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: Bookish Worlds Where You’d Like to Live (Or Visit)

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 29: Bookish Worlds I’d Want to/Never Want to Live In

I decided to go with worlds I’d actually want to live in, since places, where I wouldn’t want to live, seems a bit too easy. Pretty much any dystopia qualifies (and a few are uncomfortably similar to the world I actually live in…) These all have drawbacks of course, but I could be happy in most of these places. Granted, I’d rather visit most of them, than live there.

51-eyayn0ol-_ac_us218_1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern-

“They are enthusiasts, devotees. Addicts. Something about the circus stirs their souls, and they ache for it when it is absent. They seek each other out, these people of such specific like mind. They tell of how they found the circus, how those first few steps were like magic. Like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars… When they depart, they shake hands and embrace like old friends, even if they have only just met, and as they go their separate ways they feel less alone than they had before.”

51z5jz2frjl-_ac_us218_2. Peter Pan by JM Barrie

“I don’t know if you have ever seem a map of a person’s mind. Doctors sometimes draw maps of other parts of you, and your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of a child’s mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going round all the time. There are zigzag lines on it, just like your temperature on a card, and these are probably roads in the island; for the Neverland is always more or less and island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose.”

41fxwtlwool-_ac_us218_3. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum– Note that I said Baum’s Oz, not Gregory Maguire’s!

“The cyclone had set the house down gently, very gently – for a cyclone—in the midst of a country of marvelous beauty. There were lovely patches of green sward all about, with stately trees bearing rich and luscious fruits. Banks of gorgeous flowers were on every hand, and birds with rare and brilliant plumage sang and fluttered in the trees and bushes. A little way off was a small brook, rushing and sparkling along between green banks, and murmuring in a voice very grateful to a little girl who had lived so long on the dry, gray prairies.”

4. Prince Edward Island in most of LM Montgomery’s work.

“It was November–the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.”

Anne of Green Gables

“It was a lovely afternoon – such an afternoon as only September can produce when summer has stolen back for one more day of dream and glamour.”

-Emily Climbs

“But now she loved winter. Winter was beautiful “up back” – almost intolerably beautiful. Days of clear brilliance. Evenings that were like cups of glamour – the purest vintage of winter’s wine. Nights with their fire of stars. Cold, exquisite winter sunrises. Lovely ferns of ice all over the windows of the Blue Castle. Moonlight on birches in a silver thaw. Ragged shadows on windy evenings – torn, twisted, fantastic shadows. Great silences, austere and searching. Jewelled, barbaric hills. The sun suddenly breaking through grey clouds over long, white Mistawis. Ice-grey twilights, broken by snow-squalls, when their cosy living-room, with its goblins of firelight and inscrutable cats, seemed cosier than ever. Every hour brought a new revalation and wonder.”

The Blue Castle

51iswycraxl-_ac_us218_5. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

“She stood for a moment looking out at a slowly moving view of the hills, watching heather slide past underneath the door, feeling the wind blow her wispy hair, and listening to the rumble and grind of the big black stones as the castle moved.”

51iosghk0l-_ac_us218_6. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling -Note I’d want to visit her wizarding world minus the Death Eaters

She pulled the door wide. The Entrance Hall was so big you could have fitted the whole of the Dursleys’ house in it. The stone walls were lit with flaming torches like the ones at Gringotts, the ceiling was too high to make out, and a magnificent marble staircase facing them led to the upper floors.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

7. Garden Spells and First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen- Bascomb NC

“Business was doing well, because all the locals knew that dishes made from the flowers that grew around the apple tree in the Waverley garden could affect the eater in curious ways. The biscuits with lilac jelly, the lavender tea cookies, and the tea cakes made with nasturtium mayonnaise the Ladies Aid ordered for their meetings once a month gave them the ability to keep secrets. The fried dandelion buds over marigold-petal rice, stuffed pumpkin blossoms, and rose-hip soup ensured that your company would notice only the beauty of your home and never the flaws. Anise hyssop honey butter on toast, angelica candy, and cupcakes with crystallized pansies made children thoughtful. Honeysuckle wine served on the Fourth of July gave you the ability to see in the dark. The nutty flavor of the dip made from hyacinth bulbs made you feel moody and think of the past, and the salads made with chicory and mint had you believing that something good was about to happen, whether it was true or not.”

Garden Spells

“On the day the tree bloomed in the fall, when its white apple blossoms fell and covered the ground like snow, it was tradition for the Waverleys to gather in the garden like survivors of some great catastrophe, hugging one another, laughing as they touched faces and arms, making sure they were all okay, grateful to have gotten through it.”

First Frost

61kl8q74sml-_ac_us218_8. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff– Templeton NY

“Then, when we had done so, we put our hands upon the freezing cold monster, our monster. And this is what we felt: vertigo, an icicle through our strong hearts, our long-lost childhoods. Sunshine in a field and crickets and the sweet tealeaf stink of a new ball mitt and a rock glinting with mica and a chaw of bubblegum wrapping in sweet sweet tendrils down our throats and the warm breeze up our shorts and the low vibrato of lake loons and the sun and the sun and the warm sun and this is what we felt; the sun.”

41ay0z5uell-_ac_us218_9. There’s No Place Like Here by Cecilia Ahearn

“I should have been afraid, walking through a mountainside in the dark by myself. Instead, I felt safe, surrounded by the songs of birds, engulfed by the scents of sweet moss and pine, and cocooned in a mist that contained a little bit of magic.”

 

41mbxlnvcll-_ac_us218_10. Griffin and Sabine trilogy by Nick Bantcock

“I could see sunlight making exquisite patterns on the water’s surface above me. Everything seemed fascinating and very slow. All around me lionfish darted like golden suns and moons in an alchemists’s dream. I looked down to where a vast labyrinth of black seaweed awaited me.” – Sabine’s Notebook

The Book Courtship Tag

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I was tagged by the wonderful Jessie @ Dwell in Possibility to participate in The Book Courtship Challenge.

