Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Memories

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

November 30: Bookish Memories (Share stories of your reading life as a child, events you’ve gone to, books that made an impression on you, noteworthy experiences with books, authors you’ve met, etc. Reminisce with me!)

Here are a bunch. Some are good, some are bad, some are ugly!

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown– One of my earliest bookish memories is reading this with my parents and then saying “goodnight” to the things in my room.

The Baby Sitters Club series by Anne M Martin– When I was about 9, Anne Martin did a book signing in a store near my house. I made plans with my friend to get our books signed. The morning of the event I woke up with little itchy red patches on my skin. I kept quiet about having the chicken pox until after the event, because I knew my mom would make me stay home if I said anything. (I have since become more cognizant of public health concerns.)

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit– When I was a kid, my family took a trip to Disneyworld. My little brother was really into trains at the time and my parents thought he might like taking one. We had this tiny sleeper car that was more like a small closet than anything else. In Georgia, a freight train in front of us derailed and we were stuck on the tracks for most of the day while they cleared everything away. It made a long, cramped trip even longer and more cramped. I read this book while we waited. Even though I liked the book a lot, I’ll probably always associate it with bored and uncomfortable, which are unfortunate associations to have with a book I like!

The Kids of the Polk Street School series by Patricia Reilly Giff- These were some of the first books I remember reading independently. I remember my dad would occasionally pick up a copy of one for me on a trip to the bookstore. Since I had trouble finishing books before starting new ones, he wouldn’t give me the book until I finished what I was reading first. But I knew where he hid them, so I snuck peaks!

Stand Before Your God: An American Schoolboy in England by Paul Watkins– Every year my high school had an “enthusiastic reader” breakfast where an author attended to talk about their books. Each English teacher selected a student from each class to attend. For obvious reasons, I was usually one of them. My freshman year, Paul Watkins came to talk about his novels, and his recent memoir. All the enthusiastic readers got a signed copy of the memoir. I wasn’t super excited by the title, but when he read a portion of it aloud at the breakfast, I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. The book itself was humorous, but his delivery really made it. The whole book wasn’t as funny as the part he read, but it was still a good read.

Do You Want to Know A Secret? by Mary Jane Clark– This was another author who came to an enthusiastic reader breakfast when I was in high school. We all got copies of this book and then she raffled off a hardcover copy of her second book, Do You Promise Not To Tell, and I won. Other than that, the thing I remember most is that she showed us a page of her notes for this book, and they were a mess! Her point was that you don’t need to be organized to write a book, which was encouraging news for me!

The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon– When I was about thirteen my cousins and I went to Florida to spend some time with our grandmother one summer. I forget why I picked this up. It may have belonged to my grandmother. Regardless for the next 24-48 hours I couldn’t put it down. My grandmother took us places, and I read. My cousins played in the pool, and I read. I don’t think that it’s the kind of book that holds up as an adult, so I don’t really want to reread it. I watched the film version a few years ago, and it was trashy fun, but it definitely suggests that the book was pretty silly too.

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates– My sophomore year of college, Oates came to my school’s campus to give a talk and see a performance of a one act play that she’d written. Another girl and I had the opportunity to interview her for the school paper. I had a number of questions planned, but I pretty much forgot how to talk when I met her! The other girl definitely did the bulk of the interviewing. But she signed my copy of this book.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson – Shortly after I read this book, I saw that my library was having a discussion group about it, so I decided to go. I was the only one there under 80. I may be exaggerating slightly, but only slightly! Whenever I shared a thought, idea, or perspective, they dismissed it as “a Young Person’s opinion.” I don’t think they intended to be condescending, but it definitely came off that way.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth– Several years ago, I saw on social media that Aussie author Kate Forsyth had some events scheduled in the US. I’d read this book not long before, and loved it, so I messaged her asking if she had anything in my area. She said that she’d had an event scheduled but it was canceled. She said she’d still be in the area if I wanted her to do something. I invited her to come to my writing group. She was so kind about sharing her experiences and advice with writing and publishing, and answering questions.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read Based on Their Covers

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

September 15: Cover Freebie (choose your own topic, centered on book covers or cover art)

We all know we’re not supposed to judge them that way, but every once in a while you see a book cover that’s so pretty that it’s just love at first sight. Sometimes it’s not pretty but something about it grabs your attention and you need to know more. You know you need to read this book. So here are some book covers that put their books straight on my TBR. Some of the books lived up to the cover hype, some didn’t. But something about these covers drew me in.

