May 24: Book Quote Freebie (Share your favorite book quotes that fit a theme of your choosing! These could be quotes about books/reading, or quotes from books. Some examples are: quotes for book lovers, quotes that prove reading is the best thing ever, funny things characters have said, romantic declarations, pretty scenery descriptions, witty snippets of dialogue, etc.)
No common themes here other than that I gave these books 5 stars (some were rereads) and these quotes stood out to me.
The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid– “Stories are supposed to live longer than people, and the turul is the most ancient story of them all. Tears go running hotly down my face. Maybe killing it will save this generation of pagans, but what about the next? When the fabric of our stories thins and wears, the people will be alive, but they won’t be pagans anymore. And that, I realize, is what Virág always feared the most. Not our deaths, or even her death. She was afraid of our lives becoming our own. She was afraid of our threads snapping, of us becoming just girls, and not wolf-girls.”
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis – “I was never going to get any sleep. I was going to have Alice in Wonderland conversation after Alice in Wonderland conversation until I died of exhaustion. Here, in the restful, idyllic Victorian era.”
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce – “I meant to ask Hatty questions about the garden,’ Tom wrote to Peter, ‘but somehow I forgot.’ He always forgot. In the daytime, in the Kitsons’ flat, he thought only of the garden, and sometimes he wondered about it: where it came from, what it all meant. Then he planned cunning questions to put to Hatty, that she would have to answer fully and without fancy; but each night, when he walked into the garden, he forgot to be a detective, and instead remembered only that he was a boy and this was the garden for a boy and that Hatty was his playmate.”
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow – “Those of you who are more than casually familiar with books — those of you who spend your free afternoons in fusty bookshops, who offer furtive, kindly strokes along the spines of familiar titles — understand that page riffling is an essential element in the process of introducing oneself to a new book. It isn’t about reading the words; it’s about reading the smell, which wafts from the pages in a cloud of dust and wood pulp. It might smell expensive and well bound, or it might smell of tissue-thin paper and blurred two-colour prints, or of fifty years unread in the home of a tobacco-smoking old man. Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, or literary weight or unsolved mysteries.”
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – “Our generation still carry the old feelings. A part of us refuses to let go. The part that wants to keep believing there’s something unreachable inside each of us. Something that’s unique and won’t transfer. But there’s nothing like that, we know that now. You know that. For people our age it’s a hard one to let go.”
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton – “It was the old New York way… the way people who dreaded scandal more than disease, who placed decency above courage, and who considered that nothing was more ill-bred than “scenes”, except those who gave rise to them. ”
Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl– “We are all anthologies. We are each thousands of pages long, filled with fairy tales and poetry, mysteries and tragedy, forgotten stories in the back no one will ever read.”
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier – “Men are simpler than you imagine my sweet child. But what goes on in the twisted, tortuous minds of women would baffle anyone.”
May 10: Bookish Characters (these could be readers, writers, authors, librarians, professors, etc.)
Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow – Beatrice Belladonna is definitely a bookish character. She works in a library and ends up keeping another, magical library. I sort of picture her as an owl reading a book!
Beach Read by Emily Henry – Augustus Everett writes literary fiction. January Andrews writes romance novels. When they discover they’re staying next door to each othr for the summer, they decide to swap genres.
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman – Irene is a spy for the titular Library. She finds and protects important works of fiction from different realities. She has a simple mission: retrieve a dangerous book from an alternate version of London. But the best laid plans…
The Book of Speculation by Erica Swyler – Simon is a research librarian who gets a book from a rare book dealer that has some kind of connection to his family. As her reads the story it tells, he becomes afraid for the safety of his sister.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman – Nina prefers books to reality. She works in a bookshop, and her closest companion is her cat, Phil. She’s not convinced that real life can ever live up to fiction. I know the feeling!
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern – Zachery is a grad student who encounters a book that tells him a story from his own life. Confused as to how this happened, Zachery follows clues to an ancient, secret library far below the surface of the Earth.
More than one word: I didn’t dislike this. I just wanted to like it more than I did. I actually liked his lists of comfort songs and movies, and his little chapters about inspirational people a lot. But a lot of it felt repetitious.
More than one word: I enjoyed the book, but everything built toward learning what happened about a barbeque (the first half of the book is alternating lead up and aftermath) and when we finally learned what happened, it wasn’t exactly earth shattering. I mean it was for the characters, I’m sure, but not for the reader.
More than one word: After loving Harrow’s twofull length novels, I didn’t think that this novella quite lived up to them. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as I felt like it could have been. I’ll still read the sequel though.
More than one word: I’ve been trying to read some Victorian Christmas ghost stories this year, so this was one of those. I enjoyed it, in that it kind of made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up a bit (my measure of a good ghost story) It definitely felt like a short story, rather than something like A Christmas Carol which is more novella territory.
