Top Ten Tuesday: Cozy Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

November 29: Cozy Reads (Share books that give off a cozy vibe, whether through atmosphere, setting, or some other factor. Please tell us why they’re cozy for you, too!)

I often think of “cozy” as having a setting or atmosphere that’s cold, when I’m all tucked up nice with a warm blanket and a hot cup of tea. But not all wintery settings are cozy! These are a few that are:

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – This author also has another good wintery book, Once Upon a River, but this one feels a bit cozier to me somehow. Vida Winter is an author known for a collection of short stories. She’s reclusive and has given the press several conflicting life stories over the years. But at the end of her life, she decides to tell a biographer the mysterious thirteenth tale to her collection: her true story involving a mansion, a fire, a governess and a ghost.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – Even though I felt like the trilogy got better with the second book, this is definitely the most wintry. Vasya and her siblings live in the Russian wilderness, where it’s winter most of the time. They spend many a cozy evening listening to their nurse’s fairy tales. When her father brings home a new wife, a devout woman who doesn’t allow for fairy tales and household spirts, Vasya must save her family and her home from the consequences.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware – Aside from a gloomy atmosphere this book also has some nice, gothic, Rebecca-ish vibes. Harriet ‘Hal’ Westaway has been living hand to mouth since her mother’s death three years ago. She’s barely getting by when she gets a letter from a lawyer saying that her grandmother has recently died and left her money. Hal knows it’s a mistake: her grandmother died years ago. But she’s also desperate. She heads to Mrs. Westway’s Cornwall mansion to try to claim the inheritance. But when she arrives she discovers a family that may be more closely connected to her than she realizes. The estate comes with a lot of secrets, that might give Hal the family she’s always wanted, or might get her killed.

A Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin – This one is polarizing, and also just plain weird. But I think reading it in a warm room with a cup of tea while a storm rages outside is a good way to experience this one. When a thief, Peter, tries to rob a wealthy home in late 19th century New York City, he’s surprised to find the terminally ill daughter of the house, Beverley, at home. Against all odds, the two fall in love. But Beverley is dying, and to save her, Peter is driven to stop time and defy death itself.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley – Every year, a group of college friends meet up to ring in the new year together. This year, they’re spending the week in a hunting estate in the Scottish highlands. But over a decades worth of secrets and resentments weigh on this group. As they’re isolated and trapped by a blizzard, someone is killed. Whodunnit?

A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire – Laura lives in New York City with her grandparents in the early 1960’s. One winter, under difficult emotional circumstances, a swan boy with one wing lands on Laura’s roof. To help him, Laura hides him from her grandparents and tries to build him a replacement wing. As he tells her his story, the reader sees that it parallels Laura’s experiences with her grandparents.

Still Life by Louise Penny – All the Inspector Gamache books apply but I’m going with this one because it’s first. They’re set in Canada, near the US border and even when it’s not a specific winter setting, reading them gives me a sort of cozy feeling. When a local woman dies in the town of Three Pines, the locals think it’s an accident. But Inspector Gamache suspects foul play…

Landline by Rainbow Rowell- This is also a nice holiday season read. Georgie and Neal’s marriage is on the rocks. A few days before Georgie, Neal, and the kids are headed to Omaha to spend the holiday with Neal’s family, Georgie finds out she needs to stay in LA for work. He’s upset and packs the kids and goes without her. But Georgie is able to connect to past-Neal via an old corded phone. Even though Georgie is in LA, a lot of this novel takes place in Omaha, where it’s cold and snowy. But it’s still a warm story.


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: Books and Adjectives

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

Today’s topic is

March 22: Books With an Adjective In the Title (Submitted by Nicole @ How to Train a Book Dragon)

I also decided to evaluate the adjective: does it accurately describe the book? Let’s see!

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong – Yep, “violent” describes this one pretty well I’d say. The other adjective I might use is “gory.”

A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire – I don’t think I would call this book, or the swan in it particularly “wild.” Actually considering the fact that the swan is significantly human, I might call it fairly tame. He can talk and reason!

