June 21: Bookish Wishes (List the top 10 books you’d love to own and include a link to your wishlist so that people can grant your wish. Make sure you link your wishlist to your mailing address [here’s how to do it on Amazon] or include the email address associated with your ereader in the list description so people know how to get the book to you.)
But I’m on a book buying ban until I read some of what’s on my shelves (I’m not, however, on a book borrowing ban, so the library is fair game…) and I don’t really feel comfortable with this. So I decided to tweak it a little and make it the 10 books I hope to read next (time, life and work permitting) A lot of these are books I have, I just have to get to…
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – I read this years ago, but my book club is doing it next month, so I’m going to try to give it a reread at some point soon.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – I’ve had this on my TBR for years. When I was trying to think of things for my Future Classics list I did a bit of googling to get ideas, and I saw a number of lists with this on it, so I think it’s time for me to tackle it.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – I’ve been meaning to read this for a while now. I’ve heard it’s best when you’re in the mood for something very atmospheric though, which I haven’t bee lately but hope to be soon.
A Spell of Rowans by Byrd Nash – I’ve been meaning to read more by indie authors, but as usual, so many books, so little time! I do hope to get to this soon though, because I’ve heard good things.
The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier– This was a long ago gift from my Aussie book buddy. Actually she got it for me last year, and got the sequel for me this year, but I still haven’t read this one (*hangs head in shame*) I love Marillier but I keep getting sidetracked!
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton – This is one of a few long (700+ pages) books that are taking up shelf space. I used to dive right into hefty tomes, but in my old age I’ve gotten more hesitant. I’ll reach for one and then think: “I’ll get to that later, this other book looks like something I’ll finish in a day or two…”
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.
But I feel like I did a list like this pretty recently (OK so it was 2 years ago, but how creative can you get with the topic really?). So I decided to do a Tag Tuesday instead. This tag was created by @jamishelves and I first discovered it on @zeezeewithbooks. I decided on this one because my home is slowly being taken over by books I want to read but haven’t gotten around to yet. Everything here has been living on my shelves for a long, long time…
A BOOK YOU FEEL THE NEED TO READ BECAUSE EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT IT
Actually I don’t think I have anything on mu TBR shelf that I feel like I have to read for that reason. I cheated and used my kindle for this one. I’m going with Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I keep meaning to read it, but putting it aside and reading something else instead, for one reason or another. I really, really want to read this one though, because I’ve heard great things about it.
A BOOK THAT’S REALLY LONG
I have a few really long ones on the shelf (they tend to be put off for the longest because I know they’re a big investment in terms of time) I think the longest book on my unread shelf is Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (1007 pages). I enjoyed its predecessor, The Name of the Wind, but it’s hard to dive into a book this long. Plus who knows if/when book three will come out. I’d hate to get invested more in the series and then just be waiting, and waiting, and waiting…
A BOOK YOU OWN/HAD ON YOUR TBR FOR TOO LONG
I picked up Kristin Lavransdatter Part I: The Bridal Wreath about ten years ago at a library sale, because I’d heard that this three part novel was a great read. But before I started reading, I learned that the translation that I had wasn’t the preferred one (the consensus seems to be that the Penguin Classics edition is the best), and I wasn’t sure if I should give the one I had a shot or go straight for the preferred translation. So I put it off until I decided. And now it’s been a decade.
A BOOK THAT WAS “REQUIRED” READING (E.G., SCHOOL TEXT, REALLY POPULAR CLASSIC — SOMETHING YOU FEEL OBLIGATED TO READ)
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard is a book I got for two reasons. One is that it was on some list I saw, somewhere, of books every writer should read (or something along those lines). Two is that I want to appreciate nature more. I feel like I’m very caught up in the human world, and I like the idea of slowing down, meditating and philosophizing on the natural world. But while that idea appeals to me, it seems like it might be a slog to read through.
A BOOK THAT INTIMIDATES YOU
The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett is the third book in the Lymond Chronicles. I enjoyed the first two but with an enigmatic hero who speaks in multilingual riddles and obscure references, it can be tough going. I actually want to buy this guide before I do read it.
A BOOK THAT YOU THINK MIGHT BE SLOW
The Overstory by Richard Powers won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It got rave reviews. But it’s about trees. How exciting can that be?
A BOOK YOU NEED TO BE IN THE RIGHT MOOD FOR
I read Paullina Simons’ The Tiger Catcher in the right mood and ended up enjoying it a lot more than I expected to. Now I’m waiting for the right mood to read the second in the trilogy, A Beggar’s Kingdom.
A BOOK YOU’RE UNSURE YOU WILL LIKE
I suppose I’m a little bit nervous about The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I love academic settings in books, and I love books dealing with the marriage plot in general (think Austen, Eliot) but I’ve had mixed reactions to some of the author’s past work.
May 4: My Ten Most Recent Reads (maybe share a one-sentence review to go with?)
