Top Ten Tuesday: TBR Progress Update

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This was this week’s topic:

June 15: Books On My Summer 2021 TBR (or winter, if you live in the southern hemisphere)

But since I’m trying to read through old TBRs before making new ones (I doubt I’ll be able to stick to this resolution for long!) I decided to revisit some old TBRs and do a progress update. If you’re interested, I did one of these in the past, and I’m trying not to repeat books:

  • Majesty: American Royals by Kristin McGree (on my Fall 2020 TBR) This was silly and soap opera-ish but enjoyable for those times when that’s exactly what you need. I made a mental note (that I’m just now remembering) to check out more of McGee’s work for that purpose.

  • How to Stop Time by Matt Haig (2018 TBR) This was a disappointment. It had a really compelling premise, that I really wanted to like, but it was turned into a just OK book. It wasn’t bad, but it was good enough for me to wish it were better.

  • Tangerine by Christine Mangan (2018 TBR) I remember liking a lot about this one, but I don’t remember much about it! I think it had sort of an “old Hollywood” feel that I liked. It felt like a mashup of elements of Agatha Christie, Daphne DuMaurier, Patricia Highsmith and Alfred Hitchcock.

  • The 7 and 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (2018 TBR, Apparently I read a lot from this list!) This was another one that I was really excited for based on the premise, but the execution fell flat for me. I think the Groundhog Day-eque premise needs to be really done well, in order for the book to work. If it’s not, it just feels repetitive. In this case I’d start to get interested in where it was going and then I was frustrated to be sent back to the beginning again! Again, I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

  • Hearts and Bones by Margaret Lawrence (Backlist TBR) This lived on my shelf for many years. I wasn’t in the mood for it, really, for one reason or another. During lockdown, I finally read it, and didn’t much like it. Once again, not bad, but I liked it less than I liked some of the other books on this list that disappointed me! Here, the problem was that I didn’t like the characters or care about the plot. I really need one out of two!

  • The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard (Backlist TBR) I liked this one, but I didn’t love it. So I’m sort of torn about continuing with the series. There are four more Cazalet books out there, and I’m on the fence about whether or not they’re worth reading. I did enjoy the first book, but a five book series just feels like quite an investment!

  • An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear (TBR Procrastination) This was my fifth, and I think, final (for now, at least) book in the Maisie Dobbs series. Jacqueline Winspear is a talented author, and It’s not that I don’t like them, but I feel that each one covers mostly the same ground. If the tone were slightly different that might work. For example if these were cozy mysteries I might find the same thing charming, over and over. But these are really depressing. Like they take place in during the Great Depression, with characters traumatized by WWI. And of course they’re working with crimes all the time, so it gets pretty bleak. None of the characters have grown on developed enough to make me feel like it’s worthwhile.

  • The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (Upcoming Releases for the 2nd Half of 2019) This was an enjoyable dual timeline thriller. I do wish that Simone St. James would return to the historical, gothic, romantic mysteries where she started out. Her last two books have had more contemporary settings, at least in part, (though they’ve had dual timelines as well) and while they’re good, my personal tastes tend toward to historical. I’ll keep reading her books though, because they’re still fun.

  • Milkman by Anna Burns (Winter 2018-2019 TBR) I read this after it won the Man Booker Prize. I was a bit nervous going into it, because I’d heard mixed things, but I ended up liking it more than I realized at the time. It’s not an easy read in terms of understanding what’s going on, so it required some mental effort to read. But looking back on it, I appreciate it in a way I didn’t quite “get” while I was reading it. So this one is a bit better in retrospect.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books For Which I’ve Wanted Read Alikes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

June 8: Books I Loved that Made Me Want More Books Like Them (The wording is weird here, so if you have a better way to say this please let me know! What I’m thinking is… you read a book and immediately wanted more just like it, perhaps in the same genre, about the same topic or theme, by the same author, etc. For example, I once read a medical romance and then went to find more because it was so good. The same thing happened to me with pirate historical romances and romantic suspense.)

