Top Ten Tuesday: Snowy Books

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday: It’s late today, but it’s still Tuesday!:

December 8: Holiday/Seasonal Freebie (holiday books/covers/titles, wintry reads, snow on cover, cool color covers, takes place in cold settings, cozy scenes on cover, etc

Last year I listed books that were set during/about the December holidays. This year I’m just going for snow. Snow plays a significant part in all of these books. Maybe I’m just thinking snow because my upcoming book is very snowy (I had to get a bit of Shameless Self Promotion in there!)

1. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey– Jack and Mabel are a childless couple, struggling to make a home in 1920 Alaska; a brutal environment. In a rare moment of levity during the first snowfall of the season, they build a child out of snow. The next day the snow child is gone, but they discover a little girl, who calls herself Faina. Faina seems to survive alone in the Alaskan wilderness. They come to love her like their own child. This retells a fairy tale, but in a very elegant way. It feels very grounded in the realities of the Alaskan homestead.

2. Light on Snow by Anita Shreve– Twelve year old Nicky Dillon and her father discover an abandoned baby in the snowy woods near their home in New Hampshire. They rescue the baby and bring it to a nearby hospital. Then Nicky and her father, a grieving widower, settle in for a bleak Christmas. But as the snowflakes from the season’s first blizzard begin to fall, a young woman turns up at the house, claiming she wants to purchase a table from Nicky’s father (he builds furniture). It soon becomes clear to Nicky and her dad that this girl is the baby’s mother. She faints, and by the time she comes to, Nicky, her father and the girl are snowbound. Will Nicky’s dad turn the girl in to the police for abandoning her baby in the cold? Nicky soon becomes drawn to the girl, who she sees as an older sister/mother figure, creating a tense emotional situation for all three characters.

3. Whiteout by Ken Follett– Maybe not the best to read during a pandemic, this thriller is about what happens when a canister of a deadly virus goes missing from a Scottish research lab. The lab’s security director, and several people (all with something to gain or lose from the drug they’re creating to fight the virus) take shelter in a remote house during a Christmas Eve blizzard.

4. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin– This story brings us to a slightly alternate version of the Belle Époque in New York City. In this version the city is bombarded by blizzards. One freezing night, a thief called Peter Lake, breaks into a mansion where meets and falls in love with a young woman who is dying of consumption. The harsh winter is a death sentence for her. But Peter will do whatever he has to, to change things.

5. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton– Ethan Frome is married to Zeena, a hypochondriac. Her marriage to Ethan is unhappy and both are bitter. When Zeena’s impoverished cousin, Mattie, moves in with them, Ethan falls in love. This book has a key scene involving sledding, so I’m counting it. (Also it’s set in a snowy Massachusetts winter)

6. Icebound by Dean Koontz– I read this one a long time ago, but I do remember snow and ice! It’s about a group of scientists (scientists seem to have bad luck with snow in thrillers!) in the Arctic. They find themselves stranded on an iceberg. A massive explosion is hours away (they’re blowing up the iceberg for sciencey reasons I think…) and if that wasn’t bad enough, one of them is a murderer. I know the plot is rather farfetched, but it’s just fun!

7. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie- Snow foils what should have been the perfect crime when an avalanche stops the Orient Express in it’s tracks- just before a passenger is found dead in his berth. There are 13 potential suspects on the train, and no one can get away, but all have seemingly perfect alibis. What’s a detective to do?

8. Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg– This one is also sort of hazy in my memory, but I remember that Smilla was half Inuit and she was raised in Greenland, where she became very intuitive about snow. As an adult, she works as a scientist who studies different types of snow. When her six year old neighbor dies from a fall of the roof of their apartment complex, the police think he had an accident while playing. But seeing the tracks that the child left in the snow on the roof, Smilla knows that isn’t what happened. She suspects murder, but the police don’t want to hear it. So Smilla investigates for herself.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Literary Parties

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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July 21: Book Events/Festivals I’d Love to Go to Someday (Real or Fictional. Submitted by Nandini @ Unputdownable Books)

I decided to do fictional festivals/events  for this one. I’m not much of a party girl to be honest, but some there are some  literary soirees I might be tempted to attend. I decided that nothing thrown by Jay Gatsby was allowed on this list. Big parties really aren’t my scene.

81hkqvsgyl._ac_uy218_1.  The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern– The literary masquerade party in this one sounds like one of the few parties I’d really get into!

“He sits at the bar, feeling like a failure and yet overwhelmed by all that has happened as he attempts to catalog the entire evening. Drank rosemary for remembrance. Looked for a cat. Danced with the king of the wild things. Excellent-smelling man told me a story in the dark. Cat found me.”

61-q3ssh0l._ac_uy218_2. The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien– I might be persuaded to attend Bilbo Baggin’s eleventy first birthday party. If nothing else, I doubt I’ll have the opportunity to attend many eleventy first birthdays in my lifetime.

“I hope you are all enjoying yourselves as much as I am.” Deafening cheers…. Cries of “Yes” (and “No”). Noises of trumpets and horns…. Indeed, in one corner some of the young Tooks and Brandybucks, supposing Uncle Bilbo to have finished (since he had plainly said all that was necessary), now… began a merry dance-tune. Master Everard Took and Miss Melilot Brandybuck got on a table and with bells in their hands began to dance the Springle-ring: a pretty dance, but rather vigorous.

