Top Ten Tuesday: TBR Progress Update

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This was this week’s topic:

June 15: Books On My Summer 2021 TBR (or winter, if you live in the southern hemisphere)

But since I’m trying to read through old TBRs before making new ones (I doubt I’ll be able to stick to this resolution for long!) I decided to revisit some old TBRs and do a progress update. If you’re interested, I did one of these in the past, and I’m trying not to repeat books:

  • Majesty: American Royals by Kristin McGree (on my Fall 2020 TBR) This was silly and soap opera-ish but enjoyable for those times when that’s exactly what you need. I made a mental note (that I’m just now remembering) to check out more of McGee’s work for that purpose.

  • How to Stop Time by Matt Haig (2018 TBR) This was a disappointment. It had a really compelling premise, that I really wanted to like, but it was turned into a just OK book. It wasn’t bad, but it was good enough for me to wish it were better.

  • Tangerine by Christine Mangan (2018 TBR) I remember liking a lot about this one, but I don’t remember much about it! I think it had sort of an “old Hollywood” feel that I liked. It felt like a mashup of elements of Agatha Christie, Daphne DuMaurier, Patricia Highsmith and Alfred Hitchcock.

  • The 7 and 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (2018 TBR, Apparently I read a lot from this list!) This was another one that I was really excited for based on the premise, but the execution fell flat for me. I think the Groundhog Day-eque premise needs to be really done well, in order for the book to work. If it’s not, it just feels repetitive. In this case I’d start to get interested in where it was going and then I was frustrated to be sent back to the beginning again! Again, I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

  • Hearts and Bones by Margaret Lawrence (Backlist TBR) This lived on my shelf for many years. I wasn’t in the mood for it, really, for one reason or another. During lockdown, I finally read it, and didn’t much like it. Once again, not bad, but I liked it less than I liked some of the other books on this list that disappointed me! Here, the problem was that I didn’t like the characters or care about the plot. I really need one out of two!

  • The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard (Backlist TBR) I liked this one, but I didn’t love it. So I’m sort of torn about continuing with the series. There are four more Cazalet books out there, and I’m on the fence about whether or not they’re worth reading. I did enjoy the first book, but a five book series just feels like quite an investment!

  • An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear (TBR Procrastination) This was my fifth, and I think, final (for now, at least) book in the Maisie Dobbs series. Jacqueline Winspear is a talented author, and It’s not that I don’t like them, but I feel that each one covers mostly the same ground. If the tone were slightly different that might work. For example if these were cozy mysteries I might find the same thing charming, over and over. But these are really depressing. Like they take place in during the Great Depression, with characters traumatized by WWI. And of course they’re working with crimes all the time, so it gets pretty bleak. None of the characters have grown on developed enough to make me feel like it’s worthwhile.

  • The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (Upcoming Releases for the 2nd Half of 2019) This was an enjoyable dual timeline thriller. I do wish that Simone St. James would return to the historical, gothic, romantic mysteries where she started out. Her last two books have had more contemporary settings, at least in part, (though they’ve had dual timelines as well) and while they’re good, my personal tastes tend toward to historical. I’ll keep reading her books though, because they’re still fun.

  • Milkman by Anna Burns (Winter 2018-2019 TBR) I read this after it won the Man Booker Prize. I was a bit nervous going into it, because I’d heard mixed things, but I ended up liking it more than I realized at the time. It’s not an easy read in terms of understanding what’s going on, so it required some mental effort to read. But looking back on it, I appreciate it in a way I didn’t quite “get” while I was reading it. So this one is a bit better in retrospect.

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters With Cool Jobs

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 2: Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had (maybe not even because the job sounds fun, but maybe the co-workers are cool or the boss is hot?)

This was actually harder than I thought it would be!

  1. Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier– The main character in this one is a scribe, who sorts through family documents. Basically it sounds in the book like she reads all day, and transcribes things. I’m sure that medieval scribes had more to do than just that, but in this book that’s what it seems like. I think I could handle it, though I do have terrible handwriting…

2. Dresden Files series by Jim Bitcher– Harry Dresden is Chicago’s only professional wizard. Business isn’t always great, but he can get cool consulting gigs, helping police solve crimes that involve things that people most people like to pretend don’t exist (ghosts, vampires, werewolves etc). Truthfully I probably wouldn’t make the best ghost/vampire/werewolf hunter. But it certainly doesn’t seem like I’d get bored!

3. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal- Nikki is a law school dropout/bartender who takes a job teaching creative writing at a community center and finds her niche. I’ve taught kids. It’s hard and exhausting. But teaching Punjabi widows sounds like fun! They’re actually taking a class because they want to be there and they want to learn. And I’d be teaching something I love. Truthfully this wasn’t my favorite book (it wasn’t bad though!), but it did sound like a fun job.

4. Majesty: American Royals II by Katherine McGee– Queen of America is a job I could totally deal with! Actually, there are some significant drawbacks to the role, as the books shows, but I feel like I could cope with most of them if it means having the power to really help people in this country, as I might be able to as queen. Or even just draw attention to issues and causes that I feel are important. Because let’s face it: people listen more when you’re queen!