Didn’t do anything too fancy this week. These are the last ten books I read:
Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson- This one was kind of silly but it was basically just a lot of fun. It opens at the funeral of Mila Flores’ best friend, Riley. Understandably, Mila is having a tough time, especially because she thinks there’s something suspicious about Riley’s “suicide.” For one thing Riley didn’t seem even remotely suicidal. For another, her death came straight on the heels of the double suicide of Fairmont Academy mean girls June Phelan-Park and Dayton Nesseth. Mila and Riley practiced Wicca, and when Mila comes across a spell for reanimating the dead for seven days, she’s all in. So what if she’s never done magic even remotely in this category before? She figures she’ll resurrect Riley, ask whodunnit, and get a chance to say a proper goodbye. But when her spell resurrects June Phelan-Park and Dayton Nesseth along with Riley, she’s in for a shock. None of the three remember anything about their deaths. They have to lie low in an abandoned house for seven days while Mila does some detective work to figure out who could have wanted all three of them dead, and why. I guess Riley, June and Dayton are technically “zombies” in this, but they’re pretty tame zombies. They look alive-ish as long as Mila is within 100 steps, and they spend their days hiding out eating pizza, not brains. They’re not killers, they’re just trying to find one.
2. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka- This slim novel (only about 150 pages) tells the story of a group of women who come from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” in the early 20th century. We follow that women over the next 30 years or so, from their first meeting with their new husbands, to their jobs, through birth and child rearing, up to WWII Japanese internment. It’s told with first person plural narration. The experiences of the different women vary, but they speak as one. It’s a choice that I’m honestly not sure how I feel about. On one hand it gives a strong feeling of community, but on the other hand, it feels like it erases individual voices.
3. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro- I was a bit nervous reading this one because Ishiguro is one of my favorite authors, and this book seemed similar-ish to Never Let Me Go (one of my favorite of his books) in that they both take place in dystopian near futures, with technology that we may someday have. Klara is a solar powered Artificial Friend (AF) with outstanding observational qualities. She watches from her store, waiting be chosen by a customer. She has been programmed to give kindness, and recognize it in others. She’s eventually bought by Josie, and goes to live with Josie and her mother. The family has been through dark times, and Josie has an illness. So Klara tries to help however she can, based on the understanding she has. At times this is both more and less than a normal “human” understanding. Yes, it gets into some questions about artificial life. Klara is said to be unusually observant for an AF. Does that mean she’s surpassed her programing in some way? And if that’s the case what is she? AF, AI, human, or some combination of the above? I would say that I didn’t like it quite as much as Never Let Me Go (which I gave 5 stars). This I gave 4.5 (rounded up to 5)
4. Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen– Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness mysteries as a series of cozy mysteries that follow Lady Georgiana Rannoch, 34th in line for the British throne, but penniless due to the great depression. Unfortunately, the queen has a tendency to ask favors a lot. The most recent is to represent the royal family at a wedding in Transylvania. They think she’s be a good choice since she went to school with the bride. But no sooner does Georgie arrive that a wedding, then a guest is poisoned. Being no stranger to murder, and hoping to avoid an international incident, Georgie helps out with the investigation. I think if you’re interested in the series, start with the first one. The same cast of characters pop up throughout the series, and it’s good to get to know who they are. But if you’ve read other books in the series already, this one is fun too. Jump in!
5. The Mother in Law by Sally Hepworth- Lucy had always had a complicated relationship with her mother-in-law, Diana. But she loves her husband Ollie, and their children. When Diana is found dead, an apparent suicide, the whole family is surprised. But Diana had recently lost her husband and was facing a battle with cancer… But as the days pass, unanswered questions pile up. Why did the autopsy find no cancer? Why were there traces of poison and evidence of suffocation in Diana’s body? Why did Diana recently disinherit her children and their spouses? The answers to these questions lie somewhere in Lucy’s long history with her in-laws. We follow that history, and the present investigation into Diana’s death. Hepworth alternates narration between Diana and Lucy, and shows us that there truly are at least two sides to every story.
6. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore– I thought this was beautiful, but I can see someone else not liking it at all. It’s about the close friendship between Bernie and Sils, two teenage girls working at Storyland, an amusement park in upstate NY. They spend their breaks smoking and gossiping, and live with the impulsivity of the young. But when Sils gets into a difficult position and actually needs help, Bernie does something that changes everything for both of them. The story is narrated by a middle aged Bernie, looking back on friendship with several decades distance. She realizes that even though she and Sils weren’t BFFs for life, the friendship gave them both something they needed. You might even say it made them who they are. I thought that was a beautiful concept. There are a lot of friends I’ve fallen out of touch with as our lives took us in different directions. But it’s nice to think that those relationships weren’t a waste of time at all. They gave me something valuable (and hopefully I did the same to them) and then we both moved on with life.