More than one word: I really liked this. I wasn’t sure what it was going into it. I couldn’t tell if it was intended to be a retelling, and one of the reviews I read said the less you know going in the better, so after reading that, I stopped looking. I’m glad I did because it let me fully appreciate what Valente was doing as this unfolded.
More than one word: I wanted to like this one more than I was able to. The biggest problem for me was the character who was supposed to fill the romantic hero role, was totally unappealing, unlikeable and unheroic.
More than one word: Anyone who reads my blog knows how much I love Eva Ibbotson. This wasn’t my favorite of her books. Not that it was bad at all! I think my expectations may have been too high based on my love for the author, but it felt like it tried to do a bit too much.
Working, working working (by which I mean day job stuff.) Which unfortunately doesn’t leave much left for writing. Maybe it’s less about time than about mental space. I feel like I’m using the part of my brain that I usually use for writing fiction elsewhere right now. I’m hoping that some distance from my writing helps a bit. I’ve been experiencing some frustration with this booklately. I think it needs some more worldbuilding, but I’m not sure how to incorporate that into the action of the story.
Thinking about my writing “career.” I put “career” in quotes because I’m not sure that’s the word I want to use. I don’t really have financial goals for writing, beyond not losing too much money. I write because I love it, and I want to publish to share it with people. If I were legitimately going to go into business publishing, I would need to write at a much faster pace than I’m capable of right now. But, as I said, my goals aren’t really financial. A lot of literature aimed at self-publishing seems to be disparaging of writers who treat writing as a “hobby.” I don’t call it that, because I don’t think of it that way. I put a lot into writing emotionally, mentally (and, to some extent) financially. And yes, I do get a few dollars from it here and there. But I don’t think “career” or “job” is the quite the right word either.
Working on a series of posts for this blog. I’ve been working on them for a while actually and they’re almost ready. For some reason blogging doesn’t take as much from me mentally/emotionally as work and writing (fiction) do. It’s interesting how we perceive similar tasks differently. Blogging just seems like a more “for fun” category, whereas fiction and work are for other reasons.
Trying to watch Dark on Netflix. I think I run into the mental space issue here too. When I’m verging on overwhelmed with other stuff, I want my TV mindless and escapist. Dark is good, but it’s very demanding. With family trees and multiple timelines I have to use the wiki summaries and the official site to keep track of everything, sometimes pausing in order to do so. I’ve made it through season 1 and I’m invested enough to want to keep going, but it’s hard to summon up the energy when I just want to relax.
Really enjoying binging iZombie. I’m so not usually a fan of anything to do with zombies, usually. I’d read something good about this though, and I was in the mood to watch something silly so I gave it a shot. It’s silly. But also fun and even clever occasionally. It’s about a young doctor who is turned to a zombie at a party (you get turned when a zombie scratches you). She gets a job with the medical examiner, because easy access to brains not being used. But when she eats a brain she gets memories of the brains owner. So she helps the police solve their murders. Her medical examiner boss/friend is working on a cure for zombie-ism. Her family and friends are struggling to deal with some unexplained changes in her personality recently. Oh yeah, and while she gets the memories of the brains she eats, she also gets some of their personality traits. It’s the kind of mindless (but brainy!) entertainment that I’ve been needing lately.
Reading Alix E. Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches. One of my reading highlights of last year was The Ten Thousand Doors of January. The Once and Future Witches proves (at least so far, I’m only a bit more than 1/2 of the way though, more on that in a bit) that her first book wasn’t a fluke and that Harrow is an author who will be an auto-buy for me in the future. But as much as I’m liking it, I’m not reading it as quickly as I usually read. I don’t know why. It seems to be engaging more of my critical brain than fantasy sometimes does (the fantasy is very tied to history, and it’s worth thinking about where they diverge and why).
January 25: New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021
These are authors who I read for the first time in 2021 and who I want to continue to read in the future
Lucy Foley – I read The Guest List and The Hunting Party in 2021. Neither were brilliant but both were entertaining Locked Room mysteries that kept me involved and guessing, That was what I needed mentally when I read them, and it’s good to know there’s an author I can go to for that.
Alix E. Harrow – I’d been meaning to read The Ten Thousand Doors of January since it was released in late 2019. I finally got to it this year. Often when I finally get to a book I’d been meaning to read for a long time, it doesn’t live up to expectations. In this case, it did.
Jenny Offill– I sort of stumbled across Weather at the exact right time to read it: one of those days when you feel like humanity, and the world itself, is headed straight downhill. It didn’t confirm or deny those feelings but it definitely acknowledged them. That inspired me to check out Dept of Speculation as well. I definitely want to look for her work more in the future.
Kelly Link – I read her story collection Get In Trouble, which totally appealed to my desire for weirdness in my fiction. Most of these stories are set in places we recognize enough so that they seem familiar, but Link introduces elements that set it askew, and eventually turn it upside down. I definitely want to check out more of her work soon.
