Top Ten Tuesday: The Last Books I Read Based on Recommendations

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

October 20: Books I Read Because Someone Recommended Them to Me (tell us who recommended them, if you want!)

For this one, I decided to make it the last ten I read based on a recommendation.

1. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey– People have recommended this book to me for years. I put it off for a long time due to the size, but I finally read it this fall. I gave it 3/5 stars on goodreads. There was a lot to like about it, but I had a lot of issues with it too. Will I finish the series? At some point, perhaps.

2. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire– This series has been recommended by many people over the years, and I’m glad I finally got to start it! I look forward to spending more time with October Daye in the future.

3. You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann– This was recommended by someone in my book club. Actually, if you’re looking for a good haunted house story for Halloween, you might check out this novella. It’s very quick and easy to get through. It was recently given a film adaptation, but I haven’t seen that yet. It doesn’t seem like something that would lend itself well to film though.

4. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware- Another book club recommendation. But I would have read this one anyway, because I like the author.

5. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett– I saw this recommended all over the place last winter. I probably would have gotten to it eventually anyway, because I like Ann Patchett, but it got bumped up my TBR because I heard there were some fairy tale themes here (there are, and it was a good read).

6. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo– I consider this a cautionary tale. Around February, everyone was talking about this. I saw it on numerous blogs, and people whose taste I tend to trust gave it five stars on good reads. I didn’t like it. I don’t think it did what it set out to do, and I have some issues with what it did instead.

7. Final Girls by Riley Sager- This was another book club recommendation. I’m noticing that a lot of them tend to be murder mysteries, thriller and horror. Hmmm…

8. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman– The person who recommended this said that it was about someone like me. I think they just meant someone who reads a lot, though, since in non bookish ways my life is quite different from Nina Hill’s.

Novels That Would Be Great On Stage

Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

One thing I miss most about life before the pandemic is theater. I miss going to the theater with the sense of anticipation just before the curtain rises. I miss knowing that I shared that anticipation with the rest of the audience as well. I miss reading reviews and planning what I want to see next. So I thought I’d make a wishlist of books that I think would be great onstage someday, if/when we can go back to the theater. Some of these I imagine as musicals, others as straight plays, but I’m flexible about that.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid– Since this is written in the form of interviews it would be very easy to translate to theatrical dialogue (or monologues). They could also have the songs presented as if it were a bio-jukebox musical (ala Jersey Boys or Beautiful) but with a fictional band. The lyrics to Daisy Jones and The Six’s songs are at the end of the novel, so it’ s just a matter of finding someone to write the music to accompany them.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders– I just finished reading this and the whole time I was thinking how theatrical it felt with the chorus of voices. It has the potential to feel very much like parts of Our Town or The Spoon River Anthology with a cast of dead people in a graveyard, but that’s alright.

Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews– I’m sort of surprised that this hasn’t been tried before. There were two attempts to film it, and neither was very successful at recreating the Gothic claustrophobia of the novel. I think film might be the wrong medium for a performance of this. The single setting seems to lend itself to the stage and the role of Grandmother is a great one for an over 60 actress. But I suppose that the fact that much of the cast would need to be composed of young kids dealing with disturbing content could make it rather challenging.

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter– I imagine this beginning in a very intimate setting with Fevvers sitting in her dressing room (onstage) talking about her past. But as things go on, what we see expands and becomes more fantastical, and Fevvers becomes integrated with the action rather than just a narrator.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo- The book is already a novel in verse those verses could be the lyrics for songs. The music could be influenced by the racial/ethnic backgrounds of the characters. The main character, Xiomara, could narrate much of it, and the music could grow more complex as Xiomara’s poetic voice gains confidence.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim– This book already made a beautiful film, but I can also see it working really well onstage. It has a single primary location (the early scenes in England can take place as a prologue on a limited set, which would emphasize everything about England that the characters need to escape). One challenge might be how to bring that sense of outdoor freshness to an indoor theater, but I suppose an outdoor, socially distanced production is possible even now…

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett– This novel was made into a film, but I think the film suffered for the same reasons it could work well onstage: it has a single location and a theatrical subject matter. An opera singer, a Japanese businessman and guests at a party at a South American embassy are taken hostage by rebels. In this situation, which drags out over time, they realize that music may be their only common language. The subject matter lends itself to an intimate chamber musical, or even a play with music. Onscreen it seemed too stagey, but onstage it could be beautiful.