  1. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss – This one has the advantage of looking like a wild celebration of nature, while at the same time looking like a skull. It’s beautiful and sinister at the same time. As it turns out, that serves the content of the book well.

2. Educated by Tara Westover– This is another book cover that’s sort of two things at once. First I saw a pencil, and I just thought it was a book about education, with a pencil on the cover. Kind of boring. But when I looked closer, I saw it was also a silhouette of a person against the backdrop of a mountain, and I became more intrigued. Is it a pencil or a mountain? And which is more of an important instrument in the author’s education? It’s up to the reader to decide. The fact that the ground (or paint on the pencil, depending how you see it) is also red. I think that you can read into that too. Red of course suggests blood. Which could mean family, or spilled blood. Again both might be appropriate.

3. Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour- The current cover of this book looks a bit different, but I love the colors of this one. The green and black evoke the natural world at night and the gold lettering and edges suggest something artificial as well. The nettles look like they’re warning you off and yet the leaves feel like it’s drawing you in. And what about the girl? Is she sleeping? dead? comatose? I also like that the shape of this book is different from most (it’s a perfect square) which makes it stand out a bit.

4. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs– When I first saw this cover I couldn’t figure out why the little girl was so eerie. Was it because she was brighter than the black and white background? Then I realized that she was floating! But even that doesn’t really explain why I find this cover unsettling. But it did intrigue me!

5. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray– I could see how someone might look at this book cover and think they were getting a bodice ripper. But for some reason that wasn’t what I thought of when I saw it. Instead I thought “that girl looks like she’s realizing her corset is too tight” which as it turns out, is a metaphor for a theme in the book. I wasn’t into reading fantasy when I read this book, so I’m glad they didn’t go that direction with the cover. It might have put me off, but this book pulled me back into the genre after some time away.

6. Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews– The audiobook edition is the only one I could find that still has this cover. The current cover is a bit different. I think I was about 11 or 12 when I saw this cover, and knew that I had to read the book to find out who the girl was and why she was trapped in what looked like a dollhouse. To make matters even more intriguing, it was a peephole cover. When you opened it, you saw this image. So I had to read the book to find out what that was about! It probably wasn’t a remotely appropriate book for a kid that age, but the cover sure made it look intriguing!

7. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer- Whatever your opinion of sparkly vampires, I think credit goes to the designer who created a really alluring cover. The pale hands against the black background make a great contrast. The apple offered has suggestions of forbidden fruit and loss of innocence. The red against the white and the black also draws you in suggesting blood. It’s natural to see it and think “I want to know what that’s about!”

8. The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen– Sometimes I’m just a sucker for a pretty dress. This quartet features some very pretty dresses on the covers. Check them out (is it cheating to include all 4 in one space on my list?) Actually they’ve changed the covers since these came out, which is kind of a shame IMO. These books were total guilty pleasures, and the dresses on the covers sort of played into that. I’d like to think I’m above such shallow lures, but really, I’m not.

9. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson– I love that this cover sort of fools you. You don’t quite trust your eyes. You think you’re seeing a man and a women locked in a passionate embrace. But then you realize that you’re seeing hats and coats on a coat rack! Oddly I didn’t find that disappointing though, I appreciated the trick. It showed a sort of humor on the designer’s part, and I wanted to see if that humor was continued through the book.

10. The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth– This may be a cheat because I may have read the book even if it had a different cover, because I like the author. But this cover also really drew me in. I think one reason is that blue is my favorite color, and the cover has a lot of it! But also because blue roses are something you don’t see every day. The title refers to a Chinese fairy tale about a man searching for a blue rose for his beloved.

Honorable mention- Persephone ClassicsPersephone Books is a London based bookshop and publisher that reprints neglected works by mid twentieth century writers (mostly female). Most of their books have a plain grey cover. However, they have reissued twelve best sellers with colorful art. The drawback to these is that they don’t have the full color end papers that other Persephone titles have, but the cover art is pretty enough to draw my in on it’s own!

