Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Characters

For That Artsy Read Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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!

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – The book club in this book has sort of an interesting evolution. They’re founded for the purpose of reading Great Literature. But they start on true crime instead. They branch out from there to fictional crime and best sellers. By the end they read Dracula for research purposes.

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 Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner – When Chawton, the final home to Jane Austen, is threatened just after WWII, a group of Austen fans band together to save the home and protect Austen’s legacy.

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.

Top Ten Tuesday: One (and more!) Word Reviews

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

May 3: One-Word Reviews for the Last Ten Books I Read (submitted by Susan @ Bloggin’ ’bout Books)

I’m adding a bit more to some of these, because sometimes you need more than one word!

The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

One Word Review: Disappointing

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.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

One Word Review: Underwhelimg

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.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Henrix

One Word Review: Ick

More than one word: I actually liked this book. It was definitely gorier than I like (hence the one word review) but in spite of that, I enjoyed most of it enough to want to read more from the author.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevado

One Word Review: Fine

More than one word: I think “fine” sums it up. I was a bit disappointed because I thought Acevedo’s debut, The Poet X, was more than fine, but this was pretty good.

Dancing on Knives by Kate Forsyth

One Word Review: Slow

More than one word: I don’t mean “slow” in a bad way. I thought the pace suited the story well. I took it’s time to get where it was going, but it worked.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E Harrow

One Word Review: Substandard

More than one word: After loving Harrow’s two full 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.

The Signalman by Charles Dickens

One Word Review: Creepy

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.

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente

One Word Review: Weird

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.

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

One Word Review: Unheroic

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.

The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson

One Word Review: Letdown

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.

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Covers Got Back

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

April 26: Books with [___] On the Cover (Pick a thing (a color, an item, a place, an animal, a scripty font, a sexy person, etc.) and share covers that have that thing on the cover.)

I know that the reason publishers put a view of the character from behind is so that you can sort of project your own idea of the character onto it. But it still amuses me how often the rear view of a human shows up on book covers, So here are the last ten I read:

Caught in Time by Julie McElwain – This is consistent with the cover design for the rest of the series.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed By Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold – This actually seems like an odd choice for a book that’s supposed to be about shining a light on who these women were as individuals prior to their deaths. It seems more anonymous, when the book itself is arguing against anonymity.

The Angel Stone by Juliet Dark – This is actually the last in a trilogy of books with backs on covers.

The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen

When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan by Ted Scheinman – I included this one when I realized how these book covers, more often than not, have a picture of a woman on them!

Interestingly these books seem to span a bunch of genres.

Top Ten Tuesday: Literary Gardens

For That Artsy Reader Girls Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s topic was:

April 19: Bookish Merchandise I’d Love to Own

But I’m not big on bookish merchandise. If I’m going to spend money on bookish stuff, I’ll spend it on actual books, thank you! But since it’s spring, and it’s starting to get nice out, I decided to look at gardens. Even though I’m not a gardener (I don’t have the patience for it) I do love a story set in a garden. So here are some favorites:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is a classic garden. Mary goes to live with her uncle on the gloomy Yorkshire moors, but discovers a hidden, abandoned garden. By nurturing it back to life, Mary restores health, both physical and mental, to herself and everyone around her.

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

Tom is staying with his aunt and uncle who live in the city with nowhere to play outdoors. But when the clock strikes 13 each night (yes, you read that right) Tom sneaks out of bed and goes to play in a garden that appears only then.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

I remember when I read this, it reminded me of The Secret Garden in a number of ways. That may have been intentional, because The Secret Garden author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, even makes a cameo appearance here.

Garden Spells- Sarah Addison Allen

Claire Waverly has a magical garden behind their North Carolina home, that is the work of generations of Waverly women. The fruits and flowers enhance the lives of those who know how to use them well.

Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth by Phillippa Gregory

These can be read as a duology or as stand alones. The first is about John Tradescant, a royal gardener in the early 17th century. The second follows his son, who travels to Virginia. Father and son have little in common other than a love of making things grow.

