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

ttt-new

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:

ttt-new

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:

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer 2020 TBR

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

ttt-new

June 16: Books on My Summer 2020 TBR (or winter if you’re in the southern hemisphere)

91kikzx6cdl._ac_uy218_1.Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia- I love the idea of setting a Victorian-eque Gothic in 1950’s Mexico. (June 30)

 

 

 

 

81lfpkdhvql._ac_uy218_2. Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan– I enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians but I didn’t feel the need to read more of Kwan’s work, until I head that his newest was an homage to A Room with A View. (June 30)

 

 

 

a1qw7wbt5l._ac_uy218_3.Crossings by Alex Landragin-This book consists of three separate stories that can be read straight though, or out of order, using a secret key. They can also apparently be read as a story, within a story, within a story. I want to see how the author pulls off the concept! (July 28)

 

 

71wscsoaygl._ac_uy218_4. Summer by Ali Smith– The conclusion of Smith’s seasonal quartet. I don’t know much about this one but if the previous books are any indication, I expect an innovative sociopolitical tale set in, and illuminating the season in an unexpected way. (August 18)

 

 

 

91hgjcuezql._ac_uy218_5.The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner– I’ve heard really good things about this novel about a group of strangers who put aside their differences to preserve Austen’s legacy in post- WWII England. It sounds like it has the potential to be both intelligent and uplifting (rather like Austen herself!) (May 26)

 

 

91dl5yyl84l._ac_uy218_6.Home Before Dark by Riley Sager– I’ve read a few of Sager’s novels this past year and really enjoyed them. I’m looking forward to this tale of family secrets and old (and perhaps real?) ghosts. (June 30)

 

 

 

81jbrqqbgl._ac_uy218_7.Beach Read by Emily Henry– This tale of writers who swap genres looks like a light beach read  itself. (May 19)

 

 

 

 

91lq27bv9zl._ac_uy218_8. Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton– I’ve enjoyed this author’s other books, Next Year in Havana and When We Left Cuba, so I’m looking forward to her new one. (June 16)

 

 

 

81hegtntrcl._ac_uy218_9.The Summer Set by Aimee Agresti– This tale of backstage drama a theater in the Berkshires seems like a fun, escapist summer read for a theater-geek like me! (May 12)

 

 

 

81yn5yv9-l._ac_uy218_10.Or What You Will by Jo Walton– I love the premise of this one: a character realizes that once his writer dies, he does too. The writer is in her 70’s, so the character figures it’s time to take matters into his own hands… (July 7)

 

 

 

Looking over these picks it seems like (with one or two possible exceptions) I’m looking for escapism this summer. But as long as I live in the real world, a bit of fictional escape is allowed, no? Of course these are just the newbies on my TBR. They’re joining a looooong list!

Top Ten Tuesday: Best First Lines

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

Today’s topic was:

June 9: Books I’ve Added to my TBR and Forgotten Why (stolen from Louise @ Foxes & Fairy Tales)

But I really haven’t forgotten why I’ve added anything. So I decided to go with a recent topic that I missed:

Which books have particularly noteworthy opening lines?

I also  tried to avoid the typical ones that most people choose (A Tale of Two Cities, Anna Karenina, etc) So here are some of my favorites:

91ewbiftngl._ac_uy218_1. The Secret History by Donna Tartt– “The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we understood the gravity of our situation.”

 

 

 

41lwyeo5xnl._ac_uy218_2.The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford – “This is the saddest story I have ever heard.”

 

 

 

 

81vofwyd7ml._ac_uy218_3. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smtih-  “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”

 

 

 

 

81o0w3k8oyl._ac_uy218_ml3_4. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee– “History has failed us, but no matter.”

 

 

 

 

818ezr7u2al._ac_uy218_ml3_5. The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern- “The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”

 

 

 

81gsken1oxl._ac_uy218_ml3_6.Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez– “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”

 

 

 

81m-wgpe8ul._ac_uy218_7. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman- “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held  a knife.”

 

 

 

 

71tqcuq-6pl._ac_uy218_8. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones– “In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.”

 

 

911-t2bi6l._ac_uy218_9.The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon“I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.”

 

 

 

81ku7zgvnzl._ac_uy218_10.Kindred by Octavia Butler– “I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.”

