August 16: Books I Love That Were Written Over Ten Years Ago
Since many/most of the books I love are 10+ years old, I decided to do the last ten five star readers from ten years ago or more. Since I only give five stars to the best of the best, this was harder than I thought (there were other five star books but not written in the past 10 years). I ended up going back quite a while!
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 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.”
But I’m not big on bookish merchandise. If I’m going to spend money on bookish stuff, I’ll spend it on actual books, thank you! But since it’s spring, and it’s starting to get nice out, I decided to look at gardens. Even though I’m not a gardener (I don’t have the patience for it) I do love a story set in a garden. So here are some favorites:
This is a classic garden. Mary goes to live with her uncle on the gloomy Yorkshire moors, but discovers a hidden, abandoned garden. By nurturing it back to life, Mary restores health, both physical and mental, to herself and everyone around her.
Tom is staying with his aunt and uncle who live in the city with nowhere to play outdoors. But when the clock strikes 13 each night (yes, you read that right) Tom sneaks out of bed and goes to play in a garden that appears only then.
I remember when I read this, it reminded me of The Secret Garden in a number of ways. That may have been intentional, because The Secret Garden author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, even makes a cameo appearance here.
These can be read as a duology or as stand alones. The first is about John Tradescant, a royal gardener in the early 17th century. The second follows his son, who travels to Virginia. Father and son have little in common other than a love of making things grow.
This is a book I read a lot time ago and liked a lot. It also had some Secret Garden vibes. Gardening once again is a metaphor for the life and health of the characters. I’d like to reread this at some point soon.
January 25: New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021
These are authors who I read for the first time in 2021 and who I want to continue to read in the future
Lucy Foley – I read The Guest List and The Hunting Party in 2021. Neither were brilliant but both were entertaining Locked Room mysteries that kept me involved and guessing, That was what I needed mentally when I read them, and it’s good to know there’s an author I can go to for that.
Alix E. Harrow – I’d been meaning to read The Ten Thousand Doors of January since it was released in late 2019. I finally got to it this year. Often when I finally get to a book I’d been meaning to read for a long time, it doesn’t live up to expectations. In this case, it did.
Jenny Offill– I sort of stumbled across Weather at the exact right time to read it: one of those days when you feel like humanity, and the world itself, is headed straight downhill. It didn’t confirm or deny those feelings but it definitely acknowledged them. That inspired me to check out Dept of Speculation as well. I definitely want to look for her work more in the future.
Kelly Link – I read her story collection Get In Trouble, which totally appealed to my desire for weirdness in my fiction. Most of these stories are set in places we recognize enough so that they seem familiar, but Link introduces elements that set it askew, and eventually turn it upside down. I definitely want to check out more of her work soon.
Margarita Montimore – Someone in my book club recommended Oona Out of Order this year, and I enjoyed it a lot. It’s about a women who ages out of order starting from her 19th birthday onward. So she wakes up and it’s 32 years in the future, she’s 51 (externally; internally she’s still 19) and has to live her 51 year old life for a year. From 51 she might leap forwards to 70 or back to 20. It sounds confusing, but it was done well enough for me to want to check out more from the author.
Julia Quinn – I’m not usually a huge reader of the romance genre (which I’m classifying as different from books that have romance in them) but I’m starting to become more of one, since romance novels have happy endings, and the craziness of the last 2 years has definitely made me see the appeal in a story I know will make me happy! I started reading her Bridgerton series, because I liked the Netflix series of the same name. I’m still trying to decide if I’ll read the book before the TV version airs (what I did in preparation for the upcoming second season/The Viscount Who Loved Me) or if I’ll just binge a bunch of them when I’m in the mood for a HEA
Silvia Moreno-Garcia – I read Gods of Jade and Shadow and Mexican Gothic in 2021. I enjoyed them both, but they were both very different books. I suppose the only things you could say they had in common was the speculative fiction genre and a strong Mexican setting. It looks like her other books are just as varied, so I look forward to them.
Philippa Pearce – Tom’s Midnight Garden is a book I missed a child. I’d seen so many people cite it as a favorite, so I decided to read it in 2021 when I discovered a copy in a used bookshop. I’m very glad I did! I want to check out some of her other work soon. It looks pretty varied.
Maud Hart Lovelace – The Betsy-Tacy series was another series that I didn’t read as a kid. But again, I’d seen it cited as influential by many people. I finally read the first four books in the series, and found them charming and comforting. I look forward to continuing with the series in 2022.