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

Eva Ward returns to her Cornwall to spread her sister’s ashes. She discovers that she can slip into the estate’s past. The rose garden serves as a kind of anchor for her travels.

Consider the Lily by Elizabeth Buchan

This is a book I read a lot time ago and liked a lot. It also had some Secret Garden vibes. Gardening once again is a metaphor for the life and health of the characters. I’d like to reread this at some point soon.

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

This book consists of Marco Polo and Kublai Khan sitting in Khan’s garden, while Marco Polo describes all of his travels and the places that he’s been.

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Haven’t Read, But Want To

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

There are so many! And that’s not even counting all the authors I’ve read one book from, meant to read more, but haven’t gotten around to it yet!

T. Kingfisher- I’ve been really intrigued by some of her books but haven’t actually gotten to them yet. On my TBR: Paladin’s Grace, Nettle and Bone, The Seventh Bride, and A Wizard’s Guide To Defensive Baking (which is the best title ever!)

Ilona Andrews- Someone in my book club recommended her Innkeeper Chronicles as good comfort reads. It looks like she’s got a lot of other books, but I figure that’s a good place to start, since comfort is always needed!

Natalie Haynes- I’ve never been a fan of the Greek myths and classics but Madeline Miller has recently opened my mind to their potential. I know Natalie Haynes has written a lot based on them too, so I plan to check them out at some point. On my TBR: A Thousand Ships, and The Furies.

Stacey Halls-I’ve seen some of her books that look good the last few times I went to the library. I keep meaning to read them, but I’ve gone for other things (I can only carry so much!) On my TBR: Mrs. England, The Familiars

Grady Hendrix – For the past year, year and a half people in my book club have recommended Grady Hendrix as an author who is sometimes funny, sometimes scary, sometimes at the same time. On my TBR: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires and The Final Girl’s Support Group.

Wendy Webb- Supposedly Webb is “Queen of the Northern Gothic” (according to her publicity anyway) and I love Gothic from any direction. On my TBR: The Fate of Mercy Alban, The Haunting of Brynn Wilder, and The Vanishing.

Constance Sayers- This author’s work looks like a fusion of historical fiction and fantasy, which is right up my ally! On my TBR: A Witch in Time and The Ladies of the Secret Circus.

Sarah Blake- I didn’t even realize that this was an author on the list, until I look at my TBR and saw several of her books on there! On my TBR: The Guest Book and Grange House.

Jess Kidd- This is another one I didn’t realize I wanted to read several books from. I remember adding Things in Jars to my TBR because it was compared with several books I really enjoyed (The Essex Serpent, The Book of Speculation). I must have looked the author up, because Mr. Flood’s Last Resort and Himself were added shortly thereafter.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Older Protagonists

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

April 5: Freebie (come up with your own topic!)

Children’s books usually have child protagonists. YA books usually feature teenage protagonists. That makes sense. But the protagonists for adult books also tend to fall in the late 20’s to early 30’s range. But people don’t cease to be interesting at the age of 35! So I stated thinking about books that feature older main characters. I left off books where it starts off with an elderly character reminiscing and then the whole book takes place in flashback when the character was 20. Also, for the purpose of this list, I decided that “older” meant middle aged +. But obviously age is relative. Though even 40 something heroes and heroines are hard to come by in general literature!

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf- This book would be a lot less interesting with a younger protagonist. The whole point is that Mrs. Dalloway is interacting with a lifetime’s worth of memories. Actually the character is only 51, which is considered more “middle aged” these days, but it’s true regardless: she’s live long enough to have a significant portion of her life to reflect upon.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro– I think of this book as greater than the sum of its parts. Stevens is the perfect butler, having spent 30+ years working at Darlington Hall. On a drive one day, he reflects on his life and tries to reassure himself that it was well spent in the service of a “great gentleman.” But as we learn more, we start to have some suspicions about the “greatness” of Stevens’ employer, and we realize that Stevens has those suspicions as well. But if Lord Darlington isn’t great, has Stevens wasted his life?

