Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Book Quotes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

September 29: Favorite Book Quotes (these could be quotes from books you love, or bookish quotes in general)

  1. “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.” —  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

For a character who is “no bird” Jane is often associated with them in this novel. Even her name sounds like “air”. But perhaps it is a free bird, as opposed the the caged bird she calls to mind here, that one associates with Jane the most. No matter what happens she is able able to take off when she chooses. She may seek out greener pastures, or go back to battle old ghosts. I think it takes a lot of nerve for her to assert this actually. At this point in the book, nothing in her life has told her she has value. She’s “poor, obscure, plain, and little,” but she feels that she has intrinsic worth in spite of that. That’s what gives her the guts to assert herself, to take off when she feels it’s necessary, and to refuse to be ensnared.

2. “From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood.” —  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was about 12 and I definitely identified very strongly with Francie. I still do, even though I’m older now. This quote is a perfect example of why. I honestly do feel like books are my friends. Some people might see that as sad, but I see it as having reliable friends who never talk back and never leave me or let me down. (I do also have some actual, human friends too!)

3. “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” — Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

I’ve always had a tendency to be hard on myself. Even when I was a child, I would take myself to task for my mistakes. I first read this book when I was about nine, and right away something clicked when I read that! It was so freeing to see things that way! Even now, if I have a bad day, I try to remember that there’s always tomorrow, and there are no mistakes in it yet! It doesn’t always help, but I do try to remember it.

4. “How easy it was to lie to strangers, to create with strangers the versions of our lives we imagined.” — Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This was a more recent read, and a big theme in this book is the perceptions of others vs. self perception. That really resonated with me, even independent of the rest of the book. I think that we constantly create different versions of ourselves with different people. To some extent that’s natural: we behave differently with out friends from adulthood for example, than we do with people who have know us since we were children. But it can be cultivated too. Sometimes we have a sense of how someone else sees us, and we can try to live up to it. How a stranger sees you for the first time is powerful, because it can give us the feeling of a blank slate. We can sort of create ourselves anew.

5. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien

This is from a conversation between Gandolf and Frodo, after Gandolf tells Frodo about the Ring. Frodo wishes that this hadn’t happened during his lifetime, and this is Gandolf’s response. They’re words that I’ve thought of a lot through the craziness of 2020. Things happen that we don’t control. But we control our response.

6. “There are few people whom I really love and still fewer of whom I think well.”Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This quote stands out to me because of the distinction made between loving someone and thinking well of them. We often think of loving people as thinking of them in the highest regard. But really, we can love people and not think well of them at all. We can love people and not like them. So the distinction makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

7. “Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)” – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Just very true words. People can turn anything into a weapon. They can make things that are supposed to help up, things that are supposed to make us better, destructive. Is that true of everyone? No, of course not. A whisky bottle in the hands on one man may be meaningless. It might simply mean that he likes the taste of whisky and enjoys a glass of it and the end of a long day. But in the hands of another man, it could mean that he’s about to become a violent drunk. Similarly, the Bible is a book that is supposed to teach people to be kind to one another, to help each other. And one person may use it that way. But another may use it as a way to oppress others and even as a justification for it.

8. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live…We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.” – The White Album by Joan Didion

I just think that this is so true. When something terrible happens, we immediately try to understand it. We try to put it into some kind of workable context. I once lost someone close to me, and I almost immediately tried to put that loss in narrative terms. I thought about how this person’s narrative arc was complete, even though he was young. I was aware that I was imposing a narrative on something that didn’t necessarily have one, but it did help a bit to think of it that way. Stories help us get through life, by escaping it, and sometimes by giving us tolerable ways to understand it.

9. “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”The Twits by Roald Dahl

Once again a children’s book proves that it can articulate something more simply and memorably than something intended for adults. I think that this was something that I tried to convey when I wrote Beautiful. Needless to say, I definitely think it’s true. And the reverse is too. Someone might be totally gorgeous, but if they act like a jerk, sooner or later, they won’t look so appealing.

Advertisement

Top Ten Tuesday: The Last Books I Read With Colors in the Title

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

August 4: Books with Colors In the Titles

For this week’s topic I decided to go with the last ten I read with colors in the titles.

97801437861601. The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth-Shortly before the Terror of the French Revolution, Viviane, daughter of the Marquis de Ravoisier, falls for David, the landscape architect at her family’s chateau in Brittany. Though he returns her feelings, her father will never allow her to marry the young Welshman. When they’re parted, Viviane is forced to marry another, and joins the court of Louis XVI in Versailles, where she becomes a lady in waiting to Marie Antoinette. Meanwhile David joins a trip to China, with a British ambassador who hopes to open up trade with the east. Though his job in China is to get seeds, in Canton, David hears a fable of impossible love, called The Blue Rose. This inspires him to find Viviane again.

51hxtrvunwl._ac_uy218_2. Sapphire Skies by Belinda Alexandra– Natalya Azarova grew up privileged and happy in Stalin’s pre-war Russia. During WWII, she became one of Russia’s top fighter pilots, before her plane was shot down. No plane or body was ever found, but her reputation in Russia was tarnished by rumors that she was a German spy. Her lover, Valentin Orlov, does his best to combat these rumors and discover the truth of what happened to her. In his 80’s, in the year 2000,  the remains of her plane, along with her sapphire broach are discovered. But still no body. Meanwhile, the same year, Lily, the daughter of a Russian refugee in Australia, who works and works in Moscow, meets and old woman who may know the truth of what happened to Natalya all those years ago.

91i5spgjyyl._ac_uy218_3. Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller– Frances is a middle aged spinster in 1969, when she goes to Lytons, a recently sold British country estate, to catalog antiques. Her only companions are her colleague, Peter, and his wife, Cara. Frances finds herself enthralled with couple and the three become fast friends. But Peter and Cara have secrets that trap them, and may entrap Frances as well.

 

 

81vo0svb2l._ac_uy218_4. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith– This  is the fourth Cormoran Strike book. It begins when a young, mentally ill man named Billy, asks Cormoran to investigate a crime that he witnessed as a child. In spite of the man’s troubled mental state, Cormoran is worried enough to investigate further, even though Billy flees the agency in a panic. Along with his now partner, Robin, Cormoran sets of on an investigation that brings them from the streets of London, to Parliament and to a manor house in the country. I’ve got some not so positive feelings about the author at the moment (Galbraith is a pseudonym for JK Rowling) but if you like the Cormoran Stike series (which I do), you’ll probably like this one.

a1q86cjvzxl._ac_uy218_5.Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik– Miryem’s father is a hopelessly inept moneylender. So, desperate to do what he cannot, she takes over the business. She collects what she can from everyone. From one farmer, she takes the service of his daughter, Wanda, until his debt is paid off. Miryem also makes a boast that is overheard by the Staryk, magical, wintery creatures that control the forest lands. To protect her family, she must complete an impossible task. Meanwhile, Irina, daughter of a duke, is turned into a pawn in her father’s desire to gain power. All of these plots come together in a unique and complex Rumpelstiltskin retelling.

81njuluy7cl._ac_uy218_6. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -Set in Nigeria, this book tells the story of 15 year old Kambili and her older brother Jaja. Kambili and Jaja are wealthy and privileged. Their father is an important person in their local community, known for his generosity. But with his family, he is a religious fanatic and a tyrant. As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent outside the city to stay with their aunt. Aunty Ifeoma is a progressive university professor whose home is a relaxed place of laughter and lightness. In her home, Kambili and Jaja experience life without their father’s oppressive presence for the first time. When they return to his house nothing can be the same again.

817roardvyl._ac_uy218_7. The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen– In The Emerald Circus, Jane Yolen includes stories about existing stories and historical events and people. The title story is about Dorothy Gale’s return to Kansas, seven years after the twister took her away (the delay was due to amnesia from a bump on the head.) In another story we read about a feminist labor organizer who travels to Neverland and leads the lost boy’s female counterparts in a strike. We see a geriatric Alice attempt to return to Wonderland one last time. In other stories Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe and Hans Christian Anderson all take center stage. Yolen also includes poems and notes about each story

81susx6ql-l._ac_uy218_8. White Hot Grief Parade by Alexandra SilberActress/singer/novelist/blogger Alexandra Silber turns her skills to memoir, in her most successful literary venture yet (IMHO anyway.) At the age of 17, Silber lost her father to cancer. This intimate memoir covers the year after that loss, during which her three best friends move in with her and her mother to help out. The household supports Silber and her mother through the most difficult period of their lives. Silber recalls the year in many forms, using “straight” prose to tell parts of her story and telling other parts in the form of a play, lists, puzzles and more. She offers us stories and snapshots of her life with her father, interwoven with the “now” of the text, exploring the year after his loss. This book is sad, but it’s surprisingly funny too. Much like the titular “parade” the emotions come one after another in this, sometimes with seemingly little logic. But we’re left with an understanding that’s ultimately hopeful: grief is the price we pay for love, and it’s worth it.

91jnmkvum3l._ac_uy218_9. The Ruby Brooch by Katherine Lowry Logan– This was the first in Logan’s Celtic Booch series.I haven’t read any of the others. Make of that what you will. Kit MacKlenna is the only survivor of a plane crash that killed her parents. Grief stricken, she discovers a legacy that includes a faded letter and a journal that reveals that Kit was abandoned as a baby- 160 years earlier. She is also left a blood spattered shawl, a locket with a portrait of a 19th century man inside, and a Celtic booch with magical powers. Kit decides to use that brooch to travel back in time and get some answers. Cullen Montgomery is a San Francisco lawyer, who seems familiar to Kit. He helps her join a wagon train headed West. But on the dangerous journey he becomes convinced that there’s something that Kit isn’t telling him. Like how can she save lives with medical knowledge no one else possesses? His accusations are dangerous. But the fact that she’s falling for him may be even more so.

51htvi6il._ac_uy218_10. The Blonde by Anna Godbersen– In 1949, Alexei Lazarey met Marilyn Monroe, before she was famous, at Schwab’s in Los Angeles. By the end of the day he got her signed with a talent agency, and the poor, unknown actress was on her way to being a household name. Ten years later, at the peak of her success, Alexei contacts her for repayment. His instructions to her are to find out something about the favorite for the Democratic nomination for President; John F. Kennedy. Something no one else knows. This book re-imagines history in a combination of biography, spy novel and love story.