Margarita Montimore – Someone in my book club recommended Oona Out of Order this year, and I enjoyed it a lot. It’s about a women who ages out of order starting from her 19th birthday onward. So she wakes up and it’s 32 years in the future, she’s 51 (externally; internally she’s still 19) and has to live her 51 year old life for a year. From 51 she might leap forwards to 70 or back to 20. It sounds confusing, but it was done well enough for me to want to check out more from the author.
Julia Quinn – I’m not usually a huge reader of the romance genre (which I’m classifying as different from books that have romance in them) but I’m starting to become more of one, since romance novels have happy endings, and the craziness of the last 2 years has definitely made me see the appeal in a story I know will make me happy! I started reading her Bridgerton series, because I liked the Netflix series of the same name. I’m still trying to decide if I’ll read the book before the TV version airs (what I did in preparation for the upcoming second season/The Viscount Who Loved Me) or if I’ll just binge a bunch of them when I’m in the mood for a HEA
Silvia Moreno-Garcia – I read Gods of Jade and Shadow and Mexican Gothic in 2021. I enjoyed them both, but they were both very different books. I suppose the only things you could say they had in common was the speculative fiction genre and a strong Mexican setting. It looks like her other books are just as varied, so I look forward to them.
Philippa Pearce – Tom’s Midnight Garden is a book I missed a child. I’d seen so many people cite it as a favorite, so I decided to read it in 2021 when I discovered a copy in a used bookshop. I’m very glad I did! I want to check out some of her other work soon. It looks pretty varied.
Maud Hart Lovelace – The Betsy-Tacy series was another series that I didn’t read as a kid. But again, I’d seen it cited as influential by many people. I finally read the first four books in the series, and found them charming and comforting. I look forward to continuing with the series in 2022.
I’m posting it a bit late today, but here is The Official List:
1. Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl-This is a book that requires a bit of explanation. Beatrice’s boyfriend died, just before their high school graduation. The death was a presumed suicide. A year later, she reunites with her high school friends, and they spend an evening out. On their way home they have a car accident. They soon learn that they are in “Neverworld Wake” following the accident; a kind of limbo in which they will relive the day of the accident again and again. Only one of them will survive the accident and they must have a unanimous vote on who that will be. It soon becomes clear that in order to make this decision, they must learn the truth about Beatrice’s boyfriend’s death the year before. They began to investigate from inside “the wake.” But they quickly realize that they’re all hiding something about the night he died… This book combines Sci-fi/Fantasy with an Agatha Christie-eque murder mystery. It’s a mash up that works surprisingly well.
2. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro- Klara is an Artificial Friend (AF). She’s solar powered and therefore sees the sun as a deity. She watches from her place in the store as customers come in to browse. Eventually she’s chosen an moves to her new home. She movies in with teenage Josie, who lives an isolated life, and suffers from a mysterious illness. It’s hard to explain this book, since it’s sort of a fable. It’s about humanity and friendship and faith.
3. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow I’m actually not sure how to explain this one, because I think it’s the kind of book that’s better the less you know going in to it. Suffice it to say that it’s a fun hybrid of genres including adventure, fantasy and historical fiction. Also, it’s about Doors (yes, I used a capital “D” on purpose.)
4. The Betsy -Tacy Treasury by Maud Hart Lovelace I’d heard these discussed and cited as being very important to people’s childhood reading, but somehow I’d missed them as a child. I got a treasury of the first four books at a used bookstore and was utterly charmed. It follows the childhood of Betsy Ray and her friends in Minnesota at the turn of the twentieth century. I found these books to be very comforting and reassuring. Yes, things are sometimes hard for Betsy and her friends, but we know with a child’s innocence, that they’ll make it through their struggles. Is it totally realistic? No. But I think just reading about happiness can be very reassuring.
5. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce – This was another book that I’d heard of as being a very important childhood read for a lot of people. So when I saw a copy I grabbed it. It’s a slow strange story about a boy named Tom who is shipped off to stay with his aunt and uncle when his brother gets sick. He’s sure he’ll have a terrible summer. But one night he hears the clock chime an unexpected thirteen times. He’s transported to a garden where he meets a girl named Hattie. He returns to the garden every night, but as the summer ends and he has to return home, he starts to look for a way to his secret place.
6. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – I came to this somewhat knowledgeable about what to expect thanks to having already seen the film and the miniseries. But in spite of prior knowledge about the content, I still found this book compelling. It’s a slim and rather slow moving novel about the disappearance of three schoolgirls and their teacher on a St. Valentine’s Day picnic in 1900 Australia. It creates a strong sense of atmosphere that manages to be gothic in spite of the sun drenched setting.
