Top Ten Tuesday: Authors That Make Me Smile

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

September 7: Books Guaranteed to Put a Smile On Your Face

I did a similar lists here and here but I figure that people can always use a reason to smile, right? This time I decided to stick to authors rather than specific titles.

Books by Georgette Heyer– I’m slowly rationing these so that I don’t run out. They’re mostly Jane Austen-eque regency romances, but also some whodunnits. So far my favorite is probably The Reluctant Widow or These Old Shades. A Christmas Party is a good whodunnit

Books by Barbara Pym– Pym’s social comedies are influenced by Austen, but her heroine is often a spinster (and stays one) throughout the matchmaking and meddling with other peoples lives. I haven’t read all of these either but Excellent Women, Jane and Prudence and Crompton Hodnet are all worth a read. Wow, can you tell Jane Austen makes me smile? I just put two authors on my list because they remind me of her work in some way! (Austen herself was on a previous list, linked above)

Books by Sophie Kinsella – Not great literature by any stretch of the imagination I really liked the first 3ish books in her Shopaholic series but then I feel like it just went on way too long. I like some of her others though. My (Not So) Perfect Life, Can You Keep A Secret, and I’ve Got Your Number are all silly and fun.

Books by Marian Keyes – Sometimes Keyes ventures into slightly darker territory, but most of her work is light and fun. Check out Watermelon, Sushi For Beginners and The Other Side of the Story. Her essay collections, Cracks in My Foundation and Under the Duvet are also fun.

Books by Sarah Addison Allen – Her books take place in a world very recognizable to our own, and feature people with (mostly) real world problems. But there are touches of magic everywhere that take you out of the mundane. I loved Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen and The Girl Who Chased the Moon.

Books by Rainbow Rowell– I haven’t read all of her work, but I’ve liked what I’ve read. Fangirl, Attachments and Landline are all good for a smile. I know her Simon Snow series (a Fangirl tie in) is really popular, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

Books by Jill Mansell- My biggest problem with these is that they all tend to blend together in my mind, so it’s hard to tell what I’ve read and what I haven’t. That’s not a criticism though. It’s nice to know exactly what you’re getting sometimes. Especially when all you want is to smile a bit. I recommend Rumor Has It, Making Your Mind Up, and An Offer You Can’t Refuse, but I could be confusing them all with other books by the same author!

Books by Eva Ibbotson– What’s nice about Ibbotson is that her books are all comforting to some extent (based on what I’ve read anyway) and she’s got something in almost any genre you could want. Many are geared for a young, or at least YA, audience, but there’s plenty for readers of all ages to enjoy. Want romance? Check out The Secret Countess. Fantasy? The Secret of Platform 13 is a good one. Adventure? Try The Journey to the River Sea.

Books by LM Montgomery– Whether you’re partial to Emily, Anne or Pat; if you like short story collections or stand alones, there’s always something to enjoy or smile about here.

Books by Cecilia Ahearn– There have been one or two by this author that I didn’t enjoy but for the most part she’s reliable for a smile. I tend to enjoy her books best when there are touches of the fantastic. I wouldn’t call it fantasy precisely, but I especially enjoyed There’s No Place Like Here, The Book of Tomorrow, and If You Could See Me Now.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Book Lovers

For That Artsy Reader Girls’ Top Ten Tuesday:

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August 25: Questions I Would Ask My Favorite Authors (Living or dead. You can post 10 questions for one author, one question each for 10 different authors, or anything else!)

I honestly had trouble thinking of ten (interesting/intelligent) questions that I would ask out authors, so I decided to make up my own topic this week.

81hqtvxwu-l._ac_uy218_1. Matilda by Roald Dahl– For me, Matilda is sort of the OG fictional bookworm. I loved her as a child and I love her now.

81gw6tyoeul._ac_uy218_ml3_2. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman- In a lot of ways I’m very different from Nina, but we have one thing in common: we love reading so much that it threatens to eclipse reality at times. We have to be careful to remember that there are other things worth doing too!

81hkqvsgyl._ac_uy218_3. The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern- I feel like this book is a love letter to bookworms everywhere.  We meet many bookworms in this book; bookworms that burrow into a world far below the surface of their earth, filled with books.  But perhaps we identify the most with Zachary, a grad student who comes across a book in the university library and finds a series of clues that leave him to a secret, ancient library.