On Race, Justice, and Other Pressing Issues of the Day (and also books)

protesters holding signs

Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

It’s been a crazy time. It continues to be. I saw someone say that it’s like the Spanish Flu and the mass protests of the late 60’s/early 70’s happened during the Great Depression. I also saw a tweet (can’t find it right now) saying that “Not even in my darkest hours of 2016 did I imagine telling my husband that we’d have to eat dinner out of our quarantine rations because I didn’t have a chance to go shopping before the police curfew.” And yet, here we are.

I haven’t posted until now because I wanted to give myself a chance to process my thoughts. That’s still ongoing, but I feel like I can start to express myself. First of all, I want to state that Black Lives Matter. Absolutely. Unequivocally. It should go without saying, but it unfortunately it doesn’t. So it falls on all of us to say it, and believe it, and act on it.

protesters walking on street

Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

I can only talk about this from my own experience as a white woman. One who reads a lot and tries to understand and empathize with others, but who has ultimately experienced the world from a position of racial privilege. A lot of the talk about institutionalized racism makes me think of a few things:

  • One is Thug Life, which is urban slang coined by 2Pac Shakur. It was also the name of a hip hop group consisting of  2Pac, Stretch, Big Syke, Mopreme, Macadoshis, and The Rated R.  The name is an acronym for “The Hate U Gives Little Infants F*cks Everybody.” I have to confess that I’m only familiar with it because it was referenced in a  best-selling YA novel The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I think it’s talking about institutionalized racism. The systems of oppression that we all absorb as we go through life (“the hate we give little infants”) then  oppresses the next generation, even the oppressors (“f*cks everybody”).
  • One is a song from the musical South Pacific called “You Have To Be Carefully Taught.” As a card carrying theater geek, this is more my musical wheelhouse.  Written in 1949 it was of the first songs in a musical to explicitly deal with racism, arguing that it’s not something that we’re born with but rather, something that’s nurtured within us.  In it, a man contemplating an interracial relationship talks to a woman contemplating a marriage to a man with two mixed race children from a prior marriage. The lyrics to the song are: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear/ you’ve got be taught from year to year/ it’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear/ you’ve got to be carefully taught/ You’ve got to be taught to be afraid / Of people whose eyes are oddly made / Or people whose skin is a different shade / You’ve got to be carefully taught /  You’ve got to be taught / Before it’s too late/ Before your are six / Or seven or eight / To hate all the people your relatives hate/ You’ve got to be carefully taught. ” I believe that those lyrics are true, but we are taught racism even if our relatives don’t actually sit there drumming it in our “dear little ear” because systems of racism in our society teaches us and the ways that different races are portrayed (or not portrayed) in media.  Therefore, we reach a point where we either take part in that system, either actively or passively, or we can try to tear that system down.

I’m not going to say that I’m not a racist, because that doesn’t accomplish anything. In many ways, I’m luckier than most. I grew up with parents who explicitly taught me that no one was superior to anyone else on the basis of their skin color. They taught me that our merit is determined by our actions not our race, religion, nationality of ethnicity.  They read me anti-racist books as a child and made sure that I had exposure to people who were different from me, and that I interacted with people who were different. But I still live in the same world as everyone else. That’s a world that has systems of privilege and oppression built into it. I’ve benefited from those systems more than I deserve because of the color of my skin. I don’t like that, but it’s true nonetheless.

Over the last ten days or so, I’ve done a lot of reflecting about how I can help to rectify a system that’s been broken for hundreds of years. I wish that I had a definite answer, but I don’t. When I’m unsure, I look to books to help me. Fortunately #BlackLivesMatter has an awesome anti-racist reading list (as well as an incredible list of resources to help white people be allies).

 

 

I’ve read a few of these, but I hope to read many more. As an educator, I also hope to make use of some of these wonderful books in the future. I believe that reading has taught me empathy. It has taught me compassion. I believe that education can change the world. If we read with an open mind and an open heart we can learn to be better. We can learn how to be effective in changing these systems.  And don’t forget to buy your books from Black owned independent bookstores! There’s a pretty comprehensive list here.