Phase 1: Initial Attraction (A book you bought because of the cover)

51jim7nty8l-_ac_us218_The  Children’s Book by AS Byatt– I love the contrast between the blue cover and the green jeweled dragonfly. Since I’ve read other books by AS Byatt and liked them, and since the synopsis (about a British family before and after WWI) interested me, I decided to buy it. But the cover definitely helped me make that decision. But apparently, I shouldn’t judge books by their covers (who knew?) because this was a bit of a disappointment.

 

Phase 2: First Impressions (A book you got because of the summary)

51cztvl1wgl-_ac_us218_The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase– This one was difficult because I usually pick books based on their summaries. So I just went with the most recent.

When fifteen-year-old Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote Manor in June 1959, they expect a quiet English country summer. Instead, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter, Audrey, five years before. As the sisters become divided by new tensions when two handsome neighbors drop by, Margot finds herself drawn into the life Audrey left behind. When the summer takes a deadly turn, the girls must unite behind an unthinkable choice or find themselves torn apart forever.

Fifty years later, Jesse is desperate to move her family out of their London home, where signs of her widower husband’s previous wife are around every corner. Gorgeous Applecote Manor, nestled in the English countryside, seems the perfect solution. But Jesse finds herself increasingly isolated in their new sprawling home, at odds with her fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, and haunted by the strange rumors that surround the manor.

Rich with the heat and angst of love both young and old, The Wildling Sisters is a gorgeous and breathtaking journey into the bonds that unite a family and the darkest secrets of the human heart.

It’s got a few elements I love: mysterious house in the English countryside, dual timeline, hints of murder… It wasn’t brilliant but it was an entertaining read.

Phase 3: Sweet Talk (A book with great writing)

61gfhxkbrll-_ac_us218_Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff–  I can see where someone might not like this novel; there aren’t really characters who the reader has sympathy for, and if you don’t like stories with multiple threads that don’t come together until later in the book, you won’t like this. But it’s hard to deny that Groff’s prose is an accomplishment. At times it’s weighty: when the focus is on a rather pretentious character it becomes so full of metaphors and literary references that it can be hard to “get”. But that’s intentional. When the perspective changes so does the writing.

 Phase 4: First Date (A first book of a series which made you want to pursue the rest of the series)

51znbwc8r-l-_ac_us218_The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati– I am impatiently waiting for the second book in this series to come out! It takes place in NYC in 1883 and follows two female doctors, Anna and Sophie. There’s romance, mystery, and some real historical figures like Anthony Comstock. Comstock saw himself as a protector of morality and in this novel, he serves as a kind of villain. But all together, it’s a lot of fun.

 

Phase 5: Late Night Phone Calls (A book that kept you up all night long)

41ieqbejzwl-_ac_us218_Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James– This is the most recent book to give me the “just one more chapter…” problem. It’s not great literature but it’s a fun read. In 1921 Jo works as a paid companion to Dottie, the aunt of her husband Alex, who died in WWI. When she goes to live with Dottie at Wych Elm House, she’s exposed to things that go bump in the night, family secrets, and the fact that her late husband might not have been entirely truthful with her. This book did a nice job with atmosphere and it kept the tension going with some plot twists and turns.

Phase 6: Always On My Mind (A book you couldn’t stop thinking about)

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara– This book is hard to describe because some elements are so beautiful and others are so ugly. The prose is lovely. Its one of the few books where I would read and savor certain parts again and again. Some of the content is beautiful too; dealing with family, friendship, and love of all kids. But some of what the main character endures is so ugly. The fact that Yanagihara’s writing can be beautiful even when she’s describing horrors is somewhat disturbing. I still think about the characters sometimes as if they’re real people.

 7: Getting Physical (A book you love the feel of)

51j0fpre5nl-_ac_us218_Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock- This book is a tactile experience. It’s a love story told through the letters of two artists. You take each letter from the envelope and read it. Often there’s a postcard in there, and some decorative stamps as well. The letters are on different stationary, sometimes handwritten, sometimes typed. The story itself is good too! One of these characters might be mentally ill and hallucinating the whole correspondence. Or Griffin and Sabine might actually have a psychic connection from different universes.

Phase 8: Meeting the Parents (A book you would recommend to your friends and family)

51vrv0hceml-_ac_us218_Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi- First of all, I’m cautious recommending books because one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. I need to know something about someone and their tastes before recommending. But this is one I’d recommend to most people. It’s a “memoir in books”. Nafisi had to leave her job as a professor at the University of Tehran due to repressive policies. But she invited seven of her best female students into her home each week to discuss classic Western literature. I think this book really explores how fiction can take people outside of themselves, how it can inspire people to create real-world change, and how it can help people survive in difficult times. I came away from this book feeling, perhaps for the first time, that reading a novel might be the most subversive thing a person can do.

Phase 9: Thinking About the Future (A book or series that you know you’ll re-read many times in the future)

61bwr8sfvhl-_ac_us218_Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards– This is a lovely, comforting book. I remember picking it up randomly as a kid and falling in love with the characters and the setting. And when I flipped to the “about the author” page and saw that Julie Edwards was actually the married name of the Julie Andrews (who I knew and worshipped thanks to Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music) I was wowed. I reread it a few years ago, and it still put a smile on my face. I think it might be one to revisit in the future when I need something comforting and cozy.

Phase 10: Share the Love (Here’s who I’m tagging)

(Sorry if you’ve already been tagged, and there’s no pressure to participate if you don’t feel like it)

If I didn’t tag you, don’t let that stop you, go for it!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2018

For the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 26: Top Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to In 2018 (These could be new releases, or books you resolve to read, ten debuts we are looking forward to, etc.)

51jc1v9sval-_ac_us218_1. Florida by Lauren Groff– I’ve been reading as much Groff as possible. Her writing is intelligent, poetic, and has flashes of humor or cruelty or love. I still haven’t read her other volume of short stories, but this is going on the TBR anyway!