For this one, I decided to make things a bit interesting. If a book has TV/film adaptations it’s not allowed on this list, because it’s too popular (and popular books always have imitators!). So this is also turning into a bit of a list of books that I’m surprised don’t have adaptations! I’m also sharing some of the read alikes I’ve found for the books on this list.

1.The Secret History by Donna Tartt– Actually now that I think of it, I’m surprised that Hollywood hasn’t tried to adapt this one. Apparently the rights have been sold but nothing come of it. I’m sure it’s coming eventually, and I can only hope they do it justice. Anyway, after Some read alikes are The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman and Red Leaves by Paullina Simons.

2. The Quincunx by Charles Palliser– This is another book I’m surprised no one’s tried to adapt yet. I think a miniseries format might work best. Though I’m sure it would be a difficult task. It’s actually part book, part puzzle, which is why it’s so hard to find read alikes for. Some read alikes (in different ways) include The Meaning of Night and The Glass of Time by Michael Cox and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (which was ineligible for it’s own spot on this list due to two adaptations)

3, The Eight by Katherine Neville– Actually someone in Hollywood really need to check out this list because I have wonderful source material for them! This book does have a sequel but I haven’t read it yet. I want to reread the first one before I read it. Actually some of the other books on this list, including The Gargoyle and The Shadow of the Wind make decent read alikes. Also, Amy Benson’s Plague Tales trilogy.

4. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson- The Eight (see above) is actually not a bad read alike for this one. Another one is The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (which had the film rights sold in 2005 apparently but no word on whether it’s ever actually happening!). The similarities are more in terms of tone than plot.

5. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon- My quest for read alikes for this one led me the rest of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. It also led me to Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale (which couldn’t make this list due to the adaptation) which sent me on yet another quest for more read alikes.

6. The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue– Read alikes include Donohue’s The Boy Who Drew Monsters, and The Changeling by Victor LaValle. Even though the target audiences are very different I might also say that Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, and even JM Barrie’s Peter Pan are similar.

7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern– There are rumors of a film adaptation of this one. I’m sure there will be one at some point, but for now it works for this list. Read alikes include The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter.

8. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier– Sent me on a quest to read everything else Marillier has written or will write. That includes the rest of the Sevenwaters series. Other non-Marillier read alikes include Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy and Robin McKinley’s folktale series.

9. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray– Again the rest of the trilogy is an obvious read alike. Others include Carol Goodman’s Blythewood trilogy and Bray’s The Diviners series.

Top Ten Tuesday: Dark Academia

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

June 1: Freebie (choose any past topic, or come up with you own)

Lately I’ve been really into what I’d call “dark academia” as a literary subgenre. I love academic settings. I love gloomy gothic trappings. I love weirdness. So it’s really no surprise that I’d love literary mashups of all of that!

1.The Secret History by Donna Tartt-This is sort of a definitive cornerstone of the genre. It follows Richard, a student at a New England college. He wants to study Greek, and Julian, the enigmatic professor eventually allows Richard into his selective tutorial of only six students. Richard is slowly drawn into the world of the other students. But it’s a world that goes beyond the boundaries of morality and even legality. As Richard finds himself privy to the group’s secrets, he also learns that some members of the group will stop at nothing, including murder. I read this in my senior year of high school, and it just so happened that we were reading Crime and Punishment at the same time in one of my classes. I’m glad that was the case, because I think that it allowed me to get more out of The Secret History, since Dostoyevsky’s work is clearly a strong influence. I’m actually sort of surprised that Hollywood hasn’t tackled this book yet. But I think it would be a hard book to translate to film in a way that worked.

2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro– This has all the elements of dark academic setting with a bit of a sci-fi twist. Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are all students at Hailsham, an isolated boarding school in the English countryside. The atmosphere of the school is very cliquey and the teachers always remind the students how “special” they are. Years later, with the knowledge and understanding of how and why they were “special,” Ruth reflects on her time and Hailsham, and the friendships she formed there. There’s a film version of the book, and while it’s a pretty good adaptation, it tells the viewer what makes the students at Haimsham special in the first ten minutes or so. In the book it’s sort of a gradual, growing realization for the reader. As I started to understand, I was sort of hoping I was wrong. I think that experience is a part of what makes this book special, and it’s definitely why I’d recommend reading the book before seeing the film.

3. The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman– Actually a lot of Goodman’s work, including the Fairwick trilogy (a romantic fantasy series that she initially wrote under the name “Juliet Black,”) and her YA fantasy Blythewood series, qualifies for this list. I chose this book to feature mostly because it doesn’t incorporate as many other genres. A week before her high school graduation, Jane Hudson fled the Heart Lake School For Girls after three of her classmates committed suicide. Jane was the only one who knew the truth about their fates, and she carried that knowledge with her for the next twenty years, When she returns to the school as a Latin teacher, troubled students once again begin to die, and the memories that Jane repressed for so long, begin to surface.

4. Villette by Charlotte BronteJane Eyre comes to mind first of course, and there is a notably dark school setting early in that book, but the setting also changes very early in the book. This book, on the other hand, has all of the gothic-ness that we expect from Bronte, and it’s set almost entirely in a boarding school in Belgium. The heroine, Lucy Snow, travels there to teach after a family disaster, and becomes involved in romance, intrigue and adventure. I do think Jane Eyre is a “easier read,” and it also features a dark aesthetic with academic plot points, so I’d recommend readers unfamiliar with Bronte start there. But Villette is an enjoyable next step in the Bronte journey through dark academia.

5. The Broken Girls by Simone St. James– Idlewild Hall is a Vermont boarding school for girls that’s reputed to be haunted. In the 1950’s four students at the school became good friends, until one of them disappears. More than 60 years later, journalist, Fiona Sheridan’s sister’s body is found near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. Her boyfriend was convicted of the murder, but Fiona has her doubts. When she learns that the school is being restored by a mysterious benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But what she learns involves a horrifying secret that connects her sisters murder to the disappearance so long ago.

6. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray – The whole Gemma Doyle trilogy is a lovely mix of Victorian Gothic and fantasy with a boarding school setting. Gemma Doyle is sent from the life she knew in India, in 1895, to Spence, an English boarding school, following the death of her mother. Gemma is initially lonely. She’s haunted by her mother’s death and visions that have a tendency to come true. But things get really crazy when Gemma is drawn into a clique of girls who are dipping their toes into the world of spirits. What they learn will change them forever.

7. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss– I was a bit iffy about whether to include this one, because it’s not set in a “traditional” academic setting. Silvie and her family live in modern England, but they live as if they’re ancient Britons, with the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age. One summer, Silvie’s father takes the family to join an anthropology course that is reenacting life in the Iron Age. But mixing with these students gives Sylvie a chance to see the prospect of a life away from her father’s obsession with the ancient Britons. As the group gets closer to the lifestyle of their subjects, things take a darker turn. The push and pull between the modern life that intrigues Sylvie, and the ancient life that obsesses her father, becomes a tug of war. Even though it’s not set in a school, the fact that it’s set amongst students in a practical exercise gives it that “academic” feeling.

8. Red Leaves by Paullina Simons– Kristina, Jim, Conni and Albert are all students at Dartmouth College. They have a close friendship, and one Thanksgiving weekend they all decide to stay on campus. When Kristina’s body is found in a snowbank shortly after, detective, Spencer O’Malley is on the case. As he learns about the groups dynamics, questions arise. Why did Kristina’s friends fail to report her missing? Their answers to his questions reveal a web of jealousy, secrets, deceptions, and possibly murder.