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2019

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

December 31: Favorite Books I Read In 2019

81hkqvsgyl._ac_uy218_ml3_1.The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern– About eight years ago I read Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel The Night Circus, and loved it. It was one of those rare books that you can get lost in as you read. Since then I’ve had my eye out for her follow up and it was finally released. The Starless Sea isn’t an easy read, but its one to savor . Once again Morgenstern has created a novel that lets the reader live in it. Yes there is a (confusing at times) plot and characters, but much likeThe Night Circus,  it’s the setting that will stand out in my memory. This book is a vivid, dreamlike, haunting experience. I reviewed it a little in this post.

81xr45udqkl._ac_uy218_ml3_2. Educated by Tara Westover– Tara Westover was 17 the first time she sat in a classroom. Raised by fundamentalist parents on a mountain in Idaho, Westover was taught to distrust established schools, hospitals and government. She was ostensibly homeschooled, but in reality that stopped once she’d learned to read, write, and do basic math. She was encouraged to try to educate herself enough to get into college by her older brother, and brave enough to take the leap when another older brother became abusive enough to be a serious threat to her safety. But Bringham Young University, and later Harvard and Cambridge, were a world away from the life she’d lived under the thumb of a mentally ill father. Trying to adjust to the change, finding a way to relate to her family, and construct her reality as an adult was where Westover’s education was truly tested. This book is shocking, haunting and thought provoking.

919qe25jntl._ac_uy218_ml3_81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_3. Circe and  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller– I discussed my response to these books a bit in this post. I’m not usually a fan of Greek mythology and Classics, but  Madeline Miller’s writing is vivid and compelling,  and the the characters are so human (even when technically they aren’t!) that its hard not to become invested. I loved both of these books and couldn’t decide which to put on my “best” list.

81svkiih7kl._ac_uy218_ml3_4. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware– Harriet ‘Hal’ Westaway has been living hand to mouth since her mother’s death three years ago. She’s barely getting by when she gets a letter from a lawyer saying that her grandmother has recently died and left her money. Hal knows it’s a mistake: her grandmother died years ago. But she’s also desperate. She heads to Mrs. Westway’s Cornwall mansion to try to claim the inheritance. But when she arrives she discovers a family that may be more closely connected to her than she realizes. The estate comes with a lot of secrets, that might give Hal the family she’s always wanted, or might get her killed. This books was reminiscent of Agatha Christie and Daphne DuMaurier. It’s perfect for a cold winter night.

61azp3snool-_ac_us218_5. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar– This book is historical fiction with fantasy gorgeously brushing the edges. When shipping merchant, Jonah Hancock learns that one of his ship’s was sold in exchange for a mermaid, he finds himself thrust into a new life. He travels from London’s seedy underbelly to the finest drawing rooms of high society. His new life brings him to Angelica Neal, a courtesan, who finds that her destiny is entwined with Jonah’s and his mermaid.

51i6ln7tmul-_ac_us218_6. The Library Book by Susan Orlean– In the book, Orlean explores a 1986 fire that almost destroyed the Los Angeles Public Library, and may have been the result of arson. In the process, she also explores the city’s history, the library’s history and the importance of libraries in general. Reading this book gives an appreciation for libraries as community centers, educational institutions and one of the most uniquely democratic endeavors in the world. People often wonder if libraries still serve a purpose, or if they will one day be obsolete. Orlean’s book makes the case that they serve a vital and irreplaceable function every day.

513xypka1bl-_ac_us218_7.Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield- About ten years ago I read Diane Setterfield’s debut The Thirteenth Taleand was entranced. Once Upon A Riveris just as compelling but in it’s own way. Set in a pub by the Thames in the late 19th century, this book opens on a winter’s night when a badly injured, soaking wet man staggers into the pub, holding a little girl who appears to be dead. A local nurse saves his life and quickly realizes that the little girl is not dead (anymore?) but the girl is silent and the man can’t remember how they came to be in this situation and has no idea who the girl is. One local family thinks that she’s the daughter who was kidnapped years earlier. Another thinks she’s the long lost daughter of their prodigal son. A middle aged woman is inexplicably convinced that the 4 year old child is her sister… .

91hggynrxrl._ac_uy218_ml3_ 81b4caedtml._ac_uy218_ml3_8.The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch by Katharine Arden– Once again I couldn’t choose between two contenders from the same author. But in this case both are from the same series. It’s rare that a series will start off well and just get better as it goes, but that’s exactly what happened with Arden’s Winternight trilogy. It started well with The Bear and the Nightingale but then Arden upped her game with the sequels!

81eiilgia0l._ac_uy218_ml3_9.I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’ Farrell– In seventeen essays O’Farrell recounts her life via near death experiences. These experiences range from the dramatic (a plane that almost crashed) to the more mundane (a stressful medical test) but each one prompted O’Farrell to reflect and evaluate her life. Naturally an eight year old O’Farrell in the hospital with Encephalitis perceives things very differently from a thirty-something O’Farrell experiencing a risky childbirth. While the subject matter is rather heavy, this book never feels it. O’Farrell’s writing is occasionally witty, often perceptive, and always beautiful.