 

 

51-351d21al-_ac_us218_2. Sharp: The Women Who Made An Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean- We all have opinions, regardless of our gender. The women featured in this book (including Dorothy Parker, Nora Ephron, and Joan Didion) are notable, not for having an opinion, but for sharing it publicly in an effective way.

 

 

51ad2nbcml-_ac_us218_3. The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg-  I liked Ortberg’s other book, Texts From Jane Eyre a lot. This seems very different, but still right up my alley. It’s a collection of stories based on classic fairy tales and folklore, with a feminist spin.

 

 

51owewnzcgl-_ac_us218_4. Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman- In keeping with my obsession with fairy tales reimagined in interesting ways, we have a twisted take on Sleeping Beauty, about a woman who can revive herself after death.

 

 

 

51lqakfrg1l-_ac_us218_5. How to Stop Time by Matt Haig– This also seems just right for me. It’s about a man who ages really slowly and thus, has been alive for centuries. It seems like it’s in the line of Forever by Pete Hamill, Replay by Ken Grimwood,  or Time and Again by Jack Finney, all of which I enjoyed.

 

 

51kz1al5qfl-_ac_us218_6. The Lost Girls of Camp Foverevermore by Kim Fu- A kayaking trip leaves a group of camp kids stranded on an island without adults. Sounds a bit Lord of the Flies. But I recall that when we read Lord of the Flies in high school we read an interview with Golding where he said that he could have never written it about girls, because girls wouldn’t revert to savagery like boys. I’m interested to see if that’s what happens in this novel. Interestingly it also traces the lives of each of these girls after that experience to show how it shapes the people they become.

51af7lrf3gl-_ac_us218_7. Tangerine by Christine Mangan– This novel, set in Tangier, is the story of a friendship between to women that becomes obsessive. Early blurbs have compared it to everything from The Talented Mr. Ripley, to Donna Tartt and Gillian Flynn. There are also some Hitchcock references in reviews. Sign me up please!

 

 

51nxbeiodvl-_ac_us218_8. Sick: A Memoir by Porochista Khakour- This is a memoir of the author’s experience with chronic illness. It looks at the US’s problematic healthcare system and how untreated or improperly treated illness can have an effect on society as well as the individual. As someone with a chronic illness, I have my own experience of this, and I’m curious about how it compares to the author’s.

51lycviytl-_ac_us160_9. The 7 and 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton- A man must live the day of socialite Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder over and over again until he can solve the murder. But each day he relieves it from the body of a different guest at the event where she died. It sounds like Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day meets Quantum Leap, which, to me anyway, is a good thing!

51q2yi-diil-_ac_us218_10. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin- Four children are told the day of their death by a psychic. Do they believe her? Do they share the information? How does this information impact their future decisions?  The book follows each of the children as they grow up and come to terms with their knowledge.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2017

For the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 12: Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017

I’m doing the best I’ve read in 2017 rather than the best that were published this year. I had no intention of just doing books by female writers but that’s how it worked out this year!

517p1odjdbl-_ac_us218_1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery– It took me a while to start loving this book. The main characters initially aren’t all that likable. Renee is a concierge at a wealthy apartment building in Paris. She’s a fifty four year old widow with no formal education but a lifetime of reading under her belt. She conceals her intelligence from the tenants in her building to avoid curiosity. Paloma is a twelve year old girl who lives in the building. She’s highly intelligent but she considers her parents snobs and is convinced that life is meaningless. She plans to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday unless she can find a good reason not to. In each other, it seems that Renee and Paloma have found an unlikely kindred spirit.  As I said it was slow moving, but I came to care about these characters and invest in their future. I looked forward to the random, quirky events in which they both found a strange beauty.

“Madame Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside she is covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary–and terrible elegant. ”

51u68hsyiml-_ac_us218_2. Play it As It Lays by Joan Didion I “discovered” Joan Didion last year, but this was the first time I’ve read her fiction. This narrative switches back and forth between the main character’s first person narration and a strangely detached third person narration. Set in Hollywood in the 1970’s, Maria Wyeth is a minor screen actress. Through her eyes, we see a culture of exploitation, built on open secrets. Just as the narration goes back and forth between Maria’s first person narration and that of others around her, the story itself is alternately shaped by Maria’s choices and the choices of others.  The word that comes to mind when describing this book is “lonely”. It’s a lonely book but there’s beauty in that loneliness.

“One thing in my defense, not that it matters: I know something Carter never knew, or Helene, or maybe you. I know what “nothing” means, and keep on playing.”

51dqnh9enml-_ac_us218_3. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye– My expectations of this book weren’t high (I’ve read some pretty disappointing Jane Eyre fan fiction!) so maybe it was the fact that it was a pleasant surprise that makes this book stand out. Maybe I just loved the gleeful, dark, slightly messed up humor of a homicidal Jane Eyre figure. In most gothic romance (Jane Eyre included) we see what is essentially a Bluebeard narrative. A young girl goes to live with/work for a wealthy man, who may or may now be a murderer. She usually falls in love with him regardless.  Rebecca, Dragonwyck, and Mistress of Mellyn, are other notable examples. Here Lyndsay Faye turns that narrative on it’s head. Yes, our hero, Mr. Thornfield, has secrets, but in this novel, Jane’s past is just as colorful.

“Reader, I murdered him…”

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_4. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara– I always feel the need to put a warning before recommending this book, because I feel like it’s such a hard read. It’s long (about 700 pages) and emotionally draining. When we learn about the main character’s background, the abuse and trauma that he endures may be triggering for some readers. Even though I wasn’t triggered,  I found it almost too horrible to be believed. I certainly didn’t want to believe that such abuse could be real. But I can’t deny that it most likely isn’t as fictional as I’d like to believe.  I could see the wrong person, picking up this book at the wrong point in their life might see it as an author saying that there are things too horrible to ever truly recover from. Maybe that is partially what she’s saying, but I feel like she’s doing something more. She’s depicting love in all its forms. She shows how people who love someone don’t give up on them just because it seems hopeless. She shows the beauty that’s a part of the struggle through life.  And ultimately the lesson that she leaves us with is one of compassion.