I think that there are a lot of people who do want to support this movement, but don’t feel able to, either because they can’t protest or can’t donate. But there are other ways to make your voice heard. One of my favorite resources is 5calls.org. This allows people to call the appropriate legislators about issues that are important to them. Just enter your location. You’ll see a list of issues (at the moment there are a number of issues around police reform listed) . Click on one, and you’ll get the phone number of the legislator or representative to call about a certain issue as well as a suggested phone script (which you can modify as much or as little as you want). It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s effective. #BlackLivesMatter also has lists of actions that anyone can take from their own home for no money, such as phone calls, letter writing, and petitions. If you can’t go out to protest, or don’t have the money to make donations, there is still important work to be done. Most important of all, we have to VOTE for people who will make the changes that we need a reality. There is NO excuse for not voting.

The last thing that I want to do is add to the noise around this topic without contributing anything meaningful. But I believe that there are meaningful ways for all of us to help create a better world for all. The first step is often reading, thinking and looking inward. But that should be where it starts. The next step is turning it into meaningful action in some way. That way may look different for each of us.

On a related topic:

group of people parading in street

Photo by Rosemary Ketchum on Pexels.com

I know that JK Rowling has come out with some trans-phobic statements of twitter that have hurt a lot of people. I love her work, but I do not support her statements or her opinion. Trans Lives Matter. Trans rights are human rights.  If you want to help the Trans community at this time there are a lot of ways to do so.

To learn more about the work that needs to be done, visit the Trans Justice Funding Project, The National Black Trans Advocacy Coalition, The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, The Okra Project, The Trans Women of Color Collective, and more. 5calls.org also has entries that support Trans rights at times, particularly when there is pending legislation about them.  Bookmark that site, since it’s so valuable for activism on a regular basis.

If you want to read more about transgender issues and gender identity, great. That’s important work that can to break down bias’ we didn’t even know we had. It can open minds and spur further activism. You can find a number of wonderful lists online for adults here and here, teens and young adults here, and children and teens here and here. You can also find lists for all ages.

It’s sad that JK Rowling chose to use her platform and influence to express harmful idea. But she also gave us a book series that teaches us to stand up for what’s right, that silence equals complicity and that by joining our efforts together we can accomplish great things. Let’s take that lesson and use it.

Top Ten Tueday: Summer-y Books

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

June 2: Books that Give Off Summer Vibes (or winter if you live in the southern hemisphere) (submitted by Kristin @ Lukten av Trykksverte)

81afmcattl._ac_uy218_1.The Great Gatsby by  F Scott Fitzgerald- I’m actually not the biggest fan of this book (I always say I find it easier to admire than to love) but it definitely feels like summer to me. One of the dog days, when it’s too hot and you feel like you can’t breath.

“I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone’s away. There’s something very sensuous about it – overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands.”

 

71scqfzfhel._ac_uy218_2. Atonement by Ian McEwan– This book (especially the first 1/3) also has the feeling of one of those oppressively hot summer days, when people’s thoughts, feelings and emotions seem like they’re coming to a head.

“Dearest Cecilia, You’d be forgiven for thinking me mad, the way I acted this afternoon. The truth is I feel rather light headed and foolish in your presence, Cee, and I don’t think I can blame the heat.”

314ymltndpl._ac_uy218_3.Summer by Edith Wharton– Wharton saw this short novel as sort of a bookend to Ethan Frome set in summer rather than winter. She referred to it as “the hot Ethan.” In it, Charity Royall a naive girl from a humble background, meets an ambitious city boy and begins a torrid romance. It was quite scandalous when it first came out in 1917.

“She was blind and insensible to many things, and dimly knew it; but to all that was light and air, perfume and colour, every drop of blood in her responded. She loved the roughness of the dry mountain grass under her palms, the smell of the thyme into which she crushed her face, the fingering of the wind in her hair and through her cotton blouse, and the creak of the larches as they swayed to it.”

91-2eo8zzl._ac_uy218_4. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver– In this book, three stories set in Southern Appalachia are woven together with lush descriptions. It captures the fecundity of nature.

“This is how moths speak to each other. They tell their love across the fields by scent. There is no mouth, the wrong words are impossible, either a mate is there or he is not, and if so the pair will find each other in the dark.”

