duties. And for another it was a return of characters who seemed a lot like childhood friends to me. They saw me through troubles and school and with friends. And I felt like I was there for Kristy when she struggled to accept her new step-family. I supported Claudia when her Grandmother suffered a stroke. I was rooting for Stacy as she  learned to manage her Diabetes. I’m sure they all appreciated the support.

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The club as seen in the 1995 film (image source: glamour.com)

I watched the series 4th of July weekend, and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the show. I was expected some nostalgic corniness. And yes, there’s a slight schmaltz factor here, but not as much as you might expect. For the most part, the series found a note that was intelligent without being cynical, sweet without being saccharine, and optimistic without being oblivious. I’d had sort of a stressful week with work. Watching this series over the weekend seriously saved my sanity.

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The BSC as seen on Netflix in 2020 (imagesource: Netflix.com)

The characters in the series were largely good role models for girls: smart, motivated, good hearted, and well intentioned. Yes they screwed up, but they also took responsibility for their mistakes. I wondered briefly as I watched, if there was a conscious effort to make the girls role models. If so, I don’t think it was an effort that the show made. Perhaps it was an effort on the part of the books, because the girls were pretty solid role models in those too. It was essentially a series about a group of go-getters who start their own business, in middle school. They run their business and juggle their school work friendships and home responsibilities. Sometimes they get overwhelmed.That’s when their friends come in and help out.Those bonds are tested as the girls grow together and sometimes apart.

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Boy-Crazy Stacy in it’s original book form (image source: amazon.com)

In the books, and the new series there are boys. In the book Boy Crazy Stacy (which becomes an episode in the Netflix series) we see Stacy go gaga over an older boy, neglecting her friendships and babysitting duties to go after him. But we also see her realize the error of her ways. We also see Mary-Anne become involved in a fairly healthy (as far as relationships between two thirteen year olds go) romance with Logan Bruno, both on the page and onscreen.  But the boys are secondary. They focus of the series remains on the girls. It’s about their friendships and all the aspects of their lives. That includes crushes and boyfriends sometimes. But those relationships remain one part of a richer, more complex picture.

 

Most of the episodes of the series were rooted in the books. But occasionally they were updated in ways that made them relevant to the world of 2020. When the real world tie ins were present, they weren’t preachy or overbearing. For example at summer camp, the girls learn that certain activities are only available to the campers who pay more. Meaning that campers who can’t afford to do so cannot participate. Their response to income inequality, even in a childhood setting, is very revealing of the adults that they may someday become. (The theater geek in me also loved the Les Miserables shout out when they built a barricade as part of their protest!) The tie ins to the larger world, to big discussions of the wealth gap are there. A parent may chose to extend that discussion with their child. But the show doesn’t belabor the point. Rather it lets the seeds germinate in viewers minds as they may.

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Kristy’s step sister, Karen Brewer, shares some imaginative theories with Mary-Anne in the Netflix series. (image source: vulture.com)

Another example is Mordella Destiny. Kristy’s stepsister Karen got her own “Little Sister” spin off book series (which I also read and loved). In the first of these books, Karen (age 7, with an overactive imagination)  thinks her neighbor Mrs. Porter is a witch named Mordella Destiny. In the Netlix series, it turns out she’s right. In a way.  As “Mordella” explains to everyone, she’s a woman who doesn’t follow along with what most people consider the “right” or “proper” way to behave. She’s a bit odd. And historically, people, (Particularly women) who broke the mold were called witches. She concludes, “When kids tell you things, believe them.” Wise words in so many ways.  Again, this isn’t a major plot point, but it’s a nice moment, that gives voice not only to the many accused witches of the past, but also kids who are too often ignored or talked over.

When I was a kid, my Dad didn’t really approve of my BSC reading. He didn’t forbid it, but he tolerated it with an occasional eyeroll. I think he just thought they were silly reads. So I did too, and I regarded them as sort of a guilty pleasure at the time. But watching the series this past weekend I realized that maybe there was something more to them than I originally thought. As I was writing this blog I did a search for reviews of the news series and I noticed a many other, similar, pieces by readers who felt a similar fondness in their hearts for these characters and books. That makes me think that these were more than just “silly” books. While their literary values is debatable they taught  several generations a lot about life. And business. And friendship. I hope that the Netflix series introduces these girls to a new young audience. Because today’s kids can learn a lot from them.

Did you read The Babysitter’s Club books as a kid? Have you seen the new Netflix series? What did you think?

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’ve (Probably) Read The Most Books By

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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Today’s topic is:

July 7: Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By

But since Goodreads got rid their Most Read Authors page, I can’t be sure. So I decided to add a “probably”, since this isn’t really scientific.

51j6zrifyl._ac_uy218_1. Ann M. Martin- As a kid  I was a Babysitter’s Club addict. I also read her Little Sister spin off series. Since they came out with a new book every month or so (in retrospect I think a ghost writer might have had something to do with it) I’m sure it added up to a lot. Yes, I also watched the film and TV series. I’ve also watched the new netflix series and plan to blog about it soon. At heart, I’m still very much a nine year old girl!

81liithy6el._ac_uy218_2. Francine Pascal– I also read a lot of  Sweet Valley books in my childhood. There were Sweet Valley Kids, Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High. I was too young for the Sweet Valley University books that emerged at some point. But I’m sure it added up to a lot. And yes, I think a lot of these were from a ghost writer too.

71vhhjdel._ac_uy218_3. Carolyn Keene– Nancy Drew was another favorite series in my childhood. I read the old school series and the newer ones. I’ve since learned that “Carolyn Keene” was the pseudonym that the Stratmeyer Syndicate authors used. Many of the Nancy Drew books were written by Mildred Wirt Benson, but other ghostwriters used the name as well. So I suppose I should say that I’ve read a lot of books by the various authors who used that name.

51ge6nyeul._ac_uy218_3.RL Stine– Yet another one from me youth. I read the Goosebumps books when I was little and the Fear Street series when I got a little bit older.

71i9zxpntfl._ac_uy218_4.Dean Koontz– I had a whole shelf full of his books at one point. I think he was the first “adult” author I read, when I was about 12. I was really interested in scary stuff  and someone recommended them to me. I think I was as enthralled with reading “grown up” stuff as I was with the books themselves. I haven’t read anything by Koontz in years.

41mq0rfvfvl._ac_uy218_5.VC Andrews– These were my 12 year old guilty pleasure. I devoured them! Though VC Andrews herself only wrote the Dollangager series, My Sweet Audrina (the sequel to this one was written by the ghostwriter), and the first books in the Casteel series (Heaven, Dark Angel, Fallen Hearts) before her death. The rest of the books were penned by a ghostwriter hired by her family after she died. Supposedly the ghostwriter had a lot of notes and drafts for other books to work from. I used to imagine exactly when he/she ran out of material is when the quality declined sharply. I’d try to identify where that was. Again, I haven’t looked at most of these in years.

71xd7ivfuel._ac_uy218_6.Sidney Sheldon– I stayed with my Grandmother one summer when I was about thirteen and she had a lot of these books. I devoured them and then sought out more! I remember very little about them except that everyone was beautiful and had evil secret plans. According to wiki he wrote 18 books but it feels like I read more than that… It’s been many years since I’ve read one of these though.

51nw7swclrl._ac_uy218_7. Lisa Gardner- For years Lisa Gardner has been a go to writer for me when I want a fast moving plot that will absorb me while I  read it, but not as too much of me in the way of outside investment. I think she’s got about 25 total. She also writes romance under the name Alicia Scott but I haven’t read any of those yet.

81epj1g-5vl._ac_uy218_8. Karin Slaughter– I got to this author for the same reasons as the author above. The quality of her work has been pretty consistent over the years. But she does sometimes get a littler darker than I’d like for “mindless reading.” I think I stopped reading her Grant County series at one point when I was upset about a plot development but I picked the series back up and went along with it as it morphed into the Will Trent series) According to wiki she’s written 18 novels, but again it feels like more.

81jwx0nliyl._ac_uy218_9.LM Montgomery– I’ve loved LM Montgomery since I was a kid, and that love has continued into adulthood. In this case I’ve read most of her novels (she wrote 20: 8 “Anne” books, 3 “Emily” books, 2 “Pat” books and several stand alones) but I also have several volumes  of her short fiction. I still love her work.

71vfsf-jfl._ac_uy218_10.Sophie Kinsella– I think Sophie Kinsella might also deserve a place on this list. I gave up on the Shopaholic series about  5 books in (around the time when the main characters antics crossed the line from cute to grating, IMO) but I’ve also read most of her stand alone titles and the books that she wrote under her real name (Madeline Wickham) She’s good for a laugh and an escape from reality, which is why I find myself returning to her often over the years.

 

 

 

I’ve Been…

  • adventure arid barren coast

    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    In a dry spell writing wise. I’m editing Frozen Heart (and thinking about changing the title to Frost. Thoughts?) and really struggling to get things done. I keep thinking I’ll break through but I think a lot of the stressors of the past few months have made it hard for me to work. I feel like the space in my head that I usually devote to writing is being taken up by other things.  It’s hard because writing is usually a way to escape from whatever’s stressing me out, but lately it hasn’t been working so well. Any  advice from fellow writers? I feel like there’s a sense of shame we feel when this happens: like we should be more disciplined or just better somehow. Is that true or is it just counterproductive thinking?

  • Exploring The StoryGraph and still not sure how I feel about it. Is it supposed to be different from Goodreads? Because it feels very similar? For the record my StoryGraph profile is here and you can find me on Goodreads here. Feel free to follow, friend, connect, whatever.
  • glad young woman working on laptop in living room

    Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

    Growing kind of frustrated with the fact that there are now about 8,460 streaming services out there. I’m interested in  one or two shows on each. Is there any way to watch the show without subscribing to the whole service? I don’t want to end up spending $500 a month on streaming services! At the moment I just subscribe to Netflix. Is there another service that I should be subscribing to?

  • Making themed book lists when I get stressed. Weird things like “books about witches” or “books set at sea” for the most part. It’s oddly soothing. I’m thinking about posting them on there. Should I just same them for Top Ten Tuesday when I don’t like the topic, or post them independently?
  • Reading:
    • American Royals by Katharine McGee -Trashy fun
    • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid- I can’t decide if the characters in this one annoyed me because they were poorly written or because they were well written. But it did present some interesting questions and situations.
    • Lock Every Door by Riley Sager– A bit of a let down after some other, better work by Sager.
    • Three Girls and their Brother by Theresa Rebeck- Someone on Goodreads said that this was like The Catcher in the Rye  meets Project Runway, and in an odd way that’s perfect to describe this satire of the the fashion and entertainment world as seen through the eyes of four teens thrust into the middle of it.
    • Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdich- Really intriguing premise that never lived up to its potential.
    • The Group by Mary McCarthy- I had been wanting to read this for a while and sadly it didn’t live up to expectations. I started watching the film, but about an hour in, I didn’t feel like it added anything to the book. I didn’t feel like I was getting anything more out of it, so I called it quits.
    • The Runaway Royal by Lindsay Emory- I was hoping for something light and fully but this just fell flat.
    • Bird Box by Josh Malerman- Enjoyable and tense. I was disappointed in some of the changes made to the film adaptation. The writing in the book felt very cinematic and I don’t think those changes were necessary.
    • Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews Edwards- I didn’t like this quite as much as I liked the first volume of her memoir, Home. But I did like it, and I was pleased that she discussed her writing career and the inspiration behind some of her novels.
    • Final Girls by Riley Sager- This  was really fun. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • Binging:
    • The Good Witch– I’m not usually a Hallmark Channel Girl (the occasional Christmas movie aside) but I did enjoy this series, mostly for the magical realism vibe, which I wish we saw in more shows. The show did get saccharine in larger doses though.
    • Impostors– This one was witty and fun but suffered the same problem about being slightly too much in larger doses.
    • NOS4A2– I only watched the first three episodes (because that was all my preview would let me watch without subscribing the the streaming service!) but I thought it was intriguing. Maybe I’ll read the book and then if I like that take the streaming plunge…
    • The Order– I recently started this one on Netflix. I’m only a few episodes in and I’m not too impressed so far. Has anyone seen it? Is it worth sticking with?
  • Movie Watching:
    • Bird Box– A tense viewing experience but I do wish some elements had stayed closer to the book.
    • Knives Out– A fun whodunnit and “who was behind it”
    • Yesterday– I wanted this to be better than it was.  I found myself rather bored.