“But then again, he would think, what about his life- and about Jude’s life, too- wasn’t it a miracle? He should have stayed in Wyoming, he should have been a ranch hand himself. Jude should have wound up – where? In prison, or in a hospital, or dead, or worse. But they hadn’t. Wasn’t it a miracle that someone who was basically unexceptional could life a life in which he made millions pretending to be other people, that in that life that person would fly from city to city, would spend his days having his every need fulfilled, working in which he was treated like the potentate of a small, corrupt country? Wasn’t it a miracle to be adopted at thirty, to find people who loved you so much that they wanted to call you their own? Wasn’t it a miracle to have survived the unsurvivable?Wasn’t friendship its own miracle, the finding of another person who made the entire lonely world seem somehow less lonely? Wasn’t this house, this beauty, this comfort, this life a miracle?”

 

41wjujfmkyl-_ac_us218_5. Ex Libris: Confessions of A Common Reader by Anne Fadiman- Anne Fadiman is a creature that most bibliophiles will recognize. She’s the woman who will relish a really long word (or Sesquipedalian, which, as I’ve recently learned, means really long word)  rolling it over her tongue and savoring the taste. She’ll look forward to the opportunity to read aloud. She’ll challenge you to see who can find the most typos on the restaurant menu. These essays describe her lifelong love affair with language and books, from her childhood, building with books rather than blocks, or “marrying libraries” with her husband of five years. She takes us inside her “odd shelf” (“small, mysterious corpus of volumes whose subject matter is completely unrelated to the rest of the library, yet which, upon closer inspection reveals a good deal about its owner”) which is sort of a metaphor for her brain, I suppose.

“Books wrote our life story, and as they accumulated on our shelves (and on our windowsills, and underneath our sofa, and on top of our refrigerator), they became chapters in it themselves.”

61kl8q74sml-_ac_us218_6. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff– This was actually the second Lauren Groff book I read this year (the first was Arcadia) but it stands out as a departure from her usual style. While Fates and Furies and Arcadia feature beautiful, poetic prose; this is more plot-based than either of those. It’s part contemporary novel, part ghost story, part historical fiction, and part magical realism. These different elements come together in ways that are occasionally messy, but that’s part of their charm. It’s somewhat less polished than Groff’s other work, and I love it for that reason too.

“Then, when we had done so, we put our hands upon the freezing cold monster, our monster. And this is what we felt: vertigo, an icicle through our strong hearts, our long-lost childhoods. Sunshine in a field and crickets and the sweet tealeaf stink of a new ball mitt and a rock glinting with mica and a chaw of bubblegum wrapping in sweet sweet tendrils down our throats and the warm breeze up our shorts and the low vibrato of lake loons and the sun and the sun and the warm sun and this is what we felt; the sun.”

41z63vm8bwl-_ac_us218_7. Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing And Life by Anne Lamott–  This memoir/writing advice guide has been recommended to me over and over again over the past several years, but something irrational in me was turned off by something about it. I finally pushed past whatever it was, and I’m really glad that it did. Lamott shows how difficult writing can sometimes be, from the discipline of actually doing it, to the fact that writing and anxiety go hand in had, to the understanding that by writing a book you’re essentially sharing yourself with strangers. There’s no way to separate the personal from the professional. But she gives her readers advice  with humor and  honesty.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

51m2nd4g30l-_ac_us218_8. The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks-These short stories defy genre and description. They’re strange, inventive, weird, and uncanny. Though they draw on mythical sources and themes, there’s also something very modern about these stories. It’s hard to discuss some of these stories without spoiling them, but let’s just say that there’s a retelling of “The Wild Swans” a story about a space janitor, and a story about a time traveler desperately trying to stop an artist from creating a painting.

“It just goes to show, people said later. It just goes to show how fairy tales always stop too soon in the telling. Others said it was never a fairy tale at all. Anyone could see that. They were all too lovely, too obviously doomed. But the wisest said, that’s exactly what a fairy tale is. The happily-ever-after is just a false front. It hides the hungry darkness inside.

41xbvxm07hl-_ac_us218_9. Jane Austen: The Secret Radical by Helena Kelly– This is a unique look at Austen’s work that many Jane-ites would do well to read. It argues that in the twenty first century we frequently misread Jane Austen. Her work was more socially and politically aware than we realize. A 19th century readership would have been aware of many of the small references she makes to events that were then current, and they would have understood her work very differently from how we understand it now. Helena Kelly analyses Austen’s work, looking at several of the issues that Austen tackles explicitly and and subtextually. For example, Mansfield Park doesn’t just touch on the slave trade. References to cases and literature that a 19th century readership would know,  are pervasive and they make the book far more political than a 21st century audience realizes. I think that at times the author gets so caught up in her ideas that she reaches a little too far, but I also think that she makes some excellent points about reading Austen through the lens of her own time rather than ours.

And once we read like this, we start to see her novels in an entirely new light. Not an undifferentiated procession of witty, ironical stories about romance and drawing rooms, but books in which an authoress reflects back to her readers their world as it really is—complicated, messy, filled with error and injustice. This is a world in which parents and guardians can be stupid and selfish; in which the Church ignores the needs of the faithful; in which landowners and magistrates—the people with local power—are eager to enrich themselves even when that means driving the poorest into criminality. Jane’s novels, in truth, are as revolutionary, at their heart, as anything that Wollstonecraft or Tom Paine wrote. But by and large, they’re so cleverly crafted that unless readers are looking in the right places—reading them in the right way—they simply won’t understand.

61xeuwoxcl-_ac_us218_110. Night Film by Marisha Pessl– This is a weird book to describe. On one hand you can say that it’s about a reporter investigating the apparent suicide of a celebrated filmmaker’s daughter. On the other hand, you could describe it as an eerie, hypnotic adventure that gets better as the plot grows more convoluted. Throughout the pages we see props: newspaper clippings, website screenshots, a coffee stained transcript, and stolen police reports that are intended to blur the line between fiction and reality a bit more. It also blurs the line between film and literature a bit. The structure and the atmosphere of the book are very film noir. We learn about the victim’s father’s films in vivid detail. As we get into some possible theories regarding the girl’s fate, it starts to feel like the more outlandish possibilities are more likely than the realistic ones.