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie– Yes, in this case I would call the affair at Styles (a murder, naturally) fairly “mysterious.” Nothing that Poirot can’t handle though!

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – This adjective is fairly literal. The patient in this book is silent. She does not speak. We do, however, learn a lot about her regardless.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab – In this case it’s not really literal. Addie is perfectly visible, but her life is “invisible” because she’s always forgotten as soon as she’s out of sight.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman – Again, not literally “invisible,” but definitely a shadowy organization.

Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill by Maud Hart Lovelace – It’s hard to say here, because I don’t know how big the hill actually is. The book doesn’t give an elevation! But I suppose it’s a big step for the characters.

The Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell– Definitely metaphorical once again (wow, there are a lot of books with “invisible” in the title!) But she does disappear, as in, people can’t find her.

Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen – Yes, several of the characters here have “royal blood.” And there are some concerns about blood being spilled, but the actual murder in this case is a poisoning.

The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elizabeth Robinson – Well, the book is fiction, so I suspect it’s not “true.” At the very least it’s fictionalized. As for “outstanding,” it’s probably not the word I’d use, though it’s not bad by any means.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Enjoyed But Haven’t Mentioned on My Blog (yet!)

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 1: Books I Enjoyed, but Have Never Mentioned On My Blog

I added the “yet” because these are all fairly recent reads that I’ve enjoyed.

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid – Based on the Goodreads rating it seems like this is a love it or hate it kind of thing. I loved it, but I think the expectations you go in with are important. For one thing, despite the fact that the title suggests a Red Riding Hood retelling, this isn’t one. It incorporates a lot of folklore though. It draws from both Hungarian and Jewish traditions. It’s also not YA. Both main characters are in their mid-late twenties. Don’t go in expecting late teens. Finally, it’s dark, it’s violent, it’s ugly at times. But if that doesn’t scare you off, I really liked it!

White Ivy by Susie Yang – Again this has gotten some hate due, I think, to expectations. The cover blurb makes it sound like a mystery/thriller, and it’s not really. It’s about a Chinese-American girl from an immigrant family, who wants to be accepted by an old money, privileged crowd of people. She finds a guy who she can marry and get what she’s always wanted. But she also encounters a man from her past who could threaten everything. This is a sort of coming of age, tied in with a love triangle (well, a triangle anyway…) and crime. It’s definitely a slow burn, but I enjoyed it.

The Peacock Spring by Rumer Godden– I blogged about this one when it was still on my TBR, but not since I read and enjoyed it! It’s set in a newly independent India. Teenage Una and her sister, Hal, are in a British boarding school, when their father, Sir Edward Gwithiam, sends words that he wants them to join him in New Dehli, where he’s working for the United Nations. When they arrive, Una meets Ms. Lamont, the woman who is intended to be her governess. It’s pretty obvious that Ms. Lamont is really her father’s mistress, and Una and her sister were brought to India so that she and their father could live together. The story gets more complicated from here, and all of the characters are complex people. No one is really a hero or a villain. Even when we dislike characters, who find a sense of understanding for them.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis – Again, I mentioned this one as a TBR. This had been sitting on my shelf for a long time, and I finally decided to read it at the start of 2021. It was worth the wait! Part of Willis’ Oxford Time Travel series, it’s set in the future, when time travel is a thing. It’s done regularly by historians. When one of them accidentally brings something back from Victorian England (you are not supposed to bring stuff through time!!!) it must be set right, and the time-space continuum is at stake. It’s a delightful combination of SFF, comedy, romance, and cats (to say nothing of the dog).

Faye Faraway by Helen Fisher – This was a sort of unique read. It’s about a woman, Faye, who lost her mother as a child. As a result she’s always felt an absence in her life. She loves her husband and their two children, but she feels like a piece of herself is missing. When she travels back in time and meets her mother, and her younger self, she feels a deep sense of connection to her mother (who, of course, doesn’t know who she really is). She finds herself torn between her contemporary life with her husband and children, and the unique bond she’s forming with her mother and her younger self. This was more interesting than I expected. The stakes are largely emotional, and there’s no romance or violence. But I was compelled, even when I wanted to yell at Faye. It also had an unexpected (but good) ending.