But Bilbo had not finished. Seizing a horn from a youngster near by, he blew three loud hoots…. “I shall not keep you long,” he cried. Cheers from all the assembly. “I have called you all together for a Purpose…..” There was almost silence….

91d11myiibl._ac_uy218_3. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway’s party. This one has a lot of build up and a gentle success marred only by news of a suicide. Because no party is perfect. But in this case, bad news might make the fun even sweeter.

She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble.

71v4ebr1nxl._ac_uy218_4.The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton– One of the most opulent literary parties in my mind is the Wellington-Bry ball when Lily Bart appears in a tableau vivant.

The noble buoyancy of her attitude, its suggestion of soaring grace, revealed the touch of poetry in her beauty that Selden always felt in her presence, yet lost the sense of when he was not with her. Its expression was now so vivid that for the first time he seemed to see before him the real Lily Bart, divested of all the trivialities of her little world, and catching for a moment a note of that eternal harmony of which her beauty was a part.

71cmat1al._ac_uy218_5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- This book (and Austen in general) has a few good parties; but I went with the one where Jane and Mr. Binghly fall in love and Mr. Darcy declares that Lizzie is ” tolerable.”

When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy approached to claim her hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning her, in a whisper, not to be a simpleton, and allow her fancy for Wickham to make her appear unpleasant in the eyes of a man of ten times his consequence. Elizabeth made no answer, and took her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her neighbours’ looks their equal amazement in beholding it. They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she made some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent. After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time with:

“It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. — I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”

He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.

513t3s6mwl._ac_uy218_6.Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier– Note to self: if you ever marry a widower do not attend a costume party dressed as his late wife, however unintentional it may be. And don’t listen to your evil maid’s costume suggestions either. Yes, it’s an awkward party, but it wouldn’t be a boring one.

That was why I had come down last night in my blue dress and had not stayed hidden in my room. There was nothing brave or fine about it, it was a wretched tribute to convention. I had not come down for Maxim’s sake, or Beatrice’s, for the sake of Manderley. I had come down because I did not want the people at the ball to think I had quarreled with Maxim. I didn’t want them to go home and say, “Of course you know they don’t get on. I hear he’s not at all happy.” I had come for my own sake, my own poor personal pride.

71m1o7fy1fl._ac_uy218_7.Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– I might go to Mr. Rochester’s house party. If nothing else, the host disguising himself as a fortune teller would be fun!

When I heard this I was beginning to feel a strange chill and failing at the heart. I was actually permitting myself to experience a sickening sense of disappointment; but rallying my wits, and recollecting my principles, I at once called my sensations to order; and it was wonderful how I got over the temporary blunder—how I cleared up the mistake of supposing Mr. Rochester’s movements a matter in which I had any cause to take a vital interest.

91dwzgedaml._ac_uy218_8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll– I’ve actually never been to a tea party, but if this is anything to go by, they can get pretty wild. Though it might get tiring having to change seats every few minutes…

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone: “so I ca’n’t take more.”
“You mean you ca’n’t take less,” said the Hatter: “It’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

61uzqqwbnnl._ac_uy218_9.Invitation to Waltz by Rosamund Lehmann- Like Mrs. Dalloway’s soiree, Olivia Curtis’ first ball has a whole novel dedicated to it. While her more socially adept sister threatens to overshadow her, this party is both more and less than Oliva expects.

“And they waltzed together to the music made for joy. She danced with him in love and sorrow. He held her close to him, and he was far away from her, far from the music, buried and indifferent. She danced with his youth and his death.”

81e67pau6hl._ac_uy218_10. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding– I’m not much of a drinker, so unlike Bridget, I wouldn’t be hungover at Geoffrey and Una’s New Year’s turkey curry buffet. I would also (always!) be able to tell Mark Darcy a few titles when he asks what I’ve read lately.

“It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting “Cathy” and banging your head against a tree.”

 

 

Top Ten Tueday: Summer-y Books

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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June 2: Books that Give Off Summer Vibes (or winter if you live in the southern hemisphere) (submitted by Kristin @ Lukten av Trykksverte)

81afmcattl._ac_uy218_1.The Great Gatsby by  F Scott Fitzgerald- I’m actually not the biggest fan of this book (I always say I find it easier to admire than to love) but it definitely feels like summer to me. One of the dog days, when it’s too hot and you feel like you can’t breath.

“I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone’s away. There’s something very sensuous about it – overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands.”

 

71scqfzfhel._ac_uy218_2. Atonement by Ian McEwan– This book (especially the first 1/3) also has the feeling of one of those oppressively hot summer days, when people’s thoughts, feelings and emotions seem like they’re coming to a head.

“Dearest Cecilia, You’d be forgiven for thinking me mad, the way I acted this afternoon. The truth is I feel rather light headed and foolish in your presence, Cee, and I don’t think I can blame the heat.”

314ymltndpl._ac_uy218_3.Summer by Edith Wharton– Wharton saw this short novel as sort of a bookend to Ethan Frome set in summer rather than winter. She referred to it as “the hot Ethan.” In it, Charity Royall a naive girl from a humble background, meets an ambitious city boy and begins a torrid romance. It was quite scandalous when it first came out in 1917.