7. Bunny by Mona Awad- I remember this one was described as Heathers meets The Craft, which was a “yes please” from me. Another review said there was a bit of The Secret History (which I also liked) in the mix. But after I read it. my response to this one was a resounding “WTF?!?!” I think the latter describes it better. It’s the kind of book you can’t really say a lot about without spoilers, but the basic premise involves Samantha Heather Mackey, student in a prestigious creative writing MFA program at Warren University. She’s utterly repelled by her cohort: a group of rich girls who are super-cutsie and all call each other “Bunny” for some reason. But when the Bunnies invite her to their famous “Smut Salon,” she’s accepted into the group. Things get a lot crazier from there…
8. Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson- Amy Whey is a typical suburban mom, who loves her life. When a new neighbor arrives and joins Amy’s friend’s book club, she’s welcomed. The mysterious and sultry Angelica Roux keeps the wine flowing, and starts a game of spilling secrets. Everyone thinks it’s just silly fun, but Amy has something to hide. Something that could destroy her family and the happy life she’s built. As soon as they’re alone, Roux tells Amy that she’s going to pay, one way or another. In order to protect herself and her family, Amy joins Roux in a dark twisted game of hidden pasts and long buried secrets. Amy is sure that she isn’t the only one who is hiding something terrible. And Roux’s secrets might be her only chance to win. I enjoyed this book right until the end, but then I really didn’t like the twist.
9. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager– Twenty five years ago Maggie Holt and her parents moved into Baneberry Hall, a Victorian estate in Vermont. They lived there for three weeks, before leaving in the middle of the night, fleeing for their lives. Later, Maggie’s father, Ewan, wrote about the family’s experience in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors (which sounds a lot like The Amityville Horror) Though she was too young to remember her time in Baneberry Hall, Maggie is sure that her father’s book is really fiction disguised as fact. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she decides to do what she does: restore old homes and sell them for a higher price. But staying in Baneberry Hall is an experience that Maggie isn’t prepared for. We read chapters from House of Horrors alongside chapters that Maggie narrates. The real tension is that as she learns that parts of her father’s books were truer than others, Maggie’s own perception of reality and fiction, past and present, also begin to blur.
10. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia– In Mexico in the 1920’s Casiopea cleans her grandfather’s floors and dreams of a better life for herself. One day, she finds a mysterious wooden box in her Grandfather’s room. When she opens it, she accidentally frees that Mayan god of death, who asks for her help in regaining the throne his brother stole from him. Well, “asks” might not be the best word. Casiopia may die if she refuses…Of course she might also die if she accepts and they fail! But if they’re successful, all of her dreams may come true. I enjoyed this as a fantasy, but I wondered as I was reading if I was being ethno/theocentric. After all, this is based on a religion that people believe in for a long time. It felt uncomfortable to call it “fantasy” for that reason. But the author said in her acknowledgments that it’s intended to be read as a fantasy. She included some other sources for readers who want to know more about the Mayan religious mythology.
The Witches of Crannock Dale by Thomas M. Kane is a twisty espionage story mixed with a coming of age tale. They’re not genres that lend themselves to being combined easily (most eleven year olds don’t engage in spycraft!) and I’m not sure who the intended audience is. Adult readers? YA? Or both? Because I think it can appeal to readers of different ages.
Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key certainly surprised me. The twists, when they were revealed made sense with the story. I was able to look back on what I’d read and see little “clues” and “hints” where I’d missed them before.
Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals is the first of his Corfu trilogy about his British family’s move to the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930’s. Young Gerry’s adventures with animals of the island, and his mother and siblings adventures and misadventures with the people, are funny. The Durrells come to feel like family as you read. This trilogy was also the basis for the TV series The Durrell’s in Corfu.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes had a lot of action, but I don’t recommend the book. I found it to be gratuitously violent and gory, which is fine, if that’s what you’re into. I’m not though.
I think this means something still on my TBR, so I’ll say Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It’s one of many books on my TBR, but I’ve also heard really good things about it from several sources. I love gothicness and I love the idea of a Mexican setting.
This is sort of an old tag (2017) but fun. I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you decide to do this, let me know in the comments, so I can check it out!
3.Crossings by Alex Landragin-This book consists of three separate stories that can be read straight though, or out of order, using a secret key. They can also apparently be read as a story, within a story, within a story. I want to see how the author pulls off the concept! (July 28)
4. Summer by Ali Smith– The conclusion of Smith’s seasonal quartet. I don’t know much about this one but if the previous books are any indication, I expect an innovative sociopolitical tale set in, and illuminating the season in an unexpected way. (August 18)
5.The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner– I’ve heard really good things about this novel about a group of strangers who put aside their differences to preserve Austen’s legacy in post- WWII England. It sounds like it has the potential to be both intelligent and uplifting (rather like Austen herself!) (May 26)
6.Home Before Dark by Riley Sager– I’ve read a few of Sager’s novels this past year and really enjoyed them. I’m looking forward to this tale of family secrets and old (and perhaps real?) ghosts. (June 30)
9.The Summer Set by Aimee Agresti– This tale of backstage drama a theater in the Berkshires seems like a fun, escapist summer read for a theater-geek like me! (May 12)
10.Or What You Will by Jo Walton– I love the premise of this one: a character realizes that once his writer dies, he does too. The writer is in her 70’s, so the character figures it’s time to take matters into his own hands… (July 7)
Looking over these picks it seems like (with one or two possible exceptions) I’m looking for escapism this summer. But as long as I live in the real world, a bit of fictional escape is allowed, no? Of course these are just the newbies on my TBR. They’re joining a looooong list!