911-t2bi6l._ac_uy218_4. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon– Set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Daniel finds a book in the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” (I love the idea!) but when he tried to find other works by the author, he discovers that they’re being destroyed for reasons he can’t understand. He begins a race against time to rescue them.

9123eop9gil._ac_uy218_5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak– Nazi Germany is a bad place to be for a book lover like Liesel, who has to steal her beloved books to save them from being burned.

914bm5qdaul._ac_uy218_6. The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler– This book is about a librarian in Long Island who is sent an antique volume, that may have some connection to his family. As he reads the tale of circus and carnival performers, he comes to believe that the book might be the key to saving his sister’s life.

71hpnqntwul._ac_uy218_ml3_7. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell– This is a book about a girl who loves books so much that they inspire her own creativity. Cathy is a fan fiction writer who loves life on the page, whether it’s one she wrote or someone else did. But she has some difficulty figuring out life in the real world.

51gxczk1wal._ac_uy218_8. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett– In this novella, Bennett imagines what might happen if the Queen of England discovered a love of literature late in life. Would she neglect her royal duties in order to pursue her new passion? And how might the people in her life react?

812qcy9xysl._ac_uy218_9. 84 Charring Cross Road by Helen Hanff- This book is a collection of letters between Helen Hanff, a New York writer, and a Frank Doel, an London bookseller. Over the course of 20 years they carry on a correspondence, and a friendship, centered on their shared love of books. It’s a beautiful example of how literature can unite different people across oceans and cultural divides.

8142jxm8m6l._ac_uy218_10. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi– This memoir in books is about how the author, once a professor, gathered seven of her most committed female students in her Tehran apartment to read and discuss forbidden Western literature. As forces in the outside world seized hold of universities and censored artistic expression, these women read and discussed freely. Reading this book about book lovers committed to reading and discussing novels, made me realize just how subversive the act of reading a novel can actually be.

Top Ten Tuesday: Feel Good Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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March 24: Genre Freebie (pick a genre and build a list around it! i.e., best/worst romances, non-fiction for travelers, memoirs for foodies, classics that feel timeless, romance novel kisses, science fiction that feels too real for comfort, women’s fiction for newbies, etc.)

I think we’re all at least a little stressed, anxious and need of feel good reads right now.

419ewleob1l-_ac_us218_1. Anything Jane Austen: Austen is an author whose complexity is often overlooked for a number of reasons: she’s a woman, she employs the marriage plot in her works and she’s funny. But those are also the reasons that her work makes for feel good reading. It’s hard to go wrong here. Her inclusion on this list probably won’t help her get the recognition that she deserves as an author of complexity and depth. But it will help you feel a bit better.

 

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_2. The Anne series by LM Montgomery– Bad things happen in these books. People get sick and die. But the heroine sees the world with optimism even through the bad times, and when we read about it through her eyes, we can’t help but see it the same way.

 

 

91eu73x8il._ac_uy218_ml3_3. Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty -20 years ago tragedy struck Abi’s family and she got a  book called The Guidebook in the mail. She always linked the two events in her mind, so when she gets invited to a retreat by the writers of The Guidebook, she goes, half expecting answers. What she finds is not what she expects but it is something that will change her life nevertheless. This book is about love, loss, hope, believing in the impossible, the self help industry, and more. It’ll make you laugh and cry, possibly at the same time.

81gw6tyoeul._ac_uy218_ml3_4. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman–  Nina Hill is a compelling character because she feels like someone you might really know. She has a full life that she likes, but when it’s turned upside down, she realizes how much more the world has to offer.  She’s deeply flawed and those flaws aren’t magically gone by the end of the book, but we know that Nina can live with them and thrive.

 

71hpnqntwul._ac_uy218_ml3_5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – This is a coming of age story about an introvert who ventures outside her comfort zone for the first time in many ways. It’s also a celebration of loving a fictional story to the point of geekery.

 

 

 

913a0g0ghvl._ac_uy218_ml3_-16. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim– This book is about four strangers who are in a rut in their own ways. They all buy into a month long getaway at an Italian castle, and that getaway changes them all in different ways. This book is gentle, but lovely. As the characters start to feel better you start to feel it as well.

