Top Ten Tuesday: Quotes From My Last 5 Star Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 24: Book Quote Freebie (Share your favorite book quotes that fit a theme of your choosing! These could be quotes about books/reading, or quotes from books. Some examples are: quotes for book lovers, quotes that prove reading is the best thing ever, funny things characters have said, romantic declarations, pretty scenery descriptions, witty snippets of dialogue, etc.)

No common themes here other than that I gave these books 5 stars (some were rereads) and these quotes stood out to me.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow – “In the stories, it’s generally best to do whatever the hell the talking animal tells you.”

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid– “Stories are supposed to live longer than people, and the turul is the most ancient story of them all. Tears go running hotly down my face. Maybe killing it will save this generation of pagans, but what about the next? When the fabric of our stories thins and wears, the people will be alive, but they won’t be pagans anymore. And that, I realize, is what Virág always feared the most. Not our deaths, or even her death. She was afraid of our lives becoming our own. She was afraid of our threads snapping, of us becoming just girls, and not wolf-girls.”

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis – “I was never going to get any sleep. I was going to have Alice in Wonderland conversation after Alice in Wonderland conversation until I died of exhaustion. Here, in the restful, idyllic Victorian era.”

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce – “I meant to ask Hatty questions about the garden,’ Tom wrote to Peter, ‘but somehow I forgot.’ He always forgot. In the daytime, in the Kitsons’ flat, he thought only of the garden, and sometimes he wondered about it: where it came from, what it all meant. Then he planned cunning questions to put to Hatty, that she would have to answer fully and without fancy; but each night, when he walked into the garden, he forgot to be a detective, and instead remembered only that he was a boy and this was the garden for a boy and that Hatty was his playmate.”

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow – “Those of you who are more than casually familiar with books — those of you who spend your free afternoons in fusty bookshops, who offer furtive, kindly strokes along the spines of familiar titles — understand that page riffling is an essential element in the process of introducing oneself to a new book. It isn’t about reading the words; it’s about reading the smell, which wafts from the pages in a cloud of dust and wood pulp. It might smell expensive and well bound, or it might smell of tissue-thin paper and blurred two-colour prints, or of fifty years unread in the home of a tobacco-smoking old man. Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, or literary weight or unsolved mysteries.”

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – “Our generation still carry the old feelings. A part of us refuses to let go. The part that wants to keep believing there’s something unreachable inside each of us. Something that’s unique and won’t transfer. But there’s nothing like that, we know that now. You know that. For people our age it’s a hard one to let go.”

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton – “It was the old New York way… the way people who dreaded scandal more than disease, who placed decency above courage, and who considered that nothing was more ill-bred than “scenes”, except those who gave rise to them. ”

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl– “We are all anthologies. We are each thousands of pages long, filled with fairy tales and poetry, mysteries and tragedy, forgotten stories in the back no one will ever read.”

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier – “Men are simpler than you imagine my sweet child. But what goes on in the twisted, tortuous minds of women would baffle anyone.”

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – “He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Literary “Fanfiction”

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s topic was:

February 1: Books with Names/Character Names In the Titles (Submitted by BookLoversBlog and Lucy @ Bookworm Blogger)

But that didn’t really grab me, so I decided to go in my own direction.

This week I decided to do books about other books: minor characters, pretend sequels, reimaginings, “what ifs” and the like. I love seeing the different ways that authors write into an existing work of literature. It’s almost like the author having a conversation with the original book:

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – This Jane Eyre prequel imagines the pre-attic life of the first Mrs. Rochester. It’s a fascinating post-colonial response to Jane Eyre. In only about 150 pages, Rhys touches on race, class, sex, gender, philosophy and psychology. I wish I could know what Bronte would have thought if she’d had the opportunity to read it.

Longbourn by Jo BakerPride and Prejudice fanfiction is a cottage industry in itself (here are just a few!). They range from very good, to…not so good. But Longbourn stands out to me because it looks at the people who are just barely visible to Austen readers – the servants. While the Bennets worried about marrying off their daughters, things were going on below stairs. It can get rather icky and crude, but such is the life of a servant!

On Beauty by Zadie Smith – Smith calls this novel an “homage” to EM Forster’s Howard’s End. There are a number of parallels throughout. Though it’s set roughly a century after Forster’s novel On Beauty deals with the bequeathing of a valuable inheritance to a nonfamily member, as well as the overall plot about two families with very different backgrounds and values slowly becoming linked and intertwined.

