Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made Me LOL

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

February 23: Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud (Claire @ Book Lovers Pizza)

I did a list like this a while back, but I know we all need a laugh sometimes, so I figured I’d take on the challenge and make another! All different books of course!

  1. One For the Money by Janet Evonovich- There are now 28 Stephanie Plum books. I’ve only read the first ten or so, and I’d say that the first 5-6 really made me laugh. When we meet Stephanie in this book, she’s unemployed and broke. She gets her cousin to give her a job as an apprehension agent (aka bounty hunter). Of course Stephanie knows nothing about apprehending criminals, but she can learn! When she learns that her first case involves finding Joe Morelli, a vice cop accused of murder, who also happens to be her ex, things get even more interesting. Truthfully, much of the time, Stephanie is a little inept as a bounty hunter. That’s what makes it funny. For the first few books in the series. I felt like it all went on a little too long after a while.

2. Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen- I’ve read the first three books in Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series, and while they’re not deep and meaningful, they’re good for a chuckle and a lot of fun. It’s set in 1932. Georgina is 34th in line for the throne. In other words, she’s distant enough so that she has no money, but close enough so that the queen will ask the occasional favor. When she gets home from her latest attempt to make some money, she discovers a dead body in the bathtub and her brother accused of the murder. Apparently getting away with murder is not one of the advantages of a royal bloodline… Georgie knows that her brother is innocent: he’s not smart enough to plan and pull off a murder. Unfortunately the police don’t consider this argument a valid defense. So Georgie is on the case!
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3. I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella- Most of the time, Sophie Kinsella is good for a quick read with a few laughs. I think most of her books could go on this list, but I chose this one because I remember the mental image of one of the scenes made me laugh as I was drinking, and spit everywhere. Poppy Wyatt had a bad day. She lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill, and as she’s panicking about getting it back, her phone is stolen. When she notices a phone in a trash can, she figures “finders keepers”: at least this way she can leave the hotel with a number to contact when they find the ring. But the owner of that phone, Sam Roxton, wants it back! He also doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and becoming involved in his personal life. Sam and Poppy spend the next few days communicating via email and text, and trying to get things sorted out as Poppy also tries to prepare for her wedding, and hide her now ringless finger from her fiancé and his family.

4. Nuclear Family: A Tragicomic Novel in Letters by Susanna Fogel– Despite the subtitle, I’d actually call this a straight out “comic” novel in letters. The letters in question are sent to out heroine, Julie, over the course of three decades. They come from her father, a former child prodigy turned haiku poet; her stepmother, who attempts to help Julie find a husband; her mother, who overshares EVERYTHING; her free spirited sister; and assorted other family members. Julie also gets the odd missive from other things present in her life, such as her Nordic Track, a container of hummus at her grandmother’s deathbed, her boyfriend’s dog, and the gerbil she accidentally drowned when she was 10. Despite the fact that we come to know these characters over the course of three decades, this novel is pretty short, and the epistolary format means you can dip into it for a few minutes or read it straight through. However you choose to read it, chances are, you’ll laugh.

5. My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite– This is a pretty dark comedy, but my sense of humor can sometimes be weird, so it made me laugh.  The book opens with Korede, a nurse, getting a call from her sister, Ayoola. Ayoola is frantic, saying her boyfriend attacked her, and she killed him in self defense. Now she needs Korede to help her dispose of the body. Korede wants to believe her sister’s story, but it’s hard: this is the third boyfriend that Ayoola has killed in “self-defense.” Somehow Korede is always the one to drag out the bleach and rubber gloves, clean up her sister’s messes, and get rid of the bodies. Pretty soon, Ayoola has her eyes on another guy, and this time it’s someone Korede knows and cares about. How can she warn him of the danger her sister presents without exposing them both? This book has a wonderful contemporary Nigerian setting. It’s a quick read that packs a satirical punch.

6. At Freddie’s by Penelope Fitzgerald– Set at a children’s theatrical school in London in the early 1960s, “Freddie’s” is run by a woman who keeps her school running in spite of a complete lack of income. Over the course of a few months, the star pupil lands (and may lose) an important role, the most talented student gets some new opportunities, the school’s only two teachers flirt with romance and one another, and Freddie fends off the financial wolves. Nothing earth shattering happens in this slim novel, but we’re given an appreciation for the love these characters have for the school and the theater, so we’re invested in what happens to them. I’d describe the tone of the novel as “tragicomic”. It’s definitely witty and makes you chuckle. But some of the characters have an earnestness that pulls at the heartstrings too.

7. Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman– This novel is told via letters, notes passed in class, interoffice memos, and scraps of paper taken from lockers, notebooks and trashcans. It was written in 1964 about a 1st year teacher in a NYC high school and what’s remarkable is how much (and how little!) has changed since then. Anyone who thinks that having summers off makes teaching an easy job needs to read this. Read it to appreciate the teachers in your life a bit more. Or just read it because it’s a fun (and funny) book.

8. Going Bovine by Libba Bray: Full disclosure: I bought this book almost solely on the basis of this interview. with the author. The book is more or less exactly what you’d expect from that. Our protagonist, Cameron, is a teen slacker, who just wants to get through high school with as little effort as humanly possible. When he learns that he’s dying of mad cow disease, he’s understandably depressed. When he learns from a possible hallucination/possibly real punk angel named Dulcie that there’s a cure, he goes off on a quest for it. His companion is a death obsessed video gaming dwarf and yard gnome (who may also be a Norse god) It’s sort of Don Quixote meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s totally weird and bizarre, but so am I, so it works!

9. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell– I read this book because I’m a fan of the TV series The Durrells in Corfu, which is based on Gerald Durrell’s Corfu trilogy, of which this is the first book. Gerald Durrell was a British naturalist and conservationist. At the age of 10, in the 1930s, his widowed mother moved him and his siblings (who include famous writer Lawrence Durrell) to the Greek island of Corfu to live. According to the author, this book was initially intended as a natural history of the island. But his family dominated every page. From their mishaps and experiences, to eccentric family friends to young Gerald’s endless procession of animals (including, but not limited to puppies, toads, scorpions, geckos, octopuses, bats and butterflies) this is a family you’re unlikely to forget.

10. Texts From Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations With Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg– This book imagines text conversations with literary characters. So it’s pretty much what you’d expect: Scarlett O’Hara (Gone With the Wind) uses her unlimited data plan to constantly try to tempt Ashley away from Melanie. Mr. Rochester sends Jane Eyre ardent, all caps texts. Daisy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby) texts while driving, and asks you to pick her up after she wrecks the car. You’ll also see some texts from Emily Dickinson, Peeta and Katniss (The Hunger Games), Edgar Allen Poe, and many more.

Tag Tuesday: Bookish Rave and Rant

Since today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic didn’t speak to me (but Happy Mardi Gras! Laissez les bons temps rouler!) I decided to do this tag that I saw on @bookwyrmknits blog recently.

Rules:

  • Use this tag to dump your thoughts on books which you’d like to talk more about but usually don’t. Time to really rave about loved books, and rant about frustrating books.
  • And be sure to tag or ping back to the original post by Sumedha!

RAVE: a book you loved but don’t talk enough about

Usually when I love a book I won’t shut up about it, so it’s rare that this happens! I’m trying to think of an unknown/underrated book to talk about, and of course I’m drawing a blank. One recent one that I don’t think I’ve blogged much about was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It’s about a woman who struggles with social skills and tends to say exactly what pops into her mind. As a result, she doesn’t have many friends, which is OK, because she avoids social situations anyway. (We do eventually learn why she’s this way, and it’s not what you’d think!) When Eleanor and a coworker, Raymond, help an elderly gentleman, Sammy, who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three form an unlikely friendship. It’s going to be made into a movie soon, and I’m really hoping that they don’t change certain story elements to make it more mainstream. For example, in this case, I liked that the friendships stayed platonic!

RANT: a book you didn’t like and haven’t spoken about

Well most recently would probably be That Autumn in Edinburgh by Ciji Ware. It’s part of Ware’s Four Seasons Quartet, which are stand alone sequels to her historical novels This one is a stand alone sequel to Island of the Swans, which I enjoyed, so I was disappointed to find this one such a bore. Basically it’s about two (unrelated) descendants of the star crossed couple in Island of the Swans, who meet and fall in love. They learn about their ancestor’s love story, and make some business decisions. Since Island of the Swans had sort of an open ending, it was nice to have a bit of closure for those characters, but that could have been accomplished in a short story/novella format. I didn’t need a whole novel about these other characters who I really didn’t care much about.