 

 

91qjazuvljl._ac_uy218_ml3_7. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman– Eleanor Oliphant has issues. She tends to say exactly what’s on her mind no matter what that might be. She avoids social interactions whenever possible and her life is kept to a careful timetable. When she meets Raymond, an IT guy from her office, she’s initially disgusted: he’s unhygienic. He’s a smoker. But when they save the life of another lonely fellow on the street, Eleanor finds herself drawn into a friendship with two other people. I made some assumptions about Eleanor when I first started reading that turned out to be wrong, when I read her story and got to know her. Similarly, Eleanor’s assumptions turn out to be wrong much of the time.

51xnngtdkl._ac_uy218_ml3_8. Love, Rosie by Cecilia Ahern– Rosie and Alex are best friends who are meant to be together. But just as it seems that things are happening right, they go very wrong. The book is a series of letters, emails, and notes over the course of years and Rosie and Alex come together and apart and together time and time again. This books is frustrating at times, but it’s a reminder that things endure beyond the frustration.

 

91paeh4pugl._ac_uy218_ml3_9. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen – The Waverly’s have always had mysterious gifts that make them outsiders in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Claire has embraced those gifts as a caterer, preparing her dishes with what people need. But her sister Sydney left town as soon as she could. When she returns, with her daughter, she confronts everything that she left behind. This book is brimming with bits of magic. It never overtakes the narrative, but it grows around the edges and creeps inward.

 

 

What are your favorite feel good (or feel better) books?

Top Ten Tuesday: Holiday Season Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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December 3: Holiday Reads (Books you love reading during the holiday season.)

I tweaked this topic a little to make it about books set during the holiday season.

81fwkoncpnl._ac_uy218_ml3_1.One Day In December by Josie Silver–  Laurie sees a man on a bus one day in December. There are lightening strikes and cupids arrows but they are too stunned to get on/off the bus in time to meet.  Laurie is convinced that he’s The One That Got Away, but what can she do? She doesn’t even know his name. A year later, she meets him at a New Year’s Eve party. Her best friend, Sarah introduces him as her new boyfriend, Jack. Oops! Laurie tries to move on with her life, and Jack makes a real go of his relationship with Sarah, but whatever was between them doesn’t seem to be going away. We check in with these characters over the next decade as love and friendship tears them apart and brings them together again. It’s not a deep book but it’s a sweet one that leaves you in a good mood.

81lfdckpnjl._ac_uy218_ml3_2. Winter by Ali Smith- This is the second in Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet. Art is meant to spend Christmas in Cornwall with his fiancee, Charlotte, and his mother, Sophie, at her home in Cornwall. But Art and Charlotte split up shortly before the holiday, and rather than explain things, Art hires, Lux, a young immigrant who looks like she needs the cash, to pretend to be Charlotte. When they arrive, Sophie seems unwell, and Lux convinces Art to call Sophie’s estranged sister, who comes at once to help. It’s a family story, yes. But it’s also a very contemporary story about the changing climate, both environmental and political. We travel back and forth in these character’s memories and ask how they- and we- got to their present circumstances.

91gdkmclk5l._ac_uy218_ml3_3.Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire– This story is about a famous, magical nutcracker and the mysterious toy maker named Drosselmeier who carves him. It’s based on ETA Hoffman’s famous Christmas story, made famous by Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet. It’s essentially a story of a man who has been hurt and abused by life and other people. Yet he has something precious to share with his goddaughter one Christmas Eve, and he makes sure that he does that.

 

5158epcfxkl._ac_uy218_ml3_4. A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer– Originally published in 1941 under the title Envious Casca, this book  introduces readers to the dysfunctional Herriard family, gathered at Uncle Nat’s country house for Christmas. When Nat is murdered in a room locked from the inside on Christmas Eve, police detectives descend on the family, and the secrets come flying out. It’s a darly comic British country house mystery that will make you feel grateful for your own family, whatever issues you might have with them.