9. Down A Dark Hall by Lois Duncan- A ghost story set in a mysterious gothic boarding school. Pretty much made for this list! Actually Duncan’s Daughters of Eve also fits it pretty well, but I’ll go with this, since it’s the first one I thought of. Kit Gordy is sent to Blackwood Academy when her mother remarries. She’s not happy about it. She’s even more disturbed when she learns that she’s one of only four students accepted this term. When Blackwood’s students begin to show amazing talents in the arts and sciences, Kit can’t help but notice that it’s taking a toll on their health. She often wakes up with sore arms and fingers. The headmistress is quick to explain everything away, until Kit learns something that puts her and her classmates in terrible danger. I devoured this book when I was eleven or twelve. I don’t know how well it holds up, but I did recently see the film adaptation which wasn’t bad.

10. The Magus by John Fowles– Nicholas Urfe is a young Englishman who takes a teaching job on a remote Greek island. There he meets Conchis, the reclusive millionaire who owns the island. Conchis offers Nicholas what seems to be friendship. But he is drawn into a twisted game of betrayal, violence, and psychological traps. Soon Nicholas is unable to tell past from present and fantasy from reality. He finds himself fighting to maintain his sanity and stay alive. Even though this is set at a school on an island, most of the action takes place outside the school. But I’m counting this because I’d call the relationship that Conchis has with Nicolas to be very academic (at least to start off). There’s also a film adaptation, but I haven’t seen it yet.

#WyrdandWonder Challenge (Part IV)

My final set of prompts for the Wyrd and Wonder Challenge

May 27#ThrowbackThursday

A backlist title that you love or would love to read (bonus points if it’s more than 10 years old)

Some backlist titles that I loved that I’ve read in the last few years
Kindred by Octavia Butler (1979)
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter (1986)
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (2007)
The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter (1967)

Some that I’d love to read (aka books that have been sitting on my shelf for years)
White as Snow by Tanith Lee (2000)
The Blue Girl by Charles DeLint (2004)
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (1997)
May 28Off the beaten track

An independent or small press fantasy read

I won’t be obnoxious and say my book! Some others I’ve liked though are:
The Witches of Crannock Dale by Thomas M Kane
Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss
Tress by Larissa Brown
Prickle Moon by Juliet Marillier
May 295 star fantasy reads

One or more, lifetime loves or recent reads – bonus points for 5 word reviews

So. Many. Books! Leaving aside super ultrapopular stuff like Harry Potter that has TV/Film adaptations etc:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (Sevenwaters series)
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (Gemma Doyle trilogy)
Circe by Madeline Miller (sort of a stand alone sequel to Song of Achilles– which also has some fantasy but significantly less. But that’s why I chose this one as opposed to that. They’re set in the same universe, but otherwise have little connection)
The Golem and the Jjinni by Helene Wrecker (this has a sequel coming out next month which I haven’t read yet)
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (which is actually my least favorite in the Winternight trilogy, but is still really good.)
The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern (I had trouble deciding between this and The Night Circus but this has the edge because I love books about books)

May 30#ShelfieSunday

My shelves are currently a mess since I’m reorganizing (yikes!) so here are some old shelfies.
May 31Fave Wyrd & Wonder read

what have you loved most this May?

I’d say my favorite read this month was The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I had some issues with it, but overall I enjoyed it. I also really liked A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, which was a collection of Asian fairy tales, folklore and mythology retold by various AAPI authors. As is always the case with a collection, I liked some stories better than others, but it was nice to see some non-western folklore used as inspiration. I’m currently reading The Angel Stone by Juliet Dark, which is the final book in the Fairwick trilogy. I’m enjoying it so far.

#WyrdandWonder Challenge (Part III)

My next set of prompts for May’s Wyrd and Wonder Challenge

May 20Fantasy creature on the cover

(bonus points if it isn’t a dragon)

Well, the most recent fantasy book I read with fantasy creature on the cover, was Crown of Crystal Flame, by CL Wilson. It’s the final book in Wilson’s Tarien Soul series and it has a Tarien (sort of like a giant cat with wings) on the cover in the background. The first book in the series, Lord of the Fading Lands shows a Tarien a bit more clearly.
May 21Fantasy in translation