“She was blind and insensible to many things, and dimly knew it; but to all that was light and air, perfume and colour, every drop of blood in her responded. She loved the roughness of the dry mountain grass under her palms, the smell of the thyme into which she crushed her face, the fingering of the wind in her hair and through her cotton blouse, and the creak of the larches as they swayed to it.”

91-2eo8zzl._ac_uy218_4. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver– In this book, three stories set in Southern Appalachia are woven together with lush descriptions. It captures the fecundity of nature.

“This is how moths speak to each other. They tell their love across the fields by scent. There is no mouth, the wrong words are impossible, either a mate is there or he is not, and if so the pair will find each other in the dark.”

 

61o1jdpva-l._ac_uy218_5. Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan– A  young woman competes with her father’s mistress for his attention, this short novel takes place over a languid summer on the French Riviera

“I saw an exquisite pink and blue shell on the sea-bottom. I dove for it, and held it, smooth and hollow in my hand all the morning. I decided it was a lucky charm, and that I would keep it. I am surprised that I have not lost it, for I lose everything. Today it is still pink and warm as it lies in my palm, and makes me feel like crying.”

91gphbagl._ac_uy218_6. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides– The first person plural narration in this calls to my mind a bunch of kids hanging out in each others backyards, furtively spying on their neighbors and discussing what they see. There’s a hazy quality, as if everything seen and said is filtered through the voice of those kids, telling their story.

“In the end we had the pieces of the puzzle, but no matter how we put them together, gaps remained, oddly shaped emptinesses mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn’t name.”

91tewvjr2fl._ac_uy218_7. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss– A girl and her family, a history professor and several students attempt to live like ancient Britons one summer. The feverish heat combines  a sense of dread and malice.

“The plant began to topple and I found myself feeling guiltier about killing it than I had about gutting the rabbits. The whole of life, I thought, is doing harm, we live by killing, as if there were any being of which that is not the case.”

81l58zq3l._ac_uy218_8.Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid- My summers never revolved around sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but they do seem like summery subjects if that makes sense. The rise band’s rise to fame and break up actually happens over the course of several years but  the passion, the music, and the anger seem to take place over an exceptionally long, hot summer.

“Passion is…it’s fire. And fire is great, man. But we’re made of water. Water is how we keep living. Water is what we need to survive. My family was my water. I picked water. I’ll pick water every time.”

Top Ten Tuesday:

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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April 7: Books I Bought/Borrowed Because… (Fill in the blank. You can do 10 books you bought for the same reason, i.e., pretty cover, recommended by a friend, blurbed by a favorite authors, etc. OR you could do a different reason for each pick.)

For this one, I decided to list the last ten books I read and why I read them.

5174gdpp4ml._ac_uy218_ml3_1. Hearts and Bones by Margaret Lawrence– I’ve had this book sitting in my bookcase for a while, and I decided to read it at last. Really I think that’s as far as the decision went! I bought it at a thrift store for $1 because it looked OK. It was OK, but not much more than that.

 

 

 

418ovkyoal._ac_uy218_ml3_2. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton– I was going to go to a book club that was reading this. I’d read it in college but it deserved a reread. The book club was cancelled due to the situation with coronavirus, but I’m glad I had a chance to revisit this book.

 

 

91ruwg9786l._ac_uy218_ml3_3. Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss- I’m a fan of Goss and I got this as an ebook when it was on sale with a  reduced price of $1.99. I think the sale was the reason I bought it, but I might like to buy a physical copy, which I often tend to do with ebooks I really live. They feel like they’re more mine when they’re physical books.

 

 

81kwruwfyll._ac_uy218_ml3_ 4. Normal People by Sally Rooney- I had heard a lot of good things about this one, and I saw it in the library and decided to give it a shot. It lived up to my expectations more or less.

 

 

 

51ggnslcxml._ac_uy218_ml3_5. The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman– I’ve been rereading Pullman’s His Dark Materials series and this is #2. In my memory it was a very “second in a trilogy” book, but on rereading it, I felt that in some ways it was stronger than The Golden Compass. I suppose that’s why it pays to reread sometimes!

 

 

91oqeffundl._ac_uy218_ml3_6.The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter- I got this from the library because I often enjoy Slaughter’s work as an author of mystery/thriller/crime novels. However in this case I think the fact that I happened to read this as the coronavirus was starting to turn up impacted my enjoyment. The crime in question seemed a bit too close to home.

 

 

61oldgmz8gl._ac_uy218_ml3_7.Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley– I read this one because Kearsley is one of the authors that I feel like I can turn to for a reliably good read. This is her latest, and it was no different in that respect.

 

 

 

813zrwfvrdl._ac_uy218_ml3_8. The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys– I got this one from the library because it looked interesting and it was set around and in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, which was a historical period that I know very little about. While I’m still interested in the period, I felt that the book was just OK.

 

 

914o0doecll._ac_uy218_ml3_9. Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber– This was a library book that I picked out simply because it looked good. It was. I think that the magical realist, feel good novel was more or less what I needed.