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro- This is sort of a polarizing book, even among the author’s fans (of which I am one). It’s very different from Remains of the Day. It center on an elderly couple’s search for the son they haven’t seen in years. It seems like fantasy usually has youthful protagonists, even if they have an older mentor. But I think that one reason this book is polarizing is the genre expectations for fantasy. It doesn’t fill them (or try to).

Old Filth by Jane Gardam – The “Filth” in the title is an acronym; it stands for Failed In London Try Hongkong. It is the nickname of Sir Edward Feathers, formerly a lawyer in Southeast Asia, later a respected Judge at the English bar. After a successful career, Filth retires to Dorset at the age of 80. He expects his life to end without event or drama. But he soon discovers that “anywhere you go, there you are.” He is haunted by his life’s traumas and triumphs, as well as a nemesis turned neighbor. This is actually the first in a trilogy about the characters.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery- Renee is the cranky middle aged concierge at a Paris apartment building. She has a genuine attachment to her cat, bunions on her feet and an addiction to soap operas. That’s the front she presents to the world. She’s also a lover of books, art, music and philosophy. She observes the lives of her tenants. She unintentionally forms an unusual bond with a Paloma, girl who lives in the building, as well as Uzo the building’s newest resident.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson– Brought together by their mutual love of literature, and the loss of their spouses, Major Pettigrew finds himself falling for Mrs. Ali, a shopkeeper of Pakistani heritage. But their English village doesn’t readily embrace the cross cultural romance.

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West– This one has an 88 year old widow as a protagonist. When her husband dies, her children expect her to live with one of them for a year or two before dying quietly herself. She has other ideas…

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman– I love the idea of elderly true crime buffs in a retirement community solving a murder. Unfortunately in this case I felt like the execution didn’t live up to its promise. Looking at the reviews though, I seem to be in the minority. It actually kicks off a series.

After All These Years by Susan Isaacs– After her husband of 25 years leaves her for another woman, Rosie Meyers feels like she could kill him. But she’s still shocked when his body turns up in their kitchen! With all the clues pointing her her this middle aged English teacher goes on the lam to try to find the real killer.

Top Ten Tuesday: Future Classics

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 29: 21st Century Books I Think Will Become Classics (Submitted by Lisa of Hopewell)

I really love this topic actually. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and here’s what I’ve come up with.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro -Published in 2005 this book already seems to have achieved a sort of modern classic status. It tackles issues of love, mortality, memory, the lives we value and those we don’t. It’s also a book that you can only say a little about without spoilers.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – 2017 A story that follows a family through several generations. It begins in the early 1900s when Sunja falls for a wealthy stranger, and learns she’s pregnant, just as she learns he’s married. She marries a minister instead and leaves Korea with him for Japan. That decision will reshape her family’s future.

 A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara 2015 – I’d be curious to see how future generations respond to this, since it is so polarizing now. I can understand why some people love it (beautiful writing and enduring themes), and why some hate it (the content is…difficult to say the least). It’s about absolutely sickening abuse and it’s aftermath, so if you don’t want to read about that, be warned. But it’s also about love and friendship. It asks which ties us more tightly, trauma or love? They answers are not be very comfortable.

 Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel- Published in 2014 I now think of it as the pre-COVID COVID novel. It’ll be interesting to see how writing about a pandemic fairly accurately several years pre-pandemic plays into this book’s legacy. What I liked about it was that it asks what humanity’s legacy will be: art and beauty or death and destruction. And are those mutually exclusive?

Atonement, Ian McEwan – The film adaptation may have it’s a legacy on it’s own. But this book about family, class, memory, responsibility, and guilt, is it’s own haunting magic trick of a novel.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski– 2000- This novel/screenplay/notes/something-or-other is definitely a dizzying example of multiple narrators and texts within texts. It’s even got it’s own set of companion works by the other and others in different forms of media.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon– 2001 – I think of this as a sort of valentine to books and libraries. It’s one of my deepest hopes that both will last well into the next century, but this book celebrates what’s lost and forgotten. Even in a best case scenario for books they won’t all be remembered. I love the idea of a Cemetery of Forgotten Books!