RAVE: an author whose works you love

Hmm… Actually I do like Ciji Ware even though I just ranted about one of her books. I’ve enjoyed most of them, so I feel kind of bad ranting about that one!

But an author I wish I could read more from is Sarah Addison Allen who writes what I’d call “small town magical realism.” I really enjoyed her Waverley Sisters novels, as well as most of her stand alone novels like The Sugar Queen and The Girl Who Chased the Moon. Her most recent book, First Frost, came out in 2015, and there’s no word on a follow up, so she definitely leaves me wanting more!

RANT: an author whose works you just cannot like

Chuck Palahiuk. I had a friend in college who really liked him so I tried to read a few of his books. I think I tried Fight Club, Lullaby and one other (I think it might have been Choke or Invisible Monsters but I can’t remember). I found something about the narrative tone very off putting.

RAVE: a book you recently loved that you want everyone to read

How recent is “recent”? I’m currently finishing the third book in Alyssa Cole’s Loyal League series. I enjoyed all three books in the series and I would recommend them, even to people who don’t usually like historical romance. All three are set against the backdrop of the Civil War, involving a (real) covert organization of spies. The reading order is 1) An Extraordinary Union 2) A Hope Divided 3) An Unconditional Freedom. But each book is more or less stand alone, with links to the others in terms of common characters. I would recommend this to non-romance readers because I think that Cole does an excellent job with the suspense (even though I know who won the Civil War, I was anxious for the characters and wanted their missions to go well) as well as imagining voices of characters who aren’t usually represented that well in fiction: the Loyal League is made up of free blacks of all backgrounds and stations, but there’s are also white allies. One book features a character who seems to be on the Autism Spectrum, and another features a biracial character who comes to the US from Cuba. None of these feel like they’re thrown in for diversity’s sake. All are really well developed characters, with backgrounds that are important to the story being told.

RANT: a book you did not finish recently and haven’t spoken about

I actually rare DNF books. It’s something I want to be able to do more, because I feel like I waste a lot of time with stuff I don’t enjoy, but I always worry that I’ll stop reading a book and then 2-3 pages after I stop, it’ll get good! I don’t remember the last book I didn’t finish.

RAVE: a book you would recommend to everyone

I’m always hesitant to answer this question because in truth there is no book I’d recommend to everyone. Every book I love has someone who dislikes it as much as I love it. Every book I dislike, has it’s lovers. It is a truth universally acknowledged that no single book is for every reader. But for the purposes of this tag, I decided to choose something.

Angela Carter is a writer I’ve long since admired for her novels and her short fiction. I love her collection The Bloody Chamber which is short fiction based on fairy tales. However, for this tag, I’m recommending Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories, because it’s more complete. It includes all of the stories in The Bloody Chamber, as well as some great stories that weren’t included in that collection.

In terms of “everyone” I find it safest to include some variety; so I thought a collection would be a good choice. Different people can gravitate toward different stories.

RANT: a book which others like and you don’t understand why

I think I was in high school (or thereabouts) when The DaVinci Code came out and was really popular. I didn’t get a chance to read it until college, and I remember thinking “what’s the big deal about this?” Yes, it’s a fast read. But I didn’t find it that enlightening or entertaining. I suppose for some people it challenged some religious ideas that they’d accepted as a given, but that wasn’t the case for me. So I was left with a fairly “meh” read that had been totally overhyped beforehand.

Let me know if you decide to do this tag, I’d love to see your answers!

Top Ten Tuesday: Romance (genre) books

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

February 9: Valentine’s Day/Love Freebie

I think for a long time I didn’t give romance as a genre the attention it deserves because I bought into a lot of the misogynistic accusations that have been hurled at it over the years. I’m only recently started to question that more and more (see here and here for more). But in the past few years I’ve been trying to rectify that by seeking out books that I’ve heard are good, in the romance genre. And even before I made the conscious effort, a few slipped in here and there! These are some I’ve enjoyed.