 

61o1jdpva-l._ac_uy218_5. Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan– A  young woman competes with her father’s mistress for his attention, this short novel takes place over a languid summer on the French Riviera

“I saw an exquisite pink and blue shell on the sea-bottom. I dove for it, and held it, smooth and hollow in my hand all the morning. I decided it was a lucky charm, and that I would keep it. I am surprised that I have not lost it, for I lose everything. Today it is still pink and warm as it lies in my palm, and makes me feel like crying.”

91gphbagl._ac_uy218_6. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides– The first person plural narration in this calls to my mind a bunch of kids hanging out in each others backyards, furtively spying on their neighbors and discussing what they see. There’s a hazy quality, as if everything seen and said is filtered through the voice of those kids, telling their story.

“In the end we had the pieces of the puzzle, but no matter how we put them together, gaps remained, oddly shaped emptinesses mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn’t name.”

91tewvjr2fl._ac_uy218_7. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss– A girl and her family, a history professor and several students attempt to live like ancient Britons one summer. The feverish heat combines  a sense of dread and malice.

“The plant began to topple and I found myself feeling guiltier about killing it than I had about gutting the rabbits. The whole of life, I thought, is doing harm, we live by killing, as if there were any being of which that is not the case.”

81l58zq3l._ac_uy218_8.Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid- My summers never revolved around sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but they do seem like summery subjects if that makes sense. The rise band’s rise to fame and break up actually happens over the course of several years but  the passion, the music, and the anger seem to take place over an exceptionally long, hot summer.

“Passion is…it’s fire. And fire is great, man. But we’re made of water. Water is how we keep living. Water is what we need to survive. My family was my water. I picked water. I’ll pick water every time.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wanted To Abandon

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

This weeks’ topic was:

May 26: Opening Lines (Best, favorite, funny, unique, shocking, gripping, lines that grabbed you immediately, etc.)

but I got confused about the date and didn’t realize until the last minute, so I had already made a list for:

May 12: The Last Ten Books I Abandoned (this could be books you DNFed, books you decided you were no longer interested in, etc.) (submitted by Claire @ Book Lovers Pizza)

which was a week I’d skipped. I don’t usually DNF books because not finishing something always makes me feel like things are left undone.  But these are the last books that I definitely considered putting down at one point or another. Maybe I’ll revisit this week’s topic on another week.

91gjjmku0ul._ac_uy218_1.Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon– My book club has been reading a books of a different genre each week. For this coming week it’s horror. I chose this book because I’d read The Other by the same author and really liked it. Unfortunately this one didn’t live up to that standard.

 

 

71n0ypoubcl._ac_uy218_2.Three Women by Lisa Taddeo– I read this one because it had been getting rave reviews and showing up on a million “must read” lists. The subject (female desire) didn’t particularly interest me, but I figured if it was handled with insight or skill that might change. Unfortunately I didn’t feel like this look at the sex lives of these three (suburban, white, American) women shed any light on the subject.

 

91sxuv4qn0l._ac_uy218_3. Clandara by Evelyn Anthony– I’d  had  this on my shelf forever and I can’t remember where I first got it. It’s a historical romance set against the fall of the Jacobite cause in Scotland. The research and history was actually handled well, but the “hero” and “heroine” were both such despicable human beings that I didn’t care what happened to either one of them. I just felt sorry for any characters who happened to cross their paths.

 

5174gdpp4ml._ac_uy218_4. Hearts and Bones by Margaret Lawrence– I had a copy of this one for a while too (If nothing else, this prolonged time at home is helping read a few of those books I’ve had sitting around!) and it looked good: a historical mystery set in the early days of America. But I couldn’t engage or invest in any of the characters. Usually I can invest in unlikable characters, but in this case I got the sense that the author didn’t know that they were unlikable.

 

91y5qqyms0l._ac_uy218_5. The People in the Trees by Hana Yanagihara-In this case  the author was well aware that the character was unlikable. I  read this one because I’d been really moved by A Little Life by the same author. Once again I admired the skill with which the difficult story was told, but in this case I felt like I was reading a textbook rather than a novel. Even when it was supposed to make me angry, I couldn’t feel anything.

 

81epe0lxakl._ac_uy218_6. The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher- I was surprised by the fact that I didn’t like this one because I’d expected to. It’s been recommended to me many times and it’s been compared to other books I’ve really liked. But the inter-generational story featured three generations of characters I didn’t like: even when I was clearly supposed to. The characters that I wasn’t supposed to like felt paper thin.