A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire– I’m very torn on Maguire as an author. Sometimes I like him a lot, other times I don’t like him much at all. In one fell in the “like it a lot” category though. It’s based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Wild Swans (a favorite tale of mine) but it’s set in NYC in the 1960s. Teenage Laura lives with her grandparents in their New York City townhouse following the death of her brother and her mother’s mental breakdown. A few days before Christmas, a handsome young man with only one wing, lands on her roof. Laura sneaks him into the house and tries to help him. As I describe the plot it sounds very YA. And it is about teenagers. But it feels like the intended audience is a little older. It’s a great holiday season read.

Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie– I’m making a point to try to read more Christie this year. I actually read this one at the end of last year. It’s not a favorite on the level of And Then There Were None or Murder on the Orient Express, but it’s just below that. It’s actually what prompted my resolution to seek out more of her work. Jacko Argyle was convicted of beating his mother to death with a fire poker. He was sentenced to life in prison and died of pneumonia shortly after. When Dr. Arthur Calgary arrives with evidence that Jacko was innocent of the murder, the Argyle family isn’t happy. His revelation opens up old wounds in the large, twisted family. It may also have rattled the real killer… After I read this I watched the recent miniseries on Amazon Prime. It was totally different. Like there was a different murderer and everything. I might have enjoyed it, if I hadn’t been familiar with the book though.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley – I think I may have mentioned this in passing also, but I haven’t really written much about it. It’s a Christie-eque locked room mystery. Not quite Christie level, but still fun. It’s about a group of friends from Oxford, who meet up every year to spend New Year’s together. This year they’re staying on an isolated estate in the Scottish highlands. But this group have over a decades worth of secrets, lies, and resentments between them. When a blizzard cuts off the lodge from the outside world, someone disappears, and is found dead. With a limited pool of suspects and no way for help to get to them soon, the question on everyone’s mind is which of their oldest friends is a murderer?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Love to Get As Gifts

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 22: Books I Hope Santa Brings

I decided to tweak this one a bit. I will accept these books as gifts from anyone. I’m not limiting it to Santa (*hint* *hint*)

  1. Elijah’s Mermaid by Essie Fox – This is a recent addition to my TBR, after reading about it in another top ten list: Top 10 Books About Mermaids in the Guardian. It sounds just right for me though. A gothic mystery about mermaids? A Victorian set historical novel? Yes please! The writer of the list, Monique Roffey, says that Fox writes like “the  like the lovechild of Sarah Waters and Angela Carter.” Two authors I greatly admire. If I wasn’t sold before, I am now!

2. The Lost Queen by Signe Pike- This is another recent addition but I’ve heard really wonderful things about it. I also seen a lot of comparisons to a lot of popular novels from Outlander to Wolf Hall to Clan of the Cave Bear, to The Mists of Avalon, and back again. I think that sometimes comp titles can be helpful in letting readers know they’re in for a certain kind of experience (sort of a “If you didn’t like x, you probably won’t like y” kind of thing) but often they just set readers expectations in one direction, only to discover that the book goes in a different direction altogether. So I’m trying to take from those comparisons that it will be historical fiction, it’s probably on the longish side, and there will be some connections to fantasy/magic/paranormal. Actually the inclusion of Camelot and The Mists of Avalon in the (many) comp titles, and the fact that the synopsis says they the character is Merlin’s twin sister, so I think it’ll include some Arthurian elements as well.

3. Where the Light Enters by Sara Donati- I enjoyed Donati’s Wilderness series, and I liked the first in her Waverly Place series. called The Gilded Hour, even more (there’s a small link between both series). So naturally when books 2 comes out, I want it! Donati tied up some storylines at the end of The Gilded Hour, but she also left some wide open and a big question in readers minds! I want to see things resolved! Of course, that would probably open up a million new questions!