61ime-a6gql._ac_uy218_ml3_10. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie– Set in Nigeria, this book tells the story of 15 year old Kambili and her older brother Jaja. Kambili and Jaja are wealthy and privileged. Their father is an important person in their local community, known for his generosity. But with his family, he is a religious fanatic and a tyrant. As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent outside the city to stay with their aunt. Aunty Ifeoma is a progressive university professor whose home is a relaxed place of laughter and lightness. In her home, Kambili and Jaja experience life without their father’s oppressive presence for the first time. When they return to his house nothing can be the same again.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of the 2010s

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

December 10: Freebie

It’s a little late, but it’s still Tuesday!

I’ve been seeing a lot of “best of the decade” lists lately, so I figured that this week I’d share my top books of the last ten years.

91dwjhs08ml._ac_uy218_ml3_Room by Emma Donoghue (2010) I think that the first thing that really struck me about this book was the perspective: five year old Jack, a boy who has never left the small room where he and his mother are held captive, makes a unique voice. He doesn’t know anything different so he doesn’t fully understand how messed up his reality is. His mother keeps it that way for his own protection: why tell him about a world he may never see? But when he and his mother escape, his perspective changes. Donoghue’s mastery of Jack’s voice comes across as we begin to understand how Jack’s minuscule reality and limited experience has shaped the way he thinks, and how that grows as Jack’s world expands.

818ezr7u2al._ac_uy218_ml3_The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern(2011) I was actually torn between this book and Morgensern’s 2019 offering The Starless Sea, which I read recently and loved. However I went with this book because I think that it’s more accessible to casual readers than The Starless Sea, which is more dense. I also think that the vivid, descriptive, magical setting of The Night Circus lays a groundwork which The Starless Sea builds upon.  It’s a setting that dominates the plot and characterization.

51avlw-rakl-_ac_us218_Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie (2013) In some ways it feels like this book, about being an African immigrant in America was written 100 years ago. It feels like racial tensions in America in the past decade have erupted in a way that make the Obama era seem like a distant dream. But that’s how it feels to me, as a white, native born citizen. In other words, I’m in a very privileged position in my country in many ways, and therefore I don’t experience it in the same way that someone who has a different position experiences it.  I think that this book made me aware of some of the ways that make privilege impacts my perception of events that might help answer the “how did we get here?” question.

81v5wp2zeql._ac_uy218_All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014) This novel set during WWII features two endearing protagonists; a blind French girl who must flee Nazi occupied Paris and a German boy who uses his skills building and fixing radios to help the Nazis find the Resistance. Even though these characters are from different countries and on different sides of the war, their stories are intrinsically interwoven.  When their paths cross it feels almost inevitable.

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_A Little Life by Hanya Yanaghiara (2015)- This is a story of friendship over many years and the families that we create. It’s also a story of trauma, and it asks whether recovery is even possible. When we meet Jude, he his is a young college grad with several close friends, a good job, and a traumatic past. As we come to know him and his friends, we see him grow into a successful attorney who maintains his friendships and develops new relationships. But he’s still haunted by his past. His struggle to overcome it, and doubts about whether that’s possible, are the bulk of this novel. It’s a struggle that isn’t always pretty. At time’s its downright brutal, but the struggle is still beautiful. The novel itself is long and at times difficult but I think one of the reasons it appeals to me is that it recalls a 19th century Bildungsroman.

81vn8opa4zl._ac_uy218_M Train by Patti Smith (2015)- I’ve seen Smith’s other memoir, Just Kids, on many similar lists. But I actually prefer this one. It’s less linear and more internal. We spend time not just in Smith’s life, but also in her dreams. Just Kids is a memoir of Smith’s youth in the 60’s and 70’s. M Train is a memoir of her life over the past decade or so. While Just Kids gives background that’s important to understanding the woman in M Train, I feel that this is the more mature work.

81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_Circe by Madeline Miller (2018)- I was actually torn between this and Miller’s other book Song of Achilles for this list, because they’re both beautiful works. But I went with this one because it feels somehow larger. Not larger as a physical book (they’re about the same size) but as a story and as a depiction of Miller’s world. But I highly recommend both books.

81xr45udqkl._ac_uy218_ml3_Educated by Tara Westover (2018)- Tara Westover was the daughter of mentally ill survivalists who was homeschooled (a process which ended once she learned to read and write) and later pushed herself to get into Brigham Young University, Harvard, and Cambridge. But her educational success doesn’t give her what she needs to understand her upbringing. Even after she earns her PHD, her understanding of her abusive childhood depended on learning to trust herself and her memory. I appreciated the fact that this book complicated the notion of “hard work = success.” Westover depicts success, and education, as a process rather than a fait accompli.

513xypka1bl-_ac_us218_Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield (2018) I was really excited to read this because I loved Setterfield’s previous novel The Thirteenth Tale. This was one of the rare highly anticipated novels that lives up to expectations. I think one of the reasons that it works for me is that it doesn’t try to give easy answers. It opens with a mystery and offers several possible conclusions but doesn’t tie itself down to any of them.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m Thankful For

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

November 26: Thankful Freebie

91jxemsjivl._ac_uy218_ml3_1.  Beautiful by Fran Laniado– How obnoxious is it that I included my own book on here? Well, in my defense, publishing this book has taught me a lot about writing and publishing in general and I’m grateful for the experience, everything that I’ve learned, and the ability to carry it forward into my future career.