  1. Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale– The Duke of Jervaulx is well known in the newspaper’s scandal sheets as a womanizing rake, but is also a brilliant mathematician, who occasionally collaborates with Mr. Timms a blind Quaker. One day, the Duke (Christian to his friends) collapses after presenting a paper to the Analytical Society, and Mr. Timms, and his daughter Maddy, believe he’s dead. Christian isn’t dead. He’s suffered a stroke, that’s left him without the ability to speak. Maddy encounters him sometime later at asylum, where she’s considering a job. She comes to realize that the math genius her father worked with is still in there, but he can’t communicate. The characters in the book face several problems on the road to a happy ending. The primary one is Christian’s disability, but Maddy’s crisis of faith is given almost equal weight. She worries that she’s compromising her Quaker principles by falling for Christian, whos exploits are the stuff of scandal. She also worries about getting her heart broken.

2. An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole– This is the first in Alyssa Cole’s Loyal League trilogy. I really enjoyed it, and intend to read the rest, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. It’s about Elle Burns, a former slave, with an eidetic memory. She uses her gifts to act as a spy for the Union Army, posing as a slave in the household of a Confederate senator. Malcolm is a detective for Pinkerton’s Secret Service, who is pretending to be a Confederate soldier, so that he can get information for the Union Army. When Malcolm and Elle come upon information that might turn the war the Confederacy’s way, they must get the information in the right hands no matter the cost. I was impressed with how Alyssa Cole managed to keep the stakes and suspense high. Presumably all her readers know how the Civil War ended, but I was still worried for Ellen and Malcolm’s mission as I read!

3. A Knight in Shining Armor Jude Devereaux- When Dougless Montgomery’s boyfriend ditches her on their English vacation, she goes to a church and cries on the grave of Nicholas Stafford, earl of Thornwyck, who died in 1564. She’s very surprised when a man in 16th century clothing shows up claiming to be Nicholas Stafford! Dougless helps Nicholas discover what brings him to the 20th century and how he was wrongly accused of treason. They fall in love and he decides to stay with her, only to be pulled back in time again, to the 16th century. Dougless goes after her beloved, only to discover that the 16th century Nicholas has no memory of the 20th century or falling in love with her. I liked that this broke the time travel romance “mold” a bit. For one thing it involves someone from the past, coming to the present and vice versa.

4. Remembrance by Jude Devereaux- Hayden Lane is a best selling author of romance novels, who becomes so obsessed by one of her heroes that she barely notices when her fiance breaks their engagement! She goes to a psychic to learn more about this man she supposedly made up. The psychic tells her that in a past life she was Catherine Tavistock, Lady De Grey, an Edwardian woman whose ghost haunts her husband’s English home. Hayden undergoes hypnosis, desperate to learn more. But the hypnosis goes wrong and instead of just remembering the past, Hayden is living it. She discovers that in earlier lives she loved a man, and they betrayed one another, and cursed their future incarnations. Now Hayden has to figure out how to set things right in the past, so that she can find happiness in the present.

5. Too Deep for Tears by Katheryn Lynn Davis– I wasn’t sure about including this on my list or not, since I’m reluctant to recommend it after this but I read this book a long time ago and enjoyed it, and since that’s the criteria for this list, I decided to include it. Charles Kitterage travelled the world and left behind three daughters with different mothers. Ailsa lives in the Scottish Highlands, Li-an (this portrayal may be very problematic, as is explained at the link above, but I didn’t realize it when I read it) lives in Peking, China, and Genevra lives in Dehli, India. They never met one another, and each has grown up haunted by a legacy of betrayal. But when a dying Charles wants to meet his daughters, they meet for the first time.

6. Lord of the Fading Lands by CL Wilson- I think this is technically classified as “paranormal romance” but I’m including it because it’s my list. Plus the book has a cheesy cover and is tropy enough to be considered romance! It’s the first in Wilson’s Tarien Soul series which follows Rain, the Tarien Soul, King of the Fey. When he claims Ellysetta, the daughter of a woodcutter, as his soul mate, no one is more surprised than Ellysetta herself. But their lands are facing an unseen enemy that threatens everyone and everything they care about and the happiness that they’ve found. It’s only by working together and facing their dark pasts, that they can find the hope of a future together. The first book sort of sets the stage for the rest of the series, and it’s one that you have to read in order if you want it to make sense!

7. The India Fan by Victoria Holt– I went through a phase at one point where I read a lot of Holt’s books, which are often classified as historical romance. To be honest, a lot of them blend together in my mind, but for some reason this one stands out, so I’m including it on my list. It’s about a parson’s daughter, Drusilla, who enthralled by her wealthy neighbors and friends, the Framling family- especially their handsome son, Fabian. But when they give her a beautiful peacock feather fan as a gift, Drusilla has no idea that it’s cursed. It brings with it a long history of death and destruction. But ultimately it may be less dangerous to Drusilla than Fabian Framling.