 

81mtqf4rhyl._ac_uy218_7.Beyond the Wild River by Sarah Maine– I’d been interested in reading books by this author for a while since she’s frequently compared to authors that I like.  Maybe I’ll give her another chance with a different book. This one sounded like it had potential: a mystery set in the 1890s with an heiress and several wealthy friends on a fishing trip with an accused murderer. But nothing landed. I felt like I was just waiting for it to be over.

 

81gig3gangl._ac_uy218_8.The Answers by Catherine Lacey- This one was recommended quite a bit and got pretty good reviews. It also had an interesting premise, a broke girl gets a second job as a “girlfriend” of a famous actor. But while interesting thoughts and ideas were presented, nothing was really explored and I never felt like I knew the characters.

 

 

a1yvcyz-l._ac_uy218_9.  An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear– I liked the first few Maisie Dobbs books, but with this one I really started to feel like the series was covering the same depressing ground over and over. In the first book we meet a heroine who has been traumatized be her service as a nurse in WWI as she starts a post war business. Several books later it’s the great depression, she’s still traumatized and all her cases still involve things that happened during WWI. I don’t know if I’m going to move on with this series or not.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I Love Fairy Tale Retellings

For That Artsy Reader Girls Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new
May 19: Reasons Why I Love [insert your favorite book title, genre, author, etc. here]

I decided to go with what I know and what I write. Fairy tales!

a1bbvb76hsl._ac_uy218_1. They can be scary: Example: The Changeling by Victor La Valle made the familiar and beloved things seem alien and menacing.

a13yyhpaeml._ac_uy218_2.  They can be intricate: Example: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth is a Rapunzel retelling that weaves together three narrative strands, like a braid.

81-bxm7f5dl._ac_ul320_3. They can create new worlds: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier launches Marillier’s Sevenwaters series. It’s a six book series set partially in Ancient Ireland as well as an Otherworld based on Celtic mythology. These should be read in order. Following Daughter of the Forest, there’s Son of the Shadows and Child of the Prophecy. Then the second trilogy that makes up the series is Heir to Sevenwaters, Seer of Sevenwaters, and Flame of Sevenwaters.

51spwrt1xrl-_ac_us218_4. They can give us new looks at old worlds: Example Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series is set in an alternate version of the history we know, similar to what we know in many ways with a bit of extra magic thrown in. These don’t need to be read in any order, but I recommend the early books in the series, which are much better than the later ones. My favorites are The Fire Rose, The Serpent’s Shadow, The Gates of Sleep, and Phoenix and Ashes. 

41oyve54sgl-_ac_us218_5. They can be romantic: Example I found Juliet Marillier’s Beauty and the Beast retelling Heart’s Blood to be beautifully romantic in addition to having great historical and fantasy elements.

71oqghfkyhl._ac_uy218_6. They can be funny: Example Sarah Pineborough’s Tales From the Kingdoms (Poison, Charm, Beauty) trilogy made me chuckle at several points. They probably work better if they’re read in order, but you can probably still understand everything that’s happening even if you don’t.

51u1puwi8ol._ac_uy218_7.  They can be tearjerking and heartbreaking: Example: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan is a beautifully written but harrowing tale (trigger warnings here)  with an ending that is ultimately bittersweet but in the moment may seem more bitter to some readers. Not all stories have happily ever afters, and even in the ones that do, those happy endings don’t apply to all.

a1klhsokiol._ac_uy218_8. They can be innovative: Example: I first discovered Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber in a college class I took called “Innovative Contemporary Fiction.” I’m glad I read this for the first time in an academic setting because it gave me a chance to really dig into the text and notice things I would have otherwise missed. There’s a lot happening between the lines of these stories!

81hs1pgkzml._ac_uy218_9. They can be beautiful: Example I found Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy to be beautiful in terms of story, setting, and prose.  It satisfied on almost every level. These should be read in order. It’s The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl In the Tower, andThe Winter of the Witch.

91jxemsjivl._ac_uy218_10. They’re what I do: Example: Once again it seems I’m not above promoting my own book. My first novel, Beautiful: A Tale of Beauties and Beasts is a Beauty and the Beast retelling. It’s my first published novel. I’m working on a follow up right now, that’s based on The Snow Queen.