 

 

 

81lcl0qrdbl._ac_uy218_ml3_10. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett– I’m a big fan of Ann Patchett so this one had been on my TBR for a while. While it wasn’t my favorite of her books, I felt it lived up to expectations.

I’ve Been…

  • 410quprawjl._ac_uy218_ml3_Participating in Classical Carousel‘s House of Mirth read-along. We’re reading and discussing the novel over the course of six weeks. I’ve been trying to stay on schedule and read it slowly. I read House of Mirth in college, and that initial read took me a few days, because we had one or two class periods for discussion before the class moved on to other material. I feel like the leisurely pace is allowing my a different perspective and I’m picking up a lot more. I’d encourage anyone interested to join in.
  • Toying with the idea of releasing a collection of short fiction. I have a lot of short stories that I’ve written over the years that I’ve never really been sure what to do with. Most of them are inspired by other stories, mythology, fairy tales, folklore etc. Some follow the source material closely others give it a mere nod before going off in their own direction. I would probably have to go through them and decide on a direction for the collection and what to include, but I’d like to get a very general sense of how much interest there is. So if you think it’s a good idea, like this post!
  • Writing a whole looong blog post about the Sarah Dessen/Common Read/grad student twitter hoopla. Then I decided not to post it. It seems like emotions on all sides are very high and people are very quick to take offense. Chiming in at such moments doesn’t strike me as the best idea because words are easily taken out of context leading to more offense and hurt feelings. But I do want to say, independent of all this, that twitter by it’s nature often takes things out of context (it’s hard to include context within a small, character limited, tweet!) so when something is discussed in a tweet, it’s important to seek out that context before we react, especially when emotions are running high. Also remember how easy it is to react to things in the space of a tweet. We can delete the tweet but if someone screenshots it, it can live forever. Think before you tweet.

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    All the Common Read books for the last decade. American News photo by Katherine Grandstrand

  • 81hkqvsgyl._ac_uy218_ml3_Reading Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea. Like The Night Circus, it’s a book whose setting stands out over other elements such as plot and character. But there’s an intricacy that The Night Circus lacks in that the setting and the plot are inextricably linked and fitted together like a puzzle. As I read it, I’m wowwed at the complexity of what Morgenstern managed to do with the multiple stories that make up this novel. Each one becomes a nest for the next one. I can see why this took her years to write! It’s rare that a highly anticipated novel manages to live up to expectations. I can see where some readers my be frustrated by the Chinese box of narratives that make up this book and want more traditional storytelling,  but to me, it all unfolds like a beautiful, mysterious magic trick. I haven’t finished it yet though. The complexity means that it’s not as “quick” a read as most, and I’m also a bit anxious. I’m afraid that Morgenstern won’t be able to maintain this spell all the way through to the end.

Top Ten Tuesday: Cozy Winter Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 4: Cozy/Wintry Reads (Make this prompt suit your current season if needs be.)

There’s nothing I love more than curling up under a blanket with a good book and some hot cocoa while the snow is falling outside. Here are my favorite cozy winter reads:

51lz9ueudjl-_ac_us218_1. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie- Hercule Poirot is on a train that is trapped by an avalanche, just before a passenger is found murdered. Poirot is on the case and the thirteen other passengers in the car are his only suspects. The only problem is that they all have both an excellent motive and an airtight alibi. Just an FYI, the recent film changes some elements of the ending, so even if you’ve seen that, you may still be surprised.

51mxt4oifll-_ac_us218_2. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden- Vasilisa grows up in a home in the Russian wilderness that’s snowed in each winter. She spends the season with her siblings listening to their nurse’s fairy tales. When her mother dies, her father brings a new wife home from Moscow. Vasilisa’s stepmother is religious and won’t allow the family to honor the household spirits as they always have. Though the family acquiesces to her wishes, Vasilisa suspects that this decision will have grave consequences in this re-imagined Russian fairy tale.

41d0oywr9zl-_ac_us218_3. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey- A childless couple in Alaska in 1920 indulge in a bit of silliness on the night of the first snowfall. They build a child out of snow. The next morning, the snow child is gone but Jack and Mabel start to catch glimpses of a little girl, running through the trees. This child seems to survive alone in the Alaskan wilderness. Is she their snow child come to life or are her origins more mundane? Jack and Mabel come to love this girl, whom they call Faina as if she were their own. But will they be able to care for her as they would a normal child?

51qgclwqxal-_ac_us218_4. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin– This is kind of a love it or hate it book (though don’t judge it on it’s bizarre film adaptation!). In New York City at the turn of the 20th century, Peter Lake attempts to rob a mansion that he thinks is empty one cold, winter night. It’s not empty. Beverley Penn, the daughter of the house is there, dying of consumption. They fall into a love so powerful that Peter, an uneducated thief will embark on a quest to stop time, bring back the dead and cure disease. It’s full of symbolism and beautiful writing, but some readers will find it overlong and indulgent.

51c-asvgcil-_ac_us218_5. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield- I read this one snowy day, and I’ll always associate it with winter for that reason. Vida Winter (is the name a coincidence?!) is a reclusive author who has made up stories about her life, but hidden the truth of it. Now that she’s old and sick she hires biographer Margaret Lea to tell her true story. It’s a tale of gothic strangeness, and a ghost, a governess, twins, a topiary garden and a house fire.

