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: Authors I’ve (Probably) Read The Most Books By

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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Today’s topic is:

July 7: Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By

But since Goodreads got rid their Most Read Authors page, I can’t be sure. So I decided to add a “probably”, since this isn’t really scientific.

51j6zrifyl._ac_uy218_1. Ann M. Martin- As a kid  I was a Babysitter’s Club addict. I also read her Little Sister spin off series. Since they came out with a new book every month or so (in retrospect I think a ghost writer might have had something to do with it) I’m sure it added up to a lot. Yes, I also watched the film and TV series. I’ve also watched the new netflix series and plan to blog about it soon. At heart, I’m still very much a nine year old girl!

81liithy6el._ac_uy218_2. Francine Pascal– I also read a lot of  Sweet Valley books in my childhood. There were Sweet Valley Kids, Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High. I was too young for the Sweet Valley University books that emerged at some point. But I’m sure it added up to a lot. And yes, I think a lot of these were from a ghost writer too.

71vhhjdel._ac_uy218_3. Carolyn Keene– Nancy Drew was another favorite series in my childhood. I read the old school series and the newer ones. I’ve since learned that “Carolyn Keene” was the pseudonym that the Stratmeyer Syndicate authors used. Many of the Nancy Drew books were written by Mildred Wirt Benson, but other ghostwriters used the name as well. So I suppose I should say that I’ve read a lot of books by the various authors who used that name.

51ge6nyeul._ac_uy218_3.RL Stine– Yet another one from me youth. I read the Goosebumps books when I was little and the Fear Street series when I got a little bit older.

71i9zxpntfl._ac_uy218_4.Dean Koontz– I had a whole shelf full of his books at one point. I think he was the first “adult” author I read, when I was about 12. I was really interested in scary stuff  and someone recommended them to me. I think I was as enthralled with reading “grown up” stuff as I was with the books themselves. I haven’t read anything by Koontz in years.

41mq0rfvfvl._ac_uy218_5.VC Andrews– These were my 12 year old guilty pleasure. I devoured them! Though VC Andrews herself only wrote the Dollangager series, My Sweet Audrina (the sequel to this one was written by the ghostwriter), and the first books in the Casteel series (Heaven, Dark Angel, Fallen Hearts) before her death. The rest of the books were penned by a ghostwriter hired by her family after she died. Supposedly the ghostwriter had a lot of notes and drafts for other books to work from. I used to imagine exactly when he/she ran out of material is when the quality declined sharply. I’d try to identify where that was. Again, I haven’t looked at most of these in years.

71xd7ivfuel._ac_uy218_6.Sidney Sheldon– I stayed with my Grandmother one summer when I was about thirteen and she had a lot of these books. I devoured them and then sought out more! I remember very little about them except that everyone was beautiful and had evil secret plans. According to wiki he wrote 18 books but it feels like I read more than that… It’s been many years since I’ve read one of these though.

51nw7swclrl._ac_uy218_7. Lisa Gardner- For years Lisa Gardner has been a go to writer for me when I want a fast moving plot that will absorb me while I  read it, but not as too much of me in the way of outside investment. I think she’s got about 25 total. She also writes romance under the name Alicia Scott but I haven’t read any of those yet.

81epj1g-5vl._ac_uy218_8. Karin Slaughter– I got to this author for the same reasons as the author above. The quality of her work has been pretty consistent over the years. But she does sometimes get a littler darker than I’d like for “mindless reading.” I think I stopped reading her Grant County series at one point when I was upset about a plot development but I picked the series back up and went along with it as it morphed into the Will Trent series) According to wiki she’s written 18 novels, but again it feels like more.

81jwx0nliyl._ac_uy218_9.LM Montgomery– I’ve loved LM Montgomery since I was a kid, and that love has continued into adulthood. In this case I’ve read most of her novels (she wrote 20: 8 “Anne” books, 3 “Emily” books, 2 “Pat” books and several stand alones) but I also have several volumes  of her short fiction. I still love her work.

71vfsf-jfl._ac_uy218_10.Sophie Kinsella– I think Sophie Kinsella might also deserve a place on this list. I gave up on the Shopaholic series about  5 books in (around the time when the main characters antics crossed the line from cute to grating, IMO) but I’ve also read most of her stand alone titles and the books that she wrote under her real name (Madeline Wickham) She’s good for a laugh and an escape from reality, which is why I find myself returning to her often over the years.

 

 

 

While You’re Isolated…

Obviously there’s not a lot to love about our current circumstances. Most of the world is in some form of isolation due to the Corona virus. We’re all in the same, miserable, anxious boat. But I do love that some people have used this as a time to connect creatively, teach others, and share art. I’ve made a list of some people, hashtags, and websites that I feel are providing great resources during this troubling time. Feel free to provide others:

Hashtag Love

  • #SunshineSongs Broadway star Laura Benanti  reached out to kids who were supposed to perform in the school musicals only to have then canceled. She asked them to perform on twitter using the hashtag, and she got a beautiful response.
  • #ArtFromHome The Ayala Museum in the Philippines has started an  #ArtFrom Home Challenge. 15 prompts are posted, every other day, for 30 days. People make

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    ayalamuseum.org

    art according to the prompts and post with the hashtag.

  • #InternationalPoetryCircle Poet Tara Skurtu started this project. Poets from around the world are sending in videos of themselves reading their work, or just their favorite poems. Not only does the thread have some beautiful work, but it’s a great way to discover contemporary poetry.

Children’s Literature

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  • Gene Leun Yang’s book tour for his novel Dragon Hoops was cancelled, so he started “touring as a cartoon” from his Instagram page, where he responds to reader questions in comic strip form.
  • Amy Kaufman is hosting a weekly #kidslitgoesviral twitter party for MG and YA authors whose promotional plans have been upended by the virus.
  • Grace Lin is posting drawing tutorials and readings from her books on herYoutube channel. She started doing this as a way to combat the anti-Asian rhetoric has come up amid the Corona virus fears.
  • Author/illustrator Mo Willems is invites kids to draw with him every day for Lunch Doodles in which he walks viewers through his studio, answers questions, draws creatures and created simple animations for them to try at home.
  • Mac Barnett reads a book aloud every afternoon on Instagram Live.
  • Oliver Jeffers is reading on Instagram Live on weekday afternoons. Afterwards the recordings are available on his website.
  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of the Lunch Lady graphic novels, is hosting daily drawing sessions on his youtube.
  • Peter H. Reynolds’ tour for his most recent book, Be You, was also cancelled. He’s taken to reading aloud from his work on Facebook Live every day.
  • Susan Tan started an Authors Everywhere! Youtube channel. She provides workshops that are supposed to teach aspiring authors as well as give kids an emotional outlet for addressing their fears about the pandemic.

Theatre

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from playbill.com

  • Stars in the House concerts–  Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s Seth Rudetsky is doing an interview/concert series with Broadway stars via skype benefiting the Actor’s Fund.
  • The Irish Repertory Theatre has launched a digital series called The Show Must Go Online, featuring homemade videos of their actors performing favorite songs, poems and monologues from Irish and Irish American playwrights, poets, and musicians.
  • The National Yiddish Theatre is offering it’s Folksbiene! Live series featuring livestreamed theatre, American Jewish performers, workshops, talkbacks, and other events.
  • The American Conservatory Theatre has cancelled performances of the plays, Gloria and Toni Stone. However, a video of the performance is available to stream.
  • The Show Must Go Online (popular title!) is a weekly Shakespeare reading group covering the plays in the order they were written, as a way for actors and theatre makers to stay connected during unprecedented times. First up is Two Gentlemen of Verona.
  • Mike Lew’s play Teenage Dick at Theatre Wit in Chicago is available for remote viewing.
  • Broadwayworld has launched Living Room Concerts where the stars perform from their living rooms.
  • Broadway Star Elena Shaddow is doing a live concert on IGTV every night at 8PM EST. She takes requests from viewers and accompanies herself on the piano in her living room.

Performing Arts

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Smithsonianmag.com

  • The Metropolitan Opera is offering “Nightly Met Opera Streams” a free series of Live in HD presentations of their past performances.
  • The Vienna State Opera has opened is archives and will broadcast recordings of opera and ballet performances. The performances can be found here, with instructions and information about how to access them here.
  • The Seattle Symphony is sharing live broadcasts of their performances.
  • The 92nd Street Y has recent performances available from pianist Garrick Ohlsson,  and mezzo soprano Fleur Baron.
  • London’s concert hall, Wigmore Hall, has past livestreams available on the website.
  • The Paris Opera is streaming performances online for free. Full performances are available on their website.

Health/Wellness

  • Pandemic Check-In is sort of a pop up podcast that’s really a call in show for people who needs some mental health support. The people at Brooklyn Minds, a psychiatry/psychology center are behind it, alongside the LA Based podcast studio Western Minds.
  • headspace-mindfulness-appHeadspace, a popular meditation app is offering some free meditations that you can listen to any time. The collection, called “weathering the storm” includes meditation, sleep and movement exercises that can help you through a variety of different situations.
  • Outlander star, Sam Heughan,  has created a 30 day social distancing challenge for free as part of his My Peak Challenge program.
  • Planet Fitness is offering a live 6PM “work in” every evening on Facebook, led by personal trainers. You don’t even have to be a member.
  • Core Power Yoga has a collection of free classes available  any time.
  • Studio Three is a Chicago area gym that combines yoga, cycling, and interval training. They’re hosting classes on Instagram Live at several times throughout the day. Workouts are available for playback on the app.
  • Pop Sugar fast tracked the release of their new app Active, and is offering it now for free.

Women in Historical SFF

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how prevalent women are in contemporary Sci-Fi and Fantasy literature as writers and literary characters, and how that should be recognized. There have been some really great pieces that address this and also bemoan the genre’s conflicted relationship with women in the past. This is only a sampling:

2016-08-14_ent_23609335_i1However, most of these critiques and praises are aimed at contemporary SFF. When I think about SFF, I start to wonder why it was ever perceived as a “men’s genre.” It’s hard to see where any literary genre starts, but a case can certainly be made the that modern SFF novel was born with a teenage Mary Shelly, writing Frankenstein in 1818. Of course you could make the case that the genre was born in the seventeenth century, when Margaret Cavindash wrote The Blazing World.  In 1762, Sarah Scott wrote the Utopian novel A Description of Millenium Hall. So the argument can be made that the roots of the genre go back a hundred and fifty years before Shelly started writing. In any case, women played a formative role in the very roots of the genre. Shelly was undoubtedly an influence on Jane Webb Loudon, who wrote The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty Second Century in 1827.

15849412Feminist Utopian novels such as Man’s Rights (1870) by Annie Denton CridgeMizora (1880-81) by Mary E. Bradley Lane and Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915) were somewhat prevalent before WWI. After the war, women were even more prolific in the genre. Gertude Barrows Bennett (aka Francis Stevens) is credited as “the woman who invented dark fantasy,” penning a number of novels in the early twentieth century. Her work, including Claimed and Citadel of Fear, influenced the likes of HP Lovecraft. Thea von Harbou is best known as the wife of filmmaker Friz Lang, but she was a writer, actor and filmmaker in her own right. She wrote the futuristic urban dystopia, Metropolis, in 1925. She later rewrote it as a screenplay for Lang’s adaptation that eventually became the classic 1927 film of the same name. In 1928, Virginia Woolf ventured into the genre with Orlando. Though that novel is often looked at as a pioneering work in terms of feminist and transgender studies, it’s also undeniably a fantasy. It’s about a character, born in Elizabethan England as a man, who undergoes a mysterious sex change at the age of 30 and then lives another 300 years without aging perceptibly.

51x2b6udvlml._sx352_bo1204203200_By the 1930’s Catherine Lucille Moore (aka CL Moore) had created the character Jirel of Joiry, who appeared in a series of sword and sorcery stories originally published in the magazine Weird Tales. Jirel of Joiry was a female warrior in an imagined alternate version of medieval France. Fun side fact: in 1985 SFF author Mercedes Lackey wrote a song called Jirel of Joiry and included it on her album Murder, Mystery and Mayhem. After WWII writers including Shirley Jackson, Judith Merril, and Alice Eleanor Jones came to prominence. By the 1950’s and 1960’s authors including Joanna Russ, Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer BradleyMadeline L’Engle , Angela Carter and Ursula K Le Guin, had begun publishing.

Today you could argue that women dominate the speculative fiction genres with Harry Potter, the Hunger Games and Twilight. Dive even a little deeper and you’ll turn up Diana Gabaldon and Charlaine Harris who both had their bestselling fantasy series’ turned into hit TV adaptations. And that’s just the tip of the bestselling iceberg! In fact, women have produced some of the most notable and influential works in the speculative fiction genre. Beginning (perhaps) with Frankenstein, and continuing with Orlando, The Left Hand of Darkness, A Wrinkle in Time, The Handmaid’s Tale, and many more. So why is there a perception that their involvement with the genre is something new?

Well, I think that part of it is that the contributions of women to literature have been overlooked and ignored historically. Part of it may be due to the fact that many of these authors initially published under pseudonyms, initials or gender neutral names. But it makes sense that a genre that depends on seeing the world not as it is but as it could be, might appeal to writers who have been dismissed and ignored due to factors such as race, class, and gender.

In fact, I think that it can be argued that speculative fiction and SFF is where storytelling as an art form begins. Oral tradition featured folklore and mythology. Telling stories is a nurturing act in which the listener is connected to the storytelling through the story. Historically women filled this nurturing role. The 9th century fictional Scheherazade is both a character and the storyteller in One Thousand and One Nights, in which she saves herself from execution by telling stories. This oral tradition of fantasy has been recorded by men (the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Perrault) but also women. Madame d’Aulnoy coined the term “contes de fées (fairy tales)” as we now use it, 130 years before the birth of the Grimm Brothers).

So women have been shaping, creating, writing, and playing a starring role in SFF and speculative fiction since it began. How about finally giving them credit for playing a major role in the creation of the genre, and its development, instead if treating it as something new?

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Make Me Pick Up A Book

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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April 2: Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book

  1. It’s by one of my favorite authors. There are authors who are pretty much automatic reads for me:  new books by Susanna Kearsley, Kate Morton, Kate Forsyth, Margaret Atwood, Juliet Marillier, Diana Gabaldon, Sara Donati,  and older stuff by Daphne DuMaurier, Mary Stewart….and I’m starting to notice that most of the authors  who are automatic reads for me are female…
  2. 81vgodosbvl._ac_ul436_It has an intriguing title. Case in point: I recently picked up Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn.  I haven’t read it yet, but  the wordplay in the title (and the corresponding pictures on the cover) caught my attention.

 

 

51c-asvgcil-_ac_us218_3. It was recommended based on another books that I loved. For example, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield was recommended based on my love of Jane Eyre and Rebecca. I enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale too.

 

4. It involves a genre or trope that I love. I have a weakness for all things gothic. I love a good fairy tale retelling. Time travel, dual timelines, magical realism etc. I can’t get enough!

5. There’s a film/tv adaptation coming out that looks promising. This seems pretty self explanatory, but I like to read the book first. Of course 9 out of 10 times the adaptation fails to live up to the book, but it’s still helped me discover some good books.

6. Popularity. This can be a double edged sword. Sometimes something is popular and it deserves to be. But sometimes hype can make my expectations hard to live up to. If a book is getting a lot of buzz, I’m drawn to it, but I try to keep my expectations modest.

51r0lxqtqll-_ac_us218_7. It’s about books. I love a book featuring a bookish character. I feel an almost immediate sense of kinship. I often like nonfiction books about books.

 

 

8. It was recommended by someone I trust. There are bloggers and friends who I trust because I know that we often have similar tastes.

9. It has a pretty cover. Yes, I know I’m not supposed to judge books that way. And yes, sometimes a pretty cover hides a not so great book. But somehow I fall into the trap again and again.

Fairy Tale Book Boyfriends

Finn from Beautiful was selected as Epic Faerytales’ 14 Fairy Tale Book Boyfriends To Get You Through February. I got such a kick out of being mentioned on the same list as authors such as Sarah J. Maas, Diana Gabaldon, Kristin Cashore, and Grace Draven! You can check out the list at the link, and get Finn for yourself in Beautiful.

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Available Here!

Yes this post was shameless self promotion. Sorry for not warning you! Happy Valentine’s day!