 

 

91jl3hfvm4l._ac_uy218_ml3_2. Beauty by Robin McKinley– My first week of college, I knocked on a classmate’s door to ask a question and saw her reading this book. That was how I made my first friend on campus. It’s true what they say: when you see someone reading a book that you love, it’s like a book, recommending a person.

 

 

51cbwb1nmql-_ac_us218_3. Fairy Tales– OK this is less a book than a literary category but it was what first made me fall in love with literature. I think that fairy tales taught me some very important lessons that I’ve carried through life: that appearances can be deceiving, that dragons can be beaten and that witches can be good or bad depending on the circumstance.

 

51nvefbi7wl4. Curious George by HA Ray- I remember a point in my early childhood when I thought of Curious George as a friend. Like me, he was curious but unlike me, he was brave. I was often scared, so I let George do the exploring and get into trouble! In a way he was the literary character who showed me how to live vicariously through a character’s experiences on the page. While that’s not always a good idea by any means, at times (particularly in early childhood) it’s the wiser course. So thanks for the friendship George, and thanks for getting into trouble for me!

51f8te9sbwl-_ac_us218_5.Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell– I think that reading this book made me think a lot about the connections that I have to people and my ability to communicate with them. Karana, the heroine of this book is stranded on an island alone for many years. Even after she’s found she’s still isolated because there’s no one left alive who speaks her language. It made me think for the first time about being understood, and how grateful I am to have that ability. It’s something I’ve always valued and this book highlighted why in a way that few things had previously.

41h2mph7rbl._ac_uy218_ml3_6. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume- I think that this book normalized a lot of being a growing girl. Not that it was all accurate: I read it when I was about 9 or 10 and it made menstruation seem like a wonderful treat girls earned when they reached a certain age: that led to a major disappointment a few years later! But it also let me know that what I was thinking and feeling was normal and that a lot of other kids were just as confused about the whole experience of growing up as I was.

51avlw-rakl-_ac_us218_7.Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie– I think that this book gave me an awareness of my privilege and I’m grateful for that. I’m not grateful for the unfair advantages that I have as a white, American born citizen. I don’t think it’s right that I have those privileges due to accidents of birth and I wish that we lived in a more equitable society. But I’m grateful that this book gave me a view of life without them. That view made me more aware of them and  how they’ve played a role in my own life. I don’t know if I’m explaining this very well!

71markoye3l._ac_uy218_ml3_8.The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion– A few years ago I lost several loved ones in the space of a few months, including someone very close to me. A lot of books about death and grieving seemed to offer platitudes and trite promises. Joan Didion’s memoir of her husband’s death (while their daughter was in a coma fighting for her life) didn’t wrap it up in any false comfort. Losing a loved one is hard. Grief is confusing and scary. It doesn’t follow any rules. But it’s often the price we pay for loving people.

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_9.Anne of Green Gables (series) by LM Montgomery- I’m using these as a stand in for several books that feel like old friends. They’re the books I’ve read so many times that reading them feels like coming home after being away for a long time. I’m thankful for the knowledge that whatever terrible things may happen in real life, these books are always there. They won’t always make everything better, but they’ll help me feel less alone through whatever happens.

41z63vm8bwl-_ac_us218_10. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott– I’ve never been a very organized writer. My process (insofar as I have one) involves me writing down whatever pops into my head, and then fixing it and making it presentable later.  I don’t outline. I don’t have formal “drafts,” I just write and rewrite until I have something. Lamott’s advice to writers is essentially “whatever works.” There’s an understanding that that won’t look the same for everyone. It gives my messy, chaotic writing style a sense of validation.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books By My Favorite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

September 25: Books By My Favorite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read

There are a lot of books by favorites by authors that I still haven’t read, because when I love an author I’m usually able to read their books faster than they can write them (go figure!) So I can end up saving books to hold me over until the author’s next release. That said, these are the titles that come to mind:

51qnu73oy4l-_ac_us218_1. The Haunting of Maddy Claire by Simone St. James- I discovered Simone St. James last spring and I quickly devoured her other 5 titles; all gothic mystery romances. Most are historical. This looks like it’s in that vein but I’m trying to hold off on reading it! If I do cave in and go for it, October seems like a good time to read it.

 

336472091 2. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth– I love Kate Forsyth’s fairy tale inspired historical fiction like Bitter Greens, The Wild Girl, and The Beast’s Garden. This Sleeping Beauty inspired story is set among the Pre-Raphaelite circle of artists and poets. I haven’t read it for several reasons. First is because it’s not available in the US at the moment, but I have an Aussie friend who can hook me up if I really want. My other reason is just to have something to read in a desperate moment before her next book comes out.

51hl6oq7e4l-_ac_us218_3. Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier– I love Juliet Marillier’s historical fantasy novels. This is the third in her Blackthorn and Grim trilogy. I want to see how everything is resolved. However, Marillier’s next book isn’t due until summer 2019 so I feel like I should hold off until close to then.

51sfno9ygsl-_ac_us218_4. Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahearn– There are actually a couple of Ahearn titles that I still haven’t read. I chose to go with this one because of those it’s got the highest rating. But I also need to read The Year I Met You and The Marble Collector.