March by Geraldine Brooks – In the first part of Little Women, the March family patriarch is absent from the family, fighting in the Civil War. In this novel we see exactly what he was up to. Actually, part of the novel is also told from Marmee’s (his wife’s) point of view when see is caring for him, and then it switches back to his perspective again. Mr. March was based on Louisa May Alcott’s father, Bronson Alcott. It gives a vision of the March family that’s very different from what we see in Little Women.

Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin – In Dr. Jekyll’s house, Mary Reilly works as a maid. She begins to bond with her employer, but is asked to run errands for him and his associate Mr. Hyde that take her to dark places. She begins to have horrible suspicions of both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Ahab’s Wife: The Star Gazer” by Sena Jeter Naslund – This novel was inspired by a mere passage in Moby Dick mentioning such a character. While most of the action of the novel is outside of Moby Dick totally, the sea is a constant presence in this novel. I haven’t read Moby Dick yet, but this book made me want to give it a try!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller– I was actually torn between this and Circe by the same author, but I decided on this one because it comes “first” (though both books work as stand alones.) This book reimagines The Iliad from the perspective of Patroclus, who loved Achilles. Circe imagines the life of the witch who turned Odysseus’ men to pigs in The Odyssey (in this we learn here she had a good reason.)

Foe by JM Coetzee – This reimagines the story of Robinson Crusoe and makes us question everything we thought we knew. In 1920 writer, Daniel Foe is approached by Susan Barton, formerly a castaway on a desert island. She tells him the story of Cruso, a fellow castaway. But Foe turns the story into something of his own invention.

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye – I suppose I would call a “Jane Eyre adjacent” book. The story begins with orphaned Jane Steele’s immortal words “Reader, I murdered him,” in reference to her cruel, predatory cousin. She is sent to a horrible boarding school and then makes her way to London and finally Highgate House, home of her new employer Mr. Charles Thornfield. At every stop she leaves a few bodies behind her. This is primarily just a lot of fun.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham – This novel imagines Virginia Woolf as she writes Mrs. Dalloway. In separate timelines, it also imagines a woman reading the novel who is deeply affected by it, and a sort of modern day reincarnation of the main character.

Jack Maggs by Peter Carey– In Great Expectations, the main character is impacted by an early encounter with the convict, Magwitch. In this novel we get to know who Magwitch really is. Maggs returns to England from the prison island of Australia with vengeance on his mind. His journey takes him across London society.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Witches

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

October 27: Halloween Freebie

Last year I did ghosts so for this one, I decided to to witches!

1. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman– I also love the prequel, Rules of Magic. There’s also a prequel to that called Magic Lessons, but I wasn’t as much a fan of that one. A fourth (supposedly final, but who knows) book in the series, called The Book of Magic just came out; but I haven’t read it yet.

2. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen- This is sometime accused of being a bit of a Practical Magic copycat, and I can see why. But really while the premise is the same (two magical sisters) this book does it’s own thing with it. It has a sequel, First Frost, too. I think the sequel takes it even further from Practical Magic territory though.

3. Circe by Madeline Miller- She’s best known as the witch who turned Odysseus’ men to pigs in The Odyssey. But in this novel Madeline Miller allows Circe to navigate her transition from a meek nymph-ish thing to a witch who is beloved and feared (and had a good reason for turning those guys into pigs!)

4. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire- If you’re a fan of The Wizard of Oz, you’re in for a a surprise in this one. If you’re a fan of the Broadway musical, Wicked, same thing goes (it’s very different from the book). The green lady take center stage here, and when you get to know her, you’ll never see either in the same way again. I’m not in love with this book to be honest, but the witch it portrays is vivid and compelling. It starts the Wicked Years series, but it’s the only one I’ve read.

5. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness- I have some issues with this  book too, but again it’s portrayal of witchcraft is rich and fully realized. And yes, there are vampires too. And some other creatures. But the witches were my favorite in this one. It starts a trilogy (which I still need to finish!) and is the basis for a TV adaptation as well.

6. The Witches by Roald Dahl– When I was a kid this petrified me. I had nightmares about the Grand High Witch. But I think it was the first time I remember when I actually enjoyed the fear. It was the magic of being terrified and enthralled at the same time.

7. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor– This has been dubbed the “Nigerian Harry Potter.” While there are similarities (common in almost all “youngster learns about magic” narratives) this has it’s roots deeply in African folklore, which differentiates it. The story is continued in the sequel Akata Warrior.

8. A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan- This books is about five generations in a family of witches, beginning in the 19th century and continuing through WWII. I had a few issues with this one, but it’s worth a read, even if only for the last 1/4 when the witches help us win WWII.

9. The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson– I had an interesting response to this one. It’s about a girl who lives in a rigid, puritanical society called Bethel. When she’s lured into the forbidden woods that surround Bethel, she is given the journal of the mother she never knew, by the spirits of four mythical witches. That sets off a curse on Bethel, that the protagonist has to figure out how to break. I felt like this had some really great ideas and intentions but the execution doesn’t always live up to them. It’s the first in series, so I’m hoping the next book, The Dawn of the Coven, helps to realize some of it’s potential.

10. The Winter Witch by Paula Bracken– I enjoyed this one while I was reading it, but after I finished it, I hardly gave it another thought. It’s about a strange, silent girl who gets married in early 19th century Wales. Her oddities make the the locals think she’s a witch, and they may just be right… It’s part of a series, and I haven’t read the others, but it stands alone.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set on Islands

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s topic was:

July 27: Books I’d Want With Me While Stranded On a Deserted Island

But since I did something similar recently, I decided to do books set on an island. To make it a little more challenging I decided not to use any obvious island books: so no Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, Lord of the Flies, etc.

1. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell– This was a childhood favorite about a 12 year old girl who lives alone on an island off the California coast for years. It’s loosely based on the true story of Juana Maria, the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island. There’s also a sequel called Zia, and I vaguely remember reading it, but have no memory of the actual content of that one.

2. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton – Is it strange that I don’t really think of this as taking place on an island? I guess the dinosaurs commend attention more than the location! But actually the fact that it takes place on an island is important because it’s means that a) it’s an isolated location (so the dinosaurs don’t threaten the rest of the world) and b) the characters can’t get away so easily.

3. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – I said I wouldn’t count Lord of the Flies, and I didn’t but I will count this satire. It’s sort of an all female version of Lord of the Flies meets Lost meets America’s Next Top Model meets Pirates of the Caribbean.

4. Foe by JM Coetzee – This one is also strongly inspired by a book I wouldn’t allow on my list, in this case Robinson Crusoe. It’s about a woman who was supposedly on the island with “Cruso” she tells writer Danie Foe her story.

5. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – Here’s another one that I don’t usually think of as being an “island book,” even though the island setting it pretty important to the plot.

6. Circe by Madeline Miller- A lot of the action of this novel takes place on Aiaia, the island where Circe has been banished by Zeus. But she makes the place a home, and it becomes sort of an extension of Circe’s powers as she uses things growing on the island to make spells.

7. The Magus by John Fowles– This is another book I don’t often think of as being on an island. In this case I think it would work in any isolated spot cut off from outside influence.

8. The Beach by Alex Garland – This one is also strongly inspired by Lord of the Flies, but since it’s not Lord of the Flies, it counts. I’m actually not the biggest fan of this book (just not really my taste), but it does fit the list…

9. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert- This book opens in Honolulu in the 1890’s and then moves to Kalaupapa, the leper colony on the island of Moloka’i. There’s a sequel, called Daughter of Moloka’i but once again this moves the action away from the island.

10. The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve – This is a dual timeline novel set on the island of Smuttynose in New Hampshire. One timeline is contemporary and one follows murders that happened in 1873

Honorary Mention

Anything by LM Montgomery– Most of her work is set on Prince Edward Island. I didn’t include any in the list because I couldn’t settle on just one.

Top Ten Tuesday: Nautical Novels

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

April 6: Books I’d Gladly Throw Into the Ocean (submitted by Beauty & Her Books)

Since there aren’t many books I’d gladly throw in the ocean (even if I strongly dislike it, someone else may like it! That just seems like such a waste!) I decided to take the ocean theme in it’s own direction. These are my top books set at/near/on the ocean.

Just an early disclaimer: I have read a lot of the sea set novels that we now think of as for children (though are some aren’t) like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Treasure Island. My opinion varies depending on the book but for one reason or another a lot of them don’t resonate with me. So this won’t be a list of novels with “the most” ocean presence. But they’re books about the ocean that I enjoyed.