4. Readings: Seventeen Writers Revisit the Books They Love by Anne Fadiman- I love the idea of this and I’m curious about how and why these writers decided what to reread. I’m totally conflicted about rereadings: there’s a lot I want to reread, because I suspect I’ll read it differently now. But I also don’t want to ruin any memories of books that might not live up to them. Plus can I justify rereading when there are so many books out there I haven’t read? I have no answers to these questions, but I’m curious how these writers answer them. Plus, I always love a good book about books!

5. Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman– I’m sure I’ve mentioned this book on this blog before, but that’s because I really want to read it! I love Practical Magic and Rules of Magic, and I generally like Alice Hoffman as a writer, so why wouldn’t I want the prequel? Hopefully I’ll get it soon so I can stop blogging about it and start reading it!

6. A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire– I’m actually iffy on Maguire’s work. I didn’t care for Wicked, so I never bothered with the sequels. I did enjoy Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Mirror, Mirror and Hiddensee. So I really don’t know what to expect from this! But I want to read it because a) fairy tale retelling b) The Wild Swans is a favorite of mine and c) it’s set in NYC. So it has quite a bit in it’s favor already, as far as I’m concerned.

7. Fallen Angel by Kim Wilkins– This was recommended a while back in a tweet from Australian author Kate Forsyth (can’t find the tweet now). It’s also released under the title Angel of Ruin. However it has not been released in the US. Not to worry though, I’ve got my Aussie friend on the lookout for it! Hopefully when I finally get to read it, it’ll be worth all the effort!

8. The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons– About a year ago I won a goodreads giveaway (that I have no memory of entering!) for the sequel to this book. But based on what I’ve read about it, it’s the kind of thing that should be read in order. This is the first book in the trilogy. The second has been sitting on my shelf for a while, waiting for me. I do hope that I actually want to read the second after reading this one!

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall 2020 TBR

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

September 22: Books On My Fall 2020 TBR (or spring if you live in the southern hemisphere)

  1. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke– Despite my mixed feelings about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I’m really looking forward to Clarke’s sophomore novel. It’s significantly shorter than her first, and it sounds like a perfect quarantine read. It was actually written in response to Clark’s own bout with illness.

2. Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman– I mean, it’s a prequel to Practical Magic and Rules of Magic. Yes, please!

3. The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett– This is a prequel to Pillars of the Earth, and I suppose all of Follett’s Kingsbridge novels. But I’m still behind on reading the third in the trilogy A Column of Fire. I suppose I should get to that, before I read the prequel. Or, are there “rules” about the order, since it’s a prequel?

4. Majesty by Katharine McGee- American Royals was a total guilty pleasure, and it turned out to be just what I needed when I read it. Hopefully the sequel will be the same.

5. Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow– I love the connection between magic/witchcraft and women’s suffrage. Perfect for an election year, when it’s more important than ever that we all vote!

6. One by One by Ruth Ware– I feel like Ruth Ware’s novels have gotten better as time goes on. I loved her most recent ones: The Death of Mrs. Westaway and Turn of the Key. I’m really eager to see if her newest lives up to that quality.

7. Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade– I love the idea of this. An actor, unhappy with how his character has been written, takes refuge in the word of fan fiction. When he agrees to a publicity date with a fan, he realizes that she’s also his fandom friend in fanfic world. I think that this draws parallels between the love an artist has for his/her work and the love a fan has for something. I’m interested to see how it plays out.

8. Mad & Bad: Real Heroines of the Regency by Bea Koch– I love the idea of delving into the women of this period who are often left out of regency novels, and even much of written history. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jane Austen, but the regency wasn’t all about white women! This books looks at women of color and LGBTQ women, who have been too often overlooked by history.

9. Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney– I loved Cooney’s YA novels when I was younger, so I was excited to see that she had a new book for adult readers out soon. I also like that this book focuses on a protagonist in her 70’s. So many books focus on 25-35 year olds exclusively!

10. A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire– I’ve had mixed success with Maguire as an author, but I’m eager to see what he does with one of my favorite fairy tales, The Wild Swans set in 1960s NYC.