 

91zpl5vqnl._ac_uy218_ml3_5. Shakespeare’s Christmas by Charlaine Harris-While I’m not totally sold on Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampires series, I do like her Lily Bard novels. This is the third and I’d recommend at least reading the first in the series prior to this one, to learn about Lily’s backstory. In this book Lily returns to her native Bartley, Arkansas, to attend her sister, Verena’s, Christmas wedding. When Lily’s boyfriend, Jack (a fellow PI) arrives in town, it’s not just to accompany Lily to the wedding: it’s to follow up a lead about an eight year old kidnapping. Lily, bearing physical and psychological scars of her own, finds herself drawn into the case when she learns that Verena is marry a widower with an eight year old daughter, who bears a strong resemblance to the girl that Jack is searching for…

51ipaqycwl._ac_uy218_ml3_6. Take A Chance on Me by Jill Mansell– Cleo Quinn has bad luck when it comes to men. When her childhood nemesis, Johnny LaVenture returns to town, and starts teasing her as if he’s never left. Meanwhile, Cleo’s sister, Abbie, has an idyllic relationship with her husband, Tom. Until Tom starts acting strange. She’s determined to find out what’s happening, even if it means the end of their marriage. The various storylines converge one chaotic holiday season. It’s charming,  British, and fun. What more do you need to know?

81eosgtgbtl._ac_uy218_ml3_7. Landline by Rainbow Rowell–  Georgie McCool and her husband Neal still love each other  and they both adore their two young daughters. But their marriage is on the rocks. They just can’t seem to make it work.  When Georgie, a sitcom writer, gets an important Christmas meeting with some studio executives, she expects Neal to by angry. But she’s still surprised when he takes the kids and goes to his parents in Omaha for Christmas. That night, Georgie manages to get a call through to Neal, but the Neal she’s speaking to is Neal from 15 years earlier, when they first started dating. Now Georgie feels like she’s got a chance to fix her marriage to Neal before it even starts. Should they have split up at that first pivotal moment? Or this this just another in a long line of the ups and downs that make up a marriage?

51ptxd7etil._ac_uy218_ml3_8. Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich– I actually think that I got tired of the Stephanie Plum books shortly after this one, but the series still felt funny and fresh in this short, in between the “official” series, novella. Stephanie Plum is behind on Christmas. She’s got no tree, no presents, and a strange man in her kitchen. Not to mention she’s searching for a bail jumper names Santa Claws, and a mob of manic elves is after her. Just a normal Christmas in Jersey for this bounty hunter extraordinaire. If this were any longer it would feel like too much but at 150 pages, it’s a light treat.

51jb19dy-ul-_ac_us218_9. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding- OK this may be cheating since it’s bookended by New Year’s Eve but the action of the novel takes place over the course of a year. But I suppose a few of the other books on the list aren’t strictly limited to the season. And I like the way that this book uses the New Year as a time for new beginnings, in narrative, and in life.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Beach/Pool Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

June 19: Books to Read By the Pool/At the Beach (This can also serve as your summer TBR)

For me, a “beach/pool read” is a very special kind of light read. It has to engage me enough so that I can disappear into it for a while, but it also can’t get me too stressed about the characters, or too emotionally involved. If I’m reading it by a pool or the beach I should be able to put it down and go for a swim. I should also be able to realize that I need to reapply sunscreen before I look like a tomato. But the purpose of a beach/pool read is entertainment first and foremost. These are books that have qualified.

41uc1zr7dzl-_ac_us218_1. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell- Set during the dark ages of the internet, this is about an office that has recently gotten online. Two female coworkers have developed the habit of chatting via email all day. They don’t know that the company has hired an internet security officer, or that he’s fallen in love with one of them thanks to reading her emails.

 

 

419byxeainl-_ac_us218_2. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple– This book is composed mostly of emails, documents, and other communications that help Bee, a young girl, find her mother, who has gone missing. Bee earned a trip to Antarctica thanks to straight A’s on her report card. But the agoraphobic Bernadette finds the prospect of such a trip difficult. This book is a satire that takes aim at helicopter parents, technology, and the notion of “genius”. It’s clever in places and made me giggle, but not care too much about what happened.

 

51yon8-7k2l-_ac_us218_3. Searching For Grace Kelly by Michael Callahan– This is set in NYC’s Barbizon Hotel For Women, where, in the 1950’s secretaries, models, and editors lived side by side while searching for success. Famous residents include writers like Sylvia Plath (who write about it in The Bell Jar, under the name “The Amazon”), Joan Didion, Eudora Welty, and Edna Ferber. It was also home to performers such as Grace Kelly, Ali McGraw, Liza Minelli, Gene Tierney, Elaine Stritch, and Joan Crawford. This book follows three fictional residents: Laura, a college student who plans to work at Mademoiselle for the summer; Dolly, who comes from a blue-collar background and attends secretarial school, and Vivian, a British gal who believes that the Barbazon’s rules were made to be broken. Very similar in many ways to Fiona Davis’ The Dollhouse.