“The Shadow is what people are hunting throughout the tale. Or else it can dog the hero, refusing to leave him alone. It’s a potent force that bewitches as much as it torments. It can lead to hell or heaven. It’s the hollow forever inside you, never filled. It’s everything in life you can’t touch, hold on to, so ephemeral and painful it makes you gasp. You might even glimpse it for a few seconds before it’s gone. Yet the image will live with you. You’ll never forget it as long as you live. It’s what you’re terrified of and paradoxically what you’re looking for. We are nothing without our shadows. They give our otherwise pale, blinding world definition. They allow us to see what’s right in front of us. Yet they’ll haunt us until we’re dead.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems of Magical Realism

For the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday

August 29: Ten Hidden Gem Books in X Genre: Pick a genre and share with us some books that have gone under the radar in that genre!

For this one I decided to go with Magical Realism. It’s a weird genre that, by it’s very name, contradicts itself. Magic in these books is presented alongside the every day things we all know. It’s not really “explained”, we just go with it For those unfamiliar with it, some of the better known titles in this genre include One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The House of the Spirits by Isabella Allende, The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. Authors such as John Luis Borges, Alice Hoffman, Toni Morrison, Laura Esquival, Haruki Murakami, and Junot Diaz are all known for using this to different degrees. I chose some lesser known works that qualify as “hidden gems”. Some of these veer pretty far into the “magical” side of the genre, while others are more firmly grounded in the real.

41ay0z5uell-_ac_us218_1. There’s No Place Like Here by Cecilia Ahearn-  Twenty years ago, Sandy Shortt’s classmate disappeared. Since then  she’s been obsessed with missing things. So much so that finding missing people becomes her life’s work. Jack Ruttle hires Sandy to find his brother, Donal, who vanish a year ago. But while she’s working on the case something strange happens. She stumbles on a place where missing things- and people- end up. Those socks that she thought the dryer ate? The teddy bear she lost as a kid? And all the missing people that Sandy’s struggled to find over the years. But now Sandy is struggling to find a way to get back where she belongs. Ahearn is an Irish writer who has some lovely work in this genre. I also recommend If  You Could See Me Now, Thanks for the Memories, and The Book of Tomorrow.

“It’s difficult to know which second among a lifetime of seconds is more special. Often when you realise how precious those seconds are, it’s too late for them to be captured because the moment has passed. We realise too late.”

51j1v5z8h0l-_ac_us218_2. Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter- Carter is one of my all time favorites. Her writing is beautiful. In this book, Jack Walser, a turn of the century American journalist, interviews and investigates Sophie Fevvers. Sophie is a circus performer who is said to be part woman and part swan. Jack wants to find out if she’s legit, and so he joins the circus, following it through Europe and getting bizarre, fantastic story of Sophie’s life. The characters are larger than life, but so is the circus, so it all fits.

“She sleeps. And now she wakes each day a little less. And, each day, takes less and less nourishment, as if grudging the least moment of wakefulness, for, from the movement under her eyelids, and the somnolent gestures of her hands and feet, it seems as if her dreams grow more urgent and intense, as if the life she lives in the closed world of dreams is now about to possess her utterly, as if her small, increasingly reluctant wakenings were an interpretation of some more vital existence, so she is loath to spend even those necessary moments of wakefulness with us, wakings strange as her sleepings. Her marvellous fate – a sleep more lifelike than the living, a dream which consumes the world.
‘And, sir,’ concluded Fevvers, in a voice that now took on the sombre, majestic tones of a great organ, ‘we do believe . . . her dream will be the coming century.
‘And, oh, God . . . how frequently she weeps!”

51371fbdool-_ac_us218_3. Forever by Pete Hamill- In 1741, Cormac O’Connor seeks to avenge the death of his father. So he follows the murderer from Ireland to New York City. On board the ship, Cormac meets Kongo, an African slave. He saves Kongo, and gets shot himself in the process. Kongo’s priestess, grants Cormac eternal life, and eternal youth, in return; but only if he never leaves the island of Manhattan.  We follow Cormac for over two hundred years, as he becomes involved in the American Revolution, hangs out with Boss Tweed, witnesses epidemics, and watches as the city grows and changes; and sees all it’s beauty and ugliness co-existing. Once we’ve accepted the magic that grants Cormac eternal life, the book is more historical, though hints of fantasy pop in here and there. It’s a bittersweet story, because Cormac sees the world as few experience it, but he also remains outside of it- confined to a tiny island, forever young, watching those he cares about as they age and die. Hamill also wrote Snow in August, another magical realist novel that is set in historical NYC, though this one veers more into the fantasy genre toward the end.

“I don’t know what that means. To truly live.”
“To find work that you love, and work harder than other men. To learn the languages of the earth, and love the sounds of the words and the things they describe. To love food and music and drink. Fully love them. To love weather, and storms, and the smell of rain. To love heat. To love cold. To love sleep and dreams. To love the newness of each day.”

51dvjy072kl-_ac_us218_4. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen- Josey Cirrini lives an uneventful life. Her guilty pleasures involve romance novels and sweets, which she eats in her closet. She lives in the North Carolina town of Bald Slope with her widowed mother. One day, while in her closet having a sugar fix, Josey finds that it’s already occupied by Della Lee, a local waitress who is taking refuge after a fight with her boyfriend. Della refuses to leave, and threatens to tell Josey’s fussy, high society mother about  her secret closet candy binges if Joesy doesn’t let her stay. So Josey finds herself doing Della’s bidding. She befriends Chloe, a woman who finds that books seem to appear whenever she might need them, and Adam, the mailman that Josey’s been crushing on for years.  At first it’s hard to understand Josey’s slave-like commitment to her mother, or how Della could manage to stay in a closet as a long term arrangement. But the pieces of the puzzle come together eventually. Allen’s other work in the genre is also very much worth reading. Garden Spells is her best known (so much so that I don’t know if it qualifies as a “hidden gem” for the purposes of this list), First Frost, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, The Peach Keeper and Lost Lake. In the wrong mood these might come off as saccharine but in the right mood they’re just the right sweet treat.