Fridays are all about celebrating fantasy from around the world – this week focuses on books that weren’t originally written in English

The one that leaps immediately to mind is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, because it’s a favorite (well really the whole Cemetery of Forgotten Books series counts) The fantasy elements are stronger elsewhere in the series, but as I said, this one is my favorite, and it has those elements as well, to a lesser extent. It was originally written in Spanish.
Another book that, well, let’s say it made a strong impression on me was Troll: A Love Story by Finnish author Johanna Sinisalo.
Actually I’m a big fan of magical realism, which I suppose is a subgenre of fantasy. It has strong associations with Latin America, so a lot of the books are in translation from Spanish. Some favorites are Like Water For Chocolate, Eva Luna, and The House of the Spirits.
I suppose many classic fairy tale collections count as well. The Brother’s Grimm and ETA Hoffman were originally in German. Hans Christian Anderson was Danish. Charles Perrault was French. They all originally wrote in their native languages.
May 22Get in the sea

Seaborne fantasy, mermaid tales, the lady in the lake – make it watery for World Maritime Day
…or if you’re feeling bitter, what fantasy would you consign to the depths and why?


I really enjoyed Carolyn Turgen’s Mermaid. It’s based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid (which is very different from Disney’s version!) and follows the point of view of both the mermaid and the princess who the mermaid’s beloved marries.
May 23Book rainbow

book spines arranged in the colours of the rainbow

Some of the colors didn’t photograph as well as I would have liked, but I didn’t have a chance to play with the lighting.
May 24On the shelf

how long has that been on your shelf / TBR?? a book / books you really should have read by now

I think these have been on my shelf for the longest:
White As Snow by Tanith Lee
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
The Blue Girl by Charles DeLint

Hopefully I can get to them soon!
May 25Chosen one #TropeTuesday

Double-edged prophecies, irresistible destiny, a plot stick you just can’t dodge – let’s end the month on a classic

Well, this month these are the books I’ve read that use that trope:
Crown of Crystal Flame by CL Wilson– This is the final book in the Tarien Soul series and the heroine, Elysetta, has every characteristic of a “chosen one.” She has a mysterious past, she was found in the woods as a baby, she has a supernatural/fantastic origin story, and she is destined to either save, or destroy, the fey.
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness-This is the second book in the All Souls series and I think that Diana has some “chosen one” characteristics too. She knows she’s a witch but she didn’t have any sense of connection to her heritage before the first book in the series. In this book, she starts her magic training, and it turns out she’s a “weaver,” a rare kind of witch that can make up spells. It’s been hinted that she might save supernatural creatures from extinction. She’s also married to a vampire, and there are prophesies about their offspring.
May 26All the feels

We all love an emotional rollercoaster – a book that gave your feelings a full on work out

I’m often an emotional wreck as I read, so this might be a long-ish list with major spoilers. Be warned…

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman- The end when Bod leaves the graveyard, and the ghosts who raised him, and goes out to pursue his future as a living person.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro– I’m counting this as a fantasy, even though you could make the argument for it being sci-fi. Really just the whole thing once we learned what the characters were and their inevitable fate.
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon- A lot of books in the Outlander series have given me all the feels on a semi regular basis, but this one totally destroyed me when Jamie sends Claire back through the stones, to the future (they both think forever), and goes off to die (they think) at the battle of Culloden…
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling– This was another series where I got emotional at many different points (the end of The Prisoner of Azkaban, the end of The Goblet of Fire, the end of The Half Blood Prince…) but if I had to pick one part of the series, it would be this book. When people we love die in battle, when Harry goes into the forest, Dobby, Snape, and really everything!
The Keeping Place by Isobelle Carmody- Once again, the Obernewtyn series has given me all the feels at several points. But this one features the Misfits getting betrayed by people they thought were allies. Many important and beloved characters are murdered in an ambush I didn’t see coming. My friend, who recommended the series warned me that we’d lose some people in this one, so I was semi-prepared, but the scope and depth of the betrayal was what destroyed me.

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Quotes About Hope

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 25: Book Quotes that Fit X Theme (Pick any theme you want, i.e., motivational quotes, romantic dialogues, hunger-inducing quotes, quotes that fill you with hope, quotes on defeating adversity, quotes that present strong emotions, healing, etc. and then select quotes from books that fit that theme.)

Foe this one I decided to go with quotes about hope. Because we always need a little hope:

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” This is used in Coraline by Neil Gaiman, but the source is actually debatable.

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if only someone remembers to turn on the light.” From Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

“So many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.” From The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster


“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king.” From The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien

“Hope like that, as I thought before, doesn’t make you a weak person. It’s hopelessness that makes you weak. Hope makes you stronger, because it brings with it a sense of reason. Not a reason for how or why they were taken from you, but a reason for you to live. Because it’s a maybe. A ‘maybe someday things won’t always be this sh*t.’ And that ‘maybe’ immediately makes the sh*ttiness better.” From The Book of Tomorrow by Cecilia Ahearn

“Reader, do you think it is a terrible thing to hope when there is really no reason to hope at all? Or is it (as the soldier said about happiness) something that you might just as well do, since, in the end, it really makes no difference to anyone but you?” From The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

“And remember: you must never, under any circumstances, despair. To hope and to act, these are our duties in misfortune.” From  Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

“That’s what winter is: an exercise in remembering how to still yourself then how to come pliantly back to life again.” From Winter by Ali Smith

“My belief is that if we live another century or so — I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals — and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton’s bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down.” From A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

“It’s not that we had no heart or eyes for pain. We were all afraid. We all had our miseries. But to despair was to wish for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable…What was worse, to sit and wait for our own deaths with proper somber faces? Or to choose our own happiness? So we decided to hold parties and pretend each week had become the new year. Each week we could forget past wrongs done to us. We weren’t allowed to think a bad thought. We feasted, we laughed, we played games, lost and won, we told the best stories. And each week we could hope to be lucky. That hope was our only joy. And that’s how we came to call our little parties Joy Luck.” From The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

#WyrdAndWonder Challenge Catch up (Part II)

For Wyrd & Wonder’s Challenge

May 12Desert island reads

Eight (audio)books, one movie franchise or TV show and a luxury item – what are you taking? (fantasy choices only this month please!)

See my answers here
May 13Had me at hello

Amazing cover art or a perfect pitch – a book you wanted to read before you even saw the synopsis (or where you immediately NEEDED to read the synopsis because your interest had been piqued)

Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley- The pitch describes it as ” is described as “Jamaica Inn by way of Jeff Vandermeer, Ursula Le Guin, Angela Carter and Michel Faber.” I haven’t’ read it yet (it only came out earlier this year) but I really need to read this like, yesterday!
May 14Fantasy voices from around the world

Fridays are all about celebrating fantasy from around the world – this week focuses on the authors rather than the setting (non US / UK born; bonus points for also non US / UK resident)

Recently someone in my book club read The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. She had a mixed reaction to it, but some of what she said made me think it might be an interesting read, regardless. Forna was born in Sierra Leone. She moved to the US as a child due to political instability.
May 15#StackSaturday

A few of my upcoming reads
May 16Page to screen

What dramatization of a fantasy read have you loved (movie, tv, play, radio – anything goes) – and/or what would you really like to see get made?

One of my favorite fantasy adaptations is Stardust, based on the novel by Neil Gaiman. This is one of the few cases where I actually like the movie better than the book.