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Tropes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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August 20: Favorite Tropes (a trope is a commonly used theme or plot device) (submitted by Andrea @ Books for Muse)

1. Mysterious school

2. Slow burn romance

3. Small towns

4. Missing/Absent parents

5. Family secrets

6. Gothic

7. Neo-Victorian

8. Time Travel / Time Slips

9. Dual Timelines

10. Fairy Tale retellings

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorites of the Last Ten Years

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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May 28: Favorite Books Released In the Last Ten Years (one book for each year) (submitted by Anne @ Head Full of Books)

513xypka1bl-_ac_us218_2019 (so far…) Once Upon A River By Diane Setterfield– Set in a pub in a village along the Thames in the late 19th century, this novel opens on a winter’s night. A man, badly hurt and soaking wet, staggers in holding a little girl who appears dead. A local nurse saves the man and realizes that the girl isn’t dead (anymore?), but the man has no memory of how he came across the girl or who she is. When she regains consciousness the child is unable to talk. A local family believe that she’s the baby that was kidnapped from them two years ago. Another family thinks that she’s the lost daughter of their prodigal son. A woman well into middle age believes that the 4 year old child is her sister. The story winds its way from one character to the next, and each character’s back story becomes like a tributary.

617j4awgzul-_ac_us218_2018 Idaho by Emily Ruskovich- Ann and Wade are a married couple living in Idaho. As Wade’s memory fades with early onset dementia, Ann begins to piece together the fate of Wade’s first wife, Jenny (now in prison) and their two daughters  (one dead and one missing). The novel moves from one characters point of view to another in a nonlinear fashion. There’s a sense of strangeness to the events and characters of this novel, but there’s a familiarity as well. We’re never actually told what happened to Wade’s family, but we’re given enough pieces to put it together. If you like things laid out clearly, you probably won’t like this. But if you like a bit of ambiguity and gorgeous prose, you might like this.

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_2017 A Little Life by Hana Yanagihara- Four young men meet in college and become friends. When they graduate, they move to NYC and begin their lives. Willem, an aspiring actor, is kind to his core. JB is a bright, witty, and occasionally cruel painter, Malcolm becomes an architect at a prominent firm. But the nexus of the group is Jude, withdrawn, intelligent, with a dark, unspeakable childhood of trauma behind him. Over the years, their friendships deepen and change as they face different challenges. But Jude himself is their greatest challenge. We do eventually learn what happened to Jude, and it’s ugly. Very ugly. Like hard to read about. But there’s something beautiful about Jude’s struggle to overcome it, and his friend’s struggle to help him.  Much like Jude’s like the experience of reading this is tragic, traumatic, and sometimes brutal. But it’s also beautiful.

51muf7bj-ll-_ac_us218_2016 The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss– When some unexpected excitement comes to an inn one evening, the innkeeper faces it like a veteran. But then he goes back to his regular life, and tells his story. Kvothe’s childhood was spent in a troupe of travelling players. When he encounters an Arcanist (sort of a scientist/wizard) he’s tutored and develops into a powerful Arcanist in his own right. When the world of his childhood is overturned, Kvothe just barely escapes and becomes a beggar before fate brings him to University. He makes several friends and several enemies before discovering the reason that his was killed. This is a pretty epic novel that covers the first 1/3 of Kvothe’s life and is the first in a planned trilogy.  I haven’t read the second book yet, because I’m waiting for a release date for the third book before I invest more time in the series.

41oplfqimil-_ac_us218_2015 The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters– Dr. Faraday is called to Hundred’s Hall, the home of the Ayers family. As a child his mother worked there as a maid. But now, its owners (a mother and her two adult children) are struggling to keep up with modern society. He treats the young maid, but he strikes up a friendship with Caroline Ayers, the daughter of the house. He also begins to treat her brother, Roderick, who is still recovering from wounds he sustained during WWII. He comes to understand the family’s dire financial straits. The stress of the attempts to reconcile these straits coincide with some disastrous events that may or may not be supernatural in origin and lead to tragedy. But  what’s great about this novel is that it remains ambiguous, hovering on the edges psychological and supernatural without fulling diving into either category.

51jx4jtbmpl2014 Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth– Forsyth’s Rapunzel retelling is a wonderful braid of narratives that overlap. Charlotte Rose de la Force is banished from Versailles after a number of scandalous love affairs. She goes to a convent where a nun tells her a story of a young girl who was  sold by her parents for a handful of lettuce after her father is caught stealing from the courtesan Selena Leonelli. Margherita is the price he pays for his crimes. She grows up locked away in a tower. The combined stories of these three women tell the traditional Rapunzel story as well as the story of the women who wrote it. The novel is both a historical fiction account of real women and a fairy tale retelling.