8. Public Secrets by Nora Roberts– Just a note, I read this one a long time ago, and have no idea how well it holds up. But I remember it fondly. Emma McAvoy is the daughter of a British rock star. At the age of six, her baby half-brother, Darren is killed in a kidnapping attempt gone wrong. Emma was the only witness, and remembers little of that night. Investigators believe that someone close to the family was involved, but can’t solve anything. So Emma grows up under the shadow of guilt. Over the next twenty years, Emma carves out a career, falls in love, and builds a life for herself. But this long ago crime, could threaten everything she’s worked for. I would call this an “ensemble romantic thriller.” The mystery storyline is just as important as the romance and there are actually several secondary romances as well.

The Serial Reader Tag

I saw this on @Bookwyrmknits blog and thought it looked like fun. It was most likely created by Dutch blogger, @Zwartraafje in this post

I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you’d like to do this, go ahead! Please let me know so I can see your answers (I’m very nosy!)

From which series are you reading or did you read the spin-off series?

I actually can’t think of many books series that have spin off series. The one that pops into my mind is the Lord John series which is a spin off of the Outlander series. Unlike Outlander, which has elements of SFF weirdness, these are for the most part historical mysteries. They feature a character, Lord John Grey, who is introduced in the third Outlander book and plays a significant role in several of the following books. But in the Lord John books, we learn that he had his own stuff going on too.

The only other spin off series I can think of is Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters series. It has an original trilogy (Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows, Child of the Prophecy) which follows three generations of a family in ancient Ireland that lives on the border between the real world and a shadowy Otherworld. The story then moves ahead a few generations and a second trilogy focuses on a new generation of the same family. The books in the second trilogy (Heir to Sevenwaters, Seer of Sevenwaters, and Flame of Sevenwaters) each follow one sibling of the family. There’s also a short story called “Twixt Firelight and Water” that is part of the second trilogy.

I actually just thought of a third. Karin Slaughter’s Grant County series eventually transitioned into her Will Trent series, but I won’t go into how that happened since it involves major spoilers!

With which series did the first book not sell you over from the start?

Does a trilogy count as a series? For my purposes I’m saying it does! I really enjoyed Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy, but the first book was probably my least favorite. Not that it was bad- it wasn’t! But I gave it 4/5 stars, whereas the second and third, I gave 5/5. I think it took some time for me to get really attached to the heroine, to the point where I was really invested in what happened to her and the people she cared about.

Which series hooked you from the start?

I think that I was captured by Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy after the first chapter of the first book. It opens in a market in 19th century India, and (without spoilers) the heroine witnesses something traumatic and life changing. The next chapter moves the story to a very different setting, and I was totally on board for the trip! I want to reread the series, because it’s been a long time since I originally read it, but I’m afraid it won’t live up won’t live up to my memory of it.

Which series do you have completed on your shelves?

A few, but one of the only ones I have as a set is the Anne of Green Gables series. I was given a volume that included Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne’s House of Dreams for a childhood birthday and I fell in love with Anne and company. It was a few years later that I learned that the series actually has 8 books, not 3! While Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea are the first two, Anne’s House of Dreams isn’t #3 it’s #5, so it always seemed kind of random that it was included in that volume. I actually still have the volume, because it’s a beautiful, hardcover, illustrated volume, but the choice of books is rather strange to me. So when I learned that there were other Anne books out there, I got the complete set so I’d have them all!

Which series have you read completely?

Many of the ones I’ve mentioned so far I’ve read completely. Others that jump to mind include:

Which series do you not own completely but would like to?

I’ve read the first two of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles and I own the third book as well though I haven’t read it yet. I want to eventually read the whole series but they’re slow going and I don’t want to buy the rest before I’ve read the first few. They’re good, but they’re not easy reads because they have a lot of references to things with which I’m not familiar. We’re also not in the main character’s head much, so his thoughts and motivations are a mystery a lot of the time. That’s the way it’s supposed to be until all is revealed, but it can make it a challenge to get into the books if you’re not it in the right mood for it.

I also got The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss from the library some time ago. It’s the first in a trilogy called The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, and I definitely want to read more. I think I’d also like to own a copy of the first one in case I want to revisit it at some point.

Which series do you not want to own completely but still read?

I recently discovered the October Daye series (I’ve only read the first book so far) and I definitely want to read more, but there are 14 books in all and I don’t have enough shelf space as it is! I’ll stick to the library and ebooks.

Another series is The Dresden Files. I think I’ve read the first six or so books, and really enjoyed them. But there are 17 in the series, so I run into the same shelf space issue. Plus some things on the author’s twitter make me question whether I want to support him financially, so I’m going to stick to library copies

I’ve also been enjoying Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series. But there are 15, and they’re probably not books I’ll want to revisit after I finish them.

Which series are you not continuing?

Most likely the Cormoran Strike series. It’s unfortunate, because I really enjoyed the first few, but ever since it came out that the most recent book in the series, Troubled Blood is a platform for a Rowling’s transphobia, I haven’t been looking forward to reading it. It’s not the first time some of transphobia seeped into the series (there was a questionable episode in The Silkworm) but it seems like the first time it’s really taken over a book.

Which series you haven’t started yet are you curious about?

MANY! The first one that came to mind is Leigh Bardugo’s Alex Stern series, which starts with Ninth House. I haven’t read Bardugo’s other work, but this appeals to me because of it’s collegiate setting. I’m really liking the whole “dark academia” genre lately.

Which series would you like to re-read?

There are a lot of series I’ve loved that I don’t want to reread either because I worry that they won’t live up to my memory or I suspect that they won’t. I try to only reread if I feel like I’ll get more out of it, because it always feels like a bit of a risk. I recently saw the film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time and realized that while I remember that book well enough, I only have the vaguest memories of the sequels.

Which series did others love and you did not?

There are a few of those! One would probably be A Song of Ice and Fire. I read the first book (and watched the first few seasons of Game of Thrones) and while I enjoyed parts of it, it kept on killing off the characters I got attached to! It felt like every time I got invested in a character, it was a death sentence for him/her! I may give it another try at some point, but I got tired of having to find new characters/storylines to care about only to lose them in a few chapters.

Charlaine Harris‘ Southern Vampire/Sookie Stackhouse novels are a series I really tried to like. It sounds like the kind of thing that would be right up my alley, and I read a few of them, but I just couldn’t warm up to the characters or invest in the world that she’d created. I’ve liked a few of her other series (see above) but this just didn’t work for me for some reason.

Top Ten Tuesday: Before I Was Born

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

February 2: Books Written Before I Was Born (These can be books you’ve read or want to read!) (submitted by Davida Chazan @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog)

Well, they didn’t have books before I was born, they carved them onto stone tablets… Just kidding, I’m not quite that old! These are the books on my TBR that were written and published before I was born:

1. Armadale by Wilkie Collins (1864-66)- Collins wrote mystery/thrillers way back in the 19th century. I loved his Woman in White, and I really enjoyed No Name and The Moonstone, so I look forward to giving this one a try. Together these are considered Collins’ four great works

2. The King’s General by Daphne DuMaurier (1946) Over the years I’ve been slowly reading all of DuMaurier’s life’s work. This one is next on my list (unless I unexpectedly come across something else!). It’s set during the English Civil War, which I don’t really know much about.

3. Maggie-Now by Betty Smith (1950) Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is an all time favorite of mine. I also loved Joy in the Morning. I haven’t heard much about this one, but I’m hoping it’ll be one of those unknown classics.

4. The Common Reader by Virginia Woolf (1925-1932) This series of essays was originally published in two volumes (one in 1925, the other in 1932) but I’m counting it as one because it’s my list and I can do what I want! I think I like Woolf best as an essayist.

5. The Lark by E Nesbit (1922) I love E Nesbit’s children’s novels like The Railway Children and Five Children and It, and I’m really looking forward to diving into some of her work for adult readers.

6. The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann (1936)- I loved Lehmann’s Invitation to the Waltz, and this sequel revisits two primary characters from that book, ten years later. From reviews, it seems they’re both older but not all that much wiser. But would it be any fun to read if they were?

7. Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker (1940)- A friend of mine recommended this recently and it sounded delightful.

8. The Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay (1967) I’ve been fascinated by the 1975 film adaptation of this novel for years, but I’ve never read the source material! Haven’t seen the Amazon prime remake either. I must get to both of them soon!