1.

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Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne DuMaurier– The sea plays a role in a lot of DuMaurier’s Cornwall set work (it certainly plays a key role in the plots of Jamaica Inn and Rebecca) but it’s most prevalent in this tale of a married woman’s dalliance with a pirate.

2.

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Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter-Naslund– I suppose this list is a good place to confess that I’ve never actually read Moby Dick, so that won’t be on this list. But the ocean takes a strong role in Una’s epic as well. I actually did really like this book, but it didn’t make me want to read Moby Dick more. I was actually more interested in what Una was up to while Ahab was off at sea.

3,

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Circe by Madeline Miller– Parts of this novel (based on a character who shows up in The Odyssey) take place at sea. Other parts take place under it, and still others take place on an island, but the sea is present throughout, so I’m counting it as “nautical.”

4.

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The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware– Not only a whodunnit, but also a “did it even happen?” set at sea. A travel journalist sees someone thrown overboard on a cruise. But no one else saw anything and no one is missing.

5.

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Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon– If I hadn’t specified “novels” in the topic, I might have been tempted in include Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid. But since I did, I’ll go with this novelistic interpretation of it. It’s told from two perspectives: that of the princess who marries the prince that the mermaid loves, and the mermaid herself.

6.

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The Pirate Captain by Kerry Lynne- Like Pirates of the Caribbean meets Outlander. That’s really the best way to describe this book. It’s a lot of fun, as long as you’re not looking for it to be anything deeper (no pun intended) than that. I want to read the second in the series but it’s long (over 750 pages) so I’m hesitant to dive in (again, I’m really not doing this on purpose!)

7.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck– Years ago, I read this short novel about a poor pearl diver with a sick son. But it’s haunted me for a long time. When he finds a huge pearl the family’s fortunes change, and his family dreams of a better life. But the pearl may be more of a curse than a blessing. It’s a retelling of a Mexican folktale, in which diving, pearls, and the sea, play an important role.

8.

Foe by JM Coetzee– This is the third book on this list that reimagines a sea set classic. In this case, Coetzee imagines that a woman named Susan Barton tells Daniel Foe (Defoe’s name before he fancified it) about her experiences on an island with a shipwrecked Cruso (Robinson Crusoe) and his manservant Friday. But Foe changes up the story a bit to make it more marketable. Barton turns Cruso into her own invention in the story, and then Foe turns that into his invention. It’s really about the enigmatic nature of storytelling, but the ocean (and an island) are strong settings throughout.

9.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys- Wow, yet another classic reimagining with a strong nautical element. Jane Eyre isn’t nautical at all, but this tale of the madwoman in the attic, begins on the shores of the Caribbean.

10.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell– I was obsessed with this book as a kid. It’s based on a true story about a girl who spent 18 years alone on the Island of San Nicholas, off the coast of California.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Last 10 Books With One Word Titles I Read

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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March 3: Books With Single-Word Titles (submitted by Kitty from Kitty Marie’s Reading Corner)

For this one I decided to do the last ten books I read with one word titles. I made a few rules for myself: Subtitles don’t count. “The” counts as word. Titles that are names are acceptable. I usually add some commentary, but since this is about economy of words, that doesn’t feel right!

81wnvagspxl._ac_uy218_ml3_1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

 

81o0w3k8oyl._ac_uy218_ml3_2. Panchinko by Min Jin Lee

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3. Spring by Ali Smith

91txkgehbnl._ac_uy218_ml3_4. Moonrise by Cassandra King

81lrqhg4fgl._ac_ul320_ml3_5. Angel by Elizabeth Taylor

81xr45udqkl._ac_uy218_ml3_6. Educated by Tara Westover

a1wovobgowl._ac_uy218_ml3_7. Melmoth by Sarah Perry

81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_8. Circe by Madeline Miller

81lfdckpnjl._ac_uy218_ml3_9. Winter by Ali Smith

71pwec3g0ol._ac_ul436_10. Flush by Virginia Woolf

Top Ten Tuesday: Character’s I’d Follow on Social Media

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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I really liked this week’s topic:

February 25: Characters I’d Follow On Social Media (submitted by Tilly @thebiblioshelf)

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_1. Anne Shirley from LM Montgomery’s Anne series: Anne’s social media would be positive and upbeat enough for me to feel good when it pops up on my feed, but not so much so that it gets annoying/overbearing.

61vqqqhktdl._ac_uy218_ml3_2. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: I have the sense that her social media would be witty.  It might also be  occasionally judgmental but once you brought that to her attention she’d try to do better in the future. Actually I think a lot of Austen’s characters would be great on social media…

31yhicomrpl-_ac_us218_3. Delysia La Fosse from Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day by Winifred Watson: If social media had existed in the late 1930’s I think that this character would be a social media “influencer.”

51xphws9jdl-_ac_us218_4. Claire Randall Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series: Claire’s funny, self aware observations of life amid 18th century natives and time travelers would make me laugh.

81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_5. Circe from Circe by Madeline Miller– I can see this character as being a very fierce and inspiring, empowering presence on social media.

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6. Eloise from Eloise by Kay Thompson– I think that Eloise’s 140 character observations about life in the Plaza would be so much fun!

51rqr9-0jel-_ac_us218_7. Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher– This guy has a job that’s made for social media and sense of humor that’s perfect for it. Who wouldn’t want to follow the only wizard in the Chicago area?

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Discoveries of 2019

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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January 14: Bookish Discoveries I Made In 2019 (these could be books, authors, blogs, websites, apps, products, etc.)

  1. b1jda6eqis._sy300_Anthony Horowitz- I love a good mystery but it’s rare to find writers who do new, innovative things with the genre. Anthony Horowitz seems like an exception to the rule.  Whether it’s writing a two in one whodinnit (The Magpie Murders) or starting a new detective series featuring himself as a  rather dimwitted sidekick (The World is Murder, The Sentence is Death) Horowitz seems to be ready and willing to try something new.
  2. 81rfph30jl._ac_uy218_ml3_Her Royal Spyness- This series by Rhys Bowen is pure fluff, which is sometimes 100% necessary. It features Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, 34th in line for the British throne. In other words, she’s far enough from the throne to have absolutely no money, but close enough so that the queen often asks for favors. In the early 1930’s she’s takes up a new career as a (very) amateur sleuth. I’ve only read the first three in the series so far.

 

919qe25jntl._ac_uy218_ml3_81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_3.Madeline Miller- I discussed my response to these books a bit in this post and my Best of 2019 list.  I’m not usually a fan of Greek mythology and Classics, but  Madeline Miller’s writing is vivid and compelling,  and the the characters are so human (even when technically they aren’t!) that its hard not to become invested

 

81j8qbx0aal.sr160240_bg2432432434. Elizabeth Taylor- She’s not really a “new” author. She died in 1975. But I read several of her books in 2019, and I’m definitely a new fan! I’ve already read Blaming, Angel, and The Soul of Kindness. I look forward to reading more in 2020.

 

 

 

Well, actually this was more of a top four list. But those were my bookish discoveries last year.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2019

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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December 31: Favorite Books I Read In 2019

81hkqvsgyl._ac_uy218_ml3_1.The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern– About eight years ago I read Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel The Night Circus, and loved it. It was one of those rare books that you can get lost in as you read. Since then I’ve had my eye out for her follow up and it was finally released. The Starless Sea isn’t an easy read, but its one to savor . Once again Morgenstern has created a novel that lets the reader live in it. Yes there is a (confusing at times) plot and characters, but much likeThe Night Circus,  it’s the setting that will stand out in my memory. This book is a vivid, dreamlike, haunting experience. I reviewed it a little in this post.

81xr45udqkl._ac_uy218_ml3_2. Educated by Tara Westover– Tara Westover was 17 the first time she sat in a classroom. Raised by fundamentalist parents on a mountain in Idaho, Westover was taught to distrust established schools, hospitals and government. She was ostensibly homeschooled, but in reality that stopped once she’d learned to read, write, and do basic math. She was encouraged to try to educate herself enough to get into college by her older brother, and brave enough to take the leap when another older brother became abusive enough to be a serious threat to her safety. But Bringham Young University, and later Harvard and Cambridge, were a world away from the life she’d lived under the thumb of a mentally ill father. Trying to adjust to the change, finding a way to relate to her family, and construct her reality as an adult was where Westover’s education was truly tested. This book is shocking, haunting and thought provoking.

919qe25jntl._ac_uy218_ml3_81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_3. Circe and  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller– I discussed my response to these books a bit in this post. I’m not usually a fan of Greek mythology and Classics, but  Madeline Miller’s writing is vivid and compelling,  and the the characters are so human (even when technically they aren’t!) that its hard not to become invested. I loved both of these books and couldn’t decide which to put on my “best” list.

81svkiih7kl._ac_uy218_ml3_4. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware– Harriet ‘Hal’ Westaway has been living hand to mouth since her mother’s death three years ago. She’s barely getting by when she gets a letter from a lawyer saying that her grandmother has recently died and left her money. Hal knows it’s a mistake: her grandmother died years ago. But she’s also desperate. She heads to Mrs. Westway’s Cornwall mansion to try to claim the inheritance. But when she arrives she discovers a family that may be more closely connected to her than she realizes. The estate comes with a lot of secrets, that might give Hal the family she’s always wanted, or might get her killed. This books was reminiscent of Agatha Christie and Daphne DuMaurier. It’s perfect for a cold winter night.

61azp3snool-_ac_us218_5. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar– This book is historical fiction with fantasy gorgeously brushing the edges. When shipping merchant, Jonah Hancock learns that one of his ship’s was sold in exchange for a mermaid, he finds himself thrust into a new life. He travels from London’s seedy underbelly to the finest drawing rooms of high society. His new life brings him to Angelica Neal, a courtesan, who finds that her destiny is entwined with Jonah’s and his mermaid.

51i6ln7tmul-_ac_us218_6. The Library Book by Susan Orlean– In the book, Orlean explores a 1986 fire that almost destroyed the Los Angeles Public Library, and may have been the result of arson. In the process, she also explores the city’s history, the library’s history and the importance of libraries in general. Reading this book gives an appreciation for libraries as community centers, educational institutions and one of the most uniquely democratic endeavors in the world. People often wonder if libraries still serve a purpose, or if they will one day be obsolete. Orlean’s book makes the case that they serve a vital and irreplaceable function every day.

513xypka1bl-_ac_us218_7.Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield- About ten years ago I read Diane Setterfield’s debut The Thirteenth Taleand was entranced. Once Upon A Riveris just as compelling but in it’s own way. Set in a pub by the Thames in the late 19th century, this book opens on a winter’s night when a badly injured, soaking wet man staggers into the pub, holding a little girl who appears to be dead. A local nurse saves his life and quickly realizes that the little girl is not dead (anymore?) but the girl is silent and the man can’t remember how they came to be in this situation and has no idea who the girl is. One local family thinks that she’s the daughter who was kidnapped years earlier. Another thinks she’s the long lost daughter of their prodigal son. A middle aged woman is inexplicably convinced that the 4 year old child is her sister… .

91hggynrxrl._ac_uy218_ml3_ 81b4caedtml._ac_uy218_ml3_8.The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch by Katharine Arden– Once again I couldn’t choose between two contenders from the same author. But in this case both are from the same series. It’s rare that a series will start off well and just get better as it goes, but that’s exactly what happened with Arden’s Winternight trilogy. It started well with The Bear and the Nightingale but then Arden upped her game with the sequels!

81eiilgia0l._ac_uy218_ml3_9.I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’ Farrell– In seventeen essays O’Farrell recounts her life via near death experiences. These experiences range from the dramatic (a plane that almost crashed) to the more mundane (a stressful medical test) but each one prompted O’Farrell to reflect and evaluate her life. Naturally an eight year old O’Farrell in the hospital with Encephalitis perceives things very differently from a thirty-something O’Farrell experiencing a risky childbirth. While the subject matter is rather heavy, this book never feels it. O’Farrell’s writing is occasionally witty, often perceptive, and always beautiful.

61ime-a6gql._ac_uy218_ml3_10. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie– Set in Nigeria, this book tells the story of 15 year old Kambili and her older brother Jaja. Kambili and Jaja are wealthy and privileged. Their father is an important person in their local community, known for his generosity. But with his family, he is a religious fanatic and a tyrant. As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent outside the city to stay with their aunt. Aunty Ifeoma is a progressive university professor whose home is a relaxed place of laughter and lightness. In her home, Kambili and Jaja experience life without their father’s oppressive presence for the first time. When they return to his house nothing can be the same again.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of the 2010s

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

December 10: Freebie

It’s a little late, but it’s still Tuesday!

I’ve been seeing a lot of “best of the decade” lists lately, so I figured that this week I’d share my top books of the last ten years.

91dwjhs08ml._ac_uy218_ml3_Room by Emma Donoghue (2010) I think that the first thing that really struck me about this book was the perspective: five year old Jack, a boy who has never left the small room where he and his mother are held captive, makes a unique voice. He doesn’t know anything different so he doesn’t fully understand how messed up his reality is. His mother keeps it that way for his own protection: why tell him about a world he may never see? But when he and his mother escape, his perspective changes. Donoghue’s mastery of Jack’s voice comes across as we begin to understand how Jack’s minuscule reality and limited experience has shaped the way he thinks, and how that grows as Jack’s world expands.

818ezr7u2al._ac_uy218_ml3_The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern(2011) I was actually torn between this book and Morgensern’s 2019 offering The Starless Sea, which I read recently and loved. However I went with this book because I think that it’s more accessible to casual readers than The Starless Sea, which is more dense. I also think that the vivid, descriptive, magical setting of The Night Circus lays a groundwork which The Starless Sea builds upon.  It’s a setting that dominates the plot and characterization.

51avlw-rakl-_ac_us218_Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie (2013) In some ways it feels like this book, about being an African immigrant in America was written 100 years ago. It feels like racial tensions in America in the past decade have erupted in a way that make the Obama era seem like a distant dream. But that’s how it feels to me, as a white, native born citizen. In other words, I’m in a very privileged position in my country in many ways, and therefore I don’t experience it in the same way that someone who has a different position experiences it.  I think that this book made me aware of some of the ways that make privilege impacts my perception of events that might help answer the “how did we get here?” question.

81v5wp2zeql._ac_uy218_All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014) This novel set during WWII features two endearing protagonists; a blind French girl who must flee Nazi occupied Paris and a German boy who uses his skills building and fixing radios to help the Nazis find the Resistance. Even though these characters are from different countries and on different sides of the war, their stories are intrinsically interwoven.  When their paths cross it feels almost inevitable.

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_A Little Life by Hanya Yanaghiara (2015)- This is a story of friendship over many years and the families that we create. It’s also a story of trauma, and it asks whether recovery is even possible. When we meet Jude, he his is a young college grad with several close friends, a good job, and a traumatic past. As we come to know him and his friends, we see him grow into a successful attorney who maintains his friendships and develops new relationships. But he’s still haunted by his past. His struggle to overcome it, and doubts about whether that’s possible, are the bulk of this novel. It’s a struggle that isn’t always pretty. At time’s its downright brutal, but the struggle is still beautiful. The novel itself is long and at times difficult but I think one of the reasons it appeals to me is that it recalls a 19th century Bildungsroman.

81vn8opa4zl._ac_uy218_M Train by Patti Smith (2015)- I’ve seen Smith’s other memoir, Just Kids, on many similar lists. But I actually prefer this one. It’s less linear and more internal. We spend time not just in Smith’s life, but also in her dreams. Just Kids is a memoir of Smith’s youth in the 60’s and 70’s. M Train is a memoir of her life over the past decade or so. While Just Kids gives background that’s important to understanding the woman in M Train, I feel that this is the more mature work.

81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_Circe by Madeline Miller (2018)- I was actually torn between this and Miller’s other book Song of Achilles for this list, because they’re both beautiful works. But I went with this one because it feels somehow larger. Not larger as a physical book (they’re about the same size) but as a story and as a depiction of Miller’s world. But I highly recommend both books.

81xr45udqkl._ac_uy218_ml3_Educated by Tara Westover (2018)- Tara Westover was the daughter of mentally ill survivalists who was homeschooled (a process which ended once she learned to read and write) and later pushed herself to get into Brigham Young University, Harvard, and Cambridge. But her educational success doesn’t give her what she needs to understand her upbringing. Even after she earns her PHD, her understanding of her abusive childhood depended on learning to trust herself and her memory. I appreciated the fact that this book complicated the notion of “hard work = success.” Westover depicts success, and education, as a process rather than a fait accompli.

513xypka1bl-_ac_us218_Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield (2018) I was really excited to read this because I loved Setterfield’s previous novel The Thirteenth Tale. This was one of the rare highly anticipated novels that lives up to expectations. I think one of the reasons that it works for me is that it doesn’t try to give easy answers. It opens with a mystery and offers several possible conclusions but doesn’t tie itself down to any of them.