“She bought a plume of blue cotton candy before they left the food booths, and she picked at it while they headed down the row of booths occupied by residents of Bald Slope who had spent all summer making walnut salad bowls and jars of pickled watermelon rind to sell at the festival. Snow flurries began to fall and they swirled around people’s legs like house cats. It was magical, this snowglobe world.”

61eh6n0ejfl-_ac_us218_5. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff– Lauren Groff is better known for literary fiction (Fates and Furies, Arcadia) so I was surprised by this venture. Wilhelmina “Willie” Upton is close to completing her PhD in archaeology when she returns to her upstate New York home town of Templeton, after the conclusion of a disastrous affair with her adviser. That same day, a dead Loch Ness monster type creature is found in the lake. Willie discovers that her mother, a hippie, has found Jesus. She confesses to Wille that she isn’t the product of a commune orgy (which is what she original told her daughter) but is the daughter of one of the men in town, who is descended from the town’s founder. With that little information to go on, Willie begins to investigate, and she discovers that Templeton is the home to many monsters. The creature in the lake was one kind, but others are in the form of secrets kept by the townspeople. And some of these monsters are actually beautiful.

“Then, when we had done so, we put our hands upon the freezing cold monster, our monster. And this is what we felt: vertigo, an icicle through our strong hearts, our long-lost childhoods. Sunshine in a field and crickets and the sweet tealeaf stink of a new ball mitt and a rock glinting with mica and a chaw of bubblegum wrapping in sweet sweet tendrils down our throats and the warm breeze up our shorts and the low vibrato of lake loons and the sun and the sun and the warm sun and this is what we felt; the sun.”

51ucuhb38pl-_ac_us218_6. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson- Full disclosure: I almost stopped reading this book after the first chapter, because in it, the main character is in a near fatal car accident. We’re treated to graphic descriptions of his injuries and medical treatment, to the point where I wanted to put down the book (and never get into a car again).  I kept reading because reviews urged readers to push through those first few chapters, and I’m glad I did. After our unnamed narrator, a porn star by trade, is in his accident, he spends his days  in the burn unit, planning his suicide. One day, in walks Marianne Engel, sculptress of “the grotesque”, who may be mentally ill or divinely inspired. She tells the Burned Man that they’ve known each other in a past life, and he humors her and listens to their elaborate love love story unfolding over several hundred years. We can attribute Marianne’s long outrageous tale to mental illness, and the Burned Man’s eventual belief in it to his morphine addiction following his accident. Or we can take the plunge and go through this story with a sense of magic.

“This will mark the third time that an arrow has entered my chest. The first time brought me to Marianne Engel. The second time separated us.

The third time will reunite us.”

51j0fpre5nl-_ac_us218_7. Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock- Griffin is a London based artist. One day he gets a note from a South Pacific artist named Sabine Strohem. She congratulates him on his recent work and mentions a change that he made in the creative process. Griffin never told anyone about that, but Sabine claims to “share his sight”. She may have a telepathic connection to Griffin. Or she may be completely imaginary.  We read the letters that they exchange. In fact, the book is made up of removable letters, postcards and artwork. You know the temptation to go through someone else’s things, and read their mail? This is a perfect way to indulge that. We get to know these characters through their art & handwriting, as well as the content of their letters. It’s a tactile, sensory, literary experience. It’s follow by two direct sequels; Sabine’s Notebook, and The Golden Mean.  There’s a secondary trilogy with a new set of lovers with a mysterious connection to Griffin and Sabine. That’s made up of The Gryphon, Alexandria, and The Morning Star. The Pharos Gate brings the story to a final conclusion.

“Our house was a temple to The Book. We owned thousands, nay millions of books. They lined the walls, filled the cupboards, and turned the floor into a maze far more complex than Hampton Court’s. Books ruled out lives. They were our demi-gods.”

61e3dwvmj7l-_ac_us218_8. The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes- A mysterious spirit arrives at 66 Star Street in Dublin. It makes itself at home and watches the lives of the residents unfold as it counts down to…something.  The building is home to Katie, a 40 year old PR worker with a commitment phobic boyfriend. It’s also the home of newlyweds Meave and Matt, who are bound together by a secret that may eventually drive them apart. Then there’s Jemima, an elderly psychic who lives in the building. Her son, Fionn, is staying with her temporarily as he auditions for TV shows. The spirit sneaks around the building, learning all it can about the residents and unknowlingly brings their lives together in unexpected ways.

“A cynical type might suggest that it was all a little too perfect. But a cynical type would be wrong.”

61xeuwoxcl-_ac_us218_19. Night Film by Marisha Pessl- Ashley Cordova, 24 year old daughter of acclaimed horror filmmaker Stanislas Cordova, is found dead in an abandoned building in New York City.  Journalist Scott McGrath once tried to do a story on the reclusive Cordova. That attempt cost him his job and his marriage. Yet he can’t help but be intrigued by Ashely’s death. Why is her life, and her father’s, so shrouded in mystery? Cordova lives on a vast estate known as The Peak, where all his films are shot. He no longer leaves the compound. Why? As Scott investigates he comes across several explanations for Cordova’s reclusiveness and Ashley’s death.  These range from black magic to human failure. But as his investigations draw Scott closer to the legendary filmmaker, his life begins to resemble a dark, disturbing, Codrova film. This book plays with the edge between reality and fantasy. The supernatural explanations for Ashley’s fate are given just as much (sometimes more) credibility as the more realistic ones. This isn’t a book to read if you expect every i dotted and every t crossed. But if you’re up for a weird trip, this one is a great ride.