51do33s3al-_ac_us218_5. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters– I still have to read The Paying Guests also, but I have a copy of this sitting on my shelf, so I should probably read this one first.

51i5s4yjhyl-_ac_us218_6. The Punishment She Deserves by Elizabeth George–  This is the latest Lynley and Havers novel. I’ve felt like the last few have been sort of convoluted. I’ll see how this goes and decided to continue with the series or not.

51d4ihbwgl-_ac_us218_

7.  River Road by Carol Goodman– I really enjoy Carol Goodman’s literary mysteries. I still haven’t read this one, or her latest, The Other Mother.

51o1uxkkkl-_ac_us218_8. A Question of Trust by Penny Vincenzi– I think that this is one of the few Vincenzi novels that I haven’t read yet, but it’s hard to say for sure because her books are often released with different titles and covers in the US and the UK.

51gfnebrhsl-_ac_us218_9. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie– There are actually a few other Adichie books that I haven’t read yet either, but once again, in this case, a copy of Purple Hibiscus is sitting patiently on my shelf…

 

The Netflix Book Tag

I saw this at Dwell in Possibility and couldn’t resist the combination of Netflix and books!

copy-of-dapper-31

RECENTLY WATCHED: The last book you finished reading.

The last book I finished was The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe. It was interesting. Apparently, it was a big deal when it was released in the late 1950’s. It’s about five women who work for a Manhattan publishing company. They’re all in their early 20’s. The story follows their lives over the course of about five years, through hook-ups, break-ups, promotions, let-downs, and breakdowns. They ultimately end up in very different places from where they started.  It was interesting (though horrifying) the way these women took harassment and assault from lecherous bosses as par for the course. It’s also interesting to see the various ways that the life of a single, career focused woman has changed and stayed the same over the last 60 years.

51kam6gmnql-_ac_us218_

TOP PICKS: A book that has been recommended to you based on books you have previously read.

41jmk4jqiel-_ac_us160_

By Light We Knew Our Names by Anne Valente comes up on Goodreads based on my “read” shelf. This is the description: “From ghosts to pink dolphins to a fight club of young women who practice beneath the Alaskan aurora borealis, By Light We Knew Our Names examines the beauty and heartbreak of the world we live in. Across thirteen stories, this collection explores the thin border between magic and grief.”

RECENTLY ADDED: The last book you bought.

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters- I haven’t started it yet, but I love Sarah Waters and it got great reviews, so I’m hopeful.

51do33s3al-_ac_us218_

POPULAR ON NETFLIX: Books that everyone knows about. (2 you’ve read and 2 you haven’t read or have no interest in reading.)

Read

 

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness- I was disappointed in this. I’m not usually a fan of vampires, but it was recommended based on several books I’ve liked, it has some great reviews, and it’s the subject of a TV adaptation… But I didn’t like the characters. I didn’t care about them. I actually found both main characters to be drama queens/kings, but I didn’t want to use the same book for two posts.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie– I thought that this was an insightful, intelligent, and occasionally beautiful look at race and identity in the western world. Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love, in military-ruled Nigeria. Ifemelu has an opportunity to study in America. Obinze initially plans to join her but instead ends up and undocumented worker in London. They undergo very different experiences before reuniting in a newly democratic Nigeria.

Haven’t Read

 

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante– I was really excited to read this because I’d heard wonderful things about it. I stopped about halfway through because it just felt like words on a page. Nothing was having any impact on my thoughts or feelings. It’s rare for me to stop reading something in the middle, and I was surprised that I had that reaction to such a popular book.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan– I’ve enjoyed Egan’s past work (The Keep, A Visit From the Goon Squad) and this has gotten a lot of acclaims, so I’ll probably get to it at some point. But for some reason, the description of this novel set on the WWII Brooklyn docks doesn’t grab me.

COMEDIES: A funny book.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion– I thought the sequel was derivative and occasionally crossed the line into bad taste, but this misfit love story managed to strike the right comic tone IMO.

51zs47eoayl-_ac_us218_

DRAMAS: A character who is a drama queen/king.

The Wise Woman by Phillippa Gregory– Alys is an orphan who joins a convent mostly to escape her foster mother. When Henry VIII’s men burn the convent, Alys escapes but is haunted by the dying screams of the other nuns. She ends up working in a castle as a scribe, and she falls obsessively in love with the lord’s son. But he’s already married, so she plots to take over as the lady of the manor in any way she can.  Granted her life is pretty dramatic from the start, but Alys embraces the drama and delights in it. I don’t really recommend this book, but it certainly features a drama queen!

61rdqxodhl-_ac_us218_

ANIMATED: A book with cartoons on the cover.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

610fpak5dyl-_ac_us218_

Since this book is a parody of the Gothic Romance genre, it sort of makes sense that the cover illustration would be cartoons. Several characters are rather cartoons send-ups of a “type”.

WATCH IT AGAIN: A book or series that you want to re-read.

The Quincunx by Charles Palliser- I loved this neo-Victorian mystery/romance/saga. It had a very complex plot though and I only recall the broad outlines of what happened. I’d like to reread it and refresh my memory.

51yolftykzl-_ac_us218_

 

DOCUMENTARIES: A non-fiction book you’d recommend to everyone.

51vrv0hceml-_ac_us218_

I’m always hesitant to recommend a book to “everyone” because for me at least, book recommendations are personal. That said, I did recently recommend Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi on this blog, so I’ll repeat that.

ACTION AND ADVENTURE: An action packed book.

41swp08eytl-_ac_us218_1

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters- This book can fall into several different genres, but the sheer amount and nature of the twists and turns that it took certainly made it feel action packed! The second half of the novel had one “WTF!” revelation after another.

NEW RELEASES: A book that just came out or will be coming out soon that you can’t wait to read.

61azp3snool-_ac_us218_

As always, there are a number of books that I’m excited to read ASAP, but The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock comes to mind first. I’m trying to moderate my expectations because I’ve been disappointed before, but this combination of historical fiction and magical realism seems to be just my kind of weird.

International Women’s Day Reads

March 8th is International Women’s Day. Women have done amazing things throughout history (often with no credit) and continue to do amazing things every day. Here are some books that I’d suggest to female (or any) readers who want to explore, celebrate, and understand womanhood.

1.

How to Be A Heroine by Samantha Ellis and The Heroine’s Bookshelf are two books that look at how female protagonists have been portrayed in literature, and how these depictions have influenced the authors.

51-74n0euhl-_ac_us218_2. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf- In this extended essay Woolf asserts that there have been female literary geniuses throughout history and that the reason that so many go unknown is that women have traditionally not been educated and encouraged to write, as men have. They’ve been pushed in other directions. Even when they did produce great literature it was often anonymous or under pseudonyms, so their work could be judged on its own merits. “I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman,” she says. Contemporary female writes still face sexism which doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. But enough of us “have money and a room of [her] own,” (what Woolf saw as the necessities if a woman is to write fiction) so that women are a very real force in publishing.

41appkv7zjl-_ac_us218_3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood– Atwood’s feminist dystopia is frighteningly close to reality, unfortunately. But then Atwood has said that when writing her tale Gilead (once the United States) she set a rule for herself: “I would not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time.” She makes a strong case for why a woman’s ability to control and make decisions about her own body cannot be separated from discussions of feminism, or humanity for that matter.

51avlw-rakl-_ac_us218_4. Americanah by Chimiamanda Ngozi Adichie- Obviously the lens of my own experience is limited. It’s limited by various factors: education, economics, race, gender and a million others. Everyone has those limits to some extent. Adichie’s work helps us step outside those limitations for a little while. It can help us understand what the world may be like for someone different. In this case, I’m very different from Ifemelu, the female protagonist in this novel. But it allowed me to see some of the struggles that an immigrant woman of color faces in the US, in contrast to her native Nigeria. It also shows what life is like for a Nigerian woman in her home country. Ifemelu’s race and nationality influence how she is perceived in both countries. Through allowing me to see how Ifemelu’s race and gender affect her life, this book helped me see how my own life has been shaped by those factors in a very different way.

51bven7uisl-_ac_us218_5. The Alphabet Vs. The Goddess by Leonard Shalin– This is the only book in this post written by a man, but it may be of interest to anyone interested in gender issues. During pre-literate times, feminine values were dominant. Goddesses were worshiped and a lot of societies had a matriarchal structure. This changed with the rise of alphabetic literacy, which reconfigured the human brain. The act of learning to read exercises the left hemisphere of the brain, making it dominant over the right, which is more holistic and visual. The left brain is linked to masculine values and the right to feminine. As Western culture became more literate there was an insistence on a male deity and a rise in misogyny. Interestingly if you look at major witchhunts in the last millennium, they tend to happen within about a hundred years of a printing press being introduced to that part of the word. Does this explain why the past 2000 years have seen so much subjugation of women? That’s up to the reader to decide. It’s definitely an interesting thesis.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Book Titles

For The Broke and The Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday

October 24: Top Ten Unique Book Titles: For this one I decided to go with titles that stood out and were very appropriate for the story they told. Oh, and actually there are only 9 this time!

41uffqdrfll-_ac_us218_1. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver– I liked that this almost seemed like a phone message or a note. It’s a conversation that happens many times in the book. But it’s not enough, and it’s not the conversation that needs to happen. We’re ultimately left wondering if things would have been different if that needed conversation had happened.

 

51s4merpcjl-_ac_us218_2. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie– The title here comes from a framed nursery rhyme in the bedrooms of the eight guests of Mr. Owen, on a remote island off the coast of England. As the guests start to die off, we’re left wondering whodunit, and making guesses by process of elimination. It’s only when there are no suspects left that the true killer is revealed.

 

51avlw-rakl-_ac_us218_3. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie– This book about the experience of Ifemelu, a Nigerian, who moves to the US to study. The title refers to a word that is used in Nigeria, meaning someone who pretends to have been Americanized or has been Americanized. It’s a word that deals with American identity from the outside; what a foreign culture perceives “Americanization” to be.  And the novel itself deals with Ifemelu’s discovery of what it means to be a person of color in the United States, and how race goes from something that wasn’t on her radar in Nigeria, to being a construct that she has to navigate on a constant basis.