 

218weryp6kl-_ac_us218_6. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton– The title character of this slim novel is a farmer burdened by a barren farm an a hypochondriac wife, Zeenia. When Zeenia’s cousin, Mattie visits, Ethan falls in love with the warm girl who is everything that his wife is not. But his attempts to escape with Mattie may doom them all to a cold life on Ethan’s unproductive land.

 

518ejevmohl-_ac_us218_7. The Woman in the Window by AJ Flinn- Anna Fox is an agoraphobic who spends her days in her Harlem townhouse drinking wine, watching old movies and spying on her neighbors. When she witnesses a  murder in one of the their houses, the police don’t believe her (she’s a drunk with a history of psychological issues). We learn more about the chilly roots of those issues, and the mysterious events of that happened in her neighbors house, as we read.

517vbd5d37l-_ac_us218_8. Still Life by Louise Penny– There’s been a murder in the tiny town of Three Pines, a rural village just south of Montreal. When Inspector Gamache and his team arrive, everyone assumes that middle aged artist Jane Neal was killed in a tragic hunting accident. But Inspector Gamache soon discovers that Three Pines is hiding some dark secrets. While the village seems cozy and the food is described as yummy, the murders would probably keep me from wanting to move to Three Pines.

51zrrxlch9l-_ac_us218_9. The Loop by Nicholas Evans- In Hope, Montana, a Rocky Mountain ranching town, a pack of wolves has emerged and reawakened a tension that existed a century ago between humans and wolves. Helen Ross is an environmentalist who is sent to Hope to protect the wolves. Her mission brings her into conflict with Buck Calder, a brutal but charismatic rancher, as well as his son, Luke, with whom Helen begins an affair.

 

51laj9fuhcl-_ac_us218_10. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick– In 1907 Wisconsin, 58 year old Ralph is waiting for his mail order bride to appear. He put out a classified ad, and is expecting his new wife at the station, but with Catherine Land gets off the train she’s not at all what he expected. She has plans to slowly poison Ralph and leave Wisconsin as a wealthy widow. But on Ralph’s snow bound estate, he reveals to Catherine that he’s a man with secrets and plans of his own.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Page To Screen Adaptations

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

July 10: Best Books I’ve Read In 2018 (So Far) (This prompt was originally going to be a TTT throwback, but I know how much people love the bi-annual top ten books of the year and I forgot to add it to the list! Feel free to do a throwback instead if you want!)

Since I did a mid-year book post not too long ago, I figured I’d do a throwback this week.  I went with the Top Ten Book To Movie Adaptations.  But since I’m including TV/miniseries I’m just going with “page to screen”.

1. Pride and Prejudice (BBC 1995) I know that the 2005 film has its fans, and it has its good points. But for me, Colin Firth is Darcy. Jennifer Ehle is Elizabeth. That’s just all there is to it. Perfect casting. Beautiful adaptation.

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2. Jane Eyre (BBC 2006) There are several great adaptations of Jane Eyre, but I’ve always been partial to this one because it’s got a spirit of fun to it. Yes, Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens are probably better looking than the Jane and Mr. Rochester described in the book might be,  but they seem to love their characters. I read a review once saying this didn’t add any new colors to the story but it brought all of the existing colors to their full glory (or something along those lines). To me that says it pretty well.

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3. Little Women (1994) I think I saw this film for the first time not too long after I first read the novel. Maybe that’s why these actors seem fused to their characters. Or maybe it’s just really well cast! The film adds some outright feminism and political commentary that doesn’t feel extraneous at all. It also manages the tough plot points well. For example, whenever I watch it, I want to see Jo end up with Professor Bhaer rather than Laurie. And it doesn’t even bother me much when Amy is played by a different actress halfway through.

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4. Anne of Green Gables (1985 miniseries) I’ve seen a few screen Annes (including the most recent “Anne With An ‘E'”) but to me, none of them have approached Megan Follows, who just is Anne to me.  This is another example of something I saw for the first time around the same time that I read the book, which may explain why it’s so definitive for me. I also just really like Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert.

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5. Gone With the Wind (1939) It’s almost impossible to picture Scarlett O’Hara as anyone other than Vivian Leigh. Likewise, it’s hard to picture Rhett Butler not looking like Clark Gable. And yes, occasionally I picture the antebellum American South in something like old Hollywood technicolor, though I’m aware that plantation life was hardly as pretty as the film makes it look. Perhaps its a testament to a good film that I can forget about the ugly reality for a few hours as I watch it, and believe in the fantasy.

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6. Rebecca (1940) This is an example of a film that changes some important plot points from its source material but still works as an adaptation because it maintains the mood and atmosphere of the book. Hitchcock made a wise move refusing to cast Vivian Leigh as the unnamed narrator. The same qualities that made her perfect for Scarlett O’Hara would have made her all wrong for this role. Also, whoever cast Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers really knew what they were doing!

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7. The Age of Innocence (1993) I felt like the narration of this film did it a great service, which is rare, because in many films I find the device overbearing. We see the characters go about their lives, but in the book the weight of social norms and expectations as they did this was tremendous. In the film, we might not even be aware of this if not for the narration that lets us know about it at important points. It could have been done in a clunky way, but it wasn’t. For the most part, it works.

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8. The Princess Bride (1987) This is an example of an adaptation that could have gone all wrong. William Goldman’s novel indulged in tropes that it simultaneously satirized. That’s the kind of thing that is really hard to translate to screen.  It’s done just right. Instead of presenting it as an abridgment of the novel by S. Morgenstern with “commentary” from Goldman, we’re given a frame story of a grandfather reading the book to his sick grandson. It might not have translated at all, but it does.

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9. Matilda (1996) This film relocates the action of Roald Dahl’s tale from the UK to the US. Usually, that’s not a move that I’m a fan of with adaptations. But in this case, it doesn’t hurt the material. Casting wise, Mara Wilson was a lovely Matilda. The character needs to come off as smart and sweet without crossing too far into the precocious and annoying territory. Wilson finds just the right balance. Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman are just the right amount of loathsome as the Wormwoods.

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10. Bleak House (BBC 2005) I never thought a story about a legal battle over an estate would capture my interest, but Charles Dickens pulled it off in this book. I didn’t think a book with so many plotlines and characters could be done well as a TV miniseries, but this miniseries proved that wrong too. Most of the plotlines do make it into the series, and the ones that were omitted were the right ones. Plus it’s hard to go wrong with a cast that includes Gillian Anderson, Charles Dance, Carey Mulligan, Alun Armstrong, Anna Maxwell Martin and Denis Lawson.

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What do you think? Did I miss any?

Top Ten Tuesday: Fictional NYC

That Artsy Reader Girl lists this week’s Top Ten Tuesday as a freebie, so I decided to look at the various ways that one of my favorite places has been depicted in fiction. I decided to specify fiction because NYC also has a vivid nonfictional presence that I might want to look at in a different post. I think that the incredible diversity that NYC has in terms of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, education and more makes it a great place to set a story.

61ygpmell4l-_ac_us218_1. Eloise by Kay Thompson– Even though this is technically “A Book For Precocious Grown-Ups” I loved Eloise as a kid. She lived in the Plaza with her dog, her turtle (Skipperdee, which I always thought was a great name for a turtle) and her nanny and she knew absolutely everything about everyone. I imagine that she’d be an annoying kid to have around if she were real: she bothers people on the elevators and in the hotel lobby, she crashes weddings, she runs up and down the halls, and considers pouring water down the mail chute. But as a kid, I found her hilarious and even today it’s hard not to be charmed by her antics.

51fm3ylbgvl-_ac_us218_2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith– Before Williamsburg was a haven for hipsters, it was an immigrant community. There’s a sense of optimism amidst hardship in this book that begins with the very image of a tree pushing through concrete to grow. It is the optimism of immigrants who left their native countries in the hopes of a better life and it’s the optimism that Francie observes watching moments in the lives of various Brooklynites from her fire escape.

51371fbdool-_ac_us218_3. Forever by Pete Hamill– Cormac O’Conner arrives in New York as an immigrant in 1740. Thanks to a shipboard incident Cormac is blessed (or cursed) with eternal life, as long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan. Through Cormac’s eyes, we see New York grow from a small settlement to a thriving metropolis over the course of 250 years. He gets involved in the issues of every age. He’s not a passive observer of the city, but rather an active participant, who knows each ally, each street corner, each subway tunnel.

51kwpr263l-_ac_us218_4. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer– Several teenagers meet at a summer camp for the arts in the 1970’s. They’re all creative and enthusiastic. But the kind of creativity that is celebrated at 15 isn’t always something that can sustain you into adulthood.  Jules gives up her dreams of an acting career in favor of something more practical. Her friend, Jonah, gives up the guitar and becomes an engineer. Ethan and Ash, on the other hand, see their artistic dreams come true beyond anything they could have imagined. This is a character study of these friends over the course of several decades. But NYC is very much a character here as well, and we see it change over the years, alongside these characters.

51kam6gmnql-_ac_us218_5. The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe– Five women work for an NYC publishing company in the 1950’s. There’s Caroline, who dreams of leaving the typing pool and being an editor. Ivy is a Colorado transplant whose naivete may be her undoing. Gregg is an aspiring actress who gets involved in a potentially dangerous affair with a Broadway producer. Barbara is a divorcee with a two-year-old daughter, who isn’t sure if she’ll ever make it out of her mother’s apartment,  and Mary Agnes, who has spent the past two years planning her wedding. This novel follows all of them through promotions, setbacks, break-ups, and breakdowns.

51sb1fc4xl-_ac_us218_6. Extremely Loud and Terribly Close by Jonathan Safon Foer– Oskar Schell is a nine-year-old New Yorker on an urgent quest that takes him through the city. On 9/11, Oskar’s father died in the World Trade Center. Oskar finds a key that he believes was “sent” by his father, and ventures out into a city, still reeling with grief and shock, to find the lock that it fits, or the person who owns the key. His mission takes him all over the city, where he befriends a wide array of inhabitants. While the premise of the book is definitely sad, it’s not without humor. And like the city that he calls home, Oskar is a survivor.

61xeuwoxcl-_ac_us218_17. Night Film by Marisha Pessl–  Scott McGrath is a reporter who is interested in the reclusive film director Stanislas Cordova. Cordova is known for making horror/thriller/dark films. When Cordova’s daughter, Ashley commits suicide downtown, Scott is convinced that there’s more to the story than meets the eye. He begins to investigate. It’s hard for the reader to identify the point where Scott falls down the rabbit hole, but the NYC where he investigates is a sort of nightmare version of the real thing.  Things that should be familiar to him take on strange, threatening shades and Scott begins to doubt everything that he once believed.

31rsdvpxz0l-_ac_us218_8. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton– This novel is set in the 1870’s when the city was in a state of transition; farmland would be next to beautiful mansions. It involves an engaged, upper-class couple and the arrival of a woman with a scandalous past, who may threaten their plans. I chose this one over some other Wharton novels because it seems to ooze its setting (in a good way!)

 

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_9. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara– Four friends graduate college and move to the city to pursue their dreams.  For some of them, the city represents the opportunity to fulfill their ambitions. Willem is an aspiring actor, JB is an artist,  and Malcolm is an architect. But for Jude, it’s a place where he might finally be able to escape his past. While it’s easy to be anonymous in such a big and busy city, this book celebrates friendship and devotion. In this book, NYC seems to be an almost friendly place, because its where these characters find that kind of friendship (and because most of the other places in the book are decidedly unfriendly).

51znbwc8r-l-_ac_us218_10. The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati– Anna Savard and her cousin, Sophie, are both graduates of Women’s Medical School. They live in NYC in 1883, and treat some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. When they cross paths with Anthony Comstock, an anti-vice crusader who considers himself the enemy of anything indecent (like birth control), everything that they’ve worked for is put at risk. At the same time, they must reunite a family, catch a killer, and find the courage to break out of the places they feel safest.

 

 

 

Top 10 Tuesday: Books That Surprised Me

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 13: Books That Surprised Me (in a good or bad way)

For this one, I initially interpreted it as being for books that I liked but didn’t think I would, or books that I thought I would love and didn’t. But then I thought it might be fun to look at books whose plots surprised me in some way.

61g8cli07xl-_ac_us218_1. The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone– I remember being terrified of this book as a kid. Grover tells the reader that there’s a monster at the end of the book, and to stop reading before you get there. So I would always slam the book shut before the end (hey, if Grover’s giving advice, I’m going to listen!). One day my mom sort of insisted that we keep reading. I was absolutely petrified, wondering why she refused to listen to Grover’s warnings. I still remember the utter surprise when the monster was revealed.

41swp08eytl-_ac_us218_2. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters– This actually has several twists and turns that I wasn’t anticipating. But the one I’m thinking of here comes about midway through the book. It made me rethink pretty much everything that I’d read until that point.  I mean, I was reading it on a train and I literally shouted “Holy Crap!” when this happened. But even if you somehow manage to see that one coming, the plot twists yet again…

51c-asvgcil-_ac_us218_3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield- This twist was a triumph of misdirection. I was focused on the happenings in the English country house and the crazy antics of the family. But all the time there was something else happening in the background, that I didn’t notice until it was pointed out. It gave me that feeling like the hairs in on the back of my neck were standing up. I think it’s sort of what Freud called “uncanny.” He used the term to refer to the sense of something familiar and intimate that has been distorted or changed somehow to become threatening, or tempting, or unknown.

51hytcoi7l-_ac_us218_4. Atonement by Ian McEwan– I’m really glad that I read this book before I saw the movie. While the twist in the movie is an additional scene added on, in the book, it’s revealed through the narration at the closing. It seemed more surprising that way, but less like a “trick.” One thing I liked about this ending was that the story can stand on its own, without it. It’s not one of those things where the entire narrative hinges on a twist. But it does add an additional layer to things.

51s4merpcjl-_ac_us218_5. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie– I’m a big fan of this title actually because there’s a clue in it, regarding the whodunnit. It’s about people who come to an island party and are murdered one by one. It’s only when there are none left that the twist is revealed and we learn who the killer is. We get to know each of the characters before they’re murdered. We learn that they all have secrets and that there might be someone out there who wants any one of them dead. Learning that backstory is entertaining in itself. But once the bodies start piling up, we see these characters in a stressful situation, and that reveals even more about them.

41ufepph-wl-_ac_us218_6. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier– This twist was one I sort of saw coming because I knew that there was something off with the Max/Rebecca marriage. But I liked the ambiguity regarding the execution. It complicates things for the reader because we’re not 100% sure what we want to see happen next. The Hitchcock film (which I’m a big fan of) left fewer moral gray areas for the protagonists. That was most likely intended to make audiences sympathize with them, but I like being a little unsure of what I wanted to see happen, and what would feel like justice.

61ugxeeqibl-_ac_us218_7. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro– This is another one that I’m very glad that I read before seeing the film. On film, the important information is revealed in the title cards at the very beginning, and a character explains it explicitly in the first 10-15 minutes. But in the book, it’s a slow, gradual realization. There’s no big “reveal.” Rather it starts off as a suspicion that leaves the reader hoping that s/he is wrong about what’s going on. There’s a sense of dread that builds as s/he realizes that s/he’s not.

41tynpkim4l-_ac_us218_8. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton– The action of this book takes place as a sort of extended flashback. The unnamed narrator is spending the winter in Starkfield where he sees a figure limping around town, and inquires about this “ruin of a man.” We learn that the man is the title character, that he had a bitter, suspicious, hypochondriac of a wife and that he fell in love with her cousin, Mattie. This dilemma is eventually resolved in a way that gives all three characters what they wanted but in such a way that they no longer want it.

51nzvigpebl-_ac_us218_9. The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve- This book ties into Shreve’s other novel The Weight of Water in an interesting way, that the casual reader of either book may not guess. But it’s easy to read one and fully appreciate it without reading the other. This book is about two lovers who meet at a literary festival. Then the novel moves backward in time, showing us a time that they met previously, and then it moves backward again, showing us their initial meeting. From there we see how they became sort of cursed to meet at different points in life (rather than spend it together) and to primarily discuss the last time they met each time they see one another.

518ktztx7ol-_ac_us218_10. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty– This book is about a woman who finds a letter for her husband, that instructs her to open it only upon his death. It reveals something that has the potential to destroy their family and their lives. Except she finds it and opens it while her husband is very much alive. The first surprise is the nature of her husband’s revelation. I think that I was expecting him to tell her about an affair or something. But what he confesses in the letter doesn’t just affect their lives, but the lives of several other people too. It left me asking myself what I would do in that situation and unsure of the answer. Then, once everything is resolved at the end, the author gives some information that reframes everything that’s happened.

On Being a Spinster

Websters dictionary defines “spinster” as an unmarried woman of gentle family, especially one past the common age for marrying. I suppose that by that definition, I’m heading into spinster territory.

Well, sort of: I’m not sure if I’m “of gentle family”. Nothing against my family, they’re wonderful and I love them. But I’m not sure that “gentle” is the first word I’d use for them. I’m also not all that far “past the common age for marrying”. After all, people get married at all ages. People get marries in their 80’s! I am past my late 20’s though and that seems to be the age when a lot of people get married. That was the age when I started getting asked “when’s your turn?” at weddings. Now it seems like when I meet people my age there’s roughly a 50/50 chance that they’re married. I’m sure those odds will change over the next few years though.

Am I a spinster by choice? Sort of. I haven’t met anyone that I particularly want to be married to, and I don’t see any reason to get married until I do. Would I like to fall in love and get married? Sure. But if I’m not marrying the right person, I’d rather be single. I’m not actively looking for love right now, because I’ve got a lot of other things on my plate. Maybe that’ll change at some point, maybe not.

But is “spinster” an “archaic” word as the dictionary claims? I don’t know. I do know that in the past couple of years I’ve found myself explaining why I’m still single more than I used to. For most guys in their early 30’s it’s not really much of a question. It becomes more of one later on, but less so than with women.

51rewp1rail-_ac_us218_I recently finished reading Spinster: Making a Life On One’s Own by Kate Bolick. It’s sort of a memoir/exploration of the idea of “Spinsterhood”. In her book, Bolick looks at how our society and past societies have viewed unmarried women. She also looks at the subject through the lens of her “awakeners”;  women of the past century who have inspired Bolick. These include essayist Maeve Brennan, writer/artist/social reformer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, columnist Neith Boyce, and novelist Edith Wharton. Were all of these women incredibly accomplished? Absolutely. Were they all spinsters? Surprisingly not.

Actually they all had different experiences of marriage. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was married at the age of 24, separated at 28 and divorced at 34. Edna St. Vincent Millay was married for 26 years but she and her husband both had other lovers throughout. Edith Wharton married at the age of 23 but her husband was mentally ill and Wharton traveled extensively without him.  Maeve Brennan was married at the age of 37 and divorced five years later. Neith Boyce married at 27 and had an open marriage. So were these women “spinsters” or simply women who had unusual/nontraditional experiences of marriage? And to what extent did this impact other areas of their lives?

Bolick could have found role models in women who never married. Just sticking to writers, there’s Jane Austen, Emily Dickenson, Harper Lee,  and Louisa May Alcott. And that’s just off the top of my head! So why does she pick women whose romantic lives and married lives varied so widely? I think because in spite of what the title of the book says, it’s because Spinster-dom has never meant living life alone. Bolick’s “awakeners” illustrate that for women with fewer options career wise, marriage didn’t necessarily mean babies, suburbs, and domesticity. Nor did it mean love. But most of the “awakeners” had rich, fulfilling lives full of friendship and love, regardless of what kind of love that was and whether or not it took place in the context of marriage.

For contemporary women it’s the same, despite the fact that we have more choices. People today get married for many reasons. Some of those reasons are great. Others are no so great. But  there’s an assumption that if a woman is unmarried by a certain point she’s doomed to a life of loneliness. That’s absolutely untrue. Bolick’s “awakeners” prove that there are all kinds of marriages out there. Happiness and love may be found in the institution in different ways. Or it may be found outside of the institution of marriage altogether.

So let’s stop asking women why they’re single once they hit thirty. And let’s adopt the same policy for men, while we’re at it. Being single doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them. It doesn’t mean they’re doomed to a life of loneliness and misery. There are many reasons for someone not to get married. And there are many ways to live a happy and successful life.