I’d love to see a film/tv adaptation of Katherine Neville’s The Eight. I’d call it “light” fantasy in that it encompasses several other genres just as much/more than fantasy, but since it does include some fantasy (can’t say more than that without spoilers!) I’m counting it.
May 17Can’t wait to read

on your TBR or up and coming releases

On my immediate(ish) TBR
White As Snow by Tanith Lee
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
The Blue Girl by Charles DeLint
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab
The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

Upcoming releases (there are millions, so I limited it to the next 2 months)
The Wolf and the Woodman by Ava Reid (publication June 8, 2021)
Honeycomb by Joanne M Harris (publication May 25, 2021)
The Hidden Palace (publication June 8, 2021)
The Nature of Witches (publication June 1, 2021)
For the Wolf by Hanna F. Whitten (publication June 1, 2021)
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
May 18With friends like these #TropeTuesday

Enemy to ally or otherwise unreliable / uncertain allies, backstabbing best friends… #TropeTuesday

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson has some of both. When the heroine, Camila brings her BFF back from the dead, she’s hoping for the name of her friend’s killer and a chance to say goodbye. But she accidentally brings back two recently dead mean girls from her high school, as well. The girls have to work together to solve their murders, and become allies. Also Camila’s friend doesn’t always 100% appreciate being brought back,, so there’s some tension there.
May 19Who’s afraid of the suck fairy?

The suck fairy visits old favourites and removes their sparkle, leaving you wondering what Past You saw in this book when you reread it. Have you had a visit from the suck fairy / are there books you’re afraid to reread in case they’ve been visited by the suck fairy?

I’ve been wanting to reread Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle series for a while. They have a special place in my heart, but I’m nervous about rereading due to fear of the “suck fairy.” But a friend of mine recently reread them and said they held up pretty well, so maybe I’ll brave it at some point soon.

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Titles That Are Complete Sentences

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 18: Book Titles That Are Complete Sentences (Submitted by Jessica @ A Cocoon of Books)

This one is pretty self explanatory! There are actually more of these than I thought:

  • Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume (technically this is two sentences. Also, I don’t like the most recent cover which makes it look like Margaret is texting. I get that they’re trying to make it appeal to contemporary audiences but I don’t think they should do it by making seem like it something it’s not)

Top Ten Tuesday: Last Ten Books I Read With Nature on the Cover

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 11: Books with Nature on the Cover (flowers, trees, landscapes, animals, etc.)

I decided to just go with the last 10 I read:

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl– I really liked this one. It’s sort of a YA fantasy meets Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery. I initially sought this out because I liked Night Film, one of Pessl’s previous books, but this was totally different. But I liked this too.

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link– Liked this one a lot too. I’ve never read anything by Link before, but I definitely want to check out more of her work. 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. The stories dip into and out of different genres with ease. The only thing that all these tales have in common is that feeling of ordinary strangeness (or strange ordinaryness, depending how you look at it!)

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens– I was actually really a bit disappointed in this one. I think because it had been hyped so much. I didn’t think it was bad by any means! I just didn’t think it was as great as I’d heard. I do think that people who really like nature infused writing will enjoy this one though.

The Duchess by Jude Deveraux– This was another book that I’d heard was great, but I found just OK. I’ve been trying to be more open to/aware of the romance genre recently. I’d read other books by the author that I’d enjoyed, so I thought I’d give this one a try, since as I said, I’d heard really good things about it. Maybe my expectations were a bit too high, because it didn’t live up.

Blackthorn by Judy Nedry– This one was a disappointment. It’s subtitled “A Gothic Thriller.” Since I really like gothic thrillers, I was looking forward to it. I ended up with a very unlikeable heroine (which is fine with me, if it works for the book, here I didn’t feel like it did) and a fairly predictable set up.

It Started With A Secret by Jill Mansell- I read this early in the year during a somewhat stressful period for me, and it was just what I needed. It was silly, fun, and it didn’t try to be anything more.

Christmas at the Heartbreak Cafe by Melissa Hill– I suppose that I could say the same for this one that I said for the book above this one.  It was sort of the literary equivalent of a Hallmark/Lifetime movie: you know exactly where it’s going, but you still enjoy getting there, if you’re in the right mood for it.

The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin Kwaymullina – Another fantasy/mystery. This one is a short read (about 200 pages) but it packs a lot into that small space. We get two narratives told in poetry and prose. It also provides a look at some dark Australian history and a look at historical and modern Aboriginal culture.