What do you think of my list? Are there any books that you’d love to see adapted for the stage?

Top Ten Tuesday:

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

ttt-new

April 7: Books I Bought/Borrowed Because… (Fill in the blank. You can do 10 books you bought for the same reason, i.e., pretty cover, recommended by a friend, blurbed by a favorite authors, etc. OR you could do a different reason for each pick.)

For this one, I decided to list the last ten books I read and why I read them.

5174gdpp4ml._ac_uy218_ml3_1. Hearts and Bones by Margaret Lawrence– I’ve had this book sitting in my bookcase for a while, and I decided to read it at last. Really I think that’s as far as the decision went! I bought it at a thrift store for $1 because it looked OK. It was OK, but not much more than that.

 

 

 

418ovkyoal._ac_uy218_ml3_2. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton– I was going to go to a book club that was reading this. I’d read it in college but it deserved a reread. The book club was cancelled due to the situation with coronavirus, but I’m glad I had a chance to revisit this book.

 

 

91ruwg9786l._ac_uy218_ml3_3. Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss- I’m a fan of Goss and I got this as an ebook when it was on sale with a  reduced price of $1.99. I think the sale was the reason I bought it, but I might like to buy a physical copy, which I often tend to do with ebooks I really live. They feel like they’re more mine when they’re physical books.

 

 

81kwruwfyll._ac_uy218_ml3_ 4. Normal People by Sally Rooney- I had heard a lot of good things about this one, and I saw it in the library and decided to give it a shot. It lived up to my expectations more or less.

 

 

 

51ggnslcxml._ac_uy218_ml3_5. The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman– I’ve been rereading Pullman’s His Dark Materials series and this is #2. In my memory it was a very “second in a trilogy” book, but on rereading it, I felt that in some ways it was stronger than The Golden Compass. I suppose that’s why it pays to reread sometimes!

 

 

91oqeffundl._ac_uy218_ml3_6.The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter- I got this from the library because I often enjoy Slaughter’s work as an author of mystery/thriller/crime novels. However in this case I think the fact that I happened to read this as the coronavirus was starting to turn up impacted my enjoyment. The crime in question seemed a bit too close to home.

 

 

61oldgmz8gl._ac_uy218_ml3_7.Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley– I read this one because Kearsley is one of the authors that I feel like I can turn to for a reliably good read. This is her latest, and it was no different in that respect.

 

 

 

813zrwfvrdl._ac_uy218_ml3_8. The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys– I got this one from the library because it looked interesting and it was set around and in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, which was a historical period that I know very little about. While I’m still interested in the period, I felt that the book was just OK.

 

 

914o0doecll._ac_uy218_ml3_9. Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber– This was a library book that I picked out simply because it looked good. It was. I think that the magical realist, feel good novel was more or less what I needed.

 

 

 

81lcl0qrdbl._ac_uy218_ml3_10. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett– I’m a big fan of Ann Patchett so this one had been on my TBR for a while. While it wasn’t my favorite of her books, I felt it lived up to expectations.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set in A Single Location

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

April 23: (First Ten) Books I Reviewed (These do not have to be formal reviews. A small sentence on a retailer site or Goodreads counts, too! Submitted by Rissi @ Finding Wonderland)

Since I can’t think of where to begin with that (I’ve written some form of book reviews for years!) I decided to make up my own topic: books set in a single location. While some of these have an opening and/or closing scene in another location all of them have about 70-80% of the narrative set in one space.  Some books, like Room, don’t apply because they’re only 50% in one space and then the story moves elsewhere. Others, like Jane Eyre or The Shining, are set largely in one place but important events to the story and the characters happen elsewhere, during the action of the story.

91y3bamnstl._ac_ul436_

1. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett- While there are flashbacks to other places at other times, the bulk of the action in this novel takes place while the characters are held hostage in home of the Vice President of an unnamed South American country.

51qf7-d2cl-_ac_us218_2. Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews– About 85% of this book takes place in the attic of Foxworth Hall. About 10% takes place elsewhere in Foxworth Hall. I think only the first chapter or two takes place in another location.

51sslc2wctl-_ac_us218_3. Misery by Stephen King– This novel is set entirely (save for the epilogue) in an isolated farmhouse where the main character, novelist Paul Sheldon, is being held hostage by Annie Wilkes, a woman who rescued him from a car wreck somewhere in the Colorado Rockies.

51lz9ueudjl-_ac_us218_4. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie–  In this case all the action takes place on a train. The train itself moves (until it’s stopped by a snowdrift somewhere in Croatia) but no one gets on or off.

91z6xdgmeul._ac_ul436_

5. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson– In this case we learn things about the characters, and their lives prior to their arrival at Hill House, and their motivations for being there, but the action of the story itself takes place in the house.

51mny8nb9il-_ac_us218_6. The Ruins by Scott Smith- I’d estimate the first 20% of this book is set elsewhere in Mexico, leading up to the four protagonists arriving at the titular ruins. But from the moment they arrive there, they’re trapped.

518ejevmohl-_ac_us218_7. The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn– In this case, the protagonist, Anna Fox, is  an agoraphobic who is unable to leave her Harlem townhouse. We learn about how she developed her condition via a flashback but a few steps outside of the door is as far as we see her travel during the action of the plot.

41oieugca5l-_ac_us218_8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey– The action of this novel is set almost entirely in a mental hospital. Once again, we learn (in some cases) how the characters ended up there, but that information is conveyed via flashback and conversation.

Does anyone have any other novels set predominately in one location?

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books Read in 2018

ttt-new

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday: 

January 1: Best Books I Read In 2018

Happy New Year to all! Let’s kick off this year with a look at some of the great books I read last year.

  1. 41yjnrznaol-_ac_us218_Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo– This novel of tradition coming into conflict with modern values surprised me several times.  Yejide and Akin are a young Nigerian couple. They don’t have any kids yet but aren’t really worried, until immense pressure from their families causes Akin to take a second wife, despite the couple’s desire to avoid polygamy. In response, Yejide decides to do anything it takes to get pregnant. Both Yejide and Akin make tremendous sacrifices for the sake of family.  Both want to do the right thing, but each sacrifice has lasting consequences. Set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing culture and world, this story broke my heart.

2.61ciiq0YV9L._AC_US218_ Idaho by Emily Ruskovich– Years ago, Wade’s first wife, Jenny murdered their younger daughter, while their older one ran away. Now Jenny is spending the rest of her life in prison. Wade has married Ann, and is starting to lose his memory. Ann suspects that there may be more to the incident that destroyed Wade’s family than he lets on, but how will she ever know? This book unfolds from multiple points of view over the course of about thirty years. The mosaic of voices eventually comes together to suggest the truth, but that remains unsaid and ambiguous. I appreciated the craft (gorgeous prose) and the ambiguity, but I can see where some might not like it.

3. 41Q9fVyDjRL._AC_US218_ All New People by Anne Lamott– Nanny Goodman enters adolescence as America enters the 1960’s. Her father is a writer and her mother is an endless source of material. As Nanny comes of age, she sees a culture mirror her as it descends into drugs. There is a mass exodus of fathers from her town. Real estate and technological development change the landscape of the small California town where she lives. An adult Nan narrates she childhood memories with humor and emotional complexity.

4. 41Krb0iOt7L._AC_US218_The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell- Elsie thought she’d found her happily ever after when she married the wealthy Rupert Bainbridge. But when Rupert dies only a few weeks into their marriage, Elsie is stuck with Rupert’s cousin amidst resentful servants and hostile villagers. When Rupert’s cousin, Sarah,  discovers a carved figure that looks a lot like Elsie, as well as a diary, Elsie doesn’t think much of it. But when the figure’s eyes begin to follow Elsie, she starts getting nervous… This eerie, atmospheric Victorian Gothic ghost story, is wonderful tribute to the likes of Shirley Jackson and Daphne DuMaurier.

5. 51uyvcmgxil-_ac_us218_Commonwealth by Ann Patchett– When Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party and kisses her mother, he sets in motion a chain of events that breaks apart both their marriages and joins two families. Spending the summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children form a bond that is later tested when a tragedy sends shockwaves through both families. The story takes place before and after the tragedy, over the course of fifty years. We do eventually learn what , happened that changed everything (yet again) for these families, but before we do, we learn what led up to it, and what the consequences were.

6. 51W3InymdaL._AC_US218_Tangerine by Christine Mangan– I was surprised to see that  this book has a lot of negative reviews on Amazon and goodreads. I think the reason for that is that none of the characters are very likable. But if you’re OK with that, I found this atmospheric, noirish whodunnit to be a lot of fun. A British ex-pat is living in Tangier with her husband in the 1950s. When her former college roommate turns up at her door one day, memories of the past (including a violent death) begin to emerge. It turns out that both ladies have things they want to hide, and that the beautiful city of Tangier might be an exotic ground against which their struggle plays out. I think that this would appeal to fans of Patricia Highsmith.

7. 51wn17e1xil-_ac_us218_Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel– Over the course of three decades we read letters to a heroine who we never meet directly. These letters come from her family: her father is a narcissistic former child prodigy. He has divorced her mother and married a traditional Chinese woman. They have a son who wears suits to bed. Her mother is a therapist who never remarried, but may be in love with her Rabbi and overshares on a regular basis. Her sister may have given up on college in order to own guns and land in Arizona. We read letters from all of these characters to our heroine, Julie. We read thank you notes, condolences, family gossip and more. Also included are gems like “The Gerbil You Drowned in 1990 Would Like a Word With You”, “Your Uncle Figured a Mass E-mail Was the Best Way to Discuss His Sexuality” and “Your Intrauterine Device Has Some Thoughts on Your Love Life.” It made me snort with laughter at several points.

8. 518ejevmohl-_ac_us218_The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn– Anna Fox is a child psychologist who suffers from Agoraphobia so debilitating that she can’t leave her Harlem townhouse. She spends her days watching old movies, interacting with people online, and spying on her neighbors (just a little!). When she sees a crime take place in a house facing hers, she calls the police. But her copious consumption of alcohol and prescription drugs means that she’s not the best witness. Anna’s fondness for old film noirs permeates this book and makes it feel like an homage. I definitely recommend this to Hitchcock fans!

51njfgrvqcl-_ac_us218_9. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden– This is the first book in Arden’s Winternight trilogy and it definitely has me interested in reading more in 2019. Vasilisa lives in the Russian wilderness with her family. When her mother dies, her father brings a new wife from Moscow. Vasilisa’s stepmother is a religious woman who forbids the family from honoring the traditional household spirits. Vasilisa fears the potential consequences of these actions as misfortune comes to the village. We see several conflicts play out in this book. Traditional religion plays out against Christianity (which was still somewhat new at the time this book was set). Vasilisa also comes into conflict with her stepmother. But really I see the primary conflict in this books as the independent, strong minded Vasilisa coming facing the limited roles that her her world offers for women. 61ftpdsyagl-_ac_us218_

10. The Changeling by Victor LaValle– When Apollo and his wife Emma have a baby boy, they’re thrilled. But soon, like many new parents, they’re exhausted and stressed. When Emma starts behaving odd, Apollo worries it’s Post Partum Depression and encourages her to see the doctor. But before that can happen, Emma commits a horrific act and then vanishes. Apollo must venture into a city that he only thought he knew, to find a forgotten island, a graveyard full of secrets and a forest full of legends. It’s only by working alongside a mysterious stranger whom he may not be able to trust, that Apollo can hope to regain what he thinks may be lost forever.

2018 Mid Year Book Freak Out

I’ve seen this tag on a lot of blogs, so I thought “why not mine?”

BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2018

617j4awgzul-_ac_us218_

Idaho by Emily Ruskovitch– While I enjoyed the plot, this wasn’t a book to read to find out whodunnit or what happens next. If you read it for clear, unambiguous answers, you’ll be frustrated. But there are passages in this book that are so exquisitely written that I almost had to stop reading for a moment. There is ugliness in the plot. People do ugly things. But those are written about so beautifully that you almost can’t help but find something lovely in them, even when you don’t want to. The book consists of this torturous pairing of sadness and hope, and love and pain.

BEST SEQUEL YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2018

51jal62dhll-_ac_us115_

Actually, I don’t think many of the books I’ve read in 2018 qualify as sequels. Probably one of the only ones is Messinger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear, which is the 4th in the Maisie Dobbs series. While somewhat grim (set in the aftermath of WWI and the looming shadow of WWII) the characters developed in interesting ways. One of the characters’ circumstances took a turn that I didn’t quite expect. I’m eager to see what becomes of him in the next book.

NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ YET BUT WANT TO

61azp3snool-_ac_us218_

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is one that I’m very anxious to read because I’ve heard good reviews from several fairly reliable sources. The combination of fantasy and historical fiction is right up my alley.

MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASES FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR

There are a lot. At the moment, the most notable are these.

614yl-rg-3l-_ac_us218_51e4ptxpx8l-_ac_us218_

Bellwether and The Clockmaker’s Daughter are the long-anticipated new books by two of my favorite authors.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

5191u-sptxl-_ss135_

After Anatevka by Alexandra Silber

I think that I wanted to like this more than I did. I’m a fan of Alexandra Silber as an actress and a blogger and I wanted to love her debut novel. She played Hodel in the 2007 London production of The Fiddler on the Roof and Tzeitel in the 2016 Broadway revival of the same show. In this book, she imagined Hodel’s life after she leaves the stage (Hodel is last seen getting on a train to Siberia, where she will join her lover, Perchik in a labor camp). Tzeitel is also given a voice in letters she writes to her sister. I thought that this was a great extension of the creative process, from an actress who clearly has a strong connection to the material and the characters. Which makes my biggest problem with it surprising. An actor is supposed to show who a character is and what s/he feels by illustrating it with their body and voice. But in this book, we’re told things about the characters rather than shown. We know for example that Hodel loves Perchik because we’re told that this is the case, but not because we see it. So ultimately I liked this less than I wanted to.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

41yjnrznaol-_ac_us218_

I read this because I’d seen it recommended many times, rather than any interest I may have had in a Nigerian couple struggling to conceive. But this story of the traditional culture coming into conflict with modern life drew me in right away. I found that I cared about the characters and the things that happened to them. The plot twisted in directions that I didn’t expect, but it never felt contrived.

FAVORITE NEW AUTHOR

51wn17e1xil-_ac_us218_

I look forward to reading more from Susanna Fogel, author of Nuclear Family. According to her bio she’s written a couple of screenplays and some stuff for The New Yorker. But her first novel has a really nice blend of the humor, love, and exasperation that makes family what it is. Granted, the Fellers are their own unique kind of dysfunctional, but the blend of wanting to simultaneously hug some of these people and never see or speak to them again is something that many people will understand. The chapters consist of letters that the family writes to the main character, Julie. They have names like One of the Eggs You Just Froze Has a Question, Your Mom’s Rabbi Has a Great Idea for a TV Show!, Your Uncle Figured a Mass E-mail Was the Best Way to Discuss His Sexuality, The Gerbil You Drowned in 1990 Would Like a Word With You, and Your Intrauterine Device Has Some Thoughts on Your Love Life.  Yes, some of it’s weird, but Fogel pulls it off.

FAVORITE NEW CRUSH

51y8le-aoal-_ac_us218_41ieqbejzwl-_ac_us218_51culgbrdcl-_ac_us218_

I haven’t really encountered any new literary crushes. I’ve recently discovered Simone St. James though, and while her books aren’t great literature, they’re good fun. Her romantic heroes tend to be compelling enough for me to fall for, for the duration of the book, even though they’re not likely to become long-term book boyfriends.

FAVORITE NEW CHARACTERS

51uywe9mfql-_ac_us218_

Probably Sir Anthony Peters, Beth Cunningham, and Alex MacGregor from The Mask of Duplicity. All three are intriguing. I’m eager to get to know them all a bit better in the next book in the series.

BOOKS THAT MADE YOU CRY

51uyvcmgxil-_ac_us218_

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett probably came the closest. It takes place over five decades but the events in two time periods really got to me. One is when several children in a blended family are playing one summer day. The other is when one of those children is caring for her sick father, nearly a half a century later. When she and her father are directly confronted with the events of that summer day, I got a bit of a lump in my throat. I won’t say more, because I can’t without giving away spoilers.

A BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAPPY

31yhicomrpl-_ac_us218_

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson

The movie has always been one of my “happy movies”- something I put on to make a bad day a little bit better. I found the novel on which it was based to be even frothier and lighter than the film. In some ways, I actually wished for some of the additional weight that the film added, but the book definitely left me in a good mood.

MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOKS YOU’VE BOUGHT SO FAR THIS YEAR

512wbhryxtl-_ac_us218_

Cheerful Weather For the Wedding by Julia Strachey. Like most Persephone Classics, it’s a small work of art, as an object. Its cover features Girl Reading, a painting by Harold Knight. I like the colors in the painting and the general state of repose of the figure. The endpaper features a printed dress fabric design by Madeleine Lawrence. It’s also beautifully written.

WHAT BOOKS DO YOU NEED TO READ BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR?

41kupvqlgul-_ac_us218_

The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien– I’ve never actually made it through the Lord of the Rings books. Finally, the prospect of being a fantasy writer who had never read Tolkien was too much. I’m making my way through this slowly, in between reading other things. I will finish it before the end of the year though!