5. The Widow of Pale Harbour by Hester Fox– This is another example of a job that’s probably a lot harder than it sounds in the book, but based on what’s there, it sounds pretty nice. Sophronia Carver publishes a literary magazine, and it seems like she spends most of her time reading submissions. Yes, everyone in town thinks she’s a witch who murdered her husband (I could live without that part!), but she get’s the read for a living!

6. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman- What booklover doesn’t want to work in a bookshop? I did it for a summer in college and it was a lot of fun. Yes, there were some hard days, and some bad days, but even on the worst days, I was surrounded by books! The only reason I don’t do it now is because you really can’t make a living working for minimum wage (or slightly above in some cases)

7. The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis– When you’re a writer and full fledged theatre geek like me, being a Broadway playwright sounds wonderful. You can write, and be in that theatrical atmosphere 24/7. Yes, some of the great elements in this book are threatened by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare, but aside from that it sounds like a really cool job!

8. Detective Daniel Hawthorne series by Anthony Horowitz- In this series Anthony Horowitz writes a fictional version of himself as a sidekick to an investigator. Daniel Hawthorne wants a ghost writer to document to his life: to be a Watson to his Sherlock Holmes. So the (fictional) Anthony Horowitz teams up with him on all of his investigations and writes about it. Sounds fun to me. Yes, there are two books so far, and in both of them, Horowitz almost gets himself killed, but surely I’d be smarter than that!

9. The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess– In this book an aspiring writer gets a job as an assistant to a famous writer. She later has an affair with him, but again, that’s a mistake I’d avoid! I could deal with spending the summer doing research and helping out a famous writer in a big house on Cape Cod.

10. The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag- Peggy runs a boarding house at 11 Hope Street in Cambridge, England. She takes in women who are destined for greatness in some way, but have hit obstacles. They have 99 days to stay in the house, get what they need from the talking portraits on the walls, and the messages that seem to find whichever resident needs them most, and then move on with life. I think running a boarding house like that (past residents include Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Florence Nightingale, Beatrix Potter and Dorothy Parker) could be a lot of fun. Plus, it would be nice to help people through difficult moments.

Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

January 26: New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020 (If you didn’t read 10 new authors, that’s fine! Just do what you can.)

For this one, I decided to do my favorite new-to-me authors of 2020: these are the ones I want to read more from.

  1. Hester Fox

What I read in 2020: The Widow of Pale Harbor

Why I want to read more: It was a flawed but fun historical murder mystery.

What I want to read next: The Witch of Willow Hall looks good

2. Kristin McGee

What I read in 2020: American Royals

Why I want to read more: I’m actually devouring the sequel to this one (Majesty) at the moment. Both are really good guilty pleasures, which is exactly what I need right now.

What I want to read next: The Thousandth Floor is the first in a trilogy, which looks a lot like the American Royals books (glamourous ensemble cast, soap opera drama) only set in futuristic Manhattan.

3. Nnedi Okrafor

What I read in 2020: Akata Witch and Akata Warrior

Why I want to read more: While the media seems to be dubbing this the “Nigerian Harry Potter” the only real similarity is that they’re both about a young person discovering a magical identity and receiving a magical education. The Akata novels really explore the Nigerian setting and get into a magic system that we don’t often see in mainstream books.

What I want to read next: Binti was highly recommended by someone in my book club. It’s the first in a trilogy.

4. Elizabeth Von Arnim

What I read in 2020: The Enchanted April

Why I want to read more: I read this in April of 2020 just as lockdown was starting, and it was the kind of sweet, gentle, literary escape that I needed.

What I want to read next: My friend recommended Father next

5. Monica Dickens

What I read in 2020: Mariana

Why I want to read more: It was a fun and humorous coming of age story

What I want to read next: There’s a lot to choose from, but I may go with The Messenger, which is a fantasy adventure, and sounds like a total 180 in terms of genre!

6. Erika Swyler

What I read in 2020: The Book of Speculation

Why I want to read more: It involved a lot of my favorite tropes, genres, and settings: dual timeline, carnival, hints of fantasy

What I want to read next: It looks like Light From Other Stars is my only option at the moment!

7. Seanan McGuire

What I read in 2020: Rosemary and Rue

Why I want to read more: I enjoyed it, and it’s the first in a series, so naturally I want to read the rest!

What I want to read next: A Local Habitation is #2 so that looks like my best bet!

8. Gerald Durrell

What I read in 2020: My Family and Other Animals

Why I want to read more: I read this because I like the TV series that was based on this trilogy, and the book features all of the humor and warmth that I enjoy in the series.

What I want to read next: Birds, Beasts and Relatives is next up

9. Jess Walter

What I Read in 2020: Beautiful Ruins

Why I want to read more: It’s a compelling tale of Hollywood, old and new and the connections that people make over time and distance.

What I want to read next: I may go with The Financial Lives of Poets, just because the title intrigues me

10. Mary Wesley

What I read in 2020: The Camomile Lawn

Why I want to read more: I’m not easily shocked, especially by coming of age historical fiction, which I tend to think of as a “comforting” genre, but this really surprised me at several points.

What I want to read next: I don’t know, it looks like there’s a lot to choose from!

Top Ten Tuesday: Guilty Pleasure Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

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.

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.