I’m posting it a bit late today, but here is The Official List:
1. Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl-This is a book that requires a bit of explanation. Beatrice’s boyfriend died, just before their high school graduation. The death was a presumed suicide. A year later, she reunites with her high school friends, and they spend an evening out. On their way home they have a car accident. They soon learn that they are in “Neverworld Wake” following the accident; a kind of limbo in which they will relive the day of the accident again and again. Only one of them will survive the accident and they must have a unanimous vote on who that will be. It soon becomes clear that in order to make this decision, they must learn the truth about Beatrice’s boyfriend’s death the year before. They began to investigate from inside “the wake.” But they quickly realize that they’re all hiding something about the night he died… This book combines Sci-fi/Fantasy with an Agatha Christie-eque murder mystery. It’s a mash up that works surprisingly well.
2. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro- Klara is an Artificial Friend (AF). She’s solar powered and therefore sees the sun as a deity. She watches from her place in the store as customers come in to browse. Eventually she’s chosen an moves to her new home. She movies in with teenage Josie, who lives an isolated life, and suffers from a mysterious illness. It’s hard to explain this book, since it’s sort of a fable. It’s about humanity and friendship and faith.
3. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow I’m actually not sure how to explain this one, because I think it’s the kind of book that’s better the less you know going in to it. Suffice it to say that it’s a fun hybrid of genres including adventure, fantasy and historical fiction. Also, it’s about Doors (yes, I used a capital “D” on purpose.)
4. The Betsy -Tacy Treasury by Maud Hart Lovelace I’d heard these discussed and cited as being very important to people’s childhood reading, but somehow I’d missed them as a child. I got a treasury of the first four books at a used bookstore and was utterly charmed. It follows the childhood of Betsy Ray and her friends in Minnesota at the turn of the twentieth century. I found these books to be very comforting and reassuring. Yes, things are sometimes hard for Betsy and her friends, but we know with a child’s innocence, that they’ll make it through their struggles. Is it totally realistic? No. But I think just reading about happiness can be very reassuring.
5. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce – This was another book that I’d heard of as being a very important childhood read for a lot of people. So when I saw a copy I grabbed it. It’s a slow strange story about a boy named Tom who is shipped off to stay with his aunt and uncle when his brother gets sick. He’s sure he’ll have a terrible summer. But one night he hears the clock chime an unexpected thirteen times. He’s transported to a garden where he meets a girl named Hattie. He returns to the garden every night, but as the summer ends and he has to return home, he starts to look for a way to his secret place.
6. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – I came to this somewhat knowledgeable about what to expect thanks to having already seen the film and the miniseries. But in spite of prior knowledge about the content, I still found this book compelling. It’s a slim and rather slow moving novel about the disappearance of three schoolgirls and their teacher on a St. Valentine’s Day picnic in 1900 Australia. It creates a strong sense of atmosphere that manages to be gothic in spite of the sun drenched setting.
7. The Tiger Catcher by Paullina Simons– I’d had this on my TBR for a while. The author is one I’ve liked in the past and often pay attention too, but I’m about 50/50 on her books. This one had some not so great reviews, but it exceeded my expectations, which was nice. It’s about Julian, a handsome young man who falls in love with a mysterious woman named Josephine. But when he learns that she’s not what she seems, she vanishes from his life forever. Desperate to get her back, Julian takes a leap into the unknown… It’s the first in a trilogy, and I look forward to reading the rest in 2022.
8. Weather by Jenny Offill – This is a perfect read for those days when it feels like humanity, and the world itself, is headed straight downhill. The main character, Lizzie, is a librarian who takes on a side gig answering letters that come in to a doom-laden podcast called “Hell and High Water.” She tries to inject a note of hope into her answers, but it’s hard, especially when she spends her days answering people who write into the podcast, who tend to be rather pessimistic, to say the least. I saw this book as being subtly, and unexpectedly, optimistic. It has a wry sense of humor about itself. I also really like the title, the more I think about it. “Weather” can be a meteorological event or condition, but it can also be a verb that means both “to wear away by long exposure” and “to endure and come through safely.” I think it’s up to the reader to decide which definition is the most relevant to the book. It’s a quick read, but I found it an unexpected surprise.
9. Killers of the Flowers Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann– I’m not usually a true crime buff, but my book club read it this year and I found myself unexpectedly drawn into it. It takes place in Oklahoma in the 1920’s. The Osage Nation was extremely wealthy due to oil found on their land. Then they start to be killed off. People who investigated the murders were also killed. As the death toll rose, J Edgar Hoover hired a former Texas rancher to solve the mystery. The story that emerges has “stranger than fiction” qualities, but is still utterly believable.