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters– 2002- This is another book that’s you’re better off the less you know about it going in. But it’s a favorite for it’s twisty, gothic, Victorian-inspired narrative.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books and Adjectives

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

Today’s topic is

March 22: Books With an Adjective In the Title (Submitted by Nicole @ How to Train a Book Dragon)

I also decided to evaluate the adjective: does it accurately describe the book? Let’s see!

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong – Yep, “violent” describes this one pretty well I’d say. The other adjective I might use is “gory.”

A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire – I don’t think I would call this book, or the swan in it particularly “wild.” Actually considering the fact that the swan is significantly human, I might call it fairly tame. He can talk and reason!

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie– Yes, in this case I would call the affair at Styles (a murder, naturally) fairly “mysterious.” Nothing that Poirot can’t handle though!

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – This adjective is fairly literal. The patient in this book is silent. She does not speak. We do, however, learn a lot about her regardless.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab – In this case it’s not really literal. Addie is perfectly visible, but her life is “invisible” because she’s always forgotten as soon as she’s out of sight.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman – Again, not literally “invisible,” but definitely a shadowy organization.

Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill by Maud Hart Lovelace – It’s hard to say here, because I don’t know how big the hill actually is. The book doesn’t give an elevation! But I suppose it’s a big step for the characters.

The Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell– Definitely metaphorical once again (wow, there are a lot of books with “invisible” in the title!) But she does disappear, as in, people can’t find her.

Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen – Yes, several of the characters here have “royal blood.” And there are some concerns about blood being spilled, but the actual murder in this case is a poisoning.

The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elizabeth Robinson – Well, the book is fiction, so I suspect it’s not “true.” At the very least it’s fictionalized. As for “outstanding,” it’s probably not the word I’d use, though it’s not bad by any means.

I’ve Been: Thinking About What Feels Like Work Edition

  • 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 book lately. 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.
image credit: travel.earth
  • 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.
image: ign.com
  • 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).

Top Ten Tuesday: The Next 10 Books I Plan to Read

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 15: Books On My Spring 2022 TBR

Rather than adding new books to my (already too long) TBR, I’m just sharing the next 10 books I plan to read. The order might change depending on my mood:

The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson– My book club does one week each month where we select genres and all read our choice of book from them. Next month we’re doing Middle Grade books, and I’ve had this book by one of my faves, sitting on my shelf for quite a while.

Piranesi- by Susanna Clarke – I’ve had this on my TBR for a while, and I’ve heard mixed things about it. I also had mixed feelings about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, so I’m not sure what to expect, but I recently picked up a copy.

Dancing on Knives by Kate Forsyth– This was a gift from my Aussie book buddy. It’s by Kate Forsyth who is one of my favorite authors of fairy tale influenced fiction. This is an older work of hers. It’s a bit different from her retellings (I think the fairy tale is more of an influence here), but I’m looking forward to it.

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty – I have a copy of this sitting on my shelf, and it feels like something I’m sort of in the mood for. It looks like a sort of “dark side of suburbia, everyone has secrets” kind of read.

The Flowering Thorn by Margery Sharp – Another one that’s been sitting on my shelf for a while. I keep saying to myself “I’ll read this next,” and then picking up something else. I really do what to read it though!

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier– Another gift from my Aussie Book Buddy. Actually she got it for me last year, and got the sequel for me this year, but I still haven’t read this one (*hangs head in shame*)

The Herd by Andrea Bartz– My book club had a book swap over the summer and I picked this one up. I’ve heard good things about it recently, so I’ll give it a try.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides- This has lived on my shelf for a looong time. I never seem to get to it. But I will. I will! One of my resolutions this year was to finally read some of those books that have been sitting there gathering dust.

A Beggar’s Kingdom by Paullina Simons – I won this in a goodreads giveaway like, two years ago. I didn’t want to read it until I’d read the first in the trilogy though, which I finally did last year. So hopefully I’ll get to this one soon!