7. The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons– I’d had this on my TBR for a while. The author is one I’ve liked in the past and often pay attention too, but I’m about 50/50 on her books. This one had some not so great reviews, but it exceeded my expectations, which was nice. It’s about Julian, a handsome young man who falls in love with a mysterious woman named Josephine. But when he learns that she’s not what she seems, she vanishes from his life forever. Desperate to get her back, Julian takes a leap into the unknown… It’s the first in a trilogy, and I look forward to reading the rest in 2022.
8. Weather by Jenny Offill – This is a perfect read for those days when it feels like humanity, and the world itself, is headed straight downhill. The main character, Lizzie, is a librarian who takes on a side gig answering letters that come in to a doom-laden podcast called “Hell and High Water.” She tries to inject a note of hope into her answers, but it’s hard, especially when she spends her days answering people who write into the podcast, who tend to be rather pessimistic, to say the least. I saw this book as being subtly, and unexpectedly, optimistic. It has a wry sense of humor about itself. I also really like the title, the more I think about it. “Weather” can be a meteorological event or condition, but it can also be a verb that means both “to wear away by long exposure” and “to endure and come through safely.” I think it’s up to the reader to decide which definition is the most relevant to the book. It’s a quick read, but I found it an unexpected surprise.
9. Killers of the Flowers Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann– I’m not usually a true crime buff, but my book club read it this year and I found myself unexpectedly drawn into it. It takes place in Oklahoma in the 1920’s. The Osage Nation was extremely wealthy due to oil found on their land. Then they start to be killed off. People who investigated the murders were also killed. As the death toll rose, J Edgar Hoover hired a former Texas rancher to solve the mystery. The story that emerges has “stranger than fiction” qualities, but is still utterly believable.
September 28: Freebie (Come up with your own topic or do a past TTT topic that you missed or would like to do again.)
I decided to do recent books I’ve read that made me want more this week. These might be books that made me want to seek out more by the author, or other books in the genre, or learn more about a topic.
1. The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons – I’ve mentioned this one before. I think it stands out for me because it was such a pleasant surprise. I’ve been about 50/50 on this author’s past work, and this didn’t have great reviews, so I wasn’t expecting much. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, and now I’m looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.
2. March Sisters: On Life, Death and Little Women by Kate Bolick, Jenny Zhang, Carmen Maria Machado and Jane Smiley – Each of the four essays in this book are written by a different contemporary author, and each focuses on a different March sister in Little Women. I don’t know what I was expecting from it really, but it made me think about some things in the book differently, and it definitely made me want to reread it soon.
3. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – This is another one that had been on my TBR for a while, but my expectations weren’t high. When I started reading it, the first chapter was beautiful, and I didn’t know if the rest of the book would live up to its promise. For the most part, it did. I’m looking forward to reading Once and Future Witches next. Harrow also has a series based on fairy tales that looks very tempting.
4. Masterpiece: America’s 50 Year Old Love Affair with British Television Drama by Nancy West – I feel kind of silly putting a book about a TV show on this list, but I’m a big fan British TV so I’ve always liked PBS’ Masterpiece! This book looks at the program’s 50 year history through major successes like “Upstairs Downstairs” and “Downton Abbey,” to adaptations (both faithful and unfaithful) of literary classics, to historical dramas, and the many detectives who have solved crimes on British TV. It also addresses criticism that the program has faced for celebrating oppressive social, racial and cultural structures. I added at least twenty shows to my watchlist while I was reading it so it counts for this list.
5. Weather by Jenny Offill – I picked this up because I saw it in the library and I remembered that some people I follow on Goodreads gave this book good reviews. I think it was just what I was in the mood for when I read it. I immediately went back to the library and picked up a copy of Offill’s Dept of Speculation, and enjoyed that too. Last Things is next on my list.
6. The Guest List by Lucy Foley- This was just a book I read in about two sittings. Nothing about it was unique or special really, but it was a fast moving mystery. The chapters were short, and most of them ended on a cliffhanger, so I was constantly thinking “just one more chapter…” Foley’s other books are now on my TBR. It also made me seek out other “locked room” mysteries.
7. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell – I read this because I really liked The Durrells In Corfu, a series (on Masterpiece!) about the author and his family moving to Greece in the 1930’s. The show was based on Durrell’s Corfu trilogy of which this was the first. It was delightful and the other two are now on my TBR.
8. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire- The October Daye series has been on my TBR for a long time. I finally got a chance to read the first one last year, and I’m looking forward to having fourteen more books to read in this series. Hopefully I’ll get to them soon!
9. Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss – This one reminded me of Theodora Goss, an author who hasn’t been on the forefront of my mind. I really liked this collection of poems and stories though, and it made me remember that I’d started Goss’ Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club trilogy and never finished it. So I definitely want to finish that one and check out some of her other work soon.
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.