Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

January 26: New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020 (If you didn’t read 10 new authors, that’s fine! Just do what you can.)

For this one, I decided to do my favorite new-to-me authors of 2020: these are the ones I want to read more from.

  1. Hester Fox

What I read in 2020: The Widow of Pale Harbor

Why I want to read more: It was a flawed but fun historical murder mystery.

What I want to read next: The Witch of Willow Hall looks good

2. Kristin McGee

What I read in 2020: American Royals

Why I want to read more: I’m actually devouring the sequel to this one (Majesty) at the moment. Both are really good guilty pleasures, which is exactly what I need right now.

What I want to read next: The Thousandth Floor is the first in a trilogy, which looks a lot like the American Royals books (glamourous ensemble cast, soap opera drama) only set in futuristic Manhattan.

3. Nnedi Okrafor

What I read in 2020: Akata Witch and Akata Warrior

Why I want to read more: While the media seems to be dubbing this the “Nigerian Harry Potter” the only real similarity is that they’re both about a young person discovering a magical identity and receiving a magical education. The Akata novels really explore the Nigerian setting and get into a magic system that we don’t often see in mainstream books.

What I want to read next: Binti was highly recommended by someone in my book club. It’s the first in a trilogy.

4. Elizabeth Von Arnim

What I read in 2020: The Enchanted April

Why I want to read more: I read this in April of 2020 just as lockdown was starting, and it was the kind of sweet, gentle, literary escape that I needed.

What I want to read next: My friend recommended Father next

5. Monica Dickens

What I read in 2020: Mariana

Why I want to read more: It was a fun and humorous coming of age story

What I want to read next: There’s a lot to choose from, but I may go with The Messenger, which is a fantasy adventure, and sounds like a total 180 in terms of genre!

6. Erika Swyler

What I read in 2020: The Book of Speculation

Why I want to read more: It involved a lot of my favorite tropes, genres, and settings: dual timeline, carnival, hints of fantasy

What I want to read next: It looks like Light From Other Stars is my only option at the moment!

7. Seanan McGuire

What I read in 2020: Rosemary and Rue

Why I want to read more: I enjoyed it, and it’s the first in a series, so naturally I want to read the rest!

What I want to read next: A Local Habitation is #2 so that looks like my best bet!

8. Gerald Durrell

What I read in 2020: My Family and Other Animals

Why I want to read more: I read this because I like the TV series that was based on this trilogy, and the book features all of the humor and warmth that I enjoy in the series.

What I want to read next: Birds, Beasts and Relatives is next up

9. Jess Walter

What I Read in 2020: Beautiful Ruins

Why I want to read more: It’s a compelling tale of Hollywood, old and new and the connections that people make over time and distance.

What I want to read next: I may go with The Financial Lives of Poets, just because the title intrigues me

10. Mary Wesley

What I read in 2020: The Camomile Lawn

Why I want to read more: I’m not easily shocked, especially by coming of age historical fiction, which I tend to think of as a “comforting” genre, but this really surprised me at several points.

What I want to read next: I don’t know, it looks like there’s a lot to choose from!

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2020

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 29: Favorite Books of 2020

I know this was from last week, but I missed it then, so I’m doing it now. I also know that it’s not Tuesday anymore, but I’ve had an eventful few weeks, so this is when I’m getting to it!

I reread a few old favorites this year, so I set a rule that rereads aren’t allowed on my list. These are the top ten books I read for the first time in 2020.

1. Mariana by Monica Dickens- I read this as part of the Persephone readathon back in January. I think this was a case of the right book finding me at the right time. But it continues my literary love affair with Persephone.

2. Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty- This was a weird book. It’s about a woman, Abi, whose brother disappeared on her birthday 20 years earlier. That same year she started getting chapters from some sort of self help manual, The Guidebook, in the mail. So when Abi is invited to an all expense paid weekend retreat to learn “the truth” about the Guidebook, she links it with learning the truth about her brother’s disappearance. And all of this happens in roughly the first 50 pages of the book. I don’t want to give away too much, but this book goes in a direction I never expected- in a good way.

3. The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins- I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone looking for a fast read, but if you’re looking for a thriller that takes its time with the set up and execution, this is one. It’s about Olivia, a British historian with a high flying career and a beautiful family. She also has a research assistant, Vivian. But we quickly come to realize that Vivian has ulterior motives for helping Olivia; motives that reach back into the women’s’ past, and may lead one of them to murder.

4. The Book of Speculation by Erica Swyler– This was a dual timeline story, where one of the tales bordered on fantasy, without ever fully taking the jump into it. It’s about Simon, a librarian, who lives alone in his family house on Long Island. When a rare book dealer sends him a volume that may have some connection to his family, Simon gets caught up in the tale of a misfit, living and working with the circus. But it may also reveal a curse on Simon’s family. If that’s true, only the book can save them. This book had sketches by the author alongside the text. I’m always amazed my people who can do two things (in this case writing and drawing) well.

5. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor- This book is nicknamed the Nigerian Harry Potter. It’s about a girl who was born in New York City but lives in Nigeria. Her features are west African but she’s albino. She doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. But when she discovers that she’s a “free agent” she realizes that she’s got latent magical power and a lot of catching up to do. As she’s learning her footing, she and her friends are asked to track down a career criminal who also knows magic. The Nigerian setting and folklore gives this book a unique flavor.

6. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware– Rowan is a nanny for a family living in the Scottish highlands. The house has an advanced communication system built into it. “Happy” is an app that controls everything from ordering food when the fridge runs low, to turning on the lights and drawing the curtains. She’s not put off by the fact that four previous nannies left the job in the past year. But soon Rowan comes to wonder if the ghostly tales that were told about the house are true.

7. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell- When the Durrell family could no longer endure rain soaked England, they fled to the sun soaked Greek island of Corfu. I read this because I love the tv series The Durrells in Corfu, and this was the basis for the series. The animals of Corfu soon became a common sight in the Durrell home.

8. Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner– Hotel Du Lac isn’t a big adventure with a complicated plot. I’d call it “quiet” book. It seems to be moving along at a slow pace, but then it sneaks up at you with it’s wit. It’s about Edith Hope, an author of romance novels which she writes under a different name. But when she realizes that her life is resembling one of her novels (and not in a good way!) she escapes to the quiet luxury of the titular Swiss hotel. But when she gets to know the other guests, she realizes that they all have their own drama. I loved the characters in this book. They started to feel like old friends after a while. Apparently it was adapted for TV in 1986, as a joint production between the BBC and A&E Television Networks. I’ll have to give that miniseries a look to see how it translated to TV. If done properly, I can see it working well.

9. The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates. When I was in college I interviewed Joyce Carol Oates for our campus newspaper The Bard Free Press. Well, “interviewed” might be overstating my role in the process. A fellow reporter asked her legit questions, and I nodded emphatically while slightly starstruck. But in the process of becoming totally dumbstruck by awe of Oates, I gained an appreciation for this author who doesn’t subscribe to genre pigeonholing at all, who moves from novel to short fiction to drama and back again. Who is incredibly prolific. When I saw this book consisting of a novella, and six short stories, I was intrigued. Oates often shines when she tackles the dark complexities of the human psyche, and that’s certainly the case of these seven intense tales.

10. The Witches of Crannock Dale by Thomas M. Kane– Full disclosure requires me to reveal that the author of this book is a friend of mine, so I may not be an unbiased judge. But it carves a unique place for itself in the fantasy fiction landscape. Set in a fictional place at an indeterminate time, the book follows the coming of age of 11 year old Mara Bennett. When her aunt is arrested for witchcraft, Mara vows to do what she can to help. But her efforts to learn more lead her deep into local politics, power struggles and threats of war. Mara makes a likable young protagonist, in a complicated world, trying to keep her family safe and close amidst a dangerous situation. I look forward to following her through the series.

Anyone have any must reads this year?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Book Lovers

For That Artsy Reader Girls’ Top Ten Tuesday:

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August 25: Questions I Would Ask My Favorite Authors (Living or dead. You can post 10 questions for one author, one question each for 10 different authors, or anything else!)

I honestly had trouble thinking of ten (interesting/intelligent) questions that I would ask out authors, so I decided to make up my own topic this week.

81hqtvxwu-l._ac_uy218_1. Matilda by Roald Dahl– For me, Matilda is sort of the OG fictional bookworm. I loved her as a child and I love her now.

81gw6tyoeul._ac_uy218_ml3_2. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman- In a lot of ways I’m very different from Nina, but we have one thing in common: we love reading so much that it threatens to eclipse reality at times. We have to be careful to remember that there are other things worth doing too!

81hkqvsgyl._ac_uy218_3. The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern- I feel like this book is a love letter to bookworms everywhere.  We meet many bookworms in this book; bookworms that burrow into a world far below the surface of their earth, filled with books.  But perhaps we identify the most with Zachary, a grad student who comes across a book in the university library and finds a series of clues that leave him to a secret, ancient library.

911-t2bi6l._ac_uy218_4. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon– Set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Daniel finds a book in the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” (I love the idea!) but when he tried to find other works by the author, he discovers that they’re being destroyed for reasons he can’t understand. He begins a race against time to rescue them.

9123eop9gil._ac_uy218_5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak– Nazi Germany is a bad place to be for a book lover like Liesel, who has to steal her beloved books to save them from being burned.

914bm5qdaul._ac_uy218_6. The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler– This book is about a librarian in Long Island who is sent an antique volume, that may have some connection to his family. As he reads the tale of circus and carnival performers, he comes to believe that the book might be the key to saving his sister’s life.

71hpnqntwul._ac_uy218_ml3_7. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell– This is a book about a girl who loves books so much that they inspire her own creativity. Cathy is a fan fiction writer who loves life on the page, whether it’s one she wrote or someone else did. But she has some difficulty figuring out life in the real world.

51gxczk1wal._ac_uy218_8. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett– In this novella, Bennett imagines what might happen if the Queen of England discovered a love of literature late in life. Would she neglect her royal duties in order to pursue her new passion? And how might the people in her life react?

812qcy9xysl._ac_uy218_9. 84 Charring Cross Road by Helen Hanff- This book is a collection of letters between Helen Hanff, a New York writer, and a Frank Doel, an London bookseller. Over the course of 20 years they carry on a correspondence, and a friendship, centered on their shared love of books. It’s a beautiful example of how literature can unite different people across oceans and cultural divides.

8142jxm8m6l._ac_uy218_10. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi– This memoir in books is about how the author, once a professor, gathered seven of her most committed female students in her Tehran apartment to read and discuss forbidden Western literature. As forces in the outside world seized hold of universities and censored artistic expression, these women read and discussed freely. Reading this book about book lovers committed to reading and discussing novels, made me realize just how subversive the act of reading a novel can actually be.