41-kxlbhnl-_ac_us218_2013 The Other by Thomas Tryon– Holland and Niles Perry are thirteen year old identical twins. They live in a small New England town with their parents, and when their father dies in a tragic accident, the extended family gather, while their mother stays in her bedroom, heartbroken. This allows the boys to roam free. Holland, always a bit of a prankster, grows more sinister with his games. This book offers several twists on the ghost story genre as well as the evil twin/doppelganger trope. One seems fairly obvious from the beginning but that twist plays out early on, and there several other surprises in store.

51eksizfwl-_ac_us218_2012 Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson– Major Pettigrew is a rather cranky widower living in Edgecombe St. Mary, an English country village where nothing much changes (which is how he likes it!). When he strikes up a friendship with Jasmine Ali, a widowed Pakistani shopkeeper, they bond unexpectedly over their love of books and the loss of their respective spouses. As their friendship develops into something more, they and the village must decide what elements of culture and tradition are worth preserving and what should change with the times. It’s a gentle story about the ways people are different and the things that they have in common.

41oyve54sgl-_ac_us218_2011 Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier– Catrin, a young scribe, takes refuge from a mysterious danger in Whistling Tor, a crumbling fortress that belongs to Anluan, chieftain living under a curse. Retained to sort through some family documents, Catrin and Anluan form a surprising connection. But if they are to have a future together, Catrin must unravel the mysteries of Anluan’s family curse. This Beauty and the Beast variation incorporates elements of mystery, fantasy and romance.

81l67wbztml._ac_ul436_2010 The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton– In 1913, a little girl is discovered alone on a ship headed to Australia. She has nothing but a small suitcase with a book: a single volume of fairy tales. She is taken in and raised by a couple, but when they tell her the truth on her twenty first birthday, Nell goes to England to try to trace her real identity. The quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor, a Cornwall mansion that is home to the doomed Mountrachet family. But it’s not until many years later when Nell’s granddaughter Cassandra discovers the garden of the book’s title that the mystery can finally be solved. This book combines several elements I love: dual timelines, Gothic drama, and fairy tales.

 

 

 

#WhatToReadWed

On instagram, I’ve created a book recommendation tag. Each Wednesday, I’m recommending a book.  I’m trying to suggest books that aren’t everywhere so that hopefully people will seek out some hidden gems. But I’m also not averse to raving about the latest bestseller if I think people should read it. You can check out my Instagram here. Here are the books I’ve featured so far. Please join in and tag your posts #WhatToReadWed!

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

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It’s #WhatToReadWed again. My recommendation this week is a book I’m #currentlyreading. Charlotte Gordon’s Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Woolstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley reads like a novel. Both Marys were tough, smart, shocking and light years ahead of their time.

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Once again it’s #WhatToReadWed. This week I’m featuring Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. The title character is a retired widower who lives in a small village in the countryside. He’s conservative, opinionated and well… cranky. When he falls in love with Jasmine, a widowed Pakistani shopkeeper, these very different people will have to find a way to make it work. This book is about the value of culture and tradition. What is worth preserving and what should change with the times? Ultimately it’s about the ways people are different and the things that we have in common. And most importantly it proves that falling in love is just as sweet at the age of 70 as it is at 17.

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It’s #WhatToReadWed again. Today’s pick is Samantha Ellis’s memoir “How To Be A Heroine” which is one of my favorite books about books. Ellis revisits favorite books from different points in her life and evaluates them in the context of what she’s learned.

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It’s #WhatToReadWed again! My pick this week is “Idaho” by Emily Ruskovich.
If you are someone who wants everything laid out neatly, this isn’t the book for you. But if you appreciate ambiguity accompanied by gorgeous prose, give it a try. It explores an act of violence in the years before and after. We see the lead-up and the consequences from several perspectives. By the end, there are strong hints as to whodunit and why, but nothing is told to the reader outright.

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My first pick for #WhatToReadWed is “Tangerine” by Christine Mangan. This is perfect for fans of Hitchcock, film noir and whodunnits. Set in Tangier in the 1950s, it follows a British ex-pat who lives in Tangier with her husband. When her former college roommate shows up unexpectedly, memories of their past- involving a violent death- begin to surface. Through most of the book we’re not sure who we can trust, and the exotic atmosphere is palpable.