Top Ten Tueday: Anticipated Releases for the 2nd Half of 2020

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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June 30: Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020

These are obviously in addition to my most anticipated releases for the rest of the summer. 

81d81zgib6l._ac_uy218_1.Majesty: American Royals II by Katharine McGee: September 1, 2020. I just finished American Royals. It was a soap opera that imagined an America if George Washington had been king instead of president, and his descendants had inherited the throne. It was totally trashy but sort of the mindless thing I needed at the moment. This is the sequel. I’m sure in the coming months there will be a time that I need another mindless, trashy soap opera.

 

81d6gx6rjrl._ac_uy218_2.One By One by Ruth Ware: September 8, 2020. Though I find her work rather hit or miss (loved The Death of Mrs. Westaway, didn’t like The Lying Game, liked In A Dark Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10), I do enjoy Ware’s writing enough to be eager to read her new book.

 

 

 

a1uwt8ehugl._ac_uy218_3. The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett: September 15, 2020. Though I suppose I should finish the Kingsbridge  trilogy  (I still need to read Column of Fire) before I read the prequel

 

 

 

 

81fhfpzakal._ac_uy218_4. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke: September 15, 2020. In spite of some of my issues with Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I’m really eager to read more  from Susanna Clarke.

 

 

 

91flh6gam7l._ac_uy218_5. Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman: October 6, 2020. Since I loved Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic, I’m eager to read the next prequel.

 

 

 

91wiogj29kl._ac_uy218_6.The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow: October 13, 2020: I’ve actually never read anything by this author but the premise of this really intrigues me, so I’ll give it a try.

 

 

 

71fofu2w2gl._ac_uy218_7. Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz– November 10, 2020 I’ve been liking Horowitz’s rather innovative whodunnits, so I’m eager for a new one.

 

 

 

81h9usxhkl._ac_uy218_8. The  Midnight Library by Matt Haig– This is just another book where I really like the premise: a book for the life you lived and  one for the life you could have lived.

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Top Ten Lists

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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June 23: Top Ten Tuesday Turns 10! Option 1: pick a past TTT topic you’ve done and re-do/update it (Perhaps you’d remove certain books you put on the list back when you first wrote it, or perhaps you have 10 MORE books you’d add to that list now. You could also re-visit TBR posts, whether seasonal or series you need to finish, etc., and tell us if you’ve read them yet or not. Any variation of this idea works. Feel free to be creative.) Option 2: pick a past TTT topic you wish you’d done, but didn’t get a chance to do (the list of topics is below).

Rather than do either of these I decided to do a sort of TTT retrospective of some of my favorite past top ten lists and topics. I limited it to the past year, otherwise it would be too many:

  1. Best Opening Lines
  2. Reasons I Love Fairy Tale Retellings
  3. Books I Wish I’d Read As A Child
  4. Feel Good Reads
  5. Characters I’d Follow On Social Media
  6. Books That Gave Me A Book Hangover
  7. Best of the 2010s
  8. Holiday Season Reads
  9. Books I’m Thankful For
  10. Characters I’d Want As A Friend

And because I couldn’t limit myself to just ten favorites: