Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Memories

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

November 30: Bookish Memories (Share stories of your reading life as a child, events you’ve gone to, books that made an impression on you, noteworthy experiences with books, authors you’ve met, etc. Reminisce with me!)

Here are a bunch. Some are good, some are bad, some are ugly!

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown– One of my earliest bookish memories is reading this with my parents and then saying “goodnight” to the things in my room.

The Baby Sitters Club series by Anne M Martin– When I was about 9, Anne Martin did a book signing in a store near my house. I made plans with my friend to get our books signed. The morning of the event I woke up with little itchy red patches on my skin. I kept quiet about having the chicken pox until after the event, because I knew my mom would make me stay home if I said anything. (I have since become more cognizant of public health concerns.)

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit– When I was a kid, my family took a trip to Disneyworld. My little brother was really into trains at the time and my parents thought he might like taking one. We had this tiny sleeper car that was more like a small closet than anything else. In Georgia, a freight train in front of us derailed and we were stuck on the tracks for most of the day while they cleared everything away. It made a long, cramped trip even longer and more cramped. I read this book while we waited. Even though I liked the book a lot, I’ll probably always associate it with bored and uncomfortable, which are unfortunate associations to have with a book I like!

The Kids of the Polk Street School series by Patricia Reilly Giff- These were some of the first books I remember reading independently. I remember my dad would occasionally pick up a copy of one for me on a trip to the bookstore. Since I had trouble finishing books before starting new ones, he wouldn’t give me the book until I finished what I was reading first. But I knew where he hid them, so I snuck peaks!

Stand Before Your God: An American Schoolboy in England by Paul Watkins– Every year my high school had an “enthusiastic reader” breakfast where an author attended to talk about their books. Each English teacher selected a student from each class to attend. For obvious reasons, I was usually one of them. My freshman year, Paul Watkins came to talk about his novels, and his recent memoir. All the enthusiastic readers got a signed copy of the memoir. I wasn’t super excited by the title, but when he read a portion of it aloud at the breakfast, I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. The book itself was humorous, but his delivery really made it. The whole book wasn’t as funny as the part he read, but it was still a good read.

Do You Want to Know A Secret? by Mary Jane Clark– This was another author who came to an enthusiastic reader breakfast when I was in high school. We all got copies of this book and then she raffled off a hardcover copy of her second book, Do You Promise Not To Tell, and I won. Other than that, the thing I remember most is that she showed us a page of her notes for this book, and they were a mess! Her point was that you don’t need to be organized to write a book, which was encouraging news for me!

The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon– When I was about thirteen my cousins and I went to Florida to spend some time with our grandmother one summer. I forget why I picked this up. It may have belonged to my grandmother. Regardless for the next 24-48 hours I couldn’t put it down. My grandmother took us places, and I read. My cousins played in the pool, and I read. I don’t think that it’s the kind of book that holds up as an adult, so I don’t really want to reread it. I watched the film version a few years ago, and it was trashy fun, but it definitely suggests that the book was pretty silly too.

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates– My sophomore year of college, Oates came to my school’s campus to give a talk and see a performance of a one act play that she’d written. Another girl and I had the opportunity to interview her for the school paper. I had a number of questions planned, but I pretty much forgot how to talk when I met her! The other girl definitely did the bulk of the interviewing. But she signed my copy of this book.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson – Shortly after I read this book, I saw that my library was having a discussion group about it, so I decided to go. I was the only one there under 80. I may be exaggerating slightly, but only slightly! Whenever I shared a thought, idea, or perspective, they dismissed it as “a Young Person’s opinion.” I don’t think they intended to be condescending, but it definitely came off that way.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth– Several years ago, I saw on social media that Aussie author Kate Forsyth had some events scheduled in the US. I’d read this book not long before, and loved it, so I messaged her asking if she had anything in my area. She said that she’d had an event scheduled but it was canceled. She said she’d still be in the area if I wanted her to do something. I invited her to come to my writing group. She was so kind about sharing her experiences and advice with writing and publishing, and answering questions.

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I Love Fairy Tale Retellings

For That Artsy Reader Girls Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new
May 19: Reasons Why I Love [insert your favorite book title, genre, author, etc. here]

I decided to go with what I know and what I write. Fairy tales!

a1bbvb76hsl._ac_uy218_1. They can be scary: Example: The Changeling by Victor La Valle made the familiar and beloved things seem alien and menacing.

a13yyhpaeml._ac_uy218_2.  They can be intricate: Example: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth is a Rapunzel retelling that weaves together three narrative strands, like a braid.

81-bxm7f5dl._ac_ul320_3. They can create new worlds: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier launches Marillier’s Sevenwaters series. It’s a six book series set partially in Ancient Ireland as well as an Otherworld based on Celtic mythology. These should be read in order. Following Daughter of the Forest, there’s Son of the Shadows and Child of the Prophecy. Then the second trilogy that makes up the series is Heir to Sevenwaters, Seer of Sevenwaters, and Flame of Sevenwaters.

51spwrt1xrl-_ac_us218_4. They can give us new looks at old worlds: Example Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series is set in an alternate version of the history we know, similar to what we know in many ways with a bit of extra magic thrown in. These don’t need to be read in any order, but I recommend the early books in the series, which are much better than the later ones. My favorites are The Fire Rose, The Serpent’s Shadow, The Gates of Sleep, and Phoenix and Ashes. 

41oyve54sgl-_ac_us218_5. They can be romantic: Example I found Juliet Marillier’s Beauty and the Beast retelling Heart’s Blood to be beautifully romantic in addition to having great historical and fantasy elements.

71oqghfkyhl._ac_uy218_6. They can be funny: Example Sarah Pineborough’s Tales From the Kingdoms (Poison, Charm, Beauty) trilogy made me chuckle at several points. They probably work better if they’re read in order, but you can probably still understand everything that’s happening even if you don’t.

51u1puwi8ol._ac_uy218_7.  They can be tearjerking and heartbreaking: Example: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan is a beautifully written but harrowing tale (trigger warnings here)  with an ending that is ultimately bittersweet but in the moment may seem more bitter to some readers. Not all stories have happily ever afters, and even in the ones that do, those happy endings don’t apply to all.

a1klhsokiol._ac_uy218_8. They can be innovative: Example: I first discovered Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber in a college class I took called “Innovative Contemporary Fiction.” I’m glad I read this for the first time in an academic setting because it gave me a chance to really dig into the text and notice things I would have otherwise missed. There’s a lot happening between the lines of these stories!

81hs1pgkzml._ac_uy218_9. They can be beautiful: Example I found Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy to be beautiful in terms of story, setting, and prose.  It satisfied on almost every level. These should be read in order. It’s The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl In the Tower, andThe Winter of the Witch.

91jxemsjivl._ac_uy218_10. They’re what I do: Example: Once again it seems I’m not above promoting my own book. My first novel, Beautiful: A Tale of Beauties and Beasts is a Beauty and the Beast retelling. It’s my first published novel. I’m working on a follow up right now, that’s based on The Snow Queen.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Tropes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

August 20: Favorite Tropes (a trope is a commonly used theme or plot device) (submitted by Andrea @ Books for Muse)

1. Mysterious school

2. Slow burn romance

3. Small towns

4. Missing/Absent parents

5. Family secrets

6. Gothic

7. Neo-Victorian

8. Time Travel / Time Slips

9. Dual Timelines

10. Fairy Tale retellings

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorites of the Last Ten Years

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

ttt-new

May 28: Favorite Books Released In the Last Ten Years (one book for each year) (submitted by Anne @ Head Full of Books)

513xypka1bl-_ac_us218_2019 (so far…) Once Upon A River By Diane Setterfield– Set in a pub in a village along the Thames in the late 19th century, this novel opens on a winter’s night. A man, badly hurt and soaking wet, staggers in holding a little girl who appears dead. A local nurse saves the man and realizes that the girl isn’t dead (anymore?), but the man has no memory of how he came across the girl or who she is. When she regains consciousness the child is unable to talk. A local family believe that she’s the baby that was kidnapped from them two years ago. Another family thinks that she’s the lost daughter of their prodigal son. A woman well into middle age believes that the 4 year old child is her sister. The story winds its way from one character to the next, and each character’s back story becomes like a tributary.

617j4awgzul-_ac_us218_2018 Idaho by Emily Ruskovich- Ann and Wade are a married couple living in Idaho. As Wade’s memory fades with early onset dementia, Ann begins to piece together the fate of Wade’s first wife, Jenny (now in prison) and their two daughters  (one dead and one missing). The novel moves from one characters point of view to another in a nonlinear fashion. There’s a sense of strangeness to the events and characters of this novel, but there’s a familiarity as well. We’re never actually told what happened to Wade’s family, but we’re given enough pieces to put it together. If you like things laid out clearly, you probably won’t like this. But if you like a bit of ambiguity and gorgeous prose, you might like this.

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_2017 A Little Life by Hana Yanagihara- Four young men meet in college and become friends. When they graduate, they move to NYC and begin their lives. Willem, an aspiring actor, is kind to his core. JB is a bright, witty, and occasionally cruel painter, Malcolm becomes an architect at a prominent firm. But the nexus of the group is Jude, withdrawn, intelligent, with a dark, unspeakable childhood of trauma behind him. Over the years, their friendships deepen and change as they face different challenges. But Jude himself is their greatest challenge. We do eventually learn what happened to Jude, and it’s ugly. Very ugly. Like hard to read about. But there’s something beautiful about Jude’s struggle to overcome it, and his friend’s struggle to help him.  Much like Jude’s like the experience of reading this is tragic, traumatic, and sometimes brutal. But it’s also beautiful.

51muf7bj-ll-_ac_us218_2016 The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss– When some unexpected excitement comes to an inn one evening, the innkeeper faces it like a veteran. But then he goes back to his regular life, and tells his story. Kvothe’s childhood was spent in a troupe of travelling players. When he encounters an Arcanist (sort of a scientist/wizard) he’s tutored and develops into a powerful Arcanist in his own right. When the world of his childhood is overturned, Kvothe just barely escapes and becomes a beggar before fate brings him to University. He makes several friends and several enemies before discovering the reason that his was killed. This is a pretty epic novel that covers the first 1/3 of Kvothe’s life and is the first in a planned trilogy.  I haven’t read the second book yet, because I’m waiting for a release date for the third book before I invest more time in the series.

41oplfqimil-_ac_us218_2015 The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters– Dr. Faraday is called to Hundred’s Hall, the home of the Ayers family. As a child his mother worked there as a maid. But now, its owners (a mother and her two adult children) are struggling to keep up with modern society. He treats the young maid, but he strikes up a friendship with Caroline Ayers, the daughter of the house. He also begins to treat her brother, Roderick, who is still recovering from wounds he sustained during WWII. He comes to understand the family’s dire financial straits. The stress of the attempts to reconcile these straits coincide with some disastrous events that may or may not be supernatural in origin and lead to tragedy. But  what’s great about this novel is that it remains ambiguous, hovering on the edges psychological and supernatural without fulling diving into either category.

51jx4jtbmpl2014 Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth– Forsyth’s Rapunzel retelling is a wonderful braid of narratives that overlap. Charlotte Rose de la Force is banished from Versailles after a number of scandalous love affairs. She goes to a convent where a nun tells her a story of a young girl who was  sold by her parents for a handful of lettuce after her father is caught stealing from the courtesan Selena Leonelli. Margherita is the price he pays for his crimes. She grows up locked away in a tower. The combined stories of these three women tell the traditional Rapunzel story as well as the story of the women who wrote it. The novel is both a historical fiction account of real women and a fairy tale retelling.

41-kxlbhnl-_ac_us218_2013 The Other by Thomas Tryon– Holland and Niles Perry are thirteen year old identical twins. They live in a small New England town with their parents, and when their father dies in a tragic accident, the extended family gather, while their mother stays in her bedroom, heartbroken. This allows the boys to roam free. Holland, always a bit of a prankster, grows more sinister with his games. This book offers several twists on the ghost story genre as well as the evil twin/doppelganger trope. One seems fairly obvious from the beginning but that twist plays out early on, and there several other surprises in store.

51eksizfwl-_ac_us218_2012 Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson– Major Pettigrew is a rather cranky widower living in Edgecombe St. Mary, an English country village where nothing much changes (which is how he likes it!). When he strikes up a friendship with Jasmine Ali, a widowed Pakistani shopkeeper, they bond unexpectedly over their love of books and the loss of their respective spouses. As their friendship develops into something more, they and the village must decide what elements of culture and tradition are worth preserving and what should change with the times. It’s a gentle story about the ways people are different and the things that they have in common.

41oyve54sgl-_ac_us218_2011 Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier– Catrin, a young scribe, takes refuge from a mysterious danger in Whistling Tor, a crumbling fortress that belongs to Anluan, chieftain living under a curse. Retained to sort through some family documents, Catrin and Anluan form a surprising connection. But if they are to have a future together, Catrin must unravel the mysteries of Anluan’s family curse. This Beauty and the Beast variation incorporates elements of mystery, fantasy and romance.

81l67wbztml._ac_ul436_2010 The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton– In 1913, a little girl is discovered alone on a ship headed to Australia. She has nothing but a small suitcase with a book: a single volume of fairy tales. She is taken in and raised by a couple, but when they tell her the truth on her twenty first birthday, Nell goes to England to try to trace her real identity. The quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor, a Cornwall mansion that is home to the doomed Mountrachet family. But it’s not until many years later when Nell’s granddaughter Cassandra discovers the garden of the book’s title that the mystery can finally be solved. This book combines several elements I love: dual timelines, Gothic drama, and fairy tales.