The Deep by Alma Katsu – This is sort of a supernatural thriller set against the backdrop of the sinking of the Titanic and it’s sister ship the Brittanic. It was a fun combination of mystery, fantasy, ghost story and historical fiction.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – This is about two separate events and the connection between them that spans many years, many lives. Not perfect, but I enjoyed it.

#WyrdAndWonder’s Desert Island Reads

This month I’ll be attempting to participate in Wyrd and Wonder’s Challenge celebrating the fantasy genre (well see how much I get done. It’s a busy month for me!). But today I managed to think about my Desert Island Reads.

Here are The Rules:

  • Eight (audio)books – your Desert Island Reads float ashore in a watertight chest, phew!
    • If you want to take a series, each book in it counts as one of your eight unless a collected edition has been published. So Temeraire would be all your books; The Lord of the Rings could be just one (rather heavy) book
    • No, you can’t have a fully-loaded ebook reader. Nice try
  • A podcast, TV show or movie – for when you really can’t read any more
    • If you choose Podcast / TV show: yes, you get all the episodes / seasons
    • If you choose Movie: since I’m being lenient, yes this can be a series / franchise
  • One thing you just can’t do without
    • A favourite food, something comforting, a touch of luxury – this can be pretty much whatever you like, so long as it’s inanimate, can’t help you escape or communicate with the outside world, and doesn’t require electricity or internet connectivity
    • Bonus: you can listen to audiobooks / podcasts or watch your TV show / movie (on some magical waterproof device that doesn’t need power and has very limited storage, shh)
    • Don’t worry: you already have access to any medication you require to manage medical conditions, plus a well-stocked first aid kit

Assuming you do this for the Wyrd And Wonder Challenge, please limit your bookish and entertainment picks to fantasy titles. If you’d like to make a non-fantasy-related response at another time, you’re very welcome.

So…

Eight books

1.Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – Yes, I have a collected edition. I also have a rather complicated history with these books. In the past, I’ve found them very hard to get into. But I am a fantasy reader and writer, and they are a genre cornerstone. I think on a desert island I’d have time to really dive into it!

2. Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss- I enjoyed The Name of the Wind, but the sequel has been sitting on my shelf for a while. I sometimes need to summon up the motivation to commit to a really long book (over 1000 pages). But again, If I’m on a desert island with limited reading material, I think I can manage it!

3. The Red Queen by Isobelle Carmody- This is the final book in the Obernewtyn series. I’ve read and enjoyed all the others. But this one is another book I’ve put off due to the size (again, over 1000 pages). But as I look at this list, I’m thinking I should stop being intimidated by really long books!

4. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis- Yes, again this is a collected edition, and it’s a series I’ve been meaning to reread for a while. I think that the island would give me a chance to do that.

5. Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm – Pretty much anyone who has ever looked at this blog knows that I’m a fairy tale girl! This would let me dip into different stories that would suit different moods.

6. Hans Christian Anderson’s Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson- My reasoning for this one is pretty much the same as above.

7. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare- I figure this counts, because plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest are definitely fantasy. Macbeth has three witches, and other plays have hints of the supernatural here and there. Plus Shakespeare holds up to repeated readings.

8. Burning Your Boats by Angela Carter– Carter’s short stories can suit every mood. Plus, they’re books you can get more out of them, each time you read them.

A Podcast/TV Show/Movie

This is tough! I think I’m going with TV show, since that’s the most entertainment bang for my buck (it’ll take me the longest to get through). On one hand I’m tempted to pick something I’ve never seen before. I’ll get a chance to binge. But what if I don’t like it? It seems like a big risk…

I’ll go with The Twilight Zone, assuming that in addition to all the seasons I’ll have access to the reboots as well. I haven’t seen every episode so there will be something for when I’m in the mood for something new. But I like the episodes I’ve seen, so the risk factor is fairly minimal. The anthology structure gives me some variety.

One Thing You Just Can’t Do Without

A lifetime supply of chocolate. I think no explanation is needed for this one.