“Mortal fear is as crucial a thing to our lives as love. It cuts to the core of our being and shows us what we are. Will you step back and cover your eyes? Or will you have the strength to walk to the precipice and look out?”

41d4ws5ecl-_ac_us218_10. Going Bovine by Libba Bray- Cameron Smith is a pretty average high school junior until he gets some bad news: he has Creutzfeldt-Jacob aka “mad cow” disease and he’s going to die soon.  When he gets a – possibly hallucinatory – visit from Dulcie, a guardian angel with a major sugar addiction, he gets a flash of hope. According to Dulcie, a cure exists, if he’s willing to look for it. With the help of Gonzo, a hypochondriac, video gaming dwarf, he goes off in search of it. The two embark on a crazy road trip through the side of America that most people never get to see. This is a bizarre, trippy take on Don Quixote. Cameron may be crazy, he may be brilliant, he may be dying, and he may be attacking windmills. Gonzo makes for a Sancho Panza who carries around a yard gnome that is possibly also a Norse god. Dulcie is of course the punk rock, angelic Dulcinea. It’s trippy, it’s funny, and if you just go with it, it’s occasionally brilliant.

“As a kid, I imagined lots of different scenarios for my life. I would be an astronaut. Maybe a cartoonist. A famous explorer or rock star. Never once did I see myself standing under the window of a house belonging to some druggie named Carbine, waiting for his yard gnome to steal his stash so I could get a cab back to a cheap motel where my friend, a neurotic, death-obsessed dwarf, was waiting for me so we could get on the road to an undefined place and a mysterious Dr. X, who would cure me of mad cow disease and stop a band of dark energy from destroying the universe.”

Happy Book Lover’s Day to All!

What are you reading today?

What did you recently finish?

What do you plan to read next?

I’m reading:

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

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I recently finished The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff. It was more plot driven than a lot of her other work but still beautifully written and a lot of fun for fans of magical realism.

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I think that my next book will be Night Film by Marisha Pessi, but that might change depending on my mood!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2017 (So Far…)

For the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday

June 27Best Books You’ve Read In 2017 So Far (break it down however you want — by genre, strictly 2017 releases, whatever!)

So far 2017 has been good to me in terms of books. Hopefully that’ll continue! Here some of the best I’ve read this year (so far).

  1. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff- Lotto and Mathilde married at twenty two. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends. Many people say that honesty and openness are needed for a successful marriage, but in this book, Lotto and Mathilde are kept together by what they don’t share, what they keep from their partner to protect them. We see the story first from Lotto’s perspective. Then it shifts and we see it from Mathilde’s point of view. It’s not the marriage I’d want, but it does work for these two….

    “Please. Marriage is made of lies. Kind ones, mostly. Omissions. If you give voice to the things you think every day about your spouse, you’d crush them to paste. She never lied. Just never said.”

  2.  Hag-seed by Margaret Atwood– Felix Phillips lost his job as the artistic director of a theater company while he was grieving for his lost daughter. He disappears to lick his wounds, and emerges from his self imposed exile to teach literacy in a local prison. He teachers Shakespeare to the inmates, and a prison production of The Tempest gives his excellent opportunity for revenge against those who once wronged him. Atwood re-imagines Shakespeare’s The Tempest in a contemporary setting. Not only does she prove that Shakespeare’s work is truly universal, but she also shines some light on aspects of the original play that I’ve missed before.

    “The rest of his life. How long that time had once felt to him. How quickly it has sped by. How much of it has been wasted. How soon it will be over.” 

  3. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye– I think I’ve mentioned this book before. Think Jane Eyre meets Dexter. Jane Steele, much like her counterpart, is “poor, obscure, plain and little.” She’s not heartless but sometimes she has to do some bad things. It’s usually for a good reason. When she falls for her employer, Mr. Thornfield, she gets in over her head trying to reconcile her past and future. 

    Reader, I murdered him….”

  4. A Little Life by Hana Yanagihara – I put this on my TBR list for this summer and I got to it sooner than I thought I would! It’s not an easy book. It asks a lot of readers. But it gives a lot too, in terms of beautiful language (some sentences I’d just read over to experience them again) and characters you care about in spite of their faults. It’s about Jude St. Francis, who survives a childhood of horrific abuse to find success as an adult. At least outwardly. He has adoptive parents, a thriving career, great friends, but he can’t accept that he’s deserving of any of it. He waits for the day that everyone else realizes it too.

    “He had looked at Jude, then, and had felt that same sensation he sometimes did when he thought, really thought of Jude and what his life had been: a sadness, he might have called it, but it wasn’t a pitying sadness; it was a larger sadness, one that seemed to encompass all the poor striving people, the billions he didn’t know, all living their lives, a sadness that mingled with a wonder and awe at how hard humans everywhere tried to live, even when their days were so very difficult, even when their circumstances were so wretched. Life is so sad, he would think in those moments. It’s so sad, and yet we all do it.” 

  5. Crush by Richard Siken– I’m not usually a poetry reader, but someone recommended Siken a few months ago, and now I’m obsessed. It’s about love and anxiety and violence and how those three themes intersect. It shows us the ugly side of love and the beautiful side of obsession. It explores a “crush” in all its meanings; a romantic infatuation, a force that destroys or deforms,  and to subdue completely.

    “Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us./ These, our bodies, possessed by light./ Tell me we’ll never get used to it. “

  6. Ex Libris: Confessions of A Common Reader by Anne Fadiman– This is a collection of essays about Fadiman’s lifelong love affair with books and language.  As a child she built castles out of books rather than blocks. As an adult, she only truly considered herself married when she and her husband merged libraries (never mind that she and her husband had, at that point, been married five years and had a child together; merging libraries means intimacy…commitment!) In these essays, Fadiman reflects on the appeals of mail order catalogs, the urge to proofread everything and report typos, and why second hand books are nicer than new ones.

    “[T]here is a certain kind of child who awakens from a book as from an abyssal sleep, swimming heavily up through layers of consciousness toward a reality that seems less real than the dream-state that has been left behind. I was such a child.” 