515oqah-rtl-_ac_us218_4. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid– For anyone who loves old movies this is for you. Evelyn Hugo is a Hollywood legend. A gorgeous Oscar winner whose personal life has made headlines for decades, for both her films and her tempestuous personal life, marked by seven (yes, seven) marriages. But at the age of 79, Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the whole truth about herself, her husbands, and her life. She hires Monique, an unknown journalist to write her biography. Evelyn reveals the secrets that she’s kept hidden to save her career and protect the people she loves. She tells about the deception that’s haunted her for decades, and she tells Monique about the true love of her life, the one she was unable to marry.

51zs47eoayl-_ac_us218_5. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion– Don Tillman is a professor of genetics. He’s a creature of habit and struggles to understand social cues. He’s never really considered romance for these reasons. But when a friend tells him that he’d make a wonderful husband, he thinks that statistics indicate that there’s someone for everyone out there. So he embarks on The Wife Project; an evidence-based quest for his soul mate (who will be punctual and logical and absolutely not a smoker or a drinker).  Rosie Jarman is definitely not the woman for Don. But she needs his help. She’s trying to find her father, and Don’s skill as a DNA expert is required. So Don’s Wife Project takes a backseat to Rosie’s Father Project. The unexpected relationship that Don and Rosie strike up makes Don realize that what he actually wants is very different from what he thinks he wants.

518ktztx7ol-_ac_us218_6. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty– Cecilia finds a letter from her husband with instructions that it should be opened only if he dies. Cecilia opens it, while her husband is very much alive, and learns a secret that has the potential to destroy their marriage, their family, and even the lives of their children. You might make a guess regarding the nature of the secret going into the book. But you’re probably wrong! I found myself wondering what I’d do in Cecilia’s situation, and how I’d justify either choice.

51qphks8hyl-_ac_us218_7. Eve’s Hollywood by Eve Babitz–  Eve Babitz has had an interesting life to be sure. She’s been an artist, a muse, a journalist, a novelist, and a party girl. In this collection of essays that’s part memoir and part fiction, she changes some names to protect the innocent, but there’s a very strong sense of Babitz’ native LA throughout. Her father was a violinist who worked on movie scores. Her mother was an artist. Her godfather was Igor Stravinsky. She attended Hollywood High and knew lots of famous people. She’s got some interesting stories to tell.

51wn17e1xil-_ac_us218_8. Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel– Three decades in the life of a fairly dysfunctional family, this novel centers around Julie. It consists of letters and emails that her family writes her, that range from loving to passive aggressive to laugh out loud funny. We get Julie’s intellectual father who is Very Concerned that Julie will never reach her potential. We also get Julie’s mother, a therapist who is perhaps a little too aware of what her daughter is going through psychologically, and Julie’s little sister, who makes some questionable decision. But non-family members send Juliet their missives too. That gerbil she killed when she was a little kid sends her an angry letter from the gerbil afterlife. The container of hummus in the fridge calls to Julie when she’s hungry at an awkward moment. The book is funny because there is a lot of truth in it, about families at their best and their worst. At about 200 pages it’s also a quick read.

61mtmxfnoql-_ac_us218_9. In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware– Nora gets an invitation from her former best friend, Clare, to attend Clare’s bachelorette weekend in the English countryside. Something happened between Nora and Clare years ago, something that caused them to lose touch. But thinking that Clare wants to bury the hatchet, Nora accepts the invite. Then she wakes up in the hospital, unable to remember how she got there. The action flashes back and forth between the weekend in Clare’s aunt’s cabin, and the hospital, where an increasingly frightened Nora tries to piece together what happened, how someone ended up dead, and why there is a police guard outside her hospital door. This is a very fluffy whodunnit. It’s good for a beach/poolside read because it’s fun and entertaining, but you can also put it down, enjoy yourself for a while and not be too eager to keep reading to find out what happened.

51slyxywlxl-_ac_us218_10. Windfall by Penny Vincenzi– In the 1930’s, Cassia has spent the past seven years as a doctor’s wife, despite having medical training herself. But when she inherits a large amount of money from her godmother, Cassia is able to hire a nanny and resume her medical career. But Cassia’s husband isn’t happy about his wife’s new independence, and her windfall threatens to destroy her family. She also starts to suspect that her newfound inheritance might not be what it seems. It might even have a few strings attached.