9. Miss Buncle’s Book by DE Stevenson (1934) The first of four Miss Buncle novels this one has been on my TBR for a long time. I never seem to get to it, in spite of hearing good things about it.

10. The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart– For a long time, I’d thought that I’d read all of Stewart’s work. Then I discovered a whole list of novels that I hadn’t read! I’m rationing myself and working my way through slowly to savor them! This is next on the list.

Movies That Were Better Than The Book

Yes, 9.8 out of 10 times the book is better. But there is that 0.2 time…

The Princess Bride by William Goldman- [book] [movie] I actually like the book more than most fans of the movie do in this case, but the movie always puts a smile on my face.

Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding [book] [movie] I liked the book a lot, but I think the casting pushes this over the top for me. Colin Firth was pretty much perfectly cast as Mark Darcy (I mean, the man is Mr. Darcy!) and I’m not usually a huge Hugh Grant fan, but I really liked him in this.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton- [book] [movie] Again, very good book. But some things work better on the big screen, and I think this is one of them. If nothing else, the music is so memorable. I hear it and right away think “Jurassic Park!” I remember seeing it for the first time and sitting there, stiff with tension as I watched, waiting to see if the characters I’d come to care about (I hadn’t read the book yet) were going to be eaten by dinosaurs.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman- [book] [movie] I think that this book has a very different feel to it. so it’s almost not fair to compare them. But the movie added some charm and humor and expanded things in a way that really worked.

To All The Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han- [book] [movie] I actually saw the Netflix film before I read the book. It was sweet and enjoyable and I looked forward to a similar experience in book form. Instead, I found a very irritating narrator who didn’t seem to learn/grow/develop/mature all that much before the end of the book.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest- [book] [movie] This is another case where I almost think it’s unfair to compare them because the movie does something totally different. It takes similar characters/premise and develops them in its own way.

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg [book] [movie] Again, in this case the movie took the premise of the book and made it’s own thing.

Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown- [book] [movie] The book felt very “blah.” Not bad, just “blah.” The movie, and specifically Reese Witherspoon’s performance, elevated it.

So what movie (or TV series) do you think is better than it’s source material?

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: Books I Meant to Read in 2020

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

January 19: Books I Meant to Read In 2020 but Didn’t Get To (You could take this opportunity to tell us what’s left on your seasonal TBRs from last year. Or books you were super excited about and then you didn’t get to them.)

I love this topic. I decided to stick to books that I’d intended to read in 2020 and didn’t – because 2020 happened. It also ties in with my book club topic for this week: most anticipated reads on 2021. Because those anticipated books that I didn’t get to in 2020 are my most anticipated reads of 2021 now.

  1. Blackthorn: A Gothic Thriller by Judy Nedry– Because it’s a gothic thriller! They’re my bread and butter! This one is sitting on my kindle waiting for me. I have a strong preference for physical books, but in this case, the ebook was free.

2. They Never Learn by Layne Fargo- I don’t know why, but “dark academia” has been appealing to me as a genre so much lately, but it has. I suppose I’ve liked several (The Secret History, Never Let Me Go, Lake of Dead Languages, The Broken Girls) and it seems like there are several new ones out that have caught my eye.

3. I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel Bloom– I really liked Rachel Bloom’s show Crazy Ex Girlfriend, and I’ve been looking forward to her debut essay collection. The fact that I didn’t read it in 2020, says more about 2020 than anything else.

4. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert– Someone in my book club recommended this highly, and it sounded really interesting to me, so put it on my list. But it’s a loooong list!

5. The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins– I have a weakness for Jane Eyre fan fiction. It can be brilliant and innovative (Wide Sargasso Sea) take on it’s own identity (Rebecca) or just not really go anywhere (The Flight of Gemma Hardy) but I’m always interested.

6. Madam by Phoebe Wynne– This also falls in the “Dark academia” genre, and with comparisons to The Stepford Wives, The Secret History and Circe, it definitely got my attention!

7. Where the Light Enters by Sara Donati- This is the second in Donati’s Waverly Place series and since I enjoyed the first book in the series The Gilded Hour. While some plotlines were wrapped up in that, others were left open, so I’m hoping for some resolution in this one!

8. Beautiful Wild by Anne Godbersen- Anne Godbersen’s Luxe series is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. I also enjoyed her Bright Young Things series, but not quite as much. I was a bit disappointed in her follow up, When We Caught Fire. I’m really hoping her new novel is a return to form.