  7. The White Album by Joan Didion– In this book Joan Didion reflects in the culture and counterculture of America in the 1960’s and 70’s. She explores her subjects on a number of levels, revealing not just the intelligence and skepticism that she’s known for, but also her dry, self deprecating sense of humor. Her subjects range from the Hoover Dam, to the Manson family, to migraines, to water in the desert, and biker exploitation films.

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

  8. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue–  I’m a long time fan of Ms. Donoghue, but initially I had trouble getting into this book. It starts off rather slow, and has a protagonist who we don’t like right away. But I’m glad I stuck with it. It has a great atmosphere and we build toward caring about the characters. In the late 19th century, Libby is a nurse, trained by Florence Nightingale. She’s asked to come to Ireland to care for, and observe 11 year old Anna, who hasn’t eaten in four months and has become a local sensation and even tourist attraction. She plans on exposing Anna as a hoax as soon as she figures out how Anna’s doing it, but as she sends more time with Anna and her family, Libby finds herself confronting local legends, lore, and religious belief.  It draws on various cases of “Fasting Girls” that turned up throughout Europe from the 16th to the 20th centuries.

    “A fast didn’t go fast; it was the slowest thing there was. Fast meant a door shut fast, firmly. A fastness, a fortress. To fast was to hold fast to emptiness, to say no and no and no again.” 

  9. The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in A Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente– I would recommend this to readers who are new to Valente. Some of Valente’s work for older readers is harder to embrace because the emphasis is more on feeling that plot. The prose is beautiful but sometimes hard to follow. Though this book is intended for middle grade readers, I think that readers of all ages can find something to enjoy here. It’s about a girl named September, who is brought to Fairyland by the Green Wind. There she makes several friends, and must find a talisman for an evil queen. It recalls works ranging from Alice in Wonderland to The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe to The Wizard of Oz.

    “Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.” 

  10. The  Brontesaurus: An A-Z of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte (and Branwell) by John Sutherland and John Crace– I’m a major Bronte fan, as I’ve said before. I’ve read several biographies of the Brontes, but this was more of an encyclopedia of trivia. Did you ever want to know the never discussed, implied origins of Mr. Rochester’s wealth? Curious as to what “Wuthering” actually means? It includes an “abbreviated Jane Eyre” as well, and it’s got a nice sense of humor and wit.

    “There is no fate worse for fiction than to come and go into Shakespeare’s ‘wallet of oblivion’. Everything from ‘Jane Hair’ salons to Jane Eyrotica confirms that will never happen to the Brontës’ fiction. Their novels will last as long as there is money to be made from the novels, which are wholly uncontaminated. Long live ‘tat’: it bears witness to long life.” 

Top 10 Tuesday: Summer Reads Freebie

May 23: Summer Reads Freebie

The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday . My day job (teaching) gives me time to really catch up on reading in the summer. So I have a list of books about a mile long. But I’ll only share the top ten. These tend to be books I’ve been intending to read forever but will finally have a chance to get to and appreciate. But they’re also books that are being released this summer.

  1.  A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara- I’ve seen this recommended everywhere for a long time. Often when that’s the case I find the book itself a bit disappointing. But there are the rare cases that I find the praise is deserved. A 700 page book that’s frequently described as “tragic” and “traumatic” is a bit much to handle while working, but that’s what summer reads are for.
  2. Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker- I will just because it’s Jane Eyre fan fiction but even aside from that it’s supposed to be good. And Jane Eyre fan fiction tends to be good. Check out Wide Saragasso Sea by Jean Rhys or Jane Steele by Lyndsey Faye to see what I mean. They’re totally different for the original novel, and completely different from one another, but very much worth reading.
  3. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff- I read Groff’s Fates and Furies this year, and I loved her writing. This one of her other novels. I also plan to check out Arcadia and some of her short fiction.
  4. The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel- I’ll admit that the Flowers in the Attic references appealed to me. 12 year old Fran still lives in me somewhere.
  5. The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor- For some reason I love the story of the Cottingley fairies. This novel imagines it with a duel timeline story (something else I love).
  6. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss- I loved The Name of the Wind, the first in Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy. This is number 2. I haven’t read it yet, because it’s long (993 pages), but summer is a great time to dig into something long, and absorbing.
  7. Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon- I’m an Outlander addict. The wait between books in this series is painful. Its made slightly less painful by the fact that the TV series is very good. But the new season of that doesn’t premiere until September.  So how to make it through the bleak and bitter droughtlander? Well, fortunately author Diana Gabaldon gives fans the “bulges” to enjoy. These are novellas that she writes either about secondary characters, or character backstory.  They’re not as absorbing as the main series of course, but it keeps us addicts sane(ish) until the next book is released.
  8. The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett- This is third in Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles series. I think the series is definitely worth reading (based on the first two books) but they’re not easy reads. We don’t really get inside the character’s thoughts much, so it’s often a while before we understand what’s going on and why.  The main character is a brilliantly educated polygot who often makes references that I don’t get right away. So it takes some effort to get into. Over the summer I have the time and mental space for that.
  9. The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer- Blame the Outlander comparison for this one! But it actually looks good independent of anything else, and I love historical fiction combined with paranormal/sci-fi stuff.
  10. After Anatevka: A Novel Inspired by “Fiddler on the Roof” by Alexandra Silber-  Alexandra Silber is an actress and singer who played the role of Hodel in the 2007 London revival of the musical Fiddler on the Roof. In 2015 she played Hodel’s older sister Tzeitel in the Broadway revival of the same show. In this book she extends her creative reach to imagine the lives of the characters after the events of the musical. I’m interested to see what she does with it. Will her focus be primarily on the two roles that she’s played or will it extend elsewhere? I’m a big fan of Alexandra Silber’s blog, London Still. She’s pretty awesome. In addition to being an actress/singer/novelist, she’s written three modern language adaptation of Greek tragedies. She also teaches musical theater at Pace University, and elsewhere.

Well is there anything that I should add to the list?