Top Ten Tuesday: Last Ten Books I Read With Nature on the Cover

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 11: Books with Nature on the Cover (flowers, trees, landscapes, animals, etc.)

I decided to just go with the last 10 I read:

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl– I really liked this one. It’s sort of a YA fantasy meets Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery. I initially sought this out because I liked Night Film, one of Pessl’s previous books, but this was totally different. But I liked this too.

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link– Liked this one a lot too. I’ve never read anything by Link before, but I definitely want to check out more of her work. Most of these stories are set in places we recognize enough so that they seem familiar, but Link introduces elements that set it askew, and eventually turn it upside down. The stories dip into and out of different genres with ease. The only thing that all these tales have in common is that feeling of ordinary strangeness (or strange ordinaryness, depending how you look at it!)

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens– I was actually really a bit disappointed in this one. I think because it had been hyped so much. I didn’t think it was bad by any means! I just didn’t think it was as great as I’d heard. I do think that people who really like nature infused writing will enjoy this one though.

The Duchess by Jude Deveraux– This was another book that I’d heard was great, but I found just OK. I’ve been trying to be more open to/aware of the romance genre recently. I’d read other books by the author that I’d enjoyed, so I thought I’d give this one a try, since as I said, I’d heard really good things about it. Maybe my expectations were a bit too high, because it didn’t live up.

Blackthorn by Judy Nedry– This one was a disappointment. It’s subtitled “A Gothic Thriller.” Since I really like gothic thrillers, I was looking forward to it. I ended up with a very unlikeable heroine (which is fine with me, if it works for the book, here I didn’t feel like it did) and a fairly predictable set up.

It Started With A Secret by Jill Mansell- I read this early in the year during a somewhat stressful period for me, and it was just what I needed. It was silly, fun, and it didn’t try to be anything more.

Christmas at the Heartbreak Cafe by Melissa Hill– I suppose that I could say the same for this one that I said for the book above this one.  It was sort of the literary equivalent of a Hallmark/Lifetime movie: you know exactly where it’s going, but you still enjoy getting there, if you’re in the right mood for it.

The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin Kwaymullina – Another fantasy/mystery. This one is a short read (about 200 pages) but it packs a lot into that small space. We get two narratives told in poetry and prose. It also provides a look at some dark Australian history and a look at historical and modern Aboriginal culture.

The Deep by Alma Katsu – This is sort of a supernatural thriller set against the backdrop of the sinking of the Titanic and it’s sister ship the Brittanic. It was a fun combination of mystery, fantasy, ghost story and historical fiction.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – This is about two separate events and the connection between them that spans many years, many lives. Not perfect, but I enjoyed it.

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring-y Books

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 9: Spring Cleaning Freebie (for example, books you’re planning to get rid of for whatever reason, book’s you’d like to clean off your TBR by either reading them or deciding you’re not interested, books that feel fresh and clean to you after winter is over, etc.)

For this one I decided to stay simple and go with books that feel like/ remind me of springtime. Themes of nature, rebirth, renewal, hope, and second chances abound!

  1. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim– It’s a miserable February when two English ladies see an advertisement “To Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine.” They end up spending their April with two other ladies. The only thing these four have in common really is dissatisfaction with their everyday lives. The month they spend in a medieval castle in Portafino, Italy, is transformative for all.

2. The Lake House by Kate Morton– This is actually not my favorite Kate Morton book, but it does strike me as the most spring-y. Alice lives on her family’s estate in Cornwall. Her baby brother, Theo vanishes without a trace one night after a party, and the family, torn apart, abandons the lake house. Decades later, the house is discovered by Sadie, a young detective with the London police force, who is staying in Cornwall with her grandfather. Her investigation into what happened long ago connects her with Alice, and some shocking revelations. I think the themes of healing and second chances make this one feel like springtime.

3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- This childhood favorite is all about rebirth, renewal, second chances, and of course, gardens! Mary is raised in India and sent to her uncle’s gloomy English manor after she’s orphaned by a cholera outbreak. As she tries to crave a new life for herself on the moors, she discovers and abandoned garden. In making the garden grow, she helps herself and others grow as well. She brings healing, and new life, to a grieving household.

4. Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth by Phillipa Gregory- Technically these two books make up the Tradescant duology, but they’re both pretty stand alone, so they can be read in either order. The first book is about John Tradescant, royal gardener in 17th century England. The second book follows his son, who immigrates to America (which was then colonies). The only thing that the father and son, and the two books, have in common is their name, and their strong connection to nature.

5. Arcadia by Lauren Groff- In upstate New York, in the 1970s, a few idealists found a commune on the grounds of a decaying mansion (Arcadia House). They vow to work together and live off the land. The books follows the utopian dream through it’s demise. This may seem almost: anti-spring! After all the living off nature idea falls apart. But the people change. They grow. They realize they have to face the wider world outside, and they emerge when they’re ready to take it on. To me that seems like a springtime theme.

6. Persuasion by Jane Austen- This is actually one of my least favorite Austen books (which still makes it better that about 90% of other books!), but it’s themes of first loves and second chances make it great for spring. It’s about a couple that falls in love and is separated by fate. Years later, they meet again. Older, wiser, and still in love. Is it too late for them? After all, they’ve both grown and changed… Of course not! Spring is the season of second chances.

7. Spring by Ali Smith-Spring is the third novel in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet. All of the novels have connections but they’re all stand alone and can be read in any order. All are about contemporary Britain, but also in a larger sense about the attitudes of the western world. This book has a focus on immigration and refugee crises. While the depiction of detention centers is sometimes hard to take, there is also a sense of optimism and hope that we can learn and change, that feels spring-y.


8. Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf– This imagined biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s loyal canine friend is a story of love, companionship and renewal. It’s also a story of transformation, change and growth. We see Flush go from stifled lap dog to cosmopolitan dog about town.

9. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter- This book opens on the Italian coast in 1962. A chance at romance between an innkeeper and an aspiring actress is cut off. But 50 years later it might get a second chance thanks to some Hollywood hustlers. This could have been a cynical Hollywood satire, but Walter gives the story a sweetness that is accompanied by wit.

10. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed- Cheryl Strayed is in sort of a personal, metaphorical winter at the beginning of this memoir. And much of the content takes her though actual snowpack! But she emerged from the winter, stronger, wiser, and most of all, hopeful: a metaphorical spring ends the winter.

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: Book Titles That Would Make Great Song Titles

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

November 10: Book Titles that Would Make Great Song Titles (submitted by Deanna @ A Novel Glimpse)

For this one I just went through the titles of books I’ve read over the past few years.

1, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

2. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

3. Hearts and Bones by Margaret Lawrence

4. The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine

5. Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

6. Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald (this might be cheating, because I think there are several songs with this title!)

7. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

8. One Day in December by Josie Silver (I could see this as a good title for a Christmas carol)

9. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

10. Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart