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

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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

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

  1. Hester Fox

What I read in 2020: The Widow of Pale Harbor

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

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

2. Kristin McGee

What I read in 2020: American Royals

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

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

3. Nnedi Okrafor

What I read in 2020: Akata Witch and Akata Warrior

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

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

4. Elizabeth Von Arnim

What I read in 2020: The Enchanted April

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

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

5. Monica Dickens

What I read in 2020: Mariana

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

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

6. Erika Swyler

What I read in 2020: The Book of Speculation

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

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

7. Seanan McGuire

What I read in 2020: Rosemary and Rue

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

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

8. Gerald Durrell

What I read in 2020: My Family and Other Animals

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

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

9. Jess Walter

What I Read in 2020: Beautiful Ruins

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

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

10. Mary Wesley

What I read in 2020: The Camomile Lawn

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

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2020

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 29: Favorite Books of 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone have any must reads this year?

Mini Persephone Readathon Challenges

 

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I’m participating in the Dwell in Possibility Winter 2020 Mini Persephone Readathon this weekend. I’m be reading Mariana by Monica Dickens.

This post is for a few of the optional challenges

Photogenic Persephones: Share a photo of your Persephone collection and/or your readathon TBR stack.

My collection minus my current read

In Six Words: Describe your current Persephone read in 6 words.

education, coming of age (yes, I’m counting that as one word!), bildungsroman, witty, charming, nostalgic

Beautiful Endpapers: Post a photo of your current book’s endpapers/your favorite Persephone endpapers.

Some info about the endpaper for Mariana:

The endpaper is a voile dress fabric designed in 1933 when Mary would have been 18: brightly-coloured tulips are surrounded by swirls of green, white and blue, images of freedom and happiness that evoke the simplicity and beauty of an English country garden. X

cover1

A Cup of Persephone: Post a pic of your Persephone read paired with a mug or cup of something delicious.

Mariana and tea (the tea got cut out of the shot a little, but I think it still counts!)

Quote This: Share a quote from your current read:

“But Mariana was wrong. You couldn’t die. You had to go on. When you were born, you were given a trust of individuality that you were bound to preserve. It was precious. The things that happened in your life, however closely connected with other people, developed and strengthened that individuality. You became a person.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Recent Bookshelf Additions

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

January 21: The Ten Most Recent Additions to My Bookshelf

I decided to be pretty literal about this and go with the physical books placed on my actual shelf most recently.

51o77whsaml._ac_sr250230_1.Mariana by Monica Dickens– This is my latest addition to my slowly growing Persephone collection. I think I’m going to start it for the upcoming Persephone Readathon.

 

 

 

97801437861602.The Blue Rose By Kate Forsyth– My friend got me this for the holidays this year. She knows that I’m a big fan of Kate Forsyth, and this is her latest. I’m looking forward to starting it soon.

 

 

 

 

71j3hkayifl._ac_uy218_ml3_3. White As Snow by Tanith Lee- I found this in a secondhand store recently and I was excited because it’s been on my TBR for a while: it’s a combination of a Snow White retelling and Persephone/Demeter/Hades story. Lee is a really underappreciated writer IMO.

 

 

818e2qmhlhl._ac_uy218_ml3_4. A Beggar’s Kingdom by Paullina Simons– I won this in a goodreads giveaway, but then I realized that it’s the sequel toThe Tiger Catcher. Since I don’t have that one yet, I want to wait until I do, before I read the second one.

 

 

41nnbvwgaal-_ac_us218_5. The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra M Gilbert and Susan Gubar– This was another secondhand find. I used it a bit for several classes in college because it has some amazing criticism regarding female 19th century writers. I’d love to revisit it at several points as I read things now. It’s not really a book you read cover to cover in one sitting. It’s more a book you refer to and read a chapter here and there.

 

91aqq9rnmll._ac_uy218_ml3_6. The Visitors by Sally Beauman– Another secondhand shop find. I don’t know anything about this one. I just picked it up because it looked interesting. Hopefully it is.

 

 

 

81o0w3k8oyl._ac_uy218_ml3_7. Panchinko by Min Jin Lee- I actually read this one already. It was about a Korean family living in Japan in the 20th century. It was really interesting in that it dealt with a historical time and place that I knew almost nothing about.

 

 

 

91cvrgq3trl._ac_uy218_ml3_8. Sapphire Skies by Belinda Alexandra– I got this from a secondhand shop too (they have paperbacks for $1 so I always figure, even if it turns out to be bad, what do I have to lose?) and it looked interesting so I decided to give it a shot.

 

 

51sfno9ygsl._ac_ul320_ml3_9. Lyrebird by Cecilia Ahern– This one was from a library sale. I got it because I’d enjoyed some of Ahern’s other work, and I enjoyed this one too. I featured it for #WhattoReadWed on my instagram.

 

 

81fviyckszl._ac_uy218_ml3_10. The Group by Mary McCarthy– I keep hearing about this book and reading about it. It’s been on my TBR for a while, so I decided to go for it.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Dual Timeline Novels

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

February 20: Books I’ve Decided I’m No Longer Interested In Reading

This topic didn’t really speak to me. My thinking is that if I’m no longer interested in reading them, then why waste time writing about them? So instead I decided to look at one of my favorite fictional genres. I love dual timeline narratives in which the past and the present interact in some way. It could be a literal interaction; such as someone from the present having contact with someone in the past, or it could be more thematic- the present day character learns about some past event that illuminates something that s/he is experiencing. My “rules” for this list are that there isn’t allowed to be any literal time travel. Each character needs to remain physically in his/her own period. Visions of the other period are allowed though. Also, only two primary timelines are allowed. We can learn bits and pieces of what happens in between, but the main narrative focuses on two timelines. Here are ten favorites:

51pv4ly0mtl-_ac_us218_1. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton– I was initially reluctant to read this after having been rather disappointed in Morton’s debut The House at Riverton. But I’m so glad that I gave her another chance because now she’s one of my favorite authors! This story starts off with a little girl, turning up abandoned on a ship from England to Australia in 1913. The only clue as to her identity is a book of fairy tales in her suitcase. Years later, her granddaughter, Cassandra, inherits a cottage in Cornwall, and journeys to England to discover the truth about her grandmother’s origins. She discovers that the key to the puzzle exists before her grandmother’s birth, with a Victorian country house full of family secrets. Friendship,  rivalry, betrayal, romance, and murder all play out in stories within stories. But even though the narrative is intricate (to say the least) it’s not hard to follow. Each chapter heading tells us exactly when and where the bit we’re reading takes place.

51iaiuahol-_ac_us218_2. Mariana by Susanna Kearsley– Susanna Kearsley has written many wonderful novels in this genre. For me, this one is a standout but anything she’s written is a reliable bet. Julia Beckett moves into an old farmhouse, one that she’d wanted to own since childhood. But when she moves in, she begins dreaming of Mariana, a British woman who lived in the house in the 17th century. Mariana loved her neighbor, Richard, a Loyalist, whose politics put him at odds with her uncle. Though their romance ended in tragedy, Mariana and Richard loved each other too much to stay separated. Their love will come full circle in the present day, and Julia will have an important role to play in the resolution.

51c-asvgcil-_ac_us218_3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diana Setterfield– Reclusive author, Vida Winter, has never told anyone the truth about her life story. When she’s old and ill, she hires Margaret Lea to write her biography. Margaret listens in fascination and disbelief as Vida tells her story of gothic weirdness. It’s complete with twins, a ghost, a governess, a fire, and a secret that’s never been shared. Margaret has her own issues with trust and intimacy, and her own past. Through listening to and telling Vida’s tale, she may find some resolution in her own life.

5160vyclkel-_ac_us218_4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel– During a performance of King Lear, Arthur Leander, famous actor, has a heart attack onstage and dies despite the best efforts of an EMT in the audience. The EMT, Jeevan, later learns that on this same night the terrible flu began to spread. There is no cure, hospitals are flooded, and people begin to panic. Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves in his apartment as the world around them falls apart.  Fifteen years later, Kirsten, who as a small child appeared in that fateful production of King Lear, is an actress with the Travelling Symphony. This is a performing arts troupe that travels from one settlement of the ruined world to another. They perform Shakespeare and play music for the small communities of survivors because “survival is insufficient”- people need reminders of what it means to be human. When they arrive at St. Deborah by the Water and encounter a cult and a violent prophet who doesn’t let anyone leave. The book covers twenty years during which the twists of fate that link these disparate characters are revealed.

51lo8bgzurl-_ac_us218_5. The Plague Tales by Ann Benson– In 1348, a Spanish doctor  Alejandro Canches is tasked with keeping the court of Edward III alive during the plague. Nearly 700 years later, in a futuristic 2005 (the book was written in 1995 so 2005 was the future then!) Janie Crowe, a physician comes across a soil sample that contains a microbe that may unleash the bubonic plague on a post-Outbreak world that has already been decimated by disease. As the book progresses, these two separate stories of doctors fighting disease begin to intertwine in interesting ways. This book can be read as a standalone, or as the beginning of a trilogy. It’s followed by The Burning Road and The Physician’s Tale.

51iqjeozjvl-_ac_us218_6. A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware– Blythe Barton was one married to a Hollywood power player. Then she walked in on him in bed with her sister. One messy divorce later, Blythe takes refuge in Cornwall, where she’s rented a cottage for the summer. She meets Lucas, the owner of the cottage that she’s renting. Jack is a widower, the father of a young son, who is trying to keep his estate going. Blythe wants to help. But she soon begins to have dreams and visions of Lucas’s ancestors. In the 18th century, the estate belonged to a woman, also named Blythe Barton. She was married, against her will, to a man named Christopher, though she loved his brother, Ennis. All three have tragic fates, but observing these historical events gives Blythe the perspective she needs to move on with her own life.

41xgjp2alkl-_ac_us218_7. The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve– In 1873, two women living on the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of New Hampshire, were found murdered. A third woman survived by hiding in a sea cave. In the present day, photojournalist Jean goes to the island with her husband, Thomas and their daughter Billie. The plan is for Jean to shoot a photo essay for a magazine about the murders. They take a boat with Thomas’ brother Rich and his girlfriend, Adelaine. As Jean is drawn into the murders that happened so long ago, Thomas and Adelaide are drawn to each other. All of the characters, in both timelines, are heading toward disaster. The book is based on real murders that happened on the island Smuttynose, though the contemporary story is fictional. Actually, the historical story is fictional too since the crimes in the book happen in a way very different from the story that came out in court at the alleged killer’s trial. The book was given an ok film adaptation in 2004. It’s worth a look if you like the story, but it comes as no surprise that the book is better.

51h-9e-csql-_ac_us218_8. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood– Like The Weight of Water, this is based on a real-life murder. In 1843, Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery were murdered in Upper Canada. Grace Marks, a maid in the household, and James McDermott, a stableman/handyman, were convicted of the murder. McDermott was hanged and Grace Marks was sentenced to life in prison. That much is historical fact. Atwood’s novel begins after Grace has been incarcerated for some time. A committee that believes in her innocence hopes to have her pardoned and released. Since Grace cannot remember the crimes, they hire Dr. Simon Jordan, a psychologist to evaluate her and determine her sanity. Dr. Jordan meets with Grace and listens as she tells him the story of her life, leading up to the day of the murders. We follow Grace’s story and at times we wonder about the truth of what Grace tells Dr. Jordan. She seems to make an effort to keep his interest. We’re left with a sense of ambiguity. How much of what Grace tells is the truth? If what she tells isn’t the truth, does that mean she’s lying? This was recently made into a netflix miniseries that was also pretty good.

61hyvemt7ol-_ac_us218_9. Possession by AS Byatt– In the 19th century, poet Randolph Henry Ash, known for being a devoted husband, had an affair with his fellow poet Christabel LaMotte. At the end of the 20th century, scholar Roland Mitchell discovers evidence of the secret romance and begins to investigate. His quest leads him to LaMotte scholar, Dr. Maud Baily. The two become obsessed with finding out the truth about what happened between Ash and LaMotte, and their own romantic lives begin to become entwined with those of the poets. Both stories are told in parallel and come to echo one another in interesting ways. The book had a film adaptation that wasn’t bad on its own but made some fairly significant changes from the novel.

51ixaf4tmsl-_ac_us218_10. The Eight by Katherine Neville–  In 1790, Mireille, a novice nun at Montglane Abbey is tasked with helping her cousin, Valentine, disperse the pieces of a chess set in order to keep them from falling into the wrong hands. The set was a gift from the Moors to Emperor Charlemagne, and now it’s sought by power-hungry men and women including Napoleon, Robespierre, and Catherine the Great. In 1972 computer expert Cat Velis is sent to Algeria on a special assignment. Before she leaves, she is asked by an antique dealer to find the Montglaine Service, the same chess set that Mireille had tried to protect. It’s rumored to be in Algeria. As Cat tracks down the chess set and learns its history, she discovers the power that it contains.  The author wrote a sequel in 2008 called The Fire but I haven’t read it yet.

51timps1ytl-_ac_us218_11. The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor- Yes I know it’s supposed to be ten but I had trouble deciding between a couple, and I ended up just including an extra book. This is also based on a real incident. In 1917, England was still in the grips of the most devastating war that it had ever seen. Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, two cousins in Yorkshire, announced that they’ve photographed fairies in their garden. They release the photographs and become a national sensation. A country torn apart by war seems to have found the magic it desperately needs. Eventually, though, Frances and Elsie feel that they must tell the truth about the pictures. In 2017, Olivia Kavanagh inherits her grandfather’s bookshop and discovers an old manuscript. She becomes immersed in the story it tells, that ties past to present. But when she discovers a photo, she learns that reality and fantasy may be intertwined as well.