9. When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole– I’d heard about this book this summer amidst the discussion and protest around BLM. Cole is better known as a romance author (I read An Extraordinary Union, and I hope to read the rest of the Loyal League trilogy too) but this book marked a change in genre to psychological thriller, so that Cole could tackle issues of racism and gentrification, class inequality, predatory housing practices, and more. Yes there’s fun stuff too (romance, mystery) to balance it all out. I hope I get to it in 2021.

10. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell– I’ve seen this recommended highly by several writers who I really respect. Plus I loved O’Farrell’s I Am, I Am, I Am (which was essays not fiction but still demonstrated beautiful writing, so I think that would apply regardless of genre) and I’m always interested in fictional speculation about the life and work of Shakespeare.

Well, that’s just the beginning of a long list of books I meant to read in 2020 and didn’t get to? Do you have any from my list on yours?

Top Ten Tuesday: Literary Resolutions and Hopes for 2021

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

January 12: Resolutions/Hopes for 2021 (bookish or not!)

I decided to keep this mostly bookish (or at least related to books/writing/blogging), but not be totally rigid about it. So if something non-bookish strikes me as appropriate, I’ll include it.

1. Finish writing and publish Frost. I’m about 3 drafts into it. It’s been through several beta reads and one edit so far, so I’m getting there. I’d wanted it done by now, but 2020 came with some delays and distractions, so I didn’t make as much progress as I would have liked. I hope to finish it this year, but I’m trying to be understanding of the fact that unanticipated things sometimes get in the way of writing projects.

2. Read some of the books on my 2020 TBR that I didn’t get to yet.

3. Read more nonfiction. Fiction will always be my first love, but I’m trying to expand my interests, open my mind and learn new things. I’m also becoming more interested in creative nonfiction like memoirs, essays, etc. A few on my TBR

  • Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love by Anne Fadiman et al–  I’m a big fan of Anne Fadiman, who edited this, and I love the idea. I’m curious about how and why these writers decided what to reread. I’m totally conflicted about rereadings: there’s a lot I want to reread, because I suspect I’ll read it differently now. But I also don’t want to ruin any memories of books that might not live up to them. Plus can I justify rereading when there are so many books out there I haven’t read? I have no answers to these questions, but I’m curious how these writers answer them. Plus, I always love a good book about books!

4. Write more original blog posts. I wrote about this a little bit earlier. I love lists, and tags, and readalongs, but I do want to use my original voice more often. I want this blog to be a sort of combination of original posts/musings on life and literature, a way to share my writing, and a way to get to know other readers and writers.

5. Read more poetry. I think reading poetry makes me a better writer. I’ve never been someone who dives into volumes of poetry for hours. It’s not something I write naturally, but I appreciate the way it helps me see language a bit differently. I want to get to know contemporary poets better. Some favorites are Richard Siken, Jeannine Hall Gailey, the recently departed Mary Oliver, and Ada Limon.

6. Make more of an effort to write and publish short fiction. I think most of my literary efforts are spent on novels and nonfiction. I feel like that’s where I get the most feedback. But I also think that short fiction is worth the effort, even if I don’t get the most feedback from it.

7. Remember that reading goals, bookish resolutions, etc are are for fun. If I don’t hit a target or follow through on a goal, it’s not a failure, because it’s not something that matters. It’s something that’s supposed to be fun, pure and simple.

8. Be willing to DNF books. I have a lot of trouble with this. I feel like there’s a virtue in “sticking with something” even when I’m not enjoying it. Of course I know on a rational level that that’s not the case, but it’s hard to remember and believe. I sometimes act as if there’s some sort of prize to be won for sticking through something I’m not enjoying. I won’t say that there’s nothing to be gained by pushing through initial difficulty at times. I think that’s why I have so much trouble with this. There is something to by said for making an effort! But how much of an effort is necessary?

What are your bookish and non-bookish goals for 2021?

The Backlist Reader Challenge 2021

I just read about this challenge from @The Bookwyrm’s Hoard. I read about the challenge on Nicole@ BookWrymsKnits‘ blog and it seems pretty made for me.

Basically this challenge encourages us to read all those books that are toppling over our TBR list that were published pre-2020. In my case that’s a good portion of my TBR. I will certainly try to review at least some of books over the year, so please stay tuned!