Top Ten Tuesday: Summer 2020 TBR

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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June 16: Books on My Summer 2020 TBR (or winter if you’re in the southern hemisphere)

91kikzx6cdl._ac_uy218_1.Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia- I love the idea of setting a Victorian-eque Gothic in 1950’s Mexico. (June 30)

 

 

 

 

81lfpkdhvql._ac_uy218_2. Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan– I enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians but I didn’t feel the need to read more of Kwan’s work, until I head that his newest was an homage to A Room with A View. (June 30)

 

 

 

a1qw7wbt5l._ac_uy218_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)

 

 

71wscsoaygl._ac_uy218_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)

 

 

 

91hgjcuezql._ac_uy218_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)

 

 

91dl5yyl84l._ac_uy218_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)

 

 

 

81jbrqqbgl._ac_uy218_7.Beach Read by Emily Henry– This tale of writers who swap genres looks like a light beach read  itself. (May 19)

 

 

 

 

91lq27bv9zl._ac_uy218_8. Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton– I’ve enjoyed this author’s other books, Next Year in Havana and When We Left Cuba, so I’m looking forward to her new one. (June 16)

 

 

 

81hegtntrcl._ac_uy218_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)

 

 

 

81yn5yv9-l._ac_uy218_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!

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.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Summer Books

The Broke and the Bookish are taking a break from their Top Ten Tuesday for the summer, but there’s no reason that I have to do the same. This week, I decided to look at ten books that are set in the summer and evoke the season somehow.

1. Atonement by Ian McEwan– In the summer of 1935, thirteen year old Briony Tallis sees a moment of sexual tension between her sister, and the housekeeper’s son, but doesn’t quite understand it. This misunderstanding leads her to tell a lie that will haunt the three of them for decades to come.

 “Dearest Cecilia, You’d be forgiven for thinking me mad, the way I acted this afternoon. The truth is I feel rather light headed and foolish in your presence, Cee, and I don’t think I can blame the heat.”

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2. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver– This novel features three interconnected plots that take place over a hot, humid, Appalachian summer. 

“Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end.”

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3. Summer by Edith Wharton– This book, about a bored 18 year old who has an affair with a neighbor and gets pregnant, caused a bit of a scandal when it was first released in 1917. A century later it’s not as shocking, but Wharton is, as always, a beautiful writer.

“She was blind and insensible to many things, and dimly knew it; but to all that was light and air, perfume and colour, every drop of blood in her responded. She loved the roughness of the dry mountain grass under her palms, the smell of the thyme into which she crushed her face, the fingering of the wind in her hair and through her cotton blouse, and the creak of the larches as they swayed to it.”

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4. The Magus by John Fowles– Nicholas is an Oxford grad who takes a job as a teacher on a remote Greek island. Over the summer, he becomes bored, depressed and lonely. Then he meets Maurice Conchis, a wealthy recluse who lives on the island.  Nicholas is gradually drawn into Conchis’ psychological games to the point where he isn’t able to tell what’s real and what isn’t. 

“I knew that on that island one was driven back into the past. There was so much space, so much silence, so few meetings that one too easily saw out of the present, and then the past seemed ten times closer than it was.”

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5. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer- This books follows the lives of several kids who met at a summer arts camp in the 1970s as they grow up. They circle one another over the year, coming together and apart. 

“But here was where the question of talent became slippery, for who could say whether Spirit-in-the-Woods had ever pulled incipient talent out of a kid and activated it, or whether the talent had been there all along and would have come out even without this place.”

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6.  Evening by Susan Minot– A dying old woman remembers a wedding in Maine, one summer in the 1950’s. It was the summer she found and lost the love of her life. This novel is as bittersweet as a summer romance.

“Who ever said that one got what one wanted. It was a small thing compared to… well, to a lot of things. She’d gotten over things before none like this she’d left things behind this was more she couldn’t speak of it this was the first thing only hers she would have to forget. It was too great it was her heart. She couldn’t explain and to try and to fail would be worse. It pressed in her. Life simply went on. He was not the only man. Her heart did not believe it. There were other men in the world. There was only one. She would try to live a life he would be proud of. She could not imagine it. She would always have him with her. He would go he would disappear he was already disappearing already he was gone. He had given her a great thing. He has gone, said her heart. She would not let this defeat her. Her heart swam on ahead. She would keep going, she would never speak of it. Her heart went on without her. No one would know. She swam through the cold water and let cold reason take over and the heart which had asked for too much left her behind and when she emerged from the water on the rocky beach she had let go of it and there was a new version in her, a sort of second heart. She went in with one heart and came out with a second heart inside.”

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7. Joyland by Stephen King- This isn’t King’s best known work by any means, but it does evoke a summer feel. It’s about a 21 year old by who spends his summer working at a North Carolina amusement park. At first there’s a sense of innocence that’s shattered as our narrator encounters an murder and a haunting.

“When you’re twenty-one, life is a roadmap. It’s only when you get to be twenty-five or so that you begin to suspect you’ve been looking at the map upside down, and not until you’re forty are you entirely sure.”

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8. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume- Caitlin and Vix are best friends who spend every summer together. As they grow up, they find their relationship strained. Just a note, Blume is known for children’s and YA fiction. While the coming of age story might sound like it’s child friendly this novel is clearly intended for adults.

“Some people never get over their first loves. They spend their whole lives trying to recapture the thrill. Sometimes, after fifty years they get back together. They meet at some reunion or other and realize they were meant to be together.”

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9. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf- The Ramsey family spend their summers in the Hebrides on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.  Woolf’s depiction of the emotions and ideas can be so overwhelming that it’s easy to forget that this is really a book about family, about “getting away from it all” with the people who mean the most to you but also annoy you the most.

“She felt… how life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became curled and whole like a wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach.”

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10. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith– Tom Ripley is hired by a rich man to go to Europe and convince the man’s son, Dickie, to come home. Tom befriends Dickie, and grows attached to the extravagant lifestyle he enjoys with Dickie. But when Dickie begins to tire of him, Tom takes drastic measures. This book is set mostly in sunny vacation spots in Italy and Greece that seem to evoke the smell of citrus and sunblock.

“Why should Dickie want to come back to subways and taxis and starched collars and a nine-to- five job? Or even a chauffeured car and vacations in Florida and Maine? It wasn’t as much fun as sailing a boat in old clothes and being answerable to nobody for the way”

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Top 10 Tuesday: Summer Reads Freebie

May 23: Summer Reads Freebie

The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday . My day job (teaching) gives me time to really catch up on reading in the summer. So I have a list of books about a mile long. But I’ll only share the top ten. These tend to be books I’ve been intending to read forever but will finally have a chance to get to and appreciate. But they’re also books that are being released this summer.

  1.  A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara- I’ve seen this recommended everywhere for a long time. Often when that’s the case I find the book itself a bit disappointing. But there are the rare cases that I find the praise is deserved. A 700 page book that’s frequently described as “tragic” and “traumatic” is a bit much to handle while working, but that’s what summer reads are for.
  2. Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker- I will just because it’s Jane Eyre fan fiction but even aside from that it’s supposed to be good. And Jane Eyre fan fiction tends to be good. Check out Wide Saragasso Sea by Jean Rhys or Jane Steele by Lyndsey Faye to see what I mean. They’re totally different for the original novel, and completely different from one another, but very much worth reading.
  3. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff- I read Groff’s Fates and Furies this year, and I loved her writing. This one of her other novels. I also plan to check out Arcadia and some of her short fiction.
  4. The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel- I’ll admit that the Flowers in the Attic references appealed to me. 12 year old Fran still lives in me somewhere.
  5. The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor- For some reason I love the story of the Cottingley fairies. This novel imagines it with a duel timeline story (something else I love).
  6. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss- I loved The Name of the Wind, the first in Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy. This is number 2. I haven’t read it yet, because it’s long (993 pages), but summer is a great time to dig into something long, and absorbing.
  7. Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon- I’m an Outlander addict. The wait between books in this series is painful. Its made slightly less painful by the fact that the TV series is very good. But the new season of that doesn’t premiere until September.  So how to make it through the bleak and bitter droughtlander? Well, fortunately author Diana Gabaldon gives fans the “bulges” to enjoy. These are novellas that she writes either about secondary characters, or character backstory.  They’re not as absorbing as the main series of course, but it keeps us addicts sane(ish) until the next book is released.
  8. The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett- This is third in Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles series. I think the series is definitely worth reading (based on the first two books) but they’re not easy reads. We don’t really get inside the character’s thoughts much, so it’s often a while before we understand what’s going on and why.  The main character is a brilliantly educated polygot who often makes references that I don’t get right away. So it takes some effort to get into. Over the summer I have the time and mental space for that.
  9. The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer- Blame the Outlander comparison for this one! But it actually looks good independent of anything else, and I love historical fiction combined with paranormal/sci-fi stuff.
  10. After Anatevka: A Novel Inspired by “Fiddler on the Roof” by Alexandra Silber-  Alexandra Silber is an actress and singer who played the role of Hodel in the 2007 London revival of the musical Fiddler on the Roof. In 2015 she played Hodel’s older sister Tzeitel in the Broadway revival of the same show. In this book she extends her creative reach to imagine the lives of the characters after the events of the musical. I’m interested to see what she does with it. Will her focus be primarily on the two roles that she’s played or will it extend elsewhere? I’m a big fan of Alexandra Silber’s blog, London Still. She’s pretty awesome. In addition to being an actress/singer/novelist, she’s written three modern language adaptation of Greek tragedies. She also teaches musical theater at Pace University, and elsewhere.

Well is there anything that I should add to the list?