51e1m-kbfkl-_ac_us218_4. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan– Goon squads were originally groups of thugs would beat up workers who tried to unionize. Later the word “goon” came to refer to any violent thug. This novel is really interconnected short stories that shift back and forth in time from the 1960s to the near future, as the characters are sent in different directions by life. So what is the “goon” here? Time? Life? Yes, to both I think.  The characters in the book that find happiness, do so in ways that were unintended, and the happiness is usually limited; an illustration of the goonish nature of things.

5180ubrqqzl-_ac_us218_5. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson– Merricat Blackwood and her sister Constance live in their family’s house with their uncle Julian, following the murder of their entire family, for which Constance was acquitted six years earlier. They’re the beginning of a local legend; the mysterious, slightly witchy sisters living forever in their “castle”. The secret they keep is about the true nature of the Blackwood family’s murder.

 

6. Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan– This book deals with a group of American tourists travelling from China to Myanmar. The story is told by the tour guide, Bibi Chen, who dies before the trip takes place and watches over the group as they travel. They’re kidnapped by the Karen people who believe that a teenage member of the tour group is their savior. The book is as absurd as the actions of the title suggests. It deals with the notion that well intentioned deeds can be so misguided that they might cause harm and vice versa.

41oieugca5l-_ac_us218_7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey– This title also comes from a nursery rhyme.  We’re told that the narrator’s grandmother recited it to him. “One flew East, One flew West, One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.” The novel is set in a mental hospital in the early 1960’s; a time  when the Civil Rights movement was gaining traction, and changes were being made to the practice of psychiatry and psychology. There was a movement toward less institutional facilities, but the characters in the book are in a very traditional hospital. The “one” in the title who “flew over the cuckoo’s nest” is the one that doesn’t do pick a clear direction like the other two. The suggestion that the patients at the hospital are those who flew over the cuckoo’s nest, and were called crazy for not conforming.

51sb1fc4xl-_ac_us218_8. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer- This published in 2005. In some ways the US was still recovering from the horrors of 9/11. The nine year old protagonist, who lost his father in the World Trade Center, uses the words “extremely” and “incredibly” quite a bit in his narration. The words can certainly be seen as a witness’ description of the attacks, but the absence of a loved one to whom you felt close is also “loud”.

51rvjiougpl-_ac_us218_9. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray– This title references a line in the book, but as a phrases it pretty much sums up the themes of the the book (which begins a trilogy). The main character, Gemma Doyle is a Victorian girl sent to boarding school, where she happens upon a secret society. Her daily life is structured and dictated but the secret society offers her power that Victorian England doesn’t. That power has the potential to be both great and terrible depending on who is using it and for what purpose.

The New York Times “By the Book” Tag

I found this on Thrice Read‘s blog and it spoke to me. I’m curious as to other people’s answers to some of these so please share if you want to!

What book is on your nightstand now?

Actually, physically, on my nightstand? The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell and Jane Austen: The Secret Radical by Helena Kelly.

What was the last truly great book you’ve read?

Wow, tough question. I guess that depends on what you mean by “great”. I’ll go with A Little Life by Hana Yanagihara. It’s not an easy book but I think it speaks to the reasons why we struggle through life. It’s about what drives us to survive through all types of hardships. The main character, Jude, endures more tragedy and trauma than anyone should have to. But there is so much about his life that’s beautiful. The writing in the book is also stunning and I think I cried straight through the last 50 pages or so.

If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?

Honestly, the first person I thought of as an answer to this was William Shakespeare. I’d like him to a) clear up the whole “authorship” thing once and for all. Because I’m convinced that anyone who thinks it was someone other than William Shakespeare thinks that out of snobbery, and I’d like to prove it and b) Because I’m curious as to whether he actually believed the stuff in some of his histories or if he was trying to appease a Tudor monarchy.

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelf?

My shelves are pretty varied in terms of authors and genres. I have a bit of everything. Maybe The Element Encyclopedia For Magic CreaturesThe Element Encyclopedia For Magic Creatures? I use it for research in my own writing.

How do you organize your personal library?

By genre (roughly). Actually it’s crying out to be reorganized at some point soon!

20170621_144800 (2)

What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet?

Millions! Off the top of my head, a few are Precious Bane by Mary Webb, The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan, Half A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you are supposed to like but didn’t?

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is the first book that pops into my mind. I felt like I should have liked it. It’s right up my alley: historical fiction, a twist of fantasy, lovely prose… But the story, about a woman who lives her life over again and again, left me cold. I didn’t care about Ursula because ultimately there was no risk. If things went wrong for her, she could always just start over again.

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?

I tend to be drawn to most genres

  • mystery/thriller
  • fantasy/sci fi
  • historical fiction
  • magical realism
  • literary fiction
  • romance (depending on the type)

The exceptions are:

  • religious/spiritual fiction (I’m not very religious and I don’t like feeling that I’m being preached at)
  • erotica
  • really graphic/gory horror
  • nonfiction about subjects in which I have no interest

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

Just one? That’s making it really hard! Does the Constitution of the United States count as a book?

What do you plan to read next?

I don’t know for sure. It depends what I’m in the mood for when I’m done with what I’m reading now. If I want something fun and escapist, maybe Blood Rites. It’s been a few months since I last checked in with Harry Dresden. Or if I’m not in the mood for fantasy, maybe Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspar. I don’t think I’ll be up for something too heavy, since school is starting up and that’s somewhat stressful.